Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 2/15/14

Where is all the love? Valentine’s Day was only yesterday, yet none of this week’s comics were lovey dovey in the very least! Where was the pink? Or the hearts? Maybe Cupid has gone crazy and starts attacking Gotham City? Not even a Star Sapphire one-shot special? I feel very disappointed.

Heck, not even Superman/Wonder Woman was all that romantic, unless you count fighting super-villains to be date material…which I do. But love aside, we’ve got a smattering of good comics this week, including the future of Harper Row over in Batman, and the future of Toad in Wolverine and the X-Men. I was very tempted to celebrate all things Toad this week, but the new She-Hulk series files the proper motions to become Comic Book of the Week.

Not that Toad wasn’t awesome…and a little romantic.

Comic Reviews: Batman #28, She-Hulk #1, Superior Spider-Man #27, Superman/Wonder Woman #5, Wolverine and the X-Men #41 and X-Force #1.

Batman #28

Batman #28
Writers: Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Artist: Dustin Nguyen

Apparently Scott Snyder is so excited about Batman Eternal that he’s taking a break from Zero Year to give us a preview. With no context whatsover, let’s see what Batman and Harper Row are going to be up to in a few months.

In the near future, Gotham City is a pretty messed up place, though we don’t yet know how messed up. We do know that the Egyptian is the “only nightclub left in New Gotham”, so that’s definitely saying something. Harper Row uses the secret password to get into the Egyptian in an effort to meet with the boss, because her brother has been infected, and the boss supposedly has the cure. Instead, the people running the Egyptian are too suspicious of her to take her to the boss, and take her to be interrogated – where she springs her trap and Batman shows up! He defeats the thugs and tells Harper to suit up. She’s Bluebird now, Batman’s partner, and together they fight their way in to see the boss: Selina Kyle! She’s given up being Catwoman and is now the kingpin of crime in New Gotham. Batman asks for her help, and, after a brief fight, Selina takes them back to her secret weapon, the one person who can stop whatever horrible things are about to happen: Stephanie Brown.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I’ve already written about how I feel about this change for Harper Row, but to sum up: I’m disappointed that she’s not the new Robin, but I’m excited that she is indeed Batman’s new sidekick, to an extent. I like this Bluebird identity, and I can’t wait to see how it came about. If a large part of Batman Eternal is about Harper’s growth into Batman’s partner, then I am definitely on board. As for this issue, it was a fun little story, though again, there’s no context. It almost reads like an alternate reality story, and that’s a weird way to play it. Something bad is going to happen to Gotham City soon, and I’m sure it will push Batman into some fun new places. But for now, the issue is all about teasing Bluebird, Selina Kyle and Stephanie Brown. Definitely fun to finally see her in the new continuity.

She-Hulk #1

She-Hulk #1
Writer: Charles Soule
Arist: Javier Pulido

I love Marvel’s new Hawkeye-esque house style, where the writers and artists focus a lot on the people behind the masks instead of the superheroics. I love it in Hawkeye, I loved it in the new Ms. Marvel and the new She-Hulk looks like it might be headed in the same direction. There is a bit of smashing in this issue, but it’s off-panel. She-Hulk #1 is all about Shulkie as an attorney, and it’s absolutely wonderful.

Having just quit her law firm because they don’t appreciate her, She-Hulk takes the case of the widow of super-villain Jonas Harrow, who wants to sue Tony Stark for some designs that Harrow claims Stark Enterprises stole from him before he died. She-Hulk thinks she can just talk the matter out with Tony, but instead she finds herself buried in paperwork from Stark’s legal department. She-Hulk doesn’t give up, though, and finds evidence that Stark Enterprises really did steal some designs from Harrow – though Tony wasn’t in any way involved. She goes to talk to Tony again, this time fighting her way through his security robots until she gets to his office, where Tony is more than willing to hear her out. Tony explains what happened, and She-Hulk convinces him to write a nice big check to Harrow’s widow rather than take this to court.

The widow, in turn, gives She-Hulk a nice big fee, which Shulkie uses to open her own law firm.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

It helps that Charles Soule is actually a practicing attorney. He understands the ins and outs of the legal world better than any layman, and it really shows in the courtroom scene. That was just a blast to read. I deal with attorneys and courtrooms a lot for my day job, so I’m a little inclined towards that kind of story, and Soule does a great job sending Jennifer through the legal ringer. He’s got a great handle on her character, and her scene with Tony Stark was a lot of fun. I hope Soule plans to keep the legal business as straight-forward and serious as this. The last She-Hulk series, by Dan Slott, was all about zany comedy and wacky matters of law, and it was fun. But I think I’d like to see Soule play the lawyer stuff completely straight. I think it will be neat.

I also liked the art by Pulido. He handles the issue very well, though if I may nit-pick a little bit, I would have liked Shulkie to be a little more muscular and superheroic. As it stands, she’s just a normal woman who happens to have green skin and hair. Put some Hulk into that counselor!

