Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 2/13/16

Happy Love Day, one and all! Oh no, wait, that’s that other holiday. This is Valentine’s Day weekend! This is when we should be feeling the looooove! But alas, none of the comics I read this week had a Valentines bent. Odd, considering we had new issues of Starfire, Totally Awesome Hulk and All-New Wolverine, all of which would totally make good romance comics!

Well…maybe not all of them. Still, solid, enjoyable week for comic books.

Comic Book of the Week goes to Ms. Marvel, which finally proved to me why Kamala Khan should be an Avenger!

This is sort of like ‘Avengers Assemble’

I didn’t say it was for good reasons…

Comic Reviews: All-New, All-Different Avengers #5, All-New Wolverine #5, Batman #49, Ms. Marvel #4, Silk #4, Starfire #9 and Totally Awesome Hulk #3.

Avengers #5

All-New, All-Different Avengers #5
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Mahmud Asrar

Nothing like Ms. Marvel to spice up a comic I’d nearly written off! When I saw a preview of this issue that featured some of Kamala Khan’s Avengers fan fiction, I knew I had to pick it up, and I’m glad I did. For the first time since this series began, I finally found something worth reading!

The Vision uses his holographic technology to frame Ms. Marvel so that it looks like she endangered innocent civilians while fighting the Mad Thinker’s giant robot. Captain America can’t have that kind of recklessness on the team, so he kicks Ms. Marvel off the Avengers! Nova has already had some shading dealings with Vision, so he attacks the android in an effort to stand up for Ms. Marvel — but none of the other Avengers are going to believe a couple of new kids over the Vision, so Nova is kicked off the team too!

Just then, the Avengers rush out to take on the villain Equinox, who seems to have back-up in the form of future versions of himself, with the help of Kang the Conqueror. Captain America and Thor are thrown through one of Equinox’s time portal, and when Thor is separated from Mjolnir, she turns back into Jane Foster!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This issue opened with that simmering teenager angst that might make this version of the Avengers really stand out. It’s got a great Kamala opening scene, where she writes some fan fiction about Captain America and Thor’s kiss (and a jilted Juggernaut!), and it’s the first time I’ve felt that Waid really got into the head of Kamala Khan. Couple that with some real pathos as she’s kicked off the Avengers, and Nova’s blunt way of trying to stick up for her, and All-New, All-Different Avengers finally has some really good character stuff going on. The adult Avengers are all a little hesitant about letting so many kids on the team, which makes it seem like Waid actually put some thought into his lineup instead of randomly throwing these characters together. Or, at least, he put some thought into the lineup after they were all randomly picked.

But she only just became an Avenger!

The Vision seems like an easy choice for an evil team member, but I’ve never cared for the character, so that’s fine by me. I am far more interested in the relationships between the younger and older Avengers, and this issue finally makes that feel real and pivotal, rather than just a random collection of superheroes.

Wolverine #5

All-New Wolverine #5
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artists: David Lopez and David Navarrot

We’re back for more fun Wolverine times, with a special guest appearance by the Wasp. She has about as much to do with X-23 as Doctor Strange did, but this is nonetheless another entertaining issue.

Wolverine and the Wasp shrink down to fight the nano-bots in Zelda’s brain. But when they start destroying the bots, it alerts the security chief at Alchemax, who tracks everyone down to Pym Labs. He shoots Zelda in the gut and nearly takes out the other two girls when Wolverine and Wasp return and kick his butt!

Zelda dies, but not before telling Wolverine to kick all their asses! Wasp offers to take the officer and call on help, but Wolverine and the other clones don their masks and declare that all of the asses are about to be kicked.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

The only real problem I have with this series so far is that this story is more episodic than I would like. I want to see Laura explore the Wolverine legacy some more…but maybe I missed that in the previous Wolverines weekly series? I dunno. All I know is, All-New Wolverine is very focused on the survival of these clone sisters, and Wolverine takes them bouncing through the Marvel Universe to make that happen. If it wasn’t for the solid character work and the stellar writing, I probably would have lost interest in this series.

Line of the week

Fortunately, Taylor, Lopez and Navarott are still doing a hell of a job on this comic. A kind of wish a bigger deal had been made about Wolverine shrinking, but she and the Wasp make a nice team, and they kick bad robot butt. The loss of Zelda is a powerful moment (though these clones are still somewhat underdeveloped), and Wolverine’s vengeance is righteous. The badassery of that cliffhanger can’t be discounted either.

