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 email@example.com.
12. UNCANNY X-MEN #511
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Greg Land, Terry Dodson, Jay Leisten, Rachel Dodson, and Justin Ponsor
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Greg Land
• This week’s Uncanny X-Men is yet another issue completely ruined by Greg Land’s tracings. This isn’t Matt Fraction’s strongest issue by any means, but Land simply destroys any hope of it being enjoyable, as per usual.
• The issue focuses on the X-Men’s counterattack on the Sisterhood, which makes it eerily similar to the Sisterhood’s attack on the X-Men not too long ago. Although this does lead to the story being resolved, I really couldn’t help but feel like I had already read this one before and like I was wasting my money by reading it again.
• I suppose I would be less critical story if the “reanimation/soul stealing” thing was full explained, but it seems like Fraction is avoiding getting into the specifics of it, which is frustrating considering the entire story hinges on it.
• As I mentioned a few points ago, Land’s tracings are as bad as ever, tainting everything it touches. Terry and Rachel Dodson provide a short epilogue of sorts, which only serves to show just how bad Land is by contrast. It simply blows my mind that Marvel prints this utter garbage.
• With an uninspired plot and artwork that is so badly traced it’s hard to believe it made it to print, this week’s Uncanny is a dud on all counts. This is the epitome of the Burrito Book, so please do yourself a favor and avoid it.
11. FLASH: REBIRTH #3
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ethan Van Sciver and Hi-Fi
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Geoff Johns
• The surprisingly slow-paced Flash: Rebirth trudges along this week, following the aftermath of Barry Allen apparently becoming the Black Flash.
• I will give Geoff Johns credit for the fact that this issue contains more story points than either of the first two issues of the miniseries combined. The problem is that none of it is very interesting. We’ve seen the “I can do anything because of love” angle before and a lot of the remainder of the issue is simply rehashing points covered in the first two issues.
• I think the biggest setback with the issue is that the threat is ill-defined. I get that Barry is sucking out the Speed Force and killing any speedster he touches, but there is no cause-and-effect relationship built up. Maybe if I knew more about the Speed Force I could understand this more, but should a ton of research be necessary for an “event” book?
• Also, what is going with the way Johns is writing Kid Flash? In this issue it seems like Bart didn’t realize Barry would be back, even though he discussed it in issue #1. Also, I can’t think of any good reason as to why the post-Infinite Crisis characterization of Bart was abandoned without explanation.
• The saving grace of this issue is the art. As per usual, Van Sciver is a master of motion and impact, both of which are on full display here.
• The drawback to the art is that the colors felt extremely flat. With most colorists, Van Sciver’s art really “pops” off the page, but Hi-Fi’s tones make everything run together, which is unfortunate.
• Ultimately, this is a pretty issue that fails to engage me as a reader thanks to a lackluster plot, odd characterizations, and a “twist” ending that feels pretty played out. At the half-way point of the miniseries, I’m unsure if I’m going to continue on reading, which is not a good thing.
10. ENDER’S GAME: RECRUITING VALENTINE
Written by Jake Black
Art by Timothy Green II and Edward Bola
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Timothy Green II
• After an extremely impressive adaptation of the first half of the Ender’s Game story, I was very excited to pick up this “lost story” one-shot, which recounts troubles Valentine had in school with an overzealous teacher that is mad he couldn’t hack it in Battle School after Ender began making a name for himself.
• The story adds very little to the mythology, though it is neat to explore a bit more of Valentine, who has always needed more fleshing out in the franchise.
• The plot doesn’t really connect much with the stories that have come before it, making it an odd-fit into the franchise. This is a textbook definition of a “fluff” story, which may irk even the most hardcore of Ender fans.
• The character writing is solid throughout, though I found myself scratching my head when Valentine gave in to Peter so easily. That just seemed out of character for her, though she did redeem herself in the end.
• The best part of the writing was the pacing, which worked extremely well thanks to well-timed dialogue and sequencing.
