Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 3/19/16

This was another great week for comics! I am loving so many books these days. Most of them are Marvel, but I’m really trying to branch out into other comics. But those other comics are going to have to wait, because this week it’s all about great Marvel Comics!

For the first time ever, I’m splitting Comic Book of the Week between two issues: Power Man and Iron Fist #2 and Spider-Woman #5. Both were amazing comics, and both offered a new revelation to me: a lived in, casual Marvel Universe. Both comics tell a very down-to-Earth story about their characters and the hero and villain-populated city they live in, with gossip, friendships, dance clubs and more. Both issues were a true joy to read.

I’m loving the reasonable collars

David Walker and Sanford Greene’s Power Man and Iron Fist is already shaping up as the Comic Book of the Year, and we’re only two issues in.

Comic Reviews: Astonishing Ant-Man #6, Captain Marvel #3, Power Man and Iron Fist #2, Silk #6 and Spider-Woman #5. 

Ant-Man #6

Astonishing Ant-Man #6
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Annapaolo Martello

Ant-Man switches gears a little bit here, for an issue told from Cassie Lang’s point of view. Smart move on Spencer’s part. Cassie should definitely be a major character in this series, and the creative team clearly has some plans for her.

The the final page of Astonishing Ant-Man #6 is a doozy!

Cassie Lang feels like she’s stuck in a rut. She misses being Stature and an Avenger. Other girls are picking on her at school. Her dad is a schmuck. And her mom grounds her for getting in one little fight. Fortunately, Kate Bishop pays Cassie a visit while she’s in town investigating some Secret Empire bad guys. Cassie tags along to spy on Kate, only to get captured, which is thoroughly embarrassing. After Kate saves her, she tries to assure Cassie that everything is going to be OK, and that she should enjoy this downtime while she has it.

But Cassie isn’t about to sit tight. She signs up for Hench X, the Power Broker’s new plan to turn people into super-villains. Cassie plans to get her powers and turn on the Power Broker, and he pretty much sees through that immediately when she comes in for her interview. But the Power Broker has done his research, and he reveals to Cassie that Darren Cross is not only alive, and not only did he steal her heart, but that her dad covered it all up! Power Broker uses Cassie’s desire for revenge to make her a deal: he’ll give her powers if she agrees to break into Cross’ lab and steal something for him.

With PB’s help, Cassie designs herself a new superhero identity: Stinger!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I was only ever a lukewarm fan of the MC2 comics back in the day, but Spencer and Marvel are clearly looking back with rose-colored glasses! In the MC2 comics (home of Spider-Girl), an adult Cassie Lang went by the superhero name Stinger. And Spencer and guest artist Martello design their new Stinger exactly like the MC2 version. This is utterly fascinating! Stature is on the cover, Stature is way more popular than Stinger, but they went for it anyway! I wonder how Cassie Lang fans will react. I’m excited, and I didn’t even read any MC2 Stinger comics.

Yay villain honor system!

Beyond that last page twist, this was still a great comic. Like I said, Cassie more than deserves to be a major player in this comic, and this issue pushes her narrative forward in a lot of big ways. We get into her head, and Spencer does a fine job as the angsty teenage girl. We get a nice cameo from Kate Bishop that helps underscore every frustration that Cassie is feeling. And the scenes between her and Power Broker were actually kind of fun. It fits with Spencers’ ‘down-to-Earth’ superheroics vibe to have PB and Cassie be so chill with one another. He’s a monstrous villain, sure, but he’s still a person.

Astonishing Ant-Man #6 is a standout issue by focusing on one of the supporting characters, and I hope this is a sign that Spencer has a lot of great twists and turns planned. Hopefully that adorable actress from the Ant-Man movie will be old enough to get into some of this drama by the time the sequel comes around.

Captain Marvel #3

Captain Marvel #3
Writers: Michelle Fazekas and Tara Butters
Artists: Kris Anka and Felipe Smith

Mysteries deepen in the latest issue of Captain Marvel, as she continues her quest to be the leader of Space Alpha Flight. She also guest stars in this week’s Spider-Woman, so that’s neat.

After the explosion at the end of last issue, Carol starts having nightmares about some long ago Kree war, memories of the original Captain Mar-vell. She wakes up and gathers up Alpha Flight to figure this whole mess out. The nightmares and the problems stem from that evil, ancient ship they found, which has started bonding with the space station like a cancer. Carol and the team board the ship to try and detach it, but Carol’s mind is taken over and she tries to pilot it instead. The team knock her out and get her back to base, where things just keep getting worse. Carol decides to detach the top part of the space station and sacrifice it to destroy the cancer ship. But no sooner do they detach than a second ship shows up, this one loaded and ready to fight.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

As much as I’m enjoying this comic, I kind of wish Fazekas and Butters had taken more time to set up Carol’s new status quo and supporting cast before jumping into this opening storyline. They did a lot in the first issue, but I guess not enough, because this story doesn’t feel as deep as it could. We’re three issues in, and everybody is just running around willy nilly as new and weird things start happening. There are a lot of crew members in play, a lot of Alpha Flight characters (whose use still feels random), and Carol goes from having nightmares to leading the charge to being in the brig to once again being in charge this issue. She’s all over the place, just like this issue.

