Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 1/14/17
Greetings and various salutations, good readers. I come to you today with another pile of comic book reviews, some good, most OK, and all worth my time. Comics are good like that.
We’ve got everything from Batman to Ms. Marvel to Captain America to the Mighty Thor this week, once again reveling in the fact that I am clearly too much of a Marvel fanboy for my own good.
For example, did you know it is Squirrel Girl’s 25th anniversary? I did not, but the comic book says so, and I’m going to take it at it’s word! Comic Book of the Week goes to the Squirrel Girl anniversary issue!
This week also featured a crossover between the Justice League and the Power Rangers, which was just spiffy, but I didn’t get around to reviewing it. The comic does give us the team up we never knew we wanted: Batman and the Pink Power Ranger. That’s just quality entertainment right there.
Comic Reviews: Detective Comics #948, Jessica Jones #4, Mighty Thor #15, Ms. Marvel #14, Power Man and Iron Fist #12, Steve Rogers: Captain America #9 and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #17.
Detective Comics #948
Writers: James Tynion IV and Marguerite Bennett
Artist: Ben Oliver
There’s going to be a new Batwoman comic soon, and to kick things off, Marguerite Bennett is popping in to Detective Comics for Batwoman Begins!
Once upon a time, at the start of her career, Batwoman worked with her father to be a better vigilante. But now, her father has been revealed as the leader of The Colony, a para-military organization that tried to use Batman’s tactics to take on the League of Shadows. Batman, Batwoman and company put a stop to the Colony right quick, and now Batwoman and her incarcerated father are not on speaking terms.
Meanwhile, Batman and Batwoman are investigating a new rash of biological horror from the corpses of those giant monsters from a few issues ago. Dr. Victoria October, in charge of the clean up site, has security video showing a Colony super-soldier stealing mutagen from the scene. This super-soldier then breaks into the Belfry to free Batwoman’s dad, but Batman and Batwoman show up to stop him!
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
I am 100% in favor of a new Batwoman comic from Marguerite Bennett, and will definitely be picking it up when it comes out. And if this issue is any indication of that new comic’s quality, then we’re probably in good hands. This was a perfectly fine and enjoyable Batman and Batwoman comic, though it didn’t really have any sort of spark of anything too interesting. No harm in that. We’re at the start of a new story, there’s important set-up that we need to know, and the characters have more than enough charm and coolness to keep me invested. I just hope things pick up a bit more after this.
Jessica Jones #4
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Michael Gaydos
Finally, four issues in, Bendis starts letting us in on his secrets and finally delivers a worthwhile issue of Jessica Jones. I’m definitely sticking around now.
All the questionable stuff we’ve seen so far — Jessica in prison, Jessica hiding her baby and Jessica distancing herself from her husband, Luke Cage — has been part of an elaborate sting operation Jessica is conducting with Captain Marvel. They wanted to make her look like a legitimate ‘fallen’ hero so that she would be more approachable by Alison Greene and her mysterious organization. Jessica is starting to feel antsy about the whole thing, but Carol asks her to keep it up.
Meanwhile, Luke’s temper tantrum last issue has made the gossip rags, and Misty Knight chastises him for not laying low. She tries to tell Luke that Jessica was never right for him, but Luke stands up for his wife. Their friendly hug also makes the gossip rags, possibly due to Greene.
In order to keep up appearances, Jessica returns to her investigation into the Ultimate Universe guy. She meets with the police detective and offers to help, and he tells her that the guy has already been taken into custody.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I’m glad I finally know what’s going on, and that makes for a better issue of Jessica Jones. I understand the need for mystery and not revealing your cards too soon, but Bendis didn’t have much else picking up the slack. The first three issues were a slow slog through a bunch of low key affairs while he purposefully withheld all the good info. It was dull. Now that we know, things really do pick up in this issue — even if everything else feels really low key.
Still, what a difference that knowledge makes. Now there are stakes. Now we know what Jessica is up to and why it matters. Now we know what Luke is struggling against and what it means for Jessica. Mystery is all well and good, but sometimes we need to actually care about the characters too.
Mighty Thor #15
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Russell Dauterman
I have no idea why this new storyline exists, but I am all about The Mighty Thor, so bring on the Shi’ar for whatever reason!
Gladiator and the Shi’ar attack Asgardia head-on. They fight all the gods until Thor shows up, then they kidnap her and take her to their Shi’ar gods. I promise it fills a whole issue and is quite entertaining.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
So yeah, I have no idea what the heck this is all about. Aaron and Dauterman are already telling a fantastic story about war between the various Thor realms. Why the bloomin’ heck is he suddenly bringing the Shi’ar into the mix for an entirely separate war? It’s not like anything particularly noteworthy or interesting happens in this issue. There are some minor character moments here and there, but it’s basically just the familiar Shi’ar characters and familiar Asgard characters punching each other around a bit. It’s all drawn by Russell freakin’ Dauterman, so it’s all as beautiful and epic as humanly possible. But this first issue does nothing to assure me that this isn’t just a random, pointless, highly entertaining diversion from the really good stuff.
Ms. Marvel #14
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Takeshi Miyazawa
After what feels like forever, Ms. Marvel can finally settle down and just tell stories about Ms. Marvel again. No more Civil War II crossovers. No more weird Get Out The Vote issues. Just G. Willow Wilson and Kamala Khan. I like the sound of that.
After so much stress and crap in her life recently, Kamala is spending more time in World of Battlecraft just so she can get away from it all. But after her latest raid, one of her guildmates teasingly mentions the name of her street, which is super sketchy. So Kamala traces the guy’s IP address and goes to confront him at his home in Manhattan as Ms. Marvel. Kamala finds out that the guy’s computer crashed even before they started the raid, so who was controlling his character?
(Also, the guy points out that it’s really weird that Ms. Marvel would show up in costume to ask him specifically about a four-person raiding guild.)
As she heads home, curious and worried about what all this means, Ms. Marvel is ambushed by random objects on the street. The lights go out, cars race at her without drivers and a nearby backhoe even tries to grab her! Ms. Marvel runs to the Circle Q to get away, but this villain’s face pops up on all the screens and knows her real name!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I still really love Kamala Khan, but part of me is worried that she is being stretched too thin. She was an immediately popular character, and Marvel responded the only way they could: by putting her everywhere! In her short career as a superhero, Ms. Marvel has not only already joined the Avengers, but she’s also already quit and formed her own super team. She’s also been through two separate, world-shattering Big Events. This is a lot for a character whose main appeal has always been her grounded personal life.
Fortunately, we get back to that good stuff with this issue, at least for a little while.
Aside from one really incredibly stupid moment, this issue is more of that superb Ms. Marvel action that made this comic and the character such a success in the first place. Wilson gives us some quality time of Kamala playing video games, then introduces a new and potentially interesting villain based off that part of her life. I was never a fan of the Inventor from the first storyline, but this new, World of Warcraft-based villain could be pretty cool!
But yeah, that really incredibly stupid moment is almost too painful to come from G. Willow Wilson. I get that Kamala would be skeeved out that her guildmate would so casually drop the name of her street. But what the heck did she think she was going to accomplish by tracking the guy down and showing up at his apartment in costume?! Does she want him to know that he games with Ms. Marvel?! Has she not heard of a little thing called email? Or even just private messaging through the game? Or why not bring it up with the guild? She mentions in the comic that the guild has internal rules, so why not call this fellow player on that fact?
Though we do get this awesome panel showing us how Ms. Marvel takes the ferry from Jersey City to Manhattan.
Obviously visiting him in costume in much more suitable for a comic book than just emailing a guy, but that scene really, really stretches Ms. Marvel’s credibility. Pun intended.
Power Man and Iron Fist #12
Writer: David F. Walker
Artist: Sanford Greene
I just don’t like the use of Alex Wilder in this storyline. I have no idea why he’s here, and he is VASTLY less interesting than the classic Power Man villains that Walker has shoved to the sidelines.
The gang war is heating up with everybody moving in on Tombstone’s last bastion of power downtown. Black Cat convinces Piranha Jones to send his people after Alex Wilder’s gang, and Tombstone convinces Luke and Danny to be there to try and keep the peace — but it’s all a trap! Tombstone rigged the building to blow! Luke, Danny and a few of Wilder’s people barely escape with their lives, but many people die in the blast, including Jones. Afterwards, everybody is just pissed enough to keep the war brewing, and Luke and Danny are upset that they got played by Tombstone. So the Heroes for Hire regroup with their people to really put an end to all this!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I feel like there’s just something about this storyline that’s holding it back from true greatness. Maybe it’s Alex Wilder. Maybe it’s the overabundance of characters. I don’t know. But the concept of a gang war involving a bunch of classic Power Man villains sounds better than it’s actually being executed. Fortunately, this issue really takes a bite out of the premise, finally moving the war to the streets and getting everybody’s hands dirty. I finally felt the tension of a gang war in this issue, and I finally truly felt Luke and Danny’s place in it.
But again, Alex Wilder is just terrible in this comic. He arrived out of nowhere, he’s a raving maniac who arrogantly thinks he’s smarter than everybody else, and he’s got all manner of super powers and super technology that just cloud the otherwise street-level events of this story. He has zero connection to anybody in this comic, so his presence is paper thin. And his plan seems to amount to just being generally mean and evil, so it’s not like we’re playing some epic game of gang war chess here.
Which sucks, because Walker clearly knows what he’s doing. He uses Tombstone to great effect in this story, making him a power player in a real war. But while Tombstone thrives, great characters like Cottonmouth and Black Mariah are basically just tagging along behind this old Runaways character that everybody forgot existed. I totally understand if Walker was a big fan of Runaways back in the day, but he’s souring his own amazing comic with this bit of fan service.
Power Man and Iron Fist is telling the big story it’s been building to since the beginning, and it’s hugely entertaining, but it’s also got a self-imposed albatross hanging around its neck.
Steve Rogers: Captain America #9
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artists: Javier Pina and Andres Guinaldo
I’m still a huge fan of the Captain America twist that he’s now secretly a HYDRA agent. It’s an awesome idea and I look forward to the endgame. But there’s just something not quite clicking for me with the ongoing series.
But since Marvel has already announced the next Big Event focused on this storyline, I’m going to try to keep up.
Maria Hill is up for a court martial for her actions at Pleasant Hill, when she used a Cosmic Cube to alter minds of super-villains to make a big prison. The government calls their witnesses, including Captain America, to explain how she violated any number of international laws. Maria Hill represents herself, and she has her own witnesses, who mostly just say she and Pleasant Hill are and were awesome. Then Hill hits the tribunal with the big one: she’s planning to build a giant, plantet-sized force field to keep out any further invasions, and if they kick her out of SHIELD, well then she can’t build the thing for everybody, now can she?
Meanwhile, Captain America battles some cultists from the Cult of the Darkhold in Scotland, and he eventually figures out that a local fracking operation unleashed the demon that they’re all worshipping, and the prime minister has ties to the fracking companies. Rather than turn him into the authorities, Cap unleashes the Cult of the Darkhold on him, and the prime minister is killed — just in time to miss the vote on Maria Hill, though we don’t find out the tribunal’s decision.
Flashback meanwhile, the young Steve Rogers, who has been raised at a HYDRA boarding school, is chosen to go on his first mission: go to America and target Dr. Abraham Erskine!
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
As much as I love Nick Spencer as a writer, there’s a weird disconnect going on with this series. I really enjoyed the first issue, but ever since he revealed the HYDRA plotline, Spencer has focused too much on the bigger picture than on the smaller, personal stuff that’s really going to sell this comic. The focus is more on the chess pieces that Cap is moving in his big plot rather than on Cap and his supporting cast. It’s still fine, because this is an interesting story, but it lacks the heart that would really sell this momentous turn of events.
Also, since when is Maria Hill the sort of person who drops a pop culture reference in every sentence? Especially when she’s being court-martialed?
This was a weird issue, even if it’s built on some really good stuff. Putting Maria Hill up for a court martial is solid plotting, when she could be someone standing in Cap’s way. But the court martial turns into a Kangaroo Court when Hill suddenly turns her closing statement into a pitch for some straw-grasping project. Like, is that really the time and place to mention this force field project, Maria? Also, it’s not like this was your personal idea, you just pulled it out of the SHIELD project files. If they fired you, they could have just used the next director to build this dumb force field. That whole scene really threw the court martial out of whack, especially considering it was a strong enough plot to carry the issue on its own.
Also also, the flashbacks haven’t really been serving much of a purpose. There aren’t very many surprises to Steve’s altered history, and who really cares about the minutiae when it’s all going to be undone eventually?
Spencer is telling a really fascinating story, and I’m excited to see where it’s all going, but the individual issues are focused too much on the big picture instead of delivery the meaningful character work that would really make this story shine.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #17
Writer: Ryan North
Artists: Erica Henderson and Will Murray
It’s a Squirrel Girl anniversary! Let’s dive right in and have ourselves a time!
This anniversary issue takes us through Doreen’s life, skipping ahead 5 years at a time. We see her parents meet cute, we see Doreen being born, we attend her 5th birthday party with all her little friends and her burgeoning powers. We see Doreen at 10-years-old when she first learns to speak to squirrels and meets Monkey Joe, who convinces her to be awesome. We see her at 15 following her debut as Squirrel Girl, when she helps the Hulk take on the Abomination. And we see her at 20, in the present day, a proud and valued member of the Avengers, who all show up for her birthday party!
And we get a brief glimpse of her her five years into the future, as leader of the Avengers!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
This standalone issue is a great showcase for why Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is such a good comic. This issue, and the series as a whole, is bursting with so much heart that it should pop its staples! This comic isn’t just the wacky adventures of Squirrel Girl. This is a comic about Doreen Greene, about her life, her family, her personality, and North gives this wacky character a real grounding. She’s as human and real as any character at Marvel, no matter how weird her very premise might get.
The vignettes in this issue are just great. Doreen is, of course, adorable as a 5-year-old. She’s great as a 10-year-old struggling with life and learning about her powers, while befriending squirrels with the greatest of ease! Her teenage attempts to be a superhero are neat. And her adult life is, of course, as great as everything else. This was a really good showcase of everything that makes Squirrel Girl an amazing character in the hands of North and Henderson.
(Though is Marvel going to be happy that this comic seriously dates the Marvel Universe? Both Iron Man and Spider-Man are used as party favors at Doreen’s 5th birthday party, meaning the two of them have at least now been around for 15 years! Granted, it probably doesn’t matter.)
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is the funniest comic on the stands, and issues like this one also show us that it’s one of the most heartfelt and character-rich as well.
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!