Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 5/17/14

It’s Godzilla Day, my friends! I’ll be off to see the movie before the night is over, and I can’t wait! The Big Guy has been smashing his way through my brain all week. Will it live up to the hype? Will Godzila once again be the ruler of all cinema? What’s that you’re saying? Godzilla isn’t even a comic book? And this is a comic book review article?

Well you’ve got me there!

Plenty of good and plenty of crummy comics this week. For one thing, I learned that I need to start reading Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers again. I also very nearly worked up the energy to read Superman: Doomed…but that didn’t happen. Ain’t nobody got time for dat.

Comic Book of the Week goes to Ghost Rider #3 because it was just the funnest comic of the week, despite a few flaws inherent to the title as a whole. Though Moment of the Week has to go to Captain Marvel #3 and Kelly Sue DeConnick’s continued attempts to turn Carol Danvers into the coolest superhero ever. Cool, but rude, that is.

Carol may just be the best superhero ever. She can make children cry!

Comic Reviews: All-New Ghost Rider #3, All-New X-Men #27, Batman Eternal #6, Captain Marvel #3, Justice League United #1 and Nightcrawler #2.

You can also check out my reviews of Avengers #29 and Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #1.

Ghost Rider #3

All-New Ghost Rider #3
Writer: Felipe Smith
Artist: Tradd Moore

I am digging All-New Ghost Rider more and more with each passing issue. The art is growing on me, and I liked the main character from issue #1. I don’t think the comic is making many waves out there in comic book land, but it’s an enjoyable book with a unique look and some real badass action.

The new Spirit of Vengeance, Eli, introduces himself to Robbie Reyes and offers him the power to take revenge against those who have wronged him, as well as the power to get Robbie and his brother out of his crummy neighborhood. Though hesitant, Robbie accepts and the two become Ghost Rider for reals! Meanwhile, Mr. Hyde’s mercenaries attack Grumpy and his gang bangers, but Grumpy swallows a handful of those pink pills and turns into a Hyde monster to fight back.

Grumpy and his thugs escape in the black car – which they stole back from the auto shop, killing everyone in the process. Robbie discovers the bodies and turns into Ghost Rider, using his powers to simply teleport to the car – in an awesome scene where he amply rises out of the metal roof. Ghost Rider kicks the crap out of the two thugs before Grumpy takes some more pills and challenges the Rider.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This is a fun, action-packed series with some great characters and great art. Moore’s style is kind of insane, but it has definitely grown on me over these three issues. The angular, kinetic style in place when Ghost Rider beats up those thugs towards the end of the issue is Looney Tunes levels of wacky, but it is still pretty badass.

And Robbie Reyes is a pretty solid protagonist. He’s got problems, he’s got humanity, and now he’s got the power to do something about it. Isn’t that the typical superhero fantasy?

The few gripes I have mostly have to do with the villains. The mercenaries vs. gang bangers thing is getting a little complicated, and Mr. Hyde remains an underwhelming adversary. He’s one of Marvel’s many rotating villains, repurposed and plopped into this comic because Ghost Rider has to fight somebody. I would have preferred Smith maybe introduce a new villain or work a little harder to tell a bigger, more important and interesting story for Robbie Reyes’ debut. As it stands, this is just a basic super-villain plot that any superhero, new or old, could tackle. That doesn’t bode well for the longevity of the series. Smith has to find a way to make the plots really matter to Ghost Rider.

All-New X-Men #27

All-New X-Men #27
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stuart Immonen

Quality, entertaining X-Men events continue in the pages of All-New X-Men. Say what you will about Brian Michael Bendis, but I’ve pretty much loved everything he’s done with the X-Men so far. Though Uncanny X-Men is the better comic.

Surprise! The person we thought was X-23 last issue is actually the shapeshifter Raze, and he starts attacking the Young and Uncanny X-Men inside the base while the rest of the Brotherhood storm the front entrance. Cyclops, Emma and Young Jean fight off the main group while everyone else struggles with Raze. In a few flash forwards, we find out that Future Xavier is somehow the son of Charles Xavier and Mystique (possibly while Mystique was posing as Moira MacTaggert). But Mystique gave the boy up for adoption almost immediately. When he grew older and discovered his powers, Future Xavier traveled to Madripoor to confront Mystique…only to find out that Mystique had already been murdered and replaced by his half-brother Raze, which would mark the start of their friendship.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I really don’t care about the Future Brotherhood. I don’t like any of the characters, I don’t care about their dark and mysterious origins, and their assault on the X-Men isn’t all that interesting. But whatever. It’s the X-Men themselves that are entertaining. Their banter, their teamwork, their desire to be heroes and do the right thing, it makes for a good comic. Plus, Cyclops gets a really badass moment in this comic, and anytime Cyclops gets to be a badass these days, I’m definitely on board.

