Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 3/23/19
Welcome to a comic review article where I basically rant ceaselessly about why I don’t particularly care for all of the comics this week. I didn’t plan it that way. It’s just how everything is panning out. Last week was all about comics I loved and adored, this week is apparently all about comics I have major problems with, like Captain Marvel and Naomi.
In better news, I finally got caught back up to Jason Aaron’s Thor in time for War of the Realms. I’m so glad I did, and I’m hugely disappointed in myself for ever stopping. I missed some great comics! Thor #11 wins Comic Book of the Week!
Meanwhile, that Spider-Man: Life Story comic started, but I think I’m going to trade wait for that one. Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley are telling the story of Peter Parker through the decades, as if he aged in real time after debuting in the 1960s. It sounds awesome…but it also sounds like a solid collected edition read.
Comic Reviews: Captain Marvel #3, Guardians of the Galaxy #3, Naomi #3, Thor #11 and West Coast Avengers #9.
Captain Marvel #3
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Carmen Carnero
Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Alright, I’m sorry, but this is where this comic loses me. It stinks!
Captain Marvel rescues She-Hulk, who is now also de-powered. They mop up the Metal Men and retreat to base. Carol confronts Som and finds out that he’s the son of the Nuclear Man, but he’s legit in wanting to help because his dad is a monster. His dad lured Carol onto Roosevelt Island because she’ll make a worthy brood mare (something Som convinced him of, but only because Som picked someone for his father to lure who Som thought might be able to stop his dad).
There’s a training montage to get all the women ready to fight, then Som leads Carol and Jess through a secret entrance to scout out the bad guy’s base, only to discover a secret science lab. We don’t see what they find (unless I’m missing pages?), but it’s got Carol all worried. She sends them back while she distracts the bad guys by fighting some Metal Men. Then she’s ambushed by Rogue, who is itchin’ for a fight.
Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.
This story is completely wasting…well, everything, to be honest. It’s in such a rush to tell not much of a story at all that it’s skipping right over all of the juicy details that could really enrich this story. They’ve gone to all of this trouble to create this Mad Max world, but they’re not doing anything meaningful with it. Everything is just surface deep. For no reason that I can see. How does this story inform Carol as a character in any way? What even is the story they’re trying to tell? There’s no real sense of scope. No real sense of scale or threat or situation. In the first issue of this relaunch, Carol whooped the Nuclear Man’s butt no problem. What’s stopping her from just doing that again? We haven’t even seen the guy again, or his forces, or his fortress or his anything. Just that he’s got a bunch of easily dispatched robot soldiers. What’s to stop the fully-powered Captain Marvel from just flying right into his base, smacking him around a little and ending this immediately?
Nothing, based on what we’ve seen so far. It’s just that the story, for some reason, is going to dither around in a half-assed attempt to world-build.
There are two minor details, purely cosmetic in nature, that I think will help explain the point I’m trying to make.
First, in that training montage (which comes way too soon in the story, involves characters we haven’t met, and has no impact on anything else in the issue), Carol gets a new hairdo. She also alters her costume, but let’s focus on the hair for now. She keeps the long blonde hair she started the issue with, but then chops off the other half and…well…she shaves her logo into the side of her head.
Why did she do that? Why cut her hair that way at all? Let alone go to the trouble of shaving her logo into the side of her head? Likewise, she painted those little arrow marks on her cheeks. What do they signify?
Second, from the start of this story onward, Spider-Woman has painted a dusky spider symbol over her face.
Why did she do that? She still has her shirt showing off her spider-logo. Did she think she needed one of her face as well? She’s never done that before. How often does she re-apply that makeshift make-up? Every morning? Once a week? Does it smudge at all?
Is this a game to these women? Are they cosplaying?
