Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 12/28/13
Christmas has come and gone, and both major comic book publishers decided to go really light this week. What’s up with that? Do they think we comic book geeks aren’t going to buy our favorite books just because New Comic Book Day falls on a holiday? For shame! But hey, at least my wallet isn’t complaining.
Even though this week saw only a few books released, they are some big ones. Origin II continues the early years of Wolverine, and Forever Evil and Justice League continue the whole Forever Evil foofarah. I hope it’s going somewhere good. Comic Book of the Week goes to Avengers #24! Jonathan Hickman actually delivers a comic I really enjoyed. I only wish his entire run had been this good.
Comic Reviews: Avengers #24, Forever Evil #4, Justice League #26 and Origin II #1.
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Esad Ribic, Salvador Larocca, Mike Deodato and Butch Guice
This. This is the comic Avengers should have been from the beginning of Hickman’s run. In the wake of Infinity, his Big Event, Hickman settles down for a simple, almost done-in-one issue that expertly combines humanizing the Avengers and sending them on an epic, out-of-this-world adventure. This was one of the most enjoyable issues of his entire run so far. Unfortunately, at issue #24, it comes way too late.
In the aftermath of Infinity, the Avengers have a cookout on the top of Stark Tower! But then an Iron Man from the year 3030 arrives to warn them of a rogue planet about to crash into the Earth, one that was fired like a bullet by some villain several millions of years ago. Iron Man 3030 – the granddaughter of Tony Stark – helps the Avengers build a device that phases the rogue planet out of normal time and space, so that both it and the Earth can both occupy the same spot, but don’t harm one another. Iron Man 3030 tells Tony that the people of Earth can now use it as a power source, which they’ll need in the future when some evil bad guys show up.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
The opening scene was delightful, though it’s a little burdened by so many characters. We’ve got Sunspot, Hawkeye and Starbrand playing a game of target practice. Thor cooking meats while Cannonball and Smasher cutely order the same thing. Hulk carrying pies. Spider-Woman and Black Widow bonding over said pies. Even Cap and Tony’s scene, where they discuss the inner-workings of their roster, is a nice touch. For once, these Avengers feel like real people, and it’s fun to read. But then all those humanizing scenes really only get a couple of panels each to really do anything. They’re cute, but they’re also far too brief. If Hickman hadn’t simply told us in a previous issue that Cannonball and Smasher were a couple, I wouldn’t know it from their scene together here.
Still, at least Hickman delivered some of what I’ve always wanted from this comic.
The second half of this book is an enjoyable superhero adventure. The idea that an Avenger from the future travels back in time to warn the team about some cosmic menace is classic comic bookery. I kept waiting for some kind of twist, but I’m fairly certain Hickman was just playing it completely straight, which totally works. Why mess with a cliche? Then the Avengers team up and save the Earth from utter destruction, exactly the kind of massive superheroics one should expect from Hickman’s Avengers. So all in all, this issue was a great example of what Hickman could do on this series. I only wish he’d been doing it since the beginning.
Forever Evil #4
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: David Finch
The monthly shipping schedule is not doing Forever Evil any favors. Had this been a Marvel Big Event, it would already be over by now. But we’re only at issue #4 of this mini-series, and that is definitely torpedoing my interest. Forever Evil keeps humming along almost entirely based on its characters and scenes, and what Johns does with them. The overall plot, with the Crime Syndicate, was old back in September. But Johns has some fun with this issue.
Batman brings Catwoman to the Batcave for the first time in this continuity, and he shows her the various anti-Justice League weapons he has on hand, including a Mother Box and a Sinestro Ring. They gear up and head to Wayne Industries. Luthor and his Injustice League head to Wayne Industries as well to get some weapons, and a small fight breaks out – one that is quickly interrupted by Power Ring and several villains. Batman uses his Sinestro ring on Power Ring, but doesn’t get far. Then the real Sinestro shows up!
