Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 3/4/17

By the time you’re reading this, I am preparing for an incoming shipment of Gamer Girl & Vixen graphic novels! The books I raised money for last Spring will be here by the end of the month, and my partner and I are preparing all the packages to ship out to everybody who ordered a copy!

Haven’t ordered your copy yet? Don’t worry, they’ll be available soon!

Until then, we’ve got a bunch of regular, awesome comics to enjoy! And not that I was going for any special theme, but this week it’s all badass solo lady comics, and one comic about a filthy hobo. Good times. Comic Book of the Week goes to the latest issue of Hawkeye for wrapping up its first storyline in style.


Truer words

Kate Bishop actually made two appearances this week! She makes a quick cameo in America #1, but unfortunately, I wasn’t as big a fan of that new series.

Comic Reviews: America #1, The Dregs #2, Harley Quinn #15, Hawkeye #4, and Unstoppable Wasp #3.


America #1

America #1
Writer: Gabby Rivera
Artist: Joe Quinones

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m always up to try out a new, fun comic starring an awesome diverse character! I don’t have much history with America Chavez, but I was looking forward to her solo comic debut!

Too bad I’m not entirely sure what I just read.

Despite being leader of the Ultimates and leading them on awesome interdimensional battles against strange villains, America Chavez wants to go to college to better herself. Her girlfriend doesn’t want that life and they break up, with America taking it harshly personally. Sotomayor University is a pretty crazy campus on what I’m pretty sure is planet Earth, but they’ve got some far out lessons and tech on this campus. America gets some guff from her Intergalactic Revolutionaries professor, but is joyed to see her friend Prodigy in the class.

Later, Prodigy shows America his time machine, and she tries to use it to visit her moms. But instead she winds up in World War II, runs afoul of Captain America real quick and then punches Hitler in the face.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

Based on this first issue, I don’t think this comic is going to be for me, but it’s still a solidly made comic and I hope more people like it. But America #1 has a very surreal style that flew over my head. It’s a jumble of ideas, some of which were a little too weird and wild to wrap my head around. It has a lot of solid ideas, like America wanting to go back to college and having a fight with her girlfriend, but the weirdness takes over pretty quickly. First there’s the fact that America Chavez is already a weird character in that, I think, she’s from an alternate dimension? Or she’s from the Multiverse itself? It’s something called the Utopian Parallel, and trying to read this issue is like trying to understand her weird origin in general.

Then you’ve got stuff like a Fifth Element-themed sorority that ambushes her on campus (not as cool as it sounds), or the weird class she takes that seems like a stream of consciousness rambling about made up interdimensional history.


What are they even saying?!

And then the issue ends with random time travel to WWII where America bumps into Captain America and then immediately steals his iconic Hitler punch.

This first issue just didn’t work for me, personally. Other people hopefully really liked it, and more power to them. But this comic was just too much of a weird, jumbled trip for my tastes. Maybe that’s always been America Chavez’s style. Or maybe that’s how new comic book writer Gabby Rivera wants this to go down. That’s perfectly fine. And the art is great, which isn’t a surprise with Quinones. But this one was a little too heady and a little too wild style for me.

TL;DR: I am all for a comic starring a brown-skinned queer lady superhero asskicker, but America #1 is a little too style over substance for my tastes in superhero comics.


The Dregs #2

The Dregs #2
Writer: Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler
Artist: Eric Zawadzki

For reasons that hopefully won’t come back and haunt me later, I’m going to stick with The Dregs for more. It’s a cool comic and I’m a reasonable guy.

Arnold, our homeless hero, barely manages to escape with his life from the bad guys, then he walks all the way back to the city from the rural basement they were going to kill him in. He runs into the mysterious woman again and she takes him to her place, where she tries to talk him out of this fool quest, but he isn’t budging. At least she gives him a pair of nice shoes. He follows a few leads about a spike in overdoses before heading back home to poke around at the homeless people he lives with. A crazy lady points him towards La Mancha restaurant with a weird drawing.

A friendly cop takes Arnold to a homeless shelter, where he has another run in with the politician from last issue, but this encounter is a little more polite. Arnold then pieces it together that the crazy lady’s drawing is of a homeless guy named The Ice Cream Man, who lives in the shelter. The Ice Cream Man isn’t all there and he rambles, but eventually he points Arnold towards the nice part of town.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

The Dregs is a good example of the kind of style I like. The story itself has a nice, grounded foundation that makes sense: homeless man as noir detective, searching for his missing friend. But the creators then get a little weird with it, playing around with Arnold’s not-all-together mental state. For example, the scene with the mysterious woman is told by having Arnold imagine he’s a real noir detective, complete with fedora.


