Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 12/1/18
Both Aquaman and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse are getting great word-of-mouth ahead of their upcoming releases. That is both crazy and awesome! I’m really excited for these movies now!
But we’re not here to talk movies! That’s just my way of opening up this article with some general superhero chatter. We’re here to talk comics, and this week is a doozy! We’ve got Superman, Spider-Man, X-Men, Wonder Woman, Booster Gold and more! Comic Book of the Week goes to Fantastic Four #4, for an issue that I hope is a solid example of what we’re going to see going forward.
Meanwhile, I got a request to review the finale to the Drowned Earth storyline in Justice League. I dropped the main comic awhile ago, so I had a lot of catching up to do. I liked the first couple of issues, but big team-focused comics aren’t my cup of tea these days, so I faded from the series. But I take my review requests seriously, so you best believe I have reviewed the Drowned Earth finale below!
Comic Reviews: Action Comics #1005, Amazing Spider-Man #10, Aquaman/Justice League – Drowned Earth #1, Fantastic Four #4, Heroes in Crisis #3, Uncanny X-Men #3 and Wonder Woman #59.
Action Comics #1005
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Ryan Sook
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Josh Reed
The villainous Red Cloud is revealed…and it’s underwhelming.
The Question is in Metropolis investigating the Red Cloud, and he busts up an illegal deal from one of the criminals as part of his investigation. That criminal goes running to her boss, riling up everyone involved in the group and upping their paranoia about the Red Cloud. They were all supposed to be operating under the radar, but the pressure is on! Red Cloud, meanwhile, attacks Superman, proving that her smokey powers are tough for him to physically fight. Superman flies away from them at super speed, and Red Cloud also escapes — revealing herself to the reader as Miss Goode!
Meanwhile, Deputy Fire Chief Melody Moore has a secret meeting with Clark Kent about the mayor. She recently attended a fancy gala the mayor was hosting, and he advised her not to let superheroes get involved in her arson investigations. But since Superman and Batman were already involved, he said it was tainted and she should shut it down. Superman is then investigating the mayor when Red Cloud attacks him.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
I’m a little disappointed in myself for not assuming Miss Goode was Red Cloud. It’s classic Scobby Doo logic: the new villain is the new character. This reveal doesn’t add much to the situation, other than taking away some of the mystique of the Red Cloud. I thought she was some super evil crime boss…but now I know she’s just Miss Goode, terrible reporter. What even is her plan? Get hired by the Daily Planet for a solid, honest job at one of the country’s leading newspapers…and then spend all her time trying to smear Superman and annoy her boss. There’s a scene in this issue where Clark is proofreading one of her stories (despite not being an editor) and he dings her for flowery text in her attempts to bolster a story about the Red Cloud. Clark points out that they don’t have many facts about Red Cloud, and flowery text won’t make up for that. Goode is such a terrible reporter! How does she even have this job?
And why is she menacing a group of criminals? Them, I get. A bunch of Metropolis criminals team up to protect each other and enact safety measures to keep Superman from nosing around their business. So why are they letting Red Cloud into the group to terrorize them? She doesn’t appear to provide anything to the group but fear or being killed by her. And the fact that Superman and the Question are all up in their business means they’re doing a terrible job of sticking to their one plan.
And villains who are terrible at what they’re doing are not particularly interesting to read about, at least when it’s not intentional and comedic. Action Comics is written seriously, yet everybody keeps bumbling or stumbling with little to no conflict for Superman. It’s weird. The whole thing is still well written, and Ryan Sook is amazing on art, so this isn’t a bad comic, per se. It’s just a weirdly mismanaged story.
TL;DR: The story in Action Comics would make a better comedy than a serious crime story, but it’s being played straight, making for an underwhelming read.
Amazing Spider-Man #10
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artists: Humberto Ramos and Michele Bandini
Inkers: Victor Olazaba and Bandini
Colorists: Edgar Delgado and Erick Arciniega
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
There you go, Nick Spencer, that’s how you write touching, emotional moments.
