Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 4/25/15

By this time next week, I will have seen Avengers: Age of Ultron. I can’t wait! The anticipation is nearly overwhelming! What am I supposed to do until then? Read comics?! Are you mad? Well, there were some pretty great comics this week.

Not only do we have the headline-making issue of All-New X-Men where Iceman comes out as gay, but we’ve also got the unlikely buddy comedy of Darth Vader and Jabba the Hutt in the latest issue of Star Wars! This week also brings us, hands down, the funniest comic book I may have ever read in Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #4.

This comic is pure spun gold.

I have no way to explain why I find Squirrel Girl hilarious but Deadpool flat. I guess that’s just the way my brain is wired. But from the cover to the final page, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is a laugh riot! And it’s Comic Book of the Week!

This week also brings us a double dip of Valiant Comics! That’s always a hoot.

Comic Reviews: All-New X-Men #40, Divinity #3, Ninjak #2, Star Wars #4 and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #4.


All-New X-Men #40

All-New X-Men #40
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mahmud Asrar

If you didn’t see the news earlier this week, this is the issue where Iceman comes out as gay. That’s the time-displaced Young Iceman, though. The jury is still out on the adult, 616 Iceman.  (Though if the plan is to eventually reveal adult Iceman as gay, this was the worst possible way to do it. Way to steal Bobby’s thunder, Young Bobby.)

Despite it going against probably everything in the blogger’s handbook, I’m not someone who jumps on every controversy for the page views. That’s why I’ve waited until this review to give my thoughts on the issue, especially seeing as how Iceman is my favorite regular X-Man. As for my thoughts: I’m totally cool with it. Sounds like it could be a positive change for Icemen going forward, especially Young Iceman if he sticks around for awhile.

I will admit that a younger, dorkier Sean, maybe from 10 years ago or so, might throw a hissy fit of some kind. But I’ve grown up a lot since then, learned a lot more about the world. And I’ve long since gotten over being angry at random comic book retcons. I trust Bendis and I trust Marvel to make something good out of this change.

Though personally, I think it would be cooler if adult Iceman remained straight, and had to come to terms with his younger self coming out as gay. What better way to tell a story about accepting your loved ones when they come out as gay than by that loved one being your younger, time-traveling self? It’s the sort of story that only comics can tell.

Frankly, if I have any problems with this issue, it’s how disappointed I am in the titular ‘Utopians’. Bendis made such a big deal out of this group and they are a huge letdown.

The Young X-Men have returned home from space following the Black Vortex crossover, unaware that Cyclops closed down the Xavier School in their absence. While Magik goes to deal with that, the teens decide to just hang out in the grass and enjoy being back on Earth.

Young Bobby cat-calls Magik as she leaves, prompting Young Jean Grey to pull him aside and confront him with the fact that he’s gay — she can read his mind. Young Bobby is in denial at first, but Jean pushes the issue and he finally admits that he’s gay — and it’s hinted that adult Bobby might just be really deep in the closet, but the two of them don’t really know for sure. Bobby and Jean hug it out and decide it’ll be their secret for now.

Meanwhile, Young Warren was one of the heroes to actually step through the Black Vortex, and now he’s got cool cosmic super wings. X-23 is a little miffed at him for going through with it, so Warren takes her flying and they find a quiet place to talk. He explains that he did some research on himself and what the future holds for him (re: Archangel). So Warren decided that if he had a chance, he would take steps to try and prevent the bad future from happening, so not only does he have these new wings, but he tells Laura that he’s falling in love with her. The two share a romantic kiss.

Double meanwhile, SHIELD investigates a mutant energy signature in the remains of Utopia, the X-Men’s former island stronghold off the coast of California. It seems a rogue team of X-characters have been holding up in the ruins, and now they are pissed that people are coming to the island to bother them. The team is made up of Boom Boom, Karma, Random, Madison Jeffries, Elixir and Masque.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Like I said earlier, I’m totally cool with Young Iceman coming out as gay. And I’m a big fan of Bendis’ skill with dialogue, especially Iceman, so the scene between him and Jean Grey was really nice. Granted, I think it’s a little off-putting that Jean would take it upon herself to rob Bobby of his ‘coming out moment’, but then Young Jean has consistently had a problem with telepathy and boundaries. And I can’t fault a scene for being this much fun to read. I think it was mostly well done.