Batman #49

Batman #49
Writers: Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Artist: Yanick Paquette

I’ve never been very big into Scott Snyder’s Batman, for reasons that I don’t fully understand. This has been a great comic, and Snyder and Greg Capullo deserve all the accolades they receive for their work on the Dark Knight. But it’s never really spoken to me directly.

Fortunately, this issue breaks through that ambivalence. It’s a weird issue, to be sure, but the emotion gets through in a lot of meaningful ways.

With Mr. Bloom destroying Gotham, the slightly less amnesiac Bruce Wayne forces a very reluctant Alfred to take him down into the Batcave. Bruce still doesn’t remember everything, but he knows he used to be Batman, and he believes that Batman can save the day. Alfred takes Bruce to the cloning machine that Bruce was working on before he ‘died’, and reveals that they could never get it to work, because the clone tests never survived the imprinting of Batman’s tragic mind. And Alfred doesn’t think Bruce can survive it either — but they both know that Bruce is the kind of man who wouldn’t let that stop him, so they strap him into the machine and fire it up. The process, which involves Bruce’s mind being hurled through a wide variety of alternate Batman universes, seems to be killing him, and Alfred won’t go that far, no matter what.

But Bruce realizes that the process has to kill him, because only when Bruce Wayne is gone can Batman be born. Julie Madison shows up then, revealing that she’s always known Bruce was Batman. Whereas Alfred doesn’t have it in him to ‘kill’ Bruce, Julie presses the button and pushes him beyond brain death, where the Batman upload can finally, truly work. When the dust setttles, Batman is back!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This issue gets a little weird, but Alfred and Bruce manage to keep it together. First, there’s this idea that this machine involves Bruce’s consciousness visiting a bunch of alternate reality Batman concepts in order to work. That’s just weird. Second, there’s the machine itself. Snyder couldn’t think up a better way for Bruce to get his memory back than by saying Batman created an insane cloning machine in order to ensure his legacy? I hate that idea. As a big Robin fan, I automatically reject any claim that Batman would want to clone himself to ensure future Batmen.

But like I said, if you can push aside the general weirdness of this whole set up, the emotions in play are quite powerful.

Best new Batman variant ever

If you squeeze it all down to the basic idea, this is a solid story. Bruce Wayne has everything he could want from a normal life, but the city needs Batman. Snyder takes both Bruce and Alfred to the very extreme, pushing their wills to live to the edge as they both accept that the real Bruce would do everything possible, including risking his life, to save the people of Gotham. It’s an emotional turmoil that Alfred just can’t face, but thankfully he’s got Bruce and Julie Madison to back him up. Sadly, Bruce and Julie haven’t exactly spent enough time together for her sudden arrival to have the impact one would hope, but the issue still sticks the landing.

Ms. Marvel #4

Ms. Marvel #4
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Nico Leon

For the first time since it was announced, I finally understand what the writers are hoping to accomplish by making Ms. Marvel an Avenger. Her spot on the roster likely has a lot to do with her popularity from a business sense, but in the context of Marvel stories, G. Willow Wilson finally nails it.

Too bad she also delivers one of her loopiest ideas yet!

Kamala is having trouble juggling her superheroics with her family and school. Her brother wants to get married, and that involves his fiancee moving into the Khan family home. And Iron Man tips her off to some shady activity at the Jersey City docks, but a distracted Kamala can’t handle it herself, so she has to call in back-up from the other Avengers. The adult Avengers then dismiss her to take over, and Kamala is bummed. Then she falls asleep in class the next day.

Seriously, nothing is going right.

So it helps that Bruno has somehow used the school’s 3D printer to create golem-like clones with rudimentary life. Kamala seizes the opportunity and dresses a couple of the clones like her, so that they can fill in for her at school and at home while she focuses on superheroics. Bruno thinks it’s a bad idea, and sure enough, when he returns to the lab the next morning, it’s filled with out-of-control Kamala duplicates!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

So, uh, this issue kind of went off the rails in the end there. For the first two-thirds, this was another great issue of Ms. Marvel. There was this wonderful scene with the Khan family, exploring their traditions more deeply in regards to Aamir’s engagement, while also contrasting them against Kamala’s youthful, modern, American-ized mentality. Likewise, as I said above, this was the first time I really understood Kamala’s position with the Avengers. She is too new and inexperienced to be an Avenger, but that’s not going to stop her from trying. And I like that the veterans like Sam Wilson can recognize that these kids might be too young. It’s a fun dynamic, and I hope to see more.

