Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 2/2/19
Last week was a wasteland of new comics I like to read, and this week drops a bunch! How do you like them apples, eh? Suffice to say, I had a lot to read and enjoy this week.
Action Comics and Wonder Woman are both enjoyable out of DC, and my opinion starts to change for the better on Heroes in Crisis. Then we’ve got Marvel dropping a solid Ms. Marvel and West Coast Avengers. But the real standout, a true gem of a comic, is the new issue of Unstoppable Wasp. This is a rare game-changer of an issue and easily wins Comic Book of the Week.
Could be a standout for Comic Book of the Year.
Meanwhile, I read the Alpha issue for Age of X-Man and it looks fine. Pretty bare bones, with more than a few obvious glitches in the manufactured reality. I still haven’t decided how I’ll cover the event. I’m not about to buy and read every single issue…but maybe I won’t buy or review any of them. All I know for sure is that I’m excited to see what Leah Williams does with the Blob.
Comic Reviews: Action Comics #1007, Captain America #7, Heroes in Crisis #5, Ms. Marvel #37, Unstoppable Wasp #4, West Coast Avengers #7 and Wonder Woman #63.
Action Comics #1007
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Steve Epting
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Josh Reed
Bendis is starting a big new storyline for Action Comics, so I’m gonna keep giving it a chance.
A woman Jimmy Olsen has been seeing takes him to a secret meeting…of Kobra! Jimmy isn’t on board and flees after taking a few photos, but then the whole building and all the people inside are wiped out in some sort of strange blue explosion. Jimmy isn’t sure if he can trust the new owners of the Daily Planet, so he’s not sure if he can share his photos with Perry White or Clark. Later, Superman is flying around when he hears someone screaming his name for help. He rushes across cities and catches the woman before she hits the ground. It’s Amanda Waller, who screamed for Superman out of instinct. Then her building is blown up in some sort of strange blue explosion!
Meanwhile, Lois Lane meets with her father and reveals that Clark is Superman. Her father turns and leaves.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This Leviathan storyline is off to a good start. Does it have anything to do with the big Leviathan storyline from Batman a few years ago? Doesn’t feel like it. Feels like Bendis just wanted to use that big fancy word for his storyline. But like I said, titles aside, it’s off to a good start. There’s a solid mystery, Superman is involved, and all of the characters seem fine. Bendis still isn’t wowing me with his DC Comics work, but I still have some hope that this could be good. I like the drama going on with Lois Lane and I’d like to see more drama with the rest of the characters. Hopefully that can all be weaved up with this new mystery. The art is really good this issue. It’s crisp and clean superhero art, which is my favorite kind. Everybody looks good, the detail is fantastic and the mystery explosions look out of this world. So everything comes together for a good, solid comic book.
TL;DR: The new storyline is off to a good, solid start, though the series as a whole could still use a real boost to the drama.
Captain America #7
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Adam Kubert
Colorist: Frank Martin
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
I skipped last issue, but now I’m back because Captain America needs our help!
The Lukin family has framed Captain America for the murder of Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, with Mrs. Lukin secretly working for Rasputin himself!
Steve and Sharon meet with their attorney, Bernadette Rosenthal, who lays out the evidence against Cap: Ross was killed by a blow to his back by a shield-like object, and Steve’s only alibi is that he was with Sharon on the night of the murder, but Steve and Sharon have both had beef with Ross recently. Steve gives Sharon the shield for safe-keeping while he turns himself in, figuring he can do more good within the system than as a fugitive. He’s taken to the Myrmidon, a prison for super-powered individuals, which is secretly being run by Baron Strucker, who is in on the Lukins’ plan.
Later, Sharon summons the Daughters of Liberty to join the fight: Spider-Woman, Invisible Woman, Valkyrie, White Tiger, Echo, Mockingbird and Misty Knight.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Now we’re getting into the meat of Coates’ Captain America, and I definitely like it. I think the same problems remain from the start of the series. The character stuff and each individual issue isn’t particularly strong, but Coates is working with some truly phenomenal themes, and now they’re stronger than ever. Who is Captain America in the Age of Trump? In an America where corporations have the power? In an America where a large swath of the population voted this nonsense into power and supports it with all of their heat and soul? I find this to be fascinating stuff, and this issue really starts laying it out strongly.
