Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 8/13/16

Hooray for Comic-Con! When you read this review list, I’ll already be on my way to Boston Comic-Con to promote my own self-published comic, Gamer Girl & Vixen! We have issues to hand out and hands to shake, so it should be a great trip! And a great culmination of my week’s vacation. I’ll see some good friends, hopefully make some new fans, and basically have a good, enjoyable time. That’s what vacation is all about.

Though vacation may have also made me a little lazy. I read a couple comics this week, but none of them really wowed me. I don’t know if the comics just weren’t very good this week, or if I’m in some kind of special lazy zone. But even the likes of the Lumberjanes, Gotham Academy, Amazing Spider-Man, Wonder Woman and the all new All-Star Batman didn’t get me very excited. Fortunately, this week saw the debut of Superwoman, and it’s really good!

There it is, there’s your hero shot

Though it was also nice to see Tim Drake kicking butt again in Detective Comics! DC is really hitting it out of the park lately.

Comic Reviews: All-Star Batman #1, Amazing Spider-man #16, Detective Comics #938, Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy #3, Superwoman #1 and Wonder Woman #4.

All-Star Batman #1

All-Star Batman #1
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: John Romita Jr. and Declan Shalvey

For whatever reason, Scott Snyder has been given this spin-off Batman book to, I guess, just have random Batman adventures. Teaming him up with John Romita Jr. is a good start, but personally, I wasn’t too impressed with the story. At least he’s using Duke Thomas more than Tom King over in the regular Batman comic.

Following the latest arrest of Two-Face after he attacked Gotham City with acid rain, Batman is flying him upstate to try and save Harvey Dent. But Harvey has been collecting dirt on everybody in Gotham, and he makes a televised announcement that he’ll pay a ton of money to whomever blows the Batplane out of the sky and frees him; and if nobody does it, then all those secrets will be put online. Rather than let those secrets out, Alfred blows Batman out of the sky (?!), and Batman crashes near some roadside diner. He has to fight off the likes of Firefly and Killer Moth before the average Joe folks at the diner turn on him too for the sake of a good payday. Still, Batman manages to get away, recapture Two-Face, and commandeer a big rig to continue the trip upstate.

In a back-up feature, we see Batman begin Duke Thomas’ training. They investigate a bunch of people killed with precision cuts, possibly from Zsasz.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I dunno, I just wasn’t too impressed with this opening chapter. It’s an interesting story idea, but I think Snyder poked himself in the foot a little by jumping around too much with the flashbacks. I got a little lost and wasn’t sure what was going on at first. Fortunately, the story tightened up and was easier to follow, but it just didn’t grab me. That’s just a personal opinion and shouldn’t really count against the quality of the stories being told. Batman is fine and the writing is solid, it’s a well-constructed comic from total professionals. The art is especially great. Romita and Shalvey are fantastic in the main and back-up features, respectively. But the stories just haven’t grabbed me yet.

“This time he’s covered in Bat-symbols, so he’s already better.”

Also, it’s starting to bug the heck out of me that Duke Thomas doesn’t even get a name yet! He’s sort of introduced to Commissioner Gordon in this issue, but the scene plays out with Batman specifically explaining that he’s trying something other than Robin this time. But Duke still doesn’t get a name. Why not? There is no possible name in the world that’s going to be worth holding off on revealing it. What could they possibly call him that would warrant some kind of big reveal down the line?

Eh, I’m probably still a little bummed that he’s not a new Robin.

Amazing Spider-Man #16

Amazing Spider-Man #16
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli

Slott’s next big Spider-Man story — Dead No More — is on it’s way, but for now, here’s a bit of prologue. I’ve been lukewarm on Amazing Spider-Man for awhile now. I love the idea of Peter Parker as head of his own international company, but I don’t feel as if Slott is doing enough with that premise. He needs to slow down and let Peter Parker have a life. Peter needs a Dawn Greenwood.

Jay Jameson had a heart attack at the end of last issue, and now he’s laid up in a hospital bed. A doctor proposes an experimental cure where they will clone his heart, and Peter is over the moon at the possibilities. He checks out all the research and thinks it’s a brilliant idea, and might even be something his company pursues. But then there’s an explosion in his Oklahoma plant, and Spider-Man rescues everybody, except that one technician is gravely injured. Peter calls up the doctor and has her team perform emergency cloning surgery and they save the man’s life — but now the man sets off Peter’s Spider Sense! Something is wrong!

That something is that the doctor works for the Jackal, who is busy trying to re-power Electro. He’s also the one responsible for bringing people’s loved ones back to life (presumably as clones). In fact, when J. Jonah Jameson meets with the doctor in secret to request the cloning be done to fix his father’s heart, the doctor presents him with his rebirthed dead wife, Marla!

