Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 9/27/14

I don’t know what to tell you, henchies, but this week was kind of a busy one for yours truly. Couple that with a rather low key week of releases and I’ve only got four reviews for you! I know! I feel like I let you all down. But man, there were just some boring comics put out this week. I just couldn’t bring myself to read the latest issue of All-New Ghost Rider.

But we’ve got new issues of Batman Eternal, Cyclops, Storm and the excellent New Avengers, which easily wins Comic Book of the Week. If you’re a fan of Doctor Doom, you should be reading New Avengers. I’m giddy with excitement over that guy.

Though while we’re here, I was hoping I could ask you readers for some feedback on my Hench-Sized Reviews. I’m always looking for ways to improve this feature, but I’m not sure what you guys and gals like or dislike. Personally, I’ve started to feel like I put these reviews together on an assembly line. It’s efficient, but is it worth reading?

What do you folks think? Do you like that I include a synopsis? Would you like more review? I know I don’t talk about art much, but I could. Are these things even constructed very well? Are they getting too long?

Any feedback would be much appreciated, even if you only stumbled upon this page, or you don’t comment very much. I can only get better if you fine readers let me know how, so please, jump down to the comments and let me hear it!

Comic Reviews: Batman Eternal #25, Cyclops #5, New Avengers #23, and Storm #3.

Batman Eternal #25

Batman Eternal #25
Writers: James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder
Artist: R.M. Guera

The other day, I tried to plot out all of the steps to Hush’s plan in Batman Eternal, if Hush is indeed the mastermind behind this whole thing (I don’t think so). But I didn’t get very far before it didn’t make any sense.

So Hush sends Carmine Falcone a very specific invitation to be in Gotham at a very specific time to watch Commissioner Gordon fall. But to take out Gordon, Hush contracts with a Brazilian puppet master to make Gordon think he sees a gun in a bad guy’s hand, while down in the subway tunnels, with Hush somehow knowing that Gordon would try to shoot the gun out of the guy’s hand rather than shoot the guy (a decision no real cop would make). That the bullet instead hits a fuse box and causes a train derailment is completely random, but still succeeds in putting Gordon down. And if the derailment was pre-arranged, how could he be sure Gordon would accidentally shoot that fuse box at that exact moment?

Meanwhile, to take out Alfred, all Hush does is show up at Wayne Manor and ambush the butler with a syringe of fear toxin.

Did he only have one syringe of fear toxin? Why not just take out Gordon the same way?  A comatose commissioner would still need a replacement.

And that’s not even getting into everything with Jason Bard and the Cluemaster. But we’re not here to pick apart Hush’s plan, we’re here to pick apart Batman Eternal!

In this issue, nearly the halfway mark in the series, certain plot points start coming together. With the help of Julia Pennyworth, Batman finds out that it was Jason Bard who freed the Architect from Blackgate, cluing Batman into Bard’s role in this grand scheme. Batman rushes to Bard’s house to confront him, but a hologram of Hush is there to tell Batman that he’s doomed. Then Hush blows up Bard’s house with Batman inside.

Elsewhere, Red Robin and Harper Row show up in Gotham, having finished training in Japan with extremely little fanfare. Why did they go to Japan again? Though I can forgive any inconsistencies with all of the Tim/Harper flirtation going on. That’s exactly the sort of distraction DC needs to keep me happy. Red Robin checks in with Red Hood about the injured Alfred, and together they call in Batgirl. It’s time to get the Family back together, and they show up to help Batman out of the rubble of Bard’s residence.

Meanwhile, Bard convinces the mayor to declare Martial Law.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

As much as I love watching Tim Drake give Batman a helping hand, I can’t help but point out that the Batman and Robin series is telling this exact same story in nearly this exact same way. Over in Batman and Robin, the trio of Red Robin, Red Hood and Batgirl show up to forgive Batman and stand firmly behind him in his quest to rescue Damian. In Batman Eternal, the same exact trio show up to forgive Batman and stand firmly behind him in his quest to stop Hush. It’s a little disappointing that DC can’t get this sort of thing straight.

Beyond that little nitpick, any issue written by Tynion tends to have a lot more urgency and drive than others, so Batman Eternal #25 benefits from that. There’s a real sense of the danger coalescing in these pages (and again, I’m a sucker for the Bat-Family getting together) I can’t say Batman talking to a hologram is all that great, but Batman rushing to confront Bard, and the Bat-Family coming together, were all pretty exciting. I still think the overall plot is incredibly clunky, especially with how easily Batman finds out about Bard, despite their back-and-forth over the past few issues. Batman barely had any time to get to know or trust Bard before the truth is revealed, and Batman never fully trusted him anyway.

