Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 3/29/14

I’ve come to the realization that I just don’t read a lot of DC Comics anymore. I feel like I was reading a ton of them only a few months ago. But I do have a tendency to drop comics I’m not liking anymore. I haven’t touched an issue of Batman and Robin since they took out the Robin element. I gave up the various Justice Leagues after they all became uninteresting Forever Evil tie-ins. And I’m only reading about half of the Green Lantern franchise books these days It’s just weird. I feel kind of bad. I want to give DC more attention…but nope! The only review it gets this week is Aquaman!

Though I am looking forward to Geoff Johns taking over Superman. Maybe he has the magic touch and can finally give Superman a strong voice in the New 52. Though honestly, Greg Pak has been writing an amazing little story over in Action Comics. I should review one of those issues.

But for now, it’s almost all Marvel this week! We’ve got the first issues of Ghost Rider, Iron Patriot and the highly anticipated Silver Surfer! There’s also a new Hawkeye, and it’s as great as Hawkeye has always been, but everything pales in comparison this week to Superior Spider-Man #30! The biggest chapter so far in Goblin Nation is the Comic Book of the Week and earns my first ever perfect score of 10/10! It’s that damn good!

And we’ve still got one more issue of Superior Spider-Man and Goblin Nation to go!

Comic Reviews: All-New Ghost Rider #1, Aquaman #29, Hawkeye #18, Iron Patriot #1, Silver Surfer #1 and Superior Spider-Man #30.

Ghost Rider #1

All-New Ghost Rider #1
Writer: Felipe Smith
Artist: Tradd Moore

I’ve never been a big Ghost Rider fan, though I’ve always liked the concept. So I’m coming into this new relaunch as someone willing to give the comic a try due to its newness. I don’t know either of the creators, and obviously Robbie Reyes is a new character, so let’s see what they can do! And for the record, I absolutely love the idea that Ghost Rider can possess more vehicles than just motorcycles. That’s a step in the right direction.

Robbie Reyes is a young guy working at a mechanic’s shop in East LA, where life is pretty rough for him and his handicap brother. They live alone in a ramshackle little house in a terrible neighborhood, and Robbie is determined to get them a better life. So one night, he breaks into the shop and steals a hot rod he’d been working on earlier. He enters himself in an illegal street race to win $50,000, and even comes close to winning – until the cops show up with a helicopter.

Robbie tries to give them the slip, but ends up trapped in a dead-end alley. He gets out of the car to surrender, but the ‘cops’ open fire, killing him. They’e not cops, and instead only wanted the merchandise (drugs maybe) that was hidden in the trunk of the hot rod. They set the whole alley on fire and leave. But Robbie isn’t quite dead. He’s soon possessed by the Spirit of Vengeance! The new Ghost Rider then gets into the burning hot rod, transforms it into his new steed, and drives off.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Oh man! The comic ended just as it was getting good! Or better yet, how about: that comic hit the brakes just as it was shifting into high gear! Yeah, I think that works better! Seriously, though, this comic cut out way too soon. We already knew Robbie was going to become Ghost Rider, that shouldn’t have been the climactic cliffhanger ending. Smith and Moore should have given us a taste of what Robbie’s going to be like as Ghost Rider, that would have made it a better and more complete comic. As it stands, it’s just an OK introduction to Robbie and his life. He seems like a nice guy trapped in a horrible circumstance, unable to claw his way out unless he does something reckless. That sounds perfectly fine to me, the solid basis for a new superhero. It should be interesting to see how Ghost Rider now fits into his life…I just think the comic ended too soon.

The art is definitely unique, and I think I like it. I’ve really been enjoying the artists Marvel has brought on board for All-New Marvel NOW! They’re becoming a stronger part of each comic, and while Moore’s art won’t be for everybody, it definitely works for me. I especially love his new design for Ghost Rider. Though if I’m being honest, Moore does go a little overboard with at least one scene.

Unless he’s the bastard child of Reed Richards

Just look at that arm! He’s like a wacky cereal mascot. I get that Gabe, the brother, is a little hyperactive and is really enjoying his mac & cheese, but that arm just goes too far in a cartoony direction. It really took me out of the comic. Every other page has the characters looking and behaving completely human. If Moore can keep that tone, the art should be pretty stellar.

Aquaman #29

Aquaman #29
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Paul Pelletier

I do still love me some Aquaman. Jeff Parker has been doing a fine job since taking over for Geoff Johns, and that streak mostly continues with this new issue. It’s not as awesome as Aquaman’s high school reunion, but it’s still good…though Parker has some weird ideas about Hell demons.