• Timothy Green’s art is reminded me of less-flashy imitation of Frank Miller’s Ronin, with unnecessarily lines all over the place and strange layouts. Green uses a vastly different style on the cover and the interior, with the cover being far more impressive; it makes me wonder why he didn’t just use the same style for both.
• In the end, this issue isn’t tremendously offensive, but it doesn’t have much going for it either. With a $3.99 price tag and a story that isn’t necessary for understanding the larger Ender’s Game narrative, this mediocre execution earns the issue a recommendation to avoid.
09. BATMAN #687
Written by Judd Winick
Art by Ed Benes, Rob Hunter, Ian Hannin, and JD Smith
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Tony S. Daniel and Sandu Florea
• Judd Winick returns to Batman with an examination of the ins-and-outs of Dick Grayson taking on the titular role that is interesting in its own right, despite not gelling well with the overall tone of the other Batman: Reborn stories.
• The issue has a very slow, methodical pace as it builds towards Dick’s “coming out” to Gotham as Batman after working through most of the issue as an unseen version of the character.
• The sequence of events and Dick’s general attitude doesn’t fit in that well with what Tony Daniel built up in Battle for the Cowl nor what Grant Morrison seems to be doing in Batman & Robin. Granted, each writer is going to take a different approach, but this almost feels like a completely new interpretation, which is jarring.
• I am glad to see how much care that Winick takes when building Dick’s credibility, having him quickly dispatch a villain, stand up to the JLA at Bruce’s funeral, and begin to build the foundation for his own era as Batman.
• While the writing was solid, the issue isn’t ranked any higher because of the simply atrocious art (the worst art of the week other than Greg Land). Between the extremely exaggerated anatomies, a complete lack of consistency, and simply baffling perspective and panel choices, Benes seems to get very little right here. The art is stiff, dull, and wickedly out of proportion.
• I don’t think these problems would be as evident if Benes could decide how he wanted to present the characters. Batman’s body and Alfred’s face are different every time they appear, at times making it look like more than one artist worked on the pages. Yikes.
• The writing would earn this issue a strong recommendation, but the art is simply horrible and that makes me want to tell you to avoid this issue. Taking both into consideration, my advice is to read with extreme caution.
08. ACTION COMICS #878
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Diego Olmos and Rod Reis
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Andrew Robinson
• Things start looking up for the Rankings with this week’s Action Comics #878 which picks up where last issue left off with Lois watching over the injured Thara (Flamebird) as the military steps up their efforts to rid the world of Kryptonians.
• The “military versus aliens” shtick is a bit played out and this issue offers little variation on the conventions of this type of story. This problem could be alleviated if General Lane weren’t being portrayed as nothing more than a one-dimensional xenophobe with a god-complex. The story itself is fun, but its not tremendously original.
• Diego Olmos handles the art chores in this issue and struggles tremendously with consistency issues. He cycles through minor stylistic changes, both in terms of how he draws the characters and how he lays out the page. It’s very distracting and brings down the writing.
• I was also disappointed with the lettering. The translations from Kryptonian were all very poorly placed and almost impossible to read. Why didn’t anyone question this?
• Thankfully the issue is saved by great interaction between Thara and Lois. Lois’s “protective mother” role really suits her. The dialogue on these scenes is incredibly organic and brimming with personality, making them some of my favorite moments of the week.
• The major art issues and cookie-cutter approach to the plot make this one tough to swallow at times, but the great sequences with Lois and Thara, as well as the introduction of the new villains were enjoyable enough to keep me invested. I’ll mildly recommend this one, but be warned about the art.
07. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #597
Written by Joe Kelly
Art by Marco Chechetto and Chris Chuckry
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Phil Jimenez
• American Son keeps on trucking with this week’s Amazing Spider-Man as the titular character is infiltrates the Dark Avengers in the leas successful manner possible and Norman Osbrone’s plans for his son get a bit clearer.
• I’m glad to see Joe Kelly “redeem” Harry a bit by addressing his sudden change in his attitude—this was a major issue in the first two parts of this story. This also provides some interesting background tension to Harry’s future role in Norman’s schemes.
• I also really dug the way that Kelly wrote Spider-Man impersonating Venom, especially in the fact that Spidey couldn’t quite get the character down, only occasionally nailing Venom’s personality by being as disturbing as possible.
• I’m still having trouble getting into this story because I’m just not that interested in Menace. Even with the pregnancy twist, she isn’t the most interesting character; plus, its not like Harry Osborne cares about his other kid, so why change now?
• Marco Chechetto’s art is a solid effort, though the amount of detail he uses is very inconsistent from page to page and there were some anatomy issues in wider shots. Still, in close shots, he excelled and he managed to capture the tone of the writing really well.
• Chechetto’s storytelling was a bit rough thanks to his unusual panel layouts, which made it hard to follow at times. Sometimes the sequences simply didn’t work, nor did some of the cuts and overlapping panels. I think he would have been more successful in keeping it simple.
• This is probably the best issue of the American Son storyline thus far thanks to tighter plotting and better dialogue. The art is a bit rough at times, but Chechetto shows a lot of promise. This isn’t essential reading, but you could do a lot worse this week than to pick this one up.
06. X-MEN: FOREVER #1
Written by Chris Claremont
Art by Tom Grummett, Cory Hamscher, and Wilfredo Quintana
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Tom Grummett
• In case you haven’t heard, X-Men: Forever picks up where Chris Claremont left off when he left the adjective-less X-Men series after it’s third issue way back in 1991. The story picks up right where X-Men #3 left off, with the X-Men facing off against Fabian Cortez after the death of Magneto.
• I can’t decide if I love the fact that Claremont is writing this in 1990s style or hating it. For now I’m going to go with love because of the sense of nostalgia it brings back, but will I still like it after a few more issues?
• This is wickedly overwritten, but I chalk it up to the style that Claremont uses. In that sense, it feels like a “lost episode” of a much-beloved TV series that doesn’t quite live up to modern standards but you still love despite its own flaws. By 1991 standards, its really not that bad in this regard.
• I will say that I’m impressed by how much Claremont squeezes into this issue. We get an extended fight scene, the building of subplots, and a nice rundown of where the X-Men were back in 1991. I think this issue is a fine example of how vastly differently writers approach comics in today’s “writing for the trade” era as opposed to how they did things nearly 20 years ago.
• I’m glad to see that Claremont is willing to take the characters in different directions from where they ended up after he left the title, especially with Wolverine and Jean, though new takes on Nightcrawler and Kitty seem to be in the mix. This adds some freshness to this “alternate take.”
• Kudos to Tom Grummett for taking the early 90’s Jim Lee style and making it a bit more modern, with sleeker designs and less Image-y cross hatching. He picks up a lot of what made that art great, but avoids the aspects that didn’t work.
• The costumes do look dated though. After a few issues, I think it might be best to tweak them so that this doesn’t alienate readers.
• This issue is clearly meant for lapsed fans and folks who loved the Fox cartoon series from the 90s. It’s a bit hokey, way overwritten, and lacking depth, but it’s also a lot of fun and reminded me of the books that got me into comics in the first place. You can’t pass up a feeling like that and I’m going to recommend this issue simply because it manages to capture that lost magic.
05. BOOSTER GOLD #21
Lead Written by Dan Jurgens
Lead Art by Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, and Hi-Fi
Co-feature Written by Matthew Sturges
Co-feature Art by Mike Norton, Norm Rapmund, and Guy Major
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund
• DC launches its first “co-featured” comic this week with Booster Gold #21, which also features a “second feature” (backup) Blue Beetle story.
• In the lead, Booster attempts to keep Dick Grayson from finding out his time-traveling secret now that Grayson has taken up the mantle of Batman, while in the backup, Blue Beetle has to deal with renegade robots and the Paco/Brenda dating-situation (which was started in the final issues of his solo-series).
• “Blue and Gold” make a heck of a team once again with similar tones and stories that blend well together. At first I scoffed at the two stories being put together under one book, but it makes sense in terms of tone and style.
