Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 8/2/14

How awesome was Guardians of the Galaxy? I had my doubts in the very beginning, but man oh man, that movie rocked! Physically, metaphorically and musically! Expect my full movie review either later today or tomorrow. Maybe I’ll go see it again!

For now, how about we bask in some comic book love? Though, foolishly, I didn’t bother reviewing the newest issue of Guardians of the Galaxy. What can I say, I don’t particularly care for the comic. But I do love me some Uncanny X-Men, Hawkeye and Harley Quinn, all of which we got to enjoy this week.

Comic Book of the Week goes to New Avengers #21, because writer Jonathan Hickman is really pushing our favorite superheroes beyond the breaking point.

Bye Superman!

Comic Reviews: Batman Eternal #17, Harley Quinn #8, Hawkeye #19, Justice League #32, New Avengers #21, Red Lanterns Annual #1, and Uncanny X-Men #24.

And here’s my review of Cyclops #3.

Batman Eternal #17

Batman Eternal #17
Writers: Ray Fawkes, Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Artist: Dustin Nguyen

Looks like we’re still dealing with the Batwing/Corrigan storyline, my least favorite storyline in Batman Eternal. Take that for what you will.

We get a flashback to three years ago, when Deacon Blackfire was some evil preacher who used drugs and such to get a rabble of people to follow him. At one point, he managed to kidnap Batman and hold him prisoner for a week, but Batman broke free, called Deacon on his BS and got the rabble to turn on him. Now, Deacon is back with some kind of evil supernatural power, controlling even more minions in the supernatural bowels of Arkham Asylum. Batwing and Corrigan try to fight their way out, but they get overwhelmed.

In Japan, Red Robin and Harper Row meet with the old tech guru. And in Wayne Manor, Julia Pennyworth questions why her father would reduce himself to being a butler.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

Oddly enough, Batman Eternal #17 seems to have very little to do with any other part of this series. Batman Eternal is the most incomprehensible, disconnected weekly comic I’ve read from DC, and I read Countdown. The trial of Jim Gordan couldn’t be further from the resurrection of Deacon Blackfire. Who even knew he was dead? Did we? I recall the name, but I know very little about the character, and the sudden flashback does little to make him a character worth caring about.

Nguyen’s art remains dark and moody, but it’s also still very sloppy and rushed. I realize that’s going to happen in a weekly, and it doesn’t detract too much. But when very little happens story wise, one would hope the art would pick up the pace. Corrigan spends most of the issue begging the Spectre to come out to play, and that would have probably been interesting, but it never happens. Instead, a villain we didn’t know about until just now is apparently super bad, you guys. Things are just so wildly weird in Arkham Asylum that it’s almost impossible to ground myself and care about what’s happening and why it matters.

All I know is that two characters I don’t particularly care about are in over their heads against a villain I don’t particularly care about, and neither one of them is Batman or Robin. This whole storyline is an example of Batman Eternal giving itself far too many plots.

Harley Quinn #8

Harley Quinn #8
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Chris Hardin

There are two kinds of Harley Quinn issues. Sometimes, Harley actually has a purpose, interacting with interesting characters (like Poison Ivy), and her wacky humor is done in service to the plot. And then there are issues like Harley Quinn #8, where Conner and Palmiotti just kind of throw one wacky sequence at us after another. They’re not as good, but they’re still mostly entertaining.

The issue opens with Harley trying to pawn some stolen jewelry. The pawn shop owner gives her a great deal when she stops two robbers from holding up the joint. Then we cut to one of Harley’s roller derby sessions. She gets beaten up by a big bruiser on the other team, and when Harley goes too far in getting her revenge, she’s kicked off her own team – only for the captain to give her a secret pass to something called Skate Club (like Fight Club). Moving on from that, we head to Harley’s apartment building, where she and Big Tony have completed work on a catapult on the roof. All the animals Harley has living on the third floor create a lot of poop, so we spend more than a few pages hurling bags of poop at people and buildings in New York City. When Harley catches another assassin, they catapult him into the propeller of a passing airplane. In the end, some other weirdo is spying on Harley and intends to meet her, because that’s how all new characters are introduced to this comic.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Harley Quinn is obviously DC’s attempt to ape Deadpool. And it’s working wonderfully. The series is incredibly popular, I believe, and it deserves to be. There’s a zany terror at the heart of Harley Quinn, and it’s a lot of fun to read. But when the zaniness overpowers everything else, it ends up detracting from the overall quality of the comic – at least for me. When it comes to characters like Deadpool and this version of Harley Quinn, their wackiness works best when they have a straight man (or woman) or a serious situation to rub against. Wackiness drowns in other wackiness, no matter how wacky you make it.