The guy who stole Aquaman’s trident, Dr. Evans, uses it to open what he thinks is an ancient doorway to Atlantis. Instead, it’s an ancient doorway to Hell, where a bunch of hideous, monstrous, but strangely chatty demons escape. Seriously, there is apparently a ton of backstory to these demons, and they just looooove to tell Evans all about it. These are weird, grotesque, misshapen monsters, but they speak fluent English and love recapping their back story, even while they’re causing massive destruction and eating people. Apparently, some ancient Atlantean king banished them to Hell and sealed the gateway centuries ago, but the trident Evans stole has set them free.

Aquaman shows up and starts fighting the demons, leading to even more exposition. It’s weird as hell. Eventually the demons summon a big, strapping giant of a man from Hell to fight Aquaman. You can see him on the cover. It’s the New 52 version of Hercules! Turns out he came to help the king banish the demons all those centuries ago, but the king was forced to close the gates with Hercules still inside. He’s been trapped in Hell all these years and now he’s gonna throw Aquaman in!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Those were some really chatty demons! I’m serious! They’re wonderfully drawn and hideously monstrous, but they can’t stop spouting their backstory in fluent English as if they were giving a lecture about where they came from. It’s hilarious. I might have graded the issue a bit higher if it wasn’t for that weirdness. I understand there’s a lot of backstory to get through about these demons, but Parker could have found a more fluid way to get it out. One demon in particular is a definite Chatty Cathy.

It’s like she’s giving a book report

Beyond that, the issue is fine. Aquaman gets to be heroic, and the threat ties nicely into his growing backstory. Parker introduces some new Atlanteans, which is a definite plus. And I like the new take on Hercules. I’m fairly certain he used to be a Wonder Woman villain before the reboot, so this is a nice twist seeing him battle Aquaman. I hope Parker has some cool stories in mind for him.

Hawkeye #18

Hawkeye #18
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Annie Wu

Fraction and Wu tell another wonderful chapter in Kate Bishop’s LA adventure. What more could we ask for? A follow-up to the fate of Barney Barton? Sure, I guess. But when the Kate Bishop chapters are this damn good, I’m not complaining.

Kate Bishop is still in LA, and now she’s on the case of that mysterious gumshoe she’s always meeting in the cat food aisle. He’s been beaten up, so Kate and her friends patch him up while he tells them his life story. He used to be a reporter in LA before striking it rich with Hollywood money. But then one of his investigations got a little too deep into the business of Count Nefaria and his daughter, Madame Masque, and he discovered some kind of Frankenstein-esque body shop. Ever since then, Nefaria’s goons have been following him and won’t let him leave LA. So Kate buys the guy a plane ticket and stages a trap for the goons…only to get defeated and arrested for trying to stop those goons.

Once she’s behind bars, Kate gets a letter from Madame Masque. Not only has she killed the mysterious gumshoe with one of Kate’s arrows, but she’s also burned down her friends’ home.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

I kind of wish Clint Barton and Kate Bishop each had their own comics, so that they weren’t trampling each other for page time. We’ve had one chapter of Clint’s ongoing sage in, like, the past four or five issues. As much as I’m loving Kate’s story – and I am loving it beyond words – I really, really want to know what’s happening to Clint and Barney. That was one hell of a cliffhanger all those issues ago. But at least Hawkeye is coming out like gangbusters all of a sudden. It feels like there’s been a new Hawkeye almost every week for the past month!

This issue was great. Kate remains adorable, and I love the supporting cast of the cute gay couple she picked up. They seem to just want to be polite and help her out, but Kate keeps getting them involved in wacky superhero shenanigans. The mysterious gumshoe’s backstory was kind of weird, and I don’t think it particularly jibed with his previous appearances in this comic, but this is definitely a strong story for Kate and her team to tackle. Count Nefaria is a pretty bad, if obscure, super-villain, but Kate’s rivalry with Madame Masque remains highly entertaining. And that ending, with the burning house, is pretty darn chilling. It’s about to get deathly serious for Kate Bishop. Her fun and games are at an end!

Iron Patriot #1

Iron Patriot #1
Writer: Ales Kott
Artist: Garry Brown

Much like Ghost Rider, I have little to no interest in War Machine. He’s not on my radar in terms of characters I care about. But I would have said the same thing about Hawkeye before the start of his solo series. So in the spirit of giving new comic books a try, let’s check out Iron Patriot #1!

