Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 3/17/18
There’s a bunch of fun comics this week! From Detective Comics and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl to the launch of the new New Mutants mini-series! I would have done a Strong Guy Watch for the issue, but I figured Guido being part of a regular series again was enough of a watch!
Comic Book of the Week goes to another phenomenal issue of Mister Miracle! A new baby is born, and I’m growing more and more paranoid about how writer Tom King is going to destroy our very souls by the end!
What did everybody else think of Jessica Jones? If, like me, you weren’t a fan, I highly recommend The Tick on Amazon Prime! Now that was a fun superhero TV show!
Comic Reviews: All-New Wolverine #32, Detective Comics #976, Marvel Two-in-One #4, Mister Miracle #7, New Mutants: Dead Souls #1 and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #30.
All-New Wolverine #32
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Djibril Morissette-Phan
Bad news, everybody! Marvel has already announced that Laura is going back to being X-23 with a new writer in a couple months. So the end of All-New Wolverine is already in sight!
The Orphans of X, from a storyline I skipped, were a collection of people who had loved ones killed by the various Wolverines over the years. They banded together to get revenge, but Laura taught them a better way. That better way includes Laura teaming up with them to track down the people really responsible for the killings. In today’s instance, Laura teams up with Amber to head to a tropical island resort to find the bastard who hired the young X-23 to kill a presidential candidate. Amber’s dad was one of his Secret Service agents, who also got clawed to death.
The bad guy owns the hotel they’re staying at and knows the pair are coming, so he kidnaps Amber and thinks he’s laid a pretty good trap for Laura — but our heroes turn the tables on him and defeat him. They stuff him in their luggage to get him back stateside to face justice, and they end the issue working out some catharsis by boot-stomping him.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
This was fine. Pretty fun. It’s just a one-off story before Taylor kicks off his next big storyline, so it serves the purpose of padding out the series for whatever reason. But the characters and their mission aren’t particularly noteworthy. Even Laura is a little too low key. I’ve heard some complaints that Taylor spends all his time making Gabby all quirky and fun, with little characterization for Laura — with after an issue like this, I can see it. Laura is practically a blank slate here. She kicks butt and the day is saved, but there’s never a moment where victory is in doubt or that really brings anything out of either Laura or Amber. Taylor just sets up the mission and the two of them pull it off with a slight bit of cleverness. Done and done. Nothing spectacular, but enjoyable enough.
TL;DR: This done-in-one issue can’t hold a candle to the previous one as it gets down to business without Taylor’s usual humor or heart. Without the colorful supporting cast and wacky shenanigans, Taylor’s Wolverine feels pretty one-note. At least in this issue.
Detective Comics #976
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Javier Fernandez
I’m excited to see where all of this is headed, though I’m personally more interested in certain storylines than others.
The team has fallen apart following the Trial of Batwoman. Cassandra feels more lost than ever, and Batman has Leslie Thompkins doing her therapy — but neither thinks its actually helping. Red Robin has gone right back to trying to remake the Belfry Team, patching up the various holes that Batgirl poked into his plans in the previous issue. Batman confronts Tim and tells him that he has no plan to revive that idea, and that instead, he should have been helping Tim recover from his months in space prison. Tim gets mad at Batman and storms out, and is later approached by Ulysses with an evil offer!
Meanwhile, Batwoman, Azrael and Batwing all work for the Colony now, intent on becoming an international peace-keeping force.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I’ll admit that I’m far more interested in the Tim vs. Batman storyline than anything else. Tim Drake is an all-time favorite comic book character of mine, and Tynion has done an amazing job remaking the character after all of the poor changes from the New 52-era. I would have liked the Tim/Bruce scene to have been longer and more in depth, instead of Tim blowing him off to get on with Tynion’s Ulysses storyline. I also would have liked Bruce to actually have to answer for Leslie’s complaints about his treatment of Cassandra. She points out, to his face, that at least Bruce spent time with each of the Robins, helping them grow and mature. But Cassandra can still barely speak in complete sentences. Where’s the love and attention? It’s a legit concern and I honestly wish Tynion was tackling that level of intimacy within the Bat-Family rather than just moving on to the next big villain storyline.
And that, I think, is what’s holding Detective Comics back from being truly amazing: lack of emotional or character depth. There’s plenty of drama, across several characters and storylines. And almost all of it is entertaining to read and experience. But spreading the story out so thin takes away any real opportunity to focus on specific storylines or characters for some real depth of storytelling. So while I think Tynion has a great handle on everybody and the story he’s telling, he’s also short-changing himself on what could be even bigger and greater moments!
TL;DR: The aftermath of Tynion’s biggest storyline continues to spiral out of control, but I wish he had the time to really delve into his characters instead of just moving on to more comic books tuff.
Marvel Two-in-One #4
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Valerio Schiti
At some point, I’m going to have to stop judging this comic by what I wish it would be instead of what it actually is.
