Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 2/14/15

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Or at the very least, I hope your Friday the 13th yesterday wasn’t so bad. We’re all about love here at Henchman-4-Hire, especially a love for all things comics.

So it’s really kind of terrible that a comic I once loved, Secret Six, is now breaking my heart. I know other reviewers are enjoying the new Secret Six, but I am awash with horror. It’s like seeing the ex you still have feelings for turn into a meth addict. So it’s a good thing I’ve got Darth Vader, Boba Fett and an evil wookiee to keep me happy!

The sensational character find of 2015!

His name is Black Krrsantan and he’s now in the running for my favorite New Expanded Universe Star Wars character. I just keep falling more and more in love with him. And Darth Vader #1 has a lot more than just an evil wookiee to make it Comic Book of the Week.

You can also check out my review of Thor #5 over at Word of the Nerd!

Comic Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #14, Batman Eternal #45, Captain Marvel #12, Darth Vader #1, Divinity #1 and Secret Six #2.

Amazing Spider-Man #14

Amazing Spider-Man #14
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Giuseppe Camuncoli and Olivier Coipel

This is it! The big finale of Spider-Verse is upon us as Peter Parker leads his ragtag band of alternate reality Spider-Men up against their greatest threat! I’ve been a big fan of Spider-Verse so far, does the climax live up to all the excitement? Yeah, kinda.

It’s an all-out assault on the Inheritors as the various groups of Spider-Men from all the various tie-ins arrive at the Inheritor homeworld and kick butt. They save Silk and Benjy (Kaine may be dead), and they defeat the Inheritors without much fuss, actually. Superior Spider-Man kills the Webmaster, cutting the Inheritors off from the Multiverse. And Peter Parker defeats Morlun by teleporting him and his siblings to that radioactive fallout world where they found Uncle Ben. They’ll die if they stay out in the radioactivity for too long, but Peter tells them how to get to Ezekiel’s safehouse to survive.

Over the course of the battle, there are a few key moments, such as Spider-Ham pulling the old switcheroo with Benjy while the bad guys aren’t looking (with Uncle Ben’s help), and Spider-Girl realizing that she doesn’t want to become a killer (like Otto) in the name of vengeance. Also Silk saves Peter from getting stuck with Morlun in the radioactive world.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I definitely enjoyed this finale, but it was far from perfect, really. The biggest problem was getting all these characters together in an understandable ensemble, because mostly it’s a big, poorly-paced mess. There are so many Spider-Men coming from so many different directions (and all wearing similar costumes) that it’s a little hard to tell what exactly is going on. Coipel and Camuncoli just don’t seem up to the task of drawing all of the characters involved in this big fight scene. Nothing inside the book looks as good as that cover.

Convenient dust clouds are a big help

And Slott’s pacing just jumps all over the place. In one panel we’re focused on Peter Parker, then we cut to the Superior Spider-Men, then Mayday Parker is doing something different, and Uncle Ben is up to something. All character moments are captured in snippets rather than actual, emotional moments. Black Widow doesn’t have time to really be angry that Kaine might be dead because we’ve got to rush over to Spider-Girl being angry for her reasons. It also doesn’t help that the Inheritors all go down without much of a fight, honestly. There are no tense stand-offs, no epic brawls, or at least none that Slott focuses on for too long. The Spider-Men just kick so much butt that the Inheritors kind of just disappear into the mass.

Not to say this was a bad issue or anything of the like. I enjoyed it, and I liked a lot of what I saw. I just wish Slott and his art team had been able to keep better control of the fight scene so that we could actually feel some of the emotions involved instead of everything getting lost in the Spider-shuffle. Hopefully the upcoming epilogue will carry all the emotional weight.

Batman Eternal #45

Batman Eternal #45
Writers: Ray Fawks, James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder
Artist: Javi Fernandez

I think Batman Eternal is going to swear me off weekly comics for a long time. I’m not going to bother with the second year, I’ve still never touched Futures End, and anything else DC tries to throw our way, I’m just going to avoid.

The ghosts that attacked Batman at the end of last issue were summoned by a guy named Martin Ware, Mister Bygone, who I think showed up sometime earlier in Batman Eternal? I don’t remember. Anyway, he’s not in control of the ghosts, and they give Professor Milo a heart attack, so Batman has to zap him back awake. The cops show up to arrest Batman, but he hits them with a flashbang and makes his escape, with Milo in tow. The ghosts and Mister Bygone don’t really matter. Elsewhere, Batwing chases all of the ghosts out of his own apartment, and Jim Corrigan shows up to talk about what went down between them — which is convenient, because that’s when Batman calls Corrigan for help with Milo. They all meet at Gotham Cemetery, and Corrigan finds out that Milo was tricked into reading a spooky book, which is what opened the gates of Hell to allow Blackfire to return.

