Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 6/20/15
Sometimes I just can’t help myself. There are weeks when I tell myself to keep the Hench-Sized reviews under control, that you fine readers can’t handle me rambling for so long and so intensely! But this week was filled with great comics! DC continues to pump out some fun titles with their rebranding, and a few of my favorite indie comics were in my stack. This was a good week.
Comic Book of the Week was a hard one, but I think I’m going to give it to Justice League of America #1. The new series is written and drawn by Bryan Hitch, and is a great example of DC’s new style. Bucking the constraints of up-to-the-minute continuity, the new Justice League is just a straight forward, fun adventure by my favorite comic book artist. It’s a good launch.
Unfortunately, Marvel Comics remains mired in Secret Wars. Even the great Ms. Marvel is now tied into that event. I skipped that new issue this week before it’s basically just Kamala Khan running around trying to be a hero while the world falls apart. The next issue is the one to watch out for, when she finally teams up with Captain Marvel!
Speaking of Secret Wars, I took a look at Squadron Sinister #1 at Word of the Nerd. It’s pretty much a dud.
Comic Reviews: Black Canary #1, Justice League of America #1, Kaijumax #3, Lumberjanes #15, Prez #1, Robin: Son of Batman #1 and Secret Six #3.
Black Canary #1
Writer: Brendan Fletcher
Artist: Annie Wu
I’m all in favor of girl power in comics, and considering this series spins out of Batgirl, I was definitely picking up the first issue. I’ve never particularly cared about Black Canary, but the idea of her headlining a rock band sounds too neat to pass up.
Following her guest appearance in Batgirl, Dinah Lance is known as ‘DD’, and she’s the lead singer in a band called Black Canary. They’re on tour and tearing up the indie scene, but at every venue, Dinah gets into a superhero fight. They’re getting a bad reputation, and her bandmates are a little worried about their safety. But Dinah assures them she’ll be cool from now on.
Then at their latest show, a bunch of shadow monsters show up, posing as people. Dinah sees through their disguises and starts fighting, and we find out that they’ve actually come for the band’s young, mute guitarist, named Ditto. After the bad guys are defeated, Dinah swears that she will do everything she can to keep Ditto and the rest of the band safe while they continue the tour and get to the bottom of this mystery.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
High marks for originality, that’s for sure. I don’t remember too much about when Dinah joined this band in the pages of Batgirl, but it definitely makes for an interesting premise. Of course, we can’t exactly hear the music, but the attitude of a rock band is in full force. Annie Wu is a rockstar artist, and I loved her on Hawkeye. There’s a solid team in place behind Black Canary, and I hope they can really keep this series rocking — though personally, I kind of want to see some more band-related stuff instead of superhero fights.
I’d definitely like to get to know the members of the band better. We really only get to know the drummer this issue, and the manager, who’s just as young and hip as the rest of the band. The other two bandmates, including Ditto, are pretty much just stock characters for now.
That Ditto is the bad guy’s target instead of Dinah is fine, but we know so little about Ditto. She’s apparently somewhere around 12-years-old, is totally mute, and dresses in little kid pajama costumes. Did nobody question that?! They really let her into a hardcore rock band like that? She’s adorable, I’ll give her that, but the surprise that she’s being hunted by shadow monsters would hold more weight if we actually knew anything at all about her or her weird membership in the band.
Justice League of America #1
Writer and Artist: Bryan Hitch
Bryan Hitch is probably my favorite comic book artist of all time. His work on The Ultimates blew my mind and pretty much reinvented what comics can be and what they can look like. So I am definitely going to check out a continuity-free, cinematic Justice League adventure by Hitch!
The mysterious Infinity Corporation invites Superman to their lab in New York City, where they reveal that they have a teleportation device, and that device keeps randomly sending them dead Supermen from somewhere in the time stream. Sometime soon, Superman is going to die, but they don’t know how or why.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Justice League get their own invitations to the new Metropolis Clean Energy Plant, but it’s obviously a trap. Someone has stolen Parasite out of prison and uses him to ambush the League. A big battle erupts, and Superman flies from New York to join in. The heroes eventually overcome Parasite, but are left with only questions — questions that the Infinity Corporation can probably answer. Except when Superman, Batman and Cyborg go back to New York to look them up, their supposed lab building is now a derelict, old construction site. They were putting one over on Superman!
