Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 4/5/14

Busy week, my friends. Between seeing the new Captain America film, a dentist appointment and spending some time with my parents, I didn’t have time to get to all the comics I wanted. There are so many cool and interesting books coming out these days, but I had to cut my review list short, because The Winter Soldier wasn’t going to wait for any man! Neither were those fillings, ouch!

I decided to shake things up a little bit this week by paying a visit to Action Comics. I haven’t touched that series since about mid-way through Grant Morrison’s disappointing run – probably only disappointing to me. I know most people love that guy. But how poorly has Superman had it in the New 52? It’s depressing. But I think that writer Greg Pak is at least doing something fun with Action Comics.

A slew of Marvel’s new comics hit the stands this week, but I was only able to get to a few of them. The new Magneto is pretty good, but I really didn’t like the first issue of Inhuman. I’m afraid Marvel’s Next Big Thing is a bit of a dud from the get-go. But maybe you thought differently. What I do know is that Moon Knight won Comic Book of the Week almost on art alone!

He is…not quite the night

Comic Reviews: Action Comics #30, Aquaman and the Others #1, Inhuman #1, Magneto #2 and Moon Knight #2.

Action Comics #30

Action Comics #30
Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: Aaron Kruder, Jed Dougherty and Karl Kerschl

I’d heard good things about Greg Pak taking over Action Comics, and after reading the first story in his run, I have to agree: good things were happening. Pak is writing a fun, clever sort of Superman comic. Very enjoyable. It’s been a real shame what’s happened to Superman in the New 52. Big Blue can’t seem to catch  break, not like Batman and Wonder Woman. Could Pak turn Action Comics into the success Superman has been waiting for? Or will Geoff Johns light the torch when he takes over Superman? Who knows!

Pak’s first story was about Superman and Lana Lang on an adventure in Subterrania, where they teamed up with a friendly adversary called the Ghost Soldier and averted a war. At the end of the story, though, the Ghost Soldier betrayed Superman and killed some Subterranian creatures they had brought to the surface. The creatures had turned into monsters and were out of control. Ghost Soldier killed them when Superman wanted to help them. Now Superman is pissed. He grabs Ghost Soldier and flies him back to his home base, where a whole team of ghost operatives are waging some kind of secret battle against Superman. He fights off their leader, Harrow, who calls upon actual ghosts of dead soldiers to fight for her. But they don’t like being summoned against their will, and when Superman gets them to turn on Harrow, she surrenders.

Of course, Superman doesn’t kill her, and instead reminds her that they are on the same side and should work together. But that act of mercy proves Harrow’s point about Superman: he’s dangerously polite and will someday get the world destroyed because of that.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

Unfortunately, this issue didn’t pack the same punch of cuteness and cleverness as the earlier issues in Pak’s run. He was really doing something fun with Lana Lang, but she’s nowhere to be found. I picked a bad issue to review. I’m not particularly impressed with the bad guys. It’s just another sinister organization that wants to butt heads with Superman. Aren’t there a million of those? The Ghost Soldier was pretty cool in the earlier story, and I suppose Harrow is kind of cool, but they’re just not very impressive overall. It doesn’t help that Harrow is just pushing the same anti-Superman agenda that other people do. They’re just not memorable villains.

Fortunately, Pak is writing a really fun Superman. There were some great little moments in the earlier story that really spoke to his character. I highly recommend tracking some of those issues down if you want a good Superman story. Pak’s Superman is just a nice, bright guy. It’s very enjoyable. And the art has been great. I could barely tell there were three different artists on this issue. The coloring is bright and cheerful, and really, Pak is just writing some nice Superman comics. Perhaps the promise of Doomsday in this issue will give him something meatier to play with in the future.

Aquaman and the Others #1

Aquaman and the Others #1
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Lan Medina

I am loving Aquaman in the New 52, and when Geoff Johns introduced the Others, I loved them too! But apparently I owe all of that love to Johns’ stellar writing and imaginative character work. Dan Jurgens brings everybody back for a new ongoing series, but it lacks the magic and charm of Johns’ original Others story.

All of the Atlantean artifacts that the Others carry have stopped working, and simultaneously, a bad guy has sent teams of commandos to attack the heroes and retrieve their artifacts. But each of the heroes is able to fight off the commandos, and together they meet on the Operative’s plane to discuss what’s happening – but the plane comes under attack. Meanwhile, an Iranian woman is kidnapped by the same commandos out of a mental hospital, where she was having visions of a cyborg Justice League from Future’s End, an upcoming comic series at DC.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

I think the Others are a fun idea, and I think they work really well as supporting characters in Aquaman’s ongoing adventures. The idea that a young Aquaman was part of a band of merry, world-spanning adventurers is just neat. And I really like the idea that they are all guarding an ancient Atlantean weapon that was once used by a former King. The concept is sound, but the first issue of this new series is kind of dull. It’s basically just an excuse to visit each of the Others and remind us who they are and what they’re all about – which is helpful, because I had forgotten all about the new Native American girl who joined the Others in their last story.

But each scene is almost exactly like all of the rest, with the individual Others coming under attack and discovering that their artifact doesn’t have any power anymore. By the time we got to the last one, it was getting pretty redundant. And the fact that each of the Others easily bested those commandos does not bode well for the book’s villain. I like seeing the Others kick butt, but there didn’t seem to be much tension or drama.  Still, the promise of the team dynamic, with all of the bonding and bickering that will entail, is enough to bring me back for future issues. I just hope Jurgens has some actual storytelling planned.

Just because you can start a comic about Aquaman and the Others doesn’t mean you should. But once you’ve got it going, you can definitely make it great.

Unless, of course, this is just going to be some crummy tie-in to Future’s End.

Inhuman #1

Inhuman #1
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Joe Madureira

The first issue of Marvel’s ‘Latest Epic’ – as promised on the cover – stumbles out of the gate. Marvel has been hyping this comic and their new Inhuman status quo for months, but the event has been burdened by a series of delays. It definitely doesn’t help that Black Bolt unleashed the Terrigen Bomb sometime late last year, and this issue was delayed when original writer Matt Fraction bowed out. That’s never a good sign. Charles Soule is a fine writer, and I like his work, but just knowing he’s scrambling to fill in and fulfill Marvel’s wishes – when Fraction wouldn’t – is a bad omen.

As is the fact that this is a pretty boring first issue.

The Terrigen Bomb has exploded, sending the Mists all across the world and turning random people into new Inhumans. Kristian in Norway is one of them, but rogue Inhuman Lash kills him the moment he emerges from his cocoon. Lash is from one of those lost tribes, who didn’t follow Black Bolt, and doesn’t like that the Terrigen Mists have been released across the world. His next target is Dante in Illinois, a rad dude who has returned home to help take care of his sick mom and his pregnant sister. Both Dante and his mom undergo Terrigenesis, but the process rejects and kills the mother, while giving Dante fire powers. Dante uses them to try to fight off Lash, and then Medusa arrives in time to save Dante and his sister. Medusa is trying to find her husband and rebuild her kingdom, and she tells Dante that a war is coming.

Comic Rating: 3/10 – Bad.

Let’s ignore, for now, the idea that Marvel is trying to turn the Inhumans into the new mutants for use in their movies. I don’t know if it’s true, and that doesn’t especially matter when it comes to the comics. All I care about right now are the comics. And as far as the comics go, Inhuman is turning out to be a pretty big bust. It’s been months since all of those cocoons started popping up with new Inhumans inside, and other than providing a convenient origin story for Ms. Marvel, they haven’t amounted to a whole heck of a lot. Uncanny X-Men had an issue featuring one of the cocoons. I think a new Inhuman has popped up in New Warriors. And I’m sure other people are dealing with them in other comics I’m not reading.

But what are these new Inhumans? Why do they matter and why should we care? Based on everything we’ve seen so far, and everything in this issue, new Inhumans are just new people with super-powers. Whoop-de-flippin’-doo! There are always new people with super-powers popping up in the Marvel Universe. It’s a constant. And in Inhuman #1, Soule can’t seem to find a way to make us care about any of these new ones.

What was interesting about the classic Inhumans wasn’t just their super-powers, it was the Royal Family and the fact that they were this alien kingdom with ties to Earth’s ancestors. The powers themselves were a unique kind of weird, like Black Bolt’s inability to speak, Karnak’s innate knowledge in breaking things, or the fact that they had a giant, teleporting dog. The Inhumans were an awesome blend of weird, alien and noble.

But now they’re just going to be the poor man’s mutant. Though frankly, not even that, based on the first issue. There’s no sense of the impact that these new Inhumans are having on the world or how humanity feels about this sudden influx of new superpowers. There’s no sense of why getting your superpowers from Terrigenesis is any different from being born with your powers or getting them from a radioactive spider bite. There’s no sense of why these new Inhumans are Marvel’s next big epic story, and because of that, there’s no way this series can live up to the hype.

Madureira’s art is fine. I know he’s got a lot of fans, but I wasn’t overly impressed with this issue. His characters are strongly drawn, but I don’t think his designs are all that interesting. He’s got a unique style, and I can see how it would work in superhero comics, but compared to all of the other talented and unique artists at Marvel these days, I’m not quite sure I like Madureira. His art is a little too focused on looking ‘kewl’, which kind of works, considering the paper-thin ‘kewlness’ of the story.

Soule definitely has an uphill battle to make readers care about these new Inhumans. If characters like Dante and Lash are the best he could do, then he’s already hobbled himself. They couldn’t be any more cliche. Lash is just a big, tough, semi-feral dude in a loin cloth. His anger over Black Bolt’s actions is a fine motivation, but only if you’re already invested in the Inhumans and their world. Dante is almost a joke. He’s a hip, young, handsome, noble sort of youth who isn’t afraid to stand up to the bad guy. He’s also a drummer, because that’s a hip thing to be. I’m a little surprised he didn’t get a skateboard too. And fire powers are pretty generic.

Soule’s Medusa is fine, and I think there’s some story to be mined from the idea of Medusa gathering these new Inhumans in an attempt to find her husband and rebuild their empire, but I don’t know if that’s where Soule and Marvel are going. This comic doesn’t really give any sort of sense of what kind of story we’re looking at, only that Marvel thinks it’s a big deal.

But based on all of the Marvel comics I’m reading, I’m fairly certain nobody else in the universe cares that a bunch of new people with superpowers showed up. And after reading Inhuman #1, I don’t care either.

Magneto #2

Magneto #2
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Gabriel Hernandez Walta

I like Magneto as much as the next guy, so of course I’m going to keep buying his new solo series. I’m still just a little miffed that it’s so disconnected from his recent appearances in Uncanny X-Men. I really liked that Magneto. This Magneto isn’t as entertaining.

Magneto’s hunt for the origin of the Omega Sentinel takes him to a tent town in California (even though the last story was in Missouri). He finds out that the bad guys kidnap people from the town in the night, and the residents are so afraid that they just sit back and do nothing – similar to a time in Nazi-occupied Poland, when young Max Eisenhardt sat by in fear while his friends were killed by Nazis. In the tent town, Magneto ambushes and kills all of the bad guys, then tortures one of them to reveal their base.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Bunn has a nice handle on the main character, so at least there’s that. His Magneto is a commanding presence wherever he goes, thanks in part to Walta’s very strong pencil work. Magneto commands every panel he’s in. But this story just seems a little beneath Magneto, especially in light of what he was doing over in Uncanny X-Men. This Magneto is just kind of wandering around chasing a very vague lead on some Omega Sentinels. That Magneto was helping fight a mutant revolution and single-handedly tried to dismantle the new Madripoor. This Magneto is still as arrogant and dangerous as always, but he’s not really doing anything all that grand with either his arrogance or his danger.

But still, where the story falters, Bunn’s characterization remains strong. I kind of like the idea of a Magneto brought low by circumstances, but still believes himself to be all-powerful. This is a Magneto who trudges through the mud like a normal person, but who is capable of turning on the brutality at a moment’s notice. It’s an interesting spin on the character, I just hope Bunn has something bigger in mind for him in the long run.

Moon Knight #2

Moon Knight #2
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Declan Shalvey

I didn’t get to all the comics I wanted to review this week, but I definitely wanted to check out the second issue of Moon Knight. Warren Ellis could be on to something great here, and this second issue is a lot like the first: in that it’s awesomely weird!

One by one, eight seemingly random people are assassinated by a bullet through the head as they leave work. The pages are set up with two vertical columns of four panels each, so each of the eight panels on each page focuses on one of the eight victims. As each person is killed, the panels disappear, leaving just a blank, white space. Some of those blank spaces are taken up by the narration of the sniper who is picking them off. Moon Knight finds him on the rooftop and gives chase, the two fighting back and forth over the city streets far below until Moon Knight catches the guy in an abandoned office building. The sniper explains that he was a special ops soldier who got left out in the field, and that these eight were the people in charge who just left him out there and instead returned home to get big paying jobs on Wall Street.

Before Moon Knight can take him in, the ninth member of the group appears and shoots the sniper in the head. He explains to Moon Knight that they simply learned a lesson that the sniper never did: the banks always win.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

That opening sequence, with the disappearing panels for each kill, is downright genius! I wish I could post the whole sequence here for you. It’s just masterfully done. After that, the issue is just some general excitement, but it’s so wonderfully drawn that you can’t help but feel the energy. Once again, Shalvey creates Moon Knight by just making him void of color. It was awesome with the suit last issue, and it’s awesome with the costume in this issue. I direct your attention to the picture I posted at the top of this column. The whole action scene is just badass Moon Knight images like that. The ending is abrupt and harsh, which works great. I hope Ellis is building to something. So far, both issues have been about a military man seemingly abandoned by his higher ups. Is that going to be the theme of this series? It sounds like a good one to me.

Moon Knight #2 is a little light on content, but the style easily counts it among the best comics of the week.

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 April 5, 2014, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Superman, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Any week where Pretty Deadly comes out is a good week for me. So damned good. You should pick up the trade when it comes out on April 30.

    Inhuman was OK. Not great, not bad. I think it’s partly hurt by the delays. It’s lost the momentum from Infinity – everyone’s already focused on the NEXT big story, Original Sin.

    Magneto was pretty good.

    Moon Knight was very good.

    • Oh yes! I’m supposed to be reading Pretty Deadly! Thanks for the heads up on the tpb. I haven’t bought one of those in forever. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for it, thanks!

      And yeah, those delays have struck down Inhuman. Not that I’m feeling overly hyped for Original Sin, frankly. It’s happening, and I’ll probably read it, but who cares?

      • I’m obsessed with Emma Rios’ art, so I pay very close attention to the release dates of Pretty Deadly.

        I won’t be buying Original Sin, because I don’t particularly care. I’m assuming Jason Aaron will do a better job there than he did with the X-events he wrote (Schism, BotA), but even so, events are generally rather bland things.

      • Agreed. Blandness is permeating most of these events recently. Oh well.

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