And this issue contains some nice character moments, too. When Captain America turns himself into the authorities, and Nick Fury Jr. asks him to turn over the shield, Cap is just like, “I lost it.” Nick retorts, “That’s a lie”, and Cap fires back, “What are you going to do, arrest me?” It’s a great scene that really puts Cap into solid perspective here. Just like his speech to Sharon that I posted a panel from above, about how he feels like he has no place in this current America. It’s a powerful speech that really digs in deep to the fascinating themes Coates is playing with, hence why I liked this issue so much.
The Daughters of Liberty thing is a bit weird at the end, though. While I appreciate the sentiment, it’s going to take a lot of explaining for why this particular group of all women is able to assemble so quickly and with such a name. Like, has Sue Richards always just had this thing on the back of her social calendar where, should American liberty ever be threatened to such an extent, she’ll be immediately ready to team up with Spider-Woman and Echo to fight for freedom? Or has the actual Daughters of Liberty group from 1765 simply been existing all these centuries later, and this just happens to be their current group lineup?
TL;DR: The fascinating themes of Coates’ Captain America run come to the forefront with the new storyline, making for a powerful issue.
Heroes in Crisis #5
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mann and Moore
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Alright, now we might be getting somewhere.
After Sanctuary was exposed to the world, Superman goes before the media to make a big, noble speech about the sacrifices superheroes make, and how the public shouldn’t be afraid that sometimes superheroes need healing services.
Meanwhile, Batgirl convinces Batman to let her examine Skeets to find Booster Gold’s whereabouts. She figures that Skeets knows enough about Batman to know that Batman won’t really hurt him…but Harley Quinn has no such qualms. Once they have the location, they head out to snatch up Booster.
Double meanwhile, a hidden figure wearing a red glove picks up the rose that Harley Quinn dropped off the bridge to memorialize Poison Ivy.
Triple meanwhile, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle decide to break into the Flash’s lab and steal his evidence, so that they can examine it themselves. Booster’s time travel acumen allows him to notice that the Wally West who died…is 5 days older than Wally West should be!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
And just like that, I’m in!
Finally, at long last, five issues in, and Tom King delivers a hint that something greater is going on here. And it’s such a neat little hint — 5 days older, you say? — that I am instantly intrigued. This is finally a mystery worth sinking our teeth into and it instantly raises the quality of the story. Tom King has been writing a perfectly fine comic so far, with all of the characters fairly well on point. But now he’s finally writing an actual story.
Though, considering it’s Tom King, I may have been missing all manner of clues so far.
My problem with Heroes in Crisis so far is that it has reveled too much in the large-scale slaughter of so many characters. It’s a comic book trope that I don’t like and has lost all meaning in this day and age, but King seemed almost gleeful at how many characters he could kill…while still being restricted in terms of meta issues like character popularity and sales. It rubs me the wrong way that editorial probably handed him a list of characters he could kill, and then he went hog wild, because apparently his story can only be told by slaughtering dozens of characters. And there wasn’t much story beyond that. I haven’t seen any greater exploration of mental health or mental health treatment. The mystery of whether it was Booster or Harley who killed them all wasn’t much of a mystery at all.
Heroes in Crisis felt like the much-maligned Identity Crisis, where you take all of the color and joy of superhero comics and shove them viciously up against a real world tragedy seemingly for shits and giggles rather than any greater exploration of anything.
But with the clues dropped in this issue, I finally feel like King actually does have a story to tell. And maybe the slaughter of all those characters wasn’t just for the sake of slaughter. I have plenty of faith in Tom King, but no writer is infallible, and he’s just big enough these days to fall victim to his own hype. But I am more than ready for him to turn Heroes in Crisis around with an actual plot.
Also, my guess is that Blue Beetle is just in Booster’s head. He’s not really there.
TL;DR: We finally get some hints that an actual story exists in Heroes in Crisis, just in time to right the ship and bring this whole thing home.
Ms. Marvel #37
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Nico Leon
Colorist: Ian Herring
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
It’s the penultimate issue of G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel, and she spends the time reveling in the silly little world she has created. I love it.
Kamala and Gabe are babysitting their newborn nephew Malik, but they can’t handle it so they rush him down to the Circle Q. They run into Sheikh Abdullah and Bruno, and the Sheikh is just fine with babies, so he burps Malik and hands him back. Then all of the water mains and hydrants in the city burst, flooding downtown Jersey City! Ms. Marvel tries to stop the gushing water, but it’s no good. And a series of unfortunate events has Malik bipped and bopped around, from Gabe and Bruno to Zoe and her new girlfriend to Old Man Harold and finally to Mike and Nakia on dry land (though the zoo animals have escaped). Mike and Nakia pass Malik back to Kamala, who has managed to shut down the water, but they also inform her that Sheikh Abdullah suffered a heart attack after she saw him and he’s in the hospital.
