Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 1/9/16

Welp, I don’t know what happened, but it seems I only read Marvel comics this week. I readily admit that they’re my favorite publisher, and have been since childhood, but I’m not actively trying to favor them. DC, Image and all the rest all have good books, I swear. But hey, Marvel does rule!

We’ve got new issues of Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Iron Man and more, and they’re all pretty darn good. I even tried out the new Uncanny X-Men. But Comic Book of the Week has to go to Spider-Woman #2 for its humor, its quality and the way writer Dennis Hopeless is fully incorporating the character’s pregnancy.

Baby knows best

That’s some real dedication to a story.

Comic Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #6, Doctor Strange #4, Invincible Iron Man #5, Spider-Woman #2, Totally Awesome Hulk #2 and Uncanny X-men #1.

Amazing Spider-Man #6

Amazing Spider-Man #6
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Matteo Buffagni

I’m liking the new Parker Industries so far, so consider me on board for Slott’s next big storyline! Apparently it’s going to star Mr. Negative, the only remaining villain from the Brand New Day roster. Remember those guys?

Peter Parker continues to juggle being Spider-Man with running Parker Industries, and today he’s showing a Chinese big wig around PI’s Shanghai offices. But Mr. Negative is in town, and Spidey has to rush off to stop a mind-controlled construction worker from knocking down a building with a wrecking ball. When he returns to his office, Peter is attacked by Cloak and Dagger, who have reversed powers, and are under Mr. Negative’s control. They’ve come to take him to their boss!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This was a solid, entertaining issue to kick off the new storyline. We get a strong introduction to both Mr. Negative and the new Cloak & Dagger, so the stage is set. Mostly, though, we spend time with Peter Parker and get a wider view of his new life. I’m definitely in favor of the Parker Industries scenes, so I liked seeing the man operate. Hopefully Slott will find the time to spend more time with Peter’s new girlfriend (at least I think she’s his girlfriend). Slott always packs his issues with a lot of plot and story, but sometimes he should slow down and smell the roses.

Doctor Strange #4

Doctor Strange #4
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Chris Bachalo

The crap is starting to hit the fans in Jason Aaron’s Doctor Strange, and he’s doing a great job building up the danger. Marvel is building up to something big with magic in the MU lately, and Aaron and Strange are leading the charge.

Something is destroying magic, and has killed possibly all other Sorcerer Supremes in other dimensions. Doctor Strange and other magical heroes are looking into it, but the good doctor hasn’t been feeling well lately. Still, he soldiers on, with the help of Wong and Zelma Stanton, the librarian he met at the start of the series. She tidies up the doctor’s library, but she’s noticed that the magic is being sucked out of his books (also, Wong has a secret)! Strange travels to the Temple of Watoomb at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, only to discover that all of the magic has been drained from that place as well, by a mysterious machine! Strange battles and defeats the machine, then gets a word out to all the other magicians: the enemies of magic have already arrived on Earth!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Aaron does a great job with this issue building the danger and the tension. He makes great use of other magical characters in the Marvel Universe, while never losing sight of Strange as the lead. There aren’t as many weird and mystical things in this issue, but that’s fine, because the plot is important too. Aaron makes Strange such a personal and compelling character, more so than I think I’ve ever seen him. Aaron delves into the sorcerer’s eating habits, his sense of duty, and his fighting abilities. I also like the idea of a technology-based enemy. All along, Strange has assumed it’s a powerful magician, but this twist could be a lot of fun.

It’s jurisdictional

Much like he’s done with Thor, Jason Aaron is doing a fine job rejuvenating Doctor Strange. I’m legitimately eager to keep reading and see what comes next, and I’m confident the pay-off will be awesome.

Iron Man #5

Invincible Iron Man #5
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Marquez

I’m definitely still enjoying Bendis’ Iron Man. The banter and humor are off the charts, with Bendis seemingly giving this series his everything. But I still think Bendis is funny, and Marquez’s art is downright perfect. Marvel knows how to treat their superstar characters right.

Iron Man and Doctor Doom team up to take down Madam Masque, who has been possessed by a demon. Tony traps Masque in his armor and holds her down (with a small assist from Mary Jane Watson), while Doctor Doom conducts the banishment. When it’s over and the day is saved, Doom takes off and Tony calls in Doctor Strange to take Masque into custody. Then a few days later, Tony offers Mary Jane a job as his personal assistant.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This is a short but enjoyable issue. We don’t yet know what’s going on with Madam Masque, but Marquez draws the hell out of her demonic possession. Whether he’s drawing a snarling demon or a smirking Tony Stark, Marquez is fantastic on this book. Everything looks energetic, the characters look dynamic, and he draws some great Iron Man armor. This book is gorgeous.

