Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 2/22/14

We have arrive at another round of comic book reviews, but sadly, none of them feature LEGOs or the Guardians of the Galaxy. What a week though, right? Is anybody else still buzzing about that trailer? The more times I watch it, the more confident I become in that movie. But enough about them, on with the reviews! We’ve got stellar issues of Harley Quinn and Wonder Woman this week, and mediocre issues of Punisher, Uncanny X-Men and the brand new New Warriors. Only Batwoman was the real standout, which pleases me beyond measure. Batwoman wins Comic Book of the Week!

Cape Grab to Pool Table Flip

Comic Reviews: Batwoman #28, Harley Quinn #3, New Warriors #1, The Punisher #2, Uncanny X-Men #17 and Wonder Woman #28.

Batwoman #28

Batwoman #28
Writer: Mark Andreyko
Artist: Jeremy Haun

Yes! This issue was everything I was hoping to get from Mark Andreyko’s Batwoman! I was as sad as anybody to see J.H. Williams III go, but I knew Andreyko’s work, and I knew he could pull off some things that Williams couldn’t – and this is it! We finally get some really good characterization between Kate and Maggie, and both we and Kate finally meet Maggie’s daughter! It’s amazing to realize that Williams’ tenure focused so much more on Batwoman than on Kate. I hope this is a good sign of what’s to come.

After being discovered all bruised and bloodied in the bathroom by her girlfriend’s daughter, Kate is horrified that she’d let something like that happen. The next day, she visits Maggie at work to try and smooth things over. She succeeds with young Jamie, but Maggie isn’t so sure. She knows Kate didn’t do it on purpose, but Maggie is worried that Kate needs professional help to learn to balance her superhero life with her personal life. Maggie is very supportive in this, and gives Kate the name of a good shrink, but Kate still feels like her world is coming apart. She takes her aggression out on the criminal underworld, beating up thugs in an effort to learn the Wolf Spider’s true identity, but to no avail. Fortunately, Hawkfire has some leads.

We learn that Wolf Spider’s financier wants a certain artist’s paintings because they’re hiding old city maps. Wolf Spider tells him that there are only two paintings left: one at Arkham Asylum, and one at the Kane Family Estate!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

The scenes between Kate and Jamie were the perfect kind of adorable. Even the scene at the beginning, where Kate collapses to her knees after freaking out the little girl in the bathroom. Andreyko just wrote Jamie so well. She really sounded like a little girl. And I liked Kate and Maggie’s very adult, very reasonable conversation. Maggie wasn’t just some cliched girlfriend spouting off the usual girlfriend gripes. She had some legitimate concerns with a lot of intelligence behind them. I liked that. And Kate stayed in character too. Every time someone chatted with Kate out of costume, it worked wonderfully.

The Batwoman stuff was less interesting, but not too bad. Wolf Spider has yet to really standout as anything more than some punk in a silly costume going around stealing paintings. Why Andreyko seems to be building him up into a real menace is beyond me. We don’t even know why he calls himself ‘Wolf Spider’ yet. Are wolf spiders the most artistic kind of spider? Are they just his favorite animal? I hope the mystery is worth finding out.

Harley Quinn #3

Harley Quinn #3
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner
Artist: Chad Hardin

If this issue is any indication of what Harley Quinn is going to be like as a series, I think we can expect one big ball of excitable fun all the way up to its inevitable cancellation. I don’t know what New 52 Harley has been like before this, but she seems like a pretty fun gal. And I think it helps that she’s completely cut off from the Joker. I always like it when henchpeople get to break out on their own.

It’s Valentine’s Day, but Harley doesn’t have anybody to be with (because Poison Ivy went home last issue). Her friend Big Tony convinces her to get dressed up and go out on the town, but a berry that Harley ate off of one of Poison Ivy’s plants makes her smell maddeningly irresistible to everybody! Harley accidentally causes a prison bus to crash, and then all of the perverts, cannibals and psychopaths on board start chasing her with lust in their eyes. Harley escapes to a Home Depot, where she fights them off with puns and power tools. After she kills them all, and gets smooched by the lady cop who tries to arrest her, Harley figures out what was going on and rushes home to spend the rest of the night with her pooches – though she does give Big Tony one of those berries to help with his own romantic troubles.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This issue was just one big bundle of silly fun, and I’m totally OK with that. Conner and Palmiotti don’t seem all that concerned with any sort of overall plot, and instead just want to celebrate all manner of Harley shenanigans! That’s turning out to be a very enjoyable comic. Harley is extremely likable, and Hardin’s art keeps her cute and not uncomfortably over-sexed. I’m sure there are a lot of similarities between this series and Marvel’s Deadpool, but for now, Harley Quinn lacks the extreme zaniness that turned me off Deadpool. Harley herself seems much more relatable, and her adventures aren’t as comedically insane. Even when she’s killing psychopaths with a weedwacker, it feels grounded. And I get the sense that, when this series does settle down into something a bit more serious, Conner and Palmiotti will have built up a strong enough central character to make the serious issues really matter. This new series has really surprised me.