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
It’s still kind of weird remembering that Catwoman has never seen the Batcave before in this continuity, and that Bizarro doesn’t exist until right now. Or that this is the birth of the Injustice League. But Johns handles all of it well, with some nice scenes between Batman and Catwoman, and then Luthor and Bizarro. I find myself very interested in what’s to come for Bizarro.
But I don’t care all that much about the Crime Syndicate anymore. I haven’t completely given up on them, and I’m eager to see what their final defeat will be like. I’m also still very much invested in what will happen to Nightwing, and I will admit to being curious about the identity of the Syndicate’s hooded prisoner. But the overall ideas that the Crime Syndicate now runs the world, and that they are awesome villains, have definitely mellowed with time. It feels like they’re all just stalling until whatever final battle arrives. So I pretty much just want to skip to the end already.
I definitely do not like David Finch’s art on this series. Some panels and pages are well done, but most of the comic is muddy and sloppy. Just look at that cover. Is that supposed to be Batman’s serious face? I know DC loves the guy to death, and when he’s at the top of his game, his pages look great. But Finch’s work on Forever Evil just isn’t very good. And for a story this important, DC should have nailed it.
Justice League #26
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reiss
If Forever Evil feels like it’s stalling for time with the Crime Syndicate, then Justice League is doing even worse. I regret even reading this issue. It’s not bad, I suppose, but it’s almost completely unnecessary to understand anything else about Forever Evil. It’s basically just a few recapped super-villain origins.
Using Grid as the point man, we get the secret origins of Power Ring, Johnny Quick, Atomica and Deathstorm. On Earth 3, Hal Jordan is a whimpering, whining little punk, which is exactly what the Ring of Volthoom wants. Abin Sur crashes nearby and convinces Hal to take the ring, then praises his freedom before dying. Johnny Quick and Atomica were outlaws, like Bonnie and Clyde, until they’re both caught in a lightning storm during a standoff at STAR Labs. Deathstorm was a mad scientist trying to beat death, then got his powers when he unlocked the Firestorm Matrix and bonded with a corpse.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
I just don’t care about the secret origins of the Crime Syndicate, and none of them are all that surprising or interesting. Every origin seems pretty standard. Power Ring’s origin also fails to properly explain the origins of the Ring of Volthoom and how it ties into Johns’ First Lantern. I suppose I’m mildly interested in that, but the origin cuts off before delving too deep. The rest of the origins are pretty basic and boring. Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.
Origin II #1
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Adam Kubert
I was a fan of the first Origin, for the most part. It started great, with the mother of all surprise twists, but then fell into mediocrity towards the end. Still, it was an important look into the early life of Wolverine, and is heads and tails above everything else Marvel has done with his origins since (Romulus? Please). So here we come to Origin II, with the same prestige, but a lot less fanfare.
In 1907, Logan is living as a wild man out in the Canadian wilderness. He’s been accepted into a pack of wolves. One day, he spots a polar bear lost in the woods, but decides to leave it be – bad move. The polar bear eventually finds the wolf den and kills Logan’s wolf family. He fights back, with both himself and the polar bear delivering mortal wounds, but Logan, of course, recovers from his injuries. All he has left is his grief – and the clue that the polar bear is tagged by ‘N. Essex’.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
This was a fine, solid issue, but a little too light on plot for what I expected. It’s not often that Marvel gets to write about Wolverine’s early years, when he was a teenager or a young man. But the reason is because he apparently spent a lot of those years living as a wild man in the woods. And as poetic and beautifully drawn as that can be, it doesn’t make for much of a story. But I might be missing some of the symbolism or special importance. That’s entirely possible. But this issue just didn’t do anything for me, possibly because I’m not all that interested in Wolverine in the first place. Hopefully the story of wolves and bears in this issue will come to mean something deeper in the larger narrative, but for now, there’s not much to it.
Also, adding Mr. Sinister to Wolverine’s early origin years does not interest me in the least.
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!