We then cut to Stephanie and Harper, who are still kind of mad at each other, but Harper isn’t buying what Stephanie’s selling about Bruce Wayne being behind everything. Harper threatens Stephanie with her stun gun and tells her to stay put, while Harper goes off to talk to Batman.

We then cut to Bruce and Julia in the Batcave, completely ignoring all that stuff with ghosts and Corrigan. Bruce is now looking into the various shell companies that bought up the pieces of Wayne Enterprises, and he discovers that they all have names that relate to demons. So obviously he figures out that R’as al Ghul is behind it.

Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.

Really? R’as al Ghul now? We’re just gonna throw R’as al Ghul into the mix this late in the game in a way that explains nothing? It’s bad enough the ghosts didn’t lead to anything, but now R’as al Ghul plays some part in all of this? Is he the super big bad? I doubt it. As with a lot of Batman Eternal stories, we’re just gonna cycle through this one for the fun of it, like those escaped Arkham inmates a few issues ago. This series just gets more nonsensical the closer we get to the end. Rather than building up to a big finale, we’re wasting our time with ghosts and shell companies and spooky books and nonsense.

Batman Eternal is all over the place, sometimes within the same issue.

Captain Marvel #12

Captain Marvel #12
Writers: Kelly Sue DeConnick and Warren Ellis
Artist: David Lopez

Welp, time to pull on my grumpy pants. After a few spectacular issues of Captain Marvel on Earth, DeConnick and guest writer Warren Ellis fling her back into outer space with all the nonsense that comes with. Captain Marvel #12 is a painful reminder why Carol’s space adventures are just so dull.

Captain Marvel teleports back to her spaceship after her mini-vacation on Earth, only to find her friends gone and the ship shut down. Carol manages to jumpstart the A.I. and finds out that Tic and Chewie were kidnapped by Haffensye pirates. A second group of pirates are lying in wait nearby, but Carol takes care of them with ease and orders the ship to begin self-repair while she follows the kidnappers’ trail. While in flight, Carol reaches out to her other alien friends back on Torfa to learn a bit more about the kidnappers — but the transmission cuts out before her friends can warn her against taking a shortcut through the Endless Envelope.

The Endless Envelope is some kind of expanding fold in subspace that’s actually 10 times longer than if Carol had gone around it. Now she’s stuck there for awhile, pursued by even more pirates. Meanwhile, aboard the kidnappers’ ship, Tic is tied up in the hold while the Haffensye brag about taking Chewie, since Flerkins are a very dangerous weapon.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

I don’t care about any of this, I really don’t. I don’t care about her spaceship, I don’t care about Tic, and I definitely don’t care about Chewie the Flerkin. Chewie was great when she was just Carol’s cat living with her in Manhattan, when Carol could be somebody who talked to her cat. Now that Chewie is some kind of rare alien weapon, and is wanted by the Haffensye whatevers, all humanity and normalcy has been sucked out of the book. There is nothing to latch onto. It’s just Carol flailing in the face of random alien names and groups. This ‘Endless Envelope’ thing was clearly a trap, making her an idiot for even thinking she could use it as a shortcut.

The art, at least, remains as strong as ever. David Lopez does a great job with Carol, and I wish he was drawing her adventures on Earth. But Captain Marvel in space is so incredibly boring!

Darth Vader #1

Darth Vader #1
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvador Larroca

How do you make an ongoing comic about Darth Vader? The Dark Lord of the Sith is a mysterious and complex foe, his mind a madhouse of honor, nobility, violence and evil. He’s one of the most fascinating and larger-than-life characters in all of fiction. How do you capture that in a simple comic book series?

Well Marvel and writer Kieron Gillen are going to try their best, and I say more power to them. It should also be noted that this new series ties directly into the new ongoing Star Wars comic. Darth Vader #1 takes place after Star Wars #1 and #2, directly referencing those events. Just fyi.

Darth Vader arrives on Tatooine and forces his way into Jabba’s Palace for a meeting. Vader wants something from Jabba, but the Hutt sics his guards on the Dark Lord of the Sith. Vader makes short work of them and Force-chokes Jabba into getting what he wants…

We flashback to the day before, when Vader met with the Emperor following the destruction of the Empire’s production facility from Star Wars #1 and #2. The Emperor is displeased with Vader’s failure and doesn’t hold back from humiliating Vader as they walk and talk. They discuss the building of the second Death Star, and the Emperor orders Vader to meet with Jabba to discuss resources. The Emperor then dismisses Vader to his task before taking a meeting with a mysterious visitor. Vader asks who the visitor is, but the Emperor scoffs at Vader expecting an answer. In response, Vader keeps his meeting with Luke Skywalker a secret from his Master.

