Hench-Sized Comic Reviews – 9/23/17

Big news, everybody! This week, we have an abundance of DC Comics! I’ve been trying to read more of them lately, despite being a confirmed Marvel Zombie. And this week, the stars aligned and more of my DC comics came out than Marvel! Huzzah and kudos!

So we’ve got new Harley Quinn, new Aquaman, new Batwoman, new Wild Storm and the Comic Book of the Week, the new Batman! This whole War of Jokes and Riddles has been worth it for what writer Tom King is doing with Kite Man.

Kite Man Rules 02

We’re talking kites

Hell yeah.

Comic Reviews: Aquaman #28, Batman #31, Batwoman #7, Harley Quinn #28, Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #4 and The Wild Storm #7.


Aquaman #28

Aquaman #28
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Stjepan Sejic

Eh, Abnett has lost me. All the Stjepan Sejic art in the world can’t save a lackluster story.

Aquaman fights off Kadaver, with a last minute save from Dolphin. When they’re a safe distance away, Aquaman goes into a big speech about how he’s not the one who can save everybody. He wasn’t deposed as king, Atlantis didn’t want an outsider like him as king anymore. He’s pretty down in the dumps, but Dolphin is thinking positively.

Meanwhile, Vulko and his new companion, Ondine, make their way through the Catacombs beneath the Royal Treasury. It’s guarded by decaying spirits of old Atlantean nobles, but since Vulko is an old historian, he knows all their names and is able to turn them away. But the deeper they get, the older the spirits get, until they’ve decayed to just skeletons and he can’t recognize them to use their names! Now they’re in trouble!

Mera has recruited Tempest to try and use his magic to break through the big magic bubble around Atlantis, but they are confronted by the agents of the Silent School.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

The problems with the current Aquaman storyline is that there’s no nuance and there’s no scope. This story feels like it should be a big, sweeping Game of Thrones-like epic, as different parties battle for the throne of Atlantis, and we play around in the various neighborhoods and secret catacombs. This is the sort of story that would be improved by adding one of those cool fantasy maps, so we’d know where everybody was in relation to one another and to the city. Instead, it’s a bunch of small, character-focused vignettes with characters acting exactly how they’re supposed to act. Arthur is all “woe is me”, Dolphin can’t speak so she’s barely a character, and while everyone is generally charming and entertaining, nobody is doing anything more than they need to do. Every character, every step they take, seems utterly predictable. And that’s largely boring.

Sejic’s art still looks amazing, though.

TL;DR: Despite the absolute gorgeous art, the current Aquaman storyline leaves a lot to be desired. It’s all fine, but there’s a lack of nuance to the characters and their actions, and a real lack of scope.


Batman #31

Batman #31
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin

Welp, the payoff was worth it. All this build up. All this odd Big Event behavior. All of it was worth it — and we’re still not done.

Kite Man. Hell yeah.

The final battle in the War of Jokes and Riddles is about to begin. The team-up of Batman and the Riddler has forced Joker to retreat to the 73rd floor of a downtown high rise, and they’re ready to move in — but how do you get Riddler’s battalion of super-villains up to the 73rd floor when the building is booby-trapped and the only way in is through the window?

You’re god damn right they use kites.

Riddler, Batman and the villains fly in and the Riddler beats up the Joker, while taunting him with a riddle. Once that’s done, all the villains turn on Batman — but Batman was prepared for that. Kite Man activates the reverse booster skyhooks in all of their kites, and all the extra villains get snatched back out of the building to Alfred up in the Bat Blimp. Riddler knocks out Kite Man for his betrayal.

Now it’s down to Riddler vs. Joker, with Batman in the middle. Next issue, we will find out what it is that Batman did that he’s now so ashamed about in his retelling to Catwoman.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

All of the Kite Man build-up that King has been doing during The War of Jokes and Riddles was worth it in its own right, because he told a really touching story about the poor, pathetic villain. But it was doubly worth it for the moment when you realize Riddler wants to fly everybody to the scene on kites.

Kite Man Rules 01

This is how you write a story. This is how you weave all your moving pieces together from beginning to end to set up a big moment. You put the focus on Kite Man, you build up the conflict, you position the skyscraper as important and you lead everybody along until you drop the hammer and deliver a wonderfully feel good narrative moment. Tom King is already a well-regarded writer in comics, but his Kite Man stuff is just perfect.

Kite Man Rules 03

Batman didn’t even try to stop that punch

The rest of the issue is fine, and a solid penultimate chapter. The art, of course, is phenomenal. Janin needs to stay on Batman for a long time. The Riddler is a badass, especially as he mocks the Joker with jokes and riddles. The Joker is spectacularly unhinged, in ways I don’t think we’ve seen before. Here is a Joker that is unsure of himself, and its fascinating. And King has done a great job building up the hype for the finale and the big reveal.

Joker, Riddler and Batman all survive the next issue…so what happens to end the War of Jokes and Riddles that he’s so ashamed of?

TL;DR: A lot of writer Tom King’s work pays off in this issue in wonderfully enriching ways, making this whole Event worth it! But we’re not done yet! I can’t wait to see how this all ends.


Batwoman #7

Batwoman #7
Writer: Marguerite Bennett
Artist: Fernando Blanco

I like the new artist on this comic. Fernando Blanco is really darn good!

Batwoman is flying over the Sahara Desert in her latest international quest to take down an agent of The Many Arms of Death. This time, she’s tracking The Needle. But her plane is shot down and she’s forced to trek across the desert. She has to fight off some Colony soldiers who have been mutated in bat-men, I think? Either way, her father’s monster soldiers being out there raises some other questions. Kate has some flashbacks to her time with Safiyah, and to a visit she made to her sister at the Sanetarium. She finally finds some water in an oasis, but drinking it sends her into a drug trip. And we find out that The Needle is actually Scarecrow!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

This was a solid Batwoman chapter as Bennett’s ongoing story continues, pitting Kate Kane against some truly crazy odds. I wasn’t sure what a bunch of mutated Colony soldiers were doing in the desert, but watching Kate struggle through the harshness of the Sahara is definitely a great story. Bennett does a fine job setting up Kate in this harsh environment and pitting her against the elements. I also liked the various flashbacks, growing Kate’s ongoing story a bit more. Clearly we haven’t seen the last of Safiyah.

Batwoman Sexy 01

This does a lot for the entire Safiyah storyline

And the one with Kate’s twin sister was just special.

The Many Arms of Death remain a little ill-defined as the main villains of this series. So far, we just know that they’ve got a lot of weapon-named villains, like Knife. There’s a montage of panels of Kate taking out a couple others, with adventures that sound like they would have been interesting to see. But I have enough faith that this battle against the Needle should be good. Though the choice of Scarecrow is a little odd. What’s he doing out in the Sahara?

And it’s going to seem even odder, considering my next review.

TL;DR: The new Batwoman story looks like it will be pretty cool, and has a lot of great set-up in this issue. The new artist is also pretty great for the series, I feel.


Harley Quinn #28

Harley Quinn #28
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner
Artists: John Timms and Tom Derenick

Harley Quinn is running for Mayor of New York City and I am completely, 100% on board! Bring it on!

Harley is running for mayor, so she teams up with Chief Spoonsdale to bust a major chop shop. Things go a little wrong when Harley, Ivy and Harlem Harley try hiding in a truck, only to get stuck when they’re supposed to pop out. But with some help from Red Tool, the gang beats up the bad guys and Harley throws her hat into the gubernatorial ring during a press conference with Spoonsdale.

The corrupt mayor is, of course, pissed, so he and his aide Madison put out a call to the Scarecrow for help.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Man, out of all the people for the mayor to call at the end of the issue, why the Scarecrow? First of all, it’s almost comical that a Scarecrow reveal was the ending to both Batwoman and Harley Quinn this week. How does that happen? Is nobody keeping track of who uses the Scarecrow and where? Second of all, I was very disappointed at the reveal of the Scarecrow at the end of this issue. It worked for Batwoman (kind of), but for the surprise villain that the mayor calls for help in this political campaign against Harley Quinn? Meh.

This is Harley freakin’ Quinn we’re talking about. Sure, they’re both classic Gotham villains, but the Harley Quinn of this comic will eat Scarecrow for breakfast.

