Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 9/13/14

A week after my birthday and I get all my presents! How else do you explain new issues of Hawkeye, Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel all arriving in the same week? I would be hard-pressed to name three other comics I enjoy reading more these days. So thank you, Marvel, for the belated birthday present. I understand you need to stick to Wednesdays.

And lucky for us, they’re all pretty good!

Though having to choose between Hawkeye and Ms. Marvel for Comic Book of the Week is tough. I think I’m going to have to give the edge to Hawkeye for another Kate Bishop issue by Matt Fraction and Annie Wu. It was the battle of the adorable protagonists, and Kate Bishop won by a nose.

Kate Bishop knows a good blog when she sees one

Kate and Kamala are both cutie pies.

Speaking of cutie pies, I decided to pay a visit to New Warriors again before the end, because it’s an issue that serves as a would-be epilogue to Scarlet Spider. Does it live up to that previous series? No. Is it still fun? I suppose.

And anyone who is interested can read my review of Death of Wolverine #2 over at Word of the Nerd. I’ve decided to review all four issues of that weekly series, and it hasn’t been too bad so far.

Comic Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #6, Batman Eternal #23, Captain Marvel #7, Hawkeye #20, Magneto #9, Ms. Marvel #8 and New Warriors #9.

Amazing Spider-Man #6

Amazing Spider-Man #6
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Humberto Ramos

The first story arc of the relaunched Amazing Spider-Man comes to an end with this issue, and I am sadly underwhelmed. Superior Spider-Man was a revelation! It was such a sharp, clever series, with the forward momentum of a runaway freight train. So I was very excited to see Slott return to Peter Parker – but the relaunch definitely isn’t living up to the hype and excitement.

The problems are twofold: 1.) Nothing in Peter’s life is as exciting as what Otto Octavius was doing, and 2.) Slott has filled these few issues with more subplots than 10 comics! And most of them fall pretty flat.

Silk saves Peter from being unmasked on live TV and the two flee the TV studio, much to J. Jonah Jameson’s embarrassment. Later that night, Peter is tapped to give a demonstration to the NYPD of Parker Industries’ new Anti-Electro device — which, of course, is ambushed by Electro and Black Cat. The Cat tampers with the device to overpower Electro and kill everyone, but Peter risks his life to save Electro and de-power him, teaching Silk that a true hero even helps their worst enemies.

In the end, Electro is de-powered and arrested, and the Black Cat hires a bunch of C and D-List supervillains, intent on becoming the newest costumed crime lord in New York (even though the scene completely ignores Superior Foes of Spider-Man).

At Parker Industries, Peter reveals that even though the failed test made the company look bad, they still cured Electro, so he considers that a win. But Sajani secretly disagrees. She was the one who told the Black Cat how to tamper with the device, because there’s no money in anti-super-villain technology. She wants to work with Anna Maria behind Peter’s back, because she’s far more concerned with making a profit than with curing super-villains.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I know that Superior Foes of Spider-Man has been cancelled, but do Slott and Ramos really have to completely ignore that series? Boomerang, Shocker and a male Beetle are all present in the scenes where Black Cat hires the low-level villains, yet no mention is made that these guys (and girl) are the Sinister Six! And kind of don’t like each other! But whatever. This is Amazing Spider-Man, and it hasn’t been cancelled. This is the hard pill we have to swallow. Sniff.

Beyond that little nitpick, I liked the issue, but as I said above, it’s just not as sharp or as driven as Superior Spider-Man. I still hate the idea that Black Cat has become a cackling super-villain, robbing her of her formerly unique position in Spider-Man’s life. Slott plays this change completely straight, but I absolutely can’t take her seriously, whether she’s hiring the usual cast of low-level idiots to be her ‘army’, or teaming up with Electro for what was always going to be a failed super-villain scheme. She just doesn’t work as a straight super-villain.

Though any appearance by the Spot is welcome

The Peter Parker material was better. Silk is proving to be a far more interesting and fun character than I gave her credit for, and her weird animal relationship with Peter is kind of funny and charming. Peter, meanwhile, feels kind of boring compared to Otto, but I think Slott is using that to his advantage. While Peter thinks this company he was ‘gifted’ can be used to do good, more realistic minds are already conspiring to make it a real company. Peter just doesn’t have the head for running a business, and I think that dynamic, especially with the always-amazing Anna Maria in the middle, is going to be a lot of fun to read.

