Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 1/21/17
In my efforts to avoid the dark days that have befallen America, I’d like to focus on comic books today! It’s what I do every Saturday, but we could really, really use some heroic superheroes right now. Fortunately for us, we’ve got a nice smattering of comics.
Some are really good, like Nightwing, U.S. Avengers and more, while others are just OK, like Harley Quinn, Iron Man and a new Captain Marvel debut. And some are just a ton of fun, like this week’s Comic Book of the Week, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #11!
Check out the Power Rangers trapped in an alternate, dark reality!
Meanwhile, The Clone Conspiracy finally gets good as writer Dan Slott delivers some actually, worthwhile character-based drama. Any Spider-Man story can instantly be made better by focusing on Otto and Anna Maria. Though this is also the issue where Ben Reilly goes full villain, so there’s that, too.
Comic Reviews: Harley Quinn #12, Invincible Iron Man #3, Mighty Captain Marvel #1, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #11, Mosaic #4, Nightwing #13 and U.S. Avengers #2.
Harley Quinn #12
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner
Artists: John Timms and Chad Hardin
It’s Harley Quinn vs. the Joker for all the marbles! Hopefully! And did you hear that Paul Dini is going to start writing Harley back-ups for this comic? That sounds pretty neat.
Red Tool confronts the Joker, but the Clown Prince of Crime doesn’t put up a fight when Tool starts beating him senseless. Joker finds it funny just how devoted to Harley the Tool seems to be, and so he remains passive during their entire encounter. Harley eventually shows up and tells Red Tool to get lost. She never asked him to stand up for her, the chump. Harley takes Joker back to her place, ties him to a chair, doesn’t listen to a word he says and then drags him out into the middle of Brooklyn wearing a sign that says “Brooklyn Sucks”. Joker gets knocked around by various residents and motor vehicles before Harley grabs him to take him back to her place to finish this.
Meanwhile, the mayor’s new assistant welcomes a shipment of gangster vampires to town.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This issue doesn’t have any teeth. I thought for sure that the Joker would mess Red Tool up something fierce as part of whatever master plan he’s got cooking, but that didn’t happen. Their fight was toothless, with Red Tool scampering off with his tail between his legs once Harley showed up and told him off. Something may obviously change going forward, but for now, there weren’t really any repercussions to his making Harley late for her meeting with the Joker. Then when Harley did meet with the Joker, the encounter was again pretty toothless.
I guess it’s kinda funny that the Joker got beat up by proud Booklynites, but Brooklyn hasn’t really been a character in this series, so the entire gag relies on everybody’s preconceived notions about Brooklyn. I don’t really have any. I’m not sure if I’ve ever even been to Brooklyn. And nothing that Red Tool or the Brooklynites do to the Joker is going to stick, so why even beat him up?
Rather than really sink their teeth into another emotional showdown between the Joker and Harley Quinn, this entire issue is just people beating on the Joker for cheap gags without any repercussions. I was hoping for more — and could still get it — but for now this was a filler issue in a storyline that deserves the best this creative team can weave.
Invincible Iron Man #3
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stefano Caselli
I’m still not won over by Ironheart just yet, but I guess I’m still willing to give her a chance. I like Bendis, and this new issue is a whole smattering of Bendis dialogue.
While Riri puts the finishing touches on her new, sleeker Iron Man armor, she and the Tony Stark AI banter about possible superhero names, and the fact that Riri hasn’t had any friends since her previously friend died. It’s a sore subject for Riri, but the AI keeps poking until they settle on the name ‘Ironheart’. While they chat, Riri goes on a montage of superhero fights and stuff, eventually ending with a meeting with Pepper Potts in her Rescue armor — only for both of them to be ambushed by those Asian villains from before.
Meanwhile, Stark Enterprises has been turned over to Tony Stark’s biological mother, celebrity musician Amanda Strong. She’s going to run things with the help of Mary Jane and Friday.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
I like the premise of Tony Stark taking on an apprentice. I don’t think he’s ever done it before, at least not to any large degree. And the very fact that he’s all about technology and engineering definitely opens him up to an apprentice. Being and building Iron Man is like a trade. So I do kind of like the banter between Riri and the Tony Stark AI, even if it would have been better if that was really Tony Stark. What exactly does taking Tony off the board give Marvel? Civil War II seems like it’s caused more headaches than help.
This issue is wall-to-wall Bendis dialogue. Whether he’s playing around with Tony’s new biological mother, a character I know nothing about, or he’s pitting Riri against Tony, or he’s introducing Riri to Pepper, it’s all talk. All the action is in the background, and little to no attention is paid to Riri suddenly going from her boxy, homemade armor to a duplicate of Tony’s latest armor. I think I would have liked a little more inside engineering.
At least the new armor is sleek, sexy and feminine. That’s important, right? Gotta have them metallic butt shots.
As much as I enjoy Bendis dialogue (and I know not everybody does), he still hasn’t sold me on why Ironheart is worth following. Marvel invents and reinvents a million new superheroes a day. Ironheart as a character, and Invincible Iron Man as a comic, need some better reasons for why I should care. I think this whole thing is being held together by pure curiosity and amazing art.
Mighty Captain Marvel #1
Writer: Margaret Stohl
Artist: Ramon Rosanas
Captain Marvel isn’t really in a good place right now. She was pretty much the bad guy in Civil War II, and it’s not like her new status quo was all that foundational even before she got waylaid into that big crossover. So can a new creative team and a new adjective straight things out for her?
It’s business as usual for Captain Marvel and Alpha Flight after Civil War II, only now their funding is apparently depending on the success of a crappy ‘Cap’N Marvel’ TV show that Carol hates (though she’s only a consultant, not the star). The dialogue and acting are super cheesy, and her character’s costume is all cleavage. Beyond that, Earth is facing an alien refugee crisis, and if that wasn’t enough, there’s somebody attacking one of the refugee camps. Carol rushes over and fights with a shapeshifting adversary who is trying to kidnap a Kree child. Carol knocks the guy out and takes the child up with her to the Alpha Flight station, where the precocious little scamp bonds with everybody.
Though it seems Carol kind of left the villain alive at the refugee camp, which he promptly blows up. And he tells his superiors that Captain Marvel took the bait.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This issue is a little jumbled, but is otherwise an OK started to the new volume. A couple of the plot holes are trouble, like the idea that an agency like Alpha Flight is dependent on a TV show to get funding? What if the show is a huge flop, does that mean all of Alpha Flight goes under? It doesn’t help that the show is cliche terrible. If you’re going to make a TV show a major plot point, provide something we can really get invested in. Not a cheesy show with the obvious ‘bad TV’ cliches.
I’m also not quite sure why Carol completely abandoned the shapeshifting bounty hunter in order to fly that kid into space. I guess she thought one explosion would be enough to kill him? Since when? And that allowed the guy to then blow up the entire refugee camp. You got sloppy, Carol.
This was an otherwise solid restart. All of the characters ring true and are a lot of fun, with Carol as the stable center. The art is down to Earth, which always helps ground such an outer space crew. It’s just the various juggled plots that jumble a bit along the way.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #11
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Hendry Prasetya
We’re definitely not in Angel Grove anymore, Toto. Alternate realities! Evil Rangers! Getting to see everybody’s families! Higgins is shaking things up!
Tommy and Billy have been transported to another dimension, the home of the Black Dragon. While the other Rangers try to figure out what happened back in their own dimension, Tommy and Billy make their way through the ravaged Angel Grove, which now seems to be under Rita’s control. They run afoul of the Black Ranger Police Force, find out the school is now a prison, and discover all of the Thunder Zords trashed outside the broken Command Center. Inside they can hear a voice, and Tommy heads into the basement of the Command Center, only to discover that the voice belongs to Saba, the talking tiger sword!
But no sooner do they rescue Saba than they’re confronted by the forces of the new Evil Ranger, who takes off his helmet to reveal he’s Dark Tommy!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
The reveal that the new Evil Ranger is a Dark Tommy is kind of predictable, but everything else was pretty great. Higgins and Prasetya clearly have a lot of fun presenting this Evil Dimension and filling it with Ranger lore. The Thunder Zords and Saba? Awesome! I did not see that coming, but as a longtime Power Rangers fan, that really tickled my pinks. That’s exactly the sort of fun I want from Higgins’ Power Rangers comic.
This issue was mostly about setting up the strange status quo, but it still got a lot of mileage out of the ongoing story. We saw the families of the Power Rangers, which doesn’t happen all that often. We saw the remaining Rangers investigating the wreckage of their last fight in civilian mode. And the alternate Dark Dimension was just neat!
The familiar comic book trope of an evil alternate dimension is given new and exciting life when applied to a property like Power Rangers, which doesn’t usually deal with something this big and awesome.
Writer: Geoffrey Thorne
Artists: Khary Randolph and Thony Silas
You’re losing me, Mosaic! You’re losing me! I wanted to give this comic the old college try, but Mosaic just keeps tripping over itself.
Morris Sackett has possessed the body of Spider-Man, and he spends most of the issue fighting his way through Spidey’s memories and his mental defenses. Spidey is super smart, and Morris struggles to keep up with the new mind. But when he finally breaks through and sees memories of Uncle Ben and his famous catch phrase, Morris rejects the notion and quotes his own father, about those who are born special and need to work it as fast and as hard as possible to succeed, no matter who stands in their way. Eventually, Morris gains control of Spidey’s body and swings to his father’s apartment to look at the contract Pops had with Morris’ girlfriend.
Meanwhile, the Brand security forces are holding several of Mosaic’s ‘victims’ in holding cells as they determine exactly what is going on. The lead officer contacts his superiors and detail the information and the suggestion that Mosaic would be perfect for something called the “Upsweep Project”. And after Pops goes on TV to tell the world that his son is dead, the Brand people feel that Morris will come to them.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
A Spider-Man cameo is already a little trite, but I would have hoped we’d actually have some fun with it. Instead, Thorne spends almost the entire issue with Mosaic struggling to figure out Spider-Man’s brain. Really?! What a waste. Rather than have Mosaic learn by doing, by, say, having a professional athlete, but otherwise normal person, jump right into the wildness of web-slinging, we spend the issue locked in Spider-Man’s brain as Mosaic either watches memories flash by or battles really pointless adversaries. Apparently Spider-Man is able to manifest tiny brain versions of himself to physically fight an invading consciousness?
And it’s not like the fight between Mosaic and the Spider-Men is all that interesting. Apparently Mosaic can just warp and twist his body however he wants in someone’s brain, and he’s capable of holding off an entire squadron of Spider-Men. This is just really weird. I thought when we saw Mosaic inside someone’s brain, watching their memories, that it was just a visual representation of how his powers work. Instead, he’s apparently a literal tiny person who can physically interact with stuff inside the brain.
Meanwhile, the rest of the comic remains legitimately interesting. I want to see more of Morris interacting with his father and girlfriend. I want to see the drama in this guy’s life now that he’s an Inhuman. Instead, we waste an entire issue on a pointless Spider-Man cameo, and the shady security guys turn out to be just as cliched shady as anyone could have guessed.
Whatever goodwill Mosaic had going in is quickly being wasted on cliched or trite story ideas. Thorne wastes a Spider-Man cameo and keeps burying his interesting character drama with other nonsense.
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Marcus To
Yep, Nightwing is still good, people. I hope Seeley takes a second or two to slow down eventually and really dig into Dick Grayson, but for now, Nightwing is on a fun adventure.
With his dying breath, the latest murder victim reveals that the mayor of Bludhaven was also involved in the conspiracy. Nightwing rushes across town to save the mayor, abandoned by the Run-Offs, who can’t deal with this anymore. Nightwing arrives in time to confront the killer, who wears masks and uses weapons to mimic the various Run-Offs, and now is dressed as Nightwing to frame him for the mayor’s murder.
Defacer shows up to get the mayor to safety while Nightwing fights the killer. He tears off the guy’s mask to reveal Jimmy! Dun dun dun! Jimmy escapes when the cops show up and open fire on Nightwing. Our hero escapes with the help of Defacer, only for her to reveal that she’s led Nightwing into a trap from the lead detective (who is on Jimmy’s trail).
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I did not see the Jimmy twist coming, but I suppose Scooby Doo rules apply and the mysterious villain had to be one of the people we’d actually met so far. Still, considering the world-building that Seeley started, it seems kind of a waste to scratch Jimmy off the list already. That doesn’t help with the case of making Bludhaven a real, lasting part of the Nightwing comic. Still, as has been the case for this whole storyline, Seeley and To are turning in great work. The characters are fun to read, the action is exciting and the storyline keeps twisting and turning. This is quality superhero comics, plain and simple.
U.S. Avengers #2
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Paco Medina
Yep, still on board! Finally, an Avengers comic I might actually read long term. I can’t remember the last one of those.
A future version of Danielle Cage, who is Captain America in the future, has come back to tell the Avengers about the Golden Skull and warn him of his pirate ways. She also mentions that, in her timeline, Thanos killed everybody — and something the good guys have done in this timeline stopped that a year ago.
The Avengers pinpoint the Golden Skull’s next target as a fancy schmancy rich people party in Miami, and Roberto gets them all in the front door wearing tuxes. But the Golden Skull is watching, and when Roberto tips his hand, the Skull reveals that all of the party goers are already his android soldiers!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
A lot of this issue was spent on exposition, and that’s normally a bad call, but Ewing and Medina made it a lot of fun. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of these types of stories, where a major character travels back in time to set up some weird alternate time travel reality adventure that our heroes have to contend with. Time travel is already wonky enough in the Marvel Universe, and there are plenty of regular bad guys that the U.S. Avengers could take on. I know this isn’t Danielle Cage’s first appearance — and I honestly really like the idea of her character — and I know this isn’t the first time this plot has been in Ewing’s Avengers comics, but you’re not normally doing yourself any favors to spend a whole issue explaining the complicated time travel back story.
But like I said, I had a lot of fun with this issue. The exposition is lively and colorful, and the Avengers themselves are strong enough so far that even them sitting around a table listening to a story is OK. And at least the back half has some fun with tuxedos.
Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what I’m recommending about this issue. As I think about it, there’s a lot to dislike. It’s all either exposition or a scene at the end where most of the team just stands around in tuxedos while Roberto does all the talking. But despite that, this issue was still a lot of fun to read. The creative team made it work and they made it work well, and that’s something to look forward to in comics.
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!
Posted on January 21, 2017, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews and tagged Captain Marvel, Harley Quinn, Invincible Iron Man, Iron Man, Ironheart, Mighty Captain Marvel, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Mosaic, Nightwing, Power Rangers, U.S.Avengers. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.