They know the regular world still exists outside of Roosevelt Island. Their ultimate goal is to take down the barrier and simply return to the regular world. So it’s not like they’re convinced they’ve living in some alternate reality. It’s not like they think these are their lives now. So what could have possibly convinced Carol Danvers, the steadfast and heroic Carol Danvers, that shaving her logo into her half-buzzed haircut was a good idea? Why did she even get that haircut? If it was a tactical thing, why is the other half of her hair still long? Carol has a very recent history of going with a short haircut. So this new hairdo, and those markings on her cheeks, are very clearly just Carol playing at being a Mad Max character.
And yet the story isn’t written like they’re having fun cosplaying Fury Road. If it was written that way, I’d be far more forgiving. But it’s not. This comic is written as a very serious war comic, of a resistance crew fighting against an evil empire. And maybe if it was an Elseworlds comic it could be forgiven. But it’s not. These are the normal Carol Danvers and Jessica Drew, who a month prior were living their normal lives, and a month from now will be living their normal lives. But in this one specific instance, they felt the need to change their entire aesthetic to better fit the theme of their adventure?!
How did they arrive at these decisions? Where’s the scene of Carol considering other Mad Max-style cosmetic changes? How did Jessica Drew make the leap to painting a spider symbol on her face?
I’m ranting, I know. But I really wanted to like this comic. I love Kelly Thompson’s work. I’m a big fan of Spider-Woman as a character. This whole concept sounded neat. But man, this thing is half-assed as Hell. It’s just the four main characters, picked seemingly at random, standing around their war room discussing plans. Seriously, so much of the past two issues is just the characters standing around the war room! We never see these plans in action, or they’re skipped over via montage. This issue specifically is all about revealing that Som is the son of the Nuclear Man and how Carol doesn’t trust him anymore…yet she lets him lead her on a secret mission into enemy territory. We have spent more time focused on this Som nobody than we have on any of the nameless, faceless women that apparently make up this resistance. Yet we get a huge speech from Carol, and multiple comments from several of the main characters, about the girl power fueling this resistance.
If this comic is about the awesomeness of the women involved, from the main characters to the resistance fighters, why focus so much attention on the one guy? From what I can see, Som is only there to drip feed exposition, most often exposition about himself. Carol could have learned that brood mare stuff in an actual confrontation with the antagonist.
And don’t tell me Kelly Thompson doesn’t have the time or inclination to worry about such trivial details in this larger story. We get a whole panel of Hazmat complaining that both she and She-Hulk are named “Jen” and how that’s going to either get confusing or result in her getting an unwanted nickname.
So clearly Thompson has the inclination to have fun with the trivialities of the story.
Marvel and Thompson went to all of the trouble to put Carol and her friends into a Mad Max-style world, at the exact moment the Captain Marvel movie came out. Yet they might as well be putting on a puppet show for how much anything matters. The aesthetic choices make no sense in the context of the story. We have zero sense of the scale of this story….
Oh jeez…I just Googled Roosevelt Island. It’s only 2 miles long and about 800 feet wide. Look at these pictures!! Jeez louise! You’re telling me that Nuclear Man’s apparently impenetrable fortress and all of his armies are able to share that little space with Carol’s resistance without them all constantly bumping into each other?! Are you kidding me?!
Somehow I have ended this review angrier than when I started it.
How many generic robot soldiers can Nuclear Man even fit on Roosevelt Island? And how is that number greater than what a fully-powered Captain Marvel can just smash or blast her way through? Especially with back-up?
This is a half-assed aesthetic with a paper-thin story and a bunch of wasted characters. If you want proof that Marvel Comics has no clue what to do with Carol Danvers, here is your proof. In the same month that her $1 billion movie came out, they have her dithering around in a completely pointless story that will have no greater impact or staying power than any of the other random roles Marvel has given her over the past couple of years.
I’m glad Amanda Conner is only doing covers and not interiors. If this had been the project where she started doing interiors again, I would be even more disappointed.
TL;DR: This is the issue where the latest Captain Marvel relaunch loses me. Everything in this comic, from the story to the scale to the visual aesthetic to the characters is barely half-thought out, if even that.
