Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 1/19/19
Hoo boy, I don’t have many review columns like this one. I’m not paid by anyone to do this blog, nor do I get kick backs or free comics from any of the major publishers I review. It’s just me, some dude, buying and reading comics, and then writing up my thoughts on a hobby blog. And as such, I really only buy and read comics I enjoy.
But sometimes there comics I want to try that just turn out bad. And this week saw a slew of bad or problematic comics, from Ironheart to Wonder Woman to the final issue of the big Uncanny X-Men storyline. I apologize in advance for being mean to these issues. Fortunately, the latest issue of Fantastic Four was still enjoyable, so it gets Comic Book of the Week!
Meanwhile, I think I’m going to drop Catwoman. The opening story arc was fine, but I’m not all that interested in Catwoman as a character right now, and the series just didn’t grab me. Joelle Jones is a fantastic creator, though. I love her art.
Comic Reviews: Fantastic Four #6, Ironheart #2, Uncanny X-Men #10 and Wonder Woman #62.
Fantastic Four #6
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Aaron Kuder
Colorists: Marte Gracia and Erick Arciniega
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
The wedding is over, the series has settled, and it’s time to get on to the ordinary course of business!
Doctor Doom and his new sidekick/herald Victorious (the girl Zora from issue #1) are fighting Galactus as the Devourer of Worlds uses Latveria to set up shop. When Doom detects that the Fantastic Four have crossed his borders, he sends Victorious to stop them and hold them off. The team are changing into their new uniforms, with Ben complaining about missing his wedding reception, when Victorious knocks them out of the sky. Human Torch takes her on and gets her talking while the others crash/land on the ground. Victorious reveals that Doom imbued her with the Power Cosmic to be his champion.
After Doom and his sentries destroy Galactus’ regulators, the hungry demi-god stomps off in pursuit of Victorious’ Power Cosmic. Reed then chastises Doom for giving Victorious that power and drawing Galactus to Earth in the first place, but Doom scoffs and says all of this — from drawing Galactus to Earth to using Victorious to lure him to this exact spot — is all part of his plan!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This is a good enough kick off to the next big story. It’s a bit story heavy, but Slott does manage to sneak in some fun character moments, like the team teasing each other as they get dressed in the Fantasti-Car, or the Thing having to suck it up and crash while Reed turns himself into a parachute to save his wife. And the story ain’t so bad either, with Slott very much going for a “go big or go home” mentality. The characters even comment on it: Galactus and Doctor Doom?! Sounds good to me! Though if I’m being honest, I’m slightly disappointed at the lack of characterization for both Galactus and Doctor Doom. I realize that this story is most likely going to focus on Victorious, but I’m a big fan of how deep the characterization of both Galactus and Doom can go, so I’m slightly disappointed.
I will lament, for some time, the loss of Brian Michael Bendis’ grounded, heroic Victor Von Doom.
But yeah, really enjoyable issue diving right into the next big story. The art is fantastic and capture the scope of everything quite well. The Fantastic Four each get a moment or two to shine, and there’s a really fun cutaway to the rest of the family forced to watch the fight on TV. Along with the kids complaining that they didn’t go, there’s a moment where Franklin calls her “Aunt Alicia” and it’s really touching. So I remain supremely confident in Dan Slott handling these characters and handling them well.
TL;DR: New story kicks off with scale and energy to spare, though big moments and plot take center stage over characterization.
Writer: Eve L. Ewing
Artist: Luciano Vecchio
Colorist: Matt Milla
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
I’m a man of my word, and when a recommendation comes in to review a comic, I’m on it! Let’s get caught up with Ironheart!
Riri Williams is attending MIT, and they are so impressed with her smarts that she’s got her own lab. She apparently has free reign to do whatever she wants there, but she’s annoyed that the dean keeps bringing people by to check on her work. He tells her that’s part of the deal for her getting her own lab to work on whatever random gizmos she thinks up. Also, Riri has a new A.I. for her armor based on her memories of her childhood friend Natalie, who was killed in a drive-by shooting.
