Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 8/6/16
I don’t know what this makes of me, but I skipped the Suicide Squad Rebirth issue this week. I’ve never been particularly interested in the comic. And I only kinda sorta liked the movie. So nuts to that whole mess!
Fortunately, the nuts and bolts of Suicide Squad are still good! Harley Quinn debuts her new Rebirth series this week, and its as phenomenal! I’m so glad that Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti and their artistic teams are still around! Best possible choice by DC there.
Though I still want to see an entire issue drawn by Conner. It would be magical! Does anybody know if she’s said publicly why she isn’t drawing much of the comic? She’s one of my favorite artists in the biz and this book is almost tailor-made for her.
Comic Reviews: Batman #4, Harley Quinn #1, Invincible Iron Man #12, Justice League #2 and Nightwing #2.
Writer: Tim King
Artist: David Finch
How does one judge a Batman comic? There have been so many, and so many different interpretations over the years. For me, personally, I want to be entertained. I want to see a clear and consistent portrayal of the character, working his way through an interesting and engaging story. Just having Batman in a comic book isn’t enough for me.
And I think that’s where King and Finch are losing me.
Batman arrives at a massacre to find 27 soldiers dead and Gotham Girl crying in a corner. He takes her back to the Batcave so Duke and Alfred can look after her, then he goes out to search for Gotham. We get a scene taken from Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman where Big Blue helped a suicidal girl, only now Gotham finds another man who blows himself up for fear of ‘Monster Men’. Batman eventually finds Gotham trying to rebuild the bridge that was destroyed last issue, and Gotham gets mad and chucks a girder into the Batmobile.
Meanwhile, Duke Thomas has discovered that the numbers on the dog tags from the 27 dead soldiers each add up to 24, and the 24th letter of the alphabet is ‘X’. So Batman deduces they belong to Task Force X, and he pays Amanda Waller a visit. She explains that she wanted to use Psycho Pirate to control people’s emotions, and she wanted to use Hugo Strange to control Psycho Pirate, but they’ve both broken free. She also reveals there were 28 soldiers, and Batman immediately understands that to mean that a 28th soldier tracked down Gotham’s home and murdered his parents.
Batman tries to convince Gotham to led the soldier live, but Gotham snaps his neck and flies off, determined to kill all of Gotham City!
Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.
This issue was all over the place. I’m still not sure what that scene from All-Star Superman was about or how it played into Gotham’s new murderous attitude. And things like the dog tags all adding up to 24 just reeks of trying too hard. That moment is immediately followed by a frankly ridiculous scene between Waller and Gen. Sam Lane, during which Lane goes on and on about how they are in a heavily guarded, top secret bunker that Batman could never possibly no about, only for Waller to coolly inform Lane that Batman is standing right behind him. I’m all for Batman being a badass, but it’s silly to just state his untoppable badassery like that. And no points for Waller being so ‘cool’ and calm about it. This is just bad writing.
Then there’s the bit with the 28th soldier.
Followed immediately by this:
That makes no sense! When he’s told by Waller that there were 28 soldiers, not 27, how does Batman figure out that Gotham took off his itchy mask, the soldier saw his face and was able to track down his parents, and then kill them? How does this work?!
And now I really don’t care what becomes of Gotham. I already wasn’t too thrilled with the character, and how this comic still seems to be about him, with Batman just kind of tagging along. Now he’s a brainwashed psychopath who kills a bunch of people. We don’t know anything yet about his powers. Neither he nor his sister have any real personality to speak of. And the real villains, Strange and Psycho Pirate, remain in the background as little more than blips in the road.
I have no idea what King is going for with his Batman series. It’s disjointed and focused on entirely wrong things, with a Batman who relies more on his myth than being an actual man. And Batman #4 brings out the worst in all of the already obvious flaws in this comic.
Harley Quinn #1
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Chad Hardin
This is a good week for Harley Quinn. She makes her major motion picture debut and kicks off a new volume of her wildly popular comic book series! I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed the character more!
Following a cozy spa day with Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn takes new readers through both her origin story and her eclectic cast, from the freakshow tenants to the Gang of Harleys to her roller derby sisters. Harley also welcomes to newbies to the cast: Red Tool, the Deadpool parody, and Jim Salabim, a genie who has lost all his magical powers. She gives them tour of the apartment complex, but that’s interrupted by a mass of zombies!
(An alien crash landed in a cow pasture, assumed the cow’s form to blend in, but ended up getting sent to the slaughterhouse and turned into Coney Island hot dogs: hence, zombies).
Harley, Red Tool and Big Tony fight off the zombies until Red Tool gets bitten on the arm. Believing them to be ‘real’ zombies with the same rules as The Walking Dead, Harley immediately chops off Red Tool’s arm. The group retreats and they load Red Tool into the rooftop scatapult to launch him and his arm to the nearest hospital. But as he’s sailing through the air, he passes out before he can pull his parachute!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
This issue was a damn fine re-introduction to the awesomeness and craziness of the Harley Quinn comic. I loved the opening spa scene with Poison Ivy. Firmly establishing that relationship is one of the best things this comic has done. And it was nice to get a recap of everybody and everything going on, because Harley Quinn has a whole heck of a lot on its plate. Sometimes certain aspects of the book don’t get the attention they deserve (I’d like to see more roller derby), but Conner and Palmiotti keep things spinning nicely. I also like the return of Red Tool. I really liked his first appearance a few issues ago, and I think they are building something solid with him.
