Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 4/19/14

This week was another wallet-busting week of comics. I may have to hold back on my caviar sandwiches if I hope to afford all of them! Fortunately, that means there were a lot of good comics in my pile this week, and I love me some good comics.

Plus, there were a whole bunch of DC titles that I read this week! We’ve got reviews for Batman, Wonder Woman and Batwoman, as if they all combined somehow. There’s also the latest issues of Batman Eternal and Harley Quinn, as well as the first issue of the new Sinestro solo series! Now there is a character I’m excited about!

On the Marvel side of things, the final issue of Superior Spider-Man hit the stands and it is…a nice conclusion. It’s not as amazing as I was hoping it would be. Instead, it seems more like Dan Slott and Marvel are in a rush to get to the new status quo of the new Amazing Spider-Man. Can’t say I blame them. We’ve also got new issues of Uncanny X-Men and the utterly fantastic Ms. Marvel, which wins Comic Book of the Week for sheer greatness and adorability.

She also uses ‘Embiggen’, making her the coolest teenager ever

I wonder what a younger, superhero-loving Sean would think about the fact that one of my favorite comics right now is about the awkward youth of a teenage girl. Of course, Young Sean was a big fan of The Secret World of Alex Mack, so there is a precedence.

Comic Reviews: Batman #30, Batman Eternal #2, Batwoman #30, Harley Quinn #5, Ms. Marvel #3, Sinestro #1, Superior Spider-Man #31, Uncanny X-Men #20 and Wonder Woman #30.

Batman #30

Batman #30
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo

I’ve been enjoying Zero Year for the most part, but Snyder and Capullo really go a little too far in this issue. When writing a prequel, you kind of need to keep in mind that what you’re writing takes place before everything else. But clearly, from the major status quo changes in Batman #30, Snyder’s imagination may have gotten a little too big for his britches.

After the big explosion at the end of last issue, Bruce Wayne wakes up from his injuries to a different world. The Riddler has literally taken over the city and turned it into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. He’s flooded the tunnels, put explosives on the bridges, and has a bunch of poisonous gas balloons floating over the city, threatening to release them if anyone tries to help Gotham. The people live in squalor, and Riddler used Poison Ivy’s research to make the plant life grow exponentially, covering the city in overgrown plants. And every day, Riddler offers a challenge to anyone in the city: if they can come up with a riddle he can’t solve, he’ll let everyone go. If they fail, they die.

Bruce makes quick work of himself now that he’s awake. He finds his discarded mask, reconnects with Alfred (who’s been hiding in the Batcave this whole time), and he hooks up with Lt. Gordon, who is one of the few heroes left trying to take Riddler down. Batman manages to save Gordon and a team of commandos from one of the Riddler’s traps.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

How does Gotham City come back from this? How do Batman, Gordon and the Riddler come back from having the entirety of Gotham City turned into a post-apocalyptic prison city? Zero Year takes place at the start of Batman’s career, for crying out loud. How have we been reading Batman in the New 52 without this insane turn of events impacting everything? Does everybody in Gotham and the world just get over the fact that the freakin’ Riddler turned their burg into a murder-filled wasteland? It’s a monumentally large pill to swallow.

But I guess I can live with it. I still don’t see how the Riddler can ever be used again after this storyline. And it’s not like this is the greatest Riddler story of all time. He’s fine, I suppose. But this act is almost too huge to ever take a normal Riddler story seriously again.

But on its own, this looks to be a pretty cool new storyline for Batman and Gordon. They’re down to just their bare hands in an effort to remove a power-mad dictator from a city that’s been thrust back to the plant age. What little we see of Batman this issue is pretty cool, and the promise of his fight to take down Riddler is definitely exciting. Who doesn’t love an underdog story? But this story is almost too huge to really believe. And this issue specifically spends waaaay too much time on a single monologue from the Riddler about how he’s a benevolent leader who’s just looking for a good riddle. I suppose it helps set up the new status quo, but it goes on for too long when Snyder and Capullo could be showing us more of the ruined Gotham City. Riddler isn’t being particularly clever in all of this, so I don’t think he’s being used as strongly as he could. But like I said, I’m kind of excited to see what Batman does to stop him.

Still, man, how does Gotham City recover from this in the span of the New 52 timeline?

Batman Eternal #2

Batman Eternal #2
Writers: Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Artist: Jason Fabok

I didn’t care much for the first issue of Batman Eternal, but mostly for nit-picky resins. I didn’t like how sloppy Gordon’s arrest came about. I still don’t. But it’s mostly behind us now, and Batman Eternal has a bit more to offer.

While Gordon sits in prison, and Alfred gathers the Bat-troops, Batman investigates the train crash from the last issue. He uses the cameras from the train station to ID the thug that Gordon was chasing…and realizes that the guy works for a returned Carmine Falcone! In fact, Falcone seems to be the mastermind behind all of this, and he spends the issue meeting with the mayor, who is already in his pocket.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

The promise of Carmine Falcone as the overall mastermind of Batman Eternal sounds like a pretty cool idea to me. Does anybody know when he was last used? Do we really have to go all the way back to Batman: Year One or Long Halloween to see Falcone? If so, that’s even better. I’m a little surprised that DC never used him again. Falcone will be pretty awesome in this role – though I’m a little surprised that they’ve revealed him in only the second issue.

I still think Batman Eternal is a little sloppy. If the idea is that Carmine Falcone has returned at long last to reclaim his city, I feel a lot more could have been done to build up the menace. He’s apparently crafty enough to set up this huge plot against Gordon. Couldn’t Falcone have stayed in the shadows a bit longer? Couldn’t he have come up with even more tricks and traps for Gotham’s Dark Knights? As it stands, Batman Eternal is just another Batman comic. That’s usually always entertaining enough, but it really needs to come up with something to make it stand out.

Batwoman #30

Batwoman #30
Writer: Marc Andreyko
Artist: Jeremy Haun

Not much to say about the new issue of Batwoman. The more compelling personal life stuff is almost completely ignored in favor of the continued chase between Batwoman and Wolf Spider. I really hope this is all going somewhere.

Batwoman successfully fights off the escaped Arkham Inmates (seeing as how they were all Z-listers), but Wolf Spider still gets away. She tracks him to the Kane residence, where he’s gone to pick up the last painting. The two duke it out, but then Wolf Spider’s elderly financier shows up and shoots Batwoman, allowing them to escape with the painting. Then, simultaneously in their respective HQs, Batwoman and Wolf Spider both figure out how all of the paintings form a map to a statue downtown.

Oh, and Maggie Sawyer’s ex-husband is suing her for custody of their daughter.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

Not much happened in this issue other than moving the plot forward another few paces. The trouble in Arkham Asylum is cleaned up in only a matter of pages, with Batwoman easily defeating the D and Z-list nobodies populating the Aslyum for some reason. One of them is made out of cockroaches and has the name ‘Scatter’. I should write an op-ed about modern day superhero naming conventions…Anyway, nothing new is revealed about Wolf Spider or his goals. He just tangles with Batwoman a little bit, she drops a few mildly entertaining quips, and we end the issuing preparing for the next one. It’s all solidly put together, and the art is fine, but this issue was just a simple, uninteresting step in the same direction.

Harley Quinn #5

Harley Quinn #5
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Chad Hardin

I think this is the issue where Harley Quinn the series goes a little too far off the rails, where it stretches the jokes just a little too far. I’ve been enjoying the series so far, make no mistake, but Harley is starting to get a little too silly for my tastes. If there is no method to her madness, then it’s just madness, and that doesn’t keep me around for very long. That’s why I stopped reading Deadpool.

After a series of random madcap adventures that involve Harley disrupting a burlesque show, among other things, she and Sy Borg, the old man from the end of last issue, begin hunting down and killing the old spies on Sy’s list. They kill one of them who’s already in a coma, then attack an old Russian woman in her home – but she sets off a bomb first! There’s a lot more filler in the issue, but all of it is pointless comedy filler.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

There’s a scene in this issue where Sy insults a thug at an outdoor cafe. I thought for sure it was leading somewhere, but I turned the page and Harley and Sy were already somewhere else. The scene didn’t amount to anything. And then there’s the scene where Harley interrupts a burlesque show. She stupidly mistakes a skit for reality and tries to save the dancer. It’s…just nonsense. The scene amounts to nothing more than ‘Harley is wacky, so she does wacky things’. Likewise, there’s a pointless wacky dream sequence.

I know this kind of wackiness has its fans, but I prefer my wackiness to have at least a dash of cleverness involved. That’s what makes it worthwhile, and that’s what I thought this series had at the beginning. But already, it’s going off the rails. Even the assassinations, which I thought might be cool, are just Harley and the old man on his motorized scooter killing other old people. Because the writers think killing old people is goofy fun. And, I guess it is, a little. But if there is no straight man, why should the comedy matter?

Ms. Marvel #3

Ms. Marvel #3
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Adrian Alphona

Ms. Marvel is just a straight-up delightful comic. No silly gimmicks. No random Spider-Man cameos to boost sales. No insane, indecipherable attempts to tie into Inhumanity. Ms. Marvel is just the simple, elegant and well told story of a young girl developing super-powers and trying to figure out what the heck she’s supposed to do about them! It’s great!

Kamala Khan is struggling to figure out her powers and her new place in a world of superheroes – especially since her rescue of Zoe last issue is all over the news, and all anyone will talk about in her city. She tries to confide in her friend Nakia, but that doesn’t work. She tries out her powers in an empty locker room at school, but that ends up with her in detention. She finally decides to put her powers to good use when she stumbles upon an armed robbery at the Circle Q convenience store, where her friend Bruno works. Unbeknownst to her, the robber is actually Bruno’s brother, who just wants some money, and Bruno has already called out his brother for making the dumb move.

Still, Kamala transforms into Captain Marvel and rushes in to save the day – only for the robber’s gun to accidentally go off, shooting Kamala in the stomach!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

I did not see that ending coming. Ms. Marvel has been pretty low key so far, so seeing Kamala get shot is a real shock – just the sort of shock this book needed. It’s always good to get a little action and drama in our comic books, not that I haven’t been loving every moment of Kamala’s journey of discovery. She’s a fascinatingly fun character, and her life as a Muslim-America just keeps getting more and more interesting. I’m excited to learn so much about a new culture, and Wilson does a great job of showing us that culture through the window of a young, teenage girl.

There’s a great scene where Kamala and her brother go to a prayer/lecture session in town, but all of the girls are kept separate from the boys by a big partition in the room. That alone is something new to learn, but then we see all of the girls just sitting there bored and looking at their phones because they’re not being engaged with. Kamala and her friend Nakia even take off to get a drink at the store down the street, knowing full well that nobody will miss them. Wilson is doing a fantastic job, with help from Alphona, in showing us what life might really be like for a young, Muslim girl in Jersey City.

And that’s why Ms. Marvel excels. In only three issues, we’ve already got such a wonderful grasp on Kamala Khan’s character. We know who she is, we know how she thinks, and we can watch her grow more confident with her powers. It’s just a lot of fun, and expertly drawn by Alphona. Wilson and Alphona are making this little corner of the Marvel Universe come alive. Some of Kamala’s expressions are just delightful. And the way Alphona draws her shape-shifting powers is really unlike anything I think we’ve ever seen before between shapeshifters and stretchy heroes. It’s just neat.

Sinestro #1

Sinestro #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Dale Eaglesham

Sinestro is hot right now, and has been for a few years. Writer Geoff Johns turned him from a joke character with a silly mustache to possibly the greatest super-villain at DC Comics. Lex Luthor and the Joker have nothing on Sinestro these days. So a solo series sounds absolutely perfect. After reading this first issue, I’m confident that DC might actually pull this off.

At least it should do better than Larfleeze.

Ever since he gave up Parallax, Sinestro has exiled himself to some far off, long-abandoned planet. He doesn’t want to kill himself, so he hangs out near a pack of big cats, knowing full well that they will eventually get smart enough and wily enough to defeat him and kill him. In his own way, Sinestro is going out as a teacher, seeing as how he’s teaching these cats to be better killers. But Lyssa Drak shows up to try and get Sinestro back into the fold. She tries to lure him into powering up by saying that Arkillo is running the Sinestro Corps into ruin – but that doesn’t work. She mentions a new evil threat to the galaxy called the Paling – but that doesn’t work.

Finally, she mentions that some Korugarians still live, and that is what gets Sinestro to reignite his Yellow Power Ring. The pair of them race off to some slavers who are using the Korugarians, and other aliens, as sacrifices against the Paling. Sinestro saves only the Korugarians (leaving the rest of the sacrifices to be saved by the GLs), and leaves. He then decides to recruit the Sinestro Corps to help him save Korugarians, but Arkillo is none too happy to see him back and refuses to let the ‘Arkillo Corps’ join Sinestro.

Arkillo even has an ace up his sleeve: he has Sinestro’s daughter, Soranik Natu, held prisoner!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I would say this is a solid start to a Sinestro solo series. Bunn really gets into his head and introduces us to Sinestro’s world. I won’t say Bunn is as good as Geoff Johns at portraying the character, but Johns can’t do everything. Bunn’s Sinestro is good enough, and I’m confident he’ll be able to get the hang of the character as the series progresses. There are a lot of plots to sink our teeth into, even wholly made up stuff like this Paling thing, which reeks of just being another generic space evil. But Sinestro’s got to fight something, right? More important, of course, are the Sinestro Corps and the rescue of the Korugarians, as well as whatever might be developing between Sinestro and Lyssa Drak. I’m definitely interested in these storylines, and I hope Bunn handles them smartly.

The art is fine, though at times unimpressive. Eaglesham’s Arkillo isn’t very threatening. And sometimes the art is a little more low key than I would like. Eaglesham is a pro, and has been around for years, so it’s solid comic book art. But sometimes I was hoping for more of the dramatic art Sinestro has gotten over the years. There’s nothing overly grand or sinister about anybody in this comic. They’re all just costumed characters hanging out together – though Lyssa Drak looks particularly devastating, with the Book of Parallax literally written onto her skin. I’m hoping for more visuals like that as the series goes on. Sinestro deserves to be larger than life on every page.

Superior Spider-Man #31

Superior Spider-Man #31
Writers: Dan Slott and Christos Gage
Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli and Will Sliney

And so we have arrived at the end. Superior Spider-Man is quite possibly the best Spider-Man story I’ve ever read. That’s probably a little hyperbolic, but I have had nothing but fun reading the adventures of Doc Ock trying to be a worthwhile superhero. Slott, whose Spider-Man work has been fantastic over the past few years, found a wonderfully comic booky way to explore Spider-Man from a new, refreshing angle. And he made the story as entertaining and as packed full of activity as any Spider-Man story could be.

Forget the haters and the whiners who never even tried this book. Superior Spider-Man was amazing.

I only wish the final issue had lived up to all of that excitement.

From Page One, Peter Parker is on an never-ending mission to save the day and wrap up all outstanding storylines before the relaunch of Amazing Spider-Man. He settles up with Carlie and has Sajani make him a cure for the Goblin Formula. He finishes off the Spider Slayers and makes peace with Spider-Man 2099. He defeats the Goblin Knight and Menace in short order (he gets away, but she gets cured). When he faces off against the Green Goblin, Peter wins with ease and manages to save Anna Maria without breaking a sweat. The Goblin, by the way, is indeed Norman Osborn, only he had facial reconstruction surgery to become Mason Banks, executive of Alchemax. Part of his plan has been setting up Alchemax as a legacy for his grandson Normie. Peter uses the cure on him, but Norman is able to escape in the end, plotting revenge.

After saving Anna Maria, she tells Spidey how important Peter Parker is to her, and Peter realizes that losing Otto may have been a little tragic after all, at least for one person.

The second half of the book is an extended epilogue, wrapping up a few other plots and setting up some new ones. Peter settles things up with Aunt May and Jay. He tells Mary Jane what happened with Doc Ock, but she doesn’t care. To her, it’s just another example of the weirdness of Peter’s life, and she tells him that she can’t have him in her life anymore. Carlie Cooper avoids Peter and tells Mary Jane (and the reader) that she’s going to stay with some friends out of state…so I guess she’s gone for good. Spidey tries to talk Mayor Jameson into staying in office, because even though Jameson built the Spider Slayers, it was Norman Osborn who forced them to attack the cops. But Jameson already resigned before Spidey arrived. He leaves in the end, plotting revenge.

After all is said and done, the only two plots still left standing are Anna Maria Marconi and Parker Industries.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Superior Spider-Man #31 was a very entertaining and exciting comic, but it wasn’t a very satisfying conclusion to the whole saga. It was definitely a satisfying issue, with some great Spidey action, a fun team-up with Spidey 2099, and a solid final battle against the Green Goblin. But this issue felt incredibly rushed. Slott had a lot of characters, plots and subplots in the air over the course of Superior Spider-Man, and this issue felt like Slott and Gage were in a race to get them all taken care of and swept under the rug before the relaunch of Amazing Spider-Man.

The comic reads exactly how I wrote it, as if the writers had a checklist of things they needed to wrap up before the issue was over. Peter Parker never struggles, never really faces any danger or problems. He just shows up and takes care of every single thing in short order. Even the climactic fight against the Green Goblin is over quickly without much hassle.

Though the moment where Norman realizes that Peter is back is awesome!

Now that’s good comic bookery!

The issue felt rushed, there’s no other way to put it. There’s no grand attempt to provide a theme for Superior Spider-Man. There are no attempts to really compare or contrast Peter and Otto. In fact, Otto barely has any impact on the final issue. Only through Anna Maria does anybody care about the true protagonist of Superior Spider-Man, and while I’m very, very excited to see where Slott goes with her, I’m a little disappointed that there wasn’t any kind of wrap-up concerning Otto. But I guess all of that happened in the last issue, which I thought was just a stellar issue, so maybe I should just take that and be happy.

The final issue of Superior Spider-Man is a very enjoyable comic. It’s rushed, but maybe that’s the point. Maybe Peter Parker would have had all of these problems settled with ease if he’d always been around.

Uncanny X-Men #20

Uncanny X-Men #20
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Chris Bachalo

I’m happy to say that Bendis is finally getting to some real plot for Uncanny X-Men! Gone are the random trips to Limbo, the random training sessions, and the rest of that build-up. We’re finally delving deep into a conflict with SHIELD, and it’s great! Now if only Cyclops would stop being a totally jackass sometimes.

Cyclops and his team teleport onto the Helicarrier to confront Maria Hill directly and peer into her mind to see if she’s controlling the Sentinels. The Cuckoos freeze everyone else in place while peering into Hill’s mind. The Cuckoos find out that she doesn’t know who is controlling the Sentinels, though she fears it might be some secret sect of SHIELD – but Cyclops still isn’t sure, since Hill’s probably had some anti-psychic training. Conferring with his team, Cyclops figures out that the bad guy behind the Sentinels is tracking them with Cerebro technology, and there are only so few people in the world who know that technology. One of them is the Beast, so Cyclops and Magik head to the Jean Grey School for a confrontation, where Cyclops is kind of a dick about accusing Hank McCoy of sending Sentinels after him. Midway through the confrontation, Cyclops’ powers suddenly go haywire and he starts blasting – which SHIELD detects, and Maria Hill orders a full assault!

Meanwhile, it’s revealed that the Blob got his powers back thanks to Mystique’s Mutant Growth Hormone, and he discovers that Dazzler is their prisoner. He promises Mystique that he’ll keep her secret. And elsewhere, Hijack is on the move.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

As someone who has very eagerly been following Cyclops’ career for the past few years, I’m very excited to see this series finally get to some real action. I can’t believe it’s taken 20 issues to get here- issues I’ve enjoyed – but we’re finally telling a real story about Scott and his new team. No more dawdling on new mutants or old rivalries. Scott and his crew are finally dealing with their own problem, and it’s fun. The assault on Maria Hill is pretty darn cool, as is Scott’s attempts to figure out who might be sending the Sentinels against them – of course, that leads to a cringing conversation between Cyclops and Beast.

Even I can admit he’s being an asshole; Cyclops, that is

Beast is holding a bad grudge, but man, Scott really doesn’t come off well at all in that exchange. Be cooler, Cyclops. Don’t give in to madness or weirdness!

So I’m excited to see where this story goes. Being a big Blob fan, I was slightly disappointed to find out that he’s now a drug-addict junkie, but I’m going to hold out hope that Bendis has some better plans in place for him. Maybe Blob saves Dazzler? I dunno. That’s just wishful thinking. It’ll be fun in the future to see some classic Blob vs. X-Men stuff. And I’m glad to see Hijack on the move. I knew Bendis wasn’t done with his story.

Wonder Woman #20

Wonder Woman #30
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Goran Sudzuka

Just like Batwoman this week, Wonder Woman is kind of just a placeholder issue, moving the plot and various characters forward on their expected courses. Fortunately, the plot movements are a bit more entertaining here than in Batwoman.

Turns out, the Amazons aren’t so keen on Wonder Woman being in charge, especially Aleka, who begins marshaling a mutiny behind the scenes. In an effort to bond the Amazons further, Wonder Woman declares that they should all consider themselves mothers to Zeke, but that doesn’t seem to go over too well, especially for Aleka. Elsewhere, the First Born is putting Cassandra through hell, seemingly just for the fun of it. And speaking of Hell, the First Born travels down to Hades and snuffs out Hell’s candle head.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I like the idea that the Amazons aren’t sure about following Wonder Woman, but that does take away from the awesome finale to the last issue. Still, seeing Wonder Woman marshal her forces should make for a good story, even if she has weird ideas for going about it. I get that Zeke is adorable and all, but it doesn’t look to me as if the Amazons really care. And it was a little disappointing to see Hell taken out of the fight so easily. He was a pretty cool dude, and there’s an awesome picture in the issue where it shows he was ready for battle, with all of hell’s dead behind him.

Hell hath some fury

But then Hades was always my favorite Greek God as a kid, so that’s just a personal thing.

Also, I was struck this issue with how weird a character Zola is in the grand scheme of Wonder Woman. Like, what’s going to happen to her when Azzarello leaves? What’s going to happen to Zeke? For that matter, why are they important again? Is Zeke supposed to inherit the throne of Olympus? Personally, I think the twist is going to be that Zeke is Zeus reborn, and he’s been hiding in plain sight this whole time. But still, Wonder Woman has had this normal human woman tagging along with her since the very first issue, and it’s kind of weird.

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 19, 2014, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Ms. Marvel was fantastic. This is fast becoming one of Marvel’s best titles. Kamala’s adorable, Wilson’s writing is clever, and Alphona’s art is fun, with tons of little visual gags.

    Superior Spider-Man was good. A lot of people seem to have been disappointed with it. I thought it was pretty good.

    UXM was great. Some fun stuff with Hill. A few people now seem to ship Scott and Hill. I’m looking forward to this arc.

    • I also thought Superior Spider-Man was good, just rushed and too interested in wrapping up plot threads as quickly as possible. Fortunately, the penultimate issue was glorious.

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