Harley Stuck 01

Not good planning

Personally, when they were teasing that the mayor was going to call somebody for help, I was hoping it would be Deadshot. At least Harley and Deadshot have an interesting history, including within this comic. That would have nicely complicated the mayoral election. And yeah, I’m sure fear gas during an election can lead to some good stories, and I have total faith in the creative team to do something fun. But Scarecrow doesn’t really have any connection worth exploring to Harley Quinn. His addition to the story doesn’t add anything deeper for Harley herself, and that’s where the heart of this comic lies. I don’t see Scarecrow really impacting that much at all.

The rest of the issue was the same sort of fun I love in Harley Quinn. We get a couple of great scenes as Harley says goodbye to her nursing home and roller derby folks, since she’ll need time to focus on the campaign. And busting the chop shop was a great comedy of errors. This comic is perfectly primed for a big, ambitious story like Harley Quinn running for mayor.

TL;DR: This new story has a lot of potential, and I’m excited based on the fun and hijinks in this issue. But the last page reveal of a surprise villain was a letdown.


Spectacular Spider-Man #4

Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #4
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Adam Kubert

Just four issues in and I have lost faith in Chip Zdarsky’s Spectacular Spider-Man. And it started out so well!

Spider-Man, the Human Torch and Teresa battle the Tinkerer in the Kingpin’s building, until the battle is taken out to the streets. It ends when the Torch realizes the Tinkerer inside the robot is just a hologram. Later, we see that the SHIELD agents trying to capture Teresa have linked a picture of her and Spider-Man together to the media. J. Jonah Jameson is trying to convince Robbie Robertson at the Daily Bugle to run with the story, but Robbie won’t do it because Jonah has tarnished his own image — but Betty Brant is more than happy to team up with Jonah to get to the bottom of this.

Peter is at his apartment with Teresa when they see the story and the picture in the media, and then Peter gets a call from the agent hunting Teresa. He knows Spider-Man “works” for Parker Industries. Spidey and Teresa flee the apartment and Spider-Man asks Rebecca London (the woman he went on a date with) if she’ll hide Teresa, but Rebecca is not about to put her life on the line like that. Also, they find her in a comedy club, and Spidey does a quick five minutes, and he bombs.

So Spidey and Teresa go visit their new friend Mason, the Tinkerer’s brother, but he’s under attack by the Vulture!

Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.

I guess I was wrong. Zdarsky’s brand of humor just doesn’t really work for Spider-Man, at least in my opinion. Zdarsky writes Spidey as kind of desperate and pathetic. He really reaches to make pop culture references, and other characters call him on it. His stand-up material is terrible and everybody mocks him for it. Spider-Man is a smart, witty guy who can fire off a good, funny quip like a reflex. I’m not really enjoying this duller, less witty Spider-Man, and the rest of the story isn’t really carrying the rest of the weight.

Spidey Sucks 01

Get off the stage!

The overall story itself hasn’t really captured me. For all intents and purposes, Teresa is a brand new character, since I doubt many people read or remember that one separate graphic novel she was a part of. So this brand new character with little personality shows up, and suddenly Spider-Man is kind of just running around bumping into classic bad guys to…protect her? Solve some mystery? I’m not sure. The story doesn’t have firm ground to stand on.

And then Zdarsky is taking cheats or shortcuts to get the moments he wants, and I’m finding that a little off-putting. For example, when Peter and Teresa flee his apartment and try to find somewhere to lay low, the first person Spider-Man thinks to call on for help is the civilian woman he went on one date with?! Spider-Man is head of a multi-billion dollar international company and is friends with roughly every superhero in New York City, and his big plan to hide from a secret SHIELD group is to rope in this poor, innocent woman that he barely went on a date on a night or two ago? And his second choice is Mason, whom he also just met a couple days prior?

Spidey No 01

Smart woman

I realize Zdarsky probably wants to use the characters he’s created and introduced in the story, but you can’t do that when it defies all logic. Heck, by the time they flee the apartment, the Human Torch has simply left the comic with no explanation. Why not hide Teresa at his place?

