Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 2/21/15
Hidey Ho, comic book fans! I hope you’re all having a good week. Me personally, I’m in the Northeast, so I’m buried in snow and freezing in below zero temperatures. Such is the life. I’d hoped that comic books could warm me up, but the best they can do is warm my heart. We’ve got a slightly lower selection than normal this week because I had this big idea of reviewing a bunch of indie comics…but that kind of fell through. We’ve still got the latest Bitch Planet though!
We’ve also got Batgirl and the final issue of She-Hulk, so at least those are pretty awesome – even if it’s a great shame to say goodbye to Charles Soule’s She-Hulk. That comic was one heck of a treat. But Comic Book of the Week goes to Uncanny X-Men #31 for finally bringing the current storyline to a close with some solid Scott Summers drama.
Here’s hoping Brian Michael Bendis nails the perfect ending to his Cyclops Saga.
Speaking of sagas, you can check out my review of Silk #1 over at Word of the Nerd. She fares much better than Spider-Woman #1, and the comic is actually fairly similar to Batgirl. I find that both exciting and fascinating.
Comic Reviews: Batgirl #39, Batman Eternal #46, Bitch Planet #3, She-Hulk #12 and Uncanny X-Men #31.
Batgirl # 39
Writers: Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher
Artist: Babs Tarr and Cameron Stewart
Batgirl of Burnside keeps burning along, and I am still quite pleased. We’re nearing the end of the first fully story, and I’m very excited to see how things are wrapped up and moved on. This issue even contains a rather neat cameo!
The fake Batgirl has placed a $1 million bounty on the real Batgirl’s head, using the dating app Hooq as the means of delivery. This turns the whole Burnside neighborhood against Batgirl, leading to people chasing her down and staging ambushes. To make matters worse, Babs finally sits down with her thesis professor and comes clean about how all her work was destroyed and that she’s starting over from scratch. He’s not happy to hear that. Things just aren’t looking good for Barbara Gordon.
So she goes to Dinah for help, apologizing for making a mess of things. Dinah takes a little convincing, but she comes around, and the two old friends get together for a sparring session to try and toughen Babs up a little more. During their match, Babs has a breakthrough in the case: the fake Batgirl is the brain scan Barbara did of herself for her thesis, the one she thought was erased!
Batgirl tracks the villain down to Hooq headquarters, where they’ve kidnapped Bab’s roommate (and Hooq co-creator) Frankie. Frankie learns that Barbara is Batgirl, and then Babs confronts her foe: a computerized version of herself!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This was another awesome issue of Batgirl, moving the story along at a nice pace, while giving Barbara a handful of personal problems to deal with. I love a nice mix of superheroic and personal messes. It not only humanizes our main character, but it gives a lot more drama to sink our teeth into as we read along. I care as much about Babs’ thesis project as I do the evil Batgirl. That’s what makes for good comics. The scenes of Babs getting help with her problems from her friends are also very well done. Fletcher and Stewart have a quality cast here.
And the superheroics are cool too! While I think it’s a little too soon to have Burnside turn against Batgirl, Stewart and Fletcher definitely bring the cool when it comes to this Evil Batgirl storyline. You’ve got to see the picture of Digital Barbara to believe it:
It’s Batgirl vs. Oracle! How cool is that? Definitely a twist I did not see coming. I had no idea who this evil Batgirl might be, but the brain scan turned sentient sounds like a solid idea! Maybe Babs will get her thesis back on track in the end. I that part is important too!
The new Batgirl hasn’t lost any of its steam as it nears the end of its first story arc. The world is as dynamic as that first issue, and the characters are all people first, superheroes second. Fletcher and Stewart have a nice blend when it comes to the life of Barbara Gordon, and Babs Tarr continues to be the series star. Her art is unlike anything else in comics, and that keeps the book in quality storytelling.
Batman Eternal #46
Writers: Tim Seeley, James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder
Artists: Alesandro Vitti, Christian Duce and Ronan Cliquet
I think we’ve finally hit the low point of Batman Eternal – and as you’ll see, I mean that literally. In what should be a heart-wrenching scene of Batman hitting rock bottom, is actually a painfully awkward and pathetic rock bottom for Batman Eternal as a whole. It’s time to close up shop, folks.
Batman fights his way to R’as al Ghul, who he believes to be the mastermind behind the destruction of Gotham. He has to take down League of Assassin henchmen, Ebeneezer Darrk and Lord Death Man first, and he has to suffer through a series of hallucinations, as R’as attempts to mess with Batman’s head with visions of his past, present and future. But the Dark Knight fights his way through all of it, and he finds R’as lying infirmed in bed. R’as tells Batman that he is not the big mastermind of Batman Eternal, and Batman falls to his knees like a little baby, crying about how he was so sure this time!
Elsewhere, Catwoman visits her father in prison and gets his help investigating a series of shipments coming into Gotham Harbor. The Lion does some digging and discovers that somebody is bringing in equipment and gear for all the classic villains, like Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy.
Comic Rating: 3/10 – Bad.
