Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 10/29/16
Happy Halloween, everyone! Or close enough! Sadly, there weren’t any spooky comics on my pile this week. It’s like everybody forgot about the holiday! Though I suppose the fact that the greatest comic book Halloween story has already been written might deter others from trying. Oh well.
Still, at least we had some good comics this week from some of my favorites. Power Rangers, Ms. Marvel and Detective Comics were all a blast. This week also saw the debuts of the new Prowler series from Marvel and the new Teen Titans from DC. You’d think I’d be super psyched about both of those things, but you would be wrong. Comic Book of the Week instead goes to the new Silver Surfer for a particularly fun and enjoyable done-in-one story.
The latest issue of Civil War II also came out this week, but ugh, that thing is a definite stinker now. And I’m starting to fear the sort of impact it’s going to have on other, more fun comics. Will Miles Morales come out of Civil War II as anything other than damaged? Will Captain Marvel ever be a hero again? Civil War II is barely a story, but it doesn’t seem like Marvel is ever going to learn any lessons about putting out crappy, long-delayed, status quo-altering event comics.
Comic Reviews: Batgirl #4, Detective Comics #943, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #8, Ms. Marvel #12, Prowler #1, Silver Surfer #7 and Teen Titans #1.
Writer: Hope Larson
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque
Batgirl continues to be an enjoyable read, though I think it’s lost a little steam. Still fun, but not as fun as it was when Larson and Albuquerque first started out.
Batgirl does battle with the Teacher’s pupils: Moth, Hardhat and Schoolgirl, but she makes her escape before they can overwhelm her. The villainous plan has come more into focus: Kai and his partner were part of some organization that ended up having Kai try to smuggle some fancy bacteria, but Kai was ambushed by the teacher and the bacteria was killed. Batgirl visits him in the hospital and tells him that he’s really screwed up, plus he’s in deep with the people who were expecting him to take care of their bacteria.
With Frankie’s help, Batgirl is able to figure out how to track the Teacher, and she finds the villain working on some chemicals in her secret lab in Shanghai. Batgirl smashes the chemicals with a batarang, but they seem to give the Teacher some extra fighting juice!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I think part of the problem is that we lost the cultural aspect of Batgirl’s trip to Asia. She’s been bouncing around between Japan, China and South Korea, but it doesn’t feel like it. I assume those are all different cultures and atmospheres, but no attention is paid to that at all anymore. It’s just Batgirl fighting bad guys and Barbaba chatting with her supporting cast, usually on the phone. I realize she can’t just do touristy things for the entire story, but Larson started off so well looking into Asian culture, and now it just feels like she’s paying lip service. For one thing, Babs jumps between the three countries like it’s no big deal. You’d think international travel would pose some kind of hindrance.
This issue was fine, regardless of the cultural impact of the setting. Batgirl fights some henchmen who are unique enough to be somewhat interesting. Larson makes good use of the supporting cast, keeping Frankie around, while giving Kai plenty to do — though Kai is a bloomin’ idiot if he hasn’t figured out that Barbara and Batgirl are the same person. He’s known Barbara Gordon since high school, and the exact moment he runs into her in Asia, a redheaded superhero who is normally only seen in Babs’ hometown is also suddenly in Asia too. What a dingus.
Batgirl is still a fine continuation of Batgirl of Burnside, though it’s lost some of its spark. Larson and Albuquerque are telling a nice story in the new issue, with a lot of action, but they’ve already squandered the unique setting they’ve worked so hard to use.
Detective Comics #943
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Alvaro Martinez
Comic book continuity is a funny thing these days, especially at DC Comics. After the reboot and the Rebirth, I just — and this might be me personally — but I just don’t feel like there’s a solid, linear continuity anymore. There’s a definitive order in which certain events happen, but honestly? I kind of just lump all Batman adventures into some big, nebulous cloud of events.
I bring this up in order to talk about the Night of the Monster Men crossover that just concluded in the Bat-books (and which I read, but did not review). The fallout happens a bit in this issue, but the way they talk about it, like it’s the first time in history that Gotham City has faced giant monsters, and it just feels wrong to me. Not only because Mr. Bloom was a couple months ago, but just the idea that Gotham City keeps track of its history like that, like something can happen there for the first time in a modern story.
Gotham City has been through a whole heck of a damn lot in the past century. Attempts to treat this city like a new place just ring hollow for me.
Not that this digression ruins the issue. It’s just something that was sticking in my craw after reading.
