Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 1/23/16
This was an exciting week for comics! We’ve got new issues of some of my favorites, like Astonishing Ant-Man and Ms. Marvel, as well as the excellent return of the new Patsy Walker series. Heck, even DC delivered, with another big Batman issue, and the first issue of the new Poison Ivy mini-series. This week was packed to the gills!
But two of the best issues were new #1s! I’m talking, of course, about the relaunched Captain Marvel and Silver Surfer comics! One has a new creative team and a new direction, while the other doubles down on what made the previous volume so good — which is exactly why the new Silver Surfer #1 wins Comic Book of the Week!
But it’s good to have both series back! Marvel is finally shaking off all the Secret Wars malaise (even though I did enjoy Secret Wars).
Comic Reviews: Astonishing Ant-Man #4, Batman #48, Captain Marvel #1, Ms. Marvel #3, Poison Ivy #1, Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat #2 and Silver Surfer #1.
Astonishing Ant-Man #4
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Ramon Rosanos
I missed reviewing the last issue of Ant-Man, which is too bad, because it was awesome. Well now we’re back for some more anty action, and this new issue was a generally good time.
Beetle is back in town looking to hook up, and that aforementioned tryst makes Scott late for his security job guarding Darla Deering at a local celebrity/charity basketball competition (for which Scott also secretly scored tickets for his daughter, Cassie). The game is interrupted by mind-control villain The Voice, who orders everyone on the court and in the stands to go crazy! Scott, Ms. Thing and basketball all-star Jalen Diggs team up to calm the crowd and stop The Voice, who was hired through the super-villain app Lackey by Darla’s wormy new boyfriend (Lackey being new competition to the other super-villain app, Hench).
Cassie spotted Ant-Man in the fight, though, and she confronts her father about everything: about getting her those tickets, about secretly spying on her basketball games, and how he refuses to spend time with her, which he claims is to keep her safe. Cassie tells Scott to stay out of her life forever!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I don’t really know how to put my finger on it, but there was just something off about this issue. The art wasn’t as comfortable as it has been in previous issues, and the story was kind of off-the-wall. This Voice guy comes out of nowhere, with powers as dangerous as Kilgrave from Jessica Jones, but the scene is played for comedy, as Ant-Man juggles several different problems on the court, including the weirdly wacky new boyfriend. It was just plain strange.
What is Darla Deering doing with a twerp like that anyway? He’s kind of just thrown in for the wormy comedy.
Beyond that general sense of unease, the issue was still good. Scott is being put through his paces right now, and that’s always fun to do to a protagonist. His daughter hates him, his security job is a bust; he’s not even sure why he’s still Ant-Man at this point. That’s a good place to tell stories from, and I still love what Spencer is doing with the character. I just hope things snap into better shape soon.
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
The end is on its way! Another Big Batman Blowout is coming from Snyder and Capullo, and this issue does all the heavy lifting to set us up for something spectacular. The tension is rising! It’s party time!
Mr. Bloom grabs Batman, grows several stories tall, and then parades his captive around Gotham City, shouting his anti-authoritarian creed to the people of Gotham. Bloom, who has several empowered followers, tells the citizens that he has planted his super-powered seeds all around the city, and they just have to plant the seeds in their own blood streams to get power — except they’re booby traps, and everybody who does this blows up.
Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne and the former Joker are sitting together on a bench in a nearby park. They talk about suicide and parasites, with Bruce misinterpreting everything Non-Joker says as a call to action. Eventually, they notice that the seed people are exploding, so Bruce rushes back to the childcare center to make sure everybody’s OK. But then he sees that one of the children has planted Bloom’s seed, claiming she’ll use the power to be like Batman and stop Bloom…only for her to explode as well.
So Bruce Wayne heads home and demands that Alfred take him to the Batcave!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
And so, perhaps ahead of schedule, Bruce Wayne shall return to Batman. I, for one, enjoyed Jim Gordon’s time as Robo-Batman. It was interesting, the stories were well-written, and I really enjoyed the strange new dynamic to the Dynamic Duo (The thing I will miss most is Duke Thomas’ cool Robin helmet). Word has it that low sales are prompting DC to jumpstart the returns of Batman and Superman. I don’t know for sure, but I suppose that makes sense. And Snyder writes a great return. That final image. of Bruce demanding that Alfred help him return, was pretty chilling.
