Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 11/1/14

Happy Day-After-Halloween, henchies! Or better yet, Happy All Saints Day! I wonder if anybody in the world actually celebrates All Saints Day. I know I had to Google it to remember what November 1 was actually called. No worries if you don’t celebrate, but hopefully you have plenty of candy to tide you over.

This week was very light on new comics because it’s a Fifth Wednesday week. Comic publishers usually only plan for 4 Wednesdays a month, so when a fifth week comes along, they usually throw out some minor comics. DC put out a couple of annuals that I didn’t bother to read. But I did pick up All-New X-Men and Batman Eternal.

The week’s crowning jewel, however, is the final issue of Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman! He’s been telling one ongoing, epic saga since the start of the New 52, and it all comes to an end with this issue, the Comic Book of the Week!

Meanwhile, Marvel put out the first issue of their new Deathlok series. I wrote a pretty thorough review at Word of the Nerd that you can check out.

Comic Reviews: All-New X-Men #33, Batman Eternal #30 and Wonder Woman #35.

All-New X-Men #33

All-New X-Men #33
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mahmud Asrar

I haven’t written much about this storyline so far, but like I said, it’s a slow week, and this was one of the only other comics I bought. We’re smack dab in the middle of a story about the Young X-Men getting lost and separated in the Ultimate Universe, and while once upon a time this kind of crossover would be monumental, here it’s just a quaint little adventure. Nothing really to write home about.

The X-Men have all been split up as they struggle to make sense of the Ultimate Universe. Iceman fights off the Mole Man and his monsters. Beast is in Latveria, the reluctant guest of Victor Van Damme, who is very curious about Hank’s dimension. Angel and X-23 try to get back to their HQ from Uncanny X-Men, only to find out that the Ultimate Weapon X facility – and mutants in general – are a lot different in this universe.

Jean Grey teams up with Miles Morales and Ganke to get back to the X-Mansion, only to find it deserted in the Ultimate Universe – though that doesn’t stop the Ultimate X-Men (or what remains of them) from crashing the party.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

Like I said, this is just a quaint little adventure as the various Young X-Men bounce around the remains of the Ultimate Universe. I say ‘remains’, because the Ultimate Universe is very, very changed from its heyday. Once upon a time, the Ultimate Universe was a proud imprint, full of amazing stories, characters and comics. Now it’s a disheveled mess, and little more than just another alternate reality to play around in. This change is a damn shame, but Marvel have no one to blame but themselves.

And it means this issue is more low key than anything else, especially since this is still just a transitional issue, moving the story along at Bendis’ usual calm pace. Barely any of the characters move beyond where they were in the last issue, and none of them really take advantage of being in the Ultimate Universe. Jean Grey has a pretty great scene with Miles and Ganke, but that’s about it. Iceman and Beast are barely a blip on the overall radar, and Angel and X-23 are likewise kind of flat. An appearance by Jimmy Hudson, the Wolverine Jr., doesn’t help. He came around after I’d given up on Ultimate X-Men, so his arrival makes no difference to me.

Asrar does a fine job on art, though sometimes he can be a bit muddied, especially with faces. But he’s a fine fill-in, trying to match the style of Stuart Immonen as best he can. But this is a low key issue telling a low key story, so it’s perfect for a fill-in artist to tackle.

Batman Eternal #30

Batman Eternal #30
Writers: Ray Fawkes, James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder
Artist: Fernando Pasarin

Turns out, Batman Eternal #30 wasn’t that big of a deal after all. Remember last week, when I griped to no end about Arkham Manor and the weird way DC was lining up its ongoing Bat-continuity? Yeah, I take it all back, none of it actually matters. Batman Eternal #30 is one of the lightest issues of the series so far, providing very little in the way of plot development or characterization.

Though the art is kind of neat.

Deacon Blackfire is on the verge of returning to the mortal coil, with Arkham Asylum bathed in a pillar of green light. But the Spectre finally shows up and defeats Blackfire with just a clap of his hands. Problem solved. Unfortunately, Blackfire’s magic was the only thing keeping Arkham standing, and the whole property suddenly collapses in on itself, trapping Batwing, Corrigan, Alfred and hundreds of others in the rubble.

