Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 3/26/16

So what did everybody think of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice? Is the DC Cinematic Universe off to a good start? I will be seeing the movie tonight, and my review will go up early next week. I’m a little worried, since I didn’t care for Man of Steel. But I’m going to keep an open mind.

Fortunately, comics were a blast this week! We’ve got new Patsy Walker, which is always a cause for celebration. As would be the new issue of Grayson, but unfortunately, something has gone horribly wrong! Read on to find out what.

Comic Book of the Week goes to Batman #50, the big climax of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s time on the title! The energy and excitement of this issue easily cast aside my various minor hang-ups with Snyder’s Batman. This is a solid, exciting issue.

Batman is a fashion maven

Speaking of solid, exciting issues, my new Kickstarter is only one week away! Next Saturday we will launch the next fundraising campaign for Gamer Girl & Vixen! I hope I can count on you henchies to lend your support and order my comic!

And if you haven’t had a chance yet, you can read the entire first issue for free! You’re welcome to take my word for it that it’s good, but you can also see for yourself.

Comic Reviews: Batman #50, Grayson #18, Harley Quinn #26, Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat #4, Totally Awesome Hulk #4 and We Are Robin #10.

Batman #50

Batman #50
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Greg Capullo

This issue was worth the wait. It was worth the build-up, worth the months of Jim Gordon as Batman, worth the troubles with Mr. Bloom, worth the entirety of the We Are Robin comic. This is everything someone could want from a triumphant Batman comic.

Mr. Bloom is victorious! He’s become a giant, he’s infested the entire city with his evil seeds, Jim Gordon is dying, and a giant black hole is growing in the middle of Gotham. But Batman is back, baby! Dressed in a new suit, Batman saves Gordon from a gang of Bloom-infused criminals, then takes on the big Bloom himself! Batman fights for all of Gotham City against the monster, and then takes control of one of the giant Batman robots in order to have a Pacific Rim fight in downtown Gotham!

Meanwhile, Gordon ignores the pleas to go to the hospital and instead tracks down the new Batman-themed element introduced earlier in the series. That is the only hope for stopping the black hole, and he uses his Robo-Batman suit to deliver the finishing blow.

Double meanwhile, Robin has figured out that one of the Robo-Batman technicians, Daryl, is the inventor of the Bloom seeds. Daryl says that after the Riddler and Joker attacks, he wanted to find a way to empower all of the citizens of Gotham. He started testing his seeds on dead homeless people, and something went wrong, and one of them woke up as the monstrous Mr. Bloom. Now Daryl wants to use his own Bloom powers to fight back, but Robin recognizes that he’s crazy, and he knocks Daryl out. Then he uses Daryl’s police blimp to aid Batman in fighting Bloom, and he sacrifices the blimp to knock Bloom into the black hole, which Gordon has successfully dissipated.

Batman then swoops in and saves Robin, who tried to parachute to safety from the blimp.

Later, Gordon is recovering in the hospital, and he quits as Robo-Batman — only to become the new Commissioner again. And Bruce Wayne tracks down Duke Thomas with an offer.

Comic Rating: 10/10 – Fantastic.

Batman #50 is about as epic as comic book stories can get. This is a double-sized issue, and Snyder and company pack action and character into every page. I gladly put aside all my complaints about Mr. Bloom as a character and just enjoyed the ride, as Batman and his allies (including a kickass Robin!) pushed themselves to the limit to put down this dastardly villain. This is quality comics. Snyder and Capullo have been at the tops of their respective games for this entire series, but I’ve always been a little hesitant to embrace their work for one reason or another. This time, they blast past any of my reservations and tell one heck of an awesome comic book story!

This needs to be a thing

And people a lot smarter than me were able to recognize the subtext that Snyder wrote at the end of the issue. When Gordon is recovering in the hospital, he delivers a speech about how his being Batman was a mistake, and about how Gotham City perseveres. I just thought it was a nice speech, but Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool recognized it as Snyder writing directly to the people who complained about Gordon taking over as Batman, and on that level, I think I agree. It was a great speech.

(And for the record, I loved Gordon as Batman and I wish it had lasted a bit longer.)