Conner and Palmiotti just keep bouncing from one wacky scene to the next, with every character involved engaged in some level of wackiness, Harley especially. She has no real emotional connection to anything she does, whether it’s quitting her roller derby team (a waste of a neat storyline) or building a poop catapult. Wacky for the sake of wacky isn’t as good as wacky with a purpose.

Hawkeye #19

Hawkeye #19
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: David Aja

The other day, the Pizza Dog issue of Hawkeye won an Eisner Award. This has been one very creative, very awesome book. And here we have a sign language issue, for which Matt Fraction did real research into sign language to make happen. I applaud the creativity and skill that went into this issue.

But I don’t read sign language.

After the last attack from the Tracksuit Bros, Barney is in a wheelchair and Clint is deaf. They return to their apartment building, and Clint is pretty bummed. Barney tries to snap him out of it, but Clint just continues to sulk. So they later get into one of those classic fist fights on the roof (similar to a fight they got into when they were kids), and that brings Clint around. They gather the tenants and rally them into a unified team to take on the Bros – and the Barton brothers kick things off by trashing one of their hideouts.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

As much as I hate to complain about the unique experience this comic provides, I don’t read sign language, and there wasn’t a helpful guide on what was being signed. So I have no clue what was being said, and sometimes the pictures weren’t telling the story well enough, especially towards the end. I’m only kind of certain that the Barton brothers trashed one of the Bros’ hideouts. And I’m not entirely sure when that happened chronologically. Was it before or after they rallied the tenants on the roof? At least it was a cool moment with some great art…

Everything about this picture is amazing

But your guess is as good as mine as to what exactly transpired.

Unfortunately for me, I’m not a big art critic. I know what I like and I know what I don’t like, but I’m terrible at critiquing or rating comic book art. Perhaps you’ve noticed that I rarely mention the artist in my reviews. I hate that I can’t bring myself to do that, but I’m a story guy, I’m a writer. That’s what’s most important to me, so that’s what I talk about. And as it stands, as great as David Aja is, as creative as the sign language element was, it detracted from the issue for me personally. I applaud the skill and creativity that went into the sign language, by all means. But in terms of telling a story in a comic book, it was more gimmick than revelation.

Justice League #32

Justice League #32
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Doug Mahnke

I have little connection to the Doom Patrol. I can remember reading a comic or two about them when I was a kid, but I’ve never read any of their legendary comics or the like. They just don’t matter to me. So seeing their New 52 debut means very little. But at least this issue has one cool thing going for it…

Element Woman is alive! Her disembodied form was collected by Dr. Niles Caulder of the Doom Patrol, and he introduces her to the rest of the classic team. Then together, they go after Power Ring, but Caulder is an asshole. He single-mindedly wants to capture Power Ring, while the rest of the Doom Patrol want to help the people in Power Ring’s path of destruction. The Justice League show up and manage to do both, though Power Ring is pretty tough. Caulder keeps calling his own team ‘freaks’ and orders them to hold off the Justice League while he plays with Power Ring’s ring…but Lex Luthor has also arrived, and he grabs Caulder

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

So…this issue kind of ruins Dr. Niles Caulder for the entire New 52, right? I have little to no experience with the character, but has he always been such an unrepentant asshole? He’s cruel and mean to the Doom Patrol, and clearly has some kind of evil ulterior motive. But like I said, I have no real attachment to the Doom Patrol, so I don’t particularly care that they’re all being mistreated by their leader.

I care about Element Woman though! I loved her when she debuted prior to Forever Evil, and I’m sad to see her stuck with the Doom Patrol. I hope she and the Justice League patch things up and she can rejoin the real team. She’s just too much fun to be tossed aside onto the Doom Patrol.

Your enjoyment of this issue depends on how much you care about the Doom Patrol. As a rival superhero team, they could make for interesting opponents. And seeing Lex Luthor stick it to the jackass Caulder could be fun. But why bother including them? Is the Power Ring plot not good enough? It seems like a solid Justice League problem to me, and I suppose it serves as a mildly entertaining reason to bring all these characters together. But considering we’re also dealing with the Lex Luthor storyline, plus Superwoman’s pregnancy, there are a few too many plot lines ruminating in Justice League these days. At least Mahnke is doing a fantastic job on art. Everybody looks great, especially the Doom Patrol.

