Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 7/18/15
Ant-Man was awesome! I loved it! After all these years, I got to sit down in a theater and watch Ant-Man, and it lived up to all the glorious hype! Go see it! I’ll try to have my full review up later today.
As for comic books, we’ve got a great smattering of books this week. Comics like Kaijumax and Black Canary continue to impress, while Secret Six finally starts to feel like the old, beloved comic of yore. That’s a damn good thing. Lumberjanes and Harley Quinn continue their hot streaks, but there can be only one Comic Book of the Week.
Hawkeye #22 finally finishes off Matt Fraction’s now-legendary run!
That comic is all style, substance and so much more. I need to start buying those trades ASAP so I can sit down and re-read the whole thing over again.
Over at Word of the Nerd, I continue my Secret Wars coverage with a review of Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders #1. I was attracted to the comic because I’m a huge Faiza Hussain fan, but other than a spotlight for her awesomeness, the comic is middling at best — though if you’re a fan of Judge Dredd, it’s not to be missed.
Comic Reviews: Black Canary #2, Harley Quinn #18, Hawkeye #22, Kaijumax #4, Lumberjanes #16, Robin: Son of Batman #2, Secret Six #4 and Silver Surfer #13.
Black Canary #2
Writer: Brenden Fletcher
Artist: Annie Wu
We’re back for more Black Canary, a title that’s really burning up the charts! Me, personally, I haven’t been fully won over yet. My major complaint is that Fletcher isn’t spending enough time with Black Canary’s new band. I feel like I barely know them. Does anybody know if Black Canary had a prologue in one of the final Convergence comics? I know somebody said Starfire had a prologue that helped explain the first issue.
After mysterious bad guys tried to kidnap bandmate Ditto, the Black Canary team has gone off the radar and are hiding out in the desert. Dinah is teaching them how to fight and shoot in order to protect Ditto, even though they don’t know anything about Ditto or why anyone would be after her. Sure enough, they’re being watched by the bad guys, who have cloaking technology. But eventually they do go back on tour.
There’s a little dissension in the band, especially when the band’s original singer, Maeve, is spotted spying on their tour bus. After a confrontation with Dinah, Maeve runs off. Then when the band stops to do a little shopping, and Dinah bonds with Ditto over music, they’re attacked by a lone villain. Dinah kicks his butt and takes off his helmet, revealing her estranged husband, Kurt.
Dinah tells her bandmates that if Kurt’s organization is after them, then they’re all in big trouble.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Black Canary is a fun, action-packed comic that has a really neat premise. I don’t know if I’ve ever read a comic about a superhero as a rock star before, and I love it. But like I said above, the problem is that I just don’t know her bandmates as well as I should. And when the major plot points all revolve around those bandmates, that’s a bit of a problem. These mysterious bad guys are after Ditto, who is some kind of mute child who has some strange music-based super-powers. But we don’t know anything about Ditto or why this band is so devoted to her.
Why is a mute 12-year-old even in a band? Where are her parents? Does Dinah even know? Do any of them know? And if this highly-organized bad guy group is after Ditto, why do they maintain this band? It’s clear in this issue that there is dissension in the ranks, and that the bandmates don’t particularly like Dinah, yet they stay together, keep touring and devote themselves to being Ditto’s only protectors. What about the police? What about the Justice League or ARGUS?
Dinah mentions the need to maintain their contracted tour, but is fulfilling their record contract really more important than protecting Ditto?
These are nitpicks, but they’re big ones. Fletcher and Wu have a potentially great comic book on their hands, but they first need to go that extra mile to really set the foundation and the heart of Black Canary. Awesome action scenes and a cool musical style won’t really matter when the basic premise has so many holes.
Harley Quinn #18
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artists: Chad Hardin and Jed Dougherty
It’s good to have Harley Quinn back. The series is adorable and funny in all the ways Deadpool isn’t, at least in my opinion. I have to imagine Deadpool was what DC had in mind when they launched this comic, and I’m so pleased that Harley Quinn has surpassed the Merc with a Mouth.
Opinions may vary, though.
Harley and her Gang of Harleys team up to take down the crazy fisherman from the last issue, leading to a team-up between Harley and Bolly Quinn as they take on Captain Horatio Strong. When Harley sees him eat his magical seaweed, she grabs some for herself and gulps it down.