Likewise, Bendis writes nice moments with the rest of the cast as well. Hank, Scott and Warren all have good lines and moments together.

Now that’s a zinger!

And the Warren/Laura romance is rather sweet too. All in all, this was a solid issue of the Young X-Men just hanging out and being friends and teenagers. I love that sort of thing, and it doesn’t feel like I needed to slog through Black Vortex to have any idea what’s going on. Asrar does a fantastic job on art. Everyone looks young and unique, and some of his Bobby facial expressions were just phenomenal. They really helped keep the scene grounded.

Even when they’re just the same facial expression

My only complaint is with the Utopians revealed in the end. There has been a lot of hype for this storyline, but to reveal that it’s just another random assortment of random X-characters is a bit of a let down. That has become the go-to idea for not only adversary teams, but X-Men comics themselves! Launching a new X-Force? Cobble together a random assortment of random X-characters! Need a third X-Men title? Cobble together a random assortment of random X-characters! Need a new version of the Brotherhood of Mutants? Cobble together a random assortment of random X-characters!

It’s getting pretty annoying. Though, obviously, had that team included the Mimic, I would be as giddy as a schoolgirl.


Divinity #3

Divinity #3
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Trevor Hairsine

I feared from the beginning that Divinity would be a bit over my head. I have a pretty solid opinion of myself, and I know I’m not the best when it comes to picking up on subtext or wild ideas. But I want to give this book the old college try. It’d be nice to get into Valiant Comics. But after a really good second issue, Divinity loses me again.

Valiant’s main superhero team — Unity — confronts Divinity in Australia, and their plan basically boils down to “let’s get’im, fellas”. As all four of them charge straight at the divine being, Divinity reaches into all of their minds and makes them think they’ve been transported to separate wastelands, where they spend the next several ‘months’ and ‘years’ wandering alone. The reader can see that only a few seconds are passing in the real world, but to each member of Unity, they’ve been lost and alone for years. At least until Ninjak uses his meditation training to get some control over the situation, and he uses that control to visit his teammates one by one, gathering them on their mental planes to prepare a counterattack.

Meanwhile, we continue to see more of Divinity’s origin. We learn that his mission into deep space was not a one-man mission, and in fact there are three Russians blasting together through the depths of space in separate pods. The three of them arrive at a strange, cosmic energy force, and all three leave their pods to investigate. The other two are sucked into the energy, while Divinity bonds with it, gaining his new powers. Then he launches himself back to Earth, eventually crash-landing in Australia. The first thing he does is track down his wife and daughter…and he finds them in some forest somewhere…but they’re not themselves…I don’t know, it’s very weird and confusing.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

Like I said, the ending of this issue went over my head. I understood how Divinity bonded with the cosmic energy and flew back to Earth, but then the meeting with his wife and daughter is confusing as all heck. They look normal, but they act like robots. And maybe they’re too young?  And why did he find them in some random forest? Did he create them with his new powers? It’s just not explained every well…unless it is and I’ve totally misunderstood the scene. I don’t know, and I don’t like not knowing what’s happening.

Fortunately, I understood the rest of the issue. Divinity’s origin is a little anti-climactic, in that he gets his powers from a mysterious cosmic whatever out in space. It’s far more interesting that there were three people sent into space. That would have made for a pretty awesome cliffhanger at the end of the last issue, but Kindt just drops it on us in the middle of this issue. And then the other two members of his team don’t do anything, so what was the point of them? Still, questions and plotholes aside, the origin flashback is still pretty cool.

As is Divinity’s attack on Unity. That’s a pretty gnarly use of his divine power in this superhero battle. I’m excited to see what happens between him and the heroes now, and how Divinity is going to fit into the Valiant Universe — if at all. I just really, really hope I understand the final issue of this mini-series.


Ninjak #2

Ninjak #2
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Clay Mann

I guess it’s Matt Kindt’s big week! He’s doing a fairly good job making Divinity interesting, but I’m afraid his Ninjak leaves a lot to be desired. I don’t know if he’s hampered by previous Ninjak continuity or what, but Kindt is barely treading water with this comic about a spy who is also a ninja. That seems like it should write itself.

