Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 11/12/16

The biggest takeaway I’m going to have from this election is that I need to ramp up making awesome diverse comics. I’m a storyteller, and these are the stories I’m going to tell in whatever Hell soon awaits us. If you haven’t read Gamer Girl & Vixen yet, visit our website or hit me up for a free digital copy of the first issue! Our graphic novel will be out soon!

For now, regular comics will still sustain me. Lots of good comics this week, with some mediocre attempts thrown into the mix. Detective Comics is still a hoot, but Marvel isn’t really wowing me with new titles like Mosaic or Invincible Iron Man.

Fortunately, Power Man and Iron Fist starts a new story this week, and already it’s off to a great start! Comic Book of the Week!

What's with that lobster guy?

What’s with that lobster guy?

I also read the second issue of Clone Conspiracy in Dan Slott’s Spider-Man, but decided not to do a review. It’s a fine story so far, though I feel like Slott could be doing a lot more. So far, it’s pretty much just exposition with a bit of action thrown in. He hasn’t convinced me that this clone storyline is anything more than Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

But at least this issue saw the return of Kaine as the Scarlet Spider. Been missing that guy since Spider-Verse. Leave it to Slott to kill Prowler but resurrect Kaine in the same storyline. My fanboy heart can’t take it.

Comic Reviews: Detective Comics #944, Gotham Academy/Lumberjanes #6, Invincible Iron Man #1, Mosaic #2 and Power Man and Iron Fist #10.

Detective Comics #944

Detective Comics #944

Detective Comics #944
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Eddy Barrows

Man, when Damian Wayne died, Bruce went to the ends of the Earth and beyond to bring him back to life. Tim Drake dies and Bruce moves on immediately. This is probably a healthier response, but play favorites much, Bruce?

The Victim Syndicate attack the police gala and cause all manner of mischief as they confront the Bat-Family. The leader has a special force field that keeps Batman at bay so that he/she/it can go on and on about their manifesto, while making various threats. At one point, Stephanie is hit with some nauseating poison. And they all get away when they fill the gala with anti-fear gas, giving all the armed cops the ‘courage’ to just start opening fire.

When the dust has settled, Batman and Batwoman meet with Batwing so that he can start taking over the tech duties at the Belfry. The identity of the Victim Syndicate leader is still unknown, but their flunkies are all people who were innocent bystanders during a super-villain attack, all of whom gained powers in the attacks. There’s also one who has a history with Clayface.

Later, Batman goes to visit Stephanie at Leslie Thompkins’ clinic, but Leslie tells him to give Stephanie time to rest. Meanwhile, in the room, Stephanie is visited by the leader of the Victim Syndicate!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Tynion is killing it on characters in this series. The story is pretty solid, and new bad guys are always fun, but he’s doing a fine job with character interaction. The Bat-Family is big and cool, and Tynion gets to play around with some of the best ones. Plus, he goes just a bit deeper than you’d expect. Like, in one scene, Batwing digs Batman and Batwoman for not really creating a cohesive unit. The team here doesn’t even have a name. I love the nuts and bolts like that of superheroics, and I hope Tynion explores some of these ideas more.

Detective Comics continues its very strong run with another issue highlighting the excellent characters in play. The new bad guys are cool and hopefully amount to some fun action, but for now, Tynion and Barrows are killing it on character (pun intended).

Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy #6

Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy #6

Gotham Academy/Lumberjanes #6
Writer: Chynna Clugston Flores
Artists: Kelly & Nichole Matthews

Man, I had such high hopes for this series when it was first announced. Gotham Academy in a cross-company crossover with the Lumberjanes? How could we be so lucky? But oof, these six issues were such a slog. The creative team tried their damnedest to capture the fun and spirit of each individual series, but they just didn’t reach those lofty heights.

The issue opens by immediately killing that awesome cliffhanger at the end of last issue. Facing off against a giant, combined version of the specters, Oliver Silverlock starts to ignite her fire powers — only for Colton to splash her with punch and put her out, possibly to cover her secret. Jeez louise, comic, way to immediately sap all of the fun that you yourself created!

From there, everybody teams up and basically just tackles the big giant monster in submission. Then Olive, Mal and Molly go upstairs to talk to Louise and just straight up convince her that everything is fine and the party is back on, so they all go back downstairs and resume the party. Kyle plays his part as Louise’s old crush and convinces her to be cool about everything. Louise blows out the candles and that finally breaks the spell that her parents placed on her 30 years ago. Everybody reverts to their regular ages (except Louise) and they explain what happened to her. Then everybody parts ways in a good mood.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

This final issue carries on the biggest problem with this crossover as a whole: it’s pretty much nothing but exposition. Holy cowbells, you guys, this was a lot of reading. Sure, there’s a brief action scene where everybody just tackles the giant monster, and it was kind of fun, but that’s about it. Then they’ve got to explain that they want to throw the party again, then Olive has to talk Louise into attending the party, then Kyle has to have a big heart-to-heart with Louise, then we’ve got to get an explanation for the spell that her parents cast on her, then we’ve got to have everyone explain to Louise that 30 years have past; it’s a never-ending cycle of talking, talking and more talking!

