Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 7/2/16

Happy Fourth of July Weekend, fellow American hench-people! Here in America, we celebrate with picnics and blowing stuff up. And apparently a Captain America comic that got a lot of people riled up last month! That seems like a solid way to celebrate America’s birthday. Comics are a good way to celebrate anything!

Though I’m sad to say I had a busy week at work, so I didn’t get to as many comics as I normally like. I read a good pile, though. There were some gems, and some duds. And I’m really, really sorry to say that I’m just not gelling with the new Black Panther series. I want to support any attempt to diversify a comic book line, but the series is just going way over my head. It’s a fine comic, but it’s just not for me, sad to say.

Not that the rest of these are all that great either…though I did enjoy one last romp with Grayson. Comic Book of the Week by a long shot.

Dick Grayson and Harley Quinn need to team up more often

It’s just an Annual issue, though, so what does it really matter? Hopefuly the Rebirthed Nightwing will be even half as good as Grayson.

Comic Reviews: Captain America – Steve Rogers #2, Captain Marvel #6, Grayson Annual #3 and Spider-Man #5.

Captain America #2

Captain America – Steve Rogers #2
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Jesus Saiz

Welp, this is about as obvious as it gets. After last month’s kerfuffle involving Steve Rogers as a HYDRA agent, Marvel and writer Nick Spencer reveal how all of that came about in this second issue. And considering how long it takes to make a comic book, I think it’s safe to say this was the plan all along. And it’s the most obvious answer and makes total sense.

Unbeknownst to everybody, Red Skull has been in control of Kobik, the sentient Cosmic Cube, this entire time. She’s just a child, and he’s taking advantage of that by posing as a caring father-figure. It was the Skull’s idea to create Pleasant Hill, and he used that whole ruckus to enact his ultimate plan against Captain America. Red Skull had Kobik make Steve Rogers young and fit again, while also altering his memory to make him think he’d always been a HYDRA agent. Badda bing, badda boom.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

I’m not the sort of guy who shouts, “I told you so!” at anybody. And I firmly believe that everybody is entitled to their own opinion. But the outrage last month about this “Hail Hydra” thing got way out of control. And this issue makes it perfectly clear that this is all part of an ongoing story with a very reasonable explanation for why Captain America thinks he’s a HYDRA agent. And it’s the most obviously explanation available. I can’t say as how I’m all that invested in Kobik or what happened in Pleasant Hill, but Nick Spencer has been working on this big, overarching story for a reason.

That plushie looks cute, but suddenly I realize it might be a TV to comic retcon of Hive from Agents of SHIELD

As for that story and that reason? Eh, I couldn’t care less. Rather than build on last month’s momentum to keep the story moving, Spencer spends an entire issue explaining, piece-by-piece, how it all happened. And if you didn’t read Pleasant Hill, prepare to be left in the dust. And it’s not just that Spencer spends an issue explaining his master plan, it’s also that this just isn’t a very interesting master plan. Red Skull uses a Cosmic Cube to make Captain America think he’s a HYDRA agent? Boom, I just did it in one sentence. Spencer took a whole issue.

Red Skull is not a character with any real depth or complexity. And Kobik remains little more than a dues ex machina. So seeing the two of them enact a very simple plan isn’t all that thrilling. I can’t see Marvel being afraid of the backlash from Issue #1, and I can’t see Marvel and Spencer suddenly whipping this issue together in a split second in order to respond to that backlash. So was Spencer’s plan all along to stop cold all his issue #1 momentum with a follow up issue that just over-explains the twist?

Why go to all this trouble to make Captain America think he’s a HYDRA agent if you’re not going to actually do something with him as a HYDRA agent? I guess that comes next issue?

Captain Marvel #6

Captain Marvel #6
Writers: Ruth and Christos Gage
Artist: Kris Anka

This is a little disappointing. I love Christos Gage, but it’s a little strange that he and his wife are taking over Captain Marvel after only one storyline from the original creative team. And it’s even more of a bummer that we’re already dealing with Civil War II…though I suppose we must, since Carol is a major player.

Alpha Flight throws Captain Marvel a party for her months of service, including a visit from her boyfriend, War Machine. Then she’s called before the Alpha Flight governing board, which includes diplomats from across the Earth and Outer Space. They want to know how the superheroes knew about the Celestial from Civil War II #1 in advance, but didn’t know about the attack from the first Captain Marvel storyline. Carol doesn’t exactly admit to the existence of Ulysses, but hedges around that the Inhumans have access to something that can predict the future.

Shortly thereafter, one of Carol’s classic enemies attacks the Midwest with a chemical agent that turns human beings into crab people. The villain gets away, and Carol is so angry at having been beaten that she wants to use Ulysses more!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

So this was a fine issue, but there’s one key aspect about it that’s bugging the heck out of me: It’s only the second storyline in this relaunched series, and already Carol is back on Earth. A huge deal was made about her becoming the head of this new version of Alpha Flight, with Carol being the first line of defense against aliens. They even go to all the trouble of introducing us to Alpha Flight’s overseer board, full of all manner of colorful people and aliens. But after one single space story, we’re back on Earth tackling an Earth-bound threat. Lame.