Batman Eternal #6

Batman Eternal #6
Writers: Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Artist: Ray Fawkes

Soooooo…it turns out that Batman Eternal is going to be one of those comics where the issues don’t necessarily have anything to do with one another. Everything we’ve seen so far in the previous five issues, including everything new we saw last issue with Red Robin, is reduced to little more than background details to a story involving the Spectre and Batwing, of all people. If the writers aren’t careful, they’re going to lose control of their tapestry before too long.

Jim Corrigan, the Spectre, pays Bruce Wayne a visit to explain that there’s something mystical going on at Arkham Asylum, some kind of summoning. We can see that the Joker’s Daughter has proclaimed herself queen and is living in the basement, having doctors bring inmates down to chop them up. Possibly to summon the Joker? The Spectre and Batwing head into Arkham to investigate. Meanwhile, Batman is still chasing Falcone’s gang war, but a glowing green skeleton (Phosphorus Man?) sets off an explosion from under the streets.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

Meh. All of a sudden, Batman Eternal is all over the place. I know they’ve got a whole year to fill, but now we’ve got Batwing, Spectre, Joker’s Daughter and Gentleman Ghost all doing something weird on the side? Does anybody even really read Batwing? I’m amazed it has lasted this long in the New 52. This is just a forgettable issue that doesn’t really seem to have anything to do with the larger, more interesting narrative, and instead just adds another, uninteresting subplot to the larger tapestry. One assumes this might all connect somehow in the end, but this issue – despite being solidly made – fails to get me hooked. At least I really like the art of Ray Fawkes.

Captain Marvel #3

Captain Marvel #3
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: David Lopez

DeConnick is doing her best to make this space adventure interesting, and her usual skill and style is on full display with some great Carol moments, but being off in space, dealing with aliens and the Guardians of the Galaxy, just doesn’t have the same grounded, personable feel as the better parts of the Captain Marvel comic. But at least DeConnick is trying.

Captain Marvel and the Guardians of the Galaxy get her ship back – with a bit of Carol badassery – and scold young Tic for stealing it in the first place. Tic takes Carol back to her homeworld, where we meet that ragtag crew of aliens from the first issue, as well as the matriarch of the society. This older alien woman takes Carol for a walk, scoffing in the face of Carol’s altruistic desire to help without any real idea how she can do that. As an Avenger, Carol just wants to help however she can, but the matriarch insists that the troubles on her planet – including a plague that’s wiping her people out – are a bit too large and complex for Carol to just show up and solve.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

It’s like Star-Lord is contractually obligated to mention how he doesn’t get along with his father in every appearance he makes. For some reason, that’s his driving motivation, and I just roll my eyes every time he brings it up. We get it, he’s got daddy issues. Surely there are far more interesting aspects to Star-Lord’s character than the fact that he doesn’t get along with his dad. Fortunately, the Guardians stuff is over quickly, and the focus is firmly on Carol for the rest of the comic.

As much as I dislike having Carol out on some alien planet interesting with aliens, DeConnick plays a nice hand by having the aliens shove Carol’s benevolence back in her face. She’s an Avenger and sees space problems in black and white, but that’s clearly not the case here. I think that has some potential. Overall, DeConnick just writes a very entertaining main character, and Carol can carry this comic through any awkward and unfortunate setting or plot.

Justice League United #1

Justice League United #1
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Mike McKone

Good thing I read the #0 issue of Justice League United, because this #1 issue doesn’t do a single thing to get readers caught up to the story. We jump right into multiple confusing plots starring a variety of characters, all generally being superheroes to each other. Issue #0 was no mere prologue.

In Canada, the Justice League face off against a giant, elemental monster that’s tearing a streak across the countryside. Animal Man and Green Arrow are of little help, so they stay busy keeping track of Adam Strange, who finds a supersuit, a jet pack and a ray gun inside the alien’s little hidey hole and immediately considers himself a superhero, even though he has trouble working any of the gizmos he found. Star-Girl and Martian Manhunter work together to defeat the giant monster, and then all of a sudden, everybody is transported to the planet Rann.

Up in space, Hawkman gets into a fight with Lobo, but is quickly defeated and gets his arm cut off. Alanna, Adam Strange’s girlfriend, tries to flee, but she just runs into the main control room, where the leader is waiting for her. He reveals to Alanna that the big project they’re working on involves creating the New 52 version of Ultra the Multi-Alien.

Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.

