Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 2/8/14

What a fun comic book week this turned out to be! Four Marvel comics debuted their new #1 issues this week, keeping the All-New Marvel NOW! going strong. Will they be as good as Black Widow? Or will they tank like…some other comic that was so bad I can’t even remember what it was. You’ll have to read on to find out!

Or I could just tell you now. I think Loki: Agent of Asgard, Wolverine, Punisher and Ms. Marvel were all good comics, well made and with some direction in mind, but only Ms. Marvel stood head and shoulders above the rest as a legitimately exciting new series. Out of the four, that’s the only one I’m definitely going to be buying from here on out. Ms. Marvel lived up to all the hype and easily won Comic Book of the Week!

My fan fiction was never this good

As for the rest, it’s probably a matter of taste, and I’m sure other people will love those comics much more than I did. I’m sure people will keep buying Wolverine comics no matter what I say.

Comic Reviews: Forever Evil #5, Loki: Agent of Asgard #1, Ms. Marvel #1, Punisher #1, Wolverine #1.

Forever Evil #5

Forever Evil #5
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: David Finch

Is this still going on? Man, this month-by-month shipping schedule for Forever Evil is really starting to grind. Everything that’s happening is pretty cool, but it’s been so long since the last issue that none of it really matters anymore. There are so many DC Comics being published each month that don’t have anything to do with the Crime Syndicate’s destruction of Earth that there are no real stakes to this story anymore. It’s just Geoff Johns playing around in the New 52 sandbox he essentially created for himself.

Several super-villains crash the Wayne Enterprises party, and Batman must team up with Lex Luthor’s Injustice League to defeat them (though Batman doesn’t really see it that way). Everybody works well together and they defeat the bad guys, though Batman is more than a little upset with how Luthor’s people are willing to kill. Batman tries to tell them that he will be in charge of this team-up to rescue Nightwing, but Catwoman points out that the squad of super-powerful super-villains might actually be in charge. At the end of the fight, Luthor convinces Deathstroke to switch sides, and Sinestro kills Power Ring.

Meanwhile, the Crime Syndicate turn their attentions away from the superheroes because the evil force that destroyed Earth 3 has appeared in this world.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

For the most part, the story is still exciting. I’m definitely interested in seeing Lex Luthor lead his team of villains up against the Crime Syndicate. I also want to see Batman rescue Nightwing, and the mysteries that the Crime Syndicate brought with them are still kind of mysterious. But overall? I dunno. The story is a little too narrow for all of this happening. This Injustice League is downright cool, but there’s no real time in the story to flesh them out or explore their dynamic. Plus, five issues in, and Johns is still putting them together. He has a weak reason to bring Sinestro into the group, even if it’s cool to see Sinestro again – or maybe I should say ‘read’ Sinestro again. I still don’t like Finch’s art on this comic. It’s sloppy and rough, and clearly shows the signs of being a rush job.

Something needs to hurry up and happen in Forever Evil, because the rest of the DCU is leaving it behind in the dust.

Loki #1

Loki: Agent of Asgard #1
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Lee Garbett

Whoever hired Tom Hiddleston to play Loki in that first Thor movie should get a medal. That was probably the best casting in the Marvel Movieverse after Robert Downey Jr. Who would have guessed that Loki would become so popular? So there’s no blaming Marvel for wanting to tap into that fan excitement by giving Loki his own series!

The newer, younger, sexier, reborn version of Loki is given a mission by the All-Mother to invade Avengers Tower and stab Thor with a sword (they have a good reason). Loki has some fun tricking the Avengers in the tower, then sneaks down to delete his permanent record on the Avengers/SHIELD database. When the Avengers catch up to him, Loki stabs Thor to reveal that the God of Thunder was possessed by some evil force, which Loki captures in a special bottle. The Avengers still arrest him for deleting the database, and he and Thor share a drink in lockup before he escapes. Loki returns to Asgardia and delivers the bottle to the All-Mother. Once he’s gone, they open it to reveal that the evil force was actually the old, super-villain Loki!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I liked Loki #1, but at the same time, this issue was a little lacking. Al Ewing’s vision is clear, and his Loki is kind of entertaining, but the first issue doesn’t quite stick the landing as smoothly as I would have liked. The overall plot is paper-thin, at least for someone who hasn’t been following Loki over the past few years. I’ve read very little of the Journey Into Mystery/Young Avengers adventures of the God of Mischief, so maybe those fans liked this issue better than me. But as someone coming brand new into Loki, I felt the series as a whole was lacking. It was all simple and light, and not nearly as clever or as wicked as I hoped a Loki series would be.

