Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 12/5/15

For some reason, this is a super heavy Marvel week for me. I read a bunch of DC Comics, but this week I pointed my review cannon squarely at what Marvel had to offer — though I was sure not to miss the first issue of Robin War. Gotta represent the ‘R’!

As for Marvel, we’ve got a ton of good comics! New Angela, Iron Man and Avengers issues, as well as the debut of Totally Awesome Hulk, which I enjoyed. I’ve also finally reviewed an X-Men comic in this new All-New, All-Different world.

But Comic Book of the Week goes to Doctor Strange #3, a delightfully weird comic that lets Jason Aaron stretch his insane muscles!

I know a lot of people who would be dying for Cumberbatch to do this scene

It’s got the focus of his Thor and the madcap zaniness of his Wolverine and the X-Men.

And remember, now is your chance to buy the first two issues of my own comic, Gamer Girl & Vixen! Stop by our store and check us out!

Comic Reviews: All-New, All-Different Avengers #2, All-New X-Men #1, Angela: Queen of Hel #2, Doctor Strange #3, Invincible Iron Man #4, Robin War #1 and Totally Awesome Hulk #1.

Avengers 2

All-New, All-Different Avengers #2
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Adam Kubert

Here we are, two issues in, and I’m not impressed. Waid and Kubert are legends in the industry, and I suppose this comic is fine. But there’s no real oomph, no pizzazz. It’s just a random gathering of random superheroes fighting an impossibly boring super-villain. And considering the roster and the villain, this feels like a comic designed by committee.

After the Chitauri warlord escaped last issue, the Avengers clean up and lick their wounds. The Vision shows up to help, because he’s helpful like that. The warlord, named Warbringer, travels to New Jersey to steal a Chiauri artifact from a museum, and both Ms. Marvel and Nova show up to stop him (Nova has tangled with him before). The Avengers show up to help out, and everybody chases Warbringer down into the sewers, where Thor also shows up to join the fray. But Mr. Gryphon, the mysterious and diabolical villain who has brought Avengers Tower, uses magical powers to subtly interfere in the fight and causes a wall of water to crash in on the Avengers.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

So we’ve got an Avengers team that not only stars the current iterations of Captain America, Iron Man and Thor, but let’s throw in popular character Ms. Marvel, potential push character Miles Morales, recent movie star Vision, and then Nova, for some reason. And let’s have the bad guy be a Chitauri, the villains from the first Avengers movie. This is an Avengers comic cobbled together from a marketing standpoint, especially since it doesn’t seem like Waid has any sort of specific vision going forward. The characters come together literally at random (Miles was swinging by, the bad guy just happens to choose Ms. Marvel’s Jersey City, and Thor just shows up), and they all seem to just get along and banter for the sheer fun of it.

Sacrifices have to be made when not everyone can fly

Waid repeatedly mentions the fact that they’re not technically an Avengers team, but we have no idea why there isn’t an official Avengers team in the first place thanks to that 8 month jump thing. I dunno. This title just isn’t grabbing me. Waid seems to be going through the motions, without anything new or interesting to say about the characters or the Avengers. And Kubert’s art already starts to get messy here in the second issue. The only real interesting aspect to this series is the butting heads between Nova and Ms. Marvel, but even that feels a little rushed.

All-New X-Men #1

All-New X-Men #1
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Mark Bagley

OK, so I haven’t really been paying a lot of attention to the X-Men in this new relaunch. I have only read one issue of Extraordinary X-Men, and I wasn’t really taken in by it. Of course, I also haven’t touched a single Inhumans comic, so I’m not sure if Marvel’s strategy is even working on me.

But I wanted to give this one a try, and…well…sigh. As some of you may remember, I was a huge supporter of Cyclops over the past few years. I stuck with him after Avengers vs. X-Men, and I loved what Brian Michael Bendis was doing with Cyclops’ renegade role. I even liked the finale, Uncanny X-Men #600, though I thought it didn’t go far enough.

But here we are in the relaunch, and a big apparent deal is that Cyclops did something horrendously evil and got himself killed. We don’t yet know what it was, but it might have involved him attacking some Inhumans. Whatever the case may be, every subtle level of Cyclops’ renegade status has been undone, and now he really is the most hated mutant on the planet, by everybody.

