Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 8/29/15
I don’t know why this happens, but it always seems like my favorite comics all come out in the same week. It’s a nightmare for the wallet but a celebration for reading! This week, we’ve got new issues of Ant-Man, Spider-Woman, Lumberjanes, Grayson, We Are Robin, Harley Quinn and more! It’s great!
Comic Book of the Week goes to Batgirl #43 for another nearly perfect issue. Batgirl is everything I could possibly want from a superhero comic these days, and the creative team pulls it off so effortlessly.
I hope DC keeps this team and this direction around for a long time to come.
Comic Reviews: Last Days of Ant-Man #1, Batgirl #43, Cyborg #2, Grayson #11, Harley Quinn #19, Justice League of America #3, Lumberjanes #17, Ninjak #6, Spider-Woman #10 and We Are Robin #3.
Last Days of Ant-Man #1
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Ramon Rosanas
Ant-Man has been one of my favorite comics over the past year. It’s a fun, enjoyable series riding the wave of popularity of the movie; definitely one of Marvel’s best efforts in that regard. And I’m just as excited to see it’s return in the All-New, All-Different Marvel. But until then, Spencer and Rosanas give us a nice little farewell issue.
Scott meets with his financier, Mary Morgenstern, at the retirement home that she runs in Miami. Since his security agency is kind of a bust, and since she paid him a lot of money, she has Ant-Man sneak onto the yacht of a local crime boss known as the Slug, so that he can steal back an Asgardian amulet for Mary. The plan goes off with a fun action scene and some witty one-liners, and when he returns the amulet to Mary, he’s shocked to discover that she is really Miss Patriot, a superhero from the Golden Age. In fact, the whole retirement home is filled with old heroes from the 40s and 50s, and Mary uses the amulet to give them all one more day of youth so they can go out and have some superhero fun.
Mary then reveals that she can see the future, and he knows that Secret Wars is coming to end the world. She warns Scott that he only has one day left to live. Scott immediately tries to see his daughter, but it’s the middle of the night, she’s away on a school trip, and his ex-wife shuts him down. So he goes to a bar to get drunk and runs into the new Beetle. He tries to arrest her, but she instead convinces him that it would be a lot more fun to spend their last night on Earth getting laid.
The next morning in bed, while the Beetle is telling Scott that he was OK and she was the best he’s ever had, the world ends.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This was another fun issue of Ant-Man, with Spencer clearly having some fun on this ‘final’ story before the end of the world. He solves the mystery of Mary Morgenstern, celebrates some Golden Age heroes, and introduces a dalliance between Ant-Man and one of his pet characters, the new Beetle. I love it when writers pluck random characters from obscurity and shape them into something better. The new Beetle was first introduced by Ed Brubacker when he was writing Captain America. She was just a random henchperson. But Spencer has been having a lot of fun with her in the past few years, and I think she’d be a neat supporting character in Scott’s life when his series comes back.
As always, Scott Lang is the star of this series, and Spencer still does a great job with the character. He uses Mary to talk up Scott’s accomplishments as a hero, helping the little guy to appreciate all he’s done with his life. We get some great action in Scott’s escape from the Slug’s yacht, as well as some nicely peppered one-liners. This is just another quality issue of this great series, and Spencer seems more than ready to dive into the relaunch in a few months.
Writers: Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart
Artists: Babs Tarr and Juan Castro
It’s always a good week when a new issue of Batgirl comes out. This is probably my favorite DC Comic at the moment. This is the sort of comic I aspire to make myself someday.
Random tigers are attacking young programmers at all the hottest tech start-ups in Burnside, including Foxtek. The bad guys are using the employee IDs of Burnside College students, including Batgirl’s friend and ally, Qadir. Batgirl is on the case, but she’s also juggling bridesmaid duties for her friend Alysia’s wedding, and she’s got to deal with the fact that Frankie wants to get out in the field more and more to help out. In fact, at one point, she steals Babs’ Batgirl cowl and does a little footwork herself.
