Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 8/16/14

I noticed something kind of odd when I went through these reviews, and I’m not sure if it’s a bad thing or a good thing. I’m still trying to read more comics than just the Big Two, but even at the big publishers, I seem stuck to the same titles over and over. There are two Batman books in my review stack this week, two Spider-Man books, and one X-Men comic. I know I try to branch out as much as possible, but for some reason, this week felt like I was in a specific rut. It’s a little weird. But what can I say? These are the comics I like to read and review.

Fortunately, sprinkled in among the mainstream superheroes, are some goodies, like new issues of Captain Marvel and Harley Quinn. But like some insane carnival mirror, one is awesome, the other is a dud! I can barely believe it! Care to guess which one is Comic Book of the Week?

Oh and hey, guess which classic costume is back in continuity again

Comic Reviews: All-New X-Men #30, Amazing Spider-Man #5, Batman #34, Batman Eternal #19, Captain Marvel #6, Harley Quinn #9, Original Sin #7 and Spider-Man 2099 #2.

All-New X-Men #30

All-New X-Men #30
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli

I love romance as much as the next guy. And Brian Michael Bendis is using it oddly in All-New X-Men. It was only a few issues ago that he seemed to be setting up a relationship between Young Cyclops and X-23. That would have actually been interesting, considering the decades of history between Cyclops and Wolverine. But then Greg Rucka launched a comic where Young Cyclops leaves the team to join his father in space. I wonder how that came about. Was this always part of the plan? Or did somebody tell Bendis he couldn’t have Young Cyclops anymore? Because he’s just slotted Young Angel into his place.

After racing off from HQ at the end of last issue, Angel and X-23 have a night out at the clubs, where they get into a big fight, which is kind of expected for the two of them. Then Warren flies her to one of his family’s rich, expensive, suites somewhere so they can lie in bed and get cuddly with one another. Meanwhile, back at HQ, Emma takes some time to work with Jean Grey in a typical, hard-headed manner. She uses memories of her affair with Scott to get into Jean’s head, but Jean informs her that she’s already beyond crazy and pissed off, so there’s little more Emma can do to really upset her. The two are soon locked in mental combat, with the rest of the team eavesdropping (think Neo vs. Morpheus in the first Matrix), only for Emma and Jean to come out of it as friends. Then the X-Men from the Jean Grey School show up to inform them about the reading of Xavier’s will, from the pages of Uncanny X-Men.

Also, Kitty Pryde and Star-Lord are dating via long-distance hologram.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I rather enjoyed how the Jean/Emma mind battle ended. It felt a little cliche how the two of them battled in the mind, but I suppose it needed to be done. The two characters have a lot of baggage, and it could be fun to address it. I like the idea that they end as friends, chuckling over something that’s only between them. Yet another female character having a bitter rivalry with Emma would be lame. Likewise, I enjoyed the conversation that X-23 has with Angel, but the hook-up doesn’t ring true. Obviously Warren is the next solid choice if Bendis can’t use Scott, but there’s no telling where it might go. I’m unfamiliar with Laura’s love life so far, so who knows if this has any legs. Every good comic has a nice romance, and Bendis has already got to walk on eggshells with the Young Jean. I assume that’s one of the reasons he brought X-23 on board.

According to the blurb on the last page, there’s a big crossover coming up with the Ultimate Universe. So between that and the repetative cliffhanger with the Jean Grey School X-Men, this issue is all about wrapping up or playing with certain storylines before the bigger stuff takes over. I can understand that. Happens from time to time, and it was all generally enjoyable. Bendis’ flare for character is as strong as ever, and Pichelli can draw the hell out of all of them. But the issue generally just moseys along, touching on expected notes, never really surprising any of the characters.

Though I do want to go on record saying this Kitty/Star-Lord thing is dumb. But I only say that in terms of my generally disliking the comic book Guardians. There’s just something false about them that doesn’t come close to the awesomeness of the movie Guardians.