Some of the subplots work, but a lot of them don’t, and as a whole, the series is just too full of them. Slott has too many plates spinning with Amazing Spider-Man to make for a fully compelling series. Couple that with some underwhelming character choices, like making Black Cat a villain, and the relaunch is off to a shaky start.

Batman Eternal #23

Batman Eternal #23
Writers: Tim Seeley, Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Artist: Dustin Nguyen

A day may come when Batman Eternal lives up to its hype. When it delivers an amazing Harper Row story, or does something incredible with Stephanie Brown; making either one of them the new Robin. A day will come when Batman is the confident, competent superhero we all love, and I’m blown away by Batman Eternal.

But it is not this day.

The main story involves Jade, the kid that Batman, Bard and Killer Croc rescued from the sewers a few issues ago, hunting down Catwoman to deliver a message from Rex “The Lion” Calabrese in Blackgate – he wants to meet. So Catwoman, angry that Rex would send a kid, breaks into Blackgate to tell him to shove off. Calabrese reveals that not only is he Catwoman’s father, but that he wants her to step up and use the family name to take control of the rampaging gang war. She wants no part of him and leaves.

Elsewhere, the Architect and Hush activate an Earthquake below Gotham City, though it fails to bring down the Beacon Tower, like they’d hoped. And in the mayor’s office, Bard convinces the mayor to declare Martial Law in Gotham.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

The reveal of Catwoman’s real father is only slightly interesting. I like Calabrese so far, I suppose. He’s an interesting enough character. So I guess this is an interesting enough twist. But nearing the halfway point of the series, Batman Eternal is not yet sticking any of its landings. Only now are we getting into Catwoman becoming a mob boss. And for some reason, Hush and the Architect have come out of nowhere as the lead villains. What do these two storylines have to do with anything that came before?

I never feel like Batman Eternal knows what it’s doing. Instead of using 52 weekly issues to build this big tapestry of a Batman story, they seem to be making it up as they go along. I know they’re not, but that’s what it feels like. Nothing from the current issue feels like it flows from the previous issues. This all just comes off as a bunch of different mediocre Batman stories cobbled together.

Captain Marvel #7

Captain Marvel #7
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Marcio Takara

I just didn’t care for the opening story arc in the new volume of Captain Marvel. DeConnick’s strength lies in Carol’s humanity, and taking away everything human about her adventures just makes for a less interesting series. DeConnick never made me care about the random assortment of aliens living on the planet Torfa. Simple as that. The story was Carol adrift in a sea of uninteresting aliens. And unfortunately, Carol is still in space in this issue, but fortunately, the focus is on Carol and her friends instead of the fate of some alien planet.

If only I didn’t hate the comic book version of Rocket Raccoon.

Captain Marvel has left the planet Torfa…but the young alien Tic has stowed away in her ship, eager to become her new sidekick. Carol reluctantly lets her stick around as they make breakfast. Then Carol makes the rendezvous with Rocket Raccoon to get her ship back, but they almost immediately come under attack by a strange alien craft. Carol, Rocket and Tic rush to the defenses and discover that, not only is Carol’s cat Chewie really a Flerkin (as Rocket said), but she’s also laid eggs, and the strange alien ship wants to take her.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I love the movie Guardians of the Galaxy with all my heart, and Rocket Raccoon was quite possibly the best character in the film. He was whimsically awesome. But for some reason, I just can’t stand the comic book Rocket. I’m pretty sure he suffers from the Deadpool effect. In today’s comics, Deadpool is wacky for the sake of being wacky. He’s just zany, and he breaks the Fourth Wall, and everybody loves him for it – except me. I just don’t find him funny. Rocket’s the same way. He’s zany and angry and violent, but he lacks the heart and cleverness that made him such a great character in the film.

Rocket in the movie was a real person. Rocket in the comics is a cartoon character.