Guardians of the Galaxy #3
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Geoff Shaw
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Yeah, alright, let’s just keep it rolling along.
The Dark Guardians find and nearly capture Nova to get him to give up Gamora’s location. They beat him up, and Cosmic Ghost Rider tries to level with him about the importance of their mission, but Nova is able to get away. Nebula tells her team they’ll just track him again.
Elsewhere, Groot informs Peter Quill that he’s taking the ship and they’re all going to go save Gamora. Quill still doesn’t want to, lost as he is in his funk, but everybody’s gung-ho about saving her. So they take the ship and head out to find Gamora on Halfworld, where she has apparently gone to find Rocket.
Meanwhile, Hela and the Black Order go get Thanos’ head from Annihilus.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
I dunno, it’s fine. Stuff happens. All the character work is generally entertaining. The comic is still really focused on Peter Quill being a real Debbie Downer. And Cosmic Ghost Rider gets all the best dialogue. We still haven’t been given any real reason to care beyond the general understanding that Thanos is probably bad, and that we should take both Thanos and Starfox at their word that this evil plan is actually going to happen. Honestly, it occurred to me while reading this issue that Thanos’ apparent plan to download his mind into a new host body isn’t even real. It’s probably going to be a fakeout. And if so, that’s fine. Then everybody can calm down and none of this need to have happened at all.
At least Beta Ray Bill is still cool. And while Geoff Shaw can’t draw Peter Quill to save his life, he draws a great Beta Ray Bill.
This is a well-written, acceptably drawn, perfectly competent comic book. There’s nothing particularly special about it. Unless you’re that one person in the world who couldn’t wait for Marvel to bring back Wraith from Annihilation: Conquest. And as someone who was there, and who read that Wraith mini-series when it came out, I can assure you such people probably don’t exist.
I think my main problem with this comic is in how closely it clings to pre-established Marvel lore and character relationships. We still have yet to see Gamora do anything, yet she is the driving motivation for every single character in the comic, other than those playing around with Thanos’ head. She shows up in the last page cliffhanger, but we only see her from the back. And the revelation that she’s hunting down Rocket Raccoon lands with a dull thud, because as far as I knew, Rocket has only been “gone” for these three issues. Am I wrong? Has he been gone for a lot longer, and the idea of Gamora searching for Rocket is actually a really big deal? Because this comic does nothing to establish that fact, yet treats the idea like it’s this huge thing.
TL;DR: It feels like Guardians of the Galaxy is more interested in either where it’s been or where it’s going to end up than it is in making where it is now enjoyable in its own right.
Writers: Brian Michael Bendis and David F. Walker
Artist: Jamal Campbell
Letterer: Wes Abbott
I got a request to check out Naomi, one of DC’s new Wonder Comics, alongside Young Justice and Wonder Twins. I skipped Naomi because it just didn’t look interesting to me…and after catching up on the first three issues, I was right.
The third issue came out this week. In order to catch you up on all that’s happened so far, I need about…a single sentence: Naomi is an adopted teenage girl in Oregon who is curious about her past, and the big, burly auto mechanic downtown might have the answers. That’s it. That’s all that happened. There was a Superman cameo in town, but that hasn’t amounted to anything yet.
So let’s pick up with issue #3…
The auto mechanic explains that his big secret is that he used to be a Thanagarian Special Forces operative, but he and his commanding officer, Qyeala, tried to run away from that life to be together. They made it to Gemworld, then tried to escape through a portal to Earth, but she was shot just as he passed through, stranding him alone. He tells her that he and Qyeala are not her biological parents, even though she suspected they were.
