Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 11/5/16

Welcome to the last batch of comic book reviews before the possible ending of the world! I’d like to think we had some truly amazing comics in these, our final days, but they were mostly alright — except for two utterly outstanding comics.

Not only did Harley Quinn mostly stick the landing of their excellent rock & roll story, and not only did Unworthy Thor finally bring about the return of Beta Ray Bill, but writer Dennis Hopeless delivered the Spider-Woman issue he’s probably been waiting years to bring us. The man is brutal. Comic Book of the Week by a mile.

Thumpety Thump Thump

Thumpety Thump Thump

Also, if you live in America, be sure to vote on Tuesday!

Comic Reviews: Champions #2, Harley Quinn #7, Nightwing #8, Spider-Woman #13 and Unworthy Thor #1. 

Champions #2

Champions #2

Champions #2
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Humberto Ramos

After two issues, I’m just not feeling Champions. I think Mark Waid has only an OK grasp on his cast of young characters, but he’s not doing enough, for me, to ground them and give their team depth. He’s trying, that much is clear, but it’s just not my style.

In order to build team unity, the Champions go on a camping trip into the woods. They sit around a campfire trading banter and details about their super-powers. Young Cyclops is spying on them from the woods and makes a pretty awkward introduction, then the other teens debate among themselves whether or not to let Cyclops join, considering his adult version turned into a villain (*cough, cough*). In the end, they let Cyclops join, then later find the Hulk and Vision making out in the woods.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

This issue and the Champions’ teenage banter just didn’t click for me. Waid is a consummate professional and a great writer, but I just wasn’t feeling his fireside chatter. I love the idea of the team going on a camping trip to get to know one another better, but he just didn’t go far enough for me. First of all, they’re all still in costume, and the Hulk stays Hulked out. I realize they want to maintain secret identities, but wouldn’t they also want to dress comfortably if they’re going to spend the night in the woods? Second of all, each of these characters has specific parental/guardian arrangements, but no effort is made to apply that to them. What’s the point of having a team of teenage superheroes if you’re not going to lean heavily into the restrictions placed on teenagers? Can they really all just step away from their lives to go on a secret superhero camping trip?

Waid and Ramos are doing an OK job with this comic so far, and they seem to be heading in the right direction. But they haven’t captured me yet. The dialogue isn’t as strong as it could be, and the basic premise only seems half-thought-through. These are probably the same reasons why I never stuck with any of Waid’s Avengers comics either.

Harley Quinn #7

Harley Quinn #7

Harley Quinn #7
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: John Timms

While the finale of this rock & roll arc wasn’t the Earth-shattering ending I was hoping it would be, it was really great in a lot of new and unexpected ways. I stand by my claim that this short story has been a series high point for Harley Quinn.

Harley is welcomed into a superhero/villain fetish club by Billy and Jello, one half of the Purple Satin rock band that she’s supposed to be taking down after they killed her mailman. Harley is thrilled at discovering such a kinky club, and she follows Jello down into the basement, which has been remade to look like Arkham Asylum to serve the kinkiest guests. Meanwhile, Billy is summoned by the club’s owner: Oswald Cobblepot! The Penguin is angry that he would get duped into bringing Harley Quinn into the club, and he tasks Billy with taking out Harley.

Once her real identity is discovered, everybody turns on Harley and a big fight breaks out in the club. Harley manages to kick ass, but the Penguin shows up and kills Billy and Jello for their foolishness. Harley and Penguin then face off in a war of angry words about not getting in each other’s way.

Meanwhile, Tony, Red Tool and Eggy are ambushed by the other two band members, but they’re able to talk their way out of it by claiming they simply wanted to steal some of the band’s songs. The guys are flattered and tell our heroes that all they had to do was ask. Soon they’re all sharing a drink and Eggy drinks them all under the table. With the other two out of commission, it’s a simple matter for the police chief to sweep in and clean up the surviving members of Purple Satin.

Comic Rating: 10/10 – Fantastic.

I’m feeling a little generous this week, so I’ll give this final chapter another perfect score. This wasn’t as emotionally awesome an ending as I could have hoped for, but Conner and Palmiotti make up for that in other ways. Basically, they were doing such an amazing job with everybody in the first two issues of the story that I guess I was just hoping for some really cool, character-driven finale. I don’t know what exactly, but I was confident they could pull it off. Instead, everything just kind of diverts when the Penguin shows up, making him the focus of the issue, for the most part. Harley is still the lead in everything, but this issue was more about her dealing with Penguin than about the parts of the story I really enjoyed.