The new Captain Marvel is entertaining, and I like it, but I hope Fazekas and Smith find time to slow down before too long. This new series needs a good ‘day in the life’ issue.

Power Man and Iron Fist #2

Power Man and Iron Fist #2
Writer: David Walker
Artist: Sanford Greene

I am seriously loving this comic. Not only are the two main characters perfect together, each with a distinct personality that play well together, and not only is the story growing in real, grounded ways, but like I said in the beginning, Walker is creating an entire world here. I can’t remember the last time the Marvel Universe felt so personal.

Everybody from Rocket Racer to Ruby Thursday is talking about how Power Man and Iron Fist are back together, and how they stole the Supersoul Stone from Tombstone. Danny is excited at he prospect of getting the team back together, and tells Luke over lunch. But Luke wants nothing of the sort. Their lunch is interrupted by Gorilla Man and Black Tarantula, who are looking to get Tombstone’s reward for the Supersoul Stone. They duke it out, and Luke gets even more pissed, since everybody but Danny seems to know what the Supersoul Stone is. They head to the halfway house to try and fine their old friend Jennie, but she’s already run off with Black Mariah. And Jennie uses the spells she picked up in prison to activate the Supersoul Stone to give herself mystical powers!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This issue does so much to build up Luke and Danny’s world. Minor characters make cameos to comment on the fact that the duo seem to be getting back together, and Walker and Greene treat them like real people passing along gossip. Then you’ve got stuff like Tombstone’s henchmen, who wait in the car and watch while Luke and Danny beat up Gorilla Man and Black Tarantula. Or even the idea that Black Tarantula’s full face mask and his accent make him difficult to understand. Walker is setting up this down-to-Earth, very human world around his characters, one that perfectly incorporates the more fantastical elements of these costumed boys and girls. I love it.

The best of friends

Also, there’s a fun scene where Spider-Woman and Spider-Gwen watch the fight from afar, and it’s great. Not sure why Spider-Gwen just hangs out in the regular Marvel Universe, but that’s on me for not knowing her reality-hopping deal. It also continues to build this shared universe. Captain Marvel guest stars in this week’s issue of Spider-Woman, and here Spider-Woman makes an appearance in Power Man and Iron Fist. I dig it.

Did they get take out just to watch the fight?

But this is Luke and Danny’s issue, to be sure. The pair work so well together, even when Danny gets on Luke’s nerves. Walker has created such a strong, casual, lived in dynamic between the two friends. It feels so real, and their street level world feels so real. Greene’s art is a big help in that department. Everything looks like the real world, from the diner to the streets. But it’s still a bunch of men and women dressed as superheroes. He makes it work, giving this comic a unique and gorgeous look.

Power Man and Iron Fist is already one of my favorite new comics coming out of Marvel. It’s fresh and fun, with a unique look and feel, while staying true to the Marvel Universe.

Silk #6

Silk #6
Writer: Robbie Thompson
Artist: Tana Ford

And so hopefully begins the Great Phil Urich Redemption Story. I’d be totally cool with it if Robbie Thompson wanted to write it. I wasn’t overly impressed with his take on the Goblin King, but I’m too excited by the possibilities at the end of this issue.

Silk and Black Cat assault the Goblin Nation, armed with a goblin-antidote  that not only cures all the denizens, but also saves Phil Urich himself! Phil is finally free of the goblin serum, and while he’s still a bit of a bad guy, and is arrested at the end, the potential for his redemption is at hand! Now is his time!

Oh, also, Silk checks in with both Mockingbird and J. Jonah Jameson, assuring everyone that she’s OK. But she’s got some anger issues to deal with after hurling Phil to his death (he landed safely).

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

As a Silk comic, this was a solid story. Silk and Black Cat go through with their plan, which actually went by pretty quickly, considering all of the build up to the Goblin Nation. Then she got to spend some quality time with her friends and her work place, which is always good. Cindy’s anger issues seem to come from the goblin formula from last issue, but perhaps Thompson can spin this into an interesting character trait. And Spider-Woman makes another cameo when they arrest Phil, which seems to be a growing theme at Marvel, even though she doesn’t have a movie coming out.

(Also, would it have killed Thompson to mention the fact that Spider-Woman is currently business partners with Ben Urich, Phil’s uncle and only notable relation? Major missed opportunity there.)

Was it something I said?

