Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 1/4/14

Welcome to the new year, Henchmen and Henchwomen! I can officially say I’ve been doing these weekly reviews for more than a year. I probably should have gone back through all the reviews and picked out the best issues of the 2013, but I’ve been sick all week, and have better things to do (coughing and video games). So we’re stuck just reviewing this week’s titles, which, thanks to New Year’s Day, were short once again.

Fortunately for us, Marvel and DC put out some good titles. Hey…there’s a good New Year’s Resolution! I should start adding at least one non-Big Two comic to the pile each week. Stuff from Image, Dark Horse and all the rest. Sounds like a plan. If any of you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments. It doesn’t have to be a superhero comic either. I want to expand my horizons.

But for now, I’m more than happy for another delightful issue of Superior Foes of Spider-Man, the Comic Book of the Week! Behold, the secret origin of the new Beetle!

Comic Reviews: Aquaman #26, Batwoman #26, New Avengers #13, Superior Foes of Spider-Man #7 and Talon #14.

Aquaman #26

Aquaman #26
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Paul Pelletier

Geoff Johns is out and Jeff Parker is in; this is the new Aquaman, folks. Though from this first issue, it’s clear that Parker isn’t going to fix what wasn’t broken. I think that Johns’ New 52 Aquaman is the best the Aquaman comic has ever been? Maybe? Can anyone out there agree or disagree? Clearly it’s at least working now, so I’m rather pleased that Parker is just keeping the ball rolling.

Even though he’s now King of Atlantis, Aquaman can’t help but get personally involved whenever the people of Atlantis need a helping hand, including saving some scientists from an exploding volcanic rift. In saving them, with Mera’s help, he misses an important council meeting, and we learn that there are several politicians who aren’t happy with Aquaman as king (what else is new?). Elsewhere, some surface scientists awaken a giant leviathan from the ocean depths, and it attacks a city in Iceland. Aquaman races off to do battle with the creature, but it is one tough ombre. The Atlanteans recognize it as a beast of legend, supposed to be loyal to the royal family, but he clearly doesn’t listen to orders anymore. So Aquaman tries to mentally control the beast…only to get sucked into its mind!

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

Parker tells a fine story in his first issue, balancing Aquaman’s superheroics with his responsibilities as king. I’m excited to see that plot continue. I also like that Parker has gone ahead and created some new Atlantean supporting characters, though I’m a little disappointed that he couldn’t come up with anything more creative than politicians who don’t like Arthur as king. If the only problem Arthur is going to face as king is this, then DC and its writers are wasting all the rich potential of Aquaman’s role. What other superheroes out there are kings of an entire nation? I also didn’t care to be reminded on several occasions that Atlanteans don’t like Mera. Get over it, Atlantis, she’s awesome.

Also, DC’s decision that Aquaman and Mera have never been married, and aren’t technically ‘king and queen’, is just groan-worthily terrible. Just another bone-headed DC decision.

Batwoman #26

Batwoman #26
Writer: Marc Andreyko
Artist: Jeremy Haun

Speaking of DC forbidding marriage, we finally arrive at Andreyko’s first real issue of Batwoman. The Zero Year tie-in is over, and the finale to the fight against Batman is being saved for the Annual…I think? So Andreyko starts fresh with new characters, a new villain and his own ideas. Unfortunately, the offering is rather disappointing.

Kate Kane, Maggie and Bette go to an art show/party held by one of Kate’s childhood friends, Evan Blake. Maggie gets called away for work, and Kate and Bette decide to just ditch and go out to be superheroes. They’re swinging around when the burglary alarm goes off in Evan’s apartment. They find the Wolf Spider, a new costumed thief who has been going around stealing paintings. He knocks out Flamebird and shoots Batwoman with his venomous darts, then kicks her out a window.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

How do you follow J.H. Williams III on art? Apparently you don’t. Haun’s pencils are just bad in this issue. They look either rushed or simply lack detail, though his action scene isn’t so bad. Beyond the art, the story just isn’t very interesting so far. Wolf Spider looks like a pretty generic super-villain, and I was actually a little bothered by how easily he dispatched Flamebird and got the upper hand against Batwoman. These two ladies have been trained by some of the best, and he’s just some new-on-the-scene art thief. What do Wolf Spiders and a costume like that have to do with art theft anyway?

Basically, Andreyko’s first real issue amounts to little more than basic costumed crimefighting, rendered by bad art. He’s not off to a good start. Hopefully he’ll have a chance to improve.

New Avengers #13

New Avengers #13
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Simone Bianchi

New Avengers seems wholly unaffected by Infinity. Hickman just keeps the ball rolling when it comes to the incursions, even though ‘Inhumanity’ is teased on the cover. Yeah, aside from a brief mention of all those Inhuman pods, this issue doesn’t have anything to do with Inhumanity. This issue doesn’t have much to do with anything, honestly, other than Hickman’s undying love for his own weird ideas.

An Illuminati from Earth 23099 are also dealing with incursions, and when the next one starts, they get into a fight with the Black Priests, who wipe them all out. Meanwhile, our Illuminati work with Black Swan to build a device that can look into other universes, before Reed Richards realizes he already has one: the Bridge. They peer into the other world just in time for the Black Priests to notice them and give them a warning.

Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.

I’m just going to go ahead and rank these Black Priests as just as uninteresting as the Black Order, the Builders, the Gardeners and almost all of Hickman’s big, crazy ideas so far. I can see where he’s coming from, but he fails to make them matter as anything more than just the latest villainous thing that the superheroes need to punch into submission. So the Black Priests wipe out the Illuminati from some alternate Earth? Big deal! They may look weird, but their weirdness is all they have going for them, and ‘weird’ is probably not the right adjective to use. They look like how comic book super-villains are supposed to look, and that’s it.