Only to pass out and have a fever dream where she’s a pirate, and she has to rescue her best pal, Ivy the Mermaid, from the Joker and his scurvy crew of pirate villains. Dream Harley gets into a swordfight with the Pirate Joker, where the two of them slash their clothes off and start making out. Eventually the ship sinks and Ivy the Mermaid drags Pirate Harley to shore.
Harley eventually wakes up in the hospital, with the real Ivy looking over her. While she was out, the Gang of Harleys tried to ambush Captain Strong, but he defeated them all and took them to his boat, where he plans to murder them! So Harley and Ivy race after them to save the day!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This was a generally fun and entertaining issue of Harley Quinn, which then goes into hyper-awesome mode with that pirate dream! Drawn by guest artist Dougherty, that pirate fantasy is the stuff that Harley Quinn is made out of! It’s gorgeous, hilarious and just a wonderfully good time! The art is so full of life, I almost want an entire issue about Pirate Harley Quinn! Kudos to the creative team for hatching such an adventure!
The rest of the issue is alright. This Captain Strong storyline isn’t really lighting any fires. He’s a Popeye pastiche, we get it. But it hasn’t really been a good showcase for the Gang of Harleys. It’s their first mission together, but they’re largely interchangeable extras, with Harley Quinn still the focus of the book. I’d like to see them get a little more personal attention, with maybe Harley in a mentor role. But for now, this is all still just wacky hijinks, buoyed by that rascally Harley Quinn charm!
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: David Aja
Man oh man, that massive delay in the final issues of Hawkeye really hurt the book’s momentum. If I had the time or energy, I probably should have read the entire series up to this point, but I didn’t, because I’m lazy, lazy man, Roger. Still, the ending delivers, and we can finally put this book to rest.
Maybe it’ll read better when I buy the full Hawkeye compendium or whatever Marvel puts out. I must own this series in trade! Floppies aren’t enough!
Just when it looks like the bad guys are about to get away with their evil schemes, Hawkeye busts in and starts kicking butt and shooting arrows. Then Kate Bishop and Pizza Dog arrive on the scene, and add to the butt-kicking, arrow-shooting quotient. And it’s awesome! There’s an explosion! Then the Clown (the villain) shoots Pizza Dog! Like, what the hell, man?! So Clint tackles him and they beat the crap out of each other, while Kate takes out the leader of the Tracksuit Draculas. Then she helps take out the Clown, who has Clint at gunpoint. Then Clint to takes him out for good using a well-aimed collar stay.
In the end, Barney Barton escapes with all the money, Penny the redhead leaves, Pizza Dog survives and Clint and Kate are awesome.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
When Hawkeye first came out, I was a little skeptical, but the series quickly won me over. In fact, I might go on record as saying Hawkeye is the most important comic book of the decade. With a solid creative team in place, Fraction, Aja and the whole crew told the perfect story of a superhero as a regular person. Their Hawkeye avoided big superheroic events, and instead the comic was about Clint Barton hanging out in his apartment building. The big Iron Man guest spot was all about Tony Stark helping Clint set up his entertainment system. On paper, this might sound boring, but in the comics, this series was transcendent. Everybody is striving to be the new Hawkeye now, and I love it.
No series better exemplifies my defining comic book creed: ‘people first, superheroes second’.
As a final issue, Hawkeye #22 is a little underwhelming, but that’s fine. Like I said, all of the momentum is dead, and I’m sure it’ll read better when it’s all collected. This comic does everything it needs to do. There’s more than a handful of truly epic moments, both Clint and Kate get a couple chances to shine, as does their renewed teamwork, and the bad guys are soundly defeated. The sequences are great, the flow of art and story still work perfectly together, and the final issues delivers everything you could want in a conclusion. There wasn’t as much emotional depth as I would have liked, but perhaps that would have come with better momentum.
Hawkeye as a series is a crowning achievement for Marvel and all of comics. This will easily be one of my favorites for a long, long time.
Writer and Artist: Zander Cannon
I was a little worried last issue that Kaijumax wasn’t going anywhere, that Cannon was just building and building his world, but losing track of all of it. Shows what I know! Issue #4 starts pulling all the divergent threads together, and things are getting ready to explode!
Things start heating up really fast inside the Kaijumax! First, that new monster, Zonn, rapes Electragor in the shower. He’s sent to the infirmary, where he meets a rather kindly nurse, who seems to have an unhealthy interest in monsters. Then Zlook, son of that alien gangster who Gupta works for, overdoses on narcotics. The nurse is called out of the infirmary to help, leaving Electragor to suffer in silence with his pain. The nurse can’t save Zlook, and he dies. Then Zonn shows up, acting all tough, and he and the nurse start making out!
