Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 2/4/17
Can you believe it’s February already? I know everybody says that all the time, but still. February. Wow. But hey, that hasn’t stopped comics from coming out!
This week saw a nice, competent pile of good books, from new Hawkeye to Nova to Harley Quinn. These are some of my favorites! Comic Book of the Week goes to the second issue of Unstoppable Wasp for creating a truly unstoppably charming character!
I expect a crossover with the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl very soon. What happens when an unstoppable object meets an unbeatable object?
Comic Reviews: Harley Quinn #13, Hawkeye #3, Nightwing #14, Nova #3, and Unstoppable Wasp #2.
Harley Quinn #13
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner
Artists: John Timms, Chad Hardin and Bret Blevins
Palmiotti and Conner are up to something, and I like it! We get a nice twist this issue that bodes well for their continued exploration of Harley’s fragile psyche.
Due to the lack of certain scars and penis size, Harley realizes that the Joker is a fake! So she ties him up and tortures him until he’s ready to talk, and then she straps him into an electric chair in a theater and invites all her friends to hear his confession. The Joker is actually Ed, the obsessed Harley fan from early on in the run who kidnapped her and put her in a gilded cage. At the time, Harley used her psychology to talk him down and get him to surrender, with the promise that she’d visit him in the nuthouse — but she never did.
Ed says he grew resentful and eventually reached out to the Joker, the foremost authority on Harley Quinn. He and the Joker became prison pen pals, with the Joker seemingly more than happy to provide Ed with information, mementos, money and everything else to ‘help’ him get closer to Harley. Ed eventually escaped his facility and the Joker paid for Ed to get plastic surgery to look just like him.
Harley tells Ed that the Joker has been playing him since the very beginning, just to mess with Harley. Then she shoots Ed dead and tells her people to clean up the mess and get back to work…except that Red Tool notices that Harley seems just a bit off, like this effected her more deeply than she’s letting on.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Yep, they’re definitely building to something, and you better believe I’m on board! I did not see this twist coming (though issue previews last week revealed that it wasn’t the real Joker). I had forgotten all about Ed, for obvious reasons, so this is a really great twist. I knew the Joker had to have something sinister up his sleeve, and this ‘fake’ Joker twist is even more devious than anything I could have guessed based on the past few issues. And that ending, with Harley cleared peeved, and not all of her friends recognizing it, is more of that brilliant, subtle character work that Palmiotti and Conner have been building.
I can’t wait to see this all reach its boiling point!
But that’s all anticipation. This issue was mostly just everybody sitting around so that exposition could be exposited. Ed’s explanation for what he did just went on and on, with Harley and her people as a literal peanut gallery tossing out whispered comments from the actual audience. So while we did get some really solid, if subtle character work for Harley, and while the art from Timms was the usual greatness, this was still just an entire issue of the one dude explaining the twist. Great for the ongoing narrative, less than thrilling for this single issue.
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Leonardo Romero
Kate Bishop in Hawkeye is the perfect encapsulation of the modern comic millennial speaking pattern — and I love it. What can I say? I find it adorbs/funny. Thompson is like a pro at this type of speech pattern and it really fits the character and the comic. I’ll share some examples below. You’ll recognize it when you see it.
Kate is saved from the mob of mind-controlled cultists thanks to the undercover police officer she met last issue. The officer warns Kate to stay out of this and to avoid the Take Back Control patches. Kate heads back to her office to change into her costume and continue her investigation. She’s joined by Quinn, Ramone and Johnny, who it turns out is Ramone’s brother. Kate and her Scooby Gang head to a party, where she’s tracked Larry’s tracking device. Kate and the gang split up inside in the search for Mikka.
Kate heads upstairs and, after a few comedic bits, she sneaks into a hidden basement dungeon. Inside she finds Mikka tied up amidst a lot of security monitors and Take Back Control paraphernalia. Mikka is covered in those patches, so she’s drugged up, and Kate begins to untie her — but there’s a giant, muscular cult member behind her!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Fun stuff! This is a really good issue building Kate’s character with pure, character-based comedy and situations. We get into her head and see her in action as a private eye, using her skills and some general bumbling luck to uncover the evil plot. No forced superheroics. No zany situations. Everybody acts like real people, including the superhero, and the story is all the stronger for it. Plus there’s the writing.
I just like Kate’s tone in this comic. She seems so down to Earth and relatable, like she’s trying to entertain herself. I can identify with that. Sometimes character narration is a chore to read, but it’s a lot of fun in Hawkeye. That is definitely helping to sell the book. It also helps that I like the mystery that’s building, and the supporting cast seems really fun too. I hope Thompson adds some other Marvel characters to the mix so we can see them in this realistic, down-to-Earth setting. It would be really fun!
The new Hawkeye comic is a lot of fun to read, both for the character work and the actual mystery being built. It feels like a low key comic, but that is clearly part of its charm.
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Marcus To
I was leery about moving Nightwing to Bludhaven when it was first announced. It reeked of fan service, but then I’m pretty sure Rebirth is all about fan service, and that’s why they’re doing so well.
Nightwing, Defacer and the tough-as-nails lady cop confront Johnny Nice (or Mr. Nice, as is probably going to be his villain name). It turns out that Cherry, the city’s PR lady, has been working with Nice and the mayor, and she put up the billboards of Nightwing to try and keep him in the city to stop Mr. Nice. Good on her! The fight is a tough one, and Mr. Nice forces Nightwing to confront his own insecurities. But when the cop shoots Mr. Nice’s baton, it causes his glass mirror to shatter and fill his face with hot mirror shards. I’ve seen worse super-villain origins. Nightwing then saves Mr. Nice from falling off a bridge, and he’s taken into custody.
Afterwards, Dick Grayson takes over Jimmy Nice’s spot as the counselor for the Run-Offs. He insists on not only changing their name, but having them show up out of costume. Dick also gets Shawn Tsang’s old office since she’s been fired. She’s not too hurt, though, because not only has she figured out that Dick is Nightwing, but they totally smooch!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Seeley and company bring their Bludhaven storyline to a satisfying conclusion in pretty much every aspect. The villain is defeated (while also created). The conspiracy is exposed. The billboards are taken down. And Dick Grayson gets both a girlfriend and a job — one that I’m pretty sure still doesn’t pay any money. I’m not convinced that Dick Grayson understands how day jobs work.
But we understand Dick Grayson better thanks to Seeley and To. They’ve got a solid handle on their main character, and that is always the most important piece of the comic book puzzle.
I like the look of everything where this book might be going. A new, simple romance? Sounds awesome! A job mentoring former crazy Gotham criminals? Sounds cool! General Nightwinging around? Also good! Seeley has built himself a solid new status quo for Nightwing and I hope he really digs in deep with the sorts of stories he can tell!
Writers: Jeff Loveness and Ramon Perez
Artist: Ramon Perez
What can a little rocket power do for you? Keep this Nova train a’rolling, that’s what!
The Novas, with a little help from Cosmo, face off against the trio of intergalactic bounty hunters that have come for their helmets! Rich takes on the trio while Sam goes to diffuse the bomb they planted in the middle of Knowhwere. Rich reveals that he’s still possessed by some part of the Cancerverse, and he uses that to take down the trio, then to help Sam in absorbing the intense energy output of the bomb — though he keeps his still-dead, Cancerverse condition a secret from Sam. In the end, Rich and Sam grab that drink and Rich tells Sam he should be brave enough to talk to the new girl at school.
Speaking of girls, Rich decides it’s time he check in with his own ex, Gamora!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Man, it would be really, really depressing if all of this was some kind of feint and this was only a Cancerverse clone of Rich Rider. Hopefully Loveness and Perez have something better planned, because they are killing it with this book.
This new issue is lighter on the character work and the snappy dialogue from the previous two issues, replacing them with some high-octane action scenes. That’s the kind of energy you’re going to get from a Nova comic. These characters are just plain cool to see in action. And it’s not to say there isn’t any character work. The bonding between Rich and Sam continues to be worth the price of admission alone.
If you’ve ever been curious about getting into the Nova comic, but were never quite sold on Sam Alexander, now is your time! This comic features some great character work, a real love of the Nova brand, and the creative team definitely has some tricks up their sleeves.
Unstoppable Wasp #2
Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Artist: Elsa Charretier
There is no way in the ‘verse that my plot summarization can capture the pure fun and personality of Unstoppable Wasp. The story is fun so far, but the real comic is all about the cheerful awesomeness that is Nadia.
With the help of Jarvis, Nadia sets out into the city to recruit awesome lady scientists! Her first recruit is Taina Miranda, a handicapped, Puerto Rican robotics engineer and her hockey playing sister. Then Nadia goes to recruit Lunella Lafayette, Moon Girl, but she and Moon Girl are attacked by a giant rat! Nadia shrinks down and gets eaten, then finds a Pym Particle growth device inside the rat that was developed in the Red Room. Nadia shrinks the rat back to normal size and chases the signal on the device, leading her to her old Red Room bunkmate Ying!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
So yeah, all of that plot really happened, but the comic is so so so much more than that! There isn’t a page or panel where Nadia isn’t the most chipper, most friendly, most optimistic superhero you’re ever likely to read! Even with all of the other awesome new female characters Marvel has been pushing lately, Nadia stands out as being particularly entertaining. She grows on you quickly. Chalk it up to Whitly’s style!
This series is off to a great start. Not only is the main character just plain fun to read, but the premise of the book is better than we normally see in new superhero comics. Nadia isn’t just fighting some supervillain plucked from the big Marvel Encyclopdia. She isn’t being drowned out by guest stars. She isn’t doing the typical superhero anything. She’s building a science lab comprised of awesome lady scientists, and I think that’s a fantastic idea for a series! And Whitley and Charretier are doing a great job with it so far!
I was already a big fan of the new female superhero comics Marvel has been pushing lately, but somehow they found a new and exciting way to write about their newest young female superhero! The Unstoppable Wasp is a joy to read for all the right reasons.
The comics I review in my Hench-Sized reviews are just the usual comics I pick up from my local shop any given week, alo-ng 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!