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

Last week, I was all about the Marvel Comics. Not intentional, that’s just how things played out. Well this week, I’m apparently all about the Bat-Family. Not only do we have new issues of Robin War, including the Gotham Academy tie-in, but Dick Grayson guest stars in the latest issue of Starfire for no particular reason!

Heck, I could have gone really heavy into the Bat Family, but I haven’t caught up to Batman and Robin Eternal yet, and I didn’t feel like passing judgement on the latest issue of Scott Snyder’s Batman (though, if I may say, I’m absolutely loving their use of Duke Thomas). Still, we’ve got a very nice selection of Batty books this week, including the Comic Book of the Week: Grayson #15!

New series?

It’s a great time to be a Dick Grayson fan, I tell you what.

Also, don’t forget that my own comic, Gamer Girl & Vixen, is on sale now from our online store! Pick up a copy, support your local henchman, and the world will be a better place overall!

Comic Reviews: Grayson #15, Detective Comics #47, Gotham Academy #13, Scarlet Witch #1 and Starfire #7.

Grayson #15

Grayson #15
Writer: Tom King and Tim Seeley
Artist: Mikel Janin

Now this is more like it. The first issue of Robin War was kind of a disjointed mess, with so many characters to juggle and introduce, and a rotating collection of artists that just didn’t work very well together. But as could be expected, the glory of Grayson solidifies everything down to one great story.

Dick Grayson has returned to Gotham to teach the We Are Robin kids how to be Robins, with the help of Robin, Red Robin and Red Hood. They split everybody up to get some group training, while Dick has some one-on-one time with Duke Thomas. But it seems that Robo-Batman is listening in to their conversations!

Eventually, Dick pulls aside the main We Are Robin kids to help the veteran Robins with a mission. They’ve got to get to the bottom of this, so everybody pairs off to investigate a different aspect — but it’s a trap! The cops are waiting for them at each location, and even the main group of trainees is taken into custody.

But here’s the thing: Dick set the traps! He was feeding Robo-Batman their conversations, and arranged for everybody to be taken into custody. Dick, as the first Robin, feels responsible for all of this. He also feels that he has to get to the bottom of what’s going on, and he can’t do that with all these teenagers running around. So he arranges for everyone to be taken into custody, meaning they will all be in one, secure location until it’s time to break them out (Dick doesn’t get caught, of course).

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This was a phenomenal issue, setting up a very well-executed twist. I didn’t see it coming, even when King was smacking me in the fact with clues. For example, there are a few flashback scenes that show the veteran Robins out of costume, planning their Robin School. During these casual scenes, Dick still refers to the others by their codenames, and I thought that was odd — but by the end, I knew it was because Dick knew that Batman was listening in. Makes perfect sense!

Dick and Batman go back a ways

King, who is often aided by Tim Seeley, knows the character of Dick Grayson well, and they have turned him into one of the premiere characters at DC Comics. It was kind of exhilarating, especially with Janin’s always gorgeous art, to see Dick react to these new complications. To see Dick interact with Duke, to see him take responsibility for all this awesome Robin stuff. I hope the rest of Robin War keeps up this standard of quality.

Let’s find out in Part 3!

Detective Comics #47

Detective Comics #47
Writer: Ray Fawkes
Artist: Steve Pugh

I don’t actually read Detective Comics, but not for any particular reason. Considering it’s the New 52 resource for Renee Montoya, I should be all over this book. But I dunno, there are only so many Bat-books a person can read, right? Still, here comes the next chapter in Robin War!

The veteran Robins and the We Are Robin gang are being held in an intense new Gotham jail, known as The Cage. It’s basically just a bunch of cages dangling from high up. Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock are made pretty uneasy by the whole thing, but they don’t do anything about it right away. Instead, Gordon does some digging, and runs into Dick Grayson. The two duke it out for a bit, until Gordon reveals that it’s him behind the new Robo-Bat-Mask. Batman and Dick Grayson then agree to team up and get to the bottom of this!