Ugh, pathetic. Reading this issue was painful. Batman confronts R’as like a kid throwing a tantrum, demanding that R’as is the mastermind simply because Batman hasn’t figured it out yet. And why hasn’t he figured it out? Because the writers haven’t reached the reveal yet. There haven’t been any scenes of Batman really working the case. He just comes up against the latest villain to feature in the story, and the villain tells him that it’s not them. It happened with Falcone, with Hush, with Riddler, and now R’as. The writers are just ticking off villains as if they desperately try to fill a year’s worth of issues. And the most Batman can do is flail around until the writers finally reach the issue they want.
Think about it: at no point in any previous issue of Batman Eternal was R’as al Ghul even a factor. But all of a sudden, in the space of a single issue, Batman is convinced that R’as is the one behind it all, so he races off across the world to confront the Demon’s Head. And next issue, he’ll be back in Gotham doing something else entirely, because it wasn’t R’as. This was an utterly pointless cameo appearance. Just like most things in Batman Eternal have been utterly pointless.
Well wait, I wouldn’t say that…we did get this panel, during the hallucination sequence:
That’s it folks, we can all go home now.
Bitch Planet #3
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Robert Wilson IV
The ongoing adventure of Bitch Planet takes a step back this month to focus on breakout character Penny Rolle — who has definitely broken out after only two issues. She’s just that damn cool. Bitch Planet #3 is all about Penny’s origin story, as it were, further establishing her as the baddest bitch on the planet.
Penny is brought before the patriarchy to answer for her crimes, which include ‘wanton obesity’, because that’s a crime in this mangled future. The room has a big wall of TV screens, with a different member of the patriarchy on each screen, looking disgusted at Penny for doing this to herself. We learn that Penny had a tough childhood growing up because her parents and grandmother were criminals, or at the very least the patriarchy wasn’t happy with them. Society repeatedly insulted Penny for her appearance and tried to get her to change, because this was a society founded on having everyone like you. Penny eventually snapped while running a state-supported muffin shop, where she couldn’t handle the droning lunacy of modern life, where wafer thin girls split a ‘sugar-free, salt-free, gluten-free’ muffin, and racist asshole men whisper to each other about what it’s like to have sex with a fat black woman.
Now, in front of the patriarchy, they hook Penny up to a machine that will read her mind and project her thoughts onto a mirror in front of her. They want to read her subconscious and figure out Penny’s ideal form, how she wishes she would look. But when they unveil the mirror, Penny looks exactly the same. She’s god damned happy with the way she looks, and she laughs at their foolishness. As her grandmother always used to say, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, and the patriarchy is never going to break her!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I’m not sure what I expected from Penny’s backstory, but I think I was just expecting a little bit more. Not that I’m disappointed, not in the least. DeConnick does a great job guiding Penny through her childhood and into her eventual anger. You really get into her head, you really come to understand what’s pushing her and driving her. I guess I just expected more ass-kicking than head games. The weirdness of this new fictional galaxy was a little tough to wrap my head around too, but that’s not a detriment. I definitely support DeConnick taking the time to dig into the background of her characters and her world, and Penny was a good choice for what will probably be several flashback issues.
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Javier Pulido
It’s with a very heavy heart that we say goodbye to Charles Soule’s She-Hulk. This comic has been a ton of fun to read from issue #1, and I loved the focus on She-Hulk’s career as a lawyer over general superhero shenanigans. But I guess people want superheroes, not attorneys. The fools. This is the final issue, and it goes out with a fitting climax.
The 90s superhero Nightwatch stands revealed as the villain of the Blue File! A flashback to North Dakota reveals that he used to be the supervillain Nighteater, but he used magic to sacrifice an entire town to change the minds of everyone on Earth into believing Nighteater was really a superhero named Nightwatch. He was tired of being a bad guy and wanted a quick and easy way to be a superhero. Shocker, Vibro and Dr. Druid were hired to help complete the spell, while She-Hulk, Tigra, Spectrum and Wyatt Wingfoot were the superheroes who arrived to try and stop him – but they failed and the city was lost (a lone survivor eventually opened the Blue File lawsuit).
In the present day, She-Hulk, Hellcat and Angie team up to battle Nightwatch, but he’s a tricky fellow. He’s got spells and powers, and he holds them off pretty well, all while explaining his plan in ruthless detail. He even manages to take control of She-Hulk’s mind and nearly uses her to kill Hellcat, but the Shocker shows up to get his revenge. Shocker distracts Nightwatch enough for the heroes to get the upper hand and defeat him! Once the day is saved, everybody returns to New York to get back to lawyer work.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
She-Hulk #12 is a fitting, albeit bittersweet, conclusion to this little series that couldn’t. It’s got a healthy dose of superhero action, a few twists, a big reveal about the villain’s plan, and a quality fight for our star. I might be a little disappointed that the finale didn’t take place in a courtroom, but maybe that’s just me (and we had one of those only a few issues ago). Soule’s characters are as strong as ever, and his villain, Nightwatch, is really chilling. I wish we’d get to see more of him. But this is the end. At least we went out having fun.
