Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 1/27/18
I think I might have been in a bad mood this week. I don’t think I was. I had a pretty nice week. Saw some movies. Did some work. Had lots of good times. But none of the comics this week really spoke to me, not Amazing Spider-Man or Batgirl, and definitely not Doomsday Clock!
Comic Book of the Week is going to be the new Detective Comics, for a big important story, but one I felt got a little too big. Still good, at least.
Comic Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #794, Batgirl #19, Detective Comics #973, Doomsday Clock #3 and Marvel Two-in-One #2.
Amazing Spider-Man #794
Writers: Dan Slott and Christos Gage
Artist: Stuart Immonen
So the news is out that Dan Slott will finally be leaving Amazing Spider-Man this Spring, and he plans to go out with a bang! I can’t say I’m sorry to see him go. I don’t mean that in a cruel or wicked way; I just think it’ll be nice to give somebody else a try writing Amazing Spider-Man for awhile. I’ve loved almost all of Slott’s work on this title, and the magic that he penned in his self-contained Silver Surfer comic, is all a sure sign that I’ll probably enjoy his Iron Man. Can’t wait to find out.
As for who I think should take his place on Amazing Spider-Man, I think I’d have to go with…me. Yeah, I said it. Deal with it.
One year has passed since Spider-Man trapped the villainous Scorpio in a time prison, so Spidey, Mockingbird and the Horizon Labs folks have a containment machine set up to recapture Scorpio as soon as he gets out. Of course, Scorpio just smashes through all of it and is reunited with the Zodiac Key, which recently broke out of a secure containment facility. Scorpio rushes the Key to Big Ben to enact his next plan, but Spidey and the gang defeat him easily enough. That’s how they roll.
Meanwhile, remember that secure containment facility? The Key was able to break free because two bad guys raid the facility and kill everybody inside to grab a top secret thing. They deliver this thing to their boss, Norman Osborn, and the thing is revealed to be…the Carnage symbiote!
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
So yeah, disappointingly, the Carnage thing was spoiled for me on the Internet. I’m not quite sure how we’ve developed into a world where all the popular comic book blogs and websites will gladly publish news and spoilers for the very same comics they love — though I’ve probably done it before myself, so who am I to talk? Either way, that kind of ruined the surprise of what the bad guys were searching for and why. Still, it wasn’t that much of a search to begin with. There is a lot of potential to Norman Osborn donning the Carnage symbiote for Dan Slott’s big Amazing Spider-Man finale. But this issue goes through some pretty boring motions to get the symbiote into Osborn’s hands. Two unknown, ordinary mercs break into a previously unheard of containment facility to grab a mysterious package? Why does any of that matter? Why not do an amazing story where the Green Goblin tracks down Cletus Kasady and rips the Carnage symbiote from his body in an epic fight between villains? Just sayin’…
Meanwhile, we’ve got a fairly boring story about Spider-Man defeating Scorpio with no real stakes. Scorpio and the Zodiac are boring villains. Always have been, always will be. They weren’t interesting in Slott’s original story about them, and Scorpio isn’t interesting here. I think Slott was just wrapping up a dangling plot thread that only he remembered.
Also, I finally got around to reading the Mockingbird comics from author Chelsea Cain and they were really good! Part of me wishes I’d read the series when it came out, but I’m happy to have the tpbs now.
TL;DR: The new issue is fine, but it’s a really boring way to set up the future stories to come.
Writer: Hope Larson
Artist: Chris Wildgoose
Batgirl teaming up with the Penguin? Sure!
After saving a local doughnut shop from a bunch of actors hired by a rival doughnut shop to pretend to be thugs, Batgirl is shocked at the sudden, unpredicted snowstorm hitting Burnside. With the municipal snowplows in the shop, everybody in town comes together to help each other out. Even the Penguin shows up to start digging people out of the snow, much to Batgirl’s shock and suspicion, but the mayor says it’s OK (also, Burnside has its own mayor. I thought it was just a neighborhood in Gotham City…).
Batgirl visits the American Weather Administration to try and find out how nobody knew the snowstorm was coming, and she finds out that a recent anti-climate change presidential appointment has cut funding and staffing, so it’s only a skeleton crew watching the nation’s weather satellites — and their servers got hacked! Batgirl traces a clue to the criminal group S.P.U.R. — Stockmen Pursuing an Unbound Republic. They’re a trio of America-themed anti-government old guys who get their comical butts whooped, but they protest that they’re being framed!