Ben, Johnny and Rachna gear up to head into the Multiverse in search of Reed, Sue and the kids — though Rachna has secret ulterior motives that involve a comatose loved one. They pop into another world similar to their own, and after a quick dust-up with the alternate She-Hulk and Wolverine (who work for SHIELD), they’re brought to this world’s Baxter Building, where Reed Richards is a bearded scientist focused on some big experiment. His assistant, Hank McCoy, takes our heroes to the side and explains that, on this world, Ben died in the fight with Galactus, and Doctor Doom ended up saving the day by switching minds with Galactus. Doom-Galactus then set about eating the entire cosmos, sparing only the Earth. Reed blames himself.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
The problem with this issue is that it’s essentially all exposition setting up this new universe and its gimmick. That’s especially troubling when I didn’t realize this comic was just going to be Exiles. Ben, Johnny and Rachna simply teleport over to a new universe, none of the established superheroes seem all that bothered by the confirmation of a multiverse, and then we spend the rest of the issue having the universe/gimmick explained to us. Does that not violate the “show, don’t tell” rule of comics? And when you’ve got an artist as awesome as Valerio Schiti, why not show instead of tell? I guess the gimmick for this universe is neat, but who cares? Honestly, I hope Johnny and Ben shrug their shoulders and wish this universe the best of luck while they jump back out in their continued search for their Reed and Sue.
Also Rachna is pretty much confirmed as a Mary Sue-type character. Brand new writer insert who is smarter than everybody, has all sorts of special, diverse attributes, and is clearly up to something that’s going to trump whatever the Fantastic Four are up to. She is completely superfluous but is still getting a lot of attention.
TL;DR: Marvel’s Fantastic Four relaunch prologue comic outs itself as an Exiles knock-off in an issue that’s all about exposition and telling, not showing.
Mister Miracle #7
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
If I wasn’t already loving this comic, I’d probably love this one even more because it features one of my favorite tropes!
Mister Miracle rushes Big Barda to the hospital because she’s going into labor. They get set up with a room, and both future parents are part quietly freaking out, part trying to act normal. Barda’s sisters, the Furies, show up in the waiting room and are perfectly fine being normal people who don’t try to kill anyone, for the time being. Scott is OK with that. Other normal, ordinary complications occur, like being unable to settle on a name.
Eventually the baby is born, and Scott has to use an Apokolips knife to cut the umbilical cord from being wrapped around the baby’s neck (the Furies gave him the knife, just in case). They name the baby “Jacob” after the Jacob’s Ladder that Scott used to escape his prison way back in the day.
The baby — the first New God ever born on Earth, a child of both New Genesis and Apokolips — seems pretty fine. But that weird artistic effect, like somebody messing with the vertical, pops up throughout the issue and the birth.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
What’s the trope I love? When villains set aside their evil in the face of something greater and more important. In this case, the Furies all generally behave themselves in the waiting room while their sister is giving birth. King and Gerads have a lot of fun with a beleaguered Scott wandering out into the waiting room to deal with them again and again and having nice, normal conversations with these crazy people. It’s the same wonderful juxtaposition King and Gerads have been using all along, where Scott is just a seemingly ordinary, if slightly stressed, guy in a T-shirt dealing with crazy New Gods stuff. It’s just as charming and funny now as it was at the beginning.
Beyond that fun is an awesome story of parents and childbirth, and it doesn’t shy away from anything. It’s real, it’s visceral, it’s adorable and it’s totally this comic. It’s perfect. And I am both fearful and excited about whatever crazy stuff King has planned with that weird artistic effect. He’s obviously going somewhere with it and I hope it pays off in a huge way. But at the same time, I don’t want him to reveal some insane tragedy like the baby isn’t real or something. That would be heartbreakingly perfect
TL;DR: King and company work their magic on a touching, perfect and, at times, terrifyingly real childbirth in their continuing effort to make the comic of the decade.
New Mutants: Dead Souls #1
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Adam Gorham
I’ve never understood the name ‘New Mutants’. Obviously I get what it meant when it was first used, and the words ‘new mutants’ are clear. But why would modern day superheroes keeping using that as a team name? Heck, why did Professor X use that as a team name back in the day?
Karma is CEO of the Hatchi Corporation, which she inherited in a previous comic series that I didn’t read. Trust me, it’s a thing. Among their various operations is hurricane relief, and at a recent relief site, the dead bodies of hurricane victims come back to life and start attacking the living, like a true zombie apocalypse. Hatchi also employs Magik, Wolfsbane, Rictor, Boom Boom and Strong Guy as its own mutant strike force, so they’re sent in to investigate.
The team strolls around town making banter and investigating the zombies, then suit up and fight off an incoming horde. Magik figures out that the zombies are caused by a dead witch after one of the relief workers stole one of her rings. Magik gets the witch’s soul back from limbo and has the worker return the ring with an apology, stopping the horde.
