Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 7/25/15
Only one week until Boston Comic-Con! That’s my first comic-con of the season, where I’ll be shaking hands and kissing babies in the name of Gamer Girl & Vixen! Anybody else going? I could buy you a hot dog!
As for comics this week, we’ve got some good ones! Cyborg #1 makes its big debut at DC comics, though it’s about four years late. Still, it looks like a good start, though I would have liked more. I also checked out the first issue of Kate Leth’s Power Up and was equally wishing she’d gone just a bit further in her debut issue. Alas.
As for really good comics, we’ve got new issues of Spider-Woman and We Are Robin, both of which are sizzling. And the new issue of Uncanny X-Men is a Goldballs spotlight issue! I’m beside myself with glee.
Comic Book of the Week, however, goes to Grayson #10 for its downright gorgeous artwork and fun style!
Artist Mikel Janin is going place! Heck, I’m not even sure why DC is keeping him on Grayson when he could be drawing Wonder Woman, Superman or anything else!
Comic Reviews: Cyborg #1, Grayson #10, Power Up #1, Prez #2, Spider-Woman #9, Uncanny X-Men #35 and We Are Robin #2.
Writer: David F. Walker
Artist: Ivan Reis
I think we were all a little confused when Cyborg didn’t get his own solo series at the start of the New 52. DC went to all the trouble of retconning Cyborg into a founding member of the Justice League, yet he was the only one without his own book — and it stayed that way for the entire length of the New 52. Weird. Well now DC is apparently going to fix that mistake.
Following a recent battle in which he died, Cyborg’s mechanical parts have once again undergone an upgrade, and this one is a little more mysterious than the last. So he goes to visit his dad at S.T.A.R. Labs to try and figure out his new equipment, but his dad and the other scientists immediately switch to ‘science mode’ and start focusing more on the tech than on helping Vic. This reminds our hero of his childhood, when his parents used to fight about him, which made him feel invisible. So he goes to hang out with an old lab friend of his, who just happens to be a cute, young scientist who appreciates the real him. The two head off to get a coffee, and bump into an old football colleague of Vic’s, who joins them.
Meanwhile, out in deep space, some technology-based aliens are fighting, and they’re probably coming for Cyborg next.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
This was a fine comic, but it’s a little stuck in recent continuity, much to its detriment. I don’t know anything about Cyborg’s recent history, nor do I really care. But this first issue’s Cyborg scenes deal almost exclusively with how recent events from other comics are effecting him. He’s got a tech upgrade, but it doesn’t look all that different from his old tech. He still looks like regular old Cyborg. And the issue is spent with Vic standing around in a lab while scientists ooh and aah over the vague technical mumbo jumbo. There were far, far better ways to introduce Cyborg and his new tech in a debut issue, maybe something with a little more action and intrigue. Instead, this fails the basic ‘show, don’t tell’ test.
The generic alien war subplot doesn’t help either. Nor does the painfully obvious love interest. Has she ever appeared before? Does anybody remember?
At least the art is fantastic. Ivan Reis does a great job with all the technological detail and power, filling the pages with gadgets and vivid imagery. The art is detailed, the characters are expressive, and the aliens, while boring, are definitely strange and fearsome. The art could really carry this comic, but unless you’re already a huge Cyborg fan, there’s not much to latch onto for new, curious readers. Walker just doesn’t do anything interesting with his main character in the first issue. There’s some solid characterization, and the inner monologue is fine, but Cyborg doesn’t really do anything in his new comic.
Writers: Tim Seeley and Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
I realized something rather fun while reading the latest issue of Grayson: This comic is a really, really great showcase for Dick Grayson. I know that sounds obvious, but even after everything he did with Nightwing, there’s just something so freeing, so joyful and energetic, that this comic feels like where Dick Grayson has always belonged.
Spyral Agent Grayson has just stolen a piece of kryptonite jewelry from a Spanish princess, but Spyral Director, Helena Bertinelli, believes that Dick’s partner, Agent 1, is a rogue agent. So she orders Dick to betray him and leave Agent 1 for the police. When Agent 1 fights his way free from the police, he radios Bertinelli because he thinks that Grayson is the rogue agent. Helena tells Agent 1 only what he needs to know, and she sends him on a new mission into the catacombs beneath Rome.