Meanwhile, Whoofy, the son of Ape-Whale, has been meeting with a strange young boy who claims he can ‘dream’ his way onto the island. The young boy tells Whoofy that he should poison his father. And the good guard, Jeong, gets a little too tough with the goat monster who shares a cell with Electragor. Also, the goat monster gets really upset when he sees that somebody attacked his cellmate, but later on, the living volcano tells the goat monster to zip it.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Things are getting insane inside the ‘Max! I hope everybody’s able to keep up. Plots come hard and fast in this issue, weaving together and intersecting in perfect sorts of ways. Cannon took three issues to introduce all of his characters, and now he’s ready to sink his teeth into the drama that’s going to unfold behind prison walls. I love it! Granted, some of that drama includes prison rape, and there’s a lot of pain and blood in these pages, but the juxtaposition of prison brutality and colorful monsters is still hilarious.
Writers: Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters
Artist: Brooke Allen
I love this series so much that I wish I had children just so I could share this comic with them. I’m eyeballing all my friends’ and family’s young children to see if any of them could be gifted the first volume of Lumberjanes. I hope this series becomes a media empire!
Back in the day, Rosie and Abigail were both Lumberjanes, and the crazy Bear Lady was their strict, rules-obsessed scout master. They all went on a hike to Glory Mountain, but Rosie got caught in a rockslide, and Abigail saved her life, even though the Bear Lady had ordered her to run. For disobeying orders (even though she saved a life), Abigail was forced to sleep out in the wilderness, away from camp. Rosie chose to stay at camp too, and this is where Abigail broke bad. She became obsessed with killing Glory Mountain’s greatest monster, the Grootslang.
Now in the present day, the Bear Lady saves Rosie and Jen from Abigail’s cabin, and they reconnect with the Lumbrjanes. Rosie and Bear Lady race up the mountain to try and stop Abigail, while Jen and the girls hop into a jeep and try to get to safety. On the mountain, Abigail uses a lot of dynamite to blow a hole into the Grootslang’s lair, calling the giant monster forth. Bear Lady flees, the girls in the jeep get stuck in an avalanche, and Rosie races up the mountain, determined not to leave Abigail on her own again.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
This is possibly the most badass issue of Lumberjanes yet! Rosie started out as a sort-of mysterious scout master, but in this issue, she’s a mighty warrior. The Lumberjanes themselves are kind of pushed into the background (though they still get some great lines), while Rosie and her history with the camp are pushed to the forefront. I’m more than OK with that, because that’s how world-building works. And even though Abigail is disillusioned and dangerous, Rosie’s desire to stand by her side is heroic and inspirational. I’m excited to see Rosie and Abigail take on the Grootslang!
There is just so much joy and energy in the pages of Lumberjanes. This comic is a wonderful achievement. It’s a happy, friendly comic that isn’t ashamed of themes like friendship and loyalty. The art has always been a little wonky, but it’s a wonkiness that totally works for the comic. Lumberjanes is a world unto itself, and I’m giddy for every little visit I get to make.
Robin: Son of Batman #2
Writer and Artist: Patrick Gleason
I had a lot of hesitations about picking up this comic. As much as I love Robin, I don’t care for Damian, nor do I like the idea of taking Robin out of Gotham City for a weird, mystical adventure. Sure enough, this second issue confirms all my fears.
When Damian was still under his mother’s tutelage, she set him off on the Year of Blood, his last bit of training. His first stop was an ancient temple in South America, where he and a team of assassins stole a magical sword and cut off the head of the temple’s stone guardian.
Now in the present, Damian and Goliath return the giant stone head to make amends. This sets off the guardian into attacking, and soon there’s a big fight between Damian and Goliath, the guardian, the cartels that run the nearby village, and the new Nobody, who makes her presence known. Eventually the villagers see that Damian is on their side, and they set the guardian against the cartels until all the bad guys are dead. When the dust settles, the villagers and guardian forgive Damian, and Nobody tells him that she’ll be working with him from now on.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
The low-ish grade is not a reflection of Gleason’s talent. The man makes great comics, and Robin: Son of Batman is no exception. The writing is a lot of fun, and the art might as well be flawless. If you’re looking for a big adventure with interesting characters, then you should definitely pick up Gleason’s comic.
