Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 6/7/14

Happy Birthday, mom! If it wasn’t for you, mom, none of us would be here today reading a bunch of comic book reviews. So I think we can all thank her for that. I’ll probably give her a phone call later, just to make it official. But the great thing about having a blog is using it to talk to family members! I have more conversations with my brother via the comments section of my blog than I do through any other means. Good times.

And good comics – mostly! A random smattering of books came out this week, and I read an even more random smattering of that random smattering. Of import is the fact that I finally got back to reading Black Widow and Moon Knight, two new books I didn’t want to lose track of if I could help it. On top of those classics, we’ve got new issues of All-New X-Factor, Batman Eternal and Original Sin…which is turning out to be pretty much garbage. Hopefully this will mark the death knell of the Big Event at Marvel.

Comic Book of the Week goes to newcomer Cyclops #2! I never had much intention of reading the new series starring Young Cyclops, but after the first issue got such stellar reviews, I just had to take a look, and the book is as good as everyone says!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Cyclops is the most dynamic character at Marvel right now.

Comic Reviews: All-New X-Factor #9, Batman Eternal #9, Black Widow #7, Cyclops #2, Moon Knight #4 and Original Sin #3.

All-New X-Factor #9

All-New X-Factor #9
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico

I will not take back the anger I felt at All-New X-Factor #1 and the ways writer Peter David let me down. Because frankly, a lot of the problems I had at the start of the comic still remain. PAD is doing little with the concept of ‘corporate heroes’, his characters are still just a random assortment of mutants and everything feels like a generic superhero comic book. But at the very least, he’s made things a lot more likable, so he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

X-Factor take Georgia back to Serval to try and get her situation sorted out, while at the same time, Harrison Snow chews out Lorna for taking the team on an unsanctioned mission. He tells her that next time she should just ask him and he’ll probably be cool with whatever. Back at Serval, the company scientist runs a quick DNA test and they all find out that Georgia was adopted – even she didn’t know. Her mother is alive and living in Minnesota. Polaris doesn’t think it’s a good idea to go see her, but after Quicksilver threatens to just run Georgia out to Minnesota, Polaris relents and the team heads off the next morning. They find Georgia’s mom, and the reunion is touching, but the woman is under surveillance by Georgia’s father – the villain Memento Mori, who attacks the residence and kidnaps Georgia.

Meanwhile, Gambit unknowingly sleeps with Harrison Snow’s wife after she ‘bumps into him’ at a bar.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

OK, Gambit sleeping with Snow’s wife is slightly interesting. It’s definitely more interesting than Snow sleeping with his secretary. If PAD is going to bother tying these characters into some kind of web of sexual deviancy, I’m at least glad he decided to involve a member of the team. But I still just don’t care about Harrison Snow or his supporting cast. They’re nobodies.

The rest of the issue was pretty good, at least, all thanks to Georgia, the newest addition to the cast. She’s new, interesting and has potential, especially in the ways she interacts with the team. She’s no Layla Miller, but she has potential. Beyond her, everything in this book is just so average. The characters are all pretty solid, but they still have little chemistry between them. Everyone is pretty much just in the comic because that’s who PAD and Marvel decided would be in the comic. They accepted their work papers and here they are. PAD writes them well enough, with a good scene here or there, but there’s little to no depth within the actual team, and that’s a problem.

Batman Eternal #9

Batman Eternal #9
Writers: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV and John Layman
Artist: Guillem March

Am I honor bound to keep reading and reviewing Batman Eternal? I know a few weeks ago that I said I was determined to read each issue and chronicle the whole adventure in these Hench-Sized Reviews, but man oh man, that task just gets tougher and tougher with each passing issue. I legitimately dislike this comic. It’s just a poor representation of Batman.

Batman is in Hong Kong to figure out why Carmine Falcone left to return to Gotham, and that involves tracking down and interrogating mob boss Shen Fang. The Batman of Japan stops by to help, because all Asian nations look alike, I guess, and together Batman and Jiro fight their way through Shen Fang’s guards before reaching the boss himself. There’s a mysterious woman there as well, who is determined to kill Fang herself, but the mob boss surprises her with a sword through the back instead. That makes Batman angry, so he beats Fang into confessing that Fang never won the gang war against Falcone, he simply bought into Falcone’s operation and used Falcone’s leaving as a ruse to make himself look like a big, tough man. Falcone wanted to go back to Gotham for some lucrative opportunity and didn’t particularly care what Fang did after he left.

