Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 11/15/14

You know what I love on vacation? A big stack of great comics! And this week delivered with flying colors! The Internet loves the new issue of Batman, though I’m not as big of a fan. But who needs Batman when we’ve got She-Hulk, Thor and Captain Marvel? All three deliver solidly fun comics starring women, and that’s as much fun as it sounds. But what am I getting at, you ask? Where am I going with this?

Well, what happens when you mix Batman, flying colors and female protagonists?

Comic Book of the Week goes to Batgirl #36. It’s only the second issue of this new relaunch, and already I’m beyond loving this series. It’s just so, so good!

Also, feel free to check out my review of All-New Captain America #1 over at Word of the Nerd. I think Falcon is going to make a pretty good Cap.

Comic Reviews: Batgirl #36, Batman #36, Batman Eternal #32, Captain Marvel #9, She-Hulk #10, Superior Iron Man #1 and Thor #2.

Batgirl #36

Batgirl #36
Writers: Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher
Artists: Babs Tarr and Cameron Stewart

I’m going there, and I’m not ashamed of it either. Batgirl #36 gets a perfect score. This comic is as well constructed, well written and well drawn as a comic book can get. I feel like I’m learning how to make a better comic just by reading all the things that Stewart, Fletcher and Tarr are doing. So far, the new Batgirl is not just blowing me out of the water, it’s sewing me a parachute and building me a new boat in the process.

Barbara Gordon enrolls in her thesis program, where she meets hunky professor Jeremy DeGroot and helpful research assistant Nadimah. Babs is still freaking out over having lost her hard drive and all her thesis data, but Nadimah’s brother works in the robotics lab on campus, and he should have an extra hard drive that Babs can use to recover her thesis project. Babs and Nadimah quickly become BFFs. While she’s over at the lab, meeting Qadir, Babs learns that someone broke into the lab the night before and stole a pair of super awesome rocket bikes! And sure enough, the thieves and those rocket bikes appear on campus soon after, terrorizing students! Batgirl tries to stop them, but they knock her around and get away.

Babs quickly realizes that the thieves have based their identities off a pair of villains from an old anime she used to watch when she was a kid. She does a little research around town and discovers the girls’ identities, tracking them to a warehouse in Burnside, where they do battle! Babs thinks back to the anime and how the villains were defeated on the show, then she uses that to kick this new duo’s butts! But then the girls reveal that they were hired by someone calling themselves ‘Batgirl’, who agreed to pay them $1 million dollars to kill Batgirl! So somebody is out there trading on Babs’ name and trying to kill her!

Comic Rating: 10/10 – Fantastic.

I’m not sure where to begin in describing why I love this book so much. Let’s start with the story: it’s simple, but beautiful, building on the greater, underlying storyline while also delivering a fun one-off adventure for this issue. Batgirl fights a pair of anime-obsessed super fans who manage to get their hands on equipment that makes their obsession a reality. It’s a neat concept, using elements from the real, modern world. So far, the villains in Batgirl are all based around modern pop culture, technology, and trends, and that’s just plain cool. Stewart and Fletcher have really gone above and beyond filling Babs’ new world with realistic, modern elements. I love it!

Beyond the cool villains, the story is just so well constructed. Batgirl does some real detective work, and we get to follow along as she puts the pieces together and finds the villains. I questioned a scene where she went to a novelty toy store and asked the clerk about the anime, because I figured she could just Google that sort of thing, but she was really there to pick his brain about the local anime scene and to identify the super fans. That was a great way to show off Batgirl actually working to solve a crime, not just punching bad guys. Then when it comes time to punch the bad guys, there’s this amazing scene where she think back to her childhood, watching the anime, and how her dad helped her to understand exactly how to beat her foes.

Good work, Commissioner!

It’s one of the most well-situated flashbacks I’ve ever read. It informs the fight at hand, it fleshes out Barbara’s past, and it shows a great bonding moment between father and daughter. The sheer construction of this flashback, and this whole scene, raises this comic to spectacular heights of skill.

The Barbara Gordon portion of the comic is great too. She’s got a fun storyline going on about her thesis project, and she meets some fun new cast members, while still spending time with some of last issue’s cast members, like Dinah and her new roommate. The hunky professor is fun, her new friend Nadimah is fun, and both Nadimah and her brother add some very welcome diversity to the comic without being over-the-top or obstructive. These are just people in Barbara’s life, and I want to spend as much time with them as I do Batgirl.

