Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 6/17/17
I need to read more DC Comics. There’s no getting around it. This week saw an overflow of Marvel Comics that I read, but I only found time to review one DC Comic. It’s shameful! To say nothing of my apparent inability to read any indie comics. I’m not trying to be a Marvel Zombie! I’m not!
But Marvel delivered both the best and the worst this week. For reasons I wish I had an answer for, the new Hulk series seemed to implode this week, undoing everything that made this series special. Meanwhile, Ms. Marvel kicks off a new story with everything I love about this comic, so I’m rather pleased to award it Comic Book of the Week!
Secret Empire had a weird little issue this week. The idea that Captain America and HYDRA have completely conquered the United States has shrunk in scope to a race between two super-teams to get pieces of the broken Cosmic Cube. It makes for a fun enough comic as the two teams get treated to a family dinner from Ultron Pym.
Also, Batman has kicked off a rather continuity-heavy, mind-erasing bit of big story at DC. Gotta get caught up on that!
Comic Reviews: Defenders #1, Detective Comics #958, Generation X #3, Hulk #7, Ms. Marvel #19, and X-Men Blue #5.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Marquez
I’m very excited for the Defenders TV show in August. I’ve loved or at least enjoyed all of the Marvel Netflix shows, so I’ve got high hopes. And like the coming of the tide, Marvel has re-jiggered their comic book properties to closely resemble that TV show. And here we are.
Diamondback is back from the dead (the Luke Cage TV show version, not the femme fatale), and he orchestrates attacks on the four TV Defenders: Luke, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones and Daredevil. The only one who suffer any damage is Jess, who ends up in the hospital with a bullet wound. The heroes converge and begin a campaign to find Diamondback by knocking every head together in the criminal underworld. Danny, Jess and Matt don’t have any luck, and together they decide it might be a good idea to team up for reals, and like in the show.
Luke finds Diamondback and is so angry that the guy attacked his wife that he confronts the villain head-on. Diamondback was in the middle of a meeting with Black Cat, and she steps aside to let Luke get to beating the villain — except Diamondback is somehow stronger than Luke and whoops his butt instead!
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
I felt this issue was fine. I like Bendis, I like Marquez, and I’m excited for the Defenders TV show, so this was perfectly fine. Most of the characters get a little time to shine, though I also think Black Cat got way more lines than almost any of the main characters. But that’s not a big deal. It’s still a cool, well-written and well-drawn comic that could be entertaining going forward. It just kind of…strains under the weight of being remade into the Netflix shows. Diamondback is the villain, even though everybody keeps repeating that he was dead in the comics. And Daredevil just kind of suggests out of nowhere that they should form a superhero team, with someone saying, to paraphrase, “If the Avengers are up there, there needs to be somebody down here”. Ignoring the fact that all 4 of these characters were Avengers at one point, and still could be considered Avengers. This sort of weird continuity stuff doesn’t bother me much, it just adds an odd “forced” spin on the comic. Like all of this was corporately mandated and Bendis is just following orders.
TL;DR: The new Defenders series is off to a solid start, if you can look past all the forced changes to make it as identical as possible to the upcoming TV show of the same name.
Detective Comics #958
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Alvaro Martinez
Sometimes I feel bad for not reviewing more DC Comics. I’m pretty sure I’m down to just a couple different Bat-titles, and even then I’m losing some of those, too. I think this bi-weekly schedule for a lot of comics is just running me ragged!
Still, new story in Detective Comics means I’ll try to jump back in!
Kate, Jean Paul and Lucas attend a basketball game, but the sudden arrival of a bleeding monster on the court cuts the game short. The monster is Nomoz, and he knew Azrael back when he was an agent of that crazy cult. He’s come with a warning, which he delivers when our heroes get back to the Belfry: the crazy cult has a new killer android named Ascalon, and it’s killing the cult’s priests.
Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne attends a gala at the Iceberg Lounge to try and get time with the night’s big act, who is apparently an old friend of Bruce’s. When tickets are sold out, the Penguin convinces Bruce to join a seedy poker game in the back, where the performer will be doing a private show. For some strange reason, one of the priests is also at the poker game, alongside rap moguls, actors and even Funky Flashman, DC’s parody of 1970s-era Stan Lee.
Ascalon shows up to kill the priest, but is stopped by the mystery performer: Zatanna!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I really liked this kick off to the new storyline. I liked the idea of that trio heading to a basketball game for some fun. I like the idea, in general, that these people hang out with each other out of costume for the purposes of fun. There needs to be more of that in all Bat-Family comics. I also like the idea that a big, furry, kids’ TV show monster-type dude just shows up in the middle of a basketball court bleeding from a torso wound. How did he even get all the way to the court? Was there no security? I suppose he may have eaten them. He is a monster, after all.
I pretty much dug all of this issue. Whether it’s the team dealing with this really odd crisis without Batman, to Bruce Wayne heading into the depths of the Iceberg Lounge on business. Even if it bugs me that this St. Dumas monk, who has apparently never been outside in public before, somehow got invited to a high stakes criminal poker game, I still enjoyed the scene. Tynion did a great job setting up the next Detective Comics storyline.
My only real qualm is the Zatanna reveal at the end. I love her showing up, but it’s never really explained why Batman has to go to the Iceberg Lounge as Bruce Wayne in order to try and get some private time with Zee during her performance. Can Batman not simply call Zatanna on a Justice League channel? Can Bruce Wayne not simply reach out to Zatanna on a personal level? Is this some part of Rebirth continuity we don’t yet know about? That Zatanna is a big mystery?
Also, why is Zatanna performing at the Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge? You’d think she’d know better.
TL;DR: Detective Comics kicks off another intriguing story with all the best story beats that this series is known for.
Generation X #3
Writer: Christina Strain
Artists: Amilcar Pinna and Roberto Poggi
Sadly, I just don’t think Generation X is for me. It’s kind of the comic I was expecting, but not the one I was hoping for. And I don’t care enough about any of the characters to stay on board. That’s on me. I tend to read comics mainly based on the characters involved.
While walking alone in Central Park, the X-Student Face is attacked by an unseen assailant and knocked unconscious. Eye-Boy, Hindsight and Nature Girl are also in the park and Nature Girl learns of the attack from the trees. They rush Face back to the infirmary, but he can’t tell anyone what happened. The others try to convince Hindsight to use his powers, but he takes some convincing. When he does decide to help (with Face’s blessing), Hindsight sees that Face was attacked by an unseen villain who as able to then slip through the cracks in the sidewalk to the caves underneath the Park. Rather than tell the adults, who would most likely bench them, this group of X-misfits decides to handle it themselves!
Also, Bling! is upset that she’s not in the class that would fast track her to the X-Men.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I liked this issue better than the previous two because it backs off the intense action and focuses on the characters. That’s what I want in a good teen X-Men comic. But the characters and the writing in this issue just didn’t click with me. And that’s totally on me. I’m sure lots of people loved it. But there was just something about the dialogue that felt a little stiff and/or stilted. Something about the characters that just didn’t gel. Not all of the characters, mind you. I rather like Bling!’s subplot. But nobody else does anything for me.
I’m also a little disappointed that — and I know this is going to be a weird nitpick — the students are going to fight bad guys. I realize this is a comic book. I realize that superheroes fight bad guys. But I dunno. I got excited at the premise of a team of mutants who are put together not to learn to be superheroes, but to just learn to survive and use their powers. I like the grounded idea behind that premise. We’ve had countless comics about teams of X-Students, and how many of them have ever stuck around? The original New Mutants? I think this just reflects my current tastes and what I want from comics, but I really would like a comic about a bunch of underpowered mutant students who aren’t training to be costumed superheroes.
I think that’s why I like Bling!’s subplot a lot. She wants to be trained as an X-Man, but the authority figures have stuck her in this group for reasons that aren’t being explained to her. That could be an interesting story. But yet here goes Bling! and her friends off to be superheroes and fight bad guys anyway.
Just give it a year or so, Bling! You’ll be tossed back into the general pile of X-mutants soon enough.
TL;DR: Generation X is a fine comic and I hope it finds an audience, but I just don’t think it’s for me. The teen dialogue is a little stiff, I don’t particularly care for any of the characters and it’s going to be more pure superheroic than I’d like. But that’s all on me.
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artist: Georges Duarte
I am at a loss for words. No, scratch that, because we’re about to embark on an epic rant. I can’t believe what has happened. Hulk still has the same writer, so clearly the story direction hasn’t changed. But…but everything else has.
Remember how this series started off as an excellently written exploration of being the Hulk as a metaphor for PTSD? And remember how it nearly broke Jen whenever the Hulk threatened to appear, and then she was really pushed over the edge into a feral, vicious Hulk in the previous issue? That’s gone, apparently. Just gone.
My mind is boggled. What happened to this comic between issues?!
It starts off well enough. Jen is at a trauma support group but is unwilling to share her story. When someone from the group tries to reach out to her, Jen just rolls her eyes at the empty platitudes and ‘feel better’ catch phrases. Then she goes for a drive to an empty construction site in Jersey, where she…she…calmly, and apparently in complete control, transforms into the Hulk. Then she just goes on a stress-releasing rampage through the construction site, blowing off steam by smashing stuff. She’s in total control. And she looks like the normal She-Hulk, albeit with her new color scheme. No more of that hunched, feral look from the previous issue.
