Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 12/13/14

By the time you read this, I still won’t have my Christmas or Hannukah shopping done. What can I say? I’m a terrible procrastinator. I’m frankly amazed that I’ve managed to keep these reviews on time for the past few years. But don’t you fret, henchies, the various important people in my life will definitely be getting presents! I think the Steam Winter Sale is coming up…

If only I could hand out comic books as presents, but the only other person in my family who reads comics is my brother, and we share the ones I buy anyway. So I’m stuck just reading these comics without anyone to give them to for the holidays! Fortunately, December could be a very good month, with new issues of Amazing Spider-Man and Thor, and the debut of Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick!

Comic Book of the Week goes to one of my personal favorite comics right now, Batgirl, for another fantastic issue! This book is making waves, people! Wonderful, surf-worthy waves!

Elsewhere on the Internet, you can check out my review of Spider-Man and the X-Men #1. It’s…weird. Obviously things would have to change with Wolverine being dead and all, but I didn’t expect such a major shift towards silliness. But hey, maybe silliness is your thing!

Comic Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #11, Batgirl #37, Batman Eternal #36, Bitch Planet #1 and Thor #3.

Amazing Spider-Man #11

Amazing Spider-Man #11
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Olivier Coipel

I’m all in favor of tie-ins to Big Event comics. It helps to flesh out the story and it sells more comics. So why not indulge? But man, Marvel must have really come down hard on Dan Slott to mention all the tie-ins to Spider-Verse. I complained that the last issue had several pages dedicated to splitting characters off into the tie-ins, well this issue does the exact same thing, and even takes the time to check-in with a few of those previous tie-ins!

I get that everything is connected (like a web!), but you can’t sacrifice the awesome main story to plug your inferior side-stories. It’s just dumb storytelling. So it’s a good thing this latest chapter of Spider-Verse keeps the good times rolling!

Superior Spider-Man tries to assert control over the team of Spiders, but Peter outwits him and takes him down. Otto wanted to kill the Inheritors, but because of their cloning, killing them won’t matter, according to Peter, so his way is how it’s going to be. Once the dust settles, Peter sends various spiders out on even more various missions, and we get a few check-ins with the various tie-in comics like Spider-Woman, Spider-Man 2099 and Scarlet Spiders. (Of particularly hilarious note, Miles Morales and the cartoon Spidey from Disney’s Ultimate Spider-Man are sent to the world of the 1960s Spider-Man cartoon. We all know the one. But that story plays out in Spider-Verse Team-Up #2).

Peter himself heads out to get some more reinforcements, leaving most of the team in Captain Universe’s world for protection. But that’s when Solus, father of the Inheritors, and Morlun show up to fight. Solus proves that he is even more powerful than Captain Universe and eats the Power Cosmic, killing him. With the team defenseless, Morlun grabs little Benjy Parker, brother of Mayday Parker. Morlun holds Benjy aloft and declares that he has captured the Scion!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I’m slightly miffed that Slott jobbers Captain freakin’ Universe in order to make Solus look powerful, but I can forgive that trope for now. I still don’t understand what makes these Inheritors so special or powerful, but the overall enjoyment of Spider-Verse easily trumps these plot questions. It’s still a blast to see these spider characters team up, and Slott continues to find great little moments between all of them, like this touching panel between our Peter and the new Spider-Gwen.

This is why we comics

Then there’s the pain in Spider-Ham’s voice as he watches an Inheritor eat Spider-Monkey! We all loved that monkey!

Likewise, the confrontation between Peter and Doc Ock was just as good as we’d hoped. Peter uses his brains to outsmart the good doctor, then still offers to help him up, because Peter knows that he needs Otto’s intelligence and experience in this fight. Peter Parker takes a stand to prove why he’s such a good hero, even in such an odd situation. Character is at the heart of this massive crossover, and character has always been Spider-Man’s greatest weapon.

Batgirl #37

Batgirl #37
Writers: Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher
Artists: Babs Tarr and Cameron Stewart

If this new Batgirl hadn’t come out so late in the year, it would be in the running for best comic series of 2014. I am loving this comic, with a depth of love I usually only reserve for Kamala Khan. This is just such a splendidly constructed comic. Stewart and Fletcher have created their own little Batgirl world, full of youthful energy, artistic style and a diehard appreciation of modern day social media. I am loving this comic.

