Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 6/28/14
Don’t look now, but I’m apparently in a crummy mood this week. I feel fine, personally. But going through these reviews, it began to dawn on me that I just didn’t feel all that excited about any of the books that were released. Last week was killer, but this week was kind of a bummer, even though we’ve got new issues of Batman, Amazing Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, Justice League, and the debut of Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr.’s Superman. I thought I’d be happy!
Kind of by default, Ms. Marvel wins Comic Book of the Week. It’s one of my favorite titles these days, and it’s going to take a heck of a lot to knock it off its pedestal. Maybe I’ll get a week where Ms. Marvel, Saga, Hawkeye, Silver Surfer and a brand new Multiple Man #1 all come out at the same time. Then I’ll be in Heaven.
Though Amazing Spider-Man #3 wins moment of the week for the greatest J. Jonah Jameson panel of all time, courtesy of Humberto Ramos.
That needs to be on T-shirts!
Comic Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #3, Batman #32, Batman Eternal #12, Justice League #31, Ms. Marvel #5 and Superman #32.
Amazing Spider-Man #3
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Humberto Ramos
I’m not loving Amazing Spider-Man. I don’t know if it’s in comparison to Superior Spider-Man, or if Slott is just taking things easier, but this relaunched Amazing just isn’t living up to the adjective. I don’t know if I can really put my finger on it. I think it’s the lack of focus. Superior had a story to tell, it had direction. But Amazing Spider-Man is all over the place, with tons of plots, sub-plots and characters all bounding around, while Peter Parker mostly just flails in his return.
But hey, I’m gonna keep reading, so at least there’s that.
The issue opens with a brief peek at Candy, the new character Silk, who was bitten by the same radioactive spider that bit Peter. It seems she’s in some kind of underground bunker, as per the orders of the always mysterious Ezekiel. Then we get a peek at the Black Cat, who really has it out for Spider-Man after Octo-Spidey got her arrested back during Superior. Speaking of Peter Parker, he’s eager to get to work on his new anti-Electro technology, so he takes some of his Parker Industries scientists to an old derelict building, where Electro was last spotted. But the building is on fire, so Peter changes into Spider-Man and goes to help people escape – while assisting Mary Jane’s new firefighter boyfriend Ollie.
While inside the burning building, Black Cat arrives to cause trouble, and doesn’t care about Peter’s explanation that it was Doc Ock who screwed her over. She wants Peter and Ollie to burn! So Peter pretends to be Otto, full of bluster and threats, and gets the Cat to leave. But she later tracks down Electro for a team up.
Oh, also, Anna Maria is going to secretly keep working on Otto’s nanotechnology, and J. Jonah Jameson gets a job as an angry TV pundit.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Turning the Black Cat into a straight-up villain, with a bit of psychotic crazy, is not a direction I want to see the character go. I get that she’s mostly a rip-off of Catwoman, but Marvel has done so many good things with Black Cat over the years. She’s unique among Spider-Man’s Rogues Gallery, and that uniqueness made her special. Turning her into just another villain with a psychotic hate for Spider-Man is boring! And having her team up with Electro in the end? Really? I get that super-villain team-ups are a classic comic book trope, but all I could think about when reading those pages was that Black Cat is much, much smarter than that. Electro is a total loser who has never beaten Spider-Man in a fight, yet somehow she thinks teaming up with him is going to accomplish something?
At least when Slott turned Phil Urich into a villain it could be seen as an evolution of the character. He had big plans for Phil, and those plans largely succeeded. Turning Black Cat into a villain just seems, like I said, boring. It brings the whole issue down.
The rest of the issue is mostly just OK. Ollie the firefighter is a cool guy, so at least he’s got that going for him. Jonah’s new job sounds like the perfect gig for him, but he’s in full-on ‘Ranting Lunatic Mode’, which is my least favorite mode for Jonah. The only really interesting part of Amazing Spider-Man is seeing Peter Parker struggle to keep Parker Industries going, but that has become a very minor subplot in this overstuffed comic. I want to see more of Peter trying to adjust to his new life in a post-Doc Ock world!
Also, I have the sad feeling that Silk is never going to live up to her potential importance. She feels like yet another Spider-Man villain who will be introduced, get one good story out of her, and then she’ll disappear into the background.
