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.
As per usual, the always brilliant Tiny Titans and ever-enjoyable Wednesday Comics were part of my purchases this week, but won’t be on the Rankings for various reasons. I did really dig both of them, though, so you can pretend that I did review them with a Strongly Recommended verdict.
07. SUPERGIRL #44
Written by Sterling Gates
Art by Jamal Igle, Jon Sibal, and Nei Ruffino
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Fernando Dagino, Raul Fernandez, and Mazi
• I’ve always been sucked into reading all of the books in a crossover if it enters into one of the titles I’m currently reading—even if I’m not picking up the other books regularly. With the current line-wide Superman crossover, Codename: Patriot, I decided to only pick up the issues I’d normally pick up instead. It’s a bold experiment as a reader and I can honestly say that the results weren’t that great.
• In terms of craft, this issue is fairly strong. Both Sterling Gates and the art team perform admirably given the circumstances.
• I was especially impressed with Jamal Igle’s work here. It had good energy and some of the strongest expressions of the week. It wasn’t Igle’s best work, but he certainly didn’t disappoint.
• I’m also glad to see Igle teaming up with Nei Ruffino, whose bold coloring and strong “lighting” is a good fit for Igle’s iconic approach to the cast. It’s big, bold art all around.
• The problem with the issue is that there are almost no clues as to what is going on or what has gone on previously. DC’s lack of a recap page, combined with a dense script left me completely in the dark.
• Given that this storyline is running through four books, some consideration should have been paid to readers who weren’t along for the whole ride.
Verdict: Read with Caution. If I were reading this entire crossover, this would be a pretty strong issue and would’ve pulled in some form of a recommendation. However, jumping in for just one issue, I found myself completely lost in the too-tight plotting and lack of recapping. The craft is solid on all fronts, but if you aren’t reading all of Codename: Patriot or you aren’t a Supergirl completeist, there isn’t much of a reason to pick this one up, other than the pretty pictures.
06. THE MIGHTY AVENGERS #28
Written by Dan Slott and Christos Gage
Art by Khoi Pham, Allen Martinez, and John Rauch
Letters by Dan Lanphear
• This week’s Mighty Avengers tightens its focus to just two main plots—Quicksilver and US Agent having all sorts of trouble with an Inhuman outcast in China and Stature trying to uncover the truth about Scarlet Witch (Loki in disguise). One plot is pretty awesome and the other isn’t; the two cancel each other out, leaving the issue to be pretty “meh.”
• I had a lot of fun with the Stature/Scarlet Witch storyline. The strong pacing and quality character work from Christos Gage made it incredibly readable. Plus, it’s about time Wiccan and Speed got to confront their “mother.”
• I especially dug the resentfulness the other Young Avengers directed at Stature—this is a scene that should’ve been written when she first joined the Initiative and is long overdue.
• The other storyline really didn’t work for me. US Agent remains pointless and even Gage seemed at a loss for what to do with him, leading to some iffy interaction that was more clichéd than clever.
• It also doesn’t make much sense that the Avengers would be so stupid as to assume that if Quicksilver and US Agent can’t be reached and haven’t checked in, it means they are fine. It’s a small plot point, but it’s pretty aggravating.
• The saving grace for the issue was Khoi Pham, who works his usual magic here. This issue is almost all widescreen action, which does add some spice to the otherwise disappointing China scenes, and is crammed full of tight close-ups with strong expressions. There is some stiffness to the art and the storytelling doesn’t always flow logically, but Pham’s boldness and strong designs make up for it.
Verdict: Mildly Recommended. Half of the issue is really intriguing and the art is pretty great, but the Quicksilver and US Agent adventure is so painfully dull that it nearly overwhelms the better parts of the issue. Once that storyline has passed, I’ve got a feeling that this book could rocket into “can’t miss” territory—especially if Khoi Pham sticks around a bit longer.
05. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #603
Written by Fred Van Lente
Art by Robert Atkins, Victor Olazaba, and Jeromy Cox
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Stephane Roux
• You may notice that the cover I’ve posted for this review isn’t the standard cover for this issue. That’s because the regular cover is pretty bad. As a fan of Stephane Roux’s usual work, I refuse to acknowledge that it exists from this point forward, so instead you get the variant by Mike Mayhew. Enjoy.
• Picking up where last issue left off (Chameleon stole Peter’s identity), this issue takes an interesting approach by focusing solely on the actions of the villain, though that is pretty easy to do when said villain is impersonating the lead character.
• I really like how sadistic Fred Van Lente is here with how the Chameleon is disupting Peter Parker’s life. He isn’t just content using Peter to get closer to his terrorist plans, he also feels the need to cause problems whenever possible—including taunting Flash Thompson for his disability and shoving the memory of Gwen Stacy upon Mary Jane. It’s sick and it’s dark and it’s tremendously enjoyable.
• The only problem with it is that for most of the issue, Chameleon is far too familiar with the events and actions of Peter’s life. He seems clueless on certain relationships, but still manages to piece everything else together rather quickly—too quickly to be plausible, even by comic book logic.
