Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 3/1/14

This week, Aquaman attends his high school reunion. And no, that’s not the set up for a joke. It sounds like one though, when I write it out like that, doesn’t it? But seriously, it’s a legitimate story, and it’s utterly fantastic! I seriously wish more DC comics these days were like Aquaman. Do you hear that, DC superheroes? Be more like Aquaman!

As for Marvel heroes, you need to be more like Hawkeye. Even more seriously, how did we not see Hawkeye coming? I am going to gush about this comic every week that it comes out, because I think Hawkeye is not only the best comic book on the stands today, but it’s also the wave of the future, baby! And it’s just so weird, considering Hawkeye the comic probably got greenlit because of Hawkeye in The Avengers movie, and the two characters couldn’t be more dissimilar!

Hawkeye #15, the epic team-up of the Barton Brothers, easily wins Comic Book of the Week.

And that is why Barney Barton is not a superhero.

Comic Reviews: Aquaman #28, Fantastic Four #1, Hawkeye #15, Superior Spider-Man #28, and Wolverine and the X-Men #42.

Aquaman #28

Aquaman #28
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Paul Pelletier

You guys, Aquaman attends his high school reunion in this issue! And it’s as fun and exciting as you would expect it to be! What’s that? You don’t think that’s an awesome idea for a comic book? What’s wrong with you? That’s exactly what I want from a superhero comic book! Three issues in, and writer Jeff Parker has won me over as Geoff Johns’ successor.

The issue opens with Aquaman discovering a massive underwater fortress, built by the surface world while he was in that coma. It’s the place we saw last issue, where Dr. Shen is working. Aquaman arrives just in time to save a diver being attacked by sharks, but the people at the lab have a pretty big mad on for the King of the Seven Seas, and first they attack him, then they demand he leave. Stupid surface worlders.

But the real highlight of the issue is Aquaman and Mera attending his high school reunion! It seems that when Arthur was growing up as a normal boy, he attended school like any normal person. He had friends, an ex-girlfriend, enemies, and all sorts of stories from back in the day. There’s the guy who keyed Arthur’s car when they were seniors, and has been living in fear that the King of Atlantis would come back and exact his revenge. There’s the guy whose family tourism business was saved when Aquaman brought a pod of whales to the coast. And there’s his ex-girlfriend, who shares some embarrassingly adorable stories with Mera.

Aquaman is able to put some old fears to rest, and has a great time catching up with old friends…but, of course, there are villains plotting against him in the background. While Aquaman was out, an archeologist broke into his lighthouse and stole his trident, intent on using it to open some ancient gateway. And that diver who was attacked by sharks? The undersea lab’s resident mad scientist is going to perform some experiments on him!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This issue was absolutely delightful! This sort of story, where Aquaman reconnects with his roots in a very human, very personable way, is exactly what’s missing from the New 52 reboot as a whole. Nobody is simply a person anymore, and as far as I’m concerned, people sell comics. I loved every minute of Arthur chatting with old classmates, worrying about old rivalries and blushing at the silly romance he had when he was a teenager. Fantastic scene all around.

The rest of the issue was pretty good too. The idea that the surface world wants to start colonizing under the water, without giving two cares about Aquaman’s rule, is a fascinating one. Who says that Aquaman is king of all of the oceans everywhere? Just because Atlantis sank all those centuries ago, he gets to command the entire ocean? It’s a cool sounding plot on Parker’s part. I was lukewarm on his first two issues, but Aquaman #28 has made me a believer.

Fantastic Four #1

Fantastic Four #1
Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Leonard Kirk

I have never been a regular Fantastic Four reader…and it doesn’t look like I will be this time either. I loved Matt Fraction and the Family Allred’s FF series with every ounce of my comic-loving soul. But Robinson seems to be trading in all of that heart and whimsey for a darker, more straight forward take on Marvel’s First Family. I can’t say it’s the wrong choice, but it’s probably not the right choice fo rme.

