Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 3/15/14

Welcome to the Ides of March my friends! Why isn’t this holiday celebrated anymore? You never heard about any other Ides of any other months. I wonder why this one went out of style…oh wait…right. But let’s not dwell on history’s murderous past! Let’s celebrate the present, and all the great comic books its giving us!

First of all, Captain Marvel is back! It was one of my favorite comics from the past year, and I was very excited to see it return…until it started making some startling changes! We’ll see if they’re good changes or bad. Beyond that, we’ve got explosive issues of Batman, Superior Spider-Man and Superman/Wonder Woman, as well as the second issues of X-Force and Fantastic Four. One of those is doing better than the other. And now I’m starting feel like a broken record for declaring Hawkeye #17 the Comic Book of the Week. But with panels like this one, how could I choose anything else?

It only gets better from here

This is a story you’ve got to see to believe.

Comic Reviews: Batman #29, Captain Marvel #1, Fantastic Four #2, Hawkeye #17, Superior Spider-Man #29, Superman/Wonder Woman #6 and X-Force #2.

Batman #29

Batman #29
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo

I read a story the other day how Scott Snyder got the name ‘Bluebird’ for Harper Row from an adorable young comic book fan. That makes it a little easier to accept that Harper won’t be Robin anytime soon, but man…I wish Harper could be Robin. She makes a quick cameo appearance in the latest Zero Year issue, an issue that might be the best of the project so far.

While the Riddler’s plan to take control of the city draws ever closer, Batman and Gordon team up to try and stop him. Gordon heads to Wayne Enterprises, where Riddler is waiting – only for him to give Gordon the slip. Batman heads up to the weather balloon controlling Riddler’s device, but he’s greeted by Dr. Death. The two do battle in the storm, with Batman finally getting the upper hand – but he’s unable to stop Riddler’s plans from taking effect! The fools in the GCPD turn the power back on, which is exactly what Riddler wanted. Riddler’s program gives him control of the entire city, just as the storms start flooding the city. Batman and Gordon have lost, and Gotham City descends into chaos!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

As usual, I don’t actually find myself very invested in Zero Year as a whole. I don’t know what it is, though it may literally be the lack of Robin. I just don’t care about Batman as much when Robin isn’t around. But I can definitely recognize that Snyder and Capullo are telling some truly epic Batman stories. This week’s issue was definitely a hum-dinger. Batman battling Dr. Death in the rain, the whole of Gotham City crumbling around him, and in the end, he fails. Batman and Gordon fail to save the city. It’s a powerful moment and a powerful issue, pushing Batman to his very limits. Snyder is writing some truly excellent Batman stories…I just wish Robin was involved, and that Harper Row was Robin, but really, that’s just me being whiny. Go ahead and enjoy your Batman.

Captain Marvel #1

Captain Marvel #1
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: David Lopez

She’s back! We’ve waited months for DeConnick’s Captain Marvel to hit the comic shop shelves again, and here she is! And it’s great! DeConnick dives right back into the good stuff that made us all fall in love with the series in the first place. But then…man…I have no idea where this series is headed, and I am definitely worried.

In the present day, Carol is part of a ragtag team of space scoundrels doing some sort of space thing on some random planet’s marketplace. How did she get there? Well we have to go back six months, where she’s living in the Statue of Liberty with Kit (Lt. Trouble) and Kit’s mom, as well as in a relationship with Rhodey! Where’d that come from? While out on a baddie-busting mission with Iron Man, Tony explains that he thinks the Avengers need a bigger profile in space, and he tries to use reverse psychology to get Carol to volunteer. She does, though not because of Tony’s efforts. She says goodbye to Rhodey and throws her old friend a birthday party before blasting off.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

I am not looking forward to adventures of Carol out in space, paling around with a bunch of random, uninteresting space characters. We only meet them for a page or two in this issue, but I’m pretty sure they are going to remain uninteresting. But that might just be my bias talking. The majority of this issue was great, giving us a taste of the Captain Marvel we love. Kit is beyond adorable, and even Carols’ old friend Tracy is a lot of fun. I liked the Carol/Rhodey relationship, and Carol and Iron Man have a nice scene together. The issue gives us all the things we love, and Lopez is great on art.

But like I said, I wince at the idea that DeConnick is going to leave all of this good stuff behind for some generic space adventures. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this’ll be the next Firefly, but I really, really doubt it. And it bothers me to be so pessimistic about this.

Fantastic Four #2

Fantastic Four #2
Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Leonard Kirk

Robinson is billing his story as the ‘Fall of the Fantastic Four’, and while that makes for a dramatic story, I keep wondering: haven’t they fallen several dozen times already? I don’t recall any specific stories, but the Fantastic Four falling apart or ending or breaking up or whatever sounds like it’s been done to death. And nothing we’ve seen so far indicates Robinson’s story is going to tackle this plot with any sort of new or interesting angle.

Those monsters from the end of last issue start attacking Manhattan, and every hero in the city starts fighting back. Reed is worried, because Franklin explains that they came from the Heroes Reborn universe, and someone let them out. Reed takes one for study and figures out a way to beat them. His device works…but it costs the Human Torch his powers!

