Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 3/7/15
Welp, things didn’t exactly work out for me like I was hoping earlier this week, so I don’t have any awesome news to share. But maybe something else will come along in the future that I can brag to you henchies about. Until then, we have more comics to enjoy this week!
Comic Book of the Week goes to Princess Leia #1 for another great Star Wars comic from Marvel. Writer Mark Waid and his creative team really hit the princess nail on the head, with a cool new chapter of the Star Wars saga from a character who definitely needs more of the spotlight.
We’ve also got fantastic new issues of Grayson and Harley Quinn, and I’m pleased to say that Spider-Woman might actually be a good comic now that it’s ditched the Spider-Verse crossover. Marvel was crazy to begin her series like they did. Oh, and her new costume is the bee’s knees in her new issue!
Over at Word of the Nerd, you can check out my review this week of All-New Hawkeye #1, which sees a new creative team try to take over from the stellar Matt Fraction and David Aja. I think they might have a chance of pulling it off.
Comic Reviews: Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #4, Batman Eternal #48, Grayson #8, Harley Quinn #15, Princess Leia #1 and Spider-Woman #5.
Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #4
Writers: Kieron Gillen and Marguerite Bennett
Artists: Phil Jimenez and Stephanie Hans
I don’t think I’m going to stick with Angela for very much longer. It’s a fine book, but I just haven’t become very invested in it or its characters. The comic keeps Angela herself at arm’s reach, whereas I’d like to get to know her. And the arrival of the comic book Guardians of the Galaxy is not helping.
It’s poker night aboard the Guardians of the Galaxy ship, and that comes with painfully unfunny humor, but maybe that’s just me. Thor unleashes the Disir warriors on the ship and the good guys defeat them with ease. Angela cuts off the Disir leader’s head, but not before the woman reveals that Angela totally kidnapped that baby. When the Guardians ask if that’s true, Angela storms off.
Sera goes to talk to her, and this issue’s flashback reveals what happened when Sera came back from the dead, and how she answered all of Angela’s questions to prove she was the real Sera. Now Sera suggests that Angela answer the Guardians’ questions. Angela explains to the team that when Odin and Freyja conceived the baby, they did so outside of normal time and space, in a realm that was touched by the evil Surtur. Angela believes that the baby is also part Surtur, so she wants to take the child to Heven to kill it.
No sooner does she say that than the baby bursts into flames, revealing its curse-spewing demon side. But then she immediately turns back into a normal baby. The Guardians set course for Heven.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
I still have no idea why the comic book Guardians feel so different from the movie Guardians. The movie was great, and definitely the funniest in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, all because of the snappy dialogue and character interactions. But the comic book Guardians are painfully unfunny. And maybe that’s just me, but I wince at stuff like this:
So adding the Guardians of the Galaxy to this comic is a major turn off for me.
I would probably be able to stand them if I were more invested in the main character, but I’m just not. Angela remains distant and closed off. She’s the strong, silent type, and while that’s fine for the character, it’s not that great in a protagonist. Anybody trying to interact with Angela, like Sera or Gamora, carries the bulk of that interaction themselves. For example, Gamora commenting on how they used to go knife-shopping together like BFFs just combines the two worst parts of this comic for me.
Angela: Asgard’s Assassin has the makings of a good book, but certain style and writing choices keep it from truly embracing its main character and the sorts of adventures she could have. The art is getting a little muddy too, in my opinion. The action is fine, and there’s more than enough intrigue going on, but I just don’t care about it when I can’t care about the characters.
Batman Eternal #48
Writers: Kyle Higgins, James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder
Artists: Fernando Blanco
There is no way the Big Bad of Batman Eternal is going to live up to all the mystery and hype. It’s ridiculous that they’ve kept him in the shadows this long, it has desperately hurt the overall series — but considering how much I dislike Batman Eternal, I really don’t care. I’m mostly just saying.
For my money, I think it’s going to be the Thomas Wayne Jr./Owlman introduced at the end of Scott Snyder’s Court of Owls story. He’s the only Big Bad whose ‘surprise reveal’ would make sense given so much secrecy, plus he probably looks enough like Bruce Wayne for Stephanie Brown to confuse the two.
The newly reformed Jason Bard tries to convince the mayor to set the innocent James Gordon free, while the Big Bad convinces the Penguin to start a riot in prison to take out Gordon. Meanwhile, with Hush in control of the Batcave, he’s somehow able to remotely shut down the Bat-Family’s super suits, so they’re all pretty screwed in their various fights with the super-villains. And Stephanie Brown meets with Vicki Vale, but somehow her father knew she’d be there and finally grabs her — but not before Stephanie gives Vicki a thumb drive.
Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.
So let me get this straight, there is some kind of control mechanism in the Batcave that would allow someone to turn off Red Robin’s wings? How does that work exactly? Why does that work? First of all, how do you shut off a pair of wings? Second of all, why would Red Robin allow there to be a remote control to those wings in the first place? He’s proven to be very distrustful of Batman, so why does the Batcave have such control over Red Robin? And why does Hush know how to instantly use it?
For that matter, why does Bluebird’s costume have some kind of remote control in the Batcave? She made the costume herself only a few weeks ago. And why would the suit’s own internal EMP effect the suit itself?
And how is the Bat-computer able to blow up Red Hood’s gun?! Why does his gun have a remote controlled self-destruct?! That makes no sense!
At least with Batgirl, all Hush did was cause static in her earpiece, distracting her in the middle of her fight. At least that makes sense. BUT NOTHING ELSE MAKES ANY SENSE!!
But Hush is in control of the Batcave, and the writers are convinced that they are so clever, and that this plan is just so expertly crafted, that Hush can do whatever he wants to whomever he wants. This is the part of the story where Hush is just unbeatable and uber-powerful, no matter the logistics. If something doesn’t make sense, just go with it and let it happen. Nothing has to make sense in Batman Eternal. Nothing has to flow, nothing has to line up with anything else. Scenes happen, twists happen, all strung together on the flimsiest of premises.
I will say that Batman Eternal #48 is a tighter book than usual. Some of the wilder tangents are contained or absent, keeping everything in a tight lock step towards the end. I just wish these events actually made some kind of logical, interesting sense instead of the writers just forcing their agenda on everyone involved.
Writers: Tim Seeley and Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
I skipped a few issues of Grayson because they dealt with Midnighter and some kind of cosmic Garden and I don’t really know. It was weird, so I skipped those reviews. But Grayson #8 takes us back to the spy stuff in dramatic fashion, as Mr. Minos’ plans come to a head, and Dick and his friends pay the price — almost!
Minos makes his play to expose the secret identities of the superheroes, and he decides to burn Spyral down around him in the process. He hypnotizes Helena and shoots her in the heart with her own crossbow, then meets with a reporter to start divulging secret identities. Helena, though, was only pretending to be dead, and she crawls out to her campus to warn the others, including Dick Grayson. Dick rushes off to rescue Agent 1, who Minos targets next with the use of Paragon, a super adaptoid robot that has been fitted with all the various super-organs that Spyral has been collecting throughout the series so far. Paragon has all the powers of the Justice League and nearly kills Agent 1 before Dick steps in.
Being trained by Batman, Dick knows exactly how to take down the members of the Justice League, and he makes short work of Paragon (with an assist from his lovestruck students). They corner Minos, who begins monologuing all about his evil plan before Helena shows up and kills him.
But that wasn’t the real Minos! It was a decoy! The real Minos is meeting with that reporter — except she’s not a reporter. She’s Agent Zero, a spy so legendary that Minos thought she was a myth. She explains that Minos was always meant to be bait to lure Dick Grayson into Spyral, and now that his job is done, she kills him.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
This is another great Dick Grayson issue! The man is a work of art in this series, sometimes literally, as far as those lovestruck students are concerned. The creative team is having a lot of fun with Dick Grayson’s legendary posterior.
Seeley and King have built up a fun little supporting cast on this title, and they’re all used to good effect to propel Dick’s adventures into the stratosphere. If this comic was all about Dick Grayson being better than everyone else, it wouldn’t work as well. Instead, it’s just about Dick Grayson being awesome, with everybody else becoming even more awesome in his presence. Dick takes down Paragon like a total pro, and it’s a thrilling couple of scenes. But he only does so with the help of Agent 1 and his high school admirers, making the whole encounter even more fulfilling.
The stuff with Minos kind of comes out of nowhere, but Grayson has always played fast and loose with continuity. They jump around quickly, start in the middle of the story, and expect the reader to keep up. I’m fine with that, and watching Dick’s crew face off against Minos’ evil plots is, like I said, quite fun.
Janin is still a real standout with this series. His characters are crisp and well-defined (that was a butt joke), and the action is never too difficult to follow. Janin brings these characters to vivid, adventurous life, which is quite fitting this vivid, adventurous series.