Batgirl then gets an emergency text from her pal Qadir, who recently got a new secret government job. His offices are being raided!
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
This issue was kind of weird, and not in a very good way. It’s still a fun comic, there’s no denying that, but this issue stretches some of the ideas behind Batgirl in directions that I found kind of weird. Like, on a heavy snow day, Batgirl comes out in costume in the middle of the day to help work on power lines? And the weather service getting a forecast wrong is the sort of thing a vigilante like Batgirl decides to just up and investigate? Hmmm, a sudden snowstorm in the northeast in the middle of Winter? Looks like costumed vigilante Batgirl is going to have to stroll into a federal building to personally investigate the local office of the National Weather Service!
And then an extended fight scene involving these S.P.U.R. idiots takes up most of the issue, but they apparently don’t have anything to do with the crime. So what was the point of visiting them again?
I dunno. Based on the cover, I assume there’s a bigger story coming involving the Penguin, but Larson jumps through some really weird hoops — that she herself created — in order to get us heading towards that bigger story.
TL;DR: As much as I love Hope Larson’s Batgirl, sometimes she takes some really weird leaps in character and logic to move us through her story.
Detective Comics #973
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Jesus Merino
I think I’ve settled in on what doesn’t feel right about this Detective Comics storyline: it’s too big.
A giant monster Clayface is rampaging through Gotham City after tearing the Belfry apart. Red Robin is rushed to medical attention while the rest of the team splits up. Batman goes after Clayface directly, using the Batmobile to try and lure him away from civilians. Orphan and Spoiler visit Dr. October to get her experimental cure. Batwing and Azrael use the other Batwing robots to also distract Clayface. Batwoman gets into position to take her shot. And Anarky gets sick and tired of the First Victim’s selfish schemes and takes out the villain, turning her over to the Bat-Family.
During the scuffle, Orphan is able to hit Monster Clayface with October’s serum, but it’s only able to revert him to human form for a very brief period. Batwoman uses that time to shoot him in the head with her dad’s anti-Clayface gun.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Tynion’s Detective Comics is a very good ongoing comic. It’s fun, exciting, with great character work. But it’s also kind of the antithesis of a Batman comic. He’s barely a side character in his own series, with a big, wide Bat-Family all boasting about doing this big, new thing with the Belfry and the Team. Red Robin especially. And while the writing and stories are good, the whole premise of this series slowly drags it away from the core concepts of what make a Batman comic so entertaining and so cool — at least to me. Batman is just a better character when he’s contained. But here, with a sloppily drawn Batmobile scooting around the city against a giant kaijua? With a dozen or so extra characters throwing in their 2 cents? It may make for an exciting storyline overall, but the sheer scope is so far removed from the core concept that it loses some of the heart.
I don’t care how well Tynion has built up Clayface over the course of his run. This comic is just too big and busy for his ‘death’ to have the impact it should.
Also, on a purely personal note, the idea that Tim Drake is the one leading the charge against the classic awesomeness of Batman and Robin is a little disheartening. It’s a further twist of the knife that one of my favorite eras of Batman comics is really, truly gone.
TL;DR: The latest story gets a little too big and a little too frantic to maintain the emotional stakes it desperately wants to cling to. Where’s the intimacy?
Doomsday Clock #3
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
I’m starting to regret deciding to review issues of Doomsday Clock like a normal comic.
So the Comedian that ambushed Ozymandias at the end of last issue is the real Comedian, having been saved from death by Dr. Manhattan. Sigh. Anyway, they fight and Ozy escapes by jumping out the window.
Rorschach gives Batman the notebook of the original Rorschach to read, while Batman lets the new Rorschach take a shower and get some food up in Wayne Manor. When Batman is finished, he takes Rorschach to Arkham Asylum and tricks him into one of the cells.
Marionette and the Mime head out into Gotham City to find some fun and they stumble upon a bar full of nogoodniks who work for the Joker. They kill everybody — with Mime’s invisible weapons turning out to be real — and decide to go find the Joker.