Amazing Spider-Man #5

Amazing Spider-Man #5
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Humberto Ramos

I have good news! For all of the Phil Urich fans that have no doubt migrated to my blog (tell your friends!), he makes his glorious return this issue! It’s nothing spectacular, and he’s still a bad guy, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers. That good news has got to count for something. The rest of the book ain’t so bad, while we’re on the subject.

Spider-Man and Silk are getting hot and heavy, but when she reveals that she knows his secret identity, that’s like a cold shower to Peter and he calls it off. They both realize that there’s some kind of intense spidery attraction between them, but Silk insists she be allowed to see more of the city. Part of that involves joining Peter at The Fact Channel, where Sanjanny was due to be interviewed for Parker Industries, but since she’s been kidnapped, Peter has to take her place. That’s also where Jonah’s new TV show is going to debut, so Jonah is in the studio as well. But the interview is interrupted by Black Cat and Electro, who burst in to attack Peter Parker to draw out Spider-Man. There’s a big fight, with Silk and Spidey teaming up to fight the bad guys. But then Black Cat gets Spidey at her mercy, ready to pull off his mask on live television – with Jonah there to see it all!

Also, earlier in the issue, Black Cat crashed a mobsters meeting between Mr. Negative and the new Goblin King, Phil Urich. She wants to be a part of the criminal stuff they’re planning. It’s nice to see that Phil is still out and about, though why Peter didn’t insist on finding him and giving him a healthy dose of that Goblin Cure is beyond me. The stuff cured both Norman Osborn and Carlie Cooper!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I’m really liking Silk. I still think her name and costume are silly, but Candy Moon is a strong, fun, positive character. And I like her camaraderie with Peter, especially since it mostly involves shagging. They’re kind of cute together. There’s a fun scene where Anna Maria stumbles in on Peter and Candy, and it’s just as adorable and tense as one might expect. When Slott is focusing on the characters and their interactions, the series is a lot of fun. But I’m still not sold on anything he’s doing with Black Cat or Electro. Turning her into a villain just isn’t the right move. And ending the issue by threatening to reveal Peter’s ID on live TV? What is this, the 60s? The superhero action and tension isn’t as much fun as the personal life stuff in Amazing Spider-Man these days.

Batman #34

Batman #34
Writers: Gerry Duggan and Scott Snyder
Artist: Matteo Scalera

This is just a strange issue. Snyder just spent the past year retelling Batman’s origin story in Zero Year. Batman #34 is the first return to the present day…but all we get is a quick little fill-in by guest writer Gerry Duggan. Not to say that’s a bad thing, but I don’t really understand it. Did Snyder have nothing else planned for the return to normal? Or maybe the timing was off, and DC just needed a quick fill-in issue between the end of Zero Year and the special Future’s End issue in September? If that’s the case, Duggan and Scalera deliver a fine, done-in-one Batman adventure.

There’s a murderer on the loose killing random citizens, and Batman is hot on his trail. The killer is some lowly gravedigger who works for peanuts at The Potter’s Field, where they burying Gotham’s homeless and other indigents. It gives the killer the perfect means of disposing of his victims. Batman quickly discovers that the killer’s victims are all patients of Leslie Thompkins, so he stages an ambush and catches the guy. The killer thought that because he was a nobody killing nobodies, that Batman would never bother. He was wrong. Afterwards, Batman sticks him in Arkham Asylum to get a little notoriety. Then he joins Harvey Bullock at The Potter’s Field to solemnly watch them uncover all the people who were killed before Batman could stop the guy.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This is a fine, fun, Batman story. It doesn’t rock the boat or deliver any sort of special theme or meaning, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Maybe it’s the one Batman story Gerry Duggan has been sitting on for years. If that’s the case, awesome for him! It’s a cool little piece, one that involves a nice bit of detective work and some quality crime-fighting by the Dark Knight. It’s tied nicely into Batman’s world, though perhaps a bit too perfectly with the connection to Leslie, but it still works. I like the little tidbit about how the killer thought he was below Batman’s notice. It’s a nice little twist on a serial killer in Gotham.

