Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 4/8/17
I really need to start reading more DC Comics. This week is practically flooded with new issues of Marvel Comics, with only one showing from DC. Granted, I’ve always been more of a Marvel fan, but still! There should be a balance! I’m going to work on that.
But until then, we’ve got a wonderful pile of X-Men comics! All-New Wolverine and X-Men Gold kick off ResurrXion, for both good and ill. Iron Fist and Nova are pretty cool. And the new issue of Hawkeye wins Comic Book of the Week for a wonderful guest appearance by Jessica Jones!
Meanwhile, I’m not going to review the second issue of America, in case anyone was hoping. I really wanted to like and support this comic, but the second issue doubles down on everything I didn’t like about the first issue. It’s just too weird a comic, kind of like Shade The Changing Girl, which I also passed on reviewing. I am definitely not the intended audience, and I hope America finds the readers it’s looking for.
Comic Reviews: All-New Wolverine #19, Harley Quinn #17, Hawkeye #5, Iron Fist #2, Nova #5 and X-Men Gold #1.
All-New Wolverine #19
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Leonard Kirk
Despite the big X-relaunch that is ResurrXion, the only thing changing about All-New Wolverine is the costume. I’m slightly disappointed that Laura doesn’t get to keep her classic Wolverine look, but this gray and black one is cool too. Plus now Gabby sort of looks like House of M Wolverine, which is both neat and weird.
While Wolverine and Gabby are clearing out the last of the human traffickers that they encountered over the past few issues, a mysterious alien spacecraft crash lands on Roosevelt Island. Ironheart intercepts the craft and finds a young alien girl inside, who whispers Laura’s name before dying of some unknown alien disease. SHIELD quickly gets involved and quarantines the entire island. Then they grab Laura, who has no idea why an alien kid would know her name, and she parachutes onto the island to try and figure this all out.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
The previous All-New Wolverine storyline was kind of a mess, but this new kick-off brings the title back on track in a lot of good ways. The art, for one, is much, much better. Leonard Kirk is a total pro, and while this isn’t his best work, it’s a solid outing that should serve All-New Wolverine well going forward. And the story, likewise, is really neat. Laura is the only clue to an outbreak that threatens all of Roosevelt Island? Pretty cool story idea. I dig it.
Thankfully, the heart of the story is still the great characters. Taylor writes a great Wolverine and an adorable kid sidekick. Laura is just plain cool as the new Wolverine. She fits the role well and she fits nicely into Marvel continuity. I personally wish Taylor spent a little more time on Laura’s personal life and explored the legacy, but what he give us is still great. Hugely enjoyable character.
I really wish Marvel would just get rid of Old Man Logan…
TL;DR: Shiny new ResurrXion threads are just one part of an entertaining new storyline in All-New Wolverine. Still a great comic with a fun cast.
Harley Quinn #17
Writers: Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti and Paul Dini
Artists: John Timms and Bret Blevins
Apparently there’s a portion of the comic-loving audience that prefers Harley Quinn with the Joker? I guess? That would explain why Paul Dini is joining the comic to write some new back-ups featuring Harley and the Joker.
I much prefer the Harley Quinn of this ongoing comic, free of the Joker and living life to the fullest.
Harley and her team are recruited by the police chief to look into the problem of disappearing homeless people. Harley has always had a soft spot for them, and she educates Red Tool on their plight while they do a stakeout in Prospect Park. Harley is posing as a homeless person, but then a bunch of no good teenagers show up and burn her tent — so she destroys them! While Red Tool is taking care of the teens, Harley is nabbed by the non-vampire cannibals!
In the back-up feature, Harley repeatedly tries to cheer up the Joker after a series of crimes gone wrong. Some new thief is beating Joker to all of his planned heists and is getting all the news. Harley keeps wanting to get romantic with the Joker, but he keeps blowing her off to instead do Joker stuff.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Conner and Palmiotti have been doing a lot of build-up to this story, so I’m glad to see them finally tackle it head-on. And in doing so, they get a lot of mileage out of Harley Quinn’s bleeding heart. This is a stellar issue for character development, showing Harley to truly care about people and going the extra mile to see this case through — not to mention a little bit of violent fun with those random jerkass teenagers. Quality Harley character work, with some solid Red Tool in sidekick mode, and you’ve got the start of another really good Harley Quinn story.
