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.
After my shop failed to order Absolution #1 from Avatar Press last week, I was lucky enough to have a friend snag me a copy at Wizard World Chicago (sorry folks, I refuse to call it Chicago Comic-Con). It may not be a new release this week, but I still felt that it was worth taking a look at. So, without further adieu, here is a Better-Late-Than-Never Review!
Written by Christos Gage
Art by Roberto Viacava and Andrews Mossa
Covers by Various
• Strong lead-in from #0 issue gives you some insight on where this is going, but it still remains shocking. The super-powered version of Showtime’s Dexter.
• Christos Gage’s characterization is top-notch. You really get to understand John Dusk’s position as a cop fed up with killers getting out and using his powers to stop them.
• Great job setting up a supporting cast, in turn humanizing Dusk, who could quickly become a monster.
• Completely brutal story. From the rapist/killer to Dusk’s own methods, Gage pulls no punches.
• Artwork is a bit odd at times, especially with the very bulbous male character designs. Plus Dusk doesn’t look like himself in-and-out of costume. That is a design error that shouldn’t be happening.
• Strong, bold colors that seem in line with the palette used by other Avatar books—nice sense of company wide cohesion.
Verdict: Strongly Recommended. Amazing to see Gage unleashed. This is not what you’d expect from him in terms of tone and story, but perfectly fits with his talent. Would like to see stronger art with more consistency, but the story still carries it.
14. GI JOE SPECIAL: HELIX
Written by Brian Reed
Art by Joe Suitor
Letters by Robbie Robbins
Covers by David Williams and Joe Suitor
• Introduction of a black ops character Helix, who has the power to be the most important and powerful of all Joes thanks to her mathematical ability to analyze fights and her extreme capability for hand-to-hand combat. Duke is charged with tracking her down in Tokyo and taking down a man with ties to Cobra who hopes to blow up the Japanese Mercantile Exchange.
• Great premise and strong use of Duke by Brian Reed. Reed shows that he has the chops for writing espionage-tinged action and a penchant for GI Joe.
• Major lack of development on Helix. We get a cool introduction to her at the beginning, but her role in the issue is next-to-nothing and the essentially writes her out of the franchise. Total disappointment in the second half of the issue.
• The brisk plot relies too much on exposition, but then breaks down towards the end rather anticlimactically. The “villain” is taken down in one page and, as mentioned above, the new character is essentially written out. Feels like a rip-off.
• The art has its moments of greatness, particularly in Helix’s training sessions. It reminds me a lot of the Luna Brothers or some hazy looking anime that I’ve seen. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of the issue it is large panels devoid of details with poor expressions.
Verdict: Permission to Avoid. This story has a lot of potential, were it fleshed out into a miniseries or a full story arc in the regular title. As it stands, however, you get a few cool scenes of Helix training and a good sense of voice with Duke, but nothing else. The stories comes and goes quickly with little reverie and in the end the reader is left with a horrible climax and a character that probably won’t show up again until well after fans have forgotten that they picked this issue up.
13. BATMAN #689
Written by Judd Winick
Art by Mark Bagley, Rob Hunter, and Ian Rannin
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Andy Kubert
• Dick Grayson continues to attempt to find his footing in this issue, has the same conversations he had with Alfred in the previous issues of the arc, and finds himself falling into a trap set by Penguin who is being systematically foiled by Two-Face.
• Judd Winick is too focused on explaining to us that Dick Grayson is not the same Batman as Bruce Wayne, which keeps him from telling a good story about Dick Grayson not being the same Batman as Bruce Wayne. The scene was already setup on the previous issues, there is no sense in using ¾ of the issue to do it again.
• Winick has a decent enough grasp on the characters from his previous run on this title, but that can’t overcome the dull plot. Things would be different if Winick didn’t rely so much on exposition to push the action. Show me how Two-Face is foiling the Penguin’s run at being the boss of the Gotham crime scene, don’t show me everyone talking about it.
• Mark Bagley’s art is an improvement over the previous issues, but his unrealistic anatomies and dull facial expressions still aren’t doing much for me. I’ve got no problem with ultra-muscular heroes (hell, I’m a fan of Rob Liefeld), but not when the style of muscles-on-muscles Batman doesn’t match the style of every other character, we have a problem.