Spider-Man and Black Cat fight off the Thieves Guild, while Mary Jane narrates her life and love with Spidey to her new support group. She doesn’t feel like she can live up to all the superhero ladies her boyfriend works with, but Jarvis tells her she’s indispensable. And Spidey and Black Cat win when Spidey snags Ms. Marvel’s cell phone from the loot and turns it on, which pings her Find My Phone app and she leads everybody to the loot.
Later, Spidey and Black Cat have a chat about how she’s changed. Felicia tells him that she didn’t turn evil because of that whole Superior Spider-Man thing. She realizes now that she was mad at Peter for something else — she was upset because she forgot who he was under the mask. They use to share something special, but then she and everybody else in the world was made to forget his identity following Civil War. And it feels like a part of her is unfairly missing. Peter takes off his mask and reveals his identity to Felicia. It’s really sweet.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This is a pretty fun wrap-up to the Thieves Guild storyline (though the group is still out there), with more of that broad humor that Spencer is using on the comic. Having Ms. Marvel find the location of the stolen goods through a phone app, showing up Tony Stark and Reed Richards’ epic search plans, was pretty fun. And Spider-Man and Black Cat make a great team when facing off against the hordes of the Guild. It’s a solid, enjoyable enough comic. And the Mary Jane stuff is fine, too. It’s definitely a good avenue to explore with her character.
But this issue rises above the previous ones for that great scene between Peter and Felicia.
That Spencer put all this thought into Black Cat, building up to this rooftop scene, proves he knows what he’s doing and gives me hope for future stories. I never liked Black Cat’s heel turn. It just didn’t work for the character. So reversing it is already a good idea. But retconning the heel turn to be about that one time everybody, including her, was made to forget Peter Parker is genius. It’s deeply personal, and Spencer and Ramos really convey the hurt that Felicia has felt about the whole thing. Peter’s jokes still aren’t to my liking, but then he takes off his mask and trusts her with his identity. It’s a great scene and really elevates the issue.
TL;DR: A touching character scene that resolves years of mischaracterization for the Black Cat elevates this issue.
Aquaman/Justice League – Drowned Earth #1
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Francis Manapul, Howard Porter and Scott Godlewski
Colorists: Hi-Fi and Manapul
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
I got a request to review the finale of the Drowned Earth storyline in Justice League, which ended this week with this big one-shot. I am happy to review any comic any of you readers might request. Just hit me up on email, on social media or in the comments.
I would also like to point out that this storyline kicked off with a one-shot entitled Justice League/Aquaman – Drowned Earth #1. And now it ends with Aquaman/Justice League – Drowned Earth #1. That’s just plain ridiculous.
Apologies in advance. This gets kind of long.
To summarize this whole event: A long time ago, Poseidon and Atlantean hero Arion sent a message out to oceans on other planets to create a wider network. They were greeted by three alien ocean gods — Commander Drogue, Captain Gall and Fleet Admiral Tyyde — who came to Earth in the spirit of friendship. But Poseidon grew suspicious and jealous of these new ocean gods, and he convinced Arion to turn on them and banish them to spend eternity in the Graveyard of the Gods.
In the present day, Black Manta rescued these ocean gods from the Graveyard, and they used their powers/monsters to flood the entire world. The flood waters also turn people into sea monsters, including most of the world’s superheroes. The Justice League were split off into different groups to fight/figure out how to save the day.
As this issue begins, Mera has managed to find Arion’s Tear of Extinction, which is what he used to banish the ocean gods the first time around. Mera, Superman and Flash fight their way through an army of fishisized superheroes, and are saved by Aquaman and Wonder Woman. Those two traveled to the Graveyard to speak with Poseidon, who revealed to them how he turned Arion against the ocean gods, and how it’s not really their fault they’re jerks now. Poseidon also granted Aquaman his trident as the Graveyard was destroyed by the Legion of Doom (also, the ocean gods transferred Aquaman’s powers to Black Manta).