After protecting her favorite local deli from a robbery and a drive-by shooting, Riri finds out that a former friend from high school, Daija, has gone missing back home in Chicago. So she heads home to start searching for Daija. First, she hangs out with her friends while doing research, and finds out that Daija was interning for a local sketchy politician who’s running for governor. That’s a clue! So Ironheart heads downtown to look for anything suspicious and pings on a couple of kids stealing cell phones. She chases one down into the subway and he gives up the phone, seeing as how he’s a scared 10-year-old being threatened into a life of petty theft. Ironheart is then ambushed by two mysterious robo-ninja dudes who claim they are from the Wellspring of Power. They escape her by spontaneously combusting.
So Ironheart is dealing with mysterious robo-ninja dudes, a missing friend, a sketchy politician and a bunch of young kids being forced to steal cell phones. And they’re most definitely all connected.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
This is a fine comic, I just don’t think it’s for me going forward. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I just don’t care much for Ironheart, and there’s nothing in her solo series so far that has me interested in sticking with it. For Ironheart fans, I bet it’s a really fun comic. The character is written well enough, the art is phenomenal and there’s meat to the story. Everyone involved is doing a better than adequate job to produce a comic about the character of Ironheart.
But I have some nitpicks.
First of all, the comic isn’t doing anything with the unique aspects of Ironheart’s character. This is as generic a superhero adventure as one can get. Nearly any other superhero in the Marvel Universe could be inserted into this story in place of Ironheart and it would play out exactly the same. For example, she’s a college student…but she immediately leaves M.I.T. for a casual visit to Chicago with no apparent consequences. There’s no indication as to whether she has classes to attend or anything to do with the college life. College is a great setting for a superhero, but Ironheart doesn’t take advantage of that at all. It especially ignores the idea that she’s a very young college student. Surely that would add some interesting character bits to the ongoing story?
All we get is that M.I.T. loves her so much that they’ve given her her own science lab to work in, something no other undergraduate has. And all we’ve seen about that in these two issues is that Riri doesn’t like it when the dean brings guests to visit the lab. Sorry, but I’m almost entirely on the side of the dean here. An undergraduate student getting their own private science lab, apparently fully funded, with free reign to do whatever she wants, surely comes with some important conditions.
For another example, why isn’t this comic using Tony Stark at all? Especially since Iron Man recently got his own new series launch? I get that the creators likely want Riri to stand on her own…but why? Tony Stark is a popular character, and obviously Riri owes her very existence as a character to Iron Man. Why not make them allies? Like Clint Barton and Kate Bishop? Has Tony Stark ever had a sidekick or protege? Definitely not in years. There’s your storyline. The great Tony Stark has found someone he considers his equal, if not superior, and they’ve got a mentor/mentee bond going. That’d be an interesting storyline.
And if you insist that Riri stand on her own, then why is she still using Iron Man’s color scheme and nomenclature? This issue repeatedly makes the joke that everyone already assumes she’s “Iron Woman” or whatever, while she weakly insists her name is “Ironheart”. Why not have Riri come up with her own armored identity? Especially if the creative team isn’t going to take advantage of her potentially unique and interesting relationship with Tony Stark, arguably Marvel’s most bankable superhero.
Second of all, the generic superhero story that the creators are going with here isn’t even very good. This issue reads like a stream of consciousness of random ideas that get strung together as if they make any logical or cohesive sense. So Riri’s childhood friend has gone missing. That’s fine. That’s a solid set up for a story.
But then we make the leap to a shady politician, which again, is largely fine. But in order to get information on this politician, Riri’s plan is to just fly around downtown until she spots something nefarious? Like, she did no investigation whatsoever into the politician. And then, of course, she randomly spots the kids stealing a cell phone and she chases them down into the subway. Which leads to her being attacked by a pair of gnarly looking robo-ninjas with spontaneous combustion powers.
