Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 6/21/14
Now this was a good week. I love comics. I’m pretty sure that’s kind of obvious, what with this blog. And it’s weeks like this that remind me why I love them so much. So many good issues, so many fun characters, such good writing and art. Comics are so brilliant these days. And I’m sure I’m barely scratching the surface as I stick to mostly Marvel and DC. There’s probably a world of indie titles that are even better.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the week where I dive headfirst into indie comics. Instead, this is the week where Marvel and DC put out some great books! Not only to we get a couple of big finales in Uncanny X-Men and Thor: God of Thunder, but Wonder Woman has a pretty amazing pre-battle sequence. Quality comics, the lot of them. Over at DC, I was delighted with the new issue of Harley Quinn. And even Batman Eternal managed a few surprises. Can you believe it? Of course, the issue was still pretty crummy, but who doesn’t like surprises? The latest issue of Original Sin was also pretty crummy, but it had a neat surprise too.
Comic Book of the Week would have to be Silver Surfer #3 by Dan Slott and the Family Allred. It’s the most Doctor Whoish issue yet, and that’s just wonderful.
Comic Reviews: Batman Eternal #11, Batwoman #32, Harley Quinn #7, Original Sin #4, Silver Surfer #3, Thor: God of Thunder #23, Uncanny X-Men #22, and Wonder Woman #32.
Batman Eternal #11
Writers: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV and Tim Seeley
Artist: Ian Bertram
Insane. That is the only word to describe the latest issue of Batman Eternal. It’s like something snapped off in the minds of the creative team and they decided to put out the craziest possible chapter imaginable. And they hired the craziest possible artist to draw it. You’ve got to see it to believe it, and I’ll post some pictures in a moment. But jeez…this one is just…so weird!
Batgirl is in Brazil tracking a soap opera star who was spotted at the train station just before the crash. But randomly, the super-villain assassin Scorpiana is looking for the same soap opera star, in order to kill him. Batgirl has amazing timing, I guess. She fights off Scorpiana and then chases down the fleeing actor, who is scared out of his mind. Batgirl interrogates him – while keeping him away from the psychotic (but amazingly dressed) Scorpiana – and discovers that someone had made a copy of his face and was posing as him in Gotham. Then Red Hood, Starfire and El Gaucho show up to defeat Scorpiana and save the actor. Red Hood playfully scolds Batgirl for getting sloppy.
Elsewhere, Alfred bonds a little with his daughter, Catwoman reads a letter from her father (Falcone), and Stephanie Brown learns the origins of her own father. Turns out Arthur Brown hosted a really crappy quiz show back in the day, and he went nuts when contestants wouldn’t take the game seriously. That’s how he became the Cluemaster and got his butt whooped by Batman.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
I’ve got to give this issue points for style alone. It’s still insane, and Batman Eternal is still a pretty terrible comic, but if DC was willing to do more comics like this, the New 52 would be a much better place. This issue is just so over the top, in both story and art, that I just don’t know what to think! It’s a complete break away from the rest of Batman Eternal, which has been so determined to be grim, gritty and generic. Instead, Batman Eternal #11 is almost wacky! We’ve got a zany chase through a Brazilian television studio. We’ve got a wicked villain who has one of the best super-villain outfits of all time,
Just look at that art! For a moment, I thought I was reading a Marvel comic book. Since when does DC actually have unique and stylistic art? I thought they’d given up on anything even remotely artistic in favor of their Jim Lee House Style. The art is brilliant! I want to know more about Bertram. I want to see him on a regular series. Heck, I want to see him on a regular Batman series. Would that be too much to ask?
He also draws the best New 52 Starfire yet.
I just can’t get enough of this art. It’s gorgeous. It’s personal. It’s got such flavor! If the rest of Batman Eternal was drawn by Bertram, I might actually have to start liking the book. But sadly, not every part of this issue is as exciting as an El Gaucho appearance. Cluemaster’s origin is pretty dumb. Alfred’s daughter remains a retcon that makes no sense. And I wasn’t entirely sure what the heck was going on with Catwoman. But man, that art.