Meanwhile, Dick Grayson goes to Corsica to drop-off the kryponite, only to find out that Lex Luthor is the client! Dick isn’t about to hand over kryptonite to Luthor, but Luthor helped build some of the Spyral-tech inside Grayson, so he has a bit of control over our hero. Dick still fights back and makes his escape with dashing appeal!
Dick gets into his jet and leaves the area, lamenting that he still can’t get ahold of Batman. But if his mentor was there, he’d tell Dick not to leave his partner behind. So Dick joins Agent 1 in the catacombs.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
This is just a fun, gorgeous comic that shows off everything that’s so appealing about Grayson. Dick is funny, he’s fun, he’s charming and dashing. In the face of Lex Luthor, he’s all smirks and heroics. In the face of betrayal, he decides to give Agent 1 the benefit of the doubt. He’s a world class hero, and especially in that scene with one of DC’s biggest bad guys, Dick Grayson really feels like he not only belongs in the DCU, but has earned his place.
And enough cannot be said about the art in this issue, it’s positively gorgeous. Grayson might have the best art in comics right now. Just take a look at this page as Dick Grayson escapes Lex Luthor.
Janin is doing one hell of a job on this series. This is the kind of art that gets you noticed and gets you bigger and better gigs. If Grayson #10 doesn’t make Janin a bigger star, nothing will.
Power Up #1
Writer: Kate Leth
Artist: Matt Cummings
From the publisher of Lumberjanes, and the creative mind behind Kate or Die!, comes Power Up, the newest cutesy superhero comic book to hit the stands! Considering these are some of my favorite comics these days, I decided to pick up a copy and see how the new series stacks up.
Unfortunately, I must be Shania Twain, because that don’t impress me much!
A pleasant young woman named Amie works at a pet shop, is friends with her neighborhood shopkeeper, has a pet hedgehog, and a crazy boss. One day, while minding the store, a big flash of light hits both Amie and a nearby goldfish. Then a strange void monster in a suit busts in speaking a strange alien language. Amie fights back and discovers that not only does she have fancy powers, but so too does the goldfish! The pair fight back and vanquish the void monster.
Amie’s boss returns and is grateful that the money is still in the register. Then news cameras show up so quickly that you’d swear they were just around the corner. Amie is interviewed on the news, but her boss downplays everything so heavily that Amie begins to doubt that she saw what she saw. But two other local superheroes watch the news broadcast with interest!
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
This is a fine comic, with a lot of energy and creativity behind it. Don’t go thinking I didn’t like Power Up. It’s just…I dunno, I guess I expected so much more. This first issue is really all set up. It’s fun, adorable set up, but it’s just not very strong. Leth does a great job establishing Amie and her boss, but then doesn’t really take them anywhere. There’s no real hook in the writing to keep me coming back for more. We only get a few short scenes of the other major characters, and those scenes have me curious, but I feel this issue would have been stronger had Leth put them all together sooner.
As it stands, the issue is mostly about a fight with a monster, and that’s where the art just doesn’t hold up. It’s fun, colorful art, don’t get me wrong. And it works perfectly for the quieter scenes. But Cummings loses control of the action during the fight scene. I wasn’t sure what the heck was even going on, and that killed the story. For example, Amie develops some kind of electricity power, but she only uses it in a single, small panel at the bottom of a page. I wasn’t even aware that anything had happened the first time I read the scene, and didn’t know her hands had shocking electricity powers until she mentioned it at the end of the comic. I had to go back and find it, and even then I wasn’t sure what I was seeing.
Power Up #1 is an OK start to this mini-series, but for me, it just doesn’t go far enough. The characters seem fun, and the world seems cool, but Leth and Cummings lost me during the big fight scene and then didn’t really stick the landing.
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Ben Caldwell
I love The Daily Show as much as the next guy, but that doesn’t mean I’m a master of satire. Russell is playing fast and loose with the stuff in Prez, and while it’s a hoot, I do worry that I’m missing everything. Still, he’s got a fun little comic going here.