Batman then grabs the mysterious woman who was sworded through the back (she’s OK), and he takes her back to Gotham to heal, because her real name is apparently Julia Pennyworth!

Meanwhile, Falcone is mad at Catwoman now, and he uses Commissioner Forbes and the GCPD to catch her.

Comic Rating: 3/10 – Bad.

Before I get to actually reviewing the issue, there’s a panel that I need to show you that defies all logic and explanation. I don’t know why it exists. I don’t know what they were trying to accomplish with this single panel, so I want to share it with you fine readers to see if some sense can be found. Is it a joke? Is it a meta-textual allusion to the nature of understanding? Or is it the single stupidest moment in comics this year?

So Batman and Jiro invade Shen Fang’s fortress and they are spotted by the guards, giving us this panel.

Now you may be thinking that the panel seems perfectly normal. They’re in Hong Kong, so of course the guard would speak Cantonese, and comics use that notation for translating different languages all the time. The problem is that there are no follow-up panels involving the guards speaking Cantonese. Shen Fang and everybody else they encounter speak English. The only translated Cantonese in the entire comic is that one, single word, and it doesn’t lead to anything! There’s no fight with the guards where they would speak more Cantonese. There’s nothing!

Why the hell would the comic bother adding that little, one-panel translation notation if it’s only for that one word?! Why not just have the guard speak English like everybody else?!

Ugh. That one panel is just a microcosm of everything that’s wrong with Batman Eternal. There’s nothing efficient about this book. It’s a big, dull, bloated story featuring familiar Batman characters. There’s no class, no style, no flavor; it’s just Batman at his most bland. And the art doesn’t help. I wanted to mention March’s art last issue but didn’t get around to it. I’ve seen March do some great work. He was really good on Talon for a few issues. But these two issues of Batman Eternal are downright ugly. They’re blotching and lack real, human movement. There are three pages in a row where Batman’s face is frozen in the same open-mouthed scowl. It’s ridiculous. This whole darn comic is ridiculous!

Black Widow #7

Black Widow #7
Writer: Nathan Edmundson
Artist: Phil Noto

I liked the first few issues of Black Widow, but for some reason, it just kind of dropped off my must-read pile. So I decided to pay it another visit to see if things are still good, and they pretty much are! So that’s nice.

Black Widow is on a job tracking down a cyberterrorist in San Francisco, current home of her ex-lover Daredevil. She meets with her target to sell him a flashdrive, but she’s been found out and it’s a trap! Thinking quickly, Natasha uses the buyer as a human shield for the sniper’s bullet and makes her escape. Then she catches the sniper as he tries to flee and beats on him to get some answers, but he claims he doesn’t know who hired him, that it’s a blind job. Daredevil shows up and confirms that the sniper isn’t lying and that Natasha should let him go. Daredevil also lectures her about getting in too deep in the dark side.

Several days later, she’s on another job to do another thing, while we listen to a telephone conversation between her accountant Isaiah and his sister. She wants him to cut his ties to the Black Widow, that being her accountant is too dangerous. But Isaiah says he owes her everything for some mysterious reason, so he’s sticking with it, because Black Widow needs at least one person she can trust in a world full of people she can’t.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Everything that was good about Edmundson and Noto’s Black Widow is still with us in issue #7. It’s a moody, lonely book, exploring the hero’s sense of place in the world. Is she a superhero? Is she a secret agent? Is she a killer? These are strong threads to explore for Natasha, and Edmundson uses a nice Daredevil cameo to help push her character forward. Though I do hope he’s going somewhere with all of this, and the comic won’t just be Natasha constantly questioning whether or not she’s a lost soul. Noto’s art, meanwhile, is just gorgeous. He forgoes the usual dark lines of comics to give us a lighter, more ethereal look, and it works wonders for the Black Widow and her adventures, and Edmundson’s tone. Noto is just great on Black Widow. I also really liked Isaiah’s small scene, proclaiming himself the one person Black Widow can trust. That makes him a good guy in my book.

