Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 11/30/13

Oof. Who knew that comic books take Black Friday so seriously? There were a metric ton of new releases this week, including a lot of my favorite titles. If I wasn’t already broke, this week’s haul would have done a number on my poor bank account. Fortunately for us, my love of comics feels no shame, and I bought a bunch of issues anyway!

And what a great bunch of issues! Superior Spider-Man and FF remain as good as ever. I still feel bad for anyone not reading Superior out of spite. You folks are really missing out on some neat stuff. And issues like FF #14 make me sad that the comic is coming to an end soon. Speaking of endings, this week also saw the finale for Infinity with issue #6! The end has been a long time coming, and it’s…good, but none of my complaints were ever addressed. There’s no big twist resolving everything.

Infinity ends about as well as one could expect, with the good guys winning and the bad guys losing. At least nobody was needlessly sacrificed in the name of cheap thrills. The same can be said for the end of Aquaman – or, at least, Geoff Johns’ run on the character. He wraps up all his big storylines in glorious fashion and doesn’t kill Mera or anyone else just for shock value.

Of course, neither does Hawkeye #14.

Aquaman #25 almost won comic book of the week. It came close. But then I read the adorable, squeeful Hawkeye #14 and there was no other choice.

Comic Reviews: Aquaman #25, FF #14, Hawkeye #14, Indestructible Hulk #16, Infinity #6, New Avengers #12, Red Lanterns #25, Superior Spider-Man #22.

Aquaman #25

Aquaman #25
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Paul Pelletier

It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to Geoff Johns’ run on Aquaman. Under his pen, this series has always been my favorite of the New 52. I’ve always liked Aquaman as a character, in general, and Johns truly took the character to new heights of awesomeness. He filled Aquaman’s life with interesting new characters and mythologies. But sadly, Johns is stepping away from the book after only 25 issues. I don’t know what the future holds, but at least Johns goes out with a bang!

Arthur is ready to launch his assault to reclaim Atlantis, and he starts by finding the Ice King’s scepter, which Black Manta had used in an earlier story. With the scepter, Aquaman is able to control the Trench monsters, so he leads them into battle against King Atlan and the Xebel soldiers who now occupy Atlantis. It’s a fairly epic battle, with Aquaman holding his own against the mad king. He frees Mera, Tula, Murk and all of the other Atlanteans. Then he grabs the king and swims him into a nearby underwater volcano. In the heat, Aquaman melts both the Ice King and the scepter, putting an end to his madness!

When all is said and done, Aquaman decides it is time he took his responsibilities to Atlantis seriously. He’s going to stay on as king, but Mera says she can’t join him. But then a little time on the surface world, and a reminder about missing the ones you love, convinces her to swim back down to take the seat beside Arthur in the throne room. They can be happy together after all!

In a brief epilogue, Xebel King Nereus finds Ocean Master on the surface world and suggests they team up to find and unite all of the lost kingdoms of Atlantis.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Aquaman’s battle to free Atlantis was about as epic as one could hope. Leading the Trench, melting the Ice King, a few awesome moments with Mera; this was Aquaman at his absolute coolest. The issue jumps from one great scene to the next, then ends with several very satisfying epilogues. When Mera returned to Atlantis to take Aquaman’s side as queen, I was thrilled. Then the idea of Nereus and Ocean Master teaming up is just straight comic bookery. That’s what villains do! And with Pelletier on art, this final battle looked as good as it read. Pelletier really delivered with the big splash pages – pun intended.

If I had any complaints, it might be that Aquaman doesn’t really have that much complexity to him. From the moment the issue begins to the moment it ends, he’s always just this level-headed warrior hero who fights for a noble cause. There’s not much internal conflict. But that’s not too bad. He’s still entertaining.

And I’m also disappointed that Johns didn’t seem to do anything with the six month time jump while Aquaman was in a coma. I thought for sure there would be some time spent adjusting to the new world, but instead, Aquaman just wakes up and immediately attacks Atlantis, which itself isn’t changed all that much. Apparently for six months, the Ice King just sat on his throne while all the Atlanteans and other good guys were stewing in prison, and the Xebels were going on scouting missions. And the prisoners were all still wearing the same outfits from when they got locked up. So really, it was like Atlantis was in some kind of stasis just waiting for Aquaman to wake up. Johns could have just done a week-long time jump and the results would be the same.

But that’s all just nit-picking a very exciting, action-packed issue. Johns’ brief run on Aquaman was a definite winner.