And ‘Silk’ is such a modern superhero name. It’s disappointingly generic.
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Snyder and Capullo are producing a great Batman comic. I’m sure their run will, in time, be regarded as legendary. But I just don’t get it. The comic just isn’t clicking for me the way it is for the rest of the Internet, it seems. Capullo is doing amazing work, by far. And Snyder is a great writer. But something about their work just strikes me as mediocre.
Batman and his buddies try to sneak into the Riddler’s secret tower headquarters…but it’s a trap. Riddler was expecting them. Batman escapes the trap and saves Lucius Fox, but he realizes Riddler’s end game. Those soldiers that parachuted in to help Gordon last issue all have radios on their belts to contact the nearby military base to order an airstrike. Riddler activates the launch codes while also cutting off communications from outside the city, so the missiles are coming, and Batman and his buddies have no way of telling the pilots to turn back. Batman now has 40 minutes to take a wild guess as to where Riddler’s secret hideout is, and then stop him.
So Batman takes that educated guess, figures out the riddle, and confronts Riddler at his base – where Riddler reveals that, sure enough, he has more stuff planned.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I don’t know if I can successfully explain why I think Snyder’s Batman is mostly mediocre. But let’s take this issue, for example. The changes they have wrought in Zero Year are extreme beyond all reasoning. For several months, Gotham City was reverted to a post-apocalyptic wasteland?! And this happened at the very start of Batman’s career? And it was caused by the Riddler? All of that is insane! But at the same time, I just don’t see Snyder doing anything interesting with the concept. What does this wasteland mean to the Riddler? What does he get out of it? What does it say about the character? And in the end, solving Zero Year boils down to Batman trying to figure out where the Riddler’s secret base is, and then just making an educated guess. The past few issues have all been fluff leading up to Batman making that guess. So he fought some lions, big deal. He didn’t outsmart the Riddler, he just figured out where the base was.
And once he arrived at that base, the Riddler revealed that he has yet another death trap of some kind! Why? To drag out the story to another issue? What does Riddler get out of any of this? So Riddler is good at creating robot minions and hiding his secret lair, so what?
This is similar to my complaint with Death of the Family. Snyder and Capullo told one hell of a Joker story, and it seemed like this huge, mega-important thing. But in the end, Joker’s whole plan was nonsense. None of it made any sense, but it looked visually cool. What did Joker cutting off his face have to do with anything? Why the handyman outfit? Why all the medieval imagery? Why recruit the other villains to serve on his court when that went nowhere? Why not cut off the faces of Batman’s allies?
It’s the same thing with the Riddler. Everything here is pomp. He’s got a bunch of robots, fine. He laid a trap for Batman, fine. He holds these weird daily riddle challenges and has a pit of lions, OK. But what does Riddler get out of creating Zero Year?
And what does any of this say about Batman? That he figured out Riddler’s trap too late? That he’s able to make an educated guess about his secret lair?
Heck, I think my problems even go back to the Court of Owls, which I love, by the way. But all of that build-up, all of that menace, ends with the Court all dead around a table and Batman fighting some crazy version of Owl-Man, who came out of nowhere in the end.
I just don’t know how to best explain my feelings about this comic. Read as a whole, I bet Snyder’s run is going to be amazing. But there’s just something about each story, each issue, that doesn’t really connect for me. And that’s on me, not on them. Capullo is doing an amazing job. And Snyder…man, I don’t know. I want to like his work, but something about it has always felt empty to me. It’s why I stopped reading Superman Unchained.
Batman Eternal #12
Writers: James Tynion IV
Artist: Mikel Janin
Holy unexpected, Batman! I actually liked this issue of Batman Eternal! It progressed the plot to a nice degree. It features characters who make smart decisions (for the most part). It provides an answer to my ongoing complaint about the GCPD (with one tiny exception). And the art is great! Not Ian Bertram great, but it’s good, solid Batman art! Who’da thunk this was ever possible! Batman Eternal might actually have legs!
