Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 11/3/18
What a week for comics. I’m on vacation, so I’m feeling extra lazy. But I still found a couple of OK to good comics to read — and one really bad one! If you were waiting for me to turn on Dan Slott, your time has come!
But we’ve also got the end of Multiple Man (or is it the beginning), and more Heroes in Crisis. Comic Book of the Week goes to West Coast Avengers for another jaunty adventure!
Meanwhile, I stopped reading Jason Aaron’s Avengers awhile ago, so I apparently missed it when he killed Stingray last month, one of my favorite characters and a frequent shout-out dude on this blog. Man. What the freakin’ heck. I just can’t have nice things. We’re still one issue away from finding out if Mimic dies in Extermination.
If that happens, then this year in comics has killed Mimic, Stingray, Phil Urich, possibly Simon Baz and maybe sorta Multiple Man again. This just isn’t my year…
Comic Reviews: Heroes in Crisis #2, Multiple Man #5, Tony Stark – Iron Man #5 and West Coast Avengers #3.
Heroes in Crisis #2
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Clay Mann and Travis Moore
Colorists: Tomeu Morey and Arifprianto
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
I get what Tom King is going for here, and I respect that idea, but my general apathy towards all of the great characters he’s needlessly killing is marring this comic. It’s like reading Identity Crisis all over again.
Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman start the autopsies on the dead superheroes and find a pair of wind-up teeth in the neck of Commander Steel, which leads them to Harley Quinn — who has reverted to her old costume and is hiding in one of Penguin’s safehouses. Harley gets the drop on them and uses Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth to get Batman to reveal that he has a piece of Kryptonite in his utility belt, which she uses to subdue Superman and escape. Then she mourns Poison Ivy.
Meanwhile, Booster Gold wakes up and decides to solve the mystery instead of turning himself in. He goes to the Flash to help with the detective work, and unceremoniously lets it slip that Wally West is dead. Flash didn’t know, and he’s pissed.
Also, Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman have all used Sanctuary before.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
This really does feel like Identity Crisis. Get all the major heroes together and have them start investigating a big murder, with some dirty secret of the superheroes at the heart of it, and a bunch of gratuitous character deaths. I mean, c’mon, Poison Ivy?! She’s more popular than ever, with a real push to make her an antihero alongside Harley Quinn! She’s about to co-star in that Harley Quinn cartoon coming up. Is needlessly killing her in the name of gratuitous death really the best option? And the story itself hasn’t amounted to much yet. Harley is still Harley. Booster Gold is off his rocker, which is a brand new invention of Tom King’s, so it’s not like that’s a natural progression of his story. And the testimonials from the main three are fine, but hardly revolutionary thinking. This feels like a big vanity project.
TL;DR: This is a well-crafted story from some of comics’ top talent, but there’s an ugliness to it that is ruining whatever story Tom King is trying to tell.
Multiple Man #5
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Andy MacDonald
Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Welp, they didn’t bring the original Multiple Man back from the dead. I’m going to take some time to make my peace with this.
Sorry in advance for any ranting.
Everything is one big, insane clusterfuck of Multiple Men. Royal Grand Vizier Madrox has brought the evil army of Madroxes from the future to fight the X-Men. He also sabotaged the most recent group of time-traveling Madroxes with a bomb, which not only wipes them out, but also wipes out the evil future. So that’s all taken care of.
But there’s still Emperor Madrox and his Super-Powered Madrox Squad. They return to the present and join the fight against Royal Grand Vizier Madrox, with the Emperor facing off against the far-more-evil Royal Grand Vizier. Then RGV reveals he found an alternate reality Beast to make another Prime Serum and he injects himself, so he’s also now Prime Jamie along with the Emperor (and only the Prime has the power to make duplicates, apparently). The two fight and attempt to absorb each other, with the Emperor coming out on top (though he’s still got RGV fighting him in his mind). There’s about to be more trouble, but Emperor asks Hulk Madrox to just kill him and end this madness. He does and the army of Multiple Men dies.
A few days later, the dupe that ended up in the Marvel Swimsuit Special world returns to the present, feeling pretty chill. The beach world turned into a Bishop future world, so he’s got the ‘M’ tattoo over his eye. And he finds some leftover Prime Serum, so he’ll take that and just become Madrox Prime.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
In the end, it’s fine. I’ll make my peace with the new Multiple Man status quo and try to just be happy that he’s active again in comics — if the new Uncanny X-Men relaunch doesn’t kill him all over again.