Ninjak is trying to infiltrate and take down Weaponeer, the evil weapons manufacturer. To do this, he must get buddy buddy with its CEO, a large, wealthy Asian man named Kannon. After passing the first tests of loyalty in the last issue, Kannon invites Colin to a Tokyo pleasure zoo…which is more literal than you might imagine. It’s a big party club with drugged wild animals hanging out with the dancing girls. Kannon orders Colin to just walk up and kill somebody at the club to prove his loyalty. Fortunately, Colin anticipated this, and he launched a series of nanobots into the zoo the day before to scan the crowd and feed him information. The nanobots zero in on three evil criminals in the crowd, and Colin picks a human trafficker to shoot in the back of the head. So Colin passes the test by killing (or nearly killing) a bad guy, and he’s invited to join the Weaponeer board of directors.

Later, while watching a private sumo match, Colin drugs Kannon’s drink and slips away to turn into Ninjak and hack Kannon’s computers. But Kannon’s right-hand assassin, the deadly Roku, attacks and tosses Ninjak out the window!

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

The problem with Ninjak, which I noted in the last issue, is that he’s just too good. And he knows it. He’s an extremely wealthy, handsome, British playboy, who owns his own castle, and is also the best spy in the world. The very first panel of this issue is literally Colin reminding himself to tone down his natural awesomeness because he’s undercover.

That’s supposing you’ve ever felt anything

This takes all of the suspense out of the comic. Take the scene where he’s ordered to kill a random person in a club to prove his loyalty. Rather than present Colin with an actual moral dilemma, he’s cool as a cucumber because he’s already 10 steps ahead of Kannon. He not only hacked Kannon’s day planner to find the club a day in advance, but Colin also has amazingly awesome nanobots that can effortlessly pick out a suitable target. And Kindt explains all of this with calm, rational exposition that takes all of the fun out of the scene.

Imagine instead if Colin hadn’t explained what he was doing to the reader, and just walked up to some random stranger and shot him in the back of the head. That would be shocking and fascinating! And he could still explain to the reader afterwards that he knew the guy was a criminal. That way we could actually have some fun with the moment, and Ninjak could still reveal himself as super smart. Instead, every chance he gets, Ninjak simply explains with calm detail how he’s super awesome and can accomplish anything.

The issue also features flashbacks to Ninjak’s childhood, and a mini-story at the back of the comic about his early spy missions, but they don’t yet add anything to the series. They just reinforce the fact that Ninjak is a bland white guy with boring brown hair who does spy stuff. Though at least in the flashbacks and back-up feature he’s able to make mistakes and fail. Kindt could stand to infuse some of that humanity into the main story.

Even Batman gets taken by surprise every once in a while.


Star Wars #4

Star Wars #4
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: John Cassaday

There’s nothing like seeing Harrison Ford and Chewbacca show up at the end of that The Force Awakens trailer. It’s a thrilling feeling, heaped in nostalgia. The Star Wars comic doesn’t have that exact feeling behind it, but the stories being told are still pretty strong in the Force.

Darth Vader pays a visit to Jabba the Hutt to strike a deal between the Empire and the crime boss. Vader is a hardcore badass, while Jabba is a friendly jerk, who doesn’t miss a chance to rub it in about the Empire’s recent failures. Vader also presses Jabba for information on Ben Kenobi’s time on Tatooine. Meanwhile, Luke is taking it pretty hard that he’s not much of a Jedi yet, and after blowing up at Leia, he decides to travel to Tatooine to dig into Kenobi’s past himself. And who else is on Tatooine looking for Luke? The one and only Boba Fett!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This was a transitional issue between adventures, but Aaron found a lot of ways to make sure it wasn’t boring. We get some real drama out of Luke Skywalker as we see him struggle with trying to become a Jedi on his own, since his last teacher was killed before they barely got started. It’s a fascinating time for the character and I like the opportunity to see Luke develop. Han, Chewie and Leia also get some quick cameos, which are also a hoot.

But the real joy of this issue comes from Darth Vader and Jabba the Hutt. The two are magical together.

The smell must be intense

Who knew Jabba could be such a lovable asshole? He’s still a violent, psychopathic gangster, but when paired with the dour, straight man that is Darth Vader, Jabba is positively bouncing with taunting glee. Their scenes together are phenomenal, and really help to expand the Star Wars Universe in realistic, grounded ways. This is exactly what I want to see from these comics. Likewise, Boba Fett hunting Luke Skywalker. That should be pretty stellar — though one hopes we don’t reach a point where every single Star Wars character has a face-off with Boba Fett in the new canon.

