Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 6/27/15
It’s another solid week for DC Comics! After the mess of Convergence, they have come out smelling like roses with new comics, new directions and a new sense of fun. I only hope Marvel has the same kind of response to Secret Wars, though Marvel was doing fine before they started their summer-long crossover.
This week sees new issues of Aquaman, Batgirl and Grayson, and the debut of We Are Robin, the comic I was most looking forward to with DC’s new rebranding. Does it live up to the hype? Mostly. It’s a relatively sparse first issue, but it starts laying some important groundwork.
Comic Book of the Week goes to Batgirl #41. No big changes here, just more Batgirl goodness.
Comic Reviews: Aquaman #41, Batgirl #41, Grayson #9, Ninjak #4 and We Are Robin #1.
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Trevor McCarthy
Once upon a time, Aquaman was my favorite comic in the New 52. Geoff Johns turned the King of Atlantis into a badass hero with an exciting tale to tell. Then Jeff Parker came along and, while the stories were still fine, I somehow lost interest. Not sure why. But I’m eager to get back into Aquaman, so I caught up and am diving in to Cullen Bunn’s new status quo!
An ancient Atlantean civilization is, somehow, starting to invade Earth in the weirdest of ways: by materializing their buildings, people and monsters onto our world as if teleporting from another dimension. It’s weird, but it’s happening all over the world, and Aquaman has set out to save the ay — but not in the way you expect. While he’s killing the monsters and destroying the buildings tha tpose a threat to people, he’s also saving the ancient Atlantean refugees.
But helping these mysterious visitors instead of destroying them has turned Aquaman into an exile from Atlantis, and his former followers are now actively hunting him down!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This was a good, solid return to Aquaman, if a little confusing at times. The issue ended with revealing Aquaman’s refugee camp, and considering he’d found a tower full of monsters earlier, I wasn’t sure of the exact nature of this invasion. It’s a neat idea, that they’re somehow syncing with our world through some dimensional barrier, but Bunn doesn’t fully explain who they are, where they’ve come from or why Aquaman is helping them, in defiance of the rest of Atlantis. So Bunn definitely has some plot to smooth out.
But he does a fine job creating an action-packed adventure comic. His Aquaman is a mighty hero and should remain an entertaining character. And the drama with Mera, who is leader the charge against him, should make for some really good comics as the story progresses.
Writers: Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher
Artist: Babs Tarr
The creative team behind the new Batgirl is back, with a slight change of plans: it appears that Babs Tarr is going to handle the art chores all by herself! Before this, Cameron Stewart was doing breakdowns. The change isn’t huge, but it’s just enough that Batgirl #41 looks a little bit different…
Still an awesome comic, though!
Batgirl is investigating the Children of Hooq cult, which rose up after her fight with her computer self in the last issue. She tracks them to an old spooky house and starts kicking their butts, but then the new robot Batman smashes in and takes them all out. When he tries to arrest Batgirl, she makes her escape. The new Batman is, of course, her father, James Gordon, and he swings by her apartment the next day. They go for a walk in the park so that Gordon can reveal to Babs that he’s Batman, and that he’s doing it for the right reasons. Barbara is about to reveal to him that she’s Batgirl, but first Gordon reveals that he’s been ordered to arrest all the vigilantes in the city. So it looks like they’re going to be at odds!
Babs and Frankie go out on the town so that Babs can vent a little. Frankie knows all about the Batgirl stuff, and has been providing logistical support. But Babs can’t reveal that her dad is the new Batman. Their fun is interrupted by the arrival of the villain Livewire, who the Children of Hooq managed to free from her electric prison. Batgirl faces off against her, but then Batman shows up again and Livewire escapes. So Batman just turns around and tells Batgirl that she’s under arrest.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Fun things are afoot for Batgirl, it seems! She gets a new supervillain to battle, and one who is probably a really good choice for Batgirl. Livewire is going to take some brains to defeat. But we don’t get to see much of the fight this issue. Instead, all the focus is on the new Batman and his very personal connection to Barbara Gordon. I loved the scene where Babs and her dad go for a walk and he comes completely clean about being the new Batman, guilting her into very nearly revealing her own identity. That’s good drama. But there are complicated issues at work here, and the team seems more than ready to tackle them head on. Bring it, I say! Weaving Batgirl into this new Bat-family status quo sounds like good strategy to me.
Writer: Tom King and Tim Seeley
Artist: Mikel Janin
Though Grayson isn’t so lucky, at least not yet. We get a tiny mention of Batman’s supposed death, but for the most part, Grayson is still having fun with the spy stuff for now. I can’t blame them for that when their comics are so entertaining.
Dick Grayson and Agent 1 are on a mission in Spain to sneak into a gala and steal a Kryptonite gemstone off the neck of a princess. Dick dresses in his finest tux, wows the woman on the dance floor and slips the gem from around her neck. Meanwhile, Helena, the new head of Spyral, meets with the leaders of other spy organizations to learn that somebody has been killing their agents. In fact, on each of Dick Grayson’s previous missions in this series, someone was killed behind-the-scenes. Helena doesn’t think it could be Dick, so she immediately suspects Agent 1. She gets on the radio and tells Dick to take out Agent 1 and meet at the rendezvous point. Dick does just that and makes his escape from the gala.