Scalera does a fine job as well. The art is sufficiently moody and dark. The killer, who I believe remains unnamed, is nicely sinister, and Batman is as Batmany as ever. I have no real complaints about this comic. It’s a solid, enjoyable Batman story with a few neat little bits here and there. That’s kind of what we all want from Batman.

Batman Eternal #19

Batman Eternal #19
Writers: Tim Seeley, Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Artist: Emanuel Simeoni

Or maybe this is what we want from Batman. For some reason, the past few issues of Batman Eternal have been all over the place. There are half a dozen different plots going on at any given time, and none of them seem to have anything to do with one another. The split focus is working against the book. Maybe if they focused on just one or two at a time, the book would be stronger.

In Brazil, Red Hood survives his fight with Batgirl by reminding her of the first night they met, breaking her out of the Puppet Master’s spell – it also helps that Batwoman totally whooped the Puppet Master’s butt. In prison, the gang war turns into a riot, with several guards being held hostage, and the angry inmates headed straight for solitary confinement to get at Falcone and the Penguin. Several prison officials manage to make it to Gordon’s cell to check on him, and news of the riot convinces Gordon to get involved to help save those guards. In Japan, things are suddenly hunky dory with the inventor. He and Red Robin have a little chat about training Harper Row, which she overhears, because she’s smart. And in Gotham, Batman, Croc and Bard find the kidnapped little girl in the bowels of the sewer system, where the Ten-Eyed Man is conducting some kind of insane ceremony.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

Batman #34 had personality. It had purpose and focus, and it made for a nice Batman comic. Batman Eternal #19 lacks focus and heart. It’s a bunch of random storylines, spreading the various members of the Bat-Family all around the world for no discernible reason. The writers aren’t even using the international angle for any greater purpose. It’s no big deal that Red Robin and Harper Row are in Japan. I get the feeling that Harper is the kind of home-grown kid who has never left Gotham, but now she’s in Japan and nobody cares? Batgirl, Batwoman and Red Hood are in Brazil chasing a lead that still doesn’t make much sense. Aside from my personal love of a Tim Drake/Harper Row team-up, the only storyline I’m really enjoying is Batman’s jaunt into the sewers, and that’s only because Batman and Killer Croc make a fun team. The actual adventure into the sewers is just as generic as everything else.

Batman Eternal doesn’t seem to have anything to say about Batman, Gotham City or anything else, for that matter. It’s just cruising along with a bunch of random different storylines, failing to come off as a cohesive whole. Why does this comic exist? And why does it exist as a weekly?

Captain Marvel #6

Captain Marvel #6
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: David Lopez

As much as I love DeConnick’s Captain Marvel, she still can’t bring me to care about this alien storyline. It’s been a disappointing direction since issue #1, and not even a big fight conclusion is enough to make me care. Sorry, Kelly Sue, I love your comic, but this storyline has been a drag.

Captain Marvel faces off against the Spartax fleet, smashing her way through several ships as she tries to hold them off the planet of Torfa. Planetside, the Spartax troops are being very unkind to the citizenry, so the Matriarch starts organizing a better resistance. She has most of the people start a sit in instead of fighting back, and she sends two of Carol’s new pals up into space to relieve her in battle. She sends Carol to destroy the Vibranium mines, because that’s all the King cares about. The King swears revenge, but Tic has arranged for cameras to record his statement and broadcast it to the universe. The King is forced to withdraw, but he swears vengeance on Carol.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I dunno. Maybe people liked this story, maybe they didn’t. It’s a tough call. DeConnick’s skill and charm are everywhere, and Lopez is downright perfect for the title. But the storyline is just crap. I hate the Spartax King with a hatred I usually reserve only for the Hellfire Brats, and that’s a hatred based more on him being a stupid and annoying character, instead of hating him for the reasons I’m supposed to, within the context of the story. So he’s just stupid in roles like this, where he’s such a Mr. Burns level of evil that the good guys’ fight has no meaning. And this just wasn’t Carol’s fight. She has zero connection with Torfa and zero rivalry with the Spartax King. DeConnick tried her damndest to come up with interesting alien characters and an interesting plight, but it’s all meaningless to me. Some random aliens are squabbling over alien things, and Carol pops in for some reason. That’s the past six issues summed up in one sentence.