This is a thing now

The story is alright, mostly. It’s Bendis’ use of characters that’s really fun. He does a great job with the charming and witty Tony Stark, who can get serious when need be, whether he’s trying to convince Masque to calm down or when he’s offering Mary Jane a job. This comic definitely isn’t just a placeholder book to keep Marvel’s key movie star untouched. Bendis and Marquez are telling a simple, enjoyable Iron Man story. I like it.

Spider-Woman #2

Spider-Woman #2
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Javier Rodriguez

I really like how well Hopeless is incorporating Spider-Woman’s new pregnancy into the series. It’s not just a gimmick (at least not yet). He definitely seems to have thought this out, pitting her against adversity, but kind of pregnancy-related adversity!

Spider-Woman is trapped in a space hospital with several other pregnant alien women. The building is under siege by Skrulls, and Captain Marvel isn’t going to get to them in time. So Jessica works with the other expecting mothers to take out a couple guards, then stage a clever ambush to take out one of the Skrull commanders.

After the dust has settled, Spider-Woman contacts Captain Marvel to make sure she shows up to save them from the larger Skrull invading force. But Captain Marvel reveals that she can’t come to the rescue because the Skrulls have locked all the portals, and the space hospital really is in outer space, far from Earth. In fact, it’s inside of a black hole!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This was an enjoyable issue of Spider-Woman that goes a long way to incorporating her pregnancy into the story. She’s not just an action superhero who happens to be pregnant. Her pregnancy, the safety of her baby, and her ‘conversations’ with the child are all part of the story now. When she flip kicks a couple Skrulls, she has to make sure she’s holding her belly and keeping the baby largely safe. Plus, she’s not out on patrol, she went to the maternity ward of a hospital to get checked out. Spider-Woman is still as fun, as funny, and as gorgeous as it was before the relaunch, and Hopeless and company actually seem to be going somewhere new and clever with the re-focus. That’s saying a lot.

Hulk #2

Totally Awesome Hulk #2
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Frank Cho

Like most other issues this week, there’s just something kind of fun happening at Marvel these days. Strange, Iron Man, Spider-Woman and Totally Awesome Hulk all share this sense of entertainment that I don’t always see in comics. Spider-Man usually has it too, but Slott was busy setting up a new storyline.

Amadeus Hulk can’t bring himself to punch Lady Hellbender, the Monster Queen of Seknarf 9, because she’s a lady. But when his sister Maddy is endangered, he Hulks out and She-Hulk, Spider-Man and Maddy have to calm him back down. Once he’s Amadeus again, Lady Hellbender declares a truce and reveals that she isn’t controlling the monsters, she’s hunting them as well. She wants to take them back to the monster nature reserve on her home planet, and she’s coming seeking the biggest of all monsters: Fin Fang Foom! Maddy doesn’t trust Hellbender, convinced that the alien woman is secretly putting together a monster arm. But Amadeus trusts her, and he Hulks back out to join Lady Hellbender in her hunt!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Totally Awesome Hulk is just a fun little series with some neat ideas, and definitely some strong characterization. Pak has a good handle on both Amadeus and his sister, so they’re driving the series. The random guest appearances by She-Hulk and Miles Morales are a little weird, but I like what he’s building with this Lady Hellbender character. This series isn’t as deep or as important as others, but it’s fun so far, even if it’s a little shallow. That’s good enough for me. And Cho’s art is a big help, of course. Drawn by anybody else, this series might not be as good. But Cho brings the exact right amount of fun to the art that everything comes together nicely.

Uncanny X-Men #1

Uncanny X-Men #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Greg Land

I don’t think there is any greater metaphor for how Marvel is treating the X-Men than the current storyline where Terrigen Mists are literally killing mutants. Admittedly, I’m not following any mutant or Inhuman books at the moment, but there’s a real lack of unified purpose with the X-Men these days, even despite the collective storyline of mutantkind being wiped out, again.

The Terrigen Mists are killing mutants, so a shady company called Someday is charging big bucks to put mutants in stasis to protect them. But something far shadier is going on, so Magneto puts together a squad of mutants to disrupt Someday’s plans. They intercept a shipment of stasis pods, beat up the guards and free the mutants, with Magneto giving them a stern lecture about the choice they made — without offering them protection or any alternative to dying from the Mists.

Magneto’s team is comprised of himself, Monet, Psylocke, the newer, gentler Sabretooth and a mindless, drone-like Archangel. They banter playfully amongst themselves during the simple fight, while Magneto and Psylocke also stake out a few of their goals.

Meanwhile, an evil group of mutants calling themselves the Dark Riders are out to stop them/kill the mutants they freed. They’re comprised of a couple uglier mutants, like Tusk and Fever Pitch.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

The new Uncanny X-Men falls into the worst possible trap an X-comic can fall into: pick a squad of random mutants and send them on a vaguely generic mission. For added problems, pit them against a second squad of random mutants. I have long wondered what the process is behind picking team members for the various X-Men comics that come out. Sometimes, especially with this issue, it feels like the creative team is throwing darts against a wall. What do any of these characters have to do with each other or this specific squad? Why Monet? Why Psylocke? Is this really the squad Magneto would create if he was putting together his own X-Men?

On top of that, nothing in this issue explains why this team is together or their connection to any other X-Men comic or any previous X-Men comic. Instead, it’s just Bunn writing basic banter, which loses all of its charm when the characters have zero chemistry or history together.

Or when it’s Monet inexplicably flirting with FREAKIN’ SABRETOOTH!

So yeah, the new Uncanny X-Men is a random assortment of mutants, embarking upon a randomly vague adventure, and pitted up against a random assortment of mutants. What’s the point? At the very least, the comic is well made, so it’s readable. And I didn’t notice any of Greg Land’s usual artistic problems, but then maybe I just zone out about it these days. The only really interesting thing in the whole issue was the new Archangel subplot, where he’s returned as some kind of mindless being that Psylocke pilots like a drone, all while trying her hardest to find some semblance of the man she loved still inside. I have no idea how Angel transitioned into this form, but seeing as how I’m already a fan of the character, I’m semi-interested to see where Bunn might go with this. But that’s more about my overall interest in Archangel than in anything Bunn has thought up for this series.

Someday, I hope Marvel hires me to put together a random assortment of mutants to embark upon a randomly vague adventure. That’s kind of my comics dream, actually.

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 January 9, 2016, in Comics, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. ASM was reasonably fun. I always like seeing Cloak and Dagger. I’m curious if Slott is going to pick up on the plot point from their last mini about them being destined to kill Mr. Negative. Their powers being reversed comes from that mini, so it might be neat if that plot point is picked up again, too.

    Dr Strange is good. I like cameos. Illyana! Shaman and Talisman! Others who aren’t X-related. Also, I always approve of librarians in comics.

    Iron Man was good. A good reminder of why MJ is awesome. She doesn’t take shit. “Oh, this crazy supervillain is throwing around enough power to fight Doom and Iron Man at the same time? Eat mic stand, bitch!” MJ has no patience for your Distressed Damsel shit.

    Spider-Woman was fun. Pretty great last-page reveal. Always nice to see her being clever, too.

    Hulk was pretty OK. Something about this book isn’t quite clikcing for me. It feels a little too much, I think.

    UXM . . . OK. This book did not impress me on any level. Monet sounded off, and since she’s a character I love – easily my favourite character in this title, by a landslide – that’s a problem. The plot was weird, and felt like it was just an excuse to show the team in action. As I saw someone point out, having the Holocaust survivor exposing a minority group to a poisonous gas is probably not the best way to go. And the book doesn’t really set itself apart from EXM – they’re both fairly dark X-titles, so what’s the hook for this one?

    And then there’s the art. I hate Greg Land. Hate him hate him hate him hate him hate him. He is a hack. The biggest goddamn hack in the industry. He seems to have gotten a new photo-reference for Sabretooth, but every other face in this issue, I’ve seen before. Countless times. He’s most blatant with Monet – she gets the most obnoxiously recycled faces (including one being recycled in the same issue). Greg Land is an artist who hurts stories. He’s awful and unreadable and I hate him SO FRIGGING MUCH.

    • I definitely agree that Monet sounded off, and not just in flirting with Sabretooth. I don’t think the writer has much familiarity with her, but has something in mind for what he wants to do with her. And Land was definitely worst on her as well. But I think I’ve just become numb to Land’s style. It washes right over me like water on a duck’s back.

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