Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 3/2/19
We’re only one week from the Captain Marvel movie! Less than a week, actually. How cool is that? The Marvel Movie Season is about to re-begin!
Pretty standard and all around quality-ish pile of comics this week. There’s good comics like Fantastic Four and Captain America, along with sourish comics like Heroes in Crisis. We’re going to say goodbye soon to West Coast Avengers, and I’m finally digging one of Brian Michael Bendis’ Superman comics. In fact, Comic Book of the Week goes to the new Action Comics for a real humdinger of a cliffhanger!
Meanwhile, the one Age of X-Man book I was looking forward to finally came out, X-Tremists. It’s fine. First issue doesn’t do much more than set up the premise, with some solid character banter. But there’s nothing too deep, character-wise, which is a shame. The issue just continues to build on what I consider an already very flimsy frame for Age of X-Man. But Leah Williams is a writer I want to keep my eyes on, so I’m gonna stick with this and hope she pulls out something great by the end.
Comic Reviews: Action Comics #1008, Captain America #8, Fantastic Four #7, Heroes in Crisis #6 and West Coast Avengers #8.
Action Comics #1008
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Steve Epting
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Josh Reed
Alright, here we go! Bendis’ Superman is finally picking up steam!
Another crazy blue explosion takes out the Department of Extranormal Operations, and nearly takes out Amanda Waller and General Lane when they meet in secret. Jimmy Olsen knows something is up, and Lois Lane comes out of hiding to meet with Jimmy at the Daily Planet to try and get him to talk. The Kents take him home instead so he can get some rest.
Waller and Lane survived the ambush, but Waller shoots Lane to make her escape. Waller later shows up at the home of Clark and Lois, revealing that not only does she know he’s Superman, but she knows that Leviathan has started taking everybody out and all bets are now off.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I’m in. Let’s see what you’ve got, Bendis. That cliffhanger, of a harried, wounded Amanda Waller showing up at Clark Kent’s apartment to warn Superman that all hell has broken loose and this is as serious as it gets, was damn cool. I haven’t cared for Bendis’ Superman at all leading up to this new storyline, but he’s succeeding in raising the stakes. The world’s spy organizations are under attack and have almost been entirely wiped out. Superman and his friends are on the very edge, noticing the smoke. But now it’s time for the fire to ignite and everybody’s gonna get burned! This issue definitely lights a fire under this new Leviathan storyline and I am definitely on board.
Makes me wonder if I should try to get back into The Silencer. That comic was all about Leviathan…but is it the same Leviathan?
Anyway, the issue does a great job of building the tension. From the opening scene with Bones and Adam Strange at the DEO, then the mystery of the explosion (including the arrival of a curious/mysterious figure), to the ambush of Waller and Lane, along with Clark, Lois and Jimmy just beginning to suss out what’s happening. It’s a successful building of tension, leading to that excellent cliffhanger. I want to know what’s going on and am excited to see how Superman plays into it. That’s good comic book storytelling.
TL;DR: Bendis is finally able to deliver some real tension and excitement in his Superman comics.
Captain America #8
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Adam Kubert
Colorist: Frank Martin
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Fun news, I finally finished the opening story arc of Coates’ Black Panther. I didn’t care for it as single issues when they came out, and dropped it quickly. But I grabbed the first three trades and found the story much stronger in this larger format — though the art let it down in the end. Overall, not a very memorable story.
I’m enjoying his Captain America more.
Alexa Lukin has secured a Presidential Pardon for HYDRA Cap, but that’s just to get him into position so Selene can devour him.
Meanwhile, Steve Rogers is in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. He tries to keep his head down, but the Wrecking Crew start getting up in his grill — but not in a typical thug way. Instead, the Crew needle Steve Rogers about how HYDRA Cap conquered the country and they’re not too sure this Steve Rogers is so innocent. Pretty patriotic for the Wrecking Crew. And it really sticks home for Cap.
Double meanwhile, Agent Carter goes to Wilson Fisk for help in proving Cap’s innocence. It’s especially meaningful considering Wilson Fisk used the terror of the HYDRA takeover to help the people of New York, and then he used that good will to get elected mayor. So while someone with Steve Rogers’ face was conquering the country in the name of fascism, Wilson Fisk was helping New Yorkers survive.
Triple meanwhile, the Daughters of Liberty narrow in on obscure Marvel villain The Foreigner as the real killer of Thunderbolt Ross.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I’m going to sound like a broken record when it comes to this comic, but Coates’ themes and overall dramatic heft is still stronger than his page-to-page storytelling. This is a pretty slow comic that paints the bigger picture. It’s basically a “Captain America in prison” story, with the Red Skull and various allies pulling the strings. Coates does fine with the characterizations on the ground. The scene between Carter and the Kingpin is really good. As is the scene where Cap faces off against the Wrecking Crew, who are now armed with political rhetoric instead of their usual weapons. And that’s what keeps this series alive: the rhetorical angle. Of course, this is one of my favorite tropes, so I might be biased. I love it when grounded villains are capable of doing good when up against something more evil. And the idea that the Wrecking Crew were patriotic in the face of the HYDRA takeover of America, and can now rub that in Cap’s face, is just plain cool to me.