That being said, it’s still a fine issue. Carol is handled well in both the party, the romance and the counsel meeting, and even her anger is a solid character choice in the face of her villain winning the day. She’s still a great protagonist. And Kris Anka is a great artist to make all of this happen. Everything is solid. I’m just…really disappointed that we’re going to get wrapped up in Civil War II rather than explore Carol as her own, individual superhero. Marvel went to all the trouble of setting up this interesting new status quo, and now they won’t even let Carol play with it.

Grayson Annual #3

Grayson Annual #3
Writer: Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly
Artists: Roge Antonio, Natasha Alterici, Christian Duce, Flaviano and Javier Fernandez

Annuals are weird. I don’t think they really come out annually. I’m pretty sure they’re just time wasters whenever DC Comics comes upon a fifth Wednesday in a month. But for one-and-done, somewhat out-of-continuity adventures by talented creators, they can be pretty cool.

John Constantine, Azrael, Harley Quinn and Simon Baz have all recently had a run-in with Agent 37, and Jim Corrigan gathers them all to share their stories in an effort to suss out the identity of this mysterious, charming, talented, heroic person. Constantine watched 37 take out some vampires in his skivvies; Azrael saw 37 fight off an entire army of fanatics; Harley Quinn and 37 had a flirty heist together; and 37 showed Simon Baz what it means to be a superhero in a fight against some Parademons.

After sharing their stories, they all easily deduce that Agent 37 is Dick Grayson (except for Simon, who has never heard of Dick Gryason). It’s then that Corrigan reveals himself to be Dick Grayson in disguise. In this story, he’s still believed to be dead and undercover with Spyral, so he’s forced to erase all of their memories so that they don’t know that Dick Grayson is still alive and kicking.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This was just a straight-up fun comic book. I think Dick Grayson has emerged as my favorite DC superhero in the New 52 (sorry Tim Drake!). There’s just something special going on with Dick. I think back to the kid that met the Justice League a few weeks ago in Justice League #51, and I can just imagine that kid growing up into the man that all four of these characters met and respect. Each story is short, sweet and just brimming with charm, cleverness and a general sense of awesome.

Presented without context

It’s a shame that the Grayson era of comics has come to an end. I don’t know what Dick is going to do as a renewed Nightwing, but for the past year or so, he was a true international man of mystery. He could swoon with the best of them, kick all manner of butt, and save the day four times over without breaking a sweat. This Annual is a stellar example of embracing and enjoying a popular, well-developed character.

In comic books, character counts. And there’s nobody like Dick Grayson.

Spider-Man #5

Spider-Man #5
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli

Five issues in, and I’m not convinced that Miles Morales has anything to do in the regular Marvel Universe. I can’t exactly say that the Ultimate Universe had any teeth left when Miles was around, but so far, Bendis and Pichelli haven’t really done much with the character in this new solo series.

Black Cat and Hammerhead have Miles prisoner, but he wakes up and zaps his way to freedom. Black Cat manages to escape, but not before both warning Miles and offering to make him a super-criminal. Miles is flummoxed as to who she even is and why she’s messing with him. Meanwhile, Ganke and Goldballs are worried about the missing Miles, and his grandmother hires Jessica Jones to find out what’s going on with him.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

So…Black Cat and Hammerhead didn’t really have a reason for holding Miles, just that Black Cat is annoyed at the regular Spider-Man these days and decided to take it out on Miles. Our hero seems just as perplexed and confused. And then Goldballs showed up to hang out with Ganke for a bit, because I guess Bendis didn’t want to lose Goldballs? I dunno. This issue was kind of a total dud. If Bendis is progressing some overall story, there’s absolutely zero signs of it. Miles just had a rather bland encounter with Black Cat over the past few issues, and now it’s over.

The only thing this issue really accomplished was reminding us how insane Miles’ grandmother is. Really? Hiring a private investigator on your own grandson? Jeez louise, lady!

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 July 2, 2016, in Avengers, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Captain Steverica was good. The “mystery” was obvious enough that I’m glad Spencer didn’t drag it out. Red Skull was entertaining.

    Captain Marvel was really good. I really like the Board that Carol reports to, and I hope they stick around. And I love Dr. Minerva showing up. She’s a perfect fit for a Captain Marvel villain.

    Spider-Man is pretty OK. Generic Crimelord Black Cat kinda bores me, though Bendis does still write her better than Slott did. And I still find Pichelli’s Fabio way too cool-looking.

    • Criminal Black Cat is still a very bad idea all around. Nobody’s making that work.

      And maybe making Fabio a hunk is Bendis’ attempt to make him last! Sexy characters are more popular!

      • Robbie Thompson’s not doing too bad a job with Black Cat in Silk. I kinda hope she hangs around that book. I would love it if, even after their big confrontation next issue, Silk and Black Cat actually remain friends, because their growing friendship has been really, really nice, and it feels like it’s been good for both characters.

  1. Pingback: Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 7÷2÷16 | Writers Critique - Story & Craft | Write | Critique | Publish

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