Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 7/6/19
Happy Fourth of July Weekend, henchies! I spent my Fourth watching a Stranger Things season 3 marathon inside my air-conditioned apartment, and it was great! Then I went and saw Spider-Man: Far From Home for a second time last night. Good week for me!
In terms of comics, we’ve got some interesting new titles in Aero from Marvel and Lois Lane from DC, one far better than the other. Perhaps Marvel should have hired Greg Rucka to introduce Aero? Either way, Comic Book of the Week goes to Unbeatable Squirrel Girl for a truly excellent finish to their War of the Realms crossover!
Meanwhile, did you hear that The Walking Dead comic came to a surprise ending this week?! How gnarly was that? I don’t read issue-to-issue, choosing instead to just borrow my friend’s compendiums. But I still applaud the sheer gaul of a surprise ending out of nowhere like that, even if it probably screwed over some retailers…
Comic Reviews: Aero #1, The Green Lantern #9, Lois Lane #1 and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #46.
Writers: Zhou Liefen and Greg Pak
Artists: Keng and Pop Mhan
Colorist: Federico Blee
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
I don’t know anything about Aero. I saw a new female character comic available this week, so I’ve decided to check it out. I believe she’s a member of the new Agents of Atlas. We’ll see how her first issue goes!
We meet Aero, the wind-controlling superhero of Shanghai. Her real name is Lei Ling, and she’s an architect who has helped build a lot of skyscrapers in the city. Now she has to fight one of those skyscrapers, which has been turned into a giant golem. We flash back to a couple months earlier just to get a peek into her life, where she’s a big executive, loves her wind powers and has a nice boyfriend. In the present, she defeats the golem but sees two more, and then she sees a giant city descending from the clouds. Only it’s not a city, it’s a giant Lovecraftian monster!
In a back-up story, we learn the secret origin of Wave, another new, young Asian superhero created for Agents of Atlas. She was a really good swimmer who got picked up by an evil corporation and who was accidentally given water-controlling super-powers. She joined Triumph Division, the Southeast Asia superhero team, but they have since kicked her out for abandoning her post by helping Aero and the Agents. Their leader, Red Feather, comes to collect her gear, but Wave and Aero are ready to fight him for it!
Comic Rating: 6/10 Pretty Good.
First thoughts: this is a very elementary comic. Aero feels like a high schooler’s notebook superhero somehow given her own Marvel comic. The character is very basic and the presentation is very basic. Lei Ling is a young, gorgeous superhero with a pretty uninspired powerset/costume/codename, who also happens to be the greatest architect in Shanghai, despite her very young age. There’s no real conflict or depth presented in this issue, at least not as far as Aero is concerned. She’s just a happy person living a happy life. The saving grace of the issue is that it ends with some kind of eldritch horror coming down from the sky for her to fight. I did not see that coming, and that’s a good cliffhanger ending for the first half of the comic.
The art is fine. It’s traditional anime-style art and it works just fine, though the wind powers do make things a little messy from time to time.
The back-up feature is also fine. It probably would have helped had I read Agents of Atlas and knew who Wave was, but I didn’t, and that’s to be expected. Marvel knows full well that not everybody is going to read every comic, and if they want to sell me on Aero #1, they need to know I might be coming in blind. Wave gets a pretty standard, uninspiring origin story, but the conflict against the Triumph Division seems pretty good drama. They seem to be the good guys, and a bit of hero vs. hero is definitely a way to spice up this otherwise ho-hum introductory issue.
TL;DR: I’m all for introducing a new Chinese national superhero at Marvel, but the execution of this first issue feels a little juvenile.
The Green Lantern #9
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Liam Sharp
Colorist: Steve Oliff
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
We’re back to excellent and not quite as insane Green Lantern stories!
On a distant planet, a bunch of super-people are facing off against some kind of giant, reality-warping monster. Vartox is among them, he’s the only one I recognize. They’re all getting their butts whooped. The United Planets of Superwatch are observing this all from a distance, aghast at the death and destruction. (I have since learned that this Superwatch is comprised of a bunch of existing, one-off characters from the Golden Age, because Grant Morrison is a madman!)
