Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 6/24/17
Woo boy, do we have a wallop of a column today. As I’ve whined about in the past, all of my favorite comics tend to have the habit of coming out in the same week. Or maybe I’m just reading too many comics. Whatever the case may be, I went all out and have reviewed nearly a dozen comics this week!
We’ve got Power Rangers, we’ve got a new Spider-Man comic, we’ve got Luke Cage and Iceman, and I tried to throw in more DC comics, like Batman, Harley Quinn and hopefully the start of my Aquaman coverage. Thankfully, there were some real gems this week.
But the standout, as has been said numerous times, is the new issue of Silver Surfer. This consistent Comic Book of the Week is going to break my damn heart.
I almost jumped back into reviewing The Mighty Thor now that the Shi’ar story arc is over, but this week was a standalone issue to introduce The War Thor…which, I guess, is similar to The War Doctor? It was a fine issue, and I suppose this new concept could be fun, but there were just way too many comics on my review pile already.
Comic Reviews: Aquaman #25, Batman #25, Batwoman #4, Iceman #2, Luke Cage #2, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #16, Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #1, Silver Surfer #12 and The Wild Storm #5.
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Stjepan Sejic
As promised, I’m going to try and read more DC Comics, starting with this jumping on point for Aquaman. I loved Geoff John’s Aquaman run at the start of the New 52, but quickly fell off when new writers took over. Not sure why.
But now I’m back! In no small reason because DC has brought on artist Stjepan Sejic, one of my favorite artists in comics right now. I’m trying to figure out the best way to gush to you readers about Sejic’s own comic, Sunstone, because I finally just finished that series and am head-over-heels in love with it. If nothing else, I’ll gush about it right now.
Sunstone is SOOOO GOOD, you guys! As is this new issue of Aquaman.
Aquaman is believed to be dead and a new, more ruthless leader has taken the throne of Atlantis. King Corum Rath is your typical arrogant asshole monarch. He’s a hardline isolationist, and is probably itching for war with the surface. He wants the kingdom purged of all mutants. He’s hoarding all mystical items to himself. He’s got sycophantic followers. He makes secret deals with local crime lords to have them keep power in their neighborhoods. Typical stuff.
Meanwhile, Arthur Curry is in hiding in the slums of the Ninth Tride — though he can’t help lending a hand to those in need. And sure enough, there are soon whispers of “The Aquaman”, a vigilante in the Ninth Tride. So King Rath sends his forces into the Tride to crack down on everybody, and sure enough, Aquaman gets involved and beats them up. He impresses a beautiful young mutant woman, who insists on joining him.
Double meanwhile, Vulko and his allies sneak into a mystical items warehouse and are able to get word to the surface world, to Mera, that Arthur is still alive. Mera snaps out of his sadness and heads back to the sea!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This definitely works as a fine jumping on point. I haven’t read an Aquaman comic since shortly after Geoff Johns, so I have no idea what’s been happening for years now. But I was able to catch up quite easily to the new king, the new regime and Aquaman’s status quo — though honestly, you’re not hiding very well if you continue to fight bad guys while looking like Aquaman, while dressed as Aquaman, while letting people calling you “Aquaman” and by using Aquaman’s famous power to control sea life. I kind of like the idea of Aquaman starting a grassroots campaign in the depths of the city to eventually overthrow their cruel new king. I hope that’s where we’re going, but after this issue, I’m on board for whatever Abnett and Sejic have in mind.
And seriously, Sejic’s art is as gorgeous as any of us could have hoped. The characters are beautiful and dynamic, the settings are lush and expansive, and the cultural aspect of Atlantis is captured quite well. Everybody is dressed wonderfully, and everybody just looks great. I hope Sejic can stick around on this comic for a long time. He needs more mainstream work, and I’m always happy when DC throws him some.
Also, go read Sunstone. It’s free on his Deviantart. You’re also welcome to do, as I did, and buy all the trade paperbacks.
TL;DR: Aquaman #25 is a perfect jumping on point for a reader like me, who mostly just wants to marvel at Stjepan Sejic’s work, but also wants to get back into Aquaman. Looks like the start of a fine story.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Tom King kicks off this awesomely named The War of Jokes and Riddles this week, which is strangely a flashback story for some reason. I’m not sure why this couldn’t be told in the present day.
Bruce Wayne narrates the start of the War of Jokes and Riddles to Catwoman, so that she’ll know what he did before they get married. Back in Year Two, both the Joker and the Riddler were annoyed because Batman’s very existence had ruined their respective fun bits. Joker couldn’t find anything funny anymore, and regular riddles just didn’t matter to Riddler. So Riddler breaks out of police custody and tracks down the Joker to propose a team-up, but Joker shoots him in the stomach instead. The war is on.
Also, there’s a lot more nuance and mood than my quick synopsis implies.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
King does a great job with mood and tension-building this issue. Batman’s narration, as he’s telling the story to Catwoman, is perfect for all the set-up required to kick off this event. In the end, it seems like it might just be another ‘all the villains take part’ sort of Batman story, but I have faith in King to pull this off. Or maybe I just like the name of the story. It’s nifty and sounds both ominous and funny, which is what a war between Joker and Riddler should be like. So yeah, this issue does a perfectly fine and entertaining job in setting up the big story to come, with Janin pulling off some spectacular art along the way. There’s a great knock-knock joke moment between Riddler and Joker that has to be experienced.
TL;DR: The War of Jokes and Riddles kicks off in style, with a strongly written, well drawn introductory issue that really lays out the heart of the conflict to come.
Writers: Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV
Artist: Steve Epting
I had high hopes for this new Batwoman series, but eeeehhhhh. The first storyline ends in kind of a mess.
Batwoman gives her pirate allies an EMP to stop all the bombs, then she fights with Knife in a cave. Turns out Knife is mad at Batwoman because Knife was in love with Safiyah, but then Kate showed up and ruined everything. They fight, but Knife gets away, but at least Kate saved the island. She leaves with Julia, who is upset with how Kate has been going about her business. Also, the Kali Corporation has a secret boss.
Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.
This series started off with so much promise. Batwoman heading alone to a mysterious tropical island where she had some secretive romantic history? Sounds awesome! But over the past four issues, Bennett and Tynion have failed to make me care about the island, the Kali Corporation and, most importantly, their new villain, Knife. The past four issues have mostly been set-up, and yet we didn’t really spend any time getting to know any of the new people or places that were set up, especially the seemingly most important new person, Kate’s ex-flame Safiyah. I don’t think we even met her.
Instead, it’s just been Kate fighting this Knife lady again and again, and Knife is just not interesting. We get whispers and flashbacks of who Knife was in the past, but none of it worked to build her into anything other than an angry lady who keeps fighting Batwoman. And this issue was all fight. And it ended in a draw. And stopping the insidious Kali Corporation — which is just another vaguely evil, vaguely weird company — came down to just an EMP afterthought. Then Kate left the island before we even got to know the place. As far as I can tell, this mysterious island contained exactly one bar, a bunch of pirates, and then Kate just gives it all up in the end to keep sailing with the bossy Julia Pennyworth.
TL;DR: If you want another issue of Batwoman fighting her boring new villain again, then this issue is for you. It’s all boring fight and little consequence as the first storyline comes to a seemingly rushed end.
Harley Quinn #22
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner
Artist: John Timms
We’re back with more ongoing Harley Quinn coverage! I love this comic, it’s a ton of fun and I’m sorry I missed a couple issues. No harm done, though.
Also, I’ve decided to stop bothering with the back-up features. Paul Dini is a legend, and I’m sure plenty of people love his classic Harley feature, but I’ll stick with Palmiotti and Conner’s modern take, thank you very much.
Harley Quinn’s parents are in town, so she dresses up like a regular girl and takes them to see her workplace at the old folks’ home — but it’s really just a ruse, since it’s her day off. She gets them to think she has a full day of work so they bow out and head to their hotel. Not sure why she did that, since Harley immediately heads home to start getting ready for their dinner later that evening. Her bath is interrupted by Harley Sinn, who has kidnapped Mason and Madame Macabre. She and Harley get into a scuffle before Sinn pins her down and tells Harley that she needs her help to take down the corrupt mayor of New York City!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t get to spend more time with Harley’s parents — even if it is kind of insane that she has normal, ordinary parents, and apparently three brothers. It makes perfectly normal sense that she’d have a perfectly normal family. She was a college-educated psychiatrist, after all, whose madness only manifested after meeting the Joker. But, like, you’re telling me the Joker never once tracked down her family to murder them? And her parents never got word about Harley’s various stints in prison or in Arkham? They don’t seem to know anything about the Joker, her crazy life or even her white skin, since she wears makeup and a wig to look like the old Harleen.
But hey, that bit of weirdness only enhances the story, since we get to see Harley get all flustered by trying to appease her parents. Who hasn’t had to deal with that as an adult? It makes the story much more relatable and fun. Throw in the twist that Harley Sinn wants to take down the evil mayor and needs Harley’s help — while her parents are in town — and you’ve got the makings of a solid new story.
And I know I should say this more often, but Timms’ art is perfect for this comic and he does another spectacular job here.
TL;DR: A new storyline kicks off in the usual style, this one promising to be character-focused, which is always a favorite of mine.
Writer: Sina Grace
Artists: Edgar Salazar and Ibraim Roberson
Two issues in and I may have found my favorite new X-Men comic. And I’m glad it’s the one I expected, because Iceman was always my favorite regular X-Man.
Iceman teams up with Kitty Pryde, his last ex-girlfriend before coming out as gay. They head to the midwest to rescue a new mutant with the power to control electrical fields, including those within the human body. Bobby and Kitty have to save the kid from a literal mob of angry townsfolk who have cornered him in a Wal-Mart — but his powers cause their powers to go haywire. After being chased into a back office, Bobby gets the bright idea to just knock the kid out, and then his powers don’t bother them anymore. Then he puts the townsfolk on ice and Kitty steals a freight truck and they bring the kid back to the school for proper mutant training.
Meanwhile, during the whole encounter, Bobby and Kitty have that awkward conversation where she tells him that she’ll be there for him if he needs someone to talk to. Bobby never told her that he was gay (she had to find out from Goldballs), so they have a few things between them to work out.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
I liked Kitty and Bobby as a couple, even if it was really really brief. I was disappointed when they broke up. But then him coming out as gay would have made that moot anyway. And fortunately, writer Sina Grace is able to use that past history between them to tell a really great story about two friends burying some hatchets and helping each other out. My synopsis may have focused more on the action, but this issue is all about the conversation between Bobby and Kitty, and it’s pretty much perfect. Grace writes them both as cutely awkward and funny, having a real conversation in the midst of their usual X-Men craziness.
And this is exactly what I want from this Iceman comic. Focus on Bobby Drake as a person first and foremost, and then use his superhero/mutant angle to inform that first part. Personally, I couldn’t even begin to understand the emotions that go into letting your ex-girlfriend know that you’ve since realized you’re gay, but Grace makes the conversation real, personal and fun to read. I hope that defines his comic going forward.
TL;DR: The second issue of Iceman is just as delightful as the first, offering more of a grounded, personal look at the life of Bobby Drake, as a friend, a confidant and as a superhero.
Luke Cage #2
Writer: David F. Walker
Artist: Nelson Blake II
Walker seems to have given a lot of thought to his new Luke Cage storyline, but I think we’re losing a bit of the previous comic’s charm in all the explanations and set-up.
Warhawk saves Luke Cage from bleeding out, then introduces him to all of the other people who were experimented on by Dr. Noah Burstein. Luke was the only one who turned out perfectly, while the rest — like Warhawk — are pretty crazy. One such guy is Frankie Corello, the son of mob boss Mateo Corello, who has kidnapped Dr. Mornay to get her to reproduce the serum that Burstein made to keep Frankie’s psychotic tendencies in check. But Mornay has no idea what she’s doing, and the new serum she makes seems to trigger Frankie’s craziness even more!
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
This issue was fine, but so far, this series lacks the creativity and charm of the previous series, Power Man and Iron Fist. Walker has taken Luke out of the great Harlem community he created, but hasn’t done anything similar with the New Orleans setting. And while we’re meeting a lot of new characters, none of them are standouts, with the possible exception of the crazy Warhawk. The other experiments are just ordinary people, and the Corellos are just your typical crime family. And it’s not like the powers are all that special. It’s just guys who are strong or tough, and sometimes their skin turns blue. Walker seems to have simply abandoned all the creativity, heart and style of his previous Luke Cage comic.
TL;DR: The new issue is fine, but none of the characters, settings or the premise has captured the same spirit and magic of Walker’s previous Luke Cage-starring comic. That’s a little disappointing.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #16
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Hendry Prasetya
We’ve come at last to the grand finale! And while I don’t necessarily think Higgins nails the landing, it’s still a fun, enjoyable comic. The problem is a little too much explanation for what’s happening.
When Billy and Alternate Trini surrendered to Evil Tommy, it was all a ploy to get closer to him to use the Blue Triceratops Coin to access the Morphin Grid through Evil Tommy, which Billy explains just a bit too much. Anyway, they zap Evil Tommy and all his goons, evening the battlefield. And in the real world, with Trini prisoner to Rita, she calls upon the Black Dragon armor that she hot-wired to spring her own trap. She beats up Rita’s goons and grabs the real world Blue Triceratops Coin, using it to reestablish everyone’s regular-colored connection to the Grid, and allowing them to call on Billy’s Zord to form the Megazord! The good guys win, the Goldars lose and Rita retreats.
The Power Rangers then use all that tech to cross over into the alternate dimension, where they are instrumental in helping everybody defeat Evil Tommy and his forces. Evil Tommy goes one-on-one with Regular Tommy (without their costumes, despite what the cover implies), and he eventually sacrifices himself by jumping off a cliff.
The Power Rangers say their goodbyes to their alternate versions and return to the real world, where they set about repairing the Command Center and saving Zordon. And meanwhile, Evil Tommy has found himself teleported to the real world as well, but he’s abducted by the military.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I have loved this storyline since the very beginning, but this ending just kinda sorta stumbles a tiny bit. It’s a bit of a jumble. First, rather than some badass moment where Billy morphs and takes on Evil Tommy, we instead get Billy and Alternate Trini on some long explanation about the Morphin Grid and Coin proximity and blah blah blah. And this is interspersed with Regular Trini springing her own trap on Rita in the real world, which also requires a lot of explanation about how she’s hot-wired the Black Dragon armor. Both moments were probably really cool, but the fact that both moments required long explanations that were then interspersed over the top of one another made them each a bit of a slog. Especially when none of it makes any particular sense, and you’ve just got to roll with the idea that “yep, they did stuff with the Morphin Grid, sure”.
And beyond that, everything else was about as jumbled as big, gigantic fight scenes can get. Everybody’s fighting something. There’s stuff exploding everywhere. More characters join the fray. Some characters you thought were gone or depowered are actually still in the middle of it. Billy still doesn’t morph. Evil Tommy tries to goad Tommy with the usual platitudes about being evil and independent. There’s some creativity, wit and heart on display here and there, but it’s all overpowered.
TL;DR: Everything just kind of jams together for a messy and satisfying ending.
Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #1
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artists: Adam Kubert and Goran Parlov
Chip Zdarsky is an up-and-coming (if he’s not already here) comedic comic book writer, and I am very excited to dive into his Spider-Man comic. As much as I enjoy Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man, I am more than ready for another take on the character. I know there are plenty of Spidey comics out there, but it always feels more real when it’s a solid, mainline title. And while it’s a little disappointing that Marvel had to re-invent a new series to give Zdarsky instead of letting him have Amazing, I’ll take what I can get.
And be quite pleased with it.
Spider-Man decides to take time off from being a jet-setting super rich CEO to get back to the small stuff. He has lunch with the Human Torch and intercepts a good, old-fashioned mugging. And this is quite the mugging! First of all, the victim is a cute lady who gives Spidey her number and asks him to call her for a date later. Second of all, Peter steals one of the robbers’ phones because it’s a Stark-phone with a new operating system, which means someone hacked the unhackable Starktech, which is curious. Third of all, Ant-Man randomly shows up to lend a hand, but reveals that his helmet got damaged, so he can’t grow to full size anymore.
Ant-Man then takes Spider-Man to meet the Mason, a tech genius who helps superheroes with their gadgets, gizmos and gear (Spidey’s never heard of him). Mason is brother to the Tinkerer, and has decided to put his skills to good use to counteract his brother’s evil ways. Uatu Jackson is working for the Mason, and he hacks back into the Stark-phone, pinging off another phone in Chicago. So Peter decides to head to Chicago to get to the bottom of this, but the house he vists is protected by Iron-Man (or, more likely, Ironheart).
Meanwhile, Peter does call that woman and they make a date for tomorrow. But in his rush to get to Chicago, Peter forgot all about seeing a movie with Johnny Storm. Johnny is outside Peter’s place waiting for him when he meets a woman who introduces herself as Teresa, Peter’s sister!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
Welp, this was great! I always meant to read more of Zdarsky’s work, and what I’ve seen has been great, but this will probably be my first major influx of Chip Zdarsky hilarity. And this issue is definitely hilarious. He’s got a great handle on Peter Parker and Spider-Man, as well as everybody else. All the characters are real standouts, and all of them are funny in their own ways, even the woman he saved, Rebecca. It helps that she’s a stand-up comic. And I look forward to their date because I’ve been hoping Spider-Man would get a real girlfriend again for awhile now. Romance and relationships are a key part of the Peter Parker story, and that aspect has been sorely missing from Amazing Spider-Man for a long time.
The last great romance in Amazing Spider-Man was Otto and Anna Maria. We need that kind of magic again, and I think Zdarsky is off to a good start here.
There were some hiccups to the overall story that bugged me here and there, but nothing super major. Like, this whole mystery is based on Peter somehow catching a glance at the inner workings of some mugger’s cell phone and thinking it was weird? Or the idea that everybody from Tony Stark to Sam Wilson goes to this Mason guy for tech help? Just weird nit picky stuff like that, which doesn’t detract from the overall comic.
