Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 8/27/16

Another great week of comics is upon us! But this one is tinged with a bit of sadness and fear. We’ve got amazing comics like Batgirl and Patsy Walker, but the new issue of Detective Comics has me shaking in my henchman-issued boots. Can DC Comics really go through with the unthinkable? Dare they do this to me and all of the fans out there?

I guess we’ll find out next month.

For now, let us all join hands and celebrate the brilliance that is Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #11. Writer Ryan North takes us to class in more ways than one, producing one of the most ingenious comic books of the year so far! Instant masterpiece, instant Comic Book of the Week. Here’s a quick lesson in how to count to 31 on one hand!

You are all now a little bit smarter

I know so much more about dactylonomy than I ever did before! It’ll make more sense once you read the issue.

Comic Reviews: Batgirl #2, Captain America – Steve Rogers #4, Detective Comics #939, Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat #9 and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #11.

Batgirl #2

Batgirl #2
Writer: Hope Larson
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque

So far, I am quite pleased with how DC and the new creative team are following up on Batgirl of Burnside. This comic has the same spirit and energy, and it’s taking full advantage of putting Babs in a new setting.

Barbara Gordon’s Asian adventure continues as she tries to uncover the mystery of the schoolgirl assassin who attacked her last issue. She knows it involves MMA fighting, so she starts to take some classes from a local trainer, while also spending time with her friend Kai, who has developed a real attraction to her. Barbara knows it would be a bad idea to get involved with Kai, considering he’s likely at the heart of all the trouble, but she can’t help but be interested as well!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Batgirl #2 is a splendid balance of superheroics and personal life drama, the sort of thing I wish more comics could pull off. We’ve got a bit of Batgirl action, we’ve got the fun fight scenes as the takes some MMA training, and then the stuff with Kai is neat too. Larson doesn’t just throw us Kai as a new love interest, but is instead an interesting complication on Barbara’s trip. He’s cute and says the right things, sure, but she’s got too much to worry about to just swoon — though there is a fair bit of swooning.

Use a smoke grenade!

I can’t say as how the overall story has gripped me that much. Batgirl is going to some pretty intense lengths to figure out what sort of trouble her pal Kai is in. But I’m enjoying the storytelling all the same. Larson has a great handle on the character, and both she and her art team are bringing these adventures to life. Major props to letterer Deron Bennett for the creative way of showing people speaking in Japanese.

The new Batgirl Rebirth is off to a great start. It’s got the same fun energy of the previous volume, while definitely sending Batgirl on a new and interesting adventure.

Captain America #4

Captain America – Steve Rogers #4
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artists: Javier Pina and Miguel Sepulveda

I had very nearly given up on this Captain America comic. I wasn’t too impressed with the first two issues, though I wasn’t at all angry at the big twist. I just wasn’t all that interested, and I skipped the third issue because I had more important comics to read that week. But I have since spotted a very interesting headline somewhere online that has me reconsidering this series: Marvel is slowly turning Captain America into their next big super-villain.

And I think that’s a brilliant idea!

Obviously he’s not a real villain. It’s all deep mind control and reality manipulation. So Steve Rogers isn’t turning evil on some real level. This can all be reversed. But for the time being, I think it could be fascinating! Based on what Spencer has written so far, he and Marvel seem willing to take the slow road, to build it deep and quietly, which is exactly how it should happen. Slowly but surely, without anyone else the wiser, the greatest hero in the Marvel Universe seeds a villainous scheme that could be the greatest threat the world has ever seen!

I want to read that story! So I am back on Captain America – Steve Rogers! The new issue spends its time laying out the groundwork. After the first three issues firmly established how the mind control works and why Steve Rogers is now HYDRA, this issue puts all of the pieces on the table to prepare to move forward. That makes the issue a little exposition heavy, which is a shame, but I’m going to just roll with it.

