Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 1/10/15

Prepare for some reading, my friends. We’ve got a very interesting stack of comics this week, and I was apparently in a wordy mood. I wrote a little more in depth than usual, especially for the first issue of the new Ant-Man series. What can I say? After that great first trailer, and all the other neat Ant-Man stuff coming out this week, I was really in the mood to dive in.

Ant-Man #1 captures Comic Book of the Week for its funny, heartfelt introduction. It’s clear from this first issue that Marvel really wants to do right by Ant-Man ahead of his movie. This isn’t just a cheap movie tie-in, this is a legitimately interesting comic.

Stiff competition came in the form of the first issue of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1, one of the funniest comics I’ve read in a long time. I’ve included some choice moments in my review. We’ve also got a new Amazing Spider-Man, the second issue of Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, and another crummy Batman Eternal.

You can also check out my review of Peggy Carter’s new Operation S.I.N. #1 over at Word of the Nerd. Much like the Agent Carter TV show, the comic is quite entertaining.

Comic Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #12, Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #2, Ant-Man #1, Batman Eternal #40 and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1.


Amazing Spider-Man #12

Amazing Spider-Man #12
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli

Spider-Verse is a pretty weird comic. All Big Events have tie-in comics, it’s just the nature of the beast. But never have I seen a Big Event so devoted to promoting its various tie-ins. Every single issue of Amazing Spider-Man in this crossover has devoted time to checking in with the tie-ins. It’s weird! Fortunately, this doesn’t detract from what is still a very entertaining comic.

Solus and Morlun have killed Captain Universe and have kidnapped Benjy Parker, the Scion, so Peter and the other Spider-Men flee to a random universe to get away from them. The Spider-Man of that insane, live action Japanese show, where he pilots a giant mech robot, holds off Solus so they can make their escape. It’s awesome.

Once they’re safe, Peter gets on his communicator and checks in with all the various tie-in comic book folk. Miles Morales has gathered a team of oddball Spider-Men. The 2099 crew are busy dissecting one of the Inheritors. And Jessica Drew is undercover as a handmaiden in the Inheritors’ homeworld, because that’s what the Jessica Drew of that reality was doing. Both Peter and Jessica remark on how that’s oddly convenient, which is when the Weaver speaks up and reveals that he put this into motion. The Weaver is the ancient spider spirit, enslaved by the Inheritors, who weaves the webs that teleport them to the various realities. He says he’s a slave, and he gives Jessica copies of the prophecies about the Scion, the Bride and the Other, and Jessica teleports them to Peter.

When the Inheritors discover their new hiding spot, Silk contacts Peter and tells him that she’s found a new safe zone. Everybody teleports to an Earth that is little more than cinders after a nuclear war, but since the Spider-Men all have radioactivity in their blood, and since that stuff is harmful to the Inheritors, they decide to stay. Silk leads them to Ezekiel’s tower in this reality, which is an intact fallout shelter. When Peter and the Spider-Men arrive, Silk reveals that this universe’s totem was there waiting for them: Uncle Ben!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

The only tie-in I’m reading is Scarlet Spiders, and it’s not very good. But I’m still baffled at how dependent on the tie-ins this series has become. It’s just so weird to have the action grind to a halt so that Peter can make a few phone calls. Though it does catch me up to what’s happening in the tie-ins, even if the manner of delivery is a little disjointed. And the rest of the comic is still pretty fun. Spider-Man is an entertaining guy, and having a bunch of them together bantering off one another remains entertaining. Though I’d be remiss not to mention that, at this point in the story, most of them are just background characters who don’t do anything but banter, comment and die.

So it’s a good thing Dan Slott knows exactly how to use this wide library of Spider-Man characters. That scene with the Japanese Spider-Man was brilliant. Not everybody probably remembers that show, but I do (or at least I remember it being mentioned on the Internet), and Slott wrote it for people like me. He sets it up so that the reveal goes panel-by-panel, so you start out wondering if he’s really going to go there, and then cheering when he pulls it off! That was just a great scene. Let’s hope Slott has a few more crazy Spider-Verse surprises up his sleeve.