In the end, Frankie’s investigation reveals that the only connection between the Burnside students is Babs’ friend Jeremy, but Babs doesn’t believe it. And Alysia’s fiancee, Jo, is connected to the tigers! Their activist group intercepted the tigers on their way to a private zoo, but somebody else has been setting them free to attack programmers. Jo decides to just let the tigers go rather then let them fall into the wrong hands, but she’s captured by the villainous Velvet Tiger!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
This issue of Batgirl has everything I could want in a comic book. It’s got a great superhero story, with random tigers attacking start-up tech companies in Burnside. With Batgirl on the case, she has to collect evidence, follow clues and actually figure out what’s going on. There’s a mystery to solve! Beyond that, Fletcher and Stewart spend a lot of time focusing on her personal life too. Babs is a bridesmaid, and that’s a lot of responsibility. She’s got a great supporting cast, and the creative team uses them well. They’re even part of the main story, with Qadir, Jeremy, Frankie and Alysia’s fiancee all wrapped up in the tiger storyline. The team balances Babs’ personal and superhero lives almost flawlessly.
I’ve said it plenty of times before, and I’ll say it again: my personal mantra for writing superhero comics is “People first, superheroes second”, and Batgirl is a near perfect example of that. This is a comic about Barbara Gordon, and her personal life is just as important as the latest superhero adventure. That said adventure involves mysterious tigers is icing on the cake, and a great example for how fun and creative this team can be. Mysterious tigers! Come on! That’s just plain cool!
Writer: David F. Walker
Artist: Ivan Reis
We’re back with the second issue of Cyborg, a worthwhile attempt to give this character his own ongoing series. DC has definitely stacked the deck in Cyborg’s favor, with Ivan Reis doing an amazing job on art! But writer David F. Walker hasn’t won me over yet, not completely.
The weird alien monsters from last issue are tracking Cyborg’s new technology across dimensions, and he’s having dreams about them. But he takes his mind off that by visiting with his father and friends, doing his best to try and study his new tech, while also being a makeshift role model to his fans. He’s not doing so well on either front. One of his buddies then reveals to Vic that cybernetics have become pretty popular, and there are a bunch of back alley cybernetics labs in the city that give disabled people robot parts — and the weird alien monsters are using those people as a staging point for their invasion!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Walker has more than a few good ideas stewing in this new Cyborg series. He’s got a great handle on the main character. His Victor Stone is solid and cool, a stand-up guy who’s just trying to deal, while still excited and giddy about his powers. He’s definitely a fun guy and a strong hero, and more focus on Victor would be great for the series. Likewise, I love the idea of cybernetics being a big thing in the real world, including Congress weighing in on the issue. I think that’d be a great problem for Cyborg to tackle.
But then there’s this crazy inter-dimensional alien storyline that causes my brain to shut down. Cyborg #2 jumps around a lot, making the issue a little jarring. And every time they jump back to the aliens, or the heroes who are fighting the aliens, the issue loses me. Walker just doesn’t do a good job of explaining what’s happening, who anybody is, why they want Cyborg specifically, and what the danger is. Maybe Walker has everything figured out in his head, but he’s not doing a very good job explaining this alien invasion thing on the page.
Writers: Tom King and Tim Seeley
Artist: Mikel Janin
Big changes are soon in store for Grayson, and I like the sound of that. But first, we have a fun little issues with a focus on fighting and character exploration. Dick Grayson has his fill of the spy business when one baddie gets a little too deep into his head.
The evil spy who has been killing people on Dick Grayson’s missions turns out to be an evil clone of Dick Grayson, who ambushes Agent 1 in the catacombs. But the real Dick Grayson shows up and battles his evil doppelganger, with as many taunts as blows to the head. But the evil Dick seems to know everything about him, and uses that knowledge to mess with his head, and it’s enough to deliver the knockout blow. But Agent 1 wakes up and claws the hypnos implants out of his eyes, allowing him to see that the evil Dick Grayson is actually his former partner, Agent 8! But she’s dead!
