Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 12/24/16

We got one! Finally, one of my regular comics has interrupted their normally scheduled programming for a Christmas special! And, of course, it’s Harley Quinn. So feast your eyes, dear readers, on a very Harley Christmas just in time for Christmas!

Speaking of which, Merry Christmas Eve, everybody! This week had some pretty good deliveries, from the start of the new Gamora solo comic to solid issues of Nightwing and Invincible Iron Man! But Comic Book of the Week is another delightfully fun tale of the Silver Surfer, as spun by Dan Slott. This series has got to be why Slott got into comics.

These two are adorable

These two are adorable

What else is going on? I dunno. The latest issue of Amazing Spider-Man gave us the new ‘origin’ of Ben Reilly and how he came back from the dead. It’s got me second-guessing my writing off of these new pod people clones. But when does a clone stop being the person they were if they keep getting cloned? Is each new clone of the original clone a new person? I’m tempted to think so.

This isn’t Ben Reilly back from the dead. This is a clone of Ben Reilly.

Comic Reviews: Gamora #1, Harley Quinn #10, Invincible Iron Man #2, Nightwing #11 and Silver Surfer #8.

Gamora #1

Gamora #1

Gamora #1
Writer: Nicole Perlman
Artist: Marco Checchetto

For some reason, this comic has taken forever to come out. It was first announced ages ago, with a writer from the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, but only now are we getting this mostly OK Gamora comic. Not sure why Marvel waited so long.

Set several years ago, the comic is about Gamora getting revenge against the alien Badoon for slaughtering her planet. Thanos, her adopted ‘father’, has arranged to sneak Gamora into a Badoon crowning ceremony, where she assassinates the entire royal blood line. Meanwhile, Thanos is using the slaughter as a distraction so that he can interrogate Badoons to find the Elemental, a device that is said to contain energy from the Big Bang. But the interrogation, led by Nebula, reveals that there is one surviving member of the royal blood line: the king’s daughter! She was spirited away after birth to the planet Ubilex, which is located right on the edge of a black hole.

With knowledge of this daughter and her thirst for revenge not sated, Gamora races off to Ubilex, fully aware that it’s probably a suicide mission.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

This was a largely OK comic about Gamora and her sister, Nebula. Their testy relationship is the driving force of the issue, with the ‘sisters’ at each other’s throats, Nebula especially. She’s super pissed that Thanos likes Gamora more, and since Nebula is drawn exactly like her movie counterpart, this comic could pretty much serve as a prequel to the Guadians of the Galaxy movie. Not that I need it to, that movie is great all on its own. But this was a marginally fine comic about Gamora and Nebula.

Even space amazons love The Simpsons

Even space amazons love The Simpsons

I’m actually a little disappointed about how basic this comic seems. It’s got some fairly strong character work, even if Nebula’s hostile personality makes her slightly more interesting than the calm and collected Gamora. The flashback nature of the story takes some of the immediacy out of the action and doesn’t allow for a lot in terms of stakes. It’s basically just Gamora killing these boring aliens and getting into verbal and physical scuffles with Nebula and Thanos. It’s fine, but no big hooks or anything to really write home about. The art is good and definitely works for the series, so that’s a plus.

If you’re a fan of Gamora, this issue would probably be more exciting. But if you’re just checking it out for the sake of reading the new Gamora comic, this is just a mildly cool and entertaining comic with some solid action and the building of some potentially good characters. Off to a pretty good start.

Harley Quinn #10

Harley Quinn #10

Harley Quinn #10
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artists: Moritat, Joseph Michael Linsner, Bret Blevins and Inaki Miranda

Here we go! It’s a very Harley Christmas, with a whole bevy of guest artists! So strap in and strap on, people, because it gets all manner of wacky from here on out.

Harley Quinn loves Christmas, but when she finds out that Santa Claus won’t be making his regular mall appearance due to an accident, she rushes to the hospital to try and help him out. Turns out that Santa is in a depressive funk, and due to his magical nature, none of the hospital’s regular equipment will work. Their only option is to shrink somebody and send them into Santa’s subconscious to fight the depression one-on-one, and of course Harley volunteers.

The inside of Santa’s head is a pretty crazy ride. The depression is caused by a monster who can use people’s fears against them, so of course it looks like the Joker. Harley fights the monster, escapes, meets Santa on a beach and finds out that he’s done being Santa. He’d rather party on a beach inside his own head with hot beach babes for awhile than do his crummy job. Then the monster targets them and kills all of Santa’s reindeer and elves, and creates a bunch of superhero simulacra to fight Harley. She conjures her own yuletide weapons and defeats the monster and his minions.