Hickman also spends a lot of time with Black Swan trying to describe a machine that will allow the Illuminati to look into alternate universes. She tries to get really poetic with it, calling it a ‘mirror’, but is such a device really so special? As Hickman himself wrote, Reed Richards already built one (in a Hickman story, no less). So whoopdeedoo, the Illuminati can look into alternate universes now. Big deal!

Superior Foes #7

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #7
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Rich Ellis

Finally, we get an issue that isn’t focused on Boomerang. I’d been hoping Spencer would do this, that the entire comic wasn’t just going to be about Boomerang. All five members of the Sinister Six have potential, and I look forward to seeing the focus shift back and forth between them. In this issue, Spencer focuses on Beetle, coming up with a rather adorable life story for the book’s only female cast member. I also like how Spencer incorporates her real first appearance, which was as a random, costumed villain in an issue of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America comic. Nice continuity check.

The secret origin of Janice, the female Beetle, began when she was just a little girl, stealing birthday presents from a classmate under the guidance of her dear, old dad, Tombstone. Even from a young age, Janice wanted to be a super-villain, but her dad was against it. That’s why he sent her to law school, because he wanted her to be one of those smart, big city lawyers who made millions and could never get arrested for it. And she was good at the job, but when she’s hired to mediate an argument/business deal between Baron Zemo and Fixer, Janice finds her chance! Zemo needs somebody to help with an assault on Bucky Barnes, and Janice jumps at the chance. Fixer hooks her up with the Beetle costume, and a new villain is born!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I really loved this issue. Spencer tells an adorable origin story, and the art by Ellis is just perfect. It’s similar to regular artist Steve Lieber, but it’s got its own special cartoon wonderfulness, which is perfect for some of the sillier bits of Janice’s origin. That bit with the birthday presents, in which Janice used her own pet dog as a distraction, was just amazing. Then the feud between Zemo and Fixer is delightful. I also really liked the bond between father and daughter. It really turned Tombstone into a likable guy (for a mass-murdering criminal bastard), and this issue went a long way in presenting Beetle as a real, fully-formed character. I’m definitely glad for that.

Talon #14

Talon #14
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Emanuel Simeoni

Sadly, this is the final issue of Talon. I really thought the book had a chance when it first started. He’s a new character in the Bat-family, built off the amazing Court of Owls idea. But I should have known better than to get my hopes up. Heck, even I stopped buying his comic because it just got…I dunno, I just didn’t care for it anymore. I also didn’t like how they killed Calvin. He was far more interesting as a flesh and blood human who’d managed to stay one step ahead of the fate of other Talons, than he was as just another undead zombie.

It’s the final battle, and Talon is slowly dying from a special poison created by Sebastian Clark. But he and his people, including girlfriend Casey, manage to defeat the Talons and kill the Butcher (or at least blow him to pieces). Talon then chases down Clark, who’s busy yelling at the new leadership of the Court of Owls for thinking they could abandon him. Calvin saves young Sarah and beats on Sebastian for awhile, before Batman and the rest of Talon’s team show up to wrap things up. Calvin then dies from the poison…only to wake up a few weeks later at Casey’s secret HQ. Her people managed to get the poison out of him so that his Talon body could heal, and now that he’s all better, they induct him into the new Batman Incorporated!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This was a fine final issue. The fight is pretty cool, and Calvin definitely has a great supporting cast. Seeing him pushed to the brink was cool, as was seeing Calvin and Batman save the day. The surprise ending, with Batman Incorporated, was also a neat twist. But I was desperately hoping the issue would end with Calvin being dunked into a Lazarus Pit. This zombie thing has got to go. It’s just not a good role for him. He’s supposed to be the guy who escaped the Court of Owls. But hey, I’m not yet creative director at DC Comics, so I don’t get any say. I can see why Talon didn’t last, but I really kind of wish it had. The New 52 needs interesting new heroes like Talon.

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 January 4, 2014, in Avengers, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Add Pretty Deadly. Pretty Deadly is amazing. Emma Rios does gorgeous art, DeConnick’s a fantastic writer, and the two are delivering an incredible story.

    New Avengers was kinda more of the same, for me. Still too dark and cynical for me to enjoy.

    Superior Foes of Spider-Man was great. Hilarious, and with some added cutting social commentary. I love this new Beetle.

  2. Talon’s the only thing I’ve read this week so far, and I thought it was pretty great, what with Calvin not dying, and them pretty much succeeding in their mission. Batman appearing and Calvin becoming part of Batman Incorporated was also something. Is this being the final issue definite? I thought I saw an interview with Tim Seeley that he was going to be writing some of Talon. Sad if it’s really the end, because Calvin’s one of my favourite characters right now.

    • I’m fairly certain this was the final issue. I googled it to check before writing the review. Calvin is pretty cool, and I wish DC had given him more of a chance.

      What are your thoughts on zombie vs. not-zombie?

      • As long as he’s alive, I’m okay with it. His personality didn’t seem to change, just his appearance, and that wasn’t too crazy, so that’s cool. The healing factor was kind of neat, but I felt it was sort of cheating given his escape artist thing. It also seems proper, to me, that he didn’t come out of his war unscathed. The only thing I really have a problem with is that he and Casey wanted a family, which I guess could be satisfied with just Sarah, and depending on how dead or alive he actually is, that might not be possible.

      • I thought that escape artist thing made him really unique, but it’s no longer such a big deal now that he’s an undead, rapid-healing zombie man.

  3. Mister Immortal

    Get Lazarus and Zero. They’re really good.

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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: