Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 10/7/17
Happy New York City Comic-Con Weekend! I didn’t make it out to New York this year, but it’s always a great show! And we’ve heard a lot of cool news so far for the year in comics ahead! And it’s always nice when a big Comic-Con weekend delivers a great comics week!
Lots of great stuff to read this week, with stellar issues of some of my favorites, like Harley Quinn and Iceman! But I’ve got to give Comic Book of the Week to the new issue of Batman, which delivers a solid, powerful conclusion to the War of Jokes and Riddles!
Plus, Batman and Catwoman are gonna get married! That’s always fun. I love weddings!
Comic Reviews: Batman #32, Harley Quinn #29, Hawkeye #11 and Iceman #6.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Yep, it all comes together. All the weirdness of The War of Jokes and Riddles. All the build-up and the anticipation. King nails it all. Bravo.
Batman battles the Riddler and the Joker, taking them both out quickly, until he’s got the Riddler begging for mercy. After the Riddler concedes defeat, he immediately asks if the Joker is laughing — but he’s not. The Riddler gets pissed and reveals that everything about the War of Jokes and Riddles was a set-up. When Riddler heard that the Joker had stopped laughing, he saw that as the ultimate riddle to solve. So he set up the war, messed with Batman and — most importantly — manipulated the life of Charles Brown to create Kite Man, a villain so absurd that it would be hilarious when all of Riddler’s plans fell apart because of Kite Man. But none of it made Joker laugh!
When he realizes that all those dead people, including Kite Man’s son, were all for some dumb Riddler game, Batman loses his cool. Batman grabs a knife and tries to kill the Riddler — but he’s stopped by the Joker. And the Joker having to stop Batman from murdering the Riddler is what finally gets the Joker to start laughing again!
Later, Batman will ask the Joker in Arkham why he stopped the killing. Joker will say that when Batman knows the difference between jokes and riddles, he will understand.
In the present, Selina tells Bruce that the difference between jokes and riddles is: Who cares? Bruce says that he is the man that Joker made him, but Selina counters that, sure, they’re both the people that life has made them. But so what? She has Bruce propose again, properly this time, and Selina says, “Yes.”
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
And here I thought the pay-off with Kite Man was awesome in the last issue! This one is even better! That the entire War of Jokes and Riddles was manufactured and manipulated by the Riddler as a way to make Joker laugh again? Brilliant! It undercuts all the cool Kite Man stuff last issue, but I’ll take it! I definitely didn’t see that twist coming and it works so very well. King pulled it off superbly, and it definitely makes the entire storyline worth it! That’s some masterful storytelling right there.
I would also say that the pay-off of Batman’s shame was worth it, as well. I think DC continuity is kind of a mess these days, so I don’t think this moment has as much impact as it could on a larger scale. The idea that Batman, early in his career, encountered a moment and a villain so horrific that he almost killed is pretty big. But nothing about this story has really felt like it was early in Batman’s career. The War of Jokes and Riddles has felt like a contemporary Batman story that we’re just told is a flashback. It’s a retcon. And while nicely constructed and well told, it’s still a retcon and that kills some of the impact.
The marriage proposal to Catwoman is pretty fun and I look forward to the story we get out of it. Though my knowledge of how comics works makes me think that it’s not some new permanent change to Batman’s history. Granted, that’s what I thought about DC giving him a son, too.
TL;DR: The War of Jokes and Riddles pays off in all the best ways as Tom King delivers an expertly crafted conclusion to his latest storyline.
Harley Quinn #29
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artists: Mirka Andolfo, Michael Kaluta and Tom Derenick
The mayoral campaign kicks off with all the Harley Quinn fun we could hope for in the latest issue!
Harley Quinn is running for mayor of New York City, and she’s going undercover as a homeless person to get firsthand knowledge from people on the streets about what they want in the city. All her friends and allies have her back — especially Mason. After a late night food and Game of Thrones evening, he and Harley hook up, and which pleases Poison Ivy when she spots the two of them asleep later.
Then it’s the night of the first mayoral debate, and before Harley can even get through her first answer about infrastructure grants, she’s gassed by the Scarecrow. Harley hallucinates some pretty vivid fears and goes nuts on stage, with everybody panicking. Ivy rushes to her aide and delivers an antidote kiss — which is captured by all the cameras in attendance. She tells Harley that it was the Scarecrow!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This issue had pretty much everything you could want from a Harley Quinn comic! Harley is great throughout, diving into this mayoral campaign with her usual style. I liked the touch of her going undercover to eavesdrop on what real New Yorkers are thinking. And her suit for the debate was a perfect Harley outfit! Seeing those aspects of the storyline was a lot of fun. I also enjoyed the bits with Mason and Poison Ivy. I’m kind of hoping that Conner and Palmiotti might inject some relationship drama into the storyline. Obviously Ivy doesn’t consider her and Mason rivals, but maybe Mason does? And Red Tool would definitely throw another wrench into that mess — pun intended. This mayoral campaign could use a great romantic rivalry storyline, now that all of Harley’s love interests are in one place!
Whereas I’m rather disappointed in the use of the Scarecrow. I was disappointed when he was revealed at the end of the previous issue, and he definitely falls like a dull thud in this issue. He’s built up as this major villain throughout the issue, with Crane insisting that Harley be allowed to show up at the debate for his plan to work — and then his plan is just dousing her with his usual fear gas. Yeah, she freaks out on stage in front of everybody, but it’s pretty clear to everyone present that she was gassed or drugged or something. And Ivy cures her pretty quick.
I dunno. I just think Conner and Palmiotti could have come up with something more clever or powerful to disrupt Harley’s mayoral campaign. They’re that damn good.