And that just…disappoints me. That Cyclops story was my favorite Marvel storyline, with a ton of great character development. But now all of that has been burned down, with the Earth salted. And then considering this series seems determined to rub that in my face…I dunno you guys…

Kids these days

The Young X-Men have taken some time off to see the world on their own, but now Hank McCoy is getting everybody back together. He’s got Kid Apocalypse and Idie with him, and they go pick up Iceman in Texas, and Angel and Wolverine in Colorado. But they can’t find Cyclops, who has been staying off the grid and not using his powers ever since Adult Cyclops did something super evil and got himself killed. In the wake of his death, a bunch of jerkass mutants have taken to wearing his old X-mask and calling themselves ‘Ghosts of Cyclops’. They’re nothing more than raiders hiding behind a symbol, and Young Scott has figured out where they’re going to strike next.

Young Scott smacks some bad guys around, but eventually loses the fight. He then tracks them down to a college campus, but the Ghosts see him coming and ambush him in a library. Cyclops is forced to finally use his powers to try and stop them, but that only gives away his identity. The Ghosts decide to take him with them, but then Hank and the others show up to stop them.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

So yeah, I dunno, this issue was fine. It has more direction than All-New, All-Different Avengers, but I don’t know if it’s for me. I liked Bendis’ take on these time-traveling kids, but I’m also kind of wondering what the point is of keeping them around. What do they really add to the X-Men as a whole? I firmly believe that there are no bad characters, but what’s the point of keeping them in the present day? Why not make a fun, road trip comic about the teenage mutants that already exist but don’t get any attention whatsoever?

But that’s a rant for another day.

Why can’t we have whole issues about Kid Apocalypse wrestlin’ gators?

This issue was pretty good. Hopeless has a nice handle on the characters, and they all seem pretty happy. With Bagley’s art, this definitely isn’t a grim and gritty comic. It’s light, cheerful, and could have a nice team dynamic going for it. Plus the general idea of seeing these kids take to the open road could be fine. It’s a nifty idea for this title, as is adding Evan and Idie to the team. All-New X-Men could be a good series going forward, and I might give it another shot, but I am supremely disappointed in what Marvel has done to Cyclops. And that’s on me.

Angela #2

Angela: Queen of Hel #2
Writer: Marguerite Bennett
Artists: Kim Jacinto and Stephanie Hans

Issues like this make me regret not reading all the way through the first Angela volume. The love story between Angela and her narrator, Sera, seems really sweet and poignant. Unfortunately, Bennett and company aren’t too kind to those of us who missed the first volume.

A long time ago, Angela and Sera rode side-by-side like Xena and Gabrielle, only Angela and Sera got to act on their love. But Sera died in battle and went to Hel. Then in the last volume, she sent Malekith to pose as her in order to get Angela to come down to Hel to rescue her (I think. I’m kind of piecing things together here). Now Angela is in Hel, ready to fight her way through anything in order to save her beloved. Sera informs Angela that there are several trials she will have to overcome to conquer Hel, and the first up is a battle with fear. But as Angela peers into herself, she confirms that the only thing she ever feared was losing Sera, and since that has already happened, she has nothing left to fear. Once she wins the trial, Sera introduces Angela to a woman named Leah, who helped Sera cope in Hel.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

The main problem with Angela: Queen of Hel so far is that it doesn’t hold your hand in telling its story. Sometimes that’s fine, but when you’re dealing with characters as relatively obscure as Angela and Sera, a little help would be nice. Bennett writes about some pretty important but complicated events as if we should have them memorized. She’s not taking advantage of the new #1 at all. As a new reader who wants to like this comic, there’s a lot to piece together from cryptic dialogue.

This comic could use a Metalocalypse soundtrack

But beyond all of that, the core relationship between Angela and Sera is really, really sweet. They clearly love one another, and Bennett gets that across with ease. Despite the extreme newness of these two characters and their relationship, I’m already invested in the two of them. That’s a huge plus to the comic, and I hope everything else coalesces a lot easier going forward.

Doctor Strange #3

Doctor Strange #3
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Chris Bachalo

I missed the second issue of Doctor Strange, but I won’t make that mistake again. This madcap series is Jason Aaron pushing his creativity to the limit. That’s definitely a fun way to handle the character.

Doctor Strange wakes up in his naked Astral Form in Central Park with no memory of how he got there, and the city is infested with giant, magic-eating slugs. The good doctor fights his way across the city before eventually returning home and finding his body, with Wong fighting off the slugs as they try to infest the Sanctum Sanctorum. Once he has his body back, Strange casts a spell that gives the slugs so much magic to eat that they all fall into food comas.

Strange then remembers that the slugs came from the mystical, peaceful realm of Fandazar Foo. He has a doorway to the Foo, and he’d planned on going there to consult with other wizards about the strangeness of magic lately. But when he opened the door, the slugs all rushed in, starving for magic. When Strange and Wong return to the Foo now, they discover a nearly barren wasteland. Something has turned the place to ash, and they have executed several other Sorcerors Supreme from other dimensions!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This issue, and this series so far, is just a ton of fun. While a larger, devious narrative is building in the background, Aaron has just been having a blast sending Doctor Strange up against the strangest things he can think of. Magic-eating slugs from a tropical sorcery resort dimension? Neat! And I wish I’d reviewed issue #2, because that issue was chockfull of insanely awesome magical stuff, from the contests of Strange’s fridge to the snakes you’re not supposed to talk to on his coffee table.

Those snakes

Bachalo’s art is an insane as always, but I’m finding I don’t particularly mind. He does a fine job drawing all of this insanity. And with Aaron channeling the wackiest ideas he possibly can, while maintaining a very strong core in Doctor Strange himself, you’ve got one heck of a fun comic.

Iron Man #4

Invincible Iron Man #4
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Marquez

If you love Brian Michael Bendis’ unique brand of dialogue and humor, then Invincible Iron Man might be the Bendisiest book to ever exist. This comic, and this issue in particular, is wall-to-wall snappy humor and quality comedy. Considering I love me some Bendis, this issue was a delight.

In his efforts to track down Madame Masque, Iron Man is confronted by a squadron of hyper-technological super ninjas. He fights them off in a big beach brawl, bantering all the while with his new A.I. Friday. Eventually, Tony gets the upper hand and defeats the ninjas, but they all kill themselves rather than speak. Tony then turns all of his attention to tracking down Masque — except he also has to go visit sick kids in the hospital. He’s about to blow that off when a recording pops up of himself from 3 days earlier, leaving himself a message about not blowing it off this time.

So Tony takes his armors and goes to visit the sick kids, showing everybody a good time. Doctor Doom then arrives at the hospital to recruit Tony for the next mission. Together they travel to Chicago, where Mary Jane Watson has just opened up her newest night club, and also where Masque attacks her next target.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This was a fun issue. I liked it a lot. Tony and his girl Friday are funny together. Not laugh out loud funny, not Unbeatable Squirrel Girl funny, but I’ve always been a fan of Bendis’ snappy dialogue. And when partnered with the Robert Downey Jr. popularized Tony Stark, it’s working out well. This is just a fun comic to read, with a streamlined, un-complicated Iron Man doing his heroic thing.

With badass samurai armor!

And it’s got great side stuff, like Tony visiting with sick kids, or enjoying his fight with evil cyborg ninjas. It’s good to see him take time to stop and smell the roses. I like comics that are a mix of superhero action and down-to-Earth human moments, and Bendis is doing a fine job of that with his Tony Stark. The addition of Doctor Doom as a foil is pretty fun too. And Marquez is just killing it on art. This is one of the sharpest comics on the stands.

Invincible Iron Man is a fun, light-hearted and humorous adventure story starring Marvel’s premiere movie star. Sounds like good comics to me.

Robin War #1

Robin War #1
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Khary Randolph, Alain Mauricet, Jorge Corona, Andres Gunaldo and Walden Wong

As many of you know, I’m a huge Robin fan. It happens. We do exist. And I’ve mostly been enjoying all of the insane Robin things that have been happening over the past year, even if my ideal Robin idea is the classic Dynamic Duo set-up. So here we are at the culmination of it all, Robin War…which gets off to a rocky start.

One of the We Are Robin kids gets a little too overzealous during a convenience store robbery, and he accidentally shoots both the robber and the cop who responded to the scene. Now Gotham City is out for blood, and through the work of City Councilor Noctua, they pass the Robin Laws forbiding all youthful vigilantes, and making all Robin paraphernalia illegal. Any kid caught wearing Robin colors will get arrested, including Duke Thomas, who is spotted wearing an innocent pair of red shoes by a rather jerkass cop. It’s OK though, Duke Thomas is too good for that stuff, and he escapes.

Most of Duke’s Robin crew have avoided arrest so far, so he has them all meet at a local gym to start figuring out what to do. But their party is crashed by Damian Wayne, the real Robin, who wants them all to hang up their costumes and go home. The Robins don’t like his attitude and a fight breaks out, which draws the attention of Robo-Batman, who also wants all of the kids to hang up their costumes and go home. Gordon even expects Damian to do the same. That’s not about to happen, and Damien battles Robo-Batman, eventually defeating him with a heavy dose of electricity.