How does any of that flow logically together? And to make matters worse, the last page reveals that it’s all clearly connected. Daija is indeed being held by whatever mysterious figure is forcing children to steal cell phones. So even though Ironheart does no actual investigation into her missing friend, she still manages to nearly crack the case due to sheer dumb luck. And I have no doubt that the shady politician is directly involved. There’s no subtlety to this storytelling. There’s no mystery to this mystery. All of these weird, seemingly unconnected things are actually completely connected, and Ironheart just stumbles onto it through little of her own effort.
Why do robo-ninjas need scared 10-year-olds to steal cell phones anyway?
I reserve my right to be completely wrong about all of this, and maybe I’m being hoodwinked by the creative team — it’s happened before — but I don’t think I am. I feel that Ironheart is just a basic attempt to throw Riri Williams into a generic superhero story. Throw in a touch of mystery and some baddies to fight and you’ve got yourself the most basic form of comic book available. And that’s a shame, because the writing and art are fine, and if they were working on a story that had anything to do with Ironheart, this might actually be better than simply alright.
TL;DR: Everyone involved made a perfectly adequate comic, but the story is all over the place and has very little to do with Ironheart as a character. This is generic superhero comics when it could be so much more unique and special.
Uncanny X-Men #10
Writers: Matthew Rosenberg, Kelly Thompson and Ed Brisson
Artist: Pere Perez
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Given everyone involved, and given the very nature of comic book storytelling these days, Uncanny X-Men should have been so much better. I take back any nice things I’ve said about this comic.
Everybody dog piles on X-Man to varying degrees of effectiveness, until Jean is able to mentally go into his head to try and talk him out of his plan…but instead she inspires X-Man to create the Age of X-Man. He sucks all of the characters present into whatever Age of X-Man is going to be. After this small batch of X-Men disappear, the entire world celebrates that the mutant activities are gone! The vaccine is passed around world-wide and entire law are written to erase mutants from the face of the Earth. An alive-again Cyclops is bummed out about that. These last two sentences all occur over the course of, like, two pages at the very end.
Comic Rating: 3/10 – Bad.
That’s what they were building towards with this big weekly revival of Uncanny X-Men?! Are you kidding me?! It’s not that I disagree with the ending; if anything, I think it’s a fine direction to take X-Men comics. But how they got there is infuriatingly bad. Let me parse it out. So the X-Offices at Marvel wanted a new status quo for mutants where the X-Men were disassembled, a vaccine was available world-wide and the entire world was so anti-mutant that laws would be passed to stop mutants from happening. And from these ashes, Cyclops and Wolverine return to try and right the ship. This I’m fine with…if you can make it happen organically. But that is not what this comic did.
In order to get to that status quo, everyone involved apparently decided the best way to make it happen was a 10-part, weekly series where everybody is just jammed together in a big, ungainly fight…and then they just drop the rest of this on us in a tiny epilogue at the very end. The vaccine storyline was barely a subplot through 10 freakin’ issues of comics, but all of a sudden the entire gorram world is so anti-mutant that the vaccine is mandatory? To say nothing of the world being so anti-mutant. I’d been annoyed by the degree to which people were protesting mutants throughout this series, but they were just tiny little throwaway background details that never had an explanation. Where did that even come from? I mean, I guess it could have happened at the end of one of those color-coded comics, like Gold or Red or Black. I didn’t read those. But considering how big a deal it is to the ending of this story, it would have been nice to put in this actual comic. As it stands, it comes off like they’re just piggy backing on the general idea that humans hate mutants…which hasn’t been this vitriolic in years.
If they wanted to clear the board of mutants and X-Men, why was this the story they went with? Did they really think a giant, ugly fight was the best answer? Because apparently the clean mutant slate thing wasn’t good enough, they also had to come up with this Age of Apocalypse 2: Electric Boogaloo fiasco. Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely going to check out some of the Age of X-Man comics, but why was this storyline the focus of these 10 issues instead of the far more serious and important world-wide take down of all mutants?
