Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 3/11/17
Comics! Uhn! Whaa-aat are they good for? Absolutely everything! Say it again! Yep, still reading comics over here. And this week I kind of went overboard on the reviews, since a lot of my favorites came out, like Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Detective Comics and Power Man and Iron Fist!
Comic Book of the Week goes to Nova #4 for another delightful issue! I haven’t been a Nova fan since Annihilation, but oh boy, this new series has been a blast! I’m even enjoying Sam Alexander for the first time ever!
Meanwhile, I was really on a tear about the X-Men this week. I don’t know what came over me, other than a combination of nerd rage and disappointment. The X-Men franchise needs a proper reworking after years of wheel spinning, and I fear that ResurrXion is not the answer.
Comic Reviews: Detective Comics #952, Jessica Jones #6, Justice League of America #2, Mosaic #6, Nova #4, Power Man and Iron Fist #14, Silver Surfer #9 and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #18.
Detective Comics #952
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artists: Christian Duce and Fernando Blanco
I’m really digging the current Detective Comics storyline. This whole series has been great, but now Tynion is really playing with fire. Using the discrepancy of the ‘League of Assassins’ from the comics and the ‘League of Shadows’ from the Dark Knight movies is genius!
Batman and his Bat-Squad fight their way through the League of Shadows warriors, including having Clayface form into multiple versions of himself to battle ninjas (since he can’t be hurt by ninja swords). Eventually though, Orphan and Batman zero in on their leader, Shiva, but she easily defeats both of them and reveals that she is Cassandra’s mother! Shiva and her people leave, taking Batwing and Azrael with them.
Back at the Belfry, both Duke Thomas and Renee Montoya check in with Batwoman to give her updates on the situation. The cops are gunning for Batman and his people after they believe he assassinated the mayor. Batwoman tries to get more info out of her father, but he just goes on and on about how Shiva is pure evil and an incredible killing machine.
Cassandra, who just discovered that Shiva is her mother, is overcome with sadness that her mother is such a monster. Batman does his best to console her.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Tynion has done a fantastic job establishing the stakes of this story. It really feels like the League of Shadows is an unstoppable killing force and that nobody can stand in their way — hopefully this doesn’t backfire by making them seem too powerful, only for Batman to figure out a simple way to stop them. Still, it’s going to keep getting fun as this war escalates. Tynion has built a great conflict.
I wish we saw a little bit more of the League’s impact on the streets of Gotham. But Tynion’s got a million Bat-characters to check in with, so we’re more focused on them than on the city. That’s a shame. The League of Shadows is threatening Gotham City as a whole, and I’d like to see that. So far, we just get a quick check-in from Montoya about how the cops are angling to go after Batman, but not much on the League’s overall plans for the city. I wish he’d expand on that a bit.
But at least he’s doing a great job with the Bat-Family. And the art is phenomenal. Perfect Batman comic art.
TL;DR: Tynion and his creative team continue to raise the stakes to exceptional levels in their new storyline, and I just keep getting more and more excited about what we’re seeing.
Jessica Jones #6
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Michael Gaydos
Huh. Not where I expected this to go.
Jessica Jones lures Carol Danvers into an ambush from the Spot and Allison Greene. Allison monologues about how she hates superheroes and how she’s gonna go murder the Champions to put superheroes out of business for good. But surprise, Jessica was totally playing Allison, and she and Carol stop and arrest everybody.
Meanwhile, Luke figures out that his daughter is with Jessica’s mother, and he collects his offspring. He’s still super pissed at Jessica.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
Welp, that was quick. And I actually feel kind of bad for Allison Greene, as a character. She was introduced as a perfectly innocent woman who Captain Marvel unlawfully arrested on faulty suspicions during Civil War II. She was a prime example that Ulysses wasn’t perfect, and was a real dent in Captain Marvel’s armor. But now Bendis retcons it so that she is totally super evil and planned on murdering children! That’s kind of a low blow. And really just serves to try and clean up Captain Marvel’s tainted character in the wake of Civil War II. But the whole thing feels kind of…dirty.
And it didn’t do any favors to the Jessica Jones comic. After all this build-up, the Allison Greene storyline is wiped away without much hassle and barely any involvement from Jessica herself. This character assassination was a little too smarmy.
Bendis then barely touches upon the bigger Secret Wars/multiverse mystery, so that’s still brewing. And the Luke Cage moments are pretty devastating, until you consider that Jessica Jones sacrificed her marriage and her daughter so that Captain Marvel could clean up one of her Civil War II messes. That’s another low blow.
