Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 1/13/18
It’s that time of year again! I’ve got another cold! If I were a better adult, I’d figure out what might be the root cause of the cold and make better preparations to stop it. But eh, that sounds like a lot of work. I’ll just keep popping cold medicine.
In better news, we’ve got a ton of nifty comics this week! Some of my favorite non-cancelled comics are in this week, like Ms. Marvel and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl! We’ve also got another super cool issue of Mister Miracle. But I’m going to award Comic Book of the Week to the final issue of the Conner/Palmiotti Harley Quinn, even though I don’t think it’s as strong of a finale as it could have been.
Still, I have greatly enjoyed their entire Harley Quinn run, and this is coming from a comic fan who never particularly cared about Harley. I never read her comic until this pair launched her new series during the New 52, and whatever the haters may say, this is always going to be my Harley! Here’s hoping the new team can keep the quality going.
All the best, Amanda and Jimmy!
Comic Reviews: Detective Comics #972, Harley Quinn #34, Mister Miracle #6, Ms. Marvel #26, Runaways #5 and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #28.
Detective Comics #972
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Miguel Mendonco
Tynion’s Detective Comics is so consistently good that I’m running out of things to say about it every other week.
Batman faces off against Clayface, the former arguing that Clayface can be saved, the latter arguing that he can’t. Eventually Clayface makes his escape and goes straight for the Belfry. The heroes gather together to stop him, but Clayface is able to get the upper hand — until his best friend, Cass, stands in his way and Basil breaks down in tears at what he’s become. Unfortunately, the fight has damaged the Mud Room training area, which uses Clayface clay to simulate a Danger Room. All of that extra clay floods onto Clayface, turning him into a giant kaiju that busts through the top of the Belfry!
Meanwhile, Batwoman’s father has given her a special gun that can kill Clayface. And Dr. November has almost finished her antidote, but she’s not sure if it will even work. So there are some moral conundrums taking place on the sidelines.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Good storytelling, solid character work, exciting action, this issue is par for the course for Tynion’s Detective Comics. He sets up the obvious moral quandary that the team is about to face, and he sets it up well, adding the bonus material from the previous Future Fascist Batman storyline. The whole creative team is doing a great job building this storyline on everything that’s come before, and I’m very excited to see where it goes next. Though I’m a little worried that Tim Drake might get raked over the coals a little bit. At one point in this issue, he gets angry with ordinary citizens for falling prey to a demagogue, but a guy like Tim should know how that’s a more complicated problem than he seems to be letting on. Ah well, I shouldn’t be too protective of my favorites.
TL;DR: This storyline just keeps building to greater and more exciting heights! Can’t wait to see it all come crashing together.
Harley Quinn #34
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner
Artists: John Timms and Chad Hardin
Fair warning: this is a long one.
We come at last to the end of Harley Quinn. As I’ve said before, I never much cared for the character, but I picked up the first issue of this series on a whim, and on the strength of Amanda Conner’s general awesomeness. I haven’t missed an issue since! Conner and Palmiotti’s Harley Quinn grabbed me from issue #1 with its quirky lead, silly humor and, most importantly, a strong, beating heart.
Not all comics have heart these days, but the best ones have a heart as big and as wonderful as Harley Quinn.
I still fondly recall Harley Quinn #8 from the Rebirth a year or so ago, an issue that I sometimes worry I gave too much credit, but I’ll stand by my assessment. Some people haven’t liked this version of Harley Quinn, but I’ll be damned if she’s ever been better than with Palmiotti, Conner and their team.
So I’m a little disappointed that their final issue doesn’t really…end as strongly as I would have liked.
Harley, Ivy, Tony and another one of their friends are on a roadtrip to Florida. They stop at a motel/bar and Ivy goes up to sing karaoke, but Harley and her new biker friends are too rowdy. Then the wives/girlfriends of those bikers get into a jealous fight with the girls in the bathroom and everybody ends up in the clink. Harley’s parents bail them out and take Harley and Ivy home, where they have a rambunctious family dinner with Harley’s three younger brothers. Harley and her mom then have a nice moment.
