Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 8/9/14

Reviews are going to be especially Hench-Sized today, folks, because your favorite henchman (and mine) is currently at Boston Comic-Con! If you’re there as well, maybe we’ll unknowingly bump into each other. You’ll know me as the especially handsome and charming fella. Unfortunately, no costumes this year. I’m just going for the fun of it and to maybe conduct some business. We’ll see!

As for this week, I’ve got some disheartening news. I was all set to review the new issue of Rocket Raccoon, having just come off the glorious Guardians of the Galaxy film. I thought to myself that I now understood the character, and surely he would translate well from screen to page. Nope! Not at all. I really wanted to like this comic. Skottie Young is doing great stuff. But the Rocket Raccoon comic is the complete antithesis of my sense of humor.

So to be fair to the issue, I decided not to review Rocket Raccoon #2. It’s a fine comic, sure, but I would have given it a bad grade because the comedy is just so terrible – but it’s not unintentionally terrible. I’ve no doubt there are a lot of people laughing their heads off at Rocket’s antics, but I am not one of them. Just like how I can’t stand Deadpool’s humor these days. And humor, as we all know, is subjective. So sorry, blog readers, I won’t be reviewing Rocket Raccoon going forward.


But that’s OK! Because we’ve got solid issues of She-Hulk, Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Grayson and another issue of New Avengers to look forward to! Isn’t that enough for you people? I just wish the Guardians comics were as good as the movie.

Comic Book of the Week goes to She-Hulk #7 for just being kind of adorable, with an homage of sorts to Honey I Shrunk the Kids. And if you’re so inclined, you can check out my review of Moon Knight #6 over at Word of the Nerd.

Comic Reviews: Batman Eternal #18, Grayson #2, New Avengers #22, Superior Foes of Spider-Man #14,  and She-Hulk #7.

Batman Eternal #18

Batman Eternal #18
Writers: Tim Seeley, Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Artist: Andy Clarke

Looks like we’re finally done with the Batwing/Spectre portion of our story for the time being. I’m sure we’ll get back to them eventually, but now the braintrust behind Batman Eternal has some new plots to drop in our laps! At least they include a relatively cool Killer Croc cameo.

In Gotham, Batman and Jason Bard chase a mysterious man down into the sewers, where they encounter Killer Croc. Bard thinks Croc has killed both the man and the girl he was carrying, but Croc insists they were his friends, and they were coming to him for help. Some other evil force has killed the man and kidnapped the girl. Croc agrees to join the heroes to help save the girl. In Blackgate, Jim Gordon gets a lesson in tribal customs from his cranky old roommate, while the gang war starts to take off inside the joint. And in Brazil, Batgirl, Batwoman and Red Hood raid a toy factory, only for Batgirl to fall victim to a Pupper Master-esque toymaker.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Killer Croc, ever since Batman The Animated Series. So seeing Croc join the ever expanding cast works for me, especially when he acts like a reasonable person, willing to team up with Batman for the greater good. I love villains who are capable of that. The Batman/Croc/Bard team-up was pretty good. I liked it. Gordon’s scene was mostly filler, so nothing to say there. And the current storyline in Brazil remains very, very weird. I suppose it’s a fun use of characters who don’t normally spend any time together, but the idea that they need to infiltrate a toy factory in Brazil to solve Gordon’s frame-up is way out there, especially now that the Puppet Master’s non-union, Mexican equivalent is involved.

Batman Eternal continues to hum along at a relatively solid pace. I like some of the plots and I dislike others, but none of them rise to the level of truly enjoyable or especially deep.

Grayson #2

Grayson #2
Writers: Tim Seeley and Tom King
Artists: Mikel Janin, Guillermo Ortego and Juan Castro

The first issue of Grayson was pretty good, and I’m happy to say that the trend continues with the second. Dick Grayson remains a thoroughly likable character, no matter his status quo. I hope Seeley and the gang can keep up the enjoyable quality.

Dick Grayson and Helena Bertinelli are given their second mission: head to the small town of Farmington, Leicester in England to retrieve a cybernetic stomach device. They find out that the stomach was stolen by Dr. Poppy Ashemoore, a former British spy who went rogue when all the crazy stuff she experienced as a spy turned her crazy paranoid. Now she has super speed and an insatiable appetite (due to the stomach she transplanted into herself). She solved the appetite problem by becoming a cannibal who ate all of the previous operatives sent to bring her in.

Dick wants to defeat Ashemoore and bring her to the authorities, but instead, Helena knocks him out and offers Ashemore a job at Spyral in exchange for the stomach. The doctor accepts!