Mmmmm, ribs

Mmmmm, ribs

And honestly, seeing Harley cross swords with another classic Bat-villain was actually pretty cool. It’s something we haven’t really seen in this series. Yes, Poison Ivy is a major character, and there was that one Joker issue, but both those characters are deeply linked to Harley Quinn. Penguin and Harley have nothing together, other than their status in Batman’s Rogues Gallery. So seeing them face off was just kind of neat. They seemed to treat each other like equals, despite their very, very different circumstances. It was a pretty cool match up.

The finale of Harley Quinn‘s rock & roll adventure doesn’t quite live up to the powerhouse first few issues, but Conner and Palmiotti find some new and exciting avenues to drive the issue, making it a huge success nonetheless.

Nightwing #8

Nightwing #8

Nightwing #8
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Javier Fernandez

At what seems like long last, the battle against Raptor finally comes to an end. Tim Seeley does a solid job wrapping things up and adding to the mystery, but I just never connected with Raptor. That’s probably on me.

Raptor has kidnapped Bruce Wayne and strapped him into a ridiculous death trap, hanging perilously over a construction yard. Nightwing shows up to kick Raptor’s butt, and Raptor just goes on and on and on about his beliefs and his story with Dick Grayson. You see, when he was a boy, Raptor was best pals with Dick’s mom. They were a couple of spritely thieves in Paris. Then she went and married John Grayson, then she went and got killed, and Raptor tried to watch over the orphan Dick — until rich aristocrat Bruce Wayne took the boy away from his roots in the circus! Now, I think, Raptor is going to get his revenge.

But Nightwing kicks his butt and Bruce escapes the death trap, then leaps off the platform, confident that Dick will catch him before he hits the ground. Good teamwork, guys.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This was a wordy issue. Raptor has always been a talker, but man, he just goes on and on this issue, and a lot of it feels like it comes out of nowhere. I just never got a good grasp on Raptor, and while his secret origin is pretty cool and something worth exploring, I still just don’t feel like it really connects. So this guy has been watching Dick Grayson all this time and only now shows himself? And as this ridiculous character? Plus with the Court of Owls attempting to recruit Dick as a Talon, just how many delusional weirdoes had their eyes on Dick Grayson? Was he the Chosen One or something?

As a fight against a supervillain, the issue is solid. It’s entertaining, the action is really well done, and the stakes are legit. There are few things I love more in comics than some solid Bruce/Dick bromanship. And while I like some of the ideas behind Raptor, the character just didn’t click for me.

Spider-Woman #13

Spider-Woman #13

Spider-Woman #13
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Veronica Fish

Dennis Hopeless you cruel bastard! I see what you’ve been doing! All this time, luring us in to a false sense of security. Writing a great, character-rich comic and delivering one solid issue after the next — only to blindside us with horror and tough love! I’m on to you!

Suffice to say, Hopeless is writing a master class in bread & butter superhero comics here, people.

Spider-Woman has a lot on her plate these days, but she manages to squeeze it all in somehow. Today, she’s taking some time in costume to fight crime, including taking out the Blizzard and visiting Moon’s Hollow, that community of ex-wives and ex-girlfriends of super-villains that she discovered back at the start of the series. Everything is going swimmingly at Moon’s Hollow and Jess is happy to be there.

She’s able to get all this done because she’s got Ben Urich and the Porcupine around to babysit her son from time to time…but something is up with Roger. Ben confronts the prickly person with the fact that Roger is totally in love with Jessica, which Roger can’t deny. But Roger knows that things are tough for Jess these days, and he’d never want to add another complication. He’s perfectly fine playing the big, goofy friend-zoned sidekick, because the alternative is–oh no!

It’s the Hobgoblin and his goons! You see, when Porcupine decided to turn good guy to help Spider-Woman, he had to sever his old super-villain business contacts, and the Hobgoblin doesn’t take kindly to his henchmen quitting! Ben hides as the villains stomp Roger and tear apart his costume. Then the Hobgoblin leaves Roger a parting gift: a pumpkin bomb right in his lap!

Ben can barely contain his sadness later when he has to give Jessica the news…

Comic Rating: 10/10 – Fantastic.

Talk about a freakin’ gut punch! And right on the heels of an awesome issue where the Porcupine got to be a superhero and everybody had fun at the beach! It’s not like I can be mad at Hopeless for killing the Porcupine. He was a nobody before appearing in this series, and Hopeless was the one to build him up into such a great supporting character. If you’re going to kill a character in your comic book, this is how you do it. Build them up, put in the work, make the audience feel safe — then destroy them and send your protagonist on an even greater emotional journey. Oh man, I’m chomping at the bit to see how Jessica reacts.

But man…the Porcupine…

There goes my hero. Watch him as he goes.

There goes my hero. Watch him as he goes.

The art in this issue is as fantastic as this series as always been. I know Fish is new to the title, but she easily captures the charm of the original artist and makes this comic her own. Glad to have her on board.

The issue was just plain fantastic, all around. Hopeless has done such an amazing job building up Jessica Drew as a fully-formed character, and he effortlessly revels in his creation in Spider-Woman #13. She gets to have fun, fight a bad guy and generally interact with others like a real human being. It’s great! Then Hopeless adds the phenomenal supporting cast! I’ve always had nagging questions in the back of my head about a possible romance between Roger and Jessica. Obviously it didn’t have to happen. Men and women can have perfectly platonic friendships. But surely it was a possibility…and it was! Hopeless springs it on us in an unexpected way, adding even more depth to Roger…right before the end.

This issue is a character death done right in comics. Not some shocking Big Event death meant to garner headlines. Not some cannon fodder death to try and weakly inflate the stakes. And not even a fridging. Roger died as part of his own storyline, which Hopeless has been doing a great job building in the sidelines. And that death not only has a huge emotional impact, but should lead to some great comics going forward.

Spider-Woman has been building to this. I can’t wait.

Unworthy Thor #1

Unworthy Thor #1

Unworthy Thor #1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Olivier Coipel

This is it! We’re finally here! The build-up to this mini-series has been long in coming. Long time fans like me have been waiting for this character’s return to comics. This is a momentous and awesome moment!

Jason Aaron is finally writing Beta Ray Bill!

It has been months since the Odinson lost Mjolnir and became the Unworthy Thor, but he still keeps busy (and drunk). Today he’s on the moon fighting trolls, but he gets walloped by Ulik and the trolls get away. Odinson is then visited by the Unseen, the being that Nick Fury became after he killed the Watcher (and Nick Fury is the one who whispered in Thor’s ear and made him Unworthy to begin with, but Thor doesn’t know that Fury is the Unseen). The Unseen tells Thor of another hammer (the one belonging to Ultimate Thor) and suggests that it might be in Old Asgard. So Thor calls his mighty steed and races through the cosmos to Asgard — only to find that Asgard has disappeared from the cosmos, leaving only a few ruins!

Beta Ray Bill arrives at the ruins, claiming he knows who has stolen Asgard. Before Odison can get his bearings straight, Bill offers to give him his own hammer, Stormbreaker!

(Also of note, for those of you not up to date on your Thor mythology, the Norse Gods all live in Asgardia these days, which was built a few years ago. They abandoned Asgard awhile ago.)

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Yes, this was definitely worth the wait. He’s only in a few pages so far, but Beta Ray Bill is always awesome. I’ve been waiting for Jason Aaron to use this character since he started writing Thor way back in the day. I’ve been patient. And now here we are, a comic where Thor and Bill team up and rage across the cosmos, all drawn by Coipel! I couldn’t have asked for anything better — well, not true, I definitely could, but this is still great! I cannot wait for this story to really kick off! This opening issue is pretty darn great as it is.

I've been waiting years to post this panel

I’ve been waiting years to post this panel

This issue was as rich and visceral as we’ve come to expect from Jason Aaron on the Thor comics. The characters and their story are just so full of depth and awesomeness. You really get into the Odinson’s head, whether he’s wallowing in self pity or fighting tooth and nail against unbeatable odds. And Coipel is an amazing artist who really gets into the rich detail of alien monster battles.

I have been loving Aaron on Mighty Thor, and it will be great to have this little spin-off on the side.

I am also open to the idea of an Aaron/Coipel Beta Ray Bill ongoing.

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 November 5, 2016, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Champions is fun, but has some major problems. Waid writes Cho completely wrong, and I’m not sold on his take on Viv. And there are other problems, as well. There is still enough fun stuff for me to enjoy the issue, but there are things he needs to fix about his writing on this title.

    Though as far as their parents go: Kamala’s mom knows she’s Ms. Marvel, Miles’ dad knows he’s Spider-Man, Sam’s mom knows he’s Nova, Viv’s dad is Vision, and Amadeus has no parents. So, all of them have a parent they can get permission from by telling them the truth.

    Spider-Woman is really fun, with a brutal ending. Poor Roger.

    Unworthy Thor has shirtless Odinson and a goat fighting trolls. What else is there to say?

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