It doesn’t help that the Avengers are the worst part. Ewing uses the movie lineup, for obvious reasons, but he writes them as basic and broad as humanly possible. They might as well be the Avengers from a movie tie-in book for toddlers, or if the Avengers picture on the side of a licensed beach ball or plastic McDonald’s cup had gotten their own comic. The fact that Bruce Banner’s one and only line is “I’m always angry” doesn’t bode well for the series. Or that Loki’s big ‘trick’ to slip past the Avengers is nothing more than a bait and switch. That’s the only mischief Loki gets to cause!

Loki himself seems like he could be a worthy protagonist/anti-hero. But Ewing needs to give him some meatier material. As an ‘Agent of Asgard’, one would think Loki would have the entire Nine Realms as his playground. Ewing should read the League of Realms issues of Jason Aaron’s Thor: God of Thunder for inspiration.

Ms. Marvel #1

Ms. Marvel #1
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Adrian Alphona

There was a lot of hype for this book, and I was hooked on all of it. Diversity can sometimes be a big problem in superhero comics, with most heroes being white, muscular, and good-looking. So Marvel creating a new character who is not only a woman, but also Muslim, is kind of a big deal. Look no further than the outrage over Coca-Cola’s Super Bowl commercial to see that this kind of diversity is still controversial, because we live in that kind of world, sad to say. Well I’m happy to say that the new issue is just what I was hoping for. It’s a wonderful look into Kamala Khan’s life, culture and family, while mixing in some truly fun superhero elements.

Kamala Khan is a 16-year-old, Pakistani, Muslim, Avengers fangirl living with her family in New Jersey. There’s a party with some older kids at the waterfront, but Kamala’s parents forbid her to go, in part because of Islamic beliefs, and because they are concerned parents. The family isn’t actually very religiously devout, especially Kamala’s father. But because she’s feeling especially rebellious, Kamala sneaks out of her room and goes to the party anyway – only to find out the older kids are total assholes who think, because she snuck out, that Kamala is against whatever Muslim stereotypes the asshole white kids assume about her family.

Dejected, Kamala leaves the party and starts walking home, only to walk right into the Terrigen Mists! This means Kamala Khan is a new Inhuman! Inside her cocoon, she has a vision about the Avengers, especially her hero, Captain Marvel. They tell her that she’ll get her wish soon, but it won’t be how she expects. When she wakes up and busts out of her cocoon, Kamala looks exactly like the old Ms. Marvel in her old black costume!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Right off the bat, Kamala Khan is a lot of fun. She’s smart, funny and full of personality. I love that she writes Avengers fan fiction, and her Ms. Marvel jacket is amazing. I’m a little disappointed that she’s part of this stupid Inhumanity thing Marvel has going on, trying to turn Inhumans into a movie-ready property to rival the X-Men, but maybe Kamala will be the key to making it work. She can represent all these new Inhuman characters, putting a strong, entertaining face on the whole endeavor. I might actually be OK with that, because Wilson creates a really fun new superhero in this issue.

I also loved the look into Kamala’s family. I’m the whitest white boy you’re ever likely to meet, and have had very few opportunities to truly experience other cultures. So it was just fun to read Wilson build the Khan family as familiar but different at the same time. At least for me. Wilson is doing a great job of giving Kamala a quality supporting cast going forward.

The art by Alphona was especially great. It didn’t appeal to me at first, but I definitely warmed up as the issue went along. There seemed to be a bit of wobbliness starting off, but I think I was just seeing things. The art is very strong and even more personable, infusing Kamala, her family and her friends with real humanity. This is the kind of comic where the art might be just as important to the appeal as the writing. The new Ms. Marvel series is off to a great start, even if I don’t like that Inhuman thing.

Punisher #1

Punisher #1
Writer: Nathan Edmondson
Artist: Mitch Gerads

I’ve written about my Punisher bias before, and it rears its ugly head again for the first issue of Marvel’s new Punisher series. If you haven’t read Garth Ennis’ 11-volume Punisher MAX series, which I consider one of the greatest comic books of all time, then you simply haven’t read the Punisher. Ennis’ take on the character is, in my opinion, the definitive Punisher. Everything anybody else tries to do with the Punisher lives in the shadow of Ennis. That’s how I felt about Greg Rucka’s recent Punisher series, and that’s all I could think about while reading Edmondson’s new series. It just can’t compare. And that might mean this new series also isn’t for me. But at least it’s a pretty solid Punisher story…if you like a young, kinda cheerful Punisher.