There’s a Glam Batgirl committing crimes in Burnside and blowing up all over social media. The real Batgirl’s investigation leads her to an art show by the reclusive artist Dagger Type (clever pun!), whose art consists of glamour photos of the Glam Batgirl posing for him. The real Batgirl uses her detective skills to track down Dagger Type, only to find out that he’s the Glam Batgirl, posing as her as part of some kind of real life art project. Dagger gets away and promises to expose Batgirl’s secret identity at his next art show.

Everyone who’s anyone in Burnside attends Dagger’s new art show at the Landmark. Babs manages to get in, and when the curtain opens, Dagger reveals that the true identity of Batgirl is…Dagger Type! He reveals himself in another glamorous costume and starts ranting about art and life, but nobody in the audience is buying it anymore. They quickly see through his pretentious art project and start booing, so Dagger Type pulls out a gun and starts shooting.

But Babs quickly jumps on stage and takes him out, even without her costume. She blinds him with her camera flash and drags him backstage, where she interrogates him and learns that Dagger Type has a benefactor who is trying to stick it to Batgirl. Then the cops show up and take him away (and Babs meets a cute cop named Liam). Later that night, Babs gets Dinah’s help to take some pictures so that the real Batgirl can control her own social media presence.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This was another stellar entry in the Stewart, Fletcher, Tarr Batgirl. This creative team is on fire with this new series. As something of a social media neophyte, a lot of what they’re doing is just blowing my mind. Do people really embrace technology like this? How am I missing out? Why am I not living in a place as cool and hip as Burnside? In the grand Bat-family tradition, this creative team has truly turned Gotham City (or at least this corner of it) into a character all its own. Burnside lives and breathes, and watching Batgirl navigate her way through this world is just fantastic.

I especially love the new and unique villains that keep popping up in this series. All three issues have featured a done-in-one villain so far, and they’re all so cool and perfect for this world. Dagger Type explores the world of modern art, mixed with performance art, to create a truly unique and fascinating ‘mirror villain’. And the ways Batgirl uses her intelligence and detective skills to find him, then uses clever tricks and technology to defeat him, just makes for such a fulfilling and rewarding comic. This isn’t just about a superhero punching a villain into submission. Batgirl actually solves crimes and puts bad guys away.

Then there’s the interesting supporting cast, the wonderful web of relationships, and the gorgeous art of Babs Tarr. Batgirl looks like nothing else on the stands, so both art and story are on completely new levels of comics. This series is a whole package, in ways I never expected.

Batman Eternal #36

Batman Eternal #36
Writers: James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder
Artist: Fernando Blanco

I think we’re gearing up for the big climax of Batman Eternal. Characters are being revealed, Batman is being pushed deeper and deeper into the corner, and the plot has never been more off the rails. But considering how often this comic changes the plot, a whole heck of a lot can still happen in the next 12+ issues (I didn’t feel like actually counting).

The Batmobile explodes, and Jason Bard gloats over his victory. Harvey Bullock, Lucius Fox and the other cops just leave, disgusted. Jason telephones Vicki to give her the good news, but she has news of her own. She continued investigating Jason’s life back in Detroit and found out that some amateur copycat Batman tried to get involved in serious police matters and ended up getting Jason’s partner killed. He loved his partner, and that’s why he has a vendetta against Batman (and Gordon for cooperating with Batman). Tommy Elliott was in Detroit at the time, and he met up with Bard to begin their evil plan. Over the phone, Vicki tells Bard to get bent.

And no sooner does Jason hang up than Batman shows up and punches him in the face, having ejected out the underside of the Batmobile. Then Red Robin, Red Hood and Batgirl show up, and the four of them threaten Jason and tell him that since they can’t exactly stop him from being commissioner, then at least he can do a better job. Back at the Batcave, Batman puts a whooping on Hush before the others call him off. Batman realizes that they still don’t have any idea who is behind the big scheme, and he tells his team to get out there and get him some new leads.

