For the uninitiated, the Comic Book Review Power Rankings is a countdown from worst-to-best of my weekly comic book haul. Before reading the issues, I preRank them based on the creative team, previous issues, solicitations, and gut instinct. The final Ranking number is based upon how the issues actually turned out. I attempt to keep everything as spoiler free as possible, but keep in mind that there may be the occasional minor spoiler that I overlook. As always, I can be reached via responses to this thread or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
10. RED SONJA #45
Written by Brian Reed
Art by Walter Geovani and Vinicius Andrade
Letters by Simon Bowland
Covers by Paul Renaud, Fabiano Neves, and Jackson Herbert
• Red Sonja’s hunt for the Blood Dynasty continues in this briskly paced issue that finds the titular character confronting two warring clans whose bitter fight over the Blood Dynasty leads to all sorts of troubles for everyone involved.
• It’s great to see Sonja coming into contact with a different type of culture than what we are used to seeing her with. Brian Reed has already broadened the scope of the series to include European-esque merchant cultures and here we see a very Asian inspired culture. It’s a refreshing change from the usual sword-and-sorcery societies that have been the backdrop of Red Sonja’s adventures since her creation.
• The issue moves very briskly, with Reed’s minimal dialogue working perfectly in concert with Walter Geovani’s art to control the pace. While I think that the pace does move too quickly to establish some of the plot points, I do have to commend Reed and Geovani for their synchronization.
• I was very pleased the overall look of the art in this issue, however. Vinicius Andrade’s coloring problems from the past few issues have all but disappeared and Geovani takes advantage of the larger panels to give the issue a very bold, epic look. The events of the issue are narrowly focused, but the art gives it a much grander feel that I’m totally digging.
Verdict: Mildly Recommended. This issue just barely misses out on a stronger recommendation. The story is a lot fun and the art is amongst the best I’ve seen from Walter Geovani, but the issue lacks depth and moves far too quickly. It is very much a what-you-see-is-what-get type of book and I’d love to see this creative team build something more.
09. DYNAMO 5 #22
Written by Jay Faerber
Art by Mahmud A. Asrar, Yildiray Cinar, and Ron Riley
Letters by Charles Pritchett
Cover by Mahmud A. Asrar and Ron Riley
• This week’s Dynamo 5 is the most ambitious issue of the series since its first story arc, with Jay Faerber and Company delivering an intense action packed issue that plants the seeds for a number of storylines yet to come.
• The issue is almost all fast-paced action, with most of the issue focusing on the titular teams battle against a new villain, Braintrust. In the midst of this, Faerber throws in some interesting subplots that are sure to cause major problems for the team in future issues.
• The pacing of the issue is extremely brisk through the action sequences, with Faerber scaling the dialogue down to mostly quips and “combat chat” while Yildiray Cinar quickens the pace with larger action-oriented panels. In contrast, Faerber slows things down considerably for the subplots with Mahmud Asrar.
• This is a good move to build tension by bringing readers to the edge with the battle, only to pull it back momentarily before returning for more impact. Plus, this allows reader to focus more on the building subplots with the slower pace.
• Unfortunately, because the plot takes the forefront in these scenes and the action is so brisk, the shining personalities that the book is known for take a back seat. There is only so much Faerber can do with the characters and so they do feel a bit stale.
• This is one of the best issues in terms of “teamwork” since Asrar and Cinar begin teaming up on the art. Their styles blend better here than they have in any other issue, making the transitions smoother and giving the issue a more cohesive look.
• I especially enjoyed Cinar’s more unconventional panel layouts during the fight scene, especially the “Shut Up” page that looked like an impact balloon. It’s great to see him branching out, though these pages do feel a bit out of place due to the rest of the issue sticking to more conventional layouts.
• While the blending of artists worked great and Cinar’s layouts were fun, I was a bit disappointed on the overall quality of the art. I hold these artists to very high standards due to their previous work, but I felt like this issue lacked the energy they normally bring and their expressions weren’t nearly as sharp. Granted, subpar Asrar and Cinar is still better than most, but I did feel a bit let down here.
Verdict: Strongly Recommended. This isn’t the best issue of Dynamo 5 by any means, but I do feel a bit of the “magic” returning to the title after a string of disappointing issues. Faerber is clearly cooking up something exciting here and the art team puts in a strong effort, even if it wasn’t their best work. I can’t say this is a “must read” issue, but is one I’d say you are better off picking up.
