This week, I’ll once again be counting down the best comic books of the week, including the newest issues of DC’s best monthly series Secret Six, the always-incredible War of Kings miniseries, and the much-anticipated debut of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s Batman and Robin series. You can check out this week’s Comic Book Review Power Rankings after the jump!
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.
06. THE BOYS #31
Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Carlos Ezquerra, Hector Ezquerra, and Tony Avina
Letters by Simon Bowland
Cover by Darick Robertson
- The Boys kicks off a new storyline with this very unfocused issue that follows a number of plot threads including a mysterious and gruesome attack on the titular characters and a new P.R. campaign for the Seven.
- As per usual, the issue is filled with wonton violence and depravity, as well as the usual barbs at various points of the comics industry—though in this case they felt less focused and less-tied to the actual story. The violence leads into story beats, but it’s almost like the plot movement is an afterthought.
- There is a lot that happens in this issue—making it one of the denser issues—but the pacing is just so awkward that it takes a lot of impact out of what is happening.
- Carlos and Hector Ezquerra fill in for Darick Robertson on this issue and, sadly, simply cannot meet his standards. Between strange anatomies (Starlight’s HUGE forehead), a complete lack of background details, and an overall cartoony approach to the art, it is simply an ill-fit for the series and a major step down for what fans will be used to.
- I’m heading into SPOILER territory now, so be warned. A major event happens in this issue (the apparent death of a main character), but is incredibly underwhelming. This should be one of the biggest moments in the series thus far, but Ennis has all but ignored the supporting cast in this series, giving almost no impact to what happens. This has been an annoyance thus far in the series, but in this issue, this lack of characterization completely cuts off what Ennis is trying to do.
- Between the disappointing art, disjointed plot, and ill-executed twist, this is easily one of the more disappointing issues of this otherwise impressive series. The events are really too important to miss if you’ve been following the series, but be warned that the money you spend on this issue would be better spent elsewhere (making this the week’s Burrito Book).
05. THE MIGHTY AVENGERS #25
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Steven Segovia, Noah Salonga, and Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Letters by Dave Lanphear
Cover by Khoi Pham
- The Mighty Avengers and Fantastic Four face off in this week’s Mighty Avengers, an issue that featured the week’s weirdest characterization.
- The main plot of the issue focuses on Hank Pym’s secret headquarters collapsing in on itself and the problems that arise when Reed Richards refuses to give up the necessary equipment (that once belonged to the late Goliath) to stop this from happening.
- It’s not the most interesting plot by any means, but does get more interesting when Pym sends his Avengers out to retrieve the equipment. The problem is that Slott clearly writes Pym as slightly out of his gourd—doing so to the point that it becomes ridiculous that anyone would follow him.
- Furthermore, even beyond the baffling fact that the Avengers are blindly following a crazy-man by taking on the resident First Family of the Marvel Universe is the air of unexplained contention between Mr. Fantastic and Pym. There is no reason given for this and that makes it really hard to get into it.
- This all comes back to the fact that no one seems to be acting in character, expect for Stature and Amadeus Cho who share a short, but intriguing moment of flirtation that is likely to be the only reason that I pick up the next issue of this book (having dropped it once before, it’s currently on “probationary” status).
- The artwork by Steven Segovia, Noah Salonga, and Jean-Francois Beaulieu is solid, though Segovia’s sketchy, dynamic style gives way to unevenness and inconsistency—check Lenil Yu’s work for a fine example of how even the best work in this style always faces this problem more often than more controlled lines.
- It is great to see Jean-Francois Beaulieu getting some work for Marvel, though; I really enjoyed his work for Devil’s Due on GI: Joe – America’s Elite, so it’s great to see him work on a more prominent title.
- Odd characterization and less-than-thrilling plot aside, this issue has a few moments of interest and decent enough art to keep me from getting bored. I wouldn’t necessarily say avoid it, but do read with caution.
04. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #596
Written by Joe Kelly
Art by Paolo Siqueira, Amilton Santos, and Jeromy Cox
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Cover by Phil Jimenez
- “American Son” got off to a rough start last week with an issue that simply didn’t gel, but thankfully things come together a bit better this week as Harry officially joins up with the Dark Avengers and Spider-Man takes the first step in his power play against Norman Osborne.
- In terms of transitions—last issue’s main problem—things have really improved. With the exception of a one page scene shift (Peter at Gwen Stacy’s grave), even scene flows logically into the next, building tension with each move.
- I really enjoyed Joe Kelly’s character work here. He does a great job of fleshing out Norah Winters, making her considerably less like Lois Lane, and his work with Venom was simply amazing.
- I’m still not sold on the premise of the storyline (Harry joining his father’s crusade), but I am glad to see that more time is spent focusing on Harry’s motives. He has already joined up with Norman far too quickly—so it’s important to give this a bit more clout after the last year or so of pitting them against one another.
- The issue’s biggest downfall was Paolo Siqueira’s art, which was tremendously uneven. The opening pages were brutal thanks to stiff poses and expression-less faces, but he seemed to hit his stride towards the middle of the issue with a series of more energetic panels only to lose it again towards the end.
- The biggest problem throughout is his facial expressions, which never look natural and, at times, didn’t even seem to fit the tone of the story. Yikes.
- This one is certainly an improvement over last issue, though it has a long way to go before I can really buy into the story as whole. The strong character work and fun twist ending did their best to make up for the short comings, but in the end was only enough to earn this one a mild recommendation.
03. BATMAN AND ROBIN #1
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quitely and Alex Sinclair
Letters by Pat Brosseau
Cover by Frank Quitely
- To put my review of this issue into context, I would like to offer up some information to those who are new to the Rankings: I HATED Grant Morrison’s run on Batman, especially the RIP storyline. It was self-indulgent drivel that was a far cry from the masterful storytelling that Morrison used to be known for. I’m also not a fan of Frank Quitely’s work. That being said, I picked up this issue out of sheer curiosity and did my best to approach it objectively.
- With this in mind, it is worth noting that, much to my surprise, I actually enjoyed this issue.
- Morrison starts things off in a rush by showcasing the new dynamic duo (Dick “Nightwing” Grayson as Batman and Damian Wayne as Robin) in action before introducing a disturbing new set villains, all the while setting up the status quo for the series.
- As far as introductory issues go, this works extremely well. The dynamic between the leads is established right away, as is a strong tie-in to the events past, and a few hanging threads for the future (including a very Geoff Johns-ian set of “trailers”). By the end of this issue the tone is set and readers know what to expect.
- The main problem is the details that Morrison tends to gloss over or simply ignore—take your pick. For example, early on Damian establishes that Dick has made it a big deal that they never refer to one another by first names and yet, Dick is name dropping secret identities all over the place. If this is a conscious decision, it doesn’t make sense, so my suspicion is that Morrison was simply too wrapped up in the bigger picture. There are a number of minor issues like this throughout.
- I am glad, however, that Morrison, for the most part, seems to be eschewing the “weird for the sake of weird” approach he has been using lately. Instead of throwing out pointless oddities that never connect with anything else, he seems to be much more controlled here. That makes me feel much better about the future of this title.
- If you are a fan of Frank Quitely’s art then you are probably going to love this issue. It looks a lot like what his art normally looks like, so if you already have a set opinion on him, it isn’t going to sway. From my perspective, this is a bad thing.
- The art lacks depth, is never consistent with the amount of cross-hatching used throughout the issue, features tremendously horrid and bulgy anatomy, and, perhaps most notably, features a child being drawn in a manner that suggests that Quitely has never seen a child and is drawing merely from description of children alone (I am, of course, talking about Damian). Plus his Batmobile design doesn’t really look like anything—it is more amorphous blob than transportation device.
