Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 4/4/15

I come to you now at the turn of the tides. For the next two months, DC Comics is going to be doing a big Convergence crossover, taking their entire line of comics and doing a bunch of weird alternate reality things that I have simply not kept up with. I have no idea if I’m going to review any DC Comics for the next two months. I might check a few of them out individually, maybe haphazardly and randomly, but I just don’t know for sure.

(Although Greg Rucka’s Renee Montoya comic is an absolute must!)

So we’re going to spend this week saying goodbye to a few of DC’s regular releases. Not only do we (finally!) have the last issue of Batman Eternal, but Batman and Robin comes to an end with a rather amazing Annual issue. It won’t be back after Convergence. And Harley Quinn delivers a pretty fun cliffhanger in advance of the break.

Out of all of them, I’m going to have to give Comic Book of the Week to Batman and Robin Annual #3. You’re going to have to read this one to believe it!

This is a thing that happens in the comic!

Over at Word of the Nerd this week, I reviewed the prologue issue for the new Uncanny Inhumans series. Black Bolt is the star of Uncanny Inhumans #0, and the issue shows why he could easily carry a comic book all on his own.

I am also super pleased to announce the launching of www.GamerGirlandVixen.com, a new site for my own self-published comic! We bought the domain name and are gearing up for our Kickstarter coming next month! Visit the site and follow along with the production!

Comic Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #17, Batman Eternal #52, Batman and Robin Annual #3, Doctor Who: The 9th Doctor #1, and Harley Quinn #16.


Amazing Spider-Man #17

Amazing Spider-Man #17
Writers: Dan Slott and Christos Gage
Artist: Humberto Ramos

Say what you will about Amazing Spider-Man just keeping time until Secret Wars starts, but I’m enjoying this classic-style storyline from Slott and Gage. It’s a nice exploration into Peter’s current personal life at Parker Industries, and this issue in particular is a great character piece for Anna Maria Marconi!

Peter and Anna Maria have dinner with Jay and Aunt May, and while Peter fumbles for the right cover ups, Anna Maria decides to just be honest and tells Aunt May that they broke up. Aunt May is disappointed, but she doesn’t melt, proving that honesty is probably the best policy. Anna Maria’s honest streak continues when they return to Parker Industries and reveal to Sajani that not only have they broken up, but Peter is still supplying tech to Spider-Man. Sajani is pissed, even moreso that they’re about to test out the prototype of Peter’s super-villain prison (an idea that Sajani secretly hates).

No sooner does Peter start up the prototype than the Ghost makes his move, having been hired by Alchemax to sabotage the project. Ghost has hacked into the building’s control room, and he turns the prototype against Peter and his employees. Pete uses his Spider-Sense and powers to help everybody get to safety, with an assist from Anna Maria, who’s able to think up excuses on the fly as to why everybody’s being saved so effortlessly.

Meanwhile, Sajani sneaks into the control room and offers her help to the Ghost. She wants to destroy Peter’s prison idea too. But the Ghost tells her that he doesn’t destroy corporations for the money, he does it because he hates corporations, and he stabs his ghostly hand through Sajani’s chest!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This was a great issue for Anna Maria Marconi, who remains probably the greatest addition Dan Slott has brought to Amazing Spider-Man. After the failure of character that was Carlie Cooper, Anna Maria is a breath of fresh air. She’s smart, funny, confident and clearly isn’t just in the book to be Peter Parker’s girlfriend. She’s got layers of complexities to her, both in her character and in her relationship to Peter Parker. And she’s just great in this issue, speaking truths that the socially awkward Peter Parker can’t.

I almost don’t want her to become the new Doctor Octopus anymore.

It’s hard to decide

The rest of the issue is just plain good. While I fear that Slott may be bringing Parker Industries to an end, I still love it as a concept, so it’s a lot of fun to see Peter have employees and actually try to do some real work for a change. That it’s interrupted by the Ghost is just the nature of comic books. If it was up to me, this would be an issue all about Parker Industries and Anna Maria. But super-villains will always be a problem, and the Ghost is a cool enough guy. He’s dangerous, he’s deadly, and Slott delivers a potentially devastating cliffhanger.


Batman Eternal #52

Batman Eternal #52
Writers: James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder
Artists: Eduardo Pansica, Julio Ferreira, Robson Rocha, Guillermo Ortega, David LaFuente and Tim Seeley

Here we are, the grand finale. This has not been an easy road. It has not been a pleasant road. But I stuck to my decision to review every single issue of Batman Eternal, and I am grateful that it is over. Barring popular demand, I really really don’t think I’ll be tackling Year Two — unless you demand it. Let me know in the comments if you think I should.