Harley Quinn is a fun comic. It’s manic, but in a good way. It’s brimming with personality, from both its main character and its myriad of supporting players, each one more interesting than the last. First and foremost, Harley Quinn is a person. She’s a wild and wacky person, but she’s a human being with thoughts, feelings, friendships, relationships, fears, doubts, loves and more. That’s what I want from my comics. I want to read about real people in fantastical situations. I want to read about Harley and Ivy having a spa day. I want to read about Harley Quinn cozying up to her friends and loved ones. I want to read about Harley Quinn showing Red Tool how to be a proper human being and not a creepy stalker. And this comic delivers.
Harley Quinn is an incredibly fun and bombastic comic with one of the best casts you’ve ever seen. This new relaunch is a solid, entertaining start to a hopefully equally enjoyable run.
Invincible Iron Man #12
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mike Deodato
I may have mostly given up on Civil War II, but I still enjoy me some Bendis Iron Man. Or at least I did. This is a fine issue that pushes some storylines forward, but the promise of a Bendis-penned, Marquez-drawn Iron Man series has faded away.
Tony Stark has revealed to the world that he’s still alive, and first he has to quickly squelch any takeover attempts by the Stark Enterprises Board of Directors. He shoos them out of his office with the help of Mary Jane and Friday, his A.I. Then Tony hears about Riri Williams, so he goes to visit her and marvels at the super suit she’s made. Then I think something happened in Civil War II, because we also find Tony sitting amidst the rubble of Stark Tower. Not sure when the tower came down…it might not have even happened yet in the main series. But both Mary Jane and Maria Hill show up, worried about Tony, but he assures them that he’s still sane, just angry and preparing for war.
Then Doctor Doom shows up and teleports Tony away to show him something.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
I think Bendis has lost sight of this series as an individual comic. He’s also writing Civil War II, so it makes sense that he would focus on that. But I wanted an awesome Iron Man comic with Bendis and Marquez! And we got that in the beginning. This is just kind of chaff, with Deodato, who I’m just not liking. His art style here is too heavy on the inks, making for a darker, rougher art than original series artist Marquez, who brought the big, shiny like no one else. This issue is just Bendis moving Tony Stark around the board for one random reason or another. Though I do still enjoy this apparent team-up between Tony and Doom.
Also, this issue really fails Riri Williams.
Bendis firmly establishes here that Riri is a genius, but she’s that special kind of rebel genius who drops out of MIT because it’s not a good fit. That’s fine. But then you’re telling us that she uses this genius to just build a knockoff Iron Man armor? There are a ton of knockoff Iron Man armors throughout the Marvel Universe. A genius like Riri can’t think of anything better to do with her brilliance? And is this really her superhero origin story?
Invincible Iron Man #12 is no longer the series I signed up for. It’s still got some entertaining bits and characters, but it is overshadowed by Civil War II without even really tying into that event.
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Javier Fernandez
Did you enjoy the death-defying theatrics and international intrigue of Grayson? What about the prospect of Dick Grayson going undercover to defeat the worldwide Parliament of Owls? Well strap in, boys and girls, because we’ve got to meet Seeley’s new pet character first!
Nightwing is a double agent in the Parliament of Owls. They think they control him, but he’s secretly trying to take them down from within. The Owls have partnered him with a mercenary named Raptor (not Talon, as I’d mistakenly written earlier), who is basically Nightwing if he were a jerk and had some kind of claw weapon. Together, they rescue a freighter that belongs to an Owl member, and Raptor taunts Nightwing a whole lot. In the end, Nightwing passes up a date with Barbara Gordon to stick with Raptor’s own efforts to strike at the Parliament.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
This issue was more entertaining than the last, but this series is really struggling with one huge, glaring problem: Raptor is kind of lame. I’m all for introducing new and interesting characters, but Seeley has kind of gone too far with this guy, and it’s a real detriment. Raptor is painfully generic. His name is as basic as they come, and while he’s got a coolish design, he’s still just one of a million random ‘badass’ mercenary types.
But the real problem is in Seeley’s efforts to jobber Nightwing to make Raptor look cooler.
Without any really clever or insightful or unique character traits, Raptor is nonetheless a better fighter than Nightwing, and can get under his skin in ways no one else has ever seemed to manage. It’s not like Raptor is offering some really deep understanding of Nightwing. He kind of just throws out basic put downs about Nightwing and Batman, and that turns Nightwing into an emotional wreck who wants to beat Raptor into shutting up. It’s embarrassing.
Where’s the cool and suave character we came to love in Grayson?
The problem is that this entire issue is about how Raptor is so ‘awesome’ and how he is one step ahead of Nightwing just because. There’s no specific reason why this generic merc is better than both Nightwing or Batman, other than that’s just how Seeley is writing him. And it’s bugging me.
Nightwing #2 pushes a new pet character over the main character to less than thrilling results. I have enough faith in Seeley to hope he’s going somewhere with this, but for now it’s making me miss Grayson even more.
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!