When they all wake up, Santa is ready to skip town, but Harley bashes him upside the noggin and tells him to get back to the mall so she can sit in his lap and tell him what she wants for Christmas!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

So yeah, this was a hoot. It’s one big, crazy, buggy adventure with rotating artists and a ‘just shut up and go with it’ sort of attitude. Some things don’t make sense. I’m not quite sure how the science comes together. But I guess none of it matters. It’s just Harley Quinn having wacky adventures in Christmas-themed settings, with Santa and bikini babes and Joker-looking monsters. Red Tool is also around for the parts where she isn’t shrunk, so that’s fun. But really, it’s just some quality, wacky Harley stuff.

Which one is sexier?

Which one is sexier?

The Harley Quinn Christmas Special is exactly what you might expect from this creative team. The rotating artists keep things lively, and the story is more insanity than plot, but it’s still a solid Yuletide brain-flummoxing adventure.

Invincible Iron Man #2

Invincible Iron Man #2

Invincible Iron Man #2
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stefano Caselli

I am 100% behind Riri Williams and building a new Iron Man character from the ground up. And she seems like a pretty cool person. But so far, from all her appearances, Bendis just hasn’t given me much of a reason to care.

The Tony Stark AI summons a bunch of Iron Man armors to start beating on Riri Williams in order to train her, though she’s a little put off at the rather violent assault she’s having to endure. Tony Stark continues to lecture her until Riri manages to secretly program a virus on the fly and stab it into the Iron Man network, successfully shutting down all the armors.

Meanwhile, the villains that Tony Stark encountered in Japan awhile back see the cell phone footage of the fight and decide to take out this new Iron Man, whoever they are.

Also, in flashback, we see just how upset Riri was that her friend was killed in a shooting, and how she was weirded out that seemingly random probability led to her friend’s death instead of her own.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

So far, there’s just nothing really interesting about Riri Williams. She doesn’t have an interesting origin story. She doesn’t have a unique or interesting personality. And with the recent introduction of the new Moon Girl, she’s not the only super smart young black woman Marvel has introduced this year. By all means, comics needs more young black women in superhero roles, I’m just saying that Riri is not unique in that regard. She’s just a young woman who cobbled together her own armor suit, and Tony Stark just happened to take a shine to her — only for Tony to immediately be taken off the board, so she doesn’t even get to be Iron Man’s sidekick, apprentice or protege, which might have been an interesting role. Has he ever had one of those before?

Instead, she’s stuck talking to Tony as a computer program. I guess it’s interesting to make Tony into the cinematic Jarvis, but that’s more interesting for Tony than for Riri.

He's got a very good point

He’s got a very good point

This issue is fine, overall, and clearly made by a competent creative team. The banter between Riri and the AI Tony is fine and flows well, but dialogue has never been a problem for Bendis. Riri’s background is tragic, but so far it hasn’t produced anything overly exciting. It sucks that her friend was killed, and it’s cool that she liked to build stuff in her garage, but Bendis hasn’t turned either facet into interesting character development. It’s par for the course sort of superhero stuff. At least the art is fantastic. Trust Marvel to put a solid, superstar artist on an important book like this. I just wish Marvel had found a way to make the comic as entertaining as it is important.

The origin of Riri Williams continues unabated, but so far I don’t see anything worth sticking around for. This is a well-made, well-written and well-drawn comic, but it lacks any sort of heart or hook to really make the new character shine.

Nightwing #11

Nightwing #11

Nightwing #11
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Marcus To

Now this is more like it! I never took a shine to Raptor in Seeley’s opening chapters of Nightwing, but with him out of the way, I’m definitely enjoying this refocused look at Dick Grayson and Nightwing.

The Defacer was a teenage crook that Batman and Robin took down back in the day, and at the time, Dick thought she was cute. Now she runs a support group for former Gotham baddies who are trying to go straight, and Dick blunders right into their meeting. He has to defend himself against the rambunctious Stallion, but Stallion’s friends get him to calm down. Nightwing bows out, but not before Jimmy gives him a nice speech about how these people are trying to do right, and how Nightwing can be inspiring.

Determined to do right by these people, Nightwing digs deeper into Gorilla Grimm’s life and finds evidence that proves his innocence. When he tries to talk to Defacer about it the following night, the cops show up and arrest Defacer for murder (though obviously it’s a set up). Nightwing’s mystery just gets bigger and bigger.

Meanwhile, the Bludhaven PR department has started putting billboards up about Nightwing being the city’s protector (without his knowhow, of course), and the local Whale’s Enders gang has recruited the villain Orca to fight Nightwing (she used to be in the support group).

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I’m definitely feeling jazzed about Nightwing now. This is what I was waiting for. Seeley dives into his new Bludhaven idea with gusto, building up an interesting world around Nightwing, while keeping him the definite center of attention. Flashbacks to his time as Robin, and how they effect him now as an adult, are definitely welcome. And Seeley does a lot with Dick’s detective work. Who doesn’t love it when the Bat characters actually fulfill their roles as detectives? With a great art team behind him, Seeley starts spreading his wings in Bludhaven and I’m definitely on board at long last with this comic. Keep up the good work, keep up the new and interesting characters, keep Nightwing and Dick Grayson on a fun path. And by all means, I’d love to see more of Dick trying to discover himself.

Silver Surfer #8

Silver Surfer #8

Silver Surfer #8
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Michael and Laura Allred

Honestly, Dan Slott has to be writing these Silver Surfer scripts just for fun these days. While he’s otherwise mired in the lackluster Clone Conspiracy, here he is delivering one delightful tale of space shenanigans after another!

The Silver Surfer and Dawn Greenwood are accidentally engulfed into the mouth of Jumbonox the Giganormous, a giant space whale. They are immediately set upon by little pink creatures, so the Surfer knocks them out — only to find out that they’re living, talking antibodies who stop the little purple Mox-Pox particles from escaping Jumbonox’s gullet and spreading like a disease throughout the galaxy. The Mox-Pox particles are also living and talking beings. In order to save the galaxy from the Mox-Pox, Dawn Greenwood convinces all the little alien creatures to listen to a story about how small things are really awesome.

Dawn tells the story of Tindly Hardlesnop, from the tiny planet Brundlebus 3. Once upon a time, the Silver Surfer saved Brundlebus 3, and Tindly, a craftsman, started building monuments in the Surfer’s honor. Then one day he built himself an intergalactic space suit and went out to find the Surfer, eventually stumbling upon him and Dawn. Tindly joined the two of them on many adventures, where his tiny size proved quite useful. Eventually though, Tindly left the duo because they discovered the even tinier planet of Zeebie, and he decided to stick around and serve as Zeebie’s giant protector.

The stories have lasted long enough that the antibodies have fully recovered and can once again resume their duties of keeping the Mox-Pox particles in line. And for telling such lovely stories, Jumbonox gladly opens his mouth to release Dawn and the Surfer back to their travels.

As they fly off into the cosmos, we zoom way out to view Eternity and the Never-Queen. Eternity wants to hear another story about Dawn Greenwood and the Silver Surfer, but the Never-Queen tells him to enjoy them while they last, because a being such as he knows that all stories must eventually come to an end!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Wonderful, quite wonderful. Slott is clearly just having fun at this point, and I couldn’t be happier for what it’s done for Silver Surfer. Not that the series wasn’t amazing before, but this issue and the last one at the cosmic casino are just plain super fun. There’s clearly an ongoing story being told in the margins, which is awesome, but these done-in-one issues are wildly madcap in the most enjoyable ways. Telling bedtime stories to the sentient cells inside the mouth of a giant space whale? Brilliant! Then having that story dynamic pushed large by making the whole issue a story told by the Never-Queen? Genius! Especially as it redoubles the size narrative, with Surfer and Dawn as minuscule to Eternity as Tindly was to them, and the citizens of Zeebie were to Tindly.

And honestly? I miss Tindly already. The Surfer and Dawn could use a third wheel.

Especially one so heroic!

Especially one so heroic!

Silver Surfer is a comic with heart. It’s a comic with personality. This is a comic that loves having fun, while still telling big, crazy, cosmic stories. The two main characters are rich and entertaining, and they exist in worlds that span the imagination. This issue is a perfect example of why I love this comic so much. Even when he’s having fun, Slott can mix in a bit of upcoming doom. And the Allreds continue to be the powerhouse art team that all comics could use. Marvel is wise to not squeeze fill-ins, and to just let this comic come out when it does.

Silver Surfer #8 is utterly delightful. It’s one of the best examples of pure comic book storytelling I’ve read in a long time, and I mean that on multiple levels.

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 December 24, 2016, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Gamora is OK. It definitely has some problems. But Perlman’s new to writing comics, so hopefully, as the series goes along, she’ll get a better hang of it and do a better job. (As for why it was delayed so long: Perlman has taken the blame for that. She took on too many jobs at the same time, and Gamora was the one that got put on a back-burner as a result.)

    Invincible Iron Man sure is a comic that exists.

    Silver Surfer is as wonderful as always. So cute and fun and good. It’s a really sweet comic.

    On Christmas issues: There was also a Power Man & Iron Fist Sweet Christmas Annual. It had Luke, Danny, Jessica Drew and Daimon Hellstrom team up to fight the Krampus. Ultimates 2 also did a bit of a Christmas issue, kinda.

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