So much talking

So much talking

I don’t think the mystery in this crossover was all that complex. But it apparently required a metric ton of explaining.

While not every threat needs to be punched into defeat, at least that’s something interesting to read. Endless, bland exposition is boring as hell. And like the previous five issues, there are just too many characters for anyone to really get a chance to shine. The writers try to sprinkle in some individual scenes or one-liners, but every single character is a jovial, rambunctious teenager who likes to fight and be clever. And there are, like, a dozen of them to cover! Plus side characters!

Gotham Academy/Lumberjanes was brilliant in concept but a big slog in execution, and that goes almost double for this finale issue. Art is pretty amazing, though.

Iron Man #1

Iron Man #1

Invincible Iron Man #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stefano Caselli

Ironheart is here and her adventures kick off with a mix of origin story and comedic adventure! Is she going to be as much fun as Tony Stark? Can she compete with Doctor Doom as another Iron Man? Based on this opening issue…eh, maybe.

Riri Williams was proclaimed a “super genius” at a young age, and her parents did their best to give her a normal-ish life, while also helping to expand her mind. She worked on gadgets in the garage, made a best friend, and was largely an OK kid — until a drive-by shooting in the park one day killed both her best friend and her step-dad. In the present day, Riri uses her big, bulky armor to fight Animax in Wyoming, a mutant with the power to just straight up create monsters. Riri eventually figures out that if she knocks out Animax, the monsters will disappear, too.

Later on at home, after complaining that her armor wasn’t that great because she didn’t have an on-board A.I., she’s given a gift from the late Tony Stark: an on-board A.I. created with Stark’s own psyche.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

While this was another quality comic produced by Bendis and Caselli, nothing about Riri’s origin or opening adventure really hooked me, drew me in or convinced me that this was a comic to follow. She still feels like a half-baked character. Riri Williams is basically just a new kid genius — there are a ton of those — and she  builds her own Iron Man armor. That’s pretty much it, and I haven’t seen anything yet to convince me otherwise. She hasn’t even built a better Iron Man armor. Her robo suit, so far, is big, bulky and ungainly. I’m still not even sure why she bothered. It’s not like she’s a Tony Stark fan-girl who super wanted her own armor. Or that she needed superhero armor for some reason. Nothing in her newly revealed origin story points towards wanting to build a super armor.

I’m just not sure what Riri Williams is doing here.

Besides fighting monsters

Besides fighting monsters

Don’t get me wrong, like I said, this is a fine issue. The art is stellar and everybody looks fantastic, but I would expect nothing less from a Bendis comic. He’s got the clout to request any artist he wants, and Caselli is a fantastic choice. And Bendis’ writing is as sharp as ever, with flowing dialogue, witty one-liners and some unique beats here and there — though Animax is a terrible choice of villain, but Bendis keeps pushing her one-note villainy every chance he gets. Animax facing off against Ironheart doesn’t add anything to Riri’s character or circumstances. She’s just a visually appealing adversary for punching.

I am 100% in favor of a new black heroine in comics. But Bendis and Marvel couldn’t come up with something more compelling?

Kamala Khan is compelling. She’s got a unique and fun personality, a geeky love of superheroes and pop culture that many readers can identify with, she was a fangirl of Captain Marvel, hence why she chose the superhero identity she did, and her story has involved a deep exploration of life in a Muslim household, something we readers in the West don’t see very often. I know I’ve personally learned a lot, and really enjoy meeting and learning about the Khan family.

Riri Williams doesn’t have any of that. I’m all for adding people like Riri to the Marvel Universe, but I would hope that Bendis and Marvel have something interesting planned for her. Right now, in her debut issue, they don’t have a whole heckuva lot.

Mosaic #2

Mosaic #2

Mosaic #2
Writer: Geoffrey Thorne
Artist: Khary Randolph

Speaking of wasting potential, we’re two issues deep into Mosaic and not much has happened yet. I’m all for Thorne and Randolph telling the story they want, but this is comics. They’re only going to get a handful of issues to make it or break it.

And right now, they got nothing.

The gang-banger’s body is rushed to the hospital after being shot twice in the back, and Morris Sackett complains about how painful it is — but he doesn’t have to suffer for long, because he simply jumps into the body of a nearby EMT. While getting a bite to eat, Sackett sees a news report featuring his dad and the ‘attack’ from the previous episode, where his powers manifested. Using the EMT’s army training, Sackett tries to sneak into the building to find his father, but he’s rejected by a private security force his dad hired. Sackett abandons the EMT’s body and floats across the city to his apartment, where he randomly finds Fife, the first person he possessed.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

From one perspective, Mosaic is telling a simple, straight forward story at its own pace. Sackett is just discovering his powers, and it makes perfect sense that he would try to reconnect with his father, and it makes perfect sense that his dad would hire security and that those security officers would stop this stranger from getting close. I can’t fault Thorne for telling a straight forward, reasonable and understandable story. But he is running out of time.

New comics, especially those starring brand new characters, are going to get, at most, 12 issues to prove themselves. What is Mosaic doing to prove itself?

Kenny isn't the star of this comic

Kenny isn’t the star of this comic

So far, the main character is one note. He’s an arrogant basketball player. That could be a unique character, but we abandoned that immediately when he got his powers. Sackett spent the entire issue struggling to understand the people he had possessed. Nearly every thought he has is based on the mind of the EMT. But who cares about the EMT? I realize his powers heavily involve the minds of the people he possesses, but we barely know anything about Morris Sackett himself. What are his own memories? His own thoughts and feelings? He doesn’t even spend much time reflecting on this weird new turn in his life. And we don’t get anything more about his relationships with his father and girlfriend, both of which seemed promising for storytelling in the first issue.

And the cliffhanger ending is that this random dude is hanging out in his apartment? Come on. Obviously Thorne has a plan for this character, Fife, but this comic needs better cliffhangers than that. I had to go back to the first issue to remind myself who Fife even was.

New comics face an uphill battle to attract readers and make sales. I don’t follow those numbers, but just from reading Mosaic, I don’t think this comic is offering anything as of yet. It’s pretty basic so far, while focusing more on uninteresting details than on the characters, their relationships and anything resembling a plot.

Power Man and Iron Fist #10

Power Man and Iron Fist #10

Power Man and Iron Fist #10
Writer: David Walker
Artist: Sanford Greene

Civil War II is over (in universe, if not in actual released comics), so let’s get on with our regularly scheduled awesomeness, shall we?

Back in the day, all of Luke Cage’s street-level foes used to run together in a gang. There was Tombstone, Black Mariah, Cottonmouth, Piranha, Cockroach Hamilton and Mr. Fish. They wanted to team up like their own Sinister Six and run the city — calling themselves the Fang Gang — but in-fighting tore them apart before they even got started. Now, in the present day, they’re all on the loose following that breakout at Stryker’s Island, and Luke Cage and Iron Fist have dedicated themselves to rounding them all up again. They’re also still dealing with the mystery of the computer program they found that can hack into any criminal database in the world, and for some reason, they feel the need to tell a large collection of superheroes about this random job they’re doing.

Like, everyone from Thor to Miles Morales to the new Wolverine to Deadpool to a dozen other superheroes all gather together just so Luke and Danny can update them on this case they’re working on. I’m not entirely sure what the scene accomplishes. Greene gets to draw everybody, but it doesn’t really fit with the rest of the issue or the story.

Anyway, so the various Fang Gang members are pairing off to make grabs for power. Mr. Fish teams up with Tombstone, Cottonmouth and Piranha make a deal with the Black Cat, and Cockroach Hamilton and Black Mariah are going to work for the new big bad, who is also behind the computer program: Alex Wilder, the former evil Runaway! He wants to make The New Pride!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This opening chapter already feels like it’s going to be awesome! Walker had to be building to this since the beginning. Scour all the old Luke Cage comics, find his foes from back in the day, and give them a new and exciting life in the new comic. That’s a wonderful idea, and it seems we’re going to get back to the street-level crime and punching that made this series stand out at the beginning. Walker’s street-level world has been endlessly fascinating so far, and I’m excited to see what he does with this eclectic cast of villains. He already seems to have some fun ideas in place for pairing them off and splitting them up. Throw in solid Marvel characters like Black Cat and Alex Wilder and you’ve got the makings of a real mess of awesome.

And this moment was just plain awesome

And this moment was just plain awesome

Though that scene with the rest of the superheroes was weird and just didn’t fit. Why would Luke and Danny feel the need to summon all those various heroes to their apartment just to tell them about their latest case? It’s not like it’s a super important case that would effect all these superheroes. And I’m sure they all had their own things to do. And a room full of colorful superheroes doesn’t really fit with this book’s aesthetic. Just a really weird scene…

Fortunately, everything else was wonderful. Power Man and Iron Fist is one of Marvel’s best comics right now, and this new issue brings us back to what makes it so great: a great couple of lead characters, an entertaining and enriching world and rogues gallery, and some honest, solid street-level superheroics.

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 12, 2016, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Iron Riri was OK. I dislike the drive-by tragedy in her background. It feels condescending. “She’s from Chicago and she’s back, OF COURSE she’s been caught in a drive-by!” So I really didn’t like that part. Other than that? I’m still pretty meh overall on Riri.

    Mosaic was good. not as good as the first issue, but I still enjoyed it, and I’m still excited to see how Thorne and Randolph develop the story.

    PM&IF was great. Loads of fun. Mr. Fish is back! And we’re gonna have ourselves a good old-fashioned gang war.

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