Captain America burn

Heck, even the very idea of seeing Kamala juggle superheroics with family and school should be fun. This is exactly what’s missing from Teen Titans over at DC Comics. In Teen Titans, the teenage heroes just exist. They are superheroes first, foremost and only. But as always, it’s Marvel that really explores the humanity of its heroes, and Ms. Marvel leads the pack in that regard.

But man, where the heck did that ending come from? Bruno apparently doesn’t have to attend classes, and can just hang out in the insane science lab all day. Then he goes and creates freakin’ golems out of nowhere. Then Kamala, who is usually a very smart person, suddenly decides to use these golems to try and pose as her at school and with her family? There’s no way that’s going to work, and it’s already not working before the end of the issue. I really hope Wilson plays up the idea that this was a rash, insane decision by a sleep-deprived Kamala, because things got really, really weird at the end of this issue.

Also, guest artist Nico Leon does a great job filling in. His pencils are just as fun and enjoyable as we’ve come to expect from Ms. Marvel.

Silk #4

Silk #4
Writer: Robbie Thompson
Artist: Veronica Fish

By nobody’s fault in particular, this was a disheartening comic to read. Silk is still a fine comic, and Robbie Thompson is just trying to tell the best story he can. But man, Phil Urich has fallen so far. As I’ve mentioned in the past, Phil Urich is one of my all-time favorite comic book characters. His 90s series, where he was the good Green Goblin, was my real introduction to reading and collecting comics. Phil Urich was my Peter Parker growing up. And while I grinned and bared it when he became a villain in Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man, the character has finally hit rock bottom in Silk.

It’s a lot to cope with.

Silk has been betrayed by Killer Shrike, and she fights alone against the Goblin Nation in their underground sewer lair — though not quite alone! The mysterious electricity ghost hero comes to her aid and allows her to escape, but Silk instead sneaks back into the lair through another means, steals a Goblin costume and heads to the archives, where she starts digging for dirt on her brother. She’s found out and taken before the Goblin King, who is a walking pile of ‘regal villain’ cliches. He calls her an ‘honored guest’, takes her on a tour, invites her to dinner at a long, elegant table, refers to her as ‘my dear’. It’s…it’s bad. Silk calls him on his attitude and turns down his offer to join them, so the Goblin King has her injected with the formula that turns her into a goblin.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I dunno, you guys, I just don’t know. Phil Urich isn’t even recognizable anymore. I almost hope it’s not him under the Goblin King’s armor. This ‘my dear’ stuff is not him, it’s super-villain cliche. That’s all it is, and it robs this character of any real menace he might offer Silk. This whole Goblin Nation is kind of half-baked to begin with. Maybe before, when Norman Osborn was using it for his next scheme, it was pretty cool. But now it all feels like weak filler that Thompson was allowed to use for Silk. I just sort of wish he’d find something interesting to do with them other than just a bunch of goblin-faced henchmen and a cliched boss.

But seriously, it’s not on Thompson to revitalize an obscure, unimportant character just because I like him.

That armor looks very uncomfortable at the dinner table

Beyond those personal complaints, this is still a fun comic, thanks almost entirely to Silk herself. Thompson really makes the character fun and enjoyable, and her personal struggle with her family remains solid. I hope he really pushes the problems she faces having a personal life. Her jokes are fun, her inner monologue is entertaining, and the art remains quality. I just hope Thompson digs a little deeper with some elements of the story, to really make them matter more than just surface level stuff that Silk is doing. He’s put a lot on Silk’s plate in this relaunch, but he hasn’t really sunk his teeth into any of it yet.

Starfire #9

Starfire #9
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Elsa Charretier

It was announced the other day that Starfire will be ending at issue #12. Conner and Palmiotti said that was always the plan, but I don’t really believe them. Considering how well their Harley Quinn comic is doing, I can’t imagine they planned to call it quits. But Rebirth is coming, and I guess Starfire is getting culled. I don’t really mind. This is a fun series, but hardly one of the best.

After some final preparations, and a little bit of trouble on the surface, Kori, Stella and Atlee finally take the trip down into the center of the Earth, to visit Atlee’s subterranean home world. But something’s wrong, and Starfire passes out when she’s exposed to the underground light source. Just in time for the evil, rival king to invade!