Though one also hopes that this story establishes Vader’s prior knowledge of Fett’s love of disintegrations.


Squirrel Girl #4

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #4
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Erica Henderson

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is amazing. Excuse me for gushing, but this issue is possibly the funniest comic book I have ever read. From the brilliant gag in the opening pages to all the one-liners and wonderful squirrel humor throughout, this issue is perfection. Perfect score. Laugh out loud funny. I love this comic!

If you’ll recall, the last issue ended with Squirrel Girl leaping into battle with the mighty Galactus! And this issue picks up with…

Squirrel Girl kicked Galactus’ butt! Cue letters page, the end!

No seriously, that’s how the book starts. There a single page of Squirrel Girl sitting on Galactus’ defeated body saying, “Well gosh, that wasn’t so hard after all.” And then we cut immediately to the letters page. Genius!

Anyway, the real comic picks up afterwards, and Squirrel Girl and Tippy Toe flashback to how they defeated Galactus. First they tried beating up his foot, only to realize that he probably couldn’t hear their awesome one-liners because you can’t talk in space. Then they realized that maybe he can ‘hear’ vibrations, so they put their hands on his foot and try their one-liners again. Galactus picks them up and reveals that not only could he hear them (Because he’s Galactus), but he can also talk to squirrels. The three of them talk it out, covering such topics as heralds and the time Squirrel Girl beat up Thanos. Galactus thinks Thanos is a total tool and has a good laugh.

But Galactus has to eat, so he leaves them behind and heads to his ship. Squirrel Girl and Tippy Toe follow and try to find some way to stop Galactus from eating Earth. Squirrel Girl realizes that the reason Galactus keeps coming back to eat Earth, even though he always loses, is because he knows the superheroes of Earth will always find him a perfect second planet that is devoid of life. As such, Squirrel Girl and Tippy Toe search the space archives and find a perfectly sustainable planet that is both devoid of life and covered in nuts! The three of them go visit and pig out, then return to the moon to relax after they stuffed themselves. That’s why Galactus was lying on the moon at the start of the issue: he was full of nut planet!

Galactus thanks Squirrel Girl for her help and leaves, but not before giving her a present: a personalized Galactus & Squirrel Girl trading card!

Squirrel Girl returns to Earth and checks in on that suit of squirrel armor she left to handle the bank robbery in the last issue.

Doreen then realizes she’s missing class, so she rushes off and joins her roommate, who reveals that she knows that Doreen is Squirrel Girl! But it’s OK, the secret is safe with her. And the issue ends with Nancy getting to wear the squirrel armor so that he two of them can have a Rocky vs. Apollo Creed-style boxing match in the park!

Comic Rating: 10/10 – Fantastic.

I can do nothing but heap praise upon this glorious issue. It’s laugh out loud funny, it’s adorable, it manages to sneak past the reverence I have for Galactus, and it keeps the ongoing story rolling nicely along. It’s full of surprises and jokes I never saw coming (that Squirrel Man bit is beyond hilarious!). Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is the funniest comic on the stands. Deadpool needs to take a hike, because Ryan North and Erica Henderson rule this comedic roost. Each issue just gets funnier and funnier, and I know we’ve barely scratched the surface of what they can and will no doubt deliver. I love this comic. It’s pretty darn amazing.


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 25, 2015, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Star Wars, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. ANXM was definitely interesting. I’m fine with Bobby being gay. And I loved the panels of Jean gesturing to make him understand what she was getting at. That bit was just perfect. I’m also intrigued by the Utopians plot. I always love seeing Karma, so I’m curious where that’s going to go. (By the way, it’s Karma, not Dani, in the Utopians. Metal leg, purple telepathy pattern, hair in a bob, Asian. Karma.)

    Squirrel Girl is so damned funny. And Galactus is apparently a pretty cool dude.

    • Oh right, I totally knew it was Karma, but I definitely get her and Moonstar confused. I was never a big New Mutants guy. I’ll fix it in my review!

      And Galactus is way more dope than I ever realized.

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