Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 6/13/15

The final weekend to pre-order Gamer Girl & Vixen is in full swing, and we’ve almost hit our first stretch goal! If you’d like to get your own copy of my comic, now’s the time!

But besides that, we’ve got other comics to talk about this week too! DC continues to try and re-invent their image, and so far they’ve been pretty successful! I loved the new Batman introduced this week, and the new Starfire comic is off to a good start. Over at Marvel, Secret Wars continues to dominate, but I’ve squeaked out reviews for Silver Surfer and Silk.

Comic Book of the Week goes to Batman #41 for a fantastic introduction to the new, armored Batman. Bring on the robot!

It’s my blog, and I say YES!

Now I can’t wait to read We Are Robin!

Over at Word of the Nerd, I continue my Secret Wars coverage with a review of Ghost Racers #1. It’s a nifty little comic, though nothing to write home about.

Comic Reviews: Batman #41, Harley Quinn #17, Silk #5, Silver Surfer #12 and Starfire #1.

Batman #41

Batman #41
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo

Has the decision to make Jim Gordon the new Batman been controversial? I haven’t see much hubbub on the Internet about it, nobody really throwing a fit or anything. Can we all agree that this is only temporary? That Snyder and DC are trying something new for a little while, just to have some fun? And fun they have in this first issue! Snyder is one of the best in the business these days, and he provides a well-thought-out, well-told introductory tale for Gotham City’s newest Dark Knight!

Though I have yet to see anyone explain why Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne don’t simply return to being Batman and Robin like they did the last time they thought Bruce Wayne had died. Unless, of course, they both know he’s still alive and doesn’t want them to step up. I could buy that.

I’m also really digging the idea that Batman is now this armored Jim Gordon, and Robin is a gang of street kids all honoring the Robin name in We Are Robin. It’s hopefully going to be a neat dynamic. Anyway, on with the review!

After the ‘death’ of Batman, the Gotham City Police Department has decided to take over the identity and make Batman an officially sanctioned member of law enforcement. They’ve got a whole class of top notch recruits training for the job, but the head of the company that has built the new robotic suit thinks Jim Gordon is the only candidate. Gordon is only 46, he’s tough, she’s smart, he was a Marine, and nobody knows Gotham City or its criminal element like Jim Gordon. But the former commissioner is reluctant to take the job. It’s only after a chance encounter with one of the young recruits, who has a family and a newborn baby at home, that Gordon decides to go through with it so that none of these young officers have to put their lives or families at risk.

In one of his first encounters as the new Batman, Gordon has to take on a giant energy monster attacking a bank in the Narrows. He’s got his suit and a whole support team on standby, and together they figure out that he’s not fighting a monster, he’s fighting a puppet. There’s someone else controlling the creature like a virtual reality video game, and Gordon finds him committing a home invasion on a rich Narrows resident. The attack on the bank was just supposed to be a diversion. So Gordon slips out of the suit (he’s wearing a more traditional black Batman suit underneath), sneaks in and takes out the bad guy. The day is saved and Gordon is the new Batman!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This issue is a stellar introduction of Jim Gordon as Batman, and I for one welcome our new Dark Knight! We all know this isn’t permanent, so I see nothing wrong with spending a few months or years with Commissioner Gordon in a Bat-Iron Man suit. It worked for Marvel when Doctor Octopus took over as Spider-Man for awhile, and I’m very excited to see where Snyder and Capullo are going with this. Batman has been an amazing comic under their stewardship (even if I don’t care for Snyder’s Joker), and this idea might be just crazy enough to work.

Snyder does a phenomenal job getting into Gordon’s head as to why he’d willingly take up this job — and that ‘getting into his head’ part is important. Just like he did with Bruce Wayne, Snyder gives Gordon a running commentary, and it’s a great window into the character and his motivations. That Gordon decided to take the job in order to spare the younger recruits who had more to lose is a great touch. If that moment doesn’t solidify Gordon as the new Batman for you, nothing will.

Batman isn’t allowed to smoke

The fight with the bad guy is pretty rad, and Gordon handles himself well. He’s got the suit, it can both take and deliver a beating, and then Gordon has to go sans-suit in the end to defeat the bad guy. There’s clearly a lot more story to come, but Snyder and Capullo deliver a perfect one-and-done introduction to the new Batman. Consider me completely on board.