08. INCREDIBLE HERCULES #130
Written by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente
Art by Ryan Stegman, Rodney Buchemi, Terry Pallot, Raul Trevior, and Guru eFX
Letters by Simon Bowland
Cover by David Williams and Guru eFX
• Picking up where last issue left off, this week’s Incredible Hercules #130 recounts Pluto’s trial of Zeus in the Underworld, while Amadeus Cho and Zeus try to make amends with their parents.
• I really like the parallel structure between Cho and Hercules here, with Cho off to atone for his issues with his parents while Hercules does his best to help Zeus during his trial. Very cool stuff.
• Unfortunately, the trial itself doesn’t fair quite as well as the concept. I felt that Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente lost their focus far too often here and after a while, the scenes started to get repetitive.
• This isn’t help by the very dense dialogue towards the early parts of the issue, which slowed the book to a glacial pace. By the time things started picking up again, my interest began to falter.
• I’m not sure if I’m horrified or incredibly amused by the line “Shut your ambrosia hole!” I do know that it felt out of place and forced, even if it did make me both chuckle with amusement and recoil with disgust.
• The art by Ryan Stegman is top notch, being an improvement upon his already-great work last issue. He wastes little space in his panels and stayed consistent in his style and storytelling structure throughout.
• As a bonus, he also showcases some of the most expressive characters of the week. His facial expressions were especially strong, though I was also pleased with his use of body language (something I think is getting lost with a lot of younger artists, despite being ridiculous important for setting the tone of a scene).
• I was less impressed by the few pages by Rodney Buchemi, assuming that I’m correct that he handled the scenes with Cho going to visit his parents. His line work wasn’t quite as polished as Stegman and his open designs lacked the detail and depth that made the rest of the issue so great to look at. It’s not that Buchemi’s art is bad necessarily, but there isn’t much of it and it doesn’t quite hold up against what Stegman is doing.
Verdict: Strongly Recommended. The strange pace of the story and the fact that it was entirely too convoluted left a bad taste in my mouth, but the superb effort by Ryan Stegman is worth picking up the issue for. I don’t often point at an up-and-coming artist and guarantee big things, but this issue shows a lot of promise for him. I think the last time I was this interested in seeing an artist’s career flourish would have been when I first saw Francis Manapul’s Iron and the Maiden work for Aspen. Let’s hope that Stegman’s career follows the arc that Manapul’s has.
07. GI JOE #6 (09)
Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by Robert Atkins, Clayton Brown, and Andrew Crossley
Letters by Robbie Robins
Covers by Dave Johnson and Robert Atkins with Andrew Crossley
• After moving at an incredibly slow pace for the last five issues, IDW’s GI Joe relaunch picks up the pace with this week’s issue, possibly the strongest issue since the title started earlier this year.
• I really dig how this issue feels like a culmination of the previous issues, with Chuck Dixon covering a lot of ground over the course of the issue, bringing together the Destro and Baroness storyline with the Scarlett and Snake Eyes subplot.
• Dixon is able to fit so much into the issue because of the breakneck pace that he uses from beginning to end. The issue is full-throttle from beginning to end and, in a testament to Dixon’s skill as a writer, no plot points feel shortchanged and the issue as a whole remains satisfying (unlike other briskly paced issues this week).
• While I did enjoy the overall plot and the parallel origins of Destro and Snake Eyes (which I’d never seen presented as such before), I was a bit put-off by the character writing here. Certain characters voices work well (most notably Destro and Baroness), while almost everyone else felt completely interchangeable.
• I most certainly did not dig how over-the-top the Scottish accents were on Destro’s goons. Dixon throws in a few key words or inflections into Destro’s dialogue to help push the idea that he is a Scot, but his toadies are simply ridiculous and cartoonish.
• Robert Atkins really hits his stride in this issue. He continues to use a very basic, straightforward approach that works great with the pacing and storytelling aspects, while he tightens up his consistency and improves his expressions considerably in this issue. It is great to see him overcome problems that plagued his work over the last few issues.
Verdict: Strongly Recommended. This issue sees both Chuck Dixon and Robert Atkins resolve a lot of issues that were holding this title back since its launch. There are still some problems in this book that are a bit too glaring for my taste, but the strong action and fun approach to Snake Eyes and Destro made this one a very enjoyable read.