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

The Human Torch has lost his powers? Please. Am I really supposed to get worked up over that? He died only a few years ago and was brought back to life before the year was even over. So maybe he won’t have his powers for the length of Robinson’s run, but there isn’t a comic book reader alive who believes this is permanent. So it exists solely for this story, but even then, I can’t work up too much concern because it didn’t even happen in any sort of dramatic or interesting way. There’s a bunch of evil bug monsters, Reed develops a device to stop them, and that randomly, inexplicably, causes Johnny to lose his powers. It’s only the second issue. Nothing has really been developed in terms of Johnny’s powers being all that important or special. There’s no inherent drama in Johnny losing his powers other that it sucks to lose his powers.

Beyond that, the issue just felt kind of generic. A bunch of other heroes make cameos in the background (including Mach VI!), but the issue is really just about the Fantastic Four fighting random bug monsters until Reed sciences the problem away. Nothing really stands out as all that new or interesting, leading to just a fairly ordinary story.

Hawkeye #17

Hawkeye #17
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Chris Eliopoulos

I hope you henchmen and henchwomen aren’t getting too upset with the fact that I keep talking about Hawkeye. I feel like I talk about that comic more so than any other comic – and for good reason. Hawkeye is exactly the sort of comic I want to read, and is exactly the sort of comic I want to write, and is the sort of comic that I think is leading a revolution in comic book storytelling. But sometimes, Hawkeye is just a really fun comic using clever ways to tell its story, like this new issue.

Clint and some of the neighbor kids settle down to watch the MBC Wintertime Winter Friends Winter Fun Special!

Winter is ruined when the evil Mr. Sun arrives in the middle of winter, melting all the snow, killing the snowmen and making kids pass out from the heat! The Winter Friends respond to save the day, but they are also no match for Mr. Sun! The only hope is Steve, the dog with no powers. Steve launches his investigation with the help of his buddies, Lil, the yappy dog, and Herman, the big brudda dog, even though Steve insists he doesn’t need their help. When they run into the evil Dingoes gang, Steve’s other doggie friends come to help, but he still angrily shouts that he can handle this on his own – but in the end, he can’t. Steve gets help from his doggie buddies, Mother Winter and the Winter Friends to defeat Mr. Sun. Maybe he’s learned a lesson after all.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This is the sort of thing I mean when I mention ‘new and interesting angles’ to tell stories. This story was just so damn creative! Granted, it doesn’t follow up on Barney Barton’s shooting, which is a bit of a downer, but Hawkeye has been playing fast and loose with linear storytelling for awhile now. Instead, using the medium of cartoons, Fraction and guest artist Eliopoulos give us a fairly stellar definition of the series as a whole. Hawkeye, the powerless Avenger, thinks he can handle all of the problems in his life on his own, but in the end, he needs to learn that his friends are there to help.

And seriously, have you seen these friends yet?

‘Menorable’? I can now die happy knowing that pun is in my life.

Hawkeye #17 is way outside the norm, and that’s exactly why I love it. But even when the series is on task, and telling the story of Clint Barton’s battle with the Tracksuit Mafia, it is still the best comic book on the stands these days. I’m going to keep talking about it, and I hope you’re reading it, because Hawkeye is everything I want from comics. Now if only Fraction and Aja would team up for a Multiple Man comic…

Superior Spider-Man #29

Superior Spider-Man #29
Writers: Dan Slott and Christos Gage
Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli

Goblin Nation just gets better and better, and the new issue is the best one yet, as Slott and Gage introduce some real stakes and emotion into the battle.

Green Goblin continues to taunt Otto by blowing up several buildings of significance to his life, then finally threatening both Anna Maria and Empire State University. Spidey rushes off to save the day – only to find out the Goblin is actually only threatening Professor Lamaze. Otto laughs off the threat and attacks, only for the Goblin to anticipate that Otto would use mechanical arms, and he takes control of them. Otto fights his own arms until Lamaze jumps in front of one of them before it can stab Spidey, sacrificing his life. Otto holds the old professor, who reveals that when Otto saved him and Anna Marie all those issues ago, it taught Lamaze how to be a hero.

Spidey is about to go after the Goblin again, but then Jonah’s army of Spider-Slayers shows up, intent on killing him. Otto underestimates their power and gets grabbed by one of them. But then Spider-Man 2099 shows up and shuts them off (having helped design them). He has a bunch of questions for Spidey, but doesn’t get them answered, because the Slayers get turned back on and attack both of them, declaring that they are now under the control of Norman Osborn!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Who knew that Slott could turn the death of Don Lamaze into something of real sadness? It was hilarious that the Goblin would mistake Otto’s affection for the big-nosed teacher, but Lamaze’s dying words, about how Otto showed him what it means to be a hero, were truly touching. It was a really strong moment in the story. The rest is good too, though if I’m being honest, I don’t really want to see Spider-Man 2099 in this story. I know he’s got fans, and that’s fine, but Goblin Nation should be about Otto vs. the Green Goblin, whoever he might be. This should be an epic battle between the two villains for the fate of the city, with Peter Parker waiting in the wings to do something awesome. The time-displaced Spider-Man 2099 is just a weird addition to that tight premise.

Superman/Wonder Woman #6

Superman/Wonder Woman #6
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Tony S. Daniel

Even if Soule isn’t winning me over with the relationship in this comic, he’s at least got a strong handle on action and excitement. The stakes get pushed pretty darn high in this issue, both romantically and…actionly. But Soule and DC have only actually earned one of those.

Superman and Wonder Woman continue their battle against Zod and Faora, with help from Hephaestus. But Apollo, the God of the Sun, is working against them, and using the sun to supercharge the Kryptonian bad guys. Zod and Faora win, trap the loving couple in a nuclear reactor, and then open the gate to the Phantom Zone, where Warworld and an entire army of baddies wait for invasion! In the reactor, Superman and Wonder Woman work together to use her sword, which is sharp enough to cut atoms, to split some Uranium atoms to cause an atomic explosion to close the portal!

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I forgot to mention that Superman tells Wonder Woman that he loves her in this issue, before they cause the explosion. If you’ve been reading my reviews of this series so far, you’ll know that I don’t buy that with the change in my pocket. This may be the worst comic book romance I have ever read. There is no emotion behind it. Thankfully, the action is pretty cool…though Soule and Daniel rush through the two fight scenes. The first one is done in all shadows, while the second is skipped entirely. This is Superman and Wonder Woman fist-fighting General Zod and Faora! They couldn’t have come up with bigger, cooler fight scenes than those? Still, the action sustains this issue, making it readable, and that bombastic finale was pretty darn cool.

X-Force #2

X-Force #2
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Rock-He Kim

So what, pray tell, is the big difference between X-Force and All-New X-Factor? Why do I seem to like one but keep hating on the other? They’re both a random assortment of X-characters thrown together to continue a franchise name. So what’s the difference? There are a few. The characters on X-Force have distinct, interesting personalities, and Spurrier is already meshing them together into new and interesting relationships. The team and their mission are well-defined and stick to point. Though Spurrier does make a huge blunder at the start of this issue.

Cable spends a few pages mocking the other mutant superteams for not investigating the Alexandria Incident and the fact that some bad guy is kidnapping and weaponizing mutants (Marrow, Hope and the girl they rescued at the end of last issue, Meme, are all victims of this). To get information, X-Force fights their way through armed guards to Fiqh, an information guy. But to hand over his info, Fiqh sends Cable to assassinate some evil mutant guy, and Cable takes him out with sneakery and aplomb. The info they got from Fiqh points them towards some rich bastard named Volga.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

OK, stop right there, Mr. Spurrier, way to be a total jackass. The opening scenes of this issue, where Cable has video chats with all the major leaders of the various X-Teams and mocks them for not responding to the Alexandria Incident, is bullshit. It’s insultingly stupid. Cable mocks them for doing nothing more than sending out a press release about the tragedy of the Incident, and that just doesn’t work. IF the Alexandria Incident, where a mutant is responsible for the deaths of 3,000 people, were a legitimate event in the X-verse, then each and every one of these characters, from Wolverine to Cyclops to Polaris to Havok, would have fully responded and gotten involved. INSTEAD, the Alexandria Incident exists only in the pages of X-Force, with no impact whatsoever on the greater X-verse or Marvel Universe as a whole. You can’t mock these other teams for not responding to an incident that you yourself created just to make your team look cooler. Ugh. That is just incredibly frustrating storytelling.

But beyond that, the issue is pretty good. Told from Cable’s POV, the new X-Force does a lot of fighting, kicks a lot of butt, and then Cable himself takes on the evil mutant guy. The characters are pretty dynamic and feed each other fairly well. The art is also quite good, and works very well for the series. The evil mutant guy is especially cool, visually, and Cable’s victory over him is quite triumphant. So Spurrier’s jackassitude aside, I like what the new X-Force is building.

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 15, 2014, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, Superman, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Captain Marvel was great. DeConnick writes really human characters. It was nice touching in on her awesome supporting cast – probably my favourite supporting cast in comics – and the new direction looks interesting. I have high hopes, because DeConnick is a fantastic writer. Once we get to know the aliens she’ll be hanging around with, we’ll almost certainly fall in love with them.

    FF was OK. It feels Hickman-esque. All big and epic and serious.

    Hawkeye was adorable.

    Superior Spider-Man was cool. Green Goblin had one of the best lines ever: “But I forget, you’re not the last guy. He could turn a hangnail into an epic tragedy.” Awesome burn on Peter.

    X-Force was good. I’m liking this current direction. Meme is rather interesting.

    • I haven’t finished reading all of Hickman’s Fantastic Four, but that guy had some great ideas. The very idea of the Council of Reeds still blows my mind in terms of character-based creativity.

      And I have hopes that I’ll get to like DeConnick’s alien cast, I’m just gonna miss the human cast.

      • DeConnick will check in on the human supporting cast at some point. And it’s only temporary. But yeah, I’ll miss them, too. They’re so good.

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