Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 5/3/14

What a week to be a Spider-Man fan! Not only is Amazing Spider-Man 2 in theaters right now, but Amazing Spider-Man #1 hit the stands this very week! If I didn’t know any better, I’d say someone planned it that way. That was pretty clever of them.

I’ll get my movie review posted on Sunday, and for now, lets take a trip to our local comic book shop. Amazing Spider-Man #1 wins Comic Book of the Week. It’s a fun issue, and it’s great to have the real Peter Parker back, but Marvel overloaded the thing with back-up material. That would have weighed the comic down too much for my liking, but one of the back-ups is an epilogue to Scarlet Spider, so that pleased me greatly. Other comics this week include a new Silver Surfer, my return to All-New X-Men and the long-awaited conclusion to J.H. Williams III’s Batwoman story. I also picked up The Flash Annual for the heck of it, but I was not pleased.

At least Spider-Man is still a ton of fun.

Panda-Mania: the best new character find of 2014!

Comic Reviews: All-New X-Men #26, Amazing Spider-Man #1, Batman Eternal #4, Batwoman Annual #1, Flash Annual #3 and Silver Surfer #2.

All-New X-Men #26

All-New X-Men #26
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stuart Immonen

I skipped the Trial of Jean Grey because I had absolutely no interest in the All-New X-Men teaming up with the Guardians of the Galaxy for a silly space adventure. I’ve simply never been a fan of the X-Men space adventures. I prefer my superheroes to be grounded. But I loved the series beforehand, so let’s jump back in to see what they’re up to now!

The Young X-Men have returned home from their space adventure, though Young Cyclops opted to stay in space and hang out with his dad and the Starjammers. On Earth, Young Jean and Regular Scott have a heart-to-heart, talking about Jean’s new powers and the fact that even though Jean admires him, they can never do anything about it. Kitty is hiding just outside the door and scolds Scott on that very thing when he leaves. Meanwhile, X-23 has decided to take off, even with Warren trying to convince her to stay. But X-23 runs afoul of the Future Brotherhood, one of whom guts her. She’s able to make it back to base in time to warn everyone that there’s a shapeshifter in their midst and the Future Brotherhood is on their way!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

One issue in and I’m reminded why I loved this series so much before the crossover. The dialogue and characters just dance across the page. This issue is more of a set-up, with Bendis checking in on all of his various characters in the wake of the crossover, then kicking off the next story at the very end. So the issue as a whole was kind of disjointed, but not in any way that dragged down the comic. This was a series of very well-written, enjoyable vignettes on what various characters are doing. I especially enjoyed the conversation between Scott and Young Jean, and Young Iceman remains absolutely hilarious. Though I’m a little disappointed that X-23 seems to exist in this series just to be the romantic target of the Young X-Men, first Cyclops and now apparently Angel. I guess Bendis knew he couldn’t really sully Jean Grey so he injected another girl into the series so that the boys could lust after somebody. It’s weird.

Amazing Spider-Man #1

Amazing Spider-Man #1
Writers: Dan Slott, Christopher Yost and more.
Artists: Humberto Ramos and more.

Superior Spider-Man is over, and that’s OK, because it probably makes it a better story to know it had a beginning, middle and end. It’s probably going to be one of my most favorite Spider-Man stories of all time. And while I’m sad to see it go, I’m also very excited to see how Peter Parker deals with the aftermath of Doc Ock’s time in his body. I’m happy to report that Slott isn’t going to shy away from the changes he brought to Peter’s life during Superior. This is one bright, shiny issue of Spider-Man goodness.

Peter Parker is back in control of his own body with barely any memory of what Doc Ock did to change his life. The first order of business is learning the ins and outs of Parker Industries, which Peter seems willing to keep. Guess he doesn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth. He makes peace with Jay, Aunt May and Sajani, and promises that Parker Industries will sever all ties with Spider-Man. The moment he’s alone, however, Peter pulls on a costume and goes out swinging around the city for the first time back in his own body.