The kitty cat is a better character than the wisecracking, gun-toting raccoon

So pretty much every word out of Rocket’s mouth was like nails on a chalkboard for me in this issue. I also can’t stand the way that the Guardians have been elevated to A-List status in the comics and everybody acts like that’s always been the case, Carol especially. It’s grating. But fortunately, there was still a lot to love in this issue. Carol and Tic have a nice rapport, and seeing Carol have a friendly, human conversation with someone is a welcome return to this comic’s better days. DeConnick writes Carol at her best when she’s just being a normal person.

The plot is also delightfully weird. I’m a big fan of cats in comics, and Chewie was always cool. It’s a little disappointing to find out she’s really an alien, but the idea that Captain Marvel, her sidekick, and Rocket Raccoon have to fight a band of space cats is just too awesome to pass up. I hope they’re adorable.

Hawkeye #20

Hawkeye #20
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Annie Wu

For some reason in life, we can’t have good Matt Fraction things. Brian Michael Bendis and Dan Slott can both write Spider-Man comics for years, but every time Fraction gets going on an amazing series (FF, The Order, Iron Fist, Hawkeye), he jumps ship at the height of its amazing glory. It’s so depressing!

At the very least, the final Kate Bishop issue is as great as we’ve come to expect.

With the help of her florist friend from earlier in the series, and Harold H. Harold, who isn’t really dead, Kate Bishop sneaks into Madam Masque’s crime party to get some incriminating evidence. The sneaking involves posing as one of those creepy naked women ‘tables’, where rich snobs eat sushi off of naked women. It’s so weird, but I’ve seen it on TV.

Unfortunately for Kate, when she gets access to Madam Masque’s computers, she discovers that her own father is one of Masque’s clients! So Kate burns down Masque’s HQ, gets into a fight with her henchmen, and then SHIELD shows up to take everybody into custody. SHIELD is very interested in Masque’s life-model-decoy operation. In the end, SHIELD lets Kate go, so she loads up her care and leaves LA for a face-off with her dad!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Despite a weird, non-linear progression for most of the issue, this was another great chapter in the Kate Bishop saga. Annie Wu’s art is just stunning. It’s the kind of art that makes me wish more comics drew like her, instead of the cheesecake style that still dominates comics. Wu’s Kate looks so real and personable, so full of life and energy; Wu really sells the comic. Fraction keeps things humming along smoothly, matching Kate’s look with a stellar personality. Her gentle moments with her LA friends are a real treat. And usually hilarious.

If you find this funny, then I like you as a person

Kate’s rivalry with Madam Masque is just a wonderful take on the hero vs. villain dynamic. Hawkeye as a series has earned every praise it has received, especially considering Fraction is writing essentially two separate comics, and both of them are just as great as the other. It’s going to be a sad day in comic land when Hawkeye comes to an end.

Magneto #9

Magneto #9
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Gabriel Hernandez Walta

The road to AXIS begins here! I think! I’m not paying nearly as much attention to AXIS as I should be, and I’m definitely not reading Uncanny Avengers, but I used to read Magneto, so I thought I’d check out this issue and get a look at things to come.

The Red Skull and his S-Men have turned Genosha into a mutant concentration camp, so Magneto sneaks in, full of confidence and bluster, determined to destroy them. He remembers a time during the Holocaust, when he could have used his burgeoning powers to kill one of the Nazi guards, but he failed to act. This time, he’ll do it right.

Magneto tries to save two young mutants, but they’re too afraid of the Red Skull to join him, so he casts them off as cowards. However, when Magneto tries to assault the Skull, he is quickly defeated by the S-Men, and it’s only then that he realizes the mistake of his arrogance.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I think AXIS is going to give Magneto the purpose it has so far lacked. Magneto #9 makes for a quick, sharp look at what makes this villain turned anti-hero tick, and I’m excited about this series again.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Bunn’s interpretation of the character, especially in light of the work Brian Michael Bendis is doing with him on Uncanny X-Men. But now that Magneto is driven to defeat the Red Skull, Bunn and Walta deliver an issue as strong as the first few. Magneto is full of arrogance and hubris, and of course he thinks he can defeat the Skull. Learning the error of his ways  makes for good character development. Magneto struggles with being so impotent, and the barbed wire that makes up his soul is on full display in this issue.

Magneto is in a great place these days, character-wise, and considering what we know about AXIS, I really look forward to seeing where his character goes next.

