Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 7/26/14
Wow, what a week for DC Comics! I bet they planned it this way, to align with San Diego Comic-Con: new issues of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman all came out this week. And technically, Batman and Robin also came out, so there are your four major DC characters all in one week. Heck, new issues of Aquaman and Flash also came out this week. We practically had a full Justice League in solo comics! Neat!
And they were all pretty good quality too! At least the ones I read. Batman brought Zero Year to a close. Wonder Woman keeps blazing towards a climactic ending. And Superman keeps insisting that new character Ulysses is interesting! That part’s not going very well.
On the Marvel side, we’ve got…Amazing Spider-Man. That’s the only Marvel Comic I really read this week. Though I did read and review Storm #1 for Word of the Nerd! I felt that issue deserved a bigger review, so check that out. Comic Book of the Week goes to Batman and Robin #33, for a damn cool and exciting issue that really proves the kind of man Batman can be.
Though moment of the week goes to Wonder Woman #33 – even if that issue was also full of bad moments.
We’ll get to the bad moments in the actual review.
Comic Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #4, Batman #33, Batman and Robin #33, Batman Eternal #16, Superman #33 and Wonder Woman #33.
Amazing Spider-Man #4
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Humberto Ramos
It’s forced crossover time! Slott and Marvel are using Original Sin to introduce a new wrinkle to Spider-Man’s origin story, and it goes off without a hitch – if you ignore all of the Original Sin stuff.
Peter Parker gets called away from Parker Industries to participate in Original Sin, and it’s as forced and awkward as you could imagine. At any rate, when Peter is hit by the Orb’s Watcher Bomb, he gets visions of Cindy Moon, the girl who was bitten by the same radioactive spider as Peter. When Cindy was younger and her powers were out of control, she was taken in by the enigmatic Ezekiel for training, and then locked up in a secret room for safe keeping. Seeing as how Ezekiel is now dead, Peter heads to his lab and busts Cindy out. At first she’s pissed, because she’s afraid of Morlun, but Peter tells her that Morlun is dead, so Cindy covers her body in her own natural webbing, adopts the superhero name ‘Silk’ (gag) and then she and Peter go out swinging around the city – only to end up making out.
Elsewhere, Morlun is still alive, and he senses her escape from Ezekiel’s safety room. So he begins the hunt. And Black Cat kidnaps Sajani from Parker Industries.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I am totally cool with the revelation that someone else was bitten by the same radioactive spider. But I think this ‘Silk’ identity is absolutely terrible. Ugh. Obviously they can’t use ‘Spider-Woman’ as a name, and she probably shouldn’t just be a clone of Spidey, but this is the best that Dan Slott could come up with? Silk? I know modern day superhero naming conventions are all about one-word names that vaguely connect to their power set, but ‘Silk’? That’s the best spider-related word he could come up with? I also don’t particularly care for her webbing costume – though that, at least, is kind of a creative idea. I think that’ll grow on me. But the name is just dumb. This is a character who, technically, is a big part of Spider-Man’s origin story. But the name ‘Silk’ in no way encapsulates that gravitas.
At least the character herself is kind of fun, even if Slott buries her in the continuity snafu that is Ezekiel vs. Morlun. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed those original comics when they first came out. I still remember Spider-Man’s first battle with Morlun. It was epic. But the characters don’t really hold up as well as most classic Spider-Man villains. Silk is already tied to the original spider-bite, but now she’s tied to Ezekiel and Morlun too. That’s a lot of baggage for a new character to carry.
Beyond Silk, the rest of the issue was fine. I was more than a little annoyed that Slott was forced to drag Spidey away from his more interesting stories to participate in that group scene from Original Sin…which is at least a month old at this point, right? That was annoying. But once he settled on helping Cindy, the comic picked up.
She’s an immediately likable person, and seeing Spidey try to be the good guy and help her out is cool too. The making out at the end was a little weird…but only because I’m still not used to Spidey being single enough to start macking on the hot women in his life.