Harley Quinn #17

Harley Quinn #17
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Chris Hardin

Yay! Harley Quinn is back! I was really surprised how much I like this comic. I never expected it to amount to much. But Conner, Palmiotti and Hardin are just having so much fun that one can’t help but get caught up in Harley’s hilarity. And there’s one scene in this issue that underlines everything I love about this series.

Harley Quinn and her Gang of Harleys are out fighting crime on the streets of New York City! And she’s given them adorable nicknames, like Harlem Harley, Harvey Quinn, Bolly Quinn, Harley Queens and more! While the Gang of Harleys are out protecting the city, Harley meets with the mayor to blackmail him into getting the cops to lay off her team.

Later, Harley goes on a date with Mason, but he gets arrested since he escaped from prison. And Harley adopts 40 parakeets and then lets them all go free. Meanwhile, a sailor man ingests some weird seaweed and gets strange powers. Harlem Harley and Harvey Quinn go to a local bar in search of him (his wife hired them), and they get attacked!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

As you can see, there are a ton of random scenes and plot threads in this issue. It’s more than a little scattershot. There’s a cute date between Harley and Mason, but then he randomly gets arrested? What’s the point of that, I wonder? His breaking out of prison never seemed to be that big of a deal, and now he’s being sent back just as things are heating up with Harley? Why?

Anyway, the best scene in the issue is the random non sequitur of Harley buying and then trying to set free 40 parakeets. The humor, and especially the art, really sell this scene. Just look at Harley’s face!

She’s a glass case of emotion!

Love it. I love this comic. The parakeet scene makes absolutely no sense in the context of the larger issue, but it’s great! As is the fact that Harley gave funny, pun-iniful nicknames to all her team members. Little details like these are what make this Harley Quinn comic so much fun. It’s easy to see why this series tops DC’s sales, and why they’re using it as a guide to produce even more comedy comics.

Silk #5

Silk #5
Writer: Robbie Thompson
Artist: Stacey Lee

One of the series that gets to avoid Secret Wars is Silk, as Cindy Moon’s quest to find her family continues. She’s also got some trouble with the Black Cat, though personally, one of those stories is far more interesting than the other.

Cindy is searching for her family online from her desk at work, and J. Jonah Jameson catches a whiff of what she’s doing — and he totally wants to help! Then Cindy overhears from another reporter that Harris Porter’s daughter has gone missing! Harris Porter is Pokemon Man (or Dragonclaw or whatever his name was)! Cindy changes into Silk and finds Porter, who’s angry because the Black Cat kidnapped his daughter to get to Silk. So Silk calls on Spider-Man for help, and the three of them raid the Black Cat’s warehouse. After a scuffle, Spider-Man gets the injured Pokemon Man to safety while Silk faces off against the Black Cat and her armored goons — but there’s no time for a fight! One of the goons’ armored suits goes haywire, knocking everybody out.

Silk wakes up on an operating table, with the man who has been building all of Black Cat’s armors standing over her. He says he works for the people who are holding Cindy’s family!

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

This issue was a bit less fun than previous issues, but no less enjoyable. We get a great development in Jameson joining the search for Cindy’s family, but that scene quickly cuts off to get back to the superhero stuff. I enjoyed seeing Silk try to be the best hero she can in helping Dragonclaw, but I still can’t help but feel that Thompson seems more interested in furthering Dragonclaw’s story than Silk’s. He’s the one with the kidnapped daughter, he’s the one with the personal drama. Silk is just helping him out because it’s the superheroic thing to do. Spider-Man’s guest appearance is a nice touch, but Thompson doesn’t do anything to explore his relationship with Silk, a relationship that I’m actually quite interested in seeing explored.

Remember that time Spider-Man was supposed to get a sidekick? Yeah, me neither

Then you’ve got the fact that Silk orders Spider-Man to take Dragonclaw to safety while she deals with Black Cat. I get that this is Silk’s comic, but under what circumstances does a newbie like Silk order Spidey to take off while she tackles one of Spidey’s classic foes? And the rivalry between Silk and Black Cat is lukewarm at best.