And then (and then!), Hellcat shows up. Just, at the construction site. Even though Jen drove out of New York City to this out-of-the-way place in Jersey, Hellcat just shows up in full costume. And they go to have a chat in the site owner’s nearby cabin. They talk about Jen’s recovery, and Patsy stays in costume the whole time! They’re just hanging out and chatting! And from her comic, Patsy can magically change back and forth. Also, weirdly, there’s a moment when Jen sets the record straight that she’s “Hulk” now instead of “She-Hulk”.
When did that happen? And why did it happen? That sounds like a really interesting scene to me! Superhero legacies are a cool thing. Remember when Hank Pym decided to become the new Wasp after his wife died? That was cool! Why couldn’t we get at least a single scene of Jen deciding she’d like to be known as the Hulk now to honor her cousin, instead of She-Hulk. Does she not like the name ‘She-Hulk’ anymore? Why not? Also, did she take Amadeus Cho’s thoughts into account?
Anyway, we’re not done yet. When Hellcat leaves, she teases Jen about watching cooking shows and Jen calls it a “hobby”.
A hobby? What? The cooking show thing was set up wonderfully in the first issue that it was some kind of coping mechanism. That the droning patter of a cooking show helped Jen calm down and prevent the transformation. But now it’s her hobby?
In fact, there’s also a whole secondary plot going on about an Internet cooking show. These two chowderhead cameramen sneak some kind of monster formula into the chef’s food, and when he tries it out live on his Internet show, he turns into a monster. And Jen is watching the show live on Youtube and sees the monstrous transformation. So she watches these shows live on Youtube?
Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.
It feels like I missed an in-between issue or something. This is driving me nuts. How did this comic change its core concept so drastically? Tamaki was doing an amazing job on the PTSD metaphor! I thought stuff like watching cooking shows to calm down was a neat little factoid that really helped to build up this new comic’s premise! What the heck happened? Why can Jen now turn into the Hulk at will without any pain or anguish? Why the hell is she turning into the Hulk to blow off steam? Why is that cooking show thing now a hobby that she watches live on Youtube? How can Patsy Walker suddenly find her at a random, out-of-the-way construction yard in New Jersey?!
What happened to the Hulk comic that Mariko Tamaki was writing? Where did it go?
Was this an editorial decision? Was the comic not selling well as a PTSD metaphor, so Marvel asked her to turn it into a normal Hulk comic? Because that’s what this reads like. This seems to be a comic where the Hulk is going to investigate some random monster transformation she saw on Youtube. Who the hell cares?! This wasn’t supposed to be a comic where the superhero goes to fight whatever random conflict pops up next. This was a comic with a purpose! This was a comic with a specific premise and story it wanted to tell. This was a comic with real themes and meaning. Hulk was supposed to be more than just another regular old superhero comic.
Man, what happened? I really want to know.
Also, if I could, there’s another weird thing that bugged me. And maybe I’m not getting it, but I’d like your opinion. So the issue opens with Jen in the trauma support group, and this guy is telling a story about a date he just went on.
I don’t get it. Why did the date end? Because he still has his dead wife’s stuff five years later? Is there a specific cut off time for when you’re supposed to purge your DEAD wife from your psyche? And it’s not like he still had her stuff in his bedroom. It was in the garage, most likely stuffed away in storage. Granted, it’s weird that he brought it up on the first date. But the guy is just now getting back into the dating scene after his wife died (traumatically, it’s presumed, since he’s at a trauma support group). So at least he’s taken the steps to A.) put his wife’s stuff in storage in the garage, and B.) get back into the dating scene. Those seem like pretty solid, therapeutic steps to me after your wife died only five years ago.
Of all the examples one of these trauma support group characters could have given in the opening scene of this comic, what was the point of this one? I just don’t get it.
I just don’t get what happened with this issue of Hulk on any level.
TL;DR: After the first, gripping story arc, Hulk pulls a complete 180 and changes from a dramatic PTSD metaphor to just another superhero comic about fighting bad guys. My mind boggles at how bad this change feels. I am disappointed.
Ms. Marvel #19
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Marco Failla
Now this is more like it! This is sort of thing that made me fall in love with Ms. Marvel in the first place, and this is the sort of thing I would love to see her confront.
The Kahn family is celebrating Eid al-Adha, which includes a big extended family feast (including Zoe, who is replacing Bruno this year as Kamala’s white friend, to make Ammi happy). On the way home from picking up supplies, they find their neighborhood plastered with odd warning signs and flyers that say “Bring back the real Jersey City”. It’s troubling enough that Kamala slips out of dinner early to go for a walk, and she runs afoul of a couple of uniformed guys from Keepers of Intagration, Normalization and Deference (K.I.N.D.). They inform her that the properly elected mayor from the election issue has been deposed in a secret common council meeting and replaced with the Trump-esque, HYDRA-controlled new Mayor Worthy. K.I.N.D. is also going around demanding that all super-powered people register with the city.
Kamala immediately suspects that Basic Becky is behind this, the authoritarian teen that she was teamed up with during Civil War II. She tracks down Becky — or Lockdown, as she prefers — to the construction yard where they last fought, and they face off for a bit. Then Becky’s new henchman, Discord, arrives to fight and zaps Kamala into submission with electricity. She realizes that the new henchman is someone she’s fought before, but he’s masked. When he’s got Kamala bound up, he gets her to realize that even though as a candidate, Worthy was appealing to the darkest and worst traits of humanity, he still drew large, loud crowds. The people support this type of attitude, no matter how vile someone like Kamala might find it.
Then he knocks her out.
And those K.I.N.D. officers arrest Kamala’s brother for that one time he almost became an Inhuman.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Yep, this new story kickoff contains pretty much everything I want from a Ms. Marvel comic! We get another great family scene, introducing us to some new, fascinating (to an outsider like me) Muslim customs. That’s always a welcome treat in this comic. We get the return of some villains, giving Ms. Marvel a Rogues Gallery. And then I love the twist that Kamala is going to have to confront the fact that Trump supporters are people, too! I think that’s a perfect issue for her to tackle, especially in all the ways that Kamala Khan has become a symbol. It would be so easy to make these people mind-controlled by the evil HYDRA operations, but there’s no denying that these people exist in large numbers and that, to them, they are legitimately afraid. That’s a perfect issue for Kamala to tackle, and I’m excited that Wilson is diving in to such a potentially controversial topic.
There’s also a really great scene where Kamala learns some new stretching tricks with her powers. That was great!
TL;DR: Another great story looks to be kicking off in Ms. Marvel, in an issue that packs in all the things I love about this comic.
X-Men Blue #5
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artists: Julian Lopez and Cory Smith
I’m sorry, everybody. I went on a bit of a rant in my review of the previous issue, when Jimmy Hudson was introduced to the team. I even promised friend-of-the-site Javier that I would try and give Jimmy Hudson a chance. But man, Jimmy’s bugging me already. I read comics almost primarily based on love of characters and stories. And Jimmy Hudson is a charisma-vacuum that threatens to suck all of the life out of this comic.
He should have stayed dead with the Ultimate Universe.
The X-Men and Jimmy Hudson battle the new Marauders in the middle of the bar, and while most of the X-Men are fun, Jimmy is just weird. Like, Iceman gets in a fun little rivalry with Ultimate Quicksilver (how far he has fallen…), and has some great one-liners. Cyclops gets a cool eye-beam-ricochet moment. Even Angel gets in a good zinger. But Jimmy is just a wild, feral man who can, apparently, turn his metal claws back into bone at will? Is that really his power?!
Meanwhile, Jean Grey tries to read some minds and finds out that the Marauders are being led by Miss Sinister. She scooped them all up after they came through from the Ultimate Universe, but then Jimmy got loose. Now that she has met Jean Grey, however, Miss Sinister doesn’t care about Jimmy anymore and she orders her team to just leave. The X-Men invite Jimmy to join their team and live with them, while Jean worries about what Miss Sinister might be up to next.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
Maybe if Jimmy Hudson was a different character I would like this more. Bunn clearly has a good head for these characters. Iceman has been delightful this whole time. But there’s nothing about Jimmy Hudson that gets me excited for his inclusion in this series. Under no circumstances do I, personally, think every team of X-Men needs a Wolveirne, which is pretty much something they literally say in this issue.
Besides, this team of time-displaced Young X-Men already tried that when Marvel added X-23 to the team in one of their previous iterations. Apparently that didn’t work out for them since she didn’t get invited back, even though she’s a much much better choice than Jimmy Hudson.
Fortunately, the rest of the issue is mostly nice when you just ignore Jimmy Hudson. All of the X-Men get some nice banter and zingers, filled with personality. I’m not big into the idea of the Ultimate X-Men rejects having also made the jump into the normal universe, as if they’re as important as Miles Morales, but whatever. I’m probably just bitter at how far Ultimate Quicksilver has fallen since his stunning heroic turn in the first two volumes of The Ultimates. And as little as I care for Miss Sinister, I like the idea that she totally gave up on Jimmy Hudson after meeting someone far more interesting in Jean Grey. And I liked Magneto’s reaction to the X-Men bringing Jimmy home.
TL;DR: As much as I dislike the idea of adding the most knock-offiest of all Wolverine knock-offs to this team, Bunn is still writing a fun and enjoyable X-Men comic. The art has gone downhill since the first issue, though, due to an almost immediate switch in the art team.
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 June 17, 2017, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged Daredevil, Defenders, Detective Comics, Generation X, Hulk, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, Kamala Khan, Luke Cage, Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, X-Men: Blue. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.