The issue jumps all over the place, so I’ll try to keep it straight. On the first day of Jim Gordon’s trial, Batman pays him a secret visit to let him know that they have no evidence to get him off. Bad news Batman. Elsewhere, Red Robin pays Professor Pyg a visit, but before he can interrogate the villain, Harper Row hacks into his computer network. Red Robin kicks her out and then heads back to the Manor to talk to Alfred to get the low down on Harper – and in the process, he meets Julia. Also elsewhere, Batgirl agrees to team up with Red Hood to crack the Gordon case.
And in what is almost the best part, it’s revealed that Jason Bard has been investigating the gang war and collecting evidence in secret, which he now presents to Harvey Bullock and Maggie Sawyer. Bullock points out that making arrests would be pointless because of Commissioner McCrookedcop, who wouldn’t approve the arrests – to which I say: the commissioner of police does not sign off on every single arrest! Anyway, Bard has a plan, and he goes about recruiting Batman and Vickie Vale to see it through.
In the end, Gordon’s first day goes poorly when the prosecution hits him with an awesome opening statement. Then in prison, he gets a visit from his son, James Jr., who is supposed to be dead.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
This issue of Batman Eternal wasn’t so bad. I think the focus on Jim Gordon’s trial really helped. That is a legitimately compelling storyline for a Batman comic. I have some issues with how the story started, but putting Gordon on trial for a crime he’s half convinced he’s guilty of is a damn fine story. That Batman hasn’t poked a million holes in the flimsy case so far is a little disappointing, but Batman is trying. And Batgirl is trying. I wish Batman Eternal focused more on Gordon’s trial.
In fact, the trial and the gang war make for two great parallel storylines. But Batman Eternal is too bloated and too inefficient to deal with them well. Batman Eternal has been all over the place, and that continues this issue. As much as I love the idea of a Red Robin/Harper Row team-up, their storyline doesn’t have much to do with anything. Why was Red Robin going to see Professor Pyg anyway? Just because?
The Bargirl/Red Hood team-up is also a bit of a stretch, sending them halfway around the world in search of clues, but Batgirl would absolutely spend her time trying to prove her father’s innocence. So it works.
And I actually like what Jason Bard is doing here! My biggest complaint about Batman Eternal has been how ridiculously the GCPD has been acting. There are good cops like Maggie Sawyer and Harvey Bullock on the squad, and there’s no way I can believe that they would fall in line with Commissioner Forbes’ pro-crime regime. So seeing the GCPD actually start to do something worthwhile is a great sign. As is Bard recruiting Batman and Vicki Vale. It speaks to a larger, more interesting direction for the story to take. I just hope they can pull it off.
And Mikel Janin did a great job on the art. It wasn’t as wildly amazing and unique as Ian Bertram last issue, but Janin draws a pretty great Bat-cast. I hope he sticks around.
Justice League #31
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Doug Mahnke
I’m either in a sour mood this week or I’m just not digging anything DC is putting out anymore. I love the idea of Lex Luthor joining the Justice League, I really do. But I dunno. This issue was mostly just OK. Johns is doing cool things with Luthor, and there’s a really funny Shazam scene, but otherwise, the issue didn’t do much for me.
While the Justice League searches for the new Power Ring, Bruce Wayne is visited by Lex Luthor, who keeps insisting that Bruce is Batman. Bruce plays up his playboy persona, but Lex isn’t buying it, and he pulls a gun on Bruce – only for Alfred to appear outta nowhere and pull a gun on Luthor! Like a boss! Bruce struggles with Luthor to get his gun away, only for Lex to reveal that he only brought the gun to blast a hole into the grandfather clock entrance to the Batcave – which begs the question of why Bruce would invite Luthor into that specific room?! Doesn’t Wayne Manor have more rooms that don’t contain secret entrances to the Batcave?
Anyway, Luthor says he wants to join the Justice League to prepare them for whatever it was that destroyed the Crime Sindicate’s homeworld, but Bruce tells him to get lost.
Meanwhile, Jessica Cruz tries to get rid of the Power Ring that’s found her, but it can talk and it isn’t going anywhere. The Ring forces itself on her finger and takes her body on a rampage downtown. Superman and Wonder Woman notify Batman that they’ve found the Ring and are on their way – but the Doom Patrol beat them to it!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Oops, I forgot to mention the Shazam scene in the synopsis. Basically, Shazam and Cyborg are hanging around the Watchtower looking for Power Ring. Or, at least, Cyborg is looking, while Shazam complains that there’s nothing to do. The Watchtower doesn’t even have a ping pong table. So Cyborg suggests he use his magic powers to try and find Power Ring.