She’s maybe C-List if we’re being gracious, for now…

Couple all of that with some rushed art, and this issue is just a tad bit underwhelming. There is so much character and history to explore with Silk, but Thompson doesn’t seem to want to do any of it. He’s far more interested in this flimsy face-off between Silk and Black Cat, and that’s one of the least interesting parts of the Silk comic.

Silver Surfer #12

Silver Surfer #12
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Mike and Laura Allred

It’s good to get back into Silver Surfer. I missed out on the last mind-bending issue due to a scheduling snafu. But now I’m back, baby! And Silver Surfer is as good as ever.

In the past few issues, the Silver Surfer rescued an entire planet full of refugees from planets that had once been eaten by Galactus. He led them through time and space to find a new home planet, and both he and Dawn Greenwood have been living with the citizens for months. Everything is perfect on this new planet…too perfect. When Norrin and Dawn begin to explore their feelings for one another, they realize that something is clouding their minds and pushing them towards this, and they discover that the planet is controlled by a sentient being called Euphoria, who has been making everyone feel their perfect happiness. A scientific scan reveals that Euphoria is the planet’s defense system, and when several million depressed refugees landed on her surface, she protected herself the only way she could: by treating their depression with drugs!

Some of the citizens are OK with this and decide to stay, while some decide to leave. Surfer agrees to take Dawn back to Earth finally, and once they’re free of the planet’s control, Dawn kisses him for realsies!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Slott did a fine job building up the mystery of the new planet, letting the strange truth slowing grow on the reader until it was obvious. Then he hit us with a heroic Silver Surfer moment before doubling down on some romance with Dawn. This is a perfectly constructed issue, through both story and art. We all knew the romance was coming, and it’s adorable. Dawn Greenwood remains such a fun character, and after living for a month on this planet, the Allreds finally get to draw her with a different look and hairstyle, same with Norrin Radd. Have we ever seen the Surfer with a beard in his human form? It’s a neat look, and I’m excited to see the creative team try out some different looks for their main characters. This was another solid installment of this stellar series, taking the Silver Surfer to new places, and delivering on the quality character development we’ve come to expect.

Starfire #1

Starfire #1
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Emanuela Lupacchino

Four years later, and hopefully not too late, DC Comics is finally syncing Starfire with her very popular cartoon counterpart. Starfire was the poster child for the ridiculousness of the New 52, with her slutty behavior front and center in the very first issue of Red Hood and the Outlaws. As this legendary comic strip explains, it was an insane idea to make comic book Starfire so different from the incredibly popular version that appeared on the Teen Titans cartoons. Who has any idea what DC was thinking?

But it looks like they’re going to try again, and I say more power to them. Few characters are ever beyond redemption, especially in the right hands. So Starfire has broken free from Red Hood and Arsenal (who are keeping their own comic, because I guess it’s just that popular), and she’s been handed to the Harley Quinn creative team of Conner and Palmiotti. Considering I love their Harley Quinn, I’m definitely on board to check out their Starfire! Good thing it’s delightful, like a friendlier, more sunny Harley Quinn.

For reasons that are not explained, Starfire is no longer with the Outlaws, has moved to Palm Beach, Florida, and imposes upon the island’s sheriff to show her around. I guess she just showed up at the Sheriff’s Office, unsure of how to be an adult human being in America, and the kindly sheriff has decided to drop everything she was doing to show Starfire around town. It’s an odd way to kick off the comic, and introduce possibly the book’s most important supporting character, but apparently that’s how Conner and Palmiotti role.

So Sheriff Stella shows Starfire around town, helping her to get some money, new clothes, a bite to eat and a place to live. Starfire is fun, innocently flirty, and very naive about society’s customs, so maybe they’re going to ignore any growth she probably had with the Outlaws? I dunno, I dropped that book a long time ago and never looked back. We meet a few other potential supporting characters, including Starfire’s new kindly old lady landlord, her horny teenage grandson, and Stella’s brother, who still isn’t over a break up (and just needs a new woman in his life, hint hint).