Angela #2

Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #2
Writers: Kieron Gillen and Marguerite Bennett
Artists: Phil Jimenez and Stephanie Hans

I’m entirely on board with Angela’s insertion into the Marvel Universe. I think it’s gone smoothly, and it could be pretty cool overall. I never read Spawn comics in the 90s, but I’m always in favor of cool new characters. You can check out my review of the first issue over at Word of the Nerd, but I’ll try to get you caught up.

Angela is the daughter of Odin, and sister to Thor and Loki. She was kidnapped as a baby by the angels of Heven, the 10th Realm, and was raised as a warrior. Now she’s back in Asgard and tensions aren’t exactly light.

In issue #2, Angela has kidnapped a new baby from Odin and Freyja, and has gone on the run to Limbo. She’s pursued by Thor and friends, and an epic fight breaks out. In flashback, we see that Angela was welcomed to Asgardia to join the celebration of the new baby’s birth, but when she was given a chance to hold the newborn, Angela just straight up kidnapped the kid. No reason given so far.

Rather than fight Thor in Limbo, Angela and her sidekick, Sera, teleport out of there and end up in Central Park. For some reason, they feel they have time to get an ice cream, if only so that Angela can comment on enjoying the ‘delicious creamy substance’ (something Wonder Woman did back at the start of the New 52, so either this was an homage or a parody, not sure which). While walking through the park, a couple of kids lose their ball, and Angela catches it. But Angela is psychotically obsessed with debts and payment, so she refuses to just give the ball back to the kids. Sera launches into this big, multi-page explanation about angels and debt and Angela, and quite honestly, it’s a slog of exposition, and I didn’t understand any of it. Apparently Angela had some kind of dust up with the Queen of Angels over payment, and I just don’t really know.

But in the end, the kid understands, and promises Angela a favor in return for the ball. Knowing Angela, she’ll probably show up in another decade and demand the kid’s first born. But no sooner does she give the ball back then Thor and friends arrive in Central Park, so Angela and Sera teleport away again. This time, they end up in a different realm and get into a fight with some Dark Elves.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I’m not sure if I have this right…but I kind of think Angela is the bad guy. It’s not obvious, I don’t think. She’s not outwardly evil or doing anything particularly evil. She’s not Chaotic Evil, she’s more Lawful Evil. And I’m not sure if that’s what Gillen is going for. She’s written as the hero, as a proper protagonist on an epic adventure. But every action Angela has taken in these two issues is kind of a dick move. It’s a weird dichotomy. She kidnaps babies, slaughters innocent kings, helps murderers and refuses to give a ball back to a kid.

Today’s lesson: life isn’t fair.

So far, Angela has only done evil things. Also, she is the farthest thing from ‘Asgard’s Assassin’ imaginable. If anything, she’s Asgard’s Enemy, but that doesn’t have the right amount of alliteration. Asgard’s Adversary, perhaps? Asgard’s Archnemesis?

But all of that is secondary to this massive, impenetrable slog of exposition about halfway through the book. It comes at the most inopportune time and just destroys the issue for me. All the kid wants is to get her ball back, but instead she gets Sera delving into his pages-long exposition dump that’s basically just blocks of painful text. She talks about angels and Heven and Angela and curses and a million other strange subjects from throughout the Ten Realms, and it just doesn’t work. It slows the issue down to molasses when it should be exciting. Angela is on the run from Thor, for crying out loud, but instead we get a complicated history lesson.

Context will not help explain this scene

But here’s the thing, the first issue told us everything we needed to know about Angela and her place in the world. That had Sera-narrated flashbacks too, and they explained everything perfectly. The exposition in issue #2 is completely unnecessary and made me want to close the comic right there.

