Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 2/17/18

Oh man, Black Panther was an awesome movie! I loved it! So good! If only I was reading Black Panther comics and could review them this week! Does anybody have any opinions on the current Black Panther run by Ta-Nehisi Coates? I gave up pretty early on it, but I’ve heard it gets better in the long run, so I’m considering picking up the TPBs.

Fortunately, we’ve got some good comics here, like DetectiveComics with major developments and a hilarious Unbeatable Squirrel Girl! Comic Book of the Week goes to the new issue of Ms. Marvel for an amazing issue that finally make sense of the current storyline.

Mike Knows 01

Darnit, Mike!

Who knew the storyline that purposefully does not include Ms. Marvel would turn out so good? I had my doubts, but here we are!

Comic Review: Detective Comics #974, Marvel Two-in-One #3, Ms. Marvel #27, Sideways #1 and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #29.


Detective Comics #974

Detective Comics #974
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Philippe Briones

The big dramatic fallout from the Clayface story is here! It’s very good, but I feel there’s still a slight disconnect between comic and reader.

Batwoman has shot and killed Clayface, ending his monstrous rampage and saving the city — but breaking Batman’s #1 rule in the process. He comes at her with anger, but Batwoman is confident that she did what any police officer or solider would do, and they’d be commended for it! She saved millions by stopping the Kaiju Clayface rampage. Red Robin, Spoiler and Orphan are equally upset with Batwoman, with Cassandra tearing the bat symbol off Kate’s chest. Batwing and Azrael are on Batwoman’s side, and Batman invites them to leave with her if they so choose.

Afterwards, Dr. October uses her serum to cure Mudface. And Batwoman’s father fully supports her decision and offers her the chance to finally join him and the Colony for real.

And Tim Drake is already hard at work on Belfry 2.0, but Stephanie shows up and gets angry that Tim is wasting his gifts like this, and no longer following his real dreams. She tells him she’s leaving Gotham for awhile, without him. Once she’s gone, Tim falls to his knees in despair. Batman arrives just then, and Tim unloads on him how Tim feels trapped on the path that turns him into Evil Future Fascist Batman. Tim can’t help but want to save the city with bigger and grander plans, and being part of Batman’s team is what has led him down the path to making those plans a reality. But he can see how this path will exactly turn him into that evil version of himself. How can it not?

Also, Ulysses Armstrong, the Colony’s evil tech dweeb, has teamed up with Brother Eye to be the next big villain!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This is a really cool issue with a lot of big moments for a lot of characters. But I feel there’s an emotional disconnect that I just can’t put my finger on. In the same way that I didn’t really feel Clayface’s murder last issue, I can’t quite feel the emotion in this issue either. Tynion is a great writer, and Briones on art is just perfect. But there’s just something keeping me from really embracing the obvious emotion in this issue. Is it because Tynion might be more of a talky/showy writer than an emotional one? Is it the fact that there are just so many characters in this series, and all of them get some time to react, that the bigger moments don’t land as deeply as they should?

Tynion writes good comics, but I feel like his Detective Comics is too much meat and potatoes superhero action to really land these big, emotional moments. But that’s not to say these moments aren’t cool in their own right.

Batwoman Yelled At 01

Yelled at by Batman!

Batwoman shoots and kills one of their allies! That should be huge! I wonder if the Batwoman solo series will be effected. This is character-defining stuff. Likewise, Tim Drake is having a crisis of direction and I really like that character growth. These are big, important stakes and I enjoy reading about them, I just don’t feel anything for them. Cassandra Cain is in tears, her best friend murdered by one of her mentors, but she only gets a page or two to act out. One of Batman’s allies, who literally named herself ‘Batwoman’, has broken his biggest rule and he gets a page or two to yell at her before he’s got to share the rooftop with everybody else and he just stands around in the background.

I dunno. It’s like the Belfry Bunch still doesn’t feel like a team or a family. It still feels like just a collection of Batman supporting characters working together. So these major events don’t really feel like they effect the team dynamic.

But maybe this is all just me. Super fun comic, regardless.

TL;DR: Big moments, great character development and some people will never be the same in a pretty major Detective Comics.