That night, Harley sneaks out to visit her pet hyenas, who she set up in a nearby zoo. They have babies! Ivy follows her and gives Harley a nice speech about having to let things go and move on. They flee the zoo and the cops, then depart from Harley’s family home the next morning.
Harley then has a dream about attacking Palmiotti and Conner in their home and complaining about all the baggage they gave her. When she wakes up, she and Ivy are on a romantic boat trip sharing drinks. They commiserate on Harley taking some time to herself when she gets home, and how life is good with fond memories and laughter.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I was all set to whine a little bit about how this issue doesn’t end as strongly as I would have liked. I wanted Conner and Palmiotti to really underline everything they’d done and accomplished with this series, in a big, Kyle Broflovski-esque moment to sum everything we’d learned. And after my initial read through, I didn’t think they’d hit those heights.
But now that I’ve given it some thought and looked back over the various scenes and their possible intents, I think I initially misjudged this issue. Like Star Wars: The Last Jedi, you’ve actually got to put in some thought of your own into how well this issue really does sum up this entire Harley Quinn run.
Unfortunately, I don’t think DC Comics or Harley Quinn fans are going to learn the lesson…
It starts with the hyena scene. Not being a Harley Quinn fanatic, I hadn’t given any thought to Bud and Lou over the course of this entire run. They’re neat additions to the character, but I just didn’t think about them. So throwing them into the final issue is a solid choice, explaining where they’ve been. It gives the classic Harley fans something they’ve probably longed for. And for a brief moment, Harley is overcome with joy at seeing her babies…but that’s not what the scene is about. It’s not fan service.
Harley finds out that her hyenas have found mates and had children. They’ve grown up and matured and moved on. And Harley has to do the same. As I’ve written about before, Harley Quinn is lonely. She was created with an obsessive, all-consuming romantic love for the Joker, and ever since the character was allowed to break away from him, she hasn’t found anything to fill that void.
So here she is trying to cling to the past, to use her hyenas to fill that void. Isn’t it so great to see them again? Don’t we all love the idea that Harley Quinn has a pair of hyenas as pets?
But that’s not good enough anymore. Harley has grown, the hyenas have grown, and she has to give them up and move on. And it’ll be OK. It’s OK that she has to move on. It’s OK that Harley Quinn be allowed to grow as a character.
And that is a pretty strong lesson for the end of Conner and Palmiotti’s run on Harley Quinn.
The rest of the issue is OK. The opening stuff at the bar is a little wild and seemed to go off on a few tangents I didn’t particularly care for, but I think that was just Conner and Palmiotti celebrating some of their typical Harley wackiness. Likewise, Harley’s visit with her family. The creative team fleshed out Harley’s parents a couple issues ago to great effect, but they don’t do the same with her brothers. I would have liked more out of Harley’s family visit.
Likewise, they don’t do much with her big supporting cast. Tony disappears without accomplishing anything on this road trip, and Queenie was the fourth member of the trip, but she has been such an inconsequential character that I never remembered her name. If this was the last we ever see of Tony, it’s a shame. Likewise Red Tool. If we never see him again, he’s definitely wasted in this issue. But maybe that was also the point.
And I’m not sure what to make out of the creative team’s self-inseration scene. It’s basically just Harley angrily complaining about everything they’d saddled her with and doing a lot of smashing. Was she supposed to be a stand-in for classic Harley fans? Maybe.
Still, this issue is better than I initially gave it credit for. The wrap-up is more subtle than I would have liked, but I still like it and will miss this creative team.
TL;DR: Harley Quinn comes to an end with a fun issue that revels in the series’ typical shenanigans, while delivering a couple of subtle wrap-up lessons. It’s not as era-defining as I would have liked, but it’s still a fond farewell.