Writer: Marc Andreyko
Artist: Jeremy Haun
I still like Batwoman. At least I think I do. She’s a fun character with a very engaging personal life. But I dunno. That Wolf Spider arc was pretty boring, and I didn’t even bother to review the last issue. A new storyline kicks off with Batwoman #32, but I think I’m starting to see a poor trend from Andreyko…
Maggie is in Metropolis sorting out a civil case with her ex-husband for custody of their daughter, and she doesn’t seem to want Kate involved. So Kate and Bette head to the carnival for some fun, where they encounter Sophie, Kate’s ex-girlfriend from her military days. The sudden arrival throws Kate for a loop, but she blows Sophie off – though later she visits her shrink to try and talk about it. Meanwhile, the vampire villainess Nocturna breaks into a museum to steal some artwork. Batwoman finds her and they get into a fight, but Nocturna and her male partner are a hot mess of trouble. Elsewhere, a woman with a grudge against Nocturna hires the assassin Killshot to come to Gotham to take her out.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
Marc Andreyko seems to love creating super-villains. Don’t get me wrong, that’s probably a hoot. But they’re taking over the title and pushing Batwoman to the side. Wolf Spider, Nocturna, her male companion, and then introducing Killshot at the end; jeez, Marc, let it go. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that we want to read about Batwoman and Kate Kane, not about how she has to fight super-villains. You did amazing work on Manhunter and that character’s personal life. And you’ve got some great threads building for Kate. So lay off the overflow of random, generally boring super-villains. Could this guy Killshot be any more terrible?
So that part of the issue was boring. But Kate’s relationship problems weren’t much better. Andreyko is definitely introducing some nice complications, but there doesn’t seem to be any magic to them, no spark. I’m not sure what it is that isn’t clicking for me, but it’s not there yet. I want to like Batwoman…but I just don’t know right now.
Harley Quinn #7
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Chad Hardin
At least Harley Quinn is still adorable! Conner and Palmiotti have got that spark in spades! At times this series has been a little too wacky, but when they reign it in – like in this issue – the comic is just adorable. And it’s adorable in its own special way. A lot of comics are adorable these days, like Ms. Marvel and Lumberjanes, but there’s something wickedly playful about Harley Quinn that is uniquely its own. And Poison Ivy is an absolutely wonderful guest star.
Poison Ivy stops by to help Harley uncover who exactly put a price on Harley’s head. After some shenanigans at the beach and in their PJs, Ivy learns that whoever set the bounty has been using Harley’s own computer. So they stage a sting operation with Ivy waiting in the closet for the bad guy to break in – only to discover that it was Harley herself, who was sleep walking, who put a bounty on her own head. Her subconscious was so concerned about bad guys ruining her new life that she came up with a way to draw them to her so she could take them out. The two ladies, and Tony, track down a local assassins guild and raid the place, telling everyone that the hit is off, but only some of them listen, and the others need to be dealt with. Unfortunately for Harley, the online posting about the hit can’t be taken down. So it looks like Harley will have to deal with these bozos for awhile, but at least she’s got some great friends.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Whenever Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn get together in this series, it’s magic. And not just because of the obvious sexual attention, which, again, is kind of adorable. They’re just a great team, and Ivy works to knock the edge of Harley’s wackiness. The banter between the two of them is delightful, and really carries the whole issue – and it’s one weird issue. Lots of weird twists, weird moments, and all of it is generally fun. Like I said, when Harley isn’t going wild off on strange tangents, she’s quite charming. And Hardin draws the women in a nice mix of normal and sexy. I don’t think he’s too exploitative, and both women look very beautiful. The fact that the opening scene is on the beach in bikinis, and the follow up scene is them in PJs, is all part of the joke. Everybody knows about the romantic possibilities between Harley and Ivy, and Conner and Palmiotti clearly enjoy playing with that without going overboard.
Original Sin #4
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Mike Deodato
So there’s a big surprise in this issue. And I’ll admit, it’s a legitimately cool surprise/twist/retcon. But it doesn’t change the fact that Original Sin isn’t much of a story. It’s a list of twists strung together issue-after-issue, with a generic plot tacked on as set dressing. I suppose it’s fun to have all these characters crossover, but the Marvel Universe is already pretty big into crossovers as it is. When the Avengers feature characters like Cannonball and Sunspot, the Marvel Universe is pretty interconnected.
All of the various search parties realize kind of simultaneously that they’re being played. None of them know who brought them together, but they all realize that that person surely knows a lot more about what’s going on than they’ve let on. So using various means, the three teams all manage to find themselves at the same unknown, hidden space station, including the Winter Soldier, who is carrying around Nick Fury’s severed head. The various heroes get into various fights once they all come face-to-face, because that’s what heroes do, until they discover that Nick Fury’s severed head is actually from a really advanced Life Model Decoy. Which begs the question, where is the real Nick Fury?
Turns out, he’s right there on the space station. They’ve all been working for Nick Fury this whole time. And the real Nick Fury is actually very, very old.
Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.
That’s kind of a neat twist. Are we to understand the real Nick Fury has been aging like normal since WWII? And that every Nick Fury we’ve ever known has been just another Life Model Decoy? It’s a pretty hefty twist – one that’s kind of dulled by the fact that it might just be an ugly ploy to legitimatize Marvel’s black Nick Fury replacement. Still, it’s a pretty cool twist. I only wish it wasn’t plopped into the middle of this half-assed Big Event. I like Jason Aaron, I really do. And I know he can do better than this. Original Sin is just a big, crazy pile of random characters being dragged around from scene to scene.
