Thanks to everyone who’ll be checking out the Rankings for the first time this week and to longtime readers who have followed me from various message boards around the ‘net. More info on the format and this week’s Rankings are waiting for you after the jump!
My shop did not order THE RAPTURE #1 this week from Mike Oeming and Taki Soma, so watch out for a catch-up review of the issue sometime in the future.
16. STAR WARS: LEGACY #36 (06)
Written by John Ostrander
Art by Omar Francia and Brad Anderson
Letters by Michael Heisler
Cover by Sean Cook
- This week’s Star Wars: Legacy follows two uneasy allied forces (former Republic fighters and displaced Imperials) in their battle against the Sith over control of a major strategic position.
- The story is unnecessarily convoluted, with a number of unnecessary twists that ultimately do little to build tension.
The dialogue by John Ostrander is surprisingly stiff and lifeless, making it hard to distinguish the characters from one another (many of which have only appeared in the series once or twice prior to this issue).
- Things aren’t helped by Omar Francia’s artwork, which is relatively bland and nearly as stiff as the writing.
- This book is completely lacking in energy on all fronts and screams “filler story” from beginning to end. Even if you are a die-hard fan of the series, feel free to avoid this week’s Burrito Book (instead of picking up this issue, buy yourself an enjoyable burrito instead).
- SCORE: 4.0/10
15. JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #27 (16)
Written by Jerry Ordway
Art by Jerry Ordway, Bob Wiacek, and Hi-Fi
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Jerry Ordway
- Having never been a huge fan of Jerry Ordway, I was hesitant about picking up this issue and, now having read it, I can say that I should have trusted my instincts and avoided it.
The issue finds the “old school” members of the JSA trapped inside their headquarters by Obsidian who is attempting to protect them from an unseen foe (yawn).
- Ordway’s approach to the issue is extremely dated, relying on lot of exposition, using most of the cast as background filler, and simply throwing the villain at the team without any dramatic tension—in other words, this issue encapsulates the worst aspects of the Golden Age.
- There is a lot of attention paid to Obsidian’s strange behavior, but nothing comes of it, while the villain gets no build-up whatsoever. That isn’t playing with expectations, it’s just poor plotting.
- I will say that the artwork is considerably better than most of Ordway’s efforts over the last few years, mostly due to the cleanness of Bob Wiacek’s finishes. There are still anatomy issues galore and the art is stiff, but at least no one looks like a chipmunk like most Ordway characters do.
- In the end, this issue is simply a boring affair with little to offer in terms of both the art and the writing. If you considered dropping the title after Geoff Johns left, that might not be a bad idea at this point.
- SCORE: 4.25/10
14. X-FORCE #15 (09)
Written by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost
Art by Clayton Crain
Letters by Cory Petit
Covers by Kaare Andrews and Clayton Crain
- The Messiah War storyline has been a mixed affair with dreadfully slow plotting and a major disparity between the quality of the X-Force issues and the Cable installments.
The story continues to spin it’s wheels with this issue, as nothing of major consequence happens other than Apocalypse’s role in the story finally being revealed (though it was really only a one-page revelation).
- I’ve never been a huge fan of Clayton Crain’s art, but he isn’t winning me over with his efforts here. The art is tremendously inconsistent and the anatomies are incredibly odd (why is Hope’s head so huge?).
- It also really bothered me that in some panels, the X-Force costumes are black and red, while in others they are black and grey with blood splatters. That is a major coloring issue.
- The highlight of sorts is Chris Yost’s character writing, as he nails the voices of each character here, but it simply isn’t enough to save this ultimately forgettable and easy-to-skip issue.
- SCORE: 5.0/10
13. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #595 (12)
Written by Joe Kelly
Art by Phil Jimenez, Andy Lanning, and Chris Chuckry
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Phil Jimenez
- The much hyped American Son arc begins this week as Spider-Man faces off with Norman Osborne over everything from the state of Harry’s life to the Aunt May’s upcoming wedding.
- Is it just me, or did this issue have a ton of false cliffhangers and splash pages? I felt jerked around as it seemed like the issue should’ve ended three or four times before it actually did.
- I’m really confused by some of Joe Kelly’s storytelling choices here, especially in regards to Spidey practically handing over his secret identity to Osborne.
- I’m baffled by Osborne’s sudden interest in his son, as this seems to contradict the last years worth of stories. This series is normally very tightly plotted, so this twist doesn’t work for me (and on a personal note, I don’t care much for the pregnancy angle).