Peter stumbles upon a robbery by White Rabbit and her Menagerie (including Hippo, Gypsy Moth and newbie Panda-mania). Spidey handles them with ease, except that Gypsy Moth’s super-power is to control all fabrics, and she makes Spider-Man’s costume unravel! A buck naked Spidey (though he got to keep the mask) quickly fashions himself some webbing underwear before defeating the crooks – though not before every bystander with a camera phone uploads his naked picture to the web! Naked pictures that Anna Maria Marconi instantly recognizes, considering her familiarity with Peter Parker’s body! When Peter gets home that evening, Anna Maria confronts him with the fact that she now knows he’s Spider-Man – but Peter is still trying to get up to speed with having her as a girlfriend!

There are also a few back-ups that don’t amount to much. Electro tries to recreate his greatest hit by breaking some bad guys out of another prison, but he gets some kind of power overload instead. The Black Cat is pissed at Spider-Man since he got her arrested and she had to serve some hard time. But she breaks free in Electro’s assault on the prison and promises to herself that she’ll make Spider-Man pay. There’s also a quick teaser for Spider-Man 2099 #1 and Peter takes a trip to Houston to check in on Kaine, only to find out from a healing (and thinner) Dr. Meland that Kaine is still viewed as a hero, even though he left town. Peter hopes that Kaine has found some happiness (and Marvel hopes that you buy New Warriors).

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I thought this issue was a fine return to form for Peter Parker. Slott has been writing the character for years at this point, and he has a deft hand at Spidey’s mix of heroism and humor. Slott is clearly having fun writing this series and putting Peter through his paces in the aftermath of Superior Spider-Man. Those were my favorite parts of the issue. The new stuff, like the fight against the Menagerie and the nude comedy, was a lot of fun, but I personally enjoyed watching Peter Parker try to get into step with the life Otto left for him.

I think it’s very telling that Peter doesn’t suffer any existential dread or angst over taking back his life. He’s not haunted or hounded by what happened to him. The bright, cheerful and friendly Peter just rolls with the punches, taking the good with the bad and hoping he can make up for his ‘odd behavior’ around his loved ones. That he’s eagerly jumping into Parker Industries has me very excited. I hope Slott keeps the company around for a long time.

And I especially enjoyed the scene at the end with Anna Maria. She is by far the best thing to come out of Superior Spider-Man, and watching Peter struggle to come up with the words to say to her was a lot of fun, as was the fact that Anna Maria is nobody’s fool, and she’s already figured out on her own that Peter is Spider-Man, even if she remains clueless that her Peter is long gone. This is Parker Luck times a thousand!

I very much enjoyed the first issue of the new Amazing Spider-Man series, even if it was a little hefty with far too many back-up features. Marvel should have put out a cheaper version that only contained Slott’s main story. That would have made the whole thing much better. None of those back-ups were all that important or entertaining – other than, of course, the epilogue to Scarlet Spider. Long-time readers of my blog will remember that I covered that series pretty extensively, so it was kind of nice to see Peter try to follow up on Kaine, and to see Meland again to know he’s OK. He’s also lost a lot of weight, so good for him. I keep meaning to read New Warriors, but meh…

Batman Eternal #4

Batman Eternal #4
Writers: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV and John Layman
Artist: Dustin Nguyen

The logic problems aren’t so bad in Batman Eternal #4, unless, like me, you really hate fictional courtroom scenes. Having visited many a criminal proceeding for my day job, I just can’t stand courtrooms in fiction anymore. Everybody’s pretty much just basing them off what they’ve seen on TV and movies, which never really got it right in the first place. So this issue is slightly awkward. But beyond that, Batman Eternal is settling into just a really mediocre Batman comic, and that’s not good.

