Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 2/1/14

Happy Groundhog’s Day Eve, everybody! Are you all ready for the groundhog to pop his head out of the hole to look for his shadow? Do you international readers celebrate Groundhog’s Day? It sounds terribly American. Nonetheless, it’s happening, and I’m excited. I might even break out my Groundhog’s Day pennant that I don’t actually own.

It also feels like there’s something else important going down this weekend, but I can’t put my finger on it…

At any rate, let’s talk comics! This week, I picked up new issues of Aquaman, Spider-Man and Thor, and decided to take another peek at Red Lanterns. Feels like I haven’t checked in with them in awhile. But all of those titles were blown away by the latest Annual issue of Batman and Robin. Peep your eyes on this one, Robin fans, it might be the greatest Robin love letter we’re ever going to get from DC Comics. It easily wins Comic Book of the Week.

Especially if they kill off Dick Grayson, those meanies!

Comic Reviews: Aquaman #27, Batman and Robin Annual #2, Red Lanterns #27, Superior Spider-Man #26, and Thor: God of Thunder #18. 

Aquaman #27

Aquaman #27
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artists: Paul Pelletier and Netho Diaz

I’m not yet ready to make any sort of decision about Jeff Parker’s take on Aquaman. It’s mildly entertaining so far. He seems to just be carrying the ball after Johns. I hope he makes a real mark on the series soon. There’s so much more to explore!

Aquaman continues his battle with the giant leviathan monster, which involves a lot of smashing, some fantastic trident work and Aquaman getting hit so hard he has flashbacks. He eventually succeeds in killing the beast, though because it was an ancient protector of Atlantis, most of the old Atlanteans are pretty angry. Meanwhile, Dr. Shin has joined some watchdog group that’s keeping an eye on Atlantis.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Aquaman fighting a giant sea monster is a pretty cool comic however you spin it. That the monster is tied to Atlantean politics is also neat. But it was still just a mildly entertaining issue. The stakes weren’t too deep, and the fight itself was kind of mired in weird tangents, whether it’s Aquaman flashing back to his dad, or reading the creature’s mind to get a flash from its own past. Really just a mild issue overall, despite the giant sea monster battle. That part was cool.

Batman and Robin Annual #2

Batman and Robin Annual #2
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artists: Doug Mahnke and Patrick Gleason

I have never been shy about declaring my love for Robin across the blogosphere. He’s one of my all-time favorite comic book characters (no matter who is behind the mask). Robin is just awesome. Simple as that. So any issue telling a fun, delightful story about Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson as Batman and Robin, even in the New 52, is exactly the sort of comic that’s going to tickle my fancy. Especially since we don’t know what their time together was really like in the New 52.

Bruce discovers a package that Damian left hidden in Wayne Manor for Dick Grayson, because I guess Damian was weird about giving people gifts. He literally left it hidden in the ceiling of one of the many rooms in Wayne Manor. This leads to Dick recounting for Bruce and Alfred the story of his first few days as Robin, a story that Dick recently told Damian before his death. The first night out was obviously rocky, with Batman overly obsessive about his rules, and Dick more than willing to break them if it meant actually getting to do something other than observe. Batman fired Robin that first night, and even drove him home and told him to go to bed.

On the next night, Robin had information about a break in, and snuck out to take on the crime boss Tusk, who is some kind of mutant elephant man. Picture Killer Croc, but as an elephant. Tusk doesn’t have a big nose, but he has two jewel-encrusted tusks sticking out of either side of his face. Weird sort of dude.

Robin was in over his head in the fight, but Batman showed up to save him. However, Tusk got the upper hand, captured them both and flew them up in a helicopter over Gotham Harbor to throw them in the drink. But Robin was unafraid, and he jumped out of the helicopter on his own! Robin then used his acrobatic skill to swing along the bottom of the whirlybird, come up on the other side and kick Tusk into the Harbor. He even managed to break one of Tusk’s jewel-encrusted tusks.