Meanwhile, we’re treated to a little story-within-a-story, like the pirate tale from the original Watchmen. This time it’s a hard-boiled detective movie from the 50s that some old people are watching on TV in their retirement home. I’m confident that it is somehow a meta-narrative to this whole thing.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
I said in my review of the previous issue that the idea of bringing the Comedian back to life sounded exhausting. I was right. I rolled my eyes as the opening pages of this issue revealed that this was the real Comedian, saved from death and brought into this story. It’s everything I’ve disliked about Doomsday Clock so far. It’s like a Hamlet 2 sequel to Watchmen, and I love the movie Hamlet 2. But in the movie, the actual play, ‘Hamlet 2’, is an insane mish-mash of ideas where we presume ‘what if everybody survived the first Hamlet?’ What purpose does bringing the Comedian back to life serve? Doesn’t it spit in the face of everything the original Watchmen was built upon? And shouldn’t we hold something like Watchmen in higher deference than this random cash-in attempt several decades later?
We’re three issues in and all Doomsday Clock has done is attempt to leech off the importance of Watchmen. Doomsday Clock, so far, doesn’t have anything of its own to say even as it tries so incredibly hard to ape the importance of Watchmen. Oh, so we’re just gonna drop in a detective noir movie like the original did with the pirate story? Yeah, sure, fine, go right ahead. It’s not like anything interesting is even being done with the Watchmen elements of the story. The big scene where Batman meets Rorschach and finds out about the Watchmen universe? It happens off screen! And Batman just reads a book on the subject! And the Mime’s weapons are real? Well gee, that flies in the face of the rules of super powers from Watchmen.
Doomsday Clock is a competently made comic, but it’s losing me quickly. I’m not going to be entertained just because Watchmen characters are being used. You actually have to do something with them or give a compelling reason why you’re using them at all.
Also, I highly recommend the comedy Hamlet 2. It’s great!
TL;DR: The latest issue of Doomsday Clock wastes every opportunity it gives itself to tell an interesting and compelling story. Just having Watchmen characters and DC characters in the same room together is not good enough.
Marvel Two-in-One #2
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Jim Cheung
Do you ever get stuck wishing a comic was something different? Or was a better version of itself? I think that’s my problem with Marvel Two-in-One, an otherwise fine comic.
Reed Richards’ final message to the Thing is that their new interdimensional-hopping doohickey is hidden at the site of their first adventure, so the Thing and Human Torch head to Monster Island, because that was from Fantastic Four #1. They stumble upon a bitter feud between the Mole Man and some leftover monsters from that recent Monsters Unleashed crossover (does anybody even still remember that?). Everybody gets into a big fight until Doctor Doom shows up and lays waste to the monsters, having tailed our heroes here to seize the device for himself, but he clearly sees that they are imbeciles.
Ben Grimm then recounts a story from his college days, when he and Reed played a prank on Victor. Reed called this their “first adventure”, so Ben takes Johnny to the site of the prank and they find the doohickey.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This is on me, and is entirely subjective, but I don’t like the way Zdarsky writes the new, heroic Doctor Doom. He still writes Doom as a snide and pompous asshole, which is true to the character in the bigger picture, but doesn’t line up exactly with the Doom we saw in Brian Michael Bendis’ Infamous Iron Man series. I loved that comic and the way Bendis wrote these three characters. It was amazing. Zdarsky seems to be picking up where Infamous Iron Man left off, but it’s not the same, and I am personally let down by that. But like I said, that’s totally on me. It does not speak to Zdarsky’s skill as a writer or the quality of this comic. It’s just…not what I wanted.
The strength of Infamous Iron Man, especially the scenes involving Doom, Thing and Human Torch, was that we were watching the sad, lonely lives of three people in mourning. That they were three very fascinating people, with super powers, made it comic book worthy. But I loved how the three of them were spiraling in different directions after the loss of Reed, Sue and the rest of the Fantastic Four. The first issue of Marvel Two-in-One had some similar ideas, but this second issue starts pushing us back into classic comic book storytelling.
And that’s fine. It has to be fine. And the art is phenomenal, because of course it is from Cheung. I’m being unfair to Marvel Two-in-One and I know it. It’s still a good comic, it’s just taking some creative directions that I don’t personally like.
TL;DR: The new issue ramps up the action and the danger, with a solid flashback and a bunch of crazy monsters. That’s pretty solid comic bookering.
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 27, 2018, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man and tagged Amazing Spider-Man, Batgirl, Detective Comics, Doomsday Clock, Fantastic Four, Human Torch, Marvel Two-in-One, The Thing, Watchmen. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.