Mister Miracle #6
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
If Harley Quinn hadn’t delivered a solid farewell issue, this would have been the best of the week, again. Mister Miracle might go down as some kind of masterpiece.
Mister Miracle and Big Barda fight their way through all the traps and guards in Highfather’s fortress. While they do, they also carry on a casual conversation about redecorating their condo. Because, oh yeah, Barda is pregnant. Such wonderful news! And then Scott goes in to confront Orion…
…only to find him beaten bloody! And Darkseid is there! Darkseid is! The villain Boom Tubes away, leaving Scott nearly catatonic at the sight. Barda runs in and Scott says he’s seen the face of god!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
The subtle magic at work in this comic is so damn good! An entire issue is spent on this fun juxtaposition of artwork and character drama. The artwork is fantastic with the expertly carried out break-in, with the pair of them overcoming every single obstacle in their path. There are fights and death-defying stunts on nearly every page. In lesser hands, this would either be over quickly, or would be peppered with action banter. Instead, it’s a seemingly passive aggressive argument about Big Barda wanting to redecorate their condo and Scott liking things the way they are. It’s fantastic! Even the side jokes here and there are hilariously good.
Then, of course, this was all just lulling us into a false sense of security! That calm, issue-long discussion about furniture and apartment renovations is interrupted by the most vicious, insane moment we’ve seen in this comic to date! And it’s Darkeid’s arrival, long anticipated since issue #1! Just when we think the story is about Scott Free taking on Orion, here comes Darkseid! An intense, mind-altering Darkseid, no less! That is damn cool comics!
TL;DR: Once again, King and his team expertly use the medium to deliver an exciting, unexpectedly cool comic book story.
Ms. Marvel #26
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Nico Leon
I miss Kamala Khan in her own comic, but a storyline focusing on her friends and supporting cast is good, too.
Zoe and Red Dagger defeat the giant iguana cyborg, though both are the worse for wear. Zoe returns to her friends and tries to convince them that the Inventor has returned, but they’re all a little behind on what she’s talking about. Zoe realizes that the old man she met last issue was right, so she rushes out to go find him, leaving her friends behind. Zoe and the old man sneak into the Inventor’s evil science dungeon, where he’s got a bunch of old people hooked up to machines! And now he’s got the two of them!
Red Dagger finds the other friends, who have noticed that now Zoe has gone missing. Red Dagger throws their courage to the sticking place and the kids dress up in their makeshift Ms. Marvel costumes to go to battle!
Meanwhile, Naftali continues his search for Kamala, though his uncle advises him to just let the girl have her space.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
The final shot of this issue, with Red Dagger leading a team of Ms. Marvel-costumed teens into battle, almost makes this storyline worth the weirdness. I’m still not buying the idea that this group of teens would take it upon themselves to dress as Ms. Marvel and try to fight crime with elaborately constructed approximations of her stretchy powers. But if I can just picture them as concerned citizens trying to pick up the slack as just concerned citizens, that works a bit better. And Red Dagger is a fun addition, though his character could use a bit more fleshing out. He needs a personality as strong as Zoe, Mike and the rest of the gang. Otherwise, this issue contains some solid hijinks and a strong focus on character, so I’m not going to complain much at all.
TL;DR: As the shenanigans expand, the creative team makes this odd story worthwhile, even without the main character.
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: Kris Anka
Somebody tell me to get off my butt and start watching the Runaways TV show already! I hear very good things!
Molly’s grandmother is indeed an evil scientist, and Molly kind of knows it. She’s worried about Gert, since her grandma keeps doing experiments on Gert, convincing the purple-haired girl that it’s good, benevolent science. Molly’s been OK with it because she loves her grandma and believes the woman isn’t evil, per se. But she did give telepathy to all of her cats! The two girls prepare to escape out their bedroom window, but grandma catches them in the act!