Or the idea of someone like Bulldozer comparing his time in the Armed Forces with Captain America; it’s just a neat use of the characters. And this overall neat idea is what’s sustaining this series. The idea that Captain America has to stare down a political climate that has turned against him, that everything from Secret Empire was far more complex and deep-seated than the usual superhero fisticuffs can account for. I hope Coates goes somewhere really cool and really big with this overall story, but issue-by-issue, these little moments of strong thematic resonance are keeping this going.
TL;DR: The themes and the larger complexities of the story keep this series going, though the characterizations are strong too.
Fantastic Four #7
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Aaron Kuder and John Lucas
Colorists: Marte Gracia and Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
The fun of this series continues, with a couple of neat ideas thrown into the mix.
Doctor Doom convinces the Fantastic Four to help him against Galactus by explaining he wants to turn the Devourer of Worlds back into the Lifebringer — which Johnny and Ben get Reed and Sue caught up on, since the Richardses were away during that storyline. The lot of them manage to knock Galactus off his feet, which is when Doom reveals his real plan: to harness the power of Galactus into an energy source! The Fantastic Four object, of course, so Doom blasts them with one of his anti-Galactus lasers!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I really like the scene where everybody has to get Reed and Sue caught up on the various happenings since they were gone. The couple missed the entire Galactus as Lifebringer storyline, and I also liked the general idea that Doom brought Galactus to Earth to change him back to Lifebringer. Granted, that turned out to be a trick, but it was still a fun use of recent continuity to inform this issue. And it was pretty neat seeing everybody working together, with the Fantastic Four readily helping Doctor Doom…until he tricked them. The action is very strong, the characterizations are spot on, the art is super fun; this is an enjoyable continuation of the current story. Everything is working, all pistons are firing, nobody is being left behind. Slott is concocting some good, solid comics here.
Though if I can be nitpicky, he’s being a little too obvious setting up a potential romance between Human Torch and Victorious. Just saying.
TL;DR: Dan Slott’s crazy Dr. Doom vs. Galactus story continues with all the wild, colorful fun you’d expect from such a story.
Heroes in Crisis #6
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Clay Mann and Mitch Gerads
Colorists: Gerads and Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
One step forward, two steps back with this comic.
This issue is a series of vignettes about a couple of characters leading up to the slaughter at Sanctuary. We see that Wally West has been very sad about losing his family following the New 52 and Rebirth, which was his main reason for coming to Sanctuary. He’s one of the main suspects for the slaughter, but this issue doesn’t say one way or the other. Especially when the issue ends by having Booster Gold blast Wally through the chest, killing him. Can we believe that that’s what really happened? One can never tell with this comic.
We see that Harley Quinn snuck in to Sanctuary to hang out with Poison Ivy, and Ivy tried to help Harley by using Sanctuary to let her kill a bunch of Jokers. But beating up on your abuser can only go so far to solve the broken psyche underneath. At least the two of them are trying to help each other.
We also get an ongoing story where Gnarrk, the caveman from the Teen Titans, reflects on the differences between the Prehistoric Age and the Modern Age by arguing the great philosophers. The gag is that Gnarrk, who talks in stilted caveman-speak, is quoting both poetry and the great philosophers. It’s fine.
Oh, and at one point, the people or robots or A.I. conducting the Sanctuary interviews asked everybody how many people they saved.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
I think Heroes in Crisis is the end result of Tom King buying into all of his own hype. Don’t get me wrong, I love most of what I’ve read from King. I bought Sheriff of Babylon the other day and am looking forward to reading it. But he’s been getting really really obtuse as of late. A couple issues of Batman ago, he spent the entire time with Penguin reciting some dumb poem. And there’s an entire page in this issue of Heroes in Crisis where Gnarrk recites a poem. For an entire page. And not in the typical Gnarrk-speak, but with all the flowery poetry blah blah blah. That, coupled with the stuff about the philosophers, leads me to believe that King values sounding flowery and literary over writing a good story.
This isn’t a murder mystery. This is a writer basking in his flowery storytelling style until he eventually reaches the point where he tells us what happened. Unless he doesn’t, and this comic is going to be so flowery that the conclusion is going to be vague as hell. Because vague endings are super awesome, you guys.