James Rhodes goes on national TV to declare that he’s changing his name, his armor and his mission. Now he will be Iron Patriot, and he will focus on matters domestically that need some superheroic help. There are some higher powers that don’t like this, including a sinister Japanese lobbyist, as well as Rhodey’s own dad, who wishes his son would spend more time with his niece, who lost both her parents. Lila Rhodes is a prodigy who likes to tinker with her uncle’s armor, and who went on Youtube making a video supporting her uncle’s decision. That video went viral. Meanwhile, Iron Patriot is out in the Gulf o Mexico fighting giant gunk monsters when his suit short circuits and he starts to sink like a rock, realizing a bit too late that somebody planned this.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

It’s just OK. It’s better than bland. I like Kott’s attempt to ground Rhodey by focusing on his family, but have we ever met these people before? His father or his niece? And did his niece really have to be some kind of genius, mechanical prodigy? Really? Not to mention the fact that isn’t this the exact same set-up for Steel? Wasn’t he a black man in a metal suit with a mechanical genius niece? Still, Kott writes everyone well enough, and if you’re a Rhodey fan, this is definitely a positive comic for him – though nothing is mentioned of the fact that the previous Iron Patriot in comics was Norman Osborn, and he used the identity for evil. Perhaps Marvel is just going to ignore that part in order to line-up Rhodey with his movie counterpart. It’s not a big deal.

I think I like what Kott has in mind…but I don’t think he and Brown can pull it off. It seems to me like Kott would like to tell a deeply political, deeply personal story about a government-sponsored superhero. But he doesn’t seem to have the technical know-how to really delve into the world of politics. He’s kind of just playing, what with that scene between the lobbyist and the Congressman. And Brown’s art isn’t nearly photo-realistic enough to pull off such a serious tone. It’s fine, and the Iron Patriot armor looks good, but I really get the sense that Kott wants this to be as realistic as possible. They don’t quite pull it off, I’m afraid.

Silver Surfer #1

Silver Surfer #1
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Michael and Laura Allred

When I was a kid, the Silver Surfer was my favorite superhero. I think a Silver Surfer comic was the first comic I ever bought for myself. I remain a big fan to this day, but for some reason, I mostly avoid Silver Surfer comics – though Silver Surfer Requiem by J. Michael Straczynski is particularly good and should not be missed. I literally cried on the last issue, and I am not ashamed to admit that. Fortunately for Surfer fans like me, Dan Slott is tackling his new solo series! I’m a huge Slott fan from his work on Spider-Man (and others), and I’m still in love with the Family Allred from their work on FF. So picking this up was a no brainer.

It also helps that Slott, an admitted Doctor Who fanboy, is modeling this comic after the Doctor. That’s just the bee’s knees.

Dawn is a normal Earth girl living in Anchor Bay, New England. She helps her dad run their bed & breakfast, content with her life in one of the most scenic beach towns in the world – even though her twin sister Eve prefers to travel all around the world, sending Dawn pictures and post cards. The Silver Surfer is the Silver Surfer, traveling the cosmos helping people as penance for his life as a herald to Galactus. He’s recruited by an alien named Zed to come help the people of the Impericon, a wacky, magical, whimsical sort of planet that is threatened by the Never Queen. The Surfer agrees to help, but there’s a catch: the Impericon has already sent several heroes after the Never Queen, to no avail. And in order to motivate these heroes to fight, they use a machine that scans the hero and brings the person they care most about in the universe to an Impericon prison to be held hostage. The machine has scanned the Surfer and has plucked Dawn out of Anchor Bay, but the Surfer has no idea who she is.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This new series is definitely off to a good start. I think the unique art style of Michael and Laura Allred is perfect for the Surfer himself. He’s such an alien concept, but also very simplistic in his design, that their cartoony style should suit him wonderfully. And, of course, not everyone is cartoony. Dawn looks very real and very human, which should be important for her new life as the Surfer’s companion. She’s going to ground all of their wacky adventures for us readers. I definitely agree with Slott that there can be similarities between the Silver Surfer and the Doctor. They’re both otherworldly aliens who try to help no matter where they are, and with the entire cosmos as the setting, there’s no end to the fascinating adventures they can have. I’m definitely looking forward to the Surfer’s adventures, and hopefully his growing friendship with Dawn.

Spider-Man #30

Superior Spider-Man #30
Writers: Dan Slott and Christos Gage
Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli

Since I started the 10-point review rating system, Superior Spider-Man #30 is going to be the first issue to get the perfect 10/10 score. It’s not a perfect comic, but with the power behind it’s story, it’s characters, it’s dialogue and the momentous climax, it easily earns such a high rating. This is a comic that celebrates the amazingness of Spider-Man in a way that only Superior Spider-Man could pull off. Everything Dan Slott has been doing with this series comes to a head in ways I hadn’t expected, but he makes it all work to bring Otto Octavius to the defining understanding of his character.

This is the comic that Superior Spider-Man has been building towards.

Otto Octavius has failed to keep New York City safe. The Green Goblin’s army has the city in flames, and Anna Maria, his one true love, is being held prisoner by the Green Goblin. Otto rushes off to save her, leaving Spider-Man 2099 to contend with those Spider Slayers. Otto chases Menace into the sewers, where the Goblins have set up a trap to kill one of their prisoners: Amy Chen, the little girl Otto helped back in Cardiac’s clinic. Otto hesitates to save her, but the ghost of Peter Parker has finally finished his journey through Otto’s memories, and he reveals himself to his enemy once again by demanding Otto jump in and save Amy, even if it puts his own life at risk.