I would also be remiss not to mention the bit at the end with Duke Thomas. He was an amazing Robin during the last few months of Snyder’s run, and I loved his Capullo design. Could we get that as an action figure, please? I would be thrilled if Bruce’s offer was to make Duke Robin for real (even though I still feel that Harper Row was shafted). I know that Damian is still around, but the work Snyder and company have done here should not be lightly tossed aside. Snyder had a few cryptic hints about Robin, Duke Thomas and Rebirth over at Newsarama, and I’m excited to see what they’re all planning.

Grayson #18

Grayson #18
Writers: Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly
Artists: Roge Antonio and Geraldo Borges

Oof. Rebirth is coming and we all have to deal with it. Apparently that means ditching Grayson‘s god-like creative team right at the end of their big story. I don’t know what happened, but Tim King, Tom Seeley and Mikel Janin are gone and sorely missed.

Still, the new guys do a good enough job.

The final battle is upon us! The members of the spy syndicate converge on St. Hadrian’s Finishing School in an attempt to assassinate Helena Bertinelli, and they almost succeed, but Grayson and Tiger arrive just in time to get her to the infirmary. The fight is grand, as some of the best hand-to-hand combatants in the world duke it out and trade witty barbs. Agent Zero shows up and tricks the Skull Girls into attacking Grayson, because she’s got her own Leviathan schemes at work. Agent 8 shows up to cause trouble for everybody, and Grayson calls in Midnighter for back-up. Basically, there’s everything!

Agent Zero and Dr. Netz turn out to be sisters, who at first join together to resurrect their dead father, but then get into a fight when they both want to be the vessel that will contain his soul. The fight is broken up when their father returns in Helena’s body. At least I think it’s Helena’s body, due to the earrings, but if so, there’s a coloring error and she looks white. That’s one of those rookie mistakes that really ruins the big reveal.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Despite the sudden change in writers, this is still an enjoyable issue. Lanzing and Kelly keep the ball rolling and keep the excitement palpable, as the battle takes on several stages. We jump from one fight to the next, one quip to the next, and everybody sounds and acts just like King and Seeley led us to believe. Grayson remains the star, even amidst all this craziness, and every single one of the side players from Grayson gets in on the action. It’s not as epic as the new issue of Batman, but this is still one heck of a fight. Midnighter’s arrival was particularly fun. I wish King and Seeley had been able to finish this story, but Lanzing and Kelly do a solid job.

Come on now, Tiger, which one of you has appeared on Arrow?

Unfortunately, artists Antonio and Borges fail to live up to Mikel Janin. How anyone could live up to Janin is a good question. They can’t. But Antonio and Borges are a huge step down in quality and clarity. The art is fine, I suppose. It’s serviceable. The characters aren’t as sharply defined, the inks seem really heavy, and there’s just a lower grade of quality overall. If this had been the regular art on Grayson, this series wouldn’t have lasted as long as it did, or received as much praise. This is a textbook example of how bad art can sink a book, but I tried not to let the art bother me. This is still an excellent story in spite of the odd changes to the creative team.

Harley Quinn #26

Harley Quinn #26
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artists: John Timms and Chad Hardin

Where will Harley Quinn go in Rebirth? Will she get a new comic? Is the creative team sticking around? Is DC going to try and put her more in line with her upcoming movie version? I have no idea, but for now, her comic has a few ideas left.

And one of them is very…cinematic.

Harley is feeling a bit melancholy after the last few issues, so she returns home to Coney Island for a bit of relaxation and activities. She beats up some surfer punks at the beach, tells off a guy who was ogling her butt (and gets a weird, sincere apology), gets a new dye job to make her look more like the upcoming movie version, then joins back up with her roller derby friends to let off some steam. Her first opponent for the evening will be a Deadpool parody who wants revenge on Harley.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Like a lot of issues of Harley Quinn, this one is all over the place, but in the usual good way. This issue is made up of a lot of little scenes, almost all of which work nicely and make for an entertaining comic. I liked Harley on the beach, I like her new hair style, I like her in the roller derby; it’s all good fun. I’ve never been a big fan of this disjointed story structure, but it still works just fine. And Harley remains a thoroughly interesting and entertaining character, even when she’s feeling melancholy. We’ve all been there.