After the general election ended in a tie last issue, the vote for the next president goes to Congress, who are also deadlocked between the two legit candidates. So the politicians get to work making backroom deals, trying to sway enough votes to either side. It’s rampant, out in the open and entirely corrupt. Each state gets one vote, and the states start switching their votes to unlikely candidate Corndog Girl in order to squeeze better deals out of the legit candidates. But this strategy backfires when too many of the states switch, and Corndog Girl is elected President of the United States!
Corndog Girl, otherwise known as Beth Ross, has just lost her father to cancer in a rather touching scene. She just wanted all this publicity to blow over, but now she’s swamped by reporters at her father’s grave. She’s rescued by Preston Ricard, a new version of the star of the original Prez comic, and he volunteers to be her vice president to help her through the mire of politics.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Sometimes Prez gets a little too weird for its own good, and I’m not sure why. There’s an extended sequence where Beth invites a pair of missionaries into her home and they go into a big, multi-page spiel about how they are based on some religion that worships viruses, which they view as God’s new chosen race. It doesn’t have anything to do with anything, at least not yet, and it’s not alone in zany weirdness for the sake of zany weirdness.
Fortunately, the satire is spot on. The corrupt members of Congress talk about the deals they’re getting like gossipy teenage girls. And there’s a touching scene between Beth and her father as he passes away, surrounded by the weirdness of future medicine. So parts of Prez are really good, but other parts are kind of weird and off-kilter. The ending is even stranger, with Preston Ricard showing up in a helicopter to swoop Beth out of harm’s way. And it’s a little disappointing that we’ll have to wait until issue #3 at the earliest to actually see the teenage president in action, but I suppose Russell is biding his time.
Another disappointment is Caldwell’s art. It’s normally stellar, but there are obvious signs of rushed artwork in Prez #2. Characters and pages get a little sloppy, especially towards the end, and that’s a damn shame at only the second issue.
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Javier Rodriguez
It’s good to see a fun comic like Spider-Woman putting out more issues in the midst of Secret Wars. Hopeless and Marvel could have easily stopped after the last issue, but here we are, so let’s dive right in!
Spider-Woman and Ben Urich have decided to take his open case files and head out on a cross-country road trip to solve them — despite the fact that he’s the editor-in-chief of a major New York newspaper and has a wife. Is he taking some vacation time here? Anyway, Ben lets the Porcupine tag along, much to Jessica’s displeasure.
The next few pages are a montage of fun, wacky adventures, where Spider-Woman beats up some bad guys and the Porcupine is less than worthless. She gets so upset at him that she orders him to stay in the car from now on, so Pocupine is the one driving through the midwest while the other two catch up on their sleep. Porcupine sees a sign for Dodge City and, recalling his childhood love of cowboys, drives them to the tourist trap. But it turns out that Dodge City is run by some kind of supernatural cowboy gangster, who takes them all prisoner when he sees an Avenger suddenly on his turf.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This issue was a blast! Hopeless has put together a really weird, really neat little cast here, and he sends them on some truly enjoyable adventures. I wish I could post that entire montage for you, because it’s not only a lot of fun, but a great showcase of Rodriguez on art. Honestly, if this Spider-Woman series hadn’t started with that terrible Greg Land Spider-Verse tie-in, I bet this comic would be way more popular. Hopeless and Rodriguez are having a ton of fun with this series, and that’s what I like to see in comics.
Uncanny X-Men #35
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Valerio Schiti
For reasons that have not yet been revealed, Bendis’ X-Men finale, Uncanny X-Men #600, has been delayed until October. And since Bendis is waiting to wrap up all of his storylines in that historic issue, all the comics leading up to October have essentially been running out the clock, to varying degrees of success.
That’s how we get an issue like this one, which is essentially just a silly little wrap-up for all the new X-students that Bendis created. Part of me is thrilled, because this is the Goldballs spotlight issue I’ve been waiting for. But another part of me can see how much of a throwaway this issue really is.
