Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 10/24/15

Apparently Marvel Comics is quite keen on us enjoying their new Iron Man and Spider-Man comics, because the second issues are already here! And they’re both still pretty great! Marvel also delivers the return of Ant-Man this week, and drops a Karnak bomb in our laps! Writer Warren Ellis has got to be sitting on a pretty awesome throne these days. The guy is like one of those mafia ‘fixers’ who can just come in and kick ass no matter what assignment he gets.

Not that DC are slouching! Batman and Robin Eternal remains pretty solid and entertaining so far, and the latest issue of Gotham Academy is a ton of fun.

But Comic Book of the Week has to go to Amazing Spider-Man #2 for one of the funniest Spidey comics I’ve read in awhile!

‘Some guy’? C’mon!

Dan Slott is on a role! Also, the Prowler is pretty amazing in this issue too.

Comic Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #2, Astonishing Ant-Man #1, Batman and Robin Eternal #3, Gotham Academy #11, Invincible Iron Man #2, Karnak #1 and Titans Hunt #1.

Amazing Spider-Man #2

Amazing Spider-Man #2
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli

I think this was the funniest issue of Amazing Spider-Man I’ve read in a while! Slott was totally on his game, delving into the newly technological and international world of Spider-Man, and with a confident and excited Peter Parker. It helps that Spidey now has a best pal in the form of Prowler, and the two of them make for a great set of good guys.

Spider-Man and Prowler team up to invade an underwater Zodiac base to retrieve Spider-Man’s stolen Webware technology. The team-up is a blast, but the villains succeed in transmitting the encrypted software to every Zodiac base on the planet, so that their best and brightest can try and crack the data — which was Spider-Man’s plan all along! SHIELD can now track the data streams to learn the locations of every Zodiac base. Spidey and Prowler flee the base when the bad guys set it to self destruct, and Spidey reflects on the the death of Silver Sable, who drowned when he last attacked a villain’s underwater lair.

Meanwhile, some mysterious new villain tracks down the Rhino, who has been living in isolation since he killed Silver Sable.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This issue was downright hilarious. The banter is wittier, Peter Parker is snappier, and the focus on gadgets and spy adventures is just plain fun. Spider-Man almost always works alone, but teamed up with Prowler in this issue, the two of them are great together. Prowler is the straight man and Spidey is the comedian, and it’s a joy to read. Slott seems energized with this new direction. And Camuncoli is killing it with the art. I love it.

Henchmen always get the best lines

There’s still a lot of ground to cover in this new status quo, but I don’t mind Slott taking an issue to tell a rousing adventure story. And Slott uses some of his own stories to fill in the margins, calling back to the death of Silver Sable and using it to influence Spidey’s current adventures. That’s a solid idea. It’s good to see Slott putting in some callbacks to some previous Spidey adventures. It really brings the whole enterprise together.

Astonishing Ant-Man #1

Astonishing Ant-Man #1
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Ramon Rosanas

I wince to think what could have been had Secret Wars not come along to disrupt Nick Spencer’s plans for Ant-Man. His series was going along swimmingly before the demands of a company-wide crossover came calling. The new issue stumbles slightly in picking up the pieces as Spencer struggles to get his plans back on track.

Eight months ago, Ant-Man is still trying to make his security company work, and he uses his powers to spy on his daughter’s basketball games, because he’s removed himself officially from her life to keep her safe. He takes a meeting with a local museum branch to get their business, but at the same time, Darren Cross and his creepy son are taking a meeting with the Power Broker, to discuss his latest app: Hench. Power Broker has all the low level super-villains working for him through this app, and he sends Whirlwind to kill Ant-Man as a demonstration. But when Cross refuses to pony up the dough to actually invest in Hench, Power Broker calls off the hit. Ant-Man survives, but the destruction to he museum loses him the job.

