Friday, August 28, 2009

Comic Book Review Power Rankings for 08/26/09

Starting this week, the Comic Book Review Power Rankings is cleaning house, with me cutting down my pull list to more manageable levels, which means some of the books you are used to seeing may not make appearances. However, the good news is that means what is left on the Rankings is the best of the best. And so, what book is the best of the best of the best this week? I can tell you that this is one of the strongest weeks for comics this year and I read some amazing comics this week. If you want to know which of these are “must reads” and which you can probably pass on, you are just going to have to check out the reviews after the jump!

For the uninitiated, the Comic Book Review Power Rankings is a countdown from worst-to-best of my weekly comic book haul. Before reading the issues, I preRank them based on the creative team, previous issues, solicitations, and gut instinct. The final Ranking number is based upon how the issues actually turned out. I attempt to keep everything as spoiler free as possible, but keep in mind that there may be the occasional minor spoiler that I overlook. As always, I can be reached via responses to this thread or at

You may have noticed a few books I’ve been picking up are missing from this week’s Rankings. When my initial pull list ballooned to 22 books this week, I decided to drop a few titles that I’ve only been marginally enjoying or that I wasn’t invested enough in to continue reading. Longtime readers will know that this happens every few months or so. Casualties of this week’s cut back include Wonder Woman, Detective Comics, Red Sonja, Flash: Rebirth, and a handful of others. As always, if you did check out any books that I didn’t, let me know what you thought!

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quietly and Alex Sinclair
Letters by Pat Brosseau
Cover by Frank Quitely
preRanking: 05

• Despite having some reservations about Grant Morrison’s continued involvement in the Batman Franchise after his horrendous run on the lead title, I’ve been really enjoying this more subdued approach to this title. Unfortunately, if this issue is any indication, that reprieve from the insanity for the sake of insanity was short lived.
• This brisk issue seemed to be more focused on being a circus of the absurd (pun intended) than a coherent story. Professor Pyg’s schemes being left ill-defined, with Morrison instead putting his energies behind nonsense dialogue. I’m sure it’s filled with non-sequitur references and high-concepts, but when you use it as filler you aren’t being smart, you are being a bad storyteller.
• I did enjoy the interplay between Dick and Damian who really seem to be growing into their roles in this title, both as individuals and as a team. If Morrison wrote the entire issue like he did their interaction, this might have cracked the Top 5.
• The attack on Le Bossu happens with reason and ends without a point. Morrison is once again throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks—or he just wants to remind us that he wrote the abysmal Batman R.I.P.
• I’m not a fan of Frank Quitely and I won’t pretend to be, but even his biggest fans should be able to agree that this was one of his worst efforts in recent memory.
• The sketchiness of his art looks more like he didn’t bother finishing his ideas rather than it being his stylistic choice and there is a total lack of discernable expressions. Plus, everyone looked like as deformed as Pyg’s victim (Scarlet), which defeats the purpose of her being “doll-ified.”

Verdict: Permission to Avoid. This issue is solidly paced and features some of the best writing of Dick Grayson as Batman that we’ve seen yet. Unfortunately, the art by Quitely is simply bad—perhaps the single worst issue I’ve ever seen from him. Then, of course, there is the problem of Morrison falling back into old habits of haphazard dialogue, unnecessary filler subplots, and insanity for the sake of insanity. As I’ve always said with this aspect of Morrison (after basically being called an idiot on another board), it’s not that I don’t get what he is doing, I get it enough to understand that it isn’t good.

Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Luke Ross, Rick Magyar, Mark Pennington, and Dean White
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Mike Deodato
preRanking: 10