The fight in this issue was just dumb. It’s just a big, messy garbage brawl where nothing and nobody matter. A few minor character bits are tossed in, like Psylocke saving Storm with Archangel’s help, or Magneto and the others being freed from their spell and jumping into the fray, and randomly Cannonball getting so hurt that Pixie has to teleport him away, but it’s all noise. Why even have Storm transformed only last issue if she’s going to be instantly saved this issue? So that she can get all ragey for a page or two on X-Man? Why not have Psylocke use her psychic knife to save Magneto, Blob and Omega Red if all it takes is a quick brain stab?
Why was Multiple Man key to Legion’s plan in the beginning? Why even introduce that Senator character if you’re not going to do anything with him, and he doesn’t even have an impact on the vaccine legislation? Why was Apocalypse here at all?
Could you creators really not better pace and organize a 10-issue story?
Make absolutely no mistake: this great, heralded revival of Uncanny X-Men existed solely to build up to Age of X-Man, not to exist as its own comic. They came up with Age of X-Man first and then knocked around ideas how to build up to it. Marvel stretched it out to 10 weekly issues for no purpose other than, I can only assume, attack our wallets directly. I don’t normally complain about the cost of reading comics, but this deserves it. There is absolutely nothing in this story that required 10 issues, especially not weekly. I can’t imagine anything in Age of X-Man will require 10 full issues of nonsense build-up. And if you wanted to wipe the world clean of mutants, driving the survivors underground, you did a terrible job. Why try to stack both stories on top of each other? Why was one not good enough on its own?
TL;DR: The new issue of Uncanny X-Men is a big, ugly mess, capping off a big, ugly mess of a story.
Wonder Woman #62
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Colorist: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
I still have high hopes for G. Willow Wilson on Wonder Woman, but this opening storyline tried to go too big too soon.
It’s like if you watched the Wonder Woman movie…but started from the very end, when they arrive at the German airfield.
Wonder Woman faces off against Ares, but Aphrodite barges in and tells him to knock it off. She whispers something in his ear and Ares comes around completely. Then the Prime Minister sits down with the rebels to hash out a peace treaty and new borders, and the deal requires all gods and superheroes to get lost. Wonder Woman is a little bummed, because she thought she was helping. She tells her friends that she’s OK, but she’s pretty bummed and just wishes her home was still around.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
Wilson wrote these four issues as if this was the epic, concluding arc of a major story. She went too big too soon. Wonder Woman was thrown right into a conflict that the reader knew nothing about, and then a bunch of classic gods were thrown in so that Wonder Woman could fight Ares for the millionth time. His thoughts on the battle changed on a whim, so I honestly don’t even remember what his storyline has been across these four issues. And as much as it pleases me that we don’t end on yet another Wonder Woman/Ares fight, Aphrodite still came out of nowhere last issue, so part of this feels slapdash. I’m also lost as to what exactly was going on between the two warring factions. The prime minister is called a tyrant, and I thought this was about him being cruel to his people…but here he’s portrayed as a kindly looking old white guy in a suit who wants the best for everybody, who was elected prime minister. So what were the rebels (portrayed as dark-skinner guerrilla fighters) even fighting for? Was he kindly or a tyrant?
Wilson clearly tries to insert some solid political commentary into all of this, from how Americans and gods both just rain their chaos onto these smaller governments, but she doesn’t touch on that enough to make it a major theme. This story really did seem to be just about Wonder Woman fighting Ares again. And the fight just seemed so…again, bigger than it had any right to be. Like, there’s a moment in the fight where Ares grabs the Lasso and tries to hit Diana with it. But she snatches it back and schools him on how to use a lasso as a weapon. It’s a fine bit of play with the Lasso of Truth, but it feels so out of place in this issue. There’s no build up or context.
Honestly, the whole issue feels out of place in this issue, and that’s my major concern. Wilson writes a great Wonder Woman, and the art is really good. But the story was frequently bumpy and unconvincing, with far too much focus on what Ares was getting on about at any moment. And with plot elements dropping in and out. Why was Steve Trevor even involved in this? Why did he get kidnapped by mythical creatures? Why were those mythical creatures immediately dropped after the second issue? It just doesn’t hold together.
TL;DR: There’s still promise in Wilson’s basic handling of the characters, but this storyline got too big too soon and feels out of place.
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!