Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 11/16/13

The week after Marvel puts a new Thor movie in theaters, they put a new Thor comic on the shelves. I hope someone in their publishing division got a promotion out of that genius move. The comic even has Malekith in it! Talk about synergy! Marvel should also be grateful that Jason Aaron writes an awesome Thor. Who could have guessed that the Asgardian God would be such a hot commodity these days?

He’s not alone, we’ve got swell comics for Batman, Nightwing, Spider-Man and the X-Men. Though Superman and Wonder woman break the streak with their ho-hum attempt at romance. Oh well. Love isn’t for everybody. But it might be for the teenagers in the original X-Men. Those kids are all about feelings. The hilarious and adorable All-New X-Men #18 wins Comic Book of the Week with ease. Check out their fancy new costumes!

I wish I had a costume that cool

Comic Reviews: All-New X-Men #18, Batman #25, Nightwing #25, Superior Foes of Spider-Man #5, Superior Spider-Man #21, Superman/Wonder Woman #2, Thor: God of Thunder #15.

All-New X-Men #18

All-New X-Men #18
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stuart Immonen

Battle of the Atom is over, and now it’s back to business for the regular X-titles. I’m a little disappointed that there weren’t bigger ramifications after Battle of the Atom, but at the same time, I love Bendis’ X-comics so much that I don’t really want them to change. I would love to see how this Cyclops/Wolverine conflict gets resolved in the end, but I’m not in any rush. All-New X-Men picks up the story of the original X-Men, and it’s pretty damn entertaining.

Kitty Pryde and the Young X-Men have joined forces with Cyclops and the Uncanny X-Men, so they arrive at the new Charles Xavier School and get a quick tour. They also meet all the new Uncanny students, and either everyone gets along, or some of them butt heads, like Young Jean and Celeste from the Stepford Cuckoos. Jean also gets into an argument with Hank McCoy, since they kissed a few issues ago, but then Jean ran off with Scott at the start of Battle of the Atom. Teenage drama, amiright? After a few days of settling in, Kitty and Magik gather the Young X-Men for their first official day of training. Magik zaps them up some new uniforms, and Kitty tells them they’re going to be working hard.

But all during her speech, both Scott and Hank are thinking about Jean, which Jean picks up with her telepathy. With everyone thinking about her, Jean freaks out and erupts in a spontaneous burst of telekinesis, launching herself into the sky – something she didn’t know she could do. When Jean starts to fall, she’s caught by a smiling Warren – which doesn’t sit well with Scott or Hank. Then Hank’s homemade Cerebro alarm alerts them all to some mutant trouble in Florida.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

What a difference a crossover makes! This issue reminded me of the early issues of All-New X-Men, when Bendis didn’t have to worry about the complicated mess that Battle of the Atom turned out to be. This comic is pure character work, with Bendis focusing on his stars the only way he knows how: with adorable, often hilarious, always touching dialogue! This issue was full of amazing character moments, from Kitty and Magik to Kitty and Iceman to everybody, really. Even the brief exchange between Kitty and Adult Cyclops was awesome.

All-New X-Men #18 is the perfect example of why Bendis is great on the X-Men. The issue is fully of character and humor; I laughed out loud in several places. The characters and their drama are compelling. I am far more interested in seeing them work out this relationship drama than I am in seeing them punch super-villains. And the art by Immonen is some of the best of his career. Everyone looks so dynamic, especially in the faces, with vibrant colors and expressive body language.

Batman #25

Batman #25
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo

It will be interesting to see how long Zero Year lasts in redefining Batman’s origins. DC just loves to throw out new ‘definitive’ origins for its heroes all the time. Not even a year or two before the New 52, Geoff Johns wrote a new origin for Superman. That obviously isn’t canon anymore. So how long will Zero Year really last? I won’t mind finding out, because Snyder is clearly enjoying himself, and so am I.

The Riddler has caused a blackout in Gotham City, but all Commissioner Loeb is worried about is catching Batman – which, of course, the cops can’t do. Meanwhile, someone named Dr. Death is using a special formula to murder Wayne Enterprises scientists. The formula causes their bones to grow and twist until their bodies are ripped apart. Two are dead already (including the mentor of Pamela Isley, who makes a quick cameo appearance). Gordon goes to visit Bruce Wayne to tell him about the scientists, and almost discovers the Batcave, but Bruce successfully turns Gordon away, secret in tact. Bruce then goes to meet with Lucius Fox, who works at Gotham University, because Lucius has some connections to their chief suspect. Turns out, he has more than just some connections, because Dr. Death is already there and Lucius stabs Bruce with some kind of chemical!