• Things aren’t made much better by Ian Rannin’s colors, which really don’t take lighting into consideration through most of the issue (making some characters look like Colorforms placed on top of a scene they don’t belong in). Plus the “red washes” of colors don’t add dramatic tension to the scene, they just look sloppy.
Verdict: Permission to Avoid. Winick is clearly capable of writing a better story than this and his strong character voices in this issue are evidence of what he is can do if he applies himself. Unfortunately, the dull plot and unnecessary exposition betray any attempt at doing so. Mark Bagley may be a fan-favorite, but having never seen his Ultimate Spider-Man work, I’m not really sure why. His art is good, but nothing to go crazy over and it has a lot of glaring issues here.
12. UNCANNY X-MEN #514
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson, and Justin Ponsor
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Rian Hughes
• In a rehash of a lot of what has come before, the X-Men plot their revenge against Norman Osborne as the “alliance” between the Dark X-Men and Dark Avengers begins to crack.
• If I were just reading the Uncanny X-Men portions of this crossover, I’d probably enjoy this issue that much more. As it stands, however, the issue feels like a major rehash of what has come before, which really hampered my enjoyment of the issue.
• The character interaction was good, especially when Cyclops takes the reins to lead the X-Men and Emma has trouble controlling her team.
• I’m really on the fence about the art. On one hand, I really enjoy the clean lines and bold designs of the Dodsons, but on the flipside, the art is extremely stiff and a lot of the faces look the same.
• Considering how action packed the issue is, the stiffness is not doing them any favors. Still, I will take their “pin-up” style stiffness over Greg Land’s “disgusting traced” style of stiffness any day.
Verdict: Read with Caution. This issue definitely has its strengths, but as part of the larger crossover it falls flat as it offers very little new content, with the exception of the basics of Cyclop’s ill-defined plan. You can certainly do worse than pick up this issue, but I’m really only prepared to recommend it to folks who skipped the last installment and even then I’ll only recommend it with some warnings.
11. Dead @17: Afterbirth #3
Written by Josh Howard
Art by Josh Howard
Cover by Josh Howard
• This week’s Dead @17 picks up where the last issue left off, with Nara discovering more of the Marked plans and things looking a little less-than-rosy for Heaven’s Militia.
• The biggest problem with this issue is the same problem that plagued the two issues previous, Josh Howard is clearly writing this series for longtime fans and those who aren’t “in the know” are going to find it incredible inaccessible. Long time fans also might have a hard time grasping the issue’s large scope, but the background will certainly help.
• Writing-wise, this Howard’s weakest issue thus far. The story pushes forward quite a bit here, but mostly in background action only. The vast majority of the dialogue is reactionary and the character voices tend to blend together. No clear personalities emerge.
• The art, however, is exactly what you’d expect from Howard. He remains one of the hardest artists to review. Either you really like his pin-up approach to character design or you hate it. If you did it, he gives you more to love here with gorgeous characters, clean line work, and solid pacing.
• Despite his minimalist approach to design, his expressions are solid throughout the issue. You can get the gist of the action just by looking at the art, which is a compliment to Howard’s ability.
Verdict: Read with Caution. This issue just barely misses a “Mildly Recommended” rating due to its inaccessibility. Despite his simple, straight-forward storytelling (both in writing and art), Howard is working on a massive scale and, in this issue’s case, that gets to be a bit too daunting. Howard really needs to dial-it back a bit, drop more clues on what has happened previous, and focus more on current action rather than current reaction. As a whole, I still strongly recommend this franchise, but I think that this particular issue will fare much better when in a collected format.
10. GI JOE #8
Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by S.L. Gallant and Andrew Crossley
Letters by Robbie Robbins and Chris Mowry
Covers by Robert Atkins and Howard Chaykin
• The action picks up in this issue as Baroness makes her escape from Castle Destro, we get our first glimpse into Cobra, and the true intentions of Scarlett’s court-martial are revealed.
• First of all, I really think that Chuck Dixon needs to be praised for his “slow-burn” approach to this series. We are 8 issues in and this is the first time we’ve seen any Cobra troopers. That is a really cool way to set things up and something a patient, longtime fan of the franchise like myself can enjoy.