Though as enjoyable as this final issue was, it still feels a little rushed. Pulido’s character work remains strong, but his backgrounds are almost nonexistent. Most of the book is just characters standing against a blank blue sky. And Soule seems to be cramming a lot into the issue as well. The truth about the Blue File is really neat, and definitely worth all of the build-up. But the Shocker just comes out of nowhere for no purpose other than Soule probably wasn’t to include him again. Seriously, they’re in the middle of the woods in upstate New York, how did he even get there?
Uncanny X-Men #31
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Chris Bachalo
The end is finally here! After slogging through issue after issue of Matthew Malloy, Bendis finally wraps up the story of the Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier. Frankly, I’m a little shocked that he gets it all done in a single issue. I had no idea this was going to be the end (and that cover has nothing to do with the comic). This story just kept dragging on and on, and when you see the wrap-up, you’re going to doubly wonder what the heck Bendis thought he was doing.
But then you’ll be blown away by the rest of the issue! Or at least I was. Because this is where everything changes for Scott Summers! This is the issue where his decisions hit the fan, and he starts to make some new drastic choices about his life! As someone who has hung onto Cyclops’ story for years now, that part was very, very exciting. I hope you agree.
After Matthew Malloy kills Emma Frost in front of the whole Jean Grey School, the gathered X-Men are ready to go after him. But the rising tension and everybody yelling, just pushes Matthew over the edge, and he destroys the whole school!
But it’s OK, because Eva has convinced Young Xavier to travel through time with her to the day when Matthew’s parents met. Xavier uses his powers to ensure it never happens, and Eva takes him back to his proper time. Xavier is somewhat aghast at what they’ve done, but he’ll just use his power to make himself forget. Eva’s more than happy with how they solved this. Before she leaves, Xavier asks her where he went wrong with Scott Summers, and Eva tells Xavier that Scott is an adult and makes his own decisions — but she’ll take care of him.
Back in the present, Matthew Malloy has never existed, and we zip back to the moment when She-Hulk was reading Xavier’s will. Since there’s no longer any clause about Matthew, she gets right to the point: Xavier leaves all of his estate to Scott Summers (with Ororo Monroe as an alternate if Scott is dead). The X-Men are pissed at this turn of events, obviously, but Scott is speechless…and then he sees Eva standing out on the lawn.
He goes out to her and Eva tells him what happened, about Matthew and how he and many other people were killed. Scott keeps asking her what she did to Matthew, but Eva doesn’t tell him. Instead, she tells Scott that she’ll be watching him, and if he doesn’t screw his head back on right, then she’ll go back and make it so that his parents never met. Scott kicks her out of his school, and Eva tells him that she just graduated. She leaves, telling him to get his act together.
Scott heads back inside, where Iceman and the others are ready to fight the will. But Scott tells them he’s going to sign over everything to Ororo, on the condition that the Jean Grey School accept his students. He’s closing down his school. When the X-Men ask the departing Scott what he’s going to do next, he tells them that he doesn’t know, but that he really does love them all.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
Bendis got it, man, he really did! I’m sure he helped craft Cyclops into the dynamic character he is today, so I’m sure he always understood what he was doing, but the ending to this comic really solidifies why I’ve been an ardent supporter of Scott Summers for so long now! First and foremost, Scott is not a villain. He never became a super-villain. He never did anything villainous. He’s still a good guy, but one who was pushed into a corner and forced to take drastic action, even if it turned him into an outlaw. He never turned against his family. There are multiple moments in this issue where Scott does nothing but show his unwavering support for the remaining X-Men at the Jean Grey School. They may hate him for what they feel he’s done, but Scott never stopped loving them like he always has.
And that’s important. That’s why his story has been so compelling, why I’ve hung on every word of Bendis’ Uncanny X-Men. Scott Summers is a hero, and even when life is bleakest, when his family and friends are nothing but assholes, he still does what’s right.
I can admit that his renegade band of X-Men was probably a bad decision. He did it for the right reasons, but his goals of a mutant revolution were mixed at best. So when Eva calls him on it, that’s important too. Here’s his star pupil telling him to get his head on straight, someone he has come to respect, and he knows respects him. I loved that this was how Cyclops starts to right his ship. He’s not beaten up by the other X-Men in some stupid fight. He doesn’t snap and become a villain or a blubbering wreck.
At a moment of great importance, someone he respects, someone he feels responsible for, tells him that he’s on the wrong path. And that’s what convinces Scott to do something better.
The other X-Men are infuriating in this story. Just look at Storm in the face of Cyclops’ concession that he’ll sign over the estate to her.
But Scott perseveres. He takes it all in stride, tells them he loves them, and heads off to figure himself out. And considering Bendis is leaving Uncanny X-Men in a few months, I’m excited to see how he brings his Cyclops story to a close. I’m expecting big, awesome things from the last few issues of this comic, Bendis. Don’t you let me down!
Though having Goldballs and the gang join the Jean Grey School is essentially a death sentence. We’ll probably never see them again in any meaningful role. Right Anole and Dust fans?
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!