Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 5/23/15
Happy Memorial Day weekend, my fellow Americans! And happy weekend to readers from countries that don’t celebrate Memorial Day this weekend! Whatever the case may be, this is definitely the kick off to summer…at least in those countries that are experiencing summer right now! At the very least, we’re all getting new comics.
With DC Comics buried in Convergence, and Marvel Comics starting to dive into Secret Wars, my pull list is getting pretty small. Fortunately, it gives me more time to focus on publishers other than the Big Two! We’ve got new issues of Bloodshot Reborn and Ninjak from Valiant Comics, and Oni Press’ Kaijumax wins Comic Book of the Week for being delightfully weird.
Being the Marvel fan that I am, I’m not ignoring Secret Wars as completely as I’m ignoring Convergence. So you can check out my review of A-Force #1 over at Word of the Nerd. It’s a solid comic, but it reeks of being just a gimmick. If that creative team was allowed to create a real A-Force in the real Marvel Universe, it would be a hell of a comic!
And if you haven’t yet, you can pre-order Gamer Girl & Vixen on our Kickstarter page! And if any of you readers are fellow reviewers and are willing to give Gamer Girl & Vixen a look see, let me know in the comments!
Comic Reviews: Bloodshot Reborn #2, Kaijumax #2, Ninjak #3, Star Wars #5 and Uncanny X-Men #34.
Bloodshot Reborn #2
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Mico Suayan
It’s definitely an interesting idea to rob your main character of all his superpowers and have him go insane in your first issue. I’m eager to see where Lemire is going with this, and the second issue doesn’t disappoint.
Hot on the trail of the new Bloodshot, and also going a little insane, Ray Garrison stops at a gun shop and loads up on weaponry. He’s still being haunted by ghostly mental hallucinations of his dead girlfriend Kay, and Bloodsquirt, the childish cartoon version of Bloodshot. Ray can still feel the nanites calling to him, so he’s able to track the new Bloodshot to a cabin in the woods where he gets into a pretty gnarly fight with the guy. But the nanites haven’t taken too well to the new guy, so Ray kills him and then takes over his cabin.
Meanwhile, the FBI is tracking the new Bloodshot and get security camera footage from the gun shop, so they start tracking Ray as well. Special Agent Hoyt is an old-school kind of investigator, and he’s all flustered because a new agent, Diane Festival, has been put in charge of the search over him. She’s one of those ‘special’ sorts of people who is naturally intuitive, but also a little bit of a whackjob. They find Ray’s truck and are probably close to finding the cabin when they get word of another massacre perpetrated by a new Bloodshot.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I think my general disinterest in Bloodshot as a whole is keeping me from getting too invested in this comic. I’ve just never been into Valiant Comics, but I’m doing my best to give them a fair shake in my reviews. The story is good, the art is great, and the mystery is definitely building. But Bloodshot himself remains pretty standard. He’s gone insane, what with the hallucination friends, and is pretty much focused solely on his mission, so there aren’t a lot of opportunities to see him as a real person. He’s a maniac on a blood quest, and while Bloodsquirt’s very existence is kind of hilarious, he doesn’t make for a foil who can bring anything but madness out of Ray.
The FBI subplot is a nice storyline to add to the comic, to give us a bit of a break from Ray’s madness. But this Agent Festival bit is a little cliche. Hopefully Lemire has something special planned for her, because it definitely reads like she’s got more going on than meets the eye. I bet she works for the bad guys.
Writer/Artist: Zander Cannon
Is anybody going to submit to Oni Press’ open creative submissions? They don’t accept superheroes, so Gamer Girl & Vixen is out, but I’m thinking of submitting a different idea. Fingers crossed. For now, we can sit back and enjoy Oni’s already wonderful books, like Kaijumax, the comic about a prison for giant monsters!
The second issue of Kaijumax is mostly about Gupta, one of the corrupt guards on the monster island. Not only is Gupta the guard who sneaks drugs in to the inmates, but he’s apparently in debt (and therefore working for) an alien mob boss monster named Victoria. Part of Gupta’s ‘duties’ include keeping Victoria’s son happy while he sits in the clink. Meanwhile, Electragor is pissed at his cellmate for getting him into debt with one of the gangs, so he takes a charge at the guy — but Gupta gets in his way and calms him down, because Gupta has discovered that the spores on Electragor’s back have Uranium in them. Uranium is in high demand as a monster drug, and Gupta calls up Victoria to let her know he has a new source.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Kaijumax is a very fun little series. Zander Cannon has definitely put in the legwork to create a world with its own rules, language and history. He sprinkles in relationships, gangs, policies and characters who all have history, and all of it matters to life in the Monster Max. He also makes Gupta’s story instantly interesting, even as he hedges pretty closely to prison story cliches. Are there always corrupt guards in prison? And considering the fact that Gupta has to turn into a giant Jet Jaguar to interact with the inmates (that’s him on the cover), it’s rather suspicious how he gets away with it. You’d think someone would notice.
I was a little disappointed that the issue didn’t focus more on Electragor, since he seemed like the main character in the first issue. But I guess that’s on me for assuming. Perhaps Kaijumax is going to be more of an ensemble piece than I realized, which should actually be pretty cool.
Kaijumax is a really neat idea carried through by a writer/artist who has definitely put a lot of fun thought into his comic. Wherever he takes the story, I’ll be there!
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Clay Mann
Ninjak is lucky to have solid artists on the book, because the writing leaves a lot to be desired. The action looks great and is pretty darn cool, but once again I find myself struggling to care.