Gordon makes his first appearance before a judge, who denies him bail. Barbara tries to shout angrily in the courtroom, but that never works. Later, Batgirl goes around beating up some of Falcone’s men, but Batman stops her and tries to talk some sense into her. Too bad Barbara is too fired up to listen to reason, and she spends all day in the Batcave trying to piece together some clues from the security footage of the train station. She thinks she’s found the real culprit, and Batman is unable to convince her to settle down. Meanwhile, Jason Bard is settling into the GCPD, and Batman pays Falcone a visit to let the old crime boss know he’s watching. Later, Gordon is delivered to Blackgate to await trial.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

It was the scene in Carmine Falcone’s office that really sank this issue for me and made me realize that Batman Eternal is only going to be a mediocre Batman comic. Here we have Falcone, an almost legendary villain from Batman’s past, brought back for the very first time to be the big bad of this year-long comic. His name and history give him this mythical quality. Batman is really going to have a tough time in his war against Falcone. But here we are at issue #4 and already Batman and Falcone are face-to-face…and it’s just a terrible scene. Batman believes that Falcone has set up Gordon and is planning something truly diabolic for Gotham City. He doesn’t have proof yet, but Batman knows it’s true, so that’s as good as evidence. But all Batman does is show up at Falcone’s place, stroll down the hall, beat up some goons and then tell Falcone he’ll be watching.

Was there no thought whatsoever put into Batman’s first confrontation with the returned Carmine Falcone?

Recall the iconic scene in Batman: Year One where Falcone first sets his eyes on the Bat. Falcone is at a fancy dinner with Commissioner Loeb and several other high society types. They’re clearly the scum-sucking, corrupt upper class of Gotham City, dining together in joyous revelry of their general horribleness. Meanwhile, Batman goes to great effort to set up his big reveal. He silently knocks out their guards, cuts the power, blows a hole in the wall, and then in the smoke, he declares that their time on the top is over, ending the scene by snuffing out the lone flickering candle, bathing the room in darkness and letting his threat hang in the air.

THAT’S how Batman does this sort of thing. He doesn’t stroll into the criminal’s well-lit office to let them get a few words in edgewise. The scene with Falcone ended with Falcone the clear, confident winner, while Batman limped away with weak threats about how he was watching. This scene should have been the turning point of these opening issues, the first real moment to let us know Batman and Falcone are going to wage war over the soul of the city. This scene could have been something special. Why go to all the trouble of bringing back the Roman if you’re not going to push yourself to tell the best Batman story imaginable? Where’s the drama? Where’s the intrigue? Where are the badass, iconic Batman moments that will be talked about for years to come?

There is a lot of ambition behind Batman Eternal. Clearly this creative team has plotted out some big bad mystery that threatens all of Gotham. But I don’t think they’ve really put much thought into making this the best Batman comic it can be. The plot and characters just feel like they’re rolling along in the service of whatever big mystery the writers have planned. None of the storytelling and scene-setting skill that Snyder has injected into his Batman run is evident in Batman Eternal. This is a mediocre Batman comic trying desperately to make us care about the plot and the mysteries.

Batwoman Annual #1

Batwoman Annual #1
Writer: Marc Andreyko
Artists: Trevor McCarthy and Moritat

One of the saddest parts of J.H. Williams III’s departure from Batwoman was that he left before his epic Batwoman vs. Batman storyline was over! His last issue on the series was at the very height of the story, with the tension never higher in Batwoman’s life! Welp, rather than just leave that plot dangling, DC has let new writer Marc Andreyko wrap up Williams’ story. Andreyko does a serviceable job.

Batwoman and Batman duke it out, with Director Bones looking on, until Batman lays a trap and blows up the whole ship! As everyone tries to escape the rushing water, Batwoman captures Batman and takes him back to her secret HQ. Once there, a tied up Batman convinces Kate to do the right thing and work together, only then revealing that he’d untied himself long ago and just wanted to make sure she was on board. Then they team up with Kate’s dad to assault the DEO, and in the process they save Alice, Hawkfire and Kate’s dad’s commando friends. Bones is defeated and in a coma, and a new guy takes over the DEO, promising to restore their reputation. Kate’s dad leaves with Alice to get her some help. And Batman and Batwoman are buds again.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

Obviously, all of the momentum is gone leading into this issue. And I have no idea if Andreyko conferred with Williams at all when writing this story. As far as I know, Andreyko just took a stab at wrapping up Williams’ various plot threads as efficiently as possible. It’s a fine story, and wraps everything up nicely, I suppose, but all of the magic of Williams’ run is gone, and not just in the art. Everybody is written about as basically and as efficiently as possible. There are no surprises in the ending, no real risk or danger in play. The good guys win and the bad guys lose. So it’s fine, in that regard. Though personally, I was disappointed in the Batman/Batwoman team-up. I dunno what it is, but I still feel like I’m waiting for the scene where Batman takes her to task for stealing his bat-motif. Have I missed it somewhere? Was it in some comic I never read? Why has Batman never really cared that Kate Kane came to town and completely modeled herself after him?

