Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 12/7/13

Last week was a monster week for comics, so it stands to reason that this week is kind of light on the funny books. I’m not complaining, mind you. My wallet thanks the comic book gods. But it means there weren’t many books to choose from for this week’s review list. Still, there were some important issues, like the final issue of Fearless Defenders, which goes out exactly how it lived. And the first issue of Inhumanity, which turns out to not be what I expected, at all – and I mean that in a bad way.

This is also the week where I start to turn against Green Lantern. I wanted to have faith in Robert Venditti and the new creative teams, but I just don’t think I can agree with what he’s doing on a moral level. You’ll see when you get to the review…

Fortunately, it wasn’t all bad comics this week! Superior Spider-Man remains strong, and I decided to check out Green Arrow after a long time away. I’m glad I did. The comic looks to be almost as good as the TV show. But the winner of the coveted Comic Book of the Week is Amazing X-Men #2 by Jason Aaron. He definitely seems to be having fun, especially with Storm.

Comic Reviews: Amazing X-Men #2, Fearless Defenders #12, Green Arrow #26, Green Lantern #26, Inhumanity #1 and Superior Spider-Man #23.

Amazing X-Men #2

Amazing X-Men #2
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Ed McGuinness

It was revealed this week that Wolverine and the X-Men will be handed off to a new writer with a new #1 issue next year, so perhaps that explains why Jason Aaron needs two comics starring the same cast of characters. I guess this means Amazing X-Men is going to be his only outlet for X-stories, and I know some of my readers might be happy with that. Personally, I like Aaron on the X-Men, even if the premise behind this comic is kind of weak. It’s basically just ‘the X-Men go on adventures’.

Wolverine and Northstar are in Heaven fighting demon pirates (led by a demonic Jack the Ripper), while Storm, Iceman and Firestar are in Hell fighting demons and demon pirates (led by a demonic Billy the Kid). Both fights fill the issue as the heroes banter among themselves and Nightcrawler provides narration on each of the X-Men. By the end, Storm has been kidnapped by Billy the Kid, Firestar and Iceman are on the run, and Wolverine starts falling from a great height, having been told by the ghost of Professor X that he needs to find Kurt. Nightcrawler, meanwhile, is all set to raid Billy the Kid’s pirate ship as it sails out of Hell.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Weak premise aside, Jason Aaron still writes some entertaining X-Men. All of the characters are a lot of fun to read, with Iceman as a real standout. Between Aaron and Brian Michael Bendis, this is clearly Iceman’s year. The character has never been so popular and hilarious, and considering I’m a huge Iceman fan, I’m loving every second of it! The rest of the characters are also good, even if they’re mostly bogged down by a lot of standard fight scenes. And Nightcrawler barely shows up in what is, ostensibly, his story. Hopefully Aaron will remedy that next issue.

Despite how much fun it was to read this comic, I’m still not completely sold on the point of random demon pirates. Part of me is giggly at the very idea of demon pirates plundering Heaven and Hell. But another part of me wonders what they have to do with the X-Men. It’s not like their leader, Azazel, was any sort of pirate in his earlier appearances, especially not these cliched pirates who could have walked straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean. But again, if all Aaron wants to do is have fun, then the X-Men fighting demon pirates in Heaven and Hell is definitely fun.

Also, considering all the X-Men in Hell, might we get to see Guido Carosella, the new king of hell? That would be amazing!

Fearless Defenders #12

Fearless Defenders #12
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Will Sliney

I don’t think Fearless Defenders ever had a chance, at least not the way it’s been written. I lay the blame squarely at the feet of Cullen Bunn. But it’s not necessarily his fault either. I’m sure Bunn had nothing but the best intentions and planned one heck of an epic superhero comic. But like I said in my Scarlet Spider review this week, we’re living in a changed comic book marketplace, and Fearless Defenders never adapted. It’s like my friend Kristi McDowell said in her review over at Word of the Nerd: Bunn never spent any time with these characters as people. We never got to know the weird and random cast he put together. Instead, from issue #1, this comic was all about the plot, first and foremost. The cast, their personalities and their camaraderie were secondary to all that nonsense about Shield and/or Doom Maidens.