Harley Quinn #15
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artists: Chad Hardin
I’m not sure whether or not it would be a good idea for DC to just come out and state that Harley Quinn is bisexual. On the one hand, this is a top selling book, and that kind of diversity is always welcome. On the other hand, I rather like how Conner and Palmiotti have been (not so) subtle about it, treating it as just another part of Harley’s life instead of headline-grabbing news.
What does everybody else think? This issue is one of the most overt on the topic yet. It adds a lot of charm to the book, and diversity in comics can always use a helping hand (this pun will make sense later).
After the rough day she had in the last issue, including upsetting her potential date, Mason, Harley is about to have an even more stressful day in this issue. She buys a ton of pet food for her animals, but it all gets stolen when she takes the time to rescue a bunch of people from a burning building (and kicks the butt of pyromaniac supervillain Tinderbox in the process). When she gets home, her BFF Poison Ivy is waiting for her, and she allows Harley to let off some steam (while nearly generating some of their own). But they’re interrupted by Mason, who got all of Harley’s voice messages, and he tells her that he realizes his mistake and that he’d love to try going out with her again.
That’s one problem down, but Harley’s life is still pretty hectic. So Ivy suggests Harley hire some assistants, and together they put up a classifieds ad online for her own Harley Squad. Among the potential applicants are Antonia, a brassy woman from Harlem, and Shona, a violent young woman who protects her family’s restaurant with a baseball bat.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
As always, the interplay between Harley and Ivy is one of the best parts of this book. Their relationship is equal parts friendship and sexual tension, both of which are a lot of fun to read. And like I said, this issue is one of the most overt yet as to the nature of their relationship.
Maybe Conner and Palmiotti haven’t been as subtle about it as I thought. But on the very next page, Harley is swooning over Mason, so she’s clearly bisexual. Or maybe she’s just got a ‘friends with benefits’ thing with Ivy? It’s potentially a fine line, but that is better than nothing. Maybe Harley and Ivy are happy riding the ‘will they/won’t they’ sitcom train, and bringing them together would ruin the magic. I don’t know. All I know is that when those two are on a page together, it’s electric!
The rest of the issue was fun too, if a bit discombobulated. I was a little confused as to why characters like Antonia and Shona were getting such attention, but the climax brought everything together nicely. Still, Harley once again bounces all over the place, from a pet shop to a fire to a supervillain fight to the pet shop again to home. It’s a little hectic, but not necessarily in a bad way. This book is infinitely charming, and it deserves to be the top-seller that it is.
The art, likewise, remains aces. I’m still disappointed that Amanda Conner hasn’t given us a full issue yet, but Hardin more than proves himself on this series. He handles zany action and intimate character moments equally well.
Princess Leia #1
Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Terry and Rachel Dodson
How’s this for unfairness? Marvel goes ahead and gives Princess Leia her own comic over Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, but it’s only a mini-series. Darth Vader gets an ongoing, why can’t she? But that anomaly aside, Marvel and Mark Waid do go out of their way to really push female characters in this first issue, so that’s going to have to be good enough.
Following the ceremony at the end of A New Hope, the Rebel Alliance begins a mass evacuation of Yavin 4. But Princess Leia isn’t sure what she’s supposed to do next. She meets with General Dodonna, who explains that there’s a massive bounty on Leia’s head, so she’s not to go anywhere or do anything. He suggests she take time to mourn those lost on Alderaan, including her parents. But Leia doesn’t want to stay put.
She runs into a couple pilots in the hanger talking about her and calling her the ‘Ice Princess’ for how coldly she seems to be taking the loss of Alderaan. Leia confronts one of the pilots, a woman named Evaan, who is from Alderaan and is taking the loss very hard. Evaan especially had a lot of respect for Leia’s mother, the Queen, and doesn’t feel that Leia is doing enough to respect the customs of Alderaan (Customs that include bowing to Leia and deferring to her noble title rather than talking to her like a normal person).
So Leia hatches a plan: she and Evaan grab a shuttle and head out into space, taking it upon themselves to round up all surviving Aleraanians before the Empire can get their hands on them. Luke and Wedge are sent to stop them from leaving, but Evaan has a few piloting tricks up her sleeve and loses the two fighters. She and Leia might not get along very well, but they are on a very important mission!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
This might be my favorite of the Marvel Star Wars comics. It’s got a lot more personality than the Darth Vader comic, and it’s just more personable than the Star Wars title — both for obvious reasons. Waid dives right into a very interesting, very unexplored part of Leia’s life, and I really like the plot they’ve come up with, having Leia take a direct hand in responding to the destruction of Alderaan. The fact that her whole planet blew up is really glossed over in the movies, so this comic will be a great place to explore the issue, and Waid uses a few cool movie cameos, like Dodonna, and a great scene with Admiral Akbar, to set up the story.