The Joker back-up was good too. Like I said, I’m not part of the fan base that these new back-ups are trying to reach. I have no affinity for Harley/Joker and wasn’t crying out for a return to Harley’s roots. But Dini and Palmiotti do a great job establishing the dynamic between the two, while playing with that sexy, modern Harley persona. If they had scenes like this in Batman: The Animated Series, it would have been a much different show.
But overall, it’s a fun start to a flashback Harley/Joker story by Paul Dini. That’s a great idea to add as a back-up to Harley Quinn.
TL;DR: A new Harley Quinn story kicks off with some meaningful character work, really exploring the character’s altruism. Plus, Paul Dini comes on board for some fun Joker/Harley back-ups, and that’s a nifty addition.
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Michael Walsh
I’m taking a break from the regular Jessica Jones comic for a bit, and it doesn’t help that Kelly Thompson writes an even better Jessica Jones than Brian Michael Bendis!
Jessica Jones is in town because both she and Kate Bishop are looking for an asshat named Brad. Kate wants him to help find her father, while Jessica is searching for a missing woman named Rebecca Brown. The private eyes follow Brad after he leaves their office, and they sneak into a fancy schmancy party on Sunset Boulevard. Once inside, they discover that the missing woman has transformed herself into a Hollywood actress, and she’s changed her name to Dhalia Dorian. She tells them that she isn’t missing and doesn’t want to go back to her cruel sister.
Our heroes don’t necessarily believe her, so they set up a stakeout in her closet that night. Their investigation is then interrupted by a literal dragon that just shows up in the house. They get knocked around a bit and Jessica Jones goes flying through a window into a pool. And Kate has no real way to follow the dragon as it takes off into the night.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
Hawkeye is already a fun comic, but apparently adding Jessica Jones as a guest star is an even better hoot! Jones and Kate Bishop play so well off one another. This series is normally super fun with just Kate riffing and bantering, but add in the ‘sort of’ authority figure that is Jessica Jones and the two of them are great together!
Then you take their banter and back-and-forth and pair that with a legit mystery and you’ve got yourself a comic book! It’s just pure fun to see the two of them track down leads in an investigation, then fight a random dragon. And the art keeps everything nicely grounded, yet fun. And that’s a great way to describe Hawkeye as a whole. It’s a super fun comic, with a super fun main character, but it keeps all its heroics on a grounded level, which I thoroughly enjoy.
TL;DR: A Jessica Jones guest appearance elevates an already super fun Hawkeye to even bigger and better heights.
Iron Fist #2
Writer: Ed Brisson
Artist: Mike Perkins
I’m honestly not sure how I feel about this new Iron Fist series. On the one hand, it’s a pretty creative story idea. On the other than, it’s not exactly setting the world on fire.
On the island of Liu-Shi, Daniel Rand is introduced to the whole concept: there are seven kung fu villages on this island, each one named for an animal, and each one having perfected their own form of kung fu. After years of just sort of existing and practicing, they have invited the Iron Fist to their home so they can pit their best fighters against the best in the world, to see which of their champions is strongest. Hence the tournament. And if Danny can beat their champions, he can absorb their chi, which could hopefully get him back on track to reclaiming his own power.
In his first epic battle, Danny defeats the Eel of Blessed Waters. Then he’s led into the abandoned village of the Rat of 12 Plagues, gets the guy’s super creepy origin story then gets attacked!
Meanwhile, in a secret meeting, the seven leaders of Liu-Shi discuss their true purpose: when one of their champions defeats the Iron Fist and absorbs his chi, then they will become strong enough to replace K’un-Lun as one of the capital cities of Heaven!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Honestly, this is a really cool idea for an Iron Fist story. Putting Iron Fist into a mystical kung fu tournament against oddly-named fighters is Iron Fist 101 for sure. But add on the stuff about wanting to replace K’un-Lun as one of the heavenly cities and you’ve get to wrap your story in the awesomeness of the best Iron Fist stories from recent years. I think Brisson has done a fine job of taking the Iron Fist mythology that people like me love and building something new with it. So in that regard, this is a fine comic. It’s got Danny fighting some crazy opponents, it’s got some cool kung fu and it’s got an overall plot that ties into some of the best parts of the character.
