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

Have you ever walked out of a movie? I haven’t, but I’ve stopped watching films if I’m at home and don’t like them. And now I can say I’ve walked out of a comic book. I want to like DC Comics, they have some great characters, but their current output is just…so, so bad.

The comic in question is Justice League United #2, smack dab in the middle of its Justice League Canada storyline, and the New 52 introduction of Adam Strange. I haven’t particularly enjoyed the series so far, but it was still on my review docket…then I had to stop reading halfway through because it was just so bad. I just couldn’t take it anymore. The dull, endless exposition. The weak, context-less banter between the characters. The generally crummy plot. The awkwardly cut and pasted panels.

Look at this!

How does that pass any sort of muster at DC Comics?! The banter between Green Arrow and Animal man is pretty lively, with the two characters nearly at each other’s throats, but NOBODY MOVES AN INCH FOR THREE WHOLE PANELS! They have the same smiles and faces, every single one of them, despite some pretty harsh dialogue. It’s insane!

There’s also a random Supergirl cameo that completely ignores the fact that she’s a Red Lantern these days.

Fortunately, we’ve still got comics like Lumberjanes, which easily won Comic Book of the Week for the best issue yet of this fledgling series.

So don’t expect a full review of Justice League United #2. My review stack is actually pretty light this week due to just crappy comics and a pretty busy week for me personally. I had this infectious Malware problem Wednesday night that just wouldn’t go away. I had to stay up all night cleansing my computer. It was madness, and left me a very tired Sean.

And for those interested, you can check out my reviews for Captain Marvel #4 and New Avengers #19 at Word of the Nerd. Both of those were pretty solid comics.

Comic Reviews: All-New X-Men #28, Astro City #13, Batman Eternal #10 and Lumberjanes #3.

All-New X-Men #28

All-New X-Men #28
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stuart Immonen

As great a writer as Bendis might be, I’m rarely all that impressed with his original characters. The Future Brotherhood is kind of boring on a lot of different levels. I especially don’t like Raze. But overall, none of them are interesting, so they make for pretty lousy antagonists in general. It’s a good thing the X-Men are more than capable of being awesome.

In the future, Evil Xavier and Raze recruit Old Beast to their new Brotherhood, then we flash forward to after they’ve recruited everybody else. I guess we don’t get to see why Old Molly Hayes is so evil in the future. Once the Brotherhood is gathered, they try to figure out how to beat the X-Men, and they decide to go back in time. This normally would have led to Battle of the Atom, but time travel is wonky in this story, and they instead receive a letter from the past from the versions of themselves who survived Battle of the Atom but failed to stop the X-Men. The letter explains how they failed and what they can do differently this time. So the Future Brotherhood goes back in time to face off against the Uncanny and All-New X-Men, with plans to kill Jean Grey – but Jean and X-23 have bones to pick with them.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

First of all, we need to recognize the fact that the birth of Young Xavier takes place in recent continuity. The flashback from last issue showed that he was born at about the time Xavier was killed in Avengers vs. X-Men. So Xavier was hooking up with Mystique (possibly in the guise of Moira) at least 9 months before AvX. That’s kind of a big deal! Likewise, according to Raze, he was born around the same time as well. So both Xavier and Wolverine have infant children with Mystique in present day continuity? That’s just kind of weird to wrap our heads around, and it’s treated as such a minor issue too. Just weird.

But beyond that, this issue was a pretty exciting attack on the X-Men. I may not like the Future Brotherhood, but the Uncanny and All-New X-Men are both pretty awesome, and their struggles against the villains are as fun as ever. Bendis has a great handle on all of the characters in both teams, and they’re just great to read. Cyclops, for example, gets a few awesome Cyclops moments, and you know how much I love those. Jean Grey, X-23 and Emma Frost also get some moments to shine. And Immonen’s contribution cannot be understated. The man should be a legend in his time.

Astro City #13

Astro City #13
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Eric Anderson

It’s been awhile since I reviewed an issue of Astro City, so why not jump back in? This is one of my favorite comic book series of all time, and the newly relaunched version has been just as good as past volumes. This is just such a delightful series.

Told out of chronological order, this issue is about the arrival of the Dancing Master in our world. He’s an ancient, whimsical being who spreads love wherever he goes. And today, he’s caused widespread love! People are stopping their cars to get out and dance. Strangers are hooking up. Crushes are lying together in the park. It’s all so lovely. Specifically, we follow a few stories. There are two scientists, a couple, working on different projects in different buildings, who decide to put their work on hold just to go home and make time for each other for once. Then there’s Gundog the masked bank robber, who falls in love with a lonely bank teller in the middle of a bank robbery spree, and they run off together. There are a few more little stories, and a cameo by the mysterious Hanged Man, but mostly the issue is about love!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This comic was rather cute. I don’t think the non-linear format added anything to the comic. Busiek jumped around to different hours of the day, telling the scenes out of chronological order. It probably would have even been better told in chronological order. But perhaps Busiek wanted to emphasize the weirdness of his Dancing Master character. It definitely worked in setting up a surprise ending, that those two scientists, both of whom we met early on in the issue, worrying about their relationships, ended up being worried about each other. So I guess the twist worked, but it wasn’t a necessary twist. The relationship between Gundog and the bank teller didn’t have any twists, but it was just kind of adorable. Astro City #13 was another done-in-one entry showing off the uniquely weird and also uniquely human style of this comic. There’s nothing else like Astro City, and issues like this one show us exactly why.

