Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 1/30/16

We’re still tepidly awaiting the reveal of the new DC Rebirth here in Comic Book Land. Will it be a complete reboot like the New 52? Or just a relaunch like Marvel’s Post-Secret Wars plans? Your guess is as good as mine! I’m just gonna keep reading and enjoying myself.

One comic that I know will never let you down is my own, Gamer Girl & Vixen! We’re gearing up for another Kickstarter soon, so if you missed out on getting the comic the first time, we’re going to go bigger and better soon! I’ll try not to talk your ears off too much about it.

Until then, let’s enjoy new issues of the Avengers, Spider-Woman, We Are Robin and more! This week finally saw the release of Faith #1 from Valiant Comics, which I was excited about, but which didn’t live up to the hype. Fortunately, the new issue of Grayson steals the show with one of the best non-Squirrel Girl jokes I’ve read in awhile.

Wait for it…

Consider that Comic Book of the Week material!

Also, for anybody tuning in for my ongoing coverage of Saga, I decided not to review the new issue because not a whole lot happens. Brian Vaughn kind of just moved a few pieces around the board. Not a big deal.

Comic Reviews: All-New, All-Different Avengers #4, Angela: Queen of Hel #4, Faith #1, Grayson #16, Spider-Woman #3 and We Are Robin #8.

Avengers #4

All-New, All-Different Avengers #4
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Mahmud Asrar

Yeah, I think I’ll be checking out of All-New, All-Different Avengers. I wanted to give it another try now that a new storyline has begun, but eh, I don’t think it’s going to be for me. As much as I love the idea of Ms. Marvel hanging out with other teen heroes like Nova and Miles, there’s just nothing really driving this book.

Since they no longer have any money, Tony Stark is setting the new Avengers up in an old Stark warehouse in New Jersey. He’s even enlisted Jarvis to help out, though Jarvis is none too pleased with the meager surroundings. While they’re setting up, the team is alerted to a hurricane in Atlantic City, and they arrive to find the super-villain Cyclone trashing the casinos and killing innocents. The Avengers team-up, save people and kick Cyclone’s butt. During the clean-up, a rather gregarious Thor plants a big, ole kiss on Captain America and takes off, leaving the others to wonder what’s gotten into her.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

Four issues in, and I’m pretty convinced that Mark Waid doesn’t really have a direction for this series. Unless he’s playing some kind of insane long game, it still feels like he’s thrown together a bunch of random superheroes and is vaguely just throwing them up against some random bad guys. I mean, c’mon, Cyclone?! He digs a little into the ‘slice of life’ stuff that I like, but not enough to make it an ongoing theme of this version of the Avengers. A big point seems to be that Tony Stark no longer has any money…except that’s not how Stark is being written in his solo series. Honestly, none of the characters feel like they do in their solo series, as if Waid is working off only vague ideas about the characters.

You’re not my supervisor!

I love Ms. Marvel as much as the next geek, and a semi-awkward teen rivalry with Nova sounds like an amazing idea. But even Waid’s Iron Man is kind of just shrugging his shoulders about this team. There’s no hook, no clear direction. No apparent reason why this group of superheroes is going to be the Avengers. Their solo books are on fire and are some of my favorites from Marvel, but I guess I don’t care much for them as a makeshift team.

Angela #4

Angela: Queen of Hel #4
Writer: Marguerite Bennett
Artists: Kim Jacinto and Stephanie Hans

I like Angela: Queen of Hel well enough, but I fear it’s losing me. Maybe it’s my fault for not sticking with the original series, but I’m getting kind of lost in all the hubbub.

Angela is still fighting her way through Hel, and she’s got an army of fallen angels backing her up. Together, they take on Hel’s agents, including Balder, Tyr and Skurge the Executioner. Once they’re defeated, Angela takes on her grandfather, Bor, a ravenously misogynistic asshole. She kicks his butt too. Then Leah presents Angela and Sera with the third challenge: Pain. She forces them to face visions of what their lives would be like had they never met.

Angela never would have softened, and she would have become even more hardcore of a warrior. Sera would have still discovered her true self even without Angela, and she would rebel against Heven — only for Angela to be the one to strike her down. When faced with these truths, Sera still chooses to love Angela, and the pair are as strong as ever — which is when Hel and her minions show up for the final battle.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Over on The Mighty Thor, writer Jason Aaron is doing a great job juggling all the different realms and races in the Thor mythology. But I’m afraid Bennett isn’t matching that level of clarity, and it’s kind of hurting her Angela comic. There are angels, fallen angels, various kinds of agents of Hel, and many more. But honestly, that’s probably all on me. I’m not as invested in this story as I could be. It’s still a good comic. The characters are fun and forceful, the dialogue is witty and entertaining, and the lead relationship has a lot of energy and resonance behind it. This is exciting stuff, I’m just a little lost in the execution.

Faith #1

Faith #1
Writer: Jody Houser
Artists: Francis Portela and Marguerite Sauvage

I ditched Valiant Comics awhile ago due to lack of interest, but I definitely wanted to pick up Faith #1. I’m all about diversity in comics, and a plus-sized female superhero whose weight isn’t the ‘joke’ sounded right up my alley. Unfortunately, Valiant can’t seem to get out of its own way.