Meanwhile, the Court of Owls reveal themselves to the other Robins.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I liked the interaction between Dick and Gordon. It’s been a long time coming that someone from the Bat-family actually interact with Gordon as the new Batman, and Dick was the perfect choice. Their interaction is short, though, and I’m sure it could have a lot more depth in time, but it was still a nice centerpiece to this chapter of Robin War. And Fawkes keeps Gordon’s voice consistent, which is good — though it’s a little silly that both Gordon and Harvey Bullock just shrug their shoulders at the idea that a strange, never-before-seen city councilor with a name like Noctua can get away with creating something as evil as The Cage. Bullock literally spends the first few pages grousing about the lockup, then just shrugs his shoulders and leaves, as if he can’t do anything about it.

Gotham Academy #13

Gotham Academy #13
Writer: Brenden Fletcher
Artist: Adam Archer

So…uh…I had a very scary realization about Gotham Academy after reading the latest issue. Maps is carrying this entire series. Maps is just fantastic. She’s adorable and hilarious in equal measure, attaining Squirrel Girl levels of awesomeness. But does anything else in Gotham Academy match her? The main character, Olive Silverlock, is actually kind of dull, and the mystery of her mother and her powers is half-baked, at best. The other characters are all fine, but none of them have much more than surface personalities. And the Academy itself is little more than a setting and not an actual part of the story. It’s not like the kids actually deal with classes or homework. They’re too busy fighting monsters.

Fortunately, Maps is just awesome enough to carry this series well. Also, it’s a tie-in to Robin War, but only just.

A zombie arrives at the Academy, climbing out of the ground in the school greenhouse. Maps and the Detective Team come up with a plan to capture the zombie, including laying a pretty sweet trap. But the zombie, which appears to be a reanimated Talon, is too strong and escapes. The teens then team up with Kirk Langstrom to chase it down, and they corner it in Langstrom’s lab. The zombie is then subdued when it seems to recognize Olive as a Silverlock. Everything is going to be OK.

As for the Robin War tie-in, We Are Robin cast member Riko Sheridan arrives at the school as a new student, and she’s quickly added to the Detective Team. Maps loves the idea that Riko is a Robin, but Olive can’t stand it, since she hates Batman. At the end of the issue, it’s revealed that Olive called the cops on Riko, and she’s taken into custody. Maps is royally pissed that her bff would turn on Riko like that and she runs off — only to get a secret visit from Damian Wayne, who tells Maps to stay in school and stay with Olive, at least until he needs her.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Maps was, once again, utterly hilarious. She’s adorable in that oh so fun way, and she really does carry Gotham Academy. I almost wish the comic was about her, about a Batman fangirl who ends up fighting monsters and tussling with Robins at her spooky school. This was a very nice stand alone issue. There’s a weird mystery, the characters work well together, and the ending isn’t cut and dry. This was good Gotham Academy, made even better with the humor of young Maps.

She always has a plan!

The art was also really good. Regular artist Karl Kerschel has left the title, but Adam Archer more than handles the new assignment. His characters are lively and fun to watch, with all the emotion we’ve come to expect from Maps and her crew.

The Robin War tie-in was rather weak. It makes sense that the youth movement would hit Gotham Academy, but Riko didn’t really add anything to the story, other than giving Maps someone new and interesting to bounce off of. The short cameo by Damian at the end was much cooler, and the potential for more Damian/Maps team-ups might be the first time I’m excited for a new Damian Wayne story.

Scarlet Witch #1

Scarlet Witch #1
Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Vanesa Del Ray

I’m trying to tackle as many of these new Marvel #1s as I can. I know I’ve missed a lot, and I need to try and catch up with some, but with all of the Robin madness this week, I decided Scarlet Witch would be my next one. I’m only slightly disappointed in that choice.

Wanda Maximoff is looking for a fresh start, but she can already sense that there’s something witchcrafty going on in New York City these days. There have been a lot of cats dying, and a few grisly murders. Wanda looks up the lead detective on the case to try and learn more, and she puts it together that all of these gruesome murders (and cat deaths) are because of an ancient demon spirit that feeds off envy and jealousy. Wanda has also identified the lead detective as the next target, which is why she looked him up.