- Fans of Morrison and Quitely are going to eat this up (though I came to the conclusion after Final Crisis that if fans of Morrison will accept nearly anything, no matter how mindless), but even skeptics like me will find something to enjoy. The new villain is creepily interesting and the interplay between Damian and Dick worked just well enough to have me interested in at least the next few issues. I give this one a solid recommendation.
02. SECRET SIX #10
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Nicola Scott, Doug Hazlewood, Mike Sellers, and Jason Wright
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Daniel LuVisi
- Secret Six has been simply dominant this year on the Rankings, picking up four Book of the Week honors, including the last three in a row. Unfortunately, its impressive streak came to an end with this week’s issue, which was just barely beat.
- A new storyline kicks off this week with the Six finding themselves in the employ of an incredible disturbing group of slavers on a mysterious mission that finds them in a whole mess of trouble.
- This issue is filled with great character interaction, especially the scene with Bane and Scandal early on in the issue. This is a powerful scene that shows that Gail Simone can work her trademark charm on this series in heartfelt times as well as humorous ones.
- I like the little moral dilemmas the team faces here; in total they pose the question of just how villainous the team is supposed to be, which is perfectly in line with last issue’s “heroic” adventures of Bane, Catman, and Ragdoll.
- I was disappointed, however, in how Artemis’s return felt like such a throwaway moment. Considering she’s made almost no appearances since Amazons Attack, I’d have expected Simone to give this moment a bit more fanfare.
- Nicola Scott and Doug Hazlewood continue to make it clear that they have every intention of being DC’s most prolific pencil/ink team by cooking up their great art as usual. I did feel, however, that Jason Wright’s colors were just a tad too dark here and used too limited of a palette, which drowned out the line work in some scenes. It’s a minor complaint, but it is still noticeable.
- In the end, it’s another extremely impressive issue for Secret Six that made a strong run for the #1 spot. Unfortunately, some awkward dialogue (mostly with the “benefactors”) and minor issues with the coloring were just enough to keep it from being Book of the Week. Still, as it stands it’s a great issue and one that you definitely should not miss.
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
01. WAR OF KINGS #4
Art by Paul Pelletier, Rick Magyar, and Wil Quintana
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Brandon Peterson
- The year’s best miniseries (thus far) War of Kings continues with another exciting issue this week, dropping what is easily the most intense issue of the story thus far.
- Much of the issue focuses on Lilandra’s attempt to reclaim the Shi’ar throne, but it does so through a very wide lens—covering a wide range of connected social and political issues, giving this issue’s very confined action an over-arching epic feel. Kudos to Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (DnA) going that route and adding a ton of depth to their story.
- On the subject of adding depth, I’m glad to see that the point-of-view character in this issue was Gladiator. He has always been portrayed as fairly one-dimensional, so they’ve done wonders for him by having him mull over his recent decisions and react to this issue’s events through strong narration.
- I am incredibly glad that DnA linked this story to Marvel Girl’s family being slaughtered by Shi’ar death squads a few years ago in Uncanny X-Men. That was a very powerful story that I felt never got the full attention it deserved. It does here and is used perfectly to kick off the gut-wrenching and chaotic final sequence.
- Paul Pelletier’s art continues to get better with each issue. In this issue he shows great range with strong action, fantastic expressions, and spot-on consistency. His work is simply phenomenal here.
- The highlight of the issue for me, though, was the scene between Crystal and Ronan (which has been one of the best parts of the last few issues as well). I love the sincerity of this scene, as well as the budding connection that seems to even be taking the characters by surprise here. It’s intriguing and heartwarming, making it a great foil for the political strife and explosive action of the main story..
- The combination of strong art, great action, strong character work, and thought-provoking complexity make this issue the easy choice for Book of the Week. I’m hard-pressed to find any major flaws with this issue, which means that there is absolutely no reason for you not to pick it up.