But for now, let’s just get to this final issue, which at least ends things on an OK level. This was an extra-sized issue, and I’m going to cover everything.

The issue opens with a brief flashback revealing that the evil scheme in Batman Eternal was indeed the idea of Cluemaster, and that Owlman was just his financial backer. The two of them met shortly after the Night of Owls. In the present day, Owlman has slit Cluemaster’s throat, and he faces off against Batman at the top of Beacon Tower. Owlman monologues for a bit before tackling Batman off the top of the Tower and flying him across the city with his jetpack. But Batman sabotages the pack and they crash into the streets.

Owlman continues to beat on Batman, declaring that he will leave him dead and exposed, and soon the names of ‘Batman’ and ‘Bruce Wayne’ will fade into memory. But Owlman apparently didn’t count on Batman’s allies, because they are rallying the city!

Commissioner Gordon gets on a loudspeaker and gives an impassioned speech to the people of Gotham that they need to step up and save their city. He then has every rooftop spotlight in the city painted with a bat, and soon there are dozens of Bat-Signals filling the night sky. Meanwhile, the Pennyworths get on the radio and call in backup from every superhero working in Gotham, including Batwoman, Black Canary, Katana and Talon, and when joined with Red Robin, Red Hood, Batgirl and Bluebird, they all manage to start making a difference. Even Catwoman and Killer Croc start helping out, with Catwoman using her criminal empire to put Gotham City’s ne’er-do-wells to work.

And then Spoiler, who had been on her way out of Gotham, is inspired enough by Gordon’s speech that she turns her motorcycle around and races to help Batman. She arrives just in time to knock Owlman away from the finishing blow, and soon she’s joined by Gordon, Red Robin and all the other superheroes in standing beside Batman against Owlman. The villain scowls and blows a hole in the street, escaping through the subway tunnels.

In the epilogue, we check in with a variety of stories. Batman confronts Catwoman for being a criminal and he tells her that they are through — though she tells him that she already decided that awhile ago. Red Robin checks in with Harper Row, and he meets Stephanie Brown for the first time in this continuity. Stephanie will be rooming with Harper and Cullen. Jason Todd very nearly asks Barbara Gordon out on a date, but he cancels the phone call and goes to hang out with the Outlaws instead. Jim Corrigan recruits Batwing for a new GCPD-backed supernatural task force called the ‘Midnight Shift’. Jason Bard resigns as commissioner and sits down with Vicki Vale to come clean about everything.

And Owlman was plucked out of the sewers by the rebuilt Court of Owls, who lock him up in one of their sleeping chambers for a decade.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

For the finale of Batman Eternal, this was an OK comic. But it’s still mostly disappointing. It’s got everything a good finale should have: strong moments for the main character, strong moments for the supporting characters, the bad guy defeated, and some solid epilogues. In all of those regards, it’s fine. Gordon gives a good speech, and that ‘sky full of Bat-Signals’ thing was neat. I liked it when Spoiler returned to Gotham and punched out Owlman. And I liked seeing people like Talon and Batwoman step up to the plate, though one would hope they were already out there on the streets helping people, and didn’t need Julia Pennyworth to tell them to get to work. I am also, of course, super pleased that Stephanie, Harper and Cullen are going to be roommates. That should be a blast.

Pull some strings, LaFuente, make this happen!

But on several other levels, I just don’t think this comic is any good. For one, Owlman is totally wasted. We find out that Cluemaster was the mastermind after all, and Owlman just provided the funds — yet Cluemaster was unceremoniously killed so that Owlman could take the spotlight in the final issue. Granted, Owlman has a much stronger relationship with Batman to exploit, but Cluemaster was the one who did all the work, who we actually saw throughout the series. Owlman just showed up at the end for a single, short fistfight with Batman. That’s what Batman Eternal was building towards all this time?

Where does he get those wonderful car doors?

And it’s not like his appearance effected Batman at all. Batman still doesn’t believe that Owlman is Thomas Wayne Jr., and the two barely have a conversation during the fight. To Batman, he’s just another crazy bad guy who needs to get beat up. And in the end, Owlman gets away from the superheroes! Red Robin leads the charge down into the tunnels after him, but he gets away. And the heroes don’t know that the Court of Owls caught him, so as far as they know, Owlman is still out there.

So the good guys do not actually win in Batman Eternal. Owlman killed the Cluemaster and then Owlman got away. That’s how the big, over-arching criminal enterprise of Batman Eternal ends. The other, smaller bad guys were rounded up earlier — except that this issue ends with a brief scene between Batman and Commissioner Gordon, where the two get a call that Scarecrow is up to his old tricks, despite the fact that Batman busted the Scarecrow only two issues ago!

What are you going to do with that gun, Jim? You’re still on the dang roof!

Nothing has changed in Gotham City. With the exception of Catwoman’s kingpin role, and Gordon no longer being Commissioner, everybody is exactly where they were at the start of Batman Eternal. Nobody learned any lessons. Gotham City is still standing. The massive criminal plot that supposedly pushed Batman to the end of his rope has been mopped up and put away. And there is no real promise that any of the minor changes we saw over the course of the series will stick around.

There was no announcement for a Spoiler/Bluebird team-up book from DC, after all.

Batman Eternal was not a good comic. It was made by some very talented people, who had a couple good ideas floating around, but the execution was an atrocious mess. At the very least, this final issue is mildly entertaining, with some cool moments here and there, but I’m probably just being polite.


Batman and Robin Annual #3

Batman and Robin Annual #3
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Juan Jose Ryp

I almost didn’t review this issue. It deserves to be reviewed. It deserves to be read by everybody, because this is probably one of the most amazing Batman and Robin comics of the modern age. But my own personal biases prevent me from fully embracing and enjoying this comic. That’s not Tomasi and Ryp’s fault, it’s mine. I’m a little ashamed.

I’m not going to give you a full synopsis, because this comic can be summed up in one amazing sentence:

Batman and Robin go to the moon and thwart a race of lunar parasites who want to invade Earth using a homemade rocket cobbled together from leftover NASA equipment. And it’s played completely straight!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

The pure joy of this issue comes from the balance of insane story vs. straight execution. This isn’t a comedic issue. This isn’t a wink-at-the-camera story. The creators are having fun, but they’re telling a serious, grounded Batman story — about a battle with moon men! The art, especially, is hyper-detailed and realistic, with Ryp getting all the details of the space gear and the freaky aliens just right. The comic looks great.

Wallpaper material

And Tomasi takes his insane idea and runs it to all natural conclusions! We’ve got Robin using a teleporting motorcycle to take both him and his dog Titus to the Watchtower. We’ve got Batman and Robin climbing into an old, abandoned moon vehicle and riding across the lunar surface in spacesuits. And the ending is about as insane as one can get!

Batman saves the day by hijacking the aliens’ shuttle, flying it from the moon to the Earth, crashing it into the most active volcano on the planet, jumping out at the last second and being caught by Robin, whose flying a different spaceship!

It is mind-blowing how amazing this comic is. But, like I said, my own personal tastes are holding me back from enjoying it as much as possible. I just don’t like Damian in the role of Robin. I’ll admit that the character has grown on me since he was first introduced. And I absolutely loved the team-up of Dick Grayson and Damian as Batman and Robin. But there’s just something off-putting to me about Bruce and Damian as Batman and Robin. I don’t like the literal father/son dynamic of the two of them. I’ve always viewed Batman and Robin as partners, as a master and apprentice, as a hero and sidekick. The father/son thing just isn’t for me, and that is the driving focus of their partnership, especially in this issue.

This comic should be called Batman and Son.

Oh, also, Batman saves the day by crashing the lunar parasites into a volcano, despite the fact that they were smart enough to develop language and fighting skills. So…I think Batman totally just killed an entire alien race. What’s up with that?


Ninth Doctor #1

Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor #1
Writer: Cavan Scott
Artist: Blair Shedd

Titan Comics has the Doctor Who license all wrapped up, and they’re putting out series for all the popular modern Doctors. I’ve wanted to jump on board for awhile now, but I wanted to wait for a #1 issue so I could start fresh. Here we are with the Ninth Doctor, with whom I do have fond memories.

The Doctor, Rose and Jack Harkness travel to the planet Excroth, the Doctor’s favorite planet, but something has gone wrong: the whole planet has been blowed up! The Doctor checks his records and confirms that they have arrived at the right time period, and the planet shouldn’t be blowed up. A moment later, a large alien ship enters the system, and the three of them are pulled on board. They are confronted by the large, robotic, gun-wielding aliens who want to know why they are in the Excroth system.

The trio flee and cause some mischief on the ship, all while the ship comes under attack from a second alien race. This leads to several confrontations between our heroes and the various aliens, until they finally make for the TARDIS to get out, just as the ship explodes. But in their rush to escape, Rose is accidentally left behind. She blows up along with the alien ship — except it didn’t blow up, it was pulled directly into the time vortex!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I don’t particularly care for adaptations when it comes to comic books. There’s just something not quite right when people try to adapt a television show or a cartoon into comic book form. There’s a fakeness to it that I’ve just never found appealing, and that’s sort of in play with this Doctor Who comic. There have been plenty of Doctor Who comics throughout the decades, so it’s not liker his venture is something new. But it tries a little too hard to match the show instead of being its own thing.

On the one hand, I’m not particularly fond of that development. On the other hand, Scott and Shedd really manage to capture the feel of Christopher Eccelston’s 9th Doctor.

So much running

This is a pretty fun story, very much in the vein of the Doctor and his companions. The banter feels spot on, if a little forced at times, and the adventure is full of aliens and twists. Plus, since it’s a comic book, the restraints of a TV show budget are not a problem. The aliens here are gigantic and fascinating, with real space battles and interplanetary adventure all around them. This is Doctor Who writ large, and this is probably the best and only place you can go for further adventures of the 9th Doctor.

But you and I are just going to have to get past that obvious adaptation feeling. The art is a little too photo-realistic to be very comfortable, with Shedd making sure he captures the actors likenesses perfectly, rather than turn them into full-on comic book characters. And the same can be said for the dialogue, which tries really really hard to match the show, instead of just sounding like natural dialogue. If this series eased up on trying to be a direct adaptation, and instead just tried to be a fun Doctor Who comic, it would be much better.


Harley Quinn #16

Harley Quinn #16
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artists: Chad Hardin and John Timms

DC Comics is taking two months off from their regular titles to do this big Convergence crossover. I haven’t been paying Convergence much attention, and I still haven’t decided if I’m going to even bother reviewing any of the comics. But at least a book like Harley Quinn knows how to set up a quality two-month cliffhanger.

In order to get control of her busy life, Harley has decided to hire a dozen assistants to help out, including having a bunch on hand to be out in the city fighting crime in her name. She holds some wacky auditions and we meet a few of the contenders, including the ones introduced in the last issue. Harley arrives at her final dozen by holding a free-for-all battle, and hires the ones left standing. They all report for duty the next day to the new apartment building Harley bought, and they each get their own Harley Quinn-style costume.

Among the new recruits are Holly Hamden, a blind girl in a wheelchair, who Harley hires as team manager and secretary, and Hannah Borgman, geeky niece of Harley’s pal Sy-Borg.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This issue was more set-up than anything else, but that’s not half bad when the book remains incredibly fun. Harley and her supporting cast are entertaining and a half, so watching them interview potential assistants, buy a new apartment building, and attend a few movies is a lot of fun. And Hardin has done a fantastic job as artist on the book, keeping everybody looking like people, while letting Harley’s natural cheesecake poke through now and then. Harley Quinn is a super fun comic, and giving her a gaggle of Harley assistants sounds like a ridiculously nifty new adventure. Hopefully this book won’t lose too much momentum over the next few months.

——————–

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 April 4, 2015, in Batman, Comics, DC, Doctor Who, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, Spider-Man and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. The Batman and Robin annual was amazing. It was such a perfect mixture of Silver Age goofiness and a serious story. The splash of them riding around on the moon rover is definitely my new wallpaper. God, I wish that book did stories like that every month.

  2. Amazing Spider-Man was pretty good. I like Anna Maria.

    Uncanny Inhumans actually showed, to me, why Black Bolt can’t carry a book. He can’t speak, which means in any interaction, it’s going to be everyone around him who actually carries the scene. Writers seldom actually do narration boxes, which just makes him feel even more distant. And then add to that the fact that he’s extremely powerful, and highly intelligent, and he just ends up being a really boring protagonist. He’s like Superman, if Superman couldn’t speak. I’ve always felt Black Bolt was the least interesting of the Inhumans, and this comic did nothing to convince me otherwise.

  3. Totally agree with everything in “Batman Eternal.” I realized that they should’ve called it “Batman Irrelevant.” Batman sits on the sidelines while the family does all the work; in the end, even the citizens can save themselves as well as he can. He doesn’t even solve the mystery!

    • Exactly! He didn’t do nothin’! He didn’t stop the city from descending into chaos, he didn’t rally the citizens to fight back, he didn’t displace the evil Jason Bard; Batman just struggled against the rising tide of evil and would have been swallowed up if it weren’t for his people.

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