Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 8/10/19
Interesting week of comics this week! Both Agents of Atlas and Future Foundation get their first issues this week, so Marvel is kicking off two new team books. But we’ve also got ongoing comics from Batman, Green Lantern and more! House of X shakes things up yet again and nothing will ever be the same!
Comic Book of the Week goes to Lois Lane #2. House of X is good, don’t get me wrong, but Lois Lane is damn good.
Meanwhile, I tried out the first issue of Absolute Carnage, despite not reading any of Donny Cates’ previous Venom and/or Carnage stories. The first issue is really great. It establishes the story well and delivers some quality Spider-Man and Venom entertainment, keeping the story grounded and realistic. Cates writes a really good Spider-Man!
I’ll probably keep reading this main series, but I’m probably only going to review the Scream mini-series, because I remain wholly dedicated to Scream for some reason. She’s my favorite symbiote and I’m happy to see her in action again.
Comic Reviews: Agents of Atlas #1, Batman #76, Black Cat #3, Future Foundation #1, Green Lantern #10, House of X #2 and Lois Lane #2.
Agents of Atlas #1
Writers: Greg Pak and Jeff Parker
Artists: Nico Leon and Carlo Pagulayan
Inker: Jason Paz
Colorists: Federico Blee and Dono Sanchez-Almara
Letter: VC’s Joe Sabino
So a new issue of Aero also came out today, but I’ve since learned that these Aero stories were originally written by a Chinese writer a couple years ago, and are simply being adapted for American audiences now. It’s a cool way to do it, but I think I’m gonna pass on that, because after two issues, Aero isn’t really winning me over.
Instead, in order to give this Asian superheroes project some support, I’m gonna try Greg Pak’s Agents of Atlas instead! Though I didn’t read their debut during War of the Realms.
So just fyi, the Agents of Atlas are: Amadeus Cho (Brawn), Silk, Shang-Chi, Sword Master, Aero, Wave, Luna Snow and Crescent.
The Agents of Atlas gather again to catch the last remaining fire dragon in Madripoor, cleaning up from their earlier War of the Realms fight. The battle is interrupted by a hero calling himself The Protector of Pan, who claims the glory and the dragon. What is Pan? Glad you asked! Businessman Mike Nguyen and his company use teleporter technology to unite all of the great Asian cities of the world, bringing them together into one mega-city called Pan. The Agents, plus Giant-Man, just happened to be in those cities and are now in Pan, and they gather in case there’s trouble…but there isn’t, the people seem totally cool with this. And Nguyen says it’s just a temporary 24-hour thing so that the world governments don’t get mad, but afterwards, people can sign up to make it more permanent.
Then the Protector of Pan comes crashing out of the sky, followed by a bunch of dragons!
Meanwhile, Jimmy Woo, the overall leader of the Agents of Atlas, is hanging out with his own dragon friend.
In a back-up story, which I’m not sure is either some old tale from the past or is happening concurrently, the original Agents of Atlas superhero team attack a bad guy base in Thailand and rescue a young woman. They also find out that there’s a dragon war coming, and Jimmy Woo is worried that he might have set it off. Honestly, it’s a little confusing. Feels like I probably should have read the first tie-in comic.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This was a fun, energetic start to the new series, but I could have used more character focus. Pak jumps right into the action and doesn’t spend too much time familiarizing the reader with his characters, which is a little disappointing. I realize I probably should have read the previous tie-in, but I shouldn’t have to when this is the #1 issue. So some characters, like Crescent, remain a mystery, while others, like Luna Snow, get enough hints to at least get me started in understanding them as characters. Amadeus Cho takes the lead with the most revealed, so at least the issue has a focal character. All-in-all, a good introduction to the team, but it could have been much better. A lot of them are brushed to the side so that the plot can take the forefront. I’m a little shocked at how little Shang-Chi seems to matter, considering he’s the one character in this book with a big new movie coming out.
The story itself is great! Personally, I love the idea that there are normal, routine superheroes in other countries besides America. It’s a shame that none of them ever get to show up for the latest Infinity War, but I love that they are there, doing their own thing and simply existing in the world. So I love a lot of these characters for that fact alone. Then the plot is really neat, and Pak found a way to make it Asian-focused in a unique and fascinating way. A teleporter that takes all the big Asian cities and neighborhoods and unites them into a single, unified place? And all the civilians are cool with it? That’s just plain neat! Then you’ve got some dragons and I’m sure we’ll get a cool conflict going forward.
The back-up story mostly confused me. The use of the classic Agents of Atlas made me think it was a story from the olden days, but everybody kept talking about it like it was modern times, running concurrently with the other team. Why even do that? The back-up issue was more confusing than anything else, with names and dragon info thrown around like I’m supposed to know what any of it means. I’ve also never particularly liked the original Agents of Atlas characters, so I was doubly put off. The art in both stories was good.
