Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 10/25/14

Whatever happened to holiday theme comics? Next week is Halloween, but I don’t know if there are any Halloween comics coming out! Whatever happened to those great comics about fighting giant pumpkin monsters? Or meeting demonic hell spirits? Or what about the greatest Halloween superhero adventure of all time? You henchies remember that one, right? Whatever the case may be, there isn’t nary a Halloween reference in any of this week’s haul!

But we’ve still got a pretty good haul. I picked up new issues of Aquaman and Harley Quinn, while also checking in with the ongoing craziness happening in Axis and Multiversity. One is a little more crazy than the other. I also picked up the first issue of the new Arkham Manor series…but I doubt I’ll be picking up any more. Fortunately, the latest issue in Jonathan Hickman’s ongoing Avengers saga is amazing! Avengers #37 easily scoops of Comic Book of the Week for the high quality, character-based drama!

Some day they’ll laugh about this

You can also check out my coverage of the soon-to-be cancelled She-Hulk over at Word of the Nerd. That title should have survived for the Matt Rocks cameo alone!

Comic Reviews: Aquaman #35, Arkham Manor #1, Avengers #37, Axis #3, Batman Eternal #29, Harley Quinn #11, and Multiversity #3.

Aquaman #35

Aquaman #35
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Paul Pelletier

I’ll admit that my interest in Aquaman has waned since Geoff Johns left the title. Johns has always had a special touch. But Parker has been telling some solid Aquaman stories, which I’ve been reading all along. They may not be as epic as what Johns was putting out, but this is still a solid comic.

In an effort to learn more about Atlantis’ past, Aquaman brings Drs. Shen and Evans down to Atlantis to study its history. It seems Atlantis itself is ‘alive’ and refuses to acknowledge Arthur as king because he is half-upworlder, causing its tectonic plates to quake and damage the city. The doctors discover that when Atlanteans die, their souls are absorbed into the bedrock of the city, and that is why the city itself seems to be rejecting Arthur. They would have thought that the spirit of Arthur’s mom would calm these quakes – because she could attest to Arthur’s royal lineage – but when Arthur goes to explore her tomb, it’s empty!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

One great thing that Parker has brought to Aquaman is a real sense of politics in Atlantis. He’s created a city council, for one, and several other characters that expand the supporting cast of the fabled city. This isn’t just Aquaman the superhero, this comic is about Aquaman the king and civic leader, and I really like that angle. Being a king is one of many key traits that make Aquaman special, and I love how Parker touches on those aspects. But beyond that, this comic is just mildly interesting. Parker does a good job fleshing out Atlantis, but he hasn’t really brought in any solid or interesting drama quite yet.

At least Arthur and Mera remain adorable together.

Arkham Manor #1

Arkham Manor #1
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Shawn Crystal

Apparently DC couldn’t wait a week. There’s a note at the very beginning of this issue that states that Arkham Manor takes place after Batman Eternal #30, which only comes out next week. Apparently some major status quo changes are in store for Batman, but don’t worry about being surprised next week, Arkham Manor will just spoil them now. The same thing happened with the latest issue of Batman, where they treated major status quo changes like they’d been around forever.

I don’t get how this could happen. Batman Eternal comes out weekly! Couldn’t DC simply count ahead in the calender, figure out when certain monumental issues would land, and then release comics like this at the appropriate time? Are they suggesting Arkham Manor couldn’t be delayed by a single week?!

Seriously, this was just annoying. I’m kind of against this premise on principle, but rather than let Batman Eternal reveal the twist properly, Arkham Manor #1 just shoves it down our throat.

Anyway, on with the story: Wayne Manor has been transformed into the new Arkham Asylum after the last one exploded (and Bruce Wayne lost all his money and was forced to move out, somehow). But when one of the inmates is murdered inside the new Arkham Manor, Bruce goes undercover as a patient to solve the case!

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

I’m not entirely sure why this is a separate series and not just a storyline in the pages of Detective Comics or one of those other ancillary Batman comics. This is clearly a comic about Batman, or at least that’s what the first issue purports. We don’t meet any Arkham employees or inmates that might star in this comic. It’s just Batman jumping into an investigation by going undercover. And considering all of the other horrors effecting Gotham City these days, does he really have time to pose as an inmate inside Arkham Asylum?

I doubt I’ll be picking up another issue of Arkham Manor. The premise is a little too insane for my tastes. I’m all for change, but something about Arkham invading the sanctity of Wayne Manor just rubs me the wrong way. And like I said, based on the first issue, there doesn’t seem to be anything unique about this comic. It’s sister title, Gotham Academy, introduced a whole new cast and premise to play with. Arkham Manor is just about Batman, and I’ve got plenty of other great Batman comics to read.

