Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 2/23/19
Last week had a bunch of comics; this week, not so many. Such is the ups and downs of buying and reviewing comic books! I love it, you love it, and we can’t live without it.
Like I said, not many comics this week, especially since I’ve dropped both Aquaman and Catwoman from DC Comics. Catwoman was good, Aquaman was not, but neither of them held my attention all that well. Marvel put out some comics this week, with Comic Book of the Week easily going to Unstoppable Wasp again for a great follow-up issue.
Meanwhile, I watched Umbrella Academy on Netflix and it was really good. I highly recommend it. I never read the comic, so I can’t compare them. But it was a fun TV show.
Comic Reviews: Guardians of the Galaxy #2, Uncanny X-Men #12 and Unstoppable Wasp #5.
Guardians of the Galaxy #2
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Geoff Shaw
Colorist: Marte Garcia
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Gotta say, this is kind of a weird one. Not weird in a Grant Morrison way. Weird in a…is this all there is…sort of way.
The new Guardians of the Galaxy are already at each other’s throats, for the most part. Peter Quill is mostly just drunk and troubled, so he doesn’t care what’s going on. Bill and Groot want to go save Gamora, while Cosmic Ghosts Rider wants to go kill Gamora. Quill tells them all they can do whatever they want, so Ghost Rider leaves. Moondragon and Phyla-Vell mostly just want to sleep.
Cosmic Ghost Rider hooks back up with Starfox, whom the Shi’ar saved from the void, and who has gathered another council of other cosmic characters to resume his search for Gamora. This time he’s brought along Nebula and Wraith (remember Wraith?!). They’re going to be the Dark Guardians of the Galaxy, and Nebula suggests they hunt down Nova to get him to reveal Gamora’s location.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
This comic is weird in that it doesn’t really build off the first issue at all, and instead seems to just repeat that first issue in a different direction. We don’t get any real development of the new Guardians lineup as a team, other than Ghost Rider and Groot fighting, and then Ghost Rider taking off immediately. He then goes and rejoins Starfox, who is simply holding a second council of cosmic characters to continue the mission he laid out in the first issue. Based on this issue, nothing has really changed or developed. There’s no real teamwork with the new Guardians lineup, because Peter Quill spends the issue drunk and just mildly polite to all the people on his ship. He outright tells both Beta Ray Bill and Cosmic Ghost Rider that they’re free to leave. The threat of a Nova Corps investigation has passed, so what’s keeping this team together at all? Nothing shown in this issue, that’s for sure.
For that matter, I wish Cates would actually use Gamora in this comic instead of just having everybody talk about her and past events. She’s clearly important to the story and to everyone’s motivations, and I don’t understand why she’s not being used. I didn’t read Infinity Wars or Infinity Warps or whatever garbage Big Event proceeded this. From everything I’ve gleaned online, nobody liked it and it was terrible. So I have no clue what great events have transpired around Gamora, even though those great events are heavily influencing every single character in this comic and their actions.
How about instead of a meaningless subplot where MCU Hela threatens MCU Collector in the exact same way MCU Collector keeps getting threatened in the movies, you actually give us a Garmoa subplot to help us understand what’s going on. Considering this was supposed to be a big relaunch with a big name, popular creator coming on board, I would expect a little help. I can piece together a little of what’s happened, like I guess Gamora “killed” Star-Lord recently…but he’s still alive. So maybe help us understand why this matters?
Also, there’s an Kitty Pryde cameo as Quill pours his heart out to her, even though there’s an editorial note about how this story takes place before Kitty’s life is thrown upside down in Uncanny X-Men. So clearly Kitty isn’t going to be an ongoing character. Why have Peter pour out his heart to a one-off cameo character when he’s got an entire new team of supporting characters he could be bonding with?
The art also isn’t very good. It’s sketchy and awkward and I don’t like it.
But Cates’ writing is fine. The issue flows nicely, the characters are all pretty cool and the growing conflict between the Guardians and the Dark Guardians should be fun.
TL;DR: Cates at least has a solid handle on the overall story and the individual characters, but too many odd choices in terms of how he uses those characters and what he expects the reader to already know hold the issue back.
Uncanny X-Men #12
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
I can’t take it anymore. I just want to curl up with Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Wonder Twins comics from now until forever.
Cyclops and Wolverine break into a O.N.E. facility to rescue a bunch of captured mutants, including the characters from that New Mutants mini-series last summer, and Havok. On the way out, one of the rescued mutants blows up with an implanted bomb, and Strong Guy takes the brunt of it to save everybody. So he’s dead now. And everybody else gets away.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
Who is even enjoying all these bleak comics these days? Between Heroes in Crisis at DC and now this Uncanny X-Men relaunch at Marvel, there’s just so much character slaughter. It’s wearing down my soul. Now Strong Guy has to die? For no reason? He barely survived that New Mutants mini-series, and now upon his return, he’s needlessly killed? Does this up the stakes for people? Are there comic book fans who can’t take a story seriously unless at least one character is needlessly killed? What writers and editors are convinced this is a good storytelling technique? Is this the X-Office’s way of getting more of a clean slate? Just kill characters like chattel?
