Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 10/4/14
Welcome to a week of firsts! I don’t know if it’s divine intervention or some kind of back room deal, but both Marvel and DC delivered a huge number of new starts and #1 issues this week, which sounds to me like a solid foundation for this week’s reviews. There were so many firsts I couldn’t even get to them all, but I think I picked a nice smattering of titles.
We’ve got #1 issues for the new Thor, Gotham Academy, Guardians 3000, Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier and Lobo, some of which are really good, some of which are mediocre, and at least one of which is the worst comic I’ve ever reviewed in this column! I also included the new Captain America issue, which debuted Sam Wilson as the new Cap!
Comic Book of the Week goes to Gotham Academy for being both adorable and mysterious in pretty much equal measure. That’s a good start for any comic.
I’m going to warn you fine folks in advance though…be careful of my reviews this week. You know I’ve been sticking it out with Batman Eternal since the beginning, but this week…man…I get a little ranty. Keep reading if you dare…
Comic Reviews: Batman Eternal #26, Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #1, Captain America #25, Gotham Academy #1, Guardians 3000 #1, Lobo #1 and Thor #1.
Batman Eternal #26
Writers: James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder
Artist: R.M. Guera
And so we tumble back over the cliff.
For the past few weeks now, I’ve been relatively positive in my reviews of Batman Eternal. I thought the series had taken a turn for the better and showed signs of really coming together. I was wrong. I apologize for leading you people astray. This series is terrible. If it wasn’t coming out weekly, I would swear they were making it up as they went along. Heck, I’m not really convinced they aren’t.
The new issue begins with Red Robin, Red Hood and Batgirl confronting Batman in the Batcave over the terrible mess that has become Gotham City. They want to know what’s going on and why Alfred and Gordon are under attack. Bruce explains that it’s Hush, and that’s really the only explanation that exists. That is what Batman Eternal apparently boils down to: Hush is doing evil stuff again. For that, we apparently needed a year-long weekly series.
The Bat-Family rush out to go deal with the riots while Batman takes Julia Pennyworth to visit her father in the hospital. There, he reveals Hush’s back story, explaining that Tommy Elliot was Bruce’s best friend, and always wished he was Bruce. I thought Hush killed his parents because he wanted their money, but here it’s explained that he did it because he was obsessed with being just like Bruce Wayne. Whatever.
No sooner do Batman and Julia leave then Hush, as Dr. Thomas Elliot, strolls into the hospital and is able to get Alfred transferred to Arkham Asylum. Because.
Meanwhile, Stephanie Brown follows her dad out to the Kane County Jail, then easily ties up the guards and walks right up to confront him. That was wise, Stephanie, beating and tying up the guards who work at the freaking county jail. What’d they ever do to you? And God forbid they be allowed to do their job of WATCHING DANGEROUS INMATES!
Stephanie, in full costume, wanted her dad to watch as she made her latest blog post exposing his plans (so what were all her previous blog posts about?). But when she clicks ‘send’ on her phone, the post is rewritten before her eyes to instead offer a $100 million bounty on Spoiler. The Cluemaster laughs at her foolishness.
And elsewhere, Commissioner Bard imposes a 9 p.m. curfew as Martial Law descends over Gotham City.
Comic Rating: 3/10 – Bad.
I was this close to writing my review in all CAPS, but I’ll spare you. Though apologies in advance for when they do slip in.
This comic is a mess! Nothing makes any logical sense! None of it connects whatsoever with the stories at the start of the comic! What happened to Falcone vs. Penguin? Why was Professor Pyg involved? Is there seriously no greater meaning behind this other than Hush doing a thing?! Spoiler has existed for a few days, why do the bad guys have a picture of her to put on the bounty?! What’s stopping Stephanie from just taking off her stupid mask?! Why wasn’t she blogging all of her dad’s secrets MUCH EARLIER than this? I thought that’s what she was doing! Why did the bad guys go to all the trouble of hijacking her blog so that her latest post would magically transform into a bounty on herself? Why not just post that bounty in the appropriate bad guy circles? Why did Stephanie beat up all those blue collar county jail guards? They most likely have families! And poor health care plans! The comic has made it an actual point that they’re not corrupt! And yet they get treated like this!