Batman Eternal #10

Batman Eternal #10
Writers: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV and John Layman
Artist: Riccardo Burchielli

OK, I’m sticking with it, for now. I don’t know why, other than a sense of…no, I don’t know why. I’m just gonna do it because I like challenges. I stuck with Teen Titans for all those terrible issues. I can try to see my way through Batman Eternal. But it’s not going to be easy. Issue #10 is the worst one yet, both on story and art.

We open with a flashback set 5 years ago, when Catwoman scratched Falcone on the cheek…and that’s it, just a scratch during a meeting, and it’s enough to fuel his revenge all these years later. But while Falcone monologues to a captive Catwoman about how he is Gotham’s true protector, protecting it from the freaks and weirdos, Professor Pyg and his gaggle of henchmen with animal heads sewn to their bodies break in and hold everybody hostage. Pyg is going to turn Falcone into a Falcon-Man for blowing up his lab earlier, but then Batman bursts in and saves the day, like he always does.

Meanwhile, in various smaller scenes throughout the issue, Bruce asks Jason Todd to follow Batgirl to South America in her pursuit of Commissioner Gordon’s freedom. Stephanie Brown has started a blog to expose her dad’s evil secrets, and she’s living in the library. And Julia Pennyworth is staying at Wayne Manor, and I guess Alfred is her father? And they both already know this? Apparently the writers just skipped over the scene where they were reunited, and jumped right ahead to her recovering in bed with Alfred watching over her, while also complaining that she wants to leave. It’s very confusing. She refers to Alfred as Bruce’s butler, but then Bruce clearly refers to Alfred as her father. So she knows the butler is her dad…but she doesn’t seem to acknowledge that fact. It’s weird.

Comic Rating: 2/10 – Very Bad.

Everything about this issue is pretty terrible. The plot of Batman Eternal is all over the place, for one thing, and only 10 issues in, the writers have pretty much lost any and all coherence. The framing of Commissioner Gordon should have been a pretty solid story, but we haven’t touched on that plot for several weeks now. Instead we’ve got Professor Pyg vs. Carmine Falcone? And both villains are stripped of any personality or character. Pyg is just a mindless maniac now. And Falcone is nobody. He’s just a guy with a famous name. He’s all bluster. There’s absolutely no reason why Batman should or would be putting up with Falcone at this point. He’s clearly behind everything, but the Batman of this comic can’t seem to figure it out or figure out a way to stop him.

Falcone has no menace. Take that opening flashback with Catwoman. I don’t remember which classic tale told the story of the scratch (be it Year One or Long Halloween), but it was a much bigger and far more interesting moment than this little 2-page flashback we get at the start of this issue. Falcone’s most distinguishing feature, a scratch that normally has an entire generation of history behind it, is reduced to ‘Catwoman scratched him one time because reasons’.

I won’t go off on another Commissioner McCrookedCop rant, but he gets another mindless scene in this issue where every single human being in Gotham, especially the police, just look the other way when it comes to his crystal clear corruption and madness.

But the worst story element has to be this Julia Pennyworth person. Apparently she’s Alfred’s daughter, but we only learn that in subtext. Considering how long we’ve all known Alfred and his lifestyle, when her name was revealed at the end of last issue, I thought for sure that meant she was a niece or cousin or something. Alfred has had those in the past, I’m pretty sure. But nope, she’s his daughter. And again, they introduce that fact in such a confusing scene. Only Bruce makes any sort of acknowledgement of the father/daughter relationship, whereas Julia and Alfred practically ignore each other.

And the eyes, my god, the eyes!

That is how Bruce Wayne looks in every panel. Does Riccardo Burchielli think Bruce Wayne is literally ‘blind as a bat’? Other characters barely get eyeballs. Most everyone, especially Bruce, are always squinting or just talking with their eyes closed and puffy. It’s so weird! Likewise, the rest of his art is sloppy and hastily drawn. This is the worst drawn issue of the series yet.

Batman Eternal is a bad comic. The story is all over the place with absolutely no pacing. The writers just fling whatever they want at the reader, regardless of tone, plot or character. It’s all just a big pile of half-twists and madness. And the art has just gotten progressively worse issue after issue.