Batman rushes down into the mess to try and help, but he’s confronted by the Joker’s Daughter, who’s got a bomb strapped to her chest.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: whenever Batman Eternal focuses on a single story it’s not half bad. The focus on the Arkham Asylum nonsense makes for a stronger comic…but still not a good comic. Sorry, I just don’t think Batman Eternal can save itself from the nonsense it has become. Take this issue, for example, We’ve been building up to this Deacon Blackfire thing since almost the very beginning, but it’s quickly and effortlessly resolved when the Spectre just shows up and essentially wipes it away in one fell swoop. What the heck took him so long?!

Corrigan went down into that Asylum at the very start of the series. The only reason he went down there is because he’s the Spectre and the Spectre tackles things like this. So what POSSIBLE reason exists that the Spectre would take his dear sweet time to solve this? And why send Batwing? What purpose did he serve besides possibly dying in this issue? Why go through this huge storyline if the point was just to destroy Arkham Asylum? The writers couldn’t come up with a better reason to destroy the Asylum?

And don’t even get me started on how useless the Joker’s Daughter is, ugh.

The only real saving grace of this issue was Pasarin and his weird but cool take on Batman.

Note the random head lines

I actually kind of like what Pasarin does with Batman’s cowl. He’s clearly from the school of being hyper-detailed/hyper-realistic with superhero costumes. That’s the sort of mask Ultimate Batman might wear, it just looks that authentic. For a second, I wondered if Bryan Hitch had stepped in to draw the book. The style definitely doesn’t fit with how Batman has been portrayed in the series so far, but I still kind of like it.

Wonder Woman #35

Wonder Woman #35
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Cliff Chiang

This is it! The big finale! Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang bring their epic Wonder Woman saga to a close with this issue, and I am sorry to see it go. Wonder Woman has been one of the break-out comics of the entire New 52 thanks to this creative team. When read as a whole, I bet this is going to be one heck of a good series.

Unfortunately, the emotional stakes aren’t as deep as I think they could have been, at least not when read as this single issue. And Azzarello denies us any sort of fulfilling epilogue, leaving too many characters and plots dangling for DC Comics to mangle.

The final fight with the First Born is upon us! In the wreckage of Olympus, Wonder Woman and Hermes do battle with the First Born and the Minotaur. Strife watches from nearby, while Zola does her best to defend Zeke – and she does a fairly good job of it when she suddenly develops feral super-powers and a lot of anger! Just what is going on with Zola?

The fight is a vicious back and forth, with the First Born eventually getting the upper hand over Wonder Woman. He grabs the baby and opens a pit to the depths of Tartarus, threatening to cast the child in. But he changes plans when the Minotaur, touched by his own soft heart, refuses to kill the defeated Wonder Woman. The First Born turns on the Minotaur and beats him senseless, even nearly killing the beast with one of his own horns. But seeing the Minotaur take a beating gives Wonder Woman the urge to fight on! She removes her gauntlets to wield her full power and proceeds to kick the First Born’s butt!

The fight is won when Zola seats baby Zeke in the Throne of Olympus. Zeke is revealed to be a reborn Zeus (though he’s still a baby), and his electrical powers help Wonder Woman defeat the First Born and cast him down into the depths of Tartarus. The AVClub has a really good understanding of this scene, better than I could probably write.

Azzarello is also doing better than I could

With the threat of the First Born gone, all of the truths start to come out. First of all, Zola is revealed to have been Athena in disguise this whole time, but Zola didn’t know it. Zola thought she was a real person with a real life, and it’s only now, with Zeke on the Throne, that Athena is able to take control again. She explains to Diana that this was all part of Zeus’ plan. He wanted to take care of the First Born once and for all, he wanted to cast Ares aside, and he wanted to have Wonder Woman step up into a higher role. So Athena was reborn as a mortal, then through her, Zeus fathered himself as a baby, which he knew would bring the First Born out of his prison.

And now that everything Zeus wanted has come to pass, Athena is ready to move on. But Wonder Woman pleads with Athena that Zola was a really awesome person, someone who truly knew love. So as one final gift to Wonder Woman, Athena separates herself and Zola so that Diana can have her best friend back.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

I doubt we will ever see Zola again for the rest of our lives.