Dick and Agent 1 return to Helena to report what happened, and Agent 1 lies and says that it was Maxwell Lord who attacked them. Turns out, he’s working with Agent 8, who is working with Agent Zero who is working with Doctor Netz. They all teamed up to drive Dick Grayson out of Spyral, and it worked. Dick tells Helena that he quits. He’s going home!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I hope this definitely marks the end of the ‘Dick Grayson is dead’ storyline. I know that Grayson, the series, will continue. But there really hasn’t been any good reason for him to keep pretending he’s dead, especially to his loved ones. And now that Bruce Wayne is ‘dead’, Dick definitely needs to come back to the fold. Maybe this series will finally answer the burning question of why Dick Grayson doesn’t take up the cowl once again. Will he be comfortable with Robo-Batman holding down the fort?
Either way, this was another solid issue. The creative team has such a solid grasp of their main character that every little scene is a new delight. We dig a little into Dick Grayson’s psyche, while the rest of the cast set up some potentially great stories to come. And, as always, Janin just kills it on art. I imagine good things for him going forward.
Harley Quinn #19
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Chad Hardin
Just like Batgirl, DC’s other notable breakout hit continues to be just a fantastically enjoyable comic. The creative team is cooking with gas, throwing out jokes, gags, one-liners and actually effecting moments all at once. Heck, they even go for more than a few poop jokes with this one.
When Harley, Ivy, Tony and the egg dude figure out where Cap’N Strong is holding the Gang of Harleys, our hero loads herself into the scatapult and they launch her across Coney Island to the ship out at sea. She comes in kicking butt and smashing faces with her giant hammer, until Strong poops his pants from eating so much strange, alien seaweed. He runs downstairs while Harley unties her team. But he returns a short time later, covered in seaweed and seemingly stronger than ever!
Meanwhile, the mother and father of the quintuplets return home and realize that they’d accidentally left their girls alone all week. When they find out that the girls joined the Gang of Harleys, Mrs. DiAngelis storms the Harley HQ, confronts Tony and demands that she too get scatapulted to the ship so that she can save her daughters. Mrs. DiAngelis parachutes in, guns blazing, and takes out Cap’N Strong, then yells at her daughters and Harley! But then the girls — who are only 14! — explain that Harley has been taking care of them and putting them to good work, so all is forgiven and Harley is invited over for lasagna on Sunday.
Double meanwhile, Sal Borgman has found out who is selling hospital equipment on the sly, and he calls in Harley. It turns out that the nurse’s daughter has been kidnapped by an evil cult in Hollywood, and she was trying to raise money to hire a bounty hunter. When Harley hears the price, she gladly takes the job!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
Harley Quinn #19 is a great example of how to build a supporting cast. This issue has strong moments for Poison Ivy, Tony, and that egg guy, and also finds time to work in the Gang of Harleys. This cast came together organically, and their inclusion is all the stronger for it. But it’s Harley Quinn herself who remains the standout character of the series, getting all the best jokes and action scenes. Her character, zany as she may be, is highly entertaining and strongly defined. She’s just such a fun character in this series without going off the rails, and that’s how you build a good comedy book.
Harley Quinn is a great series and deserves all the praise and popularity. The creative team know exactly how to use their main character and their cast to turn zaniness into truly enjoyable storytelling.
Justice League of America #3
Writer and Artist: Bryan Hitch
Bryan Hitch is back with the next chapter of his JLA epic. This one slows down a little bit, but the tension is building, and he’s going to great lengths to find something for all of the Leaguers to do. This isn’t just Superman or Batman’s show.
The Kryptonian God Rao continues to help the people of Earth, including turning Africa into lush, farmable land and wiping out all of the corrupt regimes across the continent. When the UN gets a little worried about these moves, Rao tells them that they cannot stop his helpful efforts. This has Batman suspicious, and he tells Superman to get his head in the game.
Meanwhile, Green Lantern and the Flash have been teleported 250,000 years into the past on the planet Krypton. Flash gets teleported away again, but Green Lantern makes friends with the local Kryptonians. They recognize the GLC and offer to take him to their leader: the Great God Rao!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This was another solid issue of Hitch’s comic. He slows down a little bit in this issue in order to give each of his characters something specific to do. This isn’t just Superman’s show, or Batman’s. Wonder Woman is having trouble on Olympus, and the Flash and Green Lantern are into some trouble of their own. I’m glad to see him use all of the characters — though his breakout character, Aquaman, doesn’t get an appearance this issue. Too bad. But the plot definitely thickens for GL and the Flash. And, of course, Hitch’s art is beyond amazing in this issue. He draws a gorgeous waterfall in Africa that truly makes this next level quality comics.