Marvel Two-in-One #3

Marvel Two-in-One #3
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Valerio Schiti

I think I’ve figured out Chip Zdarsky’s gimmick…

Before the Thing and the Human Torch can get started on their multi-dimensional adventure, the Thing figures they need to fix the Human Torch’s powers. They go to visit Hercules because he lost his powers once and then got them back somehow. I imagine that’s happened to a lot of superheroes over the years, but for some reason, they go to Hercules. He takes them to the secret wilderness lab of Rachna Koul, a super-powers scientist who re-powers both heroes and villains for a fee. She’s also someone that the Thing bumped into at that science gala in the first issue.

When the heroes arrive, they see that Rachna is treating Hydro-Man, who promptly breaks out and attacks everybody. Rachna gets them all to calm down and kicks Hydro-Man out. Her fee is a bit too much for Johnny Storm to pay just yet, but when they explain their search for the rest of the Fantastic Four, Rachna takes it easy on them. In exchange for taking her with them on their adventure, she will fix their powers. For you see, she has discovered that the Fantastic Four’s powers feed off each other. When they’re separated by the dimensional plane, their powers begin to weaken. So the Thing is losing his powers, too!

Meanwhile, the Mad Thinker is also trying to find Reed Richards. Doctor Doom comes to see his progress, but the Thinker teleports Doom away. Thinker then goes to the mirror and starts cutting his hair, because he’s decided he’s going to replace Reed Richards and the Fantastic Four!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

Chip Zdarsky’s gimmick is that he apparently likes creating new, super-smart characters who explain away the origins and science of super-powers. And everybody except the title characters of his comics know all about these super-smart new characters. First there was the Mason in his Spectacular Spider-Man comic, wherein apparently every single technology-based hero knew about the Mason and went to him to fix their gear, except for world-famous superhero Spider-Man. Now we’ve got Rachna, whom everybody from Hercules to Hydro-Man apparently knows all about and can afford, but two prominent members of the Fantastic Four have never heard of her. And Rachna is so good at what she does that she figured out how Hercules’ powers work, and has figured out something about the Fantastic Four’s powers that they themselves never knew.

She’s also the sort of person who’s so smart that she dismisses the idea of traveling through the multiverse out of hand, despite the fact that it happens all the time in comics.

Rachna Sucks 01

The people she is talking to have not only traveled to other universes, but also other times, other planets and other afterlives

She also invites herself on the upcoming Marvel Two-in-One adventure. That felt kind of annoying. Like, Zdarsky is obviously welcome to create new supporting characters for his comics, but this one seems especially shoe-horned in. And Rachna feels like a major retread of that stand-up comic woman that Spider-Man met in Zdarky’s Spidey comic. I stopped reading. Did anything happen with her?

At any rate, this was a fine issue, leaning heavily into the typical superhero tropes. I had been hoping for a more reflective series, of Johnny, Ben and Doom really reflecting on their lives and their futures. But nah, it looks like we’re getting a more superhero-focused adventure. There’s a random battle with freakin’ Hydro-Man in the middle of this issue! Comics don’t get more standard than that. And this is fine. Zdarsky writes it all well, and Schiti is one of my favorite current artists. This is a perfectly fine comic, leaning heavily into some of Zdarsky’s pet ideas, and general superhero adventure.

TL;DR: Marvel Two-in-One starts to really lean heavily into general superhero adventure, which is a perfectly fine way to spend our time.


Ms. Marvel #27

Ms. Marvel #27
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Nico Leon

Welp, you win, G. Willow Wilson. I was really skeptical of this storyline when it started, but you have won me over! This is awesome!

The rest of Kamala’s friends, decked out in their finest makeshift Ms. Marvel costumes, follow Zoe’s GPS signal to the Inventor’s basement lair! They break in and confront the villain, who reveals his evil plan to use old people as batteries because they’re already a drain on society! He unleashes a giant turtle monster, covered in little robots, and the fight is on! Even Zoe helps out, despite being tied to a chair. Red Dagger cuts her free just in time for Zoe to push Nakia out of the way from being crushed by the giant turtle’s foot. Fortunately, Zoe is OK, if banged up a bunch.

The Inventor takes his giant turtle out of the lair to attack Jersey City, and the would-be heroes realize this has gotten bigger than them. Fortunately, Mike just happened to have picked up Kamala’s Captain Marvel signal broach when she threw it away, and they use that to call Captain Marvel for help!

Also, that one dude is still trying to find Kamala, and he thinks he has a good lead! He’s also got his cousin involved.

Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.