And not enough can be said about Tarr and Stewart on art. It’s just gorgeous. It looks like nothing else in comics, and is just full of personality and spirit. This is art that energizes the comic, filling it with a wonderful sort of life. I love this comic. It makes me want to be a better creator.

Batman #36

Batman #36
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo

I think I might have to step away from this Endgame storyline. Snyder and Capullo have been writing a great Batman series for years now. I really am enjoying their work, and I can appreciate the epic scale and skill that has gone into everything they have done. But I don’t care about the Joker, and my disinterest in this storyline just brings the whole series down. That’s on me, not on Snyder of Capullo.

Batman battles the possessed Superman in the streets of Gotham, trotting out various weapons to combat the Man of Steel, like a glove with miniature red suns built into the knuckles, courtesy of Ray Palmer. Then when it looks like Superman might just kill Batman, the Dark Knight spits a wad of kryptonite-laced gum into Superman’s eye, finally taking him down. Then all of the possessed Justice Leaguers are shipped off to an ARGUS facility for recovery, which could take up to five days. Then Batman and the Pennyworths get on the case in tracking down the Joker. Batman heads to the ruins of Arkham Asylum to look for clues, and he bumps into Dr. Eric Bolder, a doctor at Arkham who reveals himself to be the Joker in disguise. The Joker (with a repaired face) imprisons Batman in his old cell and declares that he’s come back to wrap things up, that he’s grown bored of Batman and is just going to end things by driving the whole city mad. Then he shoots Batman with some kind of knock-out something or other.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Do not, under any circumstances, take my review seriously. This is a personal, biased review, and not a journalisticly sound, objective review. That’s what I write. That’s how I think. And personally, I’m just not all that obsessed with the Joker, not in the way Scott Snyder and most Bat-fans are. As such, this issue does little for me. Batman #36 is all about the cult of the Joker, that his mere presence is all it takes to make a comic good and get the fans drooling. And maybe that is all it takes. Maybe that’s all the fans want. That’s fine. I just don’t have it in me to really care. Sorry.

I mean, what exactly happens in this issue? Batman defeats Superman through Dues ex Machina means. Snyder is a clever guy, and just like the last issue showed, he’s got a lot of neat ideas in his mind for how Batman might defeat the various members of the Justice League. But red sun gauntlets and kryptonite-laced gum are no better than, I dunno, a kryptonite baseball bat or red sun Pop Rox. It’s all the same. There’s no real character in the victory, just nifty ideas. Then Joker reveals that he was this Dr. Eric Bolder all along? Uh, sorry, but I’ve never heard of him. A little Googling has revealed that he has appeared in at least one prior issue of Batman, and that he was the star of Batman Annual #2, but I never read the Annual, and some nobody Arkham doctor is not going to be memorable. Arkham is full of random nobody doctors that make single issue appearances. Some people online are really praising Snyder for this reveal, but I just don’t get the praise. The character of Eric Bolder has been little more than a blip, and certainly not enough to be memorable, so why is this such a fantastic twist?

This is all just being too clever for clever’s sake. Check out this page of the Joker explaining why he chose the name ‘Eric Bolder’.

The answer is ‘Jester’

Are you kidding me? How much damn research did Snyder do? I understand the humor in using a civilian name like ‘Jason O. Kerr’, but how is ‘Eric Bolder’ any sort of a joke? Or even suspicious?

When it comes to the Joker, Snyder just tries way too hard. The Joker becomes more myth than character, and while that’s probably a perfectly legitimate take on the villain, you’ve got to be willing to believe the myth if the story is going to matter. And I don’t. I don’t care about the Joker. I enjoy a good, well-crafted Joker story as much as the next person, but when your story is just ‘look how cool and scary the Joker’ is, then I just don’t care.

Batman Eternal #32

Batman Eternal #32
Writers: Kyle Higgins, James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder
Artist: Jason Fabok

Eh. Batman Eternal returns to lameness this week with a subpar issue that once again starts veering into strange, unfocused territory. It makes me ashamed to have actually liked the last issue, but I was distracted by the sheer awesomeness of Alfred teaming up with Bane. I guess I’m just easily distracted by shiny things.