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Zero Year is finally at an end, and I still think it was too massive a story to put at the beginning of Batman’s career. Plunging Gotham into a post-apocalyptic wasteland? At the hands of the Riddler, of all people? And this wasn’t even the Riddler’s New 52 debut. I want to go back and see what else he did prior to this. I know he was in Death of the Family. Did they treat him with the gravitas of a man who PLUNGED GOTHAM INTO A POST-APOCALYPTIC WASTELAND?
At any rate, there were some solid emotional beats in play here in this issue, and some cleverness as well, so it had that going for it. But as I’ve been saying all along in my Batman reviews, I just feel as if there’s something lacking in Snyder’s work. The comics are enjoyable, but there’s an emotional spark that he just fails to reach.
Batman’s final battle with the Riddler is a series of riddles, obviously. As long as Batman keeps answering right, he’ll be allowed to progress through Riddler’s death trap. By the third riddle, though, Batman pulls the old Alexander the Great vs. the Gordion Knot trick and just steps out of line and punches the Riddler. Once he’s down, the Riddler reveals yet another final trap: a device that reads heartbeats that is connected to the city’s electrical network. Batman has to remove it from Riddler, which he does, then he has to go into the other room, attach it to his own chest and give himself an electrical shock to bring the city back online. It works, but the shock kills Batman.
Fortunately, Alfred had followed him in, and he uses CPR to bring Batman back to life. The city is saved, the jets are called off, and the Riddler is captured. Several months later, at a press conference, Bruce Wayne announces that Wayne Enterprises will be at the forefront of Gotham’s recovery, and Bruce shakes hands with the new Commissioner Gordon. Alfred makes one last attempt to dissuade Bruce from his chosen life by trying to introduce him to the cute, redheaded Julie Madison, but Bruce goes out on patrol as Batman instead.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I liked the Gordian Knot twist. I didn’t go into detail in the synopsis, because it’s kind of complicated, but all of the Riddler’s riddles were references to the greatest riddles/challenges throughout history. The third riddle was a reference to the Gordian Knot. Batman got it wrong by guessing ‘blade’, whereas the real answer was ‘knot’. But as we all know, when Alexander the Great couldn’t untie the Gordian Knot, he just sliced it in half with his blade – and that’s the symbolism of Batman just stepping up and punching the Riddler. Rather than play Riddler’s game, Batman just cut right through it.
That was pretty darn clever, and a fun twist to end the story. I also liked some of the emotional beats of the epilogue, where Alfred fantasizes about a life that could have been for Bruce, only to resign himself to accepting that Bruce will forever be Batman. It’s a nice touch for the epilogue. But I’m still mostly underwhelmed by the actual meat of the comic. Riddler’s schemes turn out to be far, far below the grand scale of what he did to Gotham. What was the point? And when Riddler just kept revealing even more death traps and tricks up his sleeve, I wanted Batman to roll his eyes and shout, “Another one?! Jeez!”
I don’t think the story really supported the gravitas of what happened in Zero Year, but Snyder and Capullo offered enough clever twists and emotional payoffs to make for a good finale.
Batman and Robin #33
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Patrick Gleason
Tomasi gets Batman. That emotional spark that I feel is lacking in Snyder’s work, Tomasi captures it in spades. His Batman in this issue is a force of nature. He’s a warrior and a thinker all in one, and it’s fantastic!
Coming off the heels of Robin Rising: Omega, Batman continues to argue with the Justice League over whether or not he can go after Darkseid to rescue his son, Robin. Batman teleports onto the Watchtower to grab some Power Armor, but the League follow him and they end up fighting him to try and get Batman under control – but Batman surrenders and leaves, telling them he’s just tired. Back at home, Bruce takes some aggression out on Damian’s tombstone before Superman shows up to apologize for how things got out of hand on the Watchtower (he’s no longer in the League, btw). Bruce thanks Superman for his support and tells Superman he’ll be fine.
