Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 7/15/17

Can you believe we have to wait all the way until November for another superhero movie? Man, what’s wrong with the world? Good thing we’ve got other comics to fill the time! Detective Comics, Hulk comics, Wonder Woman comics, X-Men comics and Squirrel Girl comics!

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl wins Comic Book of the Week because Ryan North and Erica Henderson revel in what it would actually be like to visit the Savage Land!

Savage Brands 01

Gift shop pun game remains on point

I checked in on Amazing Spider-Man this week but decided not to review it because it’s largely a Secret Empire tie-in and I’m not super keen on reading or reviewing a ton of tie-ins. Thankfully, this tie-in is largely focused on Dan Slott’s ongoing story of Doc Ock taking back Parker Industries, so I dig that part of it. And it moves the Spider-Man/Mockingbird relationship forward a little, which I also like. But mostly it was a big, busy, crazy issue. So good times there!

Comic Reviews: Defenders #3, Detective Comics #960, Hulk #8, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #22, Wonder Woman #26 and X-Men Blue #7.


Defenders #3

Defenders #3
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Marquez

Welp, gang, I think I’m done with The Defenders. I’m very much looking forward to their upcoming TV show next month, but this comic is doing nothing for me.

And I have a sinking feeling that Bendis might do something terrible to Black Cat…

Punisher’s ambush bullets were non-lethal, and the Defenders all wake up in Night Nurse’s clinic again. They are determined as ever to stop Diamondback, who is busy trying to shake down the Black Cat some more. After a clever information dump where Bendis jumps through a dozen different people-on-the-street retelling the origin story of Diamondback and Luke Cage, we settle on the Punisher killing some chumps to get info on Diamondback. Luke Cage and Daredevil interrupt and knock out the Punisher. Meanwhile, Danny and Jessica are on a stakeout and spot Diamondback, but then he immediately knows they are watching him. He flips their car, with Jessica still inside, and then is able to stop the Iron Fist with one hand.

Diamondback then proceeds to break Iron Fist’s back over his knee.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

Bendis is trying way too hard to make Diamondback seem legit. Nobody cares about this character. He was the worst part of the Luke Cage TV show. He was dead and forgotten in comics for a reason. Having him show up in this series as a one-note villain who just happens to have all sorts of magical powers and abilities, making him unstoppable, is boring as hell. And watching him try to shake down Black Cat is just sad. Listen, pal, the Black Cat, even when she’s a villain, has 10x the personality and staying power as you do. Diamondback wishes he was as cool and versatile as the Black Cat.

Black Cat Rules 01

Where is her Netflix show?

The rest of the comic just isn’t very interesting. Nothing of particular note comes from the Punisher cameo (other than a few fun lines of dialogue). And the heroes basically get their butts whooped by the over-achieving Diamondback. The banter and camaraderie comes across really well between the main characters — and Marquez is A-level art to a blindingly stellar degree — but this comic is lacking substance and heart.

TL;DR: The Defenders continues to come across as an editorially-mandated tie-in with the Netflix shows. It’s something Bendis could write in his sleep, so it’s still written well, but it’s a total waste of David Marquez and his creative team’s phenomenal talents.


Detective Comics #960

Detective Comics #960
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Alvaro Martinez

I haven’t really been doing any preparation for this big Metal crossover coming up in Batman books soon. There was a new prologue issue out this week, but I can’t bring myself to care all that much. There’s just something about DC Rebirth’s lack of overall continuity that makes me disinterested in some big, continuity-redefining event.

So Detective Comics suffers just a little bit due to its apparent prologue tie-ins to Metal. At least I think it’s called “Metal”. Right?

Zatanna reveals to Batman the God Machine sphere/device, which he wants to use to see the future or something. It’s super forbidden, and she does her best to try and scare him off this trail. She reveals that, due to her phenomenal cosmic power, she’s slowly become more and more detached from reality and humanity. She continues doing stage shows because it helps her stay grounded. And an ordinary human like Batman could be destroyed by this power. But Bruce is still gung-ho because of all the mysteries and conspiracies that have been swirling around him and which, I think, are building towards Metal.

Meanwhile, Ascalan visits her boss, some spooky priest-looking dude, and he shuts off her internal firewalls so that she can be free to discover her true self. She uses this freedom to go after Batwing and Batwoman, who are on the verge of discovering the secret AI language of St. Dumas. They summon Azrael so they can tap into his suit, but Azrael is back in the sway of his demons, and both he and Ascalan arrive to attack (though not together)!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This issue gets a little bogged down in exposition, but it’s otherwise solid. Like I’ve said in the past, I very much enjoy the friendship/sexual tension between Batman and Zatanna, and Tynion continues to make them both interesting characters — even when they’re droning on endlessly about the dangers of magic or the growing conspiracies or whatnot. The two are really good together, making me think Zatanna would be a pretty awesome reoccurring guest star in a Batman book. But still, their scenes are mostly drowned out by the exposition. The rest of the team fair a little better with a slightly more interesting story, but I’m also a little lost on just what Azrael and Ascalan and the Order of St. Dumas are supposed to be at this point.

TL;DR: Solid writing and art are brought down slightly by a seemingly endless supply of nigh impenetrable story, foreshadowing and exposition.


Hulk #8

Hulk #8
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artist: Georges Duarte

I was super hard on the previous issue of Hulk for what I thought was a total betrayal of this series so far. This issue does not improve things in the least, but I’m going to try and be a little more open-minded.

Despite being a lawyer, Jen Walters and her assistant start investigating how the cooking show host turned into a monster live on the air. I’m not sure why nobody else is investigating, but OK, whatever. They figure out that the cameramen/producers used a new drug called Monster Juice. Sure enough, these two asshole producers are determined to turn this Monster Juice thing into their own money-making Youtube channel idea — until they are attacked by the monster cooking show host, who is on a rampage for a cure.

After uncovering the truth, and getting a lead on her targets, Jen Walters transforms into Hulk to go and do her superhero thing. Sigh.

Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.

Forgive me if this sounds harsh, but I do not really care about just another She-Hulk comic, especially one that focuses on her being a superhero. There are so many interesting aspects of the character, including some brand new ones that Tamaki introduced in THIS VERY COMIC, that the last thing I want to read is about She-Hulk just going around being a superhero and investigating/fighting whatever random happenstance she comes across. Tamaki writes it well, with solid, lively characters, a grounded connection to real life and with quality art from Duarte, but I just don’t care. Not after what Tamaki opened this comic with.

She Hulk Jump 01

She doesn’t have PTSD, she has schizophrenia!

The She-Hulk transformation as a metaphor for PTSD was brilliant, and it worked so well in the opening issues of this comic. It added a new, more earnest menace to the very idea of turning into a Hulk, with an awesome and dangerous new redesign, and I was definitely ready to get behind it. I also liked the idea of Jennifer Walters trying to just be a normal lawyer again, without She-Hulk to fall back on. I liked both sides of the character at the start of this comic. But over the past two issues, Tamaki has traded in all that nuance and original character ideas in favor of a generic superhero romp. It’s palpably disheartening.

TL;DR: Hulk continues its new direction and I don’t like it, not after the brilliance we saw in the beginning. The issue itself is perfectly fun and could even be enjoyable if this is what you want from Mariko Tamaki’s Hulk, but I personally still feel like it’s a total reversal from what she showed us she was capable of in the beginning.


Squirrel Girl #22

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #22
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Erica Henderson

I love it when Squirrel Girl is having fun. When Ryan North and Erica Henderson are having fun then I am having fun!

Doreen and Nancy win a trip to the Savage Land! And it’s super fun, because it’s treated like a fully functional Jurassic Park, and Doreen, Tippy and especially Nancy are super excited to see real dinosaurs! They have a blast at all the exhibits and looking at all the animals! Also, a couple of young people from Latveria also won the trip, and they are almost robotically loyal to Doctor Doom, and hate the meddlesome Squirrel Girl. And Nancy and one of the Latverian boys immediately lock eyes in adorable romantic tension!

At the end of the tour, everyone is told that they were really brought to the Savage Land because the land is dying, and they are the only ones who can save it!

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

This issue was a blast! North and Henderson find something new to do with the Savage Land and it works gangbusters in Unbeatable Squirrel Girl! Of course, if we all knew that dinosaurs were real, we would want to go down there and check them out! Nancy Whitehead speaks for all of us! And I love that North just went all-in on the fun of a real, non-movie dinosaur zoo/theme park. There’s literally a joke where they do three full double-page spreads of Doreen and Nancy having the time of their lives meeting dinosaurs!

And you know those Iguanodon dinosaurs that look like they’re giving a thumbs up? You better believe North and Henderson use that in conjunction with Doreen giving Nancy a thumbs up to pursue the cute Latverian boy.

Squirrel Nancy Thumbs Up 01


I will gladly read whatever Savage Land-style story North and Henderson have in mind because they really went all out in setting up a grand adventure. This issue really plays up the fun of living in a place like the Marvel Universe. And it helps that Squirrel Girl’s love of dinosaurs has been a sort of running gag since the very beginning of the series. Dinosaurs and Squirrel Girl make for a very fun time.

TL;DR: This is a super fun comic about Squirrel Girl hanging out with dinosaurs! I love me a comic that cherishes the utter joy of both Squirrel Girl and dinoaurs.


Wonder Woman #26

Wonder Woman #26
Writer: Shea Fontana
Artist: Mirka Andolfo

Like the lazy, procrastinating fool I am, I didn’t get caught up to Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman finale in time. It was fine. I liked it well enough. And now here I am, trying to make amends, by jumping on Shea Fontana’s new story.

Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor are running missions for, I think, the U.N., including some carnage at a refugee camp. After her debriefing, Wonder Woman has a few nice meet-ups with some operations people, including Etta Candy, a general, a nurse (who is getting suspiciously sick) and a guy who works in a different office in their building, who invites the military types to a building-wide picnic. For some reason, this military agency needs to use a public building while their normal offices are being fumigated, hence running into some dorkwad civilian who invites them to a picnic.

Etta invites Diana to her brother’s wedding and Diana seems to have a nice enough time, though she mostly keeps to herself. She meets an adorable little girl at the reception, and while helping the girl find her missing shoe, Diana discovers a hidden bomb!

Also, we get a flashback to Diana’s childhood when she overheard her mother and some Amazons speaking about how a future warrior should not have a doll. So a tearful Diana locked away her favorite doll and threw away the key.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This seems to be the start of a quaint little Wonder Woman story. Nothing epic or character-redefining, like Rucka’s arc. Just a solid writing job following up on everything Rucka left behind. The characters still largely feel the same, and Wonder Woman is still doing good. And I’m a sucker for seeing superheroes attend normal people events, like weddings. So Wonder Woman befriending an adorable and very talkative little girl at a wedding is just plain fun to read (and a bomb is going to ruin that!). So yeah, solid and enjoyable Wonder Woman comic, though it does suffer from a couple odd story points. Like, Fontana offers an explanation for why the military is meeting in some office building (bug infestation), but it’s not at all clear what’s happening when that guy shows up to invite them to the picnic. Very weird.

Also, the art is rather nice, especially when it comes to Wonder Woman and adorable ragamuffins. But it’s also slightly off in places. An old, gray-haired general who says things like “consarnit!” looks like a slender, beautiful ballet dancer in gray whiskers.

TL;DR: A new era for Wonder Woman Rebirth kicks off with a nice little story that mostly just maintains what came before.


X-Men Blue #7

X-Men Blue #7
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Cory Smith

Not even X-Men Blue is safe from the dangers of a Secret Empire tie-in! I almost skipped this issue, but you’ll see why I didn’t.

The Young X-Men are freedom fighters in New Tian, the mutant kingdom in Secret Empire. Basically, rather than be wiped out by Captain America and HYDRA, the mutants were given California and it’s a pretty swell utopia of a place, run by a bunch of noteworthy X-Men like Beast, Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw and Xorn. But it’s a little fascist, maybe? The Young X-Men strike at one of the prisons, freeing some political prisoners. Then they retreat back to their bunker in the Redwoods — only to be tracked and attacked by a New Tian strike force!

Normally I would avoid such an obvious Secret Empire tie-in, but then I saw that the strike force was composed of Toad, Marrow, Firestar, Mondo, Wolfsbane, Archangel and then Havok. I love me random X-Men squads that just happen to feature Toad. So there’s a big fight, and a bunch of the squad members reveal strange new secondary mutations that come out of nowhere. Like, Toad’s long tongue is now also on fire? And Wolfsbane can transform into a whole pack of wolves? It’s weird. Anyway, Havok, who is still a jerk, blasts them all and the Young X-Men are taken captive.

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

I haven’t been reading every tie-in to Secret Empire, so I have no clue where this secondary mutation stuff comes from. Bunn just seems to throw it out there, and only for a couple of characters. Not like it adds anything. Why is Toad’s tongue on fire? How could Wolfsbane’s powers evolve into being able to form a whole wolf-pack? It’s weird, but as I said, I love it when random X-characters are brought together into little squads. I especially love it when those squads include my favorite characters, like Toad and Marrow. So I was totally on board for seeing this squad show up to fight the Young X-Men.

Toad Team 01

I would totally read their X-Men comic!

And as a fight issue, this was fine by me. Bunn has a nice handle on all the characters, both new and old, so it’s really just a solid, enjoyable fight between the stars of the book and a bunch of classic X-characters. I am always down for that level of fun. And sure, I’m largely rooting for the likes of Toad and Marrow, but so what? No harm in that.

Also, Jimmy Hudson still sucks.

TL;DR: A bunch of nifty character cameos and the ensuing fight make for an enjoyable enough tie-in to Secret Empire.

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!


About Sean Ian Mills

Hello, this is Sean, the Henchman-4-Hire! By day I am a mild-mannered newspaper reporter in Central New York, and by the rest of the day I'm a pretty big geek when it comes to video games, comic books, movies, cartoons and more.

Posted on July 15, 2017, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Defenders was pretty good. That panel of Iron Fist attacking Diamondback was fantastic. And Black Cat is actually pretty interesting here. More than she is in most of her appearances since turning evil.

    Hulk is pretty good. It’s fun, and it’s smart, and the exploration of how Jen feels about her new Hulk form is interesting.

    Squirrel Girl is wonderful. Ridiculously fun.

    X-Men Blue is not a good comic. The Secret Empire tie-in stuff is garbage. The randomness of the characters in various places is ridiculous. And it’s EVEN MORE GODDAMN SIDE PLOT. I especially hated Firestar and Rahne being in the hit-squad, because they are good, heroic people. They would be very much sympathetic to the X-Men busting up prisons. And Rahne’s secondary mutation? Stupid. Secondary mutations aren’t a new idea – it goes back to Morrison’s New X-Men, when Emma Frost got her diamond form – but I feel like secondary mutations should do something to serve a character, and Rahne turning into a wolf pack doesn’t serve her character. It feels like it’s there because Bunn thought it would be a cool idea. But it’s not, Bunn. It’s not a cool idea at all. So yeah, I did not like this comic at all.

    • The art in Defenders is, without question, phenomenal. And I know Marquez and Bendis work together on a lot. I just wish Marquez’s talents were being put to better use.

      And you’re right about X-Men Blue all the way. Seven issues in and this comic doesn’t have its own plot or purpose. Unless you count the apparent controversy of the Young X-Men working for Magneto. Since when has Magneto been a pariah? I’m pretty sure he’s been a solid X-Man now since before those kids came through time.

  2. Actually, I take that back. When young Cyclops vowed to take Emma down at the end of IvX, I did think Emma and Alex would show up in the pages of X-Men Blue. I just didn’t think it would take quite this long, and sure didn’t know any of this Hydra and New Tian stuff was coming. I wonder if Bunn knew.

    • Darn it, I had a great post, but WordPress really gives me trouble sometimes. No time to post again.

    • That’s a good question. I have to imagine he’d be in the loop. They plan these big events years in advance. So I imagine both Secret Empire and ResurXion were being planned out somewhat simultaneously. Still, definitely an odd way to bring Emma and the Young X-Men together again.

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