• As per usual, Dixon’s strong character work is the highpoint of the issue. He does a great job here of balancing the classic interpretations of the characters, particularly the Baroness, with a more modern edge, best scene with Hawk.
• The plot, however, does hold the issue back a bit. I like the overall direction he is going, but I felt that the execution rambles too much for my liking. It seems like there is more set-up than payoff, which works in a macro-sense but in the realm of issue-specific events, it makes things a tad dull.
• What really kept the issue from rising to the upper echelon of the Rankings, however, was the art. S.L. Gallant’s work here is just messy. His line thickness, facial designs, and attention to detail are all over the place.
• It seems like he is considering style changes from panel-to-panel, but never full executes. It makes some panels look unfinished, while others look like he should have stopped working on them long before he did.
Verdict: Mildly Recommended. Chuck Dixon continues to prove that he was a great choice to helm IDW’s relaunch of the GI Joe franchise, though it is painfully clear with this issue that his strong writing can only take the book so far. The haphazard art of S.L. Gallant nearly ruined this issue for me. We may only two issues into his run as artist, but is it too early to call in for a replacement?
09. RED ROBIN #3
Written by Chris Yost
Art by Ramon Bachs and Guy Major
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Francis Manapul
• Tim “Red Robin” Drake continues his hunt for Bruce Wayne in this issue and as he aligns himself with Ra’s al Ghul, he ruminates on what lead him down this considerably darker path.
• I really cannot give enough credit to the way Chris Yost is developing Tim’s persona. This issue features a lot of self reflection and through that we see how this really is a natural progression of Tim’s character and the way he has grown up more like Bruce than Dick Grayson ever did.
• The problem is, this issue doesn’t offer much more than that. We see more of Tim searching and how his alliance with Ra’s al Ghul affects that search, but its never really clear what leads he is following or how he is getting them. If this is to be the focus of this series for some time, we have to see what exactly Tim is following.
• The scene between Tim and Wonder Girl did feel a bit forced, though I did enjoy the line about “Robin needing a Robin,” which is a nice statement about dark Tim is getting.
• With the recent announcement that Aspen’s Marcus To will be taking over the art duties on this series, I can say that this series should only get better and this issue is a prime example of why.
• Ramon Bachs is certainly a capable artist, but he cannot get down a palpable design for Tim. When he is out of costume here, he looks to be about 13; when he is in costume, he looks like he is in his 30s. It’s really hard to swallow, especially since this is Red Robin’s solo title.
• The scene with Wonder Girl and Tim was a bit of a mess—incredibly stiff, strange expressions, and very weird swollen cheeks for Cassie (she looked like my hamster does when he hordes food).
Verdict: Mildly Recommended. This is, admittedly, a step down for this title, but much of that lies in the weakness of Ramon Bachs’s art and the fact that more clarification is needed on the plot. The characterization is still spot on, though, so I’m not worried about the decline in quality becoming a trend.
08. ULTIMATE COMICS: AVENGERS #1
Written by Mark Millar
Art by Carlos Pacheco, Danny Miki, and Justin Ponsor
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Carlos Pacheco, Danny Miki, and Laura Martin
• I should preface this by saying that my only exposure to the Ultimate Comics Universe is one arc of Ultimate X-Men (the one with Cable), the first half of Ultimates 1 in trade, and a few hours spent playing Ultimate Spider-Man on X-Box.
• As a new reader, kudos to Mark Millar for keeping this fairly new reader friendly. He doesn’t assume nor require much previous knowledge and sets up the scene for this brisk issue rather well.
• There isn’t a lot of story here, though, which means that this series might not be that accessible. We see Captain America and Hawkeye battling AIM with a little bit of SHEILD, Iron Man, and Nick Fury thrown in there.
• This is a pretty light read, but it is also an excellent thrill-ride. Millar uses dialogue sparingly, but controls the pace with it well. This is some of the better dramatic tension building I’ve seen from him.
• Hawkeye’s design is amongst the worst superhero outfits I have ever seen. He looks like he should be paintballing with Liberace. Someone seriously fix this.
