Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 2/10/18
Here we go again! Last week, I complained that there were too few comics released that I read and review. This week apparently makes up for that deficit! We’ve got Spider-Man, we’ve got Hawkeye, we’ve got Iceman, we’ve got so dang many comics! Including the debut of X-Men Red!
Comic Book of the Week goes to the new issue of Runaways! It’s a delightful issue capping off the first storyline. And just in time for me to finish the Runaways TV show, which I also enjoyed.
I’ll talk more about the Runaways TV show in a couple weeks. For now, I liked it and am looking forward to a second season.
Comic Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #795, Batman #40, Harley Quinn #37, Hawkeye #15, Iceman #10, Runaways #6 and X-Men Red #1.
Amazing Spider-Man #795
Writers: Dan Slott and Christos Gage
Artist: Mike Hawthorne
I think Dan Slott is taking some time to wrap up some dangling plot threads before getting to the meat of his Osborn/Carnage storyline. Last time, it was Scorpio. This week, it’s Mockingbird and that Loki favor from ages ago.
What does Marvel have planned for Spider-Man that Slott felt the need to clean up the Loki favor dangling plot?
Peter and Bobbi are broken up! How sad. Peter gets a crummy new apartment to try and get his life in some kind of order, but then he’s summoned out of the office by Loki, the new Sorcerer Supreme. A long time ago, Loki came to owe Spider-Man a favor, and Loki offers to turn back time to when Peter was successful again — but Peter knows that messing with Loki and/or time travel is not a good idea. During their chat at the Sanctum Sanctorum, Peter accidentally breaks an ancient vase holding the Fire-Wasps of the Faltine. The wasps head out into the city and start attacking people, while Spidey — using his Spider-Totem status — tries to stop them, with Loki’s help. During the scuffle, Peter sees that Bobby and Aunt May have met for lunch, but since he’s been so busy, he missed the texts to join them.
Once the wasps are defeated, a civilian lies dead, so Spider-Man calls in the favor to have Loki turn back time to right before he accidentally smashed the vase. Loki complies, and since Spidey remembers everything that happened, he knows that he should head out and join Aunt May and Bobbi for lunch. And then Loki reveals to his sidekick, Zelma, that he set up the vase to be broken because he wanted to force Spider-Man to call in that favor (while also maybe ensuring Spidey had a chance to enjoy one last nice lunch with Bobbi?).
Meanwhile, Norman Osborn unleashes the Carnage symbiote, but finds that he can’t control its psychotic, murderous nature!
Also, Peter and Bobbi broke up in the wake of last issue’s trip to England. They took a regular plane home and realized, over a 7-hour flight, that they don’t really have anything in common other than being superheroes. Sad, but I suppose that’s a good enough reason to break them up.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I’m disappointed that Spider-Man and Mockingbird are already broken up, but I suppose it couldn’t last. I just wanted Slott to give Spider-Man a really solid and entertaining romance! It would have been fun! But he’s on the way out and there’s no way this relationship was going to become canon. And Slott gets a sweet story out of Peter meeting up with Bobbi and Aunt May at the end. Honestly, this was just a sweet little story all around, a self-contained adventure that all comes together nicely. From Loki tricking Peter into using his favor, to said favor inadvertently tipping off Peter to the lunch date he was missing. It’s a sweet little self-contained story of Spider-Man, clearing some things off the slate as we head towards the finish line. That’s good comics to me.
TL;DR: Dan Slott ties up some loose ends with a sweet little done-in-one Spider-Man story that ties itself off nicely at the end.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Joelle Jones
And so the saga of Batman and Wonder Woman comes to an end. Not in any way that I would have liked, but the Gentle Man story, overall, is still quality.
Batman and Wonder Woman don’t kiss, instead deciding at the last second that they can’t betray the ones they love. Their friendship is better than that. So they go on fighting the endless hordes for a few more decades, while the Gentle Man gets to spend some time with his wife in the real world. Now that Catwoman knows what’s really going on, she makes sure to cut the Gentle Man’s time short. He then willingly trades places back with Batman and Wonder Woman, who are grateful to be returned home. Batman is ready to tell the Gentle Man to get bent if he ever wants another break, but Catwoman says that she’ll join them next time.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Despite this being another awesome comic, I’m actually kind of disappointed. Batman and Catwoman are a great couple, but I have a soft spot for Batman/Wonder Woman, probably ever since Justice League Unlimited. So when King set up the idea that the two of them would give in to one another in this hellish situation, I thought it would make for some exciting drama! Really twist all the romantic storylines going on. Put a realistic strain on his relationship with Catwoman, but done so with a really weird superhero setting. The whole concept of the Gentle Man and this switch is really fascinating in that great sci fi/superhero way.