Once Amy is safe, Ghost Peter prepares for another battle with Otto on the mental plane, but Otto has seen the error of his ways.He recognizes now that he is arrogant, and overcompensates because he knows, deep down, that he isn’t better than anyone. But he also sees that Peter Parker is better and smarter than everyone else, except that comes with a price, so Peter is always sabotaging himself – unless lives are on the line. Otto realizes that in order to save the woman he loves, he must send the one man he knows

The city is under attack from the Goblin Army, and Otto Octavius knows there is nothing more he can do. Anna Maria is the Goblin King’s prisoner, and Otto abandons Spider-Man 2099 to fight all those Spider Slayers on his own in order to rush off to save her. He chases Menace into the sewers, where the Goblin has set up a trap to kill a different prisoner, Amy Chen, the little girl Otto helped back in Cardiac’s infirmary back at the start of the series. Otto’s unsure what to do, but the Ghost of Peter Parker has finally finished his journey through Otto’s memories, and he steps up to help. He reveals himself to Otto and urges him to act, swinging in to save Amy, even if it put his own life at risk.

Once she’s safe, Otto and Ghost Peter have a heart-to-heart. Otto has seen the error of his ways. Yes, he’s arrogant, but underneath that arrogance is the knowledge that he isn’t smarter or better than anyone else, so he overcompensates. But Peter is better and smarter than everyone else, and everything Otto thought was a weakness in Peter has been revealed as the price Peter pays as Spider-Man. Peter sabotages himself – unless lives are on the line. Otto says that Peter is the superior Spider-Man, and in order to help the woman he loves, Otto must send the one man he knows can save her: Peter Parker. They return to Parker Industries and Otto plugs himself into one of his machines. He then erases all of his own memories, the good and the bad, from Peter Parker’s body, leaving only Peter in control once again.

Peter rises up, wipes a tear from his eye and finds a classic red and blue Spidey costume in the closet. He suits up and declares, “My turn!”

The one, true Spider-Man is back!

Comic Rating: 10/10 – Fantastic!

I had chills. From the moment Otto admits that Ghost Peter is ready, after saving that girl, the comic is on big build towards the return of Peter Parker, and it was amazing. Otto spells out exactly what this series has been about for his character. How everything from his Spider-bots to Spider Island to brushing off the Avengers has been about him indulging in his worst traits, even if he had good intentions. And when Otto recognizes that he is not the better Spider-Man, that in order to save Anna Maria he must sacrifice himself and let Peter take over; man, I was beside myself in the awesomeness! Otto has shown real character growth over the course of this series, and I have loved reading about him since issue #1. This has been a fantastic series. I knew Slott would have a grand finale in mind, and he just knocks it out of the park. This is as big a love letter to Spider-Man as anything I’ve ever read. It’s just phenomenal, all of Superior Spider-Man has been phenomenal. I hope the last issue is just as damn good as this one!

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 29, 2014, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. AN Ghost Rider was really good. I’ll confess, the only reason I got this was because Felipe Smith is black, and I want to support greater diversity among Marvel’s creators. But it was a really good comic, awkward ending aside. I was fine with not seeing the Ghost Rider in action – this is a completely new character, and the trend in comics right now, when creating a series for a new character, is to show the kind of life they live, and end the first issue with them getting their powers. My problem with the ending is that him becoming Ghost Rider kinda comes out of nowhere.

    Hawkeye was great. I love me some Kate. And Harold H. Harold – huh. Last I saw of him, he was a vampire. Assuming this is the same Harold H. Harold from the old Tomb of Dracula comics. The backstories are kinda similar – the Dracula Harold wrote shitty horror stories for shitty horror story anthologies, and eventually struck rich with a book based on his experiences with Dracula and a bunch of vampire hunters.

    Iron Patriot was kinda meh. Not great.

    Silver Surfer was a comic by Dan Slott and Mike Allred. It was never not going to be great. Allred’s always worth reading, and he always brings out the best in the writers he works with. Dawn’s already in the running for best new character of 2014.

    Superior Spider-Man was really good. Peter’s return was pretty awesome to see.

    • I didn’t know Harold H. Harold was an existing character! Interesting.

      And yeah, Ghost Rider did come out of nowhere, but perhaps there’s an explanation behind that. Though I hope Smith doesn’t rush into including Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch too soon.

      • Yeah, I think the previous Ghost Rider series suffered a bit from being very heavily focused on Johnny Blaze while being promoted as being about a new character. I’m guessing Smith won’t do that here, though. Blaze is in Thunderbolts, so I think there’ll be less pressure to bring him in.

  2. I bet you’d like red lanterns. you should give it a try.

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