That’s when Red Robin and Red Hood show up to calm Damian down. They’ve called in Dick Grayson to help, and together the four real Robins arrange a meeting with all of the We Are Robin kids.

Meanwhile, Councilor Noctua is actually working for the Court of Owls, who are trying to orchestrate this Robin War. And they send one of their Talons to kill the Robin kid who started this whole mess in the convenience store.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

For some insane reason, this comic has nearly half a dozen different artists tackling random pages throughout the issue. Sometimes the art changes in the middle of a scene. Could DC really not find one single artist to handle Robin War? Haven’t they known this comic was coming for a long time? The art is just all over the place, with some quality and some terribleness. It leaves the issue feeling very disjointed.

The cloak makes the Robin

Storywise, the issue is pretty solid. Obviously the cast of We Are Robin was going to have to deal with the real Robins, so this is a story that has to be told. As is the idea of the real Robins facing off against Gordon’s Batman — though I was a little disappointed in how Gordon responded to Damian. I’m pretty sure they know each other.

Robin War #1 is disjointed in a lot of ways. It’s an interesting story, and one just dying to be told at this point in the ongoing plots, but there’s a lot to tackle and DC hasn’t exactly put their best foot forward.

Awesome Hulk #1

Totally Awesome Hulk #1
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Frank Cho

How weird/interesting is it that all of Marvel’s major heroes (save Iron Man), are currently replaced by somebody else? Cap, Thor and now Hulk all have new people carrying the mantle. Quite the interesting status quo, I say.

Amadeus Cho is now the Hulk, and he’s been tasked with using his might to round up a bunch of wayward monsters around the world. Working with him is his sister, who stays back at base and monitors the situation with a little flying robot. The issue opens with Hulk fighting a giant turtle monster on a beach, while also making time to flirt with a hot beach babe — much to his sister’s angered annoyance.

Then later, Hulk teams up with She-Hulk and Miles Morales in New Zealand to fight some more monsters. The battle is then interrupted by Lady Hellbender, who might be behind the monsters. Hulk thinks she’s pretty hot.

Meanwhile, in flashback, we learn that Bruce Banner saved people from a seaside nuclear reactor by absorbing the radiation — but it was a fancy, new futuristic reactor, and something bad happened to him afterwards.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I dug this issue for its silly, overly-hormonal teenage take on the Hulk. I’ve never particularly cared about Amadeus Cho, so I don’t know his history or typical personality or anything of the sort. But here he’s 19, and when he becomes the Hulk, he becomes something of a horn dog. That’s kind of funny and endearing. And it’s not at the expense of the women in this comic, I don’t think. Hulk is always portrayed as being both an idiot and very bad at flirting, with the women more than holding their own against his horn dog ways. So I think Pak is doing a solid job using it for comedy.

Yeah, but an awesome 40

I’m also a fan of Cho’s artwork, if one can overlook his ongoing attempts to rise the ire of everybody around him. He’s a damn good artist, and his work is stellar in this first issue. Hulk is mighty, but he’s also definitely a younger, hornier teenage Hulk. It works. This issue might not have the political heft of Sam Wilson taking over as Captain America, or the mystery of Jane Foster taking over as Thor, but it looks like it might be a funny little comic that has some kicks and giggles with the Hulk.

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 December 5, 2015, in Avengers, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin, Spider-Man, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. ANAD Avengers was good. The series is picking up. Ms. Marvel and Nova are a really fun pairing.

    ANXM was really good. Lots of fun. The scene in Austin is exactly the kind of thing I want to see more of in X-Men comics. Something that shows that, hey! There actually are people out there who don’t hate mutants! It doesn’t have to be all-hate all the time! Plus, Mark Bagley on art. That’s always good. I am definitely hoping the Cyclops stuff is revealed as more complex. A misunderstanding or something. Because I really can’t see Scott, even at his most militant, attacking the Inhumans without knowing with dead certainty that they posed a threat to mutants.

    Angela was great. I love it. Humour, drama, action. Great writing. Great art – I love Stephanie Hans so much! I love this series, and I’m so excited to see it unfolding. Also, Leah’s back! Woot! As a fan of Gillen’s JiM run, I am so happy to see Leah.