New Warriors #1

New Warriors #1
Writer: Chris Yost
Artist: Marcus To

I was a huge fan of Yost’s Scarlet Spider series, so I was definitely planning to pick up his new New Warriors, even though I’ve never particularly cared for the team or the concept. In fact, I’m not even sure what’s motivating Marvel to try this relaunch. But they’re giving it a shot, Scarlet Spider and Aracely are in it, so I figure I might as well give it a try.

Some evil force is killing a lot of people, and there are a bunch of random superheroes around the world who keep bumping into them. Justice and Speedball, who want to restart the New Warriors, are in New Salem, which is a town populated by magical people and protected by the Salem Seven. First everybody fights, then they make up and become friends once they realize they’re all on the same side, only to then come under attack by these new bad guys. Sun Girl is busting thugs in New York City before meeting the evil force in the subway, and Nova runs into them in Albquerque. Scarlet Spider and Hummingbird are in Mexico, trying to relax, when a bunch of dead Atlanteans wash ashore with Namora. Nova is the one who finds out who is behind this evil force: the High Evolutionary, and his robot minions are just killing people for his usual evolutionary-based reasons.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

I didn’t care for it. Mostly because it’s just a generic superhero story, and those just don’t do it for me anymore. Maybe there’s an audience out there for a comic where a bunch of colorful superheroes show up, team up and fight evil, but I need more in my comics. I want drama and romance and meaningful themes…but New Warriors #1 doesn’t have any of them. It’s just a bunch of colorful superheroes, none of them particularly deep, and an evil menace they’re going to have to fight. And the idea that Justice and Speedball want to force a new New Warriors, even with their history in the Civil War, is kind of awkward. They mention it in the issue, but that doesn’t relieve the awkwardness. There are half a dozen different Avengers teams, fellas.

Punisher #2

The Punisher #2
Writer: Nathan Edmondson
Artist: Mitch Gerads

Punisher wears a Hawkeye T-shirt in this comic, and I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. I thought the ‘I’m not Daredevil’ shirt he wore on one of the covers was kind of clever, but if they’re going to make it a thing that Frank Castle does, I’m not sure if I like it or not. It could clearly be Frank’s idea of a sick joke, but I don’t think Frank Castle is the kind of guy who buys pop culturally relevant T-shirts. Anyway, that’s not the worst part of the second issue.

As Punisher tracks the Dos Soles drug cartel in Los Angeles, he discovers that they have a new, secret electricity weapon. They use the weapon on some cops, and Punisher is stuck a few steps behind them for most of the issue – until the Dos Soles ambush him with the weapon on the freeway – and their weapon is revealed to be Electro! Also, Frank adopts a wild coyote.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

Uh, Electro? Aren’t you jumping the gun there a little bit, Mr. Edmundson? Isn’t Marvel saving Electro for the opening story arc of their massive Amazing Spider-Man relaunch? So that they can cash in with the unofficial tie-in to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie, which is going to make millions at the box office? Does Marvel really want to use Electro in this mediocre Punisher comic ahead of time? Just seems like very poor planning to me. Punisher could have fought anybody in this opening story arc, why steal the Amazing Spider-Man’s thunder? But hey, I’m not the creative director at Marvel, so they can do whatever they want.

I don’t think I’ll be reading this Punisher series much longer. It’s a competently made comic, and I imagine Frank Castle is being written rather well, but it’s just not doing anything for me. We don’t have any reason to care (yet) about Punisher tracking a drug cartel to Los Angeles. All of the marketing seems to make it a big deal that Punisher left New York, but the comic hasn’t gotten the memo. He’s just in town chasing a pretty boring drug cartel (who randomly hire Electro). Why does this drug cartel matter any more than a million other drug cartels that could exist? Edmundson needs to hurry up and deliver a hook to this storyline. Punisher could have fought Electro back in New York for a million different, better reasons. And none of the new supporting cast come off as anything more than Edmundson randomly thinking up colorful supporting characters.

I think he should have started at the very beginning, and take us readers on the journey of Frank discovering and tracking this cartel, and then meeting these people in LA. But again, I don’t control the creative direction. I can just decide not to read it anymore.

Uncanny X-Men #17

Uncanny X-Men #17
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Chris Bachalo

An issue all about the new students of Cyclops’ Uncanny X-Men? Sign me up! I love those guys! Too bad the issue didn’t turn out as good as I would have liked…

The students of the new Xavier School are dropped into Tabula Rasa as an impromptu training exercise. Hijack tries to use his cell phone to pinpoint their location, even though Cyclops has forbid everyone from carrying phones. The team is forced to split up when a giant monster smashes through the area. Goldballs is able to take it down by getting a gold ball lodged in its throat, but Eva mysteriously disappears. Morph and some of the others encounter a race of humanoids, and Benjamin tries to connect with them, but they turn out to be monsters. Fortunately, Eva returns to stop them – but her costume is in tatters and her hair is longer, so something clearly happened with her time powers, but she doesn’t want to talk about it. Once they all regroup, SHIELD arrives, having traced Hijack’s cell phone, like Cyclops said they would. But Hijack turns all of their own weapons against them before the X-Men are teleported out of there.