At this point in the New 52, I have zero faith in DC Comics. They’ve already announced that the new Wonder Woman creative team is going to bring her solo series more in line with her portrayal in things like Justice League and Superman/Wonder Woman, and I just don’t like that idea. Azzarello’s Wonder Woman is a million times cooler and more interesting than the generic warrior woman found elsewhere at DC. So I have this horrible sinking feeling that we’ll never see Zola again, the Greek God angle is going to be dropped, and Orion will be no more.

Heck, as far as I know, Orion has already moved on to be one of the antagonists in the current Green Lantern Big Event. I haven’t been reading it. I’m too disappointed. Azzarello made Orion into my favorite New 52 character.

But all good things must come to an end. We all knew Azzarello and Chiang couldn’t keep this up forever. Their story was always going to be finite. So at least we can be glad that they were able to tell the story that they wanted. DC let them have 35 issues and three years, and every single one of those was worth it. I actually want to go back and reread the issues if I can find them again. Or maybe I’ll even go so far as to buy the trade paperbacks. Azzarello’s Wonder Woman is a comic I want to hold onto for a long time.

Hopefully every part will make more sense in the long run

And therein lies my slight problem with this final issue: it’s written for the trade. This issue picks up right after the last one. In fact, this whole chapter has been one long battle, and taking a month in between issue kills the tension and the pacing. I bet if you read this issue along with the preceding ones, this final battle will be even more epic and glorious. But as a single issue, it loses a bit of its luster. It doesn’t help that a lot of the drama is dependent on the Minotaur, and I had totally forgotten that, once upon a time, Azzarello wrote a flashback issue about a younger Wonder Woman encountering that same Minotaur during her training with Ares. Knowing that in advance would have helped, but it’s been barely touched upon over the past few issues.

Likewise, I’m a little disappointed that the First Born was defeated in a fight. Azzarello has written this guy as a true monster, one who is seemingly unbeatable against any who come at him. But Wonder Woman just gets jazzed up a bit and is finally able to just outfight him. I was hoping for something a little more clever.

Though he does nail the one-liner

And I was definitely disappointed that Azzarello didn’t find time for a proper epilogue. The issue ends with Wonder Woman giving Zola a hug. And that’s it. I suppose it’s a fine, happy moment for Wonder Woman, but a proper ending would have given this issue a lot more oomph. This issue completely ignores Orion, Hippolyta, the Amazons, hera, Hades and any of the other supporting characters from Azzarello’s run. I have no idea what happened to them in the battle on Paradise Island or what their lives will be like going forward, and that’s very disappointing. Azzarello just leaves us hanging!

But all of my gripes and complaints are mostly minor. While I would have liked an epilogue, having one isn’t necessary to the overall saga, which is pretty close to perfection. Azzarello’s Wonder Woman has been largely great since the very beginning, telling a grand tale starring comics’ most prominent female superhero. DC really upped their game with Wonder Woman in the New 52, and Azzarello’s story comes to a wholly satisfying conclusion with this issue. I highly recommend going back and rereading this whole epic if you get the chance.

Here’s just hoping the next team doesn’t blow 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 November 1, 2014, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Marvel finally finished the arc in Guardians of the Galaxy explaining why Richard Ryder hasn’t reappeared along with everyone else stuck in the cancerverse. It was an ok story, and although they did a decent job explaining Ryder/Nova’s absence, i think it’s far from hard to work around if they do decide to bring him back one day. Unlike, say, Wolverine’s death…

    • Yeah, I flipped through that issue to find our Ryder’s fate. It was a big meh, frankly. It basically amounted to a simple macguffin magically saving the 3 survivors and magically ‘killing’ Ryder, just because. Sad way to see him go considering everybody else got to live.

  2. I really enjoyed ANXM. I thought it was a fun issue. Iceman gets to use his power in a bigger way than usual, the Beast scene was funny, Laura reads a bit more like herself, and the Jean stuff was really good. I liked it.

    Deathlok, on the other hand, was distinctly mediocre. Edmondson’s doing a much better job on Black Widow. Maybe Deathlok will pick up. We’ll see. But this first issue got off to an inauspicious start.

    • I don’t remember much about Ultimate Doom, but I kind of wanted him and Beast to get along and collaborate…until I realized Doom probably wanted to invade and conquer Beast’s dimension.

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