My biggest problem here is the art. I don’t know where DC found Guera, but put him back!

Batman looks very uncomfortable

Batman Eternal #25 is hideous! Characters look like misshapen monsters, especially in the face. And everything is some jagged, ugly, off-model mess. Art on Batman Eternal has usually been pretty solid, but this issue is an abomination. I hope Guera doesn’t stick around.

Cyclops #5

Cyclops #5
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Carmen Carnero

Cyclops is probably my favorite character in comics at the moment. I salivate, figuratively, waiting for the next big chapter of his ongoing story, and writer Brian Michael Bendis has yet to disappoint. I can’t wait to see what happens to him in AXIS.

Buuuuut this series is still about the young, time-displaced Cyclops hanging out in space. It’s an enjoyable read, don’t get me wrong, but Rucka could stand to get to the point sooner rather than later.

Cyclops and his father trick some bounty hunters into ‘rescuing’ them off a barren planet, but when Cyclops starts sympathizing with their slave girl assistant, he convinces his dad to play along so that everybody gets off the planet in one piece.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

This was a quaint little issue, but it mostly involved tricking some antagonists we’d never met before, so where’s the victory? Perhaps this is why cartoon shows always used the same henchmen, so that when the heroes win, it means something. The twist of this issue involves this slave girl assistant, and her story/motivation is a little hard to understand. She’s devoted to the bounty hunters, even though they mistreat her, but she betrays them to Cyclops, even though she does it to save them, and fully intends to stay with them, even though they’ll be mad at her. Corsair tries to play it off as a lesson in honor, but if this is all we see of them, then it’s a lesson in spinning your wheels.

New Avengers #24

New Avengers #24
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Valerio Schiti

I realize now that Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers/New Avengers saga is what all these Big Event comics should be (Infinity notwithstanding). Hickman has created a marvelously complex challenge and has thrown all our favorite characters into several no-win situations, masterfully guiding them  as they make difficult decision after difficult decision.  He may have started awkwardly, and he has more than a few weird ideas in play, but especially in the pages of New Avengers, I feel Hickman is crafting a truly glorious epic.

And finally, at long last, Doctor Doom shows his hand.

Eight months have passed since Namor broke away from the Illuminati and formed the Cabal, a team of sinister super-villains who have no problem killing other Earths to stop the coming incursions – except that there has been so much killing that Namor is losing himself. He can’t stand it anymore, and he knows that the Cabal can sense his growing hesitation. So Namor reaches out to Doctor Doom for help in controlling them – but Doom turns him down, much to Namor’s shock.

For you see, Doctor Doom has been working to solve the incursions himself ever since that one opened over Latveria at the start of the series. He recognizes that Namor is now but a fleeting wisp of his former self, and is beyond Doom’s concern. Reap what you sow, and all that. In secret, Doom has been working with the Mad Thinker to use the incursions to create a map of the Multiverse, which he will use to track down whoever is behind all of this. And he’s had the Molecule Man working to build him a device to help.

Meanwhile, the Cabal destroyed Wakanda and started using it as a base sometime in the past 8 months. Black Panther and his sister try to sneak in to destroy their supply of bombs, but it’s a trap, and only Black Panther makes it out alive.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Doctor freakin’ Doom, man. I knew Hickman had something awesome planned for Doom since the start of New Avengers, and he does not disappoint. I love that Doom has teamed up with the Mad Thinker and the Molecule Man to solve this crisis himself. It’s so wonderfully comic booky! It was just a perfect moment for me. It’s an insane reveal, but a perfectly Doom reveal, you know?

The rest of the issue is good too. Thanos and the Cabal are quite villainous, but seeing them toy with superheroes from an alternate Earth isn’t all that fascinating (though I think Hickman finally finds a purpose for Xorn!). I much prefer the storyline for how it effects everyone else. The Cabal is sufficiently evil, though, and is almost of the heroes’ own making, so that should make for some solid conflict down the line. The Black Panther scene was more just to explain where the Illuminati is at this stage, so that was fine.

This issue was all Doom, and that makes for damn good comics. I need to go back and finish reading Hickman’s Fantastic Four to get more of this Doom goodness

Storm #3

Storm #3
Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: Scott Hepburn and David Baldeon

I want to get to know the real Storm. I want to find out who she is and what makes her tick. I want a series that digs deep into Storm as a character, giving her agency and importance all her own. But Storm is not yet that series, and it’s a damn shame. Reading Storm, one really does get the sense that Pak loves the character, but three issues in, he hasn’t found anything all that interesting to do with her.

It also doesn’t help when guest stars get more character development than the main character.