There are two ways to look at this comic, and unfortunately, I am personally split right down the middle. As I’ve stated numerous times before, Multiple Man is my all-time favorite comic book character, for a lot of reasons. So there’s no way I can’t be biased. But I’ll try.
On the one hand, this is not a comic that returns Multiple Man to his former glory at the peak of Peter David’s X-Factor comics. That Multiple Man is gone. Rosenberg is taking the character in a new direction, and that involves a personality overhaul. Rosenberg apparently didn’t see the Jamie Madrox I saw back in his heyday. Rosenberg’s Madrox is a smarmy fella, casually flying by the seat of his pants and unable to stop annoying everybody he comes across. Look no further than the issue synopsis for this series, which openly mocked anyone who dared call themselves a fan of Multiple Man, as if liking the character was some hipstery flash-in-the-pan thing. As if Marvel and Peter David didn’t put in the work of turning this C-list mutant nobody into a popular character. Don’t forget, PAD’s X-Factor lasted upwards of 100 issues! And PAD stayed on the book for more than five years! For an X-Men comic book in the 00s that doesn’t star Wolverine, that’s beyond impressive. Marvel is lucky for non-main title comics to last 12 issues, let alone 100!
But nah, let’s mock fans for liking a very likable character.
So OK, I’m carrying some annoyance in me that I need to get off my chest. Fine. Rosenberg doesn’t write my favorite character how I think he should be written. I’m hardly the first fan that’s happened to, and I’m hardly the first to whine about it. But I can make my peace with that. His Multiple Man series isn’t what I wanted, which was basically a return to form for the character. I didn’t expect Rosenberg or Marvel to just remake PAD’s X-Factor. I wanted them to do something fun and new with the character, but I feel this whole mini-series went a bit too far.
But that aside, if you don’t love Multiple Man as much as I do, then this wasn’t a bad story by any means. As a spin-off comic starring a random background mutant character, it’s pretty fun. The time travel stuff wraps up pretty nicely in the end, with an offbeat, acerbic humor that works on some levels. Then it comes to a pretty gnarly ending, that works as a bit of madness. This whole thing makes for a nicely contained, pretty wacky comic starring an offbeat character that you might not normally read about — that is, of course, if you’re not obsessed with the character, like me.
And MacDonald’s art has been phenomenal throughout. He’s asked to draw dozens, if not hundreds of characters, and he never slouches across all five issues. This guy is going places.
TL;DR: Multiple Man wasn’t the comic I personally wanted, as a fan of the character, but credit where credit is due: this is a fun, wacky comic that isn’t afraid to get gnarly.
Tony Stark – Iron Man #5
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Max Dunbar & Gang Hyuk Lim
Colorist: Dono Sanchez-Almara
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Oy vey! Want some proof that I’m not being paid off by Marvel and Dan Slott to heap praise on his new Iron Man comic? Check out this issue!
So Arno Stark is a thing. Alongside the recent revelation that Tony Stark was only adopted by Howard and Maria Stark (a retcon I really don’t care for), writers also came up with the character of Arno, the actual biological son of Howard and Maria. Only he was sickly, and they kept him in a hospital bed for pretty much all of his life. The recent comics that introduced him healed him and sent him out into the world. He’s a super genius, has a rivalry with Tony and runs the Maria Stark Foundation. And dear lord is he boring.
This issue is all about Arno traveling around the world using his genius intellect to solve problems, usually with a monkey’s paw-like twist ending. He introduces some bacteria to clean out garbage in a loch in Scotland, and sure enough, that goes well and the people start some green initiatives to stop producing so much garbage. But the advanced surgery he did to give an injured violinist a new dexterous arm has a twist: the arm belonged to a woman the violinist killed in a car crash, and her mind remains in the arm trying to communicate. Or there’s the wheat he developed that grows in the Sahara, but the fools he gifted the wheat to expanded too rapidly and now all the wheat is dying. Stuff like that.
