Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 5/21/16

This was a good week for comics. My pile was lighter than I anticipated, and I thought things would be pretty calm. But then several issues really stood out to me as winners. We’ve got Silver Surfer, Harley Quinn, Astonishing Ant-Man, Power Man and Iron Fist; this is a damn fine week for the funny books. And almost any of these could have won Comic Book of the Week. I was really tempted to give Harley Quinn major props this week.

But Comic Book of the Week goes to All-New Wolverine #8! Writer Tom Taylor is really pushing Laura as a new hero in her own right, while doubling down on comic book awesomeness. I really love seeing where he takes the legacy of Wolverine, and how he uses it to empower Laura.

It’s a complicated legacy

Although Harley Quinn has something Wolverine doesn’t: romance! At least I think so…

Comic Reviews: All-New Wolverine #8, Astonishing Ant-Man #8, Harley Quinn #28, Power Man and Iron Fist #4, Silver Surfer #4 and Spider-Man #4.

Wolverine #8

All-New Wolverine #8
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Marcio Takara

Out of all the replacement heroes currently hanging out in the Marvel Universe, I think Laura as Wolverine is the one I most want to stick around. I think there’s a lot of potential here, and definitely a lot of stories. Especially if they’re as good as this one.

Laura is trying to live a normal life with Gabby and their new pet wolverine, Jonathan. But they’re recruited by Maria Hill to investigate a mysterious box that was somehow used to disappear seven S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Hill first called upon Old Man Logan to investigate, but now he’s also missing. S.H.I.E.L.D. open the box remotely to reveal a strange green liquid inside, which Wolverine immediately recognizes as a manufactured pheromone to attract Fin Fang Foom! The giant dragon attacks the Helicarrier, and when Laura realizes where the agents and Old Man Logan have gone, she pops her claws and dives into the belly of the beast.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This issue was just a damn fantastic look at the ordinary adventures of the new Wolverine. We’re past the initial storyline that kicked off Taylor’s run, and now we’re settling into the everyday sorts of stories that Laura and company will have. I definitely like what I see. I loved the opening scenes of Laura and Gabby going about their day-to-day, and would love to see even more of that happen in future issues. They’ve got a gentle comfort to them, and Gabby is pretty darn hilarious. You also get the sense of just how much Laura is trying to act like a responsible adult.

Somebody get this artist a raise

The action is good too! Taylor sets up a nice mystery with the box, then has a fun scene as Maria Hill interrupts Laura’s home life. At first I found it a little silly that SHIELD would call on Laura like this, but Taylor explained that they needed an expert in scents, and that they had already tried Old Man Logan. The regular Wolverine would have been at the top of their list, so I like the implications for Laura. I really want to see Taylor tackle the idea of Laura living in Logan’s shadow, or living up to his legacy. I never would have pictured Wolverine as a legacy character, but the potential is outstanding.

All-New Wolverine is a fascinating comic with a lot of potential. I hope Taylor and his team really explore the space they’ve got, and I don’t mind the occasional deviation into Fin Fang Foom.

Ant-Man #8

Astonishing Ant-Man #8
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Brent Schoonover

Curse the disconnect between movies and comics! Ant-Man was one of the best parts of Captain America: Civil War, but reading Nick Spencer’s Astonishing Ant-Man comic is not like reading the adventures of Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang. At least not for me. I just can’t bridge the two characters.

Ah well, it’s no big deal. The comic is good too!

Ant-Man and Beetle put together a crew of all the latest villains: Whirlwind, the Voice, Hijaker and the Magician. Each villain responds to the Hench app request, and they meet up in a bar to play cards before their new bosses show up. Voice, Hijaker and Whirlwind take some time to teach the newbie, Magician, the ropes, passing along villain advice like not working for the psycho bosses who kill their henchmen, and if you’re going to do business in New York, try to get webbed up by Spider-Man instead of beaten up by Daredevil. The game erupts into a fight when they all spy the Magician cheating at cards.

Ant-Man and Beetle break up the fight, and then Beetle has to break up the next fight when all the villains turn on Ant-Man. She assures her compatriots that the job is legit.

Speaking of the job, Cassie Lang sneaks into Cross Industries in her new Stinger guise. But no sooner does she arrive at the server room than she’s confronted by Cross and his goons!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

The extended bit where the classic villains give advice to the newbie is worth the price of admission alone (even if Whirlwind is really the only ‘classic’ villain of note…and even if it doesn’t make much sense that they all had time to get a card game going while waiting for Beetle and Ant-Man to show up). The scene is full of the sorts of down-to-Earth factoids that Spencer tried to put in his Superior Foes of Spider-Man comic. I love street level super-villains, and this was just a lot of fun.

This is Henching 101

And the addition of Ant-Man and Beetle was fun too! I like both characters, and they add something more to the already fun combination of villains. The dust-up in the bar makes for great character building, and everybody plays well against each other. Spencer does a great job building the chemistry between this crew, and I hope it pays off when they get into the thick of the action!