I think Lemire’s direction for this series was “Pick your roster and go nuts” because that’s exactly what’s happening in this comic. Everything is just a mess of superheroes engaged in wild, semi-incomprehensible superhero action. There’s a giant monster that randomly changes elements whenever its blasted by Star-Girl’s weapon. There’s the poor Hawkman, who has to play jobber to that new, stupid Lobo. There’s the strange animosity that Green Arrow feels towards Animal Man. Where did that come from?

Then there’s Adam Strange, who gets a really awkward scene where, just because he put on a space suit and a jetpack, he now considers himself one of the team.

Adam Strange: that annoying friend who always insists on tagging along

The only thing Adam Strange did in this comic was crash his jetpack. And now he just ‘invites’ himself into this collection of superheroes? That’s cringe-worthy dialogue right there. And it indicates next to no real craft going into putting this team together. The off-shoot Justice League has been in a rush since they started out as the JLA, and now everything feels even more rushed. There’s no subtlety, no care, no real heart put into this series. It’s just a bunch of also-ran superheroes blustering around fighting whatever strange plot Lemire is trying to craft here. I’m sure there are a lot of comic book fans out there who like this approach, but not me.

And why the hell did they start the story with a #0? What purpose did that serve?

Nightcrawler #2

Nightcrawler #2
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Todd Nauk

When I listed Nightcrawler as one of my picks for a Marvel character to get their own solo series, this is not what I envisioned. It is a little bit – in that Nightcrawler has left the Jean Grey School to travel around the world – but the tone is definitely not for me. I have no business decrying the incredible talent and legacy of Chris Claremont, but his new Nightcrawler comic is just a little too hokey for my tastes.

Nightcrawler and Amanda head to the Bavarian town of Winzeldorf, where Professor Xavier first found Kurt all those years ago. It’s also where the circus that the two grew up in stays in its off season. They head to the circus and are immediately, violently attacked by the very same mutant circus performers they knew as kids. Kurt and Amanda eventually convince everyone that they’re all friends, and that Kurt just so happens to be alive again. Then they confront their adopted mother to see if she has any connection to Trimega – only for that big tin can to show up at the circus threatening to kill them all.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

So let me get this straight, when Nightcrawler grew up in that circus, he was surrounded by friendly mutants? Is that a new development or have we always known about all these mutant performers? Why didn’t Xavier have anything to do with the lot of them when he rescued Nightcrawler? And why the heck do they attack Kurt and Amanda seconds after they arrive? Do they blast fire at anybody who wanders into their circus grounds? I get that Claremont probably wants an action scene in every single issue, but this one is really forced and goes on for way too long. Just sayin’.

As for the comic itself, this is just too much of a light-hearted, old school comic book for my tastes. Kurt Wagner has always been a friendly guy, but he’s squeaky clean in this comic; everything is. It’s a bright, cheerful, friendly comic, but it’s also dull. There’s nothing special to make those cheerful attributes a worthwhile investment. It’s just Kurt hanging out with some old friends, running from a bad guy who won’t even qualify as Z-list when all is said and done. There’s no exploration of Kurt’s character or the fact that he’s back from the dead. He just shrugs that off as something that happens to X-Men, so it’s no big deal.

There are no stakes, no tension, no real plot to speak of; it’s just Kurt going with whatever flow comes along. I imagine some people might like this kind of comic, but not me. It’s just not my cup of tea. It’s well made, to be sure. And the art is great for what it is. But I dunno, I just prefer my comics to have a little depth and intrigue. Kurt Wagner has a lot of potential in today’s marketplace. I just don’t think Claremont has any interest in Kurt beyond surface level hijinks.

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 17, 2014, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. All-New Ghost Rider was great. It’s such a fun book. There’s some intriguing stuff going on, and Hyde is scary-cool.

    ANXM was good. But the Brotherhood are just so lame that they kinda drag it down a bit.

    Captain Marvel was great. Poor Tic! And Carol being run over by her own ship was hilarious, especially the reaction shots.

    Nightcrawler was fine. Just . . . fine. Totally inoffensive, one way or the other.

    • The Brotherhood is quite lame, even with Bendis’ attempts to flesh out their origins. The only interesting character among them is Molly Hayes, but she doesn’t get much focus.

      And Nightcrawler, yeah…I just don’t see that book going anywhere. The character has so much potential, but Claremont seems fine to just leave Kurt in his comfort zone.

  2. No matter how bad Batman comic is, it’s still gonna sell. People like Batman so much.

    Hope they’re not gonna fridging Robbie little brother. Comic have a habit fridging family/lover to further character development. I only know few superhero that doesn’t have dead family/lover: Wonder Woman, Jaime Reyes (Pre New 52)

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