Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 2/24/18
I still need to go see Black Panther for a third time…at any rate, I’ve got some solid, quality comics to hold me over!
Can you say Amazing Spider-Man? What about yet another new issue of Tom King’s excellent Batman? Or how about Harley Quinn? I’ve got them all! Including the Comic Book of the Week, Mighty Thor!
In other comic book news, did you see that Marvel is pushing for another big all-enveloping change in May? New Avengers focus, new #1 issues shortly after their big renumbering brouhaha. Big everything. I don’t care. As long as they keep making good comics, I’ll keep reading. Though Jason Aaron handling the Captain America, Iron Man and Thor reunion on a main Avengers title sounds like a cool idea!
Comic Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #796, Batman #41, Harley Quinn #38 and Mighty Thor #704.
Amazing Spider-Man #796
Writers: Dan Slott and Christos Gage
Artist: Mike Hawthorne
Huh. Well. This comic definitely features Spider-Man. Was Slott trying to fill a quota?
Alchemax is holding a big science demonstration of their latest alternative energy source and everybody who’s anybody is in attendance. Liz Allen, obviously, because she’s CEO. She’s also asked Flash Thompson to be there as added security, since he is now out and about as Agent Anti-Venom. Peter Parker shows up in his capacity as science editor at the Daily Bugle. And even Mary Jane Watson is there, since she runs Stark Industries. And since this is a comic book, the demonstration is interrupted by the villainous Goblin King and his henchmen.
Spidey and Agent Anti-Venom suit up and get into a scuffle with the villains as they try to steal the experimental metal that Alchemax is using. At one point, Spider-Man falls victim to the Goblin King’s sonic laughter, but since J. Jonah Jameson is apparently live-streaming the demonstration from his office, he telephones Spidey and uses his angry, shouting voice to try and counteract the sonic assault. It works, Spidey kicks Goblin butt, but the Goblin King snags some of the metal as he makes his escape.
Afterwards, Peter swings by Mary Jane’s place after she helped cover for him at the demonstration. They reminisce on old times and MJ invites him to stay.
Meanwhile, Norman Osborn gains control of the Carnage symbiote by offering him more meaningful and creative murders. Then he has Carnage dispel the goblin cure Norman was forced to take a couple years ago. He’s ready to go crazy!
Comic Rating: 3/10 – Bad.
Oof. This one was rough. Were Slott and Marvel trying to kill time until issue #800? How else do you explain this issue? It’s elementary-quality Spider-Man, as if Marvel manufactured Spider-Man comics from a kit. One part Spider-Man, one part maniacal villain, one part science experiment turned heist, mixed well with an obtrusive superhero cameo and a smattering of familiar supporting characters. There’s no charm. There’s no cleverness. And the art definitely feels like fill-in quality. The Agent Anti-Venom cameo is so gratuitous it’s almost painful. Not to mention he’s just a silly character in general. The Goblin King is as one-note as humanly possible, having long ago been stripped of any of the humanity Slott gave Phil Urich when he first turned the character into a villain. There are hints in this issue that he might come back at least once more before Slott is done, but not even the potential promise that Slott might redeem him somehow isn’t enough to make me like this issue. And lets not even get started at how obnoxious the Jameson cameo is, riffing with the idea introduced in the other Spider-Man comic that Jonah now knows all about Peter being Spidey.
TL;DR: This is bog standard Spider-Man comics. Like a promotional comic someone might churn out to package alongside a toy or advertise some corporate tie-in.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
The magic of Tom King’s Batman is that he can accomplish so much with so little. There’s no belabored inner monologues to slow things down. Just short, sweet storytelling.
Poison Ivy uses her powers to take control of every person in the world, except Batman is able to inject both himself and Catwoman with an antidote in time to break free. She confronts them both in Wayne Manor, using Alfred as a puppet, and tells them that she will remake the world and that they are not a concern for her. Batman and Catwoman are now the only people who can stop Poison Ivy, but they have no idea where to start.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This was a solid and sometimes clever start to the new Poison Ivy story, but it doesn’t have much meat on its bones just yet. Like I said before, King keeps things short and sweet, relying on Janin to carry most of the work this issue. We have a lot of pages of Bruce Wayne waking up in a cold sweat, aware that something is happening as he rushes from his bedroom down to the Batcave to get the antidote. It’s solid visual storytelling. But really, the issue is basically just Poison Ivy detailing her plan to the two heroes. That’s kind of it. That the issue is still entertaining is a testament to King and Janin.
He makes clever use of the puppet Flash in one great moment, for example.
But yeah, there’s not a whole lot of heft to the story just yet. The issue is basically just Poison Ivy explaining her plan to our heroes and then leaving them to come after her. Like, Poison Ivy should know better than to leave Batman to his own devices. She controls every single person on the planet, including heroes and villains. Why not have every single person in Gotham City attack Wayne Manor like a zombie apocalypse? Just stop Batman and you can get away with your plan. But nah, I guess she’s going to make this sporting.