Storm has been invited to return home to Kenya to witness the launch of a new, high-tech irrigation system. The man behind the equipment is Forge, an old flame who has been on a rather rocky road the past few years, usually being used as a super-villain. But Forge is repentant now, and he wants to use his powers to help people. Storm is hesitant to trust him, but goes ahead, helping Forge calibrate his weather machine in order to help break a drought in Kenya.

But one of the villagers is a bit of a hothead, and when he sees Forge’s weather machine at work, he gets the bright idea that he and his village could use it as a means of securing power. Storm puts a stop to that quickly, using a bolt of lightning to smash the machine. She tells Forge that she’ll accept his friendship again if he spends the next year in the village working with the man and his people to build a better machine.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I guess Pak has a soft spot for Forge as well, because this issue was all about his troubles and his journey to redemption. Storm was a supporting character in her own book. The most she did was scold two boys for not playing nice with their toys, and provide the impetus for Forge to become a better person. Now, I like Forge as much as the next guy, but I want to learn more about Storm. I want to read a comic where Storm must overcome some hardship to help people in need, like she did in the first issue. But Pak has yet to find any real conflict with which to test Storm. She remains the same person she has been for years now: the vaguely strong woman who is kind to everybody.

These done-in-one stories are not helping. Storm gets involved in an adventure and solves it in the same issue, with little benefit to her own character. Last issue, she randomly got involved in a missing persons case, then backed off when she found out Callisto was the one who was growing and changing. This issue, she randomly gets involved in drought relief in Africa, then backs off when she finds out that Forge is the one growing and changing.

I want a story where Pak can really sink his teeth into Storm, where she does something that grows her own character. This is a fine comic so far, but Pak could be doing a lot more.

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 27, 2014, in Avengers, Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Personally, as a avid reader of your blog, I don’t have much of a problem with anything in your hench-sized reviews. As an art student I would like it if you talked a little more about the art, like you suggested. But other than that I can’t think of anything to improve it. Everything is laid out nicely so if I don’t have time to read it all I can just find the comic i’m most interested in and read your review for that, then come back later when I have time to read the rest. You give a nice little synopsis, so that I understand enough about the story without it being spoiled so I can still read it later if i’m interested. I would like a little more diversity in comics, but that isn’t your fault, its up to the men and women who make the comics weather there something new out. If you want to change it up a little, I have no problem with that, It’s your blog. Good reviews once again, keep up the good work 🙂

  2. Yeah it’s nearly impossible to get any feedback, isn’t it? Most of the time blogging about comics feels like you’re just talking to yourself, keeping a journal about stuff you like and then sharing it with anyone who decides to spend a minute or two scanning your site in between reading news on CBR or watching YouTube videos.
    My favorite parts about reading your reviews are, naturally, getting what you think about them. It’s your site, so fill it with your opinions!
    You don’t do this too much, but one thing I don’t like is when a review starts off with a paragraph or two about something completely unrelated and then tries to bring it back around to tie it in to the book, or when someone fills their review with personal details about their life that are obviously false. Both of these are reasons why I stopped following http://xmen-supreme.blogspot.com/
    My favorite types of reviews are ones that breakdown the layouts or that give me something in addition to the comic. Like, share with us the thing you started where you tried to figure out how Hush played into Batman Eternal. My favorite comics blog to find this type of stuff is http://atollcomics.blogspot.com/

  3. Cyclops was good, but I still can’t commit to the book.

    New Avengers was well-written.

    Storm was really good. The scenes between her and Forge were really nice.

  4. I haven’t been reading Batman Eternal, but R.M. Guera was the artist on Scalped. I loved his work there, but good lord, the bicep in that panel you posted. That looks horribly phoned in.

  5. I really like how these hench-sized comic reviews are put together. My only gripe is that there is way more Marvel than DC. But I guess there’s not much you can do about that– don’t feel that you need to expand your pull-list any more than it already is.

    • Also, this month especially, I’m not reading any Futures End stuff. Are there any specific DC books you’d like me to start reviewing? I can add a few just for you!

      • If you’re willing to, maybe give the Flash another try. I know that the Annual turned you off to it, and rightly so because that issue was pretty bad, but I’ve enjoyed the Future Flash storyline so far and am excited to see the new Wally West become a speedster (although I haven’t read the Futures End issue yet so I don’t know if that’s just a “five years later” thing). And I bet you’re going to like DC’s redesign of Batgirl which comes to shelves next week.

      • I am going to be all over the new Batgirl!

  6. I love the way you do your reviews, honestly. I see no reason to change the format — certainly not for the sake of change.

    Which actually ties into my response to your take on Storm’s book. I am firmly of the opinion that character *exploration* is every bit as valid as character *development*. Sometimes a character is fine just the way they are at present. You don’t have to make a character “grow and change” to do something meaningful with them. A showcase of who they are is just as relevant.