- I hate to say it, but I think that Phil Jimenez has lost a step since jumping to Marvel. There are a lot of inconsistencies in his designs (some of which can be attributed to the inks) and his trademark fluidity is fading fast as his art gets stiffer and stiffer. This is majorly disappointing.
- While the character writing is serviceable and the art isn’t necessarily bad, the plot in this issue simply didn’t click for me and that really brought this one down. Read with caution!
- SCORE: 5.25/10
12. RED SONJA #44 (07)
Written by Brian Reed
Art by Walter Geovani and Vinicius Andrade
Letters by Simon Bowland
Covers by Fabiano Neves, Ron Adrian, and Jackson Herbert
- Red Sonja has an uncharacteristic “off” issue this week as Sonja’s ally Osin and her enemy Lucan both attempt to track her down as she continues to hunt for the Blood Dynasty.
- I will give kudos to Brian Reed for taking a risk by not really using Sonja at all in this issue.
The strength of his story should have made this work, but the messy exposition and awkward phrasing in the narration made this one really hard to read.
- Also, until the very end of the issue when I was slapped in the face with it, I didn’t realize that Sonja’s warpath that Osin follows was supposed to be her out of control—it felt like she was just doing what she does best (stabbing things repeatedly).
- While I do enjoy Walter Geovani’s line work, I can’t help but wish it was finished by a different colorist. Vinicius Andrade’s colors hit the extremes of roundness and flatness, with little in between, making each transition incredibly jarring. I just wish he would stick with one style throughout the whole issue.
- This issue has an interesting plot and I applaud it’s boldness, but the unimpressive execution and somewhat baffling conclusion kept me from being fully invested in it.
- SCORE: 5.5/10
11. IMMORTAL IRON FIST #26 (05)
Written by Duane Swierczynski
Art by Travel Foreman, Juan Doe, Tom Palmer, and Matt Milla
Letters by Nate Piekos
Cover by Patrick Zircher
- Immortal Iron Fist takes one more step towards it’s upcoming cancellation as the Escape from the Eighth City story concludes with the first Iron Fist declaring war on K’un L’un as the Immortal Weapons attempt to escape from his clutches.
- This issue covers a lot of ground, but the brisk paces forces a number of details to be rushed over as the title character faces a number of problems that seem to come and go without much resolution or point (including the number of Weapons needed to open the gate, the tower of demons, etc).
- This major pacing issue makes the “happy ending” for K’un L’un seem extremely forced (though it is trumped by the cliffhanger that is far too similar to a recent Amazing Spider-Man story) and ultimately cripples the effectiveness of the story.
- I don’t mind Travel Foreman’s art, with its extremely “scratchy” style and emphasis on movement, but it is really outshined by the cleaner, better paced art by Juan Doe in his two pages of flashback. After those pages were done, I found myself simply let down by Foreman’s work.
- With glaring pacing problems and disappointing art, the fun mysticism and enjoyable character work of this issue get lost in the shuffle and so does my interest, sadly.
- SCORE: 5.6/10
10. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: SHORT HALLOWEEN (10)
Written by Bill Hader and Seth Meyers
Art by Kevin Maguire and Dean White
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Cover by Kevin Maguire
- Saturday Night Live’s Bill Hader and Seth Meyers make their comic book debut with this oddly-timed Halloween tale of mistaken identities that is pretty impressive for their first book.
- The story itself is a lot of fun as Spider-Man is confused for a drunken partygoer while a Z-list villain attempts to make a name for himself and his rag-tag group of villains.
- The issue has a great sense of humor, most of which is fairly subtle and comes across fairly organically. The humor is also effective because of how well the writer’s handle Spider-Man, which impressed me.
- The problem with the issue is that it simply drags on longer than it should and ends in a predictable manner. By the end of it, I found my interest waning.
- Kevin Maguire’s art was serviceable, though there were some pages where it looked extremely unfinished. I’m not sure if he was rushed, but I don’t see any reason why the issue couldn’t have been delayed if that was the case.
- While there are some issues with the art and the pacing (and the fact that this Halloween issue is coming out in May), this issue is a simply fun read that shows a lot of promise for Hader and Meyers, whom I hope we see more comics from in the future.
- SCORE: 6.5/10
09. GOTHAM GAZETTE: BATMAN ALIVE? (14)
Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art by Various
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Dustin Nguyen
- Spinning out of Battle for the Cowl, this issue follows one night in the intersecting lives of Harvey Bullock, Spoiler, Leslie Thompkins, and Vicky Vale in the face of Batman’s apparent return (now as Dick Grayson).