Batman stops Hush from killing Spoiler…but they both immediately get away/sneak away, so I’m not sure what the point of that even was. Batman then takes a single page to rescue Batwing, who also promptly leaves the issue without any follow up. Then Alfred is returned to the Batcave, and Batman discovers that Hush accessed his file on all the hidden safehouses and caches that he keeps around the city. Hush gives Jason Bard info on the secret little lairs, who in turn passes it on to Vicki Vale at the Gazette to get the word out about Batman’s secrets, some of which were built by Wayne Enterprises.

In the end, Hush uses the weapons from one of the caches to blow up a National Guard convoy. It seems now his plan has switched to discrediting Wayne Enterprises.

Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.

So at issue #32, we once again have a complete switch up of the plot and story. Suddenly Hush wants to expose Batman’s hidden caches? And that has been his plan since he snuck into the Batcave all those issues ago and somehow knew where to find the file that mapped out the caches? A file we haven’t even heard about until now? Heck, we haven’t even heard about these caches until now, but suddenly they’re crucial to the story? Hush’s plan has never made any sense in this series. None of it ties together, none of it flows. When the end comes, there’s no way any of these twists, turns or reveals are going to make any big picture sense.

You know who isn’t crucial to the story anymore? Batwing, apparently. He gets one page of being rescued, and then a line later that Batman sent him home to rest. I would be legitimately surprised if he shows up again. Is DC even still publishing a Batwing comic? That guy gets no respect.

Captain Marvel #9

Captain Marvel #9
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: David Lopez

Happily, Captain Marvel is going to be getting a movie in a few years! The character more than deserves the opportunity, and if it’s in any way built upon the strength of DeConnick’s series, I’m all the happier for that. Hopefully the comic gets better by then, because sadly, DeConnick still has Carol flying around space for no good reason. Get that girl back to planet Earth, pronto! Though to be fair, this week’s adventure isn’t half bad.

While flying through space, Carol and Tic jam out to some Lila Cheney music, which somehow, suddenly, draws the actual Lila onto their ship! She’s a teleporting mutant from back in the ’80s New Mutants days, and is an intergalactically famous rock star. Lila tells Carol and Tic all about some of her adventures teleporting around the galaxy, and how on one jaunt, she became engaged to the handsome prince of the planet Aladna. She’s due to marry the prince, but she doesn’t want to anymore, so she brings Carol along to use her diplomatic mojo to get her out of the wedding. On Aladna, everyone speaks in rhymes. You’d think that would get annoying, but it’s surprisingly endearing.

So the problem is that the prince can only assume the throne from his parents once he is wed, but on Aladna, men don’t get to choose their spouses. It’s the parents’ choice, and they want him to marry Lila, but she isn’t too keen on that idea anymore. The prince is a pretty cool guy. He’s promised Lila that she doesn’t have to stay and be his queen, she can go back to being a rockstar and it’ll be a marriage in name only, but she still wants out. The problem with Lila backing out is that his parents will then force him to marry the cruel Marlo of Sleen.

Marlo interrupts the wedding and challenges Lila to battle for the hand of the prince. Carol volunteers to fight in Lila’s stead and mops the floor with Marlo. Carol then asks the king and queen to abolish the silly rule about men not being able to choose their own spouses, but they refuse – so Tic volunteers to marry the prince! He’s a hunk, and she explain that her species doesn’t live very long anyway. So if she marries the prince, then he can become king and change that silly rule himself, and that will mean that Tic actually helped change a whole world! She’s pretty proud of that opportunity.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Aside from a somewhat complex plot, with various arbitrary rules about who can marry whom, this was a pretty fun little story. Carol makes some new friends, struggles with some odd alien culture, and gets into a pretty gnarly fight. The rhyming bit then raises the whole thing to another level of sheer fun. DeConnick doesn’t just have everybody rhyme in metered form, she mixes it up, having the rhymes bounce around between different characters in different styles. The issue is just fun, plain and simple, and I really like fun comics these days.

But look too deep into this issue and it all kind of falls apart. What’s the point of being in space if all the aliens you meet are basically just humans with very human customs? Everybody speaks human, they dress like humans and they get married like humans. Then the rules for the marriage were incredibly arbitrary. And the issue had so very little to do with Lila Cheney! That’s probably the worst crime of them all. I don’t have any history with Lila, but she’s one of those wonderful, one-off Marvel characters who make the whole universe worthwhile. And she’s the perfect guest star for space adventures. But DeConnick wastes her! Lila may get Carol to Aladna, but then she practically disappears. The trouble with the prince has nothing personally to do with Lila and she doesn’t contribute to Carol saving the day. It’s a total waste of the character, but it’s not a waste of the issue.

