Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 4/26/14

This is the week of zero issues, apparently! All of the cool kids are starting off their new comic books with an issue #0 instead of the traditional #1. Because who needs tradition, amiright? Besides, ‘zero’ starts with a ‘Z’, so that makes it cooler already.

We’ve got both Justice League United #0, the start off the next Justice League spin-off , and Original Sin #0, a prologue to this Summer’s Big Event from Marvel. Original Sin actually makes for a nice little prologue, while this #0 issue of Justice League United actually reads like a #1 issue. I wouldn’t be surprised if Justice League United #1 just picks right up from where #0 left off.

So what was the point?

Beyond those zero books, we’ve got new issues of Aquaman, Fantastic Four and Batman Eternal, which continues its efforts to drive me insane. I also decided to jump back into Red Lanterns, which was a good choice, because Red Lanterns #30 wins Comic Book of the Week! Though, admittedly, there wasn’t much released this week.

Comic Reviews: Aquaman #30, Batman Eternal #3, Fantastic Four #3, Justice League United #0, Original Sin #0 and Red Lanterns #30.

You can also check out my review for Elektra #1 at Word of the Nerd!

Aquaman #30

Aquaman #30
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Paul Pelletier and Alvaro Martinez

Aquaman continues to just cruise right along, and I continue to read about it. No fuss, no muss!

Aquaman battles Hercules until he gets the upper hand and uses the trident to send Herc to some ancient labyrinth to keep him busy, then reaches out to Wonder Woman to see if she can help, considering she and Herc are half-siblings. Meanwhile, there’s an attempt on Mera’s life in Atlantis, and she’s saved by Tula, Ocean Master’s sister. Mera doesn’t tell Aquaman about the assassination attempt, instead deciding to work with the Atlantean High Council to get to the bottom of this.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

That was another nice, entertaining issue of Aquaman. Parker is taking a more low key approach than Geoff Johns, who favored big events. But I’m still liking Parker’s comic. The fight with Hercules is just another super-villain fight, so not much to talk about there. The fact that the Trident can open portals to places other than Atlantean Hell is a little weird and doesn’t make much sense, but it’s not a big deal. The really good stuff came with Mera and Atlantis, and the ways she withheld information from Aquaman about the assassination, teamed up with Tula, and is striking out on her own as a leader. I’m loving this political intrigue, and I’d like for it to be a bigger part of the book.

Batman Eternal #3

Batman Eternal #3
Writers: Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Artist: Jason Fabok

OK, I’m still reading Batman Eternal, and I will admit that it’s getting pretty entertaining. It’s a solid Batman book, there’s no doubt about that. But oh man, there are parts of it that make me want to pull my hair out by the roots. The same way that the first issue bugged the heck out of me for forcing Gordon’s arrest, this issue has its own foolishness. Some of these plot ‘twists’ just don’t make any logical sense! And I expect more from writers like Snyer and Tynion, but they seemed determined to force their plot progression down our throats.

Carmine Falcone begins his assault on Gotham City, hitting several of the Penguin’s weapons caches. Batman attempts to keep up, but he can only do so much. The GCPD are no help because the corrupt mayor installs the corrupt Major Jack Forbes as new acting commissioner, and Forbes tells everyone in the GCPD that they’re going to ignore the gang war and focus on catching Batman. Meanwhile, Stephanie Brown stumbles upon her father’s super-villain meeting, and barely escapes with her life. Stephanie has seen the meeting’s mysterious leader, and that person is somehow connected to the bigger mystery going on in Gotham.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Batman Eternal is definitely getting more exciting, I’ll give it that. But it’s hampered by forced storytelling, by the writers just cramming stupidity down our throats! Take this Forbes guy, because he is the biggest lump the writers of Batman Eternal are forcing us to swallow. There is no depth to Forbes’ corruption. Every single word out of his mouth is about how corrupt he is. There is no ambiguity whatsoever, especially when he’s just hanging around the station with other cops. So it begs the question of what the hell is this guy still doing on Gordon’s police force?! Why did Gordon let this guy stick around, let alone keep the rank of major? And why are those other cops, including people like Harvey Bullock and Maggie Sawyer, listening to a word this guy says?

The worst part is at the end. All the good cops are gearing up to put a stop to this gang war, but Forbes and the mayor step in and tell them they are going to ignore all of that crime and instead focus on catching the Batman.  How is it that Bullock and Maggie don’t immediately throw Forbes into cuffs for clearly being insane? There is no conceivable reason why these two cops, let alone any officer in that room, would blindly follow the obviously corrupt Forbes in his witch hunt of Batman. It just doesn’t work.

How is anyone supposed to take this storyline seriously? Are you going to tell me that characters like Harvey Bullock and Maggie Sawyer are just going to fall in line with this madness because he’s their boss? Are they such morons that they can’t piece together that something is wrong when the blatantly corrupt Forbes, who isn’t shy about praising the ‘good old days’ when gangsters ran the city, is suddenly appointed commissioner on the very same night that a gang war breaks out? And that his first act as commissioner is to tell everyone to ignore the gang war?

It. Does. Not. Work.

Fortunately, if you can ignore the insane logical stupidity, the rest of the issue is pretty cool. Watching Batman struggle to catch up to whatever Falcone is putting into motion is pretty cool. The Penguin is always a hoot. And the stuff with Stephanie Brown promises to be interesting. So Snyder and Tynion are telling an engaging story, it’s just that some parts of it are ludicrously forced.

Fantastic Four #3

Fantastic Four #3
Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Leonard Kirk

I think I’m going to stop reading Robinson’s Fantastic Four. I’ve never really followed Marvel’s First Family, and three issues into his run, Robinson isn’t giving me any reason to stick with it. The comic is fine, but there’s nothing really here to get a non-fan invested. If you love the FF, then by all means, keep reading. But I think I’m going to bow out.

Reed is hard at work trying to restore Johnny’s powers, but Johnny isn’t going to hold his breath. Instead, he just wants to get on with his life, and he’d like it if everybody stopped asking if he’s OK. Reed is pretty busy, what with trying to reverse Johnny’s power loss and study the invasive creatures. Though he does discover that those creatures are humans! Elsewhere, Sue takes the FF students on a field trip to the bottom of the sea, with the help of Prince Namor. Ben spends some quality time with Alicia, where they mostly just talk about her fears of everyone being in danger. And in the end, some quality time between Ben and Johnny is interrupted by the Wizard and his new Fearsome Four/Wrecking Crew hybrid team.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

Robinson’s Fantastic Four is fine. If you’re already a fan of the Fantastic Four, I’m sure it’s an enjoyable read. But I just don’t think there’s anything overly interesting about the series so far. Robinson is writing text book Fantastic Four. Reed works in his lab, Sue is motherly, the Thing is dating Alicia and they grumble about his safety, and Johnny is barely effected by the loss of his powers. Then the Wizard and the Wrecking Crew show up at the end like it’s no big thing. Everybody’s just kind of strolling along in a pretty standard Fantastic Four story. And Leonard Kirk is a pretty standard comic book artist, so it all looks pretty normal. There are none of the wild ideas that Hickman or Fraction brought to the title. It’s just the F4 going about their day.

And the Future Foundation kids continue to be nothing more than a side note to Robinson’s comic. It’s like he signed on to write a big Fantastic Four story, but then Marvel reminded him that there are a bunch of kids hanging around and the F4 are kind of their teachers. So Robinson has been offering a bit of lip service here and there to the idea that the F4 are teaching these kids something. It’s disappointing.

There also hasn’t been any sort of explanation for the red uniforms yet either.

Justice League United #0

Justice League United #0
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Mike McKone

I’m a little disappointed that this series isn’t going to be Justice League Canada after all. I’m also disappointed that DC has already used up and discarded the name ‘Justice League of America’. That name has a long history in comics, but now that Forever Evil is (almost) over, we can look back and see that DC and Geoff Johns only ever put that team together as a lead-in to Forever Evil. So much for history.

Celebrity superheroes Animal Man and Stargirl are visited at an autograph signing session by Adam Strange, who’s fiancee was kidnapped by aliens while at a dig site in Canada. Strange has some compelling evidence, so the two heroes join him at the site, and are attacked by some aliens. Fortunately, Stargirl called Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter in for backup, and together they find a hidden alien lab buried beneath the snow – but the aliens are able to teleport back to their HQ before the heroes can get them. Speaking of that HQ, Strange’s fiancee is there, and she and many other aliens are being held prison. The new Lobo is there, taunting them, only to find out that Hawkman is among the prisoners and he’s ready to kick Lobo’s butt!

And Lemire’s new Canadian superhero, Equinox, makes her debut fighting some sort of demon monster.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I liked this issue, but I fear that the overall concept is a little weak. Lemire is a great writer, and he handles the characters and their interactions like a pro – even if his Green Arrow here is a lot different and a lot more cocky than what Lemire is writing in GA’s solo series. But that’s a minor point of contention. Basically we’ve got a bunch of random superheroes who randomly wind up working together on a crazy mission involving aliens. It’s a pretty weak reason to put a whole new Justice League together. And there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason why this team would ever become permanent. But the issue was written and drawn well, so perhaps that’s all some people need. I know I’ll keep reading for now, if just for the heck of it.

But while we’re here, I’d like to talk about Equinox for a little bit, mostly her costume. I’m all for creating  new superheroes to populate a super team. I’m sure it’s a lot of fun. But she has a very boring costume. Sure it looks sharp, especially with McKone’s pencils and those bright colors, but that costume could be worn by any superhero ever.

It’s no ‘Ee-nuk-chuck!’

There’s nothing that identifies her as ‘Equinox’ or anything else, really. It’s just a sharp, colorful, generic costume with no mask. Is that the best DC’s designers could come up with? That costume is as generic as her name. I’m excited to see a new superhero, but really let down by her design.

Original Sin #0

Original Sin #0
Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Jim Cheung and Paco Medina

I have zero interest in Original Sin, Marvel’s next Big Event series. I just don’t care. The idea that someone has killed the Watcher, and now has access to all of the heroes’ darkest secrets, sounds like a desperate attempt to ignite fandom’s ire by revealing various retconned secrets. Marvel knows that fans hate change, so what better way to get the fans riled than by retroactively introducing a bunch of changes to the characters’ histories?

I really only read this issue so that I could do that issue #0 thing in the opening…

After defeating an ancient robot god attacking his home town, the new Nova, Sam Alexander, gets it into his head to talk to the Watcher. The two have become buddies in Nova’s solo series. Sam visits the Watcher at his moonbase, but the Watcher doesn’t talk for some reason. Sam follows the Watcher around until the big guy shows Sam a flashback to his youth, where we learn that the Watchers (led by Uatu’s father) originally wanted to help other sentient races, only for one of those races to use the Watchers’ gift of nuclear energy to start a war and wipe themselves out. That’s how they decided to just watch stuff.

Sam shares his feelings about his own father, and asks Uatu if Sam’s dad is still alive. Uatu says he is and Sam rockets away all excited and stuff.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Mark Waid is a damn good writer, so of course this is a fun little story about Sam Alexander exploring the mysteries of the Watcher’s hideout. I don’t read Nova, but Sam seems like a good kid. That makes the issue mildly entertaining. I’m not quite sure why the Watcher couldn’t speak to Sam, though. Since when does the Watcher not talk? He was a regular Chatty Cathy when the Future Foundation were staying at his place at the end of Lee Allred’s FF. But whatever. It’s not a big deal.

This #0 issue doesn’t serve as much of a prologue for Original Sin, unless you only consider the Watcher’s flashback origin. I don’t know if that’s new information about his past or not, but it seems both pretty standard and pretty low key. What is it with ancient alien races dedicating themselves to some great goal after one little screw up? And really? That’s the reason why the Watchers only watch? I would have liked something a bit more…dramatic, maybe. Something more cosmic and important than the bunch of them just deciding they’d watch instead of interact.

But again, it’s a well-written story about the young Nova hanging around the Watcher’s bachelor pad. And Cheung is one of the best comic book artists in the business, so it looks damn good too.

Red Lanterns #30

Red Lanterns #30
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: J. Calafiore

I’ve been reading Red Lanterns right along, but have been dropping in and out of reviews because nothing all that amazing has been happening. It’s a very well-written series with very enjoyable characters, and I’m liking it a lot more than the rest of the Green Lantern franchise books at the moment. This issue kicks off a new storyline, so I figured I’d drop in and pay it a visit.

Atrocitus has a new Red Lantern ring, and he had Dex-Starr are going to start recruiting more Red Lanterns. Bleez and Rankorr ran afoul of the two of them a few issues ago, and Rankorr sacrificed himself to make sure Bleez could escape. She returns to Guy Gardner and the rest of the Reds and tells them what happened. She also meets their newest member, Supergirl.

Guy Gardner decides to rally the troops and go out in search of the new Red Lanterns before Atrocitus can get them. But both parties arrive on the planet Primeen to recruit the newest RL, an angry judge named Sheko who is using her new power to punish the guilty!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

There is a lot to like about Red Lanterns. The characters are for more interesting than in any other GL series, and this one actually focuses on the Corps as a whole instead of just letting Hal Jordan run the show. Soule is doing a great job fleshing out all of the varied and entertaining members of the Red Lantern Corps – which, I suppose, is easier to do since there are only a handful of them. Still, it’s an entertaining handful, and I’m very much invested in their attempts to carve out a living in the cosmos.

But I still wish there was more…purpose to the Corps. They’re still not very rageful. Everyone just kind of hangs around bantering with one another, which can be fun to read, but doesn’t really explore any greater theme for this comic or this team. If the Green Lantern Corps was just a handful of members, it could read exactly like Red Lanterns, and that’s a problem. Soule really needs to tap into his inner demons to explore what it means to be a Red Lantern. It can’t just be a bunch of dudes hanging out making small talk.

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 26, 2014, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. You should really add in Daredevil to your list. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee are killing it!

    • Ah, man, I know! The problem is that I didn’t get in on the ground floor, and rather than just pick it up now and hope for the best, I really want to buy all of the tpbs and just get completely caught up…but I’m broke and can’t afford to just buy a ton of full-priced tpbs! So I’m stuck in this horrific loop of knowing the comic is out there but being unable to jump in because of my own odd rules.

  2. Fantastic Four was good. Some very solid character work.

    Original Sin was great. Waid did a fantastic job. We’ll have to wait and see if the actual event can hold up to this issue. As far as the Watcher’s silence goes, that’s something that varies from writer to writer. And the Watcher’s origin is something we’ve seen before – it was actually introduced back in the ’60s. The fact that the Watcher is looking for a reality where his father was right is new information. We never saw that aspect of him before.

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