Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 10/17/15
Another week, another new batch of All-New, All-Different Marvel comics! I’d love to read and review every single one, but I’m a busy man, especially this week. Did you hear about that murder at the church in upstate New York? That’s right in my backyard, and as the local newspaper reporter, I’m all over that stuff!
Fortunately, I still found time to read some new comics! And it was another good week! I scoped out the first issues of Chewbacca and New Avengers, and enjoyed a few of my favorites from DC Comics, like Starfire and Harley Quinn. But the clear standout and winner of Comic Book of the Week is Ms. Marvel #19.
Was there really any doubt?
I can’t wait for this series to come back from hiatus!
Comic Reviews: Batman #45, Batman and Robin Eternal #2, Chewbacca #1, Harley Quinn #21, Ms. Marvel #19, New Avengers #1 and Starfire #5.
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Mr. Bloom is turning out to be far less interesting than I’d hoped. Scott Snyder writes a great Batman, and the Court of Owls are an amazing addition to the mythos. But I don’t much care about this new guy. Commissioner Robo-Batman is still fun though.
Batman uses quick thinking and gadgets to free himself from the industrial furnace, but then he’s overwhelmed by the goons that are still around. Fortunately, his robo-suit is semi-remote-controlled, and Julia sends it to his rescue. Later, in a meeting with his boss, Gordon is told he’s going to be fired for breaking the rules, and she’d like him to graciously resign at a press conference/event later that evening. But just before he’s due to go on, Mr. Bloom crashes his ship into the room and starts killin’ people.
Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne is all bummed out about the leftover debris from Joker’s last attack (including the ruined T-Rex from the Batcave), so he turns all of it into a playground for the kids. And Duke Thomas sneaks into the Robo-Batman HQ and convinces an old friend of his to start feeding him information Robin-style.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This is probably just me personally, but I don’t like the idea that Mr. Bloom is some kind of super-powered freak. Batman’s best villains are usually grounded and human, and Mr. Bloom has such a great look that he’d be a great addition to the rogues gallery. But so far, he’s just some spindly, murdering monster with a vague plant theme. He’s completely overshadowed by the far more interesting story of Jim Gordon trying to be a new Batman — but even that was a little downplayed this issue. Gordon got out of a tough scrap, but then his boss wants to politely fire him? Poor Gordon.
At least Duke Thomas got a pretty cool Robin-esque scene. I love the idea that Snyder is keeping some version of Robin in this comic, and I love how different it is from the usual status quo.
Batman remains one of DC’s best comics, but I don’t think Snyder’s doing a very good job introducing his new villain. At least Robo-Batman remains a fascinating read.
Batman and Robin Eternal #2
Writers: Tim Seely, James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder
Artist: Paul Pelletier
My bias is showing. I can’t help it. I don’t deny it. I love Robin, and I love Robin-themed stories, and Batman and Robin Eternal is pretty awesome in that regard so far. It’s got flashbacks to the New 52 Batman and Robin, and it’s chock-full of Robins!
The Orphan beats Harper Row bloody, but she’s rescued by the timely arrival of Cassandra Cain, who then beats the Orphan bloody. She kicks Orphan out the window just as Dick Grayson arrives, and Orphan manages to escape, with Cassandra in pursuit. Dick heads inside to check on Harper (their first meeting!), and he meets Spoiler as well. Red Robin shows up to get everybody up to speed, and they realize that Orphan is probably also going after Jason Todd. They call him up to warn him…and Jason already has Cassandra at gunpoint!
Also, in the flashback, we see that Dick Grayson was blasted with fear gas by the Scarecrow in their first encounter, and his greatest fear was not being good enough to be Batman’s partner.
Comic Rating: 9/10 Great.
This was a great issue for Robin fans! It’s got Dick Grayson being awesome and funny, it’s got big moments for Harper Row and Spoiler, it’s got fun cameos by Red Robin and Red Hood (that ending was great!), and it’s got that nifty flashback. I love the revamped New 52 Dick Grayson Robin costume, so anytime we’ve seen a flashback to his original partnership with Batman, I really enjoy myself. I would love to hear more about that time period and Dick’s New 52 introduction to the world of superheroes.