TL;DR: The guest villain isn’t doing this book any favors, but everything else about the new campaign storyline is going gangbusters for Harley Quinn!
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Leonardo Romero
I don’t know what happened, but this issue didn’t really do anything for me. It was kind of flat, honestly.
Kate Bishop asks her tied-up father if he killed her mother, and he can only hang his head in shame (he’s also gagged). Kate then heads out and finds Madame Masque, still posing as Kate in a clone body. The two do battle across the city and up to the Hollywood sign, where Kate saves Masque from falling to her death. Despite that, Masque still tries to kill Kate, but she’s shot by the timely arrival of Kate’s cop friend.
Kate regroups with her pals and assures them she’s OK, and admits to them that she’s been distracted by the belief that her father likely had a hand in her mother’s death, or at least disappearance. When everybody is leaving for tacos, Kate pulls Johnny aside and kisses him for real — much to the embarrassment of Quinn, who spots them from afar.
Either way, Kate returns home and decides to begin a legitimate search for her mother!
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
This issue felt kind of flat to me for some reason. Everything seemed to be working as normal, but I dunno. It just felt like a whimper of an ending. There were funny bits, and the art was stellar, but the storyline just kind of petered out. Kate basically just fights Masque, who gets away in the end. The whole clone body thing doesn’t get much attention, even though I would think it would be a bigger deal. There’s a nice moment where Kate and Masque almost have a conversation, but Masque ruins it by trying to pick up the fight again.
I think part of the problem is that this finale probably would have read better in the trade. Like, it was depending on a the momentum from the previous issue to really bring this one home, but any of that prior energy was gone. I think that might have been it.
Also, as wonderfully as Thompson has been writing Kate Bishop, I think she should spend some more time on the supporting cast. All of Kate’s new friends are cool, and they all got really great introductions in the opening storyline, but now they’re so generic and minor to the comic that they basically exist as just one group of ‘friends’. Not enough groundwork has been laid for any of them for Kate to consider them such great friends. Or for Kate to start kissing Johnny. I’m all for some romantic tension and drama in a comic like Hawkeye — and Thompson clearly has solid ideas to work with — but I think Kate’s Scooby Gang has been too in the background to carry the weight Thompson is giving them.
The cop, likewise. She’s a cool character, but it seems really weird how much this officer’s life now seems to revolve around Kate Bishop. Just sayin’.
TL;DR: I feel like this issue was dependent on the momentum from the previous issue, and something about this storyline finale fell flat to me. It’s still a very well-made comic, but some of the comic’s weaker elements were at the forefront this week.
Writer: Sina Grace
Artist: Robert Gill
A Champions reunion in the pages of Iceman is probably the greatest possible storyline I could anticipate in comics in this day and age. I love this comic and I love this idea so much!
Black Widow was killed during Secret Empire, so her old teammates, the original Champions, reunite in Los Angeles to bid her adieu in style! That’s Iceman, Angel, Hercules, Darkstar and Johnny Blaze. First they complain that their old HQ has been turned into a gym, then they get drinks together, then Bobby and Warren commiserate on their feelings about grief and loss. The pair also spot some woman working on a Sentinel in her backyard and they sabotage it.
The next day, Bobby heads out into LA to do some shopping and discover his best self. A guy named Judah starts flirting with him pretty heavily, convincing Bobby to go out to the club later that evening. Bobby gets all his Champions friends on board and everybody has a nice night — with Bobby getting his first gay dance and gay kiss! But the evening is interrupted when that woman from earlier (who is rebuilding Sentinels to show off her chops for a special effects studio) launches a whole fleet of Sentinels on the city in an effort to draw out the X-Men. For some reason, she thinks video of her Sentinels fighting X-Men will be great PR for her effects studio.
Iceman shows up and assembles the classic Champions to fight the Sentinels! Or whatever their catch phrase should be.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Half of this comic was all the fun I could have hoped for with a Champions reunion in the Iceman comic! The other half was fun, but by the sheer fact that it distracted from the Champions, it was far far less interesting. Iceman, as a comic, is great in how it deals with Bobby Drake as a person first and a superhero second. That’s my No. 1 motto when it comes to superhero comics, and few do it as well as Iceman. So the idea that Grace wanted to mix that level of character-focus with a group as eclectic and fun as the original Champions is outstanding! And he has a ton of fun with it! Whether it’s Hercules’ general hamminess or giving Darkstar, a very underdeveloped character in this day and age, a personality and style all her own. Grace clearly had fun with it and it shows!
Plus it’s great to give Bobby, who we’ve come to know really well in Grace’s comic, some more superhero pals! He’s hung out with Kitty Pryde a lot in this comic, but I’m loving seeing him with other friends!
All that being said, this issue is actually more about Bobby getting hit on by a random dude he meets in LA. That’s all well and good. I’m all for Bobby getting a nice romantic storyline. But oy vey, this was the wrong issue to introduce that character and story. Well, it’s probably a perfectly fine issue to introduce them both, if that’s what Grace is going for. But me, personally, I so wanted more of Bobby hanging out with the Champions! When you’ve got characters that amazing guest starring in your book, and you write them so well, it’s a little disappointing when you instead spend the bulk of the issue fleshing out some random nobody from LA!
Also, under what circumstances does this woman think that a video of the X-Men fighting Sentinels will somehow make her standout as unique and talented? The X-Men fight Sentinels all the time, and she’s kind of committing a hate crime.
TL;DR: Iceman reuniting with the original Champions is about as fun as I could have hoped! Unfortunately — or fortunately, depending on what you want from his comic — the issue undercuts its major selling point with some distracting subplots!
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!