Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 12/27/14

Ho, Ho, Ho, my henchies! The holidays are still in full swing for me. I’m visiting family in Rochester, NY today, and that’s always a treat. But even with all the traveling, working and unwrapping of excellent presents, I managed to pick up and read a few comics.

Batman Eternal continues to be the absolute worst, despite all the potential it could have. Damian Wayne returns as Robin like it ain’t no thang. And two of my favorite comics, She-Hulk and Uncanny X-Men, deliver some more stellar issues. Comic Book of the Week goes to She-Hulk #11 for some quality superheroics.

Though Uncanny X-Men is not without its charms.

Goldballs needs to become Bendis’ chief legacy with the X-Men, like what he did for Luke Cage and the Avengers.

Comic Reviews: Batman Eternal #38, Robin Rises – Alpha, She-Hulk #11 and Uncanny X-Men #29.

Batman Eternal #38

Batman Eternal #38
Writers: Tim Seeley, James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder
Artist: Andrea Mutti

Let’s do a little experiment. Clear your mind, and let me lay out two awesome Batman scenarios for you. In the first scenario, Batman, low on resources and weapons, must sneak into an abandoned mental hospital to take out six of his deadliest foes one-by-one. In the second scenario, Bane battles Killer Croc in a no-holds-barred slugfest in a sewer. Don’t those sound like really cool comics?

Well strap in, folks, because this is Batman Eternal, and both of them are terrible!

Why? Just…just so many reasons. Let’s start with a brief synopsis.

The six foes from last issue are hiding out in an abandoned mental hospital, but they have been tricked by Poison Ivy, who is secretly working for Catwoman. Ivy led them to this facility, and then Catwoman tipped off Batman. The Dark Knight arrives and starts taking them out – but instead of showing us the takedowns, they’re mostly off-panel, with Batman explaining to Julia how he took them out. When he finally does face off against Scarecrow, the two talk each other to death. Seriously, Crane just rambles and rambles about bigger forces at work before Batman, finally, takes him out.

That’s the problem with the Croc/Bane fight too. Croc is working with Catwoman, but as he fights Bane in the basement of the facility, he also just drones on and on about how he’s smarter than anybody gives him credit for. Did you know Killer freakin’ Croc is a fan of French literature? Please.

But let’s not stop there! Apparently those stories alone aren’t good enough! We also finally check in on Commissioner Gordon, who’s apparently just been hanging out in his jail cell all this time, getting really grumpy at how Rex “The Lion” Calabrese is now out in the open and using his legendary status to get favors in prison. Gordon still believes in the system, even though the system has yet to get him out of prison. But maybe he has a chance when a newly repentant Jason Bard shows up looking for allies to help clean up the mess he’s made. Gordon, the idiot who hired Bard in the first place, is quite ready to join him again. Please.

We also spend some time with Catwoman, once again waxing poetic about what it’s like to be head of the crime families in Gotham as opposed to actually showing her doing any leading.

Comic Rating: 1/10 – Terrible.

This issue could have been awesome. This could have been two awesome issues. Killer Croc vs. Bane?! Come on! Batman silently taking down the likes of Clayface, Mr. Freeze and Joker’s Daughter? This stuff should write itself! But this creative team blows everything!

First off, it’s too damn wordy. Like I said in the synopsis, both the Croc/Bane fight and the Batman/Scarecrow fight are almost entirely spoken word. Sure, some punches are thrown, but the characters are jabbering endlessly about the fight, about the meaning of the fight, about the bigger picture. It’s non-stop, and sucks all the tension out of each fight. The Croc/Bane fight should be brutal, instead it’s all empty boasting. Beyond that, Batman’s work is all covered through dialogue between him and Julia. He tells her how he took down Mr. Freeze and Joker’s Daughter after the fact. How boring is that?!

To say nothing of the fact that Batman goes in alone for no good reason. Despite having a trained spy in his ear, and an entire Bat-Family to call upon, Batman insists that he should do this alone.

Anybody else still bothered by this whole Alfred’s daughter thing?