Now, in the present, eight months later, Scott Lang reveals that he’s wound up back in prison.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This was a fine issue, but the need for extensive exposition really weighs things down. The whole issue is a flashback, with Scott Lang narrating all the little details about his life, his job, his family, his allies and everything in between. This reads like a script that Spencer probably had ready to go for the original volume, but now has to quickly turn it into a jumping-on point for new readers. The shift hurts the flow and fun of the book. Astonishing Ant-Man #1 just isn’t as sharp or as exciting as previous issues.

Truly a thrilling yarn

But that aside, this was still a good read. Scott Lang remains a solid protagonist, and while his life is complicated, it’s still entertaining. He’s got a daughter to worry about, he’s got a sad sack lifestyle, and he’s got some nifty supporting players. The fight with Whirlwind is cool, and the danger of the Power Broker can definitely drive some stories forward. And Rosanas, of course, is still quite excellent. The look of the book is unique and heroic, and that new costume still rocks.

Let’s just hope things get straightened out in the next issue and Spencer isn’t playing awkward catch-up anymore.

Batman and Robin Eternal #3

Batman and Robin Eternal #3
Writers: Tim Seely, James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder
Artists: Paul Pelletier and Scot Eaton

Three weeks in, and Batman and Robin Eternal has yet to piss me off! I do not yet regret surrendering myself to this Batman Eternal sequel because so far all the Robin awesomeness remains quality.

Dick Grayon and the others arrive in time to keep Red Hood and Cassandra Cain from killing each other, then everybody retreats to the Batcave to get Harper Row some proper medical care from the automated facilities. Dick gets back in touch with Spyral, and Helena Bertinelli digs up an old file on Mother, where it’s revealed that Mother was once in the business of engineering perfect human beings. Red Hood proposes that someone like Batman might be into that sort of thing if he was looking for perfect partners. Spyral then gets a tip that a fundraiser honoring Bruce Wayne is going to be attacked by Mother’s forces, so Dick Grayson races off to save Bruce.

The flashback in this issue reveals that Batman brought the fear-gassed Robin back to the Batcave to recover. When Robin later asks Batman what he saw when he was doused in fear gas, Batman gives him a stern look and says he didn’t see anything.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

The mystery grows, the characters continue to get along well with one another, and the tension is mounting! With Batman out of the picture, it’s up to the Robins and their allies to work together and save the day! I love it! This is a stellar idea for a story, and the creative team is doing a great job in this early going. The mystery is real, the characters are well-written, and the energy is fun so far. Granted, I’m hoping that we don’t find out that all of Batman’s Robins were custom-ordered from a villain named Mother, but surely that retcon won’t be real. Even still, I like how this comic is going so far, and I hope this quality and energy continues.

Gotham Academy #11

Gotham Academy #11
Writers: Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher
Artist: Karl Kerschl, with Msassyk

Welp, the great, glorious inevitable has happened: Maps knows about the We Are Robin movement. I hope Gotham City will never be the same again!

The Detective Squad use a field trip as cover to sneak into Gotham City to look at old city records on the Silverlock Family. Maps has drawn out an extensive plan, and it requires her donning a Robin mask, because of course it does. Maps and Olive head to City Hall, where Olive finds a book that details her family tree, and reveals that a lot of her family members used the villain name ‘Calamity’. Maps gets a visit from Red Robin, who is also investigating Calamity, and he mistakes her for a member of the Robin movement, which he is apparently totally cool with. He tells Maps a flashback story about the original Batman and Robin’s first run-in with Calamity — only to get interrupted by Calamity attacking Olive in the other room!

Maps and Red Robin burst in to help and scare Calamity away, much to Olive’s displeasure. Robin leaves after giving Maps some kudos. But then Maps gets a phone call: her brother Kyle has disappeared from his tennis match! Everybody rushes back to the arena, where they find a mysterious key in Kyle’s locker!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Maps might just be the best of the new wave of awesome, adorkable female characters. Batgirl and Squirrel Girl are awesome, but Maps is on a whole different level. She’s adorable, she’s determined, she’s friendly and confident, and now, she’s a Robin! I was waiting for the day when Maps would get to crossover with We Are Robin, and this is hopefully the beginning of great things. She’s an obvious recruit, and her team-up with Red Robin this issue is pretty great. It’s all the fun of Gotham Academy in one bite!