While the three of them are in New York, suddenly a giant, glowing spaceship appears above the city. And from that spaceship comes the Great Kryptonian God Rao, promising salvation.
Meanwhile, Aquaman is summoned to Atlantis and meets with a mysterious individual who tells him that the ‘true god’ is coming. We also get to see Aquaman delve into Atlantean diplomacy at the United Nations, which may have been my favorite part of the book.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Justice League of America #1 was almost exactly what I wanted. The art is amazing. Hitch has been working on this comic for years, as I understand it, so he’s had plenty of time to draw the heck out of this adventure. His characters are on point, his villains are larger than life; few comics look this good. This comic is everything I could want from a Bryan Hitch drawn comic. And the story isn’t bad either, it’s just not all that great. The story is appropriately epic, the characters are perfectly fine, and Hitch is playing with a lot of mysteries, but there isn’t much character depth in this first issue. This is all surface-level Justice League fun, just the heroes being heroes against the latest major threat. That makes for a fine, enjoyable comic, just not a great one.
Writer and Artist: Zander Cannon
Kaijumax continues to expand the scope of its story, bringing in more characters, plots and personalities. On the one hand, it’s great to visit new and different parts of this fascinatingly fun world. On the other hand, no single storyline seems to have emerged as the main plot yet, leaving us kind of bobbing along wondering where the current is going to take us.
This issue follows two major storylines. The first involves Gupta and fellow guard Jeong being called to handle a nearby drug lab, even though they’re just prison guards. Jeong panics during the seizure of the place and kills one of the drug dealers. This really freaks him out, but the corrupt Gupta is there to sweep it all under the rug. They do take one monster into custody, bringing him to the Kaijumax.
Meanwhile, the focus this issue is really on Mecha-zon, the leader of the mecha-cult in the ‘Max. He preaches non-violence to his followers, and has to put up with a lot of harassment because of it. Mecha-zon gets a visit from his creator, who doesn’t approve of anything Mecha-zon believes in. We find out that Mecha-zon was built to protect his city against a rampaging monster, but instead got his butt whooped because of his non-violent beliefs. This is clearly a bone of contention between monster and creator.
And guess who that rampaging monster turns out to be! The monster that Gupta and Jeong have just brought to the prison!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
After being introduced in the previous issue, Mecha-zon emerges as a legitimately interesting character. He’s got a neat backstory, a unique personality, and I love that Cannon turned being a ‘mecha’ into a prison gang thing. That’s a creative idea. And I’m looking forward to Mecha-zon possibly facing off with this new arrival in the future — but I can’t be sure if we’re ever going to follow up. I get that Cannon is building his world and filling it with characters, but this lack of one focus keeps me from getting too invested just yet. Electrogor, who seemed like the main character in issue #1, makes a few minor appearances, but his story has definitely been pushed to the background. Likewise for Gupta, who, despite his major role in this issue, doesn’t really get the chance to touch upon his smuggling operation from issue #2.
Kaijumax still looks great, at least. Cannon has a lot of fun with the wide variety of monsters in his comic, each with their own unique look. And his wide shots look great, including a shot of Mecha-zon’s past defeat. In general, Cannon is building a really good comic here. There characters and the world are interesting, the art is great. But he could stand to establish a better bedrock foundation before he expands too much.
Writers: Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters
Artist: Brooke Allen
Hopefully this is an indication that I’m going to stick to regular coverage of the Lumberjanes form now on! They deserve it!
So the Lumberjanes and their friend from the boy’s camp continue their trek through the snowy woods, until it gets too cold and he builds them an awesome igloo to sleep in. Jo is still jealous that her best friend April admires the boy scout so much. When the team encounters another pack of those horned wolves, they decide to cooperate instead of fight and start following the pack into the woods.
Meanwhile, Roxie finds Abigail and Jen at Abigail’s cabin, and we slowly begin to learn that Roxie and Abigail were once best friends when they were Lumberjanes together. But something happened with the previous camp leader that drove them apart, and saw Roxie siding with the camp over Abigail. When Roxie finds out that Abigail has become a monster hunter, she’s aghast! It’s a Lumberjane’s job to protect all the creatures of the forest even the monster!