Not that the six villains are all that dangerous.

Like I said in my last review, these guys have never been more pathetic. Mr. Freeze is taken down off-panel like an after thought. And Scarecrow, robbed of any context, is just a dude in a burlap sack trying to talk Batman into being afraid. Yawn.

Another problem is art. These past two issues have been some of the worst in the entire run of Batman Eternal. Mutti’s pencils are just sloppy, with almost every character looking off-model. The villains are more like blobs than dangerous foes, with everyone looking painfully and pathetically ordinary. The colors are flat, especially on all the villains. They are just so dull.

This whole experience was dull. And honestly, what does any of this have to do with Batman Eternal?! How does chasing down these villains tie into the bigger picture? This two-part storyline has just been a pathetic diversion.

Robin Rises – Alpha

Robin Rises – Alpha
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Andy Kubert

I don’t really know what the death of Damian Wayne really means for comic books on a larger scale. From what I read, writer Grant Morrison had always planned to kill off Damian, but by the time DC got around to his death, Morrison was already on the way out from spear-heading the Bat-books. So did they go through with it because they thought it was a good idea? Or because Morrison has that kind of sway?

Because here we are, only a year or so later, and Damian is alive and well, no fuss, no muss. He’s not a zombie, he’s not cursed (that we know of), and he’s not deformed in anyway. He pretty much just woke up as if he’d been asleep this whole time. So it’s really just another example of death meaning next to nothing in comic books anymore.

Damian Wayne is back in the land of the living, but the danger has not yet passed. Cyborg is unable to close the Boom Tube portal, and soon an angry Kalibak bursts into the Batcave seeking revenge! Everyone puts up a pretty good fight, including the Bat-Animals, but it’s a super-powered Damian who puts up the biggest fight. He gets Kalibak into position so that Batman can slam a Batplane into the villain, sending him back through the portal. Once it’s over, everyone welcomes Damian back, and Batman figures they should probably talk about these new super-powers.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This was a fine issue, very enjoyable. It’s a big fight scene, with little snippets here and there of everybody happy to have Damian back. But like I said, there’s not that much fanfare. These characters didn’t so much bring somebody back from the dead as they did just rescue Damian from some dilemma. They didn’t defy the laws of nature, they just helped a buddy out. So that bit was low key, but everything else was pretty extreme. Tomasi has been writing an epic action story, and closes it off with a solid fight scene against Kalibak. Unfortunately, Kalibak doesn’t really mean anything to the Bat-family, and he’s not as cool as the Darkseid fight last issue, so Robin Rises – Alpha wasn’t quite as epic or intense as the past few issues. But it gets the job done.

She-Hulk #11

She-Hulk #11
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Javier Pulido

I’m not ready for this book to go! Soule and Pulido have so much more She-Hulk to share with us! Why, cruel world, why?! At least they seem ready to go out with a bang.

Titania has been hired to stop She-Hulk from looking into the mysterious Blue File, so she shows up at Shulkie’s law officer and punches her clear from Brooklyn to New Jersey! The two pound on each other, and their fight takes them to the mountain range in the Hudson Valley. Volcanna shows up to help Titania, but Hellcat, Angie and Hei Hei show up to help She-Hulk. Suffice to say, the good guys win.

When the fight is over, Angie reveals that she’s been digging into the Blue File on her own, and She-Hulk – who is under a mysterious spell – promptly fires her. But Angie is not going to give up that easily, and she reveals that the former superhero Nightwatch has been behind it all!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

At least we can say that Soule and Pulido are going out big. They’ve been teasing the mysteries of the Blue File and Angie all along, and after a few different stories in their short run, they’re going to end with some big reveals and resolutions. I like the sound of that. She-Hulk #11 really pushed the superhero angle, with She-Hulk going to huge lengths in her fight with Titania. Pulido really nailed the look of larger-than-life strength. The punch that sent Shulkie flying across state lines was very cool.