Faith Herbert, the superhero known as Zephyr, has just moved to LA to begin anew after breaking up with her superhero boyfriend and leaving her superhero team. She’s got a new secret identity, a job working for Buzzfeed (renamed Zipline), and a real hankering for some superheroic do-gooding. But there’s not much going on. She stops some burglars stealing puppies, but that’s about it for superheroics. So she gets in touch with a hacker friend, who tips her off to some missing super-powered people (called psiots). Faith heads to one of their homes, but it’s been abandoned. She’s greeted by a mysterious man in a suit, who proceeds to blow up the building.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This has the makings of a really good comic. Faith seems like a fun and interesting lead character. This is definitely Valiant’s attempt to delve into the current comics zeitgeist, and they could very well pull it off. Faith is fun, heroic and there’s a big focus on her personal life. Her weight is not the focus of her character or the series, and the art is pretty darn stupendous. This has the makings of a great comic.

Sauvage killed it with the fantasy sequences

Unfortunately, this first issue is packed to the gills with exposition upon exposition! Holy moly! I couldn’t even get into it all in the synopsis, or we’d be here all day. First we’ve got to introduce Faith and explain her powers as bluntly as possible. It’s not enough that she can just fly, she’s got to have this thing called a ‘companion field’ that allows her to move or shield things with her mind. That’s got to be explained several times. We’ve got to be introduced to her new job at Zipline, and every single one of her co-workers, each with their own personality quirks that must be established the moment we meet them. Then we’ve got to explain her past superhero team and her ex-boyfriend and what he’s up to now. Then Faith has two separate friends that she chats with online, both of whom have complicated backstories that need to be shoved in there. Plus we’ve got to recap some recent events in the Valiant Universe, as well as explain what ‘psiots’ are. It’s maddening!

Houser, Portela and Sauvage have a potentially good series on their hands, even if it’s only going to be four issues long. But they and Valiant need to get out of Faith’s way before she drowns in exposition.

Grayson #16

Grayson #16
Writers: Tom King and Tim Seeley
Artist: Mikel Janin

Dang, if this issue don’t just beat all! Fresh off of Robin War, Grayson kicks off the next big storyline, where Dick Grayson takes on Spyral. There’s no sign of the Court of Owls for some reason, but let’s not worry about that right now, because it’s time for a song!

Dick Grayson and Tiger (Agent 1) have rebelled against Spyral, and they travel the world taking out different Spyral agents and safehouses. Along the way, Dick delivers some of the funnest banter of the series so far, much to Tiger’s displeasure (there’s an ongoing joke about Tony the Tiger that plays out masterfully, and Dick sings his own theme song over all the ass-kicking). And really, it’s all one huge riff on James Bond. Helena Bertintelli is tired of losing so many men, so she brings the Syndicate on board to stop her rogue agents. In response, Dick and Agent 1 turn themselves over to Checkmate.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

King and Seeley kicked the fun factor up to 11 in this issue. Dick Grayson is in rare form. He’s always been funny and quippy, but he’s practically beside himself with glee in Grayson #16, and it raises the enjoyment of the book. Sadly, there isn’t much plot, per se. It’s really just a big montage of Dick and Tiger beating up a bunch of nobodies. I never knew Spyral had so many nameless, faceless thugs. And considering that Helena sends her agents after the two of them, I’m not sure why they had to travel around the world so much. But all of that aside, this was still a highly entertaining issue, and that definitely counts for something special.

There it is

I wish I could have shared the entire ‘Tony the Tiger’ gag, but it plays across too many pages. That bit there with Bronze Tiger is the pay-off, though, and it’s pretty darn hilarious. I’m not ashamed to admit it made me giggle. A lot of Grayson’s jokes were giggle-worthy this issue.

Spider-Woman #3

Spider-Woman #3
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Javier Rodriguez

This is just delightful. I’ve never been a big Spider-Woman fan, but Hopeless has yet to let me down with his darling little series. And Spider-Woman #3 is Javier Rodriguez’s time to shine!

A very pregnant Spider-Woman is trapped inside a space hospital that is under attack from Skrulls. She manages to lead the rest of the maternity ward patients to a safe room in the hospital, while Captain Marvel tries to figure out how to reopen the teleporters to get them out. There’s a scientist in the hospital who can help, but his consciousness is stored inside a computer terminal on the other side of the hospital. So Spider-Woman must cross the entire loopy, out of this world hospital to get his consciousness, then must come all the way back to get him set up on a computer terminal.

The scientist can fix the teleporters, but it’s going to take a few hours — during which time the invading Skrulls will kidnap the Skrull Prince and blow up the hospital in their escape. So Spider-Woman has to go back out into the hospital to reach the Prince before them. She finds him just fine, but on their way back, the Skrulls break through the door…and her water breaks! She’s gonna have this baby!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This issue was just plain great, and so much fun to boot! Like I said, Rodriguez steals the show with this issue. Hopeless crafts a fun tale, to be sure, with the usual wit and charm we’ve come to expect from his Spider-Woman. But Rodriguez steps up his game as he draws all the weird, wacky wards in this alien hospital. I have to wonder what the art directions were in this script.