Also, just to nitpick, but why is Giant-Man a guest lecturer at the Pan-Asian School for the Unusually Gifted? His powers come from a supersuit that he didn’t create. Does that really earn him international guest lecturer cred at a school that ostensibly seems to be about super-powers? Either way, I’d love to see him join the team. He’s a character I actually know and like!
TL;DR: Plot takes focus over characters in the proper debut issue of the new Agents of Atlas, but it’s a really fascinating plot.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Tony S. Daniel
Inkers: Daniel, Sanou Florea and Norman Rapmund
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Good news, everybody! Robin makes an appearance in City of Bane! So you know that makes me happy.
This is another table-setting issue, setting up more of the new status quo, while highlighting a few key characters. We see Captain Atom attempt to enter Gotham to put a stop to all of this, but Gotham Girl kicks his butt without breaking a sweat. Tim Drake visits him in the hospital, where Atom reveals that the government doesn’t care that villains are in charge of Gotham City, as long as it’s peaceful. Tim and Damian, the two Robins, meet on a rooftop just outside the city. Damian wants to rush in, but Tim urges caution, because Bane has threatened to kill Alfred if any of the Bat-Family are found in the city.
Meanwhile, Evil Batman continues to track down rebelling villains, including Scarecrow, the Tweedles and Kite Man, hell yeah. For a brief moment, Kite Man thinks that it might be up to a villain like him to go out and find the real Batman and bring him back, but then he gets his face kicked in. The real Batman is in Paris, still unconscious and being tended to by Catwoman.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I would have liked more forward momentum to the overall story, but this was a fine peek into some fun characters in City of Bane. Obviously, I’m going to love any appearance by a Robin in this comic, especially Tim Drake, who gets to remain Robin just a little bit longer. He’s smart and controlled, and I’m glad to see King bothering to include any Robin. I also enjoyed the Kite-Man cameo. He’s a fun character in King’s larger Batman work, and it would have felt empty had the writer not included him somehow. The moment when Kite-Man looks to the sky and wonders if it’s going to be up to him to find Batman is really nice, as is the sudden kick to the face as he’s taken down. The rest of the issue is fine. I’m a little worried that this story is being set up wherein only Bruce Wayne can save the day, and the story is just going to spin its wheels until he recuperates and then just shows up to save the day. Like Goku in Dragonball Z.
TL;DR: The new issue of Batman checks in with some key characters as City of Bane continues, and that’s nice enough.
Black Cat #3
Writer: Jed MacKay
Artists: Travel Foreman and Michael Dowling
Colorist: Brian Reber
Letterer: Ferran Delgado
Better issue, but this comic really needs a stronger artistic team.
Xander the Merciless is fully powered and starts attacking Black Cat and her crew in the Sanctum Sanctorum. Bats the Ghost Dog agrees to help out when he mistakes Felicia for Silver Sable. Xander is able to brush off all of their attacks, including some of the monsters and defenses in the Sanctum Sanctorum. But then Felicia discovers that her bad luck powers counteract all of Xander’s magical attacks, since casting magic is all about altering probability. So she defeats Xander and her crew gets away, heist complete! The Fox picks them up and off they go to their next target on Yancy Street.
Comic Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
I still don’t like the art in this series. It’s still a major drawback. It’s just so sloppy sometimes, loose and scribbly. But there are a few good panels here and there. It’s like Foreman is really good at drawing pin-ups, but isn’t very good at drawing characters in motion in multiple panels to tell a story. I hate ragging on the art, but it’s quality is very distracting. The flashback art by Dowling isn’t very good either, in all the same ways.
But the story and the dialogue get a little better in this issue as it stays more focused. MacKay makes good use of Bats, another popular addition to Dr. Strange’s universe from some other writers. And Felicia is a lot of fun as she leads her team to victory against the villain. The triumph is even woven into her character, with her bad luck powers cancelling out magic spells. I think it goes a little too far in seemingly making her immune to magic, but it’s still a neat use of her power set. The Silver Sable ruse is also pretty fun, so there are definitely some good bits to this issue overall. It helps that that security guard I instantly disliked doesn’t show up at all.
Also, the promise of going to Yancy Street makes this series sound like it’s going to be a bunch of heists on famous superhero properties. That sounds like a great idea. I just wish Felicia had a better, more interesting crew, or worked solo.
TL;DR: The story and the writing are a noticeable improvement over previous issues, delivering a pretty fun issue. But the art is still a huge drawback.
Future Foundation #1
Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Artist: Will Robson
Inkers: Robson, with Daniele Orlandini
Colorist: Greg Menzie
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
We may have lost Unstoppable Wasp for a second time, but now Jeremy Whitley is on a new Marvel comic with Future Foundation!
The Future Foundation needs to break into a distant alien prison to rescue a mysteriously cool woman, so they recruit Yondu for help. Julie Power goes in under cover as a prisoner and finds the woman. But while monitoring the prison, the team sees Reed Richards in one of the cells! So Alex Power initiates a total prison power shut down, opening all of the cells. Julie and her prisoner are making their escape, while Alex and the Foundation fight their way inside past the escaping inmates. When they reach Reed’s cell, they learn it’s actually The Maker!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
Personally, I think this issue should have switched their big reveals. The Maker has been spoiled for awhile due to comic solicitations, and that’s not Jeremy Whitley’s fault. So this issue was a touch weaker as it tried to set up a mystery of why Reed Richards was in prison…without actually showing us Reed Richards. Like, our heroes spot Reed on a security camera, but the comic doesn’t show us what they see. It probably would have given the reveal away, considering The Maker’s warped face. But it kills some of the tension when they just tell us that they see Reed instead of actually showing us Reed. And then the big cliffhanger ending is all about revealing The Maker, which as I said before, was long since spoiled. So the shocking ending falls flat. It also doesn’t help that I personally just don’t care about The Maker (though The Maker was used to great effect in Absolute Carnage this week!).
The rest of the issue is fun. None of the characters stand out as strongly as Nadia Van Dyne did when her series debuted, but Whitley has a solid handle on the lot of them. Julie and Alex Power look to be solid lead characters, Julie more so than Alex. She just seems to have a lot more interesting character drama going on. Whitley makes good use of Bentley and the Moloids, and I hope to see him really dig into his bench on this one. I know Robson’s art isn’t for everybody, but I’m pleased with it. The art is a bit cartoony, but it’s still solid, colorful superhero art, and I like that. Some parts of the issue, like the prison and the inmates, feel a bit generic, but that’s not a problem. As a whole, this first issue is a very promising, very fun start.
Though the inclusion of Yondu reeks of movie-itis.
TL;DR: The first issue is a fun introduction to a nifty team, with a lot of neat characters, and some legit interesting story set-up.
The Green Lantern #10
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Liam Sharp
Colorist: Steve Oliff
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Holy wowzers is this issue dense, even for Grant Morrison! I’ll do my best to explain it.
A squad of Green Lanterns from across the Multiverse — all of whom do exist from past comics — rescue Hal Jordan and defeat the Anti-Man. They bring Hal somewhere to recover, and he’s visited by Strong-Woman, an old friend and a member of Superwatch. Then begins a dense explanation of what’s happening, a nearly impenetrable mix of alternate Lanterns, names, planets and dimensions. It’s a little hard to follow. But I think they need to save the Star Sapphire from Earth-11, and to do so, they need to visit the Forbidden Earth-15.
The squad heads out and the Tangent Universe Green Lantern calls forth the dead versions of this world’s Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman to ask about the Cosmic Grail, which they need to save the multiverse. They are interrupted by a large gold dude holding his own green lantern on a staff. He may be the Living Lantern…or he might just be talking about the Living Lantern? Hard to say, but he’s a surprise.
Meanwhile, the rest of the regular Green Lantern Corps show up to help Superwatch with their problem from the previous issue. Then they all get attacked by another giant monster man.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
This issue got really confusing at times, what with all the different Lanterns and concepts thrown at us. I Googled some of the names to see if all of them had appeared in old timey comics, because that’s exactly what Grant Morrison does. Then there’s all the talk of different Earths and dimensional travel, and a cutaway to space and some other characters, and an attempt to explain the Monitors, and basically everything Morrison has been playing with for awhile just kind of jumbled together in this issue. The general thrust of the main story was simple enough to follow, Morrison just tacked on way too much information to fully process what was happening. As such, that cliffhanger ending just adds to the confusion, rather than being a cool new development.
When I can understand what Morrison is saying, I do enjoy the issue. I like the existence of a previous friendship/relationship between Hal Jordan and Strong-Woman, for example.
I found out on Reddit that all of the members of Superwatch are one-off characters from previous comics from way back in the day. Strong-Woman appeared in a single issue of Green Lantern back in 1964! Morrison is quite adept at using these obscure characters. The hippie Green Lantern is a lot of fun, especially.
And I’ve always liked the Tangent Green Lantern. Not that I’ve ever read Tangent comics, but when it comes to alternate reality takes on Green Lantern, I’m glad she’s included. Really, this whole squad of alternate reality GLs is a ton of fun! That guy in the back is called Flashlight! And he’s got a Green Flashlight!
TL;DR: When it’s making sense, the issue is a lot of fun. When it’s overwhelming the reader with names, info dumps and crazy ideas, it can be a bit confusing.