Hellcat #4

Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat#4
Writer: Kate Leth
Artist: Brittney L. Williams

The adorableness continues in the latest issue of Patsy Walker! I love the little world that Leth and Williams are building in this comic. Each issue has been largely episodic, and this one finally starts to bring the bigger threat to a head.

Patsy Walker gets a temp job cleaning up the tattoo parlor of Tara Tam, the current BFF of Howard the Duck, which leads to office shenanigans between Patsy, Tara and Howard. Patsy also gets an impulse tattoo of the chibi version of herself. It’s adorable. Then Patsy runs into Bailey, the girl with the magic bag who robbed the mall in a previous issue, who is working for Casiolena to put together an army of bad guys. But Bailey (or Bag Lady, as Hellcat calls her) is hardly a real super-villain, and she’s easily defeated. Hellcat and Valkyrie then team up to track down Casiolena, who is ready for a fight!

Meanwhile, Patsy was supposed to be meeting with Hedy Wolfe and her lawyers to discuss the rights to the Patsy comics, but she got distracted chasing super-villains!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

I am delighted with the level of world-building that Leth and company are doing in this comic. Hellcat is essentially about another vigilante superhero in New York City, but the ways her job and her supporting cast get more and more fleshed out really ups my interest level. Patsy’s temp agency for super-powered people is a great hook, and I love how she even tries to pitch the good work when she and her friends are trapped by the villain. Everybody gets to be kind of adorable in this comic.

Are message boards even really a thing anymore?

I especially like the character of Bailey, who gets a lot deeper in this issue than when we first saw her. She’s not a super-villain or a trained fighter or anything even resembling a bad guy, but she tries, gosh darn it! She’s a very human character thrust into this Inhuman world, and I loved how Leth and Hellcat handled her character.

Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat is a fun comic with a fun, blossoming world of super-powers in the city. Not all street level comics need to be dark and gritty.

Hulk #4

Totally Awesome Hulk #4
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Frank Cho

The first story arc for The Totally Awesome Hulk comes to an end, and it’s fine. Pak is a very good writer, and he’s got some neat ideas at work with this series. But I feel he could be doing a lot more with the character.

Hulk has been taken captive by Lady Hellbender, but when she dumps the rest of her monster collection back down on Earth, he breaks free and jumps down to round them all up. Hellbender actives all of their shock collars, and the monsters go wild, attacking the nearby town. Amadeus Cho has to unleash the beast within to contain them, but when his strength also threatens the town, his sister and She-Hulk manage to get through to him to calm down. Cho then uses his smarts to deactivate the shock collars, and all the monsters calm down too. Lady Hellbender then takes her leave, after sharing a smooch with the Hulk.

In flashback, we see that Amadeus Cho gladly took the Hulk powers from Bruce Banner when Bruce’s body was about to go nuclear.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

In a lot of ways, I think Totally Awesome Hulk is the equivalent of All-New Wolverine or Unbeatable Squirrel Girl or perhaps even, to an extent, Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat. It’s about a young, friendly, upbeat superhero having adventures. It’s not as funny as any of those comics, but it’s definitely got a touch of adorableness to it, and I like that. But I think Pak needs to go deeper. This was a fine opening story arc, but he hasn’t really done anything yet that would distinguish Amadeus Cho as a different sort of Hulk. This felt like a pretty typical Hulk story. The Cho part of things just doesn’t have much of a foundation.

I think they want that to stick

What is it about this new Hulk that makes him ‘totally awesome’? Is it Cho’s youth? Is it his unique personality? Is it his approach to being the Hulk? None of those things are all that defined or defining. The Hulk in this issue pretty much either punches things or figures out a different approach, and Bruce Banner could have done any of those things. Pak played up Cho’s burgeoning teenage horniness in some of the earlier issues, but that has gone by the wayside as the story takes over. I think he should push some of those unique character traits.