In the end, Dick makes a call to Batman and they reminisce about a picnic they once enjoyed with Alfred and Barbara Gordon.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Seeley creates a nice balance been the spy adventure, Dick’s chemistry with Helena, and a continued connection to Batman. While I still think letting Alfred and everyone else believe Dick is dead is a bit harsh, this definitely feels like a special assignment for the former Boy Wonder, and the continued camaraderie between Dick and Bruce is really nice. I love it when the two of them are getting along. Likewise, Dick’s budding partnership with the new Helena Bertinelli is more than entertaining enough to keep the story going. They have a nice chemistry, and I will definitely enjoy seeing them out in the field together in future issues. Character is always key, especially in a comic like this.

I only wish DC’s spy landscape was a bit more rigid and better defined, so that these characters and adventures could have a little more context. As it stands, there’s nothing that really stands out about Dick’s adventures with Spyral in a world full of superheroes, spies and all manner of everything. Literally anybody else or any other organization could be having these exact same adventures.

Also, just to nitpick, Bruce and Dick use codenames when they talk to keep things private, which I understand completely. Bruce is ‘Mr. Malone’ and Dick is ‘Birdwatcher’. But why is Barbara’s codename ‘Red Riding Hood’? Wouldn’t that get confusing considering Jason Todd’s name is ‘Red Hood’? Dick and Bruce couldn’t come up with anything better to describe Barbara than her hair color? Some superheroes.

New Avengers #22

New Avengers #22
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Kev Walker

After a stellar previous issue, New Avengers takes a slight step down in quality to deal with the aftermath. I don’t know if it was the rushed shipping schedule or what, but the art suffers, and the story itself just isn’t as strong as what Hickman wrote just one issue prior.

In the wake of Namor blowing up the other planet with the Illuminati bomb, everybody kind of just freaks out at what they’ve done. Namor remains unrepentant, and Black Panther is pissed off that Namor went through with it after Panther decided they wouldn’t. The two get into a fight, but the rest of the Illuminati pull them apart. Then Namor reveals that, during Infinity, he tricked Thanos’ armies into attacking Wakanda, which pisses Black Panther off even more. The Illuminati pull them apart again, and then one by one, they all hang their heads and leave.

Only Reed and T’Challa are left in the end, but before they can speak to one another, the Incursion Alarm goes off: they only have 8 hours until the next one.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Don’t get me wrong, Kev Walker is a fine artist, and I’m sure he could hold his own on any comic book. But this is New Avengers at the very height of its story and prestige. These are half a dozen classic Marvel heroes at their very lowest, coming to blows at a moment when their entire world has turned black. This issue should be gold, but Walker’s more amateur style just isn’t up for the task. Characters and their positioning, or the way their bodies react to getting punched, just look too wonky and cartoony to handle the very, very serious nature of these confrontations.

The story, likewise, just isn’t as powerful as the previous issue. Namor is a regular Chatty Cathy, and all anyone can do is tell him what a jerk he is, a fact that Namor already knows and embraces. Had Hickman actually let Black Panther kill Namor in this issue, then the comic would have been something special. Instead, it’s just a bunch of characters looking glumly at their feet over the bad thing they did, and Black Panther twice trying to beat up Namor. Though that cliffhanger is absolutely perfect, given the nature of the various conversations the characters have. They promise each other that they’re never going to do something so evil again, but now they only have 8 hours to figure something else out. The tension has never been higher, and it makes for a great comic book.

She-Hulk #7

She-Hulk #7
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Javier Pulido

I hope you guys and gals were growing bored with She-Hulk’s law firm storyline, because it’s apparently time for a break to instead have a wacky superhero adventure! I don’t know about you, but I was digging the law firm stuff, and comic where She-Hulk and Hellcat shrink themselves to have a miniature adventure is almost too cliche to be good…but Soule and Pulido pull it off swimmingly. It’s a wacky break in the much better action, but they get a lot of mileage out of the issue.

She-Hulk and Hellcat are hired by an inventor whose partner has disappeared right before they sell off their big invention: the Shrinko, a portable shrink ray. Turns out, the guy has shrunk himself because he doesn’t want to sell, so the ladies ask Hank Pym for help, and then they all go on an adventure in the missing inventor’s back yard, like Honey I Shrunk the Kids. Mostly it’s a way for She-Hulk and Patsy to argue over whether or not they trust each other, while getting into some hijinks with a bird, a bunch of cats, and the fact that Patsy can’t seem to get Hank’s ant-controlling helmet to work. They eventually find the guy, return him to normal size, and Hank proves that their Shrinko technology is more explosive and unstable than his Pym Particle technology. So the two inventors agree to sell to their buyer after all…who turns out to be Hank Pym.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

First and foremost, this issue was unexpected. Soule hasn’t completely ignored She-Hulk doing superhero things in this series, but this is the first issue where she’s almost specifically doing something superheroic instead of something lawyerly. Frankly, it’s disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine issue, and at times quite fun, but I don’t think anybody was asking for a wacky, shrunken adventure in She-Hulk. Soule has been making waves with this new series and it’s unique style. Seeing him switch to a cliche adventure trope like a ‘shrunken adventure’ just doesn’t sit completely right with me.