Wanda uses her magic to exorcise and banish the demon from the detective, but she knows that her work is not yet done. Also, Agatha Harkness hangs out at her apartment as a ghost pal.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

Nothing really happened in Scarlet Witch #1 to warrant a full series, in my opinion. The character has her fans, I’m sure she does. And the creative team put together a fine comic. But there’s just not much to this first issue; no hook, unique characterization, compelling plot or even any kind of gimmick. It’s just Scarlet Witch using her vague magic to take out a demon, and waxing worrisomely about a larger magical threat on the horizon. The new Doctor Strange also has a larger magical threat on the horizon, but writer Jason Aaron is also packing every issue with every insane, otherworldly idea he can manage. The most Scarlet Witch #1 has is a ghost bff. Scarlet Witch is a perfectly fine character to get her own ongoing series, but the creative team needs to find something actually worth writing about.

Starfire #7

Starfire #7
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artists: Emanuela Lupacchino and Mirco Pierfederici

So yeah, Dick Grayson is everywhere this week. It’s both crazy and awesome, considering I’ve become such a huge Grayson fan. Plus, I’ve always been a Dick/Kori shipper.

Kori and Sol go out on a date on a dinner cruise, but Dick Grayson also infiltrates the cruise to recover a secret briefcase for a Spyral mission. The mission goes to pot and Dick has to improvise against the bad guys, revealing to Kori that he’s still alive. They team up, stop the bad guys, recover the device and the day is saved! When they have a moment, Kori tells Dick how sad she felt when he died, and they share a passionate kiss!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This was another very fun, personable issue of Starfire, and I like that about this comic. There’s no grittiness, so wickedness, no sauciness. It’s just a comic about a cheerful, friendly super heroine having adventures and making friends. And the Kori/Dick team-up is great. Conner and Palmiotti make sure to mix Dick into the ongoing romance between Kori and Sol, and they use that to great effect to really ramp up the tension between Dick and Kori.

Kori has a type

Personally, I kind of hope they hook up while he’s in town. How many stories exist where the guy gives in to the temptation of an ex? Kori is a reasonable adult woman who is free to make adult choices. She’s not married to Sol or even going steady. She doesn’t have to remain ‘pure’ or ‘pristine’ for Sol. Let the female characters have some relationship drama for once!

It was a little bit of a stretch to get Dick involved in the story, and the art wasn’t as strong as previous issues, and there’s the random inclusion of some kind of tiny ball of light character who befriends Kori at opportune times, so the issue wasn’t perfect. But for a team-up between Dick Grayson and Starfire, and the potential drama that could create, this was a very fun issue.

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 12, 2015, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Scarlet Witch was really good. It does a great job with the character. It shows that she has regrets over things she’s done, and that she’s determined to atone for them. It’s something we should’ve seen more of a long time ago. It’s also got an interesting premise. Agatha is written completely out-of-character, though. She reminds me of Tracy Burke, from KSD’s Captain Marvel run.

  2. I absolutely loved that twist in Grayson, it’s so perfect for the character. It’s not necessarily that Dick is trickier or more clever than say, Tim, but it’s just that he inspires such trust and is so damn likeable that sometimes he can wrap everyone around his finger.
    Protective-big-brother Dick is one of my favorite things, I’ve really missed Dick playing that role in the batfam. I didn’t expect a spy-trope comic to have so many great character moment, but Grayson always nails it.

    I’m so conflicted about Gotham Academy. I do enjoy it, but I keep finishing each issue thinking “oh, is that it? I thought we were getting somewhere but I guess not.”. It’s a decent comic that’s well crafted, but i feel like they’re dragging their feet for some reason.

    • You’ve got a point about Gotham Academy. Fletcher is really, really into whatever mystery he’s crafted around Olive’s family, but 13 issues in, I couldn’t care less. I just want to see these awesome characters he’s created live and work at their cool school.

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