After that night, Batman was a lot more lenient, and the Dynamic Duo was born. Tusk returned a few times, always out for revenge against Robin. But then one day, he stopped showing up, and Dick never knew what happened to him. Back at Wayne Manor, Dick opens Damian’s gift to find Tusk’s other jewel-encrusted tusk. It looks like Damian threatened Tusk to stay away from Dick Grayson. Dick, Bruce and Alfred toast to Damian’s memory.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This issue was just delightful. No continuity troubles. No overbearing stories. Just a simple tale of Dick Grayson’s first few days as Robin. This is exactly the sort of character rich story that I want in my comics. It celebrates the rich histories of the characters while adding a few new details and twists. This issue doesn’t rewrite anything we couldn’t have assumed about Batman and Robin’s first few days as partners, but it doesn’t need to. The story is simple and enjoyable. Both Bruce and Dick are as strong as ever. And just seeing Batman and Robin succeed is a treat. Seriously, that moment when Robin jumped out of the helicopter, full of daredevil glee, is picture perfect.

Dick Grayson’s new Robin costume design might be a lot busy, but I still like it. The costume is futuristic and fancy, and clearly a million times better than the short shorts and pixie boots. The villain Tusk is also a weird addition to the story. It’s a little weird to think that crime lords were this mutated so early into Batman’s career, but I can just roll with it. He serves the story well and does what he needs to do.

This issue belonged to Robin, celebrating the character’s youthful energy and his position as Batman’s partner. An issue like this is why I can confidently say that Robin is awesome.

Red Lanterns #27

Red Lanterns #27
Writer: Charles Soule
Artists: Jim Calafiore and Alessandro Vitti

Even though the Red Lanterns have yet to become the badass, rage-fueled death army I always kind of pictured them as, they’re still infinitely more readable and entertaining than under the previous writer. Heck, they’re more entertaining and enjoyable than the Green Lanterns these days. Soule has gone a long way to turn this ragtag team into a bunch of interesting characters. I don’t feel like they’re all the way there yet. These characters have yet to reach the kind of established character levels of, say, Kilowog. But maybe they will. They’re definitely fun to read.

Following the death of team member Ratchet, the rest of the RLs regroup and split up to see to various projects. Bleez and Rankorr head off into space to track down Ratchet’s ring, to induct the new recruit into their Corps. But it turns out a newly repowered Atrocitus and Dex-Starr found the ring first! Meanwhile, Guy Gardner takes Skallox and Zilius Zox to Earth. Guy goes off to try and patch things up with his ex-girlfriend Ice, while Skallox and Zilius Zox go on a sight-seeing tour of Earth. Guy tells Ice that he is in better control of his anger now that he’s a Red Lantern, but their chat is cut short because Skallox and Zilius Zox get into a fight with Shadow Thief.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I love the banter among this crew. It’s fun and often funny. But with so much banter, it’s not often that these guys give in to rage all that much. They might as well be Green Lanterns. But still, the characters are entertaining, and Guy Gardner remains the most entertaining of the Earth Lanterns. Plus this book doesn’t appear to be tied down by that stupid Durlan War story I dislike so much. So the comedy in this series is top notch. It’s just missing the rage. But such quality comedy is a step in the right direction, at least. I hope Soule and DC really spend a lot of time on these characters and turn them into memorable franchise fellows. Bleez alone deserves to stick around for a long time. And I really want Rankorr to succeed. Think about it: Rankorr is the only new human to join one of the new multi-colored Corps. There’s no Blue human, no Yellow human, no Orange or Indigo humans. Rankorr should be a big deal. Though he should lose the facemask.

Spider-Man #26

Superior Spider-Man #26
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Ramos, Rodriguez and Martin

We are so close to the end! Goblin Nation is only one issue away, and Superior Spider-Man itself is heading towards the swan song. But until we get there, Slott has to move a few chess pieces into place. This new issue is all about setting the scene and settling a few plot threads before the real party kicks into high gear!