Superior Spider-Man #27

Superior Spider-Man #27
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli

I am very excited for Goblin Nation. I want to see what Slott does with everything he’s been building, and he’s definitely built the Green Goblin and his army into one badass force of evil. I want to see Otto pushed to his very limits as he fights back against these foes. And I want to see Peter Parker rise triumphantly from the ashes to reclaim his life! This is going to be awesome! Just…not quite yet.

The Goblin Nation has begun its attack on the city, and Otto is powerless to stop them because the Green Goblin’s henchmen are all invisible to his Spider-Bots. So Otto seeks out the help of Uatu Jackson, who designed the cameras on the bots, and together they find the program making the goblins invisible. Otto traces the signal back to the Goblin’s secret sewer lair, where the Goblin reveals that he knows that Otto is Spider-Man! Goblin tries to convince him to join forces, but Otto won’t stand for being second-in-command! Goblin laughs and tries to blast Spidey, but Otto only sent a hologram. Still, Goblin was prepared for that, and he orders his Goblin Army to attack Spider-Island!

Meanwhile, J. Jonah Jameson has built a new army of spider-slayers. Anna Maria and everybody else at Parker Industries are worried that ‘Peter’ is never around. And Ghost Peter dives into the memories of Otto Octavius to find some clue to defeat him.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I liked a lot of what I saw in this issue, and parts of it were great, but it also felt a little more low key than I expected. The issue starts great, by jumping forward a whole month into the Green Goblin’s attack, with Spidey’s costume in tatters, his city on fire and the threat of the Goblin greater than ever! But then Slott slows things down for side stories about Jameson, Det. Watanabe and everybody’s concern that Peter Parker isn’t hanging out at Parker Industries. That hardly matters at this point. I’m sure Slott has a plan to tie Parker Industries into what’s happening, but he hasn’t spent any time building up Parker Industries into an actual part of the series. It’s been a footnote at best, whereas the Goblin Nation has been growing steadily for months. So I would rather see Slott dive right into this epic battle than see him meander around with less interesting sideplots.

Though honestly, I could have used a lot more Parker Industries in Superior Spider-Man.

Fortunately, the rest of the comic is great! The Goblin’s sit down with Otto is pretty awesome, as is the Goblin’s attack at the end. A showdown between Norman Osborn and Otto Octavius should be very exciting – if the Green Goblin is, indeed, Osborn. At this point, there are few other people it could be who would make this story as meaningful and as awesome as Norman Osborn.

SM/WW #5

Superman/Wonder Woman #5
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Tony S. Daniel

Against my better judgement, I decided to give Superman/Wonder Woman another chance. I wanted to get a second DC comic review in this week, and in honor of Valentine’s Day, I picked this one, despite the fact that I’ve mostly been annoyed with the series so far. If this comic was intended to sell me on the idea of a Superman/Wonder Woman relationship, it has failed, and instead accomplishes the opposite. But I gave it another shot and I was not disappointed.

Wonder Woman visits her mother, frozen in stone, on Paradise Island, to vent about her relationship woes. Diana doesn’t like that Superman doesn’t want her in his life as Clark Kent, which, admittedly, is kind of jerkly for Superman. While she’s there, Wonder Woman has to fight a monster that escaped from the Underworld. Meanwhile, Superman chases after Zod and Faora, but since they are both trained warriors, they easily kick his ass – until Wonder Woman arrives as back-up! Wondy promptly delivers all manner of hurt on the Kryptonians, until Superman messes it up again by being completely unable to fight. Wonder Woman agrees with Zod for a tactical retreat of both parties.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

That was one of the better fight scenes I’ve read in quite some time. Wonder Woman’s arrival to back up her boyfriend and then almost single-handedly fighting off both Zod and Faora, while Superman made an idiot of himself, was highly entertaining. Soule can definitely write a great action scene. And the art by Daniel was as strong as it’s ever been. But man, oh man, does this series not want to celebrate this relationship. It’s maddening. Five issues in and I think they’ve kissed once. This comic is mostly about Superman and Wonder Woman fretting about their relationship to other people. Would it really be so hard or so wicked to show them on a nice, happy date? Why build a series around a romantic relationship if you’re so afraid of that relationship?

Wolverine and the X-Men #41

Wolverine and the X-Men #41
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Pepe Larraz and Todd Nauck

Man oh man, I should have known Jason Aaron wouldn’t let me down when it came to his Toad subplot. Aaron has done more for the character than probably anybody else, and before he leaves this title forever, he gives Toad a powerful send-off. I’m slightly disappointed in the ending, but I can’t complain about the quality of the issue and the strength and emotion he gives the character. I hope this isn’t the end of Toad’s journey.

