Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 10/22/16

Comics! We love them! And some more of them came out this week. I read a bunch and wrote some reviews, that I hope you’ll enjoy. We’ve got Squirrel Girl, we’ve got Doctor Doom, we’ve got Zephyr and we’ve got the Porcupine, among others. A whole cornucopia of fun comics!

Comic Book of the Week goes to Astonishing Ant-Man #13, the final issue of this wonderful series. It’s not the highest rated comic this week, and it still kind of annoys me with how poorly writer Nick Spencer handles his courtroom scenes, but gorram does this creative team have a lot of fun with their final issue.

It's like reading a movie!

It’s like reading a movie!

Meanwhile, The Mighty Thor gave us the origin of Mjolnir! It’s really neat, but I decided to pass on reviewing the issue. Jason Aaron writes some great side stories.

Comic Reviews: Astonishing Ant-Man #13, Faith #4, Harley Quinn #6, Infamous Iron Man #1, Nightwing #7, Spider-Woman #12 and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #13.

Ant-Man #13

Ant-Man #13

Astonishing Ant-Man #13
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artists: Brent Schoonover and Ramon Rosanas

For the final issue of this awesome comic, I’m going to forgo my deep-seated hatred of courtroom scenes. My ranting derailed my review of the previous issue, and Spencer doesn’t really do himself any favors this time around either. But Spencer just has so much fun with his final issue that the good completely outweighs the bad.

Scott Lang is on trial for the break-in at Cross Industries, with She-Hulk as his defense attorney and the Beetle as the prosecutor. Scott calls a bunch of cast members to take the stand for him, including Machinesmith, Grizzly and Darla Deering, but none of it goes particularly well. So Beetle offers him a deal: the Ant-Man suit is being brought in as evidence, and if he can slip her some Pym Particles, she’ll let him go free. However, when Scott puts on the Ant-Man suit in court, everybody finds out that Crossfire, Egghead and the new Yellowjacket are all still inside! They bust out in the middle of court to kill Scott!

So Ant-Man, She-Hulk, Grizzly, Machinesmith, Darla Deering and Stinger all team up to fight the bad guys in the middle of court! Scott takes some time during the battle to apologize to his daughter for all the dumb things he’s done. Then the fight comes down to the Langs vs. Yellowjacket. Ant-Man flies him out of the building and is intent on sacrificing himself, but Stinger flies into the Yellowjacket armor and pops an Anti-Pym Particle pill into his mouth to defeat him!

Afterwards, Beetle forces the trial to resume and calls Scott’s ex-wife as her final witness — but Peggy has nothing but great things to say about her ex-husband now. Then She-Hulk somehow uses everything to get Scott off the hook for all his criminal charges.

In the end, Scott is free, and he and his daughter now fight crime together as Ant-Man and Stinger!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Okay, if I may — *ahem* — the trial is not going to resume after the courtroom is destroyed by a supervillain fight. None of the witnesses make any sense in the context of a real criminal trial, you don’t just call witnesses to say nice or mean things about the defendant. And most egregious of all, when the trial is on break, the defendant doesn’t just sit on a bench in the public hallway outside the courtroom. And the prosecutor DEFINITELY isn’t allowed to just stroll up to him and have a chat! That is ridiculous!

Fortunately, the creative team saves that scene with this single panel:

Much better than Lifesavers

Much better than Lifesavers

The whole issue is kind of like that. The writing is a little sloppy here and there, and I think Spencer probably had to rush through his plans for the villains, but overall, he’s clearly having fun. How about this panel before the fight?

This takes me back

This takes me back

Golden! He didn’t even write FF. That was a Matt Fraction book that we both clearly loved.

The Trial of Ant-Man isn’t a particularly serious affair. Maybe I would have liked that, but the writing was on the wall and this series was getting cancelled. Maybe Spencer had to rush through his plans, I don’t know. But from reading this issue, it’s clear that he had a lot of fun saying goodbye. All the major players get a chance to shine, the villains get put in their place and Scott gets to have something close to a happy ending. Spencer also does a pretty great job of underlining Scott’s relationship with his daughter, so it’s great that the comic got to have a solid theme.

It’s sad to see Astonishing Ant-Man go, but Spencer and his creative team have a lot of fun with the finale. That mostly makes up for the slightly rushed feel and the gross warping of our judicial system.

Also, this might just be me, but I kind of still want to see Scott and Janice together in their “admittedly casual, no-strings–but still fairly frequent–new relationship”. She’s pretty great as an Ant-Man antagonist.

Faith #4

Faith #4

Faith #4
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Pere Perez and Marguerite Sauvage

I will not give up on you, Valiant Comics! At least not like last time! I’m enjoying Faith and I hope to keep reading it far into the future. Maybe even see that Faith movie!

Last issue ended with the villain using magic to somehow create a duplicate Faith. The two Faiths are convinced that the other is an evil twin, but they quickly realize that they’re pretty much both identical do-gooders who both love the old Star Wars Expanded Universe. Archer convinces them both to focus, and they all return to the convention floor to find that the bad guy has used the magic artifact to split into dozens of duplicates and they’re stealing everything not nailed down.

The heroes fight the bad guy, but they accidentally crack the magic artifact. It floats to the ceiling and seems ready to blow, so one of the Faiths volunteers to fly it out of here to keep everyone safe — prompting the other Faith to punch her square in the face! The other Faith reveals that such a selfless act could only come from the one true Faith, so she knows she is just a magical construct. She flies the artifact to a safe distance and it explodes, causing all the duplicate bad guys to fade away.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This was another super fun, very personable issue. Houser has a lot of fun pitting Faith against an identical duplicate, and the two of them are downright adorable together. That goes a long way to helping flesh out the character and make her even more likable, so when the fighting starts, I’m totally on her side. Houser has done a brilliant job of making Faith a really great character, one who is easy to like and root for. Couple that with the fun of a comic book convention and the sci-fi weirdness of magical duplicates, and you’ve got another solidly entertaining comic, with some truly fantastic art.

Harley Quinn #6

Harley Quinn #6

Harley Quinn #6
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: John Timms

I’m just going to call it right here — unless they absolutely blow the ending — this rock & roll storyline might just be the series high point for me. I am having so much fun. The story itself is a blast, but then Conner and Palmiotti have gone even deeper to flesh out the already stellar cast.

GG Harlin and the Skullbags perform at the rock show, but the audience absolutely hates them — so Harley Quinn drags one of the haters on stage and beats him to a bloody pulp, which immediately turns the hardcore audience around in favor of her band (the guy owned a dog-fighting ring and the Harleys planted him in the audience to get beat up)! Purple Satin notice their awesomeness and invite Harley to party with them after the show, with Harley planning an ambush with her peeps.

Purple Satin take Harley to their dive of a hotel, which is revealed to be a superhero/villain fetish club!

Meanwhile, Tony, Red Tool and Eggsy spend some alone time bonding. And Jello, the lead singer of Purple Satin, is wearing a trinket that the Joker once carved for Harley when they were first getting to know one another (Jello doesn’t know the trinket’s significance, but Harley definitely recognizes it).

Comic Rating: 10/10 – Fantastic.

I gave the previous issue a perfect score because it was pure Harley Quinn awesomeness, distilling every wonderful aspect of this series into an amazing comic. This issue continues the stellar storytelling in every single possible way and then some! The overall plot is just plain fun. Harley and her friends go full punk rock and form a band in order to ambush another bad guy band. It’s crazy, but that’s what this comic is about. And artist John Timms easily keeps up on the outrageous, hardcore rock & roll art. Everybody looks fantastic.

But then the comic goes even deeper by treating these characters like real people, not just wacky props in a rock & roll band storyline. There’s a great scene where Tony, Red Tool and Eggsy are just hanging out waiting for Harley to text them Purple Satin’s location. These three dudes just shoot the breeze, talking about themselves and their lives, the way three pals might make small talk while they wait. Harley is the center of their lives, but their lives don’t revolve around her. These characters are perfectly capable of hanging out with each other when Harley is not around, and that is the sign of good character development.

All her songs are about food

All her songs are about food

We also get some great scenes between Harley and the bad guys. Conner and Palmiotti have always had fun with Harley’s love life and sexuality, and they’re calmly casual about it in this issue. A male member of the bad guys invites Harley to the party, but she immediately hits it off with the female lead singer (with some great flirtatious dialogue). Then there’s a moment where the male band member tries to claim his ‘dibs’ and Harley retorts in the best way possible that she is the one who decides who she’ll hook up with. It’s a great little moment in the middle of all the madness, one that perfectly underlines the sex positive message of this Harley Quinn comic series.

This is my favorite Harley Quinn storyline so far, and that’s saying a lot, considering I love this comic. It’s got a great, fun twist, the characters are fantastic and the themes are as strong as ever. This is just so much fun to read!