• The Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men pushes on towards its conclusions with this penultimate installment that finds Cyclops revealing his end game and some of the “Dark X-Men” showing their true colors.
• I was impressed with Matt Fraction’s pacing in this issue as uses dialogue and scene placement effectively to build suspense towards a series of minor surprises before launching into the issue’s climax—the revelation of Cyclops’s plan to ensure the safety and sovereignty of the remaining mutants.
• Unfortunately, most of the dialogue in the issue was extremely interchangeable. The less iconic mutants serve no major purpose other than to push the plot along and Fraction didn’t give them a lot of personality unfortunately.
• Along the same lines, the Dark Avengers came across as very one-dimensional villains in this issue. This does build sympathy for the X-Men, but it also over simplifies the plot and puts a damper on all non-mutants by association.
• The biggest problem for the issue, though, is the art. The characters were ill-defined and, except in close-up shots, most of them lacked basic facial details. This is compounded by the fact that there are problems with design consistency through—just check out how Beast and Dark Beast are drawn versus the rest of the characters for a fine example.
• This just shows how important inkers and colorists are to the overall look of an issue. If you’ve seen Luke Ross’s recent work on Captain America, you may be shocked by his work here as it looks completely different. Now, I’m not saying that the shortcomings of the art fall on Magyar, Pennington, and White (who is one of my favorite colorists), but I think Ross’s outputs are worth comparing due to the quality issues here.

Verdict: Read with Caution. This issue has a great plot and left me extremely excited to see how the story finishes out in the Exodus special, but it is betrayed by the execution. This is still a fun read, but its one best done quickly so as not to notice the cracks in its foundation.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen, and Randy Mayor
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, and Hi-Fi
preRanking: 04

• This week’s Green Lantern #45 is perhaps the week’s most ambitious comic, with Geoff Johns touching upon a number of scenes that have been lingering subplots throughout the Blackest Night storyline (for example, Larfleeze’s attack on the Blue Lantern home world).
• There is a lot going on here, but most of the issue feels rushed and hastily put together. The super dense dialogue often overwhelms the art and really throws off the pacing of the story. I think that Johns simply tries to do too much here.
• It doesn’t help that there seemed to be little point in Sinestro’s very personal attack on Star Sapphire Carol Ferris, other than to give her back story. It seemed odd and dominated the issue, which really pushed the seemingly more important scenes to the back burners.
• I really did enjoy the debuting Black Lanterns here, with Amon Sur’s appearance with otheer now-undead Sinestro Corps members being pretty awesome, but not nearly as awesome as Larfleeze’s “victims” rising up while he remotely uses their constructs in his attack on the Blue Lanterns.
• Unfortunately, with the Black Lantern menace invading nearly every scene, it makes the threat feel like it might be spinning out of control. When the aspects of the much hyped War of Light play second fiddle to the rings flying around, it takes away a lot of the impact. As cool as this event has been thus far, I think a slow burn approach might have been more beneficial.
• Although I was a bit disappointed with the writing, Doug Mahnke puts on a show with his art. There is a ton of detail in each panel and his storytelling is extremely strong. The big action aspect of this issue really suits him and he really shines in the issue’s gorgeous spreads.
• The only problem is that for a big chunk of the issue the abundance of dialogue crowds the art and takes the focus off of what Mahnke is doing—inadvertently taking his work for granted.

Verdict: Mildly Recommended. I think that Johns is overextending himself in this issue and, by extension, cracks are now starting to appear in the overall execution of Blackest Night. This issue would be all the stronger if its events took place over several issues, which would allow Johns to apply greater focus to each scene. The saving grace is Doug Mahnke’s simply superb art, but it takes the back seat to an over-ambitious and ultimately unfocused story.

Written by Scott Lobdell
Art by Guillem March
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Guillem March
preRanking: 11

• If you checked out our Post-Crisis Previews earlier this week, you’ll know that I was really excited for this issue because it was solicited as Paul Dini writing a story about Harley Quinn’s unexpected relationship with Hush-as-Bruce-Wayne. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a bait-and-switch as Scott Lobdell instead fills-in with a story focusing on the Riddler teaming up with Batman to take down some Riddler-inspired serial criminals.
• While I was disappointed at first by the replacement, this was a fun little story that was a good follow up to Paul Dini’s reinvention of the Riddler as a well-meaning, but incredibly arrogant detective from his run Detective Comics.
• Lobdell shows a good perspective on the story’s main characters, though the titular characters (Poison Ivy and Catwoman) came across as extremely one-dimensional in their brief appearance.
• I really like the idea of the Riddler-inspired killers and their off-beat origin (reminded me a lot of Harley’s origin). I hope that this isn’t the last we see of them, as I they show promise. A strong writer could do great things by fleshing them out.
• While the character work is fun, the plot has some gaping holes, including the pattern that the Riddler and Batman find in the crimes never being fleshed out. In the end, their success seems to be more attributed to random guesses than actual detective work.
Guillem March’s art continues to show improvement in his storytelling, with much strong panel choices and better layouts. He is clearly getting better and continues to show great potential.
• Unfortunately, his design work isn’t tremendously sharp here. His take on Batman is incredibly stiff and bulky and depending on the angle of his perspective, Riddler’s facial features shift considerably throughout the issue. It is this type of inconsistency that could really put a damper on March’s status.

