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.
Although not reviewed as part of the Rankings, I did pick up the all-ages Tiny Titans and the Wednesday Comics anthology. Both were great issues from titles that I cannot recommend enough. You should make it a habit of buying them, even if I don’t review them.
17. THE BOYS: HEROGASM #3
Written by Garth Ennis
Art by John McCrea, Keith Burns, and Tony Avina
Letters by Simon Bowland
Cover by Darick Robertson
• In a slight twist from last issue, we find out this week that the target of The Boys isn’t exactly who Garth Ennis made us believe it was before. Otherwise this issue is basically a repeat of everything that we have seen before.
• Yes, there are a few new character analogues—like Fantastico, a hardcore version of the Fantastic Four—but with this Ennis brings nothing new to the shtick that we haven’t seen before.
• There is one intriguing scene between Black Noir and Hughie, but it moves by very quickly and, at this stage, has little effect on the overall story.
• The art continues to boggle my mind. Given the fact that I believe that both Garth Ennis and Dynamite have very high art standards, I can’t believe that they are willing to go with the work that John McCrea and Keith Burns are putting out here. I’m not familiar with Burns’s work outside fo this, but I know for a fact that McCrea’s usual work is of a much higher quality.
• The poor anatomy, inconsistent character designs, undecipherable expressions, and nonsensical shadow work is simply bad. I hate to say it, but its true.
Verdict: Permission to Avoid. The horrendous art, lack of clear direction, and recycled scenes make this book even worse than I was expecting. Given that Garth Ennis is easily one of my all-time favorite writers, I hate to be as harsh as I am here; but, its my duty as your reviewer to be truthful. This book should only be picked up by hardcore completers (since apparently completists isn’t a word) and even then it should be bagged and board without being read. Trust me on that one. This Burrito Book is not meant for human consumption.
16. FINAL CRISIS: LEGION OF THREE WORLDS #5
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by George Perez, Scott Koblish, and Hi-Fi
Letters by Nick Napolitano
Covers by George Perez and Nei Ruffino
• The week’s biggest “head-scratcher” is the conclusion to Final Crisis tie-in (that didn’t have anything to actually do with Final Crisis) Legion of Three Worlds which finds Superman, Superboy, Kid Flash, and the titular Legions finally taking down Time Trapper, the Legion of Supervillains, and Superboy Prime after months and months and months of delays.
• Before we get to the infamous finale, I’ll start with the issue’s other problems. First of all, much like the previous issues in this miniseries, there are simply too many characters and their alternate universe counterparts in this issue. It’s too hard to keep track of everyone or care about anyone, especially since the writing gives very few cues for non-hardcore Legion fans to follow.
• Since the large cast of heroes fighting an equally large cast of villains is the main plot point, the story becomes overly convoluted far too quickly. When you throw in a ton of one or two panel character beats, the issue becomes almost unreadable without some sort of annotations, especially since it has been pretty much forever since the last issue shipped.
• There were a few cool moments; most notably the return of the Green Lantern Corps and the Legion looking back at their younger selves. Unfortunately, two or three cool moments can only do so much to save the issue.
• Other than one massively awesome spread featuring the combined Legions, this wasn’t George Perez’s best effort. His trademark expressions, strong storytelling, and attention to detail fall to the wayside in this issue. It looks rushed and the quality suffers because of it.
• Okay, now we can talk about the ending, so please note that we are in full on SPOILER ALERT. If you don’t want the ending ruined, skip the next few bullets.
• Was Geoff Johns trying to completely bury Superboy Prime here? Aside from his bizarre fate (next bullet), his whining here goes from sheer angst to baby-ish babble. I mean, when a villain calls someone “Wildfart,” I can’t take him seriously anymore. Given how much effort was put into fleshing out Prime during Infinite Crisis, I’m sad to see what Johns makes of him here.