But nah, nothing much actually happens in this issue. Batman and Wonder Woman don’t give in for the most obvious reasons. The Gentle Man’s wife is just a normal woman, and their visit is about as normal as it gets. And then everything goes back to normal, Batman and Wonder Woman’s three decades brushed largely under the rug (though I suppose it could come up again in the future). After the great build-up last issue, I was expecting something more meaningful here. But I suppose Batman and Wonder Woman don’t have the relationship or history that Batman and Superman have, though I still think King could have done more to create some or embellish what little was already there.
Obviously all of this has a deeper meaning about the things we will and won’t do for love. I think Wonder Woman and the endless horde of demons both represent temptation, with both Batman and the Gentle Man fighting temptation for their wives. I’m pretty sure that’s the whole metaphor here.
At least the writing and art remain phenomenal. The writing, because King just has a way with words, and he uses them sparsely to create interesting scenes and moments that feel real. The Gentle Man’s reunion with his wife is brief, but the way they speak to each other reveals volumes about them and their love. Likewise, Jones’ art is magical. It’s deep and lush, with powerful emotions evident on faces and in body language. Everyone looks and moves gorgeously.
TL;DR: As cool as I found this story overall, with amazing art, it comes to an end with little consequence.
Harley Quinn #37
Writer: Frank Tieri
Artist: Mirka Andolfo
Now this is more like it…kind of. Tieri makes some strides to make Harley Quinn his own, and that’s a relief, but I’m not sure this comic is for me anymore.
In order to get away from everybody, Harley Quinn has set herself up as a fixer for hire, who will also be working jobs for Spoonsdale and the NYPD. She’s got a new apartment and she promises herself that she’s finally happy, though that might not be true. Most of her friends are weirded out by her choice and want to give her space, but Red Tool is still spying on Harley.
Meanwhile, the Penguin wants to move to New York City and he gathers together all of the heads of the NYC mob to kill them all. Then he offers the city to all the other usual Gotham villains.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This issue finally revealed, for me, what it is about Tieri’s Harley Quinn that is different from his predecessors: this is more cartoonish. No matter how wacky the Conner/Palmiotti Harley Quinn would get, there was always a grounding of real world realism, which is probably why I liked it so much. Tieri seems to be ditching that realism to just tell fun, wacky stories. Like the idea that Spoonsdale, the chief of police of New York City, is becoming an enabling sidekick to Harley and generic ‘police guy’. Or how the Penguin gathering/killing all the heads of the NYC mafia is as simple as getting a bunch of white guys in suits together and having them slaughtered by giant mutated penguin monsters. Or the non-ironic inclusion of Condiment King and Batzarro in the Penguin’s gathering of Gotham villains. It’s all just silly, cartoonish wackiness, which I don’t think is for me. It’s a large reason of why I don’t read Deadpool comics.
Though I will say that the art this issue is an improvement. And there’s a brief scene touching on Harley’s loneliness vs. happiness that gives me hope that Tieri has something deeper planned. But for now, it seems that silly is the order of the day.
TL;DR: The new issue of Harley Quinn leans hard into cartoonish silliness and expedience as the new writer continues to find his groove.
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Leonardo Romero
It’s a damn shame that this series is coming to an end. But at the same time, I’m encouraged that Kelly Thompson is getting more work at Marvel! Her Rogue & Gambit series is delightful so far! I hope her star just keeps rising!
Madame Masque and Eden Vale are soon joined by an army of Masque henchmen, and the Hawkeyes still take them on! Then they make their escape when Eden uses her time-travel powers to recruit a bunch of sharp-shooting villains from the past, like Lady Bullseye and Boomerang. The Hawkeyes take an Uber to Masque’s lair, fight through another army of henchmen, and rescue/kidnap Kate’s dad. Then they retreat to her office, gear up and prepare to take on everybody all over again!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
Part of this issue feels rushed, possibly because it’s the penultimate issue of the run, and Thompson may have had to cram some stuff. But that rushed feeling doesn’t hurt the book, which is just as much fun and funny as always! Kate and Clint have great banter throughout the issue as they fight, flee and fluster in nearly equal measure. The writing is as sharp and hilarious as ever between the two of them.
The action is also just as good, with not one, but two big scenes of the Hawkeyes fighting henchmen. That’s always been this creative team’s coup de grace, and they pull off another couple of excellent centerpieces. They even get in some good, solid quips about how many henchmen they fight all the time. And there’s a great moment where Kate just pushes her scooby supporting cast out of her office so that she and Clint can take care of this. I know it probably sucks for Thompson to have to ditch all the supporting cast/friends storylines she probably had planned, but she handles it very well this issue.