Avengers #37

Avengers #37
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Mike Deodato

There is just something insanely awesome about Jonathan Hickman’s current Avengers/New Avengers status quo that fills me with a comic book-loving glee. Every twist feels earned, every character feels familiar, and every major plot element feels grand. Even if this time jump somehow reverts back to the status quo eventually, this is one of the better crafted ‘alternate futures’ I’ve ever read. Hickman really sinks his creative teeth into who these characters are and how they would interact in these given circumstances. It’s great!

Old Steve Rogers is the head of SHIELD, and his team gets a trace on the Illuminati in an underground base in Rome (see the last issue of New Avengers). But when SHIELD arrives, the Illuminati have fled, leaving behind a hologram of the Beast and Hulk to taunt Rogers, who is royally pissed off at the Illuminati. A lot has happened in the past 8 months, including Terrax and the Cabal going before the United Nations to tell them all about the Incursions, and getting humanity’s unofficial approval to keep destroying other worlds. This kind of puts SHIELD at odds with the rest of humanity, but Cap is determined to capture Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic at all costs.

Meanwhile, the Invisible Woman is a double agent. She’s one of Steve’s most trusted lieutenants, but she’s also secretly meeting with her husband to pass on information. One thing she passes on is a note from their daughter, which says, “Dad, you can’t win. Time to start figuring out how not to lose.”

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Every new scene in this issue brought out a new love of this storyline. I loved Hulk and Beast taunting Steve Rogers, and his anger in response. All three characters have a long history together, and Hickman uses that wonderfully. Then there’s Cap’s increasingly strict control of SHIELD, and how he interacts with his subordinates, like Captain Marvel and Sue Richards. Hickman weaves them all together wonderfully, and when it’s revealed that Sue is still loyal to Reed, it’s actually heart-warming! Even the brief scene where Steve comments on what Sunspot has been doing in the Savage Land feels earned.

Hickman has weaved quite a tapestry between his two comics, and I love it more and more each issue. He’s not a linear storyteller, so there are bumps along the way, but overall, I am loving this whole event. I almost wish it didn’t have to end in Secret Wars or whatever insane story’s going to come out of it next Spring.

Axis #3

Axis #3
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu

Avengers may be full of drama and character depth, but if you prefer mindless action, then Axis is the book for you!

Magneto’s team of super-villains tear their way through Red Onslaught and his uber-Sentinels. There’s a lot of great banter, a funny team-up between Iron Man and Deadpool, and an all around good time had by everybody. The villains actually do a very solid job fighting Red Onslaught, though he also gets the upper hand from time to time. In the end, it’s Dr. Doom and the Scarlet Witch who manage to cast the inversion spell to stop the Red Onslaught.

When the dust clears, the villains are gone and the heroes are all freed. They find the unconscious body of the Red Skull and many assume Charles Xavier is now in control (thanks to the inversion spell). But Steve Rogers shows up to thank the X-Men for their help, declaring that the Avengers will be taking the Red Skull into custody instead of letting the X-Men try and save Xavier. This pisses off Havok, who resigns from leadership of the Unity Squad.

Also, somehow, Evan from the Jean Grey School is suddenly transformed into an adult Apocalypse. It’s not a big deal to the story, but I like the character, so I thought I’d mention this big change.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

For some reason, the inversion of the good and bad guys that is supposed to define Axis wasn’t spelled out at the end of the issue. Tie-ins like Hobgoblin and Deadpool reference it, but we don’t even get a blip at the end of this issue – unless you count Havok’s angry meltdown, but everybody in that scene felt normal. This is a weird ball to drop, but it’s not that big of a deal.

The rest of the issue was pretty solid. Remender has a lot of fun with the various super-villains, especially Carnage, and I had a lot of fun reading them. I have enjoyed Remender’s Deadpool since his Uncanny X-Force days, and the character does not disappoint under his pen. There are a lot of really great scenes in this book. My favorite moment is when Dr. Strange and Scarlet Witch try to use order and chaos to cast the inversion spell, only for Strange to be taken out of the fight, so Doctor Doom steps up to provide the order half of the spell!

Always Doom for the win

Doctor Doom as an avatar of order? Hells yes!

