Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 7/4/15

Happy Fourth of July, my American readers! I hope you’re all out blowing up a small part of your country today! I’m picnicking with the family and hopefully having a blast. My brother is in town, so he and I can finally have a face-to-face conversation instead of staying in touch via the comments section on my blog.

We’ve got some quality comics this week, especially out of DC. I’m finally buying a regular Superman comic after years ignoring Big Blue. I only wish I could say the same about Bizarro. I had such high hopes for that book. Marvel delivered a cosmic one-two punch with both Darth Vader and Princess Leia, and my humor quota is filled by another great issue of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.

Which easily wins Comic Book of the Week when Squirrel Girl takes on the Avengers!

Always own up to your puns

Though it has some stiff competition from Secret Wars #4, which I reviewed over at Word of the Nerd. Secret Wars might be the best crossover in a while. I’m really enjoying the power and energy of Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic on that series.

Comic Reviews: Action Comics #42, Bizarro #2, Darth Vader #7, Princess Leia #5 and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #7.

Action Comics #42
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Aaron Kuder

So I’m unintentionally running a little experiment with my Superman comics right now. Apparently, the main story is taking place in the pages of Superman, and Action Comics seems to be some kind of companion piece. For the second issue in a row, there are editorial notes in Action Comics telling me that the explanation for what’s happening takes place in Superman. But Superman isn’t written by Greg Pak, so I don’t really feel like reading Superman.

Besides, Action Comics seems awesome enough for me!

While Superman is busy fighting some kind of shadow monster at the docks (a monsters whose origins are apparently in Superman), the corrupt police sergeant leads his men in a takedown of Superman’s block. The residents stand firm in peaceful resistance, led by firefighter Lee Lambert, but the cops have SWAT armor, shields and batons. Superman manages to defeat the monster in time to grab a large anchor from the docks and return to the block, using the chains to stand tall in front of his supporters.

But the police have an anti-meta squad, and they start beating on Superman with enhanced weapons and armor. Eventually the people can’t take it anymore and they start rioting, so the police fight back. And eventually even Superman has had enough, and his punches the corrupt sergeant in the face — which is exactly what he wanted Superman to do.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

A powerless, identified Superman is already leading to some interesting stories! Rather than being a flying symbol of truth and justice, Superman is now a man of the people, forced to stand on his own two feet down in the grime and the muck. I really liked that aspect of the issue. The cops are almost cartoonishly evil in this issue, but it works to really put the pressure on Superman. He’s not fighting a super-villain here, he’s fighting the reality of an overly militarized police force. And he can’t just zip around tying all of their rifles into bows or anything like that. If Superman wants to stand for what he stands for, he’s going to have to prove it now like a normal person. I like the energy behind that idea.

This comic is full of ‘hell yeah, Superman’ moments!

Unfortunately, Kuder’s art took a step back this week, and it’s only his second issue (I think?). Last issue was a master class in solid comic book art, but this issue looks rushed in places, with blurry panels and smudged line work. It’s just not as good, and the book suffers just a bit because of it. But when Kuder’s art is on point, it’s definitely on point!

Bizarro #2

Bizarro #2
Writer: Heath Corson
Artist: Gustavo Duarte

Man, I really wanted to like Bizarro. I thought it might be DC’s answer to Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. But it’s definitely not. It’s fine, by all means. I’m sure there are people loving these two issues. But the humor is definitely not my cup of tea.

Bizarro does battle with the evil King Tut at King Tut’s used car dealership in Smallville. Colin the Chupacabra helps free Jimmy Olsen from King Tut’s mind-control, and then Bizarro reveals that he has some kind of hypnosis power, so he hypnotizes King Tut into thinking he’s a chicken. Jimmmy then breaks the magic mind-control rod and the town is saved. Jimmy and Bizarro are honored as heroes.

Except when they leave town, King Tut’s daughter reveals that she’s not happy that the day was saved. She fixes the rod, declares herself ‘Queen Tut’ and says that she will get revenge on Bizarro. Not sure where that came from…

The rest of the issue is Bizarro and Jimmy making stops in all the famous cities of DC, and having brief run-ins with the various superheroes. Also, some secret agents are following them. And there’s a scene in a grocery store. And they end up visiting a ghost town, where they meet a lady cowboy and a bunch of ghosts.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

Eh, this just isn’t for me. Make no mistake, this is a very well constructed comic, and Gustavo Duarte is amazing on art. This comic looks great. But the humor and storyline are all over the place and I don’t care for it. King Tut is nothing but bad used car salesmen jokes. Then his daughter decides that she’s a bad guy out of nowhere, completely going against everything we learned about her in the previous issue. Then there’s a random pitstop at a grocery store that accomplishes nothing. Then they randomly visit a bunch of famous DC cities for one-off non-jokes with the superheroes. What was even the point of this?