Fortunately, beyond that insanity, the comic in general is still pretty good. Angela is an interesting enough character, and she’s on a pretty insane adventure. The art is also pretty fantastic. It’s gritty, but bombastic. I just hope Gillen has gotten this out of his system. Angela’s rich backstory should be sprinkled throughout the comic, with each revelation adding to the overall story. It shouldn’t just be a big, painful info-dump in only the second issue.


Ant-Man #1

Ant-Man #1
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Ramon Rosanas

I was first introduced to Scott Lang via the official Marvel superhero trading cards, circa 1992. I knew of Ant-Man, but it wasn’t until I read the back of the card that I learned of the second Ant-Man. Ever since, I’ve kind of had a soft spot for Lang. Hank Pym has got a lot more going on than just being Ant-Man, and Eric O’Grady, as great as he was, is going to end up being little more than a footnote. Scott Lang is and should be the one and only Ant-Man. He’s a great fit for the role and has a lot of potential as a comic book hero.

So I’m happy to say that Ant-Man #1 more than lives up to that potential!

The Ant-Man movie is coming – and I can’t wait! – so a comic book like this is kind of a requisite from Marvel. But much like their movies, Marvel doesn’t half-ass this book. Instead of just whipping together a throwaway series to tie-in to the movie, Marvel has put together the definitive Ant-Man comic. No gimmicks, no troublesome continuity, no forced event tie-ins; Spencer and  Rosanas just get down to business and crank out a great first issue about the life and times of Scott Lang.

Poor security guards, they get no respect

Ant-Man is an unemployed superhero who’s currently between teams, so he takes an interview at Stark Industries for the new Head of Security Solutions position. Lang shows up to the interview in costume and proceeds to give the interviewer (and the audience) the low down on his life story, but Tony Stark himself interrupts to talk to Lang in private. Tony tells Scott that he’s not going to get the job, that Stark already has his finalists picked out, but then he decides to go easy on Scott and tells him to show up tomorrow to join the competition.

Dejected, Scott heads home, but runs into his teenage daughter Cassie as she’s getting out of school. Scott, still in full costume, walks Cassie home, the two of them bonding over their love of geeky movies. But when Scott’s ex-wife sees Cassie with him, she blows her lid! She doesn’t want Cassie involved in any of Scott’s superheroics, and she wishes her ex-husband would hurry up and make something of himself! She’s not impressed with his being a superhero.

Much cooler than his previous FF costume (no offense Allred family!)

So Scott returns to Stark Industries the next morning and meets his competition: Prodigy of the New X-Men, Victor Mancha of the Runaways, and the female Beetle from Superior Foes of Spider-Man (also written by Spencer). Tony puts the four of them through a series of physical and mental tests to see who will be his new security head, with the final one requiring the contestants to hack into Stark’s computer network. None of the other three can pull it off, so when Scott steps up to the plate…he fakes sick and throws up in his helmet. Since no one could do it, Tony tells them all to come back tomorrow to try again.

Which was all part of Scott’s plan. He uses the overnight to sneak into Tony Stark’s penthouse, where he plans to hack directly into Stark’s Iron Man armor to get the network password. Once he’s inside, Scott sees Tony hooking up with Beetle, but he’s confident that his plan to cheat on the competition using hacking will work much better than her attempt to cheat using sex.

Reasons!

But as soon as Scott completes the hack, an alarm goes off announcing that Scott has won the competition. He grows back to normal size and Tony greets him, explaining that this was a test, and Scott just passed. Tony assumed the various competitors might try to cheat, which just goes to show that they’re willing to do anything to win, which is what he’s looking for in a security head. Scott won and the job, the apartment and the success will be his! Beetle is upset, but then she reveals that she was only going to sleep with Tony because someone hired her to kill him. Scott quickly shrinks down and disables her gun, and Iron Man takes her into custody.