Though it’s a little disappointing that Bruce will return to being Batman after only one single story of Gordon as Batman. I know there were some other adventures in other comics, but in Snyder’s main Batman series, Bruce is returning as soon as the first super-villain reared his ugly head. Ah well.
This issue was all build-up, and I assume everything is really going to hit the fan in the next issue. The conversation between Bruce and Joker was fascinating, and probably deeper than I can grasp. I’m not that great with subtext, but it’s a strong conversation, and Snyder and Capullo play it well. I’m still not that impressed with Mr. Bloom as a villain. He just seems like another wacky crazy dude, only with weird, wacky powers. He’s threatening, for sure, so of course we need to see the entire Robo-Batman arsenal in the field, and we need Bruce to come back. But I feel he’s just skin deep.
Hopefully next issue, or at least the next two issues, will really blow this whole thing wide open. And hopefully Duke Thomas gets to stick around. I really don’t want to go back to Bruce and Damian after all this.
Captain Marvel #1
Writers: Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters
Artist: Kris Anka
This isn’t the only big return this week, but it’s one I’m very excited about. Captain Marvel has a new creative team this time around. Can Fazekas and Butters (the showrunners of TV’s Agent Carter) pick up where the now-legendary Kelly Sue DeConnick left off? They’re definitely off to a good start, though many, many questions remain…
Carol Danvers has accepted a two-year position as commander of the Alpha Flight Space Station, Earth’s first line of defense against space invaders. And yes, that’s the regular, old Alpha Flight, for reasons that are not explained. Puck, Sasquatch and Aurora are the planet’s first line of space defense. Carol’s first day involves a mix of bureaucracy and action, such as meeting with the aliens in charge of the station’s waste removal, or teaming up with Alpha Flight to stop an incoming asteroid.
But the two threads cross paths when one of the science techs discovers that the waste removal aliens, who are trying to argue for a bigger contract, are also the ones responsible for sending the asteroid on a collision course with the station. Carol has them thrown in the brig, but their interrogation is interrupted by the arrival of a strange black craft. Carol and Alpha Flight go to investigate the hostile craft, only to find that it’s full of skeletons, and a weathered Captain Marvel logo is on the hull!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This first issue was pretty darn great in setting up Carol’s new status quo, and I’m excited. I have a ton of questions, but we’ll get to those in a moment. As a first issue, this is a good start. We get a strong sense of who Carol is as a person, and her ideas for this new position. Her internal monologue is fun and very personable. We also get a great mix of slice of life stuff with the action stuff. I love the idea that we’ll get into the nitty gritty of living on a space station, including waste removal meetings, or some downtime with her new co-workers. I love that human being stuff, and that will make this series.
Unfortunately, this first issue doesn’t do anything to explain WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?! Why is Alpha Flight the first line of space defense? Are they still Canada’s Premiere Superhero Team, or has their history been completely re-written so that they were always space-based? And if they were Canada’s superhero team, that just raises more questions! How are Puck, Sasquatch and Aurora the first line of space defense? They’re just flying around in spaceships; anybody could do that!
On top of that, the space station is already decked out in Carol’s logo and her color scheme. Did they do that just for her? Or has it always been that way, and her costume has now been retconned as being based on the Alpha Flight Space Station? Neither one makes sense!
Those are nitpicks, and they don’t detract from the overall story, they just add a level of weirdness that I hope gets addressed. I think this could be a good fit for Captain Marvel. I didn’t like it when DeConnick sent Carol into space, because DeConnick had built up such an enjoyable status quo for Carol on Earth, only to jettison all of it for some silly space fracas with all new, far inferior characters. Fazekas and Butters are starting in space, and they’ve hit the ground running on a good, worthwhile supporting cast. I’m very optimistic. Also, Anka is a great artist, and this first issue looks stellar. So art is on point.
Although one more nitpick, if I may: War Machine makes a brief appearance at the very beginning to wish Carol well and reaffirm that they’re a couple — which is the exact same scene as the last time Carol went into outer space, leaving him behind. I don’t know where this relationship started, but it’s an albatross around Carol’s neck. It adds nothing and, clearly, is of no interest to any Captain Marvel creative teams. Carol has more chemistry with Puck in this issue. This ‘relationship’ needs to be scuttled as soon as possible.
