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Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 2/6/16

This might be the weirdest comic review article of my long blogging career. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the latest issue of Batgirl really hits home for me in a lot of weird ways. Especially when you consider it features a villain who can read and alter minds…but you’ll have to read on to find out what I mean!

Beyond the new Batgirl, this was a solid, enjoyable week of comics. We got new Iron Man and Captain Marvel comics, as well as Miles Morales’ debut in the regular Marvel Universe! I was against this idea from the beginning, but the execution isn’t half bad.

Comic Book of the Week goes to Doctor Strange #5. Writer Jason Aaron is hitting it out of the park with this opening storyline! I hope the Doctor Strange movie is even half this cool.

Atlantean Black Magic!

I’m sure Benedict Cumberbatch can pull this off.

Comic Reviews: Batgirl #48, Captain Marvel #2, Deadpool & The Mercs for Money #1, Doctor Strange #5, Invincible Iron Man #6 and Spider-Man #1.


Batgirl #48

Batgirl #48
Writers: Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher
Artist: Babs Tarr

OK, this is kind of surreal, and I need you all to witness this. Do you remember my comic, Gamer Girl & Vixen? I talk about it enough. I know some of you have your own copies, and surely more of you have read it. The character I created is Gamer Girl, who uses hard-light holograms to create video game weaponry, and she’s a costumed criminal. I created her in the Summer of 2014, and I first announced the series on my blog in December 2014. A lot of you were there!

Well in the opening pages of Batgirl #48, she fights a pair of video-game themed bad guys who use hard-light holograms to create video game stuff. It’s crazy!

Anyway, I just wanted to get it on the record that I had the idea for Gamer Girl way before Co-Op appeared in the pages of Batgirl. They made their debut last May, but they didn’t start using hard-light holograms until this issue, in February 2016. I kind of hope this means Stewart, Fletcher and Tarr have read Gamer Girl & Vixen. That would be pretty sweet!

And if they haven’t, and somehow see this review, I can totally score them a copy!

So in the comic, Batgirl and Batwing take on Co-Op, who are robbing a bank as part of their revenge scheme on Batgirl — but she doesn’t even remember the first time they fought. Babs has been having a lot of memory problems lately, as well as bad dreams, in which she’s haunted by a mysterious figure. Frankie runs some tests on her brain and definitely finds signs of trouble. They do a bit more digging and find out that during one of her memory losses, Babs was being held prisoner by the mysterious figure, whose name is Fugue. He’s been reading and altering her memories, and Batgirl teams up with Black Canary to kick his butt. During the fight, they discover that Fugue is really Greg, Babs’ old friend from middle school, who has been crashing on her couch. He uses his powers to zap her brain good before making his escape.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Creative parallels aside, this was another rich and enjoyable issue of Batgirl. The great thing about this series is just how full each issue feels. Stewart, Fletcher and Tarr have created this great little world in Batgirl, with new, modern villains, great supporting characters and more charm and color than most other comics. There are so many layers, so many subplots, and all of it is a blast to read. Babs’ memory loss is a harrowing problem, and she’s got the kickass team of Dinah and Frankie watching her back. Stewart and Fletcher easily weave the memory loss into Babs’ personal and superheroic lives, and build to a nice climax as they battle the latest new villain.

Guess I can never do dinosaurs now…

The fact that the bad guy was Bab’s visiting friend, the only new character in the comic, was probably predictable. Greg had been sketchy from the moment he appeared. Who reconnects with a friend they knew all the way back in middle school? Fortunately, the story is still quite good, and Tarr’s art remains one of a kind. There’s nothing like Batgirl, and that’s such a great thing.


Captain Marvel #2

Captain Marvel #2
Writers: Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters
Artist: Kris Anka

Unfortunately, Captain Marvel #2 doesn’t really answer any of the questions I had last time. We still don’t know anything about the revamped Alpha Flight, but I guess I’m just going to have to live with that. I should be happy that Sasquatch has such a high profile right now. I’ve always liked him.

Captain Marvel, Alpha Flight and their science tech explore the mysterious spaceship that arrived last issue. It’s old, and seems to be partially organic. They find the crew’s status pods, all of which malfunctioned, killing the aliens inside. When they turn the power back on, all the ship’s defenses kick into overdrive, and they have to fight to shut the power back off. Everybody makes it out, but they’re pretty banged up.

Back on the space station, the alien prisoners convince Agent Brand that the science tech is the one who manipulated the data about last issue’s meteor strike. She’s taken into custody as soon as she gets back to the station, despite needing the infirmary. Captain Marvel passes out from her injuries. And the samples they brought back from the ship explode!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This was another solid issue, though it doesn’t really pick up until the very end. Most of the issue is just Captain Marvel and Alpha Flight wandering around a mysterious spaceship. And while I’m sure there’s going to be a great story behind it, Fazekas and Butters could have used this time to build up the character interaction instead of just showing off all the mysterious parts of the ship. We get one tiny tidbit about how Sasquatch and Aurora used to date, but that’s it. This was the perfect opportunity for Carol to really bond with Alpha Flight, but only the science tech gets any real personality or character development. Even Carol’s inner monologue, which was a highlight last issue, is greatly reduced this time around. Fazekas, Butters and Marvel have gone to great lengths to give Captain Marvel a weird and unique supporting cast, and they really need to put that to good use.