06. TEEN TITANS #72
Lead Written by Bryan Q. Miller
Lead Art by Joe Bennett, Jack Jadson, and Rod Reis
Backup Written by Sean McKeever
Backup Art by Yildiray Cinar, Julio Ferriera, and Rod Reis
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Joe Bennett and Bellardino Brabo
• Teen Titans ne of the week’s biggest surprises, with Bryan Q. Miller making an impressive debut as the writer. Given that I may be one of the world’s biggest Ravager fans, this especially surprising, as I felt the lead story outshined the backup.
• The plot of the lead story isn’t tremendously original as it follows most of the team on a “night out” to get away from all of the drama in their lives, which is balanced against Wonder Girl being present for a massive prison break on Alcatraz by members of the Fearsome Five.
• Miller has a great grasp on the characters, writing really strong interactions, especially with the “boys club” of Static, Kid Devil, and Blue Beetle. I really dig how he writes all of the characters as teenagers rather than as slightly more dramatic superhero adults.
• I especially loved how oblivious Kid Devil was to the dilemma Blue Beetle found himself in with the flirtatious Aquagirl and his girlfriend, Traci 13. This interaction was very organic and just plain fun.
• I have to admit, I’m getting really tired of Calculator being such a prominent villain. While this does tie-in with some dangling plot threads left by Sean McKeever from during his run, I have a hard time getting into the story because Calculator is the villain. We’ve seen him too much and still he has yet to do anything all that interesting.
• The art by Joe Bennett and Jack Jadson in the lead story was stellar. Every panel is filled to the brim with details and the choices of perspective and action helped the story move along well. Between that and the good expressions, they really sell what Miller is trying to do in the story.
• Surprisingly, I wasn’t exactly blown away by the Ravager story. McKeever’s ability to give her a compelling voice is evident, but I feel that he got a bit preachy and longwinded with his narration. It reminded me a lot of how Wolverine stories with lots of narration tend to get repetitive and dull; Ravager isn’t someone who normally goes on and on, so it created a disconnect between the reader and the character.
• Yildiray Cinar continues to really step it up for his work with DC. His Dynamo 5 stuff is great, but it seems like he is putting a much stronger effort with his storytelling an action here. There are some issues with his expressions, especially in wider shots with smaller characters. Still, his strong sense of motion and good logical sequencing really impressed me.
Verdict: Strongly Recommended. Given how disappointing this series has been over the last several months (especially during the abysmal Deathtrap crossover), I wasn’t expecting much out of this issue. In fact, were I not for the Ravager back up, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. I’m glad I did, though, as everyone involved put in a solid effort that was much stronger than I could’ve imagined. Miller’s great take on the characters and the great art in both stories made this an issue you’d be wise to pick up.
05. NOVA #26
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Andrea Divito and Bruno Hang
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Daniel Acuna
• Richard Rider resumes his role as Nova Prime in this issue, which focuses on his return to the job and the disappearance of his brother and fellow Nova Corps member, Robbie.
• This is a very basic story, with strong character writing and a fun sense of adventure. It reminds me more of the classic Marv Wolfman Nova stories than most of the previous issues.
• The issue a bit light, with a straightforward plot and fun interaction, but is ultimately a tad on the forgettable side. The highlights are Nova unleashing on the Shi’ar and Ko-Rel as the new Worldmind, but these moments are a bit on the fleeting side.
• Andrea Divito’s art has a ton of energy, strong layouts, and fits perfectly with the story that Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are writing, especially as the art also reminded me of those classic issues from the 70s.
• My only major issue with the art is its simplicity. The clean designs and minimal linework gives the issue a very open feel, but also makes it devoid of depth. A bit of shading here or there would really punch it up and make it look a tad less dated (I love a throwback sensibility, but not a throwback style).
Verdict: Strongly Recommended. I feel like I’m being very nit-picky in my review of this issue, but that’s because there really isn’t a lot to complain about. The story is fun, the characters are great, and the art is a strong match. The problem is that it’s a tad “vanilla” and a bit old school. Given that the story opens itself up to be more exciting, I can’t help but feel that there are missed opportunities in this otherwise fun issue.
04. DARK WOLVERINE #75
Written by Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Onofrio Catacchio, Marte Garcia, and A. Street
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Lenil Yu and Laura Martin
• After already reading my weekly haul on Wednesday (which included only 19 books), I stopped at my local shop on Thursday and was convinced after a bit of prodding to give Dark Wolverine a shot. I’ve never cared for Daken and had no initial interest in picking this one up because of that. That was silly of me.
• The mission of this issue is clear: Take a relatively uninteresting and totally unnecessary character (Daken) and convince readers who feel alienated by his sheer existence that he is actually awesome. Well, Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu, “mission accomplished.”
• It’s simply staggering how much characterization Way and Liu pack into this issue. Every line of dialogue and piece of inner monologue adds another layer to Daken, making him one of Marvel’s most intriguing and complex characters by the end of the issue. He’s so interesting, in fact, that I’m willing to overlook the stupid tattoos and ridiculous haircut (seriously, Daken, you look like flippin’ Sanjaya—curses to Joel McHale and The Soup for causing me to even know enough about Sanjaya and his hair to make that joke).
• Daken’s manipulation of the other characters is brilliant, showing he is just as ruthless as Wolverine, only with a smarter edge and bigger mean streak. I especially loved his “pass” at Venom and his utter cruelty towards Bullseye.
• What I found most interesting about the issue, though, is the fact that Way and Liu do such a great job of setting up who Daken is and what his motivations are, I found myself not only more interested in him, but in the Dark Avengers as a whole.
• The art team did a fantastic job on this issue. It’s very consistent with strong designs. Normally artists that utilize the open style that Guiseppe Camuncoli uses here struggle with anatomy and a sense of realism, but that is not the case here. I think that is a true testament to the careful linework of the artist.
• For those of you who have read the issue, honestly, how cool was the cracked mirror page? That is a great example of how an unusual layout can be used in an otherwise straight forward issue without feeling forced. I totally dig it.
• There were some rough patches with the art, most notably the odd-looking Thing and the weirdness of Daken’s teeth, but these are few and far between.
Verdict: Don’t Miss This Issue. I can honestly say that my biggest problem with this issue is the fact that it costs $3.99 and there isn’t much in terms of extra content. Otherwise the character writing is superb and the art is very strong. If just a few of the minor problems in the issue could have been resolved and the price dropped to a reasonable $2.99, this would have been a major contender for Book of the Week. I almost missed this one, but I’m asking, nay, demanding that you don’t make that same mistake.
03. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #15
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Brad Walker, Victor Olazaba, Livesay, and Jay David Ramos
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Cover by Salvador Larroca
• This week’s Guardians of the Galaxy is one giant ball of crazy action as the Inhumans, the Shi’ar, and the Guardians battle it out in Knowhere after Martyr (Phyla-Vell) kidnapped Crystal last issue.
• This issue feels like a celebration of what makes this series so great—big action and unforgettable characters. Most of the cast only gets a line or two, but everyone comes across as memorable and has a moment to shine. There are few writers that can infuse a book with that much personality.
• The writing supports the sense of chaos with lots of jump cuts between scenes, but doesn’t cause problems because of the logical progression of events.
• The only thing that felt out of place in the writing was the use of the “post-mission testimonials.” While these are signature elements of the series, they are so few here and they add so little to the text that they probably could’ve been skipped altogether.
• The issue features strong art by Brad Walker, whose fluidity both in terms of character movement and actual page construction is the key to this its success. He uses a wide variety of layouts and panel sizes throughout the issue, which is perfectly in line with the tone and style of the writing. It’s always great to see the structure of the art reinforce the narrative.
• There were a few moments, however, that simply didn’t look “right.” The most prominent is Rocket Raccoon’s first appearance in the issue, where he looks more like a deranged bear, though a lot of the scenes with Gamora were equally as problematic. As strange as it sounds, the best way I can describe these moments is to say that it’s like he forgot how to draw the characters and just winged it, unsuccessfully.
Verdict: Don’t Miss This Issue. This issue is a fine example of why Guardians of the Galaxy is more fun to read than any other comic on the stands today. The great character work, intriguing action, and strong art make this issue the total package. This one was a major contender of the week’s best issues and was just a few minor issues away from taking the honor.
02. RUNAWAYS #11
Written by Kathryn Immonen
Art by Sara Pichelli and Christina Strain
Letters by Auda Eliopoulos
Cover by David Lafuente and Christina Strain
• It looks like the third time’s the charm for Marvel’s attempt at recapturing the magic of Runaways after Brian K. Vaughan left the series. While both Joss Whedon and Terry Moore met with near-epic failure, Kathryn Immonen simply nails it and returns the series to old form with this issue.