Ms. Marvel #8

Ms. Marvel #8
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Adrian Alphona

Ms. Marvel is the best comic of 2014, hands-down, from any company. Wilson and Alphona take the familiar superhero formula and inject the sort of life into it that every writer dreams about. I’m gushing, I know, but this series deserves to be gushed about.

Lockjaw finds Kamala in Jersey City, and the teen is immediately in love with the big ‘Bizarro Dog’. She brings Lockjaw home and convinces her parents to let her keep him, unaware of his true agenda. But Lockjaw isn’t shy about revealing his super-powers, and Kamala immediately recruits him to help her find the missing teenagers kidnapped by the Inventor. She follows a trail of clues that lead to an abandoned factory in the middle of nowhere.

When they arrive, the heroic pair fight a giant robot, which is being powered by one of the missing kids. She saves him, gets him to a hospital, and makes it to school just in time to be late. But before her teacher can fully scold her, another giant robot attacks the building, having tracked Kamala to her school!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

As much as I enjoyed the fill-in art, Alphona owns this series. It was just so wonderful flipping through the first few pages of this issue and seeing the familiar joy that radiates from Kamala Khan under his pencils. The detail and the personality in each panel is a wacky roller coaster ride of looks and smiles. Alphona is clearly getting more comfortable drawing the new Ms. Marvel’s weird, ever-expanding powerset.

That face/head!

Kamala is the sort of character, and this is the sort of writing, that makes me wish I was a better writer. Wilson has created the character find of 2014, a breath of fresh air in the sometimes stagnant world of men in tights. Kamala is just so much fun, both in and out of costume, that it’s going to kill me in a few years when she gets lumped into the next reboot of Avengers Arena. If that ever happens, I may have to swear off comics forever.

This issue, in particular, is a nice showcase of Kamala’s personality in the face of superheroics. Whether she’s trying to break into a super-villain’s HQ or just paling around with her new best friend, Lockjaw, she’s such a delightful person. I think Marvel just found the best possible use of Lockjaw ever.

New Warriors #9

New Warriors #9
Writer: Christopher Yost
Artist: Tana Ford

Not to be too arrogant about it, but I feel like saying “I told you so” about this New Warriors relaunch. I dropped it after two issues. As much as I like Yost – and I loved his Scarlet Spider series – there was just something generic and uninspired about this New Warriors comic that left a lot to be desired. I’m not surprised in the least that it’s being cancelled so soon.

But I’m jumping back in for another look because this issue stars Scarlet Spider returning to Houston! It’s kind of an epilogue to that earlier series.

Following their victory over the High Evolutionary, Justice takes Scarlet Spider back to Houston to try and settle the reluctant hero’s anger. But Kaine doesn’t want anything to do with Houston or the New Warriors – until they are attacked by a giant, rampaging bear mascot who wants to start a hero/villain rivalry with Scarlet Spider. It’s a long story.

Scarlet would rather just leave town than fight, but after his old friend Officer Wally makes amends, Scarlet returns to help Justice save the day. Meanwhile, the other New Warriors go to a rave.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

The ‘generic’ and ‘uninspired’ complaints I have about this series still remain. I wouldn’t go back to reading this comic after just this issue. The cast of characters is just so boring. It’s a random smattering of random superheroes, new and old, and Yost just doesn’t do anything new or interesting with them. Even his take on Scarlet Spider is kind of boring.

However, that giant, evil bear mascot monster is inspired.

How long has Yost been sitting on this genius?

Maybe if Yost had channeled the old Nextwave comic, with villains as strange and insane as Choke the Bear, then this comic would have been something else. He’s a giant bear mascot turned kaiju who thinks he’s doing the city of Houston some good by ‘pumping up’ the citizenry and the police, which is a mascot’s job. The heroes tear out his eye and then blow up the costume, revealing a nerd underneath. It’s madness! But it’s overshadowed by the laborious back and forth between Justice and Kaine, and it’s interrupted by random scenes of the rest of the team going to a nightclub.

Seriously, there is probably no superhero more boring in the Marvel Universe than Justice. And having him as the lead character says a lot about New Warriors.

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 September 13, 2014, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. About Batman Eternal, I feel like it would be much better if it just foccused on the Gordon trial. But no, they bring us one plot after another and never develop any of them. It’s a shame, really. I know you don’t read Futures End, but the same exact thing is happening there.