Mercs for Money #1

Deadpool & The Mercs for Money #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Salva Espin

To level with everybody right off the bat, I only bought this issue because someone decided to add Stingray to the Mercs for Money. I don’t know where that idea came from, but Stingray is probably my favorite Avenger, and any appearance he gets is grounds for a purchase. I especially love his new costume!

Deadpool & The Mercs for Money have been hired to secure and deliver a package, so they excessive violence their way into a secret Beyond Corporation facility to grab the package. But when they go to make the drop off, they find that their buyers have been killed by the Crazy Gang, a bunch of Alice in Wonderland-themed psychos from Excalibur comics. Deadpool & The Mercs for Money excessive violence the Crazy Gang, and vice versa, before Deadpool and his team beat a hasty retreat. Back at HQ, they open up the package and discover a Recorder robot, famous for hanging out with Adam Warlock. The Recorder seems to know the future, so Deadpool tells his team that they’re going to sell him to the highest bidder.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

Is it alright with everybody if I review this book in the context of Stingray alone? I hope so! Stingray is pretty cool in the first issue of Mercs for Money. He’s written in character, despite being on this team at all being a violation of his character. He’s heroic and a good guy, but he’s not the butt of every joke. And like I said, that new, tech-based costume looks amazing!

Hey Fool-killer, show some damn respect!

I don’t know if his appearance was worth buying a whole comic, but I’m pleased with how Stingray is being used.

As for the non-Stingray parts of the issue, I guess they were fine. I haven’t liked Deadpool in recent years. I just don’t dig his style of humor. And Bunn’s Deadpool feels kind of warmed over. This isn’t a book that pushes Deadpool to the extreme or really digs deep into what makes him so popular. This is all kind of by-the-numbers. The use of the Crazy Gang should tell you everything you need to know about the direction of this comic. But hey, it’s got Stingray! That’s always cause for celebration.


Doctor Strange #5

Doctor Strange #5
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Chris Bachalo

The poop has already hit the fan in Jason Aaron’s Doctor Strange! We’re only 5 issues in, and already the big bad is here to ruin everybody’s day. How exciting!

We learn that Wong has secretly been keeping a temple of disciples in the Himalayas, who somehow take on all the physical and mystical ailments that infect Doctor Strange in his travels, and would likely kill him if these monks weren’t secretly shouldering the burden. But it’s not long before the Empirikul attack the monastery, as well as every magical place on Earth! Strange and the other mages try to fight back, but the Empirikul are already cutting off magicks. So Strange has to call on Atlantean Black Magic to get them away from the Sanctum Sanctorum — and he wins, but only temporarily. No sooner do the bad guys retreat than their mother ship shows up, and Strange is confronted by the King Daddy of all Empirikul!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Overall, this story does feel a little bit rushed. It feels like only yesterday we were getting started on this journey, and already these Empirikul are invading the entire world. That ending is dramatic as all get out, and I’d say Aaron has done a solid job of building up the threat, but I can’t believe we’re already here. Fortunately, I’m confident that this team can really pull it off. With this one issue, they delve deeper into Doctor Strange than maybe anyone else before. I love the focus on the physical toll the good doctor suffers, whether Aaron is discussing how his digestive system has changed, to Wong hosting a secret monastery of acolytes who absorb Strange’s pain (with Strange being none the wiser). Aaron is building a fascinating everything with his Doctor Strange, and I’m excited to see what happens next!


Iron Man #6

Invincible Iron Man #6
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mike Deodato

Sadly, superstar artist David Marquez is taking a break from Invincible Iron Man to get a head-start on drawing Civil War II, which is a fact I’m sure we’ll all come to appreciate down the line. But it means the art quality suffers at the start of the next big story, not that Michael Deodato isn’t a good artist himself.

War Machine has been brought in to track the cybernetic ninjas that Tony Stark ran into during the Madame Masque storyline. While Rhodey is pumping Yukio for information in Asia, Tony takes his girlfriend on a breakfast date, only to be interrupted by Doctor Doom. Tony is beside himself that Doom would insert himself into their date, but Doom insists he’s merely checking up on Tony to make sure the demons from before aren’t still haunting him. Tony’s girlfriend is starstruck that she’s having breakfast with Doctor Doom (and Iron Man, Tony points out).