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

This issue is mostly just keeping time until the real fun begins with Dead No More. Will Dead No More be really fun? I dunno. Slott hasn’t really impressed me since the end of Superior Spider-Man. He writes a perfectly fine Spider-Man and he’s capable of coming up with cool stories, but Slott has stopped really developing the character. Peter has no friends, no love life, not much superhero camaraderie, and he doesn’t really do much with his company. Sure, he uses his company’s resources to have adventures, but what about the nuts and bolts of running this kind of company? Slott needs to take a step back from his endless string of adventures and just tell some stories about Peter Parker. Give him a new, exciting love interest. Develop his friendship with Hobie Brown. Really get his hands dirty running the company. Add some drama for Anna Maria. I want great Spider-Man comics!

Detective Comics #938

Detective Comics #938
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Alvaro Martinez

As much as I’m enjoying this storyline and all the characters in play, I actually find myself a little bit disappointed with the major direction that Tynion is going with Batwoman. I love the retcon and I love the potential in Col. Jacob Kane here, but I feel Tynion could have dug a little deeper.

Batwoman leads her team into the Colony’s secret headquarters to rescue Batman, despite her father trying to stop her every step of the way. They all fight their way through some soldiers, Orphan takes on a bunch all on her own, Clayface is a hoot, and Red Robin matches technical wits with the Colony’s own tech guy. The issue keeps the focus on the characters through all of the action, balancing both nicely. Finally, the good guys escape, and the evil tech guy reveals that he’s outfitted all of the Colony’s drones with high-grade weaponry!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Like I said, this issue is great when it comes to balancing character work with awesome action. It’s basically one big fight scene, as the Bat team fights their way to freedom. Everybody gets a couple moments to shine, and Tynion continues to use the characters to their fullest potentials. He has a lot of fun with pretty much everybody, and everybody gets their own unique skill set — especially Red Robin. And I am definitely not afraid to admit that I am completely biased when it comes to Red Robin (or almost any Robin). Keep having great scenes with Tim Drake and you’ll keep me reading your comic!

I guess now we know what happened to his original New 52 costume!

Though if I may offer a little nitpick: I wish Tynion actually had Batwoman wrestle with the conundrum here. Like, why make the Colony completely evil from the get-go? Why not present them as a legit organization, the way Jacob Kane clearly sees them. And then have Kate actually struggle with whether or not to join her father in this ultimate vision of Batman’s efforts. Give Kate something to actually work with and chew on instead of just steeling her against her father from the very beginning. That would, at least, give this story even more depth and give Kate a chance to really shine. And it would keep this comic from just throwing away Jacob Kane as a character. He’s irredeemably evil now, when he could have been much more complicated and interesting.

Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy #3

Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy #3
Writer: Chynna Clugston Flores
Artist: Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

It pains me to say this, but the Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy crossover isn’t nearly as great as it could be. We’re halfway through the mini-series and we’re still setting the scene. It’s like they came up with a supernatural story that could, arguably, bring the two groups together, but then didn’t think up anything for anybody to do. What little charm we do get is a lot of fun, but this issue is all about shuffling everybody into position and explaining a bunch of backstory.

Once upon a time, Rosie and Professor MacPherson were students together at Gotham Academy, along with a spoiled rich girl named Louise. Some people tried to remain friends with Louise, but over time, she just got more and more obnoxious. And in response, all of her friends got together and decided to skip her big 16th birthday party extravaganza in order to teach her a lesson. They never saw Louise again.

Cut to now, when several classmates have been kidnapped and de-aged to join Louise and her ghostly minions in a recreation of her 16th birthday party at the cabin. Several Lumberjanes and Gotham students have also been kidnapped, while the rest devise a three-pronged plan to get inside and rescue them. Unfortunately, the plans go to pot and two of the three teams are also kidnapped and brought inside to the party. Once inside, Pomeline has to sing karaoke, Olive realizes that Louise probably just needs a friend, and one of the rando de-aged classmates starts complaining and gets dragged away by the ghostly minions. Meanwhile, Mal and the other free characters decide the only thing they can do now is surrender.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

The writer is clearly trying to give all the characters something to do, but it’s just not going far enough. There’s very little that speaks directly to the Lumberjanes or Gotham Academy (though the three teams name themselves the Alpacas, Marmots and Narwhals, which is perfect). Each team gets a challenge to overcome, but it just seems like stuff thrown at them to pad out the issue and the running time. Jo and Colton get a nice moment together, but it could have been anyway saying that dialogue. There just isn’t enough done with these very personable, very awesome characters.

That’s about as scary as anything can get

The rest of the issue is just backstory and idle business. There’s an extended bit where Pomeline doesn’t want to sing karaoke, and who can blame her? It feels like filler. Sometimes it’s enjoyable filler, but filler nonetheless. And the backstory about Louise is just a big exposition dump. But it doesn’t explain the ghostly minions, so that means there’s more exposition to come.

Halfway through, the Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy crossover feels like it’s spinning its wheels. It clearly has a potentially neat story to tell, but it doesn’t seem to have enough material to fill six issues.

Superwoman #1

Superwoman #1
Writer/Artist: Phil Jimenez

Well this was a welcome surprise! As usual, I’m not reading any of the Superman Rebirth comics. I just…don’t care about Superman very much. And I especially don’t care about the idea that Superman from before the New 52 has been brought into the New 52. That just seems weird (though a lot of people are enjoying those comics). But hey, I’ll give something like Superwoman a try, and I’m glad I did.

After the death of the New 52 Superman, Lois Lane has inherited his powers. She goes to Lana Lang for training and guidance, though Lana is reluctant to help out. Still, Lana ends up moving to Metropolis to be a scientific correspondent for a local TV station. And she’s on hand when Lex Luthor (who is also a Superman) unveils a giant air craft carrier he’s built for himself to help his superheroing. But somebody attacks the carrier, and it’s up to Superwoman to spring into action to stop the ship from crashing into a major bridge. When Lois can’t save the day on her own, it’s revealed that Lana Lang has also inherited powers from Electric Superman, and together the two Superwomen stop the ship and save the day, much to Luthor’s chagrin.

But then they discover that the perpetrators are still inside the ship! The two Superwomen fly inside and find a Bizarro-looking woman attacking a science lab. The strange creature grabs Lois and turns her to stone, leaving only an injured Lana to try and save the day.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This was a well-told opening story with a lot of really likable and enjoyable characters. Jimenez is a legend in the industry, and his ease with this rather convoluted comic shines through. This is kind of an insane premise, juggling a lot of different, crazy balls. But Jimenez never lets up the humanity and personability of everyone involved, from Lois to Lana to Luthor. These are grounded, interesting people dealing with a really, really crazy day. The action is spectacular, the heroics are just what you’d want from a Super-comic, and everything looks marvelous.

There it is, there’s your electric red hero shot

The twists also work really well, like when we find out that Lana also has powers. Jimenez does a great job building the frenemy relationship between Lois and Lana as they train together, then really lets it shine once they’re both suited up and saving the day. He cuts expertly between the flashbacks to training and the present day ship scene, keeping the story easy to invest in.

There is a lot to digest and understand about this new Superwoman comic, but Jimenez handles it all like a true professional and keeps the comic and the characters both exciting and engaging.

Wonder Woman #4

Wonder Woman #4
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Nicola Scott

As much as I love Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott, there’s no getting around the fact that this issue is just another retelling of Wonder Woman’s origin story. I just read this same thing a couple months ago with Grant Morrison’s Wonder Woman Earth One. And Rucka doesn’t really add anything new to the tale.

Steve Trevor has crash-landed on Themyscira, and the Amazons hold a tournament to decide which of their own to send to man’s world. Princess Diana wins.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

I suppose it’s a nice retelling. Rucka really fleshes out the Amazons and plays around with their curiosity with Trevor and the modern technology recovered from the crash site. But that’s about it. We don’t get any new insights into Diana or Steve or their relationship. We don’t get any new insights into Amazon culture or the tournament or Wonder Woman’s look or gear. This is just a wonderfully drawn, competently realized retelling of Wonder Woman’s origin story, no more and no less.

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 August 13, 2016, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, Superman and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. On Rucka’s retelling… I guess it’s important that it happens, and that it clarifies that The New 52 origin with the man-hating rape-murderamazons was just a bad, bad dream. Paradise Island as the home of an advanced, peaceful society (that is nevertheless equipped for war should the need arise) has always been such a central part of Wonder Woman, that the New 52 version really felt very, very off.

  2. Although, if you want some new and interesting insights into the Amazons, Themyscira and Wonder Woman, I heavily recommend “The Legend of Wonder Woman”- it’s basically an elseworlds telling of the story, but it’s simply fantastic and one of the best things that has ever come out about Wonder Woman. Renae De Liz did an amazing job with it.

  3. I am just so pleased seeing Spoiler and (Red) Robin banter again. Batfam needs Steph poking fun at them, especially if we are to re-establish Tim as the great character he can be and not that arrogant douche from New52. Also, someone finally said it about those wings!

    I’m with your on ASP. I am gonna keep reading it because I have such hopes for the premise, but if they keep using it as window dressing I worry it will be torn away for some useless crossover or an event, and we’ll go back to status-quo.

    • I’ve been afraid of losing Parker Industries for a long while now. It was one of several great additions during Superior Spider-Man, and I was really eager to see how Peter Parker handled it when he returned. But sadly, I just don’t think Slott is doing enough with it. And I fear, like you, that it can be nixed at a moment’s notice and there’ll be nothing we can do but lament.

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