Cyclops #2

Cyclops #2
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Russell Dauterman

Simply put, I didn’t have much interest in a comic about Young Cyclops. As much as I’m enjoying All-New X-Men, I’d still much prefer to see the Young X-Men sent back to their own time already. I don’t want to see them branch out into the rest of the Marvel Universe. And I’ve never particularly cared about Corsair or the Starjammers. So I just didn’t care about this comic.

Boy was I wrong! I should have trusted in Greg Rucka to be amazing!

So Young Cyclops is up in space with the Starjammers, and he and his father, Corsair, have taken a ship out into the galaxy to see the sights and do some father/son bonding. Corsair takes Cyclops to the planet Yrzt, which is your typical rough’n’tumble sort of Mos Eisley planet, to meet with an old black market buddy. And while Cyclops and a cute young alien female try out the holodeck, Corsair gets some needed medicine from his old market buddy. There’s something wrong with Corsair that he needs this medicine. After the visit, father and son are walking through the marketplace when they get ambushed by some thugs looking to collect the bounty on Corsair, leading to a fight. Corsair gets knocked out, but Cyclops optic blasts the bad guys like a boss.

Cyclops then gets his dad back to the ship and they take off, and Corsair finds out that all of his medicine was destroyed in the fight.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

As Young Cyclops states in the comic: Corsair is a cross between Han Solo and Jack Sparrow. Or at least that’s how Rucka writes him and this series, and it is a ton of fun! There are serious elements, to be sure, like Corsair’s sickness. But for the most part, this is Rucka taking a tour of the wild, the awesome and the epic corners of the Marvel Galaxy, full of larger than life aliens, planets and concepts. And the rapport between Corsair and Young Cyclops is fantastic! Corsair is the heroic, broad-chested space pirate rebel of our dreams, and Cyclops is his young, curious apprentice, eager to learn and become just as awesome as his dad. The role works great for Young Cyclops, and it’s probably a much more exciting adventure than if he’d just gone back to Earth with the rest of the Young X-Men. That scene where Cyclops takes out the bad guys with his optic blast is classic awesome Cyclops.

This little series is just a ton of fun so far, and more and more, that’s exactly what I want in my comics.

Moon Knight #4

Moon Knight #4
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Declan Shalvey

Less ‘fun’ but still damn good is Warren Ellis’ Moon Knight, a series that succeeds in its weirdness. Unfortunately, Ellis and Shalvey are both leaving after issue #6, so I guess we can call this series cancelled by issue #10. The energy and weirdness the pair are bringing to Moon Knight probably won’t be maintained by whoever takes over, and that’s a real shame.

Moon Knight is brought onto a case by a Dr. Skelton, who specializes in dream research. It seems some of his subjects have been having the same dream, and it’s causing them to go insane. Moon Knight figures out the problem is focused on the research building, so he finds an empty room and goes to sleep, causing him to slip into one of those weird, hallucinatory dreamscapes we always see in fiction – I know I never dream weird stuff like that. Moon Knight sees a lot of weird things in his dream, including a guy with fungus growing out of his eyes. Then Moon Knight wakes up, having figured out the problem. He grabs Dr. Skelton and drags him back to that empty room. Moon Knight tears up the floorboards to reveal a dead body covered in fungus. Skelton admits that the dead body was his first patient, a man who suffered from a fugal infection, who died while in his dream state. Skelton just buried him under the floorboards to hide what he’d done, and Moon Knight explains that the man’s brain turned to fungus and everyone has been breathing in his dream spores.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I hate trippy dream and drug sequences. It’s just a pet peeve of mine. The imagery is big, broad and weird, sure, but they rarely do anything for the story. The characters never really accomplish much when they’re just swimming through weird, trippy imagery, which is exactly what happens for a good chunk of this issue. But beyond that, the overall style and class behind Ellis and Shalvey’s Moon Knight is overwhelming. Every issue so far has been a done-in-one, which is Ellis’ plan, and they pull it off spectacularly. There’s a sharp viciousness behind their work that really sells the comic. This comic has attitude. That’s why I’m afraid the series will bomb after Ellis and Shalvey leave. Can anyone else maintain that attitude? Is anyone else going to be able to match Shalvey’s beautiful, stark-white portrayal of the main character? I just don’t know, and that’s a real shame.