    All the plots Storm has been involved with in her own book have been doing just that, and doing it via avenues (e.g. other characters) that have meaningful ties to her. Seeing how she deals with these situations tells us a lot about her.

    I’m also not really inclined to back you on your review of “Cyclops,” but I can appreciate the sentiment that it’s not terribly clear where all this is supposed to be headed. Honestly, though, I’m one of the believers in the Marvel Reboot, and I suspect that what’s being done with O5 Cyclops here will tie into things down the line — most likely Scott from the present being merged with his younger self and maybe recovering something of his past optimism in the process.

    We all know this O5-in-the-present thing can’t last, and that they were displaced in the first place to further solidify how fucked time is getting.

    Couldn’t agree more with your review of “New Avengers,” though. Hickman is putting out the best books at Marvel right now, and this Incursions storyline of his is easily the best Marvel has ever done. No hyperbole.

    Brief aside: I find it funny that cobyscomics mentioned the Xmen-Supreme blog. I read it as well, and Jack loved both the Cyclops and Storm comics. =P Anyway, his reviews can definitely be entertaining, but he also tries too hard, doing exactly what coby mentioned at the beginning of every single review.

    I enjoy both of your blogs, Sean, but for different reasons. I appreciate your more sober, honest approach while I appreciate the detail (and scans) Jack goes into, particularly when I haven’t yet — or don’t bother — getting the comic myself.

    As an occasional comic reviewer myself, I appreciate that there’s probably no perfect way to do these reviews, and I honestly can’t be bothered to go to the effort required for what I personally envision as the perfect reviews — at least not for every single issue. I think I tend to assume the reader (if anyone even bothers reading) has also read the issue, or, if not, that they won’t care if I spoil the main portions of the plot.

    I also pretty much never provide any images from the comics themselves (I can think of one exception: the last page of “New Avengers” #21) and I don’t think I ever talk about the art. I also tend to wax analytical about how I see whatever is happening fitting into some wider context.

    So, yeah, I know my reviews suck, and I think that’s why I’m not too harsh about the shortcomings of any particular blog. You could provide more plot details, sure, and Jack Fisher could try his hand less at forced comedy, but I love your format and straight talk while I love his detailed overviews — and more of his turns of phrase than I want to admit to enjoying.

    One thing both of you should probably stop doing, though, is numbered scores. Video game shilling — sorry, “journalism” — has pretty much destroyed any value these scales once had, which now say so little. I do think both of you are consistent in your scoring-to-comments logic, but I’ve seen far too many GameInformer reviews that awarded a 6 out of 10 yet didn’t contain a single positive comment.

    Other than that one suggestion, I honestly hope you keep on doing what you’ve been doing. I’ll keep on reading.

    • Thanks for the feedback! I’m not looking to change just for the sake of change. I just sometimes feel my reviews aren’t as tight or as well-written as they could be. But I’m glad people enjoy reading them.

      Some review aggregate websites out there use my numbers to put my reviews on their site, and I get some views from them, so I’m gonna stick with the numbers. Mostly, though, I base my reviews on the words after the numbers. I like to think of them as my ‘one/two word review’.

      And a comic about Storm going around having Storm fun will probably be a great read, I know I’m enjoying it, but I fear a comic like Storm is automatically facing an uphill battle on the road to cancellationville – and I don’t want it to be cancelled!

  7. Agree with all that say I think your reviews are great. I’m particularly impressed by your synopses, to be honest. I essentially wind up transcribing the issue, which is why I only do a synopsis for one title. Otherwise, I’d have to quit my day job just to write the reviews. But, you always manage to hit all the main points in a concise way. Well played! I’m toying with adding covers, but that seems like a lot of extra work, so, again, I appreciate the time that you put into the blog.

    I haven’t been reading “Batman and Robin,” exactly because I was afraid of this sort of parallel universe feel, where you’re left wondering which set of stories is “real.” It’s weird that none of the other titles (this one, “Batman,” “Detective Comics,” etc.) mention the quest for Damian. I just had to accept, by not reading it, that he’s going to suddenly re-appear one day and I’m going to have to be OK without knowing the details.

    On “Batman Eternal” specifically, my main complaint is the same one that I always have, that plot advancement relies on totally unbelievable sequences of events. Are we supposed to believe that Bard specifically got caught on tape to lead Batman to trace his car to get him into his apartment to stumble upon Hush to get caught in the exploding building? It seems that way, but, if so, I don’t actually believe it. I’m very happy with the Jason and Tim development, though. Basically, if the main goal is getting the family together again, I’m willing to grit my teeth and make it through “Batman Eternal.”

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