Then in a brief epilogue, Harper Row and her brother Cullen cheer each other up during the black out.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: Snyder is very good at writing a solid, entertaining Batman. He doesn’t have any wild, controversial ideas like Grant Morrison did. Snyder just seems to want to tell the best, most gripping Batman stories possible. Does he succeed? Yeah, for the most part. I know other critics are absolutely in love with what he’s doing, but I remain mostly lukewarm. I’m enjoying the comics, both Snyder and Capullo are highly-skilled, but there’s just something missing for me – and yeah, it might be Robin. Or maybe it’s just heart in general. There’s no spark. This is a very straight-forward, very entertaining, very clever and well-plotted Batman story, but that’s all it is. Batman is Batman, and his first year as a crimefighter goes almost exactly how you’d expect. Still fun, though.

Nightwing #25

Nightwing #25
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artists: Will Conrad and Cliff Richards

Zero Year started off as just an idea Snyder had for retelling Batman’s origin. But apparently it’s proven to be so popular that a whole bunch of DC Comics have decided to join in, telling stories about what their characters were up to in the same time frame. Everyone from Superman to Green Arrow has gotten a Zero Year tie-in, and here is Dick Grayson’s. Writer Kyle Higgins has done a lot to flesh out Dick’s time in Haley’s Circus, and this issue is just another nice little peak at the pre-Robin Dick Grayson.

When the Riddler shuts the power off in Gotham City, Dick Grayson is in the middle of watching a movie alone at a downtown theater. He’s been a show-off lately, so his friends at the circus have distanced themselves. Dick makes some new friends after everyone stampedes out of the theater, and it’s just him and a few other teenagers making their way through the dark back streets of Gotham to shelter. They’re chased by a giant monster who randomly shows up, and Dick uses his acrobatic skills to save them. Along the way, Dick learns a valuable lesson about being true to your friends. They make it to safety at the circus, and Dick apologizes to his circus pals.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

While generally entertaining, there was nothing really new or exciting about this comic. It’s a fun little adventure for Dick Grayson as he learns a lesson about the importance of friends and not being a show-off. The appearance of his circus friends is a little sad, considering their eventual grisly deaths, but its nonetheless nice to see that Dick had a life before Batman. That the story managed to get him in a mask and running from a super-villain is a little silly, but like I said, it’s a fine little tie-in story.

Superior Foes #5

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #5
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Steve  Lieber

There’s not much I can say anymore about new issues of this comic. It remains as fun and entertaining as the first issue, with the same strong characterizations, zany humor and solid storytelling. Personally, I’d like to see Spencer get a little serious and maybe flesh out more of the characters and their relationships to one another. Wacky criminals are always a hoot, but adding some legitimate drama to this title will really help it take off.

Boomerang and his team (sans Shocker) launch their attack on the Owl’s headquarters to steal the head of Silvio Silvermane. Boomerang quickly ditches Speed Demon, Overdrive and the Beetle and lets them fight the gang members, werewolves and giant scorpions in Owl’s hideout, while he enjoys a nice elevator ride down to the basement. The guy just can’t be trusted. In the basement, Boomerang finds the true prize: a portrait of Doctor Doom without his mask on! That’s what he was after all along! Elsewhere, the car that Boomerang pushed into the river last issue (with Shocker in the trunk) is dragged to the scrapyard. Shocker manages to break out, and gets help from a kid and a dog who live in the junkyard – the same kid and dog who, as legend has it, recovered the head of Silvio Silvermane! Sure enough, Shocker spots the head, grabs it and flees!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

That ending was superb. The story from a few issues back – that the head of Silvio Silverman ended up in the possession of a cute whippersnapper at the junkyard – was a hoot, but I wrote it off as inconsequential – shows what I get for assuming! The rest of the issue was pretty weak, though. There was an extended portion in the beginning showing how ruthless the Owl can be, even though he’s the freakin’ Owl, and we all know he’s a joke. The assault on his compound was also a little less than thrilling, with Boomerang blowing off his partners for a bit of smarmy narration. As much as I like Boomerang as the lead character, I really, really think this book could benefit from a few stronger bonds between its characters.