Ms. Marvel #3
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Takeshi Miyazawa
Captain Marvel is off to a good star, and Ms. Marvel is humming along nicely. We wrap up the first story arc with this issue, which is fun, and we spend more time with the newest character, Mike, which is even more fun!
Dr. Faustus has taken Bruno prisoner via mind-control, and his henchmen have Ms. Marvel surrounded! She fights her way out, but has to leave Bruno behind. Ms. Marvel then tracks down Bruno’s new girlfriend, Mike, whom Bruno said had the key to solving this. Sure enough, Mike has a special pendant that Bruno gave her that has the password into his private cloud storage. They log on and find Bruno’s notes about counteracting Faustus’ mind control drug, and they make an antidote!
The next day, at a big Hope Yards gathering, Ms. Marvel and Mike release the antidote, free the people of Jersey City and save Bruno — except there’s still a contingent of people who think Ms. Marvel was working with Hope Yards all along. And they don’t believe her when she said she never gave permission for them to use her image. So Ms. Marvel, Bruno and Mike skedaddle.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
The ending felt a little pat, but otherwise this was another solid, fun issue of Ms. Marvel. It doesn’t help that Kamala and Mike used the school’s 3D printer to ‘create’ the chemical antidote. I don’t think 3D printers work that way…But otherwise, they saved the day, stopped Dr. Faustus, but still have a lot of trouble on their hands. Most importantly, this was a great issue to showcase Mike and make her a real member of the cast. I’m definitely down with that. But it was especially weird that Mike doesn’t recognize Kamala under that dinky little mask she wears. The two of them literally get into a conversation about how Bruno’s best friend (Kamala) doesn’t seem to like Mike. It’s weird. But such are secret identities, I suppose!
Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat #2
Writer: Kate Leth
Artist: Brittney L. Williams
Hellcat is back, and her second issue is just as adorable and fun as her first! Leth and Williams dive in to the weird world of Patsy Walker with this issue, providing a frantic day at the mall.
Patsy is working retail at the mall while she tries to get her superhero temp agency up and running, and working in retail is a huge headache! Her new telekinetic roommate, Ian, shows her that her old frenemy, Hedy Wolfe, is throwing shade at Patsy online. Then Hedy herself shows up to try and make peace, but she’s really stuck up about it, angering Patsy further. And then a mysterious woman with a magical bag goes shoplifting through the mall, and Hellcat is unable to stop her. And after so many interruptions and personal conversations, Patsy is fired by her wormy, teenage manager!
Fed up with all this nonsense, Patsy calls all her best superhero pals to her favorite burger shop for some girl time. Valkyrie shows up and reveals that their old enemy, Casiolena, is back!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
This issue was a ton of fun! Leth and Williams are creating a wonderful little world here and filling it to the brim with verve and personality. From Patsy’s struggles to work in retail to her adorable anger management problems, there is quality comic book construction going on here. Two issues in, and we’ve got a fascinating, unique personal crisis over the old Patsy Walker comics, and then the crew introduce a neat new super-villain to the mix. Good things are brewing.
I also really enjoyed the get-together in the end. It’s a fun idea that these superheroes can get together for some quality friend time, and that Patsy Walker is a major player. This series is fun in so many ways. It’s light-heartened and colorful, which is my kind of comic these days. Kudos to all involved.
Poison Ivy #1
Writer: Amy Chu
Artist: Clay Mann
Poison Ivy has been riding high on a wave of popularity recently, and I’m not quite sure the cause. I know her guest appearances in Harley Quinn are one of my favorite parts of that book. Well fan demand has now led to this six-issue mini-series, and I say she’s more than ready to be a star.
And her best friend Harley might just stop by to wish her luck.
Pamela Isley has been hired to work at the Gotham Botanical Gardens by Dr. Luisa (despite her known history as Poison Ivy, I guess…). But then Dr. Harleen Quinzel interrupts a demonstration of Ivy’s latest experiment because Pam hasn’t been returning her texts, and Harley’s getting a little jealous that Pam is spending so much time at her new job. The two go out on the town to a biker bar to unwind, but Harley is feeling extra sensitive, and Pam says all the wrong things, so Harley storms off in a huff.