    Doctor Strange was interesting. But I’m still not feeling this book. Bachalo’s art is still difficult to follow too often.

    Iron Man was OK. There was definitely some good humour. As an aside, the scene in the hospital was something Bendis planned nearly two years ago, as a way of honouring a sick kid.

    Hulk was pretty OK. Reasonably fun. But it also felt a little shallow.

    • I was wondering where Leah came from, thanks! And yeah, Hulk was pretty shallow and OK. Hopefully Pak reveals a bit more depth going forward. But for now, I think it’ll just be a silly little side trip.

      And I hope you’re right about Cyclops. It would be far too easy to just blow him off as evil and be done with it. Man, Cyclops in the past few years was amazing…

      • Leah. OK, here’s Leah’s history, since you didn’t read the absolute masterpiece that was Gillen’s JiM.

        Hela lost her right hand somehow (happened before JiM). That hand took the form of a tween girl named Leah, who was sarcastic, knew magic and resented having to hang out with Loki. Eventually, Hela reconstituted Leah back into her own hand. But before that happened, Loki, as part of a plan to beat the Serpent in Fear Itself, had written Leah into the Serpent’s history, to give him a weakness. That Leah allied herself with Surtur, but betrayed Surtur to help Loki beat him. Then, Loki had Hela send her far into the past, to protect her from himself, since he was about to let Old Loki take him over.

        And this is all way more complicated than I’m making it sound, because Gillen’s run on Journey Into Mystery was insane. You should track it down, because it’s seriously one of the best comics I’ve ever read.

      • I do have many faults. But I did read the Beta Ray Bill issues! Those were good…though I can’t remember if they were written by Gillen. But yeah, Leah sounds pretty neat.

      • The Beta Ray Bill issues were during Kathryn Immonen’s too-brief run, which was also fantastic, but nowhere near the genius of Gillen’s run. Which was an examination of a ton of themes, most notably redemption, and whether we can choose to be better than we are, and better than everyone thinks we are. Also, goddamn did that run ever have a lot of feels.

  2. ANAD is cute. I’m a big fan of both Nova and Miles, I’m honestly just so pleased to see them I’m not to worried about what they’re gonna do. Hopefully we’ll get some fun character interaction outta this title, and it’s always fun to see young heroes trying to find their feet in the big league.

    I’m feeling super conflicted about Robin Wars. On the one hand the Robin-inspired youth movement idea is super cool, and Robin should absolutely be an inspiring symbol to these kids. On the other hand, does anyone really think letting untrained teen vigilantes step on toes is a good idea? We already had 2 kids dying on this job, and they can’t be very effective, even with Alfred’s (DUBIOUSLY ETHICAL) help.
    Not to mention, Robin isn’t some street thug, they should have more direction than “punching bad guys”.
    I get that the other Robins have their hands full, but I’m not feeling great about the influence of a violent gang running around unsupervised and calling themselves Robin. And they don’t look like the types to sit around meekly and let the other Robins boss them around.

    Maybe I’m too much of a Robin fangirl, so I don’t like seeing these whippersnapper disrespecting my boys?

    • I hear ya. It’s really, really weird that Alfred is the one making this Robin movement happen. I don’t understand that characterization at all. He finally has what he’s always wanted, a happy, non-Batman Bruce Wayne. But he can’t stop himself from trying to arm a bunch of street toughs with gear and get them killed? We Are Robin is a great idea, but Alfred’s involvement makes no sense.

      I don’t mind these whippersnappers disrespecting Damian Wayne. But it should be awesome if they fall in line with Dick Grayson!

      • Maybe they figured it really didn’t make sense for the kids to try playing superheroes without any support, and they couldn’t think of anyone beside Alfred? I just wish we’ve seen some sort of explanation to it, even if it was a token “I can’t stop you so I’m going to try and help you stay alive”.

        I have to admit, I would definitely buy a comic about Dick leading a bunch of ducklings and teaching Robin 101. I think it’s too soon for him to return as Nightwing, but the Spiral plot is getting a little flabby lately (though it’s still quite good).

        I did like seeing Dick interact with the kids in Batman & Robin Eternal, even if it did come outta nowhere. I love seeing all the batfam interactions in the latest issues (and the art is really top-notch), maybe Robin War will pick up some cues from it.

      • Batfam interaction is my bread & butter! And you’re absolutely right, wow. Dick’s new direction as a teacher of Robin 101 would be pretty amazing. Even if it ran parallel with the Spyral stuff.

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