Meanwhile, Hal Jordan’s plans to get some R&R on the sword and sorcery planet Athmoora have gone awry when he’s forced to fight an evil wizard. He’s joined by the female rogue Yez and the surly satyr Fekk, like a true D&D party. Hal fights his way to the top of the wizard’s tower and discovers and evil version of Abin Sur. His ring has never worked right on Athmoora, but once he figures out the villain’s identity, he’s able to win the day by cutting off some evil necklace.
Once he’s back to being himself, Abin Sur reveals that he comes from a different dimension and wanted to warn Hal about the Mad Lantern, the Qwa-Man, the dread emissary of the Reverso-Verse. But Abin’s journey to this reality left a door open to the villain, and soon they’re facing off against this vile force of nature. Fortunately, a bunch of other alternate reality Lanterns show up to pull them out of there.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
This was another fun issue that really cranked the Grant Morrison madness up a few notches. He could have made an entire issue about Hal Jordan playing the Green Knight on Athmoora and I probably would have been happy. But then Morrison has to go and add insanity to the mix, with some interdimensional monsters and an alternate reality Abin Sur that serves as an evil sorcerer in this world. Enough cannot be said for how much fun Morrison appears to be having. Fekk the surly satyr is a fully-formed character, yet clearly just a one-off bit of silliness all in one. He’s so utterly perfect as a cowardly, whiny sword & sorcery supporting character, whose camaraderie with Hal and Yez is so perfectly comfortable.
Most of Morrison’s Green Lantern stories have been single issue, so I’m excited to see him finish out this maxi-series with a big event. The larger threats presented in this issue are a little tough to wrap my brain fully around, but I’m confident it will all make sense in the end. This issue introduces it all quite well, while having a ton of weird fun on the side. And the very idea that Grant Morrison plucked a bunch of one-off and obscure superheroes from the ancient days of comics to make up this new intergalatic super team is exactly why he’s such a superstar. The man is a mad genius!
TL;DR: The Green Lantern starts to get bigger and crazier — in all the best ways — as we head into the climax of the series.
Lois Lane #1
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Mike Perkins
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Simon Bowland
What’s that? Greg Rucka is coming back to DC to write a gripping, hard-news comic about Lois Lane? Just hook it to my veins!
As per ongoing Superman continuity, Lois Lane is holed up in a Chicago hotel room writing a book (or something?), but she’s also doing news reporting on the side and sends Perry White a controversial story. Perry tells Lois that a journalist in Moscow “committed suicide”, but Lois knows differently. The journalist gave Lois a secret location of some hidden files, in case this very thing happened. Lois enlists the Question (the Renee Montoya version, hooray!) to go to Moscow and get the files, which the Question does, with panache!
Lois, meanwhile, has a nice day out on the town with her husband, where they chat about the current issues in their life: 1.) A picture was posted of Lois kissing Superman, so everybody is all gossipy about this married woman kissing Superman, and 2.) Lois still hasn’t told Clark about what happened to her and their son in space.
Lois then heads to the White House to take part in a press briefing, where she grills the press secretary about the story she had Perry publish earlier: how members of the administration took bribes for refugee camps, including familiar separation. Lois’ relentless questions get her kicked out and her credentials revoked, but she strolls away confidently as her fellow reporters continue the same line of questioning.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
I’d just like to point out right up front: I don’t like the character trait that Lois Lane can’t spell. I think it’s because, in my mind at least, that started with the original Christopher Reeves Superman movies, which I never saw growing up and so hold no value to me. And then comic book writers loved it so much they moved it to her comic persona. And now it’s brought up EVERY SINGLE TIME Lois Lane has a scene. This is a completely irrational pet peeve of mine, but it exists and harumph.