Bruce then immediately heads downstairs to the Batcave, where Alfred, Red Robin, Batgirl and Red Hood have gathered at Batman’s request, ready to get to work.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
I loved that ending! I pumped my fists with excitement! I’m a big fan of the Bat-Family, and the revelation that Batman has them all gathered in order to do what the Justice League wouldn’t is both badass and classic Batman. Though I would think something as important as bringing Damian back to life would warrant bringing Dick Grayson back into the fold, but I guess Batman still has his priorities in order. It was a great moment, nonetheless.
Everything about Batman was cool in this issue. His fights with the Justice League are a lot of fun, and it’s not like the team is played for total fools. They’ve got a point too. The scene where Batman surrenders because he’s ‘tired’ is wickedly smart. He knew exactly how to get them off his back. Likewise, he played Superman like a fiddle. It’s great! And all lovingly captured in Gleason’s killer pencils.
The only dumb part of this issue was the Power Armor in the Watchtower. I think it was called the ‘Hellbat’ or some nonsense. There’s a little scene where it’s revealed that every member of the Justice League helped forge this armor so that weak little Batman could play with the big boys. It’s hilarious. Especially when they show Flash just kind of running really fast with pieces of the armor, to make sure they stand up to high speeds, I guess? Or Aquaman testing the armor against an underwater thermal vent?
Were they so desperate to have every Leaguer offer some kind of help?
It’s such a silly moment! Especially when you consider Batman already has his own Power Armor back in the Batcave, which we saw during the Night of the Owls. So how many different Power Armors does he need?
Batman Eternal #16
Writers: Ray Fawkes, Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
We’re dealing with a Batman overload this week, so I’ll keep this short. Batman Eternal‘s overall quality has picked up considerably after ditching that stupid GCPD storyline. That thing was like a stone in my shoe, grinding into my foot with each passing step. With that gone, and with a better understanding of what this series will be about (random insanity), the comic is just better. It’s still not a must-read, but it’s not so bad anymore.
Things are still pretty crummy at Arkham Aslyum, where Batwing and Jim Corrigan continue to fight off ghouls and specters and the Joker’s Daughter. Professor Pyg is brought to the Asylum, and he’s dropped into the fun. Batwing takes on Joker’s Daughter’s champion, Maxie (Zeus, maybe?), before he and Corrigan find each other once again and trace the source of all this evil to a resurrected Deacon Blackfire.
Meanwhile, Red Robin and Harper Row find the inventor they were search for in Japan. And Jason Bard continues to make waves, possibly in Vickie Vale’s pants.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
Can’t say as how I yet care about Batwing and Corrigan, but their tale is sufficiently creepy and interesting. Nguyen’s art is a little sloppy in some places, and not his best, by far, but he draws some splendidly macabrian imagery for the possessed Asylum. Everybody involved is crafting an acceptably spooky tale there, I’m just not all that invested personally. I’d much rather have an issue devoted to Red Robin and Harper Row’s adventures, but that’s just me.
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: John Romita Jr.
I’m going to keep giving Geoff Johns’ Superman a try. I’m a big Geoff Johns fan, and while I’m not very impressed so far, maybe he’s going somewhere with this. We shall see. At the very least, he has almost immediately undone Scott Lobdell’s silly ‘Clark quits the Daily Planet to start a blog’ storyline. Remember when that actually got national news attention?
Perry White wants to know more about Ulysses, but his newsroom is full of worthless punks who can’t seem to get the story! Clark Kent shows up, but he’s hesitant to take his old job back (though apparently Cat Grant is going back to the Daily Planet already). Instead, Clark is investigating the Ulysses Research Project from last issue, which Perry White wrote about for the paper 25 years ago. Perry agrees to provide Clark with information if Clark comes back to work for the Planet. Ulysses himself shows up at the Planet, having followed Clark, but Clark makes an excuse and takes Ulysses back to his apartment, where he explains the meaning of secret identities.