Also, before they left, Starfire’s little alien light friend (have I mentioned that yet?) hatches into Silkie, from the cartoons. So there’s that.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

First of all, the arrival of Silkie (spelled Syl’khee in the actual comic) is a little weird. For the past few issues, a little energy ball has been following Starfire around. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it in my reviews because, honestly, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. That it led to Silkie, a mainstay of the Teen Titans cartoons, is kind of neat…except that Silkie arrives just in time for Kori to go on vacation and leave him at home. That was some weird timing. Why not bring Silkie with her?

Silkie is her Gleek!

Beyond that, the issue was fun. I like the camaraderie between Kori, Stella and Atlee, though I wish it felt a little deeper and more meaningful. Stella still feels like she was tacked onto this series, but Conner and Palmiotti do a lot for all the characters as they bond on their trip. I could have done without some of the weird roadblocks in the way, like a momentary fight with some armed gangsters that comes out of nowhere. This issue would have been great if it was all bonding all the time, with a little royal turmoil thrown in for kicks. Conner and Palmiotti are great with characters, but their Starfire never really made a memorable mark.

Hulk #3

Totally Awesome Hulk #3
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Frank Cho

Obviously Amadeus Cho isn’t going to replace Bruce Banner, but for now, I suppose I’m still along for the ride. I kind of want to see where Pak is going with this.

Hulk takes on Fin Fang Foom, while Lady Hellbender leaves him to the task to see just what this Hulk is made of. Amadeus whomps some dragon butt, but also has to save a nearby cruise ship, and he has to do it without losing control of the beast within. When Fin Fang Foom attacks a nearby town, Hulk leaps into action again, and finds some chemicals in a nearby depot that neutralize Foom’s acid breath and take him out of the fight for good. But Hulk doesn’t get very long to celebrate his win, because the victory proves to Lady Hellbender that the Hulk is indeed the strongest monster on this planet, so she’s taking him for her collection!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Much like All-New Wolverine, Totally Awesome Hulk isn’t really doing anything to explore its premise. Pak is too focused on the story at hand, that of Hulk’s interactions with this Lady Hellbender person, to really dig into how Amadeus Cho is doing as the Hulk. There is more exploration of Cho’s stake in all of this than X-23’s, but the story is still the most important part of Pak’s comic at the moment. That’s fine. It’s still enjoyable, and Cho as Hulk is still entertaining enough to be worth a read. But with most comics these days, I kind of just want him to go a little deeper, to really explore the space. Though considering the low shelf life of any comic book from the Big 2 these days, that’s probably easier said than done.

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 February 13, 2016, in Avengers, Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. “It was announced the other day that Starfire will be ending at issue #12. Conner and Palmiotti said that was always the plan, but I don’t really believe them.”

    Well you should believe us, since we signed on for only 12- like the Powergirl run- which was more popular and we still left. We have another series we have to start the minute our run was over, so even if it was a huge hit and they wanted to continue, someone else would have taken it over for us. From issue 1 we set story lines up that end on 12 . Dont know what to say more than that. Thanks for the kind words.

    Jimmy Palmiotti

  2. ANAD Avengers is really good. I love the fanfic. I want someone to write that fanfic. But then Kamala crying was heart-breaking. Vision’s a dick! I’ve never been all that big a fan of him, either, though the current Vision ongoing is insanely good. Implausibly good.

    Wolverine is great. Excellent stuff. The Wasp was hilarious here, what with yelling at Dr. Strange for his lack of common courtesy. She’s right, though. And then the dramatic turn at the end is great.

    Ms. Marvel is delightful. It’s one of the best things ever. I love it so much.

    Silk was really good. Really fun. Fish’s line art was really nice (and Herring’s a great colour artist). This book’s had a lot of line artists. Luckily, they’ve all been great.

    Hulk was pretty OK. There was some fun stuff. I’m guessing his struggle against the anger will be an ongoing plot point.

    • Actually, I just thought: Are you reading Vision? Because if you’re not, you should be. That comic is, without question, one of the absolute best comics coming out right now. Every single bit of praise it’s received is 100% deserved.

      • I am not reading Vision, but I want too. I’ve seen all the great praise it’s getting, and the general off-kilterness of the comic. But like I said, I’ve never cared about the Vision, so I wasn’t about to pick it up on my own. I’m definitely going to have to hunt down the first trade though.

  3. You should also pick up Deadpool #07. It’s giant-sized issue with back up stories about each of the members of his merc gang, including your favorite Stingray. It also explained the question you kept asking about why Stingray even joined up with Deadpool’s crew.

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