She-Hulk #10

She-Hulk #10
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Javier Pulido

Man, I am going to be sad to see She-Hulk go. But I’ve already added the two volumes of Soule’s series to my Amazon wishlist, so I will hold on to this series forever! Never has She-Hulk’s law practice felt so alive! Plus there was that awesome Jamie Madrox cameo, gotta love those.

Steve Rogers takes the stand in his civil trial and explains what really happened that night in LA in 1940: he and his buddy went to rescue the buddy’s brother, only to find out that the brother was working with a Nazi contingent in the states. Steve and his buddy were captured and were about to be killed, but the sickly Steve Rogers stood up, looked the Nazi in the eye and gave one hell of a speech about how the Nazis were going to lose. The Nazi was then about to shoot Steve, but decided it best if the sick, weak little Rogers be allowed to live on and breed, so he shot Steve’s healthier buddy instead. So Steve’s negligence didn’t cause the guy to be shot, as the lawsuit alleged, and the jury found in favor of Steve and She-Hulk.

After it’s over, Steve reveals to She-Hulk and Daredevil that this lawsuit was an evil manipulation from the very beginning, but he had to win it in court to protect his reputation. And which of his foes is a master of manipulation? Fautus! So the three of them team up and take down Dr. Faustus!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This has been just a fun, engaging story since the beginning. Soule used all of his experience and skill as a real attorney to dream up the perfect sort of civil lawsuit for a superhero in the Marvel Universe. Then he used his knowledge of trials to really get into the hearts and minds of his characters, easily balancing She-Hulk’s professionalism in the courtroom and her nervousness back at her office, as well as Matt Murdock’s oratory prowess. The story from Captain America’s past was a fascinating one and was more than worthy of exploring in this setting. And Soule had perfectly reasonable reasons for why Steve would want both Murdock and She-Hulk on the case. I’m so sad to see this series go. It’s not often you get such a nuanced and skillful look into the other corners of the Marvel Universe.

Superior Iron Man #1

Superior Iron Man #1
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Yildiray Cinar

Right from the start, I think this is an odd choice of series. I’m all for exploring a darker Tony Stark in a new setting, but I think Marvel is really giving themselves to short a leash by basing his darker attitude on the hocus pocus from Axis. That series is going to be over in a matter of weeks and will have nearly zero impact on the rest of the Marvel Universe. So if you’re going to do a big Iron Man relaunch – arguably your most popular character these days – why base it around something as silly as Axis?

But they did, and here we go…

Following the events of Axis, Tony Stark is even more of a jackass than usual. He’s set up shop in San Francisco, and he’s created an Extremis cell phone app that somehow transforms its users’ bodies into their perfect ideal. The app is free to anyone with a smart phone; it’s a gift from Stark to San Francisco. Pepper Potts shows up to try and convince Tony how insane this is, that people are still jerks on the inside, and that this is going to create class warfare between the newly beautiful and those who don’t have smart phones. Pepper has to interrupt a big, fancy pool party to get to Tony, but he just brushes her off. He is evil-ish now, after all.

He even has a new silvery armor, built with symbiote-tech, so it’s kind of a liquid metal. While Tony and Pepper are talking, all of the hot men and women at the pool party suddenly start crying out in pain as the Extremis app wears off and their bodies revert back to normal. Tony reveals that the app was only free as a demo, but now everybody has to pay $99 a day to stay perfect. He’s going to be rich!

Meanwhile, Daredevil, who is also in San Francisco these days, encounters some of those newly beautiful people harassing a homeless woman for making their city uglier. And in the end, Pepper teams up with a robotic version of an old Iron Man armor in order to take our the new jackass Tony.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

This issue was kind of all over the place, and not in any way that I expected. Iron Man and Tony Stark are hot right now, there’s no denying that. And I definitely see the appeal in this kind of relaunch, where he has a new set of armor and a new attitude towards life. But Taylor’s story seems to miss the point. He nails the new Tony, and I definitely like the new suit and direction. But this is just an odd story, and not just because of the Axis connection. Pitting Iron Man against Daredevil seems like a weird choice for an opening story arc, likewise having Pepper Potts so quickly team up with this old Iron Man armor (which is either running an old Tony or Jarvis AI program). It makes for an odd cliffhanger, but not one that really makes much sense. Why not let this new attitude of Tony’s actually simmer beneath the surface? Why have Pepper already figure out something is wrong…and when she does, why does she turn to an AI program for help and not anyone else in the world?