Aaron doesn’t really do anything with the characters. They all butt heads, or nearly butt heads, and all seem to generally know each other, so there’s no real energy or urgency in them crossing paths. It’s weird. Everybody knows Gamora by name when she shows up. The Punisher seems comfortable chatting with everybody he comes across. The way he reacts to Bucky is just weird. It’s too casual and comfortable. And the Orb is clearly only around so that Aaron can have a wacky character thrown into the mix to give off wacky one-liners. It seems clear to me that the idea for Original Sin started with the twists. “Someone kills the Watcher”. “Nick Fury is actually very old”. And then it was up to Aaron to string a story along to reveal these twists, and he just isn’t doing a very good job. I’m not sold on Original Sin as any sort of legitimate story.
Silver Surfer #3
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Mike and Laura Allred
I like delightful comics. That is one thing I’ve learned since I started writing these weekly reviews. More and more, I grow jaded and annoyed with grim & gritty comics that do nothing but try and be kewl. No thank you. Instead, give me comics like Dan Slott’s Silver Surfer, which embraces the inherent wonderment of comics in a cheerful, friendly, and downright funny way!
The Silver Surfer and Dawn Greenwood team up to pluck the Never Heart out of the Impericon. The Surfer tries to explain the complex realities of the Never Heart – like why it transforms into a toy from Dawn’s childhood – but it kind of all goes over her heard. Still, it’s up to Dawn to put Never Heart back in the Never Queen while the Surfer fights Incredulous Zed. Dawn takes Surfer’s board to the Never Queen, and all the aliens she helped free last issue team up and hold off the guards for her while Dawn replaces the heart, saving the Never Queen and all of time and space. Meanwhile, the Silver Surfer uses Zed’s own weapons against him, and banishes Zed to the world outside time and space.
In the end, the Surfer promises to bring Dawn Greenwood home.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
My recap does not do this issue justice. If I had more room and you had more patience, I’d write out every single adorable interaction between Dawn and the Surfer. She is just a wonderfully adorkable creation who seems to bond well with the Silver Surfer. It helps that Slott is writing a generally more cheerful and upbeat Surfer. He’s not the morose Sentinel of the Spaceways in this series. Instead, he’s more like the Doctor, whose heroism is tinged with a side of whimsy and self-awareness.
Slott crafts a wonderfully interconnected story. I loved how the prisoners Dawn rescued and befriended last issue keep popping up. Instead of just being extras, they manage to have their own little story on the side, and it further bolsters Dawn’s own space adventure. Three issues in and she’s a delightful character in her own right.
I am excited for this series. I’m definitely adding Silver Surfer to my list of delightful comics that make me smile and fall in love with this medium all over again.
Thor: God of Thunder #23
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Esad Ribic
Badassery abounds in Thor: God of Thunder, one of my favorite takes on the character ever. Jason Aaron brings his epic Roxxon story to a close with this final chapter, which is a bit more smashy than I would like, but it’s a good smashy. Thor: God of Thunder is proof that Jason Aaron can write a damn good comic.
In the present day, Thor battles Dario Agger in his minotaur form, as well as Ulik the Troll, for the fate of Broxton, Oklahoma. Agent Roz is also fighting for her life against trolls in the city, while also doing what she can to save townsfolk. Thor and Roz are victorious, and SHIELD comes to help clean up, but the damage to Broxton is catastrophic. In the future, Old Thor has plucked All-Black the Necrosword, Gorr’s evil sword, from the heart of a black hole and he uses it to defeat and kill Galactus. Afterwards, Thor’s blood falls to the dead Earth and reignites the plant life to grow again.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
If I may be allowed one minor complaint it’s that Thor’s battle with the Minotaur lacked that special touch of humanity that really sells a comic. Previous issues had Thor struggling with such ideas as lawyers, restraining orders and the way big business owns politics, which is usually outside the hands of superheroes and gods. But in the end, it all came down to Thor pummeling on a minotaur. It was a fun pummeling, sure, but the fight lacked a little something. At least Aaron still managed to make it epic in terms of action and scale.
Likewise Future Thor’s battle with Galactus was about as epic as they come. The problem for me, personally, is that I like Galactus a heck of a lot more than I like Thor, so I just couldn’t bring myself to root for the God of Thunder. I kept siding with Galactus in his desire to devour the Earth. How wrong is that?! So when Thor won, and when the droplets of his blood started to regrow the Earth, I was a little let down. I wanted Galactus to be right – but that’s my own personal baggage. Looking past that, this was just a larger-than-life issue detailing a couple of epic Thor battles. Isn’t that exactly what we want from a Thor comic?