Why does Julia Pennyworth exist?! I get that Hush wanted to take out Alfred, that makes perfect sense. But if you’re going to remove Alfred, why not write a story about Batman coping with the loss of Alfred? WHY CREATE AN EXACT REPLICA OF ALFRED, RETCON HER INTO HIS HISTORY AND THEN MAKE HER IMMEDIATELY PERFECT FOR THE JOB? And why is Julia content with just filling in for Alfred? She’s a trained spy! The Bat-Family currently contains Harper Row, who is seen in action with Red Robin fighting a mob of people. She’s a street kid who has had maybe a few weeks of training from Red Robin, and she gets to be involved. Yet Julia has years of advanced spy training, but she gladly accepts the job of standing around the Batcave?!
When Batman and Julia visit Alfred, Bruce gets this sad look on his face and tells Julia that Hush is already winning. This series HAS NOT laid any groundwork to have Batman in such a sad position. He has spent close to ZERO time out of uniform for us to actually see the weight of this trouble upon him. Only a few issues ago, he was FIGHTING A FREAKING GHOST MONSTER IN AN ART MUSEUM! IT’S YOUR OWN FAULT FOR FIGHTING GHOST MONSTERS INSTEAD OF PAYING ATTENTION TO THE CITY FALLING DOWN AROUND YOU!! At no point have we been given any sign as to why Bruce would miss all of these bad things happening. Yes, he’s no doubt worried about Alfred, BUT WE HAVEN’T SEEN IT! His only response to losing Alfred is to IMMEDIATELY recruit his daughter to be the new Alfred!
Speaking of Alfred, how is it possible that Dr. Thomas Elliot, using his REAL NAME, can somehow get Alfred taken out of the hospital and delivered all the way to Arkham Asylum without Batman or Bruce Wayne finding out? IS BRUCE NOT MONITORING ALFRED!? In the middle of an attack by Hush, who specifically targeted Alfred with near-deadly fear toxin, Bruce just leaves his most trusted ally at the mercy of the FREAKIN’ HOSPITAL STAFF?! He didn’t even put a tracer on Alfred’s hospital bed? Or anywhere on Alfred’s body? HE’S BRUCE WAYNE! HE COULD BUY AND SELL THAT HOSPITAL A DOZEN TIMES OVER, BUT HE DOESN’T SPEND AN IOTA OF EFFORT KEEPING TRACK OF ALFRED?!
And just like I pointed out last week, the scene with the rest of the Bat-Family is EXACTLY like the scene in the last issue of Batman and Robin. All the partners and sidekicks get together in the Batcave and decide to go off and watch the streets while Batman tackles the main problem. IT’S THE EXACT SAME SCENE! Except that Peter J. Tomasi writes a MUCH BETTER Bat-Family than James Tynion IV. Tomasi gives them heart. Tynion’s team is all ugliness.
Speaking of ugliness, R.M. Guera is back on pencils. Someone last week said he was really good on Scalped, but I can’t imagine how. This comic does not look like a professional Batman comic. Characters are jagged and misshapen, blobbish in their sheer lack of humanity. Everyone is off-model, from Tim Drake to Alfred, and it’s horrendously distracting.
The only relief is in knowing artists on this comic are temporary.
Batman Eternal has descended into madness, but not the madness the creative team is expecting. The comic is just a mess. None of the plot threads tie together, no time is being spent on the characters, and the art has just gone off the rails. This is a series that wishes it was some big, grand Bat-tapestry, but really it’s just a failure at basic storytelling.
Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #1
Writer: Ales Kot
Artist: Marco Rudy
I really liked Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America and how he successfully and seemingly effortlessly brought Bucky Barnes into the modern day, turning him into the badass Winter Soldier. And I especially loved that short period when Bucky took over as Captain America. It was a great story, and Brubaker’s writing was superb. Marvel even made an amazing movie out of it!
But ever since then, nobody seems to care about what Marvel does with the Winter Soldier. His previous series, positioning him as an Earth-bound mercenary, never sold, which brings us to a new intergalactic series…which isn’t going to sell either.
Seriously, I think this is the ugliest comic I’ve read since starting this review column.
Following the events of Original Sin, Bucky Barnes has inherited Nick Fury’s secret ‘Man on the Wall’ role as lone protector of the planet Earth and the known universe. Much like in Original Sin, there is no explanation as to how this differs from the way superheroes protect the universe every day. But to sum it up, basically, Bucky has free reign to take on whatever intergalactic and interdimensional threats Kot can come up with.
For example, Bucky starts the issue imprisoned on the planet Syro. He had come to kill it’s king and bring democracy to the people, and while he’s chained up for a public execution, his sidekick, Daisy Johnson, assassinates the king with a high-powered sniper rifle from one of the planet’s moons. Afterwards, when the aliens tell Bucky that they already tried democracy and chose to have a king instead, he tells them that he doesn’t care and just leaves. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.
Later, he has lunch with Daisy on Mars and convinces her to sign on as his partner full time. Then he heads to the Pacific Ocean to fight drug-smugglers with Namor. The two chat about old times and mourn Nick Fury as they defeat the smugglers, who tell Bucky they were working for Loki. In the end, I think Nick Fury comes back and shoots Bucky with a sniper rifle, but it’s hard to tell, because the art is ridiculous. It might also be an older Bucky for some reason.
Comic Rating: 1/10 – Terrible.
Art is always going to be subjective. I know that. So it’s entirely possible, and in fact very likely, that some of you readers will love the look that artist Marco Rudy has given to this comic. This might be exactly what you want in a comic book. But not me. This is the ugliest, most incomprehensible, and pointless art I’ve seen in a comic book in a long time. It’s definitely from a skilled artist, it’s not sloppy, but it’s just a mess of painted imagery and panel-less chaos. Marvel has been very experimental with their art recently, and Ruby’s work fits, but it’s in the complete opposite direction of what I want to see in a comic.
Beyond the bad art, the story just isn’t any good. I had the same problem with the premise as I did in Original Sin: there is no good reason for it to exist!
For those who didn’t read Original Sin, Nick Fury revealed that on top of his SHIELD duties and all of the other good he did, he was also some kind of uber-protector, who stopped threats, invasions and other problems from destroying the Earth. But he never gave a good explanation for how that differed from what he normally did as Marvel’s top spy, or how that differed from what every single superhero already does in the Marvel Universe. Fury just kept insisting that it was different. And a large part of Original Sin was choosing Fury’s successor, a role that fell to Bucky Barnes with little fanfare.
On the one hand, I think it’s a fine role for Bucky. Nobody bought his series about cleaning up his messes from his past as the Winter Soldier, so how about a series that stars him killing aliens and fighting bad guys at the bottom of the ocean? It has potential, on paper, but Kot does nothing with the character or the premise. Bucky is just a bland, gruff, soldier guy, one who makes a colossal ass out of himself in the very opening of the book. Why the hell did the assassinate that alien king?
Daisy Johnson is another character with no ground to stand on. She was created by Bendis for some SHIELD-related purpose a few years ago, but she lost out on that job to Maria Hill and the new Nick Fury Jr. So she’s a perfectly reasonable addition to this book, and by that I mean she’s just as boring and uninteresting as Bucky.
I like Bucky Barnes as a character just fine, but Marvel has always struggled to figure out what to do with him. This new Winter Soldier by Kot and Ruby looks to be about the worst possible option. It’s just an ugly, stifling comic.