But the biggest flaw of Axis still overshadows this issue: it’s all too rushed. Whatever build-up Remender may have put down in Uncanny Avengers, Axis is still a massive, messy hodge podge of characters showing up and fighting an apocalyptic fight. Everyone is acting like this could be the end of the world, but there has been absolutely zero build-up to that fact in Axis itself. So sure, it’s awesome seeing the villains show up and save the day, but the threat has only existed for 3 issues, so who cares? This isn’t a team of villains coming in at the last second to save the world when all hope seemed lost, like it’s written, this is just another mess of characters being thrown into the comic to punch stuff.

Had Remender actually built up to this battle instead of just dropping us into it in the first issue, I would imagine this victory would feel much more earned.

Batman Eternal #29

Batman Eternal #29
Writers: Ray Fawks, James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder
Artist: Simon Coleby

Want proof that Batman Eternal is a mess? Look no further than Batman Eternal #29! For more than a month now, we’ve been reading various street-based stories of Batman and his allies. But now we’re thrown back into the madness at Arkham. I can’t even remember the last time Batman Eternal checked in on its Arkham Asylum storyline with Batwing and Jim Corrigan – but here we are, out of the blue, back in the thick of Arkham’s black magic.

It’s a jarring transition and robs the explosive moments in this issue of their full impact.

Arkham Asylum is going to Hell, kind of literally. There’s a lot of explosive magic, Batwing fights some random monsters, Deacon Blackfire taunts Jim Corrigan, and something sets off a big, green pillar of light, destroying the Asylum.

Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.

I owe Arkham Manor #1 a bit of an apology. It seems this issue of Batman Eternal does reveal some of the twist, but Arkham Manor still had a note at the beginning specifically referencing next week’s Batman Eternal #30, so they are not completely forgiven.

It doesn’t matter anyway. Nothing matters. Like I said, this issue just throws us back into the thick of the insanity going on at Arkham Asylum with sloppy art that doesn’t help to set the scene or remind us where we left off. This is just one big blob of an issue, with vague magical energy and vague demon monsters filling every page so that we have no idea where we are or where any of the characters are in relation to one another. It’s just one big hubbabaloo of craziness until the Asylum blows up in the end. Were we expecting it to blow up? Why does it blow up now instead of during one of the previous issues focusing on this storyline?

These are questions that don’t matter. All that happened here was that we reached the issue in the story where Arkham needed to blow up so that Arkham Manor could exist, I think. There doesn’t seem to be much logic to the story progression in Batman Eternal. It’s being pulled in so many different directions, and possibly for so many different reasons, that this whole adventure remains a big mess.

Harley Quinn #11

Harley Quinn #11
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Chad Hardin

Of all the issues where artist Amanda Conner should have taken over on pencils, this is the one. Her Power Girl series with Palmiotti before the reboot was great! And I would have loved to see her tackle the Power Girl/Harley Quinn team-up. Hardin does an acceptable job, but man, Conner should have stepped up on art.

Unfortunately, art aside, this issue had some weird story tics that I just didn’t like.

Power Girl has crash-landed in Harley Quinn’s neighborhood, so she and her buddies carry PG back to her boarding house to recover. When Harley learns that PG has amnesia, she concocts a ludicrous story that they’re best friends and superhero partners, so they should hang out. Not knowing any better, PG gladly goes along with the story, despite the numerous holes in logic in Harley’s tale.

The two ladies head to the mall to buy some new clothes for PG, and after a few weird changing room scenes, they are called upon to fight the Sportsmaster and the Clock King, who are robbing the  mall.

Comic Rating – 4/10: Pretty Bad.

I’m not…I’m not sure if I can properly review this comic. I love me some Harley Quinn and I love me some Power Girl, so I thought this team up would be fun. But then Palmiotti and Conner introduce the amnesia angle, and the issue just gets weird. I’m not quite sure how to explain it, but they play fast and loose with what Power Girl should or shouldn’t understand or remember, and it just made me kind of uncomfortable.

For example, she knows about superheroes, but seems willing to believe everything else Harley tells her at face value.

Really? Boob window jokes?

It felt like the writers were making up the aspects of PG’s amnesia as they went along. She would know/remember/believe anything they needed at any given moment to make their jokes land, and I just didn’t like it.

Plus they took every opportunity they could to get PG naked. Harley spends several pages undressing the unconscious PG, designing a new matching costume for her, and then redressing her, only for PG to tear it off immediately. Plus there are two different scenes in fitting rooms, and constant jokes about Power Girl’s less feminine figure. Not to mention little digs like this one.