Thaaaaaat’s your joke

And everything ends in a random ghost town, where this cowboy lady (who might be a descendant of Jonah Hex), acts like she’s a real wild west cowboy. And it’s not played for laughs. She’s just a straight up cowboy (albeit an extremely gorgeous one). If you find this issue funny, by all means, enjoy Bizarro. But for me, the humor is too scattered and almost all of it is just general wackiness for wackiness’ sake. None of it really has anything to do with Bizarro and Jimmy Olsen as characters or people. They’re as wacky as the humor.

The best example I can give is Colin the Chupacabra. There’s no logic or story behind Colin. There’s no inherent humor in his existence. It’s just wacky that Bizarro would have a pet Chupacabra.

But hey, no harm done. I’m sure there are plenty of people who will laugh and enjoy this comic, I’m just not one of them. Humor is subjective. Besides, I’ve got Unbeatable Squirrel Girl to keep me rolling in the aisles!

Also, I guess Star City is now officially Starling City, based on the travels in this issue. Is that now canon in the comics, does anybody know?

Darth Vader #7

Darth Vader #7
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvador Larroca

With the initial storylines largely finished, Gillen has to start expanding Darth Vader’s adventures to fill the requirements of an ongoing comic. No doubt, Darth Vader has a whole lifetime of wacky adventures under his belt, but will they all be as cool and badass as the first few issues? Time will tell.

Darth Vader silently and impassively goes through Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen’s house, then Obi-Wan’s desert shack. Once that is done, he and his forces raid a crime boss’ headquarters on Son-tuul and steal his vast fortune. It was done as a favor to Jabba the Hutt, taking out his competition. Meanwhile, and secretly, Vader has tasked Aphra with informing a group of bounty hunters — including Bossk and Black Krrsantan! — how to hijack the Imperial ships that are carrying said fortune.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This issue was a bit of a disappointment. I understand that the comic doesn’t peer into Darth Vader’s inner thoughts, but I would have liked a bit more reflection as he stood in the farmhouse where Owen and Beru raised his son. Gillen and Larroca have managed to evoke all manner of emotions out of that unmoving, iconic helmet, but the brief scenes on Tatooine don’t offer enough meat for my liking. These should be big moments, but they pass by fleetingly.

Though I suppose every picture is worth at least a thousand words

Then the story gets more than a little confusing. A Rodian gangster comes out of nowhere, his fortune comes out of nowhere, and these bounty hunters come out of nowhere. We already know that Aphra isn’t betraying Vader, since he sets her on the task in a previous scene. So what’s the play here? Why does Vader care about this shipment of currency, and why should we?

Darth Vader is still a good comic, and this is still a good series. The art remains phenomenal. But Gillen and Larroca miss some potentially squee-inducing fan service moments, then embark on a confusing new storyline. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see where they’re going with this.

And let’s hope they continue to involve Black Krrsantan, the evil wookiee!

Princess Leia #5

Princess Leia #5
Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Terry and Rachel Dodson

While Darth Vader lives on, the Princess Leia series comes to an end with issue #5. Waid and the Dodsons have been having a lot of fun expanding Leia’s heroism, and they close things out in grand style.

In the previous issue, Leia agreed to hand herself over to the Empire in exchange for Tace’s sister. She obviously wasn’t going quietly, and the great Rebel smuggler Nien Nunb flies in to save Leia and her people, and destroy the Imperial ships. But the Star Destroyer is still in orbit and chases them to the planet Espirion, where Leia’s Alderaanian fleet has been slowly growing in size. But they’re not big enough to take on an entire Star Destroyer, and after Jora’s xenophobic diplomatic failure on Espirion in the last issue, the fleet is on its own.

So Leia gets on the comms and gives one heck of a rallying speech to inspire her troops, a speech that R2 secretly broadcasts down to the planet surface. Soon an Espirion ship arrives to help, inspired by Leia’s speech, and the good guys blow up the Star Destroyer! When the dust has settled, Leia returns to the Rebellion and leaves her friend Evaan in charge of the new Alderaan colony that the fleet sets up.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

The creative team is firing on all cylinders for this final issue, and it leads to a rip-roaringly good time! From the rescue by Nien Nunb (a very welcome cameo), to Leia’s impassioned speech, to the last minute rescue by the Esperion war ship, this was just a ton of fun. And Leia never gets lost in the shuffle. She’s the tip of the spear, the leader we need, and a great character. This is the sort of excitement we should want from our Star Wars comics, and thankfully, Marvel is delivering. Even the art was improved with this issue, though it still wasn’t the Dodsons’ best. Princess Leia was a great little mini-series, and I wish it was continuing. Let’s hope the Lando comic is even half as good!