I need a Gotham Academy/We Are Robin crossover right freakin’ now!

Though I’m not entirely sure why Red Robin is there in the first place…

The rest of the stuff is pretty good too. Olive’s mystery keeps getting weirder and deeper, and I’m a little confused, honestly. Cloonan and Fletcher have never been very clear about what Calamity is supposed to be, unless I missed an issue somewhere along the line. Honestly, Olive is missing out on the best parts of this comic by being so obsessed with her confusing mother. Maps does what she can to hold her BFF up, but Olive needs to get straightened out soon.

The art by Kerschel, with Msassyk, was spectacular this issue. The extended flashback to Batman and Robin fighting Calamity, with its more painted style, is an issue highlight.

Invincible Iron Man #2

Invincible Iron Man #2
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Marquez

I’m a big fan of Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez, and they were a pretty great choice to tackle a new, sleeker Iron Man comic. There’s no baggage so far, no real complications. It’s just Tony Stark, his fancy armor, and some comic book intrigue. Sounds like a winning formula to me.

The newly handsome, de-armored Doctor Doom informs Iron Man that Madame Masque stole the Wand of Watoom from his vault — but it was a decoy. Doom gives the real Wand to Iron Man for safe-keeping, promising that they need to work together to stop Masque. Tony, however, is more concerned with whether or not he should arrest the most dangerous, evil man on the planet. Doom waves away Tony’s concerns and teleports him back to the Bronx.

Tony tracks down Madame Masque to a hotel suite to talk, but Masque is too angry and tries to blow him up instead!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Second issue, and Bendis’ Iron Man is still going strong. Bendis’ banter-filled writing style is a perfect fit for Tony Stark, making him just as charming and funny as he is in the movies. Bendis also writes a pretty great Doctor Doom, or at least this new, potentially reformed version of Doom. We still need to check out the end of Secret Wars to find out what this is about. But in this issue, the banter between Stark and Doom is quite entertaining, as is the banter between Stark and his new armor A.I. Friday (also from the movies!). A charming, entertaining protagonist and some quality super villain intrigue is all you really need for a solid comic.

Doctor Doom thinks ahead

The art helps too, of course. Marquez is a rising star at Marvel, and after he and Bendis took Ultimate Spider-Man by storm, I’m very excited to see him getting a more high profile assignment. His characters are full of life, and Marquez draws one of the coolest, sleekest Iron Mans I’ve ever seen. He’s great with both humans and armors, with both quiet moments and action scenes getting the full effect.

This is a winning team on a winning character and they are producing winning comics.

Karnak #1

Karnak #1
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Gerardo Zaffino

Karnak, I think, is my brother’s favorite Inhuman, so I decided to check out this new series by Warren Ellis. I was hugely impressed by Ellis’ Moon Knight series a year or two ago, and I fully expect him to bring the same intense style to Karnak — and I’m right!

After a recent but superfluous death/resurrection story, Karnak has withdrawn from the Inhumans Royal Family and is leader of the Tower of Wisdom, an ancient school. He’s called out of his seclusion by Agent Coulson, who wants Karnak’s help in tracking down a wayward Nuhuman who was kidnapped by an A.I.M. splinter group. Karnak quickly deduces that one of Coulson’s agents is a traitor and tortures the man to get the location of the terrorist cell, then he goes there and kicks all manner of ass.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Once again, Warren Ellis does not disappoint. I kind of think this series is almost a dare. Like, Marvel dared Warren Ellis to pick an even more obscure superhero than Moon Knight and work the same magic as before (bonus points for tying into Marvel’s current Inhumans love). It’s all here. Karnak is transformed into a badass dark monk, full of scraggly beard and gnarled badassery. He’s stark and dangerous in his every move and every word, including a truly awesome moment where he perceives the weakness in a bullet and karate chops it in half as its fired at him. Ellis clearly has some rich ideas for Karnak’s unique power set.