Now they’re just toying with us

This whole issue just felt uncomfortably creepy. If a male character was doing all of this to Power Girl, I think we’d all be really skeeved out. Harley gets a little leeway, considering her character, but this was definitely not the team-up I was hoping for.

Multiversity #3

Multiversity #3
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Ben Oliver

Somehow, against all odds, I’m pretty sure I’m following along with Grant Morrison’s Multiversity. The story is all over the place, jumping from one dimension to another, but I’m pretty sure I understand what’s going on. I’m actually pretty proud of myself. Though taken as a single issue, Multiversity #3 (or The Multiversity: The Just #1, if you’re nasty) isn’t all that great. But as a whole, I bet this story is going to be pretty neat overall.

Morrison seems to be doing something with the very physical definition of comic books, and I like it!

In a new alternate Earth, we’re several years into the future, where all of the classic superheroes are old and gone, and it’s their kids, grandkids and their villains’ kids who are the new superheroes – except that before Superman died, he created an army of robot Supermen to solve all the worlds problems, so this next generation of heroes is just a bunch of spoiled, glam-obsessed celebutantes.

The issue starts with super heroine Megamorpho committing suicide, and nobody knows why. Batman (Damian Wayne) and Superman (Chris Kent) are on the case, but neither of them really focuses. Everyone is instead worried about their friend Sasha’s big party or Batman’s girlfriend Alexis Luthor. Only Damian really starts to figure out what’s going on: the very issues of Multiversity themselves are bleeding through the dimensional barriers, infecting their readers with some kind of curse. Megamorpho was reading an upcoming issue, as is Alexis Luthor; it’s all kind of complicated and hard to follow, but basically the comic books are cursed.

Oh, and Superman’s robot army goes mad in the end and starts destroying the city.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This score doesn’t really reflect my opinion on Multiversity #3 or Multiversity as a whole. Like I said, it’s probably silly to even judge this single issue on its own merits. If you’re enjoying Multiversity so far, then by all means, definitely read this issue and keep following along. If you haven’t bothered, or you’re waiting to read the whole thing at once, then issue #3 is just going to be a blip on the road – or maybe it’s the whole thing! I don’t know, that’s how Morrison works!

Let’s break it down. As a single issue, it’s fine. There are a ton of new characters introduced, and they can be a little difficult to keep track of, especially since most of them are annoying, party-obsessed teenagers, emphasis on the annoying. But everybody loves a good ‘potential future’ story. Damian is pretty cool as Batman, and Morrison does his best to instill each of these characters with enough humanity to make their relationships interesting. But he drops us into their world with little introduction. Everybody already knows each other and talks like they do, so like I said, it’s a little difficult to keep track of everybody and their various motivations concerning each other.

Menta was my favorite!

And I didn’t really have any idea what was happening in the end.  Alexis Luthor does something…and maybe Batman fights Superman? And the Superman Robots turning evil seemed to come out of nowhere, unless that’s what Alexis Luthor was doing. I dunno. I’m sure other people understood perfectly.

As a series, I’m actually really enjoying Multiversity. I love this concept that the comic books we’re reading are actually showing us the real lives of people in alternate dimensions, and that the issues of Multiversity specifically are part of an evil plot, one that we are involved in because we’re reading Multiversity in our dimension! It’s heady stuff, and I’m definitely digging it. I just hope I understand Morrison’s big finale when he gets to it!

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 October 25, 2014, in Avengers, Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Avengers was good. But I’m disappointed with Carol’s role. First of all, why’d they make her uniform grey? She has one of the best uniforms in comics, and they just made it grey all grey so much grey why Marvel whyyyyy? Second, her role being limited to giving a report to Old Man Rogers. Why not have her out kicking ass, leading the Avengers against a big threat and punching it in the face?

    Axis was good, I though, but it’s all downhill from here, if history’s any indication.

    • Yeah, it’s too bad Carol isn’t doing more, but then again, I definitely think she’d fall in line behind Steve Rogers on this. Plus we’re lucky to even get her. It’s not like Avengers is normally a Carol-heavy book. As for the gray…I think it’s a team uniform thing – though FalCap is the exception so he can represent red, white and blue!

  2. Maybe Carol will have bigger role later in the story, still its better than her role when Bendis was writing new Avengers. He mostly used her to prop up Jessica (I have no personality and never will) Jones shallow ass. I know some going bring up her fight with Count Nefaria, but here the thing Bendis could let Carol have the moment instead he had to have wolverine appear out of nowhere in midair no less and stab Nefaria in the neck. So she got zap some who was already beat. So no he didn’t get her moment Bendis took it away from her.

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