Verdict: Mildly Recommended. This one is more fluff than anything else, but for a standalone fill-in story, it is a lot of fun. There are problems with the craft and I think that Lobdell was a bit too focused on aping Dini’s style, but it is certainly worth a read, especially if you enjoy the new direction of the Riddler.

10. X-FORCE #18
Written by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost
Art by Mike Choi and Sonia Oback
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Mike Choi and Sonia Oback
preRanking: 14

X-Force was originally one of the books that I had planned on cutting this week, but a vote from my Twitter followers convinced me to give the series another shot. While this wasn’t the week’s strongest book, it was solid enough that I’m glad I gave it a second chance.
• There is a lot going on in this issue and the writing team of Craig Kyle and Chris Yost deserve praise for finding a solid balance amongst the issue’s many scenes. The subplots are pushed into the background, but they aren’t forced into the story and nothing really gets shortchanged in terms of “face time.”
• Accessibility remains a major issue with this series. Unless you are well aware of some of the X-Men’s greatest past threats—most notably the Leper Queen in this issue—you aren’t going to get the full impact of the issue.
• I absolutely loved the confrontation between Wolverine and Cyclops in this issue. It is a perfect distillation of Wolverine’s gruff, protective nature and Cyclops’s arrogant, often undeserved confidence. It’s a total fanboy moment that is executed very well.
• The art by Mike Choi and Sonia Oback is very lush and is simply gorgeous at first glance with its stylized realism (realistic anatomy, but seemingly Eastern-influenced). Upon closer inspection, the art does have a tendency towards stiffness, which kills a lot of the momentum in any action-oriented sense.
• At times that colors are also just a hair too dark, causing some of the details to be lost. I understand the palette is being used for atmosphere, but I think it needs to be scaled back just a it.
• There is one panel early on in the issue that I think is worth spotlighting. Right before we find see the fate of Surge, there is a close-up of a shocked Domino that is simply one of the best panels of the week. Kudos to Choi and Oback for simply nailing that one.
• This issue does also set the stage for the recently announced Necrosha storyline that features various mutants coming back from the dead to wreak all sorts of havoc—sounds a lot like DC’s Blackest Night, doesn’t it? As much as I like the craft of this issue and am interested in where Kyle and Yost are taking the characters, I’m not tremendously enthused about these plot developments.

Verdict: Mildly Recommended. While some of the same issues that nearly caused me to drop this series are present (most notably the lack of accessibility), the character work ahs really tightened up and the art team puts forth a very strong effort. While there are a lot of things I’d like to see the creative work on, I have to hand it to my Twitter followers for steering me back towards this issue. The only problem is that I’ve got a sinking feeling that the upcoming Necrosha storyline could derail my enjoyment of this series—it just doesn’t appeal to me in the same way that a standard black ops X-Force story would.