My problems with Robin: Son of Batman are purely personal. I don’t care for the setting or the overall plot. I couldn’t be more disengaged than to see Robin and his weird red monster friend fighting a giant stone guardian in South America. What does that have to do with anything? What’s the point of any of this? This comic couldn’t be more removed from what I love most about Robin, so I don’t think I’ll be sticking around for much longer.
Secret Six #4
Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Ken Lashley and Tom Derenick
Well what do you know, Secret Six finally got good! I did not see this coming. Split off from the weird opening, and reduced to just characters interacting with one another, Gail Simone finally turns in a Secret Six comic worth reading. A few surprise guest stars definitely help.
Also, if you recall, this issue is out of order. This was supposed to be issue #3, but whatever happened with Ken Lashley’s art nearly derailed this entire comic.
After escaping from Mockingbird in issue #2, the Secret Six gather all their gear and hit the road out of Gotham City, heading to Big Shot’s suburban home — which we saw in issue #3. Mockingbird is still tracking them, however, and he sends three of his agents after them. A fight breaks out once they all arrive at the home, and the three agents are revealed to be Scandal Savage, Jeanette and Ragdoll! So it looks like Gail isn’t abandoning her fan-favorite Sixers after all!
The fight is a stalemate and the bad guys leave cordially. They’re all being blackmailed and coerced by Mockingbird anyway, so there’s no real animosity here. But the three agents don’t think the Secret Six are good enough yet to help them fight back.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
As much as it would have been more fun to see the old Secret Six back together from the beginning, I suppose I can appreciate that Simone is taking a round about way towards that possible goal. Only a few of the new characters are all that interesting, so it’s a blast to see the old team back, especially Ragdoll. Simone has a wonderful handle on that kook.
But fond memories aside, this was an especially enjoyable issue of Secret Six, which is a big change of pace from my usual opinion on this comic. I don’t know what brought about the change, but everything just seemed to click for me this issue. It definitely helps that almost the entire comic is just these characters bantering. They all have solid moments together, there are a lot of strong character moments (like Big Shot and the others immediately accepting that Porcelain is gender fluid), and the dialogue is a lot of fun. I’m especially enjoying the growing friendship between Catman and Strix.
This is the Secret Six I want to see. The characters are strong, their bonds are growing, and the bad guy is finally defined enough to actually matter. Plus Lashley has hopefully been kicked to the curb. His art was good when he actually got it done, but Secret Six will hopefully flourish with another, more confident and stable artist on board.
Silver Surfer #13
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Michael and Laura Allred
For some delightful reason, Silver Surfer gets to exist outside of Secret Wars. Slott has come up with a rather clever storyline that fits with everything he’s written so far about the Sentinel of the Spaceways and his new sidekick.
When Secret Wars destroys the entire Multiverse, the Silver Surfer and Dawn Greenword try and surf the wave of universal destruction to safety. A visit from their future selves points them towards a tear in time and space, and they escape into the world beyond existence. Once there, they meet Glorian, the Maker of Miralces, and his servant, Zee. Glorian fills them in about Secret Wars, Doctor Doom and Battleworld, then tells the Surfer that they’re going to use his Power Cosmic to remake the universe!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This was a very touching, very emotional issue, as the Surfer and Dawn Greenwood race against universal destruction itself and must deal with the death of all of their loved ones. The issue opens with a montage of the pair visiting all of the friends they’ve made along the way so far, then very suddenly, they are thrust into this race against destruction. It’s a jarring moment, and purposefully so. Just when things couldn’t get better for the pair, they are hit with immeasurable drama.
Things get a little weirder once they’re beyond time and space, but I’m willing to see where Slott is going with all of this. He’s been dealt a strange hand with Secret Wars, but like a true pro, he rolls with it and comes up with a great little story that fits both his comic and Secret Wars as a whole. Who knew that Dawn Greenwood would be the last surviving human being in all of traditional time and space?
And the Allreds, of course, draw an amazing book. All the alien landscapes are just perfect, and the emotion as the two try and flee the destruction of the universe is palpable. This creative team is weaving comic book magic.
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 July 18, 2015, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin and tagged Black Canary, Boom!, Damian Wayne, Harley Quinn, Hawkeye, Kaijumax, Lumberjanes, Oni Press, Robin: Son of Batman, Secret Six, Silver Surfer. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.