In this day and age, standard superhero stories aren’t going to fly. Just look at Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye. That comic isn’t about plot. It isn’t about Hawkeye the superhero or the spy or the secret agent. It’s about Clint Barton the man. Fearless Defenders never saw its characters as anything more than superheroes, and that is why it failed.

Valkyrie and Misty Knight lead their Defenders into the depths of an ancient temple, where their enemy, Caroline le Fey, and her Doommaidens, are conducting some kind of summoning ceremony. The heroes make very short work of the villains, and then the newest Defender, Frankie Raye, makes short work of the summoning portal. Valkyrie and Annabelle Riggs make peace. And in the end, we find out that le Fey’s true plan, to bring her mother, Morgana le Fey, back to life, went off without a hitch.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

As much as I enjoy seeing Frankie Raye make an appearance anywhere, her inclusion in this comic is a pretty good example of why Fearless Defenders failed. Bunn was more interested in cramming as many lady characters into this series as possible than he ever was in exploring them as people, or exploring their new friendships and relationships. This issue is one big fight scene against a bunch of equally random, pointless female super-villains. There is no possible way the reader has any stake in this fight. The Defenders are all just quip-machines who get to spout a one-liner or two while they take out the bad guys. That does not make for a solid, sustainable comic. Bunn tries to throw in some character work, with a big speech between Valkyrie and Annabelle, but their relationship was predictable. They had to deal with standard superhero drama, not real human emotion.

I hope Marvel learns from Fearless Defenders. Just because you make a comic starring an all-girl team of superheroes does not automatically mean it’s going to sell. We still have to care about them as characters. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we want our characters to be people first, superheroes second.

Green Arrow #26

Green Arrow #26
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino

I haven’t read Green Arrow in awhile, and I have no excuse. I just stopped picking it up, even though Lemire was telling a fascinating story. Well Outsiders War kicks off with Green Arrown #26, and this was an otherwise light week, so I’ve decided to dive back in. There’s a lot of complicated catching up to do, but I think I’m otherwise good to go. Let’s hope I can get you all up to speed.

And just to note, Green Arrow gets it when it comes to character. This is a comic about Oliver Queen and his life. The Green Arrow stuff is secondary. Yes, he’s on an epic adventure, but the focus is firmly on Oliver and what he’s going through. That’s why this story is so compelling.

Shado, a mysterious ninja woman, and mother to Oliver’s half-sister, wants to take Ollie back to the Island to search for the Totem Arrow, which is an artifact of the Arrow Clan (because now there are a bunch of different weapon clans now, such as the Spear Clan featured on the cover). Opposing Oliver are the Outsiders, a big, sinister organization, of whom Komodo (the evil archer) has recently joined. Komodo also has Oliver’s half-sister kept prisoner. So Shado and Oliver head to the Island while Ollie’s inner monologue recalls what life was like on the Island and how he grew from a boy into a hunter. When they arrive in the present day, Shado takes him to an underground cave system, where they find the resting place of the Arrow Clan and the Totem Arrow. Meanwhile, the Outsiders dispatch the Shield Clan to the Island to kill them.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

First of all, I kind of love this ‘weapons clan’ thing. It’s the classic trick of taking the basics of the character and expanding the mythology, like Geoff Johns did with Green Lantern and the rainbow lantern corps, and like Ed Brubacker did with Iron Fist and how Danny Rand is only the latest in a long line of historical Iron Fists. Both of those comics were amazing, so I hope Lemire can pull this off. Other than that, this was just a really good adventure comic, with a strong focus on Oliver Queen and what he’s going through. He’s not Green Arrow in this comic. He’s not some superhero archer who teams up with Superman or Batman. He’s just Oliver Queen, a man haunted by his past, who finds himself confronting one of the darkest chapters of it. Green Arrow is in a fascinating place. It’s focused entirely on its star while telling a story that both examines his past and expands it in exciting new ways.