This was a fun and enjoyable Spidey comic in all the best ways. Spidey himself is hugely entertaining, he has a lot of fun with some supporting superheroes, and Zdarsky does a fine job introducing some interesting new characters. And, of course, Kubert is a legend, so it all looks gorgeous. What more could anyone ask for in a Spider-Man comic?
TL;DR: While it’s a slight shame that Chip Zdarsky doesn’t get Amazing Spider-Man, I am more than willing to let Marvel create new Spider-Man comics on the side if they’re this funny and enjoyable.
Silver Surfer #12
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Michael and Laura Allred
Dan Slott and the Family Allred are going to break my heart. They know it. I know it. There’s no stopping it. There’s only the slow, heart-breaking march towards the next issue of Silver Surfer.
This issue features a panel that’s about as heartbreaking as any of the cliffhangers Brian K. Vaughn has dropped in Saga. And that’s saying something.
Dawn’s father has died, and she’s in shock and mourning. After spending some time with her sister, brother-in-law and new niece, Dawn and the Surfer return to the stars. They go to the planet Euphoria, which they’ve visited from time to time. Euphoria creates a simulation of Dawn’s father to help her mourn, and over the course of about two months, they all slowly ween her off her dead father while she plays with all the friendly aliens. Eventually, it’s the wisdom of Mama Hub who really helps Dawn accept her father’s death, and she and the Surfer fly off together.
Comic Rating: 10/10 – Fantastic.
Damn, you guys, just damn. This issue was heartbreaking. I think I was tearing up by the end. It doesn’t help that stories about children and their fathers is one of my kryptonites. Slott really went above and beyond with this issue, from the quiet and tense scenes with the Greenwood family, to the story of how the Surfer and their alien friends try to help Dawn. To the quiet, contemplative conversation with Mama Hub about the endlessness of a family’s love. Every single page was touching.
But this panel in particularly destroyed me. It’s like the best of the Saga emotional cliffhangers, and it just comes out of nowhere in the middle of the comic.
I don’t know what’s going to happen to Dawn Greenwood. I don’t know where this story could possibly go. I don’t know how the Silver Surfer can ever recover. I just know that I’m going to read the end. I’m going to have my heart broken. And then I’m going to buy all of the trade paperbacks so that I have the entirety of the Slott/Allred Silver Surfer run in my permanent comic book collection.
I’m not going to be ready for this.
TL;DR: An incredibly touching issue about death, grieving and a family’s love is a series highlight, though it reads like prologue for whatever devastating ending this series will have over the next few months.
The Wild Storm #5
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Eh, this series didn’t turn out like I’d hoped. Maybe we’re building to something great, and we’re still only in set-up mode, but it’s just not hooking me.
Mike, the IO assassin who is dying of a brain tumor, is assigned the job to hunt down and kill Angie Spica. But when he looks over the files and the raw data, he can see that she’s just some scared woman who only wanted to be heard, and therefore doesn’t deserve to be assassinated. When he tells this to his boss, the guy is not happy and Mike is forced to quit on principle. He’s later visited by a representative from Executive Protection Services who offers him honest work and better medical treatment.
Spica, meanwhile, is located by Marlowe’s teleporting computerish lady. They sit down and have a coffee and a chat, and the teleporting lady plugs herself into Spica to give her origin story. She was an astronaut and part of a team that tried to use the Bleed for faster than light travel. It didn’t work, everybody was killed, and some being from beyond reckoning tossed her back to Earth.
Also, Zealot investigates the scene of the previous issue’s fight. She’s greeted by a Daemon, who advices her to just stay out of this whole mess.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
Nothing at all exciting seems to be happening in this comic, at least not yet. I kind of like the idea that Mike has some heart to him, and he won’t just murder Angie. But that’s little comfort. The scene with Angie and the teleporting computer lady in the diner is also neat, but too little at this point to really kickstart the story. General stuff just seems to be happening to characters we’re vaguely aware of. We do get at least some explanation for who the various agencies are, but I’m pretty sure this Executive Protection Services group is yet another one. Unless we’ve heard of them before? I can’t possibly remember. The Wild Storm feels like such a quiet dud. There’s no energy. No excitement. Just an endless supply of characters and secret government agencies that employ these characters.
TL;DR: There’s still a ton of world-building going on, but the story and characters have failed to really capture my interest at this point.
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 24, 2017, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, X-Men and tagged Aquaman, Batwoman, Boom!, Dawn Greenwood, Iceman, Luke Cage, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, Power Man, Power Rangers, Silver Surfer, Stjepan Sejic, The Wild Storm, Wildstorm. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.