Harley Quinn #9

Harley Quinn #9
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: John Timms

I can’t tell if the writers are pandering to Harley Quinn and cheesecake fans in this comic or not. Harley Quinn is one of the more popular comics today, and I’d like to think it has a strong female influence. But then issues like this come along, where the whole first half is about Harley dressed up in a burlesque outfit making out with another woman. That couldn’t be more fan servicey than if the woman was Poison Ivy, and this comic has come pretty darn close to that sometimes! Still, Harley Quinn is a fun read, and sexy things are sexy.

Once again, Harley has volunteered to fill in at Big Tony’s burlesque show, even though she made a mess of things last time. She gets dressed up in a big, sexy costume and performs a little play for their hipster audience about a sexy astronaut (Queenie) meeting a sexy alien princess (Harley). They even get to kiss on stage, but when Tony whispers that Harley should using kissing her ex-boyfriend as motivation, Harley snaps, throws Queenie into the crowd and a riot breaks out! The cops come in to break it up, and one of them puts Harley in cuffs. He shoves her in the back of his police car and takes her out to the dregs of Staten Island. Harley quickly realizes something is up, but she goes along anyway, and discovers that the guy is Harley Quinn’s #1 Fan! His whole house is decorated with Harley paraphernalia, and he has three comic book nerds locked up in his basement who dared to insult her!

The guy locks Harley in a cage, but she doesn’t stop talking, and eventually goes full-on therapist with him, getting to the root of his obsession and convincing him that it would be best to see a professional. If he agrees to meet with a real doctor, she promises to meet up with him in the future for a real date. The real cops come and take him away, Harley frees the geeks in the basement (sort of), and then she goes off to Skate Club.

Also, one of Harley’s tenants, Missus Macabre, has a son in prison, and she’s helping him to escape. That’s probably going to lead somewhere.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

When Harley Quinn focuses on a single story, it can be a lot of fun, like this issue. It told one story all the way through, with some great comedy, some strong Harley moments and bits of sexiness that, I’ll admit, are excitingly sexy. Harley is just that type of character, and it works for her because both she and the writers know exactly to what degree Harley Quinn will allow herself to be sexy. For example, she starts the issue in a burlesque outfit, but spends most of the rest of the issue in a frumpy sweater (which is also really sexy on her, but still). Her characterization drives this series, and it’s just a lot of fun. I kind of get the feeling that maybe we really will see that crazy fan again, that Harley really will keep her word about visiting him. She’s just that strong of a character.

Timms did an OK job filling in on art. He’s no Amanda Conner, but then nobody is. If she ever gets around to drawing one of these issues, it’s likely to be the hottest comic of the week.

Original Sin #7

Original Sin #7
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Mike Deodato

Welp, looks like Original Sin is going to limp to the ending, dragging out this non-story for every issue it damn well can. Sheesh. Just end it, already!

Everybody fights Old Nick Fury, but he pretty handidly takes out the Avengers, and uses a few leftover secrets to do it. He whispers something so heinous in Thor’s ear that it immediately causes the God of Thunder to be unworthy of wielding Mjolnir. And he’s able to hack into Iron Man’s armor with a voice command that sends Tony rocketing back towards Earth. Meanwhile, inside the space station, the other heroes are debating whether or not they should stick around, side with the Avengers or leave. Dr. Strange insists they all stay and take the fight to Old Fury. But then Orb wanders in and we get a flashback to several days ago, where he and his villain buddies snuck into the Watcher’s home, and it was the Orb that shot him! But the Watcher didn’t die just then. In the same flashback, we see that Old Nick Fury arrived at the Watcher’s home a short time later for a final confrontation.

