Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 8/25/18
It’s Kelly Thompson Week! This lady is on fire at Marvel right now, and we get two of her books this week, Mr. & Mrs. X and West Coast Avengers! That’s pretty darn awesome! We’ve also got more Superman and Spider-Man comics, but who cares about them?
Comic Book of the Week goes to the first issue of Thompson’s new West Coast Avengers for a really fun team book that doesn’t waste any time — though I had more than a few nitpicky problems.
Fair warning, everybody, I was apparently in fine form writing these reviews this week. Nothing particularly stood out as all that great, while I found so much to nitpick to death, including in some of my favorite comics!
Comic Reviews: Action Comics #1001, Amazing Spider-Man #4, Mr. & Mrs. X #2, The Silencer #8 and West Coast Avengers #1.
Action Comics #1001
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Patrick Gleason
Colorist: Alejandro Sanchez
Letterer: Josh Reed
I really want to like Bendis’ Superman stuff, I really do, but he’s not making it very easy.
Also, I made a mistake in my review last issue. I thought it was the new gossip columnist typing away at the end of the issue, but it was actually Lois Lane, apparently writing a tell-all book in secret, and back on planet Earth already.
Yogurt, the criminal from last issue who admitted to his criminal boss to starting all those fires, is dropped to his death in the middle of the street. Goode, the new reporter at the Daily Planet, attempts to write a story claiming Superman dropped him, but Perry White is buying it and assigns Clark to look into the story as well. Clark finds out about Yogurt and the fires, and how they were purposefully set to distract Superman. Clark then becomes distracted, however, when Cat Grant stops by for a visit and reveals that Lois Lane is writing a book. Superman heads out and finds Lois back on Earth, in hiding.
Meanwhile, Goode actually works for the crime boss and Red Cloud, and she wants to get her hands on some Kryptonite. And the Red Cloud beats up the Guardian.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
I cannot work up any real interest in Bendis’ Superman stuff so far, and we’re many, many issues deep. His Clark Kent and Superman are pretty basic and that’s not really any fun at all. He got rid of Lois and Jon right away, so there goes the main outlet for Clark’s character to shine through. Now it’s just been Clark occasionally hanging out with co-workers, and there he’s just a suit and glasses, not really a person. Now we’ve got this mystery of why Lois is back on Earth without telling him, which is more weird than intriguing. And the super-villain stuff isn’t particularly catchy either. So there’s a villain, Red Cloud, who is your standard super-villain, and there are some criminal types who are just your standard criminal types. That they’ve infiltrated the Daily Planet is a little interesting, but the reporter just keeps making an ass out of herself, and now Perry White himself is gunning for her. Isn’t the point of being under cover to keep your head down? Maybe stop trying to write salacious, false stories that paint Superman as a villain in the Daily freakin’ Planet!
Also, the serial arsonist storyline is already wrapped up, so there goes that legitimately interesting storyline/mystery.
TL;DR: Much like all of Bendis’ work on Superman so far, this new issue is uninteresting. It’s like he can’t come up with anything new or worthwhile to do with either Superman or Clark Kent.
Amazing Spider-Man #4
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Ryan Ottley
Inker: Cliff Rathburn
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
This ship is also sinking faster than I expected.
Peter Parker and Spider-Man are still split into two bodies. While Peter Parker is feeling more dopey, pathetic and responsible than ever, Spider-Man is using his commandeered Tri-Sentinel to fight crime and create property damage all over the city. He’s going on talk shows and getting sponsorship deals. When Peter tries to talk to Spidey, the Webhead essentially blows him off. Peter visits Dr. Connors for answers and finds out that the split degrades over time and is eventually fatal.
Meanwhile, Mendel Stromm is back, and some sinister voice offers him a whole fleet of Tri-Sentinels!
Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.
I figured out my biggest problem with Spencer’s Amazing Spider-Man: He’s not really writing Spider-Man. The entire point of this story is that Peter is split into two people, neither of whom is really Peter Parker, and both of whom are completely obvious split personalities. Peter is pathetic and milquetoast, while Spidey is going against all of the guilt and responsibility that drives Spider-Man. This might have been an interesting story in the long run, but not for the opening chapter, where you’re supposed to be convincing new and old readers alike that you can handle writing an entertaining Spider-Man. Spencer isn’t even doing anything very thematic with this split personality story. He’s not explaining any deeper, more interesting parts of Peter Parker’s psyche or Spider-Man’s place in the world. He’s just telling a straight forward story where one half is an irresponsible jerk and the other half is a wimpy human, and now there’s a ticking clock. And then there’s a bunch of obscure villains getting up to no good on the side. I’m as big a fan of minor Spider-Man villains as you’re going to find, but are we really supposed to care that Mendel Stromm has a bunch of Tri-Sentinels?
Also, Mary Jane doesn’t even appear in this issue. Was getting her back together with Peter just some box Spencer wanted to check off before moving on?
TL;DR: This story is going nowhere fast and seems to defeat the very purpose of relaunching Amazing Spider-Man for potentially new audiences.
