Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 4/12/14
I am not often someone who toots his own horn – usually – but I think it’s time to share with you all that I’ve been picking up some other blog duties on the side of Henchman-4-Hire. I volunteered a few months ago to write additional comic book reviews for the website Word of the Nerd. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? I write a different style of review for them, adding to my already big workload here.
So just in case you’d like to read some additional reviews of mine, you can check out my takes on Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #1 and Nightcrawler #1 this week. Sometimes my reviews have overlapped between the two sites, but why do that when I can just share with you lot some other reviews I’ve written around the webs!
And no way am I going to abandon the weekly Hench-Sized reviews! This week sees the return of the All-New Ghost Rider, Captain Marvel and Secret Avengers, with the debut issue of Batman Eternal, DC Comics’ big new weekly Batman series. Does it live up to the hype?
No, no it doesn’t.
The second issue of Secret Avengers wins Comic Book of the Week for its playful style and strong characters. But Captain Marvel wins moment of the week with a guest appearance by Carol’s cat Chewie! Cats in comics are my kryptonite. I’m not ashamed to admit that.
Both ‘Carol’ and ‘Captain Marvel’ would be good names for cats, I think. Or maybe just ‘The Captain’. Or even ‘Captain Cat’. I could do this all day.
Comic Reviews: All-New Ghost Rider #2, Batman Eternal #1, Captain Marvel #2, Secret Avengers #2 and Superman/Wonder Woman #7.
All-New Ghost Rider #2
Writer: Felipe Smith
Artist: Tradd Moore
I generally liked the first issue of All-New Ghost Rider, and I’m more than willing to keep up with it to see where it goes. I really like the idea of a new Ghost Rider behind the wheel of something other than a motorcycle, so I hope Smith and Moore’s project here really takes off.
The new Ghost Rider chases after the crooks who killed him at the end of last issue, taking out at least one of their cars before disappearing into the night. The crooks were working for Mr. Hyde, who wanted the drugs to empower his transformations. He tells them to get the last shipment – which is held by a gangbanger named Grumpy. Turns out, it’s Grumpy’s car that Ghost Rider stole the night before, and somehow, it ends up back in the shop while Robbie Reyes wakes up back in bed, his memory hazy.
When he goes back to the shop to look at the car again, Grumpy’s gangsters show up to steal the drugs back from the trunk (not knowing they were taken by Hyde’s men). Robbie goes all Ghost Rider on the gangsters and uses his fire to scare them off. Robbie then pulls into a salvage yard and gets out, asking what he’s become…but then the car replies, ‘what have we become?’
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
I would say this was another solid issue of Ghost Rider, one that definitely reads like the second half of issue #1. Everything picks up exactly where we left off, and it’s clear that Smith is going for a more drawn out origin story than a quick wrap up. If that final page is any indication, Robbie Reyes has a lot to learn. And I think I’m definitely on board to find out what that is, though nothing in particular has really grabbed me about this series so far. It’s all generally entertaining and solidly put together, but Smith and Moore haven’t hit the NO2 button yet.
I still like the art, and Moore does a great job drawing Ghost Rider’s extreme adventures. The car and the flames look fantastic. And there was one panel in the beginning, when Ghost Rider takes out that goon car, that I really enjoyed. I thought for a moment that Ghost Rider was just going to run them off the road, but you turn the page and find out that Ghost Rider’s flaming car tore through the bad guy’s car like a hot knife through butter. It was simply beautiful.
The character work remains a nice draw, with very little of that weird, overly cartoony style like in the first issue. It’s clear that the art will be a little cartoon-like, but I think it’s growing on me. Moore also draws a beastly Mr. Hyde. I’m just a little disappointed that All-New Ghost Rider is following the comic book cliche of picking some obscure C or D-list villain and beefing them up into someone dangerous just to give Ghost Rider someone to fight. Hopefully Smith has some bigger plans in the future than just having the new Ghost Rider mop up the dregs of the Marvel Universe.
Batman Eternal #1
Writers: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, et al.
Artist: Jason Fabok
DC has a lot riding on Batman Eternal. They’ve promised a whole year of this weekly series, and considering their track record of weekly comics (1-1), I hope DC hasn’t bitten off more than they can chew. Do we really need a weekly Batman comic? No, absolutely not. Could it be entertaining? Definitely.
Does the first issue live up to the hype? Nope! Well…maybe. It depends on what you’re looking to get out of it. I was disappointed, but not necessarily in the comic itself so much as some of the storytelling choices.
Commissioner Gordon is single-handedly battling Professor Pyg in the Aviation Museum for some reason. In fact, Harvey Bullock has the time to go pick up new GCPD lieutenant Jason Bard at the train station, smirking at how Gordon is too busy to greet Jason in person. Shouldn’t Bullock – or really anybody – be there helping Gordon? Fortunately, Batman shows up just in time to smack down the Pyg, saving Gordon and some injured children. Pyg and his men flee, with Batman and the Commissioner in hot pursuit. Batman chases and catches Pyg while Gordon chases another guy down in the subway, finally calling for back up.
The back-up arrives in the form of Bullock, Bard, Maggie Sawyer and Major Forbes, a guy so corrupt that he doesn’t even try to hide it. He’s so corrupt that I can only assume Commissioner Gordon was on vacation every time Forbes was up for promotion.
Before they arrive, however, Gordon confronts the crook on the tracks and tells him to drop his weapon – but the guy claims he doesn’t have a weapon. Gordon shoots at the man’s gun to disarm him, but the bullet passes right through and hits an electrical box, causing an explosion. Batman arrives soon after and gets Gordon to safety before two trains coming to the station from opposite directions collide, killing hundreds.
We were told beforehand that the trains were already en route from opposite directions before Gordon shot that electrical box. And Gordon says those boxes only control the lights in the station, they don’t control the tracks. Those two facts are very important to this story.
The GCPD members arrive in time to hear Gordon mention that he shot the electrical box, and Forbes immediately sees his chance to arrest Gordon, blaming Gordon’s lone bullet for the crashing trains. Gordon is led away in hand-cuffs at the end of the issue.
Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.
There are a lot of things that just don’t sit right with me about that final scene. Obviously, the storyline for this series, at least at the beginning, will be the criminal case against Jim Gordon. But none of these talented writers could think up a better way to get Gordon arrested? Couldn’t they have made it even slightly ambiguous for us readers? We know the trains were heading towards each other before Gordon did anything. That should be easy to prove. And Gordon said it himself that the box he shot doesn’t control the rails. It’s clear to the reader, to Batman and to Gordon that his bullet isn’t to blame for a single damn thing.
But Major McCrookedcop ignores that like the obvious crooked cop he is, and has Gordon arrested on the spot just for the weak, issue-ending drama. In real police work, there is no rush to slap hand-cuffs on a guy like Gordon, not when there is a ton of investigation still to go. But that wouldn’t be dramatic enough, I guess. They wanted their cliffhanger and just forced a lot of idiocy down our throats to make it happen.
And worst of all, no trained police officer in the world is going to shoot to disarm. Shooting someone’s gun out of their hand is something you only see in movies because it doesn’t happen in real life. If Gordon really wanted to put the crook down for holding a gun on him, Gordon would have shot anywhere else. You don’t point a gun at a police officer without forcing that officer to shoot you.
This issue was disappointing. This is Scott Snyder and his team of professionals we’re talking about here! Couldn’t they come up with a more creative, more believable way for James Gordon to end the issue in hand-cuffs? This sort of sloppy storytelling is going to torpedo the whole rest of the series if we have to watch them go through the motions of arresting and prosecuting Commissioner Gordon for a crime he obviously didn’t commit. And Gordon, of course, immediately submits to the arrest, because that’s what the writers need him to do.
I have a feeling that all of the writers have their Big Book of Prison Movie Cliches handy. I fear that’s all we’re going to get from here on out.
I mean, the issue started with Gordon alone battling Professor freakin’ Pyg! And Pyg was in an airplane somehow! Why the hell is Bullock being so glib about Gordon in a situation like that? Was picking Jason Bard up at the train station really that damn important that Bullock is perfectly comfortable leaving Gordon alone to handle that mess? There isn’t another cop in sight, not even uniformed cops already dead on the ground. Just the police commissioner alone, protecting a gaggle of children, and battling off a psychotic, masked madman. What. The. Hell.
Batman is in the issue too, but he’s pretty weak. He punches people, he runs around, and he yells at Alfred a bit. But there’s nothing particularly interesting about Batman. He doesn’t even try to stop the trains from crashing. Batman is just as much a victim of the forced plot points as Gordon.
The art serves the issue well, so at least there’s that. It’s good art, well detailed, and definitely sticks to the DC house style of being all grim and gritty. I thought it was fine.
Overall, this seems like a hastily thrown together first issue, one that’s really only concerned with getting Gordon in hand-cuffs, logic, plot, story and characterization be damned. A weekly Batman comic is an ambitious idea, but I don’t think it’s off to a good start. Of course, if you ignore all those logical points I brought up, it’s probably a fine issue.
Captain Marvel #2
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: David Lopez
I want everybody to know that I am definitely looking forward to the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie. I liked the first trailer, I’ve liked everything I’ve seen so far, and I think Marvel will have a modest hit on their hands. And I was a big fan of when this lineup debuted as the Guardians a few years ago.
All of that being said, I really can’t stand the agonizingly obvious attempts by Marvel to make the Guardians of the Galaxy a big deal in their comics. It rings painfully hollow, no matter how many superstar writers try to make the characters seem cool. It’s like when Marvel forcefully inserted Phil Coulson and Nick Fury Jr. into their comics. Marvel just can’t seem to find ways to organically have their comics match the movies. It’s painful.
So yeah, I mostly just rolled my eyes and tried to keep my lunch down when the Guardians showed up in this issue of Captain Marvel.
As part of her first mission in space, Captain Marvel is piloting a ship and carry the young alien girl Tic back to her home planet. Tic is still in the coma pod that crashed to Earth last issue. Carol runs afoul of some space pirates, so she quickly kicks in their butts – and gets a last minute assist from the newly arrived Guardians of the Galaxy. The soon-to-be movie stars hang around to shoot the breeze, repair Carol’s ship and mistake her cat Chewie for an alien Flerkin. In the end, Tic wakes up, tries to kill Star-Lord and then steals Carol’s ship.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Everything with Carol was great. She’s a badass space jockey who takes the time to make smalltalk with her frenzied cat while battling evil pirates. It’s awesome. But then the Guardians of the Galaxy show up and the issue grinds to a halt. I didn’t expect them at all. They’re not advertised on the cover or anything. I’m just reading along, watching Carol hand a bunch of space pirates their butts, and then I turn the page and see one of those gratuitous posing shots of the Guardians all just standing there with their names in special logo fonts. It grates on the nerves.
The rest of the issue is spent with Carol bantering with these wafer-thin characters. Rocket makes the jokes that we’re supposed to expect Rocket to make. Star-Lord casually name drops his father and his Spartax heritage, as if those things mattered at all to anyone prior to Star-Lord becoming a movie star. It’s the same reason I dropped the new Guardians of the Galaxy series. These characters are just blatant, uncreative attempts to build up as much fake popularity as they can before their movie comes out. They’re corporate shills. It won’t even matter if the movie is a success. These characters are just flat and boring in the comics because they have become so homogenized. It’s…unsettling.
And they bring down an otherwise excellent issue of Captain Marvel.
Secret Avengers #2
Writer: Ales Kot
Artist: Michael Walsh
Speaking of Phil Coulson and Nick Fury Jr…they remain major characters in Secret Avengers, and they still don’t feel like they fit. Their segments are the worst parts of this otherwise stellar issue. They’re a couple of Mary Sues dropped into a regular Avengers adventure. Fortunately, everyone else in this issue is a blast to read. Hawkeye has great chemistry with Black Widow and Spider-Woman, his mannerisms carrying over from the Hawkeye solo series. And MODOK really steps up as an interesting and entertaining character in this issue. This is a pretty solid team of superheroes.
Agents Coulson and Fury are drifting away into space, having successfully defeated the bad guy last issue, but they’ve lost their tether to the space station. Spider-Woman, Black Widow and Hawkeye arrive in space to reactivate the station and rescue Coulson and Fury. Down on Earth, Maria Hill has been cornered by an assassin, but she’s rescued by MODOK, who is working for her as a scientist. MODOK sent a little mouse with a syringe on its back to poison the assassin dead. Later, MODOK is angry that the heroes used one of his unfinished inventions to save Coulson and Fury. But Maria Hill tells MODOK that she gladly stole his invention because, “This is the Secret Avengers, there are no rules.”