Sometime in the near future, the Fantastic Four is in shambles! Ben Grimm is in prison for murder, and Reed Richards put him there. Reed is a shell of his former self, unable to do any science. And Johnny is lost to partying. Only Sue remains, writing all of this in a letter to her daughter Valeria. In the present day, the Four all have new red costumes, and they’re in the middle of Manhattan fighting Fing Fang Foom. They take him down in class F4 fashion. At the Baxter Building, Sue misses her daughter (who is staying in Latveria for the time being), but Reed is there to comfort her – after they do a little wacky parenting with the Future Foundation kids and Bentley-23’s Death-by-Chocolate Ray. Johnny meets with his manager, who has a new contract to sign for Johnny’s music career. And Ben visits Alicia Masters to get back together.

It seems like a pretty nice day for everybody…until some portal doorway opens up inside the Baxter Building and an army of evil alien bug monsters fly out.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

It’s nice that Robinson is taking the effort to include the Future Foundation kids, but I don’t think his heart is in it. Maybe I was just too used to them being the focus in FF, but their little cameo in this issue is little more than a reminder that they’re still around. I don’t see him focusing on the kids at all, based on this first issue. Robinson’s real focus is on the F4 themselves, and he’s got a pretty strong handle on them. Everybody seems to be their usual selves, and maybe that’s enough for some people. But I wasn’t particularly taken by anything that happened in this issue. The Four seem pretty normal, and those bugs at the end didn’t seem particularly new or threatening. Just another monster to defeat. The red costumes look cool, but no explanation is given why the F4 would switch to red instead of sticking with white or returning to blue. A little mention would have been nice.

Robinson’s Fantastic Four looks to be a return to form after the wackiness of Fraction’s run. He’s off to a strong start, but as someone who has never had much interest in an ordinary Fantastic Four, I might just skip this comic.

Hawkeye #15

Hawkeye #15
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: David Aja

It’s been a good long while since we checked in with the titular character of this comic, but I don’t mind. The adventures of Kate Bishop in California were super great! But Fraction and Aja are back with the Barton Brothers for one heck of a comic. And that ending! Oh man!

Clint and Barney Barton continue their investigation into the Tracksuit Mafia, with the help of Black Widow, Mockingbird and Spider-Woman. They discover that the Mafia owns every building for a three block radius, and we learn that they intend to turn the area into a shopping district. The only holdout is the apartment building that Hawkeye is protecting, simply because he wanted to do right by the tenants. The Mafia launch a multi-pronged attack on the building, with one group nearly grabbing Hawkeye, while another group rushes inside to take a family hostage. The Barton brothers make short work of both groups before realizing that one of the tenants has been letting the Mafia into the building. They rush off to figure it out – and then the mysterious Blank killer launches an ambush! He stabs Hawkeye with his own arrow, then shoots Barney with a gun!

Jeez Louise!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Gah! No! Not the Barton Brothers! Hawkeye remains the book to beat in today’s market, pushing the envelope on art, humor, humanity and now, apparently action. Fraction proves this comic isn’t just a comedy with a brutal ending. Obviously Clint isn’t dead, but Barney? He’s probably toast! Barney was an alright guy! Not that this is the first blood that Fraction and Aja have spilled in this comic. Hawkeye’s fight is going to get brutal, and I know it’s going to be the story to read this year. The Tracksuit Mafia are still a bundle of laughs, but they are raised up a level in terms of villainy this time. And I love how the plot came into deeper focus with this issue. Clint was just trying to do the right thing by some tenants, but in the end, he doesn’t own the building and has no legal right to squat there like its own personal protector. That’s an absolutely perfect set-up for Fraction’s take on the character as a bit bumbling.

Now if only other writers would stop dragging him away to point his bow and arrow at the Uncanny X-Men…

Superior Spider-Man #28

Superior Spider-Man #28
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli

Goblin Nation heats up in a lot of exciting ways this issue, and some surprising ones as well. I hope Slott pushes the story even further in upcoming issues, but for now, he’s building a steady start to a fantastic finale for Superior Spider-Man.

Spider-Man flees the destruction of Spider-Island and goes into hiding, prompting the Green Goblin to enact the next part of his plan: attacking the family and friends closest to Peter Parker. Except that the Goblin didn’t count on Mary Jane being a badass who uses a pair of web-shooters to fight off her would-be kidnappers. Then MJ and her new boyfriend rush out to get Aunt May to safety, and continue their quest to warn everybody. Meanwhile, the newly evil Carlie Cooper attacks Parker Industries, which just so happens to be where Otto has gone to hide. He fights her off, then Carlie reveals that there’s still part of her real identity left, and she wants Otto to cure her. The good guys might have a chance!