Flash Annual #3

Flash Annual #3
Writers: Robert Venditti and Van Jensen
Artists: Brett Booth and Ron Frenz

I want to apologize in advance to all Flash fans. I don’t mean to be overly critical about this book, but it’s going to turn out that way. I haven’t touched the New 52 Flash series since the first issue. But being the fan of sidekicks that I am, I wanted to take a look at the first appearance of the New 52 Wally West, and I though this Annual issue might serve as a nice jumping-on point for the series. I was dead wrong. Of course, then I saw the issue was written by Venditti and Jensen, the team that turned me off Green Lantern. So…

In the present, Barry Allen is having a bad day. The city is finally back under good guy control after the Crime Syndicate destroyed the place, but the police department is swamped with cases and complaints. In fact, Barry starts the day collaring a kid spray-painting graffiti on the side of a building. The kid turns out to be the New 52 Wally West, and Barry later has a chat with his Aunt Iris about how Barry needs a strong, male role model in his life. Once he gets to work, Barry is handed a murder case by his angry boss, one this boss thinks is a slam dunk because it clearly looks like the super-villain Mogul killed the victim. Barry visits Mogul in prison and finds out that he definitely didn’t do it, which just angers Barry’s boss, who wanted the case solved by the end of the day. Before he can get back to work on it, Barry rushes off as the Flash to stop a museum heist.

In the future, the Flash looks like Electric Superman, and he’s all bummed out because of some accident that killed Wally and put Iris in a wheelchair. Flash decides to go back in time to prevent the tragedy by killing himself. Before he goes, however, he kills Gorilla Grodd just so that Grodd can’t take over while Barry’s gone.

Comic Rating: 3/10 – Bad.

I read this issue as someone who has no idea what’s been going on in the Flash series all this time. Suffice to say, this issue was not new-reader friendly.

This comic is all over the place in terms of tone, plot and just general action. It’s also incredibly hokey, whether it’s Barry Allen’s really terrible sense of humor or the uncertainty of what Barry’s job actually entails. I think he’s some kind of forensic investigator, but they act like he’s supposed to be the one closing cases and making arrests. Do forensic investigators actually do that outside of the CSI shows? And Barry is just not funny even though Venditti and Jensen clearly try to make it so. Like, there’s a scene where Barry’s girlfriend, apropos of nothing, mentions the time she spent in some Central American country, and how she’d just love a piece of that native fruit she liked so much. Barry, using his super speed, runs down to that country and grabs her one of the fruits…but is then so harangued by his boss upon his return that the fruit gets smashed and he never gets to give it to his girlfriend.

The scene is just…awkward, but not intentionally awkward. I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to be laughing out loud at the silly antics of this speedster, who zips down to another country to get a piece of fruit, then gets flustered by his hot-headed boss. It’s like a crappy sitcom with a laugh track, and the basic, uninspired art from Ron Frenz doesn’t help. It’s the kind of scene I might expect to see in a Saturday morning cartoon of the Flash, not a modern day comic book. Not to mention how painfully obvious it is to set up Flash’s need to run to another country on a whim, as if Venditti and Jensen are looking for any opportunity to insert a super speed scene.

The rest of the issue just isn’t that great either. Flash’s fight with the art thieves is pretty basic. They have some fancy weapons, and were prepared for the Flash, but they’re just costumed nobodies who the Flash wallops while making bad jokes. Then it gets painfully cliche when one of the captured thugs asks why Flash saved his life instead of just letting him die. How often are superheroes going to have to answer that question?