Meanwhile, Yukio points Rhodey to a superhuman with possible ties to the ninjas. But when Rhodey attacks the guy in his car that night, he doesn’t realize that it’s the guy’s female companions who are the real connection. They get the drop on War Machine.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Sadly, this isn’t Deodato’s best work. He’s a legend, to be sure, but I’ve seen much better. I like his Doctor Doom, though. He’s interestingly handsome, which, of course, isn’t a look we often get for Doctor Doom. But while Deodato can draw great faces, he’s not very good at cool, technologically awesome super suits. The War Machine armor, and what little we see of the Iron Man armor, don’t look nearly as cool as they should. Deodato’s art is all about mood and shadows, but these characters need bright detail to really shine.

It’s no suit of armor

Beyond the art, the story was quite good. Tony’s new girlfriend is a fine character, and her addition to the latest Tony/Doom scene ups the ante and energy. Without a Fantastic Four series, the new Doom had to be used somewhere, and this is as great a place as any (maybe a cameo in Aaron’s Doctor Strange?). The dialogue was as sharp and as fun as Bendis is usually known for. I have no idea where he’s going with Doom, but I’m along for the ride. War Machine’s appearance is cool too. I’m always up for partners and sidekicks showing up in a series, and Bendis puts Rhodey to good use. Heck, we even got a random Yukio cameo!

Invincible Iron Man may have lost its superstar artist, but Bendis is not slowing down with the compelling characters and interesting story.


Spider-Man #1

Spider-Man #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli

The question of how Miles Morales would be added to the regular Marvel Universe has been answered: Everything has just been shipped over, wholesale. His mom is alive again and his dad seems more chill, but Ganke is still around, and they’ve brought Bombshell too, which is cool. Miles is also now more of a gangly teenager, so that’s a plus. But otherwise, looks like business as usual for Miles Morales.

Miles Morales is struggling to balance school, girls and superheroics. His mom is mad about his grades, but his dad is more chill. Girls don’t seem to want anything to do with him, but Ganke is always around to be a best pal. Miles’ grades are bad because he keeps ditching school, sometimes in the middle of class, to chase fire trucks and sirens. This time, they lead him to the villain Blackheart, son of Mephisto, who has already trashed the Avengers and is ready to destroy New York. Miles zaps Blackheart with his Venom Blast, forcing the demon to retreat and leaving Miles the only one left standing in all the carnage Blackheart caused — which is when regular Spider-Man shows up.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I’m glad to see that everything I previously enjoyed about Miles Morales and his adventures is still around…and wow, it’s been a long time since I read a simple, ordinary Miles Morales comic. He’s been forced through so many crossovers that one wondered if he’d ever get a normal comic again. Well here we are, and the first issue is fine. It’s enjoyable, and Bendis’ writing is as good as ever. But there’s no real Wow Factor in this issue, not really. It’s a nice blend of superheroics and real life stuff, but I guess Bendis just has to build up to some really good drama and character stuff.

At least Pichelli got to unveil an amazing Blackheart redesign.

Terrifying!

Why Blackheart? Who knows! That’s part of the issue’s problem. Everything in this first issue is simple, surface level stuff. Miles can’t get a date with a  girl he likes, he’s having trouble in class, Ganke is his buddy, he has parents, and he fights an incredibly random super-villain. Good times, sure, but nothing that really stands out as unique or captivating. This is definitely an enjoyable first issue, with both Bendis and Pichelli doing solid jobs, but it could all stand to be punchier.

And honestly, I’m actually kind of disappointed in Miles that he storms out of class just because a fire truck drives by with its siren on. Yes, obviously, he ended up stopping Blackheart from destroying the Earth. But what if they were just responding to a medical call? You’re already failing that class, Miles, you need to learn to focus! Do you even remember how hard it was to get into that prestigious academy in the first place?! Your mother is right.


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!

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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 February 6, 2016, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Why is black heart in a spidy comic. He is a ghost rider villian. Ghostly doesn’t have many so why are they taking away one of his most prominent.

    • Blackheart actually debuted as a Daredevil antagonist. During Ann Nocenti’s great and utterly bizarre run. And to be honest, the idea of villains being restricted to only one hero is silly. Any villain can fight any hero. Blackheart fighting Miles here doesn’t mean he can’t fight Ghost Rider later, if Ghost Rider gets another series.

  2. Captain Marvel was great. As an Alpha Flight fan, I’m not sold on this take on Aurora. But the rest of the issue is great. Lots of fun.

    Mercs for Money would be good with a different cast of characters. This cast makes no frigging sense, and several of them are written out-of-character, especially Terror. Terror is smart, cultured, engages in wordplay. This Terror is just kind of a brutish thug. It’s not even remotely the same character.

    Dr. Strange was good. Nice sense of danger, high stakes, that stuff.

    Iron Man was OK. There was some fun stuff. I’m always happy to see Yukio. Yay Yukio! Even if she didn’t get to do much here.

    Spider-Man was OK. Pretty standard teen superhero stuff.

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