Green Lantern #26

Green Lantern #26
Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Billy Tan

I’m not sure I like where Green Lantern is going. Between last issue and this one, I’m starting to get this weird vibe that Hal Jordan is quickly getting corrupted by being leader of the entire Green Lantern Corps. But I can’t tell if this is all part of some greater plan Venditti has in store for Hal, or if this is legitimately how he thinks the Green Lanterns should act. There are no signs that corruption is the theme of these stories, but I can’t believe that this is the Hal Jordan we’re going to get under Venditti’s pen.

Hal and Kilowog are outnumbered on the planet Dekann. Nol-anj and her gang of Braid Clan smugglers have them surrounded, but the GLs aren’t about to surrender, so a big fight breaks out. And even though they’re armed with Power Rings, Hal and Kilowog can’t seem to do much of anything against a bunch of guys with guns. So Hal opens a channel to every single Green Lantern and calls them all in for backup. The GLs were apparently just standing around doing nothing since Hal left them last issue, so they mount up and head for Dekann, Mogo included. The GLs and Mogo make short work of Nol-anj and her people, until the Braidmen offer to surrender fully in exchange for letting Nol-anj go. Hal accepts their terms, with the addendum that Nol give up her ring, which she does. For a moment, Hal reflects on the insanity of calling in the entire GLC in order to take down one renegade Star Sapphire, but Kilowog cheers him up.

And in the background, some strange new tentacle alien monsters are pleased with the GLs capturing all the Braidmen.

Comic Rating: 3/10 – Bad.

The key scene in this issue – Hal summoning the entire Green Lantern Corps to put the beat down on a bunch of gun-toting thugs – disturbs me on several levels. But I can’t tell if it’s supposed to disturb me, or if it’s supposed to excitement me. Nobody comments on the fact that the GLs were apparently all just standing around, doing nothing, while the great Hal Jordan went out on an adventure. It’s like they were all just waiting around until Hal summoned them to do something. And Hal basically summoned them like his own personal brute squad. It’s like Hal didn’t like the way the Braidmen were acting, so he showed them that he has a whole army of willing soldiers at his beck and call, just waiting for him to tell them what to do. It’s as if Hal and Venditti think the GLC only exist as an extension of Hal Jordan.

And that’s terrible.

The Green Lantern Corps is one of the coolest teams in all of comics. In the wake of the Guardians being kicked out, Venditti and his team should be focusing on re-shaping the Corps into a new entity, with new rules, regulations, characters and purpose. This should be a big, awesome story. Instead, all Venditti seems to care about is Hal, and he’s taking Hal into some very uncomfortable places, dragging the GLC along behind him. At one point, when he’s got the whole Corps backing him up, Hal explains to Nol that the “Green Lanterns Corps is the law”, that the Guardians may have gone astray, but the GLC remain and they will do their jobs.

But under whose authority? The Guardians, at least, had the authority of being the oldest beings in the galaxy. But now the GLC is just a random gaggle of people wielding great power. Under whose authority do they now act? Hal Jordan’s? Who gave him such authority? Just because he’s the best out of all of them at using that great power?

A point is made by Nol and the Braidmen that they have been living the smugglers life for generations, that this is how their planet and their culture works. What gives Hal the right to storm in and tell them they’re doing it wrong? What gives him the right to take all of the Braidmen into custody? He apparently needed the entire GLC to put a stop to them (because he and Kilowog couldn’t handle a couple of guys with guns), so what’s he going to do with all these prisoners? Just find somewhere to store them on Mogo? Will they get trials? Who would conduct such trials or dole out the punishment? The Braidmen broke no laws of their own planet, only the laws that Hal and the GLC say are in place. It’s not like we ever saw the Braidmen smuggling or committing crimes in other sectors. We were just told they were smugglers, so Hal Jordan told them they were bad and arrested them.