For reasons not yet revealed, Punisher is tracking drug shipments from Mexico to Los Angeles. He starts out south of the border, brutally interrogating one criminal to get the name of his LA connection. Then Punisher goes to LA to brutally interrogate the LA connection, which leads to Punisher using a rocket launcher to blow up the top floors of a drug cartel building. Meanwhile, Punisher has a bunch of new supporting characters in his life. There’s Lou, the LA diner cook who’s apparently already best pals with the Punisher; Tuggs, a friendly military guy who supplies Frank’s weapons; and Officer Sam, a cute cop that Frank meets at the diner, and who is working on the fringes of the LAPD’s Punisher detail. The issue ends with the reveal that the new Howling Commandos strike force has been assigned to go after the Punisher.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I wanted to enjoy this comic, I really did. I wanted to give Edmundson a chance, since I’m enjoying his Black Widow series. But this Punisher just can’t compare to the Punisher that lives in my head. It’s a fine comic, and I’m sure many Punisher fans will be happy, but this series won’t be for me. It lacks poetry. It lacks meaning. It’s just the Punisher killing and blowing up some guys, while new supporting characters scurry around on the sidelines. Why is he in LA tracking a random drug operation? Should we be shocked when he pulls out a rocket launcher and blows up the top half of a building? How’s he going to top that in follow-up issues? And why is he smiling so much?

This was a solidly made Punisher comic, and I would even recommend it to people if they wanted a Punisher comic. But I just couldn’t get over its weaknesses on every page. After reading Ennis’ Punisher, this one feels weak. It’s like he’s just a guy wearing Punisher’s shirt pretending to be the Punisher. But that’s on me, it’s of no fault to the series itself. I just didn’t find it engrossing or interesting in the least.

Wolverine #1

Wolverine #1
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist: Ryan Stegman

Once upon a time, many years ago, I used to review Wolverine’s ongoing series for the website http://www.mutanthigh.com. Anybody remember that website? It apparently doesn’t exist anymore. But that’s where my Internet contributions started, and how I got into the habit of writing out those long, synopsis-filled reviews. Anyway, I never particularly liked Wolverine all that much, and had zero interest in his series, but I wanted to get involved and that was the series that was available. Sometimes I liked it, sometimes I didn’t, but I haven’t read Wolverine’s solo series since.

Until now.

Recently, some kind of super virus took away Wolverine’s healing factor, so he’s been struggling with the fact that now he can be hurt and killed. It especially became a big problem when Sabretooth tore him a new one in a fight. Now Wolverine has left the Jean Grey School, gotten a new armored costume and has hooked up with a team of would-be punk villains working for some businessman-type named ‘The Offer’. The team, consisting of three brand new punk characters and Wolverine, fight their way through a space station to rescue a Hand ninja and deliver him back to Earth. When they return, the team finds out that a Daily Bugle reporter has been trying to get some information out of their boss, only his cover as a reporter was blown. So Wolverine promptly shoots him in the head.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

First of all, so much for the ongoing schism storyline between Wolverine and Cyclops. And goodbye to any moral high ground Wolverine might have had over Scott Summers. If both of them are now renegade outlaws, what’s the point? Second of all, the new #1 is kind of a misnomer. This is all still part of Cornell’s ongoing Wolverine storyline, Marvel just likes to stick that new #1 gimmick over all their comics. I don’t really mind. I’m not a stickler for having big numbers on the covers of comics. If it improves sales, then by all means.

But for someone not reading Cornell’s ongoing saga, this issue was a bit of a let down. I kind of like the general premise. Wolverine has lost his healing factor (as if that’s never happened before), so he’s got a lot more to worry about now. He’s got to learn how to fight differently. He’s got to accept that he could die at any moment, living his life. And he can wrap his mind around the idea of growing old. Cornell deals with this sort of thing only slightly, in a handful of flashbacks that don’t say too much. I also like the general premise that Wolverine is trying to reinvent himself by slumming it with some less-heroic sorts. But that’s where I think Cornell really dropped the ball.

The main bulk of the story involves, as I pointed out, Wolverine joining a band of hastily-created, meaningless new characters who couldn’t be more ‘modern superhero’ if you tried. They’ve got names like Offer, Pinch, Fuel and Lost Boy, clearly sticking to the modern day superhero naming convention. These days, a name like ‘Spider-Man’ is quaint. But Paul Cornell is a clever guy. He wrote Captain Britain and MI13! But this is the best he could come up with? Of all the unique and fascinating characters in the Marvel Universe he could have used, why invent such weak new characters? None of them are all that compelling or provide a reason to keep reading, at least for me.