Captain America #25
Writer: Rick Remender
Artists: Carlos Pecheco and Stuart Immonen
I am definitely down with Sam Wilson taking over as Captain America. It sounds like an interesting path for both characters, and I really hope to see him flying high in the role, which was a pretty solid bird pun, if I do say so myself.
The battle against Arnim Zola ends with Sam Wilson sacrificing himself to fly a bomb high above the city, so that nobody gets hurt. For a moment, the heroes mourn their loss, but Sam pulls through just fine. Later, Steve Rogers calls every known Avenger to the Mansion for the unveiling of the new Captain America. First, he says he’ll be taking over a logistics role from now on, based in the Mansion, and then reveals Sam Wilson as the new Cap. The other Avengers all cheer him on, along with some poorly written banter/joking. Remender fails at Bendis-esque banter.
Later, a group of bad guys get together to start plotting against the new Captain America. One of them, shrouded in mystery, is apparently an Avenger who attended the earlier meeting! There’s a traitor in their midst!
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
Wow, heh, Remender is just not funny. This was a painful comic to read. For several pages straight, and I’ll post one of them in a minute, Remender just has a bunch of Avengers stand around cracking jokes and breaking each other’s chops. There are maybe a few nuggets of humor – like when Steve announces he’s switching from Captain America to ‘General Geriatric’ – but mostly it’s just painful, painful stuff. Bendis did this sort of thing all the time in his Avengers comics, but Rick Remender is no Brian Michael Bendis.
That awkwardness aside, this comic does very well by Sam Wilson, making his transition into the new Captain America one of pride and joy. It’s easy to see how he’s going to fit nicely into the role, and how the rest of the Avengers all have his back, especially Steve Rogers. I think I’ll have to buy his book when it comes out.
The Falcon as Cap stuff only takes up a portion of this book, though. The first half is all about Remender’s big Arnim Zola story, and I quickly glossed over that in my synopsis because it’s just so incredibly complicated. There’s stuff about Zola, his son, his daughter, Sharon Carter, Dimension Z; I’m sure if I had been reading Remender’s Cap all this time, I would understand all of it. But I haven’t been reading, and I didn’t want to clutter this review any further.
Just know that the Sam Wilson stuff is really good, and I think Remender could do a good job with him going forward.
Gotham Academy #1
Writers: Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher
Artist: Karl Kerschl
I’m disappointed in myself for not paying more attention to Gotham Academy when it was first announced. I think the fact that it got revealed alongside the groan-worthy Arkham Manor turned me off to the whole idea. But I am definitely eating crow now! This book is delightful, and exactly the sort of thing I look for in comics these days.
Gotham Academy has fun new female characters, lives on the fringe’s of the Batman universe, and looks gorgeous with its Spooky Saturday Morning Cartoon art. I really hope comics like this and the upcoming Batgirl relaunch are a positive new direction for DC.
Olive Silverlock is a sophomore at the prestigious Gotham Academy, a spooky old school in the heart of Gotham City. Her best (and possibly only) friend is Maps, an incoming freshman and the younger sister of Olive’s ex-boyfriend. Maps is an excitable young girl, and she’s excited to have Olive give her a tour of the grounds. But something happened to Olive over the summer – possibly involving Batman and/or Bruce Wayne – and she’s a more morose and quiet girl than everybody remembers. She acts like she’s too cool for Maps…but the younger girl’s excitability wins her over, and they decide to ditch a big school assembly to go explore the spooky old clocktower.
When they make it to the top, Maps accidentally slips on some loose bricks and goes tumbling over the edge. Olive grabs a rope and swings down to save her – right in front of the whole assembly! Busted! Later that night, Olive returns to her room, where her roommate is scared that she saw a ghost! The two laugh it off, but we can see that someone – or something – is definitely watching them!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This is just a delightful comic. It reminds me a lot of Ms. Marvel, which you know I love! Olive Silverlock and her friends, especially Maps, are the right kind of quirky to get my attention, and Cloonan and Fletcher do a good job of building up Olive’s mystery without spoiling too much too soon. The entire cast is well-fleshed-out in the first issue, beyond just their weird names (Olive Silverlock! Maps Mizoguchi! Pomeline Fritch!)