The main story involves a rancher in Texas who has genetically engineered brainless cows, for their meat. They’re having trouble, and Arno eventually figures out that what little nub brains the animals have were all connected via wi-fi chip, so the cows do have a herd brain, and they can even feel it when one of them is turned into a steak and eaten. The cows go crazy and kill everybody, but Arno survives. Then he teams up with Sunset Bain, because he apparently wants to go after Tony Stark.
Comic Rating: 3/10 – Bad.
Hoo doggy, this issue was insufferable and I hate Arno Stark already. This character is horrible in all the worst ways, and if Slott has chosen him for the book’s villain, lord help us all. Slott quickly made Sunset Bain into an interesting antagonist, but he can’t do anything to gussy up Arno Stark into anything but drivel. I can’t blame Slott for creating Arno and putting his weird circumstances into place. But I can blame Slott for choosing to keep using Arno instead of ignoring him. This character is just terrible, and this issue is really bad because of it.
This is what Tony Stark – Iron Man is like when Slott intentionally removes all of the charm, wit, supporting characters and neat ideas. It’s so bad, it’s making me rethink any idea I had of picking up this opening storyline as a trade paperback.
So why is it bad? Let’s start with the obvious: Arno Stark is so damn boring. He’s young, he’s handsome, he’s rich, and he’s that level of comic book super genius where he could probably cure cancer with a snap of his fingers. You all know what I’m talking about. He’s the sort of comic book super genius who can bring farming to the Sahara Desert, but then nobody ever mentions that again until the next comic book super genius comes along. He’s got no flaws and no interesting character traits. He seems to just be going through the motions of helping people, with no real emotional reaction to anything. He’s just a genially handsome twig who can do whatever he wants, with the apparent ‘story’ being that his help has an evil twist ending. He has no motivation to be good or evil. His rivalry with Tony Stark is based solely on his painfully elaborately-crafted backstory. And yet because his name is “Stark” and he’s a rich super genius, every other character in the issue worships the ground he walks on. So not only is the character insufferable, but every other character in this issue is insufferable around him.
And the issue itself just doesn’t have the same level of snappy science wit that Slott has given us in the previous four issues. Genetically engineered beef cows are neat, but the mystery isn’t all that twisty or interesting. So rich Texas cattleman is an idiot for messing with nature? And he gets killed? Eh. And no matter how hard Slott tries, the cow analogy to Arno Stark’s own time in a hospital bed just doesn’t fly.
TL;DR: An entire issue dedicated to introducing an insufferably boring villain to the otherwise stellar Iron Man comic.
West Coast Avengers #3
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
And here we go! Some fun, light-hearted comics!
Battle is waged! The West Coast Avengers are rudely woken up by BRODOK’S army of giant monsters, including Tigra. They rush into the fight, doing what little they can, while Kate discovers that the giant monsters are all the women that rejected BRODOK. So she heads to his lab to find a way to reverse the science, only to get captured and turned into a giant hawk lady monster herself! But at least the good guys have Tigra back on their side, thanks to Quentin Quire shutting down the mind control in her brain!
Also, Gwenpool has been ‘rebooted’ and doesn’t have her comic book reality warping powers anymore, which stinks. And when Quentin finds out, he’s not sure how he feels about her anymore.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Thompson doing Thompson, with Caselli’s crack pencils on art, makes for another super enjoyable comic. West Coast Avengers is nailing it! Every character is fun, and each one is used splendidly in all the major action scenes this comic delivers. Thompson quickly explains away Gwenpool’s powers (even though they made for an amazing finale to her solo comic), and adds some pathos for Quentin Quire, who has some heroic moments. I still don’t like him, though. Kate remains the center of the comic and an effective lead character. She is never not entertaining. And the rest of the supporting cast is stellar all around, from Clint as a friendly uncle/mentor type, to Fuse revealing hidden depths by having Vibranium jewelry, for when he really needs to get in the game. Neat touch on a — so far — low key character. And like I said, Caselli is killing it on art.
TL;DR: West Coast Avengers is everything you could want from a fun, frolicking superhero comic.
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 November 3, 2018, in Avengers, Comics, DC, Marvel, Multiple Man, Reviews, X-Men and tagged Gwenpool, Hawkeye, Heroes in Crisis, Iron Man, Jamie Madrox, Kate Bishop, Stingray, Tony Stark, Tony Stark - Iron Man, West Coast Avengers. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.