The team returns to HQ to debrief, and Karma is a little upset with how they treated her relief worker, and how Magik let the witch go. But they’ve got no time to just sit around, because their operations master, Prodigy, has another mission for the team. Something about a dark hermit in the woods who maybe eats mutants.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
No joke here, but I think Matthew Rosenberg is living my life’s dream right now. Not only does he get to write an upcoming Multiple Man comic, but with New Mutants, he’s getting to put together a squad of mutants and send them on entertaining adventures! I’m pretty sure that’s the exact goal of my burgeoning comic book career…
Anyway, this comic is good. It’s entertaining and enjoyable. It’s nothing really special, but that’s fine. It doesn’t need to be. This first issue is about as standard an X-Men team spin-off book can get. Gather together a bunch of B and C-list X-Men, have them banter back and forth, and put them in an action scene or two. Done and done. This issue accomplishes all of that and it’s fun enough to read.
Honestly, if it wasn’t for Strong Guy, I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up. This is the sort of comic for us longtime X-Men fans who pick up anything that features one of our favorite obscure X-Men. And Strong Guy is one of my guys, so here I am. And like I said, I was entertained.
There’s a real casualness to this issue that I think I like, and I hope Rosenberg is going somewhere with that specifically. Like, the New Mutants just stroll into town in civilian clothes and casually go about the business of investigating the zombies. Even the action scene feels perfunctory, because of course everybody here has been through this a million times. And when they debrief back at HQ, it’s again just everybody chilling. And I think that’s fascinating.
Like, I hope this is actually a comic where Rosenberg explores what it is like to be a B or C-list X-Man. They’re not part of the major squads that get invited to the big events, but they’re still people who need lives and jobs and some superheroing. There’s a joke in this issue about how they’re not the team Karma wanted, but they were available.
How can you acknowledge that aspect of the characters without making it the focus of your story? That would be fascinating! Really turn a mirror back on the larger X-Men cast and do something original!
But I’m kind of afraid this is just going to be five issues of these particular X-Men just going through the motions of bantering and fighting some bad guy. Which I guess could be good too.
Also, the art is kind of iffy. It’s a scratchy style that gets the job done but looks a little off. Not my cup of tea.
TL;DR: The opening issue of this new X-mini-series is entertaining, but also perfunctory. The creative team doesn’t really do anything new or unique with the premise of slapping together a new X-Squad and having them banter and fight bad guys.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #30
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Erica Henderson
Have you heard the poor, unfortunate news?! Erica Henderson is leaving Unbeatable Squirrel Girl! Say it ain’t so! North and Henderson are rockstars after this book! Which, of course, is probably why she’s jumping ship to a more lucrative world of creator-owned content.
Sad to see her go, but I respect her decision.
Squirrel Girl and her friends gather together all of the warring alien races to inform them that they were tricked by the space hunks, which predictably sets them all back to warring with each other instead of the Silver Surfer. But since Squirrel Girl has cosmic-tier empathy, she begins to work with each and every alien race to create a massive, multi-level plan for peace among the stars. While she’s doing that, Nancy and Tippy slip away and find the Power Cosmic that the aliens were using to fight the Surfer, because they want to use it to punish the space hunks.
Tippy tries first, but doesn’t do a very good job as the Silver Squirrel. So Nancy acquires the Power Cosmic and goes down to beat up those space hunks — but Doreen shows up to stop her (having successfully worked out the above peace). Doreen and Nancy then get into a big discussion about the nature of punishment, and how punishing the space hunks with violence only begets more violence, and Nancy Whitehead is better than that. She agrees and everybody lives happily ever after, having made a bunch of friends in outer space!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
Well that was fun. The beginning half of the issue is peppered with the usual sly wit of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, whether it’s Doreen rolling up her sleeves to embark on an epic quest of diplomacy.
Or Nancy running into the nicest guards in space while she’s skulking around the ship. This was Tippy’s idea for a distraction.
There is no level of this comic that is not hilarious. Ryan North is like some kind of comedy god plucked down from the heavens to write comics specifically for me. I love it!
This issue was already solid gold, but then North transitions and the second half of the issue is a big morality argument about why Squirrel Girl always seeks non-violent answers to the problems she encounters. That has been a huge point to this entire comic: that Squirrel Girl will try and talk things out first and foremost, and that it usually works splendidly. But to have North really bust out in defense of the thesis at this random point is weird — a damn good weird! It’s as big and as dramatic a moment as North and Henderson have ever delivered in this comic, and it lands spectacularly! I’d share the pages if I could, but that’s a little too much posting of the actual comic for my tastes. Just know that everyone rallies around Nancy Whitehead and reminds her why she’s Nancy freakin’ Whitehead! It’s really damn cool!
That being said, the idea that Nancy simply becomes a Silver Surfer clone when she imbues the Power Cosmic instead of becoming her own original figure named ‘Whitehead’ is a grievous creative sin!
TL;DR: This normally hilarious comic transforms partway through into a defense of its entire thesis, and it remains just as charming and entertaining. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl never shies away from hilarious comedy or life-affirming drama.
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 March 17, 2018, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged All-New Wolverine, Big Barda, Detective Comics, Fantastic Four, Marvel Two-in-One, Mister Miracle, New Mutants, Red Robin, Squirrel Girl, Strong Guy, Tim Drake, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, X-23. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.