• I’m glad to see Booster acknowledging Dick’s role as the new Batman. It makes for a fun twist on the fact that no one but Batman (Bruce) was supposed to know he was a time-travelling chrono-cop, plus its great to see the new Bat-status quo being reflected in a non-Bat book already.
• Considering my love for the late-Blue Beetle ongoing, I’m glad to see that Matthew Sturges handles the backup so well. It’s almost like no time has passed since that book was canceled and yet it is still readily accessible to new readers.
• The art is solid on both. The Jurgens/Rapmund team is always amazing, with Rapmudn’s finishes over Jurgens’s layouts looking extremely crisp and polished. Rapmund’s inks over Norton’s pencils give the backup a very energetic style and do a good job of differentiating it from Norton’s work on Green Arrow/Black Canary.
• The problem is that both stories move too fast and feel too “fluffy.” It’s like the shorter room for stories keeps either from getting into the thick of things. It’ll be interesting to see how other books handle the co-feature situation.
• Having dropped Booster Gold a few months back, I only returned to the title because of the Blue Beetle back-up. I’m glad that I did, as both stories were extremely well done, despite the limitations of the co-feature system. I’d rather have the Blue Beetle ongoing back, but this issue is a solid consolation prize. I strongly recommend you check it out.
04. ABSOLUTION #0
Written by Christos Gage
Art by Roberto Viacava
Covers by Jacen Burrows and Juan Jose Ryp
• Christos Gage’s upcoming miniseries from Avatar Press kicks off this week with a special #0 issue that sets up the status quo for this Dexter-meets-superheroes story of a superpowered crossing the “do not kill” line.
• Gage jumps right into the thick of things with this issue, providing excellent setup for the series by introducing the main players, developing an “origin” for the main character, and setting the edgy tone from the get-go. In 11 pages, Gage tells more story than most writers do in a full 22.
• I really enjoy the way Gage throws some logic into the mix with how John Dusk (the main character) goes from being a super-cop to becoming a killer. The sequence of events makes sense and actually causes the reader to sympathize with the character despite the horrific decision he makes.
• My favorite part of the issue, however, is how oblivious Dusk’s girlfriend is to how things are affecting him. In one panel she talks about how the horrors he has seen are adversely affecting him, but then goes on to describe a gruesome case she is cover. It darkly humorous and puts an ironic spin on things.
• While the writing has me very excited for the miniseries to begin, I’m not as enthused about the art. In terms of storytelling, Roberto Viacava has a good handle on things, with a good sense of sequencing and good panel choices that match the pacing of the story well.
• The problem is that his anatomy needs a lot of work. Character’s bodies contort from page to page (especially Dusk’s girlfriend, who does a great Elongated Man impression here) and the facial structures are inconsistent throughout. This is tremendously distracting and takes away from how strongly written he book is.
• While not perfect by any means, this is a great way to launch the story, introducing all of the major concepts and ending on an extremely intriguing note. The art is a bit rough and would have brought the book down a few spots in the Rankings if not for the strength of the writing and the inherent value of a $1.99 title. For only $2, you’ll get more than your monies worth with the story. This is exactly what Mark Waid’s Irredeemable is attempting to be; except Absolution is actually good.
03. GREEN LANTERN CORPS #37
Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Pat Gleason, Rebecca Buchman, Tom Nguyen, Randy Mayor, and Gabe Eltaeb
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Pat Gleason, Rebecca Buchman, and Randy Mayor
• The road to Blackest Night continues with an incredibly intense issue of Green Lantern Corps that finds the Daxamites gaining Superman-esque powers (thanks to Ion altering their sun) and attacking the invading Sinestro Corps while the majority of the Green lanterns continue to deal with the prison riots on Oa.
• This issue is incredibly dense, with Tomasi juggling multiple storylines, but balancing them very well by setting up the issue into different “acts” by storyline and pacing them all to build tension towards the revelations unveiled during the Oa prison riots.