Battle is waged between the Green Goblin and Hobgoblin as the two argue about who is the better goblin and who might be under their individual masks. The battle ends with Green Goblin choking Hobgoblin to death and taking on all of his soldiers for his Goblin Army. Only Phil Urich stays back long enough to find out that Hobgoblin was just some mook playing the part of Roderick Kingsley. The real Kingsley has decided to step into the shadows while Green Goblin’s war commence. He’s in Paris, and toasts Green Goblin’s victory this day.

Meanwhile, the Avengers confront Spider-Man about how he erased his medical files. Spidey says it was to protect his secret identity, but the Avengers aren’t buying it…so Spider-Man just quits if they’re going to be so nosy. Meanwhile, Ghost Peter begins to muster up the courage to face Otto again, though it seems when Otto purged all of his Parker memories, he made Ghost Peter forget them too. Only the important milestone memories remain for either of them.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I thought this issue was fine. The fight between Green Goblin and Hobgoblin is pretty cool, though it doesn’t feel very climactic, and then, of course, it’s revealed that Kingsley was using a puppet. So really, it’s just an excuse to end the Roderick Kingsley ongoing storyline. And that’s fine. No need for complications as we head into Goblin Nation. Likewise, this issue ended the Avengers storyline, drawing that to a close. It’ll explain why the Avengers don’t jump in to help Spidey during Goblin Nation. Nothing happens in Otto’s personal life, and Ghost Peter’s scenes are all set up. This issue was all about moving certain pieces into place or taking them off the board completely, and that’s perfectly fine.

Now bring on Goblin Nation!

Thor #18

Thor: God of Thunder #18
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Das Pastoras

The last time Jason Aaron did a standalone issue of Thor: God of Thunder, it was probably the best issue in the series. This time, it’s not as good, but still a ton of fun. Who new his idea of playing with Thors from different periods in time would be so much fun?

In a tale of Young Thor, the godling and a dragon wake up on a beach with the universe’s worst pair of hangovers. They are surrounded by a race of amazon warrior women, whom Thor had come to help, because their village was being raided. They think it’s the dragon, but as their heads clear up, Thor and the dragon remember that they instead teamed up the night before, killed the trolls who were actually raiding the village, and then drank all of the trolls’ swamp ale. Then everybody throws a party. A few days later, the dragon returns home, but his father is upset that he’d hang out with humans and gods, so the dragon tells his dad to stuff it and flies off like a petulant teenager. The dragon returns to the village, drinks all their ale and gets a little too rough with one of their women. So the amazons summon Thor again, who tries to get the dragon to listen to reason, but the dragon is drunk and full of youthful rage. So Thor, reluctantly, has to kill his friend the dragon. He doesn’t feel like partying after that.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I really liked the budding friendship between Thor and the vicious dragon, so it was a total downer when Thor had to take care of his would-be friend. That dragon would have been a nifty ally. But alas, sometimes our friends are assholes, and we have to be the responsible ones. Or at least I think that was the moral of the story. Surely it’s not that the best way to deal with teenage adolescence is to slam axes into their heads? This was definitely an enjoyable tale, and I like it when Aaron goes into these done-in-one adventures. Focusing this one on Young Thor helps to round out his already stellar cast. And the art by new comer Pastoras fit the story nicely. He looked a bit like Frank Quietly, a little European. It definitely worked.

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 February 1, 2014, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, Spider-Man and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Superior Spider-Man was good. Some fun stuff. As I saw one person put Otto-Man quitting the Avengers: “Fine! I don’t need you! I’ll build my own Avengers! With Blackjack! And hookers! In fact, forget the Avengers!”

    Thor was good. Really funny, and then it became very sad. Poor Skabgagg.

  2. I’m glad you liked Das Pastoras but he’s far from a newcomer. He’s been drawing comics for about 30 years. I’m the admin of a facebook fan page devoted to him in case you want to know more about his work:


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