Or there’s the idea that the secret SHIELD group already knows that Peter is connected to Spider-Man, so much so that they call Peter on the telephone. But you’re saying that Spider-Man, in full costume, has time to flee Peter Parker’s apartment? If these spies are so damn good and have this info, why aren’t they already watching Peter’s apartment?

Then there’s the scene with Jonah at the Daily Bugle. He’s got a bit of proof that Spider-Man is colluding with a wanted fugitive from SHIELD who allegedly stole secrets about how to kill superheroes. There’s a story there! But Robbie won’t touch it. First he says it’s because Jonah ruined his own reputation by working on Fox News for a year. But then Betty Brant says that Robbie has forbidden anyone from touching the story because the newsroom doesn’t have the resources.

Jonah Betty 01

Robbie “won’t allow it”? Journalism doesn’t work that way!

First of all, since when doesn’t The Daily Bugle have the resources to pursue a major news story? It’s usually the paper of record in the Marvel Universe. Second of all, that’s a ridiculous rule for a newspaper publisher to impose. What resources does it take to investigate a story like this? Third of all, on the very next page, Peter reveals that the photo and the story are already being run in a bunch of other media outlets. So now the Daily Bugle isn’t just ignoring a hot tip, they’re ignoring a news story that is out and public. And what are the resources of those other media outlets? And if all these other media outlets have the story and are publishing it, why does it fall on gonzo, underground blogger J. Jonah Jameson to be the one to uncover everything? Are no legitimate, resource-heavy reporters looking into it at these other outlets?

I guess Zdarsky just wanted Jameson and Betty working on the story on their own. But he couldn’t have come up with a simpler, less obnoxious way to accomplish that? Why not have Robbie assign the story legitimately to Betty, and then have Jonah pitch in? Same outcome, and it makes sense.

The art was a little better this issue, but it’s still nothing to really write home about.

TL;DR: The weaknesses in this series are on full display with this issue, from bad comedy to narrative cheats, and it’s weighing down the whole adventure.


The Wild Storm #7

The Wild Storm #7
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt

It feels like forever since The Wild Storm started, but we’re only at issue #7 somehow. If any comic needed a recap page, complete with character portraits/names, it’s The Wild Storm.

Jackie King, chief of analysis for IO, wakes up and goes to work, where she and her engineering staff are tasked with finding Angie Spica. Meanwhile, an undercover Halo agent named John calls Grifter and his team to report that he’s been made at the IO Hightower facility and he’s about two minutes from being killed. But there’s something wrong, and Adrianna can’t just teleport in and grab him out of a busy hallway. So John has to use his gun and shoot his way through some guards before she’s able to rescue him from a broom closet.

Once he’s back with his team, John explains that IO is working to build machine telepathy, to read human minds with machines.

Angie is still with the team, recovering, and she demands that Marlowe tell her everything about the aliens and stuff.

Comic Rating: 3/10 – Bad.

This is not a good comic. The art is phenomenal, and I’m glad that DC is delaying the comic rather than bringing in a temporary artist or two. This is the sort of comic that should maintain the art style. But everything else about The Wild Storm is garbage. The characters are boring and sometimes nearly impossible to get straight. It doesn’t help that pretty much everybody is some kind of secret agent working for one of three different secret spy organizations. And the story is worse than garbage. I’m not sure there is a story. I know some efforts have been made to explain what all these agencies are about, but we’ve been given no reason to really care or invest in any of them. There’s seemingly zero difference between IO, Skywatch and Halo that I can really tell. Everybody is some kind of secret agency with some control over the world, and each one employs secret agent types based on pre-existing Wildstorm characters — who are, like I said, nearly indistinguishable.

The only really interesting story — that of Angie Spica and her illegal tech — has barely limped along in seven issues. We’re this deep into the story and we’re only now being introduced to Jackie King, yet another secret agent type who has been assigned the job of tracking down Angie. Yawn.

TL;DR: The Wild Storm is severely lacking in in any sort of organization. As someone with zero knowledge of the previous Wildstorm Universe, all of these secret agents and secret agencies are swirling together into a big mess of nothing interesting.

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 September 23, 2017, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Spectacular Spider-Man is a pretty weak comic.

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