Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 3/21/15
It was Ladies Week in comics this week, with at least five of my favorite female-friendly comics hitting the stands! I have been a huge proponent of the push for more female representation in comics, and I’ve pretty much loved everything I’ve read so far. Heck, I’m even making my own comic starring two female protagonists. So I couldn’t be more excited for a week that includes new issues of Princess Leia, Lumberjanes, Batgirl, Silk and the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl!
But only one of those issues can win Comic Book of the Week, and that honor goes to the latest issue of Batgirl, which features a pretty stellar climax to their first story arc.
Not that Silk and Squirrel Girl weren’t awesome too! As was the second issue of Princess Leia, which I reviewed over at Word of the Nerd this week, so check that out too!
Sadly, I didn’t get around to the Lumberjanes review. That comic is mid-story arc, so I’m waiting for a good jumping on point to get back into regular reviews. And I can’t wait for that to happen!
Comic Reviews: Batgirl #40, Batman Eternal #50, Divinity #2, Silk #2 and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #3.
Writers: Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher
Artist: Babs Tarr
It seems like forever ago that this new Batgirl took the comic world by storm, and only now have we arrived at the end of the first story arc. I’m happy to say the creative team sticks the landing with an exciting, emotional climax pitting Barbara against her bitter past.
The evil Barbara algorithm is out to destroy all crime in Gotham, and it has used Hooq to identify potential problems with the citizens of Burnside. So using the social app, it has gathered everybody it deems evil to a concert in Burnside Square, and it’s positioning a satellite into orbit to kill everybody with a giant laser. It has also taken over Riot Black’s mind and uses him as a slave to keep Batgirl busy, but our hero kicks Riot Black’s butt! So the algorithm sends a fleet of drones down into the crowd to attack them directly. Batgirl jumps out of the building to fight the drones, and with help from Qadir, she figures out that a certain sonic frequency should destroy the drones. Fortunately, Black Canary is singing in the concert, and she gladly provides a Canary Cry at that exact frequency.
But the satellite is still coming, so Frankie hacks into the computer and has the algorithm broadcasting on the Jumbotron above the crowd. Batgirl is able to reason with the algorithm, convincing her that if she blows up the people of Burnside, then she’ll be blowing up Gotham City, and she wants to save Gotham City. The algorithm is distracted by this logical fallacy just enough for Frankie to hack deeper and shut both her and the satellite down! The day is saved!
The next morning, Dinah announces that her band is going on tour (setting up her new ongoing series), and Frankie reveals that she was able to recover a non-homicidal version of Babs’ algorithm, so her college thesis is saved!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This was a pretty action-packed finale. I liked how it utilized everybody, from not just Batgirl and Black Canary, but also Frankie, Qadir, Riot Black and nearly every other new cast member Barbara has met in the past few issues. All the concepts, like Hooq and Babs’ lingering bitterness, come together nicely in this climax, allowing Barbara Gordon to put her past behind her and embrace the cool new future in Burnside! I also liked that it was a team effort that defeated the bad guy.
Batgirl is a comic that’s firing on all cylinders. The story, the art, the characters and everything else all come together in a great package, delivering both superhero adventure and personal character growth. It’s equally important that Burnside is saved and Barbara’s college thesis is saved. This is a creative team that understands the importance of putting characters first, superheroes second.
Batman Eternal #50
Writers: James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder
Artist: Alvaro Martinez
This is it! I think! There are only two issues of Batman Eternal left and the climax is upon us! Batman has been pushed to the edge, his city is in flames and the big bad guy stands revealed! Is it awesome? No, not at all. I’m actually very underwhelmed. But James Tynion IV has been this comic’s best writer, and at least he keeps things tight and mildly entertaining.
Batman has returned to Gotham City and he starts kicking butt, even as everything starts spiraling out of control. He helps Red Hood defeat Bane, he helps Bluebird defeat Mr. Freeze, he helps Batwing defeat Scarecrow and he helps Red Robin defeat Clayface. (Batgirl took care of Joker’s Daughter on her own). But Firefly was left to his own devices, and the city is bathed in flames. And Cluemaster’s side project of messing up the city’s infrastructure is in full effect, so there’s chaos everywhere. It’s all pretty crazy. Elsewhere, Gordon and the GCPD gain control of the prison, and the Penguin escapes with Killer Croc to join Catwoman’s team.