New Avengers #21

New Avengers #21
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Valerio Schiti and Salvador Larroca

Speaking of the Justice League…I don’t remember the last time I wrote about New Avengers in this column, so maybe this issue needs a little introduction. Basically, in the great war of incursions, the Illuminati have come against a world where the superheroes closely resemble the Justice League (kind of like the old Squadron Supreme). In the past few issues, the two teams met to tried and discuss what they were going to do about the imminent destruction of both their worlds. The Justice League (known here as the Great Society), opted to hope for the best. The Illuminati built a bomb to blow up the Great Society’s world. I wrote a bit more about it all in a review of New Avengers #19, but basically, it’s the Illuminati vs. the Justice League for the fate of their worlds.

And it’s awesome.

In the battle between the Illuminati and the Great Society, Dr. Strange has given himself over to dark demons, and his black magic pretty much kills them all. But the heroes of Earth realize how insane he’s become, so they take Strange down before he goes too far. Sun God (Superman) manages to survive, and he begs them not to go through with it, but the Illuminati tell him ‘too bad, so sad’. They set their bomb and retreat to Earth…but nobody can pull the trigger. Reed offers, but he can’t go through with it. Black Panther offers, but after a lengthy discussion with the ghosts of his ancestors, including his father, he can’t do it either(the ancestors totally wanted him to go through with it, though). In the end, only Namor has it in him to pull the trigger and blow up the other Earth.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

I loved this issue. I love this whole conflict! Hickman’s whole Incursion concept has been pretty insane since the very beginning, but he’s using it wonderfully to explore the very hearts and souls of his characters. It’s big, high concept, superhero sci-fi mixed with real, emotional drama. Who could ask for anything more from a comic? These are some of Marvel’s biggest superheroes, and it’s up to them to save the world, but what do they do when saving the world means doing something horrible? Do you let everybody in the world die to hold on to your morals? It’s a question they all must answer, and the scene where the Illuminati members pass around the bomb trigger is great.

This is gripping stuff. And after several pages of our heroes monologuing or arguing about why they can’t go through with it, Namor picks up the trigger and explains why he can do it in merely a few sentences. Hickman is in the hearts and minds of these characters, and he’s put them in as extreme a position as possible to twist them around. It’s great comics.

Red Lanterns Annual #1

Red Lanterns Annual #1
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Miguel Sepulveda

For some reason, DC is using this Annual to give us Part 3 of 4 of the big Guy vs. Atrocitus battle. That doesn’t seem to make much sense, but considering how much happens in this issue, maybe Soule and Sepulveda just enjoyed having the extra space.

In the ongoing battle between Guy Gardner and Atrocitus, the big red beasty takes his new Red Lantern army (including the traitor, Skallox) and attacks the Earth. Literally. The Red Lanterns destroy the Eiffel Tower, the Grand Canyon and more in a massive attack. Then when everybody on Earth is pretty darn angry, Atrocitus floods the planet with red rings, creating an army of Red Lanterns that go wild. Guy and Bleez show up with help to stop them, and they bring along some friendly aliens they met a few issues ago. These aliens have a special beam weapon that pacifies the angry Reds, but Atrocitus attacks their ship. Guy, Bleez and Supergirl (who is no longer a Red Lantern) team up to stop him.

Meanwhile, Zilius Zox takes his ship to Atrocitus’ new blood lake to destroy it – but he’s betrayed by Rankorr, who kills him! Actually, it turns out that feral Rankorr was possessed by some kind of mind controlling alien Red Lantern, and when he forces Rankorr to kill Zox, that makes Rankorr angry enough to rip that alien right out of his body. He shares a few words with the dying Zox before taking off to help Guy. In his last moments, Zox pilots the ship into a collision course with Atrocitus’ new citadel.

Back on Earth, Guy tries to seize control of the human Red Lantern army, but it doesn’t work. The issue ends with Atrocitus and his massive army of human Red Lanterns.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This issue is insane. And I kind of hate when comics do this. Red Lanterns destroy the Eiffel Tower? The Grand Canyon? They practically take over the planet? Seriously? This is Red Lanterns. This isn’t Justice League or Forever Evil. Who gives a minor series like Red Lanterns permission to destroy the Grand Canyon in the DC Universe? This isn’t going to stick, all of this destruction will be brushed off, so it robs the issue of its urgency. This isn’t a big-time crossover. This is a small comic reaching beyond its station. It’s just a pet peeve of mine.

The issue itself was kind of fun. Most of the individuals, like Guy and Atrocitus, were lost in the massive expanse of story. But their conflict is still very entertaining. I liked the stuff with Rankorr, because I like the character, and the reveal that he isn’t evil was a huge relief. I hope to see him kick some butt next issue as he comes to the defense of his home planet. And I’m sad to see Zox go. Red Lanterns has done some great things with pretty minor characters, but now Soule is casting them aside. It’s too bad.