Scott rushes to tell Cassie the good news about his new job, but when he gets to his ex-wife’s house, Cassie is gone! Scott’s ex explains that she and Cassie are moving to Miami to live with her sister, even if that means Scott won’t get to see Cassie anymore. She’s already shipped their daughter down south, and she’s only stayed behind to pack. Faced with either staying in New York and taking the cushy job with Stark, or giving up that opportunity to move to Miami to be closer to his daughter, Scott picks the latter. He tells the reader that he’s going to do whatever it takes to do right by his daughter.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

I loved this first issue. It’s an over-sized comic, and the extra room shows that Marvel is serious about making this series work. That’s a great sign. Spencer takes Scott Lang back to basics, and it definitely works. The last thing we need is complication. Scott’s life as a deadbeat dad trying to do right by his teenage daughter is the perfect fodder for a new superhero series. It’s a unique life, and one Spencer captures with aplomb. Scott’s narration carries the issue as he provides little insights on his thoughts and feelings, proving that he’s not another Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark, nor is he just another Peter Parker. He’s his own man, one step above pathetic, and that’s a great place to start a series.

Stature and Young Avengers fans might be disappointed that Cassie Lang’s status quo seems to be wiped clean, but I’m more than OK with that. Continuity can be a real bitch, and for this comic to really succeed, the fresh start is more than necessary for everyone involved.

If only we all had daughters that cool

The art is phenomenal. I’m not sure if I’ve seen  Rosanas before, but he’s got a nice, clear and detailed style that works great for this down-to-Earth series. This isn’t a comic about big, cosmic battles. It’s about a guy who wears his superhero costume on the subway because he doesn’t have any other clothes. Rosanas expertly captures the grounded feel of New York City, and how these really are just regular guys in fancy clothing. Plus the new Ant-Man costume looks great.

If I have any gripes, it’s that the issue on a whole is a little on the generic side. There aren’t really any special hooks to make this book stand out. It’s just a straight forward superhero comic, albeit one that’s full of personality and character. Also, moving superheroes to cities other than New York never seems to work. Scarlet Spider in Houston, Nightwing in Chicago; randomly moving Ant-Man to Miami strikes me as a generally bad idea. But hey, maybe Spencer knows something I don’t.

If Ant-Man the movie has even a fraction of the care and skill that went into crafting Ant-Man #1, then we’re in for one heck of a summer. Marvel knows exactly how to tell entertaining stories with even their smallest characters.


Batman Eternal #40

Batman Eternal #40
Writers: Ray Fawkes, James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder
Artists: Davide Furno and Paolo Armitano

Batman Eternal whips off another transitional issue this week, moving various storylines along at random intervals. The issue lacks focus, stretching itself so thin, but then focus hasn’t exactly helped the previous issues.

Batman and the Riddler bumble around in the snow for awhile after the avalanche, until Batman digs the Batplane out and takes Riddler back to Gotham. So what was the point of the avalanche? At the meeting of super-villains, Catwoman tells them all that she’s not going to play around, so Firefly blows her up and the bad guys take Batman’s gear to go riot in the city. Catwoman survived, of course, and slips away. She has her boys check on any unusual bounties in the city, and they tell her about Spoiler. Catwoman figures this means Spoiler knows something, so she goes to find her. And randomly, Jim Corrigan pulls himself out of a sewer on the outskirts of town, having survived down there since Arkham imploded. He’s dragging around the prisoner who was possessed by Blackfire, and there are some creepy children with glowing eyes in the woods.

Oh, and the gunman at the Gotham Gazette turned out to be some guy named Patrick? I dunno. But he’s a generic-looking white guy in glasses, so he looks exactly like Jason Bard and James Gordon Jr., so I had no idea who was pulling the trigger. Thankfully, Vicki Vale survived and said his name, then knocked him out.

Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.

Batman Eternal doesn’t commit too many grievous sins this week. Jim Corrigan comes out of nowhere for no particular reason, but at this point, I should expect weird things like that. The villains aren’t written too badly, and Signal Man (of all people) gets a pretty cool moment. But the Batman/Riddler scene accomplishes nothing; in fact, few of the scenes accomplish anything. This series is still just strumming along to is own tune, unable to focus on one story, so instead it just spreads out to a bunch of different stories. The art was good, at least.