Mr. & Mrs. X #2
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Oscar Bazaldua
Colorist: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Let’s kick off Kelly Thompson Week with the second issue of her already darling series, Mr. & Mrs. X! I’m so excited to see her as part of the X-Franchise brain trust this fall!
After Deadpool rescues Rogue from deep space, the Shi’ar fire on his ship, causing them to crash on a nearby planet. Cerise is able to help Gambit escape and she teleports the Shi’ar Guard away, allowing Gambit to fly down and join Rogue and Deadpool. They all start fighting over the egg that Kitty asked Gambit and Rogue to protect, and which Deadpool wants so he can sell it for a high price. The fight is then randomly interrupted by Technet, and Deadpool teams up with our heroes for an even bigger fight.
After Technet is defeated (with a warning that everybody knows Rogue and Gambit have the egg), our heroes attempt to convince Deadpool to drop his claims on the egg. Before he agrees, however, the egg hatches and a mini version of Rogue comes out asking for help.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
So I guess Kelly Thompson really wanted an excuse to write Deadpool? She’s OK at it, I suppose. Not the worst Deadpool I’ve read, but also not the best. He’s pretty funny and mouthy. But I’m pretty sure Deadpool already has a million comics, while Rogue and Gambit only have this one. So what the heck was the thought process here? To sideline the far more interesting main characters in only the second issue? Deadpool clearly takes center stage, forcing Gambit and Rogue into supporting roles, constantly reacting to Deadpool. It doesn’t help that this comic is non-stop action, so Rogue and Gambit don’t even get the chance to stand out in those supporting roles. And not just non-stop action, but insane non-stop action. I mean, c’mon, Technet?! You’re just going to randomly drop Technet onto this alien planet to join in the already madcap fight?
To say nothing of the fact that we opened the issue with the Shi’Ar Imperial Guard and Cerise. It’s like somebody told Kelly Thompson she would only get so many issues, so she’s quickly giving her favorite pet characters a bunch of cameos as quickly as she can, with little to no service to the actual story — what little story there is. Everybody’s fighting over some vague egg? I loved the first issue and I don’t even remember an egg, but now it’s so important that Deadpool has a spaceship and is in outer space for some reason. And the fun honeymoon story is interrupted in favor of so much wild and crazy action. The wonderful character focus of the first issue takes a real beating in this second issue.
It’s still a fun issue, full of Thompson’s humor and charm. And what little we do get of Rogue and Gambit is fun. But man, oh man, she went off on some wild tangents with this one.
TL;DR: A completely unnecessary Deadpool cameo takes center stage, forcing our far more interesting main characters to the sidelines in only their second issue. Still pretty fun, at least.
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Patch Zircher
Colorist: Mike Spicer
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
I skipped the last issue of The Silencer due to sheer laziness. Don’t worry, nothing much happened. Silencer fought off Cradle and Grave on an airplane, and now she and her family have successfully arrived at Action Land theme park.
Honor and her family arrive at Action Land theme park resort in Sansaro, a theme park dedicated to Superman. While her husband and son go on rides, Honor keeps slipping away to get intel on the dying Talia al Ghul, whom Honor believes is dipping into the Lazarus Pit in the neighboring country of Khadym. First she hits up a local information broker, who tells her about an afternoon smuggling run. Then she tries to stow away on the smuggling run, only to find out that her enemy, Quietus, had the same idea. The two of them do battle, with Quietus convinced that they’ve been set up.
And indeed they have, by Lady Wishbone, head of Leviathan’s Magical Division. She remains loyal to Talia and uses her magic to manipulate Silencer and Quietus — by causing them to switch bodies!
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
While I’m still enjoying The Silencer, it’s also starting to feel very generic. We’ve got an uber awesome spy character who has yet to develop any really noteworthy character traits, and she’s up against a bunch of equally generic business villain types. Abnett is doing a damn fine job weaving all these characters together in entertaining ways, but that alone doesn’t make the book really stand out. The Action Land theme park is a neat idea, but Honor doesn’t spend any time there. Her fights are in generic office or warehousey locations. That she’s got her family to look after is solid drama, but they’re easily ditched, and her concern is pretty straight forward. Abnett doesn’t have her husband or son close to uncovering any of her secrets, mostly the husband is just bummed that Honor keeps slipping out. And the son is written really awkwardly, like Abnett is trying really hard to craft kid speak.
The energy and interest is there, but the execution is lacking just enough to get this series heading downhill. I’m not sure what could save it, honestly. Maybe find a way to ground the stakes of Leviathan into something more real instead of a nebulous power struggle. Abnett tries to give us some understanding of how Leviathan works, but there’s no real solid foundation for us to truly understand this civil war. And Honor remains unbeatable. Any effort put into trying to tell the story of a spy trying to live a normal life is gone, replaced by Honor just being a spy. And she easily defeats everyone she comes across. And now we’ve got a pretty tired body-switching trope to deal with for the next issue.