Then while Superman is out of town exploring the old, ruined research facility, Ulysses (or Neil) puts on some of Clark’s clothes and heads out into the city. He runs afoul of some robotic army men, and Superman arrives in time to give him a hand. After the fighting is done, Superman reveals that Ulysses’ parents actually managed to survive that lab explosion last issue, and he orchestrates a tearful reunion.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
I dunno, this storyline just isn’t connecting with me at all. It’s a fine comic. Johns is writing everybody well, and the appearance of a new superhuman in Metropolis is always newsworthy (I especially liked the twist that his parents were still alive). I also liked the idea of Clark Kent and Perry White rolling up their shirt sleeves and working together on a project. But overall, who cares about any of this? New super humans in Metropolis are a dime a dozen, and so far, Ulysses is as boring as they come. He doesn’t even look all that interesting. He’s just so bland. But Romita draws a fantastic Superman, so hopefully the strengths of this comic will start to win out over its utter blandness.
Also, if I could gripe for a little bit about the Daily Planet, Johns just doesn’t seem to get it. So some new guy teams up with Superman for one single fight, and all of a sudden everybody in the news industry thinks he’s Superman’s new partner? Has Superman ever had a first partner? They all think he’s related to Superman, or is the next big thing. There are THOUSANDS of superhumans in the DC universe. Why does this one get such untold amounts of attention all of a sudden?
Also also, in the meeting of the news team at the start of the issue, Jimmy Olsen is the only photographer in the room, and Perry barks the usual orders at him about taking better pictures. Jimmy then complains to Perry that he’s still only a freelance photographer. So my question is: where are the staff photographers? Why is a freelance photog the only photog brought into the big news meeting? And why is Jimmy freakin’ Olsen only a freelance photographer? He’s the only Daily Planet photographer we have ever met, and is clearly on a first name basis with Perry White. Does the Daily Planet not have a proper photography staff? How do you run a newspaper without permanent photographers?
Anyway, those were just little nitpicks that kind of bugged me while reading the comic. They’re minor, and don’t ruin the story, but for brief moments, they take me out of it.
Wonder Woman #33
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Cliff Chiang
I want to just start collecting and not reading the remaining Wonder Woman issues until Azzarello and Chiang’s storyline is complete. Getting these little snippets of this fast-paced, awesome story just isn’t as effective as if I could read them all in one sitting.
Wonder Woman has been defeated and captured by the First Born, and he holds her prisoner in his realm because he’d rather mate with her and give birth to a new pantheon than just kill her. He has a magic blood pool, which allows them to watch as his army invades Paradise Island. Orion and the gang put up a pretty good fight, though some of the gods spend their time ruminating on the subject of mortality instead of fighting. The First Born sends Cassandra and the Minotaur to join the fight, and they promptly kill Aleka and Orion, respectively. The First Born stabs Wonder Woman when she refuses his advances, and leaves her to bleed out so that he can join the fight too. But when he arrives, Zeke uses his magic power and brings the stone statue of Hippolyta to life to join the fight!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Damn you, Azzarello! Damn you! The last issue ended on the awesome cliffhanger of Orion returning to join the fight and save the day. This issue starts off with Orion being put in his place by Hera, then later killed in a simple fight. Talk about a huge let down! Why even bring him back when you did if you were just going to kill him again? I was hoping, at the very least, that he’d kill the Minotaur. Isn’t Orion cool enough to kill the Minotaur?
Beyond that personally disappointing moment, which was still legitimately good storytelling, the rest of the issue is very good. It’s a fast-paced story, with multiple, fascinating layers, all leading up to what’s going to be one heck of a final battle. Yes, it looks like the bad guys might win at this point, but that’s how these stories work. Watching the good guys regroup and fight back (hopefully with a revived Orion) is going to be a blast!
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 July 26, 2014, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, Spider-Man, Superman and tagged Amazing Spider-Man, Batman and Robin, Batman Eternal, Damian Wayne, Riddler, Silk, Storm, Wonder Woman, Zero Year. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.