Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 10/31/15

Happy Halloween! I hope all you ghosts, ghouls and superheroes have a lot of fun today! Halloween is my favorite holiday because of the insanely awesome pageantry involved. It’s just so much fun! Too bad we didn’t get any spooky comics this week…at least not in my regular pile. I should start reading Wytches maybe.

Word of note, before we begin: there won’t be any reviews next Saturday! Yours truly is going on vacation to London next week, and I won’t get any comics! I’ll still try to get some videos up, and a couple Lists of Six, but we’re skipping comic reviews next week. It’s for the best.

Fortunately, this week was pretty darn good. Batgirl #45 wins Comic Book of the Week for a lovely wedding issue.

Let’s make the magic happen!

Always good to see more diverse weddings and love stories in comics! We’ve come a long way since Northstar got married.

Comic Reviews: Angela: Queen of Hel #1, Batgirl #45, Batman and Robin Eternal #4, Chewbacca #2, Grayson #13, Sam Wilson: Captain America #2 and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1.

Angela: QoH #1

Angela: Queen of Hel #1
Writer: Marguerite Bennett
Artists: Kim Jacinto and Stephanie Hans

Man, apparently Marvel’s decision to jump all of their comics 8 months into the future after Secret Wars was a dumb idea. Most of the new #1 issues I’ve been reading are stuck trying to recap what happened in those 8 months, and the new Angela is no different. They should have just let their writers forge ahead like normal storytelling.

Angela’s beloved, Sera, is in Hel, so Angela storms down there to free her! A flashback brought on by the forces of Hel show the two of them spending time together, comforting one another, fighting a Hierophant together, and sharing a kiss. Angela promises that Sera will never be sent back to the hell of a monastery where she came from. Angela breaks out of the flashback and finds Sera in a cell in Hel, singing a Simon and Garfunkle song. Angela breaks the cell open and they are reunited — but something is wrong, and Sera attacks Angela!

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I’ll admit to dropping the previous Angela volume after too long, so I’m not entirely up to speed on everything. Unfortunately, the new issue doesn’t do any hand-holding to help me get back up to speed (or fortunately, depending on how into the book you are). I was a little confused here and there as the book jumped from flashback to modern day to flashback to modern day, with narration that didn’t exactly stick to the moment. But if you cut away all the complex stuff, I think this is a pretty solid, entertaining story. Angela’s beloved is trapped in Hel, so she goes down in all her warrior-awesomeness and tries to rescue her. That should be more than enough to drive this story, but Queen of Hel #1 gets a little confusing in places.

The art is fantastic, though, both with the present day stuff and the flashbacks. I definitely think I’ll be giving Angela another try with this relaunch. Everybody loves a good Hel conquest love story.

Batgirl #45

Batgirl #45
Writers: Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher
Arist: Babs Tarr

I love weddings! And I love weddings in comic books for the personal, character-based storytelling they provide. When you aren’t in costume, when you’re getting hitched or maybe you’re one of the bridesmaids or groomsmen, what kind of person are you? Batgirl tackles all of that with fun aplomb!

It’s Jo and Alysia’s wedding day, and Barbara Gordon is the Maid of Honor extraordinaire, prepared to solve any last minute emergency — except when Dick Grayson suddenly shows up to pay her a visit! Dick is his charming and playful self, and plays a game of keep-away with the wedding ring. But Babs costumes up, catches him, and tells Dick that he can’t just come waltzing back into her life, on this day of all days, and expect her to fall for him. She’s got a real life, real friends, and a budding relationship with Luke Fox. Dick realizes the mistake he’s made and gives back the ring. Barbara returns just in time for the wedding to go off without a hitch, and then she and Luke have a great time at the reception, while Dick stays in the shadow and regrets what he gave up.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This was a great character-based issue! I wish we knew some of Alysia’s other bridesmaids better, but Stewart, Fletcher and Tarr do what they can to flesh out everybody as much as possible. We get some great scenes with Luke Fox, making him a stronger contender for Barbara’s love interest, and the wedding itself is just beautiful. Frankie and Dinah make small cameos too. Everything just works out so swimmingly for everybody. It’s a very fun issue.

Complete with adorable Babs/Dick flashback!

But, of course, the real stand out is Barbara Gordon. She’s on the ball with her Maid of Honor duties, she handedly and politely puts Dick Grayson in his place, and she enjoys Mr. Fox’s company. Barbara is the star of the show, but also knows when to step aside and let her friend get married. This is the character-based storytelling that I love so much!

Everything about this issue was in perfect working order. The creative team, especially Babs Tarr, threw a pretty spectacular comic book wedding full of great character moments, some real heartbreak, and a heck of a lot of charm.

Batman and Robin Eternal #4

Batman and Robin Eternal #4
Writers: Steve Orlando, James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder
Artist: Scot Eaton

I might not review every single issue of Batman and Robin Eternal. I tried that with the previous series, Batman Eternal, and it nearly drove me mad! I might have even skipped this issue…if it wasn’t for the gasp-worthy shenanigans inside!

Dick Grayson arrives at the banquet in time to save Bruce Wayne from Mother’s henchmen, and he’s aided by not only Batgirl, but also the We Are Robin gang! Dick even has some solid advice for Duke Thomas and his people. Afterwards, Dick is suspicious of why Red Robin wasn’t able to provide better support, and he decides that he’s going dark for the foreseeable future — because he’s going to start investigating Tim Drake! And he should, because the issue ends with Tim taking a phone call from Mother!

Meanwhile, Harper Row and Cassandra Cain sneak off together in the Batcave.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

OK, first of all, Red Robin works for Mother?! What? Oh man…I have no idea what sorts of insane retcons and reckonings we’re going to get about the Robins in this series, but I’m bracing myself. Obviously none of the revelations in this series were planned at the start of the New 52, but I’m a little eager to find out what DC is going to do long term.

Having no secret identity is freedom

The more exciting moment, though, was the arrival of the We Are Robin gang! Not quite sure why they were posing as the wait staff at this banquet, but seeing them team up with Dick Grayson, and seeing Dick meet Duke, was pretty cool. But seriously, what reason did the We Are Robin kids have to pose as the wait staff at the event? They don’t know that Bruce Wayne was Batman, and the real Bat-Family only just found that the banquet  was an ambush? How did they know to be there?!

Ah well, I suppose it doesn’t matter. The scene was fun, and I hope those kids play a nice role in the series going forward. The mysteries are spinning, the revelations are coming, and everything is still on track for a good yarn. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Chewbacca #2

Chewbacca #2
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Phil Noto

Duggan and Noto’s Chewbacca comic isn’t about to take the world by storm, but it’s definitely an enjoyable adventure starring the big, furry lug.

Chewbacca and his young friend sneak back into the mine where her dad and neighbors are being used as slaves, and Chewbacca kicks all kinds of butt to help get them to safety. But just as he arrives at the exit, the evil slave master blows him up in an ambush!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

The real comic is a lot more nuanced than I made it out to be. There are all sorts of fun little moments that keep it going, like finding out that Chewie is a little claustrophobic when he tries to crawl through the vents. Or seeing his head pop out of said vent just as the bad guys are about to kill all the miners. And the best scene is when Chewie rigs a mining droid into an electric prod and then comes face-to-face with one of the bad guys.

Yes, of course yes

That’s classic Chewbacca! But awesome moments aside, the comic is kind of low key. Chewie meets a precocious youngster and agrees to be his awesome self in lending her a hand overthrowing a generic criminal. Enjoyable read, lot of fun Chewie moments, but nothing spectacular. This comic will end up being just an anecdote he’ll tell Han over drinks one day.

Grayson #13

Grayson #13
Writers: Tim Seeley and Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin

All the hubbub of Dick Grayson coming back from the dead is over, and now he’s back with Spyral full time (except, of course, for Batman and Robin Eternal). This is one of my favorite DC comics these days, so let’s hear it for more spy adventures!

After being thoroughly scanned by Spyral, Dick is once again teamed up with Agent 1 to stop some pirates from robbing a freighter owned by a big time Spyral donor. While he works, Dick is also secretly in touch with Red Robin, who has been investigating the secret woman that seems to be running things behind the scenes at Spyral. Red Robin tracks her to Berlin, and Dick gets Midnighter’s help in stirring up trouble in Berlin so that Spyral has a reason to send Dick to the city.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

More solid Dick Grayson goodness in the latest issue of Grayson. I love how comfortable and how winking this comic has become about Dick’s attractiveness. This is the man-meat sister series to Harley Quinn (and Starfire). Dick is frequently undressed, and characters are frequently cracking jokes about his hotness and desirability. And it works so well for this series! Dick really is a studly, goodly super spy. He absorbs the compliments and grins right along with them, whether he’s letting the Spyral women examine his body or joking about using his charms on Midnighter, it just works!

Does it ever!

Beyond that, the issue is solid and enjoyable. The spy action is fun, and the writers find a way to have Dick connect with it on a personal level. Plus it’s always fun to see Dick checking in with the Bat-Family now that he’s working with them again. Batman might be gone, but Red Robin is a solid fill-in. Grayson has become one of DC’s best comics. It’s fun, it’s flirty and it’s very comfortable in its own skin. Who knew this would work out so well for Nightwing?

Captain America #2

Sam Wilson: Captain America #2
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Daniel Acuna

I didn’t review the first issue of Sam Wilson: Captain America for some reason, but I still read it and enjoyed it. I also like that it’s getting some conservative panties all bunched up. So here we go with issue #2!

This issue is told through different flashbacks and cutaways, not all of them in order. I’ll do my best to sum up what’s happening. But seriously, there is a lot to unpack in just two issues!

Recently, Sam Wilson decided to use his position as Captain America to take a few political stands, largely in favor of liberal ideas. That’s kind of got the public in a frenzy, because this country is very politically divided. Sam also set up a hotline to call if you need help, and one such call sent him to the Mexican border, where the terrorist, conservative hate group the Sons of the Serpent are killing illegal immigrants. Steve Rogers, who works for SHIELD, arrives and lends a hand, but only because he was already investigating the Serpents and Sam’s arrival ruined his case. The two are at odds these days because Steve has faith that America will always do the right thing, but Sam only hopes that America will do the right thing.

Sam tracks down the one Son of the Serpent who got away, and he finds out that some bad guy in New York is paying good money for bodies to experiment on, and the Sons were collecting illegal immigrants for it. Sam also gets into a big fight with Armadillo, who’s working for this bad guy. Later, a secret hacker ally of Sam’s, known as the Whisperer, gets in touch with him to let him know that the bad guy is one Doctor Karl Malus, an old Marvel mad scientist who pops up from time to time. Meanwhile, the Whisperer is an obvious Edward Snowden parallel. He’s a hacker who exposed one of SHIELD’s secret plans to build themselves a Cosmic Cube, and when SHIELD tried to expose and arrest him, Sam stepped in to stop them. Now SHIELD is pissed at Captain America, but Sam has a cool hacker buddy.

Also, same is working with Misty Knight, because she’s awesome.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Despite the issue taking place mostly in flashbacks, Spencer kept it interesting as he piled on one complication after another. In a book like Captain America, I like the idea of multiple political complications, because we live in a very politically complicated time in America. I like that Sam Wilson is taking a stand on the issues, I like that the Snowden case has been given a comic book twist, I like that Sam Wilson comes off as a solid, regular guy trying to do his best to live up to a superheroic legacy. Spencer is building a strong, compelling comic book here, with a great cast and a lead character who is only beginning to make his mark. This should prove to be a really good direction for Captain America.

Squirrel Girl #1

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Erica Henderson

She’s back! She’s back! Man oh man, she’s back! Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is in the running to be my favorite comic book of the year, and I’m so excited that she’s back!

Though I don’t like her new costume…

Doreen and her roommate Nancy get lunch with Doreen’s mom, much to her utter embarrassment. Maureen Green has a ton of stories about her daughter growing up, and Nancy would love to hear them all! When they return to the roomies’ new apartment, they discover the WWII-era super-villain Brain Drain has invaded and kidnapped their pets! He’s an old Hydra scientist whose body was destroyed by aliens, so they rebuilt him with a robot body and put his brain and eyeballs in a jar on top (classic). Tippy Toe defeats him by tearing out the wiring in his old, 40s-era robot body, but then everybody realizes that he didn’t seem all that dangerous and wasn’t really attacking. He seemed to be in some kind of pre-programmed safe mode.

So Doreen and Nancy, who are both computer studies students, build Brain Drain a new, more modern body and turn him back on. Once he’s working properly again, he’s actually a pretty chill guy. It was the aliens who built him who programmed his old Hydra teachings into his robot body, whereas he just wants to rehabilitate. So Doreen and Nancy get him signed up for computer science classes at ESU so he can learn to be a new man!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

It feels good to have Squirrel Girl back, not that she ever left. North’s writing and Henderson’s art are still as good as ever, with all the charm and humor one could hope for in a fictional piece of literature. North is a wordsmith of incomparable skill. The scene with Doreen’s mom and how gung-ho she is about her daughter’s squirrel-ness, along with Nancy’s instant love for the woman and Doreen’s embarrassment, was an issue highlight.

Such a nice roommate

Squirrel Girl probably never really went away, but I hope this new relaunch gives North and Henderson something to really work with. A lot of nuts need eating, and butts need kicking, and I can’t wait to read up on all those great adventures. The story with Brain Drain was the perfect sort of Squirrel Girl story. It’s a weird, obscure villain, and she and her supporting cast go about ‘fighting’ him in the most unusual, off-kilter way. This comic is joyous from beginning to end, and I couldn’t be more excited for more.

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 31, 2015, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, Star Wars and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Angela was great. Bennett’s telling a compelling story. And Hans’ art is absolutely gorgeous. That kiss. THAT KISS. That is probably the most romantic scene I have ever read in a comic. Just unbelievably beautiful work.

    Captain America was really good. Nice explanation of why Sam’s become persona non grata with SHIELD. Some good humour and fun action.

    Squirrel Girl is so great. It’s so delightful. Mew was in an amazon.cat box! Also, Brain Drain! What a ridiculous villain to use. I love it. And his hilarious nihilistic dialogue. And I love that, once again, Squirrel Girl saves the day with friendship.

    • I love it when writers open up the Big Marvel Character Encyclopedia and find someone random to use. And you’re right, I missed the nihilism in Brain Drain’s speech patterns. That character was nuts!

      And clearly I need to get back into Angela. Was that their first kiss of the series?

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