I like this series, but it could use some kind of unique excitement injection. It needs something that really makes Silencer stand out and then lean into that, instead of just tossing a generic spy character into generic spy business. The workmanlike new artist doesn’t help.
TL;DR: There is plenty of fun and excitement buried deep within Silencer, but generic spy stuff crowds it out.
West Coast Avengers #1
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Color Artist: Triona Farrell
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
The Kelly Thompson train continues with the debut of West Coast Avengers, the follow-up to her excellent Hawkeye series!
I’m also excited to see Gwenpool show up again, considering I very recently finished,— and very much enjoyed— her solo series.
After Kate Bishop and her friends stop a rampaging swarm of land sharks from running around Los Angeles, Clint Barton convinces her to put together a proper superhero team to handle such threats. She’s already got Clint, America Chavez, and her boyfriend, Fuse, on her side, so she holds open auditions to find a couple others. When that comedy montage doesn’t pan out, she snatches up Gwenpool, who just stopped by to see if Kate wanted to get tacos. Then Quentin Quire shows up and offers himself for the team, along with a film crew that is trying to film the ins and outs of a superhero team. The film crew has funding, so Kate reluctantly takes on Quentin, and everybody on the team has to do reality TV testimonials about it.
The team’s first mission then involves a 200-foot feral Tigra, who shows up on the beach. They can’t seem to get through to her and aren’t quite sure how to stop her. Then B.R.O.D.O.K., a handsome stud of a man with a slightly big head, shows up, kisses Kate and declares he will stop the giant Tigra.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This comic is weird in all the best ways! Thompson jumps right into the action with wild abandon, throwing out goofy/crazy dangers and putting her cast to good use. The land sharks problem is neat in its own right, and she uses everybody to great effect, establishing their characters and their roles with ease. Then we get a fun comedy montage of lame superheroes auditioning for the team before Thompson rounds out the cast with Gwenpool and Quentin Quire, both of whom she also handles wonderfully. And then rather than end the issue with Tigra as a cliffhanger, we actually get to see the new team in action right away! That was really neat, and I’m glad she didn’t drag out the formation of the new team. Some books might call for that — like Dan Slott’s relaunched Fantastic Four — but this book definitely requires jumping to the action right away. Thompson nails both that and the characters, so I’m excited.
Of course, the comic is not without some glaringly weird problems.
My very nitpicky problem with West Coast Avengers is that Thompson creates a lot of inter-personal problems for the team without establishing why these are problems in the first place. They would make for good inter-team drama, but there’s no logic behind them. First, why does Kate even need to make a team? We’ve just come off an excellent solo comic where Kate Bishop handled stuff just fine in Los Angeles, so why the sudden insistence that she needs a proper team? She’s really pushed into making a team, and there are scenes in this issue where she stresses about all the work going into this. And that stress is a good character beat for Kate. But why bother? The issue already starts off with Kate, Clint, America and Fuse working together anyway; why add on that extra stress and trouble?
Second, the team apparently needs to be paid. Since when is that a thing? I suppose the official Avengers got a stipend from Stark Industries, and the Heroes for Hire obviously get paid, but a superhero team paying its members like employees is not a typical thing. Especially not when everybody knows that Kate Bishop isn’t rich. There’s a big deal made about them all getting paid, which is why Kate is desperate enough to accept Quentin and his film crew, for their money. But again, why? Everybody was clearly doing just fine on their own prior to this team, why do they suddenly need to get paid? Are Fuse, Clint and America really going to expect paychecks for helping Kate? I can understand Gwenpool wanting to get paid, and she’s the one who insists on it, but why even have Gwenpool join if she has that requirement? Just tell her nobody’s getting paid to do this and show her the door.
Third, the team is apparently going to live together. Why? There’s a moment in this very issue where Fuse points out that he and Kate are going to live together even though it’s way too soon in their relationship.
So why are they doing it? Clearly Fuse had his own place prior to this team. All of them had their own places to live. Why does joining Kate’s hastily thrown together super-team suddenly require everybody living under the same roof? Because the bigger, fancier super-teams do it? Like I said, this team is clearly just hastily thrown together between Kate and her friends. Why does that require a headquarters and everybody living together? Quentin and Gwenpool are already at odds with living together and the HQ isn’t even built yet. Why can’t they all just continue to live their lives and then do superhero stuff on the side, like what normally happens? And what they’d all been doing quite successfully prior to this issue?
Thompson is tacking on all of these hurdles to making a super-team without realizing that the casual nature of the team makes those hurdles irrelevant. It makes for a weird dichotomy that just kept taking me out of the otherwise enjoyable issue.
TL;DR: This is a fun, enjoyable start for the new West Coast Avengers, but the writing keeps getting in its own way a lot.
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 August 25, 2018, in Avengers, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Spider-Man, Superman, X-Men and tagged Action Comics, Amazing Spider-Man, Gwenpool, Kate Bishop, Kelly Thompson, Mr. & Mrs. X, The Silencer, West Coast Avengers. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.