Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 8/15/15

I am very pleased to announce that the first two issues of Gamer Girl & Vixen are done! We’ll be sending them off to the printers soon, so anyone who ordered a copy through our Kickstarter will get them this fall. But we’re also going to be offering the digital issues online in this upcoming week! I can’t wait until people are actually reading my comic!

As for regular comics, we’ve got a bunch of winners this week, from Superman to Batman to Starfire!

Comic Book of the Week goes to Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, yet again. I’m like a broken record at this point. I want to give other books a chance, but nothing touches me like Squirrel Girl these days!

I will never be able to say the word ‘nuts’ the same way again

Over at Word of the Nerd, I continue my coverage with Secret Wars #5. We’re past the halfway mark of this big series, but for some reason, writer Jonathan Hickman decided to take a breather to remind people of some of the backstory. Odd choice.

Comic Reviews: Action Comics #43, Batman #43, Gotham Academy #9, Starfire #3 and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #8.

Action Comics #43

Action Comics #43
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Aaron Kuder

I’m so glad I started picking up Pak’s Action Comics again. This new, de-powered Superman is making for one exciting and interesting protagonist. Of course, I’ve rarely read any Superman comics, so maybe stuff like this has been done before, but it’s new to me! And it’s great!

The evil cop that Clark angrily punched last issue turns out to be a shadow monster, and Clark must team up with his neighbors and the good cops to put the monster down. Clark wants to do it all himself, but since he’s weakened, he could definitely use a hand. In the end, the bad guy slips away while the block recovers. Clark returns home and discovers that somebody broke into and trashed his apartment, but at least he’s able to salvage a picture of his parents. Then he gives a big speech to the denizens of his block about how they all have to stand up and help defend each other, how they’re all Superman now, and it goes over quite well.

Meanwhile, the mayor is interviewing police officers to see if any of them were in cahoots with the evil cop, Binghamtom. She finds one, Petruzelli, who was friends with Binghamtom and supports him completely, even if he was a shadow monster. The mayor then reveals that she too is a shadow monster, but Petruzelli doesn’t go for that and she flees the room, shooting. Superman and his allies arrive at City Hall in time to help out!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

I was a little disappointed that Binghamton turned out to be a shadow monster. That seemed too easy of a solution to the great moral dilemma of an asshole cop getting all up in Superman’s grill. There are asshole cops out there, including cops who would order their SWAT teams to attack unarmed civilians. Why not actually have Superman deal with that?

Even still, this is a great issue for how it shapes and contextualizes this de-powered Superman. He’s still a superhero, he’s still got some strength and speed, but he’s no longer the nigh-omnipotent Superman. He can’t solve all his problems with a flick of his wrist anymore. He’s got to get down and dirty, he’s got to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with regular, average people, and it makes for a great read! This still feels like Superman, but it’s grounded and a little gritty. His new ‘jeans & t-shirt’ costume definitely helps get that across, and I’m loving it. Pak and Kuder are doing a great job with this Superman-of-the-people take on the character!

Batman #43

Batman #43
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo

Not for one sweet second did I believe that Bruce Wayne was really dead in End Game (or the Joker, for that matter). But I am a little surprised at how quickly Snyder has brought him back. This issue delves into the new Bruce Wayne, and I suppose it could be interesting going forward.

At the end of last issue, Jim Gordon confronted Bruce Wayne to get help with being the new Batman. This issue reveals that Jim went to Bruce because of Batman Incorporated, back when Wayne publicly announced that he was funding Batman. But now Bruce is a changed man and declines to help Gordon.

The rest of the issue is then spent with Alfred explaining to Superman how Bruce came back from the dead a changed man. After his battle with the Joker in End Game, Alfred believes that Bruce took a bath in that Lazarus Pit and was not only revived, but he was ‘cured’ of all the darkness that haunted his mind. Bruce Wayne is now the man he would have become had Batman never darkened his life. He’s chipper, friendly, and he’s working with Julie Madison at the children’s center. They’re also totally knockin’ boots, as the kids are calling it these days.

Speaking of the children’s center, Duke Thomas is still there, and he peeks in on some of the evidence of Mr. Bloom that Gordon brought along with him.

Speaking of that evidence, Gordon ditches his robo-suit and uses just his Batman costume to sneak into the hideout of the Chinese gangsters to investigate their connections to Mr. Bloom. Instead, he gets ambushed by a gang of baddies, and he has to use a bat-fletchlette-firing gun to take them out. But they trick Gordon and drop him into a furnace!