House of X #2
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Pepe Larraz
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
I hope you’re still buckled in from House of X #1 and Powers of X #1, because this crazy train ain’t stopping anytime soon!
Moira MacTaggert is retconned to be a mutant with the power of reincarnation. Every time she dies, time is rewound and she’s reborn back at the start of her life, with full knowledge of how her previous life/lives played out. Her first life was pretty normal, with a family and kids. But then she started changing things in future lives, once she figured out what was going on. In one life she started hating mutants and found a cure, only to be discovered and killed by Destiny and Mystique, with Destiny promising that she could see all these different Moira futures, and she’d stomp any future attempts to end mutants (also that Moira would die for real after the 10th or 11th time). In one life, Moira married Professor X and we had the X-Men as we know them…but that ended with Sentinels destroying everyone. So in another life, Moira joined Magneto, but that also ended in failure, as did a life where she joined Apocalypse, and a life where she dedicated herself to wiping out the Trask bloodline. The robots and A.I. always won in the end.
Now, in her 10th life, Moira has decided that she and Xavier are going to break all the rules. She finds him from the Year Zero scene in Powers of X #1 and has him read her mind of all the previous lives. This leads to the House of X.
Also, noticeably absent is any mention of her sixth life.
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
The boldness of this whole concept is still counting for a lot with me. This issue isn’t as exciting as the previous two because it forgoes any real character work for just a straight forward explanation of what’s going on. It’s like Hickman is giving us a powerpoint presentation of his new status quo. And he’s purposefully unclear and mysterious at some points, so it’s not the best powerpoint presentation it could be. I’m all for mysterious — especially whatever he’s hiding about the sixth lifetime — so this isn’t really a knock against the issue. I’m just saying Hickman delivers all this information to us as if he were giving a lecture on the subject, just laying it all out there. There are a few scenes of actual character dialogue, like the extended sequence where Destiny convinces Moira to not kill all mutants, but the issue is really lacking on actual character. That’s what stops it from getting a higher grade. The art is fantastic, no complaints there. And it’s bold, as all these issues have been. And considering a big, bold, shake up is exactly what I wanted for the X-Men, I’m pretty pleased at that part.
Also, there’s nothing specifically “Moira MacTaggert-y” about this issue, if that makes any sense. There’s no actual character flavor to any of her lives or this story. Like, it doesn’t feel like it was super crucial that Hickman picked her to do this retcon. He could have invented a new character, but that would probably reek of Layla Miller Syndrome. So Moira is an OK character to pick.
TL;DR: The radical boldness of House of X and Powers of X continues, but it’s starting to feel like this whole project is just going to be Jonathan Hickman explaining his ideas to us rather than actually using them to tell a story.
Lois Lane #2
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Mike Perkins
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Simon Bowland
The new Lois Lane comic continues to be excellent. Makes me wish for Rucka and Brubaker to team up again for a Daily Planet-based series, like their old Gotham Central comic.
Lois Lane continues her various investigations, both into the government kickbacks and the Russians killing a journalist, with Renee Montoya backing her up. She confronts a wealthy businessman named Agger about the kickbacks, and he agrees to meet with her in private. She meets him in a back room at a night club, but an assassin shows up. Renee is able to warn Lois in time, but Agger is killed. Question is: was the assassin sent for him or for Lois?
Meanwhile, the rest of the world is still gossiping about Lois Lane kissing Superman, and Rucka can’t help but continue to make “Lois Lane can’t spell” jokes.
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
The obvious strength of this comic is the grounded, nuanced approach to Lois Lane and her job as a journalist. I think more comics need to find a specific focus like this. Like a Dazzler comic that focuses on the realities of the music industry. Not every superhero comic needs fisticuffs with a super-villain. Rucka does an excellent job tapping into the magic of the Lois Lane character, especially in a world like ours, where the news is both crucial to everyday life and under assault. He makes it exciting, even if the subject matter is a bit dry.
Rucka chose wisely in adding Renee Montoya in a supporting role, so there is some action to go along with the high stakes journalism. Lois and Renee also make a great team. So the issue hums along nicely as it follows both stories, with another side segment about Lois and Clark hanging out and being cute together. The comic is a nice mix of relatable human stuff, exciting journalism and mysterious bigger stories. I love realism with my superhero stories, so this is right up my alley. I’m also a newspaper reporter myself, so shucks, people, what more can I ask for? And the art is nice and grounded as well, so that’s a plus.
TL;DR: The mysterious, action and drama of Lois Lane continues at a nice pace, mixing grounded realism with superheroics, which is one of my favorite things.
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 August 10, 2019, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, X-Men and tagged Aero, Agents of Atlas, Black Cat, Future Foundation, Green Lantern, House of X, Lois Lane, Powers of X. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.