Of course, just to be a jerk, I reserve the write to take back everything I’ve said if King has some insanely cool climax planned, where everything he’s written ties together and the mystery snaps into focus. If he pulls off an awesome The Usual Suspects ending, I’ll take back all the mean things I’ve said.
Yes, I am easily entertained.
The previous issue ended with an interesting cliffhanger that the Wally West who was killed was five days older than he was supposed to be. That was very interesting. But this new issue doesn’t do anything with that revelation. Or if it does, it’s so vague as to be frustrating.
At least the characterization is good. Wally missing his family despite all of his Rebirth adventures is strong stuff. It doesn’t help that King relies at least a little on everybody having read every single issue of Titans or knowing what’s going on with this Rebirth mystery. And the Harley/Ivy scenes are as great as those two ever are, so at least there’s that. And the Gnarrk gag is solid, even if it reinforces the flowery nature of the writing in this comic. Then it ends with Gnarrk dying like everybody else, so that’s not even something King or other writers can build off going forward.
TL;DR: The characterization remains strong, but this issue of Heroes in Crisis focuses more on the obtuse, manufactured vagueness of the mystery than in actually telling its story.
West Coast Avengers #8
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Gang Hyuk Lim
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
I thought the last issue of West Coast Avengers was going to be my last, but I heard this week that it’s going to get cancelled soon, so I might as well see this through to the end!
Also, my Skrull Theory continues to be proven right. Those guys are everywhere!
Noh-Varr lays out his emergency in that he thinks Skrulls are using the Church of the Shifting Sun to abduct people, so the West Coast Avengers leap into action. The Church is a Scientology analogue, so Clint uses an image inducer to go undercover as Wonder Man in the hopes of using his celebrity to distract the church elders, while Kate, America, Noh and Johnny pose as potential recruits — though the Church recognizes them immediately and leads them into an ambush. And we learn they’re not Skrulls, they’re vampires.
Meanwhile, Gwen and Quentin are supposed to sneak into Madame Masque’s lair to gather info, but they’re found out immediately. They fight their way out, then Quentin gets word that Kate and the others are in trouble. Kate’s mom overhears this and reveals herself, claiming that she can help them infiltrate the Church.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
I’d be lying if I said I was sad to see this comic get cancelled. As much as I enjoy Kelly Thompson’s writing, I just don’t think this comic ever gelled into something truly special. The banter is fun, but with this issue especially, I think it’s all banter and no actual character development. For example, there’s a quick scene at the start of this issue where America and Ramone share a little chat about being worried for the frenzied and overworked Kate, and how, as Kate’s BFFs, they need to do better to be there for her. But, well…no, I’ve been reading Thompson’s Kate Bishop stories since the very beginning, and there’s never been any real indication that Ramone was BFF levels with Kate. I know that seems like a silly nitpick, but character relationships and the development of those relationships is key to a comic’s foundation. Granted, Thompson probably had lots of plans to develop Johnny and Ramone as stronger characters, but then Hawkeye had to go and get cancelled!
As for this issue in particular, it really was a lot of surface level bantering. It opens with what appears to be some R&R on the beach, but that’s over in a matter of pages and we’re rushed right off into the next storyline. And it’s just a Scientology takedown, with the possibility of it being Skrulls. And since Skrulls have been popping up everywhere lately, I really don’t care. Oh no, the Skrulls are running a Church of Scientology knockoff? Who cares?! How does that personally matter to any of the team members? And the twist being that it’s vampires instead of Skrulls means nothing. Same nonsense. Though I did find it pretty funny that the vampires ID’d the highly public West Coast Avengers rather quickly. And the Wonder Man gag was pretty funny.
But otherwise, this series is just the characters going round and round with mildly amusing surface-level banter, accomplishing nothing meaningful. And the new artist is clearly of a lesser caliber, the sort of artist you hire to finish out an already cancelled series.
TL;DR: Based on this issue, it looks like West Coast Avengers is going out with a whimper.
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 March 2, 2019, in Avengers, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Superman and tagged Action Comics, Captain America, Fantastic Four, Heroes in Crisis, West Coast Avengers. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.
Captain America is really good. I loved the use of the Wrecking Crew here. The way they felt betrayed by Captain Hydra really shows how much Cap means in-universe.
FF references that Moon Girl arc with Ben and Johnny, yay for that. Still wondering whether it’ll be FF or Moon Girl that has the inevitable Valeria/Lunella team-up.
WCA remains loads of fun, but with some really sincere stuff, too. Jeff is adorable, and Gwenpool getting to show how badass she is was awesome.
X-Tremists is great. Really fun. It establishes the characters really well, and sets the conflict. The series is only going to get better from here, as it delves into each character in more depth. I’m excited for Blobsy, and even more for Northstar to rebel against his brainwashing.