Written by Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Onofrio Catacchio, and Marte Garcia
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Lenil Yu and Jason Keith
preRanking: 01

• The titular character takes a step back in this week’s Dark Wolverine, allowing his machinations to take the lead as the Fantastic Four confront Norman Osborn and all hell breaks loose thanks to Daken playing both sides.
• While this issue did lack a lot of the sick charm that has made the previous issues so great, the interaction amongst the characters was a lot of fun. My only problem is that there is a lot of “what you see is what you get” with the dialogue—another shift from the complexities of the previous issues.
• I love how its still unclear where Daken stands on anything, allowing him to shift alliances constantly, which keeps the story fresh and makes him all the more compelling.
• There is a lot of energy in Giuseppe Camuncoli’s art, which helped carry the title when the action started. He really brought the impact for characters like Ares and the Thing.
• There were some strange design choices, most notably the unnecessary lines and shading on the male faces, which is a stark contrast to the cleaner, sleeker faces of Ms. Marvel and Invisible Woman. It’s awfully hard to reconcile the two styles and is quite jarring when male and female characters are in the same panel.
• There is also the problem of Camuncoli falling prey to the chaos he is showcasing when the action begins. His line work and sense of storytelling breaks down, showing that he needs a bit more discipline. Conveying a sense of urgency in a fight is a good thing, but not at the expense of logical panel progression.

Verdict: Strongly Recommended. Compared to the first two issues, this one is a noticeable step down in quality, but it is still a very solid read. The character work is fun, but it quickly takes a back seat to the confrontation between Osborn, the Dark Avengers, and the Fantastic Four, which is problematic when the art struggles to carry the action. That being said, it is very cool to see Daken’s schemes in motion and the ending has me excited to see what sort of madness he is going to pull off next.

Written by J.T. Krul
Art by Ed Benes, Rob Hunter, Jon Sibal, JP Mayer, and Hi-Fi
Letters by Rob Clark
Cover by Ed Benes, Rob Hunter, and Rod Reis
preRanking: 13

• In the purge of my pull list, I decided to only pick up one of the Blackest Night tie-in miniseries, choosing Blackest Night Titans because, frankly, they’ve suffered more loss than any other characters and with the promise of returning dead-Titans like Terra, I looked forward to reveling in the inevitable suffering and carnage (I know, that’s sick of me, but isn’t that why we love books like Blackest Night?).
• From the get-go, I have to applaud J.T. Krul for how well he handles the large cast of this issue and their strong personalities. With the exception of one character (more on that in a moment), he nails the characterization and even manages to make second-tier Titans like Hawk and Dove interesting.
• I like the juxtaposition of the “Heroes Day” celebration of the lives of fallen Titans with the celebration of the returning Kid Flash and Superboy, which is then juxtaposed with the horror of the returning Black Lantern Titans. It’s very cool.
• There is a great build of intensity throughout the issue, with all of the mini-confrontations setting the stage for the violent final moments.
Beast Boy’s pining over Terra was handled extremely well and really pulled at the heartstrings, which made the blatant insensitivity and, quite frankly, rudeness of Starfire really off-putting. Her bluntness is a major character trait, but this seemed to push it too far and was detrimental to her character.
• I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed the art by Ed Benes. Yes, the book is filled with unnecessary cheesecake shots (Benes’s calling card), though I was surprised by how much he branched out his female face and body designs. In his Justice League of America work, almost every woman looked exactly the same, so at least he is learning!
• All kidding aside, Benes’s work was very expressive and energetic, breathing a lot of life into the dialogue-heavy issue. Plus, it is surprisingly consistent given that there were three inkers working over his pencils.

Verdict: Strongly Recommended. Longtime Titans fans should really enjoy this one. It’s shocking, violent, heartbreaking, and, at times, a lot of fun. It’s really all that I expected, but with better art than I had anticipated. In fact, for most of the issue, I was so impressed with Benes’s take on Hawk & Dove that I wouldn’t have minded seeing him handle the art chores on a miniseries starring the duo. That is, of course, until the end of this issue ripped through any possibility of that.