TL;DR: A potentially interesting storyline is wiped clean in what appears to be an effort to save Captain Marvel’s reputation — but Captain Marvel’s name isn’t on the cover of this comic. Jessica Jones suffers for a weird retcon.
Justice League of America #2
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Felipe Watanabe
This comic is not for me. I’m out. Maybe I’ll check out the next issue, but honestly, there’s little point in me going any further unless we want to spend the next several months trashing this book.
Batman surrenders himself and his knowledge of Earth to Lord Havok in exchange for this team, and Havok readily accepts — which prompts a team coup attempt by the more ruthless Dr. Diehard, but Havok kills him. The villains then leave — without Batman — and teleport to the country of Kravia, which was Havok’s home in the other dimension. Kravia just happens to be in the middle of its own coup, and Havok’s extreme methods allow him to swiftly and brutally taking control of the entire country. In, like, a matter of hours.
Rather than just turning on social media to find out that a bunch of monster people have inserted themselves into the Kravian turmoil, the Atom instead studies a particle reading he took off of Lord Havok’s costume and is able to ping that same reading in Kravia, giving the team the villains’ location. The Justice League arrives at the border and stop one of the villains, Death Bat, from attacking fleeing refugees.
Before the Justice League of America can stop her, though, the Kravian military arrives and tells the heroes that Death Bat is their leader now and the good guys have to back off. The Kravian military is totally cool with surrendering to insane monster people at the drop of a hat.
The Justice League of America then ally themselves with the leaders of neighboring Gardevia to try and steal back Kravia.
Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.
The one basic rule I have for a good team comic is one that actually uses the team. For example, James Tynion puts every member of the Bat-Squad in Detective Comics to good use. They all have their own sub-plots that add to the larger story. They all have their own personalities and reasons for being around. I’m finding the exact opposite in this Justice League of America. The team members might as well be any other DC superhero. They’re all just going through the motions of generic superheroing, regardless of their skill level, origin or relationship to other team members.
And when the characters do try to inject some personality into the story, it’s incredibly awkward.
Worse than that, this comic is clearly about Lord Havok and the Extremists. There is more character development and team dynamics between them than any of the Justice League of America members. But who gives two flying poops about Lord Havok and the Extremists? They’re C-level Justice League villains at best. Why is Batman’s more grounded, human Justice League of America taking on Lord Havok and the Extremists? Why isn’t the regular Justice League involved?
There’s a lot to swallow with this story, too. A quick Google search for “Kravia” reveals that it maybe appeared in a Nightwing comic a few decades ago. I’m all for some world-building, but it comes pretty suddenly that not only are the people of Kravia involved in some kind of civil war, but that they’re totally willing to let a bunch of literal monsters just show up and take over. And again, considering this was hailed as a more ground Justice League, with several team members who are complete newbies to being superheroes, their first mission is going to be inserting themselves into an international incident to overthrow the despotic super villain leaders of a country we’ve barely heard of before?
TL;DR: Justice League of America is a team comic far more interested in the villains and the laborious plot, neither of which is particularly interesting to begin with. Despite putting so much focus on the team roster in the build up, this comic does nothing with any of them.
Writer: Geoffrey Thorne
Artist: Bruno Oliveira
Mosaic is finally free of his origin story and is off to join the rest of the Marvel Universe! But I guess nobody told him that Civil War II was last year.
After blowing up the Brand Corporation building, a bunch of Brand scientists sneak into the basement to recover their kidnapped super-people projects. Mosaic possess one and follows them down to recover his original body, but then Lockjaw shows up. Mosaic possesses Lockjaw and the dog brain goes nuts, teleporting all over the cosmos before he eventually gets back to New Attilan.
Johnny Storm recognizes Morris Sackett and introduces him to the rest of the Inhuman family, helping Mosaic to make his new form visible to everybody else. No sooner have they met than Medusa immediately tasks Mosaic with possessing a Stark Enterprises board member to steal all of Tony Stark’s money and blow up Stark Tower — stuff that I think took place at the start of Civil War II, so this comic is really, really behind.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
So yeah, that is a really weird ending. I think the explosion at Stark Tower took place towards the start of Civil War II, right? I honestly don’t remember, it was that long ago and that unimportant. So tying Mosaic’s ongoing series to that moment seems like a really, really bad idea. Why hobble Mosaic’s tale by tying him to an unpopular event that happened way way too long ago?
Not to mention how weird it is that Medusa sent Mosaic on his spy mission within, like, five minutes of meeting him.
Anyway, weird story choice aside, this was still a pretty solid issue about Mosaic’s first foray into a larger superhero world. There are some great bits with Johnny Storm, which I would love to see explored more in the future. And the sequence where Mosaic possesses Lockjaw is neat. Thorne did a fine job with Mosaic’s origin story over the previous five issues, and this is a nice, quick taste of what it might be like when a celebrity basketball superstar tries to start fitting into the world of superheroes.
TL;DR: This is a pretty fun start to Mosaic’s journey into a larger superhero world, hobbled by some pretty weird story choices in the end.
Writers: Jeff Loveness and Ramon Perez
Artist: Ramon Perez
Loveness and Perez are now on my radar! This Nova comic is utterly delightful! The characters are rich and fun to read, and the creative team knows how to balance the human element with the superhero stuff. This comic has everything I love.
Sam goes on a date with Lina, after getting over a bunch of crazy pre-date jitters. His mom has to drive and she drops them off at the mall, where Sam tries a bunch of awkward date ideas, like dinner or a movie. But Lina tells him to chill and they instead just have fun goofing around and hanging out. At one point, Sam takes on some bullies to help a homeless man, which probably scores him some major date points.
Meanwhile, Rich Riders runs into his old girlfriend Gamora at one of his safehouses in New York. They go for a walk, get a drink, fight some muggers, catch up and make out a little, until Rich is struck from within by whatever Cancerverse still resides within him. He pulls on his helmet and flies off, because…
While everyone was out, Sam’s little sister, Kaelynn, put on one of his Nova helmets, which had a bit of leftover Cancerverse monster inside! Sam and his mom return home to a destroyed house, a scared grandmother and a missing Kae Kae!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
Let me just say, as someone who was only really introduced to Nova through Annihilation, I definitely have a soft spot for Nova and Gamora. They were great together in that series, and I’m tickled pink that Loveness and Perez are picking that back up, despite her huge boost in popularity. Her scenes with Rich were really sweet and I hope she sticks around to help him through his current craziness.
But it was the scenes between Sam and Lina that really sold the issue.
This comic is golden. The creative team juggles both main characters easily, giving both of them some quality time on the page. They really open up their characters and inject pure personality into these drawings. The stories were both fun and entertaining, with just the right touch of superheroics. Add on that cliffhanger ending, which ties nicely into everything else going on, and you’ve got a real winner of a comic.
TL;DR: Nova is blasting off at the speed of light right now. The characters are so rich and full of life and personality, and the writing and stories bolster this stellar cast. This is great comics.
Power Man and Iron Fist #14
Writer: David F. Walker
Artist: Sanford Greene
I’m not going to say that Power Man and Iron Fist has fallen from grace, because it’s still a really good comic. But the latest issue continues to show signs of drag.
In their investigation into Alex Wilder, Luke and Danny keep coming across a bunch of junkies strung out on some strange new drug Alex is selling. Night Nurse’s infirmary is overrun with all the junkies they keep bringing her. Senor Magico realizes that all the people are possessed with some kind of soul-eating magic, meaning Alex is selling a magic-infused drug! Our heroes check in with Doctor Voodoo and figure out that Alex is making his drug out of the blood of the Demon of Redemption, and that Alex is trying to become the new Grandmaster of Street Magic!
Back at Alex’s hideout, after a chat with the demon that’s possessing him, he discovers that the mystical box containing the Demon of Redemption is missing! Jennie stole it after growing more and more scared of what Alex is doing. She delivers it to Luke and Danny, but when she opens the box, they all get grabbed by a demon tentacle!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
If I’m being honest, I think this current storyline has gone on too long. I couldn’t even remember if Alex has been selling drugs this whole time, or if these magic drugs are a brand new development. We’re still, ostensibly, in the middle of a gang war in Harlem, but it definitely doesn’t feel like it. Instead, this is a comic about Luke and Danny running around in circles accomplishing next to nothing. Walker makes great use of guest stars, and the comic overall is still hugely entertaining, but this story is really starting to drag. There is zero personal connection between the villain and the heroes. I don’t even think they’ve met.
TL;DR: I think the current Power Man and Iron Fist story has been going on a bit too long, causing the series to drag. But the writing and art are still fantastic enough to keep the comic entertaining and fun to read.
Silver Surfer #9
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Mike and Laura Allred
Silver Surfer doesn’t come out very often, but when it does, it’s always a treat. Gotta love a comic like that.
While cruising through a solar system, Silver Surfer and Dawn Greenwood visit a couple different plants that once had teeming cities, but now seem to be frozen or covered in garbage. The fourth planet has all the life, a dazzling, colorful city full of people in balance with nature. The denizens explain that they lived on those previous planets but used them all up, but now have a better way! They take Dawn and the Surfer on a magnificent tour of their planet — until they discover that all of the people, animals and buildings are living holograms!
In order to not ruin this planet, an inventor built a Great Machine to convert people into living holograms. And, in fact, they converted meatbag Dawn Greenwood into a living hologram when she used the restroom earlier!
The Surfer goes mad and starts destroying their hologram world in an effort to find Dawn’s body, and they are able to save it from being mulched up in the Great Machine just in time! Now that Dawn is safe and they understand the world a bit better (the Great Machine is maintained by 1% of the population who remain normal and who live and work in relative harmony with nature), Dawn and the Surfer depart — but they have to leave behind the Dawn hologram, who survived the transfer of her consciousness back into her normal body. It’s bittersweet for her, but Surfer and the real Dawn are more in love than ever.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I suppose, if I’m being critical, this issue wasn’t quite as fun or quite as clever as some of the previous done-in-one Silver Surfer comics from Slott and the Family Allred. But that’s a silly distinction to make. This was still a super fun comic with a really crazy, creative cosmic story. There was action, pathos, romance and a great moment where the Silver Surfer really flexes his Power Cosmic. Plus a lot of touching Surfer/Dawn moments.
Now that’s just plain cute. Slott has been laying some groundwork for a big, important story coming up, but I am perfectly happy with these one-shot tales to astonish. He’s done such an amazing job building up Silver Surfer and Dawn Greenwood, and he’s clearly letting his creativity run wild with this series. That is always a plus.
TL;DR: The latest issue of Silver Surfer is a very sweet and lovely comic. It’s got action, mystery and a couple great twists, all capped off with some real, heartfelt romance.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #18
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Erica Henderson
Do you like funny comics? Then why aren’t you reading Unbeatable Squirrel Girl? And if you are reading Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, tell ’em the Henchman sent ya!
Squirrel Girl convinces Chipmunk Hunk and Koi Boi to meet her new benefactor and get awesome, upgraded costumes too! It’s a nice meeting and Melissa Morbeck readily agrees to help them, but Nancy is super suspicious and stays behind with Doreen to speak with Melissa. Nancy quickly catches Melissa in a lie about Alfredo the Chicken (Melissa ate him), so Nancy and Doreen immediately think this means Melissa is a villain. I mean, she is, but they really jump to this conclusion rather quickly.
Doreen and Nancy escape the house, but Melissa uses her powers to summon all the rats in the city, and rats eat squirrels. So Doreen sends her friends away to hear Melissa out. Melissa explains that she can’t really talk to animals and has instead developed a microchip that allows her to give them orders. She explains that she wants Doreen to think hard about the responsibility she has to the world with her powers.
Nancy, meanwhile, has contacted the police and they all head to Melissa’s townhouse — except that she has since summoned a bunch of large zoo animals to guard her porch!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Nancy being suspicious of Melissa is one thing, but that bit with the chicken was really stretching things. Like, it goes on for at least two pages, of Nancy poking holes in Melissa’s lies. And then they immediately assume she’s a super-villain (which is true, but lying about a chicken isn’t exactly a super-villain move). Honestly, what would they have done if Melissa was honest and said she ate the chicken? People eat chicken all the time. And it’s not like she can really talk to the animal, as she reveals this issue.
After 18+ issues, I have finally found one single flaw in Ryan North’s otherwise outstanding scripting.
Beyond that, this was another enjoyable issue of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. We’ve got a fresh, fun new villain who brings both menace and a touch of comedy to the plate. We’ve got Squirrel Girl as her usual excitable self, with some nice self-referential-to-comics humor, which North often nails. We even get some quality time with Koi Boi and Chipmunk Hunk! That’s always a hoot. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl continues to hum along like a hilarious, well-oiled machine.
TL;DR: Despite one big, awkward leap in narrative logic, this is otherwise another hilarious and character-filled issue of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Love this book.
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 March 11, 2017, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews and tagged Cassandra Cain, Danny Rand, Dawn Greenwood, Detective Comics, Duke Thomas, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, Justice League of America, Luke Cage, Mosaic, Nova, Orphan, Power Man, Power Man and Iron Fist, Silver Surefer, Squirrel Girl, The Spot, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.