So at the start of this storyline, I thought it was a little silly and hard to believe. Why were these ordinary, powerless kids taking it upon themselves to dress up like Ms. Marvel and fight crime in her absence? Welp, Wilson explains why in this issue, as Zoe opens up about how having Ms. Marvel save her so many times made her feel powerful and unbeatable, and that perhaps Ms. Marvel had rubbed off on her. But now she can see her mistake, see the danger. The magic of Ms. Marvel isn’t in the costume, it was in Ms. Marvel herself. It’s a great bit of character growth for a supporting character who has already grown by leaps and bounds. Wilson settled all of my concerns with that one monologue.

And then the rest of the issue was just amazing beyond that!

Marvel Friends 01

Gabe coming into his own!

This was one of the funnest and funniest issues of Ms. Marvel we have had in a long time! Whatever creaks Wilson was shaking off in the first two issues, she goes for broke now, with all of her supporting characters in motion and proving their worth as hilariously cool people. And with Leon’s help, the comedic timing is on point! The whole creative team really makes this issue shine with gags, dialogue, wildly weird art and just an all-around sense of delightful fun. And that’s exactly what I love about Ms. Marvel!

TL;DR: Truly delightful and funny issue of Ms. Marvel recaptures the magic and explains, quite simply, what this storyline has been about.


Sideways #1

Sideways #1
Writer: Dan Didio
Artist: Kenneth Rocafort

Sideways is another one of the new wave of DC superhero comics. He has the powers of the Spot, one of my favorite Marvel characters, so I thought I’d check it out!

Derek James is your typical high school dweeb. He’s got adopted parents and a quirky, female best friend, and he’s picked on at school because his mom drives him. Back during Dark Knights: Metal, Derek fell through a something or other and got the power to make portals. He’s like the Spot, or like the video game Portal. His best friend made him a snazzy costume, and somehow he picked the name ‘Sideways’. He definitely suffers from the need for modern superheroes to be ‘kewl’.

After school, Derek kicks off his grand superhero plan: being a YouTube star! He starts filming himself in costuming portaling around. But then a grand poobah of the cosmos shows up and declares that his abuse of the barriers between dimensions has sentenced him to death!

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

Sideways is fine. It’s your standard new modern superhero introduction issue. It’s got a solid twist in that this kid wants to use his powers to become an internet celebrity. But then I felt the twist that he’s already got to face cosmic justice for his powers was a bit much. We’ve barely gotten to know this kid, his powers and this YouTube thing, and already you want to tack on such major mythology? This issue relies on the typical superhero shorthand of costume, powers and codename to assume we’re all on board with what’s happening, which I suppose is fine. But the whole thing reeks of all the tropes of new superheroes created in the modern era.

He’s got a costume more focused on looking awesome than being a superhero costume, and his codename is just a single word vaguely connected to his powers. You best believe, if characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Spider-Man were created in this day and age, they would be very different.

Sideways Sucks 01

Why does he have to step through his portals sideways? What’s stopping him from stepping through them while facing forward?

Beyond that personal gripe about modern superheroes, this is still a fine comic. The characters are all introduced well enough, though I felt the powers/motivations could be handled better. Why does the kid need to keep his identity secret if he’s going to be a YouTube star? Aren’t there enough people in the DCU with powers that some kid having powers and going on YouTube shouldn’t be too big of a deal? How does he expect to make any money off YouTube if he hides his identity? I felt the issue should have leaned a bit more heavily into this gimmick for Sideways. I don’t think there are any DC or Marvel heroes going with this YouTube angle, and it would have been new and unique for him. But his attempts at being a video star are just part of a bunch of things introduced in this issue, so it doesn’t stand out.

Nothing particularly stands out for Sideways, and that’s kind of the problem.

TL;DR: Sideways is off to an OK start. It’s a standard opening issue for a brand new character, complete with setting everything up. But there’s nothing particularly exciting to really hook new readers beyond the usual superhero fare.


Squirrel Girl #29

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #29
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Erica Henderson

Either North or Henderson had a case of the sillies that they needed to get out, giving us this current storyline.

Squirrel Girl and Drax take on the real Silver Surfer, mistaking him for the space hunks that have been pretending to be the Surfer, and the battle is too far away for Nancy to explain the truth to Doreen. So Nancy rushes into the fight to get closer, with Loki covering her by summoning a bunch of heroes and cosmic characters to aid in the fight! Eventually, Doreen learns the truth and the Surfer calms down — only for everybody to suddenly be attacked by a fleet of anti-Silver Surfer missiles! A quick shield from Loki keeps everybody alive, and the Surfer goes to investigate — quickly joined by Doreen, Nancy and Tippy Toe, who don’t want him to face the danger alone.