Meanwhile, the mastermind is at his secret lair, and is a little disappointed that Batman hasn’t figured it out yet: it’s the Riddler!

Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.

The Riddler? Really? I dunno. Is this supposed to be his big follow-up to Zero Year? The New 52 is kind of a mess continuity-wise, so I don’t remember if the Riddler has been locked up since Zero Year or. I’m pretty sure he hasn’t, so there might be a narrative disconnect. But I’m less concerned with the Riddler than I am with the treatment of Hush.


Even Hush can see it

Not only can Hush see everything that’s going on around him, but he can hear everything too! So while the Bat-Family are struggling to react to Jason Bard, while they’re having their big reunion and a few heart-to-hearts, one of their greatest enemies is right there watching and listening to it all. And of course Hush uses this to antagonize all of them! Every nice or tense moment the Bat-Family have together is thrown back in their faces by the villain, and that’s exactly what he should do.

But what Batman should have done is lock Hush up ANYWHERE ELSE! Are you telling me he doesn’t have some prison cells down in the dank, dark sections of the Batcave? The only cell Batman has is right smack dab in the middle of the Batcave, where his foes can see and hear EVERYTHING?! Ridiculous. I’m telling you, the Batman in this comic is just a big idiot and a slave to the plot.

Bitch Planet #1

Bitch Planet #1
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Valentine De Landro

Finally, I’ve managed to get my hands on another indie comic! I want to read and review more indies, so if you guys and gals have any recommendations, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I’ve heard a lot going into DeConnick’s Bitch Planet, so I’m glad I was able to pick it up. I love her on Captain Marvel, and I enjoyed Pretty Deadly (thank you xmenxpert), so I’m excited to try out her new series.

In the future, dangerous female inmates are taken to a penal planet that is commonly referred to as ‘Bitch Planet’. We meet several colorful inmates, including the overweight asskicker Penny and the blonde house wife Marian Collins. Marian is there after a simple domestic dispute with her husband, who has instead moved on to marry his mistress. Marian tries to talk to someone in authority, because she feels she’s there by mistake; while back on Earth, her husband slips an officer some money to get this whole mattered sorted out. We’re led to believe that the husband is trying to get Marian home, but really he just wanted to get his new wife out of lockup. She’d been accidentally arrested on a warrant for the previous ‘Mrs. Collins’.

The administration goes one step further to help Mr. Collins by having the guards on Bitch Planet kill Marian. Another inmate, the tough-as-nails Kamau Kogo, does her best to try and save Marian, but she’s too late. The administration, meanwhile, is pretty impressed with Kogo’s skills.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I definitely enjoyed Bitch Planet #1, and I think the series is off to a good start. It’s gritty, it’s real, and it reads as tough as its characters. The rest of the Internet is raving about Bitch Planet, but I found a few drawbacks that kept this debut issue from being as strong as possible. Perhaps I’m just too used to superhero comics, and I’m probably missing a lot of the subtext, but I felt DeConnick made some odd choices. Killing Marian Collins, for example, was a little strange. The issue is spent in endless talks about Marian and her husband, and the terrible predicament she finds herself in, only to then kill her at the end of the issue. That leads to a solid introduction to Kogo, but why spend all that time on Marian? Especially since some of the back-and-forth with her husband back on Earth was a little confusing (though that may have been the point).

Of course, maybe Marian’s murder is a bigger deal to the whole series than I realize, but I didn’t get that feeling. I think DeConnick just enjoyed her bait and switch with the husband and his mistress. I would have preferred more time getting to know the characters who will be sticking around.

I just don’t feel that we got as strong an introduction to the premise as we could have in this first issue. DeConnick definitely establishes a woman’s prison full of interesting characters, but what is Bitch Planet beyond that? Where did Kogo come from and why does she care about Marian? And how often are these women sent back to Bitch Planet? Penny (a standout character!) seemed to be coming back to the planet. Why was she let go in the first place?

How’d she even get out?

Regardless of its flaws, which are probably all on my end, Bitch Planet is off to a strong start. The characters that are still alive are already fascinating, and I want to get to know more about this world. Why are they on a separate planet? What do they do up there? What’s Kogo’s role in all of this? DeConnick has got a bit of world-building ahead of her, and I can’t wait to see where she goes with it.