So the heroes are regrouped and they start sailing their ship up to the space fleet to confront the ocean gods, who are in the process of unleashing the Death Kraken on Earth. It’s coming out of a portal, and if it’s tentacles touch the water, everything on Earth will die. While our heroes fight the fleet and hold off the tentacles, Wonder Woman travels to the center of the Earth to launch some Atlantean towers/rockets that Arion built to travel the stars. Cheetah tries to stop her, but Batman shows up to help (he’s had his own subplot, which we don’t need to get into here). The towers break through the ocean gods’ force field, and Aquaman and Mera go to confront them head-on. Aquaman wants to talk to them and remind them that they were good guys originally.
In the heat of battle, and after one failed attempt, Aquaman is able to transform the Tear of Extinction back into its original form, the Clarion, which Arion used to send that message into the cosmos in the first place. Mera then uses the Clarion to send a message of hope and love about the oceans of the universe, and the ocean gods back off from their attack — which angers Black Manta. He kills Drogue and Gall, and nearly kills Tyyde. He tries to take control of the Death Kraken, but that doesn’t work, so he faces off against Aquaman. Tyyde transfers his powers back, and Aquaman calls upon all the fishisized superheroes to help out (since he can ‘talk to fish’).
To save the day, Aquaman, carrying the life force, pilots his ship, with Black Manta on board, into the heart of the Death Kraken, sacrificing himself.
The world is saved, the flood waters didn’t do any major damage, all the people of the world are turned back to normal, little the wiser of what happened to them. Tyyde joins Mera in rebuilding Atlantis, and Mera will take Aquaman’s seat on the Justice League. Wonder Woman doesn’t believe he is really dead…
And sure enough, Aquaman washes ashore on some distant world, just in time for his next big comic book storyline.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
The reason I stopped reading Justice League is because these types of comics just aren’t my cup of tea anymore. I don’t care for this big, world-ending, team-driven, larger-than-life stories. I prefer more intimate comics, like Runaways or Iceman or Mister Miracle.
But if you do like big, world-ending, team-driven, larger-than-life stories, hot damn is Drowned Earth for you!
It’s got it’s flaws, and I’ll get to them in a bit, but man oh man is this one massive bit of all-hands-on-deck, let’s get as crazy as possible, comic book storytelling. Every issue of this series, and every page of this issue, is packed to the gills with more activity, more insanity, than ten comics. And I’m more than happy to admit that it therefore succeeds in being the massive sort of story I would expect the Justice League to tackle. It’s an epic superhero adventure, putting the fate of the entire world on the line, and our heroes up against insurmountable odds. It’s wild and crazy and utterly phenomenal as superhero storytelling.
If you want unbelievable stakes, this comic has them. If you want character “deaths” that are earned and mean something, this comic has them. If you want a big team comic that still manages to find unique and important roles for each of its members — like the Flash having to constantly fight off the fish infection, or Batman using an old Luthor armor from the Hall of Justice trophy room to fight the Legion of Doom by himself — this comic is it. This comic has so much!
But it also has its flaws. The villains are a tad underdeveloped, with none of the three ocean gods really standing out as an individual. And they’re pretty much generically evil. One of them is named “Tyyde” for crying out loud, so you can see how much thought went into them. The twist that they were really good guys way back when is fine, but then they switch back to good on a dime, despite all of the build-up to them as villains, and the destruction they caused — which has no lasting repercussions. A line at the end about how the flood was the “water of the gods” and therefore didn’t corrode anything, so there’s no water damage anywhere, is weak. Granted, I don’t want all of DC Comics to suddenly have to deal with the entire world being destroyed…but don’t write such a huge story that the world should be destroyed and then just “poof” it all away in the end with zero consequences.