Squirrel Girl #1

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Erica Henderson

Marvel picked one heck of a week to throw me for a loop! First issues for both Ant-Man and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl? Hey Marvel, Christmas was several weeks ago! I’ll try not to write another essay, but suffice to say, Squirrel Girl is amazing!

Squirrel Girl is going to attend college, which means reverting to her secret identity of Doreen Green, which is easier said than done She’s not particularly sure how to be a normal, non-superhero person. As she carries her belongings to her dorm, Doreen and her squirrel sidekick, Tippy-Toe, argue back and forth about the best ways to maintain a secret identity. At the dorm, Doreen meets her new roommate and her cat, but then has to rush outside when she sees Kraven the Hunter attacking the campus squirrels. Squirrel Girl battles Kraven for awhile before realizing she can’t win, so she needs to outsmart him. Using her collectible Deadpool’s Guide to Supervillains trading cards, Squirrel Girl convinces Kraven that he should be hunting giant monsters and not college squirrels. The day is saved!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This is one hell of a funny comic! I laughed out loud constantly! Now, I’ll be the first guy to tell you that comedy is subjective, and this might not be the case for everybody. I can’t stand Deadpool’s self-referential humor, for example, but North and Squirrel Girl had me in stitches! The comedy is all character-based, playing on Doreen’s adorable naivety at how to have a secret identity, or how to just be an awesome superhero. It’s all in wordplay and awesome silliness, very much in the same vein as Adventure Time or Bee and Puppycat.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is definitely a comedy book, and that’s great, though hopefully North and Co. add a bit of drama along the way. Comedy is fine, but really good comedy books can get serious from time-to-time.

But who am I kidding? This is hilarious!

I’ll try not to share every single one of my favorite jokes, but seriously, page after page was comedy gold. North just nails the character, showcasing Doreen as an eternal optimist and people-pleaser who just wants to do right by everybody, even her super-villains. She’s got silly super-powers, but she embraces them, and it’s great.

The art by Henderson fits the comic perfectly. It’s a very cartoony style, while still maintaining a grounding in the real world. People walk, talk and move like normal people. Squirrel Girl isn’t a cartoon character, she’s a real person, and that’s exactly how it should be. She just also happens to be really, really funny!

Her theme song is pretty great too.


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 January 10, 2015, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. …why is Kraven hunting squirrels?
    Dont get me wrong, I’m all for whacky and funny plots, but is there actually a reason?

  2. Antman made me happy to be a comic book reader. I bought it out of curiosity and i loved it. It is the most enjoyable thing i have read in a long time. Spidey was also good. I liked the 2099 tie in. Its is actually written well and Lady Spider is a good character

  3. ASM was good. The Spider-Mobile page was the best. Dan Slott said he wasn’t allowed to use Peter Parked-Car. I’ve never been happier that a creator lied. That whole page was hilarious, and easily the single greatest moment of the entire event.

    Angela was really good. A little more humour than the first issue, a little more Gillen. And some gorgeous art from both Jimenez and Hans.

    Ant-Man was really good. Really fun and funny, but also really sweet. The relationship between Scott and Cassie is really sweet, and I look forward to seeing it explored some more. I hope Cassie gets to take part in the superhero action once in a while, too.

    Squirrel Girl was great. It’s adorable and hilarious. I love it.

  4. You should do big reviews of Ant-Man and/or Squirrel Girl. Also did you stop doing big reviews for Ultimate Spider-Man? Are Teen Titans and Saga your only big reviews anymore? Also, no, I won’t read your World of Nerd stuff. You don’t do spoilers in those.

    • Big reviews of Ant-Man would be pretty great. I definitely fell behind on Ultimate Spider-Man. I was busy one week when an issue came out and just never got around to it, and then another issue came out, and nobody has really said anything, so I haven’t been in any hurry to get caught up. But I can change my tune if you readers liked those reviews! I could even start doing Ant-Man big-sized as well.

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