Oh yes, Oh yes

My only problem with the issue is that the plot seems a little rote. I mean, c’mon, Agent Coulson? Really? You can’t come up with any other sort of adventure for Karnak? When is Marvel going to stop using Coulson as the ultimate crutch? Marvel superheroes were getting into wacky adventures long before Coulson came around. They don’t need him as a plot catalyst. It just doesn’t make much sense that Coulson would telephone a hermit like Karnak for help tracking down this kidnapped kid when the Marvel Universe is now full of multiple Inhumans teams who Coulson no doubt has on speed dial.

But hey, if Karnak is anything like Moon Knight, maybe this plot/story won’t even matter by the second issue. Maybe Ellis and future superstar artist Zaffino are going to do a new series of one-shots. With the badassery of this Karnak, that could definitely work.

Titans Hunt #1

Titans Hunt #1
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artists: Paulo Siqueira and Geraldo Borges

Considering how much effort I put into reviewing the regular Teen Titans series each month, I figured I might as well check out Titans Hunt to see what happens. From the look of it, DC wants to have their cake and eat it too. They established in the New 52 that the current Teen Titans are the first Teen Titans, but now I guess they want to try and say that Dick Grayson and the classic Titans were a team too once upon a time? This first issue only hints at the truth, but hints are all Titans Hunt #1 has to offer.

Roy Harper, Dick Grayson, Donna Troy, Aqualad and a few others are haunted by memories of being the classic Teen Titans, despite that never having happened in the New 52 continuity. They have strange, curious encounters with one another, and a few other random classic Titans, like Gnarrk. The only one who seems to know what’s going on is obscure classic Titan, Lilith, who is working as a psychiatrist and is keeping files on her ‘former’ teammates. She’s determined to bring them all together again.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

The problem with this issue is that it’s all set up. I saw another review that said this was more like Titans Hunt #0, and I’d definitely have to agree. We get glimpses of the various characters and hints towards what might be happening, but nothing really comes together in the end. I’ll definitely pick up the second issue to see what happens, but more so out of a desire to be a good reviewer than any real interest in this first issue. Abnett clearly has some ideas, and he’s got a solid handle on each of the characters, but he doesn’t do enough to bring them together in this first issue. Surely this issue is meant to appeal to fans of the classic Titans, and surely those fans know exactly who these characters are and why we’d want them to be together again. Abnett doesn’t need to drag that part out.

Abnett does a fine job with the writing, but I think he should have bypassed the set-up to get right into the heart of the action. Though personally, I think it’s a little silly to try and retcon the original Titans back into existence. Why not just bring them together for the ‘first’ time on a new adventure?

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 October 24, 2015, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, Spider-Man and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hey Sean, I know that you’re a big Tim Drake fan – have you been reading Batman Beyond? I hear Tim Drake has taken over for Terry McGinnis and I wonder if that series has been a success.

    • Nope! Not reading. As much as I like Tim Drake, I’m not that interested in a future version of him sent even further into the future to be Batman Beyond. My interest in Tim rests almost entirely in his role as Robin.

  2. ASM was OK. Honestly, I just want Slott to leave the book already.

    Ant-Man was good. Funny. I like Cassie hating the fact that she’s normal. I hope it leads to her becoming a superhero again.

    Iron Man was OK. I’m still not sold on Handsome Noble Doom. And Bendis’ writing style doesn’t really work for Doom, either. It doesn’t sound like Doom.

    Karnak was cool. He’s kind of a dick, though.

    • I do expect Spencer to pursue some kind of awesome Cassie/Young Avengers storyline. They did get a quick panel callback! And I’m going to treat this Doom the same as newly rich Peter Parker or any other temporary character change. Just gonna see what they do with him and hope it’s good.

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