The last time we saw the students, Hijack was convincing them that they could do something other than just being X-Men. Turns out that ‘something other’ is just being normal superheroes, while still wearing their X-Men uniforms. They go out and stop an evil mutant, and Goldballs becomes a Youtube sensation almost instantly. Soon he’s gracing the cover of magazines, appearing on The Today Show, and is the talk of the whole world. The kids are living the good life, defeating super-villains and reaping all the rewards of celebrity!
Until it slips that Goldballs is a mutant, because apparently that was being kept a secret(??). Once people know he’s a mutant, they turn on him, and an angry mob greets them after their next supervillain battle. One of them hurls a bottle at Goldballs and a shard of glass cuts into his neck, with blood spurting everywhere! Triage rushes to heal him while the Cuckoos attack the mob and the cops. Hijack manage to calm everything down enough to escape, and the heroes show up sheepishly on the front door of the Jean Grey School, having realized that they’re not quite ready to face a public that hates and fears them.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
So first thing’s first, I love Goldballs, and if this is his last ever appearance, I suppose I can be happy with that. Bendis has all of the fun with the character that he never got to have when the series focused on Cyclops. I can respect that. The character is inherently silly, but he totally works in the context of the X-Men. There have been weirder mutant powers. So all of that was a total blast, but I also feel that Bendis went a little over the top. Magazine covers and TV show appearances for a random new superhero? Is that how it works in the Marvel Universe? And Goldballs kept it a secret that he was a mutant this whole time? Both he and his teammates are dressed in X-Men uniforms still!
But Bendis sticks the landing. All of this silliness is juxtaposed in an instant with the vicious, deadly glass bottle to the neck. Everything changes on a dime, and it reinforces the danger of being a mutant in the Marvel Universe. Though personally, I don’t think it’s been portrayed as this violent in a long time. But hey, Bendis is going for something here, and I can give him that at least. It’s a powerful moment and a lesson learned for these young heroes — and expertly drawn, I must say. The sense of dread and horror completely changes the comic thanks to Schiti.
Sadly, there’s no telling if we’ll ever see any of these characters again. That’s just how the X-books work. So who knows if these lessons will really matter in the long run.
We Are Robin #2
Writer: Lee Bermejo
Artists: Jorge Corona and Rob Haynes
My favorite new DC comic is still going strong in its second issue. We Are Robin hasn’t achieved the creative heights of the new Batgirl, but it’s solid storytelling with a very interesting premise. That’s good enough for me!
Duke Thomas and the Gang of Robins fight their way out of the sewer society, though Duke is injured in the process. Once they reach the streets, the Robins’ mysterious benefactor tells them to leave Duke and flee. The benefactor then soon arrives, under the guise of a police investigator, and he treats Duke’s injuries and quizzes him about the bombs that the bad guys have set around the city. He offers Duke the chance to help, but Duke doesn’t trust police. So the guy leaves and lets Duke decide for himself whether he’s going to just go home or pick up the Robin gear and help out.
Sure enough, Duke takes the gear, and he joins the Robins on a nearby rooftop. Their benefactor leads them towards one of the bombs, and the Robins head inside to find it and save the day!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
We Are Robin #2 continues what the first issue started, this time fleshing out the Gang of Robins and their whole operation. Duke Thomas is still the lead, and he still narrates the comic, and all of that is solid, but this issue is all about filling in more blanks. We start to learn the names and personalities of the other Robins, as well as the fact that they all think their mysterious benefactor is Batman (yeah, that’s gonna come back to bite them). We see how they operate, we learn a bit more about this benefactor, and we see Duke Thomas suit up to try and help save the city. It’s all solid and it’s all fun.
The art, likewise, remains a real treat. It’s energetic and youthful, keeping the action flowing without losing control of the characters involved. Corona does a great job. Hopefully future issues can delve even deeper into the lives and personalities of our cast, flesh them out into real people with real lives and purpose. We’re only two issues in, so there’s still plenty of time to flesh everything out. We’re off to a good start.
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 25, 2015, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, X-Men and tagged Cyborg, Dick Grayson, Duke Thomas, Goldballs, Grayson, Kate Leth, Nightwing, Power Up, Prez, Spider-Woman, Uncanny X-Men, We Are Robin. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.