These are pretty important questions now for the Green Lantern books to answer. And I’m not saying they’re bad questions. By all means, this is exactly the sort of thing that Venditti and the other writers should focus on building. What authority do the GLs operate under now? What do they do with their prisoners? Why does Hal get to determine what is ‘unauthorized’ use of the Emotional Light Spectrum? It’s not like Nol-anj stole the Star Sapphire ring. It came to her the way it’s programmed to do, and so she went back to her home planet to continue being a member of her species. Maybe the Star Sapphires are perfectly happy with how she’s using her ring. That’s for them to decide.

And I still don’t like this idea that using the rings drains the Emotional Light reservoir. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very clever and a neat twist to the GL mythos. But the entire point of it is to make GLs rethink using their cool powers. If a giant monster is attacking a city, a GL isn’t going to immediately form a giant robot construct to go fight him. Instead, he’s gonna step back and think, “Nah, maybe I shouldn’t.” How does that make for entertaining GL comics?

On top of all my ranting, this just wasn’t a very interesting comic. There is so much Venditti could and should be doing with the Green Lantern Corps right now, but instead he sends us off to some random backwater planet where Hal and Kilowog fight a bunch of generic criminals with guns. Yawn. I don’t need big, galaxy-wide threats in every story, but at least come up with something more creative than gun-toting smugglers.

I may be entirely wrong about Venditti. Maybe he has a plan in place for everything I’ve been worrying about, and I just don’t see it yet. If that’s the case, good. I’ll be happy. But if he really thinks the GLC only exists as an extension of Hal Jordan, and if he thinks Hal gets to operate with total impunity across the cosmos, I just don’t know if I have any interest in this series anymore. Venditti is raising some pretty uncomfortable questions with his portrayal of Hal and the GLC…but I don’t yet know if he’s capable of handling the answers.

Inhumanity #1

Inhumanity #1
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Olivier Coipel

I know it’s probably too late, since it’s Saturday, but don’t waste your money on this comic. It turns out that Inhumanity #1 isn’t the start of a new series or event. This comic is essentially a well-drawn promotional hype book. Marvel has this big idea for the Inhumans, and this comic is all about preparing readers for that idea. There’s no action and no plot, just one character explaining to the Avengers, and the readers, how everything we know is going to change.

Karnak has been acting pretty weird since Attilan blew up in Infinity, so the Avengers take him into custody and put him in a cell in Avengers Tower. Then they gather around to listen to him explain the history of the Inhumans and set up the plot for Inhumanity. Basically, the Inhumans living in Attilan were not the only Inhumans in the world. Some Inhumans never received powers and instead went off into the world, co-mingling and interbreeding with humanity. Now there are thousands, possibly millions, of humans with Inhuman DNA in their system, and they’re all now in cocoons, ready to get powers, after Black Bolt released a Terrigen Mist wave. Medusa is there as well, with the Avengers, and she doesn’t want to believe that Black Bolt knew about all these Inhuman/human hybrids, kept it a secret for decades, and now purposefully launched this bomb. The issue ends with Karnak seeing some vague vision of the future and warning Medusa (and the reader) to forget everything they think they know about Inhumans. Then he jumps to his death.

Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.

I’m on the fence about this whole Inhumanity idea to begin with. It reeks of Marvel attempting to turn the Inhumans into a new version of mutants because Marvel doesn’t own the movie rights to the X-Men or mutants, but want to still be able to play with those same themes. Part of me thinks this is going to be like that ‘No More Mutants’ status quo change from a few years ago. It’s going to shake up the landscape of the Marvel Universe in a big way, but not necessarily in a good way. So all of a sudden we’re going to have a bunch of new people with super powers popping up? How is that any different from the new mutants introduced after Avengers vs. X-Men? Or how is that any different from the Marvel Universe on any random Tuesday?