Anyway, as for the actual comic, it’s really great! It’s exactly the sort of hard-hitting, boots-on-the-ground journalism I would hope to get from a Lois Lane comic from Greg Rucka in 2019. I hope we see a lot more of Lois as an actual journalist going forward, not just Lois on any sort of wild superhero adventure. I want to see her matching wits with a witless presidential press secretary. I want to see her chasing leads and putting stories in print, and we get a lot of that goodness in this issue. We also get some quality time with her husband, which is super nice. Rucka does a fantastic job introducing and juggling that drama. And the scene with the Question in Russia — Rucka writing Renee Montoya again!! — is not only super fun, but it’s a phenomenal B-story for this comic.
If I can nitpick a little bit, there are parts of the story that don’t fit together perfectly. The whole thing with the concentration camps/bribery comes out of nowhere. Lois is already sending Perry the story at the start of the comic, without revealing what the story is about, then we get a lot of stuff in the middle, only to return to the camps in the ending in the press briefing. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the rest of the story, other than being a pretty clear jab at the Trump Administration. I’m all for jabbing those monsters, but surely Rucka could have tied that bit better into the overall story. Likewise, Lois Lane doesn’t work for the Daily Planet at the moment and is instead off in Chicago writing a book. What’s she doing in Washington DC attending a White House press briefing?
Her story was already published that morning. And if she had done her duty, then she would have already reached out to the White House to comment as part of her story. So did she go to the press briefing just to rub her story into the noses of the Administration? Trying to get answers out of them by ambushing them in person is a solid tactic, but this felt a tad too melodramatic.
TL;DR: Greg Rucka might be writing the hard-boiled Lois Lane journalism comic we’ve always dreamed about.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #46
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Derek Charm
Colorist: Rico Renzi
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Somebody didn’t read Giant-Man…
Squirrel Girl and Rachel strike a blow against the frost giants by taking a play out of Ottawa’s own playbook. Way back in the day, Ottawans chased all of the rats out of their territory by realizing humans provided their only food, and the Ottawans clamped down on their food and starved the rats out. Our heroes discover that the giants eat whales, so Rachel turns into a wall and organizes an attack to cut off the frost giants’ food supply. The battle is over quickly, but the giants swear to return with reinforcements.
In the aftermath, Squirrel Girl and Rachel take a moment to reflect, and Squirrel Girl tries to rally her new friend to take a stand and fight! Rachel turns her down…then reveals she has another plan. When the frost giant forces arrive, Squirrel Girl and Rachel talk politics and introduce the giants to the concept of revolting against their king. Does Laufey really expect frost giants to live in Florida or Death Valley? The frost giants buy it and storm off to demand change.
After the War of Realms, everybody reunites and Loki shows up to take Rachel back to prison. But she wants to stay, having changed her ways. Loki isn’t sure, but when Nancy Whitehead vouches for Squirrel Girl’s vouch for Rachel, Loki is cool with that. Rachel stays on Earth and becomes a reporter who exposes the Canadian politicians who sold out to the frost giants.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
Ahem. So Squirrel Girl and Rachel’s big plan is to convince the frost giants to abandon their invasion because they can’t be expected to live in places like Florida. But the Giant-Man tie-in to War of the Realms specifically shows that the frost giants are based on Miami and are thriving! Boy, I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder.
Anyway, as for the actual comic, it’s great! This comic is totally packed with good stuff, from thrilling fights to fun political discussions to meaningful character development. This is a rich issue that brings everything to a really nice conclusion. The humor is top notch as well! The whole bit where Rachel turns into a whale and speaks gibberish whale to get their help is hilarious, especially when she raises a whale army instead of getting them to flee, like Doreen had suggested.
I especially enjoyed Doreen and Rachel’s interactions throughout. That’s the heart of the issue, and story as a whole. Doreen really helps Rachel turn everything around, and I really liked their quiet downtime between battles. Doreen recognizes the moment for its importance, but she’s ready to take a stand and fight. It’s Rachel who has the new idea, the one that wins and saves their lives. It’s all really well written and constructed, a solid end to a great peripheral tie-in.
And one last bit about Loki loving Nancy Whitehead is always a hoot!
TL;DR: Unbeatable Squirrel Girl ends its first ever Big Event tie-in with the best issue of the story, packed with great action, great debate and great friendship.
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!