The art by Cinar is nice. It’s well done and very detailed and clear, but I feel like Superior Iron Man could have been given a bigger push. I like the new direction for Tony Stark, but I just think Taylor makes a few odd choices for his first issue and opening story arc.

Thor #2

Thor #2
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Russell Dauterman

Welp, my theory that the new Thor is Freyja the All-Mother only lasted a single issue. I still think she could be a choice, but this second issue features a lot of thought bubbles from our new God of Thunder, and that inner voice is not that of Freyja of Asgard. The female Thor sounds like any normal Earth girl, so all bets are off!

My next guess? Thor’s girlfriend, SHIELD Agent Roz Solomon.

The new female Thor picks up Mjolnir from the moon and flies to Earth. The Frost Giants are attacking Roxxon’s floating island, and they have created a giant ice pillar from the ground to the island, rooting it in place. Thor fights her way up the pillar until she eventually encounters Roxxon CEO Dario Agger, who is casually allowing his employees to be killed by Frost Giants if it means he can escape. Thor protects him from some giants, revealing to the reader that she knows Agger, but then loses her hammer when its locked inside Agger’s panic room. That means the new Thor has to fight the Frost Giants and Malekith without Mjolnir!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Anybody who was disappointed at how little we saw of the new Thor last issue can rest easy for this one: it’s all about her! We’re in her head and with her nearly every step of the way as she gets used to her new power, learns to wield the hammer and smashes a bunch of Frost Giant faces! Them big bastards don’t stand a chance against her! Watching the new Thor in action is a lot of fun. She’s a quick learner, while still being a badass, and she seems pretty likable. Dauterman on art is even better. The man draws some great action scenes, truly capturing the majesty and the power of these giants. Thor is still a damn good book – though Dario Agger remains annoying.

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 15, 2014, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Did you read Spider-Verse #1 this week? There was a series of short spider stories in it. I found it delightful that they did a one-off of those old full page Spider-Man Twinkie ads from like the 70s comics. As well as having Morlun visit the newspaper comic strip Spider-Man world. I lol’d at that quite a bit.

  2. When Barbara walked into the anime store I was like “my girlfriend is going to go nuts when she reads this.”
    I actually really enjoyed the joker reveal. It had the potential to be really stupid, but the way the scene was paced and drawn had this wonderful sense of slowly encroaching doom. I agree that the Superman fight was disappointingly whatever- except for the part where Supes dropped a building on him, that was pretty awesome. I also just like the juxtaposition of a really bright, blockbuster-y Saturday morning cartoon scene in the first half and then the second is a creepy story about a serial killer waving his old decomposed face at you. It was an interesting attempt at showing how Justice League Batman and detective story Batman are the same guy without feeling jarringly different.
    But yeah, if you aren’t all that blown away by how Snyder does the Joker (which, fortunately, I am), this story is probably going to be kind of a wash.

    • That’s a neat idea about the Batman issue. One half is big, bombastic Justice League battle, the other half is dark, murky detective/Joker stuff. I rather like that understanding. But, unfortunately, I’m not won over by the mere presence of the Joker. I like Joker when he’s got a really smart, gnarly plan in place…or Heath Ledger’s Joker. I think that’s the only Joker I like on principle alone.

  3. Captain Marvel was so much fun. The rhymes! I always love a Lila Cheney story, and KSD clearly had a blast with it, and wrote what a Lila Cheney story should be.

    She-Hulk was great. Some really cool legal stuff. I loved Hellcat here. Patsy’s awesome.

    Superior Iron Man was OK. But I really hope this current direction doesn’t last long. A villain protagonist still needs to be sympathetic to be enjoyable. But Stark’s not even the least bit sympathetic here. He’s an exaggeration of all his worst traits, and it’s a little annoying.

    Thor was good. She seems interesting. I’m guessing Roz Solomon as the identity of Lady Thor, too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: