Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 4/11/15

I’m sorry, DC fans, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to tackle Convergence. I’d considered it, and I read a few of the issues this week, but I have even less interest in covering this beast than I do Batman Eternal Year Two. Now, I am nothing if not easily persuadable, so if there is a Convergence comic you’d like me to review, let me know in the comments. But on my own, these reviews are going to be few and far between.

Such as this week’s Question #1. Greg Rucka returning to Renee Montoya is a dream come true.

In the rest of the comic book world, we’ve got some great books! I highly recommend Kaijumax over at Oni Press, it’s a lot of fun. New issues of Ant-Man and Spider-Woman impressed. And Darth Vader #4 easily won Comic Book of the Week for being one of the most action-packed comics of the year so far. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to look at Darth Vader the same way again.

Elsewhere in the world, you can check out my review of SHIELD #4 over at Word of the Nerd. That series continues to delight.

This is also the first week in a year when I don’t have an issue of Batman Eternal clogging up my reviews! It’s a good feeling.

Comic Reviews: Ant-Man #4, Convergence: Question #1, Darth Vader #4, Kaijumax #1 and Spider-Woman #6.

Ant-Man #4

Ant-Man #4
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Ramon Rosanas

Nick Spencer is my kind of comic book writer. This is a guy who appreciates the breadth of the Marvel Universe and how to have fun with it. He’s also a writer who loves himself some minor comic book super-villains. Not only is Grizzly a supporting character in Ant-Man, but Spencer adds another classic C-List villain to the cast with Ant-Man #4! And this is the guy who wrote Superior Foes of Spider-Man!

If Stilt-Man or the Spot join the cast, I may need CPR.

The evil Augustine Cross and his super-villain uncle, Crossfire, have kidnapped Cassie Lang and Dr. Erica Sondheim in order to give his dead father a heart transplant to bring Darren Cross back to life. Augustine wants to use Cassie’s heart because it has been bombarded by Pym Particles, and should therefore be able to shrink and grow as his monstrous father needs. He also has a few donor hearts on hand to give to Cassie after Sonheim is done, because he has no ill will towards the girl. He’s a maniac, not a monster.

Ant-Man and Grizzly team up to break into the Cross compound, but the security is too good. So Grizzly hooks Scott up with the Machinesmith, another classic villain who attends Super Villains Anonymous meetings with him. Machinesmith is a charming jerkass, and he helps them disabled Cross’ security in exchange for a job in Ant-Man’s security firm. The trio break into the building, Ant-Man fights his way through some guards, but when he arrives in the operating room, he gets stepped on by a revived Darren Cross!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This issue was a blast! Spencer sets up a pretty awesome conflict, and a reason why Cassie had to be the target, so the stakes are as high as they can get. Then he adds the sheer fun of having Ant-Man team up with low level super-villains to save the day. One of my favorite comic book tropes is when a villain becomes a hero, or when a villain is at least chill enough to do something heroic. So Grizzly and Machinesmith are my boys in this issue!

Though Scott is still my homie

Ant-Man is pretty awesome as well. Spencer and Rosanas have really instilled quality heroics into Scott Lang in this series. Ant-Man has an extended sequence breaking into the Cross facility, and it’s a delight to read. He fights a few guards and mentally assesses their willingness to actually fight him based on their probable paychecks. It’s funny, and definitely not your usual mid-battle banter. The scene where he promises to find them on Linkedin and give them all jobs after he brings down Cross is just great.

The Question #1

Convergence: The Question #1
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Cully Hammer

As I said in the opening, I have zero interest in covering Convergence. I read a few of the issues this week and all of them just fell flat. They weren’t all bad, I suppose. But I just don’t care about this Big Event and smashing all these different comic book alternate realities together. That’s just not why I read comics these days.

But I absolutely read comics to see awesome female heroes in well-written stories, so there was no way I was going to skip Greg Rucka’s return to Renee Montoya, one of my all-time favorite DC heroes.

In Convergence, a bunch of multidimensional cities have been trapped inside giant domes by the lead super-villain. In this domed version of Gotham, the people have turned to violence and looting. Renee Montoya works with Two-Face to raid one of the last pharmacies to get medicine for a local hospital, where Renee’s father is dying in a hospital bed. Renee is living with the Huntress, and the two meet up in their apartment to share notes on how the city is faring. Huntress doesn’t approve of Renee hanging out with Two-Face, but Renee is drawn to help him.

Later, at Two-Face’s apartment, we see him flip his coin as to whether or not he should shoot himself in the head, which is apparently a nightly event for him. Like always, it lands on the good side, possibly because the dome has changed physics. He looks to the window, where the Question is sitting and watching him. She visits him every night in costume when he flips the coin, because she’s not going to let him kill himself. While the two are arguing, the big villain of Convergence makes a dome-wide announcement that he’s going to make all the domed cities fight each other for dominance. This is an announcement that happened in all the Convergence tie-ins. The announcement gives Two-Face the drive to find someone out there who will kill him, and he knocks out Renee and leaves. Huntress finds her later and wants to help, and she’s brought back-up: Batwoman!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Sadly, all this issue really does is remind us all how amazing a Greg Rucka-penned Renee Montoya series would be. She had some back-ups in older issues of Batwoman comics, and they were pretty darn amazing. Rucka knows the character, he helped build the character, and together they could accomplish great things. Rather than the nonsense, supernatural, New 52 Question that very few people are reading, DC could put one of their most prominent LGBT characters back in the spotlight with an amazing, noir-influenced detective story, one that features amazing cameos by fan-favorite characters like Huntress and Batwoman.

But nope! All we get is this too-brief tie-in comic to an event that is probably not just driving me away from DC. Fortunately, Rucka finds a way to use Convergence to the comic’s benefit, giving Renee and Two-Face something to push against in their own personal struggle. But the real beauty of this issue is in Renee’s character, and how she interacts with the fascinating people in her life. I would buy the heck out of a Question/Huntress/Batwoman comic, so this little tie-in will have to do for now.

I hear ya, but I’m not in charge of ordering more Question comics

Cully Hammer just nails the art, which he did back during some of Renee’s back-up features. He draws some amazing, detailed women without an ounce of cheesecake. They look as rough and awesome as they really are, with the action up close and personal. Seriously, this creative team and these characters are near the top of my comic book wish list.

Darth Vader #4

Darth Vader #4
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvador Larroca

Darth Vader #4 is the sort of issue that makes you stand up and take notice. With a lot of set up out of the way, Gillen and Larroca send Darth Vader on a particularly gnarly adventure, one where his supreme badassery can be on full display. Thank God for comics, because I don’t know if movies could ever give us a Darth Vader this amazing.

Also, Black Krrsantan is back!

Darth Vader has teamed up with a droid archaeologist, Doctor Aphra, and two murderous droids, in order to create an evil droid army for himself. They travel to Geonosis, the planet from Attack of the Clones, and head down into an alien hive, where they’ve found a displaced Geonosian queen, who has bonded with an abandoned droid factory to spit out Geonosian cyborg monsters. Vader, with ruthless efficiently, dispatches the queen and steals her technology. His Force-mastery and badassery are on full display as he fights off an army of evil droids and sees to his team’s escape through the roof. It’s probably the best sequence of the series so far.

Back at base, the evil droids Triple Zero and BT get to work producing an evil droid army for Vader. While Aphra calmly confronts him with the fact that he’s going to kill her, either now or later. She knows that, she’s always known that, and if she gets to vote, she’d prefer a nice, quick lightsaber to the neck. But Vader tells her that as long as she is useful to him, she may live. That’s when Black Krrsantan, the evil wookiee, arrives, having completed Vader’s mission of finding out the identity of the man who met with Emperor Palpatine in the first issue. Triple Zero tortures the man and discovers that he has a base in outer space…where he is building/training the Emperor’s replacements for Darth Vader!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Gillen made the right call in giving Vader such an interesting supporting cast. Aphra and Triple Zero do all the talking, so this isn’t just a silent book. They’re both entertaining characters, especially since everybody loves a homicidal, torture-loving droid. And even though Aphra kind of suffers from the fact that she’s a bit of a gorgeous stereotype, she still does a great job of giving Vader someone to emote against. Having her confront him with the fact that he probably plans to kill her, and giving Vader a chance to actually stew on that fact, goes a long way to fleshing out the Dark Lord of the Sith.

Not that the action doesn’t do a good enough job of that already. This is Darth Vader like we’ve always wanted him, a supreme badass who lets nothing stand in his way.

There it is, there’s your shot

And it’s all gorgeously rendered by Larroca. He’s had some wonky art in this series so far, but his Vader is a sight to behold. That big, cumbersome robot suit might seem like a struggle, but Larroca’s Vader is a thing of wicked beauty. I wish I could post more pictures to show you, but I’d probably get sued. Just know that Vader is the unstoppable, humorless killing machine you’ve always wanted him to be, and it has never looked more badass.

Kaijumax #1

Kaijumax #1
Writer & Artist: Zander Cannon

Here I go, dipping my toes into the indie comics scene again! Seriously though, I really want to read and review more indie comics. If anybody has any good suggestions, let me know in the comments. I’d like to get in on the ground floor or a good jumping on point if at all possible. Kaijumax comes to us from Oni Press, and it’s pretty cool.

Imagine if Monster Island from the old Godzilla movies was actually a giant monster prison, with prison rules, prison tropes and prison cliches. That’s Kaijumax, and creator Zander Cannon really goes all out with the concept for a fun first issue — if that is his real name.

Kaijumax is about Electragor, a new prisoner at the K-Max, one who’s worried about his kids on the outside. As soon as he’s on the island, Electragor gets wrapped up in the machinations of the various other prisoners and gang leaders, who want to use him for their own gain and turn him into another prison soldier. Electragor doesn’t want to play their games and instead plans to escape — but when he tries to take on the warden, the prison staff reveal the badass way they’re keeping the monsters in line and he gets sent to The Hole (which is a literal hole).

But since Electragor didn’t do what the gang leaders wanted, his kids on the outside are in big trouble!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This series is pretty much as fun as you’d expect. It’s colorful, vibrant and filled with all sorts of neat little bits of story, whether it’s a riff on a classic monster or just some prison trope blown up to monster proportions. Cannon went all out in creating a cast of nifty monsters, like the Mecha-Godzilla pastiche who runs a gang of all-mechanical monster inmates. Or the fact that Hellmoth doesn’t want to be called by his ‘penny-dread name’. The blend of monsters and prison has a lot to offer, and Cannon does a near perfect job of making it work. This may look like a kiddie book, but he keeps things dangerous and tense from beginning to end, exactly how you’d expect prison to be.

I’ve been in the mood for fun, colorful and original comics these days, and Kaijumax is that perfect sort of comic. It’s bright and a little cartoony, but the subject matter is also the right kind of serious.

Spider-Woman #6

Spider-Woman #6
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Javier Rodriguez

Just like with Ant-Man, any comic that focuses on the C and D-List super-villains of the world is going to get my love. I can’t help it. I have a weakness. Spider-Woman #6 not only features an appearance by Big Wheel, but also the Kangaroo is back! Anyone want to guess how he survived Spider-Man: Ends of the Earth? Not that it matters.

At least Spider-Woman remains an entertaining comic!

Having taken the Porcupine prisoner, Jessica Drew interrogates him to try and get more information about who is kidnapping the family members of low level super-villains. But he’s not to keen on answering her questions, not while his daughter’s life is on the line. So she leaves him hand-cuffed to her radiator while she goes to interview a few other super-villain victims. But neither Senor Suerte or Big Wheel are very cooperative either.

Then Jess gets a tip to visit a warehouse on the docks, but it’s a trap, and Ben Urich and the Porcupine (who’ve been following her) save Jess just in time. The three of them then hatch a plan to infiltrate the bad guy’s lair, and it involves Jess going undercover in the Porcupine’s armor.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I haven’t read enough Spider-Woman comics to know if Jessica Drew is in character here, but I really like what Hopeless is building. She’s a bit unkempt, definitely confident and eager to help out, no matter what she’s up against. I can get behind a hero like that. Her new costume and her street-level superheroics are also going like gang-busters, keeping Spider-Woman a solid superhero while perhaps making her more relatable. And I love the down-to-Earth interactions she has with the characters in this book, supporting cast, supervillain or otherwise. Hopeless and Rodriguez have done a great job revamping Spider-Woman into a solid, enjoyable solo comic.

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 11, 2015, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Star Wars and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I hope you do consider picking up the Titans issues when they come out… it is Wolfman, after all!

    Though, I know what you mean. The whole ‘You hated the New 52? Well, have a taste of the old universe— which isn’t REALLY coming back. They’re all just mashed together in Brainiac bottles as incomplete vestiges of what used to be but never will be again. They’re all fading away’ thing… I am not entirely sure how basically creating the narrative representation of heat death is supposed to lure the old readers back. I guess it’s especially galling because now you KNOW that there’s, say, a Marv Wolfman version of Changeling out there in the multiverse… and his reality is doomed, while the poorly-written version gets the limelight.

    I sometimes wonder if DC’s entire customer service department is based in Japan. Because they’re as aware of customer satisfaction as many Japanese software companies. I’ve had… experiences. Way too many to count, in dealing with Japanese software companies and their approach to handling customers. They make Electronic Arts seem cuddly and friendly by comparison… and DC Comics is sort of the Electronic Arts/Microsoft of the business right now: hopelessly trying to be hip like its competitor but falling several miles and a few pits short of the goal because it keeps emphasis on the appearance instead of the substance.

    I’m going to get the Green Arrow issue, because Christie Marx is a criminally underappreciated writer and I like supporting her, especially after the slap to the face that the JEM movie deal was.

    • That’s a very good analogy for DC Comics! i’m probably going to think of them as an electronics company from now on!

      I skimmed the Titans comic that came out this week, but it was all about pre-reboot Arsenal, and I didn’t really want anything to do with that. That wasn’t Wolfman, but we’ll see what comes up in the weeks ahead.

  2. Ant-Man is great. Machinesmith brings a nice sarcastic humour, so I think he’ll be a fun addition. Also, always nice seeing gay characters getting some use. Crossfire was pretty hilariously pathetic, with his “I fought Hawkeye.” Even his girlfriend knows Hawkeye is the lamest Avenger.

    Spider-Woman was really fun. Very clever writing, and it’s always nice having a broke-ass character. I mean, the current Nova is poor, but eating cereal out of a soda cup because she can’t afford to buy any bowls? That is broke-ass. Also, Senor Suerte! Big Wheel! Alpacas! Cute and fluffy and happy alpacas!

    SHIELD was a very good Invisible Woman comic. She effortlessly took down the Mole Man.

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