Then Naomi’s mom shows up at the garage and gets super angry at the mechanic, Dee, for revealing all this stuff. She nearly smashes him with a baseball bat, and Naomi is freaked out because she’s never seen her mom this angry or violent. She goes with her mom and dad, who reveal they’re finally ready to tell her everything since she’s been so super curious lately. So they take her to a secluded cave, where her father reveals his spaceship and his armor. He’s the one that arrived to Earth in a spaceship. He tells her this is only the beginning.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
Naomi is Brian Michael Bendis’ decompression problem writ large. If this wasn’t the brainchild of Bendis, with great art by Campbell, nobody would care about this comic. And not because it’s bad. It’s fine. The writing and art are fine. Nobody would care about this comic because nothing is happening! It’s been three issues of this random adopted girl questioning people about where she came from, receiving no answers in the first two issues, and then finally getting boring answers in this issue. Dee’s story is boring. Tragic, sure, but his backstory doesn’t have anything to do with what we’ve seen in Naomi so far. And it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Naomi the girl, either (at least not yet, I’ll grant you). So we spent three issues finding out Dee’s secret, and finding out that secret is not connected to Naomi. And the secret we do find out about this issue that is connected to Naomi — that her dad came to Earth on a spaceship — is also boring. Who cares?!
How many people in DC Comics have come to Earth on a spaceship? All of them? Nothing in this issue, or series so far, suggests that this reveal isn’t super boring. From the very fact that Naomi is getting a comic book reveals that she’s special. So why has it taken three issues to reveal how exactly she’s special? And why is it so generically boring?
I think my main problem is that Bendis isn’t actually doing anything with Naomi in this comic. If I cared about her as a character, maybe I’d care about the stories and the reveals. But I don’t care about her. Naomi has no character. She has spent three issues investigating mysteries that she didn’t even known were mysteries until the plot kicked in and she just happened to suddenly be super curious about all this stuff. Are you telling me that, prior to Superman arriving in town fighting a bad guy for a couple seconds, Naomi was a perfectly ordinary teenage girl without a care in the world? The problem is that Naomi spends so much time investigating these mysteries that we don’t get any character development. We don’t get any character at all. It’s not like she’s Harriet the Spy, where her personality quirks come out during her investigations. Naomi is just going around being curious and asking people questions. And when she doesn’t get answers right away, she just asks the questions more incessantly.
So I don’t know anything about Naomi as a person. And since I don’t know anything about her as a person, I don’t care about her as a character, and I therefore don’t care about how she’ll react to all of these secrets that simply get explained to her. All these tales just keep falling in her lap. All she’s done to “earn” these secrets is be really insistent.
Am I supposed to care about her because she’s black? Because she’s a hip new POC character? Maybe that would have been interesting a couple decades ago, but there are a ton of young, female POC characters in comics now. One of Bendis’ last jobs at Marvel before switching to DC was creating a young, female POC character, Ironheart! And at least Ironheart had some personality traits. And then Bendis abandoned her to be developed by other creators. Where’s the guarantee that Bendis is going to stick around and develop Naomi? Where’s the evidence that Naomi is going to be worth developing? Remember when Bendis created Layla Miller for House of M, the young female character who was going to change the Marvel Universe forever? He abandoned her and other creators picked up the slack, then retconned everything Bendis created about her and turned her into a completely different — and far more interesting — character.
I’m lumping all of these complaints on Bendis because I assume he is taking the lead here. But David F. Walker isn’t blameless either, I assume. I loved his previous work, especially Power Man & Iron Fist, but I’m not seeing any of that charm in Naomi. I’m just seeing Bendis’ decompression storytelling and it’s annoying me to no end. Whatever the case may be, neither of these superstar writers is telling a good story here. Only Campbell’s excellent art is keeping this entire thing afloat.
I want to say that Naomi is a boring character, but I can’t, because she’s not a character yet. She’s a plot device that, three issues in, hasn’t revealed any compelling plot.
TL;DR: Answers are finally given in this third issue of Naomi, but those answers are as boring as the series has been as a whole.
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Lee Garbett
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Once upon a time, I stopped reading the Thor comic after reading it nonstop through all of Jason Aaron’s epic run. I didn’t care for the art, the previous story, or the idea of a Phoenix Wolverine. For months now, I’ve been meaning to get caught back up in time for War of the Realms.