I apologize for not being able to review this issue from an entirely objective perspective. But Thompson just saved Phil Urich from both the goblin formula and this dead end Goblin Nation storyline. I don’t know if or when he’ll ever show up again, but it could be glorious!

And if anyone from Marvel Comics is reading this, I totally have ideas! Call me!

Spider-Woman #5

Spider-Woman #5
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Javier Rodriguez

This might be the last great Spider-Woman issue we get for awhile. Next month starts a big Spider-ladies crossover event, with Spider-Woman, Spider-Gwen and Silk. I’ll be reading…I think…but I’m not a big fan of crossover stunts over the regular good comics.

Fortunately, this issue is pretty darn great!

This baby is ruining Spider-Woman’s life. There are late night feedings. No sleep. Panic at keeping the child safe. Loving every little thing it does. Jessica was not prepared for having a baby, but she’s got one now, and it’s freaking her out in all the ways a new baby freaks a new parent out. Her friends are there to try and keep her sane, and Porcupine helps out with both babysitting and words of encouragement, since he had a daughter himself once. Eventually Jess is able to trust people enough that she leaves the baby with Porcupine and teams up with Captain Marvel to get her Spider-Woman on again!

Also, we find out that Jess opted for artificial insemination because she decided she wanted a baby.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

I don’t have any children of my own (sorry mom and dad!), so I don’t know from any sort of personal experience what it’s like to have a baby. But Hopeless really gets to the heart of the matter in this issue. You can see and feel Jessica’s utter devastation, both physically and emotionally, and it all rings so perfectly true. With only one issue, we know exactly what it’s like for Spider-Woman to have a baby. It’s very impactful.

Plus Rodriguez has a field day with the art, whether it’s the baby-trashed apartment, or when he’s take a page out of David Aja’s book for some of the social scenes.

Hooray Serious Foes cameo!

I loved the personable feel of this issue. I liked seeing Jessica hang out with her superhero friends, I like the community that’s being built across these Marvel comics (though maybe they should have added Silk to her friends, but we did get Hawkeye, Captain Marvel, She-Hulk and Hellcat). I like the friendship between Jessica and Porcupine (and I kind of wanted at least one of her friends to comment on the oddness of that friendship). Spider-Woman has been a great book since Hopeless started telling the stories he wanted.

But Spider-Woman started out with an ill-advised crossover with Spider-Verse. I really, really hope that this new crossover doesn’t derail everything that makes this series so much fun.

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 March 19, 2016, in Comics, Marvel, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Marvel is running hot this month!

  2. Ant-Man was great. Awesome exploration of Cassie. Seeing her and Kate hanging out was wonderful. And I’m just loving the work with her here.

    Captain Marvel was good. Some solid stuff. Brand is the best, as she always is. And Carol is great. Also, Dr. Kitty! Flying Dr. Kitty! All the yes!

    Power Man & Iron Fist is great. Loads of fun. Luke and Danny play off each other well. The cameos are all great. Spider-Woman objectifying Luke and Danny amused me. Great stuff.

    Silk was great. Thompson seems to be trying to make Black Cat more complex again, which is great to see. The whole “There are no streets” thing. Also, I really, really love that Silk sees a therapist. Not only is it something that’s rare in fiction, but it also allows for some quick and effective character stuff. And Silk’s anger issues aren’t a result of the Goblin Formula. It’s a result of having spent 10 years alone in a bunker, and then being released to find her family missing. It’s something Thompson’s been setting out his entire run.

    Spider-Woman was great. Really sweet, fun stuff. The Night Out sequence had such stunning art, too. That whole sequence was fantastic stuff. Also, Spider-Woman beating the shit out of evil Razorback was awesome.

    • Oh right, I knew that about Silk’s anger issues. I think I was just distracted by the new goblin look in her eyes when she gets really angry. I’d like to see it pushed more. I think it’d be a unique trait to give someone like Silk.

      And I was a little disappointed that there’s an evil Razorback now, but only because Razorback’s one of those characters I get a kick out of.

      Flying Dr. Kitty almost makes up for it, though.

  3. I think having Jess pop up in these books is to build interest for the Spider-Women crossover….and to build interest in Jess. Of the three Spider-Ladies books, hers has the worst sales, but it’s the (imo) best one.

    I am not worried about the crossover. It’s a small one relatively speaking and it seems to me that the authors are really working very closely together. From what I’ve read it’s going to be a very character driven crossover. I am looking forward to it! Also I think Joelle Jones is on the art for Spider- Woman for this one.

    I was wondering if there was a connection between Ben and Phil Urich. Glad to know there is and I hope that’s something that is addressed later!

    • Awww, Spider-Woman has the lowest sales? That’s not cool. It’s definitely the best of the bunch!

      And yep! Ben is Phil’s uncle! I could talk your ear off about Phil Urich. They used to be really close, and Phil interned for his uncle at the Daily Bugle. But then Phil became a super-villain…

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