Also, why the heck does the Owl, of all people, have a portrait of Doctor Doom’s face in his basement? Let alone giant guard scorpions? You’d think Doom would be more than willing to crush the Owl beneath his boot heel to gain possession of a picture like that.

Superior Spider-Man #21

Superior Spider-Man #21
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli

Things were looking pretty bad for Otto last issue…but now things are looking pretty good! Everyone’s favorite brain-swapping baddie settles the cliffhanger from last issue in grand fashion, and he’s on track to become the best Peter Parker possible – if you believe in that sort of thing. I’m still enjoying Superior Spider-Man as much as I always have. Slott has created such a wonderful little life for Otto. It’s going to be pretty bad when everything gets torn down.

Otto is furious that Professor Lamaze is looking to torpedo his doctoral thesis, so much so that he disappears from Anna Maria to begin his revenge plotting. But he’s interrupted by the arrival of Stunner, who is committing crimes to draw out Spider-Man. Stunner is Otto’s ex-girlfriend from the 90s. She’s really an obese woman plugged into a solid-hologram generator, creating the tall, statuesque Stunner. She once sacrificed herself to bring Otto back from the dead, leaving her in a coma until just recently. Stunner blames Spidey for killing her beloved Otto and tries to crush him, while Otto tries to convince Stunner that it’s not as bad as she thinks. He webs her up and leaves her for the cops in order to go after Lamaze, but Stunner escapes and attacks Spidey on campus, throwing a bus at him. Spidey snaps into action and grabs the bus before it can crush Anna Maria (whom he loves). While he’s holding it up, Stunner attacks him from behind, and Otto is torn between saving the woman he loves and making things right with the woman who loves him.

Fortunately for Spidey, his spider-bots deactivate Stunner’s solid-hologram generator before he reveals that he’s really Otto. Then he takes her technology and builds his own solid-hologram generator, creating a hologram of the old Doctor Octopus to visit Stunner and tell her that he’s OK, but also to break up with her, since he loves Anna Maria now. Then the hologram visits Lamaze and informs him that Peter Parker has always been his apprentice, and all of Otto’s best ideas were originally thought up by Parker. Lamaze withdraws his doctoral challenge and Otto becomes Doctor Peter Parker!

Elsewhere, Carlie Cooper has definitely figured out that Otto is in Peter’s body. She visits Otto’s grave to lay flowers for Peter, since nobody was able to mourn him when he died. But she promises that the world will soon know the truth – except that she suddenly falls into the grave and finds out that it’s empty! Then she’s kidnapped by Malice and taken to the Green Goblin, who reads her journal and discovers Otto’s secret.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

That was one long recap, wow. But I wanted to make sure I got all of the details just right for you readers, because Superior Spider-Man is getting pretty plot heavy, and all of it’s great. I’m as invested in Otto and Anna Marie’s relationship as I am in any other comic book relationship these days. I really want them to work, despite all of the horrible things that brought them together. The two have some really great scenes in this issue. I especially love Otto’s struggle to hold up the bus from crushing Anna while Stunner attacks him from behind. I think that’s the weakest we’ve ever seen Otto in this comic, and it was just as emotionally fulfilling as one might expect.

Likewise, Otto’s handling of Stunner was just superb. He still cares for the woman a great deal, and it was kind of heart-breaking when he had to dump her. But watching him treat her with kid gloves as Spidey was just great. I’m sure there are many people who would have been happy never to see Stunner again (she being of the Clone Saga, after all), but Slott used her to great effect to keep pushing the character of Otto Octavius even further.

And that twist with Carlie and the Green Goblin? Totally did not see that coming!

Superman/Wonder Woman #2

Superman/Wonder Woman #2
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Tony S. Daniel

I don’t think this series is going to become a regular purchase for me, but I wanted to give it another issue or two to win me over. I could complain until I’m blue in the face about how forced the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship is, and this issue doesn’t help in the least. There’s no chemistry between the two main characters. They are still the same Superman and Wonder Woman they have always been, more like friendly siblings than anything romantic.

I still don’t think we’ve seen them kiss in this comic yet.