I can’t see how this comic can turn itself around, but they’ve got 42 issues to try.

Lumberjanes #3

Lumberjanes #3
Writers: Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
Artist: Brooke Allen

Lumberjanes is getting a lot of great press across the Internet, and for good reason. It’s an adorable, fun series that relishes its wackiness. In my review of the last issue, I compared it quite heavily to Adventure Time, and the comparison still stands, but I felt that Lumberjanes #3 really felt like more of a solid comic overall. Stevenson and Ellis really seem to be settling in nicely.

Having become trapped in an underground ruins, the Lumberjanes decide their only option is to go ever onward! When they encounter a giant talking statue guarding a door, April whoops him in an arm-wrestling competition. Then Molly accidentally sets off a hallway full of shooting arrows, and the girls have to run for their lives – right into another giant stone guardian! This time, Mal throws Ripley like a “Fastball Special”, and the gal defeats the monster and steals his glowing red gem to open the next door. Then they have to run through a slowly closing doorway. Mal bumps her arm and Molly is really worried about her, but Mal is fine. (There’s definitely something going on between those two.) Anyway, next, Jo figures out how to use the Fibonacci Sequence to lead the crew across a booby-trapped floor. And then they arrive at the last room: a big dome of anagrams! They figure out that they need to investigate a strange tower they saw by the lake.

Once they get out of the ruins, they return to their counselors, who immediately put them on moose cleaning duty for running off.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

If my recap seemed really frantic and rushed, it’s only because that’s exactly how the comic felt!

The jokes, the cutesy moments, the references, the wackiness; all of it felt a lot more solid and organic in this third issue. Parts of the first two issues felt a little forced, as if the writers were clearly trying to be as hyper adorable as possible. And I suppose there are some moments like that in this issue. But the whole endeavor was just better presented this time around. The Fastball Special reference definitely worked. And April beating the stone statue in an arm wrestling match was a hoot. All of the cuteness and adorability of Lumberjanes is solidifying into a real treat, and that’s exactly what the book needs to stay popular. The art, likewise, continues to serve all of that adorability well, though I would prefer a little more control of the style. The cartoonishness is a plus, but turning the Lumberjanes themselves into stretchy cartoon characters is going to erode some of the danger they face.

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 14, 2014, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. ANXM was really good. Bendis is making the Future Brotherhood slightly less dull than they were in BotA. I’m almost positive that we can blame Jason Aaron for their previous suckitude. Bendis strongly hinted that Aaron and Lowe were responsible for Molly Hayes being a part of them. The next issue looks like it’ll be awesome. And yeah, Immonen was so good that it’s not even fair to other artists.

    Captain Marvel was great. I’m loving Carol’s crew. KSD gets across a lot of personality with her dialogue, and makes them really fun.

  2. I get the impression that Batman Eternal is meant to sell a book every week and break the imposition of “writing for the trade”.

  3. Riccardo Burchielli was, I felt, a huge improvement on Batman Eternal. I mean, compared to Guillem March or Jason Fabok? To my taste, Burchielli is far and away the best artist this book has had so far (except maybe Dustin Nguyen). To be honest, Burchielli alone may have made this my favorite issue so far.
    Not that that’s saying much.
    It may have even been good if Layman didn’t cover every page with useless exposition. I was literally yelling at the comic when I saw the scene of Stephanie crawling under that bookshelf in the library. It would have been quite effective as a wordless sequence, but instead Layman just has her whining to nobody in particular, telling us exactly nothing the art wasn’t telling us much more effectively. Instead of being emotionally evocative, it made it obvious Layman is writing this book for complete idiots who can’t interpret images without words to explain them. It was like the scene two issues ago when Bard and Bullock just stood around for two pages recapping the plot even though they told each other nothing the other wouldn’t have already known. Just totally unsubtle, lazy, amateur bullshit.
    But yeah, I’m pretty much willing to throw in the towel and admit that Batman Eternal is garbage, even if it’s got one of the best writers in the business on the cover.

    • We’ll have to agree to disagree about the art, but you hit the nail on the head with the exposition. This comic is woefully inefficient. There’s no subtlety, no class. It’s all just blunt.

  4. The thing that I don’t get — well, OK, one of the many things that I don’t get — is that we’re supposed to believe that Falcone isn’t really the mastermind behind the problems that Gotham is experiencing or will experience; it’s this mysterious other person that we’ve never seen. Except, you know, it is actually all Falcone. The attack on the Iceberg Casino and Pyg’s lab were both undoubtedly his doing. Sure, he maybe didn’t manipulate Gordon into causing the subway crash, but we still don’t know for sure that it wasn’t him. Basically, everything going bad in Gotham is at least definitely his fault or possibly his fault. What exactly is this mysterious bad guy doing then?

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