Thor #3

Thor #3
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Russell Dauterman

Three issues in, I’m confident in saying that this female Thor idea is going gangbusters! Jason Aaron is still writing his spectacular Asgard comic, mixing the epic scope of the Nine Realms with some down-to-Earth realism. Alongside some spectacular art, this battle between a Norse pretender, a sorcerer, a minotaur and a gaggle of Frost Giants is just plain awesome.

Thor faces off against a squad of Frost Giants, but without Mjolnir, their leader simply freezes her into an ice cube and eats her. But Thor still has some of her strength, and a few moments later, she explodes out of his head and takes the fight to the Giants, kicking their butts even though she’s really tiny!

Meanwhile, Malekith confronts Agger inside his panic room, demanding the Skull of Laufey (which is also hidden in the room). Agger goes full minotaur and fights back, using an ancient Shaolin battle ax to actually hold his ground against Malekith. But then Thor manages to rip open the panic room door, freeing Mjolnir and finishing off the Frost Giants. Then she strolls right up between the two villains and smashes the Skull! Malekith hisses that she’s now brought Frost Giant War to Midgard, but a new arrival says that Thor should expect a different sort of war.

It’s male Thor! He’s now got a mechanical arm and is pretty pissed off!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Lady Thor, so far, has been a pretty cool character. She’s got all the power and bluster of Thor, but Aaron uses thought bubbles to get into her very human way of thinking. We can feel alongside her how overwhelming this situation is, but how confident she remains in the face of it. She’s a blast to read. And while I pretty much hate Dario Agger, seeing him interact with someone other than Thor is actually kind of fun! Pitting the two villains together like this adds new perspectives to each of them, giving both a bigger role in this overall picture. It’s a smart move. And those Frost Giants are just hilarious. Artist Dauterman and colorist Matthew Wilson really bring them to life with the dumbly funny dialogue and their bright blue hues.

Say what you will about this female Thor stunt, it has led to some really great comics.

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 December 13, 2014, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. On Eternal: I think these last couple issues have been extremely strong. Also a couple points: Batman can’t hand Hush over to the cops, he’s working with Comish Bard who will immediately just release him back into the city. Also, Hush being locked up in the Batcave is just plain awesome. There is sooooooo much potential for fun with him watching everything the batfamily is doing.
    Riddler isn’t the big bad of Eternal either, I’d bet a lot of money on it, but he has figured out the identity of the big bad. I thought his little bit in #36 was extremely well written and was a nice throwback to the original “Hush” story too.

    • I get that Batman can’t just hand Hush over to Bard, and having him in the center of the Batcave would lead to potential story fun, but it doesn’t make any sense for someone like Batman! Surely Batman would have somewhere more out of the way to stick Hush until they figured out what to do with him.

      And you think Riddler is trying to figure out the Big Bad on his own? Interesting theory, definitely!

  2. Amazing Spider-Man was cool. Some good humour, some good drama, some good Peter-punching-SpOck.

    Bitch Planet was brilliant. Just a fantastic comic. It’s a very smart comic, some smart social commentary on the treatment of women on society, but too fun to feel preachy. The art’s great, very stylish and cool. Penny Rolle is awesome. As far as Marian goes, I think it was a bait-and-switch. She gets the reader expecting Marian – the pretty white blonde woman – to be the protagonist, because pretty white blonde women are always protagonists. But this is a prison, so it makes a lot more sense for the protagonist to be a black woman. It also, I think, speaks towards the “disposable woman” attitude, with guys trading in for newer models, and the old version being thrown out. I get the feeling Bitch Planet is going to be even more overtly feminist commentary than KSD’s work usually is. Which is fine by me.

    Thor was great. She’s got the proper Thor badassery. Blowing a guy up from the inside, followed by a cool one-liner? That’s the Thor we all know and love!

    Spider-Man and the X-Men was so mediocre. The X-Men look like asses, the “power and responsibility” stuff is stuffed down our throats, and everything was just so, so bland.

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