Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 12/10/16
Everybody having a good holiday season? I’m almost done with my Christmas shopping, have my fingers crossed that a few of my online shopping orders arrive before the holiday, and am dealing with a ton of snow on the home front. But at least the latest changes to Pokemon GO have added a bunch of Charmanders in the downtown area for some reason…
Anyway, I’m just rambling because I can’t think of what else to talk about. We got some middling to OK comics out this week, like Champions. Harley Quinn has its first issue after last issue’s mind-blower, but it doesn’t live up to the excitement — still good, though.
I’m gonna give Comic Book of the Week to Nightwing #10. I’m a little hesitant, as you’ll see why, but I like the potential it puts forth. Plus, there’s a new gorilla character!
The latest issue of Clone Conspiracy was also out this week, and aside from a pretty overblown Big Twist, there still isn’t much to write home about. It’s like Dan Slott has this story he wants to tell, but he’s struggling to find ways to include conflict. It almost seems like more of a talking heads story, but there’s no way they can just do that for a Spider-Man Event. Better resurrect a bunch of random, old school Spidey villains!
Comic Reviews: Champions #3, Harley Quinn #9, Nightwing #10 and Unworthy Thor #2.
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Humberto Ramos
I’m still not digging Champions, and this issue is a stark reminder of another weird aspect of this series: these colorful, cartoon kids tackling intensely seriously real world issues. It’s a startling juxtaposition.
After Viv reveals that the kiss with Hulk means nothing, she gets an alert that fundamentalists in the Middle Eastern country of Sharzad are killing young women for not following their strict, dehumanizing religious code. So the Champions fly to Sharzad, where they save a group of young women from gun-toting extremists and meet their badass leader, Amal. She welcomes the Champions’ help, but they can’t be seen, because the women have to take a stand for themselves.
So they stage a rally in the middle of town, and when the armed militia arrives, the Champions take them out as secretly as possible — though it’s still a big mess of a fight. In the end, the fundamentalists are at least knocked out, I guess, while the women get to be defiant. Not sure how this situation will be effected long term. The Champions fly home after painting the letter ‘C’ on the women’s clothing, and while they’re arguing about who should be team leader, they’re blown up by a missile.
Comic Rating: 4/10 – Bad.
Look, nobody is in favor of religious fundamentalists forcing women into subservient roles, but is this really the fight for the Totally Awesome Hulk, teen Nova and the rest of these crazy kids? As drawn by the cartoonish pencils of Humberto Ramos? I felt the same way when they took on a child sex trafficker in the first issue. These are hugely serious topics and this just doesn’t feel like the place to address them. You don’t solve the problem of heavily armed religious fundamentalists by having a bunch of colorful American superheroes drop into town, smack a couple of them around and then leave. They act like they’ve just solved this crisis with a single slugfest.
The Ms. Marvel series pointed this out just a few issues ago, when a local Pakistanti superhero schooled Kamala about sticking her nose into something she didn’t fully understand or appreciate. Guess that lesson didn’t stick.
This issue felt like pandering. The religious fundamentalists are as pencil thin as villains can get (not that such fundamentalists have depth). And Amal, the leader of the female rebels, was almost inhumanly heroic, and all the Champions just kind of stood around whispering to each other about how she was so amazing.
I get it. A brave woman standing up to the idiocy of religious extremists is truly inspiring. And this heroism exists in the real world and should be championed. But Champions doesn’t feel like the place to deal with it, especially not in only the third issue. If Marvel superheroes are going to start tackling some of these serious, real world issues, there has to be a better way than just throwing the Flavor of the Week teen team at the problem so they can slap a quippy Band Aid on it.
Harley Quinn #9
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artists: Brandon Peterson and Michael Kaluta
The last issue of the series received my highest rating ever, and I am still over the moon at the twist within. It will hopefully reshape how I look at this comic going forward. This new issue doesn’t live up to all that excitement, but possibly because I’m just not a fan of trippy dream sequences.
Harley Quinn is still having weird dreams, and is still getting therapist help from her local hot dog vendor. This time she’s dreaming that she’s Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, and her hot dog therapist suggests she’s still got too much stress in her life, and that she should unwind. So Harley heads back to roller derby and gets into a fight with an old foe, who sets about trying to crush Harley’s skull! Big Bertha is instead shot in the head by a mysterious gunman before she can carry out the cranium crushing, and Harley’s friends carry her back to their apartment.
While she’s out, Harley has a series of trippy dreams about life and love and her friends. It’s all subtextual, and probably lost on me. She wakes up and thanks her friends for taking care of her, then calls Red Tool to see if he was the gunman (he wasn’t).
On her way home, Harley stops a robbery at a pizza joint, then gives her free pizza pies to a homeless man who can’t bring himself to return to the residence he shared with his recently departed wife. When she does make it home, Harley finds the Joker waiting in her room! He was the gunman!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
The rating on this issue is a bit of a step down from the previous one, but that does not reflect the quality of the comic. This is another solid issue of Harley Quinn, even if it doesn’t charge headlong into the emotional twist at the end of the last issue. Conner and Palmiotti are definitely playing with Harley’s inner turmoil, and the writing and art are as strong as ever in this issue, it just wasn’t as rewarding as I would have liked. Part of that is due to the fact that I just don’t care for trippy dream sequences. That’s just me.
As much as I don’t care for the Joker, I trust Conner and Palmiotti to do something great with him as it relates to Harley’s current frustrations. I think he should make a great foil to help her straighten some of her issues out, especially considering the revelations from last issue. So I look forward to where this story is going. But this issue just wasn’t as mind-blowing as the last, which is not a criticism. Harley engages in some of her usual side stuff, like the pizza robbery and the touching moment with the homeless man. But this series has always featured these weird, one-off moments — unless they’ve always been more than just one-off moments, which would mean they’ve been flying over my head this whole time.
The newest issue of Harley Quinn doesn’t delve into the good stuff as much as I’d hoped, instead floating by on trippy dream sequences and the usual random vignettes of Harley stuff.
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Marcus To
I’m still not sold on sending Nightwing back to Bludhaven. I guess it’s for the longtime fans. Nightwing cut his teeth in Bludhaven in his solo series, but that was a long time ago. What does the city even mean these days?
I’m not one of those old time fans, so putting Dick Grayson in Bludhaven means nothing to me. Fortunately, Seeley keeps the focus tight on the character, so hopefully that will make this a good story.
Dick Grayson moves to Bludhaven to start over as a crimefighter in order to better trust himself, after his trust took a beating while partnered with Raptor. He takes a volunteer job with a youth outreach program and meets both the cute young director, Shawn Tsang, and the arrogant city planner dude, Jimmy, who have some kind of secret together. Later in his new apartment, Nightwing gets bored quickly trying to do non-superhero things, so he gladly suits up when there’s word of a murderer on the run.
Nightwing finds Gorilla Grimm on a rooftop, a sentient gorilla who was an arms smuggler in Gotham. Nightwing takes him out and subdues him for the arriving cops, but Grimm insists he’s innocent. As the cops take him away, Grimm tells Nightwing to talk to Shawn Tsang about him. So Nightwing heads over to Shawn’s office and finds graffiti artist Defacer (who might be Shawn).
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Want to know a minor comic book pet peeve of mine? Whenever one of the Robins moves out on their own and insists on not having Bruce pay for anything. Dick mentions that he has to dip into his savings to afford his own apartment so that he can truly support himself, instead of relying on Bruce’s money. But then he also gets a non-paying volunteer job. Has growing up with a billionaire made him forget how money works?
It’s alright if you want to support yourself Dick, but that means getting a real job. Also, honestly, just let Bruce pay for your damn apartment. It’s an apartment. You’re not going to come off as some kind of trust fund baby.
Anyway, pet peeve aside, this was a really good issue. There’s some obvious world building, which is fine. And that big cliffhanger at the end was weirdly mundane, despite being presented as a big shock. But the issue as a whole was a nice start to Dick’s new life. We get a really strong focus on his character and his current mindset. We get a nice mix of Dick trying to live out of costume, but also getting into action as Nightwing. And the art was really great. It was detailed and down to Earth. I hope Marcus To sticks around.
Nightwing Rebirth is finally finding its footing in a way I’m excited about. Putting Dick Grayson back in Bludhaven definitely feels like pandering to old fans, but I’m confident Seeley and his team know what they’re doing with the character and the city.
Unworthy Thor #2
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Olivier Coipel
I was definitely hoping for more Beta Ray Bill than what we get in this issue. I’ve been waiting years for Jason Aaron to use Bill, and I’m on the edge of my seat excited to see what happens.
Odison declines Beta Ray Bill’s hammer, and the pair are soon attacked by a bunch of spaceships, owned by the very villain who stole Asgard. Odison and Bill launch into battle, but the villain uses a bomb to knock Odison out of commission. He has a few nightmares about his hammer and Gorr the God Butcher, then wakes up in chains, the prisoner of the Collector!
Collector reveals that he stole Asgard because Ultimate Mjolnir landed on it, and he’s kidnapped Odison to tell him how to wield the hammer — but Odison has no idea. Collector threatens to shoot a young alien, and somehow the hammer’s electrical energy bursts out, freeing Odison and taking out the Collector’s henchmen. But then Collector shoots Thor before he can take the hammer, then kills the young alien anyway.
Elsewhere on Earth, a mysterious hooded figure strikes a bargain with Thanos, who is in custody in the Triskelion.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I can’t promise that this comic wouldn’t have gotten a perfect score had Beta Ray Bill been the star.
But I’m pretty sure I didn’t take points off because Bill left the series part way through.
Anyway, Beta Ray Bill awesomeness aside, this was another solid, exciting issue of Aaron’s ongoing Thor saga. He get a pretty awesome battle, with Thor’s BFF front and center. Then there’s a tense showdown with an admittedly ridiculous villain, but Aaron and Coipel give the Collector some menace regardless. The two of them can definitely take some silly concepts — like Ultimate Mjolnir showing up in the regular comic universe — and make them deadly serious.
Aaron is building a compelling action mystery here, everything we could want for a story about the Odinson kicking around the cosmos. This may just be a spin-off mini-series, but it’s nearly as damn good so far as the regular Mighty Thor comic.
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!