Any good comic needs a strong, interesting supporting cast. And while Wolverine is often surrounded by younger heroes in need of mentoring, Cornell somehow strikes the wrong note with this new group. They are skin deep on every level, and I doubt any of them will ever be heard from again beyond this one storyline. I think Cornell should have dipped into the wider Marvel Universe for these supporting roles. When Wolverine decides to learn how to use guns, he goes out to the Black Widow for help. If he wants to slum it with super-villains, why not have Wolverine join up with some Brotherhood members? Or some  obscure Spidey villains? Wolverine asking Toad for help would have been really cool.

Anyway, that’s just my two cents. I like that Cornell is trying something new with Wolverine, I just didn’t care for the creative choices he made to explore these new ideas. The new characters have nothing going for them, and therefore, Wolverine’s new status quo has nothing going for it. But at least Wolverine himself remained pretty entertaining. And I’m sure that counts for a lot with a lot of 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 February 8, 2014, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Punisher, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Loki was great. I like that Ewing is continuing the metafictional aspects of Gillen’s work with the character – the whole “gods are stories” aspect. I’ve read all Gillen’s stuff with the character – his Journey Into Mystery run was one of the best stories I have ever seen, in any medium – so I’m really glad Ewing is carrying on with that stuff.

    Ms. Marvel was really good. Kamala’s adorable. I love her. And I love the supporting cast. WIlson made them all really believable. They’re real people.

    Punisher was good. Some nice dark humour, and some nice violent-but-not-too-gory art.

    Wolverine was pretty good. Not great, but good.

  2. Logan’s up all night ’til the sun
    Frank’s up all night to get some
    Kamala’s up all night for good fun
    We’re up all night to get Loki.

    WHAT? I had to, I had to!

    In a more serious note, the thing about the punisher is that while Ennis’s MAX run is the most famous and certainly the best, there has been many versions of the character before it and one has to remember that Ennis main run was set on its own universe without heroes, this one happens on the main marvel universe, a universe where Frank has on more than one occasion teamed up with superheroes, so it makes sense that he is more sociable and not as stoic as in the MAX version here, hell, when Ennis was writing The Punisher in Marvel Knights he was actually more sociable there than in his MAX run (not by much though, this is still Ennis we are talking about here).

    I understood a long time ago that only in a place like the MAX line we can get that kind of “unrated” punisher, and when Edmonson did the one shot on that MAX anthology it was actually a pretty stoic, no nonsense Ennis-like Frank Castle, so he can write it like that if he wants to, but he wants to put his own spin on a character that just turned 40 years old this month, not just do what’s been done before, and while I believe that this first issue was a 7.5 I still found it pretty good and interesting by its own merits, and I’m excited for the next one to see what Edmonson has planned for the future of 616 Castle.

    If you want something closer the Ennis’s run I highly recommend you Jason Aaron’s PunisherMAX, I think you can now get it as an omnibus with all the issues and is well worth the prize.

    As for the other comics this week:

    Forever evil: Haven’t read it and never will.

    Loki AoA: It was fine, might buy next issue to see where its going.

    Ms Marvel: Loved it, but while I can understand being able to change ones appearance I still don’t understand how she manages to change her clothes, always wondered that one, never mind, just nitpicking here.

    Wolverine: Didn’t like it, dropped.

  3. My roommate threw out my copy of Ms. Marvel because she is muslim… I want to read it so bad!

    • Did she read it and didn’t like the portrayal given to her people there or did she simply went “This book has a muslim in there therefore is racist” and throw it out without reading it?

      If the former, I have a couple of muslims acquaintances and I could understand why some conservatives might not like it much, I think its because the family is not very devoted and maybe they see that as saying that the best muslims are those the don’t hold their beliefs very tight, but then again that is pretty much what most people say about most religions, how the best representatives of each one are those who don’t let their religions to get in the way of being good with different people or progress, and I met plenty of very conservative christians who don’t like that either so is not just one religion that does that, and now that I think about it with some changes you could make this book about a very conservative christian family, anyway, the book is written by a muslim so they should understand that there is nothing there that is trying to be insulting, Kamala is a nice protagonist that is relatable to people of all cultures, because everybody at some point in their lives were forbidden to do something they wanted for one reason or another, and they (the muslims I met) would think that your roommate reaction went a little overboard.

      If the later… well just ask her to give it a shot before judging it, read it first though, just in case she still doesn’t like it and throws it again.

      • Sadly, she didn’t read it and she heard it was in a way “bashing her people’s way of life” I don’t think that it is now that I have read a friends copy.

    • I hope you can help your friend understand that the comic is pretty great. Like I said, being the whitest white boy around, it’s great to get a look into different cultures. But I wouldn’t consider any part of that first issue to be bashing Muslims.

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