The biggest problem with this issue, this storyline and the entire Justice League comic is the amount of ceaseless exposition. In order to prepare for Drowned Earth, I went all the way back to where I left off, at Justice League #4, and read all the way up through issue #12, plus the two one-shots for Drowned Earth. And let me tell you, these are wordy comics. And it’s because Snyder and occasional co-writer James Tynion IV fill their stories with so much made-up gobbledygook that they’ve got no choice but to have characters just stand around and explain it, at length.
For Drowned Earth, they’ve got to explain Arion and his history with Atlantis, then they’ve got to turn around and explain that the original explanation was a lie, and what the true story is. Then the ocean gods have got to explain where they’ve kidnapped Aquaman at the start of the story. And we’ve got to hear explanations for the Clarion and the Tear of Execution and how each one is used. And then various krakens need to be explained, because there are multiple krakens in the story. It’s an unending deluge of exposition, and it’s nearly constant.
The exposition doesn’t ruin the comic. It flows well enough, and the action never lets up. But man oh man, that was a lot of reading.
TL;DR: Justice League is a wordy comic, but it’s also one that goes all-out when it comes to big, world-ending storylines. This was an action-packed and exciting comic that never let up and earned its emotional ending.
Fantastic Four #4
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Stefano Caselli and Nico Leon
Colorist: Erick Arciniega
Letterer: VC’s Chris Eliopoulos
Now this is what I’m talking about! If Dan Slott’s Fantastic Four is as much fun as he writes them here, this is gonna be one hell of a comic!
With the Griever defeated, the extended Fantastic Four return home — except for the Future Foundation kids. Dragon Man and Alex Power are going to take them back out into the Multiverse to try and find/save their Molecule Man, which is about as clean an exit as Slott was ever going to have with those kids. Their story was great for their time, but I totally understand his desire to focus on the core team.
When they teleport back to the Baxter Building, the Fantastic Four arrive in the middle of a slugfest between the Wrecking Crew and the new super team the Fantastix, a bunch of knock-offs who currently own/live in the Baxter Building. Some of the Fantastic Four jump into the fray, but everybody keeps getting in everybody else’s way…until Val realizes that the fight is staged and almost everybody involved has been paid off by the Fantastix’s publicist (Reed also figured it out, but he wanted his daughter to figure it out for herself). The bad guys are taken into custody. And when our heroes figure out that the Fantastix themselves didn’t know it was staged, and seem to want to be legit superheroes, and own the Baxter Building fair and square, Reed lets them keep it. So the Thing takes everybody to the apartment building he owns on Yancy Street to be their new HQ.
The address? 4 Yancy St.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
I loved this issue! It’s a bit wonky at times, with a lot going on at every stage, but if this is how Slott writes the core Fantastic Four, then I am beyond sold. They’re just so much fun! They banter, they bicker, they tease each other, they all have distinct voices, and they’re all so wonderfully human! For example, when the team returns to New York and discovers the brawl, the Thing decides to let the others handle it, because he wants to go see Alicia. It’s such a human moment, amidst the craziness of their superhero lives. I love it!
The rest of the issue is full of moments like that. From the Four chatting/joking with the extended members as they teleport them home (Iceman story coming next year, we’re promised!), to Reed continuously mentoring his daughter, to everybody discussing the new apartment; it’s just great, and so much fun to read. This is the level of humanity I want in my superhero comics. This is the grounded, realistic, but still suitably superheroic, kind of comic I want to read. So consider me 100% on board!
Also, Slott does take a moment to address Wolverine’s appearance with a bit of hand-waving. Consider me satisfied.
TL;DR: In all the craziness of typical Fantastic Four superheroics, Dan Slott focuses on the grounded humanity of the characters, making for a wonderful issue.
Heroes in Crisis #3
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Clay Mann and Lee Weeks
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
This is just getting gross. Not ‘gross’ in the gore sense, but gross in the ‘this is getting way too much’ sense.