Pam tells herself that she doesn’t need human companionship, and she heads home to check on another of her experiments before bed. In the morning, she discovers that the experimental plants have grown at an alarming rate, so she goes to check on the samples at the Gardens — only to discover that Dr. Luisa is dead!
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
This was an OK comic, but there were parts of it that really, really bugged me. Why the hell do you kick off this mini-series by having Ivy and Harley ‘break-up’? What kind of ridiculous decision was that? Their relationship is on fire at DC right now, thanks to Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti on Harley Quinn. So if you’re going to do a Poison Ivy mini-series, why not keep Harley around and have some fun? I know you can’t always give the fans what they want, but this was overkill. Maybe Chu is building to some reconciliation, but their ‘break up’ was so forced it was painful. The animosity comes out of nowhere.
Harley herself has a side job as a psychiatrist in her own series, so why would she get upset that Ivy has a new job in her civilian identity too? Also, Harley has a lot going on in her solo series, why is she so upset that Ivy has been out of touch for awhile? Basically, nothing in this issue coincides at all with how the pair are written in the wildly popular Harley Quinn series. And considering that relationship had to have played a part in getting this mini-series off the ground, couldn’t we have even a little consistency?
Rant aside, everything else was pretty solid on the Poison Ivy front. She’s presented as an interesting character, her obsession with plants seen through an almost purely academic framework. I don’t know why a research facility in Gotham City would hire Poison freakin’ Ivy, but I can roll with it. She’s got her experiments, she’s got a solid life, and now there’s a mystery to unravel, one that’s going to really hit home, considering how close she and Dr. Luisa seem in this issue.
The art is OK, but Mann falls into the trap of drawing all female characters nearly identical. Harley and Ivy look like twins. Lab coat twins.
Overall, I’ll definitely be picking up the rest of this mini-series, because the story could be a good one. And Poison Ivy is treated quite well in her starring role. But Chu really blunders with her use of Harley Quinn.
Silver Surfer #1
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Michael and Laura Allred
Silver Surfer is back, baby! This was another series that I feared Secret Wars might torpedo, but thankfully, the creative team is still together, and they’ve come back rested and raring to go!
Silver Surfer and Dawn Greenwood return to Earth and are welcomed home by her father and sister (who has since gotten married, with a baby on the way!). After a big feast, the group settle down to watch a movie — only for the movie, and every other bit of culture, from books to comics to music, to get sucked up by the invading alien Hordax! Surfer and Dawn fly out to stop them, and the Hordax use the pop culture to transform themselves into Earth’s greatest fictional protagonists, from Robocop to The Doctor!
Dawn eventually realizes that the change has also given the aliens the heroes’ nobility, and she’s able to convince them to do the right thing and return Earth’s “greatest resource”. But an even greater threat is on the horizon, and they’ve already kidnapped Ben Grimm!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
This issue was a total blast, and a welcome return of Silver Surfer! Dawn Greenwood remains adorable as ever, and the reunion with her family is pretty great (though I didn’t realize she was gone long enough for her twin sister to get married and get pregnant). We don’t get much time to share with the Greenwood family, but Slott and the Family Allred make the most of it (I love how the twin sisters managed to get the same hairstyle, despite being lightyears apart). The fight with the Hordax is equally a ton of fun in a whimsically creative way.
The issue starts with the Hordax broadcasting their intended invasion to Earth, like aliens do, only for the Surfer and Dawn to hijack their equipment so that Dawn can get a message home. That’s just fun. Then when they come back and ‘steal’ popular culture, that’s exactly the kind of weird thing I want to see in a comic like this! Slott has some great ideas, and Silver Surfer is his chance to let them sing. And Allred’s parade of pop culture icons was a blast.
Silver Surfer is a ton of fun, and I’m excited to see what this rejuvenated series has in store!
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!
Posted on January 23, 2016, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews and tagged Ant-Man, Astonishing Ant-Man, Captain Marvel, Commissioner Gordon, Dawn Greenwood, Joker, Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel, Patsy Walker, Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat, Poison Ivy, Scott Lang, Silver Surfer. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.