So the story goes: Red Skull used the sentient Cosmic Cube Kobik to re-write Steve Rogers’ history and make Captain America a loyal HYDRA agent to help him take over the world. Red Skull is also building a new HYDRA out of redneck Donald Trump supporters right here in America. Jack Flag remains in a coma after Cap tried to kill him, with Rick Jones and the others watching over him (and Red Skull has ordered Cap to finish him off). Sharon Carter is pushing Congress to approve an enhanced domestic surveillance program to help stop the new HYDRA. Maria Hill is being brought up on ethics violations, and will be prosecuted by Everett Ross. Kobik is hanging out with the Winter Soldier and the Thunderbolts, though Red Skull does not know where she is. Taskmaster is growing suspicious of Captain America. And the new Quasar is still undergoing training.

Whew, that’s a lot.

As for Captain America himself, unbeknownst to the Red Skull, the brainwashing has actually worked too well. Cap now believes that HYDRA is bigger than one egotistical man, and he has recruited Dr. Erik Selvig to help him kill the Red Skull and make HYDRA great again! Also, Cap faked Selvig’s death.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Ho boy, that’s a lot of plot and characters. I may have even forgotten one or two. And that’s what brings this issue down a peg. I really like what Spencer is building here, but holy cow, he’s building A LOT. And he’s doing it rather quickly, too. I know he had Pleasant Hill before this, but still, a lot has been dropped on us in only four issues. A lot of it is really compelling (I love the idea that Taskmaster could be some kind of wildcard), but I wish Spencer had more time to really flesh a lot of this out. There’s almost too much to take in at once. He writes it all very well, and all the scenes get plenty of room to stretch their legs and fully explain what’s going on. But most of the issue is exposition. It’s like a bad episode of Game of Thrones where we only spend like 2 minutes with each character before jumping off to the next quick scene.

I’m really excited about what Spencer and Marvel might be building here, and the idea of an evil Captain America is quite thrilling, but this issue is a little too stuffed. Each and every plot looks like it could be important and interesting, but all of them jumbled together is a little too much, man.

Detective Comics #939

Detective Comics #939
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Eddy Barrows

I write this review with a heavy heart. I’m not some big news site or anything like that. My blog is pretty niche. So I’m not going to sugar coat this for you people: it looks like Tim Drake is about to die.

That cover, the events in this issue, and a Bleeding Cool article from a couple months ago, make it pretty loud and clear that something is about to happen to Tim Drake. And that would suck.

As the team recovers at the Belfry from the fight with the Colony, Red Robin discovers the fleet of armed drones heading for Gotham City. Jacob Kane and the Colony believe that the deadly League of Shadows is operating in Gotham, but Batman believes them to be a myth. Kane plans to wipe out entire city blocks if it means taking out his League targets, but obviously the Bat-family isn’t about to let that happen. Everybody leaps into action to start clearing out the blocks and buildings.

Then Red Robin manages to crack the drone encryption and has all of them target him at the Belfry instead of the League sites. Batman races to save him as Red Robin takes on an entire fleet of deadly military drones.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This was another great issue of Tynion’s Bat Team. It’s got action, it’s got great character moments, it’s got amazing art. This is everything you could want from a  comic about the Bat-Family. Heck, if I wasn’t afraid he was going to die, the Red Robin scenes would be thrilling. This is the coolest Tim has been since the launch of the New 52. Just look at this badassery.

The lightning makes it cooler

But I am really worried that he’s going to die. And not in that ‘how dare you kill my favorite character’ or ‘comic book fans hate change’ sort of worry. It’s more…depressing? Like a resigned sigh that I’ll have to slog through a dumb editorial decision for whatever ridiculous viral outrage DC hopes to illicit. Especially when I was really, really enjoying this comic. This is the worst possible time to kill Tim Drake.

First of all, DC already killed a Robin just a few short years ago, so the novelty is gone. Second, when Damian died, Bruce Wayne went to the ends of the Earth and beyond in a violent crusade to bring him back to life. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen here. Third, this is the coolest Tim Drake has been in a long time. I’m not an idiot. I know how death works in comics. Maybe Tynion already has plans for his resurrection. Maybe DC will leave him dead for awhile and then bring him back down the line somehow. I don’t know and I don’t care.

Killing Tim Drake with little build up or fanfare, just as he’s finding his footing again, would be so utterly depressing. It would illicit that painful sort of response, where someone isn’t angry at what you’ve done, they’re just disappointed in you. That’s what it will be like.