I am definitely enjoying Batman and Robin Eternal so far. There aren’t any painful plot holes or forced story beats. The characters are all spot on. The story is low key so far. There’s a dangerous new threat, and without Batman in the lead, the various Robins and Bat-allies must scramble to figure out what’s going on and stay alive. That sounds like a solid story premise to me! I only hope Duke Thomas and the We Are Robin gang might get involved at some point!
Also, I’m loathe to bring this up, but this is the second issue where a seasoned artist just isn’t up to snuff. I think it’s the inker. Pelletier’s pencils often look way better than this issue.
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Phil Noto
Over the past few years, Chewbacca has emerged as my favorite of the main Star Wars characters, so of course I wasn’t going to miss his debut comic! Luke, Han and Leia are fine, but there’s something about the downplayed heroism of the wookiee that I just love. He’s not some alien monster. He’s as much a person as the other three, and yet he’s treated as a sidekick. How is that fair?
Do you really think Han Solo decided on his own to return to the Death Star at the end of A New Hope without any persuasion?
Anyway, on with the comic!
A young woman and her father are forced into manual labor in the beetle mines because they owe money to the local gang leader. The work is horrible, and the father manages to sneak his daughter out to freedom in the next shipment. She flees, but the bad guys are on her trail, so isn’t it fortunate that Chewbacca happens to be in the same town and overhears a bit of the girl’s plight. He helps hide her in a diner, but he’s on an important mission and can’t stay to help. But the girl talks his ear off while he’s repairing his ship, and Chewbacca eventually decides to help save her father!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I realize there are certain limitations to doing a Chewbacca comic, what with his inability to speak English, and no one’s desire to see his roars translated. So already, Duggan was handicapped. But considering there are Godzilla comics, it can’t be too hard to make one about a mute protagonist. Fortunately, Phil Noto is there to help turn Chewbacca into a wordless badass.
The little girl in the story is a bit much. Obviously you need some kind of plot, but there’s just something really on the nose about a lovable little girl just so happening to cross paths with Chewbacca when she needs help. She obviously carries the bulk of the dialogue, but Duggan uses Chewbacca’s roars quite well, coupled with Noto’s art, to get the big furry points across. Chewbacca is a pretty straightforward, uncomplicated hero, and that works to the comic’s benefit. I definitely enjoyed reading the issue. But so far the comic is just set up, and like I said, the plot is kind of run-of-the-mill.
Harley Quinn #21
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: John Timms
Between Harley Quinn and Starfire this week, I’ve finally solidified the Conner/Palmiotti writing strategy: take one likable female star, string together a bunch of random, slightly connected scenes, and add a dash of modest titillation. It’s clearly a winning formula!
After shooting her new cowboy friend, Deadshot and Harley Quinn get into a big fight through the mangy hotel. They stumble upon a couple of gun thugs holding a family hostage, and Deadshot kills them too. Turns out they have big bounties on them, as does the cowboy, and he means to collect. Harley tells him to get lost. Then she goes to visit Nick, the producer, to try and find Sparrow, who ran off during the fight. Nick takes Harley to a gym run by drug dealers Vicki and Hannah, where Sparrow is trying to lay low. And then the gangsters who Nick owes money to also show up. Through a series of odd coincidences and Harley kicking ass, she takes out the gangsters and makes friends with Vicki and Hannah, who are actually pretty cool people. They take Sparrow to their home, bring her mother to see her, and then Harley explains to the mother how to get Sparrow the best treatment for her drug addiction — a conversation Harley has while topless.
Harley then uses the money she gets from Sparrow’s mother to pay off Nick’s debts, and he sets about trying to get her work in Hollywood! Maybe a cartoon? Harley then runs into Floyd Lawton again at the airport, and they have a few drinks. But then she blows him off to go shopping in Beverly Hills (and I think she stole his bounty money).
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This was another enjoyable, madcap issue of Harley Quinn. But again, it’s a vaguely disconnected series of scenes. We’ve got a fight with Deadshot that accomplishes nothing, then Harley hangs out with a movie producer, which leads her to killing a gang-banger, which leads her to getting a full-body massage from two random women, which leads to a topless discussion about treating addiction, which leads to two epilogues! The story just goes on and on from one scene to the next, bouncing around almost willy nilly, while keeping Harley front and center on the action. She’s got the personality and the spirit to hold the attention, but there isn’t much depth to the adventure in this issue. I had hoped that the cameo by Deadshot might spark something, but he’s little more than an after thought.