Also, I grabbed the Beetle action figure a few weeks ago. Now I’m hoping to get an Astonishing Ant-Man figure! I love the current costume!

Harley Quinn #28

Harley Quinn #28
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: John Timms

I missed the last issue of Harley Quinn because it fell on that week of a million comics. But I’m all caught up and throughly enjoying this latest adventure!

Harley Quinn is facing off against Red Tool, an obvious Deadpool parody who has a crush on Harley and is trying to court her in the creepiest, most psychotic ways possible. He’s also doing his job as a heroic mercenary/crime-fighter, so he’s got that going for him.

Red Tool’s scheme involved knocking Harley out, tattooing his phone number on her butt and inviting her to a church for an impromptu wedding, with all the guests bound and gagged. Meanwhile, the mayor appoints a new police chief and assigns him the task of bringing in Harley Quinn. While Harley fights Red Tool inside the church, the police surround the place and open fire when they spot Harley packing a pistol.

Harley calls a truce with Red Tool so that they can get out of this together, and he reveals that all of the bound and gagged wedding guests are wanted criminals. They are his gift to Harley. So Harley invites the new police chief into the church and turns over all the criminals, in exchange for letting the two of them go. The chief accepts, though the mayor is none too pleased.

Later, Harley and Red Tool get some food, while she schools him in the proper ways to court a lady. He stalked her for awhile, and goes on a semi-romantic monologue detailing everything he knows and understands about Harley Quinn. She loves hearing about herself and is a little won over, though she tells the guy to scram in the end.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

I loved this issue of Harley Quinn, and hopefully for all the right reasons. Conner and Palmiotti slow things down and really delve into their characters here, and I loved that. I think I would love it a bit more if Red Tool wasn’t such an obvious Deadpool parody. I wish he was his own character. Because this husband and wife team write a really nice, romantic story, in that weird, psychotic Harley Quinn way. Timms’ pencils really help. That smile Harley Quinn has when she tells Red Tool to scram really sells the whole storyline.

Jeepers creepers, where’d you get them peepers?

Of course, I hope I’m understanding this story correctly. Red Tool obviously starts out as a stand-in for all those creepy ‘nice guys’ who think they’re owed affection from the women they like, and who depend on grand but creepy romantic gestures. But Harley spends two issues putting him in his place and correcting all of his bad attempts at romance, like the impromptu wedding. And I’m pretty sure, by the end, that he’s reformed enough that maybe he’s earned a bit of her attention. At least, I hope that’s the case, because I found the final scene really nice and sweet. I hope I’m not falling for one of those ‘nice guy’ tricks.

It’s a nice little romance, and I hope it goes somewhere, because I never really bought into Harley’s romance with her last boyfriend. When Conner and Palmiotti slow things down and focus on the characters over the zaniness, like they did all throughout this issue, it really drives home why this book is so good.

Power Man and Iron Fist #4

Power Man and Iron Fist #4
Writer: David Walker
Artist: Sanford Greene

The first Power Man and Iron Fist story comes to an exciting conclusion, and I can’t wait for bigger and better things from this comic!

Jennie has transformed into an out-of-control monster thanks to the Supersoul Stone, and Power Man and Iron Fist can’t seem to slow her down. It’s only when her friend, Black Mariah, tries to speak to Jennie that the Stone’s powers are weakened enough for Luke and Danny to deliver the finishing blow! Afterwards, they turn the Stone over to Señor Magico, and Luke reluctantly admits that they’re probably getting the team back together.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This was another fine issue, with a big rousing battle that never lost focus from the human characters. I’m not such a big fan of superhero fights anymore (unless they’re in the movies, apparently), so this issue isn’t as good as some of the previous, character-focused issues, but this was still a lot of fun. The camaraderie between Luke and Danny in the middle of a fight is great, as is their heroics, as they juggle fighting the monster with getting other people to safety.

Like two peas in a pod

The art by Greene is a little wilder than I would like, a sure sign that he’s butting up against the monthly deadlines. There don’t seem to be many artists in comics these days who can keep their perfect style when faced with monthly deadlines, but that’s why we have fill-ins and the like. Hopefully Marvel can find somebody to lend a hand, because Greene is otherwise perfect.

Power Man and Iron Fist is my favorite new comic from Marvel. Even in the middle of a big, monstrous battle, the focus is on the characters first and foremost. That’s exactly what I want from my comic books.

Silver Surfer #4

Silver Surfer #4
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Mike and Laura Allred

With so many great comics coming out these days, it’s easy to forget a little gem like Dan Slott and the Allreds’ Silver Surfer. Charming, tender and hugely entertaining, I love this little book.

The Silver Surfer lies dying after he used his life force and the Power Cosmic to cleanse the Earth and all other worlds of the Zenn-La culture. He has not only freed the worlds, but he has erased Zenn-La from time, space, history and memory. Shalla-Bal and her followers have been reduced to wearing blank, white uniforms, flying blank white spaceships. They attack the Earth in anger, while the Surfer is rushed to a hospital bed.

The Avengers and ordinary citizens fight against the angry invaders, while Shalla-Bal tracks down the Surfer in the hospital. Alicia Masters and Toomie do what they can to fight back, and Dawn Greenwood pleads for Shalla-Bal to stop, but it’s the Surfer himself who finally wakes up and and stops Shalla-Bal by submitting to her punishment — which is that all of Zenn-La will turn their backs on Norrin Radd, declaring that he no longer has a home with them.

After they’re gone, delegates from the United Nations arrive to thank the Surfer for what he has done for Earth. They all declare that he is an honorary citizen of all their nations. But the Silver Surfer can only look up into the stars and mourn his loss of a home world…until Dawn takes his hand and offers to be his new home. D’awwwww.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This issue was a bit sappy, but I’m OK with that. It’s also cutely romantic and powerfully heroic, too. I love that moment at the very end with Dawn and the Surfer. She is such a rich and enjoyable character. Everybody shines in this issue. Everybody is at their best, doing their best. And the Allreds draw the heck out of all of it. I don’t think their style is suited for a regular Avengers title, but they’re perfect for Silver Surfer and the quirky, comfy, cutesy story that Slott has been writing. This comic has so much heart it’s bursting.

Spider-Man #4

Spider-Man #4
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli

It would seem, like me, that Bendis is a fan of his original X-Man creation, Goldballs. While I would much prefer Goldballs to become a stalwart member of those Merry Mutants, I’ll take what I can get, even if it’s intruding on an issue of Miles Morales’ Spider-Man comic. Though hopefully he doesn’t ruin everything.

Goldballs now attends Miles and Ganke’s school, and Ganke is a big fan. He tries to convince Miles to introduce them at lunch, and the two get into an argument about whether it’s worse to be black and Hispanic or Asian and chubby. The argument is interrupted when Goldballs accidentally launches a gold ball into their lunch. During Goldballs’ apology, Ganke comes right out and reveals that Miles is Spider-Man, because he thinks Miles could use some more superhero friends to help him cope. Miles storms off, angry at Ganke for revealing his secret like that to a stranger.

Once he’s outside and swinging around, Miles is attacked by several heat-sinking missiles. He does his best to avoid them, but he’s eventually blown up and crashes to the sidewalk. Hammerhead and his goons arrive to collect the body for the Black Cat.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

This was a weird sort of issue. I liked it, but I’m not sure what Bendis is going for. Race and identity have been big themes so far in this young series, and I applaud that, but I’m still not sure what Bendis is going for, or if he’s getting it exactly right. Of course, as I will always say, as a straight, white, cisgender male, I really have no idea how minorities feel or what they experience. So I am the last guy to probably understand any of this. But I’ve always enjoyed Bendis’ character work. And this is a largely solid issue.

To be fair, there are a lot of Spider-People out and about these days

Ganke felt a little out of character in this issue, and I’m with Miles in that I can’t believe he just gave away his buddy’s secret identity like that. Does Ganke have a crush on Goldballs? We all do weird things when trying to impress a crush.

The first half of this issue was a tonally awkward discussion on race and secret identities, and the second half was a random encounter between Spider-Man and some heat-seeking missiles. How does Hammerhead get his hand on such advanced, precise missiles? I dunno. This issue just struck some weird chords for me that could grow into something much better than they seemed here.

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 May 21, 2016, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Wolverine took a bit of a dip in quality, but was still really good. Gabby continues to be wonderful. There’s way more fun than you’d expect in a Wolverine book, or a Laura book. And Fin Fang Foom! Again! That guy’s been showing up all over the place lately!

    Ant-Man was a lot of fun. Definitely hearkens back to Superior Foes. The villains raise some good points.

    PM&IF was great. Jennie and Mariah are such great friends. I want a series about them being awesome friends. Their bond really was the best part of this arc. And the arc’s been full of great stuff.

    Silver Surfer was great. Alicia’s a badass! The ending should be cheesy. It is cheesy. But Sott and the Allreds just sell it with such sincerity that it’s also really sweet and wonderful.

    Spider-Man was good. I liked the discussion on the under-representation of fat people. Ganke raised some really good points. Though I will say Pichelli draws way too cool a Goldballs. Goldballs is a dork, but here, he looks like the coolest kid in the school. He doesn’t feel right in Pichelli’s style.

    • I, myself, was thinking just how detailed Pichelli’s Goldballs was. I never would have guessed his look based on Bachalo’s wild style. I kind of like it, but you’re right, he’s super handsome…but then I suppose becoming a superhero and mini-celebrity might up somebody’s ability to look stylish.

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