The future scenes are a bit better, though they are filled with pointless angst. Everybody’s so overly distraught over the past that this fatal accident is clearly the only thing that’s every happened to them of note in their lives. There’s also a moment where, at long last, Flash reveals to Iris West that he’s Barry Allen, but it was over so quickly that it took me a moment to realize she didn’t know already. So much for that being a momentous scene. Though I will say that the idea of Flash finishing off Gorilla Grodd as a way of wrapping up loose ends before he leaves is a good idea. And Brett Booth does a much better job of drawing the Flash in motion than Frenz. I also kind of like the future Flash’s weirdly futuristic look. So at least that was pretty good.

I also liked the introduction of Wally West. I have absolutely zero problem with him now being black. And he seems like a good character. But the comic around him is so bad that there’s very little chance I’ll be picking up another issue.

Silver Surfer #4

Silver Surfer #2
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Michael and Laura Allred

Dan Slott’s delightful new Silver Surfer series continues to be delightful in the second issue as Slott tries his hand at being a little Grant Morrisony, while also proving exactly why Dawn Greenwood is a worthy addition to the Marvel Universe. She actually kind of surprised me in this issue.

The Silver Surfer attacks the Never Queen to save the Impericon, only to find out that the Incredulous Zed is actually the bad guy. The Never Queen is one of those cosmic beings, like Eternity, and Zed and his people have stolen her heart to power the Impericon. The Surfer agrees to help the Never Queen get her heart back, while also saving Dawn Greenwood. Meanwhile, on the Impericon, Dawn leads a prison revolt after making friends with her neighboring prisoners, and she and her fellow prisoners escape and flee to safety. When the Surfer sneaks back into the Impericon to find her, he accidentally bumps into Dawn. She immediately assumes he’s just another prisoner and promises to get him to safety!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

The ending of this issue was just adorable and has definitely earned Dawn Greenwood a special place in my comic book-loving heart. I love the idea that she was perfectly capable of freeing herself, regardless of the strange surroundings. She is no damsel in distress. Which, of course, would make her a perfect companion for The Doctor. I wonder if any of this Impericon stuff, and Dawn Greenwood in particular, are from Slott’s private Doctor Who journals. He’s supposedly a huge fan of the show, and I would imagine he’s spent some time imagining plots and characters should he ever get to write for Doctor Who. Hopefully he’s OK with just being able to write the Silver Surfer instead.

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 May 3, 2014, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. ANXM was great. The scene between Scott and Jean was really good. And there was lots of other cool character drama going on, too.

    ASM was good. Lots of fun. The Menagerie are my new favourite villain group.

    Silver Surfer was great. So much fun, and so much heart. The Never Queen is just a fantastic concept. She was easily my favourite part of the issue, even with Dawn being awesome.

  2. I’m quite pleased to have Peter back, if only because I missed those ‘Parker Luck’ incidents. As good and intense as Superior Spider-Man was, it’s just not the same without trucks slamming into Spidey and lightening hitting him three times in a row. The whole situation with Anna Maria is really making me cringe, though. This is going to be awful no matter how it goes.

    I’m quite wary at the new Wally, honestly. It looks like they’re setting him up to be used in the cliche ‘POC kid from a bad background saved by a white mentor figure’. Iris was such a key figure in Wally’s life, and I worry they’re just writing her off so Barry would look good ‘straightening him out’.
    I guess they figured the title of Kid Flash is tainted anyway, so why bother.

    I will say the art continues to be superb, though. Clean and easy to follow, even with the ridiculous plots Barry keeps stumbling into. Not to mention, it’s nice not having a new creative team every 5 issues.

    • That would be a pretty crummy direction to take Wally. But you’re right about Kid Flash. They clearly can’t have him just do that, not anymore. Not after what they did to Kid Flash…

  3. I too am happy that Parker Industries is hanging around. Since he stopped working at Horizon Labs, i was worried when Peter came back to his body, that he’d be a poor semi-jobless bum again. I hope his photographer days stay behind him and he keeps putting that sweet science to good use.

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