Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 1/6/17
Welcome to the first comic reviews of the new year! I don’t have any real comic book resolutions this year, or any new comics I’m particularly looking forward to. I’m just going to like what I like and read what I want — while making more of my own comics!
Light week for me this week. We’ve got another wonderful Batman issue, and I check back in with Captain America and Iceman. Comic Book of the Week goes to a rather enjoyable issue of Hawkeye, which uses a guest appearance from Hawkeye to great effect.
Anybody read X-Men: Grand Design? It’s a neat little comic that recaps the early days/years of the original X-Men and the various supporting characters. It’s very specific in a lot of fun ways. And it had an extended bit on the Mimic joining the team, so I was happy with that.
Comic Reviews: Batman #28, Captain America #697, Hawkeye #14 and Iceman #9.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Travis Moore
Tom King is killing it on Batman and pretty much every other comic book property he touches. He’s the current Golden Child, and issues like this one are a good example why.
A rich couple is murdered in their home, leaving their orphan son and his butler — a story that sounds pretty similar, which is why Bruce Wayne is asked to meet with the kid and try and help him cope. The boy has always admired Bruce Wayne for his kindness and philanthropy, so much so that it was an inside joke with his dad and butler that he be called “Master Bruce”. Batman and Gordon initially think Zsasz is the killer, but he won’t talk. When two more couples wind up dead, they begin to suspect Two-Face. But Batman realizes that it’s only someone trying to frame these villains.
Batman figures out that the killer is the butler and he’s taken into custody. But then he realizes that the real killer is the orphan boy! He ordered his butler to murder his parents so that he could be like Bruce Wayne. Batman finds the boy having carved the names “Thomas Wayne” and “Martha Wayne” both into his parents’ gravestones and into his own cheeks. The boy is taken to Arkham.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This is just a well-written comic, top to bottom. It’s an examination of classic Batman-style detective work and King does a phenomenal job with it. Like, Zsasz receives a letter in prison that looks normal to the average person, but Batman is able to deduce that the Bible quote isn’t really from the Bible and is instead a clue written backwards. Then when they begin to suspect Two-Face because of all the number 2’s at the crime scene, Batman deduces that the amount of 2’s add up to 8, which is 2 cubed, and there is no way Two-Face would let 3 slip into his plan, so it can’t really be Two-Face. It’s all intricately built mystery/detective work and King plays it off so well.
The murderous boy and his Bruce Wayne obsession didn’t feel particularly new or interesting. I’m pretty sure that’s Tommy Elliot’s exact origin as well. But the story isn’t about him (though we may see him later in King’s run). This is a story about Batman’s excellent and kind of crazy detective work, and how his mind is always thinking. There are frequent scenes where Batman is busy deducing in his head while he goes about his day with his fiancee. It’s a fun story all around.
TL;DR: Tom King creates and executes a very fun, done-in-one detective story, getting to the heart of Batman as the world’s greatest detective.
Captain America #697
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Chris Samnee
Waid and Samnee seem to be taking a very simplistic approach to Captain America, at least so far. Each of their three issues has been a done-in-one story about Cap reconnecting with some good, honest folk in a good, honest Cap way. They’ve been fine, but not particularly enlightening. Just good, solid, American comics.
Captain America is kidnapped by Kraven the Hunter, who tosses Cap into a jungle so that Kraven can hunt the most perfect human specimen. Kraven has also kidnapped a civilian named Dave and thrown him into the jungle so that Cap has motivation to play along, to keep Dave alive. Cap and Dave trek through the jungle dodging traps and Kraven until they reach the end. Dave then reveals that he was a plant, but Cap susses out the trap and stops Dave, then stops Kraven as well.
Then it turns out that Kraven had been hired by a larger party to kidnap Cap. Those villains arrive in a sub and freeze Cap into a new block of ice!
Also, Wolverine shows up looking for Cap at the bar where he was first kidnapped. They were supposed to be meeting up.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
This issue was fine. On the one hand, I really like the approach that Waid and Samnee are taking. It’s very quaint and definitely in line with the character. Remember in Captain America: The Winter Soldier when Chris Evans played Cap as a nice and wholesome guy, but kept him cool and badass at the same time? That’s kind of what I’m getting here. Steve Rogers had a pretty rough year, so now he’s just kind of reconnecting with life in a simple, easy way. It’s solid storytelling when you’re trying to rebuild Cap from the horror that was Secret Empire. On the other hand, Waid hasn’t really given us anything to sink our teeth into yet. Cap and Kraven barely even face off in this issue. It’s just Cap and this Dave guy wandering through typical jungle traps. It’s all well done, make no mistake, but it’s not like Dave is really fleshed out as a character. And Kraven isn’t particularly fleshed out or explored either.
Also, I hope Marvel has an answer as to why the returned Wolverine is staying off the radar. Did he go back to the X-Mansion, only to have his feelings hurt when he saw that they’d just replaced him with Old Man Logan? I hope that was it.
TL;DR: An OK Cap story doesn’t have much meat on its bones, quickly burning through some jungle tropes instead of anything stronger.
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Leonardo Romero
It’s the beginning of the end! Hawkeye is bound for cancellation and Thompson has only a couple issues to wrap up this comic, one of my new favorites!