• The problem with this is that items at the beginning of the issue feel less important towards the end, taking most of the impact out of Arisia’s Sparatcus moment. However, when taken against Scar’s “end game,” it does seem less impressive anyway.
• Tomasi is getting considerably better with writing personality into one-off lines, which helps in this issue considering the large cast. When someone like Kanjar Ro delivers one or two lines, they feel less like throwaways because of the strong sense of voice that Tomasi establishes form the get-go.
• Sadly, this is not Pat Gleason’s best effort. There are moments of his usual greatness, including an awesome spread of the riot, but throughout most of the issue the characters seem too rounded and there are issues with the depth of scenes not matching the perspectives, leading to odd-looking anatomies the cover is actually a great example of this). The end result is pages that only vaguely resemble what we are used to from Gleason.
• I will give credit to the art team overall, though. This may not live up to Gleason’s standards, but the style is consistent throughout despite having two inkers and two colorists. That’s impressive regardless of the other shortcomings.
• Art issues aside, this super fun book is one of the week’s finest issues. It has great action, great character moments, and a few “oh sh**” moments that have me clamoring for the next issue. Considering this storyline feeds right into Blackest Night, I consider this ascension of intensity a definite good thing.
02. RED ROBIN #1
Written by Christopher Yost
Art by Ramon Bachs and Guy Major
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Francis Manapul
• Red Robin debuts this week, with the first issue setting up the status quo of Tim doing his best to deal with the loss of Bruce by donning the titular role and hunting down his adopted father/mentor.
• Chris Yost really shines with his character work on this issue. Although I may not necessarily agree with the direction that they are taking Tim in, Yost makes it believable. It’s a different approach, but it fits considering all that Tim has endured.
• What works best in this is the fact that Tim is essentially becoming Batman. He is taking a harder stance, crossing some lines in terms of violence, and utilizing his detective skills (after all, Tim has been written to be one of DC’s premiere sleuths). Dick may be taking up the cowl as Batman, but in his Red Robin guise, Tim is the new Dark Knight.
• Yost’s great narration and some good interaction between Tim and Dick (and even Damian) helps create this new status quo for Tim.
• Ramon Bach’s art has a ton of energy and fits perfectly with the tone; the only problem is that he seems to have trouble drawing Tim as a young adult. He looks too old and grizzled at times, especially in costume.
• I’m really impressed with the coloring by Guy Major. He did a great job with a lighter palette on Robin, so it is cool to see him darken it up, while still retaining his style on this series.
• Despite my reservations about this one, Yost and Company really put together a stellar debut issue for Red Robin (which is also a great place to get burgers, btw). The strong character work and atmospheric art make this easily the best of the post-Batman RIP books to have launched thus far and an issue that you certainly should not miss.
01. ANNA MERCURY 2 #1
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Facundo Percio and Digikore Studios
Covers by Various
• Warren Ellis and Facundo Percio’s criminally overlooked Anna Mercury begins its second volume this week for Avatar. This focuses on Anna as she is sent to another “satellite world” on a recon mission to see how advanced a society is after they’ve sent a probe to our world only to find herself in a whole heap of trouble.
• This is pure fun from start to finish, with great action, a thoughtful but brisk plot, and enjoyable character work. I love the simplicity of this, despite the big-concept ideas. This is when Ellis is at his pulpy best.
• I’m also glad to see that Ellis is slowly expanding on the concepts of the original series. Anna makes passing remarks about other agents in similar standing as her and the original concept of satellite worlds appears to have been expanded upon considerably. Like all good sequels, this issue takes what works from the original and turns it up to 11.
• I was blown away by the improvements that Facundo Percio has made from the last volume. His storytelling is stronger, his motion has improved, and his expressions are a million times better. He was good then, but wowed me here.
• It’s actually incredibly hard to review this because it excels on almost every level. My only problem is that it is too short. That’s it. I’m not kidding. My only complaint about this issue is that it is over far too quickly, leaving you wanting more. In other words, it is the no-contest winner for Book of the Week and one you should absolutely not miss.