This issue is one big, insane series of fights, but Soule has done such a great job getting us invested in these characters, that I actually care about how all of this is going to go down. Sepulveda does an OK job trying to keep up, but he was clearly rushed in every aspect of this story. The art is great in places and hideous in other places. This is a big, wonderful mess of a comic, with just enough character attachment to keep me on board.

Uncanny X-Men #24

Uncanny X-Men #24
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Kris Anka

Ah! Bendis needs to just get to it already! Cyclops has been butting heads with the other X-Men for years now, but every time it looks like we might finally get some solid movement on that front, we just get more tense conversations. Those tense conversations might actually mean something if they didn’t happen all the time!

It would be a bigger deal that the X-Men had to get Cyclops for the reading of Xavier’s will if they hadn’t just had a crossover with Cyclops in that big Sentinel attack in the previous storyline. If Cyclops had only stuck around to help clean up, he wouldn’t even need these past two issues because She-Hulk would have caught him at the school.

Anyway, She-Hulk reiterates that the X-Men need Cyclops present before she can read Xavier’s will. Beast reveals that he’s known all along that Cyclops and his team are at the old Weapon X facility, he just didn’t give two poops about them. So after some grumbling, the X-Men fly off to pick up Cyclops, which results in even more grumbling once they face off. Cyclops agrees to join them for the reading of the will, but he has Magik teleport him to the school rather than accept a ride.

So She-Hulk gets to reading, and it’s revealed that Xavier married Mystique at some point! That’s strange enough, but then Beast finds a little Shi’ar holographic emitter in the will, and a big hologram of Xavier reveals that his darkest secret is a very dangerous mutant he’s had to keep under the wraps, and the X-Men are going to have to deal with it now.

Oh, also, that guy from last issue with explosion powers is still around. This time, he explodes some SHIELD agents who come after him, though he’s still confused as to what the heck is even happening to him.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

The revelations in Xavier’s will are just teasers, and don’t have much impact on their own, at least not yet. The issue ends far too quickly for these surprises to really sink in, and none of it sounds all that interesting to met just yet. Xavier marrying Mystique is more weird than intriguing. And his deepest secret is yet another uber powerful mutant he’s kept in hiding? Please. That was kind of Xavier’s thing. The Xavier Protocols, anybody? Or Vulcan? So as of right now, the surprises in Xavier’s will are a little disappointing. I was hoping for something that would really put pressure on the rift between the two X-teams, like Xavier giving the Jean Grey School to Cyclops.

The drama between all the characters remains strong. I still love how Bendis is writing Cyclops. Just because all of his former teammates are pissed at him doesn’t make Cyclops any less of a strong character. Really, the X-Men come off as the bitter ones here. It’s funny how Beast declares in this issue that he doesn’t want his life defined by Cyclops, but the only thing he’s really done in X-Men comics in the past few years is rail against Cyclops. If he didn’t have his membership in the Illuminati, he would be completely defined by his anger towards Cyclops.

As much as I’m enjoying the drama between the two teams, I hope Bendis brings it to a climax soon. I’m ready for some big, devastating moments. I just hope it doesn’t end with Cyclops going full super-villain. That would be a huge waste.

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 August 2, 2014, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hawkeye was great. Nice use of sign language, even if I was too lazy to actually look up what it all meant. Would’ve been nice if they’d included translations. Side note: I met a girl in college who knew sign language. She complained about never getting to use it. That has nothing to do with anything, I just wanted to mention it.

    New Avengers was well-written, but I still find the book darker than is my own taste.

    UXM was great. Some really, really nice character drama. And Emma’s reaction to the Mystique thing was hilarious. I’m sceptical of that idea, but even if it ends up sucking, it might be worth it purely for Emma’s reaction. And bravo to Kris Anka for nailing that bit. I actually don’t want the rift between Scott and the others to be sealed. I want him to stay out on his own, doing his own thing. What I’d like to see is a JGS book that gets a bit more into their own political efforts, but I think the problem is that the JGS side is following the Lee and Claremont models of having no frigging idea how civil rights movements actually work. The JGS books want to be all about fun and adventure, and blah. Regardless, I want Scott to be kept away from them.

    • Casually dropping hints that you knew a lot of hot ladies in college? I see how it is.

      • Well, she was in the comic club I joined in my final semester. So, “knew” in the sense of “hung out with once a week with a group of other people.” She wasn’t someone I dated or hooked up with or anything. For one thing, she was gay.

        But I was in a Library Technician program, so most of the people in my class were ladies, so yes, I suppose I did know a lot of ladies in college. It didn’t help me get laid.

      • My comments section is not Wonder Woman’s lasso. You could have embellished! But man, if my school had a comics club, I wish I’d found it.

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