Well I’ve finally done it! And by the gods, I was wrong to ever stop reading.
Too much to recap everybody on, to get you all up to speed. Basically, Aaron has been crossing some Ts and dotting some Is in preparation for War of the Realms. Moving characters into certain places, establishing certain things for Thor. So let’s just drive right into this issue.
Thor keeps flying into the sun to try and find anything left of Mjolnir, but his mother convinces him to stop and return to Earth. His foul mood has really messed up the weather lately, so Thor sets about saving people and calming things down. But that means he misses some important social obligations. Elsewhere, Jane Foster’s cancer is in remission, Loki is on the verge of being assassinated by Dark Elves, Sif and Valkyrie train hard, Volstagg is still recovering and Malekith is ready to march his forces on Midgard!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This was a very nice issue setting the stage for War of Realms. We get peeks into Thor’s state of mind, along with his mom and a couple other characters, establishing where they are and what they’re dealing with in preparation for the big crossover. On the one hand, it’s a simple issue and barely stands on its own. On the other hand, it’s still a nice read with some solid art and good character moments. Jane Foster being in remission is nice. What will that mean for her desire to be a superhero again?
I’m actually pretty hyped for my first Marvel Big Event comic in years! There’s finally one that isn’t tied into an upcoming movie, and seems built purely on the back of Jason Aaron’s ongoing work. That alone should be exciting. There are a bajillion tie-in comics, and there’s no way I’m going to even attempt to read them all. But the main series should be good, as should the regular Thor comic. Anything written by Jason Aaron for this event should be really good. And this issue, with its fun character snippets and table-setting, is proof enough of the hype!
TL;DR: On its own, this issue does a lot of table setting for War of the Realms. But it’s still Jason Aaron, and that’s still really good.
West Coast Avengers #9
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Gang Hyuk Lim
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
We’re nearing the end, people!
In order to go save Kate and the others (all of whom are trapped in various ways by the Church of the Shifting Sun vampire cult), Ramone reveals to Gwenpool that she and Johnny are the children of an exiled Dora Milaje warrior (and a vaguely mystical father). She left them with some Vibranium jewelry, and when Ramone puts it on, she transforms into a Vibranium warrior! And its possibly permanent. She doesn’t care, it’s rescue time!
They sneak into the church with the help of Kate’s evil mom, and find the various Avengers either having escaped on their own or already fighting bad guys. Kate rushes to help America, who has been drugged by the church and turned into a sacrifice to gain the power to walk during the day. And just when Kate thinks her team can turn the tide, Kate’s evil mom reveals that she’s also a vampire, and she bites America’s neck to see if the prophecy is real!
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
Once again, I think Kelly Thompson’s plans for one of her original characters is cut short by a pending cancellation. Remember at the end of her Hawkeye comic, wherein we suddenly and out of the blue learned that Johnny had super-powers? I think the same thing just happened with Ramone. I think Thompson has been rushed into revealing Ramone’s secrets, and rushed into giving her this new powers. It’s a bit of a shame. But she looks pretty cool, at least. That counts for something.
The rest of the issue is just generally good and enjoyable. I like Kate and Clint busting out. I like Johnny and Noh-Varr bantering. Gwen and Quentin keep rubbing me the wrong way, but they’re generally fine. And Gwen calling Kate’s mom “Kate’s Evil Mom” in casual conversation is fun stuff. As is that twist with the mom at the end.
It’s all generally enjoyable, but I feel like the wind has gone out of the sails. Feels like West Coast Avengers will coast to the end. Pun intended.
Did I mention I heard a rumor that Thompson intended for this comic to feature adult Avengers and be a legit West Coast Avengers revival? That’s why Tigra was a guest star at the start of the series. But Marvel pushed to make it a teen book. An adult version with classic WCA characters sounds like it would have been much, much better.
TL;DR: Perfectly enjoyable and relatively fine comic, but it feels like the wind has gone out of the sails.
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!