• I’m really torn on how I feel about Carlos Pacheco’s art. It is a step up from his recent DC work, but it is also really stiff. Given that this is widescreen high-action book, that is not a good thing.
• On the flipside, he is consistent and has strong designs. If the art had a better sense of motion, this would be superb.
• There are also a few places where the art looks traced—particularly with Nick Fury. Since this is a serious allegation that I only reserve for artists who are clearly tracing (a la Greg Land), I’m not going to point fingers, especially when the vast majority of the book clearly isn’t. Those few spots were troubling.
Verdict: Mildly Recommended. This is a fun issue with lots of action that is fairly accessible to new readers. Unfortunately, for the $3.99 cover price, I’m expecting a bit more meat and this issue isn’t offering any. If you can swallow the high price for very little story and no extras, it’s certainly worth checking out.
07. GREEN LANTERN CORPS #39
Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Pat Gleason, Rebecca Buchman, Tom Nguyen, and Randy Mayor
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Pat Gleason, Christian Alamy, and Randy Mayor
• This week’s Green Lantern Corps is a very dense issue that follows the reactions of the Lanterns as they are faced with the horrors of Blackest Night, specifically the rise of the Dead Lanterns.
• There is a lot going on in this issue. There are really three major plots (Green Lanterns vs. Black Lanterns, Arisia dealing with the fallout from the battle of Daxam, and Mongul taking over Korugar), but each scene reveals a number of minor subplots through various bits of dialogue and flashbacks.
• The problem is, Peter Tomasi is simply trying to do too much here. I understand that certain points have to be addressed in order to make the plot work, but there isn’t enough room in this issue to do everything that he wants. Certain things get shortchanged, while others feel shoehorned in.
• That being said, there were certain moments that were tremendously well handled. I really enjoyed Arisia’s reaction to being cast out of Daxam and the hilariousness of Guy Gardner taking Ice on a date to Wrigley Field (though I despise the Cubs with a passion).
• Art-wise, this is amongst the least aesthetically pleasing issues of this series. It looks rushed, with uneven details, some really awkward anatomies (like Soranik Natu’s head not really fitting her body), strange perspectives, etc.
• Of course, the story is packed with so much that the art team was clearly stretched. There are multiple pages with high panel counts, including one with 10 panels, which is likely to put a strain on the work. Like the rest of the issue, the art could have used a slower pace to be more effective.
• Is it just me or is the panel of Kyle and Guy meant to be an homage to something Silver Age-y? I can’t put my finger on what, but Kyle looks to be taking the place of Barry Allen. Kudos to anyone who can point me to what I think I might be seeing here.
Verdict: Mildly Recommended. This one is a mixed bag. You get some strong character moments and a few great scenes from the writing and an uneven showing from the art. There is a lot to like, but just as much that will make you cringe. It’s fun to see the rise of the formerly Green, now Black Lanterns, but some of that fun is spoiled by the execution.
06. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #602
Written by Fred Van Lente
Art by Barry Kitson, Rick Ketcham, and Jeromy Cox
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Adi Granov
• After a solid start to the “Red-Headed Stranger” storyline under Mark Waid, Fred Van Lente picks up the reins in an issue that finds Mary Jane inserting herself more into the life of Peter Parker as our hero attempts to secure a new job working for Mayor J. Jonah Jameson and finds himself in a whole heap of trouble with the returning Chameleon.
• Van Lente does a solid job with the characterization in this issue, with a great sense of voice for Peter and the rest of the supporting cast, especially JJJ. The only character I wasn’t really feeling was MJ, but this is the first we’ve really seen her personality since One More Day, so maybe she was meant to be so over-the-top. For some reason I can’t exactly pinpoint, though, it didn’t sit well with me.
• The Chameleon is considerably darker than before in this issue and really offsets the otherwise happy-go-lucky nature of the issue. It’s an interesting turn for the character, though I was a bit turned off by the fact that he so easily slipped into the role of Peter at the end of the issue. Too easy, maybe?
• I dig that the Chameleon shows up at the same time that the characters appear to be taking on new “lives.” Peter is starting a new job, Jonah is the mayor, Harry’s life is in total disarray, MJ returns for good, and even Glory sees a major shift. It’s a very cool parallel that shows just how smart of a writer Van Lente is.