Uncanny X-Men #22
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Chris Bachalo
Bendis brings the first chapter of his Uncanny X-Men saga to a close with a massive battle between the X-Men, SHIELD and their mysterious foe. Much like with Thor: God of Thunder, I felt the battle was missing that special human spark, but otherwise, it was one heck of a fight!
The battle is raging on between the X-Men and the out-of-control SHIELD Helicarriers on the lawn of the Jean Grey School. The mysterious domed villain then summons state-of-the-art SHIELD Sentinels to the fight, and everyone looks doomed – until Hijack shows up and takes control of the Helicarrier to destroy the Sentinels! Go Hijack! Elsehwere, Beast manages to wake up Cyclops and reveals that his powers were out of control because he’d been infected with Nano-Sentinels. Beast then leads Cyclops to the villain’s secret lair, and when Cyclops blasts his stupid domed head, the villain is revealed to be the Dark Beast! The helmet was keeping him alive, so he promptly dies. He left a bomb though – but Hijack is able to stop that as well! Go Hijack!
Meanwhile, Magneto brings Dazzler back to the X-Men and Triage heals her, then they all go join the fight. In the end, Dazzler reveals to Maria Hill that they both got played by Mystique, and Dazzler angrily quits SHIELD.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This battle had almost everything! Magneto and Dazzler make their grand returns. Cyclops and Beast put aside their differences long enough to be heroes. SHIELD gets put squarely in its place. Wolverine wasn’t around to hog the spotlight. And Hijack got to be a big, damn hero! The only thing that was missing was Goldballs doing something awesome, but the issue was packed enough already. This probably won’t go down in X-history as one of their greatest battles of all time, but I had a blast. It helps that I’m solidly rooting for Cyclops and his team, so seeing them be all manner of awesome was a huge plus for this guy.
I’m a little disappointed that Bendis dispatched with the Dark Beast so quickly. Considering Cyclops’ current volatile relationship with normal Beast, I think Dark Beast would make for a really good ongoing adversary for the Uncanny X-Men. Instead, he remained hidden this whole time, never really revealing his motives or intentions. It was only in the end, for a few panels, that we find out what was going on, and then he’s gone. That was a little anti-climactic.
At least Cyclops and the others will get their full powers restored!
Also, I totally knew Hijack would be used for something special, and this definitely lived up to the hype. Go Hijack!
Wonder Woman #32
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artists: Cliff Chiang and Goran Sudzuka
I don’t know what was in the water this week, but a lot of comics featured big, bombastic action scenes. And while the battles in Wonder Woman #32 aren’t the final battles, they were still pretty cool. Azzarello and Chiang are setting themselves up for a glorious finish. And my favorite New 52 character comes back, so yay!
Artemis and Cupid go searching for Hermes in Hell, but mostly find the place in ruins. Wonder Woman continues to try and bolster the spirits of the Amazons. And Strife allies herself with the First-Born. After killing Hades, the First Born sends his minions after Demeter, the goddess of life. Artemis and Cupid show up in time to help Demeter against the Minotaur, but he’s pretty tough, and it takes the arrival of Wonder Woman to defeat him. Then the First Born himself shows up and defeats Demeter, so she flees along with the other gods back to Themyscira. Wonder Woman alone stands against the First Born to cover their escape.
Back on Paradise Island, the news that Wonder Woman is alone against that monster is hell for morale. Things look pretty hopeless…so it’s a damn good thing Orion makes his stunning return!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Orion’s back! Hooray! Azzarello’s take on Orion turned him into my favorite character in the very broken New 52. So it’s going to be an even bigger shame when he leaves the title and both Wonder Woman and Orion will probably be thrown into the ever-churning, ever-uglier DC house style. At least we’ll have the promise of the epic final showdown to tie us over, and whatever awesome role Orion is set to play.
This issue itself was pretty neat. Azzarello continues to do an amazing job with his cast of gods. Cupid and Artemis’ journey into Hell was just as eerie as one would expect, and the fight in Demeter’s lair was gnarly. It’s a little annoying that the First Born is so unstoppable, but I guess that’s the point of a Big Boss. Watching Wonder Woman face off against him to let the others escape was as cool as could be expected, and the knowledge that Orion has returned in the nick of time is just plain cool. I’m very excited for the next issue.
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!
Posted on June 21, 2014, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged Batman Eternal, Batwoman, Cyclops, Harley Quinn, Nick Fury, Original Sin, Orion, Poison Ivy, Silver Surfer, Thor, Thor: God of Thunder, Uncanny X-Men, Wonder Woman. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.