Perhaps this is what living in LA is really like?
Ms. Marvel #19
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Adrian Alphona
The final issue of the first volume of Ms. Marvel hits the landing and then some, delivering a knockout performance that has me mixing metaphors. Wilson and Alphona skip any superheroics and instead keep the focus where it matters most: Kamala Khan.
Kamala’s mother reveals that she’s known for months that her daughter is a superhero, and she’s proud that her girl goes out and helps people. They share a wonderful moment, which is interrupted by dad, ranting and raving in daddly-fashion about Kamala’s brother. She tries to assure him that it’ll be OK, but can’t bring herself to reveal the end of the world. Kamala then makes the rounds visiting with different people in the school. First up is Bruno, who tries to tell Kamala how he feels, but she blows him off. She can’t deal with that right now. Then there’s Zoe, who apologizes for being so mean to Kamala recently. They patch things up. Then there’s Nakia, who’s upset that her friendship with Kamala seems to be fading away, but Kamala assures her that they’re both “squishy” best buds forever.
Then the jock dude decides the best way for Jersey City to greet the end of the world is for a dance party — and everybody totally goes along! But Bruno escapes to the roof, and after dancing a bit with her friends, Kamala joins him. They both admit to being in love with one another, but Kamala says she wants to focus on being a superhero, because nothing has ever been so fulfilling, and she can’t be a girlfriend at the same time. Still, there’s hope, and they feel pretty great…even as the world ends.
Comic Rating: 10/10 – Fantastic.
The final issue of Ms. Marvel (before the new first issue) delivers everything I could have wanted in a finale. Wilson hits the emotional beats from the get-go, and Kamala’s moment with her mother had me tearing up. That’s good comics. The moment is earned, and it’s made even better by the lovable, grumpier scene with Kamala’s dad right after. If there is anything Wilson has gotten right on this title, it’s Kamala’s relationship with her parents.
Beyond that, if I’m being honest, the issue does sort of feel like Wilson was checking names off a list to make sure everybody got a scene. Zoe got a big scene, despite not really being in the comic since the first few issues. Was she destined to be a more important character overall? Likewise, Nakia is completely right, her friendship with Kamala has been fading. But Kamala doesn’t really do anything to repair it other than hug her friend here. Nakia should be let in on the secret! She can handle it!
Then we’ve got Bruno. Look, I don’t care for Bruno. It’s the hair. I can’t take men with long hair seriously. He is not pulling it off. Also, I’ve come to really dislike expected romances in fiction. Romances where the writers introduce and build towards an obvious romantic interest from the very beginning. Like Oliver and Laurel in the first season of Arrow, before that swerved off into the far more enjoyable Oliver/Felicity pairing. Or what about Community? Weren’t the Jeff/Annie or Britta/Troy teases far far more interesting than a Jeff/Britta relationship? It’s the same with Bruno. He and Kamala’s relationship just bores me. Fortunately, the end of the world happens before they can share a boring kiss!
Ms. Marvel the series was everything I hoped it would be and more. It’s a fantastic series from beginning to end, accomplishing so much more than just being a regular comic. Kamala Khan means something now. Here’s hoping her newfound fame doesn’t ruin her. I mean, come on! She’s already a member of the Avengers?
New Avengers #1
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Gerardo Sandoval
There are a ton of new Avengers, Inhumans and X-Men comics coming out in All-New, All-Different Marvel, and I’m not about to read them all. I tend to read team comics based on whether or not my favorite characters are members. So in all honesty, I only picked up this issue because Songbird is finally a member of an Avengers team! Let’s see how she does!
Sunspot has purchased A.I.M. and transformed it into Avengers Idea Mechanics, putting together his own Avengers team on A.I.M. Island. The team is composed of Songbird, Wiccan, Hulkling, Squirrel Girl, White Tiger and the new Power Man. The team races off to Paris, where the populace has all been turned into crystal-headed zombies, while Sunspot stays back at base and takes a meeting with Dum Dum Dugan of SHIELD. Dugan wants to add Hawkeye to the team as a secret SHIELD liaison. And in Paris, the team faces off against the crystal-headed zombies, who were created by Maker, who is the evil Ultimate Reed Richards.
Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.
New Avengers has a pretty interesting premise, with someone turning A.I.M. into a new Avengers squad, but Ewing does nearly nothing with the premise or his characters. Anyone in this comic, from Sunspot to Songbird to Hawkeye to especially Squirrel Girl, could be replaced with nearly any other superhero in Marvel’s catalogue and the comic would be exactly the same. Likewise the villain and the A.I.M. premise. There’s nothing really specific to any one concept in this comic.
There are any number of villains in the MU who could turn the people of Paris into crystal-headed zombies, so there’s no real purpose yet to it being Maker. Any number of superheroes could have been put on this squad. Squirrel Girl maybe gets a joke or two, but it doesn’t really make sense for Squirrel Girl to be on this team to begin with. Her hilarious solo comic has no room for her to be a member of an island-based, international Avengers squad. It’s like Marvel just picked her to help sell her comic. And Songbird, the one character I came here to see, doesn’t really matter either. Likewise Wiccan, Hulkling, White Tiger, Power Man, Sunspot or Hawkeye.
This is as generic a team comic as one could get. Ewing just throws a bunch of random superheroes onto a team, comes up with a randomly generic threat, and then just fills in the margins with some new ideas, like this Avengers Idea Mechanics thing. Maybe he’ll start fleshing everybody and everything out as time goes on, but new comics these days don’t get much room to really grow. Ewing needed to hit the ground running to make this series stand out, and he fails. Sandoval’s beefy, superheroic art doesn’t help much either.
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Emanuela Lupacchino
Starfire is still building its foundation, I feel, and it’s doing a better and better job with each passing issue. Starfire herself has been well-established, and while she’s still kind of flighty, she’s definitely a person. We’ve also got some semblance of a supporting cast, and this issue introduces our first villain.
Kori and Soren flirt over drinks, but when she touches his hand, she gets a flashback to his life. Soren has the super power to cure cancer, but it’s causing a tumor to grow out of control in his own head. At one point, the tumor got so out of control that it rewrote his brain and turned him homicidal, and he killed a co-worker. Soren is spooked by Kori’s power and runs off, and Kori isn’t sure what she’s supposed to do about this revelation, or if it was even real. Later, she goes to a job interview at an aquarium and she uses her ability to learn languages through kissing to find out what’s troubling one of the aquarium’s dolphins. That gets her the job immediately. Then everybody goes to a party later.
Kori eventually decides to head home early, only to find Soren waiting for her and Sol lying in a pool of blood!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
So yeah, the scene where Kori makes out with a dolphin to learn its language and then gets a job at the aquarium comes out of nowhere and has nothing to do with the ongoing story. Like I said earlier, Conner and Palmiotti are big on stringing together seemingly random scenes. And they love their titillation. Both Harley and Kori were naked in their comics this week, and Kori had scene after scene playfully pointing out her sexiness. But I think Conner and Palmiotti are handling it well. Kori isn’t wantonly flaunting her body to appease goggily-eyed comic book nerds. It’s her body, it’s her life, and this is how she lives. It isn’t gratuitous, I don’t think.
Beyond the titillation (which I enjoy saying and typing), the issue is solid and entertaining. The villain, Soren, gets fleshed out, and he’s not as outright evil as he was originally presented to be. Not quite sure how he went from being a magical, cancer-curing doctor to a random guy on the run in Key West, but whatever. He presents a morally-challenging villain, and is someone that Kori can’t just punch into submission. There are also good moments for the supporting cast, though I’m starting to lose myself in the number of them. Several characters show up at the party that I’ve simply forgotten about. But at least Starfire stands tall in her own comic.
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 October 17, 2015, in Avengers, Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, Star Wars and tagged Batman and Robin, Batman and Robin Eternal, Cassandra Cain, Chewbacca, Dick Grayson, Harley Quinn, Harper Row, Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel, New Avengers, Red Robin, Songbird, Starfire, Tim Drake. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.