This isn’t even the best page!

Hopeless and Rodriguez have got a really interesting story going here. Jess’ pregnancy could have been a weird gimmick, but they’ve fully incorporated it into a really unique and fun story. Plus, it turns out the pregnancy was a swerve the whole time, since she’s about to give birth in the very first story. This creative team is firing on all cylinders with Spider-Woman, and I hope they can keep up the solid, exciting pace.

We Are Robin #8

We Are Robin #8
Writer: Lee Bermejo
Artist: Jorge Corona

The dust from Robin War has settled, and much like with Grayson, it’s time to pick up the pieces and keep things moving. For the We Are Robin crew, we find that almost all of them have hung up their masks and tried to move on. It doesn’t go very well.

Duke Thomas is searching hospitals and mental wards for his parents, having given up on being Robin. Meanwhile, the bully Smiley, from earlier in the series, is getting out of juvenile hall. He’s obsessed with the Joker and has a permanent grin etched on his face after some botched plastic surgery his parents made him get when he was 8. Those same parents are assholes who don’t treat him the way he wants to be treated, so as soon as he’s home, Smiley dresses up like the Joker and shoots them both dead. Meanwhile, Duke finds his mom and dad in a mental hospital, but they’re too far gone to even recognize him.

Also meanwhile, the various other Robins are up to a variety of activities. Some are still with it, others don’t seem to be. But Alfred is always there in the background, helping them out.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

For the most part, this was a solid issue, especially the parts where we check in with the We Are Robin cast. Duke Thomas finally finds his parents, and it’s as sad and tragic as we probably should have expected. That should place a lot of personal burden on our protagonist going forward. The other Robins are doing alright, with some interesting developments here and there. Hopefully we’ll see them all back together soon — though Alfred clearly has a lot of time on his hands with all the flitting around he does looking after them. I really wonder if DC is going to have Bruce confront Alfred for all of this madness. Remember, several Robins have died because Alfred decided to sponsor this wayward gaggle of untrained teenagers.

Alfred’s got a lot of free time with am amnesiac boss

Mostly, though, this issue was all about the bully, Smiley, and how he morphs into a Young Joker, and that storyline was rather lame. Bermejo didn’t really give the guy any depth beyond ‘asshole’, so this was one long journey to see how this asshole obviously becomes a Joker Jr. Honestly, from the moment Bermejo introduced the idea that Smiley has a permanent grin on his face, due to birth defects/botched surgery, I found myself wondering why he hasn’t turned into Joker II before? Like, how did the Joker not simply find him and involve him in some plot?

And then Smiley is obsessed with the Joker for no particular reason. It’s really a wonder he waited this long to kill his parents and become Joker 2: Electric Boogaloo. I’m totally down with the Robins fighting a gang of would-be Jokerz, but Smiley’s origin story isn’t nearly as interesting as the Robins themselves. Heck, just off the top of my head, Bermejo should have made the lead Joker a former We Are Robin kid. That, at least, would have added a personal element to their upcoming battle.

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 30, 2016, in Avengers, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. ANAD Avengers was great. Thor was hilariously over-the-top. Also, Kamalaball Special! And Jarvis is back, which means this is the official Avengers team, because Jarvis is THE official Avenger. As far as the story goes, this issue does bring up “the Dynasty,” which Radioactive Man also mentioned in the FCBD comic last year. So there is an overarching plot being set up, Waid’s just taking it slow for now.

    Angela was great. The Bor joke has gotten a lot of controversy, but I enjoyed it. And the rest of the issue’s great. As always, the Hans-drawn pages are my favourites, because damn she’s amazing.

    Spider-Woman is a lot of fun. I love how her day just gets continually worse. Those big splash pages are also really cool. Good comic.

    • Jarvis seemed so annoyed by the whole thing though…granted, I’m not reading nearly enough New Avengers or Ultimates to weigh the teams against each other. Each team has one of two characters I like, too.

  2. ANAD is nothing special, but I love those damn kids so much, I’m just happy to see them playing together. Nova in particular, since his solo book has him in a totally different location, so having him play with the other teen superheros is a rare treat.
    I’m pretty sure this team has been created exactly because their solo books are doing well – Kamala and Miles are fan-favorite, and Sam has been gaining traction as Nova Jr.

    I suspect Grayson is purposely staying out of the gloomy bat-plots, since its corny atmosphere wouldn’t mesh well with the usual batfamily M.O. They have their shtick and they’re gonna stick to it, at least until it wears thin. At some points Dick Bondson will have to leave his sleek superspy world, but I think it will be a while yet.

  3. Oooh, Rebirth rumors say Grayson is danger. Think they are starting to fold chair over there? Honestly it doesn’t look like they only have 4 issues left but after the repeated Teen Titans character assignations nothing will surprise me.

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