With everything at their worst, the big bad guy calls out Batman for a showdown at Beacon Tower. Batman arrives. He hasn’t slept in several days and is barely strong enough to stand, but he went anyway – and gets easily ambushed with an electrical attack.
The big bad guy then stands revealed as…Cluemaster.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
If this is a big attempt to turn Cluemaster into a legitimate villain, it’s already failed. Cluemaster is lame. He has always been lame and he will always be lame. Revealing him as the surprise villain behind Batman Eternal does not suddenly turn Cluemaster into a badass. It reeks of the creative team just picking the most unlikely choice and running with it. That’s fine, if that’s what they want to do. But when I turned the page and saw the reveal, I just rolled my eyes. Whatever, so it’s Cluemaster. Fine.
But the rest of the issue was also fine. All the excess garbage has been stripped away, and this is just a tight, focused story of Batman on the edge, teaming up with his various allies to put down a bunch of classic villains. That remains pretty cool, and Tynion writes it well. Even if I don’t feel as if Batman Eternal has earned any of this, Tynion still writes a pretty cool Batman on the edge.
Also, I find it kind of funny that the city is on fire just because nobody apparently thought to go after Firefly. We just spent several issues with the various Bat-allies taking on classic villains…only to turn the page and discover that they forgot one of them, and he’s been starting all those fires around the city. Whoopsie!
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Trevor Hairsine
I may have been a little hard on the first issue of Divinity, by Valiant Comics. It’s hard sci-fi, and that’s not necessarily my genre. Fortunately, a recap page at the start of this second issue helped to clarify a lot of the earlier confusion, and this is just a much better, more engaging issue all around.
Since landing in the present day last issue, cosmonaut Abram Adams has used his new godly powers to create a divine oasis in the Australian Outback, where people come from far and wide so he can grant their greatest wish. That SWAT team from last issue is fine. They too have been granted their greatest wishes, from having their family brought to see them, to being turned into a bird. Eventually, one of the Soviet scientists from the original rocket team arrives as an old man, and Abram shares with this man his story: Prior to blasting off from Earth, Abram’s girlfriend told him she was pregnant, but he went anyway. He flew through space, alternating between Hyber Sleep and waking moments. Eventually, radio waves from Earth began to play out before his eyes like holograms, so he watched humanity grow and suffer. Then something more happened to him…but we don’t know what just yet.
Abram uses his powers to make this Soviet scientist young again, and he sends the man out to tell the world that Abrams is not a threat. The scientist is picked up by MI-6, and like all good governments, the British don’t believe him. So they send the superheroes, X-O Manowar, Ninjak, Liveware and Eternal Warrior, to Australia to take Abram out. They make their way through the oasis, but Abram senses them long before they reach him, and he begins granting their deepest wishes.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I definitely liked this issue more than the first one. The story is much clearer, as are the circumstances surrounding Abrams. I have a solid understanding of what’s happening, to who and why. He’s this god-like being that has landed in Australia, and while some people are flocking to him, the suspicious folk of the world have sent the superheroes to investigate. I definitely didn’t expect to see those guys show up. I wasn’t sure how connected Divinity was going to be to the rest of the Valiant Universe, but they’re a pretty fun cameo. It adds a bit of seriousness to the whole proceeding. This isn’t just a crazy mini-series, this is an actually important comic.
Kindt also does a great job of helping us connect with Abrams, no matter how far-out his powers have become. The guy is still human, still worrying about human things, no matter what’s happening to him. Kindt is definitely telling an interesting story here, and now I’m definitely curious to see where it goes.
Writer: Robbie Thompson
Artist: Stacey Lee
I reviewed the first issue of Silk at Word of the Nerd, in case you need to get caught up. Basically, the new spider-lady is off doing the spider-vigilante thing in New York, while also searching for her long lost family. It’s another solid, entertaining series, similar to Spider-Woman and Spider-Gwen. Of the three of them, I think Silk is my second favorite so far.
Cindy Moon heads to her old neighborhood in an effort to track down her family, but so much has changed in 10 years that nobody remembers them or her. Even her favorite pizza place closed down. Then all of a sudden, a giant, robot, skull-tentacle monster that shouts, “Hail Hydra!” shows up and starts boosting ATMs. Cindy throws on her costume and kicks its butt, then chases it down into the sewer and kicks its butt even more. She’s getting better at the punching side of superheroics.
When she climbs out of the sewers, Cindy is spotted by her old high school boyfriend Hector, who just happens to still live in the neighborhood. Cindy never told Hector about her powers or her isolation. He thought she went away to Oxford all those years ago, and then there was no trace of her after that. Cindy rattles off a few cover lies, trying to play it cool, especially when Hector’s new fiancee shows up. Cindy slinks off, depressed.
Then we find out that the giant, robot, skull-tentacle monster was sent by the same people who are watching Cindy in the bunker.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This may sound a little cruel, but I kind of wish this creative team was working on a different comic. I like Silk was much as the next person (though I still hate her name), but she feels like such a flash-in-the-pan character that I wish this wonderfully crafted comic was about a character with some actual staying power. Silk, as a character, is entertaining and easy to root for, but she’s born out of a pretty convenient retcon, and is competing against not only two other distinct spider-ladies, but also every failed spider-lady comic that has come before her. I just don’t think Silk will stand the test of time, the character or the comic. But like I said, it’s fun to read!
So Thompson’s solid writing and Lee’s adorkable art might be going to waste! This is a delightfully crafted comic, and a joy to read. Cindy comes off as very personable, very realistic, and more than a little dorky, in a very cute way. She’s struggling, but the struggle to reconnect with her past is buoyed by a very positive attitude, which Thompson nails in her ongoing thought balloons. And Lee perfectly captures the adorable fun of being an eager, acrobatic superhero. Lee is a great fit in today’s comic book landscape, and I could easily see her moving on to bigger and better books in the near future.
Unless I’m totally wrong and Silk conquers the comic book industry! I’ve been wrong before.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #3
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Erica Henderson
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is the funniest comic I’m reading, hands down. There are plenty of funny books out there, but Ryan North’s Squirrel Girl is consistently laugh-out-loud hilarious. This new issue isn’t quite as good as the previous two, but that’s like saying the third french fry during dinner isn’t quite as good as the first two. French fries are still yummy.
Squirrel Girl’s efforts to use some ‘borrowed’ Iron Man armor to fly to the moon to fight Galactus are interrupted by Whiplash – which, you’ve got to admit, is a pretty cool sentence. In order to protect the armor, Squirrel Girl sends it flying away while she and her squirrels take on Whiplash directly, kicking his butt with their squirrel power! But no sooner is Whiplash defeated than they find out the ESU Campus Bank is being robbed, and Doreen’s new roommate Nancy is one of the hostages! Nancy does her best to try and outsmart the bank robbers, and she manages to stall them until Squirrel Girl, wearing an all-squirrel armor, bursts in and starts kicking butt. She’s basically just covered in squirrels, and it’s awesome.
Mid-fight, Doreen slips out of the squirrel ‘armor’ so that she can go after Galactus, leaving the squirrel armor to finish the bad guys themselves. Doreen and Tippy Toe suit back up in the Iron Man armor, fly to the moon, and confront Galactus head-on!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Squirrel Girl has more high jinks than ten comics! I didn’t know exactly what North was planning with Galactus, but this comic literally ends with Squirrel Girl intending to fistfight Galactus on the moon, so that’s pretty awesome. And that’s after she covered herself in squirrels to stop a bank robbery! That scene has to be seen to be believed!
And that’s Unbeatable Squirrel Girl in a nutshell. North and Henderson are just having wacky fun, but without the self-referentialness of Deadpool that I don’t like so much. All of the comedy in this book comes from the characters, Squirrel Girl especially. She’s not making pop culture references or being intentionally wacky, she’s just being herself, and that is adorably funny. Whether she’s talking with her squirrels or mocking super villains, Squirrel Girl is just a funny person, and North knows how to handle humor.
Plus there are hints that someone named Chipmunk Hunk exists, and if you don’t find that funny, I’m OK with that, because it means more humor for me.
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 21, 2015, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews and tagged Batgirl, Batman Eternal, Cindy Moon, Divinity, Silk, Squirrel Girl, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Valiant Comics. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.