All throughout the day, we get warnings that a big hurricane is coming, and it hits Palm Springs in the cliffhanger ending.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This book was a lot of fun and a good introduction to the new Starfire. There are definitely some strange growing pains, like the fact that Starfire is almost painfully naive at times, as if she wasn’t part of a pretty hardcore vigilante squad for the past however many years. But maybe it’s all part of reinventing her for her new comic, while still sticking marginally close to her New 52 character. Ignore that naivety, and Kori is a fun character. She’s super friendly, confident in herself and her body, and remains a very chipper person throughout the issue. She’s got Harley’s friendliness, but not the vicious insanity.

She doesn’t understand metaphor! That sounds…familiar…

There’s also the weirdness of how Kori just imposes on the sheriff. Stella is constantly telling people that she had a free morning, but it’s still kind of weird how this woman, ostensibly a complete stranger, just drops everything to help Kori all day long. And there’s no introduction. The issue starts with Kori sitting at Stella’s desk already taking the sheriff through her origin story. It’s jarring, but I rolled with it and am more than willing to accept that maybe Stella just really is that nice of a sheriff (though also, no explanation for why Kori is in Palm Springs either…).

Beyond those minor discrepancies, Starfire #1 is a fun comic. As much as I’d love to have Conner drawing the comic, she and Palmiotti are a sharp writing team, adding humor and charm to a book that will live or die by those qualities. They expertly play up the growing dread of the hurricane, while showing Starfire at her best. I’m excited to get the next issue to see how she does saving the day. And Lupacchino on art does a fine job keeping the tone as light and as friendly as the writing. I have a lot of faith in this creative team, so consider me on board for Starfire.

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 June 13, 2015, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I liked Starfire and I’ve loved Harley for a while, but what really surprised me was Batman. Even though I know Snyder is -good-, I wasn’t expecting Gordon-as-Batman to be enjoyable.

    Well, color me surprised. Although the armor… I can’t help but see it and think of Chappie. Bat-Chappie!

  2. Silk was really good. I like JJJ showing he has a heart. That’s always been my favourite take on Jonah – an arrogant blowhard, but still a genuinely good guy. And Stacey Lee’s art is so pretty.

    Silver Surfer continues to be weird and wonderful. Slott and Allred are doing such an amazing job.

    Ghost Racers was really fun, and it looks like it’ll have an intriguing plot. But really, zombie-cowboy-centaur with gattling guns strapped to his sides. What more needs to be said?

    • That’s my favorite Jonah too. He was really good in the Ultimate Universe too. And that scene in the first Spider-Man movie when the Green Goblin threatens Jonah for the identity of the photographer, and Jonah immediately covers for Peter.

  3. What’s kind of weird is that those free 8-page previews DC released for their new comics actually weren’t just sneak peaks of future material, but short prequels. In the Starfire one, we see Starfire talk to a bunch of people in the DCU from Arsenal to Superman about where she should move, and then arrive at the sheriff’s door in Key West. They probably should have at least made a reference to that prequel in the annotations.

  4. I loved the Silver Surfer issue (feel like Dan Slott’s possible intended ending for this series if there was no “Secret Wars” to anyone else?), but this b.s. with Black Cat has to stop. The random turn to sadistic villain makes no fucking sense.

    If they wanted to sell it as a consequence of “One More Day” and emphasize how badly Pete dropped the responsibility ball that day, great, but that’s clearly not what they intend.

    So, Marvel, Dan, other Spidey-verse writers: Stop wasting everyone’s time and squandering our good faith trust with this absurd doppelganger.

    • I can definitely see Slott writing Silver Surfer #12 as a possible ending. We all know how brutal it can be for a new series to hang on, and 12 issues sounds about what Marvel would give a guy like Slott. Let’s hope the series comes back after Secret Wars.

      And I’m with you completely on the Black Cat thing! Sheesh!

  5. I haven’t been a fan of Black Cat’s turn to the dark side at all. It just doesn’t make for interesting reading to me because i liked how she was before, not ‘The New Kingpin’ or whatever. But oh well, Marvel is always trying new things to keep their sales up. Remember the good old days when comic series ran for 100s of issues, instead of getting rebooted in new volumes every 2-3 years? Yeah.

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