The X-Men fire Toad from the Jean Grey School because he led the Hellfire Club to their doorstep. Before he leaves, however, Paige Guthrie asks him out for coffee, so that she can get to know him better. Toad happily accepts, because he doesn’t really have anywhere else to go. Before he can meet Paige for coffee, however, the two Hellfire Kids rescued by the School attack Salem Center with a robot army. The X-Men respond, but it’s Toad who manages to find the two of them. He beats one of them to a blood pulp, and demands the boy pass along the message that Toad could never stay and be with Paige, because she’d eventually wake up and see him for what he truly is. Toad then leaves with the young Dr. Frankenstein, with tears in his eyes.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

It probably would have been too much to ask for Toad to save the day, get the girl and become an X-Man. He’s not that kind of character. Tragedy and villainy are a part of him, or at least that’s what he thinks, so the ending makes perfect sense for Toad. I just have the fanboy desire to see him succeed. It would have been so nice for everything to work out for Toad, but he is not a nice character, and he doesn’t live a very nice life. Aaron gave him a grand send-off! He clearly had a lot of ideas for Toad in Wolverine and the X-Men, and he brings them all to a wonderful and powerful conclusion. Who ever could have thought that a beautiful woman would be left crying in a cafe because of Toad? My extreme dislike of the Hellfire Cubs remains, so it’s incredibly disappointing to see Toad jump back to his toady role with one of them, but hopefully Aaron isn’t done with the character. Hopefully this is just one more step on the road to Toad Greatness!

X-Force #1

X-Force #1
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Rock-He Kim

Despite ignoring both Uncanny X-Force and Cable and X-Force, I decided to pick up the first issue of this new series, and I might stick around, at least for a little while. I’m not sure how much from those previous two series is holding over into this one, so I’m going to look at this as a fresh start.

Cable has put together a new X-Force team to perform black ops missions for mutants. He wants to investigate the Alexandria Incident, where a huge explosion killed a bunch of dignitaries, and someone has linked it to mutants. Cable has brought Psylocke and Marrow onto his team, and together they beat up an evil Chinese monster man to rescue Cable’s informant: Fantomex. Then they’ve got to intercept an airplane in mid-flight to steal a secret weapon on board. Marrow shows off her new metallic bone powers to destroy the plane and steal the weapon, which turns out to be a captive mutant.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Marrow is one of my all-time favorite X-characters, so I’m excited to see her back in action. But wow, Spurrier seems to have ignored all previous Marrow characterizations to remake her into his own beast. She’s excitable, cheerful, and kill-happy; as if she were channeling Harley Quinn. I’m not disappointed, but it just seems like a weird direction to take her. Marrow is the narrator of this first issue, and her new strong personality drives the story forward. Speaking of strong personalities, Spurrier’s Fantomex is more over-the-top than ever before. It’s another weird development. I think Spurrier was given a lot of free reign to mold these characters however he sees fit. I’m not sure how it will play with the fans, but I’m comfortable with it.

The series itself seems like a strong take on the ‘black ops superhero team’ idea. Some of Cable’s dialogue about putting this team together is a little weird, especially considering how long X-Force has been a black ops team already, but the premise is pretty solid. And the cast isn’t too bad. At least some of these characters have a history together, and where they don’t, Spurrier is quickly building one. I’ve got more of a feel for the relationships between Cable and Marrow and Psylocke and Marrow than I do anyone in All-New X-Factor.

The art probably won’t be for everyone. I didn’t think I’d like it at first, but it definitely works for the series. It’s all angular and visceral, and it plays nicely with the black ops setting. The colors work too. But who’s to say how long we have with this particular team? Marvel seems to be in the mood to reboot X-Force over and over these days.

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 15, 2014, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, Superman, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. She-Hulk was great. Absolutely hilarious. On a side note, Soule has said that the intro, with the partners saying they hired her for contacts, was based on things that have happened to him and other attorneys he knows. So I think this series is going to be very much cathartic for him, letting him bitch about his profession and resolve things that have frustrated him with punching.

    Superior Spider-Man was cool.

    WatXM was crap, as usual. The Hellfire Brats are a terrible concept who never should’ve been created, let alone made the primary villains of a series. I’m going to be so glad to see Jason Aaron off this book, because this has been the worst run on an X-title since Chuck frigging Austen. I also want Aaron forbidden from ever writing Husk ever again, because the shit he did with her was just terrible. And now he has her crying over being stood up by frigging Toad. Toad! Argh! Another writer – a frankly BETTER writer – needs to grab Husk and redeem her after Aaron’s attempt to ruin her.

    X-Force was really good. I missed Marrow. Glad to see she’s gotten even crazier than ever. Her narration was neat, I thought. It had a nice cadence to it – a beat, if you will. Fantomex playing up his Frenchness actually feels like a very Fantomex thing to do. He’s in a mood to be extra-French, so he’s extra-French. Psylocke’s hatred of him was a good running gag. I’m glad to see Dr. Nemesis will be a supporting character, as he’s always hilarious. And I really liked the art. It’s a great style.

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