• I did, however, get a good laugh with the Chameleon’s comment about all of the women in Peter’s life being gorgeous.
• Robert Atkins tackles the art—making him the third artist in three issues on this arc—and does a good job with it. His storytelling and expressions are top-notch, though he does have some problems with design consistency and drawing jaw-lines. It’s a far cry from his GI Joe work, but is a solid effort nonetheless.
Verdict: Strongly Recommended. Fred Van Lente’s relentless sadistic streak for the Chameleon makes this strongest issue of this arc; every scene of this dense issue is the Chameleon turning the screws just a little bit more, which builds great tension for the next issue.
04. POWER GIRL #4
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art by Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts
Letters by John J. Hill
Cover by Amanda Conner
• After an action-packed opening arc, the creative team slows things down with this week’s Power Girl #4, as the titular character takes time out to bond with Terra and to pay a bit more attention to her secret identity.
• First of all, I’m glad to see Terra staying on as Power Girl’s sidekick. This really helps flesh out PG’s personality, as we get to see her in a mentoring role, and the interaction between the two is handled extremely well. Terra’s naiveté balances well against Power Girl’s “worldliness” and it led to some great moments here—in particular Terra’s learning the ropes of being a superhero and the hilarity of the movie theatre scene.
• My biggest complaint with the first arc was how poorly developed the support cast from Power Girl’s civilian identity’s company were—which is still a problem here. I get what they are doing and the purpose they serve, but their personalities and how they should be relating to Power Girl definitely needs to be fleshed out more.
• As per usual, Amanda Conner’s art is the true selling point. We all know that her work is energetic, expressive, and features awesome designs, but what really impressed me here were her layouts. She does a great job of controlling the pacing and keeping things fresh by using a strong mix of layouts. Some pages have standard rigid grids, others are a chaotic collage, and some are simply inventive in their execution. It’s a great showcase and, despite its range, is incredibly cohesive.
Verdict: Strongly Recommended. This one has it all—great character work, strong action, and gorgeous art. If you had doubts about how good this series was going to be, this issue is a great showcase of its potential. There are some glaring problems that need to be addressed, especially with the supporting cast (except Terra), but this issue goes a long way to show that Power Girl is more than just a busty Superman rip-off.
03. BATMAN: STREETS OF GOTHAM #3
Lead Written by Paul Dini
Lead Art by Dustin Nguyen, Derek Fridolfs, and John Kalisz
Lead Letters by Steve Wands
Co-Feature Written by Marc Andreyko
Co-Feature Art by George Jeanty, Karl Story, Jack Purcel, and Nick Filardy
Co-Feature Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Dustin Nguyen
• Since its debut, Batman: Streets of Gotham has struggled to find its identity amongst the other post-RIP Bat-books. As such, its been a bit of a disappointment, especially given how strong Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen’s run on Detective Comics was. Thankfully, this issue is just the kick in the pants this book needed.
• The highlight of the lead story was the strong character work by Paul Dini. He covers a broad range of events in here, including Dick Grayson’s reaction to Hush impersonating Bruce Wayne and giving away to the Wayne fortune to various projects and organizations, as well as Zsasz’s “induction” into the Penguin and Black Mask’s crime family. Dini handles all of the “voices” with extreme comfort and none of the scenes feel of character—even Zsasz’s makeover is perfectly in line with what you’d expect (and is quite awesome).
• The plot here is fun, including the twist on how Dick is going to deal with Hush’s very public take on Bruce Wayne’s persona. There are a few things that I was lost in—including the large number of people that seemed to know who Batman is, the absence of Firefly despite his prominence in previous issues, and Damian’s seemingly abrupt change to how he feels about Hush.
• Dustin Nguyen’s art in the lead story is as strong as ever—though he does seem to draw Damian surprisingly old, which was also a problem with how Dini wrote him. He shouldn’t be a teenager, but is presented as such (though I thought his reaction to Katana was fun).
• The co-feature is brutal and action-packed, making it very similar to the early Andreyko’s early Manhunter stories, with Kate having to be more resourceful to defeat her foes. The only problem is that the first two installments of the story weren’t tremendously memorable, so I found myself a bit lost on why Manhunter was being attacked by Jane Doe.
• The art in this story was definitely George Jeanty’s best effort thus far; it’s extremely dark and atmospheric—a perfect fit for the tone. The most noticeable issue was the shading, though it isn’t clear if this was a problem with the original line work, the inker, or the colorist. Regardless, it made some shots of Kate’s face look distractingly misshapen.
Verdict: Strongly Recommended. This issue is definitely closer to the level of quality that the creative teams are capable of than the previous issues had been. Dini and Nguyen show strong chemistry in the clever lead story, while the back-up features a good balance of brutality and engaging character work to remind me why the original Manhunter series was so addictive. I was ready to drop this title, but after this issue, I’ve found reason enough to stick around for a while.