This issue is spent showing us how Sanctuary operated before everybody was killed. The caretakers used various technologies, designed by Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, including Psycho Pirate technology, to create elaborate virtual realities for the heroes and villains to tackle their traumas head-on. Basically, Danger Room technology to simulate whatever the clients wanted. We see Lagoon Boy struggling with that time he got shot and killed in the Pre-52. We also see Wally West visit with his Pre-52 wife and kids. So I think there’s something going on with people retaining Pre-52 memories? I don’t know, that whole concept is exhausting.
All of this is framed around Booster Gold’s first day. He’s introduced to how Sanctuary operates, and then his version of therapy is to sit down in a room with a duplicate of himself and have that duplicate berate him. Then the alarms go off, and he finds Harley Quinn killing people, including Wally West.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
Add Red Devil and Solstice to the list of the dead, among many others. Sigh.
This is just my personal opinion, but whatever message Tom King is trying to convey about mental health is being grossly overshadowed by the wholesale slaughter of characters. What is the fascination with slaughtering comic book characters? Does it make the writer feel edgy? Do they think it adds gravitas to their story? It’s gross and weird and I don’t like it. Especially knowing that there must have been a list of minor characters that King’s editors would let him kill. So already the slaughter he’s presenting in the story is hampered by real world matters of licensing and marketability. And that just makes it all the grosser.
That gross factor hangs over every page of this comic, but I can’t deny that it’s still a well made comic. The art is fantastic, and I suppose there’s a bit of mystery still at play. But none of this is sitting right with me. I’m trying to think of good things to say about the issue, but it’s feeling a bit flat. The writing is fine and the art is great, but I don’t really know if any of the character stuff really works. I don’t know anything about modern day Wally West, let alone Pre-52 Wally West, so I don’t know if his scenes are especially touching. And I know even less about Lagoon Boy, so I don’t know if his scenes really hit home. This is all just King coming up with trauma out of the blue to sell his Sanctuary idea, except that the story isn’t about Sanctuary, it’s about killing a bunch of superheroes, so the trauma is irrelevant (at least so far). I’m vaguely interested in where King is taking Booster Gold, so I suppose that’s interesting. But man…this is all hard to stomach.
TL;DR: The grossness of King slaughtering so many characters is overpowering whatever story he’s trying to tell about mental health.
Uncanny X-Men #3
Writers: Matthew Rosenberg, Kelly Thompson and Ed Brisson
Artist: Yildiray Cinar
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Alright, it’s getting better now that something is actually happening. It’s a really weird something, but at least it’s something.
While one team of X-Men defeats the dinosaurs, the other team manages to shut down the minds of all the Madrox dupes. They’re then able to decipher that Jamie Prime is on lockdown in an underground bunker beneath them. They head down, free him, and Jamie explains that Legion kidnapped him and forced him to make an army of dupes, then inserted Legion’s various personalities into each of the dupes.
Speaking of Legion, when he learns that the X-Men are fighting the Madroxes, he turns on the X-Kids at the Mansion and starts fighting them — while claiming he’s there to help. I’d like to take a second to point out that Legion immediately reverts back to his wild haircut as soon as his facade falters. So why they had him show up in a suit with combed hair — something highlighted on this cover — makes no sense. Was it just a really weak attempt to throw readers for a loop? What did the combed hair add to Legion’s story?
The rest of the X-Men show up to fight Legion, but he insists he’s there to save everyone from…the Horsemen of Peace, who show up on the front lawn. It’s Magneto, Omega Red, Blob and Angel, dressed in robes and elaborate outfits. Magneto says he must destroy the X-Men in the name of peace, so he blows up the X-Mansion.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Now that the cryptic clues are out of the way and story-stuff is actually happening, the new Uncanny X-Men is finally good. The character focus has remained strong, but now the story is catching up. The Madrox thing is solved, and Jamie proper joins the adventure. The Horsemen of Peace show up and get the ball rolling by blowing up the Mansion. Teams start coming back together. There are still a lot of questions, but they’re not cryptic for the sake of being cryptic anymore. We’ve got stuff going down, and it’s weird stuff, but entertaining stuff nonetheless.