In his attempts to break into Weaponeers, Ninjak has been tossed out of a penthouse window by the deadly Roku and her razor-sharp hair. They battle on the way down, until Ninjak knocks her away and uses his super awesome grappling hook to swing to safety. Then he breaks back into the building, takes out a bunch of henchmen, and erases some security camera footage so that nobody will know he was there. He’s counting in his head ho long the sedative will last until the bad guy, Kannon, wakes up, and he makes it back just in time — except that Roku survived the fall and informed her boss about Ninjak.
In the flashbacks to his childhood, Ninjak escapes his domineering guardian and starts living on the grounds of his family’s castle. And in the back-up feature, Ninjak starts an off-the-books relationship with his handler, though both of them are being followed!
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
Even though the art was great and the action superb, the writing on Ninjak still leaves a lot to be desired. As I’ve mentioned in past reviews, the problem is that Ninjak himself is just too amazing. This entire issue is just Ninjak narrating how his next great invention gets him out of his next jam. There’s his grappling hook, which has some kind of rudimentary A.I. to better grab a ledge. There’s his multi-tool throwing star, which he can set to stun to take out a guard. There’s his computer gloves, which are pre-programmed with hacker code so that the gloves control his fingers to do the hacking automatically. There’s him constantly counting down how much time he has before the sedative wears off, and how we clearly known he’s going to make it.
Ninjak #3 is just Ninjak using his gear, while simultaneously telling the reader how he’s using his gear.
Star Wars #5
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: John Cassaday
I’ve praised Princess Leia as the Star Wars comic with the most character focus and dialogue. Well Jason Aaron must have heard me, because this new storyline in Star Wars is looking to put the focus on the characters instead of the action. The new issue digs into what the various characters are up to in their personal journeys, and Aaron has some fun playing in the Star Wars lore.
Han accompanies Leia on a scouting mission to search for a new planet for a new rebel base. He’s full of confident swagger, and she’s full of loathing, so the pairing is classic Star Wars. They’re using a stolen Imperial shuttle, and when they’re approached by two TIE fighters, Leia gives them a clearance code. But Han panics and hits the gas, speeding away even as the TIEs were ready to clear them. Now they give chase and Han flees to a nearby gas giant, losing the fighters in the storm clouds — but the mysterious tracker on Han’s trail follows them in.
Boba Fett is tracking Luke Skywalker, and he roughs up the regulars in the Mos Eisley Cantina for answers. One of the farmers at the bar knows Luke, and Boba tortures the information out of him.
Luke, meanwhile, is also on Tatooine searching for answers about being a Jedi. Obi-Wan didn’t exactly have time to teach him a whole heck of a lot, so Luke has gone in search of Obi’s home in case there are answers there. Luke has to fight his way through some sand people before he gets inside and finds a box marked ‘For Luke’. But he doesn’t have time to open it because Boba Fett shows up and hits him with a flash bang!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I really liked the feeling of exploring new, important elements of Star Wars canon with this comic. For example, Luke has no idea that Obi-Wan was specifically living on Tatooine to keep his eye on him. The farm boy wonders aloud why a great Jedi war hero like Obi-Wan Kenobi would retire on his crummy desert planet. That’s fascinating to realize! And Aaron looks like he’s going to explore the notion. Likewise the budding relationship between Han and Leia. It’s going to be fun actually watching them fall for each other (and they clearly already are). And I like Boba Fett as much as the next guy, so seeing him get a spotlight is fun. I wonder how much leeway Aaron has with the character, considering Boba is destined for his own movie in a few years.
This was something of a low key issue, especially considering previous issues of Star Wars. But low key doesn’t mean bad. Aaron simply settles down to focus on his characters, and what he delivers is highly entertaining. Cassaday also remains a perfect choice for this comic. His characters look great without being annoyingly photo-realistic, and the whole comic has the feeling of Star Wars. That’s quite the achievement.
Uncanny X-Men #34
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Kris Anka
For so far unknown reasons, the final issue of Uncanny X-Men has been pushed back all the way to freakin’ October! Bendis has said that the issue is complete, but Marvel decided to movie it away from Secret Wars. That really grinds my gears! I’m dying to find out what happens to Cyclops in the finale! Grrrr!
With their school closed, Dazzler and Cyclops’ former students team up to take out Mystique. Dazzler is still pretty pissed about Mystique taking over her life, so she has the Stepford Cuckoos create a psychic ‘Cyclops’ illusion so that Dazzler can get close. Mystique sees through the disguise, but by then she’s surrounded and easily defeated. After it’s over, Maria Hill offers Dazzler her job back as an agent of SHIELD and the students go out clubbing. Hijack then has the great idea that they don’t need to go to the Jean Grey School and they don’t need to be X-Men…but his idea is going to have to wait for the next issue. Sigh.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
This issue was fine. It wrapped up a few loose ends from Bendis’ run and positioned the students to maybe do something interesting in the future. But knowing the fate of most X-students these days, they’re likely all going to fade away into obscurity. Maybe they’ll be dragged back out for a random X-Team in the future, or they’ll be used as cannon fodder, who can say? Such is the fate of characters like this, no matter how much I love Goldballs.
The issue started out pretty interesting when it looked like a conversation between Cyclops and Mystique, but once it was revealed that it was Dazzler in disguise, the issue lost all intrigue. It was just Dazzler and the others capturing Mystique with little fanfare. Then Hijack’s idea that they don’t have to be X-Men just because they’re mutants is, like Bleeding Cool pointed out, steeped in more than a few politics. It could be interesting, but forcing us to wait until October to find out is more than a little daunting. Who says we’re going to remember by then? Or care?
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 May 23, 2015, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Star Wars, X-Men and tagged Bloodshot, Bloodshot Reborn, Dazzler, Goldballs, Kaijumax, Mystique, Ninjak, Oni Press, Uncanny X-Men, Valiant Comics. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.