That’s pretty funny.
The rest of the issue was OK. The showdown between Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor was pretty cool, and Alfred’s moment was total badass. But then the art and story got very confusing when Bruce broke out the ninja moves. I couldn’t tell what exactly was happening. Did Lex somehow get the drop on Alfred? Why did Bruce feel the need to go all ninja on Lex? It was confusing. I’m also disappointed that Bruce didn’t use the ‘Batman Incorporated’ cover story, unless DC and Geoff Johns are pretending that never existed. Doesn’t the publicly accepted idea that Bruce Wayne funds Batman cover the connections between them? Just tell Lex that Bruce also funds Dick Grayson’s role in Batman Incorporated. But that’s a minor nitpick.
There’s also a moment where Bruce tells Lex the story of the scorpion and the frog, with the scorpion representing Lex and the frog representing the League. But then Batman inserts a bat into the story that swoops down and eats the scorpion. It is the stupidest, most leaden metaphor in the history of the world.
The story of Jessica Cruz should be good. She’s sort of a Green Lantern, and we all know how good Geoff Johns is on Green Lanterns. But I still wish he was writing Simon Baz on the team instead of Jessica Cruz. And the Doom Patrol randomly showing up in the end was just…I dunno. I bet there are a ton of Doom Patrol fans out there who’ll love this appearance, but I’m not one of them, and I’m not sure about their New 52 continuity, if there is any. Adding them to this already overflowing story may be a bit too much.
Ms. Marvel #5
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Adrian Alphona
Now I know I must be in a grumpy mood this week: I didn’t think the latest issue of Ms. Marvel was the best thing since sliced bread! It was still good, don’t get me wrong. But it seemed to lack a little, tiny bit of something that made the previous issues so darn good. Maybe the sudden focus on superheroics threw me for a loop.
Kamala’s attempt to rescue Vick goes awry when Doyle and his robots attack! Kamala tries to fight back, but the robots have lasers, and she quickly realizes she’s in way over her head. She shrinks down and runs away, leaving Vick to his fate. Back at home, Kamala realizes she’s super hungry from all the healing she had to do, and she practically cleans out the fridge, then falls asleep at the kitchen table. Her mother finds her in the morning and chews her out, but her father takes over and has a real heart-to-heart with Kamala. He tells her the story of how she got her name. ‘Kamal’ means perfect, and since they had her even though the doctor told them not to expect anymore children, her father decided that she was ‘perfect’. Then he reminds her that she’s still grounded, and should spend more time at the mosque, which ruins the moment.
Kamala takes her father’s words to heart and decides it’s time to be herself, not just a Captain Marvel rip-off. So with Bruno’s help, she does an epic training montage, and designs her new costume using some of the super stretchy polymer that Bruno just happened to be developing in high school science class. Once she’s better prepared, Ms. Marvel returns to the house, defeats Doyle and saves Vick!
But now the Inventor – who is apparently some kind of bird-man – knows she exists!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
First off, how dumb is it that Bruno just happens to be working on a super polymer in his high school science class that is exactly what Kamala needs for her costume? The Bruno that works behind the counter at Circle Q? That’s a bit of a stretch (pun intended). As is the afternoon-long training session that gets Kamala ready to save Vick. As is the revelation that the Inventor is some kind of bird-person. As is the fact that, after her father’s big speech, Kamala is determined to be her own woman – but still models herself after Ms. Marvel. They’re all nitpicks, but they all also disrupted the flow of the story a little bit. Enough that this issue felt slightly off to me.
Everything else was the usual level of awesome, though. Kamala’s chat with her father was especially touching. Her family is really becoming a major part of the series, and I like that she’s keeping her superheroics a secret from them. A lot of times, in modern comics, the teenage character tells their family – like Blue Beetle – but there’s something about Kamala’s family that makes keeping it a secret a lot better. She’s a very fun character, and watching her boost her confidence with training and chutzpah is a real treat. The art, likewise, remains as strong as ever. It’s going to be a real shame when Alphona takes a break, but I’m also curious to see how other artists tackle Kamala Khan.
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: John Romita Jr.