Original Sin #3

Original Sin #3
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Mike Deodato

Original Sin is turning out to be a pretty terrible story. It’s a well-made comic, I suppose. Aaron and Deodato are both pros. But this is one crummy Big Event. Original Sin is turning out to be exactly what I feared: set dressing for a bunch of ‘surprise retcons’ that Marvel wanted to use to shock readers – surprises, by the way, that are apparently all being saved for tie-ins and spin-offs.

The heroes confront the Orb in the middle of New York, and the villain unleashes the power of the Watcher’s eye, which contains a ton of secrets. Several heroes, including Spider-Man, Thor, Captain America and Hulk learn some great secrets – but they don’t tell us readers anything. I guess that’s being saved for their tie-in comics. Lame. The heroes capture the Orb, who was working for Dr. Midas (who?), but the Orb claims he wasn’t the person who killed the Watcher. Meanwhile, the various search teams continue their own investigations, and we find out that the killer has been on something of a rampage, shooting a bunch of various monsters and sentient planets with gamma-irradiated bullets. For some reason, this discovery causes the Winter Soldier to sabotage his space team, blow up their ship, teleport to Nick Fury’s hideout and murder Fury.

Also, the mysterious man who organized those superhero search parties has a collection of those gamma-irradiated bullets…so maybe he was the one who killed the Watcher?

Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.

Original Sin is not a murder mystery. It would like us to think it’s a murder mystery, and that it actually matters who killed the Watcher, but it really, really, really doesn’t matter. Likewise, it doesn’t matter who gathered the various teams of heroes to investigate the murder. We’ll find out the answers eventually, and maybe they’ll even be shocking, but there is no care or effort being put into solving these mysteries. There’s no depth to the mysteries that needs to be uncovered. Several characters already know the answers to these mysteries, but the only reason the reader doesn’t yet know is because we haven’t reached the right issue yet, if that makes any sense.

It’s like Aaron picked the identities of the killer and the organizer, decided that they would be revealed in the last issue, and then came up with a bunch of meaningless filler material to pad out those reveals. Nothing that happens in this issue matters. Bucky killing Fury? There’s no rhyme or reason to it, Marvel just decided that Nick Fury would die in this series, so Aaron came up with a way to make it happen, with an emphasis on needlessly shocking the reader. Likewise, nothing meaningful is done with the various teams of heroes. Black Panther, Emma Frost and Ant-Man teamed up? It sounds neat…but they don’t do anything that makes a bit of difference to their characters, likewise Moon Knight, Gamora and Bucky. Aaron could have picked any three characters from the entire Marvel Universe, and they would accomplish exactly what these characters accomplish. There’s a bit of tension between Dr. Strange and the Punisher in their scene, but it begs the question of why even put them together in the first place?

Why does any of this happen? Why put a bunch of dead monsters in the middle of the Earth for Black Panther’s team to investigate? Why have dead monsters in some mystical realm for Dr. Strange and the Punisher to investigate? It’s all just filler, and Aaron isn’t doing anything particularly interesting with the filler. He’s just using it to pad out the ‘shocking reveal’ of who killed the Watcher, and just like the Black Order and the new character Thane from last year’s Infinity, the killer isn’t going to matter.

However, Marvel would like us to think that the ‘secrets’ that the various superheroes learn actually matter – but only in the same way that any new shocking retcon is supposed to matter. We only get a few teases of what the heroes learned, because like I said, those stories are being saved for spin-offs. Thor has a sister? Tony Stark had something to do with the Hulk’s origin? These are the kinds of ‘twist retcons’ that any comic book reveals in any given year. That’s where new stories come from. But this time, Marvel has decided to gather a bunch of them together and give them the window dressing of this Original Sin mini-series instead of just letting the writers introduce these twists in the individual comics.