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Oh man, that closing one-liner. Please. Spare us, Maria Hill. Never do or say anything like that again.
The problem with Secret Avengers, and lines like “there are no rules” is that they are not very secret, and there are never any rules in superhero comics. A few superheroes shut down a dangerous space station, then rescue their friends in space? An assassin is stopped at the last minute from killing an important character? Neither of these storylines require the team to have any secrecy or to operate without rules. Those are both pretty standard comic book adventures, starring pretty standard comic book characters. I have a similar problem with the new X-Force series.
Nothing in any of these comics so far has been so sneaky or secretive as to warrant a special, covert branch of their respective superhero teams. With the exception of using MODOK to build gadgets for SHIELD, this series could just as easily be the regular Avengers. Heck, I’m fairly certain the three superheroes in this comic are members of the regular Avengers, who are openly working with SHIELD. So I just don’t get why Marvel insists they call themselves the ‘secret Avengers’. What’s so secretive about them?
But really, that’s all just semantics. If you overlook that nothing is very ‘secret’ about this series, it’s just a fun, entertaining Avengers adventure starring some familiar characters. There’s definitely a modern, Hawkeye-esque vibe to the whole thing, and considering how much I love Hawkeye, I’m definitely liking this series too. The banter is fun to read, the characters are well fleshed-out, the art is fantastic, and MODOK provides a nice wildcard to the whole endeavor. This could definitely be an entertaining comic.
SupermanWonder Woman #7
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Paulo Siqueira, Eddy Barrows and Barry Kitson
Yep, I’m still reading this comic. I know I said I was giving it up, and maybe I still will. But DC was light on reviews this week, so I wanted to pick up something else to balance out the list. I’m not just here to review Marvel Comics.
Following the nuclear explosion they set off at the end of last issue, Superman and Wonder Woman are weak, especially Supes, who absorbed the bulk of the blast. They manage to fly each other to safety after chasing off some ghosts with guns. Wonder Woman visits that one friend she’s been hanging out with in this series, who has some special healing abilities. And Superman flies home to the Fortress of Solitude to soak up some sunlight.
Once they’re better, they meet up and hold hands before deciding to go out on the town. In their civilian guises, Diana takes Clark to a nightclub to dance the night away.
Meanwhile, some scientists are tracking Doomsday down in the ocean.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
So I guess Zod was stopped. The issue drops one line about the explosion sending him and his army back into the Phantom Zone, but it apparently can’t be bothered beyond that. We spent several issues building Zod and Faora into dangerous villains, clearly tying into last Summer’s Man of Steel movie, but they don’t even get to make an appearance here. Apparently we just have to take it on Superman’s word that they were dealt with in the blast. But considering they set off a nuclear explosion, there isn’t much fallout for the two superheroes to deal with. They just fly away, heal up, and are back together in no time.
This was a fairly dull issue, considering the build up to the final battle with Zod. Superman and Wonder Woman heal up without any trouble after being at ground zero for a nuclear explosion. We’re led to believe some time has passed since the blast, but they are both just as gorgeous as ever when they emerge. It’s a little…disappointing. Why go through all that trouble of making Superman and Wonder Woman responsible for a nuclear explosion to just have them shrug it off later? And again, Zod’s departure is a bit abrupt considering the importance of the character and the build-up he’s received in this series.
I suppose I shouldn’t complain about that dancing scene at the end. That’s exactly what I’d like to see in this series: Clark and Diana as a real couple doing real couple things. But the scene doesn’t amount to much, and most of the dialogue involves the bouncer telling Clark that he’s a lucky guy. At no point in the New 52 have I been led to believe that Wonder Woman was the type to go out dancing in nightclubs. It’s a nice character trait, but it kind of comes out of nowhere, and Soule just kind of tacks it on at the end. At least the artists draw a great dance scene, with Wonder Woman looking more human and personable than ever.
And sadly, all of this build up about Doomsday isn’t amounting to much. Having a bunch of vague scientists track Doomsday as he hangs out at the bottom of the ocean just isn’t very interesting. But I remain a little hopeful that these writers have something fun planned.
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!