Back on Tatooine, we find out that Vader wanted Jabba’s help in tracking down both Skywalker and the mysterious visitor, so Jabba sends Vader his best men: Boba Fett and Black Krrsantan, an evil wookiee. Vader wants Boba Fett to bring him Luke Skywalker, and he wants Black Krrsantan to go after the mysterious visitor. The three of them are having this meeting out in the deserts of Tatooine, where Vader has slaughtered yet another Tusken village. Because that’s how he rolls.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s just something grand about these Star Wars comics so far. They don’t feel like regular comics, or even like any other Star Wars comics I’ve ever read. They feel…bigger, somehow. They feel grander. There’s a majesty to these comics, especially Darth Vader #1. I read another review that pointed to the lack of inner monologues or captions, and that might help. We don’t get into the head of Darth Vader, the creative team instead lets his words and his actions speak for him, and those tell us more than enough.

There’s a lot of story to dive into concerning Darth Vader, and I very much enjoyed his showdown with Jabba the Hutt. It obviously calls back a similar showdown with Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi, with Vader’s deadly skill trumping Luke’s attempts at diplomacy. I especially liked the scene where Jabba assumes Vader is going to try a Jedi Mind Trick, only for Vader to do his signature Force Choke instead. The Sith do not play around with mind tricks, he tells the big slug.

You know nothing, Jabba Snow!

The use of Boba Fett promise to be pretty cool, maybe. I’m a big Fett fan, but he comes off as more of a hired thug than the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy. So we’ll see how that goes. And Black Krrsantan is half silly/half awesome. Obviously he’s doomed, right? The Emperor also gets some great moments as her berates Vader for his failures. It’s a perfect example of how the Emperor keeps his underlings in line. He was all about talking up Anakin Skywalker in the beginning, but now that Vader is under his control, he’s a much crueler master.

But it’s Vader himself who carries the issue. He’s deadly with a lightsaber and even more powerful in just his presence. He commands respect on every panel, and Salvador Larroca does a fantastic job capturing his dark majesty. I’m still not entirely sure how much mileage this creative team can get out of an ongoing Darth Vader comic, but this first issue is a powerful introduction.

Divinity #1

Divinity #1
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Trevor Hairsine

I’m still trying to push beyond just Marvel and DC comics in my reviews, so here comes Divinity #1 from Valiant. I don’t know anything surrounding this book, I don’t have a history with the writer, I’m as unbiased a reader as possible. I am taking Divinity at face value…and it’s not so bad. It’s a very cerebral book, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a very cerebral man. So this might not be the comic for me, but it’s a solid start nonetheless.

Abram Adams is a black Communist cosmonaut who grew up in Russia during the Cold War. As an orphan and ward of the state, he was forged into the perfect candidate for a mission into deep space, one that was expected to take 30 years. But something happened to Abram out in space and now he’s returned to Earth with extraordinary powers, and he uses them to time travel and peek in on the important moments of his life as they’re being told to us through the issue.

Meanwhile, David Camp lives for adventure, and on climbing trip to Australia in the present day, he meets the mysterious Abram Adams. The first meeting is a shock, and David falls back down the mountain he just climbed and conks his head. But then David finds Abram again in the Outback. Some armed soldiers show up searching for Abram, but he apparently has the power to transform them into monsters and mess with their heads.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

Whatever this comic is going for, it may have zipped by over my head. That’s not Matt Kindt’s fault, it’s my own. I’m simply not a cerebral comic book fan. So it’s likely that some of the subtext — and some of the text — has been lost on me. But that doesn’t mean I can’t read and enjoy this comic. Abram Adams’ story is told simply, and the mystery of what happens to him out in space is definitely curious. How and why it ties into this David Camp fellow isn’t very well explained, but that’s what future issues are for.

Though I don’t necessarily know if I’ll be picking them up. Divinity #1 was a little too brainy for me, and while I’d like to stick with it, there just wasn’t much to keep me on board. The art is fine, with some beautiful shots of mountain climbing in Australia, but this comic will rise or fall based on how willing you are to read a little mind-bending weirdness.

Secret Six #2

Secret Six #2
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Ken Lashley

Be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it. Secret Six was at the top of my list for comics that DC needed to bring into the New 52. Gail Simone’s pre-reboot series redefined comics for me in the way that so few series do. It was a gem, and most importantly, it was a great read.

If I had known that this dreck was what we’d get, I’d have told DC and Simone to leave the dead buried.

About 18 months ago, Thomas Blake was kidnapped by a mysterious psychopath and thrown into a cell for one year as punishment for something that isn’t made exactly clear — though it’s called Project: Mockingbird. This issue cuts back and forth to various flashbacks about that imprisonment, during which Blake grew a gnarly beard and stayed locked up. At one point, a mysterious woman gave him a kitty cat to play with. When the year was up, the psychopath opened the door and let him out, and claimed that he killed the woman. Blake swore revenge, and this explains why he’s been slightly claustrophobic in this box with the rest of the Secret Six.