TL;DR: It’s a testament to the creative team’s skill that this simple, straight forward issue is still so much fun to read.
Harley Quinn #38
Writer: Frank Tieri
Artists: Mirka Andolfo and Eleondra Carlini
Yep, the new direction of Harley Quinn is losing me fast.
Various comical Gotham City villains start causing trouble all over New York City, with Harley and her various supporting characters trying to stop them. Mr. Freeze terrorizes a polar bear plunge and shows up the Gang of Harleys, who are still constantly quipping. The Condiment King, Egghead, King Tut, Zebra Man and other bargain basement villains are causing all sorts of wacky mischief, the joke being the characters themselves. Harley gets into a fight with the Gorilla Gang on the Empire State Building, dropping as many King Kong jokes and gorilla references as humanly possible.
Meanwhile, Killer Croc hunts down an old circus building on Coney Island, which apparently houses some memories of his own days in a freakshow.
Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.
No, thank you. Maybe some people dig this brand of over-the-top wacky comedy, but not me. This comic has lost the realistic grounding that the previous series had, and that is key to my enjoyment of this type of humor. The very existence of the Condiment King is no longer funny. The LEGO Batman Movie made much better jokes about all these weird characters, and this issue is no LEGO Batman Movie. It’s just Harley encountering the Gorilla Gang and then making obvious gorilla jokes. And then everybody’s got encyclopedic knowledge of Batman’s weirdest villains. Tony can immediately recognize and be totally casual about Egghead? Fine.
If other people are enjoying this style of humor, by all means, more power to you. And clearly Tieri is having fun. I’m all about having fun! But comedy is subjective and this just isn’t for me. There’s an inelegance to the whole issue, like a touch of sloppiness where some square pegs are crammed into round holes to make moments work. Forced comedy for the sake of comedy is not my kind of comedy.
TL;DR: The new Harley Quinn direction leans hard into wringing comedy out of whatever wackiness they can. But this issue is no LEGO Batman Movie.
Mighty Thor #704
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Russell Dauterman
Still awesome. War is still epic. Hecks yeah!
The battle between Odin, Odinson and the Mangog continues to tear through Asgardia! Oh what a day to be a god! No matter how much they throw at the monster, the Mangog keeps the upper hand, going so far as destroying the controls of Asgardia and sending it rocketing towards the Earth!
Loki visits his mother offering to help everyone evacuate, but she turns him down for being such a snake in the grass. He explains that he only stabbed her because that was better than outright killing her, like Malekith really wanted, but she’s not listening. She’ll stay and fight!
Meanwhile, Jane Foster putters around her hospital room, reflecting on the various people she lost throughout her life. Her mother also died of cancer, and urged a young Jane on her death bed to find a religion to hold on to. Her dad died after she’d already become a nurse. And then her son and ex-husband died in a car accident, and the one god she had turned to, the Mighty Thor, had not been there to save them. Jane visits with a fellow cancer patient and they have a nice chat, with the other woman asking Jane to pray with her. Then Jane casually overhears Roz Solomon on the phone with Alpha Flight urging them to get in gear because Asgardia is crashing!
Jane returns to her room having already made up her mind. She summons Mjolnir and soon Mangog is faced with the Mighty Thor!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
That was a damn good ending and made the whole issue! I think this is one of those stories that will be better in the collected edition. All the momentum, all the action, all the character development has really been building issue-to-issue, and some of that is definitely lost when we’re waiting a month. But told as one story in one reading, I bet it’s electrifying! It’s good enough here to get my heart pumping, as Jane makes a confident sacrifice to no longer sit on the sidelines, to unleash the full power of Thor on the Mangog. The others put up a hell of a fight, drawn with the utmost skill by Dauterman, but this is solidly Jane’s issue.
I can’t wait to see where Russell Dauterman goes after Mighty Thor. This has been a star-making series for years now.
Even with the momentum suffering between issues, this was still a really fun read. We get some solid background on Jane that helps inform her decision in the end, leading to that very exciting finale. The fight with Mangog is brutal, thanks largely to Dauterman. And both Aaron and Dauterman nail the emotional scene between Loki and his mom. Everything works so well in this issue.
Though, on a personal note, there’s just something giddily pathetic about Loki telling his mother that he’s Sorcerer Supreme now of Earth.
I hope Aaron didn’t have anything to do with that silly decision. It seems so out of place.
TL;DR: The War of Realms continues to heat up in the best ways possible, with a wondrous mix of character drama and out-of-this-world action!
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 24, 2018, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man and tagged Amazing Spider-Man, Goblin King, Harley Quinn, Mighty Thor, Phil Urich, Poison Ivy, Thor. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.