• Barry Kitson’s art is a major step-up from his first work on this title a few months back. He has really tightened up his expressions and does a solid job with the pacing. The overall look is good, with a nice old-school flair though. It’s not the most impressive issue of the week, but it is a solid effort.
• My biggest problem with the art is a bit nit-picky, but is something that really stood out to me. Kitson is really uneven with his layouts. Some pages feature the panels running right into one another in a tight grid, others have thick white separations, and others still have colored separations. Beyond this, there are a few panels where characters break the borders and end up with limbs in other panels. While Kitson’s style is consistent, his layout certainly isn’t and it was majorly distracting.
Verdict: Strongly Recommended. This is a solid effort from both the writer and the art team. Mary Jane’s return has more substance here than previous and the development of the Chameleon was a good fit for the shifting identities of the characters. A fun issue that will hopefully keep the interest of readers that came back for issue #600.
05. BOOSTER GOLD #23
Lead Written by Dan Jurgens
Lead Art by Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, and Hi-Fi
Co-Feature Written by Matt Sturges
Co-Feature Art by Mike Norton, Sandra Hope, and Guy Major
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, and Uncredited Photographer
• In terms of comics that have been steadily improving as of late, Booster Gold is one of the most notable titles of the last few months. This issue is definitely the strongest since I came back to the title.
• In the main story, Booster finds himself teaming with Raven in a future where Trigon has taken over the Earth thanks to Booster being unable to stop Deathstroke and Black Beetle from killing the Teen Titans.
• Despite the grimness of the story, Dan Jurgens does a great job of filling the issue with solid jokes and fun tangents—a hallmark for Booster Gold.
• While the characterization of Booster Gold is good (as is Jurgens’s take on Raven), the future “heroes” that Booster meets (Kyle Rayner and Zatanna) weren’t quite as personality filled. Quite frankly, Jurgens really could’ve used any character, established or not, in these roles. Kind of a bummer since the fun of alternate timelines is often how the characters we know are changed by the world we don’t.
• I really like the way the panel borders switch from white in the past to black in the post apocalyptic future. It’s a minor effect, but one that is effective in helping shape the tone.
• The backup wraps up the first Blue Beetle storyline and features more solid character work from Matt Sturges. It’s a bit heavy-handed at times, but I do enjoy where he is going with Paco and Brenda.
• Jaime’s interaction with the Scarab is always a hoot. While I though the gag was a bit funnier when the Scarab wasn’t translated, I am glad to see Sturges continuing to treat Beetle’s suit as a character.
• The art in the backup is by Mike Norton, so you already know that it is excellent. Sandra Hope’s inks are a bit tighter than what you’ll find in Mike Norton’s other works this week (more on that later), giving us a “pure” look at Norton’s work.
Verdict: Strongly Recommended. The co-feature is still the highlight of the series for me, but the lead story made me feel much better about picking up the entire book than it has in the past. This is the first time it seemed that Dan Jurgens was comfortable back in the writing-seat. I’m still a bit confused about Blair Butler’s cameo, though. Unless you are a big fan of G4, her appearance on the cover is a bit baffling and her one-panel cameo in the issue does little to help that. It makes you wonder why DC even bothered.
04. BLACKEST NIGHT #2
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert, Julio Ferreira, and Alex Sinclair
Letters by Nick J. Napolitano
Cover by Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert, and Alex Sinclair
• The second issue of Blackest Night is not quite as mind-blowing as #1, but just as shocking. You can expect lots of gore and whole lot of disturbing imagery in this issue; but honestly, you’d be disappointed if you didn’t see all that.
• There is a lot going on in this issue, but Black Lantern Aquaman, Dolphin, and Aquagirl steal the show in their relentless attack on Tempest and Mera. This is the second best usage of Aquaman in years (oddly enough, the best is from this week’s Wednesday Comics with Aquaman-as-Ari-Gold in the Supergirl story).
• I found myself scratching my head at the scenes featuring the Spectre and Deadman. Seriously, how can already dead characters that are somewhat undead become Black Lanterns back from the dead? Isn’t there a rulebook? This makes my head hurt.