Cyclops congratulates most of the team on a job well done, but he berates Hijack for having a cell phone, against direct orders, and how it led to Hijack revealing his powers to their enemy. Cyclops cuts Hijack from the team and has Magik teleport him back home.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I really enjoyed this issue, but I was really disappointed in it as well. I was ecstatic when I heard that we’d have a whole issue focusing on this band of young X-Men, because this is my favorite X-team right now. Goldballs might just be my favorite new X-Man of the 21st century. And I enjoyed the team bonding, banter and superheroics. But for possibly the first time, all I could hear was the ‘Bendis’ in the banter. A lot of people online complain that when Bendis really gets going, all of his characters sound the same. I’ve never really felt that way…until now. None of the characters really stood out, personality-wise. They were like a bantering hivemind, each one contributing in almost exactly the same way.

We already know who these characters are, and we know their powers. We don’t need to be introduced to them. We need Bendis to start creating drama between them. Where is the budding romance? Where are the new best friends? Where is the antagonism? If these characters are to have any staying power, Bendis needs to really flesh them out and get into their heads, like that one issue that was all about Benjamin. And he needs to get them better costumes. Why do some of them get cool X-Men jackets, but Goldballs is still running around in his comfy shirt and flip-flops? Who the hell let him go to Tabula Rasa wearing flip-flops!?

And that ending really left a sour taste in my mouth. I was good with the issue right up until that end, because sending Hijack home like that just seems to go against everything I thought I understood about what Cyclops is building here. I get that Cyke is a harsh guy these days, but he’s building this team as a pro-mutant effort, so why would he just drop one of them like that? I assume Bendis is going somewhere with this, and maybe Hijack’s future storylines will redeem this issue, but for right now, that scene just made me dislike this issue even more. It makes absolutely no sense. I get that Cyke was mad at him, but Hijack just put SHIELD in its place (also, I’m getting bored of scenes where SHIELD or the Avengers face-off against the Uncanny X-Men and nothing happens. How many times now has Hawkeye pointed his bow at the team while they weakly attempt to arrest Scott Summers for killing Xavier? Get over it, SHIELD, the rest of us have moved on).  Hijack is confident and powerful in this issue, but Cyclops cuts him like a chump. Not only that, but he sends the guy back home. Maybe Cyclops wants to use him as bait for SHIELD or something, but he could have at least sent him to the Jean Grey School.

I liked the issue, but I didn’t think Bendis went nearly far enough with the characters. It’s time to really start playing with these characters and turning them into real people with real drama. And that ending just left a bad taste in my mouth. It went against everything I believe in about Cyclops. But here’s hoping Bendis has something in store.

Wonder Woman #28

Wonder Woman #28
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Cliff Chiang

A new issue of Wonder Woman? Sure, why not! Every single issue of this series has been an enjoyable ride, and the new issue is no different. That’s not a complaint, at all.

With Artemis’ help, Wonder Woman and her team are able to track Zeke and Zola all the way to the woods in Provence, where Zola has just narrowly escaped an attack from the Minotaur. Dio wasn’t so lucky, and he gets captured by Cassandra while Wonder Woman, Artemis and Hermes try to fight through her army to get to him. It’s also possible that Zola sneaks onto Cassandra’s ship to help Dio. Once the bad guys are all on board, Dio tells them that he’d be happy to take them to Mount Olympus, so Apollo can fry their butts! Little does he know that the First Born defeats Apollo in their fight, but then Apollo blows up the skyscraper that was serving as Olympus.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Wonder Woman was really badass in this issue. I liked how she defended Artemis, and how she rushed into battle against Cassandra’s forces. I’ve always felt that Wonder Woman seems to get second billing behind Azzarello’s mythological characters, but Diana really stood out in this issue. I was glad for that. Everyone else had a really strong showing – though I felt Apollo went out like a chump. I get that the First Born is Azzarello’s big bad guy, but Apollo has always seemed to be even bigger. I hope that’s not really the end of Apollo’s reign.

Also, I read recently that Azzarello and Chiang are leaving the book this spring. That does not bode well for anybody.

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 22, 2014, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Punisher, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. New Warriors was really good. Sharp writing. Yost has a knack for redeeming terrible concepts. He came up with the Evolutionaries a few years ago in X-Men, when they wiped out the Neo (another terrible concept). So we’ll see if Yost can now redeem one of his own bad ideas. I also really want to see more of New Salem and the Salem’s Seven. That’s a great twist on them that Yost came up with. I’d love it if they popped up in another book.

    Punisher was good. I actually want more focus on the supporting cast, though.

    UXM was great. I loved it. Some nice character focus on the students, plenty of humour and excitement.

  2. I blame Garth Ennis. I like this new Punisher series but I keep comparing it to Punisher MAX and that isn’t fair to Edmondson. Punisher MAX is on a league of its own.

  3. Let’s go women of DC Comics!!

  1. Pingback: The Secret Origin of Red Tool! | Henchman-4-Hire

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