Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 12/2/17
Bad news, everybody! Or, well, good news for me! I’ll be on vacation this upcoming week, making my first trip to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida! Should be a blast! But I’ll be gone all week and won’t have time to pick up or read any comic books. So for only the second time since I started doing these weekly reviews, I’m gonna have to skip a week. Sorry!
And this week is such an odd one, since it’s a Fifth Wednesday and there aren’t many comics out — at least not many comics that I’m reading. A nice Batman Annual from Tom King easily wins Comic Book of the Week, but it’s only competition (at least on my read pile) was a Darkhawk one-shot. I had a lot of hopes for that single issue, but King’s Batman can’t be beat.
Not much else in comic book news on my end. No Big Events this week. But boy howdy, how about that Avengers: Infinity War trailer? More of that, please!
Comic Reviews: Batman Annual #2 and Darkhawk #51.
Batman Annual #2
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Lee Weeks and Michael Lark
Leave it to Tom King to use his Annual issue to tell a nice, cute little addition to his ongoing Batman/Catwoman romance tale. Good use of the form.
We flash back to various times that Catwoman teased Batman at the start of their careers (and when she knew he was Bruce Wayne). She’d break into the Batcave and steal the Batmobile, or she’d break into Wayne Manor just to mess with him. She said it was to point out his weaknesses to make him stronger. And she left a live mouse during each visit, which of course Batman kept and Alfred took care of. Eventually, Batman used the mice to track Catwoman back to Selina Kyle, which was the official start of their romance.
Then we flash forward into the future, where they’re a happy old couple, retired from crime fighting. Bruce is diagnosed with something terminal, and Selina is sad. She sees him pass, surrounded by loved ones. Then she finds that he left her a new pet cat in the passenger seat of the Batmobile.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This is just a very nice and quaint issue. It doesn’t add too much to the current Batman/Catwoman storyline, and it doesn’t take anything away. It’s just a fun little side comic that adds some retconned backstory and has some fun peeking into a possible future. There are worse ways to handle a standalone, double-sized issue. King and his art team bring their absolutely best to the whole issue. King’s story is cute and built around two very strong characters, whom he’s already injected a lot of personality and wit. The flash forward to their future lives together is pretty much perfect. And King has a lot of fun with the scenes that take place in the past.
And that’s pretty much the issue. I don’t think it answers any questions or really digs too deep into the matter. This is just a super sweet, extra-sized issue where King gets to really revel in the flirtation and love between Batman and Catwoman. That’s really all it is and that’s really all it needs to be. And it’s nice that the issue got some spectacular art. Glad to see Michael Lark back in a mainstream comic!
TL;DR: We pause this holiday season to give Batman and Catwoman a really sweet, really fun Annual issue. Good times all around.
Writers: Chad Bowers and Chris Sims
Artist: Kev Walker
I think it’s neat that Marvel is going to pump out a couple one-shot issues of classic comics, sort of as a way to test any waters that might be around. I’ve always liked Darkhawk, to an extent, so I definitely wanted to check this issue out.
It’s been a year since Chris Powell was able to turn into Darkhawk, but he’s still haunted by nightmares of the Fraternity of Raptors. In that year, Chris has become a cop (like his father, who was crooked) and he’s gotten engaged to a fun girl. She convinces him that the time has come to give up the amulet, and Chris figures he’ll do it after his shift.
While on duty, Chris is dispatched to the old, dilapidated carnival where he first found the amulet, and he’s approached by a couple other dirty cops who want to see if he’ll join them. Chris turns them down, of course, but their meeting is interrupted by a pair of Raptors! Chris fights them off and finds out they’re only cadets looking to make a name for themselves. One of them grabs the amulet and transforms into Darkhawk, but he’s gone mad! Chris thinks it’s the armor’s true soul, Razor, but the armor begins speaking to Chris.
The armor explains that its time with Chris has changed him, and he’s no longer the blood-thirsty Razor. Now he wants to help, and a year ago, he purposefully cut himself off from the energy source of the Raptors in order to fight against a new, more fanatic Fraternity that has risen ((in the pages of Guardians of the Galaxy (this is also why Chris hasn’t been able to transform)). Chris and the armor merge to become an even stronger Darkhawk! And one of the cadet Raptors escapes to warn their leader that Darkhawk is coming for him!
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
If this is what Marvel and the creative team have in mind for a new Darkhawk series, count me out. The issue is fine, with solid art, but they are clearly too in love with the seemingly complex history of Darkhawk — and that’s a killer for an attempt to start a revival in 2017. There is absolutely no subtlety in this comic. The creative team instead embraces apparently every single kernel of Darkhawk’s continuity and slathers all of it over every page, with a lot of long, exhausting bouts of exposition. There’s a page-long recap of his backstory, including mentions of The Loners and Avengers Arena. There seem to be several mind-bogglingly complex explanations for the Fraternity of Raptors and how they operate. He even name drops “Project Pegasus” and we get a big speech about what happened in Darkhawk #50, which came out in 1995!
The creative team should take a cue from Darkhawk himself and keep things sleek and sexy. The character has a complex backstory, which isn’t necessary his fault. When he became a background character at Marvel, writers were free to randomly pluck Darkhawk out of obscurity and plop him into whatever they wanted, hence his appearances in The Loners, Avengers Arena and War of Kings. But none of those things should matter in a legitimate, honest attempt to revive the character in 2017. That’s all chaff. And if you want to make Darkhawk cool again, you need to ignore the chaff and just tell a cool Darkhawk story. You need to streamline.
Instead, this issue feels like everybody doubling down on that overstuffed chaff, as if that’s what makes the character cool or interesting. And the issue ends with some declaration that he’s a new and improved Darkhawk? Looks and sounds the same to me. Chris Powell doesn’t go through any sort of journey or come to any sort of understanding. He begins the issue lamenting that he can’t become Darkhawk anymore, and then by the end of the issue, through no action of his own, he gets to become Darkhawk again. Maybe the suit got an upgrade, maybe an old enemy returned, but so what? How do either of those things warrant an entirely new Darkhawk series? How does a stock job and a stock girlfriend warrant a new visit to Chris Powell’s life?
We need a reason to care about Darkhawk again, and this issue, while competently made, doesn’t offer up anything beyond the surface level.
TL;DR: I appreciate Marvel having some fun with a cool, classic character, but a revival attempt needs a good hook. It needs a reason to exist. And all this issue does is exhaustively review all the crap that Darkhawk has been through for the past 20 years, then promise more of the same.
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!