The Surfer pauses time and meets with the leader of the fleet. She has put together an armada of aliens, angry that the Silver Surfer stole all their treasure. When she finds out she and the others were hoodwinked by space hunks, she’s scared that the armada will start fighting each other instead! Squirrel Girl hopes they can just explain the situation to everybody, but there’s no time, because the armada has anti-time pausing abilities that are going to activate in 30 seconds!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This issue is a solid reminder that Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is the funniest comic on the stands. The story was already weird, but North and Henderson turn the weirdness factor up to 11! Everything and the kitchen sink is thrown into this issue, from the very fact that the villains are “space hunks” who painted themselves up like the Silver Surfer, to the leader of the armada being an alien with a shaved cat head, to random appearances by Sleepwalker, Beta Ray Bill, Cosmo and many more!

Nancy Gets Help 01

To be enjoyed

Madness. This issue is madness. It’s the silliest of Squirrel Girl comics, in the best way possible! It’s like the creative team just went for broke, throwing out one silly idea after another. And on top of that, they delivered some of the best jokes they have in ages! And I say that fully meaning that all of their jokes are great, but these were beyond superb!

Tippy Gets Help 01

Why isn’t Ryan North writing all comics?

At times this issue gets a little too silly, but that’s hardly much of a gripe. We should all be so lucky as to get an issue of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl that is this much fun.

TL;DR: The silliness is at maximum levels in the latest issue of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Maybe a little too silly, but there’s no denying just how hilarious this comic is and how wild the creative team can get.

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!


About Sean Ian Mills

Hello, this is Sean, the Henchman-4-Hire! By day I am a mild-mannered newspaper reporter in Central New York, and by the rest of the day I'm a pretty big geek when it comes to video games, comic books, movies, cartoons and more.

Posted on February 17, 2018, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Two-in-One is certainly interesting. This new lady seems like she could be kinda cool. She also feels a bit cliched off the bat? Like, you can tell exactly how her character arc is going to go. She starts off cold and sarcastic and not liking them, she’ll slowly warm to them as she sees their courage and nobility and the depth of their love for each other, there’ll be some sort of tense scene leading to a big dramatic reveal of why she is the way she is, there’ll be some a bit where they’re all in major trouble and have to work together to escape that ends in a big dramatic moment where she accepts them as friends.

    If I wanted to get REALLY snarky, I could probably make predictions of exact issue numbers for where these things will happen.

    Ms. Marvel is so great. I really love her supporting cast, so this arc is a treat for me, especially how awesome Zoe is. She’s just the bet. That girl needs powers so she can be a hero. (Also, Leon and Herring are such a phenomenal art team.)

    Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is as delightful as always. Also, Hocky Hoof Hank, aka Thorse.

    • Oh, also. I haven’t seen Black Panther yet (probably going next weekend). But I have been really enjoying Coates’ Black Panther run. I’ve found it a really smart comic. The first year was deeply political, and political philosophy, and I found it fascinating. More recently, it’s been less political, more superhero, dealing with attacks by old gods and attacks by Klaw, at the same time. The most recent issue was mostly silent, and full of awesome fighting by Aneka, one of the Midnight Angels, as she just kicks loads of ass, despite being chained up. It’s awesome.

      • Thanks! I’ll add him to my Amazon Wishlist. Have you read any of the supplemental stuff? Is that important?

      • World of Wakanda was not great, and not too important. It shows how Aneka and Ayo, the Midnight Angels, met and fell in love. And their romance is actually pretty sweet. But it’s still safe to skip. There’s also The Crew, also safe to skip. The current mini, Rise of the Black Panther, is actually pretty good.

    • Yes, thank you, that’s pretty much exactly how I feel about Rachna Koul.

  2. I wish Marvel would not let G. Willow Wilson write Carol because like Bendis and David walkers she seemed just as eager to do the same character assassinate of as they were. Add to the fact that Kamala interactions with Carol were always hollow/ insincere. I’m not saying Kamala has to give up the Ms. Marvel name and I’m not saying that Carol should go back to being called Ms. Marvel, but Danvers should be allowed to move on.

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