Vancouver is not Gotham City

Then there’s the double page spread that turns into a spiral as Arnold loses track of time and all of his actions blur together. The stylish elements work in The Dregs and add to the already gripping story. Arnold is a cool guy, for a dirty, filthy homeless dude, and his investigation make for a solid story. Arnold is an easy guy to root for, and his world has already been populated with interesting people, places and things.

Tl:DR: The world of The Dregs expands in the second issue, as the mystery gets deeper, the characters get weirder and the hero becomes both more relatable and a little more unsure of himself. Solid mystery storytelling.


Harley Quinn #15

Harley Quinn #15
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artists: Khari Evans, John Timms and Joseph Michael Linsner

Conner and Palmiotti add yet another divergent subplot to their Harley Quinn comic this issue, and I hope they’re going somewhere awesome with this.

Harley Quinn and Atlee are still fighting Zorcrom the underworld demi-god, but it’s not going well. When Zorcrom takes a shine to Harley’s constantly jabbering, she decides to take Zorcrom on a tour of the city while Atlee goes to get Power Girl’s help. Harley takes him to Central Park, gets him a hot dog, and basically tries to outwit Zorcrom by pointing out how foolish it is for one single guy to try and take over the entire world. What about all of the languages people speak that he doesn’t know? Or nukes? Or hot dogs? Or rebels? None of it seems to get through to Zorcrom, but it keeps him busy until Atlee and Peej show up.

Meanwhile, vampires are still killing homeless people and Harley Sinn is still on Mason’s trail.

Also, in the year 2167, Gotham City has a lot of fighting tournaments. One fighter, Devani, is super popular and dresses up in a Batman theme. Her fans are looking forward to her fight with someone who, it appears, uses a Harley Quinn theme.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

The best thing about this issue was how Harley spent the whole time trying to talk the bad guy into giving up his plans for world domination. She just had a nice, friendly chat with the guy, deconstructing the very idea of super-villains taking over and ruling the entire planet. That was a hoot! And a solid use of Harley Quinn.


That’s more languages than I know

This is a neat story so far, pitting Harley and some fun allies against a pretty crazy adversary. It’s outside of her usual wheelhouse, and the stuff I usually like about this comic, but everybody’s clearly having fun. The new artist is great, I love his detailed art style. That’s usually my comic book art cup of tea.

TL;DR: Harley Quinn is telling a pretty crazy story, but it’s clear that everybody involved is having a blast, and I am too.


Hawkeye #4

Hawkeye #4
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Leonardo Romero

I may not have liked America Chavez’s debut issue, but Kate Bishop is still going gangbusters in her solo adventure! Thompson and Romero wrap everything up nicely for the first story, while launching us directly into the next!

Hawkeye uses her ability to be annoying to distract the big, burly cult leader, who goes by the name Aggregate, allowing her to escape the basement dungeon with Mikka. But once they get upstairs to the party, all of the people under Aggregate’s mind control start to attack, including Mikka! Only the true love of her girlfriend is able to break Mikka out of the spell. How can Hawkeye use that to free everybody?

Aggregate returns and absorbs all of the negative feelings in the room, making him even bigger and more powerful. He chases Kate outside, where they run into an outdoor film festival playing The Sound of Music. Kate wraps Aggregate up in a banner, and the pure joy of the musical shrinks him back down to normal size. The cops come and take him away.

Later, after checking in with all of her new friends, Kate gets called to the police station to help question Aggregate. But as soon as he recognizes Kate and starts to mention her father, his head explodes! Someone else is behind all of this! And they might be connected to Kate’s dad! When she returns to her office, Jessica Jones is there, and she’s captured the man Kate came to California to find: Brad!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Defeating a villain with the happy happy joy joy of The Sound of Music is definitely thinking outside the box, and I completely and totally approve! You can’t beat all bad guys by just pumping them full of arrows, and this seems like as silly and as fun a climax as one might expect from Kate Bishop’s latest adventures in California. The action and excitement in this issue was great and makes for a super fun ending to the opening storyline.


The next Gordon and Batman

The real heart of the series is Kate herself, of course. Thompson is doing a fantastic job establishing her as her own unique hero, and giving her a solid supporting cast for jokes, heart-warming moments and general good times. I would still love to see some real superheroes guest star, or for Thompson to create her own to show up, but she’s done just fine with the ordinary people coming into Kate’s life. And I like how villain’s modern super-villain name. I’d love to see more social media/Internet-themed villains.

TL;DR: Kate Bishop’s first storyline comes to a fun and somewhat wacky conclusion, perfectly befitting her humorous yet grounded comic. But the real magic is being built between Kate and her new supporting cast.


Wasp #3

Unstoppable Wasp #3
Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Artist: Elsa Charretier

Unstoppable Wasp is also still awesome! I wonder if Nadia is this cool in the Avengers comics I’m not reading.

Nadia’s reunion with her former Red Room best friend Ying is cut short when Ying unleashes a giant raccoon and disappears. Nadia tried to convince her that they could be awesome together, but Ying appears to, reluctantly, still be behold to the Red Room. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur take down the giant raccoon. Moon Girl passes on joining Nadia’s lab because she’s pretty busy with her own stuff these days.

While getting a new phone, Nadia meets a badass punk genius girl named Amber. They hit it off when Nadia recognizes Amber’s Tesla tattoo. Then after a phone call from Janet Van Dyne reminding Nadia not to miss her appointment with her lawyer, Nadia and Jarvis visit Lashayla Smith in Brooklyn and recruit her to the lab. Lashayla has been experimenting with teleporters.

The last girl to recruit is Priya, who works the night shift at the phone store. Nadia gives Priya her pitch, but Priya doesn’t want to join the lab. She’s perfectly happy keeping her super brain hidden in order to fit in with the popular girls, plus her parents are too strict to let her engage in super science. But then the store is attacked by the villain Poundcakes, who takes Priya’s mom hostage!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This was another fun issue of Unstoppable Wasp, though it is a little hampered by the repetition of finding new awesome science people. Whitley does a fine job mixing things up, but in the end, this has been two straight issues of Nadia having essentially the same mini-adventure with, so far, nearly indistinguishable young scientists. They’re all diverse, hipster-esque lady super geniuses living in New York City who have one big project that goes just awry enough that Nadia can lend a hand. It doesn’t hamper the book too much, and I liked all the interactions well enough — especially Amber.


Classic Tesla meet cute

I suppose I would have just liked more organic-feeling meetings, like that one. Some spontaneity. Some randomness to Nadia’s quest to find awesome lady scientists. Some diversity to the diversity.

I liked that Priya turned her down in the end, because that’s a hurdle that Nadia is going to need to figure out how to jump. Not everybody is going to be as super eager to join her lab as she hopes/thinks they will be. But then Poundcakes randomly showed up, so I bet Priya will be on board next issue.

Whatever, though, this is all mostly nitpicking. The overall idea for the series is still great, and Whitley and Charretier are perfect together in bringing this book to life. Whitley’s characters and dialogue are wonderfully hip, friendly and funny. And Charretier keeps everyone grounded and realistic, while still being both cute and awesome. I love what they’re putting together here and I look forward to seeing Nadia get her science lab off the ground.

TL;DR: Unstoppable Wasp continues its unstoppable journey into my heart with another fun and funny issue, though it feels just a little bit repetitive.

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 March 4, 2017, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. America was really good. I like seeing a softer side of her. More, I like that Rivera is displaying how much America is someone who cares. Plus, America punching Hitler. Can’t go wrong with that ending. (Some side notes: America comes from a utopian dimension full of only women, which was created by Wiccan, and which was sealed off from the Multiverse as a result of actions taken by Americas moms. For the class, it’s definitely some hippy-dippy stuff, which Rivera has written about before, in her novel. Think “Womyn-with-a-y and the power of menstrual blood” kind of thing that West Coast feminists get mocked for. Especially Portland.)

    Hawkeye is great. Really fun. And Julie Andrews saves the day! Because she’s magical!

    Wasp is great. So fun. So cute and adorable and wonderful. I also like that this issue shows a little of the alienation of being a smart girl. As for Nadia in the Avengers, that book has a different tone, so Nadia’s pretty different in it. She’s a lot more toned down. Probably too toned-down, honestly, but then, you don’t want her always stealing scenes. But the main Avengers title is great stuff, Waid is killing it on the writing and Mike Del Mundo is a phenomenal artist. The book does a good job balancing classic and modern vibes, and is telling one of the best Kang stories ever.

    • Thanks for that insight into Rivera! I knew a bit about America’s origins, having started reading Young Avengers, but I haven’t gotten that deep into it. And if that’s Rivera’s style, that definitely explains a lot of the themes and set pieces in this issue. Thanks! I don’t know anything about her or her work.

      I also finally finished The Vision, having gotten the second volume. I want to say the second half wasn’t as good as the first, but I bet reading the whole thing in one sitting instead of split in two, separated by months, would be the best option. Still, great comic.

      • Huh, I thought the second half of Vision was as strong as the first. Wrecked me every single month. Virginia killing the dog was one of the most brutal things I’ve ever seen in a comic, and her speech as she kills Victor was absolutely chilling. And then her final talk with Vision was really bittersweet.

        Viv’s smile at the end is why I loathe what Waid is doing with her in Champions.

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