Clint arrives at Kate’s detective agency to regroup, get some gear and then go out in search of Kate. She’s been kidnapped by time-traveler Eden Vale, who is after the Hawkeyes following an adventure they had in time and space together during whatever the last big Marvel event was. Secret Empire? I think so. Anyway, Eden Vale uses her powers to pluck Kate’s mom from the time stream and bring her here, promising to give Kate her mother back if Kate helps take down Clint — but Kate refuses, even after getting a few wonderful moments with her mom. Then Kate escapes and knocks out Eden Vale.
Meanwhile, Clint teams up with Kate’s crew and hatches a plan to kidnap Madam Masque (who is still a clone of Kate) and pull the ol’switcheroo. So Clint breaks into Masque’s lair, beats up her goons and knocks out Masque. He arrives at the warehouse just as Kate knocks out Eden and he slips Masque’s unconscious body into the scene. Kate and Clint regroup a short distance away as Clint tries to explain his plan, but Kate points out the obvious: Masque and Eden wake up, Masque explains who she is and the two of them decide to work together against the Hawkeyes.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
That was a fun ending! Clint’s plan is treated as just a normal comic book plan throughout the book. No winks to the audience or silly comic relief. He works with the crew and they have good banter and solid humor. And he even gets to go through with his plan! It just so happens that Kate has already escaped on her own, because of course she did, and that Clint’s plan was dumb all along. It’s always fun when heroes fail or mess up. It makes them more human and better heroes.
Beyond that bit of fun, this was another very enjoyable issue of Kelly Thompson’s Hawkeye! All the characters are fun to read with a real human connection. Kate’s scene with her mom was touching and real, and Hawkeye dealing with the crew was just plain fun. Likewise, Hawkeye vs. Madam Masque was delightful, as was Romero getting to draw a big action/arrow scene with Clint instead of Kate. Very nice twist. Thompson and her team are doing a fine job of telling a final Hawkeye story and I’ll be sad to see them go.
Meanwhile, Thompson also kicked off a Gambit/Rogue comic this week. I read it and enjoyed it, but won’t be reviewing it because I’m just not interested in Gambit and/or Rogue. But I wanted to check out Thompson’s other work and she’s just as good with those characters as well! A very fun first issue.
TL;DR: If this be the end of Hawkeye, at least the creative team is sending us out with their usual stellar storytelling.
Writer: Sina Grace
Artist: Robert Gill
It’s the beginning of the end! Iceman is bound for cancellation and Grace has only a couple issues to wrap up this comic, one of my new favorites!
The X-Men are throwing Bobby a going-away party before he moves out to LA with Judah (who is also in attendance, having shown up unexpectedly to visit). It’s a fine party (and we finally get Northstar reacting to Iceman’s coming out), but there’s obviously trouble afoot. Daken has infiltrated the X-Mansion to…I think get revenge on Bobby? I’m not sure. Anyway, he has plans to keep everybody else distracted while he ambushes Bobby and Judah in a hallway. After taunting them for a bit, Daken has Zach use his powers to suppress the evil part of the Apocalypse Seed inside Daken, giving Daken a huge power boost. I think he wants to turn Iceman into one of his Horsemen. The two start fighting throughout the mansion as the power of the Seed threatens to overwhelm both Daken and Zach (who goes by Amp).
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This is a good issue, but I think Grace bites off a bit too much with Daken. I’m all for using continuity when it works, but does anybody remember why Daken has an Apocalypse Seed in him? For that matter, does anybody care about Daken? Or that he has an Apocalypse Seed in him? This might be my own bias against the character talking, but I just don’t feel him as a nemesis for Iceman. The characters have nothing in common and nothing to really work with when pitted against each other. And the normally amazing Grace can’t seem to find anything either. I’m all for Grace using whatever villains he wants, but he’s not convincing me that Daken is worth any of this.
Especially when he’s interrupting a pretty sweet X-Men party!
Seeing Iceman bounce off his various X-Men compadres in a party atmosphere is much more fun than Iceman duking it out with an overly complicated Daken. But comic books are comic books, and there must always be a hero/villain fight. I just with this one made more sense.
If Amp was already working with Daken, for months now, why do they wait until they’re already inside the X-Mansion and face-to-face with Iceman to try this Apocalypse Seed power upgrade? And if you want to go after Iceman, why not wait until he’s by himself all the way out in Los Angeles? Why attack the X-Mansion while they’re in the middle of a giant party? When a lot more X-Men than just the regular residents are hanging out and slightly drunk?
For that matter, Daken’s plan to get Bobby alone doesn’t really make sense. He has a bunch of his goons pose as Purifiers to surround the mansion and draw the X-Men out. The only thing this could lead to is a giant fight. There’s no way Daken could have predicted that Kitty would try to keep the Purifiers on the down low and invite all the X-guests to move the party to a bar off the grounds. There’s no way Daken could have known that Kitty would only send her X-Men Gold team after his fake Purifiers. And there’s no way Daken could have predicted that Iceman would personally take Judah to an upstairs room to be safe rather than jump right into the fight with Kitty and her team. Though I can definitely buy the plan where Zach convinces all the X-students to go wait in the Danger Room for a surprise for Iceman. That part makes sense, at least.
I’ve never liked Daken and his return to this series is more annoying and weird than the usual entertainment. Grace hasn’t had time to create any new villains with more emotional depth to their battles with Iceman, but he’s definitely created a great atmosphere of humanity and camaraderie. I think a focus on the party, and everybody’s concerns with Bobby moving across the country for a guy he just met, would have made for the stronger story to end the series. But maybe that’s just me.
TL;DR: A really strong, character-heavy story is interrupted by a crazy villain plot that doesn’t gel as well as the creative team would seem to want.
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!