• Of course, this whining does lead to the finale, which finds Prime being ushered back to his Earth, Earth-Prime (also known as our Earth) where his parents and girlfriend apparently hate him because they read of his exploits in this miniseries (why they knew to read the comics is beyond me). He then logs onto the DC Comics message boards and officially becomes Fanboy Prime.
• While this did make me laugh momentarily, the more I think about it, the less I like this ending. I get that it is a good natured jab at online comic fans and resolves the metatextual issues with Prime, but it comes across more like a poorly thought out practical joke that comes across as an insult for everyone that waited so long for the issue. Instead of a grand epic finale, we get an awkward dénouement that ends with this. I just can’t wrap my head around it. It is somewhat like the end of the Wanted comic book (not the stupid movie) only it isn’t the story coming full circle, it is a poor attempt at being cleaver.
• It’s funny in a non-continuity type of way; but something about it just doesn’t sit well with me. It’s not the jab at fanboys; that doesn’t bother me. I think it’s the way it is a deus ex machine ending to take Prime off the board. I just feel like the journey to this point should get more reverence from the ending. Does that make sense? Basically it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
• END SPOILER ALERT. If you chose not to have the ending spoiled for you, you can resume reading now.
• Since I hate ending on such a down note, I would like to point out how brilliant Nei Ruffino’s colors are on the Dawnstar cover. She brings a whole new level of awesome to George Perez’s art, delivering depth and energy that the interiors lacked. This is just one more sign of why she is going to be simply HUGE in this industry.
Verdict: Permission to Avoid. The previous issues were a lot of fun and had a great story. If you go back and reread those, you can just pretend that the villains were defeated at the end of issue #4 to avoid yourself the trouble of reading this train wreck. The haphazard plotting, disappointing art, and simply weird ending simply cannot compare to the actual great moments in this series, including the returns of Kid Flash and Superboy.
15. IMMORTAL WEAPONS #1
Lead Written by Jason Aaron
Lead Art by Mico Suayan, Stefano Gaudiano, Roberto de la Torre, Khari Evans, Victor Olazaba, Michael Lark, Arturo Lozzi, Edgard Delgado, Matt Hollingsworth, Jelena Kevic Djurdjevic, and Jodi Wolf
Backup Written by Duane Swierczynski
Backup Art by Travel Foreman, Stefano Guadiano, and June Chung
Letters by Nate Piekos
Cover by David Aja
• I imagine that I will be in the minority with how I felt about this issue, which goes into great detail to tell the origin of the Immortal Weapon, Fat Cobra, with a backup Iron Fist story of little consequence.
• I did find most of the events of Fat Cobra’s origin to be very interesting. I thought that the irony of his upbringing against his own “memory” of the events to be a good idea; unfortunately, there is little explanation of his memory loss on the huge number of events other than it being a side effect of his drinking. Given how drastically different his life story is from his own memory, I found this to be off-putting and a fairly lazy device to build sympathy.
• Given how great of a writer Jason Aaron is and how well he has handled flashbacks in other books, I was really shocked to see that he realize so heavily on exposition when telling Cobra’s history. That made the entire story feel long-winded and caused me to lose interest here and there.
• I did, however, enjoy the kung-fu sex terms, which was a hilarious twist on the kung-fu naming conventions that Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction developed during their run on Immortal Iron Fist.
• You may have noticed that I listed the full art team for the lead story rather than listing it as “Various” like I normally do with large art teams. I did this to emphasize the ridiculous number of artists on the lead story. While I get what they were going with by having multiple artists handle the flashback (framed by Mico Suayan’s “present day” art), the end result is simply a jumbled mess.
• The backup story did very little to help the problems of the lead. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if this was a throwaway story that was leftover from before Immortal Iron Fist was canceled. It has no relevance to the lead story and isn’t tremendously interesting.
• Travel Foreman puts the nail in the issue’s coffin with his incredibly inconsistent art. Nothing about his art—the anatomy, storytelling, designs, line width, etc—is consistent throughout this short story. You name it, he doesn’t control it.