Fortunately, the rest of the Runaways come to their rescue! Victor decides to let Chase know that he’s awake, and he tells Chase that grandma is evil. And Karolina pops in on Nico, who almost kisses her! But then Chase and Victor show up to recruit them, and all four arrive at grandma’s house in time to save Molly and Gert!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
It was good while it lasted. I have been loving this Runaways relaunch for how strongly it argued against the very idea of the Runaways. I loved the premise that all of these kids have grown up and matured beyond their silly little childhood gang. But apparently that wasn’t really the premise of the Runaways comic. Rowell really is just throwing in a super-villain and getting the gang back together. Molly’s grandmother turns out to be evil enough to give us a villain, and then Karolina just happens to show back up at Nico’s place without any explanation. I hope one is forthcoming, and I’m totally down with romance drama, but I am definitely slightly disappointed that the series is heading in this direction overall.
Fortunately, even with my hopes and dreams for this comic crumbling to dust, it’s still hugely entertaining. Rowell writes everybody so well, and they bounce off each other even better. Molly’s growing distaste with how her grandmother is treating Gert is really well-handled, taking Molly’s age and her happiness into account. Kudos to both Rowell and Anka on that one. And the Chase/Victor scene is just plain fun. So part of me knows it will be nice to have everybody together on an adventure, even if it’s not the adventure I was hoping we would get.
TL;DR: The creative team breaks my heart with where they’re taking this series, but I can’t ignore the fact that Runaways is still a super fun comic book.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #28
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Erica Henderson
What’s that? Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is amazing? In other news: water is is wet.
Squirrel Girl and Loki take on Dormammu in the Dark Dimension! When Squirrel Girl learns that Dormammu is powered by aggrieved souls with unfinished business, she realizes that includes all of the North American squirrels who were wiped out when European settlers arrived. So she has Loki grow a squirrel head to communicate with these squirrels and drive off Dormammu! It works!
Loki then decides he’s going to go with Squirrel Girl to rescue Nancy, so he summons a spaceship — the Milano, with Drax inside. After some tomfoolery, Squirrel Girl, Loki and Drax head into space and crashland on the squirrel planet, destroying the bomb, which turns out to be fake. Once Squirrel Girl and crew are caught up, they realize that the Silver Surfer is a scam artist, so they want to stop him and his bros. When they return, our heroes try to trick the villains into admitting that they’re scammers, but they hold fast to their lie, and Squirrel Girl just gets angrier with them.
When the real Silver Surfer shows up to investigate, Squirrel Girl assumes he’s the grifter and she punches him square in the facehole!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Funny, silly and all around quality, what’s not to love about Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and the latest storyline? I thought the Loki/Dormammu stuff was weird to add to Squirrel Girl last issue, but North has some fun with it, and isn’t that all that we want? Likewise the sudden arrival of Drax in this issue. It’s pointless, but North has all the fun in the world with Drax, Loki, Doreen and pretty much everybody!
Though if I may take a moment, I still cringe every time I encounter the movieverse Guardians in the world of comics or elsewhere. I don’t know what it is, but watching other writers (even someone of Ryan North’s caliber) attempt to ape the comedic stylings of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, it just rubs me the wrong way. Like, when Loki summons a spaceship and gets a very movie-accurate Milano, I winced. I can’t explain it and I don’t fault North or Henderson. I just think the Guardians movies have a special kind of magic that can’t be easily replicated outside of the movies.
Tangent aside, this was a funny and all-around enjoyable issue of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. I’m amazed that North and Henderson are keeping it going this long, but considering who they are, I probably shouldn’t be so surprised.
TL;DR: Funny, weird and very inventive, the new issue of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl uses space madness and multiple guest stars to have the same great fun we already love.
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 January 13, 2018, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews and tagged Clayface, Detective Comics, Harley Quinn, Mister Miracle, Ms. Marvel, Runaways, Squirrel Girl, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.