Also, at some point in time (the issue bounces around a lot), Dick tries to reach Bruce on their private radio, but there’s no answer…
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Not to be a nit picker or anything, but that scene on the radio just doesn’t work very well. Yes, it’s perfectly reasonable for Dick to not get any answer from Bruce considering what’s gone down. But that scene ends with Dick asking, “Can I come home yet?” now that his mission to take down Spyral has succeeded. I don’t know if the writers have been reading any of the other Bat-books, but Dick Grayson has stopped by the Batcave on several occasions since the start of Grayson. I think he would definitely be in the mix if everyone thought Bruce was dead.
I still haven’t seen an explanation for why Dick doesn’t return to Gotham to take up the mantle of Batman again. I realize that DC has a ton of other neat ideas in play, but this is one logical question that should be answered, at least a little bit.
Fan griping aside, this was another really good issue of Grayson, hampered slightly by a wonky set of time jumps. There are a lot of small flashbacks in this issue to previous missions, and a lot of scenes that seem to be out of order. It jumps around a lot, and that confuses things a little. But the gala mission is a delight. Dick disobeys orders and gets the job done like the straight-up pimp we all know him to be, and it’s a lot of fun to read. As much as I’d love for Dick Grayson to take over as Batman again, Grayson is too good of a book to give up.
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artists: Juan Jose Ryp, Clay Mann, Seth Mann and Marguerite Sauvage
Ninjak hasn’t exactly set me on fire over its past few issues. Kindt seems to have a solid story in place, but his main character is incredibly boring. Ninjak is a straight, white male with brown hair who is supremely skilled at everything, owns his own castle, and if he can’t do something on his own, he has the the best, cutting edge equipment to do something for him. He’s so perfect he’s boring!
Fortunately, this issue isn’t about Ninjak!
Breaking away from the cliffhanger of the last issue, Ninjak #4 is the secret origin of Roku, the deadly lady assassin. She used to be a normal woman who found some long lost monastery to receive their training. So they killed the woman by driving a spike into the base of her skull, and when she woke up, she was buried deep underground and her body had changed. She could suddenly feel and control every cell in her body, including her hair follicles. The woman then dug her way to freedom and spent several days (or possibly weeks) escaping a cavern. She killed three demons who blocked her way (and who probably symbolized something), and was eventually accepted into the monastery. She chose the name ‘Roku’.
In the backup, we learn that Kannon, too, was trained in a special monastery. It may be the same one as Roku, but I don’t think so.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
So yeah, both Roku and Kannon are now far more interesting characters than Ninjak. Roku has this cool super-power and her grueling origin inside the cavern to back up her awesomeness. And Kannon has a neat story of working his butt off for a mysterious silent monk to earn his name and abilities. Ninjak, again, is just a rich, handsome, white secret agent. Yet he’s the star?! This issue goes a long way to show that Kindt needs to reassess his priorities. I’m sure Ninjak is the important character to Valiant, the one who has been around for years, but Kindt is having a lot more fun creating original characters of his own. I want to know more about Roku.
Also, the art was off the chain in this issue! Both Roku’s flashback and Kannon’s origin story were great, art-wise. Quality work by the whole team there.
We Are Robin #1
Writer: Lee Bermejo
Artist: Jorge Corona
This is it! The comic I’ve been waiting for! I think We Are Robin is my most anticipated book from DC’s new landscape. Usually I’m a staunch Robin purist, but considering I’m not a fan of what DC is doing with the regular Robin, I’m actually very excited to see what Bermejo does with We Are Robin. I love the idea that Batman is now Commissioner Gordan in an Iron Man suit and Robin is a themed street gang.
Ever since the Joker’s last attack on the city, Duke Thomas has had a tough life. His parents are still missing, he’s bouncing around the foster home system, and he keeps getting in trouble at school. But he’s a smart kid with a good head on his shoulders. After sneaking out of his latest foster placement, Duke heads down into the sewers to search for his parents, because he’s heard that a lot of people who haven’t recovered from the Joker gas find their way down there.
Duke stumbles upon an entire underground hobo city, commanded by some angry Fagin-type who is manipulating these gas-addled folks. When this guy notices Duke, he orders his minions to attack! Duke is saved by a gang of young people all dressed like Robin. They’ve been following him.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I’m a little disappointed that this first issue didn’t delve more deeply into the Robins. They stuck to the shadows, following Duke for reasons that have not yet been revealed. I suppose that’s fine. For now, they get to be a little mysterious. Fortunately, the focus on Duke Thomas is fantastic. Bermejo spends the issue in Duke’s head, and the narration is a lot of fun to follow. Bermejo does a great job of turning Duke Thomas into a real person with real motivations and skills. He’s a smart, resourceful, pleasant sort of guy, with just enough edge to be interesting. If Duke is going to be the star of this series, Bermejo does a great job of building him up.
The art, likewise, is a lot of fun. The work is grounded in realism, with just enough energy and fluidity to have its own style. This is solid comic book art with enough flair to stand out. I like how this comic is shaping up.
Though I won’t be using the ellipses in the title. No thank you.
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 27, 2015, in Batman, Comics, DC, Reviews, Robin and tagged Aquaman, Barbara Gordon, Batgirl, Commissioner Gordon, Dick Grayson, Duke Thomas, Grayson, Nightwing, Ninjak, Valiant Comics, We Are Robin. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.