Writers: Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters
Artist: Brooke Allen
Lumberjanes ends another excited adventure with this issue! I just recently picked up the first volume of Lumberjanes, and it’s going to sit proudly in my collection! I can’t wait to read it again someday.
While Abigail and Rosie take on the Grootslang (and fail miserably but epicly), the Lumberjanes head to Abigail’s cabin to try and find out how to defeat the monster. Barney figures out that the creature loves diamonds, so the girls load up from Abigail’s treasure room — only to find out that they probably should have done more than 10 minutes of research when confronting an ancient deity.
During the resulting scramble, Barney figures out that the Grootslang is looking for one specific gem: a big, red diamond that goes into his chest, and Jo has the gem. Jo must put aside her dislike of Barney to work together to save the day, convincing the Grootslang in trade to not kill all of humanity — this time.
With the day saved, everyone leaves the mountain to recuperate. Rosie invites Abigail to return to the Lumberjanes camp, but Abigail turns her down, choosing instead to return to her cabin. Not everything – including the Lumberjanes – are what they seem, she warns. Then as everyone’s leaving, Jo accidentally butt-dials her dads and chats with them a little bit. Even though the girls have all been on weeks’ worth of adventures at camp, the dads reveal that only half a week has passed for the rest of the world!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
Yep, still fun! Still awesome! We got a pretty epic battle scene with Abigail and Rosie vs. the Grootslang, as well as some nice flashbacks to further establish and strengthen their relationship. Add in the typical whimsy of the Lumberjanes themselves and this is another great issue. The action is madcap and stylish, and the characters are just a lot of fun. Even the Grootslang is a pretty cool guy, staying somewhat down-to-Earth even as he threatens to wipe out all of humanity. The creative team is building a really personable, really fascinating world in Lumberjanes, and I’m on board for the long haul!
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artists: Raul Allen, Patricia Martin and Stephen Segovia
It’s time for a new storyline in Kindt’s Ninjak series, and after I was disappointed in the last one’s finale, I’m still excited to see where he’s going. Kindt definitely nixes some of his worst writing habits on this series. He’s also got some new artists to help out, and they’re both pretty good.
Ninjak’s bosses at MI-6 want him to come home, but Ninjak is determined to use his new position as the CEO of Weaponeer to track down and destroy the remaining members of the Shadow Seven. He uses his connections, and some good old fashioned spy work, to track down the next member to a secluded residence in France. Ninjak sneaks in, marvels at the modern, technologically-advanced house, and gets into a scuffle with the resident, La Barbe. He’s the guy that Roku went to see at the end of last issue, and is connected to the ancient monastery from Roku’s origins.
In fact, it turns out that Ninjak is also connected to that monastery! In the back-up feature to his early days as a spy, we find out that Ninjak tracked his old handler’s killer to the monastery, and he was chosen for training (which, in this case, meant getting beaten up).
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I am very pleased with Kindt’s writing in this issue, and he makes some noticeable improvements. One of the most annoying bits from the first few issues was that Kindt had a habit of describing through narration how each of Ninjak’s gadgets worked and how he used them on his missions, as if we couldn’t see it on the page. Well this time, while Ninjak is stealthing his way to the secluded mansion, Kindt holds back from narration and lets his artists draw all the sneakery and ninja moves. It’s very much improved. Likewise, the fight with La Barbe is pretty cool, and not nearly as anti-climactic as his battle with Kannon last issue. And double likewise, the back-up feature finally reveals its ties to the main comic, which is also awesome. Ninjak is making some noticeable improvements in its second story arc, and I’m definitely still on board.
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Natacha Bustos
Like falling dominos, the remaining Marvel Comics not disrupted by Secret Wars give in to that great crossover. Spider-Woman is next, but fortunately, Hopeless and guest artist Bustos have one last, quality issue to drop our way before the break.
While Spider-Woman battles the evil sheriff outside Boot Hill, Porcupine figures out that all of the citizens in the town are zombified thanks to tainted meat. So he rushes to the local meat-packing plant and confronts the CEO, who is using mind control technology to control the whole town. Porcupine kicks his butt in time to save Jess.