Speaking of which, they’re still trapped and are unable to answer the mysterious question ‘What is the secret?’. During their bickering, they find out that the new Ventriloquest can move things with her mind (like her puppet), and they get her to raise the big metal box out of the ocean before the deadline is up. Once they’re out of the water, they break out of the box and beat up a bunch of nameless armed guards positioned nearby. The kidnapper then gets on the loudspeaker and tells them to get back into the box to continue the experiment, claiming that one of them killed a woman two years ago and must be punished. Catman tells the voice to get bent.

Comic Rating: 2/10 – Very Bad.

If I didn’t love Catman, the Secret Six and Gail Simone, I would drop this comic in a heartbeat. This second issue has zero redeeming qualities. Everything from the story to the characters to the art is just terrible. It’s obvious that Simone is trying to recapture the magic of the old Secret Six, but I guess the spark is dead. This is worse than those modern movies that reboot long dead properties just for the name recognition.

Secret Six is the New 52 equivalent of every modern Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street remake.

Let’s start with the characters: none of them has even a shred of the charm of the previous cast. The new Ventriloquist probably gets the most characterization this issue, both her and her ‘walking talking’ dummy, but they’re clearly just another attempt by Simone to make a charmingly gross out character, like Ragdoll. Both the Ventriloquist and her dummy spend the whole issue spouting semi-gross one-liners about each other and the rest of the crew. And it’s apparently not enough that this woman is just the new Ventriloquist, she’s also got a Crypt Keeper thing going for her, and can move things with her mind — more on that later.

Is he not even going to entertain the idea that the dummy is real?

I’m pretty sure Ragdoll is in the New 52. Why not just bring him back? The very existence of this series is about giving the fans what they want to begin with, right?

Someone like Ragdoll would at least make the cast more interesting. No one else really matters and barely gets a line or two. Heck, I forgot that Black Alice was even in this comic until the kidnappers threatened to kill her.

Thomas Blake gets a lot of attention in this issue, as well he should, but his flashbacks are just nonsensical. I get that there’s a mystery yet to be solved, but did we really need an explanation for why he was semi-claustrophobic in the first issue? Did we really need to take up large chunks of the second issue to provide that explanation? Not that it’s much of an explanation. Some crazy psychopath with a Joker-streak locks him up for a year with no explanation or inherit purpose. It’s just more confusing mystery on top of the already confusing mystery that is their present-day circumstances.

Which, of course, is another problem with the issue. The premise of the first issue had some merit: six random, villainous strangers are trapped together in a box, taunted and tortured by their kidnappers. But here we are in only the second issue, and they’ve already escaped. What was the point of the box then? They spent maybe an hour inside, yet that’s apparently enough time for them to forge the bonds of the Secret Six? The threat of killing a random member is diffused almost immediately, and then they lay waste to a bunch of armed soldiers in the way that random, nameless armed soldiers are always defeated. And this is supposed to be enough for forge them into a team?

Then, of course, there’s the scene at the end where the kidnapper pleads with them to get back into the box.

Maybe if he’d said ‘please’

That was just pathetic! It’s like some villain went to all the trouble to build an elaborate death trap, only for the participants to use a cheat code to get out, and now he’s throwing a temper tantrum. Some villain. Some mystery.

The art makes it all worse. Lashley has a distinct, sketchy style, and maybe it could hold up as moody, edgy art, but mostly it’s just a dark, blobby mess trying to pass itself off as gritty. And to make matters worse, the quality of the art suddenly and inexplicably drops into worse-than-amateur during the climax of the book — which is exactly what happened in the last issue!

You can literally see the Sharpie in panel 2

Is this a trick? Is this some kind of intentional change to increase the tension? Because if so, it’s an utter failure. It reads like the artist just crapped out towards the end of the book, as if he wasn’t given enough time to draw the whole thing. It’s embarrassing.

The new Secret Six is not a good comic so far. It’s an ugly, overly-gritty attempt to replace the magic of the original series with something new. But that something new is just dreary violence and a desperate wish for lightning to strike twice.

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 February 14, 2015, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, Star Wars and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Spidey felt like Slott wanted it to end. It is also the worst example of comics.If you didn’t read spider-verse team up #3 you had no idea Karn was good now. If you didn’t read Scarlet Spiders #3, you wouldn’t know Ben Reilly died and thats why this event pissed me off. I like most of the characters but Miles and the tv version of Peter only job was go get spidermen and it only showed quick shots of them. This event could have been amazing to me, but i was disappointed.
    I also find the Silk and Peter relationship to be more of a creepy one than lovey. Also i call that Karn is the new Master Weaver and i hope Spock finally goes away

  2. Amazing Spider-Man was OK. A bit rushed. A bit of a mess at times.

    Captain Marvel was great. A lot of fun. Carol getting insulted by her own computer was great.

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