FF #14

FF #14
Writers: Matt Fraction and Lee Allred
Artists: Michael and Laura Allred

We’re building up to the epic conclusion of Matt Fraction’s run on the Fantastic Four franchise. It feels especially short, but I’ve loved nearly every minute of Fraction’s FF, and I’m definitely going to miss this adorable title. I’m not sure what’s going to happen in the end, but this issue tightens up some of its loose ends and gives us a nicely straight forward build-up to the finale.

Scott Lang is ready to launch his assault against Doctor Doom, but he needs the help of the entire Future Foundation to make it happen! He has a big intricate plan that involves remote-controlled Thing suits, Mad Thinker robots, a magician from 1942 and more! So everyone gets to work on the preparations, while also enjoying some R&R at the Watcher’s moon palace. There are some great scenes between Scott and the Watcher, Medusa and her son, and She-Hulk giving Darla a pep talk (while naked in a hot spring). When everyone is ready on the day of the attack, they gear up and Scott gives them a big, awesome speech about defeating Doom. Meanwhile, Doom is making his own preparations for their arrival.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I’m not entirely sure why all the ladies had to be bathing nude in the hot spring with children nearby, but I suppose I’m not complaining. Naked, hot-tubbing She-Hulk gave one heck of a pep talk to Darla, and Scott gave a great speech in the end. This issue was filled with great character moments, especially from the kids, and that’s what I love about this title. They may be hanging out on the dark side of the moon, preparing to battle Doctor Doom, but the character work is still so touching. Plus all the jokes about the magician from 1942 were quite funny.

My only regret is that Scott and Darla didn’t seal any sort of deal on the romantic front. But maybe Fraction and the Allreds are saving that for the finale.

Hawkeye #14

Hawkeye #14
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Annie Wu

It’s always good to get a new issue of Hawkeye. It’s entirely possible that Hawkeye might be my favorite comic at Marvel right now. It’s easily the best written and drawn. Hawkeye is not the biggest comic at the company. It doesn’t star any A-list superhero. And it doesn’t have anything to do with any of the big crossovers. Hawkeye is just a fun little treat that’s usually perfect in every way.

Hawkeye #14 is all about Kate Bishop in California. She’s broke, so she decides to hire herself out as a superhero-for-hire. When she goes to ask a neighbor if she can use their printer to print out her flyers, she overhears that a special orchid they’d ordered for their wedding has been stolen. Kate tells them she’ll solve the case, and thus begins an awesomely entertaining journey as Kate tracks down leads, plays coy with a police detective, and gets advice from a strange man in the cat food aisle. She eventually tracks down the thief, rich marijuana dealer Flynt Ward, and in her persistence, gets him busted for carrying an unlicensed firearm. So she gets the bad guy busted, retrieves the orchid, and saves the wedding!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great!

This issue is everything I love about modern day comics. It’s fun, it’s funny, it’s adorable, and it’s delightfully human. Hawkeye #14 is the story of a plucky young hero saving the day. She only ever fires her bow once, and never wears a mask or a costume in solving the case. I suppose some might say that means it’s not a superhero story, but I beg to differ. Kate is who she is because this is a world of superheroes. Fraction gives Kate such a wonderful voice. She’s quirky and clever, but also just a little bit oblivious. The art by Wu is equally fun, fitting the character and the story perfectly. This comic is just all around great. It’s exactly the kind of thing I want to read when I buy my stack of comics each week. Kudos Fraction and company for everything you do.

Hulk #16

Indestructible Hulk #16
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Mahmud Asrar

Indestructible Hulk hasn’t wowed me as much as I was hoping it would. I’d heard so many good things about Waid’s Daredevil that I knew I couldn’t pass up his Hulk. And for the most part, I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read. Waid’s got a great take on the Banner/Hulk dynamic, in my opinion. But there’s just been something missing…some kind of spark that might push this series to greatness. That spark was definitely missing during the last time-traveling storyline, which I definitely skipped. But I wanted to give this series another look now that it’s starting up a new storyline.

Bruce Banner can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to inventing new scientific gadgets, so he and one of his science pals sneak aboard a SHIELD plane on its way to Mexico to investigate a strange power source inside an ancient pyramid. Banner and Jessup sneak inside in time to see the SHIELD agents activate some kind of interdimensional portal. And, of course, a giant monster comes out. Hulk takes on the monster while Jessup gets the agents out, then Hulk brings the whole pyramid down on top of the beast. Fortunately, Jessup managed to sneak out the power source for Banner’s experiments.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

Indestructible Hulk is exactly how I remember it. Banner is as fun to read about as ever, and the action with the Hulk remains pretty epic. But just as before, the comic is lacking a certain spark. Maybe I’m just not as interested in the Hulk as I thought I’d be. Or maybe the series is lacking any sort of underlying mystery. I know I’d like it to be a little more grounded, maybe. Bruce Banner is a super scientist at SHIELD, always in his lab talking about his next great bout with SCIENCE! That’s entertaining, but maybe Waid just isn’t reaching the comedic heights he’s trying to reach. And all of Hulk’s smashing has been painfully generic. There are no underlying themes behind the smashing, there’s just smashing. But hey, some people really like that kind of smashing. More power to them.

Infinity #6

Infinity #6
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Jim Cheung and Dustin Weaver

Here we are at the end of Infinity, and it turns out I was right all along: the Builders and Thanos never had anything to do with one another. In fact, the Builders and their whole mythology barely even get a mention in the final issue of the Big Event. All of that work Hickman put into them and they barely register a blip in the finale. But it’s not as frustrating as I thought it would be, possibly because I’ve simply given up and decided to enjoy Infinity for the surprisingly simple story it’s always been.

Captain America is ready to launch his assault against Thanos to reclaim the planet Earth! There are battles all over the place! Iron Man and the Illuminati defeat Supergiant by having Lockjaw teleport her and her giant bomb to some barren planet where it can safely explode. Then they free Black Bolt. The Guardians of the Galaxy and several of the lower tier Avengers defeat Thanos’ fleet in outer space and reclaim the Peak. And then Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Hyperion and Captain Marvel do battle with Thanos himself. But in the end, it’s Thane who defeats the Mad Titan. The Black Maw, the one who is very good at talking to people, frees Thane to see what the boy will do, and Thane decides to defeat Thanos by trapping him in some kind of golden stasis brick. It’s apparently enough to win the day.

In the epilogues, Thane and Black Maw head out into space to become evil badasses. Black Bolt reveals to his brother Maximus that he always planned on unleashing the Inhumanity Wave. The various space characters, like Super Skrull and Gladiator, go back to what they were doing before. And the Illuminati take Thanos with them so they can get back to what they were doing before.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I’m disappointed that Thane was the one to defeat Thanos. Even when the Avengers threw Hulk and Thor at the villain, it’s the new character who steps up and just happens to have the magical power needed to stop Thanos. That’s disappointing on so many levels. What was the point of any of this if it was just going to come down to the new character, who was created for this story, to save the day in the end? At least the Avengers in space stopped the Builders. And at least Hickman gave some of the characters something to do. Maximus the Mad and Lockjaw defeating Supergiant was very entertaining…but that also only amounted to a teleporter moving the bomb to somewhere harmless. That’s pretty much how superheroes solve every bomb problem.

I wish I knew what the point of all this was, if there even was a point. Hickman put so much work into the Builders, and did such a nice job building up Thanos into a terrifying villain, that the finale is kind of deflating. Everything about Cap and the Avengers rushing back to Earth to stop Thanos is undone by Thane just stepping up and stopping Thanos. None of the Black Order was ever very interesting, and I’ll be glad if we never see any of them ever again. Nothing ever came from the incursions that the New Avengers are facing. And all of the space characters are just going to go back to their normal space status quo.

In the end, Infinity was just a big superhero romp dressed up to look like something far more epic. If you’re willing to accept that none of it matters or had much to do with anything, you might be able to enjoy it as a story where the Avengers kick a lot of butt and save the universe. That’s usually always a good time.

New Avengers #12

New Avengers #12
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Mike Deodato

So that was Infinity, now how about the epilogue? New Avengers #12 is Hickman’s immediate epilogue to his big event, and it’s the last comic listed in the checklist that appeared with every issue. But you won’t really find an epilogue to Infinity in here. Instead, Hickman just checks in with the various members of the Illuminati so that he can keep progressing New Avengers – which is mostly fine, since New Avengers has always been a good book.

In the Necropolis, Black Panther’s Wakandan citizens find out he has been cavorting with Namor, so he’s banned from the city. Namor steps out of the shadows to embrace T’Challa now that they are both living on the edge as kings without kingdoms. Dr. Strange decides that he’s done pussy-footing around, so he pulls out the Blood Bible to enact the full powers of the Sorcerer Supreme. Black Bolt is told that his powers are weaker after the Terrigen-bomb. Reed, Iron Man and Beast have a chat with Black Swan, in which she giggles about how unimportant the Builders are in the grand scheme of the multiverse, and tells our heroes that there are plenty of more ominously named threats out there in the cosmos.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

This was a whimper of an epilogue. It doesn’t really have anything to do with Infinity, and nothing that happens to the members of the Illuminati is all that interesting. The stuff with Black Panther is really only good if you followed his adventure from when Hickman was writing Fantastic Four, which I didn’t, so I was only really half-invested. I still don’t know the history behind this Necropolis stuff. The scene with Namor is a little cooler, but not by much. Dr. Strange gets a nice moment, but who knows if it’ll amount to anything. And the chat with Black Swan was just silly. Hickman spouts a bunch of other ominous names like the “Black Priests” or the “Ivory Kings”, as if we’re supposed to care anymore about them than we did the Builders. Nice try, Hickman.

Red Lanterns #25

Red Lanterns #25
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Alessandro Vitti

I so desperately wanted to like Red Lanterns when it first launched, but the original writer bored me to tears. Now I’m going to give Charles Soule a chance to save this series, and so far, he’s off to a pretty good start. It’s still not the comic I envisioned when I first heard about it, but he’s doing a better job than the last guy. Still, the team is more like the cast of a sitcom than an army of rage-fueled death monsters. But to each their own.

Under the leadership of Guy Gardner, the Red Lanterns are basically a bunch of drunken frat guys hanging around their ship chatting with each other about what it means to be a Red. Guy reveals that in exchange for helping to defeat Relic, the Green Lanterns seceded Space Sector 2814 to the Reds, the sector that contains Earth. After talking over their options, the Reds decide they need to leave a message to let the sector know that the Red Lanterns are the law. So they head to the planet Kormorax, where some alien warlord named Gensui has enslaved the populace. Using Rankorr’s apparent ability to use his ring to create realistic-looking disguises (???), the Reds pose as the pirate crew of the ship they stole and get an audience with Gensui – but he reveals the pirate crew has already visited him, and they want revenge!

Meanwhile, Atrocitus and Dex-Starr attack another Red Lantern out in the cosmos to try and steal his ring for Atrocitus.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This was an entertaining comic. Soule definitely has a strong handle on the characters, and his dialogue is fun and bouncy. This is a good group, and I’m glad he’s turning supporting characters like Skallox and Zilius Zox into legitimate people. That’s going to go a long way to making this book good. But at the same time, humanizing these characters puts them further and further away from what makes the Red Lanterns different from the Green Lanterns or any other superhero team. Where’s the rage? Where’s the blood-pumping, bile-spewing, face-melting anger? This is a Red Lantern Corps that stands around drinking beer and talking about the best way to be space police, then they go on an undercover mission. This isn’t the sort of group that should go on undercover missions.

Red Lanterns is more entertaining to read these days, but like the previous writer, Soule leaves his anger at the door.

Spider-Man #22

Superior Spider-Man #22
Writers: Dan Slot and Christos Gage
Artist: Humberto Ramos

If you want to see the storytelling opportunities that Superior Spider-Man has over Amazing Spider-Man, then look no further than this issue. Writers are usually afraid to take Peter Parker out of his comfort zone. He’s probably always going to be a photographer, have relationship troubles with Mary Jane, and struggle to balance his personal life with his Spider-Man life. But if, like me, you loved it when Dan Slott got Peter a job at Horizon Labs and wanted to see more of it, you should be loving Superior Spider-Man.

There’s no way Peter Parker would ever start up something as exciting as Parker Industries.

Everything is going well on opening day at Parker Industries. Otto gives a big speech too all of his employees, then takes a little tour of the place, meeting some of the named scientists working for him, like Sajani, Cardiac (in his civilian form), and, of course, Anna Maria. Aunt May and her husband also stop by, and one of Parker Industries’ first experiments is fixing Aunt May’s injured leg. But then Otto is called away due to a fight on the docks between the Crime Master and Agent Venom. The current host of the symbiote is Flash Thompson, and he’s a part-time Avenger – but Spider-Man doesn’t know either of those things. So when Otto shows up, he goes right for Venom, much to Flash’s surprise. Flash even reveals that it’s him under the alien, but that doesn’t seem like it’s going to stop the fire and sonic-wielding Spider-Man.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I love the whole idea behind Parker Industries. Anyone who says that Peter Parker’s life must always be dour and disappointing doesn’t understand that change can be a good and rewarding thing. I was thrilled when Peter got the job at Horizon, because it meant Peter was fulfilling his potential like never before. Now that Peter is gone, Dan Slott has the ability to push that feeling even further! Peter’s starting his own business. He’s got a new girlfriend. He’s making new friends and allies. Superior Spider-Man has storytelling freedoms that Peter Parker didn’t, while still remaining true to Spider-Man. And while I do read comics to follow the adventures of my favorite characters, I also love a good story, and Dan Slott definitely delivers.

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 30, 2013, in Avengers, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. FF was a lot of fun. Mike Allred is such an awesome artist.

    Hawkeye was great. I love Kate. And Annie Wu’s art is just delightful.

    Hulk was fun, though the Inhumanity banner was pointless. Some good smashing, and some good character drama.

    Infinity was meh. Whatever. Why should I care? Especially since this issue features two Deus Ex Machina resolutions. Thanos’ fleet was defeated by Starbrand just deciding, in the middle of the fight, to destroy them. Supergiant was defeated by Maximus and Lockjaw. And then Thanos was defeated by Thane. Even before this, the Builders were defeated by Captain Universe. The Avengers – the supposed heroes of the event – didn’t get to be responsible for resolving a single thing in this entire event. So what’s the point? This is a series where the characters are ultimately totally superfluous. This could’ve been a Fantastic Four story. It could’ve been a Guardians of the Galaxy story. It could’ve been a Justice League story. It could’ve been a Legion of Superheroes story. So if the heroes are interchangeable, and they have no real bearing on the events of the story, why the hell am I supposed to read it? What’s the damned point?

    NA remains too cynical for my tastes.

    Superior Spider-Man was good. Spider-Ock’s speech at Parker Industries was truly epic. I like to imagine the bit about cake was shouted in triumph.

    • Alas. that’s exactly right about Infinity. It annoyed the heck out of me when Cap orders Hulk to be the welcome wagon against Thanos’ forces, only for the lot of them to easily defeat him. He’s the Hulk! He shouldn’t be used to jobber your stupid new villains! Ah well, at least most of the Black Order are dead now. Of course, now we’ve got to worry about the Black Kings.

      And Starbrand is growing on me, I’ll admit that. I really want to see where this character goes, though I fear nobody but Hickman is going to want anything to do with him.

      • Nick Spencer’s going to be using Starbrand in Avengers World (and man, do I ever frigging HATE that title; the phrase itself just pisses me right off). There’s speculation that Starbrand is the LGBT Avenger Hickman mentioned; if so, it’s likely that that’ll be revealed in World. And if that’s the case, then I will give Hickman absolutely no credit, at all, for creating an LGBT Avenger.

      • Nick Spencer is writing Avengers World? I didn’t know that…and it doesn’t make any sense…

      • It’s Hickman and Spencer. But I think Hickman is doing plotting and Spencer is scripting. And it pisses me off that Avengers World is even necessary. Hickman’s been doing such a piss-poor job of characterization in Avengers that Marvel actually decided they needed an entirely new book just to do what Hickman has decided he doesn’t want to do. So stupid.

      • That is a little weird.

  2. You know what you should do? After Daredevil ends its current run at #36, catch up on all the trades and jump on to All-New Daredevil #1 next year! Would like to see you review it since it has been amazing so far and it’s up there with Hawkeye!

    Anyways, FF was really good and loved it. Sad to see it coming to an end.

    Seriously, Spidey fans that are skipping Superior because it’s not Peter are sorely missing out.

    I’m excited about the big DC event next year! Aquaman finally gets a spotlight! This is his big moment!

    • I was in the comic shop the other day and heard two Spidey fans gumbling about why they’re not reading the comic anymore. One of them was trying to get his buddy to agree with him that Superior was terrible, but the buddy was saying he hadn’t been reading since Clone Saga. Fools!

      That event for Aquaman does sound awesome. He was great in Throne of Atlantis, so I’m sure this next one will be great too.

      And that is an absolutely perfect idea about Daredevil! To Amazon.com I go!

  3. I’m really enjoying what’s happening with Superior. It has me rooting for the “hero” to fail, even when everything in his life is going amazingly well. It’s the antithesis of everything Spider-man has been before the switch, and that’s why I find myself so invested in it. I’m getting easily suckered in by the comic book truth that the villain never wins. Doc Ock has never been successful, which makes all of this aggravatingly satisfying. Every time, there’s always a “okay, sure, but NEXT TIME he’ll slip up!” Great stuff!

    • It’s going to be so gloriously beautiful when Peter Parker returns. But man, I am gonna be super sad when Anna Maria is caught in the crossfire somehow. She’s such a fun character.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: