Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 7/22/17
Man oh man, it’s San Diego Comic Con weekend! So much cool news, so many good trailers, so much to get excited about! But for another year in a row, I’m stuck here in Central New York, about as far from San Francisco as you can get in the continental United States. Someday I’ll be out there.
At least this week was marked with good comics, like Batwoman, Harley Quinn, Power Rangers and the long-awaited second issue of the new Spectacular Spider-Man! All good comics, but Comic Book of the Week goes to Batman #27, as writer Tom King throws us a curveball with the unexpected new origin of Kite Man!
Secret Empire continues to slog along. It’s getting a little long in the tooth at this point, and isn’t as sharp anymore. While The Mighty Thor is still good, but I skipped reviewing the issue again because it’s kind of just killing time. The War Thor is a neat idea, but he hasn’t done much of substance just yet. Still a great comic.
Also, in case you were curious, like me, the first issue of Astonishing X-Men does not yet feature the return of Multiple Man. I’ll let you know when it does! It was a pretty cool X-Men comic though. I like the idea of gathering a bunch of disparaged X-Men to go on an impromptu mission. I’d like it even more if they hadn’t added Old Man freakin’ Logan.
Comic Reviews: Aquaman #26, Batman #27, Batwoman #5, Harley Quinn #24, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #17, Ms. Marvel #20, Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #2 and The Wild Storm #6.
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Stjepan Sejic
I’m sticking with Aquaman as best I can! The book hasn’t burned itself into my brain yet, but as I’ve said in the past, I’m all for supporting Stjepan Sejic on principle alone.
Mera angrily and viciously attacks the magical dome that protects Atlantis, shaking the whole city. Her attack allows Aquaman and his new partner, Dolphin, to escape into the underbelly, where the mute Dolphin lives with her mutant pals. The sinister gangster Krush has been watching the two of them, somehow, and when he thinks Arthur is alive, he sends his right hand enforcer, Kadaver, down into the underbelly to beat them all up and take Arthur alive!
Meanwhile, Vulko gets some help escaping prison, because he’s not the only one who wants to oppose the new king.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This was an entertaining, solidly built chapter of Abnett’s ongoing story. He’s doing a solid job of building up the energy and potential excitement. There are a lot of interesting characters in play, at varying stages of their stories, and I’m enjoying myself. And Sejic’s art makes it all 10x more fun to behold. The dude is a master of facial expressions.
The new villain, Kadaver, seems cool and unique, and Aquaman could always use some badass new villains. The king remains pretty one-note, so I hope that improves as we go forward. But Mera is wickedly cool. Everything is just swirling up and around into a fun and interesting story, so what’s not to like?
Well, one thing I don’t like is how Aquaman is going around as Aquaman, but everybody he meets keeps insisting that there’s no way he could be the dead king. He’s not hiding his face at all and he’s DRESSED LIKE AQUAMAN! Abnett could have done a better job of making Arthur actually pretend to be dead.
TL;DR: Another solid installment of the growing Aquaman story keeps all the pieces moving, while introducing some exciting new ones.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
You got me good, Tom King! All the signs were there. All the solicitations and previews were in place. But for some reason, my comic book mind missed everything and this issue threw me for a twist!
Also, I wish to double down on my bet that Tom King is just messing with us in The War of Jokes and Riddles. Or, if not directly trolling us, than definitely playing around with the conventions of Big Event Comics.
A man named Charles Brown once worked on a four-man crew to build the Jokermobile, and now he’s the only one left alive, because the Joker thought his name was funny at the time. He pulls some back channels to try and offer his services again to the Joker, but Batman and the Riddler find out and soon Brown is at the center of several different strings being pulled while the War of Jokes and Riddles wages in the background. Batman promises to keep his son safe, but the Riddler kills the boy by poisoning his kite string. This drives Brown to use his knowledge of wind mechanics to build a kite suit and become Kite-Man (hell yeah!).
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
I was probably the perfect audience for this issue. The previous issue teased Kite Man in the ‘next issue’ buzzer, but I forgot. I’ve always known the trivia that Kite-Man is named Charlie Brown, but I forgot. All of the hints and whatnot King dropped in this issue, I didn’t pick up on it. I had no idea that Kite Man was coming until the page-turn reveal that he was building a kite-suit at the very end, and I loved it! I thought King was just telling some weird side-story about a guy with a funny name, but then boom, it turns into a tragic and kind of epic origin story for Kite-Man — who, if you didn’t know, has been a rather funny running gag in King’s entire Batman run so far. So this was an epic surprise and a great addition to King’s Batman saga. Hell yeah!
But again, I think King is messing with us, and this issue solidifies it. I say that because, as revealed in this issue, the War of Jokes and Riddles is going to be taking place entirely in the background, it seems. This has all the makings of an epic Batman crossover event! All the villains! Joker vs. Riddler! Really cool name! Some big secret Batman has to reveal! It’s exactly the sort of thing modern comics put a lot of focus on.
But here we are, three issues in, and King is using the War of Jokes and Riddles to tell a new origin story for freakin’ Kite-Man! And the war, and all the villains, are just in the background. Heck, for the third issue in a row, the biggest action scene happens with a single splash panel showing off the various villains. So we don’t actually see any of the War in this issue, nor have we really seen it in any of the issues so far. King has spent this whole time teasing this big, epic conflict involving all of Batman’s villains…but I don’t think he’s going to show any of it!
I love it! What a brilliant prank.
TL;DR: If you want an epic, tragic and surprising origin for a Z-list nobody Batman villain, then this issue is for you! If you want the actual War of Jokes and Riddles, then I think you’re getting played by a master storyteller.
Writers: Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV
Artist: Stephanie Hans
This is the issue we should have gotten much sooner. Bennett and Tynion finally get around to telling us why we should have cared about their opening storyline.
During her lost year, Kate Kane washed ashore on Coryana and was rescued by Safiyah, the so-called “Mother of Warlords”. Mostly she was just a nice, if slightly dangerous lady who acted as the island’s unofficial leader and settler of disputes. Kate fits in well during her recovery, but Safiyah’s lover, Tahani, grew jealous and tried to tempt Kate with booze. Safiyah saw through Tahani’s tricks and banished her, though still resisted Kate’s advances at first.
Then Kate joined the rest of the brigands in stealing back some stolen oil — but it’s a trap by Tahani and one of the pirate warlords. They try to kill Kate, but Safiyah rushes to her rescue, and then everybody is caught in a big wave. Kate and Safiyah wash to shore and Safiyah saves Kate with some CPR. Then they finally give in to one another as Safiyah breathlessly asks Kate to stay on the island.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
This issue was pretty darn great, all in terms of story, character development, explanation and especially art. The Batwoman team pulled out all the stops to answer all the questions we’ve been having since this story began. I just wish we’d gotten it sooner! I didn’t much care for the opening story arc, set on the previously unknown Coryana island. I didn’t like it because there was no connection to what was happening. Bennett and her team teased this mysterious and sexy island, and teased its connection to Batwoman’s past, but they left us with only hints and whispers while telling a story that required a personal interest or connection to characters and locations we’d just met. I didn’t care about new villain Knife’s hatred towards Kate Kane because I only barely knew what it was about and why I should care.
But now I know thanks to this issue and it makes perfect and total sense!
But when kicking off a new Batwoman comic, hindsight after the fact isn’t enough.
Who cares what the Kali Corporation has planned for Coryana? Who cares that Rafael is killed as soon as Kate steps onto the docks? We didn’t know anything about any of that at the time, and that made for a weaker story. But this issue provides those answers and does a damn good job of it. Now we know more about Safiyah and the smoldering passion between her and Kate. Now we know how important Coryana was to Kate in that missing year. Now we know why Tahani hates her so much, and her hatred is justified (in her mind). The story and the revelations in this issue should have been weaved into the opening storyline, not saved for after the fact. These would have made for great in-story flashbacks.
Also, the art is gorgeous. Hans did an absolutely perfect job building the mood and atmosphere on Coryana. Would have been perfect for flashbacks.
TL;DR: A great flashback issue with absolutely gorgeous art comes too late to save the opening chapter it’s providing context for.
Harley Quinn #24
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner
Artists: John Timms and Joseph Michael Lisner
Harley’s parents are still in town, which means we’ve got another lovely issue of Harley Quinn to enjoy!
Clock King and Sportsmaster actually get the drop on Harley Quinn, and it’s up to Goat Boy and her gun-toting father to turn the tides and save the day (with an assist from mom). Afterwards, Harley has a nice heart-to-heart with her mother, who reveals that they’ve always known about Harley, the Joker and everything else she’s done, and they fully support her. After her parents head home, Tony clues Harley into the big surprise party plans for Sy’s upcoming birthday.
Meanwhile, that cage-fighting girl from the future convinces Red Tool to let her become his sidekick!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Yeah, quality issue with a lot of nice character moments. This issue is just building to more exciting stuff, but it was still enjoyable. Harley’s chat with her mother was a nice little moment, but in hindsight, I don’t think her parents really made much of an impact. They apparently knew all along about her wild life and totally approve and are pretty much badasses themselves. So really, her parents are just like her and everybody parts ways happily. Made for some nice reading, but not much of an overall impact. It lacked any meaningful conflict. Not to say Harley shouldn’t get along with her parents, but good stories need good conflict. Meanwhile, a surprise party for Sy-Borg and the Red Tool developments are kind of just par for the course. Good stuff, but nothing really to wow the audience.
TL;DR: Harley’s parents leave almost as quickly as they arrived in an issue that mostly just moves things along for what’s to come next.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #17
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Hendry Prasetya
What’s that? The already phenomenal MMPR comic has decided to tell a slice of life story, which is something you already absolutely love? Yes, please!
Rita Repulsa has retreated since her defeat, giving the Power Rangers time to be actual superheroes and help out at disasters around the world. They also get some much-needed downtime, though as Trini points out, how is everyday life supposed to compare to their awesome adventures? Though Jason is taking it a bit too far and is spending way too much time at the Command Center trying to lead the whole organization in Zordon’s continued absence.
After stopping a falling skyscraper in Dubai, the Rangers are approached by entrepreneur futurist Grace Sterling.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I love slice of life stories in my superhero comics. My motto for writing and reading good superhero comics is “People first, superheroes second”. And while Higgins’ Power Rangers comic already nails that particular concept, he goes through the roof with this issue and I love it even more! We’ve got Tommy and Billy bonding in the gym after their adventure together in the alternate universe! We’ve got a growing Jason subplot where he’s pushing himself too hard! We’ve got mysteries involving Zach! There’s a great scene where Trini can’t seem to focus on everyday stuff, then has a chat about it with Kim while the two of them are sitting on the pterodactyl Zord! Genius stuff.
Not to mention the very idea of having the Power Rangers go around the world helping and saving people. The show only ever focused on the Rangers fighting Rita’s monsters. But Higgins is right, surely there could be a period of time where Rita is in hiding and the Rangers can use their powers, Zords and everything else to do some good for regular people. And Prasetya continues to kill it with the art, never missing a beat or making any part or panel look dashed-off.
TL;DR: Power Rangers slows down for a character-focused issue, and I loved it. This sort of story is right up my alley and the creative team just nails it.
Ms. Marvel #20
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Marco Failla
Wilson is digging in deep in this story, and I quite like it! I’m enjoying it and I hope she pushes this thing full throttle!
Ms. Marvel wakes up from being knocked out and rushes downtown to find the new Mayor, Worthy, holding a rally about getting superheroes out of Jersey City. The crowd is very much on his side, and they turn against Ms. Marvel when he points her out. She tries to explain herself, that she never meant to bring super-powered stuff to Jersey City, she only wanted to help, but Mayor Worthy sics Discord and Lockdown on her — though I’m not sure why they let her go after last issue to begin with.
Ms. Marvel escapes and finds the previous mayor, who is hunkered down in her office trying to figure out how to get her position back. But no sooner do they start to compare notes than Discord shows up outside the office in a van full of arrested super-people. Their new anti-powers department has been rounding them up! And they’ve got Kamala’s brother!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Wilson opens the issue with Aamir giving an impassioned speech about how home-grown radicals are really grown, and it nicely sets the tone for what I think she’s going for here: having Kamala Khan take on the anger and hatred that fuels Trumpism. It’s a bold move, but perfect for Ms. Marvel, considering she’s become something of a symbol for a lot of the nicer, happier emotions in our world. I don’t think Wilson has really brought out any real teeth to the story yet, we’re kind of just still building, but I feel like we’re getting there. The public is getting whipped into a frenzy against her, the villains clearly represent this administration, and she’s also building a solid mystery behind the identity of Discord (though I’d like to see Basic Becky turned into more of a proper nemesis for Ms. Marvel. Remember when superheroes had solid arch-nemesis that they could call their own? Ms. Marvel needs one).
If anything, I want to see Wilson really raise the stakes on this one. Push the envelope. Involve Kamala’s parents. Put everything on the line! Push her to the breaking point! In some ways, it feels like Ms. Marvel is too safe. She’s already been an Avenger several times over, she’s leading the Champions (or something). Most of her adventures have been pretty safe. I want to see Wilson really up the ante and make this story matter. Now is the time to tell a really great, really gripping, really personal Ms. Marvel story!
Also, while I don’t for a second believe that Discord is Bruno, I kind of really want him to be Bruno. Now that would be a real surprise and a real gut punch to Kamala.
TL;DR: Ms. Marvel seems to be digging in pretty deep with their political allegory story, and I quite enjoy it.
Peter Parker – The Spectacular Spider-Man #2
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Adam Kubert
We’re back for more, baby! A new era of Spider-Man could be growing, and I hope Zdarsky is leading the way.
After an unfortunate scuffle with Ironheart, Spider-Man explains what’s really going on and Riri gets to work breaking into the phone (after dropping Spidey back off in New York). Peter returns to his apartment to find Johnny and Teresa, his supposed sister, and he fills Johnny and the audience into Teresa’s backstory, which comes from a Spider-Man graphic novel that got put out a few years ago. She was a CIA agent who was mentally tricked into believing she was the daughter of Richard and Mary Parker, but that all got cleared up. Teresa tells Peter that she quit the CIA and joined a SHIELD offshoot, where she uncovered a plot to gather the weaknesses of all heroes and villains. When she tried to warn others in SHIELD about this, Teresa got blacklisted and kill orders were put out. She’s coming to Spidey for help and protection.
But first, she needs a nap, and Peter uses this break to go on a coffee date with Rebecca, whom he met last issue. Spidey goes in full costume (with a sports jacket) and they have a nice little bit of banter, involving some asshole guy shouting at baristas, the Human Torch trying steal Spidey’s girl and a call from Riri telling Spidey that she unlocked the phone and traced it back to the Kingpin (who was also in that graphic novel with Teresa)!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
This was another super fun issue of Zdarsky’s Spider-Man, underlining the fact that this comic was a great idea! He’s juggling a lot of crazy stuff, and the issue feels really crazy and busy because of it. Like, I really get the sense that Spider-Man is just overloaded with things and it’s getting frustrating. That’s pretty cool. And the things are all mostly pretty fun. The Riri Williams cameo feels really forced, and Zdarsky opens the issue with a really, really bad joke about getting her autograph, but everything else works like gang-busters.
I like Peter and Johnny’s chemistry. I like Teresa’s arrival and the trouble that she could bring. And I especially loved the date scene. That’s just gold, from start to finish. Zdarsky has got the awkward charm of Peter Parker/Spider-Man down pat, and he’s brought in a lot of great supporting characters to bounce him off — though pitchforks at dawn if Johnny gets the girl! I like Spidey and Rebecca, they’re cute, and Spidey needs a new romantic interest.
Also, Kubert’s art is already straining in only the second issue. Shame.
TL;DR: A second issue as good as the first, Zdarsky and his creative team are off and running with a really fun and enjoyable Spider-Man comic!
The Wild Storm #6
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
I just don’t know what Ellis is doing here. He’s got all of these interesting toys to play with, but he’s just not doing anything very interesting with them yet. At least not as far as I’m concerned.
Mike survives an assassination attempt in his apartment by single-handedly taking out his killers in bloody, brutal fashion. Then he accepts the spy job offer from Christine Trelane, who I think works for Skywatch. Adrianna, the teleporter/computer lady, brings Angie Spica to a safehouse in Brooklyn where she has a sitdown with Jake Marlowe, who, it turns out, is actually really short. Not sure why I didn’t notice.
Marlowe proceeds to explain the entire series. IO secretly runs the world and are involved in a cold war-esque standoff with Skywatch, who control space. HALO is in the middle (and Marlowe is some kind of alien), and Angie Spica is now stirring the pot right in the middle of all of them!
Meanwhile, the evil old guy who I think is in charge of Skywatch reviews security footage of Angie’s mech suit and realizes it’s based on technology stolen from him. He’s pissed and plans to wage war!
Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.
It’s nice of Ellis to at least explain what’s been going on. I’m a little surprised that we’re only six issues into The Wild Storm. It feels like much longer. But at least now I have a vague idea of what all the various agencies are and what they’re after. I still don’t remember any of the character names. One of those character/plot recap pages at the front of the comic would be really, really helpful. While competently made, this comic is just so boring. And no amount of bloody murder of random nobodies is going to make it more interesting. None of the characters are really doing anything. Everything and everyone is vaguely defined. The only character we’ve really gotten to know, Angie Spica, is pretty passive. Nothing is happening in this comic. Nobody seems to really matter.
TL;DR: The Wild Storm has way too many balls in the air for a juggle where nothing is really happening. This issue takes the time to try and explain some things, and that’s helpful, but the explanation doesn’t fulfill the need for an interesting and entertaining story.
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 July 22, 2017, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man and tagged Aquaman, Batwoman, Harley Quinn, Kamala Khan, Kite-Man, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Ms. Marvel, Peter Parker, Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man, The Wild Storm, Wildstorm. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.
Ms. Marvel was great. Aamir’s speech at the start was really good. And I’m enjoying Wilson’s political commentary in this arc.
Spectacular Spider-Man was lots of fun. The awkward date.
Meanwhile, USAvengers had Brian Braddock shout, “A mere bagatelle!” So, clearly, it’s a very important comic. (It’s actually a great comic, it has Faiza Hussein yell at Ares, and Toni Ho being generally awesome.)
I lost my hold on USAvengers when they started doing some weird Secret Empire tie-ins. I keep meaning to go back to it, and if it has Faiza Hussein, I’m a little ashamed with myself that I haven’t already!
It has Braddock??! Can’t wait to read that tonight.
It’s funny that as much as we agree about the Marvel books we both read, we’re totally opposite on The Wild Storm. But again, I can really see what you mean. I’m just invested in the Wildstorm mythos and can’t wait to see what Ellis is building up to. And I just love his approach to storytelling.
But yeah, part of me does wish more were happening, now that you mention it. Last week’s Astonishing X-Men #1 was a great example of how you can put a lot into a first issue and yet have it all make sense and be powerfully exciting, even for newcomers. The Wild Storm is pretty much the opposite of that. I still enjoy it, but in a totally different way.
That’s definitely an interesting dynamic. I suppose if I knew the characters more, I’d be excited. If this was a full-on reboot of the X-Men, with X-characters popping up in these neat locations, I’d probably enjoy it more.