Wonder Woman’s fight with Doomsday only lasts a few seconds before he fades from existence, but it’s enough to leave her broken and bruised. Superman finds her and she’s shaken, because that was one of the toughest fights she’d ever been in. Superman recognizes her description of the creature, and a trip to the Fortress of Solitude reveals that Doomsday is still imprisoned in the Phantom Zone – which means the barrier between the Zone and reality is weakening somehow! To combat Doomsday, Diana takes Clark to meet Hephaestus, god of blacksmithing, to make some weapons and armor. They’re interrupted by Apollo, current ruler of Olympus, who gets into a fight with Superman that ends with Clark winning (since Apollo is the god of the sun, and Superman gets his powers from the sun). Meanwhile, out in the Sahara Desert, General Zod emerges from the sands.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

I wince at the idea of Charles Soule using the great characters from Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman comic as jobbers in this comic. Apollo and Stryfe deserve much, much better treatment than what they get here. But that’s beside the point. Two issues in, and this could very well be any random Superman, Wonder Woman or Justice League comic. Despite being based on their romance, there’s almost none to be found in this issue. It’s just Superman and Wonder Woman teaming up to investigate a break in the Phantom Zone, with a pit stop to hang out with some supporting characters. I’m already reading a much better Wonder Woman comic, one that completely ignores her relationship with Superman. So sadly, I don’t think I’ll be bothering with this series for much longer.

Thor #15

Thor: God of Thunder #15
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Ron Garney

Having seen Thor: The Dark World last weekend, I can safely say that Aaron gets Malekith’s character absolutely perfect: he’s just a generically evil elf who likes hurting people for its own sake. He has no real depth of his own, and really just needs to be put down. Fortunately for us readers, this story isn’t really about Malekith, it’s about Thor’s new allies in the League of Realms. Unfortunately for us readers, I still get the sense that all of these characters are utterly temporary.

Thor and the League of Realms continue to fail at catching Malekith, especially since they’re all at each others throats! So in Alfheim, land of the Light Elves, Thor decides to take them all out drinking to build up their camaraderie! It works, and everyone from Oggy the Mountain Giant to Ud the Troll seem to be getting along – everyone, except Waziria, the dark elf witch. She doesn’t much cotton for this sort of thing, but that’s OK, because she and Thor will just start making out instead. A few days later, the team has tracked Malekith to Jotunheim, land of the giants. There’s another big fight – during which Malekith kills Oggy – then the dark one reveals that he’s teamed up with the Frost Giants!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

So now they’re adding frost giants to the mix? I’m starting to think this all might be some big meta joke on Aaron’s part, to really rub in the fact that this is supposed to line-up with the big movie. The frost giants, of course, were the villains from the first Thor film, so why not randomly add them to this comic? But like I said, the real draw of the issue is the League of Realms (though Aaron’s handling of Thor is still the best thing in this series). There’s a fun drinking scene, even if it’s a little predictable, and there’s a fun makeout scene. That’s also a little predictable. I figured Waziria would turn into a love interest from the moment I saw her, but I was kind of rooting for that to happen. Thor could use a good, solid love interest in this series, just as he could use some new pals to hang out with. Not that anyone will ever replace Beta Ray Bill, Sif and the Warriors Three, but I would love it if this League of Realms hung around in the long run.

Anyone who enjoyed Thor: The Dark World will find a great Thor comic on the shelves. Jason Aaron is doing fantastic work on the character, even when he’s forced to do an unofficial movie tie-in.

The comics I review in my Hench-Sized reviews are just the usual comics I pick up from my local shop any given week, along with a few impulse buys I might try on a whim. So if there are any comics or series you’d like me to review each week, let me know in the comments!

About Sean Ian Mills

Hello, this is Sean, the Henchman-4-Hire! By day I am a mild-mannered newspaper reporter in Central New York, and by the rest of the day I'm a pretty big geek when it comes to video games, comic books, movies, cartoons and more.

Posted on November 16, 2013, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, Superman, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. ANXM was great. Lots of cool, tense confrontations. I loved the scene between Kitty and Illyana. Hit me right in my nostalgia. But I still hate those new costumes. They’re just not well-designed.

    Superior Foes was hilarious. That is such a ridiculous book, and I love it.

    Superior Spider-Man was pretty good.

    Thor was cool. The “bonding through drinking” thing is a bit of a cliche, but always a fun one.

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