• Now, I will admit that the prom plot that sets this issue in motion is a bit hokey, but it does serve a purpose in that it highlights the fact that the titular characters are still teenagers, are extremely hormonal, and that there is still a disconnect between Molly (and now Klara) and her teammates.
• It’s a silly plot device, but it perfect sets up the status quo and through it Immonen needs little setup as she puts in a clinic on creating unique character voices while returning the team to its roots. She clearly knows and loves these characters, writing them with extremely clarity and an earnestness that was missing from both Whedon and Moore’s runs.
• Plus, I give her bonus points for writing one of the few Klara scenes I’ve actually enjoyed (Klara becoming a TV junkie).
• I’m really impressed with how well Immonen captures the tension between the characters, both emotionally and sexually. This is really speaks to who I was back in high school with invoking unnecessary nostalgia or alienating the now adult me.
• So, I have to ask, why haven’t I heard of Sara Pichelli before her joining this title? She takes everything that was great about her performance last issue and builds from there. The expressions are phenomenal, as are the designs in general. Why can’t other artists draw kids and teens as kids and teens this well?
• I also have to give kudos to Christina Strain whose great job coloring this issue unifies Pichelli’s work with all of the artists prior without taking away its refreshing take on the characters. Too often Strain isn’t given credit for being as important to this series as she is.
• While I can’t say too much without giving away the story, but I will say that I was absolutely heartbroken by the death in this issue and the creative team does a great job of handling this scene. Of course, I’ve got my fingers crossed that this death is what spurns on the return of my favorite Runaway, Gert.
Verdict: Don’t Miss This Issue. To put it simply, Runaways is back in a big way! This is precisely the breath of fresh air that this series desperately needed. Both Kathryn Immonen and Sara Pichelli nail everything about the characters to make this the most enjoyable issue of the series since BKV left. I just hope that they can continue the momentum they build here, as it has been way to long since this was “can’t miss” series.
01. UNCANNY X-MEN #512 (18)
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Yanick Paquette, Karl Story, and Justin Ponsor
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Yanick Paquette
• The week’s biggest surprise by far was Uncanny X-Men, which was yet another series I considered dropping before picking up this week.
• This refreshing, off-beat issue follows Beast’s crew of science nerds as they head back in time to find some answers to how the mutant species can rebuild itself, only to find themselves faced with familiar threats in an unfamiliar time.
• This issue incredibly fun and adventurous, making a great change of pace from how dramatic and dull the series has been as of late. I can’t say that I would expect a semi-steampunk story to work so well in the realm of the X-Men, but Matt Fraction nails it without making any concessions on the plot or the characters.
• Fraction’s character work here is great. All of the character’s interact organically with strong, unique voices and the new characters introduced are tremendously enjoyable. I wasn’t that familiar with Dr. Nemesis before this issue, but now I’m a huge fan; likewise, I hope that Fraction finds some way to revisit Nemesis’s parents, as they were incredibly interesting.
• This is one of the best uses of the Hellfire Club since their first appearances under Chris Claremont and that’s not even counting their giant old-timey Sentinel (which was awesome, by the way).
• Yanick Pacquette’s art is a perfect fit, as he handles the period pieces with the same ease and grace that he does the more modern scenes. He fills the issue with fun details and strong expressions while utilizing a slightly modified style that is reminiscent of Kevin O’Neill’s work on League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (which makes a lot of sense, truthfully).
Verdict: Don’t Miss This Issue. Truthfully, I nearly dropped the book before picking up this issue and I have no idea how much longer I’ll stick around after, but I’m so glad I picked this one up. This is one of his first works at Marvel that I’ve felt that Matt Fraction unleashes the genius that made him one of the hottest star on the indie scene (which reminds me, if you dig this issue, you must hunt down Fraction’s Five Fists of Science—trust me!). When you add in the brilliant art by Paquette, you get an amazingly fun and well-constructed issue that beat out some very tough competition to become this week’s Book of the Week.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Thanks to everyone who checked out yesterday’s Part 1 of this week’s Comic Book Review Power Rankings. In tonight’s post, I’ll be counting down the Top 10 books of the week, including the week’s biggest surprises (both from the X-Men franchise), as well as new issues of Dynamo 5, Nova, Red Sonja, and more. Check out the full reviews and Rankings for the week’s best books after the jump!