Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 7/8/17
Oh man oh man! Spider-Man: Homecoming! I’m writing this opening paragraph before seeing Spider-Man: Homecoming and I don’t have time to update it with my thoughts on the film. I’m hoping I liked the movie! And I hope you henchies like it too!
Kind of a light week on comics this week, but it’s giving me time to catch up on some titles where I fell behind. So check out new reviews for Iron Fist and Unstoppable Wasp! The latter of which wins Comic Book of the Week for a really nice issue focusing on the original Wasp, Janet Van Dyne!
I think this is the most I’ve ever cared about Janet Van Dyne. Not to say she’s not a great character, she’s just never been one of my beloved characters. But this issue does a great job with her and Nadia!
Comic Reviews: Batman #26, Harley Quinn #23, Hawkeye #8, Iron Fist #5 and Unstoppable Wasp #7.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
I don’t know how long The War of Jokes and Riddles will last, but two issues in and we’re still just kind of setting up. I’m starting to wonder…
Joker and Riddler have started killing pretty much everybody they come across. Joker kills his taxi driver and the nice family whose house he wants to move into. Riddler kills the back-alley doctor who patched up his bullet wound. Riddler then goes and tries to recruit Poison Ivy, while the Joker gang-presses Carmine Falcone into working for him to kill the Riddler. Falcone sends some goons after Riddler, but Ivy kills them all. Because of this failure, the Joker kills Falcone’s mom and a few more of his goons — leaving alive a young, pre-Penguin Oswald Cobblepot.
Batman is one step behind all of these deaths, though in his narration/recounting to Catwoman, he notes the names and a bit of history of everyone who was killed. Because that’s one thing Batman did during The War of Jokes and Riddles.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Hear me out here: I don’t think we’re actually going to get a War of Jokes and Riddles. I haven’t really read any upcoming solicitations or interviews. I don’t know what DC and King have planned for this story arc. I’m kind of just spitballing off the top of my head. But the past two issues have been little more than set-up. And both issues have featured big splash pages of the Joker, Riddler and their forces, their teams of Batman villains. Why would you use similar splash pages two issues in a row?
Either King is really stretching this out…or maybe this is a big, satirical examination of the bluster of Big Comic Book Events! I predict, with zero certainty, that we’re all being played.
That’s probably not true.
If we’re to take this seriously, this was another fine, enjoyable build-up issue to the actual War of Jokes and Riddles. Joker and Riddler start killin’ people and claiming allies, in their own unique ways. It’s all written very well, including Batman’s smart and personal narration. King and Janin have a great handle on all the characters involved. The art here is phenomenal and exactly what I was hoping for from Janin after his work on Grayson. He’s killing it.
TL;DR: The War of Jokes and Riddles is off to a suspiciously slow start, but what meat we do get is damn good in story, character building and art.
Harley Quinn #23
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: John Timms
Poison Ivy makes her return to Harley Quinn for the first time since that epic issue last year. And she’s teaming up with Red Tool! Two of my favorite characters coming to a head!
Harley Quinn knocks out Harley Sinn and has Mason and his mom tie her up downstairs so they can deal with their mutual mayor problem later (Chief Spoonsdale is having similar problems and has a nasty run-in with the mayor at a restaurant downtown). Harley and her date, Goat Boy, get all fancied up and meet up with her parents at an even fancier dinner on a yacht. It’s a wonderful evening, until Clock King and Sportsmaster ruin it by trying to rob everybody. Harley’s just gonna have to kick their freakin’ asses!
Meanwhile, Red Tool approaches Poison Ivy about a secret project.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I pretty much loved this issue. I like the upcoming showdown with the corrupt mayor, even if he is a little too evil. I trust Connor and Palmiotti to tell a great story about Harley teaming up with Spoonsdale and Harley Sinn to really stick it to the bastard. The rest of the issue is super fun, too! I like that they’re finally doing something interesting with Goat Boy, and he and Harley both clean up super nice for their dinner. Everybody loves a little class in their comics.
The dinner with Harley’s parents goes great, and we learn that her dad has been in the slammer a few times, so maybe it’s not super weird that they’re so accepting of their weird daughter. Timms nails the art perfectly for this section, for all of it, really. And the team up/conflict between Poison Ivy and Red Tool is only teased in this issue, but I am very much looking forward to that!
TL;DR: Harley Quinn is juggling multiple storylines again, and all of them are super fun with excellent art.
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Leonard Romero
Is Kelly Thompson’s Hawkeye still great? Yep! It’s still great!
In her confrontation with her father, Kate Bishop learns that he’s had Madame Masque transfer his consciousness into a younger clone so that he can be young and awesome again. He’s also developed persuasion powers, and he’s about to use them on Kate to erase her memory of their meeting, but she escapes with a badass leap out the window. But it’s all for naught, because Madame Masque was listening in and learned the secret to getting powers through cloning: It’s gotta be in your blood to begin with.
Once she’s back to her office, Kate is ambushed by a teenage girl looking to hire her to find her missing father. Exhausted and bruised, Kate still takes the case and tracks him down to an underground fight club (she abandons her friends when she heads inside. They only wanted to help).
Kate beats up the first guy who challenges her in the ring, but then she’s ambushed by a bunch of guys and is knocked out cold.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Thompson’s Hawkeye is just a damn good, entertaining comic. She’s got the main character down pat, and no matter what situation she puts Kate Bishop in, Kate is always just plain cool. Whether she’s having a tough conversation with her dad, or escaping his office like the best superhero ever, or dealing with a new, young client, or brushing off her friends or kicking ass in a fight club, Kate Bishop is awesome in this comic. Thompson makes it look easy, with solid character drama, a cool supporting cast and mysteries abound. And Romero is double all of that. This team is making a great, hugely entertaining comic, and this issue just keeps adding to the interest and the coolness.
TL;DR: Another solid, enjoyable issue of Hawkeye moves the story along in some neat and interesting ways. Can’t ask for more from this series.
Iron Fist #5
Writer: Ed Brisson
Artist: Mike Perkins
Iron Fist was one of those comics I lost track of when I was laid up in the hospital. But I’ve stayed up to speed, and I’m jumping back in just as the first storyline wraps up!
Surprise, surprise, the Liu-Shi tournament was all a fake. The bad guys just wanted to steal Danny’s chi so they could go back and take over K’un-Lun. With all the proof he needs, Danny charges right into the council room with his accusations, but the bad guys try to spin lies. Finally, the Wolf reveals himself as the runner up for the original Iron Fist (which makes him several hundred years old, for some reason). When he lost that original fight, the leaders of K’un-Lun instead named him The One and tasked him with being the last opponent on a person’s journey to become the Iron Fist. But when Yu Ti started letting Outlanders join (like Orson Randell), The One quit in frustration and founded Liu-Shi. He challenges Danny.
Iron Fist and The One duke it out all dangerous style, with both of them getting the upper hand at one point or another. Eventually, the crooked council members try to ambush Danny, and The One temporarily sides with Iron Fist to stop and punish the cheaters. Danny insists they keep fighting afterwards, and he’s found his own chi and kicks The One’s butt. When he refuses to submit, an angry Danny turns his head to paste.
Afterwards, the good people of Liu-Shi wish Danny well as he departs, possibly to go and rebuild K’un-Lun.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I could have used more time with this storyline. At the beginning, it felt pretty epic, and even though it wasn’t as dazzlingly awesome as it maybe could have been, I still feel it’s been wrapped up pretty quickly. Brisson had a nice little fighting tournament story on his hands, and I wouldn’t have minded spending a little more time on the island of Liu-Shi to really flesh it out. Instead, it all seems to be over rather quickly. Danny didn’t even properly work his way through the tournament after all the corruption came out of the woodwork. And the fights, while coolish, were mostly squished together and done in rapid paneling. But I can’t complain too much. Brisson wrote an Iron Fist story with a strong focus on both Danny and martial arts, while weaving in some new aspects of Iron Fist lore/mythology. It’s not his fault he’s not as good as the team of Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction.
TL;DR: Solid ending to a nice kung fu story, but I feel like it was over too soon. I could have spent more time fleshing out this whole adventure.
Unstoppable Wasp #7
Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Artist: Veronica Fish
I’m super annoyed at myself for missing out on the past two issues, because the first Unstoppable Wasp storyline ended in grand style! Fortunately, I’m back with this delightful issue starring the original Wasp!
After the horror and calamity of Nadia and her team’s battle with the Red Room, Janet Van Dyne is called in to help calm the situation. Janet narrates the issue as she goes with Nadia to the hospital, where they are taking Ying after she passed out at the end of last issue. Nadia and the girls managed to get the bomb out of Ying’s head, but then she passed out. Janet does her best to try and calm a frantic Nadia. But Nadia is blaming herself for the attack on ting and her lab falling apart, and she doesn’t trust any of the doctors or hospital employees because they could be spies from the Red Room!
After calming Nadia down, Janet makes some calls, as both a former Avenger and as CEO of Pym Labs, to get Nadia’s lab up and running properly, and getting her team back together.
But then Whirlwind and the Beetle show up to cash in on the contract for Nadia and Ying. The two Wasps team up and just kick all their butts in a fun and entertaining way. Whirlwind tries to start spinning to bring the hospital down, but an awoke Ying pounces and tries to stab him! Janet calms everybody down, the bad guys get stopped, and she takes the girls to her place for tacos!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
Like I said above, I’ve never particularly cared about the original Wasp. It’s not that I dislike her, it’s just that I never cared. I’ve never really been an Avengers guy. But this was a super delightful issue told through Janet Van Dyne’s positive narration. Whitley really gets into her head and personality, making Janet an especially vivid and interesting character. Whitley draws on her long history of superheroics, her important and impressive character evolutions, and a lot of the implied ideas about her, like that she’s the Avengers’ “team mom” despite never actually being a mom. But she’s a great one with her new step-daughter Nadia.
So Whitley nails the original Wasp, and just kills it with everybody else, too! The team-up between the two Wasps is great, as is his handling of both Whirlwind and Beetle. I love how he plays up Wasp and Whirlwind’s history, while adding some of the new Beetle’s spunk. Great use of super-villains, and it’s a superhero slugfest that really informs the characters and their current situation. This isn’t just a villain fight for the sake of a villain fight. I loved it.
And Veronica Fish is a great fill-in on a comic like this. The whole creative team was top notch this issue.
Except for a really weird Cory Booker name-drop. That was more awkward than anything else. Like, is he cool enough and well-known enough to get name drops now?
TL;DR: The Unstoppable Wasp pumps the brakes just slightly for a very fun guest appearance by the original namesake character. Her appearance fits perfectly into the ongoing story and really enriches this issue.
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!