But we’ll see. I love Matt Fraction and I’m going to keep an open mind about this event. As for this issue, it was a let down. I thought this was the start of the next story, but nothing of the sort happens. It’s just Karnak telling everybody to forget what we knew about the Inhumans because everything is going to be different now. I knew that much from the Inhumanity promotional taglines. And Karnak explains it all in such a thick, impassible way, both through his hoity toity Inhuman speech patterns and just with him talking in riddles. It’s not very fun to read. And having him kill himself at the end? Bogus. I realize that nobody really gives a hoot about Karnak, but did he really need to be sacrificed in the name of Big Event fodder?

Spider-Man #23

Superior Spider-Man #23
Writers: Dan Slott and Christos Gage
Artist: Humberto Ramos

Oof. As much as I’m loving Slott’s Superior Spider-Man and everything he’s building, this issue is a little bloated with sub-plots. Rather than focusing on specific characters or story arcs for a greater story, Superior Spider-Man #23 touches on nearly every single plot Slott has been building, from J. Jonah Jameson to Carlie Cooper to MJ’s new romance with a firefighter. Otto as Peter remains the most entertaining, but Slott needs to keep things a bit more simpler from now on.

A million different things happen in this issue, so let’s see if I can’t recap them all. Venom makes his escape from Spider-Man and has to lay low as Flash Thompson for awhile. Aunt May has her procedure at Parker Industries, where Cardiac uses nanomachines to repair her leg. Then she and Jay go to Peter and Anna Maria’s for dinner, where Aunt May is a little uncomfortable about Anna Maria, much to Peter (Otto’s) disliking. But who else shows up for dinner? Why it’s Peter’s old pal, Flash Thompson, who thought he could lay low at Peter’s place. Otto tricks Flash into going to Parker Industries to have cybernetic prosthetic legs installed, which he does, but Otto also uses his machines to remove the symbiote, which then breaks free and attaches itself to Otto, turning him into the ‘Superior Venom’.

Elsewhere, MJ reopens her club, gets a visit from Captain Yuri, investigating Carlie’s disappearance, and Carlie is taunted by the Green Goblin down in the sewers. There’s also a brief scene where J. Jonah Jameson hires Alchemax to build Spider Slayers.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Real quick, I want to point out that the escape of the symbiote and the creation of Superior Venom comes much too quickly in the end. In all of one page, the symbiote breaks free and fully possesses Otto. It’s a little jarring. But beyond that, the rest of the story was a good read. Slott does a great job with Flash Thompson/Agent Venom, really making him into a compelling, sympathetic character. But at the same time, Otto is not wrong that Venom is a dangerous monster and should have been put down a long time ago. It’s great that Flash has some level of control, but it’s still Venom. So that storyline was solid, especially when it intersected with the dinner scene.

The rest of it was just a bit jumbled, I’m afraid. Storylines with Jameson, Carlie, Alchemax, Miguel, MJ and Captain Yuri all slam together in an overstuffed comic. Slott would benefit from cutting some of them out quickly, since few of them are as compelling as the main story. Though I did like everything with Aunt May, and how she awkwardly handled finding out Peter’s girlfriend was a little person. Silly old people.

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 December 7, 2013, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, X-Men and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Amazing X-Men was kinda meh. It’s just not clicking for me. Storm was badass, though, I’ll grant that.

    Fearless Defenders was OK. But very, very rushed. I am glad to see Morgan le Fey back, though. I do love Morgan. She’s always been a good villain, right back to the original Spider-Woman series. I mostly enjoyed Fearless Defenders as a series, but it was definitely very middling a book. I’m actually not convinced that being plot-driven was the reason it failed – Avengers is wholly plot-driven, with the relationships between the characters being shoved in the background, and with most of the cast being lucky to even get a quip in most issues, and people seem to love it. I think the problem is that it was a strictly middling book, with middling writing, middling (at best) art, a cast of middling characters (I loved most of them, but they’re all C-list at best), and a reputation (undeserved, I thought) for cheesecake. It was an all-female team in a market where Marvel’s female characters simply don’t sell. (If the new Black Widow series lasts two years, I’ll be genuinely surprised. No matter how good it is, I honestly don’t expect it, or any of the other female solo titles, to last two years, with the possible exception of Captain Marvel, and that only because Marvel seems really, really dedicated to pushing that book. Which is fine by me, because I love it.)