But the one person MJ didn’t know to rescue is the one person who matters most to Otto: Anna Marie! Lily Hollister shows up at ESU and kidnaps Anna!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Mary Jane rocks this issue! When she comes busting out with those web-shooters, and declares herself the ‘wildcard’ of Goblin Nation, that was legitimately exciting. Her new boyfriend is still a bit of a bore, by Mary Jane was on fire! Otto had some strong moments too, expect for the part where he abandoned all of his minions on Spider-Island. That wasn’t cool, dude. But he’s still a strong protagonist here, his arrogance finally facing off against a true opponent. The Green Goblin is quite ready to destroy, and I’m excited to see what Otto does about it. Though if I’m being completely honest, there’s something missing from this whole  adventure. Slott needs to add an extra spark to make it really resonate…and putting Anna Marie in danger might just be it!

Wolverine and the X-Men #42

Wolverine and the X-Men #42
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Nick Bradshaw, Pepe Larraz and many more

I liked Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men. It was whimsical and funny, with unique characters and a fun setting that, when it started, was unlike anything else in the X-Men at the time. I’ve never particularly cared for any of the students at the school, but I liked the concept and I liked the world that Aaron built. His style was the selling point for me. So it’s too bad that the series has come to an end. But 41 issues and several years worth of stories definitely counts for something. I hope the next creative team can bring more good stories to the title.

The final issue cuts back and forth between Graduation Day, when several students receive their diplomas and become active X-Men, and one day far in the future, when Old Man Wolverine closes down the Jean Grey School for good. The only one of the main students to graduate is Quentin Quire, and he spends the rest of the issue in existential dread at not living up to his would-be super-villain hopes. But everyone from Idie to Wolverine to Captain America has words of encouragement for him. In the far future, Wolverine’s last day at the school is spent first with Idie, who eventually gets called away on X-Men business. And then Phoenix Quentin shows up to spend some time with the old man, and reveals that he has some transfers from the Future Foundation’s Negative Zone School. So it looks like the Jean Grey School isn’t closing down after all!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I kind of have a love/dislike relationship with Quentin Quire. There were times when Aaron turned him into a really cool character, and there were times I wanted to tear my hair out at how ridiculous he was making him. More people talked about what a pain in the ass Quentin was then we ever actually saw him being a pain in the ass. This issue falls more on the latter side of things, with Quire’s dilemma being pretty ridiculous. Quire’s desire to be a feared super-villain has rung hollow since Grant Morrison stopped writing him, so an issue full of Quentin wishing he was still that cool was pretty lame. Especially when Captain America showed up. Ugh. That was a little too ridiculous.

But the rest of the issue was nice. Old Man Logan’s farewell to the school was mostly sweet, and Aaron does a nice job of dropping in little teases about what his ‘future of the X-Men’ would be like. I vehemently dislike Idie, and never bought into some great mentor/student relationship between Wolverine and Quentin, so those scenes weren’t as strong for me. But the excitement that came with Graduation Day was pretty fun – even if most of the graduates were the students Aaron never bothered with, like Pixie and Armor. Still, Aaron gets to say a nice goodbye, and I think he delivered on a solid, enjoyable X-Men series. Kudos on him.

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 March 1, 2014, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Fantastic Four was OK. Didn’t blow me away.

    Hawkeye was good, as usual. Lots of fun.

    Superior Spider-Man was good. MJ’s awesome.

    WatXM was as awful as the rest of the series. Good riddance. Jason Aaron did a terrible job on this book. Though at least in this issue, he remembered that there are actually other students at the school. A whole three other characters got name-dropped. That’s about the most recognition that Aaron’s given the New X-Men during his entire frigging run on this piece of shit series. Hopefully Latour makes some use of them, even if it’s just as a revolving supporting cast. Since Marvel doesn’t seem inclined to give the characters another title, despite their popularity, the only chance we have to see any of them is other writers using them as supporting cast. Brian Wood’s been doing fantastic work with them. I’d like for the book about the school to also make use of the students at the school where the stories are actually taking place.

    But this series ranks among the worst runs on any X-title. It’s up there with Chuck Austen.

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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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: