Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 3/22/14

What a great week for comics! Seriously, this is one of the best week’s I’ve seen in months! Nearly every comic I read this week was a real gem…except for that one comic. The one that pains me to even mention. The comic that burns a hole into my heart like a red hot poker dipped in demon blood! Why have you forsaken me, Christos Gage?! WHY?!

I talk, of course, about Superior Spider-Man Annual #2, which takes a slight break from Goblin Nation to show what Phil Urich the Goblin Knight is up to on the side. As regular readers know, Phil Urich is one of my all-time favorite comic book characters, having collected his Green Goblin series when I was just getting into comics as a wee lad in the 90s. And for the briefest of possible moments, when I heard about this comic only a few days ago, I allowed myself to believe that writer Christos Gage, who’d been doing such a great job with the Mimic recently, was finally going to tell the story where the good guy Phil shines through in light of his most recent heel turn.

But no. There was no such thing. Instead, the comic reinforced the evil bastard that Phil has become, declaring him all but lost to madness and villainy. Oh the pain to my little comic loving heart…

Fortunately, the rest of the comics this week were great! Especially the second issue of the new Ms. Marvel, which was just as adorable and awesome as the first issue.

This new series is off to a great start. Just like Phil Urich was back in the day, before…before…I’m gonna need a moment here.

Comic Reviews: Batwoman #29, Harley Quinn #4, Ms. Marvel #2, Superior Foes of Spider-Man #10, Thor: God of Thunder #20, Uncanny X-Men #19 and Wonder Woman #29.

Batwoman #29

Batwoman #29
Writer: Marc Andreyko
Artists: Jason Masters and Jeremy Haun

I’m liking the new focus on Kate Kane’s personal life, and her relationship with Maggie Sawyer, that Andreyko is bringing to the table. But his plots don’t seem to be as good as the last creative team. Wolf Spider still isn’t very interesting. And am I the only one bothered that this nobody is so easily defeating Batwoman in hand-to-hand combat?

Kate goes to her first therapy session, but basically blows the guy off and storms out. It’s probably not for her. She spies on Maggie’s apartment, only for the police detective to spot her doing the whole ‘creepy stalker’ thing and invites her inside. Kate thought Maggie was mad at her and wanted space, but Maggie says she couldn’t be more wrong. Maggie just wanted Kate to find someone to talk to about her problems. The pair then swap notes on Wolf Spider, and Batwoman goes to Arkham Asylum to stop him from getting the next painting. They duke it out for awhile until Wolf Spider frees the inmates as a distraction to escape!

Also, apparently they make a big deal that Arkham is full of all new inmates? I definitely don’t recognize any of them. When did this happen? Anybody know?

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Seriously, what’s up with Arkham? And are we to assume that the ‘Nocturna’ so heavily advertised on the cover is one of those new inmates? I don’t recognize any of them, and none of them get a name. Yet it’s incredibly easy for Wolf Spider to just flip a key switch and free all of the inmates at Arkham in one fell swoop. No wonder it’s so easy to escape. Despite my disappointment that a newbie nobody like Wolf Spider can so easily and repeatedly defeat Batwoman, I liked the rest of the issue. Batwoman’s scene with Maggie was nice, though they quickly changed the subject back to Wolf Spider. Andreyko needs to stop trying to make Wolf Spider happen. He’s not going to happen.

Harley Quinn #4

Harley Quinn #4
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Stephane Roux

I’ve have really been enjoying this new Harley Quinn series. It’s funny, she’s pretty cool, and the sense of comedic anarchy has been nicely reigned in, unlike Marvel’s Deadpool. The quality remains in this new issue, though it’s a bit of a step down from the first three.

Harley goes to her job as a therapist at a local hospital and hears the sob story of Ida Rubenstein, whose ungrateful family never calls and only visits her twice a year. So Harley rushes out and attacks the family in their home, violently kidnapping them. On the way back to the hospital, she stops at a diner and reenacts the Han/Greedo scene from Star Wars with one of the assassins trying to kill her; then she shows up late to a roller derby match, and makes it up to her team by running down the opposing players with her car. When she finally remembers the people in her trunk, Harley takes them out to the docks and threatens them one at a time before kicking them into the water – except that Ida’s son reveals that his mom has Alzheimer’s, and they actually visit and call her all the time! Fortunately, Harley was only kicking his family into the sand, so everybody’s OK.

In the end, the mysterious old man cyborg in the wheelchair that has been watching Harley visits her at her job and reveals that he’s a former government spy. He needs her help to take down a Russian spy organization that has been operating under the radar in the US for nearly 50 years!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

The zany humor remained in this week’s Harley Quinn, but I think it was a little less focused than previous issues, and that counted against it. This issue was just a bunch of random, unrelated vignettes of Harley doing wacky stuff, and while they’re all mostly fun, it’s always better when there’s some method to her madness. The end of the issue is a good example. It’s Harley meeting an old, wheelchair bound cyborg, but the idea of the two of them teaming up to take down a Russian sleeper cell sounds pretty cool. It’s a focus, and this comic needs focus to really be stellar. It can’t just be Harley being wacky all the time. There needs to be a method to her madness, a cleverness that only characters like Harley Quinn and the Joker can pull off. For example, the Han/Greedo scene would have been brilliant…except that the writers had Harley break the fourth wall and acknowledge that they were doing the scene.

If they’d left it alone and done it straight, it would have been glorious. But by having Harley wink to the audience about ‘going off script’, it just ruins the joke. Don’t make that mistake again, you guys!

Ms. Marvel #2

Ms. Marvel #2
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Adrian Alphona

The new Ms. Marvel series is off to a great start. The first issue was delightful, and this second issue follows right along in terms of quality and quantity. We’ve got a great new heroine on our hands with Kamala Khan, and I can only hope she sticks around for awhile and doesn’t go the way of the poor souls who got sucked into Avengers Arena. But considering the nature of the beast, is there any hope for Kamala?

Maybe she’ll be the next Kate Bishop…

Kamala is freaking out after hatching from that Inhuman egg in the shape of classic Ms. Marvel, and as she stumbles around a bit, she changes back and forth from herself to other versions of Ms. Marvel. She also finds out that she can shrink, and her powers aren’t as simple as flipping a switch to make it happen. It’s a little involuntary, and takes some willpower. While she’s figuring them out, she spots Zoe and her boyfriend drunkenly prancing about near a pond. Zoe falls in and Kamala convinces herself to help her because of an old Islamic saying her father used to recite. Kamala transforms into Ms. Marvel again and pulls Zoe from the water, to the delight of several witnesses. Kamala flees and hurries home.

She has a little trouble sneaking into her room, and is caught by both her brother and her parents. But she can’t tell them all the freaky things that happened to her, so all they know is that their daughter lied to them and snuck out late to attend a party, which they had forbid! She’s grounded! But once they leave, Kamala considers how important it was to save a life, and that maybe she’s now part of something bigger.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Reading through the end of Ms. Marvel #2, I was struck but how clear Kamala’s motivations were for becoming a superhero. It made me think about superhero origins, and how we rarely get any really classic, compelling origins anymore. In the Marvel and DC universes, superheroes are part of the normal every day world. If you’ve got powers, you put on a costume and fight crime. But wilson really got into Kamala’s head in this issue, and the specific motivations that will push her to try and use her powers to help people. I really liked that.

The issue as a whole was equally delightful. Kamala remains a very strong protagonist, and watching her struggle to grasp her powers, while not completely mystified by them (she does live in the Marvel Universe, after all), is pretty cool. Her rescue is a big moment, and Wilson mixes in a lot of great little comedy bits. Adding touches of humor to a comic is a surefire way to rev my engines. The comic gets even better in the end, as Kamala is confronted by her family, but is unable to reveal her secret identity to them just yet. I’m definitely looking forward to more stories about this unique and very fascinating family dynamic. It kind of reminds me of Jaime Reyes, the Blue Beetle, and how important his family was to his comic – until DC tore the heart out of that series with its reboot. Here’s hoping Marvel gives Ms. Marvel all the room it needs to grow big and strong.

Superior Foes #10

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #10
Writer: James Asmus
Artists: Nuno Plati, Siya Oum, Pepe Larraz and Andres Mossa

Time for a fill-in issue, folks! The normal crew takes an issue off so that Mr. Asmus can step in and tell some fun tales about a couple of our clever crew. I understand that fill-in issues are just the nature of the beast, so you’ll get no complaint from me. It’s a very good issue.

While preparing to track down their double-crossing leader, Beetle, Overdrive and Speed Demon stop at a bar for a drink, and tie up the staff to break into their safe. It takes an hour to break the safe, so they have a seat and swap stories about superheroes they’ve defeated. There was the time Overdrive managed to get the slip on Hercules by putting on a helmet, which is where he got his helmet in the first place. There was the time Beetle defeated Matt Murdock in a court case by using her criminal connections to distract him as Daredevil (though Asmus apparently doesn’t understand how the criminal justice system works). And then there was the time that Speed Demon got revenge on Hercules by indirectly giving him an STD – that is, if gods can catch STDs. Unfortunately for them all, Hercules picks that moment to walk into the bar looking for a drink, then chases them off.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Superior Foes #10 may not have had anything to do with the regular, ongoing story, but it was still a fun comic. I definitely wanted to see more from the characters who aren’t Boomerang, and this issue delivered in spades. I think all of the members of the Sinister Six could headline this series, and Asmus proves that with a handful of delightful stories. Overdrive vs. Hercules is particularly fun, and the writers are definitely having a blast with the Beetle’s rise to power – even if Asmus doesn’t understand how the judicial system works. His Beetle story confuses criminal trials with civil trials. Did he not have time to give real-life attorney Charles Soule a quick call? I really hope the rumors of this comic’s cancellation are untrue, and I’m looking forward to the eventual Shocker-centric issue.

Thor #20

Thor: God of Thunder #20
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Esad Ribic

When’s God of Thunder going to feature a guest appearance by Beta Ray Bill? Is that too much to ask? Aaron’s writing such a great Thor ongoing that I’m dying to have my favorite Thor character make an appearance. Somebody get Jason Aaron on the phone for me!

Thor and his new girlfriend/partner Roz team up to put the hurt on a bunch of Roxxon plants with the power of Thor’s storms, making the damage look like it was done by natural disasters so that the insurance company balks at making any sort of payout. This pisses off the clearly psychotic and evil CEO Dario Agger, who is secretly some kind of demonic minotaur. He threatens his top minds to come up with a revenge plan, and one of his guys (the one who manages to survive) suggests they attack Broxton.

Meanwhile, in the far future, Old Thor faces off against Galactus to stop him from feasting on Earth’s corpse.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Old Thor vs. Galactus is a hoot. It’s as fun as you think it’s going to be, and it’s just getting started. I love Galactus. He holds a very special place in my comic book loving heart. And Galactus having a chat with Old Thor about the destruction of planet Earth is all manner of cool. Fortunately, normal Thor is great in this issue as well. His partnership with Roz has been fun, and I also love the idea that SHIELD isn’t just dashing secret agents. They have environmental science nerds too! They’re a nice pairing, and this battle against Roxxon is entertaining so far. I like the real world implications, with all of the evil big business antics we deal with in reality, though turning Agger into a literal monster seems a little much. Also, when did Roxxon get a floating island? And did I ask that same thing in the last issue?

Uncanny X-Men #19

Uncanny X-Men #19
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Chris Bachelo

Looks like Uncanny X-Men is finally going to tell a real story for once! That sounds good to me. It still doesn’t have anything to do with Scott Summers’ Mutant Revolution, but this confrontation with SHIELD has been a long time building.

Hijack is visited by Maria Hill, who grills him extensively for the location of Scott Summers. Elsewhere, Mystique has Dazzler held prisoner and is drawing blood in order to make Mutant Growth Hormone. Meanwhile, Scott tries to talk to Eva about what happened to her during the training exercise, but they are distracted by the appearance of a new mutant in Chicago. The team suits up and heads out, but it’s a trap! Once again, they have to battle these mysterious Sentinels, only they’ve someone managed to shut down the team’s mutant powers. Fortunately, Magik still knows magic, and uses that to defeat the robots, who flee before the X-Men can find out who is sending them.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

The X-Men vs. SHIELD sounds like a pretty darn good yarn, with this mysterious Sentinel-maker a wildcard in the mix. Though at this point, Maria Hill’s desperate hunt for Scott Summers is getting a little long in the tooth. Has SHIELD ever tried this hard to find a legitimate super-villain? I’m definitely still enjoying Bendis’ handling of all these characters. His Cyclops remains the same good guy leader we’ve always known, and his take on the X-students remains very strong. I like how both Cyclops and Maria Hill are straddling the line between hero and villain. Neither one is an angel, but both are doing their ‘jobs’. Her interrogation of Hijack is freaky. I also continue to like Bachelo’s art, though I know he’s an acquired taste. All these issues in, Uncanny X-Men remains my favorite X-book, and I’m excited to see a real story start to pick up.

Wonder Woman #29

Wonder Woman #29
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Cliff Chiang

Hot damn! All the most recent build-up in Wonder Woman hits the tipping point, and the final page of the latest issue kicks off what could be the greatest story the New 52 has yet seen! Azzarello and Chiang are leaving soon, but I remain confident and excited that they’re going to go out like rockstars!

Cassandra’s ship crashes into the ruins of Mount Olympus, where the First Born declares himself the new king of the heavens, what with Apollo sacrificing himself last issue. Artemis tries to take him on for killing her brother, but the First Born’s veins turn into tendrils to suck the life out of her. Wonder Woman steps up, having stowed away on Cassandra’s ship, but she too gets a jolt from the First Born’s powers. He laughs and shouts to the heavens that he finally understands: only nothing lasts forever, and he is nothing! Which is when a newly empowered Hera shows up to shut him up. It seems Apollo wasn’t just killing himself, he was also using the last of his energy to give Hera back her power.

Rather than stay and fight, Hera teleports everyone away from Olympus to Paradise Island, where she has reversed her curse and reawoken the Amazons. Wonder Woman stands above them, raises her sword and calls the army to her side as the God of War!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This was a damn cool comic, even for the normally stellar Wonder Woman. The good guys faced off against the First Born, Hera made her triumphant return, and then Wonder Woman embraced her destiny as the God of War, prepared to lead the Amazons into a battle for Mount Olympus! That is exciting storytelling, and Azzarello and Chiang are absolutely nailing it! Wonder Woman has always been good, and with this issue, it looks like they’re gearing up for their best, biggest story yet!

Now if only Orion would make his triumphant return…

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 22, 2014, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Ms. Marvel was awesome. I love Kamala. And I love that her first big act of heroism was simply saving someone from drowning. It’s the kind of thing that almost any of us can do, which is inspirational. You don’t need to save the world to be a hero, you just need to save one person’s world. I also love that the attention she gets for saving Zoe makes her uncomfortable, and that it’s seeing someone safe that makes her happy.

    Superior Foes was hilarious. I was a little sad, at the end, to see Hercules in his classic togs, as I actually prefer him depowered and relying on his wits. But still, hilarious comic. And Siya Oum needs more work from Marvel. Her style is gorgeous.

    Superior Spider-Man Annual was really good, I thought. I suppose my limited exposure to heroic Phil made me less torn up about him. But even so, I thought it was a pair of really well-told stories.

    Thor was good. Old Thor and Old Galactus made for an interesting discussion. If you wanted to see Beta Ray BIll, you should’ve picked up Nova. He’s been showing up there recently. So has Cosmo, from the DnA Guardians of the Galaxy.

    UXM was great. Plot development, character development, clever dialogue, exciting action. Magik’s got some real magic now! Woot!

    • I’ve been flipping through the recent Nova issues. Seeing Cosmo again was quite awesome. But I want Bill written and drawn in the quality of God of Thunder.

      And good point about Kamala saving a drowning person! It was great.

  2. Am I missing something? Did you not post a review of the Phil Urich issue? You realize I don’t read the comics right? These reviews are the only way I have of knowing what’s going on. So…..what did Phil do this time?

    • I was gonna review it, but then it hurt too much…and was kind of lame. The issue was about Ben Urich trying to save Phil, but when it came right down to it, Phil was clearly and eagerly relishing his chance to be an evil bastard. He psychotically hurt people and nearly killed his uncle before managing to slip away in the end to rejoin the rest of the story. Ben Urish accepted that his nephew was lost forever.

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