02. X-MEN: LEGACY #227
Written by Mike Carey
Art by Dustin Weaver, Ed Tadeo, and Brian Reber
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Terry Dodson
• Mike Carey continues his transition to the new direction for X-Men: Legacy with this issue that wraps up the “unofficial” tie-in story to the Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men crossover, which finds Rogue and Company working to save the mutant Trance from Norman Osborn’s forces during the San Francisco riots.
• This is a simple, direct story that features extremely strong characterization and interaction. It’s a nice change of pace from the overly complex X-stories of late. Carey isn’t trying anything fancy here and that works in his favor.
• It’s great to see him put Rogue in the position of a leader, which is a great way to kick-off her expanded role as the lead character in the title. Carey does a good job of showing that Rogue “has what it takes” for the spotlight while remaining true to the core of the character.
• Plus, he manages to make the “current” Ms. Marvel (Moonstone) pretty interesting in the cleverly orchestrated fight scene that dominates the second half of the issue—something that I didn’t really think was possible (I’m sorry, the only thing duller than regular Ms. Marvel is fake Ms. Marvel).
• Dustin Weaver’s art follows a similar path as Carey’s writing. Its clean designs and strong linear storytelling. His expressions help push the tone and his action is well-choreographed. When you add in his strong character representations, it makes me a little sad that he’ll be leaving the series after this arc.
• With such strong craftsmanship on the writing and the interior art, my biggest problem with the issue is horrible anatomy on the cover by Terry Dodson. Yikes—people do not actually bend that way!
Verdict: Don’t Miss This Issue. There’s nothing fancy or earth-shattering about this issue. It’s just quality craftsmanship on an enjoyable plot. The directness of the creative team’s approach is a welcome breath of fresh air and a big reason why this issue is so great. It’s easy to get lost in the fun and personality of this issue, which is a major compliment to the effectiveness of Mike Carey and Dustin Weaver.
01. BATGIRL #1
Written by Bryan Q. Miller
Art by Lee Garbett, Trevor Scott, and Guy Major
Letters by John J. Hill
Cover by Phil Noto
• The internet is all a-buzz about the debut issue of Batgirl, which finds a new lady donning the cape and cowl for the first time…well, this particular cape and cowl, that is. Since I can’t really praise it with out spoiling things (pun not intended, actually), we are on full SPOILER ALERT.
• This is a strong debut for Stephanie “Spoiler” Brown as Batgirl—Bryan Q. Miller quickly sets up her status quo as an outcast in the Bat-family, develops her non-hero identity, and even finds a place for the original Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, in the supporting cast.
• Miller wrote a great line from Dick Grayson about Stephanie not being as good as the “other” Batgirl. This does highlight the problem that most of the internet seems to have with this one. It isn’t clear why Cassandra would drop the mantle and Miller makes no bones about playing this one close to his chest.
• However, I do have to hand to Miller by keeping the moment where the torch passes in character for the previous Batgirl. Cassandra has had a close friendship with Spoiler in the past and it would make sense given her near-adoption by Bruce Wayne (and surprisingly close relationship to him) that she would not want to continue carrying his legacy after he is gone. This is a girl who has had everything taken from her and built her role in the Bat-family out of that—having Bruce gone takes away the meaning of her role and so she passes it on to some eager to follow the crime fighting path and someone that she can trust. This all happens in a relatively short scene, but Miller executes it with surgical precision—the answers might not be in your face, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
• Miller also does a great job of keeping things light and accessible. You get to see how things are with Stephanie and what her feeling on crime fighting is—all perfectly in character with her headstrong, often times irresponsible, but ultimately likable demeanor.
• The interaction throughout the issue and the inner monologue from Batgirl all worked extremely well. After this and his few issues on Teen Titans, I’m quickly becoming a big fan of Miller’s character work.
• Although, I do have to nitpick a bit and point out that no college freshman would be taking a 400-level philosophy course, especially not in their first semester. It’s a minor problem, but one that was noticeable enough to disrupt the flow of the issue for me.
• The art by Lee Garbett is solid, but nothing spectacular. His approach is pretty standard to DC’s overall sense of style and reminds me a lot of Freddie Williams—which is a good fit for the title as it is essentially replacing the role of the Robin solo book. He brings a lot of energy and personality to the book, which is nice, and he draws teenagers as teenagers, which is even better. Seriously, it is ridiculous how many artists can’t seem to draw a teenager looking any younger than 35 these days.
Verdict: Don’t Miss This Issue. I imagine I’ll get all sorts of flack for picking this as my Book of the Week, but there really weren’t any issues out there that were this strong of a mix of pure enjoyment and strong craftsmanship. Bryan Q. Miller does a great job of establishing the direction of the new series and writing Stephanie in a manner that is more compelling than I think she has ever been written before. Yes, there are a few plot pieces missing, but that is part of the fun of the ride. For my money, I don’t think there was a more enjoyable book this week and for that, I say don’t miss this one.