And so we end with DC’s latest attempt to make Superman a viable character in the New 52. Three years into the imprint and Superman is about as exciting as a bag of wet hammers. DC absolutely screwed up the Man of Steel in the New 52, there’s no getting around it. And no matter how man H’els or Doomsdays or Unchaineds they try to throw at it, nothing seems to work.
Maybe wunderkind Geoff Johns can turn things around, with the help of John Romita Jr. making his DC Comics debut!
In a flashback set 25 years ago, in a science lab underneath Nebraska, a group of scientists must flee the lab after their experiment unleashed an unknown energy source from the mysterious Dimension Two. The lab goes into lockdown, and everyone inside is going to be killed in the self destruct sequence, all in the name of keeping the energy from spreading to the rest of the world. We meet two of the scientists, who are man and wife, and who also brought their baby to the lab that day. Was it Bring Your Baby to Work Day? With the lab about to self destruct, the scientists do the only thing they can: they put their son in a rocket ship and blast him off into Dimension Four, where they surmise he might develop super-powers.
In the present, Superman defeats Titano and Jimmy Olsen gets a crappy picture of it. Later, at the Daily Planet, Perry White buys the photo anyway. Clark Kent shows up at the Planet at Perry’s request, because Perry wants to hire him back, while also giving Clark a speech about how Clark always seems to distance himself from people. Perry tells Clark that he needs more friends. Later that night, Clark tries reaching out to Wonder Woman and Batman, but no luck, they’re both busy. So Clark is stuck home alone cooking dinner and flipping through an old photo album. But when he hears a cry for help, it’s Superman to the rescue!
Supes finds some alien monster with a big ship attacking downtown, so he gets into a fight. Then Superman gets some help from a strange, long-haired dude who is also pretty strong, and together they defeat the alien. Superman asks for the guy’s name, and he says it’s Ulysses. and Ulysses is shocked to discover that he’s on Earth! He thought it had been destroyed!
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
Oh, I get it, this new guy has an origin very similar to Superman’s. How quaint. But wait. If that happened 25 years ago, does that mean Superman is the one copying Ulysses? That’s a great precedent. Just like how Superman is nothing but a copy of that big bruiser Scott Snyder created in Superman Unchained. What is it with the New 52 and trying to create new characters who undermine everything there is about Superman?
Anyway, a lot of this issue reads like damage control. Remember when Clark Kent quit the Daily Planet in a Scott Lobdell story a few months ago, and how it made the news? Looks like Johns is ready to fix that mistake. I mean, come on, they named their blog Clarkcatopolis.com! That is the worst possible name ever! Jeez! Clark was never going to stay a blogger. It’s ridiculous. So Johns is going to fix that right quick, it seems.
The personal stuff was pretty good, I’ll grant Johns that. He writes a good Perry White and Jimmy Olsen, even if Jimmy is trapped in some insane story where I guess his parents have disappeared and left him several millions of dollars? What? Are you kidding me? That’s ridiculous. But it’s part of the New 52, so Johns is stuck writing about it. Johns also writes a pretty good Clark Kent, not that Clark does much of anything. Those scenes are mostly about Perry White talking to Clark, not with Clark. Clark is stuck responding to the more interesting things that everybody else is doing.
At least until he gets to suit up as Superman. This is where the legendary John Romita Jr. really shines. He does great work on the people, but the sight of Superman smashing through Titano the giant gorilla robot is great! The colors fly off the page, and Romita just draws a great Man of Steel. The fight with the unnamed alien villain and Ulysses is also pretty cool. The issue looks superb.
It’s just the story that’s not very interesting. So we’ve got a new mysterious alien-like guy who shows up out of nowhere to encounter Superman. How many millions of times has that happened? I don’t think it’s too much to expect great things from Geoff Johns, but as for his first issue, it seems like the generic, boring, New 52 Superman isn’t going anywhere.
At least Romita still rocks.
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 28, 2014, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, Spider-Man, Superman and tagged Amazing Spider-Man, Batman Eternal, Black Cat, Clark Kent, Electro, Geoff Johns, Harper Row, J. Jonah Jameson, John Romita Jr., Justice League, Kamala Khan, Lex Luthor, Ms. Marvel, Peter Parker, Red Robin. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.