Abigail traps Roxie and Jen in her dungeon while she heads out to hunt down the biggest prey of them all!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Another quality issue of Lumberjanes here, with plenty of wit, whimsy and world-building. The creators really dive into the mysteries of Lumberjanes past in this issue, though they still hold off from revealing everything. Roxie and Abigail talk like people who already know the details, and they don’t bother to fill Jen or the reader in on what exactly they’re talking about. That was a little disappointing. I want to know, gosh darn it!
The storyline moves along swimmingly with no other bumps in the road. The Lumberjanes themselves are still so much fun to read about, and the writers make sure that they’re not just flat characters. They have motions beyond just the basics they were handed at the start of the series. That’s a plus. Lumberjanes is good comics.
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Ben Caldwell
Normally, I wouldn’t give a book like Prez a first glance. It’s just not in my wheelhouse. It’s a silly bit of satire playing with the notion that a teenager becomes President. But I’m all about giving DC a chance with their new outlook on comics, and I’m happy to say that I really enjoyed this first issue.
It’s the year 2036, and America is a pretty crazy place. Built on parodies of today’s culture, insane Youtube stars are the celebrities of the day, websites are everywhere, and politics is even more garbage. Both the Democrat and Republican candidates for President are pretty crummy, and both are in the pocket of big business — with an evil cabal of senators purposefully picking the dimmest Republican candidate they could find.
But since people can vote using Twitter these days, the hacker group Anonymous adds recent viral video sensation ‘Corndog Girl’ to the ballot. Then when one of those idiot Youtube stars throws his support behind her, teenage nobody Beth Ross is able to win Ohio and get enough votes to create a statistical tie! Looks like this is going to Congress to get settled!
Meanwhile, Beth lives a meager life working at a corndog stand and trying to find money to pay her father’s mounting medical bills.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This isn’t the Daily Show, but Prez is a pretty solid satire. Russell takes some fun jabs at politics and the Internet Age, and I feel like, given time, he could really start turning the screws. Part Idiocracy, part Republicans are evil, Prez is a story about the insanity of the modern day pushed to the nth degree. But hidden in this cluster of gags is the touching story of Beth Ross, and her chance to make a difference in the world. She’s presented as a totally legit person in a world of craziness, and I look forward to seeing her come into her own.
But Russell focuses a little too much on the madness of this new world than on Beth, which I think is a shame. In fact, in a bit of oddness, the issue cuts off just as the voting reaches a statistical tie. She’s not even elected President at the end of the issue, which I think was a weird choice. We know it’s going to happen, and I’m all for defying expectations, but why take the odd step of making the vote a tie? Why not just elect Beth right away and get on with the real story in issue #2? Why the sudden, anti-climactic ending?
I know Russell wants to make sure he builds and establishes the new world order as best he can, but he does so by sacrificing page time for our main character in this first issue. Even important plot points, like Anonymous adding her name to the ballot, are glossed over through news coverage.
Robin: Son of Batman #1
Writer and Artist: Patrick Gleason
Normally, a guy like me would be pretty thrilled that Robin once again has an ongoing series. Regular readers will know that I’m a huge Robin fan. But I’m not a big Damian fan. Two sides of my psyche are battling for importance! Either way, I couldn’t resist checking this series out.
From his time being raised by R’as and Talia al Ghul, Damian has an entire private island devoted to him, complete with a handservant named Ravi and a giant, furry, dragon sidekick named Goliath (as seen on the cover). When Goliath escapes the island, Damian leaves Gotham alone and has to fight his way through some Bialyian sultan to get him back.
When they return to the island, Damian reveals that he’s got an entire vault of doo-dads, trophies, mystical relics and more that his mother and grandfather gave him while he was growing up. Damian decides that in order to truly embrace his new life as Robin, he must spend the next year taking care of these items one by one.
Meanwhile, the daughter of a man Damian killed is seeking revenge.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I love Robin, but context is important too. And every choice made in Robin: Son of Batman is the exact opposite of what I want in a Robin comic. Don’t get me wrong, the issue on its own is fine. Gleason is an amazing artist, and this comic looks positively gorgeous. One couldn’t ask for a better artist. And his writing is fine. He’s got a perfect handle on Damian’s character, and there are more than a few cool moments throughout. For those reasons, this is a fine issue.