But it also feels a little too…second-hand. Like, for all his talent, Brisson’s work here just comes off as a poor man’s Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction. Granted, Brubaker and Fraction are some of the best comic book writers of the modern era, so playing with their toys is going to be daunting. I can’t really fault Brisson for not being as good as the very best. I can’t really fault Brisson at all. He’s got a cool story here, one that ties in well with Iron Fist lore, and I am so far entertained. No real complaints.
TL;DR: The new Iron Fist comic is fun so far, but in a rather low key, off-brand kind of way. It’s built on the foundations of greatness past, but has yet to spark its own greatness.
Writers: Jeff Loveness and Ramon Perez
Artist: Ramon Perez
Nova is back and its as good as ever! This series has really re-upped my love of Rich Rider!
Sam Alexander faces off against the Cancerverse monster to try and save his sister. Rich Rider shows up to help, but it quickly becomes clear that Rider and the creature are somehow connected. He uses that connection to try and shunt the creature back through a portal, enough so that Sam is able to save his family. Sam then starts angrily punching Rider for bringing all this back with him, and Rich just laments that he couldn’t cheat death. So when the creature starts to come back, Rich pushes it through the portal with him, cutting off the Cancerverse once again.
But once he is returned to that hellscape, Rich finds that the Nova Worldmind has somehow taken control of the Cancerverse!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Hopefully this isn’t the end of Rich Rider! Definitely feels like Loveness and Perez have more planned for him, hopefully including a full-on return to the land of the living. He’s too cool to let go of, especially after these past few issues. And this new issue was another winner! Sam and Rich team up to fight a monster! Sam gets emotionally angry with Rich for lying to him and endangering his family, and Rich stepping up like a man to put an end to it. Damn good stuff. Emotionally resonant, decidedly superheroic and drawn like the best in the biz. Nova is damn good comics!
TL;DR: The current Nova storyline ends in epic, tragic and dramatic fashion, hopefully signaling more awesomeness to come. Great comic!
X-Men Gold #1
Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artist: Ardian Syaf
And so we come at last to the first issue of X-Men Gold, the proper kick-off to ResurrXion. I’ve written a lot about this build-up in the past few weeks, and I want everyone to understand that I was trying to look forward to this new relaunch. I want to enjoy X-Men comics again.
But this issue did nothing for me.
With no explanation, the issue opens with the X-Men fighting Terrax the Terrible in the middle of New York City. They defeat him pretty easily, but the damage causes a building to fall over, so Kitty phases the entire building into the ground. When the dust settles, she’s forced to confront a crowd of onlookers who hate and fear the mutants.
Later, during a baseball game outside the new Xavier Institute for Mutant Education and Outreach in Central Park, Kitty and Old Man Logan talk about how great it is that things are getting back to basics. Then Alex Sandstrom from the City Register comes along and presents Kitty with an $18 million bill for the first six months’ rent and property taxes. She seems shocked at the cost, even though it was entirely her idea to just plop the new school RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF CENTRAL FREAKIN’ PARK!
Nightcrawler and Storm share a moment later watching bigots on TV talk about mutants. Kurt is optimistic, but Ororo is all sad that she led the X-Men into war with the Inhumans (even though doing so saved their race from extinction). Rachel Grey gets in some Danger Room time with Rockslide and Armor, and Colossus tries to put the moves on Kitty, but she’s not really having it.
Then word comes in that some bad guys are attacking the United Nations. The X-Men suit up, jump in the Blackbird and go to confront the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.
This is going to be a long one. Sorry in advance.
I have no idea what goes into relaunching the X-Men with their latest New Status Quo. I don’t know if Marc Guggenheim got to dictate terms, or if Marvel editorial told him exactly how they wanted the X-Men to be. I don’t know who to blame for the contents of this comic, so I won’t blame anybody. I’m just going to say that this comic was not the exciting relaunch I was hoping for.
First and foremost, X-Men Gold #1 tries way too hard to recapture classic X-Men tropes, to the point that it feels disingenuous. Host a softball game? Sure! Have a big moment with the Blackbird? You bet’cha! Have a really, really on-the-nose scene where the X-Men are confronted by an almost comically vile racist? Yep! And why not throw in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants? Or touch upon the Kitty Pryde/Colossus romance yet again? Or any number of things.
This issue is all about hoping that classic X-Men tropes will appease longtime fans. It did not work on me.
Second of all, this issue is filled with odd and annoying story choices, scenes and dialogue that just kept getting under my skin. I wrote the other day about the codename discrepancy between Rachel Grey and Kitty Pryde. That was an odd thing to bring up in this issue. But also, why are the X-Men fighting Terrax the Terrible at the start of the comic? Yes, he’s just there to be a jobber, I get that part. But why Terrax, of all characters? You’re just going to throw a herald of Galactus into the middle of New York City for zero reason? He gets one line of dialogue and it’s all Terrax-style braggadocio. Then he just disappears when he’s defeated.
Likewise, that building that Kitty phases. It’s a cool image, sure, but what happened to it? Were there no people in this giant skyscraper? What about all of the desks, computers, chairs, filing cabinets, etc. that would be in this multi-story skyscraper, where did it go? Did she phase everything through the ground? There’s a ton of stuff beneath the ground in New York City. Did she phase this entire skyscraper all the way down below the sewer and subway lines? Phase it all the way to the center of the Earth? Did it turn into rubble at any point? We don’t know. We’re only shown Kitty phasing the building down, and then she shows up a moment later right as rain without any further word.
I mean, isn’t having a hand in destroying a skyscraper in New York City still a big deal?
Also, as I ranted in my review, why is their re-location to Central Park even a thing?! It’s kind of ridiculous that the X-Men think they can just plop down in the middle of Central Park like it’s no big deal. But hey, whatever, I can roll with it. But then they go to the trouble in this issue of having a city employee show up and give them an expensive lease…WHY?! WHY SO BLATANTLY POINT OUT ONE OF THE MOST RIDICULOUS PARTS OF THIS RELAUNCH?!
You’re the ones who decided to move the X-Men to Central Park, Marvel. So why do you immediately point out how ridiculous it is?
I mean, under what authority did Kitty Pryde think she could just move to Central Park in the first place? It’s Central FREAKIN’ Park! Probably the most famous patch of greenery in the world. And she thinks she can just move a giant mansion/school onto the grounds? OF COURSE it would cost upwards of $18 million to lease that land. I am COMPLETELY on the side of the city employee in this scenario. It makes Kitty look like an entitled idiot who thought she could just steal land for her little superhero team.
It’s not like anybody’s using the Westchester property, and it’s not like the X-Men have had any trouble being either a school or superheroes in their classic location. Kitty specifically and purposefully made the choice of moving to Central Park. It should not be a surprise that the decision bit her in the ass when real world bureaucracy is brought into the story.
Marvel could have simply written this all off as the mayor allowing them to live there for free as part of some mutant outreach thing. But nope! Let’s make the ridiculousness of the decision a major plot point in the first issue!
Also, if you’re living in Central Park, do you really need to use your giant supersonic jet to get across town to the U.N. building?
Third of all, the art just isn’t very good in this issue. Syaf does a fine job with the individual characters. They all look cool and detailed. But he can’t draw backgrounds or big scenes to save his life, especially if they involve a crowd of people.
Not only is that not where fielders stand during a baseball game, but all the ‘people’ are just amorphous blobs. This is the X-Men. The cast currently has an untold number of mutants hanging out at the school. This would have been the perfect opportunity to fill the game with fun cameos. Nope! Just faceless stick figure people. It doesn’t get any better when characters hang out in empty rooms or stand around in generic rubble.
In a big franchise relaunch like this, you’re telling me Marvel didn’t have any of their A-list artists available?
This whole issue feels like a slapped together effort to just churn out another X-Men relaunch.
TL;DR: The first proper issue of the new X-Men relaunch tries way too hard with the classic tropes, while doing nothing to indicate new ideas or directions. Lackluster main characters, an odd array of weird story choices and subpar art bring the whole relaunch down.
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 April 8, 2017, in Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged All-New Wolverine, Harley Quinn, Hawkeye, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, Joker, Kate Bishop, Kitty Pryde, Nova, Rich Rider, Wolverine, X-23, X-Men: Gold. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.