I’ll grant you, most of the characters survive this story, but everybody is still being held prisoner and turned into either Sentinels or power generators. It’s bleak as hell.
All of this bleakness isn’t even in the service of something! Cyclops and Wolverine barely interact this issue, and they barely interact with the characters they’re rescuing. So this isn’t a character-based story. These two long-dead X-Men are just back and doing their normal thing, as if no time has passed. There are no meaningful reunions or touching moments or bits of levity. It’s just bleak and ugly, the art especially. And character death is apparently the only way to make the darkness important.
The X-Men are super dark and gritty now, people! Super dark! Super gritty!
TL;DR: The darkness and death in the new Uncanny X-Men direction is wearing thin very quickly.
Unstoppable Wasp #5
Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Almost as good as the previous game-changing issue, but missing one key detail.
In the midst of a manic episode, Nadia is unable to see how she’s hurting her friends as she fights her way through them to get back to her lab. She’s doing this for their own good, you see. Shay eventually gives Nadia back the lab necklace to keep Nadia from hurting Ying and the others anymore, and Nadia happily flies back inside to continue her work. In the aftermath, Taina is pissed at Nadia and takes her sister and leaves, while Ying and Shay go for a walk to try and recover, and Janet and Bobbi are still a ways out…leaving only Priya to help Nadia. Priya snags one of Janet’s old Wasp costumes from a display case and shrinks down to find Nadia.
She finds her friend in the midst of a depressive episode, ready to end her life because she’s now realized what she did to everyone, and she’s convinced they will all be better off if they’d never even heard of Nadia Pym. But Priya stops her and tells Nadia the story of how she lost her brother to depression and suicide, and how she lives every day wondering if there was something she could have done differently to save him. She tells Nadia that everyone will feel the exact same way if Nadia kills herself, because they all love Nadia.
Nadia relents and they share a laugh, then Nadia has to rush Priya out of the lab when the Wasp suit starts malfunctioning. They make it to safety just as Janet and Bobbi return, and everybody hugs.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
Last issue was a powerful story revealing inner depths we’d never before seen in Nadia Van Dyne, in how she is likely bi polar. I loved the issue and I love how Whitley is shaping Nadia going forward. This follow-up issue obviously lacks the power of such a big reveal, but Whitley does keep the momentum going, delivering another strong issue. There are times it can read a bit more like a PSA on mental health and depression, but that’s not a real knock against it. Whitley expertly navigates Nadia through this complex story, adding drama and meaningful emotion between all of his characters. As much as I’ve enjoyed the happy-go-lucky Unstoppable Wasp so far, adding real depth of character like this makes the comic a thousand times better. Whitley and his characters deliver a really good PSA on mental health and depression.
The one key detail I feel is missing from this issue is that I wish Whitley had worked in more of the ongoing story. Don’t get me wrong, mental health and depression are very important issues, and having Nadia go through this moment and being pulled back from the brink by a friend are important parts of her new story. But lest we forget, the one giving Nadia the speech is Priya, and Priya is currently going through a very interesting subplot about whether or not she’s evil or a clone or something. I kept hoping that would come up during their chat, but it never does.
Nadia is one of the people who suspects Priya of being evil. It’s written on her chalkboard, and all of her friends see the chalkboard. But nobody at any point in this issue mentions that whole subplot. I thought that was the entire reason why Whitley chose Priya as the only friend left to go in after Nadia. And I guess he could bring it up next issue. But this should have been the issue to bring it up. The speech and the friendship and the love towards the depressive Nadia was really good, but finding a way to add in that extra wrinkle of the Priya subplot would have made it really great.
It doesn’t help that the Agents of G.I.R.L. don’t really have standout personalities yet (not including Ying). Priya’s speech could have come from any of them, and not just in content, but in tone and inflection, too. Any of the characters could have been given that older brother. And all of them would have given the Nadia the same exact speech about loving her.
I’m also hoping that this issue does have repercussions going forward. Part of me would hope that Nadia and Priya would have a stronger, more meaningful friendship after this…but then we don’t know if this Priya is a clone or not. Either way, I hope there’s an extra connection between those two going forward. And while I can easily see everybody apologizing and forgiving each other after that fight, I hope there’s an extra layer of apprehension between the girls, considering how they abandoned Nadia. I hope that everybody doesn’t just go back to normal after this.
I have the utmost faith in Whitley to capture this momentum going forward, but we’ll see. This is the only comic of his I’ve ever read. Don’t let me down, Whitley!
TL;DR: In his follow up to last issue’s game-changing plot, Whitley keeps the momentum going in a very personal message about mental health.
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!