Kamala rushes to the hospital, and her whole family is there checking in on Sheikh Abdullah. He’s fine and resting, and he informs Kamala that her brother Aamir is going to start taking on duties at the masjid in order to train and become an Imam. He’s happy, everybody’s happy, and Malik probably has super-powers.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
I don’t know what’s going to happen in Wilson’s final issue, but I’m pretty sure this was her reveling in the chance to just have silly fun with all of her characters. There’s no super-villain, no great tragedy or danger. Just Ms. Marvel and her whole cast having wacky fun in a flooded Jersey City. It’s super fun and super delightful! Wilson works everybody in, from Sheikh Abdullah to the one cop to that weird new nerdy guy she likes to focus on sometimes, whose name is too complicated for me to memorize, and too unimportant for me to simply look back at the issue to get it. Seriously, this issue is straight up silly fun. The streets flood so everybody starts building makeshift rafts like it’s no big deal. And they play hot potato with a baby in the most adorable ways.
There’s plenty of plot and story to keep the issue moving, and all the various characters are as entertaining as ever. It’s a little weird that the entire Khan family is at the Sheikh’s bedside instead of anyone else, but I can roll with that because Wilson came up with a nice direction to take Aamir and his little family.
Honestly, I thought Sheikh Abdullah would pass away, imparting some serious life lessons to Kamala along the the way, and revealing that he also knew she was Ms. Marvel. That would have been more tragic and dramatic, and I know Wilson would have written an amazing scene, but the happy ending is good, too.
TL;DR: G. Willow Wilson starts saying goodbye with a wacky, delightful showcase of her amazing cast of characters.
Unstoppable Wasp #4
Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
There it is. I’ve been waiting for this and it’s finally here. There was no way to know if it was coming or not, but I had faith and hope. And hot damn, Unstoppable Wasp has just been kicked up a notch.
The girls are rushed to the hospital following AIM’s attack, with Janet struggling to deal with everything that’s gone wrong. She feels extremely guilty that the kids under her protection have been hurt, especially Priya, who is passed out after being gassed by her own chemical in her green house (though Bobbi points out that they both saw Priya fleeing in the blimp with the bad guys). Janet rushes around making sure all of the kids are fine, with many of them struggling with their own little problems at having gotten their butts kicked. And Priya’s family is nervous and supportive. And Janet needs to get her own dislocated arm fixed. It’s chaos, and when Janet finally does get some sleep, she’s passed out until noon. She wakes up and finds everybody gathered and happy in Priya’s room, and Priya is finally awake. Everybody looks good!
But wait…where’s Nadia?
Nadia’s back in the lab. She snuck out of the hospital the night before in the confusion and gets to work. She’s got to develop a project for the science fair, track AIM and solve all of her friends’ problems. She checks the security cameras and sees something suspicious going on with Priya. Is she evil? Did anybody in the area spot AIM’s blimp as it fled the scene? Janet needs a team of Avengers to manage so that she has something to do with her life, so who could Nadia recruit? There’s no time for sleep, she’s got work to do. And if she shrinks down to her mini-lab, time will move more slowly, so she’ll have more time to get everything done.
Ten hours later, Janet and everybody return to the lab, but they can’t find Nadia. They spot her chalkboard, which is covered in notes. Too many notes. Janet spots the telltale signs of someone going through a manic episode, like Hank Pym used to have. Janet and Bobbi head out to search for Nadia after they spot her blimp calculations, fearing that Nadia has gone after AIM on her own. But Ying spots the mini-lab and gets Nadia to come out. Nadia looks terrible, because she hasn’t slept or eaten. She tells everybody to leave her be, she’s got to fix everything. When Shay grabs Nadia’s arm to try and get her to calm down, Nadia’s instincts kick in and she judo flips Shay across the room. Nadia tells everybody to calm down and let her work — so Ying socks her in the jaw and tells her to pick on someone of her own skill level!
Comic Rating: 10/10 – Fantastic.
My hat is off to you, Jeremy Whitley. This is masterclass long term storytelling! I didn’t see it coming, not until we were right in the middle of it and the slow, creeping reveal is phenomenal! I was complaining just two issues ago that everything was too perfect for Nadia. As much fun as this comic is, everybody likes a little conflict with their happy-go-lucky times. I wanted Nadia to have some sort of personal drama. I did not anticipate this, and I love it all the more! Whitley really hits us hard throughout the entire issue and it’s marvelous. I was on the edge of my seat. Heck, not even the cover gave it away to me, but it’s so obvious now. I don’t trust comic book covers. They never really show what’s actually going on. But there it was, plain as day. And I wonder if he’s been seeding this through the entire Unstoppable Wasp comic so far.
I can’t gush enough at how well this issue reveals what’s really going on. It’s not unheard of for this comic to be told from Janet’s perspective, so I wasn’t thrown off in the opening act. And I wasn’t bothered by the idea that Nadia was pretty shaken up by the AIM attack. That seemed normal. Whitley kept us perfectly distracted as we dealt with Janet and the problems of the other girls, from Alexis’ stubbornness to the mystery about Priya. You don’t even notice Nadia is gone until Janet notices…and then the fun really begins.
Nadia starts small, and there’s nothing wrong. But then she mentions how efficient everything was back in the Red Room, and you note that’s odd. Then others in the lab start to notice, and the art starts to really hammer home that Nadia is in some kind of zone. And Whitley and the art team cleverly use Nadia’s chalkboard (I know it’s not chalk, but I don’t know what else to call it) to show how manic her mind is becoming — while also just being a fun chalkboard gag. And then it’s a roller coaster of activity, all through the night. And Nadia looks terrible, the work clearly getting to her face. The art is fantastic in its subtle detail.
And then everybody returns to the lab, and Janet finally spells out for us what’s going on. But we already know something is up, that Nadia now has some much needed character depth. She’s not just the always-happy Nadia Van Dyne anymore. She’s still her, but now she has a legitimate and interesting character flaw, an internal conflict that fits perfectly with her character. Not just through her father also being bi-polar, but in how the manic and depressive episodes play nicely into what growing up in the Red Room was probably like.
Obviously I’m not trying to underplay the seriousness of bi-polar disorder in the real world. But in the world of fictional comics, it’s a real and reasonable character trait to give Nadia Van Dyne to give her some much-needed development and conflict.
The issue isn’t done yet. After the truth falls into place, the adults leave and Nadia comes out of her lab. She looks worse than ever. And of course her friends rush to help her. Of course they do, you’d expect nothing less. Then she flips Shay, and that itself was shocking. Nadia vs. G.I.R.L.?!
Not quite, because then it’s Ying from out of nowhere!
And it’s a cathartic punch! Not that we are super mad at Nadia at this point. She’s not in control of herself, but she’s still herself. She’s still Nadia. But damn, seeing Ying step up and knock down her friend with a sucker punch is everything. As is her declaration to end the issue, the face-off between lifelong friends and former Red Room agents. That Ying is confident and strong enough to really stand up to Nadia in this already hectic moment. That Nadia is so lost in her mania that she can’t recognize what she’s doing, but still isn’t totally at fault for what’s happening.
This is comics. This is entertainment. This is masterful! Whitley has spent three issues and an entirely separate volume leading up to this moment, presenting a happy and cheerful world where Nadia Van Dyne is perfectly and happy and friendly and everything goes her way. But then the real world happens. Seriousness invades. And we get a clearer picture of what’s really been going on, of the problems hidden just beneath the surface.
TL;DR: Unstoppable Wasp was already a great comic, but this issue takes it to fantastic new heights of drama and storytelling. A game-changing issue.
West Coast Avengers #7
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Daniele Di Nicuolo
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Another wonderful issue of West Coast Avengers…but it may be one of my last!
Kate Bishop teams up with Noh-Varr to put a stop to the bad guys. First, Kate uses some supersonic arrows to damage her team’s hearing, which means the sound-based power dampener won’t cancel out their powers anymore, giving everybody a better fighting chance. And then Noh-Varr uses his disguise as Graviton to sneak into the control room to take the bad guys on directly. But the villains — dubbing themselves the West Coast Masters of Evil — teleport away before our heroes can deliver a proper beat down.
The West Coast Avengers return home for some much needed sleep, with Kate telling Noh-Varr that his world-saving emergency will have to wait until the next morning.