    Inhumanity was basically just exposition for anyone who missed Infinity. So meh.

    Superior Spider-Man was cool. Some good stuff.

    • I think books like Avengers get a pass on that sort of thing because they are clearly A-list titles. Comic book fans are not about to stop buying Avengers.

      • But still, it’s not just that Avengers sells well. I see a ton of praise for it online. Often from the people who hated Bendis’ run.

        I don’t think the poor sales of Fearless Defenders was due to it not being character-driven enough. Immonen’s Journey Into Mystery was deeply character-driven, and nobody bought it. Captain Marvel has been very character-driven, and its sales have been terrible. DeConnick’s Avengers Assemble has been largely character-driven, and its sales aren’t great, and it’s actually got the Avengers name. Avengers AI isn’t selling well, despite the character focus.

        By and large, most people seem to genuinely not give a shit whether a book is character-driven or plot-driven. What the average reader seems to want is what’s popular. That means Batman, Spider-Man, the Avengers . . . the stuff that always sells well. If a book doesn’t sell well, no one bothers reading it. Quality doesn’t even seem to matter.

      • I’ll definitely agree with you there. That’s why I think we’re eventually going to reach a point where every comic has the words ‘Spider-Man presents:’ or ‘Batman presents:’ or ‘Wolverine presents:’ in front of it, regardless who the characters actually are.


    Ok, for this rant (I really liked your rant by the way, please keep us posted how that all falls out) we need to all agree that Inhumans are cool. Let’s get that out of the way right up front. They’re weird mutants. And not just ugly mutants like the Morlocks; no, Inhumans are messed right up. They’re a Jack Kirby creation which pretty much guarantees you’re going to see a bunch of strange things that you couldn’t possibly have imagined yourself.

    They are fascinating in their over-the-top weirdness. There have been quite a few mutants who can stretch their skin, or their skin is metal and that stretches. The core power is stretchiness. When Inhumans make a stretchy-power, they decide to use hair. Just some chick’s hair.

    There are a ton of mutant teleporters. Nightcrawler, Vanisher, Blink, etc. No big deal. When Inhumans wish to teleport, they get a giant monster dog to do it.

    The mutant leader shoots laser out of his eyes, arguably one of the first super powers ever from Superman. It is cool and useful, but also old, boring, and vanilla. The leader of the Inhumans blows up mountains by whispering at them.

    So when Marvel says, we’re going to make thousands of Inhumans now, if they do it right, it should be a delightful mess of insanity. Thousand of mutants is nothing. Some chick turns into a shark. One dude is a shapeshifter (the least obtrusive power ever), and some guy makes gold balls. Fun…but not weird.

    But Inhumans can be crazy. One dude’s a satyr who creates earthquakes with his feet. I don’t even understand what Luna’s powers really are, but I know when Frazer Irving draws them I can’t sleep at night. So having a thousand of these people running around should be a decent chance for Marvel to just go nuts and make any crazy super power they can think of.

    And that is the tragedy of Karnak. His power is awesome. And it is awesome in that Cypher kind of way. Oh he finds weak points? Does that mean his power is to always know that you should poke people in their eyes or kick them in their groins? That’s small thinking. Comics are better than that. Imagine having the super power to find weak points in people’s arguments. Or find the weak player in a team you’ve gathered together. Or walking up to Batman, using your powers to figure out he has daddy issues, and using that to beat him.

    There are not nearly enough super heroes with unconventional powers. Look at the powers of every character you mentioned in your review and tell me that Karnak’s are not the most interesting.

    His death is a huge blow to creative super hero storytelling…to Jack Kirby storytelling.

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