Written by John Ostrander
Art by Jan Duursema, Dan Parson, and Brad Anderson
Letters by Michael Heisler
Cover by Jan Duursema and Brad Anderson
preRanking: 09

• It’s really hard to believe that we are now 39 issues into this series, which I think is a testament to its quality as an entire series more than it is individual issues. This issue really made me think about the series as a whole and how it has progressed as a single narrative. I’ve got to applaud John Ostrander and Jan Duursema for that.
• This issue marks a turning point for Cade thanks to his visions of his ancestor Luke Skywalker as he is trapped in Luke’s old homestead while on the run from the Black Sun assassins. This issue makes it clear that Legacy isn’t about the happenings of the universe thousands of years after the original Star Wars trilogy so much as it is about Cade’s personal journey—just as the films aren’t really about the rise and fall of the Galactic Empire as they are about Anakin Skywalker’s descent and eventual atonement.
• The character interaction in this issue is a lot of fun, though it is getting a bit old that Cade seems to have romantic chemistry with every female character he comes into contact with.
• The Cade/Luke scenes were heavy-handed at time, but I think that Ostrander’s strong understanding of both characters kept it poignant and effective.
• While the writing was strong, this was an uncharacteristically weak issue for Jan Duursema, whose work is wickedly inconsistent throughout the issue.
• Plus that is seriously the weirdest looking Luke Skywalker I’ve seen in some time.
• There were also problems with the inking. The spot blacks were used far too often and were fairly ineffective at conveying depth and lighting, which was pretty distracting.

Verdict: Strongly Recommended. The well-executed and interesting introspective story struggles to overcome the shortcomings of the art, but eventually wins out with strong character work and a clear effectiveness. This issue isn’t making strong claims to be a turning point in the series—it doesn’t have to. Instead the story speaks for itself as the series enters a new chapter naturally, rather than using some sort of sudden, majorly traumatic event to push things forward.

06. DYNAMO 5 #24
Written by Jay Faerber
Art by Mahmud A. Asrar and Ron Riley
Letters by Charles Pritchett
Cover by Mahmud A. Asrar and Ron Riley
preRanking: 07

• This week’s Dynamo 5 finds the team under serious attack as Father Gideon’s relationship to Maddie is revealed and Synergy makes a major play against the titular team.
• This issue is a great mix of action and character development, much like the glory issues of old. Its with this mix that Jay Faerber shines, so I’m glad to see him back to form.
• Fareber did a great job with the uncomfortable nature of Scatterbrain’s reaction to Myriad’s “revelations.” It is a realistic cautious acceptance that showed the depth of Scatterbrain’s care for his “brother,” mixed with a natural apprehension that goes with his upbringing. It’s smart, subtle character work.
• The action sequences move a bit too briskly at times, but I think that helps builds a sense of helplessness for the individual team members that heightens the shock of the issue’s cliffhanger.
• While the writing is definitely back on track, we can an unusually weak issue from Mahmud Asrar. There are quite a few rough spots of inconsistency with the details and line widths, which were really distracting, especially coming from such a clean working artist.
• He still brings a lot of energy and his storytelling is generally strong, but it’s the fine points (details, line widths, facial expressions, etc) that seem to be losing focus here. It’s very unusual for Asrar, though I’m sure he’ll bounce back next issue.

Verdict: Strongly Recommended. Hooray for steady improvement as Dynamo 5 drops its second solid issue this month! This is the Dynamo 5 that I’ve been missing. The issue does move a bit too briskly for my tastes; I just wanted to revel in the goodness a bit longer, I guess. Were it not for the out-of-character dip in quality from Mahmud Asrar, this would definitely be a can’t miss issue and a fine return to form for the series.

05. RUNAWAYS #13
Written by Kathryn Immonen
Art by Sara Pichelli and Christian Strain
Leters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by David LaFuente and Christina Strain
preRanking: 08