Speaking of Bloom, we get a good look at him in this issue as he bestows his power-seeds on people. He has a meeting with the Penguin, but says that Penguin isn’t part of the plan. Ever the businessman, Penguin shoots Bloom dead…only for Bloom to turn into some kind of spindly monster and stab Penguin through the torso.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Like I said, this issue is mostly Snyder explaining how Bruce Wayne came back, and he does it in a way that he really, really wants to convince us that it works. Like he thought up this really neat idea — “What if Bruce came back just fine, without his memories of being Batman” — and he wants really, really badly to get us on board. I understand. Comic book fans are a dangerously fickle lot. But Snyder just goes all out. He brings in Clark Kent for a guest appearance, has Alfred whip out a Kryptonite ring to get his point across, and really just goes on and on setting up Bruce Wayne’s new status quo.

(There’s also a moment where Alfred shows Superman a cloning machine that Bruce was working on to clone himself, and I HATE that line of storytelling. I hated it in Batman Beyond and I’d hate it in real comics. Nobody needs to clone Bruce Wayne to carry on his legacy! Gah!)

But don’t worry, Scott Snyder, you had me at ‘hello’.

Couple’a cool guys, just cruisin’ around

If you needed convincing, I hope this issue did its part. Snyder is playing with some interesting ideas here, and I’m eager to see where he goes with them. I think we can all agree that this new status quo isn’t going to last, and that Bruce Wayne will return as Batman before too long. But for now, I want to see what he can do with all these new ideas (and I personally love that Snyder still gets to play with Duke Thomas! I would love it if Duke got to be this series’ Robin character during all of this status quo shifting).

Gordon’s fight against the gangsters was pretty cool. When he reached for the handgun, I got excited, because Jim Gordon should be totally willing to use a firearm, even as Batman. But then when it started firing mini bat-fletchlettes, I kind of rolled my eyes. Talk about silly. Still, Snyder’s Gordon/Batman is a fun guy, so it was cool to read.

Pew! Pew! Pew!

The nooks and crannies of the issue involve the spooky introduction of Mr. Bloom. Snyder went with the classic — and boring — approach of having the new villain immediately take out a more established villain to prove his badassery. Yawn. Mr. Bloom has a great look and a spooky style. He should be able to stand on his own. Plus the fact that he’s also some kind of monster doesn’t interest me much. Batman’s best villains got that way because they’re still human.

Gotham Academy #9

Gotham Academy #9
Writers: Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher
Artist: Karl Kerschel

Gotham Academy launches itself back into awesomeness with this issue, going full-steam ahead with the Secret Detective Club! The kids are working together, they’ve got a monster on the loose, and it’s time for everybody to be awesome (especially Maps!).

Maps and the Secret Detective Club are hunting the werewolf that attacked Tristan. Colton reveals himself to be a bit of a scientist, and he starts working with Doctor Langstrom to come up with a cure. Pom uses her knowledge of the occult to get everybody up to speed on werewolves. And Maps comes up with an awesome plan to capture the werewolf in the gym — but Colton’s cure gun works just fine, and they save Coach Humphreys from the werewolf curse.

Meanwhile, someone slips Olive her school entry paperwork, and she finds out that she was placed in the school to be watched, because her mom was a costumed villain named Calamity. There’s also someone posing as Calamity working on the school play who’s trying to get Olive to use her powers in dangerous ways (or at least that’s what I think is happening).

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

The Olive stuff was pretty confusing, especially the ending. I’m not entirely sure who this person is in the play. But fortunately, everything else in this issue was a blast! Maps remains an amazing, adorable sort of person (I’m not afraid to say adorkable!). And her enthusiasm at having this group of friends solve mysteries and fight monsters together is just great.

Hey everybody, remember LOLcats?

Of course, it’s entirely possible that I’m just falling for the latest trend in characters. Maps is similar to Squirrel Girl is similar to Kamala Khan; but hey, I’m free to like what I like! She makes the issue a lot of fun as our heroes fight a werewolf and team up with a Man-Bat. That’s good Gotham adventure! Some part of me would kind of like to see this series focus on the actual ‘academy’ part of the title, but this team of teen monster hunters is fun too.

Starfire #3

Starfire #3
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Emanuela Lupacchino

Three issues in, and I still haven’t really connected with the main character. The Starfire in this comic is just too naive and foolish to be taken seriously. She doesn’t know what a pineapple is! Or how to eat a watermelon! She was a badass warrior before coming to Earth, but she doesn’t know that some fruit has a rind? Or is too big to just pick up and eat?