Verdict: Permission to Avoid. This issue was the perfect opportunity for one of the best writers in comics (Jason Aaron) to flesh out one of the most interesting new Marvel characters of the last few years. Instead, he rambles on and on through heavy exposition, making Fat Cobra the kung-fu version of Forrest Gump (I cringed at all of his “team-ups” in this story). With a backup that doesn’t help any, this issue can’t escape the Avoid section of this week’s Rankings.
14. BLACKEST NIGHT: TALES OF THE CORPS #2
Written by Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi
Art by Various
Letters by Various
Cover by Ed Benes
• I was impressed with last week’s “unnecessary but interesting” Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #1, thanks to the strong character writing and excellent art. This week’s issue is a considerable step down from that issue.
• The strong character writing from last issue is thrown by the wayside here, in favor of long winded exposition and “telling not showing,” especially in the stories of Star Sapphire Carol Ferris and Orange Lantern Blume.
• The first story, focusing on Red Lantern Bleez was really interesting and definitely the anchor of the book, but the other two stories really fell flat. It’s hard to get into a character’s story when you are being beat over the head with it.
• On the subject of Bleez, is it just me or does her non-Lantern design look much better than her Red Lantern design? The two are such extremes in comparison to one another. No one else’s designs seem that ‘twisted’ when obtaining a power ring, so I don’t know why it did with her. Not a major issue, just a bit of a head-scratcher.
• I really enjoyed Gene Ha’s artwork on the Carol Ferris section thanks to his excellent expressions and strong design work. I just wish he had something more interesting to draw.
• Aside from the heavy-handed delivery, my biggest problem with this issue is that it doesn’t add any depth to the larger story or any sort of emotional backdrop for the characters. I don’t feel like there is any reason for me to know any of the information here, except perhaps the Ferris stuff, but the “power of love” mumbo jumbo felt too forced for it to be effective.
Verdict: Read with Caution. This issue had some high points, including great art by Gene Ha and a somewhat interesting origin of Bleez. Unfortunately, the issue simply falls flat in the end thanks to the humdrum art and storytelling that is way more about telling than showing, taking away a lot of the power from the delivery of the previous issue.
13. GOTHAM CITY SIRENS #2
Written by Paul Dini
Art by Guillem March and Jose Villarubia
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Guillem March
• After an interesting, but not fantastic first issue, Gotham City Sirens returns this week, with the titular characters (Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy) getting mixed up in Hush’s new plot to give away the Wayne fortune, developed in last week’s Streets of Gotham.
• To start, I really like the way that this issue is connected with Streets of Gotham, but isn’t really crossing over. You don’t need to read both to get the full story, but it is a bonus if you do.
• Not surprisingly, Paul Dini’s character writing is a mixed bag. On one hand, each character comes across extremely well thanks to Dini’s great sense of “voice.” On the flipside, he is trying so hard to create a unique spin on the dynamic between the characters that the dialogue becomes unnatural. If he were to let things flow organically, rather than forcing Catwoman’s trust issues (which should be inherent), this would be a much strong read.
• In a similar vein, I’m not sure what the point of the “Who is Batman?” garbage was, especially with the “memory suppression” techniques that Talia taught Catwoman. It only marginally connects with the larger story and the flashbacks serve absolutely no purpose.
• I’m very glad to see that Guillem March is exploring new angles with his style. He seems to be going for a Tim Sale-inspired look in this issue and I think that it will look fantastic once he masters it.
• For now, however, the “growing pains” are extremely visible. His noses are really weird looking, he is still relying too much on cheesecake shots, and his ill-defined backgrounds/background characters are extremely distracting. All of this takes away from the strong sense of motion and the fun new style.
Verdict: Read with Caution. This series clearly has what it takes to be one of the best books out there. It has one of the best writers in the business at the helm, features a great cast, and has a future-superstar artist attached. Unfortunately, none of this seems to be coming together thanks to odd characterization, still developing artwork, and some extremely odd plot choices. This could eventually be a can’t miss book, but its got a long way to go before it can live up to its potential.
12. X-FORCE #17
Written by Chris Yost and Craig Kyle
Art by Mike Choi and Sonia Oback
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Mike Choi and Sonia Oback
• Coming out of the Messiah War crossover with Cable, this title is on uneven footing—the crossover story didn’t work out as well as I had hoped, but the creative team for this title did a good job crafting their installments.
• This issue jumps right into the thick of things with a very dense issue, covering a large number of plots and subplots. Unfortunately, if you just jumped on the bandwagon with this book during the recent crossover, a lot of these story beats will be hard to understand. Despite being setup as a post-crossover jumping on point, this is pretty inaccessible.
• The Mutant Response Division (MRD) is a cool idea, but it doesn’t feel too different from anything we’ve seen before. It’ll be a neat foil group for X-Force, though.
• Most of the dialogue in this issue is characters reacting to situations, which doesn’t give Yost and Kyle much room to work their usual writing magic. Writing in this manner helps establish chaos and tension, but it makes most of the characters interchangeable.
• The art by Mike Choi and Sonia Oback is extremely lush, with deep tones and strong expressions. On the flipside, their style is very stiff, making the action look awkward. This isn’t helped by problems of perspective and depth.
• When they are on, the book looks amazing—check out the large panel of Surge being held captive for a fine example of their awesomeness—but when they aren’t on, it can be a bit of a mess.
Verdict: Read with Caution. The plot in this issue is a bit hard to take. In a general sense, its something we’ve seen countless times in various forms; but in terms of specifics, this issue is completely inaccessible to new readers. The art by Choi and Oback is the saving grace, but even it struggles with some major issues.
11. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #16
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Wesley Craig and Nathan Fairbairn
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Pasqual Ferry
• Don’t adjust your computer monitors, this is not a drill. This week’s Guardians of the Galaxy is indeed ranked at #11.
• In this week’s time traveling issue, Star-Lord’s current faction of the Guardians of the Galaxy meet the Guardians of the Galaxy of the future (who are actually the classic Guardians) after being forced forward in time while on the during the events of the War of Kings epic.
• Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning use this plot device as an interesting way to show the thread of the “Fault” that Warlock has been complaining about for some time now.
• The writers offer little introduction or explanation of the future/classic Guardians, so that whiel this might be a nice book for fans of those characters, readers not familiar with the original team are going to be lost.
• In the midst of this there are a few strong character moments, mostly between Mantis and Yonou, but the lack of setup with the non-current characters made it very hard to get invested in the interaction.
• The other problem I had was that the plot was simply too visceral for my tastes. We get a surface “classic Marvel Team-Up” (heroes meet, fight, realize they are on the same side, then join forces) but little is offered beyond that. Given the depth the series normally has, this is a disappointing turn of events.
• Wesley Craig’s art looks a lot like stills from a cartoon series, giving it a fun style that is a bit looser than what you’d see in most sci-fi comics. It’s very expressive, but his choice of poses looks very awkward throughout the issue. That gives the book a stiff feel and leads to some distracting anatomies. This problem is enhanced by the shifting character sizes throughout the book; a major consistency problem that derails the art.
Verdict: Mildly Recommended. If you are a fan of the old Guardians of the Galaxy, you’ll probably love this issue; if you are like me and your only experience with the Guardians is the new characters, this issue isn’t going to be as effective. I don’t say this very often with this series, but you may want to prepare yourself for disappointment before picking this one up.
That’s it for today! The remaining issues will be reviewed in Part 2 of the Comic Book Review Power Rankings tomorrow afternoon. Can Nova make up for the weak issue of Guardians of the Galaxy? Will this week’s Dark Wolverine live up the surprisingly strong performance of the previous issue? Who will take the Top Spot? Find out all this and more by checking back tomorrow afternoon as I countdown the Top 10 comic books of the week!