Titania kind of comes out of nowhere, but she’s She-Hulk’s arch nemesis, so she gets a pass. As does the fact that Volcanna, Hellcat and the gang all managed to find the two combatants even though they’d fled several hundred miles away from the law officer. That doesn’t matter, what matters is the awesome fight scene, and the big cliffhanger leading into next issue. I suppose Nightwatch makes as good a villain as anyone else in this short series. Let’s hope the revelations about the Blue File are as satisfying as She-Hulk has been as a whole!

Uncanny X-Men #29

Uncanny X-Men #29
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Chris Bachalo

I love me some Bendis-penned Uncanny X-Men, but even I can admit that this story is getting pretty long in the tooth. We’re still just trying to figure out what to do with Matthew Malloy. We’re so far removed from Xavier’s will that I think everybody has forgotten about it. This is still a fun story, and these are still great comics, but Bendis needs to reign it in soon.

Magneto confronts Cyclops and Matthew Malloy at the Devil’s Tower, trying to talk sense into both of them. Magneto can see that Cyclops only wants to use Matthew, but Cyclops explains that it’s not like that. Matthew sides with Cyclops and teleports Magneto back to Cyclops’ school. Matthew and Cyclops continue their chat over whether or not someone can ever make up for the people they’ve killed. Matthew doubts that he’ll ever get over it, but then Magik shows up to help him, having borrowed the Eye of Agamotto from Doctor Strange (long story). Before they can use the Eye, however, a helicarrier shows up and blows them all to smithereens!

Meanwhile, at the school, the students find Magneto. Then they try to figure out what they can do to help. Eva Bell wants to use her time travel powers to go back in time and warn a younger Charles Xavier that his attempts to contain Matthew fail. The Cuckoos tell her it’s a bad idea, but some of the other new students think time travel might be a good idea. In the end, Eva does go back to meet the younger Xavier.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

As I’ve been saying all along, this has been a very good storyline. Cyclops is at his limit, facing a problem that threatens all of mutantdom, and I love that he’s tackling it head on. The rest of the X-Men are struggling to keep up and do what they can, whether with or against Cyclops. Personally, I think Scott is going too far, but that’s the point. Other people are noticing that too. I just hope Cyclops can pull this off. He could use a win right now, and I think Bendis could do interesting things with Malloy.

Of course, that being said, this story is just dragging on. There are so many characters on the board, and all of them move forward like glaciers with each issue. Why even include this subplot about Magik visiting Doctor Strange? What does Magneto’s interference even accomplish here? What’s Eva Bell going to do in the past? There are just too many plates spinning in a story that has already stretched on for way too long. I hope Bendis has a solid ending in mind, and one that isn’t rushed like the last storyline with Dark Beast.

Also, not to nitpick too much, but Bachalo’s art didn’t seem up to snuff in this issue. He was definitely a little rushed and a little sloppy. Maybe he had a different inker? I don’t know. But no harm, no foul.

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 27, 2014, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. She-Hulk was great. A great fight sequence, and some ridiculous humour. Hei Hei! Also, it was kinda cool seeing Titania and Volcana together. They were friends before they got their powers. It’s weird seeing Volcana as a villain – she was always a really nice person back in the day – but I actually wouldn’t mind seeing the two women just hanging out together.

    UXM was fantastic. Some really compelling conversations going on. Also, Adam-X joke! I will agree that this storyline needs to wrap up. Bendis is doing a lot of great stuff with this story, but he’s decompressed it just a bit too much.

    • Also, about UXM: I really hope the Emma/Dazzler scene is setting them up to become friends. It was a cute moment, and I feel like they’d make a really fun pairing. Though we also need to get more Emma/Magik fun, because those two are great together.

      By the way, you should’ve picked up the UXM and ANXM Annuals. The two-part story was brilliant and gorgeous. Phenomenal work from Bendis and Sorrentino.

      • I would also like to see some real friendships develop in Uncanny X-Men. It can’t all just be doom, gloom and Cyclops all the time! And I did pick up those annuals! I had to find out what happened to Eva Bell! They were definitely really good reads.

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