Though some of the stuff is also being revealed as not important at all…at least so far. What did the dinosaurs accomplish? And is that mutant vaccine going anywhere? Also, why was there a large crowd in Montana protesting mutants? There was no mutant activity there, and Beast specifically said there were no super people in the area who could handle the dinosaurs, which is why the X-Men went. So was the mutant protest, complete with signs, just an every day event in that Montana town and dinosaurs happened to show up?
Also, there are some throwaway lines in this issue, and a glance at a monitor, that claim the natural disasters and prehistoric creatures around the world are approaching Biblical proportions. When all we get are some lines and a glance at a TV screen about it, that does not properly convey such importance. Nothing else in the past three issues makes it feel like the entire planet is falling apart. So that plotline just isn’t working.
But everything else pretty much is. The X-Men, as characters, are fun to read. There are a lot of them, but enough of them get moments to shine. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the new status quo of Multiple Man, but that’s on me. And as crazy as these Horsemen of Peace are, at least they’re something, which is more than we had the previous two issues.
TL;DR: The plot finally gets going in some actually enjoyable ways, so Uncanny X-Men is getting better.
Wonder Woman #59
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Cary Nord
Inker: Mick Gray
Colorist: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
G. Willow Wilson’s Wonder Woman is off to a…simply OK start.
Ares explains to Wonder Woman that he has come back to fight injustice, but when the government attempts to bomb the rebels, Ares grabs the missile and launches it instead at an innocent village. He thinks it’s poetry to use the tyrant’s weapons against his supporters, but Wonder Woman obviously views it as monstrous that he would attack innocents. They fight again, even as the US fighter jets show up and Ares tries to attack them. When Wonder Woman defends them, he raises his ax to kill her!
Meanwhile, the mythical creatures that were lost in the city are led to a gathering of other mythical creatures, and they’re the ones who have Steve Trevor prisoner. He tries to escape, but the creatures catch him again and decide to take him to their leader.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
I dunno, I guess I was expecting more from Wilson. Her Ms. Marvel series has been an utter delight from the very beginning. She’s been consistently writing that comic, full of rich characters and joyous cheer, for years now. I am super excited to see her take on Wonder Woman. But eh, these opening two issues have been just fine. Wilson hasn’t had much of a chance to really dig into Wonder Woman as a character yet. Diana spends this issue rushing around reacting to the new take on Ares…except it’s not that much of a new take. He’s still a violent, war-driven villain; he’s just spouting a new angle to his evil. I like the idea behind it, but she quickly throws away the nuance by making him straight evil right away.
And the side story with the mythical creatures wandering around isn’t particularly interesting just yet. We don’t know anything about them or why they matter. It’s also a little weird that a cadre of random creatures are the ones holding Steve Trevor. I rather preferred the idea that Wonder Woman was going to insert herself into the middle of a complex international political situation…now she just has to fight off some griffins and minotaurs to get Steve back. Not particularly interesting.
Also, the art is bugging me. It’s good comic book art, by all means. Maybe a little deficient in some areas. But it’s not very good art for Wonder Woman. It’s too sketchy and undercooked. I would have liked something fuller and more vibrant. But that’s maybe just me.
TL;DR: The new Wonder Woman is failing to impress, with low-key storytelling and art that doesn’t really fit the 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 December 1, 2018, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Multiple Man, Reviews, Spider-Man, Superman, X-Men and tagged Action Comics, Amazing Spider-Man, Aquaman, Black Cat, Drowned Earth, Fantastic Four, Heroes in Crisis, Justice League, Uncanny X-Men, Wonder Woman. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.