In the present day, Old Nick Fury returns to his base for some final plan, only this time, there are a bunch of Watchers watching from the sky.

Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.

None of this matters. Whatsoever. So the Orb shot the Watcher (but didn’t kill him), who cares? Only Jason Aaron cares about the Orb. He’s not an interesting character. This is not an interesting plot. And everything else, from the Avengers to Old Nick Fury to the other heroes on the space station, is just filler. Boring, meaningless filler! I stand by my assertion that this story was just a framing device for the various ‘twists’ or ‘secrets’ that various writers wanted to drop into their comics. Marvel and company came up with a bunch of ideas – like Silk or the fact that Angela is Thor’s sister – and then asked Aaron to come up with some wafer-thin crossover story to give them all meaning. Well it didn’t work. These eight issues have been an exercise in drawing out nothing into even more nothing.

Spider-Man 2099 #2

Spider-Man 2099 #2
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Will Sliney

The new Spider-Man 2099 series is just Scarlet Spider redux. When Chris Yost’s attempts to turn Scarlet Spider into a second ongoing Spider-Man comic failed, Marvel apparently just turned around and asked Peter David to do the exact same thing! Peter David is great, of course, but he’s phoning it in with Spider-Man 2099. This is an unimaginative, boring comic.

Miguel goes to the bank to deposit some money, only to end up stopping a robbery attempt. In his narration, he comments on how lame it is that no matter where he goes, there’s always something going on that he has to stop. That’s just his luck. Back at his apartment building, he brings flowers to his cute, pink-haired superintendent in an attempt to make peace, but she’s still giving him the cold shoulder. She invites Miguel into her apartment, but kicks him out when he mentions that he glanced through her mail and knows that she’s sick. In his own apartment, his new boss, Liz Allen, stops by to quiz him about possibly being Spider-Man, and the fact that she did a background check on him but couldn’t find anything. So Miguel reveals to Liz that he is from the future, and reveals everything about his connection to Alchemax and Tiberius Stone (but he doesn’t mention that he’s Spider-Man). Liz responds by kissing him and leaving. After she’s gone, Miguel’s supervisor comes back to apologize for kicking him out earlier, and she reveals that she has Leukemia and only a few months to live.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

Want to understand how boring this comic is? Peter David is forced to insert a random bank robbery in the opening pages just so that something exciting happens. He’s unwilling to commit to a talking heads issue. He even has his main character comment on how weird it is that he stumbled into a bank robbery. Then PAD essentially takes a page out of Screenwriting 101 with Miguel’s flirtation with his building superintendent. Her name is Tempest, she has pink hair, and is all around snarky. She couldn’t be more of a cliche if he tried. The scene with Liz Allen was a little more interesting. I liked that Miguel just came right out and admitted that he was from the future (which, I suppose, wouldn’t be too difficult to understand if you’re living in the Marvel Universe). That was unique, at least. But everything else is so boring.

Miguel doesn’t act like somebody from the future stuck in the present. He wears sunglasses, goes to the bank and buys women flowers, just like any other person. There’s nothing especially futuristic about his thoughts, his speech, his actions or his motivations. He’s essentially just a grittier Peter Parker. At least the year 2099 provided awesome visuals. In this comic, he’s stuck in boring old 2014. I do not understand the motivation for publishing this comic. It’s a more boring, less unique version of the Scarlet Spider comic that got cancelled at the end of last year. At least that comic actually dealt with Kaine being a clone, and it introduced Aracely to the world, so that’s one-up on whatever Peter David is doing here.

I mean, come on! Why would you take Spider-Man 2099 out of the year 2099?! That’s the most interesting thing about him!