I guess I understand that Conner and Palmiotti are remaking Starfire, to an extent, I guess it just hasn’t clicked for me yet. This series needs a stronger foundation.

Following the hurricane, a dangerous man named Soren Hook is rescued from his capsized ship by a passing cruise ship. But he’s a bad guy, and he kills everybody on board. Meanwhile, Starfire is helping people clean up, and moving into her new apartment with Stella and her brother. She’s still very naive about paying rent, buying groceries and having cats. Eventually, the cruise ship from before crashes into the docks, and Starfire joins Stella in investigating. They find the bodies, and a crewman who hid in a closet, but there’s no sign of Hook.

Stella tells Starfire to go wait at a nearby diner until she needs the heroine, and Starfire heads out to get something to eat and drink. All the guys at the bar buy her a drink, and the friendly waitress gives Starfire a crash course in human mating rituals.

Then that giant red monster from the previous issue attacks the diner — and it turns out here’s there for the waitress, who turns out to be Atlee, a new Terra from Conner and Palmiotti’s pre-reboot Power Girl series!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I don’t know if I can pinpoint where the disconnect really is for Starfire. The art seems to imply this will be a somewhat realistic series, with detailed, normal-looking characters. I love that kind of art. But the story is a little silly. Not cartoon-silly, just fun silly. Like Starfire needing to be lectured on what it means when a man buys you a drink in a bar. Or the series’ artistic trademark: an Amelia Bedelia-like series of thought balloons where Starfire takes certain phrases literally (for example, she imagines that a ‘pineapple’ is an apple with a pine tree growing out of it). On the one hand, it’s a bit funny. But on the other hand, she sometimes comes off as a clueless idiot.

Liquids and powders confuse her!

Though I have no idea why I’m so concerned about comparing her to her Red Hood and the Outlaws version. Everybody hated that Starfire and I stopped reading after a handful of issues. Why can’t I just embrace this new Starfire? She’s friendly, nice and a little dopey, but with a good heart and an eagerness to fit in with Earth’s culture. She should be quite likable, but something just isn’t clicking for me. Her friendship with Stella remains weird, in that Conner and Palmiotti just haven’t laid the groundwork for the two of them. But the story is slowly growing and building, I just need to get on board.

This issue is mostly fine, as far as comics go. The art is great, like I said, and the rest hums along nicely. I just don’t think Conner and Palmiotti have laid a strong enough foundation for this series yet, but I’m also not sure what else they could do.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #8

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #8
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Erica Henderson

This comic is flippin’ hilarious, and I don’t know why more people aren’t reading. Every page brings new laughs and hilarious little moments. This is the funniest comic I have ever read. It’s just so good, people!

On Asgard, Nancy works with Thor and the Odison to figure out how Ratatoskr, the evil Norse squirrel, escaped her cage. Loki shows up and reveals that one of his past evil plans involved Ratatoskr, so he’s kinda, maybe, sorta responsible? Maybe? But now he wants to help, and they all start brainstorming a plan — while Loki transforms himself into Cat Thor to please Nancy and annoy his brother. It’s amazing.

On Midgard, Squirrel Girl does what she can to keep Ratatoskr at bay, including using Spider-Man’s web-shooters to have some fun. Eventually, she’s captured, but then Nancy and the Asgardians show up, and together they use ear plugs to save everybody from Ratatoskr’s mind control. Squirrel Girl delivers a big speech to try and get everybody to return to normal, but it’s only when Loki uses the Rainbow Bridge to send Ratatoskr back to Asgard that the day is truly saved.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Even when Squirrel Girl isn’t in the scene, North and Henderson are hilarious! There may be nothing funnier this year than when Loki popped into this comic and turned himself into Cat Thor at Nancy Whitehead’s excited suggestion!

And then North found a way to make it even funnier!

It’s pure genius! Couple that with Squirrel Girl having an awesome face off with an evil Norse squirrel (who is very real!), and you’ve got a great little comic here. The characters are fully-developed, complete with hopes, fears, dreams and courage. North has just as much fun with established characters, like Thor and Loki, as he does with his babies from this series. And Henderson has so much fun drawing the characters. I know a lot of people don’t like her art for some reason, but it’s perfect for this series! Their Squirrel Girl is the best she’s ever been!

North and Henderson are having a blast, and it shows through on every page. They’re just going nuts, and I love it, and I can’t wait for the relaunch in a few months.

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 August 15, 2015, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Superman and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Squirrel Girl is amazing. It’s so hilarious. How is there anyone out there not reading this book? Cat Thor! Loki in full troll mode! Spider-Squirrel theme song! CAT THOR GUYS!

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