TL;DR: Hawkeye is coming to an end soon, and Thompson and her creative team are going out with an excellent and hilarious bang! Just what I’d hoped for!
Writer: Sina Grace
Artist: Robert Gill
Just like with Hawkeye, we’re almost done with Iceman, and I’m very disappointed to lose both great comics.
While Iceman battles Daken through the X-Mansion, Michaela and Idie show up late to the party and start rendering aid to the injured Judah. Then Michaela goes after Zach and kicks his butt, helping the X-Students trapped in the Danger Room. With an assist from Idie, Iceman gets the upper hand on the empowered Daken and smashes him outside. Iceman then surprises him with a kiss, which allows Bobby to freeze the Apocalypse Seed inside Daken —but Daken still gets away.
Later, Bobby visits Judah in the infirmary, and Judah tells him not to move to Los Angeles. This life is a bit too insane for Judah, so he’s got to end it. Bobby is bummed, but Kitty promises to be more supportive and offers Bobby his own X-Men team!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
There’s only one issue left, and Grace clearly decided to go out with as much of a bang as possible! I can’t speak to what Grace may have had planned for the series going forward, but I think he’s cramming in a lot of stuff in this penultimate issue, and he and artist Robert Gill handle that with superb skill. This issue is packed to the gills — pun intended — with action and character work. It feels rushed in the sense that it feels like Grace is cramming, but it doesn’t feel rushed in any way that worsens the story. It feels like Grace going for broke and that feels really cool.
The fight with Daken is about as intense and wild as one can get. Iceman pulls out every stop, from creating an army of ice clones to weapons of all kinds to eventually just freezing Daken’s insides. He doesn’t pull any of that Omega-Level Mutant stuff we’ve all been waiting for, but he really goes all out in this fight. Daken is turned into a Mortal Kombat villain to make him as evil and menacing as possible. I’m not quite sure how he got away, unless Iceman just didn’t bother to follow through his final attack. But I’m always surprised when villains are able to slip away from heroes with super-powers.
((Quick sidenote: On The Flash TV show, how do any villains get away from him? Unless they can teleport, how is it they can just leave a warehouse and he has no way to catch/stop them?))
Plus Spit Girl really carries her subplot in this issue, doing more than she’s done for the entire series so far. You just know Grace was planning something like this for his two original mutants (Spit Girl and Amp) and I’m glad he got to pull this off here. I like Spit Girl! She’s now on my list of newly created, creator-specific mutants who I hope show up somewhere else down the line.
TL;DR: Iceman may be coming to an end, but the creative team is going out with a superheroic bang!
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: Kris Anka
And so we come to the end of the first Runaways storyline. I am loving this revived series, but the main reason I loved it was because Rowell seemed to be avoiding the expected reunion.
Welp, the team got reunited, and I’m still loving it!
The Runaways take on Molly’s evil grandma and her army of telepathic cats, under Molly’s demands that they don’t hurt her grandma and they don’t hurt her grandma’s cats! Everybody dukes it out as best they can, until grandma orders the cats to launch a psychic attack, and that’s enough to push Molly fully over the edge to give up her grandma. Nico herds the cats out with a spell, but then a clone of Molly’s mom shows up to attack! As the other Runaways escape, Karolina goes full bright and puts an end to all of this nonsense!
Outside, the Runaways sit on the lawn and regroup. They bicker a little, comfort Molly a little, and decide to call the Avengers to turn in evil grandma. One of the telepathic cats survived being eaten by Old Lace (yup) and Molly totally picks it up as the newest Runaway. Then they all decide to go home.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
Rowell has such a great handle on these characters and their world that I’m loving it no matter what they do! Everybody is such a unique and interesting character, just like in the beginning, but Rowell has infused them with age and maturity, to an appropriate extent. I love that part. I love that this series isn’t just a redo of the original Runaways, or an attempt to make the TV show status quo the comic status quo. It’s a legitimate aging of the formerly teenage Runaways and a look at their lives now, after everything they’ve been through. Nico gets to name-drop that she was kind of an Avenger once, and Karolina’s girlfriend isn’t forgotten. It’s great!
Plus then you’ve got this issue specifically, which is a ton of fun! It’s the Runaways vs. a not-quite-evil old lady and her army of telepathic cats! With Molly shouting at them not to hurt her grandma or the cats! That’s hilarious adorable! It’s a villain fight, but the villain is directly linked to the characters and the story, and Rowell adds some conditions that are, again, character specific. That’s wonderful! Imagine if she’d just brought the Runaways back together and had them fight Mr. Hyde, or something dumb like that. This issue, this whole series so far, is rooted in the awesomeness and fun of these characters, and that makes for amazing comics.