Totally Awesome Hulk is definitely about the Hulk, but it’s not yet ‘totally awesome’. There are a lot of ways, I think, that Pak could distinguish this title and this character, but he hasn’t gotten there yet. I have faith. And hopefully Frank Cho can stick around, because he’s fantastic on this comic.

Also, one last gripe: what was the point of adding Miles Morales to this story? He had no reason to be in Australia in the first place, and added a whole lot of nothing.

Also also, the transfer of power from Bruce to Amadeus wasn’t all that interesting after all. Pak invents a problem for the Hulk, then has Cho essentially just take the Hulk power with a wave of his hand. Weird that it’s that easy, after all this time.

We Are Robin #10

We Are Robin #10
Writer: Lee Bermejo
Artist: Jorge Corona

After Duke Thomas’ bravura performance in the climactic issue of Batman this week, the new issue of We Are Robin is kind of a let down. I’m not even going to pretend to understand the timing of these things.

Smiley continues to gather more Jokerz to his gang as they terrorize the city, ostensibly in the name of fighting the power. The various Robins try to assess the problem and wonder, either alone or together, whether or not they should get the team back together to stop them. Dre, in his new vigilante persona, infiltrates the Jokerz in his efforts to stop them. While Duke Thomas turns to Riko to try and team up, but she’s upset because Duke has been spending a lot of time with Izzy lately. Teenagers, amiright?

The issue ends with Smiley and the Jokerz invading Middletown High School!

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I still don’t find Smiley or the Jokerz the least bit compelling. There’s a real spirit of anger and rebellion in the United States right now, especially with young people; why not tap into that? Why not dig into some real millennial issues to drive this new gang? Bermejo kind of pays lip service to all of that by giving Smiley some big monologues about fighting the power, but they don’t hit deeply enough to be anything more than flim flam. Smiley is just an idiot who has patterned himself after the Joker, and a bunch of people are joining up because they’re faceless, nameless henchmen/gang member types.

Meanwhile, the Robins continue to grumble about their crummy lives from the sidelines. I get what’s happening here: the threat of the Jokerz is going to be what brings the Robins together again in triumphant glory. But it’s been several issues now and nothing has changed. Only at the very end of this issue does Smiley finally make his move, and that gives me hope. Maybe Bermejo will do something with school shootings or violence in the schools. I hope he has a deeper point to make, I really do.

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 26, 2016, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Just curious, are you still reading Black Canary? It fell off of my radar but DC recently released an actual EP to tie-in with the comic, and it’s so cool. I’m thinking of picking it back up myself.

    I felt the same way about Man of Steel, it was just kind of “meh”. From what I’ve read, one of the biggest problem with Batman v. Superman is that so many references are made to comic book things that a general audience just isn’t going to understand. That said, I’ll probably enjoy it because WONDER WOMAN! I’m going to see the movie tomorrow, and I hope it’s not as bad as people are making it out to be. My biggest fear is more over-the-top imagery from Snyder (a la Superman floating backwards towards Earth in Man of Steel like he’s on a cross).

    Also, thank you for doing these reviews. My budget’s been pretty tight lately and I can’t afford to keep up with all of the comics I was reading, so I’m going off of these reviews to decide which few I should stick with.

    • Glad to be of some help! And nah, I gave up on Black Canary, but not for any particular reason. It just got away from me. I enjoyed it well enough, but I can only read and write about so many comics in a week, and I usually go with my favorites.

  2. Hellcat is delightful. So much fun. Such great humour. I laughed throughout the issue. I think my favourite bit might be Patsy taking offence as Casiolena preying on Bailey through her student loans. Also, Patsy’s ringtone is ‘Demons’ by Sleigh Bells! Remember the scene in Jessica Jones where Patsy does a badass slow walk over awesome music? It’s that song!

    Hulk is good. It’s fine. I have no major complaints. But . . . meh. I think I’m just not a fan of Pak’s writing style.

    • I never notice or recognize music, so thanks for the trivia! That’s a great callback. Even if the two Patsy Walkers are millions of worlds apart.

      • They both apparently dig Sleigh Bells, that’s the most important thing. Because Sleigh Bells are an awesome band. And Demons is a frigging wicked song. You should give it a listen on YouTube.

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