A new team of villains has arrived in Gotham, calling themselves the Victim Syndicate and blaming Batman for making them victims. They kill some cops and leave a bloody message at Wayne Enterprises. The various team members are investigating while also dealing with both the fallout of Tim Drake’s ‘death’ and a charity event for the police. Kate thinks Bruce is closing himself off emotionally from the team, and she can’t have that. Stephanie has stopped responding to calls, but she’s getting some emotional support from Harper Row! Batman wants to recruit Batwing to the team as the new tech expert. And Clayface is struggling with the monster within, with some help from Cassandra.
Then when everybody’s at the gala, the Victim Syndicate arrive!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Nothing too exciting in this issue (other than Harper’s return), but it was still a great continuation of everything Tynion is building in the bat-books. He’s got a solid handle on his cast, and each one gets a moment to shine in this issue. That’s a good way to handle an ensemble book. Nobody gets lost in the shuffle, and each one has something to worry about. He also captures the feeling that the team is a bit broken due to recent events. They’re not really together as a unit, and that’s on purpose. This issue doesn’t exactly knock anyone’s socks off, and the villains aren’t too interesting yet, but Tynion and his team score big with the ongoing character work.
Also, it’s great to see Harper Row again, and it makes me grumble at how DC is mistreating Robin these days. As we’ll see later on in this list, Robin makes his debut as the leader of the new Teen Titans, and, I dunno, I’m just slightly annoyed and disappointed is all. Damian is a fine character, but he’s removed Robin from the Bat-Family, and I just don’t like that. He’s off being his own individual character. Batman has put together a whole team of young vigilantes, and Robin isn’t with them. Batman has taken on a whole new sidekick, Duke Thomas, and he doesn’t get to be Robin. He also doesn’t get to be a part of this new team for some reason. This is all pure fanboy whining on my part, and I have to make my peace with that.
Batman and Robin just don’t exist as a team anymore. And that kinda sucks.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #8
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Hendry Prasetya
Possibly because pop culture is cyclical, but we are living in some kind of golden age of Power Rangers nostalgia. We’re only a few months away from a big screen movie adaptation, and Kyle Higgins is killing it with this comic book from BOOM! Studios!
Tommy and Jason try their best against the Black Dragon on the moon, but they’re forced to retreat and return to the other Rangers — who have managed to get in touch with Alpha 5, but he doesn’t know anything about the Black Dragon either. Zach apologizes to Tommy, which gives the Green Ranger an idea: since the green power connects to the Morphin Grid differently than the other powers, why not funnel his power into the other Power Coins! So the other Rangers morph into green versions of their regular outfits!
Meanwhile, as Black Dragon repairs himself from the battle, we learn that he has some kind of special hatred for the Green Ranger. He tells Rita that he must be the one to defeat Tommy.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This was another outstanding issue of Power Rangers, keeping the story humming along while delivering some new and exciting action and visuals. Tommy fighting the giant Black Dragon? The Green Ranger temporarily ditching his power shield? The other rangers morphed into the color green? Higgins is off the chain with this comic, playing with the Power Rangers mythos in incredibly fun and exciting ways. The man and his creative team are full of ideas, and it feels like he’s still only scratched the surface.
Ms. Marvel #12
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Mirka Andolfo
Kamala Khan goes on a road trip! Personally, I think Wilson could have gotten a whole story arc out of this idea, but I’ll take what I can get. We also now know what those Khan family flashbacks were heading towards.
In order to clear her head from the latest nonsense, Kamala Khan goes on a trip to Pakistan to reconnect with her roots and her maternal grandmother. She feels a little out of place in the old country, because she’s so Americanized, but she tries to enjoy herself anyway. Kamala eventually decides to use her powers to stop a local water cartel that has been blowing up municipal water services — only to run afoul of local superhero The Red Dagger, who admonishes her for jumping into a complicated situation without knowing all the facts about the cartels and their work.
After the encounter, Kamala realizes that she won’t be able to find herself in this strange land. She decides to go home, because Jersey is as much a part of her as anything else.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I have always praised Ms. Marvel for showing us what life is like for a Muslim immigrant family, something I have zero experience with in the real world. This book is educational as well as entertaining. The trip to Pakistan doesn’t quite reach the same level of depth as some of the earlier issues of this comic, but it’s still a fun read. That’s why I think Wilson should have spent several issues on this issue: she could have done so much more to explore Pakistan in the Marvel Universe.