One could argue that there isn’t a lot of action in this issue, and clearly there are no superheroes, but that’s entirely the point. Not all comics need superheroes or action in this day and age. I would have been perfectly happy had Olive not had to save Maps from falling to her death. Cloonan and Fletcher do an amazing job filling these brand new characters with personality. These are definitely going to be characters to follow.
Olive Silverlock as the new Robin, maybe?!
I love the angle that this isn’t a superhero comic, but another corner of the DC Universe that we get to explore. I always love peeking into the nooks and crannies of any superhero universe. And with Kerschl on art, they all do a great job setting up the spookiness of the setting, without getting too weird.
This isn’t Hogwarts, after all, but it might be just as much fun.
Guardians 3000 #1
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Gerardo Sandoval
I was prepared to hate this comic, but it surprised me by the end, at least a little bit. Dan Abnett is a great writer, and he manages to inject some real personality into these characters. But this is definitely a weird way to bring the original Guardians of the Galaxy back into comics. I hope you’re already very familiar with all of them, because this #1 issue doesn’t have time to hold your hand.
We open in the middle of the action, as the Guardians of the Galaxy and their human sidekick, Geena, fight their way through a powerful Badoon invasion force in the Hideaway Parliament. But it’s a losing battle, and before too long, all of the Guardians, including Geena, are dead. But then something weird happens and time rewinds itself to earlier in the day. We find out that the Guardians rescued Geena from a slave labor camp because she’s essentially the Chosen One for whatever is wrong with time. the Hideaway Parliament is a secret base where all the good guy leaders of the galaxy can meet, and the Guardians call them together to inform them of this weird time anomaly and Geena’s place in it. But none of them realize or accept the truth in time, and soon the Guardians are once again trying to fight their way through a powerful Badoon invasion force – only this time Geena remembers what’s going to happen!
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
I’m not too ashamed of my automatic disliking of this series based on the concept alone. There’s a reason the Guardians of the Galaxy movie didn’t focus on the original team. They’re weird 1970s throwback characters who don’t really have a place in today’s modern comic book market. But sales are sales, so here we have Guardians 3000, which I was prepared to immediately dislike (I mean, come on! Guardians 3000? Sounds kind of similar to Justice League 3000? Was that intentional?).
But by the end, I was kind of warming up to the series. It’s still wildly inaccessible, especially in the beginning. Little effort is made to introduce new readers to the characters, pretty much just throwing them at you with very brief glimpses of what they can do. Geena is used as an audience surrogate, and she fits the role, but there’s little about her beyond generally normal human female. Still, in all of this, Abnett manages to give most of the Guardians enough personality to keep the story going, it’s just a real cramming of information at the start.
Fortunately, the comic picks up after the halfway mark. The characters remain pretty obtuse, but the story really comes together with the time anomaly angle. It makes sense, and the characters, especially Gemma, snap into the action nicely. The art, also, is solid work from Sandoval. The characters are all clearly drawn, but they’re also wildly cartoony, kind of like Humberto Ramos.
I was ready to dislike Guardians 3000 based on its concept alone, but Abnett’s story really comes together by the end, creating a better comic than I expected.
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Reilly Brown
If Marvel decided to bring back Multiple Man, and to do so they introduced a brand new Multiple Man out of the blue, and he proceeded to visit the classic Multiple Man from Peter David’s X-Factor, claim that Madrox had been a rogue duplicate the whole time, and then murdered him, I would be pretty upset. I would be angry, heartbroken, and possibly even a little sick to my stomach.
Which might be how Lobo fans feel when they read this comic. A comic that is conveniently entitled Lobo.
I am glad I am not a Lobo fan.