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #7
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Erica Henderson

Oh sweet, sweet Squirrel Girl comic, thank you for still existing! I don’t think we’ve seen word of your relaunch in the fall though. Does that mean you’re being cancelled? Or are you just not getting a new #1 issue? Somebody find out for me or I’m gonna start freaking out all over this place!

After Girl Squirrel went around whispering gossip in everyone’s ears, the people of New York City and Empire State University are all in a really foul mood. Doreen and Nancy try to go to class, but the classroom erupts in a brawl due to all of the angry people. So Nancy pulls up Wikipedia and decides that Girl Squirrel must be Ratatoskr, the Norse demon squirrel known for making mischief! So Squirrel Girl, Chipmunk Hunk, Koi Boi and Nancy all head to Avengers Tower to get Thor’s help — except that the Avengers are also in a foul mood and pick a fight with our heroes!

Squirrel Girl promptly kicks all of their asses!


Anyway, they grab Captain America’s phone and give Thor a call. He hasn’t been effected, and he fills in the team about the dangers of Ratatoskr. He also updates Squirrel Girl on the fact that there’s a new Thor now, and they’re together fighting  a crowd across town. Our heroes go to join them and figure out a plan: old Thor, new Thor and Nancy will go to Asgard to prepare a trap for Ratatoskr, while Squirrel Girl, Chipmunk Hunk and Koi Boi will hunt down and defeat the demon squirrel.

They head to Central Park and Girl Squirrel shows up, identifying herself definitely as Ratatoskr! Looks like our heroes have a fight ahead of them!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Yep, this is still the funniest book on the stands! Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is laugh-out-loud hilarious! I’m snickering on almost every page. The dialogue, the attitudes, the general sense of silliness; it’s all golden! I know humor is subjective, and everybody has their own sense of humor. The best way I can describe why I find this comic funny is because North and Henderson have established a world and a character in Squirrel Girl, and the humor comes from how she interacts with that world, through what she says, does and feels. She’s not being wacky for wacky’s sake, as if often the case with Deadpool comics or the new Bizarro. Squirrel Girl is naturally just Squirrel Girl, and that is made adorably funny.

This. Right here. This.

Of course, deft comedic writing and wit help! The story is the right kind of insane too. I Googled ‘Ratatoskr’ and, sure enough, it’s a real thing with a real Wikipedia page! And it turns out that North and Henderson quote that page almost verbatim in their comic. And if it’s OK with everyone else, I’m going to pretend that he’s been sitting on this storyline of years, waiting for the chance to pit Squirrel Girl against Ratatoskr!

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl had better be coming back after Secret Wars. I don’t know how it’s doing sales-wise, but it’s just too good to cancel! We’re talking Nextwave good!

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 July 4, 2015, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Star Wars, Superman and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Kuder’s been on Action Comics since Pak took over, just so you know. I’m not sure how I feel about #42. Depending on how they resolve the story it could come off as really poignant or just kinda grasping for relevance. It’s really cool that they’re trying to use Superman as a device for political and social commentary, though. The early Superman stories were so overtly political, and it always disappointed me all these years that DC has never seriously revisited that.

    • Oh man, duh! And I’d read some of those Pak/Kuder issues too and really liked them. That’s what I get for being a lazy idiot and not even bothering to do a little research, when it’s right there on the Internet for me to do! Gah!

  2. Secret Wars was a solid comic. Very good character stuff going on. I have seen some people point out that it’s a bit weird we’re supposed to root for the heroes to beat Doom even though the heroes have absolutely no clue what’s going on. “He saved existence! Get him!” But still, it’s a good comic.

    Squirrel Girl is just an utter delight. The book had me laughing constantly. The Thors trying to stop a riot over waffles vs. pancakes was probably my favourite bit. Squirrel Girl’s physical sales have been . . . about what you’d expect for a book about a character named Squirrel Girl. Issue #5 was already down to 20 000 copies, which is low. It was just over Captain Marvel #15. At the same time, North and Henderson presumably aren’t drawing big salaries, and we don’t know what the digital sales are like, so it may still have some room. So it’s tough to predict if it’ll be relaunched after Secret Wars. On the plus side, Al Ewing’s using her in New Avengers! That should be an absolute delight.

    • Aww man, sales are that bad for Squirrel Girl? That’s not fair! But then, life isn’t fair sometimes…Maybe he’s got some creator-owned stuff I can check out. I know he wrote Adventure Time comics, but I never go for that licensed stuff. He would be worth following.

      And I bought the first volume of The Wicked + The Divine this weekend, so I’ll be diving into that soon!

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