At least we got a really good Kamala Khan story, free of all the Civil War II madness. It’s just Kamala in her headspace, dealing with some new people and issues. The encounter with Red Dagger was fun, and I’m glad Wilson introduced a Pakistani superhero and a Pakistani crime to defeat — though introducing the cute boy who lives in Kamala’s grandmother’s apartment building (who might also be Red Dagger) was a little too obvious if he shows up later as a romantic interest. I prefer subtlety with my romance.
Ms. Marvel #12 is a fun and enlightening story as Kamala essentially takes a field trip to Pakistan, but I personally would have liked to see Wilson and new artist Andolfo delve a little deeper into the country, the culture and the local superheroics.
Writer: Sean Ryan
Artist: Javier Saltares
And so we finally arrive at the first issue of the Prowler solo series, something I have been anticipating since I was a little kid in the 90s first discovering Spider-Man comics. You’d think I would be super duper excited for this series, but then you’ll remember how Marvel essentially shot this book in the foot before it even got started. I have no idea what Marvel was thinking, but I no longer really have any enthusiasm for this book.
I understand that maybe a regular Prowler comic starring the regular Prowler wouldn’t sell either, but this was just deflating.
The Prowler stops a bank robbery in downtown San Francisco, but he’s been feeling unsure of himself lately. He was recently killed by the new Electro, only for the Jackal to bring him back to life (or clone him, it’s not entirely clear). Either way, Jackal has messed with him somehow, and not only is Hobie totally loyal to the Jackal and his master plan, but he’s also forced to take a special pill if he hopes to survive. Hobie works as head of security for New U, keeping the other resurrected super-villains in line, while getting sass from Electro, who still works for Jackal.
Madame Web has also been resurrected, and she feeds Hobie information about a hacker that has been bothering the Jackal. Prowler follows this lead to Alcatraz Prison, where he’s promptly captured by mysterious forces.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
This first issue is a big ole meh of a comic. It’s fine, I suppose, but it’s pretty close to what I don’t want from a Prowler comic. To be fair, it definitely features Hobie Brown in a sweet new Prowler costume fighting crime. But jeez louise, this thing is so steeped in the Clone Conspiracy hoopla that it should have just been a tie-in mini-series. My only hope is that Marvel pulls another Spider-Woman. They launched that series with a terrible Spider-Verse tie-in, and only afterwards was writer Dennis Hopeless allowed to write the Spider-Woman stories he wanted, and the comic is now one of my favorites.
I hope Sean Ryan has some really good Prowler plans for when this series really kicks off.
As for this issue, it’s fine, I guess. The story is a little dull as it sets up the new status quo, but the main character is solid, for what he is. The issue is largely spent putting all the various pieces in place, and there are a ton of pieces to set up to fall in line with Clone Conspiracy. At least the art is new and pretty cool. They’re definitely going with a different, unique style on art, and I like it so far.
Look, there’s no getting around the fact that I am hugely disappointed in this comic. Rather than give us a straight up Prowler comic, like I wanted, Marvel went and killed the main character a couple weeks ago and have now replaced him with a clone working for the bad guy. That just flies in the face of logic. I get why Dan Slott would do something like that for his ongoing Spider-Man comic, but why would Marvel go and spin this plot twist off into its own ongoing series? Who wants to read about Prowler’s misguided clone?
I should probably just get over this. Slott keeps having Jackal point out that these resurrected people aren’t ‘clones’ per se, but it might as well be the same thing. I know people get resurrected all the time in comics, but there’s just something…not the same about what Slott and the Jackal are doing here. This feels more like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I don’t for one second really believe he’s brought the ‘real’ Gwen Stacy back from the dead. So I just can’t bring myself to accept that this is the ‘real’ Hobie Brown starring in his own ongoing series for the first time in my life.
This is pod person Prowler.
This is a dull comic starring a fake version of one of my all-time favorite comic book characters. Call me a typical comic book geek if you want for caring so much about the details, but this is comics, and the proof is always in the details.
Silver Surfer #7
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Mike and Laura Allred
This series comes out so infrequently that I’m a little worried. But I fully support Marvel’s insistence on keeping Slott and the Family Allred together because they’re working pure magic. This new issue is no exception.
Silver Surfer takes Dawn Greenwood on a super fun tour of the galaxy, visiting a bouncy planet, a cotton candy planet and a planet populated by super adorable kitty/bunny/doggy hybrid critters. But Dawn soon realizes what’s happening: the Surfer is only taking her to safe planets! Dawn wants some risk and some action, so the Surfer takes her to a ritzy casino dimension, presided over by The Grandmaster. He supplies them with enough free booze and easy wins that soon the two of them are going crazy with the gambling, betting everything from cherished memories to the ability to see the color red to the Surfer’s board!
To win it all back, the Surfer challenges the Grandmaster to a game of poker. The two of them raise the stakes back and forth without limit, until the Surfer bets all of gambling, something he knows the Grandmaster cannot give up. Sure enough, with the pressure on, the Grandmaster folds and our heroes win! As they leave the casino, the Surfer remarks that in the game of life, the Grandmaster wasn’t ready to risk it all!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
Talk about fun! These done-in-one Silver Surfer stories are almost always a pure delight. The stakes are fun, the characters are fun, the incidental details are fun; Slott and the gang have got to be having a blast making this comic! Bouncy planet! Ball pit planet! Losing the surfboard at a casino! Playing a game of poker with the highest stakes in the universe against the Grandmaster himself! Part of me got a little worried there towards the end, with everything on the line, but Slott pulled us through with a clever ending. I loved that!
The art was also off the chain. I just love Dawn’s dress. It’s the typical red and polka dots that she loves, but the Allreds give it this awesome floaty, spacey thing that’s just the bee’s knees. This issue was definitely a wonderful showcase for their many talents, and one hopes they never leave the book.
Silver Surfer #7 is about as fun as this comic can get, and that’s saying a lot. Wacky space hijinks firmly nestled in meaningful character-based storytelling, with a nice mix of tension, comedy and Marvel Universe connections.
Teen Titans #1
Writer: Benjamin Percy
Artist: Jonboy Meyers
This is it! The new Teen Titans comic! For five long years, I reviewed pretty much every single issue of the Teen Titans in the New 52, and it was a very, very crappy comic. Can DC and their new creative team turn everything around?
Eh, we’ll see.
Damian Wayne has turned 13, and since he doesn’t have any friends, he’s decided to make some by forming a new Teen Titans in the wake of Tim Drake’s death. So he kidnaps Beast Boy, Raven, Starfire and Kid Flash and holds them prisoner in their new base, gloating at how he picked apart their weaknesses and easily defeated them. But the Titans break free, defeat Damian’s pet monster, and confront him over his rude behavior. Damian gives them a speech about not having friends, about making something of himself and about making a better Teen Titans, and everyone is soft-hearted enough to probably go along with him.
Then Damian reveals that he’s being hunted! His grandfather, R’as al Ghul, has trained a new squad of assassins to specifically hunt and kill Damian!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
First of all, it is a damn shame that artist Jonboy Meyers has already left this comic. His art is pretty fantastic, with a really energetic style that befits the Teen Titans as a youthful team with a lot of varied powers. This issue is a fine showcase of his abilities, and hopefully Teen Titans can move on with someone just as good.
Character and storywise, this debut issue is fine. Percy delves a little bit into the personal reasons why this team has been put together, and how the various team members react to Damian being a jerkass. This makes for a nice, character-based starting point. And an equally character-based conflict on the horizon against R’as al Ghul. I hope Percy has some plans to delve into why this team is together in continuity, because it’s clearly out of corporate mandate.
I don’t particularly think this is the team Damian Wayne would put together if he could choose from any teen superhero available. I just don’t buy it based on his character. However, it does appear as if DC is finally trying to link their Teen Titans comic to their popular Teen Titans cartoon, which I wholeheartedly approve. That is just basic synergy. Though they obviously can’t get Cyborg, and there’s no explanation yet why Starfire is on the team, considering she’s not a teenager. Hopefully Percy has figured out how to make this lineup more organic than how it appears on the surface.
Percy does make some reference to the previous incarnation of the team, and it seems Damian and I share similar opinions.
The new Teen Titans is off to an OK start, with a strong character focus and a uniquely interesting main character. There’s nobody like Damian Wayne. While I personally don’t think this version of the Teen Titans represent a Damian-led team, this book could definitely succeed as a Teen Titans book that just happens to have Damian out front.
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!
Posted on October 29, 2016, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin and tagged Batgirl, Clone Conspiracy, Damian Wayne, Detective Comics, Harper Row, Kamala Khan, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Ms. Marvel, Prowler, Silver Surfer, Teen Titans. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.