But hey, maybe I’m wrong and Red Robin will have an amazing issue next time. We’ll see.

Patsy Walker #9

Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat #9
Writer: Kate Leth
Artist: Brittney L. Williams

The good ship Patsy Walker continues unabated by the Civil War II nonsense. It’s fun, it’s cute and it’s as entertaining as ever.

Patsy and her friends, including her new assistant, Vampire Jubilee, go out for a night of karaoke to unwind. Everybody’s having a good time until Patsy’s ex-boyfriends, Daimon Hellstrom and Mad-Dog show up to attack her. It seems that after losing her court battle, Hedy looked them up and told them that Hellcat was planning to attack them first. Patsy gets thrown around a bit as everyone tries to explain what’s happening, and then Hellstrom teleports her to a Hell dimension!

Also, ‘Vampire Jubilee’ would be a great name for a new character or a party if it wasn’t just my way of describing Jubilee.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Very fun issue with a nice introduction of some new characters. And the fact that they’re Patsy’s exes adds an especially fun twist to the mix. This book has a strong focus on Patsy’s personal life, and romance has been something Leth has mostly skipped over. So here we’ve got a couple of men from Patsy’s past and it will hopefully be fun to see her interact with them.

At least Patsy can stay friendly with her exes

Jubilee is a weird choice of addition though. I’m still mostly annoyed at the idea that she’s a vampire, but Leth has a lot of fun with it. Hopefully she’ll be a nice addition to the cast.

Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat is that cute, adorable, fun comic that’s easy to sink into. The characters are great and hugely entertaining, and Leth is always coming up with fun things for them to do, both in their personal lives and in the world of superheroes. This issue is a fun mix of superhero fights and ex-boyfriends, which I wish we could see in more comics.

Squirrel Girl #11

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #11
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Jacob Chabot (With a tiny assist from Erica Henderson!)

The latest issue of Squirrel Girl is about as quirky as you can get, and this has been a very quirky comic. North pulls out all the stops for a done-in-one tale (pun intended) that pretty much defines his work on this comic and all the fun he’s had. I’m impressed.

This comic has to be seen to be believed. I’m not quite sure I can give it a proper review.

Basically, Squirrel Girl is attacked by Nightmare in her dreams, and he tries to use various super-villains and nightmare scenarios to drive her insane. But Squirrel Girl is too smart for that, and she uses a variety of thought logic, mathematics and clever thinking to defeat Nightmare. Seriously, you’ve got to read it for yourself. She defeats Count Nefario by teaching him (and the reader) how to count to 31 on one hand, and how that relates to binary. It’s brilliant and sensational in all those great Squirrel Girl ways. And then she uses that silent hand gesture counting system to lead an army of dream squirrels into launching a sonic attack against a Venom symbiote Nightmare in a dream hellscape where all the trees have stopped producing nuts. It’s wonderful.

Comic Rating: 10/10 – Fantastic.

This is some kind of masterpiece. I don’t even know how to begin to explain how awesome this comic is. First and foremost, it’s the ultimate culmination of all the great little science, computer and mathematics bits that North has been seeding into his comic since the beginning. Doreen is taking computer classes at school, and while I don’t understand a thing about coding, he makes it seem so easy as it incorporates it into this comic. It always comes off as clever and educationally adorable.

And incredibly badass!

Beyond that, I actually learned something, in a fun and interesting way. Now I can count to 31 on one hand! And maybe sorta understand binary a little bit more. And it all comes from another brilliant and hilarious Squirrel Girl comic. Ryan North is superhumanly funny and clever. So much clever thinking and hard work went into crafting this script. It’s masterful. It’s smart. It’s the best comic on the stands.

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 27, 2016, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Captain Steverica is good. Nice twist at the end. Though I am disappointed that Mach and Atlas didn’t get their milkshakes.

    Hellcat is great. Just wonderful. Jubilee! I love Jubilee! She’s great. Wearing sunglasses while turned to mist might be the most Jubilee thing ever. And now she’s joined the Tom/Ian shipping, because those two totally need to get together.

    Squirrel Girl is delightful. As always. It can’t be anything else. Victory through computer science!

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