But I don’t think Robin: Son of Batman is for me. First of all, I don’t like Damian as Robin. I’ll admit he’s grown on me since he first showed up, but I’ve still never accepted him as ‘Robin’. He’s Damian, first and foremost. Robin just happens to be the available costumed identity. This comic should be called Damian: Son of Batman. Robin is just a costume he wears, not a mantle he assumes, and that’s not how I prefer the character.
Second of all, I like Robin as a street-level character in the context of Batman and Gotham City. So sending Robin on some kind of mystical quest, accompanied by a ridiculous dragon pet, just isn’t for me. That sounds cool on paper, and I’m sure a lot of people will love this concept. But it’s not for me. I don’t care about Damian going off alone on some mystical adventure.
Fortunately, I have We Are Robin to look forward to!
Secret Six #3
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Dale Eaglesham
So, uh…the last issue of Secret Six came out in February. February! The issue before that was in December. If this were Hawkeye, I’d understand. But Secret Six? Come on! I hated the first two issues, and I honestly forgot this book still existed until I saw it in my pull box this week. Wasn’t this relaunch supposed to be a big deal? DC went to all the trouble of bringing back the Secret Six with Gail Simone, something we all wanted, and this is how they treat it? What was even the point?
Well considering we have an entirely new artist on board with this issue, and I think I read somewhere that this was actually supposed to be issue #4, I think we can all see what happened. Ken Lashley’s art wasn’t all that good in the first two issues anyway.
After escaping from Mockingbird in issue #2, the Secret Six are now hold up in Big Shot’s mother’s house in suburbia, outside Gotham City. Everybody’s doing their best to be happy house folk, even though most of them don’t really know how to be a family in a nice home. But they make due, and Catman makes them all eggs for dinner, because that was a popular scene in the first volume. Then the issue ends with Catman leading the charge to beat up one of the neighbors because the guy is an abusive asshole to his dog.
Also, we find out that Big Shot works for Mockingbird, who turns out to be the Riddler. And it also turns out that Big Shot is Ralph Dibney, the Elongated Man, in disguise! Or at least, the Riddler refers to him as ‘Mr. Dibney’, and he’s still carrying a torch for his long lost wife. So…yeah, probably the Elongated Man.
Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.
The new Secret Six just isn’t gelling for me. It obviously doesn’t help that we haven’t seen the comic since February, but even now that the team has cast off that weird ‘trapped in a box’ opening, it all still feels like trying to force a square peg into a round hole. We all loved the original Secret Six. They were great! But this new team is a poor man’s knock-off (you cannot tell me that the new Ventriloquist isn’t Ragdoll Redux). It’s like Simone and DC think they can just recapture lightning in a bottle. As if vaguely recreating all the twisted, wicked aspects of the previous series is going to be enough to entertain us again. But these new characters are paper thin, and they wear their obviousness on their sleeves. Though there are a few good scenes between some of the characters, like a growing comfortableness between Catman and Strix.
The original Villains United mini-series redefined, for me, what a team comic book could be. I rank it up there alongside Firefly as a perfect example of an ensemble cast. And yeah, maybe I’m grumpy that DC didn’t just give us back the old Secret Six, but that’s not the whole problem. I’m just not getting into this new comic. The whole thing feels artificial. Like, if everyone is supposed to be lying low in the suburbs, why are half of them wearing their superhero costumes for an early morning house meeting?
Porcelain has, so far, been portrayed as a fairly normal human being. So did she really go to all the trouble of wearing every single piece of her weird costume to the house meeting? At least Catman was allowed to wear normal human clothes, if only to save the reveal of his new costume until the end.
I didn’t care for it initially, but I think it’s going to grow on me.
Maybe if the art had actually been good from the beginning, and Secret Six came out on a real schedule, I’d feel differently. But I’m just not liking this comic. It’s a pale imitation of the original, trying to use the same ‘shocking’ behavior of the first to win fans over without any of the in-depth character growth. We already know that everyone involved in this project can do way, way better.
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 June 20, 2015, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, Superman and tagged Black Canary, Boom!, Catman, Damian Wayne, Elongated Man, Justice League, Justice League of America, Kaijumax, Lumberjanes, Oni Press, Prez, Robin: Son of Batman, Secret Six. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.