- I really enjoyed the way that Fabian Nicieza use on running plot thread throughout the entire issue, never telling a complete story with each individual, but transitioning well from character to character to tell a much larger story.
- The character writing was strong, especially with Bullock who came across with loads of personality, but that is to be expected from Nicieza (one of the better character writer’s in the industry).
- The Leslie scene was a bit too heavy-handed for my liking, with the return of the Cavalier not gelling well with the more serious gang story (which did not feel natural at all to me).
- Art-wise, everyone puts in a solid effort with no major issues. The setup of the issue made it easy to transition from style to style, which is good considering the number of artists working on the issue.
- The biggest flaw with this issue is that it simply isn’t necessary. If you’ve read Battle for the Cowl, you aren’t getting much new information here (except the introduction of a new stalker character), so this one is easy to skip, despite it being a strong effort from the creative team.
- SCORE: 7.0/10
08. WONDER WOMAN #32 (08)
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Aaron Lopresti, Matt Ryan, and Brad Anderson
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Aaron Lopresti and Hi-Fi
- This week’s Wonder Woman is amongst the week’s most brutal books, as it focuses almost entirely on the battle between Genocide and Wonder Woman.
- I’m still not feeling 100% positive that I know what Genocide’s deal is, as her back story and powers have gotten lost in the shuffle with this series. I suppose it doesn’t matter in the long run, but I think it would give the monster more credibility if this were clearer.
- The “I’m going to hurt all of your loved ones” bit is starting to get old (get creative, villains!), but the emotional resonance of Diana having to confront Tom about her true feelings was well-played.
- So, whatever happened to that Olympian that was supposed to be rising, as per the title of this arc?
- Aaron Lopresti’s art brings a lot of force and energy to this fight-filled issue, but the heavy inking and lack of polish on some of the smaller panels was really distracting and broke up the pace of the issue quite a bit.
- Between the massive fight scene and the great confrontation between Wonder Woman and Tom, this was a fun, but brutal issue. There are some glaring problems and nagging issues, but this one is still worth reading and earn itself a solid recommendation.
- SCORE: 7.25/10
07. INCREDIBLE HERCULES #129 (11)
Written by Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak
Art by Ryan Stegman, Terry Pallot, and Raul Trevino
Letters by Simon Bowland
Cover by David Williams and Guru eFX
- This is the first issue of Incredible Hercules that I’ve picked up since Secret Invasion; having dropped the book, I was only inclined to give it another shot because of the art by up-and-comer Ryan Stegman.
- In order to find Zeus, Hercules and Amadeus Cho travel to the Underworld via Atlantic City in easily the week’s most bizarre issue.
- I thought that the casino-afterlife connection was a neat idea and is fun meta-commentary on the seemingly random returns from the dead that can be found in comics. The problem is that it needed clearer explanation to be totally effective; there is too much left unexplained.
- While I do enjoy the mix of mythology, humor, and heroics, the mythology has a tendency to run over everything else in this series and this issue runs into that same problem.
- Sometimes a simple explanation before moving forward rather than a major diatribe is enough to keep readers invested.
- That being said, the character interaction and humor was simply fantastic. I forgot how much fun Hercules and Cho are together (I’m still cracking up about the Netflix bit).
- The main draw for me here was Stegman’s art and I was not disappointed. I said to a friend at Wizard World Chicago 2008 that Stegman was my “next big thing” prediction from the con (much as Francis Manapul had been in 2007) and with issues like this, it won’t be long before my prophecy comes true.
- The sense of motion, strong expressions, and loads of personality work perfectly with the tone of the writing and give the issue a great deal of energy and character. I did feel that Stegman played it safe with his layouts and storytelling, but the strength of his actual work showed enough promise that I’m willing to overlook some of the problems.
- I do feel that the story was unnecessarily convoluted in its setup, but once it hit its stride, it was a ton of fun and featured some great art by Stegman, whom I hope we see more of in the future.
- SCORE: 7.5/10
06. GREEN LANTERN #41 (04)
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Philip Tan, Eddy Barrows, Jonathan Glapion, Ruy Jose, Julio Ferreira, Hi-Fi, and Rod Reis
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Philip Tan, Jonathan Glapion, and Nei Ruffino
- The origin of Agent Orange (Larfleeze) is explored in this issue, which finds Hal in a standoff with the Orange Lantern (or should it be Orange Guardian?) in his den.
- I really enjoyed the back story, which added a lot of depth to the concept of the Lantern Spectrum, though I feel that Johns may be pushing too hard to show that the Guardians are dirty dealers—they’ve always been cold, but anymore they are being insufferable.
- I wish that Johns would have given more “face time” to the subplot in the issue (the search for the Anti-Monitor’s corpse and the Green Lanterns battling the Orange Lanterns) as they felt really forced into this issue because they were so brief. Another page for each would’ve given them more time to flesh out.
- I was very surprised by the fact that Hal loses his hand here, which builds a strong parallel between him and Black Hand, who will clearly become important during the Blackest Night storyline.
- The art in the issue was great, but the styles of Philip Tan and Eddy Barrows clashed, especially with multiple inkers adding their own twists. There were simply too many cooks in the kitchen for this to come together cohesively—even if every individual page looked good on its own.
- Green Lantern and the building War of Light storyline continues to be one of DC’s strongest properties, with this issue, despite its unevenness (which is easily the biggest problem for both the writing and the art) being another strong example of why.
- SCORE: 7.75/10
05. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #14 (01)
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Brad Walker, Victor Olazaba, and Jay David Ramos
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Salvador Larroca
- Before I get to the review, I need to state that I really wish that Salvador Laorrca would use the style he does in this cover in his interior work on Invincible Iron Man. This is considerably less traced-looking than his work there.
- Things get extremely intense in this issue as Adam Warlock faces of against Vulcan and the Guardians find themselves in a mess of trouble with the Inhumans.
- I’m pleased with how balanced this issue is. Both stories are treated like main plots rather than a major plot and subplot, which is paramount to the success of any ensemble book.
- Likewise, I thought that Abnett and Lanning did a great job of building up nearly all of the characters and making everyone look impressive during their respective standoffs.
- I did, however, feel that the tensions in the Guardians/Inhumans scene rushed up too fast and felt like they were without just provocation. It made the entire premise of the scene a bit too forced for my taste.
- The art by Brad Walker is a solid effort, though some of his perspectives and panel choices didn’t come together as well sequentially, leading to some minor pacing issues. Still, he does a great job with the action here and his designs were strong.
- While this is a minor step down in terms of quality for this amazing series, a less-than-stellar issue of Guardians is better than almost every other book out there and still comes with a very strong recommendation.
- SCORE: 8.0/10
04. WOLVERINE #72 (03)
Written by Mark Millar
Art by Steve McNiven, Dexter Vines, Jay Leisten, Nathan Fairbairn, Paul Mounts, and Morry Hollowell
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Steve McNiven, Dexter Vines, and Morry Hollowell
- After a series of delays (and the release of the next issue #73), the Old Man Logan storyline returns for its penultimate issue that ratchets up the intensity on the storyline as Wolverine escapes from the clutches of the Red Skull and returns home.
- I will say that my enthusiasm for the story waned a bit with the delays, but Mark Millar’s diabolically sick take on Red Skull brought me right back in. This is an amazing display of disturbing villainy—making it perfect for the tone of this series. Seriously, how crazy is it that he wears Bucky’s Captain America uniform for fun?
- The ensuing brawl was equally as impressive, as Logan beats Red Skull as a man, not as a hero. It’s an interesting twist on his vows never to be Wolverine again, though the violence and body count of his escape does take some of the drama away from the issues final page. After he kills a bunch of dudes, does it matter that he finally pops the claws?
- Despite the assists on inks and colors, Team Civil War (McNiven, Vines, and Hollowell) produce a gorgeous and effective effort on the art that is surprisingly consistent. Kudos to Leisten, Fairbairn, and Mounts for not causing a break in the style here.
- This issue came very, very close to being the week’s #1 book and probably would have were it not for the delays taking away some of the momentum and for the anti-climactic nature of Logan becoming Wolverine after killing a bunch of dudes (also, doesn’t he care about what happened to Hawkeye?). Do not miss this one!
- SCORE: 8.5/10
03. NOVA #25 (02)
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Kevin Sharpe, Jeffrey Huet, Nelson Pereira, and Bruno Hang
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Daniel Acuna
- This week’s Nova is a fast-paced and exciting issue following Nova’s confrontation with Ego/Worldmind in a manner that reminds me a of the classic 1970’s Man Called Nova series.
- The brisk pace of this issue is incredibly effective at building towards the climax before slowing down to set up the new status quo. Abnett and Lanning are perfectly in control here, using the dialogue as much for pacing as for exposition.
- I love how the Worldmind/Ego situation came together, which moves right into a turning point for the series. It’s a great way to cap off the last 25 issues and to look forward to new adventures with a renewed sense of vigor.
- How awesome are the two returning characters here? Ko-Rel left the series far too quickly and Nova Omega should be all the more interesting in the face of all that has happened since the first Annihilation miniseries.
- The art by Kevin Sharpe has issues with consistency, particular in character builds (check out the physical bulk that Nova gains and loses throughout the issue). In larger panels, there is also a major issue with stiffness as all of his characters have very unnatural “posed” looks. This is too bad, as his style fits well with the series and he does a good job of capturing the tone.
- This is an extremely fun issue with some great writing that is hindered a bit by the serviceable art. Still, even though the art kept it from taking the Top Spot, this is a can’t miss book.
- SCORE: 8.75/10
02. TEEN TITANS #71 (15)
Written by Sean McKeever
Art by Yildiray Cinar, Julio Ferreira, and Rod Reis
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Joe Bennett, Jack Jadson, and Rod Reis
- We can finally put the abysmal Deathtrap crossover behind us with Teen Titans #71, this week’s biggest surprise.
- In this issue, Ravager returns to the Titans to reevaluate her involvement with them and, as per usual when Sean McKeever focuses solely on Ravager, the issue is phenomenal.
- Ravager clearly steals the show here, but the interaction between all of the characters was enjoyable. McKeever provides strong, organic dialogue with a strong sense of voice for every character, even the less established ones like Kid Eternity or Bombshell.
- The issue’s two main twists (in the Bombshell/Ravager and Kid Devil/Ravager scenes) worked extremely well to give more depth to Ravager, showcasing just how complex and torn the character has become under McKeever’s watch.
- Yildiray Cinar has done a great job when filling in for Mahmud A. Asrar on Image’s Dynamo 5 and various fill-ins on this title, but he brings his A-game like never before here. There is such a great sense of energy here, with really strong pacing. The big surprise for me, though was how dead-on his expressions were. He captures every nuance of the script perfectly.
- This is an incredibly impressive issue for a book that really needed it, as Teen Titans had been floundering for some time now. After this issue, Sean McKeever moves to the “co-feature” slot with Ravager and I cannot think of a better way for him to kick off her story and to say goodbye to the main title. Do not miss this one!
- SCORE: 9/10
01. RUNAWAYS #10 (13)
Written by Chris Yost and James Asmus
Art by Sara Pichelli, Emma Rios, and Christina Strain
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by David Lafuente and Christina Strain
- I consider the Runaways to be amongst my absolute favorite comic book characters and it has really bothered me how poor their book has been since their creator, Brian K. Vaughan, left the title. Joss Whedon’s run was simply horrid and Terry Moore couldn’t seem to capture the essence of the characters. This issue, on the other hand, simply nails it and brings the magic back to the book for the first time since BKV left.
- The issue features two stories, the first following Molly as she answer’s the X-Men’s call for all mutants to join them in San Francisco and the second detailing the havoc caused when the older members of the team attempt to play Truth or Dare.
- The first story is a great mix of adorableness and intensity as Chris Yost does a great job of balancing Molly’s hyperactive naïveté and a deeper emotional baggage that has rarely been explored.
- On the surface it is just a fun fluff tale of Molly teaming up with Wolverine, but at its core it adds considerable depth to the character and brings us back to just how heart-wrenching the “origin” of the Runaways really is.
- The Truth or Dare story isn’t quite as deceptively complex as Molly’s story, but it does show the bonds between the characters and does remind us that they are still hormonal teenagers at heart (something that somehow seemed to escape both Whedon and Moore).
- Yost does a better job of handling the characters than Asmus, but both approach them from an organic level with a fairly realistic portrayal of their ages and attitudes.
- It really seems like the entire purpose of this issue was to erase the damage done by the runs since BKV left the title—if that is the case, then “mission accomplished.”
- It too me some time to warm upt o Sara Pichelli’s style in the Molly story, but once I did, I was hooked. This is a fun introduction to her super-expressive and energetic style before she takes over the title full-time.
- Emma Rios’s art impressed much just as much. Her work reminds me a lot of Takeshi Miyazawa’s first run on the title (not his less impressive recent run), but with bolder panel choices and a stronger sense of depth. I look forward to seeing more work from her as well!
- I can’t say enough about how great Christina Strain’s coloring is at helping develop the tone of the book or at unifying the styles of the different artists or at just making the book look gorgeous. Quite simply, she is amongst the best colorists in the industry and this is a fine example of why.
- So, in spite of being preRanked in Burrito Book territory, Runaways #10 took me by storm to become this week’s Book of the Week. It captures the spirit of the characters perfectly in this ridiculously fun issue that features surprising depth and superb character work. This is a book you absolutely should not miss under any circumstances.
- SCORE: 9.25/10