But nit picks aside, it’s a fun comic. Pulido’s art isn’t for everybody, but I like it, and he draws a fairly wild looking back yard. Jen and Patsy continue to hash out their differences, so the story stays focused on its characters. And Hank Pym is used well – though I’m surprised Soule didn’t use Scott Lang. Isn’t Lang the one starring in Marvel’s big budget Ant-Man movie? Didn’t Soule get the memo?

Speaking of Ant-Men, Patsy makes two Eric O’Grady references in this issue. He’s currently dead, but if Soule is somehow going to bring him back as a supporting character in She-Hulk, I am all for it!

Superior Foes #14

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #14
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artists: Steve Lieber and Rich Ellis

I guess now is as good a time as any for some origin flashbacks, right? Apparently that’s what Spencer was thinking, because instead of continuing the excellent story in any meaningful way, we get a flashback to Overdrive’s origin. It helps, considering he’s the least developed character in the series, but it leaves the issue spinning its wheels.

Now that the Sinister Six have a little downtime, Spencer decides to answer some questions left open in the past few issues. Basically, what were Overdrive, Beetle and Speed Demon doing while Boomerang tussled with Chameleon and the Owl? Overdrive gives his origin story: he wanted to be a superhero, so when Mr. Negative offered him his ‘pimp my ride’ superpowers, Overdrive jumped at the chance, with the intention of eventually betraying Negative and becoming a hero. But apparently he’s now expected to pay for those superpowers, so he joined the Six to earn some money to pay off his debtors. And those debtors returned to trouble him and Beetle, so they had to escape, which led to Overdrive pimping out a school bus.

Meanwhile, Speed Demon had to give up his dog. Remember when he stole that puppy from a little girl in one of the first issues? Well there are ‘Missing Dog’ posters offering a reward, so Speed Demon gives the puppy back and gets the money. It’s a great sequence, told without dialogue.

These flashbacks were all part of a conversation the Six were having at Boomerang’s safehouse, where the Shocker is secretly lying low too. But when he overhears Boomerang badmouthing him, the Shocker reveals himself by getting angry and taking everybody out!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Considering I’m a sucker for super-villains who become good guys, I actually liked Overdrive’s origin, and it definitely works to change and improve the character in my eyes, so that’s pretty awesome. On the other hand, the story of what he and Beetle were doing off on their own just wasn’t all that interesting, even if it gave us this amazing double-page spread.

This scene is totally radical!

Really, between that sequence and Speed Demon’s wordless flashback about returning the dog, this issue was all about showcasing artists Lieber and Ellis, which is fine. Superior Foes has always had some quality art chops, and everyone involved pulls off the kind of comedy that the Rocket Raccoons and Deadpools of the world could only dream about. This is the more cerebral, character-based comedy that I enjoy, and to that extent, I liked the comic a great deal. But it really is just an unnecessary break in the middle of an ongoing story.

I realize we all need a break from time to time, but it feels like this story has been going on forever.

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 9, 2014, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, Spider-Man and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. New Avengers continues to not be my thing.

    Superior Foes is hilarious.

    She-Hulk’s great. A lot of fun, and some nice drama between Jen and Patsy. Also, I’m always happy to see Hank Pym show up. I was annoyed at the four repeated panels early on, though. It felt cheap and lazy.

    • Those panels, jeez! I hate that! I understand why it’s done, but couldn’t Pulido have gone in and at least changed the direction of Jen’s eyes or something. It’s creepy as heck.

  2. Grayson felt like a book written for smart people. That was an extremely refreshing experience from DC. And She-Hulk, as usual, was the shit. I’m getting slowly more optimistic for superhero comics.
    Also, damn. I wanted to go to the Boston con, but I was working through the whole weekend. I haven’t been to one in years. I think I read Neal Adams was there? Part of me seriously wanted to go there and argue with him about whether or not Batman Odyssey was garbage. But it wasn’t to be, I guess.

    • Boston Comic-Con was sweet! I didn’t see Neal Adams though. I’m actually pretty terrible about meeting the pros at these things. I approached Jim Calafiore and asked him what he’s working on these days, and when he said ‘Red Lanterns’, I got into a confusing back and forth about whether or not he really is since I hadn’t seen him on it in awhile. Then after some other people showed up to actually buy his stuff, I awkwardly walked away. It was embarrassing. My friend Kristi had much better luck with the likes of Gail Simone and Amanda Conner though. Apparently Amanda Conner is super nice.

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