His new creation, Evaan, is pretty cool too. I’m glad to see Marvel and Star Wars creating some new female fighter pilots. The movie version of Red Squadron was severely lacking in them, after all. So if you’re going to create a new female character, putting her in that familiar orange jumpsuit is a great start.
Leia herself carries the story with ease, and I look forward to Waid really digging into her character. The Princess we know and love isn’t just going to sit around mourning where there’s work to be done, and her take charge attitude is on full display, as well it should be. Even when she’s forced to face off against friends like Luke, Leia knows what she has to do, and she does it.
The only real problem with this issue is the art, which is a shame, because I normally love the Dodsons. But there’s just been something off about their work in the past few years. Maybe it’s the inking? Or the coloring? I don’t know enough about art to say for sure, but the lines are not as solid as I would have liked, and parts get kind of blurry or muddy. Princess Leia #1 is not the Dodsons at their very best, but it’s still a gorgeous comic.
Though, as a side note, I do want to point out that Chewbacca still doesn’t get a medal, even though Waid spends a lot more time on that final New Hope scene. What the heck, Waid? Couldn’t be bothered to correct one of the original Star Wars’ most egregious faux pas?
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Javier Rodriguez
The first issue of this new series was a terrible comic, mired in the middle of Spider-Verse, with very little actual focus on Spider-Woman and her life. It was a tie-in of the worst order, having little to do with anything, and the following three issues were more of the same. I think it involved a pirate ship at some point? In their desperate attempt to flesh out Spider-Verse, Marvel may have shot themselves in the foot with this series.
So let’s all just pretend that Spider-Woman #s 1-4 don’t exist, and that Spider-Woman #5 was the real intended start of this series. I’m sure that’s what Dennis Hopeless would tell us, if he were here. Because Spider-Woman #5 is so far removed from Spider-Woman #1 that it might as well be an entirely different comic.
Spider-Woman has quit the Avengers in order to live a more normal life, devoting herself to street-level crime fighting — but apparently she’s a little rusty. She makes a few mistakes, including interrupting an NYPD sting operation, which results in her spending a night in the slammer. But at least she’s keeping a positive attitude. Ben Urich comes to see her when the cops let her out in order to get her help on a story. The girlfriends and family members of minor super-villains are disappearing and he doesn’t know why. Jessica blows them off because they’re super-villains, and these girlfriends are probably just trying to escape the relationships.
But later that night, she interrupts the Porcupine committing a bank robbery, and she kicks his butt. Except he was doing it because someone is threatening his daughter, so Spider-Woman takes pity on him. She breaks into Urich’s office and digs deeper into his file, learning that Porcupine is another one of the victims. Looks like she has a case!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
This should have been the first issue of Spider-Woman. Let’s hope the damage hasn’t been done, and Hopeless and Rodriguez have a chance at keeping their title going. Because this was a very fun issue. Spider-Woman #5 is all about Jessica Drew as a person, reconnecting with the streets of New York and trying to establish a normal life. This comic is very much in the same vein as Hawkeye and Captain Marvel (before they rocketed her off into space, grrr), and I love those two comics. Though there’s also a feeling that this is more manufactured than those two. Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye reshaped the superhero comic landscape, especially at Marvel. So Spider-Woman is a comic that was born in response to Hawkeye‘s success, mixing the down-to-Earth storytelling with a traditional superhero adventure. I dig it.
Hopeless does a very nice job getting into Jessica’s head and letting us connect with her. She’s a very friendly, funny person, very easy to get to know (unlike, say, Angela). And I like how he makes the costume change part of the story instead of just a given. He has Jessica think about it the way anyone would think about such a major change in their life — plus I really love the new costume. It looks amazing. All of Rodriguez’s pencils look amazing. He’s got a fun style, a nice blend of realistic and classic comic.
Spider-Woman #1 is what this series should have been from the start. The writing and art are very human and personable, and that’s exactly what I want from comics these days.
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!
Posted on March 7, 2015, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, Star Wars and tagged Angela, Angela: Asgard's Assassin, Batman Eternal, Dick Grayson, Grayson, Guardians of the Galaxy, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Princess Leia, Spider-Woman. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.