Even though he was introduced more than a year ago, DC Comics has waited all this time to give their newer, sleeker Lobo his own series. And over the course of first three pages, he proceeds to murder the previous Lobo so hard that there’s even a line stating that his healing factor won’t bring him back.
That’s how DC and Cullen Bunn chose to properly introduce us to this new Lobo. And those three pages show us one very important thing: the old badass, cigar-chomping, motorcycle-riding Lobo had more personality in his pinky toe than this new Lobo has in his entire concept.
It’s even more downhill from there.
What sort of story do DC and Bunn have for us now that they’ve dispatched the old Lobo and embraced the new? About as boring and generic a story as one could get: The new Lobo is hired to kill the 8 deadliest assassins in the universe, and over the course of this first issue, he finds one and kills him lickety split.
Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.
Whose responsible this?! Where is the man or woman in the larger DC/Warner Bros. company who thought this generic, boring, ‘kewl’ Lobo was in any way even a fraction better than the old bastich that everybody already loved? They need to be fired.
If I was a fan of Lobo, maybe I’d have some more passion, but I can’t really bring myself to care. Everybody agreed when the character was first announced that he was terrible, and issues like this only reinforce that point. If I believed in conspiracy theories, I might even say his blandness is the entire point! That this is all one big prank! But surely that can’t be the case. Surely someone somewhere thinks we all want to read about a ‘kewl’ new version of Lobo with blue streaks on his face and ‘super awesome’ killing blades who kills people and is really ‘kewl’ about it.
We don’t. This comic will never see double digits. But I still don’t think DC will learn their lesson.
At least Brown was good. Put him on a better book immediately.
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Russell Dauterman
It’s a shame to see Aaron’s Thor: God of Thunder come to an end, but upon reading this new issue, it’s clear that the same story is still going. In fact, the new female Thor, that got so much press this summer, is barely in the comic (I think). This is still male Thor’s story, and it’s a good one at that, no matter how unworthy he has become.
I wrote a longer review over at Word of the Nerd this week, but I wanted to say a few words here as well.
Following the events of Original Sin, Thor has been found unworthy of wielding Mjolnir, and the mystical hammer has crash-landed on the Moon. Thor has spent weeks trying to get it to move, but to no avail, leaving him a depressing mess. But when Malektih leads a Frost Giant assault on an undersea Roxxon lab, Thor lifts himself up, grabs an ax and takes the fight to them!
Unfortunately, he’s too weak without Mjolnir, and Malekith easily dispatches him. No worries, though, because a mysterious blonde woman shows up to life Mjolnir on the moon and claim the power of Thor!
Who is this mysterious blonde woman? Her identity isn’t revealed, but earlier in the issue, Thor’s mother Freyja took a long, hard look at the hammer.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
My guess is that Freyja is the new female Thor. She’s blonde, and Dauterman doesn’t draw her as an old crone, not to mention that long, hard look she gives to Mjolnir in the middle of the comic. It would make sense, given those clues, and would actually be a pretty bold choice. Everybody thinks we might be seeing a brand new character, but instead it’s Thor’s mom! That would be quite the shock.
Beyond that big non-reveal (since we’ve known about female Thor for months), Thor #1 was still a good comic. I’m annoyed that such a big event had to take place in Original Sin, but Aaron grabs that ball and runs with it in this new relaunch. Unworthy Thor is perfectly positioned as an underdog to root for, and when he rides into battle against the Frost Giants, it’s a sight to behold. Dauterman may not have the painted grace of previous artist Esad Ribic, but his more traditional superhero look definitely still fits this series and this world.
Check out this double-page spread!
I’m excited to see what Aaron does with this new Thor, but I’m also very glad to see he isn’t about to abandon the old one. Both stories should make for an excellent comic.
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!
Posted on October 4, 2014, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews and tagged Batman Eternal, Bucky Barnes, Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier, Captain America, Falcon, Female Thor, Gotham Academy, Guardians 3000, Guardians of the Galaxy, Lobo, Thor, Winter Soldier. Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.