Later, while the team is celebrating in a nearby motel, Spider-Woman gets a visit from Black Widow to let her know that Secret Wars is coming. Spider-Woman doesn’t want to go, but it’s ‘Every-Avenger-on-Deck!’, so she quietly slips out before her friends notice she’s gone.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I really liked Bustos’ art in this issue. I love the regular artist, sure, but Bustos is a quality fill-in. Her art-style is fun, lively and energetic, perfect for the Spider-Woman comic. The story is also a lot of fun. I’m a sucker for street-level villains doing good, so watching the Porcupine make something of himself is a real blast. Spider-Woman herself is still cool — and has a great scene with Black Widow — but Porcupine steals the show in this final issue and saves the day in quality style. Spider-Woman has a fun energy, and I hope Hopeless can keep it up when we come back.
We Are Robin #3
Writer: Lee Bermejo
Artist: Jorge Corona
We Are Robin continues to be my favorite new series of DC’s recent relaunch. I am normally a traditionalist when it comes to Robin, but in this altered landscape of Robo-Batmen, I really like the premise of this series.
Our main group of Robins split up to try and diffuse two different bombs in the subway tunnels, with instructions coming in from their mysterious leader in The Nest. Meanwhile, a second group of Robins gathers to take on the riot created by all the mind-controlled under-dwellers, and they come face-to-face with Robo-Batman. For some reason, they believe him to be the same Batman of old and are confused when he tells them to disperse.
Down in the subway, one group of Robins successfully defuse their bomb. But the second group is having trouble, since the bomb is on the tracks, and they have to keep stopping when trains come through. Eventually, The Nest tells them to get out of there and sends them a train — but one of the Robins, Troy, stays behind because he’s confident he can disarm the bomb. But he sets it off instead, killing him and blowing up the building.
In the end, The Nest is revealed to be Alfred!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
While the reveal that Alfred has been in charge of these Robins is pretty cool, and gives them some much needed legitimacy, I don’t think it really works. In the Bat-verse these days, Alfred has what he’s always wanted: a happy and satisfied Bruce Wayne. Bruce is living a nice life with a nice girlfriend, the horrors of Batman behind him. So why is Alfred reacting to this by recruiting a bunch of untrained, undisciplined youths to go play Robin? It’s not like Gotham is unprotected. Along with Robo-Batman, there’s still Batgirl, Batwoman, Catwoman, Batwing and a ton of other vigilantes watching over the city.
And Alfred clearly now has blood on his hands. Yes, he ordered the Robins to get out of there and provided them transport, and Troy made his own decision to stay, but Troy is only in that situation because Alfred recruited him (did Alfred recruit all of them? One would assume so). And Troy decides to stay and defuse the bomb because of the heroism instilled in him by being a Robin.
At the very least, why isn’t Alfred training these kids? He has the skills, he has the capital, he has the time and the facilities. Why does his recruitment process just involve slapping some Robin-colored clothing on a bunch of kids and sending them out to fight riots and disarm bombs?
All of this would make a lot more sense if the Robins didn’t have a benefactor. If they really were just some street toughs who decided to take it upon themselves to create this ‘Robins’ gang, then all of this would make more sense. But as it’s presented in this issue, Alfred is making some pretty big mistakes.
Still, this was a quality issue. The action and tension are great, the characters are getting some real depth and uniqueness, and we got to see the first meeting between Robo-Batman and the Robins. That’s got to count for something. Bermejo is building a solid concept and making it work, and I can’t wait to see him really sink his teeth into all these Robins.
Oh, also, if any of you reading this are artists, I’m dying for picture of Robo-Batman and the Robins that mimics that classic Batman and Robin shot from The Dark Knight Returns. You know which one I’m talking about. If anybody sees a picture like that on the Internet, let me know immediately, please!
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 August 29, 2015, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin and tagged Alfred, Alfred Pennyworth, Ant-Man, Batgirl, Boom!, Cyborg, Dick Grayson, Duke Thomas, Grayson, Harley Quinn, JLA, Justice League of America, Lumberjanes, Nightwing, Ninjak, Spider-Woman, Valiant Comics, We Are Robin. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.