• If Green Lantern is already covering the fight between Flash/Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter, it isn’t totally necessary here, is it? This scene felt like a repeat, even with the super cool ending featuring the Black Lantern Justice League—including Black Lantern Firestorm, which is awesome for me (I’m a big fan of Firestorm, both as Ronnie and as Jason).
• Ivan Reis and Company are sick, sick people. They pile on the gore and ick and bile in this issue to produce work that is equally disturbing and impressive.
• The shock value of the artwork is just a front, however, as the quality of the art can be found in the superb character designs. Non-Black Lanterns come across as iconic, while the Black Lanterns themselves are superbly rendered to be both familiar and new.
Verdict: Strongly Recommended. This issue is more flash than substance, especially with the writing. I am did definitely enjoy the issue, but don’t expect the character depth or the gripping plot of the first issue. Instead, you’ll get a series of strong moments with little connect beyond the inclusion of undead superheroes. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the crap out of this issue, especially the artwork, but I didn’t feel tremendous satisfied with the story in the end.
03. ULTIMATE COMICS: SPIDER-MAN #1
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by David Lafuente and Justin Ponsor
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by David Lafuente and Justin Ponsor
• If you skipped over my review of Ultimate Comics: Avengers #1 (which you shouldn’t have done), you should probably scroll up to get my disclaimer about having very little experience with the Ultimate Universe comics. It also applies here.
• Despite being deeply rooted in the events of previous Ultimate Spider-Man stories and the recent Ultimatum (or so I assume), Brian Michael Bendis does a great job of introducing the world of Ultimate Spider-Man here. You get the status quo, the major threats, and the overall personalities of the characters with no filler or unnecessary exposition.
• I really enjoyed the contrast between Peter’s failures at having a job flipping burgers and his successes as Spider-Man. This is a fun contrast to the regular Marvel Universe Spider-Man, which sets readers up right away for the fact that things are certainly going to be different here.
• I loved the personalities in this issue. Despite some differences, Peter Parker here is still the Peter Parker I grew up with. Gwen Stacy’s character is also true to the core. It makes this issue feel “home-y” despite the clear differences in Universes. It takes a steady hand to do this and I give major props to Bendis for pulling it off.
• David Lafuente and Justin Ponsor were a great choice for the art team here. Their loose style has a youthful energy that matches the tone of the writing and draws enough from Japanese influences to starkly contrast it with the classic Ditko-inspired interpretations of the characters that are a hallmark of the original Spider-Man books.
• Seriously, with few exceptions, the art on regular Marvel Spider-Man books have always held tight to classic superhero sensibilities that were first developed by the likes of Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby. Very few books have retained this formula so consistently, despite the various tweaks on it. Lafuente and Ponsor abandon that and it works incredibly well—much the same way that the likes of Takeshi Miyazawa and Craig Rousseau have done with the Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane books.
• The only problem I have is that when in costume, Lafuente makes Spider-Man look a bit too puny and his head is ridiculously round. There is no reason for that and I hope that the mockery of the internet will help Lafuente find the error of his ways.
Verdict: Don’t Miss This Issue. Like its counterpart, Ultimate Comics: Avengers, this is a great introduction to the Ultimate Universe; unlike that issue, however, I really feel that I got my $3.99 worth thanks to the densely packed storytelling and the simply superb showing on all fronts. I don’t agree with Marvel’s choice to price this at $3.99, but if this series continues to be as strong as this issue, I could be swayed to find an extra $4 each month to pick it up.
02. MICE TEMPLAR: DESTINY #2
Written by Bryan J.L. Glass
Art by Victor Santos and Veronica Gandini
Letters by James H. Glass
Covers by Miachel Avon Oeming and Victor Santos with Veronica Gandini
• This first issue of Mice Templar: Destiny had a narrowed scope, focusing mainly on a few events with some strong flashbacks. In the follow-up this week, the story once again returns to its epic scale as the true alliances of King Icarus are revealed and the unlikely duo of Karic and Cassius find themselves in the clutches of the Mole Goblins.
• It still amazes me how much story Bryan J.L. Glass can fit into just one issue. There is simply a ton of story being put together here with every bit of dialogue revealing something new or adding depth to something already established. There is not an smidgen of wasted space in this story.
• Glass’s character work is strong on all fronts, with the lesser moles having just as much personality as the most important mice. The biggest problem with Glass’s character work is that you’ll wish you had more time with each character or group, even after the plot takes the focus of them. You’ll want to see more of the Mole Goblins and the Torture Ferret.
• Victor Santos continues to do a great job with this issue as he channels original miniseries artist Michael Avon Oeming, while throwing in touches of Mike Mignola. He has great consistency, awesome designs, and strong expressions.
• The only major issue with the art is that some of the less-important mice’s appearances tend to run together if you are doing a quick read—a problem that the original series had also faced.
• The issue also includes some solid extra material that explains some of the myth and mysticism in the world of Mice Templar that adds more “bang for your buck.” The issue is well worth the cove price of $3.99 though followers of Bryan Glass on Twitter will be kicking themselves over the fact that the issue should be priced at $2.99 (have your retailer check their invoice if they don’t believe you!).
Verdict: Don’t Miss This Issue. Once again the creative team behind Mice Templar have a can’t miss issue on their hands. Fans of the original series will be pleased to see that the epic scope of the original miniseries returns with this incredibly dense issue. There is a lot to love about all aspects of this issue with very few items warranting a complaint. You can never go wrong with this franchise and this issue is a prime example of why.
01. GREEN ARROW/BLACK CANARY #23
Written by Andrew Kreisberg
Lead Story Art by Mike Norton, Bill Sienkiewicz, and David Baron
Co-Feature Art by Mike Norton, Joe Rubinstein, and Allen Passalaqua
Letters by Pat Brosseau
Cover by Ladronn
• This issue is, by far, the best execution of the co-feature concept since DC launched the initiative earlier this summer. Andrew Kreisberg starts each story off in very different places, but brings them together as each story hits its cliffhanger. In the lead story, Green Arrow begins to hunt down the new Big Game, who is in turn hunting down Cupid for killing his father; in the backup, Black Canary begins by ruminating on the events of the last few issues before being thrown into the role of having to protect Cupid as Green Arrow takes on Big Game.
• The lead story features some amazing parallel storytelling, as Kreisberg alternates between Green Arrow’s story and Big Game’s story before the two converge—following a similar overall arc as the issue as a whole. This is a very creative move that adds an immense amount of depth to the issue and shows just how smart of a writer Kreisberg is.
• In this story, Mike Norton’s layouts are finished by Bill Sienkiewicz, leading to a style that is quite unlike what you’d expect from Norton while still retaining his quality storytelling approach. The scratchiness of the finishes is chaotic and intense—a perfect fit for the tone of the story.
• The coloring by David Baron is equally as impressive. He alternates tones depending on the scene, with reds and blues swapping between Green Arrow and Big Games story, moving to gold for flashbacks, and finally a natural lighting for the converged storytelling. Honestly, how often does the coloring really affect the storytelling? This is just superb.
• The second story had less meat than the first, but is still shows great development for Black Canary. I love the fact that Kreisberg is attempting to flesh out the character rather than being satisfied with her being presented as just an ass-kicking bimbo in fishnets. This thematically a follow-up to the work Gail Simone did with the character in Birds of Prey and belongs in the annuls of Canary’s best writers.
• The art in this story is considerably less extreme than in the first, with Josef Rubinstein’s approach to finishing Norton’s layouts being very tight and clean. He is clearly letting Norton take the lead on the art, but he accents him well.
Verdict: Don’t Miss This Issue. Again, I cannot emphasize enough how well handled the co-feature concept is here. This approach won’t work with every book, but it is something that I think other writers should take notice of. This quality layered storytelling and a fine example of how Kreisberg could turn this series into a can’t miss title. Of course, it helps that he has the art of Mike Norton to back him up. Despite only handling “layouts” (if you’ve seen Norton’s layouts, you’ll understand the need for quotation marks), Norton shows here why he is amongst the best artists of the year. The quality craftsmanship and inventive storytelling from cover to cover make this an easy choice for Book of the Week.