Also we learn that both of Kate’s parents are working with Madame Masque!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Kelly Thompson makes writing fun comics look effortless. She’s got a large cast of characters, she’s got a whole bunch of villains, and she’s got a lot of wild and crazy ideas, but she wraps them all together in the wonderful present that is West Coast Avengers. Were land sharks not imaginative enough? How about Gwenpool adopting a baby land shark and taking it home with her? Everybody gets a chance to shine, including the villains. Even Noh-Varr is a welcome addition, bringing both energy and character drama. The action is just plain fun, with creative dangers and a lot of complex and interesting character dynamics. Everything in West Coast Avengers is working as well as could be expected, with a lot of really solid hooks for the book, and a lot to love.
So why might I have to give this comic up?
My problem with West Coast Avengers — and this is entirely on me and only me — is that I don’t personally care about any of the characters. That’s the missing x-factor for me, Sean Ian Mills. My #1 reason for choosing which comics I read is based on reading about my favorite characters, and there aren’t any in West Coast Avengers. It’s not the only reason I read comics. Sometimes the writer and the story are so good that I fall in love with a comic despite the characters, which is what kept me reading Thompson’s solo Kate Bishop comic, and which keeps me reading Mr. & Mrs. X. And sometimes the writer does something with a character that turns them into someone I want to read about, like the work that was done to make Cyclops awesome (and which has since been scraped away from him. Cyclops was Right! Pax Utopia!). This is the reason why I haven’t particularly cared about the X-Men in the past few years. It’s why I dropped both Avengers and Justice League, despite both being well-written with good stories. And it’s why I’m not all that interested or invested in West Coast Avengers.
I just don’t care about any of these characters.
They’re great characters, of course they are. And I’m sure they all have their fans, as well they should. They just don’t interest me. I thought Gwenpool might have been my dark horse, but the depth of her solo series hasn’t carried over, and I just don’t like her romance with Quentin Quire.
West Coast Avengers is a great comic. It’s funny, it’s well-plotted, the stories are interesting and full of imagination. And the characters are awesome. But for me, personally, it’s missing that special spark. I may not last much longer with this comic. And that’s on me.
I realize none of that really works as a review for the issue. I just wanted to explain myself to you readers.
TL;DR: Another very enjoyable, character-focused issue of West Coast Avengers.
Wonder Woman #63
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Emanuela Lupacchino
Inker: Ray McCarthy
Colorist: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
This issue is more like the G. Willow Wilson I know and love…but it’s still not really about Wonder Woman.
The three magical creatures from the first half of the previous storyline have immigrated to America, but they’re having a hard time fitting in. There’s a minotaur, a pegasus and a satyr. They bicker, they banter, they crack wise and they struggle to fit into basic human society, which is pretty reasonable. I don’t see what would be gained by having them sit down with an actual immigration official, or go to a human restaurant. Though they do pick up a waitress along the way, who seems to fangirl over the possibility of going on a magical quest with a bunch of mythical creatures — even though she can’t see that this trio is pretty much as normal as any other person. They’re more like bums than they are grand mythological beings.
Wonder Woman pops in and out of the issue to check in on them, eventually bringing her old minotaur friend Ferdinand to help the trio adjust to life in the human world. Figured that was going to happen. In the end, we see that Veronica Cale has the Greek Goddess Nemesis tied up in her basement.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
The delightfully silly nature of this issue is exactly the kind of writing I love from G. Willow Wilson. I’m just disappointed that it’s not focused on Wonder Woman. She’s barely in this issue. And this trio of mythical creatures barely factored into the previous storyline. Yet here we are with Wilson playing with her favorites rather than writing compelling Wonder Woman comics.
Don’t get me wrong, she writes all three of these characters with a lot of flair and energy — more so than when they first appeared in the previous storyline. The trio are quite entertaining. But I want to read about Wilson’s take on Wonder Woman. I want to see her apply her best writing skills to the main character, to put Wonder Woman into such personal and entertaining conflicts.
Especially when the art is this good. Lupacchino is a strong artist, and the whole art team presents a powerful and colorful Wonder Woman. I want to see her in the middle of the action, or dealing with the sorts of personal conflicts that Wilson is a master of deploying.
Or at least find some way to actually tie this mythical trio into Wonder Woman’s actual supporting cast.
TL;DR: It’s a fine and enjoyable issue, but it focuses on a couple vague, new supporting characters instead of Wonder Woman.
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 February 2, 2019, in Avengers, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Superman and tagged Action Comics, Booster Gold, Captain America, G. Willow Wilson, Harley Quinn, Hawkeye, Heroes in Crisis, Kamala Khan, Kate Bishop, Ms. Marvel, Unstoppable Wasp, Wasp, West Coast Avengers, Wonder Woman. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.