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 16, 2014, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I can’t figure out who the hell thought “Batman Eternal,” “Original Sin” or “Spider-Man” 2099 were good ideas.

    In general, Spidey stuff is tanking hard these days, even though it’s coming from Peter David and Dan Slott. There was a time I’d have pissed myself if you told me these guys would be on Spidey books, but now I couldn’t give fewer fucks.

    Slott’s “Silver Surfer” is still great (at least until it’s inevitably cancelled by issue #12), and we still have the memories of David’s previous “X-Factor” run before things got stupid with the “All New” imprint, but these guys are no longer at the top of their game. I’d like to blame Marvel editorial for this, but considering that Slott once made lawyering in comics fun and David made waiting in line at an ATM interesting, this is all on them.

    Once upon a time, these guys could have made watching paint dry worthwhile. Now, their biggest books *feel* like watching paint dry.

    • PAD’s X-Factor used to be brilliant, the best X-book on the stands, but it started getting weaker towards the end, and nowadays I just don’t care for what he’s putting out. I think he’s lost the magic touch, sad as it may be to say.

      I’m still happy with Slott. I thought Superior Spider-Man was brilliant comics. I’m less excited about his return to Amazing, but you’re right about Silver Surfer.

  2. I haven’t been reading all of the Amazing Spider-man comics lately, just intermittent, so i’m wondering, does Black Cat have more of a reason to turn totally dark side than just getting punched in the face? I mean, yea i know ‘hell hath no fury’ and if she’s siding with electro just for some spidey payback, i can understand. But wanting in on criminal operations? I dunno, she’s a burglar already so i guess it’s not too much of a leap. I liked her as she was though, even though she was a catwoman ripoff.

    • When she got punched in the face, it led to her getting arrested by the police for (apparently) the first time ever. Her identity was exposed, she lost all of the wealth she had accumulated. Basically her life was over, all because Spider-Man turned on her and got her arrested.

  3. ANXM was fantastic. Just a great issue. Angel and Laura have a surprisingly good chemistry. Kitty and Quill have a great chemistry, and I’m totally OK with those two. And then the Jean/Emma confrontation was tense and funny, and ended in a terrifying way.

    ASM was good. I still don’t like Black Cat as a villain.

    Captain Marvel was great. A lot of fun. I’d hoped to see more of Carol kicking ass, but there was a lot of story to fit in. I was satisfied with what we got.

    Original Sin was meh. It had some plot development, at least, after 4 completely wasted issues. But still, this sucks. What an awful story this has turned out to be.

    Spider-Man 2099 was a lot of fun, as usual for PAD. I read a lot of his original Spider-Man 2099 run, and I’m not disappointed, so far, with this current run.

    • I never read anything 2099 back in the day; barely anything, at least. So I don’t have the cushion of nostalgia for Spidey 2099 like I did for Scarlet Spider. That may be why there’s a stick up my bum for this comic. I also didn’t read the Trial of Jean Grey storyline in All-New X-Men, so I completely missed Peter and Kitty getting together. Reading that probably would have helped.

      • I’m a sucker for Peter David in general. I love his writing. And I like Miguel. So I’m enjoying that book.

        And yeah, reading the Trial of Jean Grey crossover probably would’ve helped with knowing about Kitty and Quill getting together. Still, even in just this issue, I find their chemistry really works. Better than Kitty and Iceman ever did, certainly. I think it’s because Quill is a Peter. Kitty’s best boyfriends are Peters. Colossus was a Peter, and they worked well, especially in Whedon’s Astonishing. Then in Excalibur, she hooked up with Peter Wisdom, who’s awesome, and they were fantastic together.

        Now, Peter Quill. And it works.

      • Plus Kitty and Ultimate Peter Parker! Man, I loved that couple. That story was way, way too brief.

      • There you go. Kitty should only ever go out with guys named Peter.

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