    Ms. Marvel is wonderful! Kamala might just be the best kid in comics right now (well, her and Miles Morales).

    • I feel the exact same way about Batman Eternal. The idea of Commissioner Gordon going on trial, even if he was framed by a super-villain, would make a great, year-long story. Make it this big, huge thing, go through every step of the process, have Batman working to solve the mystery behind the scenes, have Batgirl going off her on her to save her father. Have Gordon face all manner of internal struggles. It could have been a great focus.

      Instead we get this wild mess of different stories, and barely halfway through, Gordon’s already been pushed to the background, even though his is the most compelling story.

      I also feel the exact same way about Ms. Marvel. Soooo good.

  2. I like silk a lot. I feel that Slott is copying DC from catwoman. I get new warriors to support anything Kaine related and Yost is one of my favorite writers. I am trying to read Ms.Marvel but I have to go two hours back home, because my local bookstore wont order it because she is a Muslim.

  3. ASM is OK. But Silk’s introduction has been botched horribly. She’s coming across as a total Mary Sue, and that’s going to turn readers against her, and they’re not likely to come around. Also, Black Cat as a villain is still stupid.

    Captain Marvel was great. Hilarious.

    Hawkeye was great. I do love me some Kate Bishop.

    Magneto’s good, but man, Bunn needs to have an issue without Magneto’s narration.

    Ms. Marvel was wonderful. So adorable. And it was a really packed issue, too. It touched on basically everything in her life, and still had time for a fight.

    New Warriors was hilarious. Any time Kaine gets thrown into a ridiculous situation is great.

    • Silk as a Mary Sue? Yeah, I can see that. I mostly like her. She’s friendly, and might bring out something new in Peter Parker. But yes, Black Cat as a villain is a horrible idea.

      • Silk has only just debuted. We know she’s faster than Peter. Her Spider-sense is better. She has organic webs, and actually has different types of organic webbing. She’s repeatedly rescued Peter, while telling him how incompetent he is. And Peter’s intensely attracted to her.

        All of this lends itself towards being a Mary Sue. She hasn’t been established – yet – as being as smart as Peter, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens next.

        None of these things, on their own, are really a problem. Even all together, they’re fine, except that they’ve all been crammed into her first three issues. She’s been shilled way too hard, and that’s actually going to make her a harder sell in the long term.

      • Wow, you’re right, I hadn’t considered those factors all together. That’s kind of a text book definition of a Mary Sue…

  4. I think I understand what’s wrong with Batman Eternal: I’m getting the sense that this book was a result of all the writers not wanting to step on each other’s toes, so instead of creating one cohesive story, they just let each other do their own stories with a few minor connections and as a result we have a Tim Seeley book, a Ray Fawkes book, a Scott Snyder book, and a James Tynion IV book, with John Layman in the middle stalling for time. Those are all good, even great writers, so you would think that would be great. But these are all stuck in the same damn book. Had Batman Eternal been broken up into three or four different titles, things would be much improved. As it is, it’s just a mess of plots and sub-plots falling all over each other. with no time for any of them to do anything but jump from one big moment to the next. I wish they had followed the No Man’s Land approach and taken one plot point at a time, resolved it, then moved on to the next. No Man’s Land was huge and had so much happening in it, yet everything felt like it had room to breath. Greg Rucka could write a whole issue of Batman and Gordon just talking, and it not wouldn’t get in the way of anything else in the story, it could be one of the best issues in the series.
    Here that sort of storytelling is impossible, because even with 52 issues, they have to rush like crazy to fit everything in, so it’s just one big explosion after another, with no quiet moments to give them contrast. If this book took two years instead of one, it may have been able to pull it off, but as it is, it’s a mess.

    • That’s a distinct possibility. Maybe they had all the various writers come up with different plots and now they’re Frankensteining them together. That would explain a lot. And you’re absolutely right that there’s been no time for quieter downtime moments. Those are key to any story.

  5. “Instead of using 52 weekly issues to build this big tapestry of a Batman story, they seem to be making it up as they go along. I know they’re not, but that’s what it feels like.”

    You have a lot more faith in them than I do from the sounds of it. =P

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