Infamous Iron Man #1

Infamous Iron Man #1

Infamous Iron Man #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev

A Doctor Doom comic where he tries to be a superhero, written by one of my favorite writers? Sign me up! I am 100% on board to see where Bendis, Maleev and Marvel are going with this.

Iron Man is gone and Doctor Doom can no longer fulfill whatever plans he had for Tony Stark. He’s a bit aimless, but he’s doing good. He stops the villain Diablo from torturing Maria Hill, and he visits Tony’s ex-girlfriend, Dr. Perera, to check on her research — though she’s still quite scared of him (and Ben Grimm, now an agent of SHIELD, is searching for Doom). In the end, Doctor Doom decides that he’s going to replace Tony Stark and become the new Iron Man so that he can keep doing good.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I have enjoyed Bendis’ reformed Doctor Doom in his Iron Man comic, so I’m interested to see where he’s going next. One of my favorite tropes in all of comics is when a super-villain tries their hand at being a good guy, so I am definitely eager to see one of the greatest villains give it a shot. It’s a lot of fun in this issue. Bendis showcases Doom’s unique personality and mannerisms quite well as he goes about trying to do good.

That isn't steam

That isn’t steam

This issue is a solid example of Bendis’ typical decompressed style. We’ve known that this comic was going to be about Doctor Doom taking over as Iron Man for a long time now, yet the issue ends with Doctor Doom becoming Iron Man. So we haven’t really delved into any overarching stories just yet. I’m fine with that. Doom’s characterization is more than enough to keep my interest so far, as is Bendis’ take on Doom’s unique superhero style.

I love when super-villains try their hand at being superheroes, and Doctor Doom is about as villainous as they get. I like how Brian Michael Bendis kicks things off with this first issue, giving us a taste of what Doom is capable of, and I’m excited to see where it goes next.

Nightwing #7

Nightwing #7

Nightwing #7
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Javier Fernandez

I think the problem I have with Nightwing is that the main character no longer feels like the same guy that he was in Grayson. That series was amazing, and Seeley should be especially proud of the work he did on Grayson. That is one of the best Bat-family books ever written.

But the Dick Grayson of Grayson was unflappable. He was confident without being cocky. He was charming without being sleazy. He was friendly without being condescending. And he had the skills and reputation to back all of that up. He was the best possible Dick Grayson.

But in Nightwing, Dick Grayson gets flapped all the time. And it just doesn’t feel right. Seeley introduces this new villain, Raptor, and he’s purposefully obnoxious. But he’s not clever or especially interesting. He’s just obnoxious and kind of generic, and yet he’s able to get under Nightwing’s skin with just a quip and a wave of his hand. This nobody pushes all of Nightwing’s buttons to the extreme, and it just doesn’t feel right to me.

Fortunately, this new issue starts to move things in a better direction.

Nightwing teams up with Tiger and Spyral to take down the Parliament of Owls chapter in Sydney, except a Kobra assassins beats them to the punch and kills them all. Spyral finds out that the book that Nightwing and Raptor secured in the previous storyline has been secretly feeding information to Kobra, so Nightwing goes to confront Raptor for his betrayal. Raptor is his usual obnoxious self and Nightwing practically explodes on the guy out of anger, until Raptor basically just has to wave his hand and hit Nightwing with some knock-out drugs (though not before Nightwing discovers that wall of photos you see on the cover, implying that Raptor has been following him for his entire career).

While Nightwing is out, Raptor goes to Gotham City and kidnaps Bruce Wayne at a charity event. Robin is able to rouse Nightwing, who has been out for 12 hours. Robin is ready to go rescue his dad, but Nightwing looks around Raptor’s lair and finds an old picture of Raptor and Nightwing’s mom at Haley’s Circus!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I liked this issue more than previous Raptor appearances because Seeley seems to finally be moving the character into a better antagonist position. He’s still the same obnoxious character, and is even more obnoxious now that he’s being pitted against Batman himself, but that obnoxiousness is more palatable with him as an outright villain than as some kind of anti-hero. It still just bugs me that he so easily gets under Nightwing’s skin with little effort, but I can be OK with that when Nightwing starts kicking his butt. Also, I find the link that Raptor knew Nightwing’s mom back in their circus days to be pretty interesting. Hopefully Seeley has some good ideas for that, and not something ridiculous like Raptor might be Nightwing’s real dad.

Spider-Woman #12

Spider-Woman #12

Spider-Woman #12
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Tigh Walker

I love me some Spider-Woman. It may not reach the insane heights of Harley Quinn, but it’s a great little comic with a really good head on its shoulders. It’s a pretty perfectly designed solo series.

Amidst all this Civil War II nonsense, Jessica Drew has decided to take a day off and go to the beach with Roger. She brings her son and Roger brings her daughter, and they have a nice time in the sun, with jokes about sunscreen and general family/friendly bonding. Then Sandman shows up, because of course he does. Since it’s Jessica’s day off, Roger suits up to take on Sandman, but he gets his Porcupine but walloped — until he remembers Jessica’s lessons about using electricity against Sandman. So Roger saves the day, is a hero to his daughter, and everybody goes home happy.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This is exactly the kind of issue I want from a solo superhero comic — though I suppose if I had my way completely, we wouldn’t even have Sandman show up. This might not be a popular idea amongst major publisher editorial, but I don’t think every single comic needs a supervillain brawl. I think I would have been perfectly happy with an issue where Jessica, Roger and their kids spend a lovely day at the beach talking about their lives, their friendship, their parenthood and whatever else they may like. Hopeless could have handled a whole issue like that!

The hero we need

The hero we need

But these are superhero comics, and I don’t hold it against this issue that they randomly threw Sandman into the mix. Hopeless did a great job giving us an interesting brawl, highlighting Porcupine and his efforts to reform, with Jessica’s help. And we got a lot of great everyday banter and chatter as the two platonic friends spent some quality time with their kids. Jessica is even great with Roger’s daughter!

Spider-Woman and friends spending a day at the beach is a perfect representation of why this comic is so good. Hopeless is telling a story about the life of his protagonist, not just the superhero adventures she gets into, and that makes all the difference in the world.

Squirrel Girl #13

Squirrel Girl #13

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #13
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Erica Henderson

Well…I’m not quite sure how to say this, but I’ve finally encountered an issue of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl that didn’t utterly wow me. This was more…kinda dull, frankly. And not even an Ant-Man cameo can help.

The world has been taken over by Enigmo, so Brain Drain decides he needs to head up to Canada to join Squirrel Girl — and he randomly decides to kidnap Ant-Man to go with them. When they arrive, Squirrel Girl, her mom and Nancy are already trying to figure out how to fight Enigmo, but Ant-Man is just grouchy that he’s suddenly stuck in the middle of nowhere Canada. The crew spends some time on a canoe, then they try to head for the boarder in the Ant-Van, but Enigmo keeps stopping them and beating them up. Finally, Squirrel Girl decides that since they can’t fight him directly, then they’ll need to steal the world back from him!

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

This issue was just packed to the gills with dull stuff. There were a few really great jokes — like Doreen insisting to her mom and Enigmo is a new bad guy — but mostly it was just everybody crowded around talking out the situation. It’s like North is spinning his wheels for some reason. The trip to the woods of Canada allows for a few good jokes, but it kind of feels like he’s dragging his feet with extended sequences on a canoe and then in the van, none of which moves the story forward. And Ant-Man is a completely random choice, which North even points out in the issue itself.

Ant-Man was in a better mood when he was on trial for super burglary

Ant-Man was in a better mood when he was on trial for super burglary

Then Ant-Man spends the entire time being a sourpuss, which isn’t very entertaining. North gets some mileage out of it by putting Doreen a bit on the defensive. She’s apparently not used to dealing with sourpuss superheroes that she can’t just dismiss with a quip. He has every right to be a sourpuss in this situation, and this presents a new and interesting side of Doreen — but it’s still everybody being a sourpuss for an entire issue.

I am shocked at how little I enjoyed the new issue of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. For the first time, Ryan North seems a little lost. His story and villain seem a little too huge and the high-profile guest star doesn’t seem to jibe with the series. I hope this issue is a fluke.

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 October 22, 2016, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Ant-Man was good. Way too rushed, and very blatantly rushed. But there’s some really nice, heartfelt moments.

    Iron Man was a Bendis-written comic. It sure is a comic being written by Bendis.

    Spider-Woman was really good. Porcupine kickin’ some ass!

    Squirrel Girl was Squirrel Girl. It was fun and goofy and delightful, and kept me laughing the whole time. I enjoyed myself.

    As for Thor: Goddamn, that art. Irving just killed it. That is some gorgeous work.

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