Which is fine, I guess. If Marvel wants to do a Big Event, I’m not going to stop them. And clearly their Big Events are no longer huge, universe-shattering comics, like Civil War or House of M. Instead, comics like Fear Itself to Infinity to now Original Sin, it just looks like they’re going for generic crossovers where a bunch of different characters team up. That’s fine. By all means, everybody loves crossovers. I just wish they’d actually put a little meat on its bones.

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 June 7, 2014, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. As much as I love Batman, I have to say I agree with you about Batman Eternal. I see two main problems with it (there are more, but these are the big ones):

    1- It lacks focus. At first it’s about Gordon and his trial. Then that is completely dropped and we go to evil Forbes and the spineless cops of GCPD. Then Red Robin does something that I didn’t really understand and that has nothing to do with the rest and still finds time to be a jerk to Batman. Then Batman goes to Hong Kong to do something that will have no importance whatsoever moving forward. It’s all over the place! I don’t really know what it’s supposed to be about anymore!

    2- It makes Batman look like an idiot. I already had that problem in Forever Evil (seriously, Lex Luthor pickpockets Batman and he doesn’t notice it?), but it’s even worse here. The previous issue was particularly annoying in that regard: it’s obvious that Forbes is corrupt to the core, but sure, Bats, go meet him! You can totally reason with him! Batmam, the guy who mistrusts and suspects everyone thinks that Forbes just wants to have a nice chat with him… That is just annoying!

    Bottom line, I wouldn’t blame you if you stopped reviewing it. I’m very close to stop reading it.

    • Oh my gosh, thank you! I’m so glad to hear I’m not the only one thinking these things! Batman is a complete moron in this comic! He just walks into Forbes’ obvious trap? And what about when Batman just strolled right into Carmine Falcone’s office a few issues ago?! There is none of the finesse or skill that one expects to see from Batman. He’s just blundering his way through everything in this comic.

      And the focus is just terrible. It’s jumping from one random plot thread to another, with little connecting any of them. Just because they’ve got a year to tell their story doesn’t mean they should explore that space as much as they have in only the first 9 issues.

      Batman Eternal is just inefficient, which is the antithesis of Batman.

  2. ANXF was great. PAD’s characteristically snappy dialogue is always fun to read, and there’s some nice drama, too.

    Black Widow was great. Edmondson is writing an incredibly complex Natasha. And Liho! Yay! Also, Isaiah’s turning out to be really cool.

    Cyclops was good. That’s still all I can say about it. Scott looks like a dork and needs a new wardrobe. The bit with Corsair asking about the highest bidder was definitely hilarious.

    Moon Knight is another very good done-in-one. Though it’s also another that reads too quickly. I hate to say this, but I’m actually looking forward a little to Ellis leaving the book after #6, so we can get some continuing stories. It’s Brian Wood who will be taking over, and he’s a damned fine writer. Though I would’ve preferred that Wood stay on X-Men.

    Original Sin was OK, but it definitely feels like the third issue of an event story. I get the feeling the story’s going to nosedive from here. By the way, Dr. Midas is the father of Oubliette (who also goes by Exterminatrix), and was the villain of the Grant Morrison Marvel Boy series. The one where Noh-Varr was created. So, yes, he’s definitely an odd villain to use.

    On the plus side, this week’s issue of Mighty Avengers tied into Original Sin, and had a scene where Monica Rambeau murders the shit out of a Mindless One. Just rips a hole right through it. Monica’s awesome.

    • Mighty Avengers is another title I want to catch up on.

      I Googled Dr. Midas and the result didn’t surprise me. I have a sinking feeling that all of the other surprise villains (or whoever) are going to be just as obscure and weird.

      • I can’t really object to weird and obscure villains. Those are often some of the funnest kind. I haven’t read Morrison’s Marvel Boy, but I will eventually, and I look forward to it.

      • You’ve got a point. But with how fake and slapped together I’m finding Original Sin, choosing villains like that just screams of opening the Big Book of Marvel Characters to a random page and running with whoever’s on the page.

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