TL;DR: The first new Runaways story sticks the landing with style and humor, a master class in how to revive a long dormant series, and keep it both classic and new.
X-Men Red #1
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Mahmud Asrar
Jean Grey is back from the dead! And she’s been delivered to the hands of writer Tom Taylor, whose All-New Wolverine comic I absolutely adore! So I’d say she — and we — are in good hands!
In the not too distant future, Jean Grey and her team of X-Men rescue a sleeping little girl who is about to be ambushed by a gun-toting, anti-mutant mob, which includes her own mother. They take her to their underwater safe haven, Searebro.
In the present, after helping Wolverine and Honey Badger save a screaming mutant infant, Jean Grey decides she needs to take some big steps to help the mutant cause. First, she assembles a conglomerate of the world’s best and brightest minds in Wakanda, linking with them psychically in order to try and build a positive dream for mutant kind. Jean tells Nightcrawler her dream and he immediately signs up to help. Jean then recruits Namor the Sub-Mariner alongside Black Panther, because she goes to the United Nations to discuss her dream and needs their support as member countries.
After giving Jean some public blowback, the ambassador from the UK meets with Jean on the steps outside to say that she supports Jean’s pro-mutant cause. But then some sinister force reveals that she’s controlling the ambassador’s mind and that Jean has upset her plan. The ambassador’s head then explodes, with everybody in the vicinity witnessing the powerful mutant Jean Grey standing right next to her! The X-Men barely have time to grab Jean and flee.
The villain, by the way, is Cassandra Nova.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
My problem with this first issue of X-Men Red is that it doesn’t have anything new to say, not even with the newly resurrected Jean Grey. That’s not necessarily’s Taylor’s fault as it is the state of the X-Men franchise these days. Every two years or so, the X-Men get a new status quo/team roster shakeup. So any big dreams or visions that Jean Grey might have are just another in a long, never-ending line of big dreams or visions that the X-Men have. The latest one was Kitty Pryde moving the X-Men school to Central Park. Heck, we barely even get to know what Jean’s dream is! Apparently, this dream is powerful enough to bring Nightcrawler to tears. She talks about forming a mutant nation, to be recognized by the United Nations, but in the same breath, she mentions how previous mutant nations get them targeted. So which is it? And then the death of the ambassador at the end of the issue looks like it’s going to derail any plans Jean had to begin with. Is this series going to be about Jean and her random squad on the run from anti-mutant forces? That’s even less interesting than a comic where Jean Grey tries to make a big difference for mutantkind!
Heck, zero attention is paid to the idea that Jean Grey is recently back from the dead. Kurt makes a little joke about it, but Black Panther, Namor and the entirety of the United Nations don’t really seem to care that the person asking for their help recently returned from the dead. On the one hand, I can appreciate putting such a thing behind us, story-wise, but you’d think it’d still be a big deal.
That’s not to say the issue isn’t entertaining, at least. Taylor and his creative team are awesome, so the comic looks great and reads well. I would argue that Jean isn’t really given any sort of specific personality in this issue, but I hope that’s only a matter of time. Taylor is too good of a writer to not work his magic with Jean over time.
It’s just…X-Men Red doesn’t seem to accomplish anything. It merely teases a bold new direction for mutants, then seems to derail even that teasing. The villain is just another reoccurring X-Villain, brought back for just another story. None of the characters particularly matter. There’s no explanation for why Kurt is the first and only person Jean tells about her new plan. Were they ever particularly close friends? And there’s likewise no explanation for why Wolverine and Honey Badger are spending so much time with Jean. They just are. Do we not even get a scene where Jean’s history with Logan prompts her to recruit Laura? That would be some nice character development.
Actually, X-Men Red #1 does accomplish at least one thing: it explains why Namor is on the team. Jean wanted some support in the United Nations and she personally knows a couple kings. Works for me. Besides, it’s a personal pet peeve when Marvel focuses on the character point that Namor is a mutant, and I shouldn’t hold it against this comic. I don’t think Namor has any place on an X-Men roster, but considering the fact that, were I a writer at Marvel, I would put Mimic in any and every X-Book I wrote, I don’t have room to complain about which characters the new writer wants to use.
I’m just going to be grateful that Taylor gets to make Honey Badger an X-Man.
TL;DR: Despite the hub-bub of bringing Jean Grey all the way back from the dead and giving her a brand new color of X-Team, the first issue of X-Men Red looks to be just business as usual.
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 February 10, 2018, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, X-Men and tagged Amazing Spider-Man, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Hawkeye, Iceman, Jean Grey, Kate Bishop, Runaways, X-Men: Red. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.