• After years of mystery, with nothing more than hints and allegations, the truth behind Chase’s “murder” comes to light in this issue as the Runaways escape their Malibu hideaway after a confrontation with Chase’s mysterious uncle.
• After last issue’s disappointment, I was unsure of how well Kathryn Immonen could handle the characters full-time. She wowed me with her first issue, but the last one fell flat. Thankfully she bounces back in this issue and shows a great level of comfort with the characters and their relationships.
• I was particularly impressed with her handling of Nico, who comes across as very nuanced in this issue. Her teen angst, natural motherliness, and complex understanding of her de facto leadership of the group all really come out here. It’s really the first time since Brian K. Vaughan left the title that I feel that someone really “got” Nico.
• Nico’s budding “romance” here felt a bit forced, though if I’m not mistaken this isn’t the first time such a scene has happened in the series. I’m not sure where Immonen is going with this, but I suspect that she is building up some internal conflict to have repercussions with Gert’s apparent return this Fall (I really wish the solicited cover hadn’t spoiled that).
• The biggest problem with the writing is that the plot of the “villains” is never tremendously clear. They are obviously after something, but it really seems like the entire conflict is just a means to get the team out of Malibu and back into Los Angeles, especially with how quickly and “cleanly” (relatively speaking) everything wraps up here.
Sara Pichelli’s art is a ton of fun, with gorgeous designs and super expressive characters, but the lack of backgrounds didn’t sit well with me. I understand that part of the story seemed to warrant it, but even when it didn’t the backgrounds were extremely sparse.
• The problem is that her storytelling and designs are so solid. Unfortunately, even if you’re characters look great and the ideas look great on the page, if you can’t fill in backgrounds for each panel, you’ve still got a long way to go.

Verdict: Strongly Recommended. If you can get passed Immonen’s often unfocused narrative style and Pichelli’s lack of backgrounds, you’ve got a wonderful issue on your hands. This is clearly a capable creative team and they have something great going here, they just need to fix those glaring issues to make this can’t miss book once again. I’ve got faith that they can do it, I’m just hoping it happens sooner rather than later.

Lead Story Written by Bryan Q. Miller
Lead Art by Joe Bennett, Jack Jadson, and Rod Reis
Co-Feature Written by Sean McKeever
Co-Feature Art by Yildiray Cinar, Julio Ferreira, and Rod Reis
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Joe Bennett

• I have to say, even without reading anything by future regular series writer Felicia Henderson, it is a damn shame that Bryan Q. Miller will be leaving Teen Titans after this issue. This arc has been simply fantastic and Miller closes it out with style.
• Once again, Miller’s spot-on characterization—whether it be Wonder Girl’s exhausted and broken down leadership or Kid Devil’s sense of heroism or Blue Beetle’s teenage aloofness—is the highlight of this issue. From the in-fight quipping all the way through the funeral of the team’s fallen member (sorry y’all, no spoilers here!), the dialogue is fiull of personality and used extremely effectively.
• What impresses me most about this issue, and really Millers entire run, is the fact that it starts with the team in shambles and facing implosion, but after facing tragedy, they unify and develop a strong bond. Miller’s execution of this reminded me a lot of the Wolfman/Perez era of Teen Titans and I hope that future writers use this as a springboard for the team to remain stable for a while.
• The only thing that really didn’t work for me was the brief appearance of Kid Eternity, as his “role” in the book finally surfaces in unspectacular fashion as an aside to the team’s greater troubles. I’ve never cared for the character and this issue really proves how useless he is for this title.
• The art was a mixed bag. On one hand, Joe Bennett’s pacing and panel progression was spot-on, working in conjunction with clear expressions to really control the tone of this issue. It’s amongst his best storytelling.
• On the flipside, the quality and anatomy are tremendously inconsistent. When he hits the highs, it looks great, but when the other shoe drops, you can hardly tell that Bennett was the man responsible.
• The co-feature story starring Ravager was mostly inner monologue as she takes on a group of would-be assassins on snow machines, which works perfectly well for Sean McKeever. He has such ownership of the character that if there is no way he can really screw up it up.
• The lack of dialogue makes for a brisk read, but the action really carries the story anyway. This requires Yildiray Cinar to step up his game; thankfully, he does not disappoint. I especially dug his chaotic layouts, which are done to emphasize intensity of the story and do so without sacrificing any storytelling. It’s good stuff.

Verdict: Don’t Miss This Issue. After this issue, Felicia Henderson has her work cut out for her. After a series of mixed-results runs by various writers, Bryan Q. Miller has brought this series back to the levels it reached under writer Geoff Johns. This, along with the strength of Sean McKeever’s Ravager co-features, has given the series a lot of momentum. I wish her all the best, though, as this issue is going to be a tough act to follow.

03. NOVA #28
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Andrea Divito and Bruno Hang
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Daniel Acuna
preRanking: 03

• Spinning out of War of Kings, this week’s Nova wraps up a few dangling threads as the series launches into its next major phase.
• There is absolutely no filler in this issue, with the issue being cover-to-cover action and development. That’s one thing I love about Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning—they know how to fill an entire comic with awesomeness.
• There were times throughout the action sequences that I felt the quipping got to be a bit over the top. It was almost as if all of the Nova Corps members inherited Nova’s personality for a moment. A minor distraction, but if these are going to be the core of the Corps, their personalities need to be a bit more distinct.
• Nova’s reconciliation scene with his brother was superb. I like the balance of humor (Star Wars jokes—awesome!) with the mushy emotional stuff. It made their interaction more natural.
• Along the same vein, the confrontation between “King” Blastaar and Nova was equally as awesome. I really hope that Blastaar shows up more often, especially in his “regal” role.
• This was probably the best work I’ve seen from Andrea Divito on this title. His designs were very open and energetic, plus his expressions really sold the tone of the issue.
• The only problem is that his open work lacks detail and the flat colors added very little, making the art look a bit plain a times.
• I would also like to point out that this week’s cover is, by far, the best cover work I’ve seen from Daniel Acuna since he jumped over to Marvel. Definitely one of my favorite covers of the week.
• I chose to spotlight Mike Perkins’s variant above in honor of the fact that Perkins is a HUGE Nova fan. I had a great conversation with him about it at Wizard World Chicago 2008 when he did this gorgeous sketch for me.

Verdict: Don’t Miss This Issue. The next phase of this amazing series begins here and it kicks off with style. The issue is simply awesome on all levels and should not be missed. Of course, you should’ve been reading the series before this issue anyway, but if you haven’t jumped on the Nova bandwagon yet, this issue is just one more reason to.

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Dale Eaglesham and Paul Mounts
Letters by Rus Wooton
Cover by Alan Davis
preRanking: 12

• It’s been a while since I’ve read a Fantastic Four comic, but I was pulled in by the promise of Jonathan Hickman, the new “big idea” man in comics, at the helm. If there is anyone that can bring inventiveness and wicked creativity back to the title, it’s him. In his debut issue, he does not disappoint.
• The issue begins grounded enough with the team taking down the Wizard and some clones/drones, but Hickman quickly turns the crazy up to 11 when Reed stumbles upon a secret society of doppelgangers from across various alternate universes. And yes, the results are exactly as awesome as the description implies.
• I really dig the way that Hickman immediately sets up the dynamic of the characters and how they interact—with just a few short scenes, you know how he sees the team. He sticks to their iconic relationships, which is good. It’s clear that his “innovations” for the title are going to come in the situations they find themselves in.
• That being said, I can’t get over the awesomeness of a society of Reeds building a pan-dimensional hangout where they can solve the problems of multiple universes from.
• I was a big fan of Dale Eaglesham’s work at DC and he brings a lot of his best qualities over to this series. His work is consistent, features strong details, and handles the action scenes well.
• I also really enjoyed his designs on the alternate Reeds. On the regular 616 Reed, however, I wasn’t as impressed. I don’t care for the muscle bound, scruffy look. It doesn’t seem to fit with how Reed is traditionally presented, nor with how Hickman is writing him. He’s not Indiana Jones.

Verdict: Don’t Miss This Issue. In their debut, Jonathan Hickman and Dale Eaglesham waste no time bring high-concept crazy sci-fi coolness to this series—hopefully setting the stage for more great stories to come. I feel like the Fantastic Four have lost their edge and become a bit dull over the last few years, but this issue seeks to remedy that and does a great job of it. I see great things in the future for this book.

Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Brad Walker, Victor Olazaba, Scott Hanna, and Jay David Ramos
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Daniel Acuna
preRanking: 02

• So, with books as great as Teen Titans, Nova, and Fantastic Four on this week’s Rankings, it took an amazing issue to nab the Top Spot away from them. As good as Guardians of the Galaxy always is, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning really had to bring their A-game here. Never ones to back down from a challenge, they did and the end result is one of the best single issues of the year.
• This issue picks up right where War of Kings left off, with the Guardians rushing off to investigate the Fault, a major whole in space that was the result of Black Bolt’s battle with Vulcan at the end of the event. The team finds themselves teaming up with the Inhumans in an attempt to close the Fault with various problems and mayhem ensuing.
• As was the case with this week’s Nova, Abnett and Lanning’s fantastic character work is central to this issue’s success. Every line is full of personality and clearly mean for each character delivering it—nothing here is interchangeable.
• The highlight was definitely Maximus and Groot working together, mostly due to Crystal and Rocket Raccoon’s reactions to the fact that Groot is saying more than just “I am Groot.” Easily my favorite scene of the entire work.
• Every other scene worked equally as well, with Rocket’s “testimonials” guiding the reader’s reactions and helping pace the story. This is such a unique device and the writers have really mastered it.
• This is, by far, Brad Walker’s best effort on this title. The art here looks simply amazing. His style and approach are simple, but executed fantastically. The energy, the expressions, the panel choices, the consistency—Walker never misses a bit. There honestly isn’t a single page in this book that isn’t stellar..
• I do have to give a lot of that credit to Jay David Ramos, though. His bold color choices really bring this issue to a higher level. I really hope he sticks around as part of the ongoing creative team.

Verdict: Don’t Miss This Issue. Guardians of the Galaxy has been Marvel’s single best time for quite some time, but with this issue, the creative team really kicked it up a notch. This issue excels in all aspects, with the end result not only being the best comic of the week, but also one of the best single issues of the year. You want to know what all the fuss is about with this title? Then pick up this issue and simply revel in its greatness. In a week filled with awesome comics, none could touch Guardians of the Galaxy, my easy pick for Book of the Week.

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Ethereal said...

Batman and Robin was alot better for me, maybe it's because I liked Morrison's run alot more. I think the promise of more of what he wrote in Batman sounds good. Nova and X-Force were both great, the only problem with X-force seems to be the lack of fruition with the Rahne plot. What's the point? I guess I'll have to give FF a shot, I was iffy on it because I have no real interest in the book but have read it with some interest before. I've seen Hickman's Reed, and agree with you. I guess it would be cool if he changed the scruffy look every few months, but whatever.

Anonymous said...

The black lantern that appeared in front of Sinestro was Amon sur the son of Abin sur and dead sinestro corps member you can tell by the fearful leader comment.

Andrenn said...

While I loved this week's issue of Batman and Robin you make some great points about why it's a weak issue.

Allen Gabriel said...

Well you pretty much stated my opinion of Batman & Robin this week. I hate when Morrison is just random for the sake of it. And while I'm no fan or hater of Quietly, the art for this issue was just plain ugly. Seriously, some of the panels belong alongside Liefeld's monstrosities in those "Worst Comic Art" threads you see everywhere.

Ryan Schrodt said...

Thanks for pointing that out Anonymous! I'll fix the review to reflect that. That does sense since all of the other Black Lanterns in that scene are former Sinestro Corps members!

Anonymous said...

i also think it was amon, not abin sur as black lantern.
i don't agree with all the quitely comments.i liked his art in this issue.and teen titans is really boring of late, i fail to see why you consider it a must read

brandon said...

I actually liked the cramming in of a lot of stuff in the GL issue. I felt like the war finally got some quality time in print.

I've been reading GL for decades and I've never, ever understood the obsession with jamming Carol Ferris into GL situations. She seems to vary between girlfriend, ex-girlfriend, boss, pilot, sapphire-lover, sapphire-bad guy simply to suit the story being told. She's a prop and a boring one. This issue highlights that.

I agree with Ryan that having her fight Sinestro was wasteful. Are we to believe that Sinestro couldnt waste her without batting an eye? That's how it played off.

But the John Stewart, Blue Lanterns, Red Lanterns and that Orange Lantern scene were all killer!

For the life of me I cant remember how < name omitted > ended trapped in the < object omitted > as seen in the end. Anyone?

brandon said...

And regarding Star Wars about the female interaction with Cade. It is getting a little old. However, the current interaction is interesting because the girl is very likely his sister.

Nice reviews!

The Dangster said...

I don't think its Quitely's worst. He definitely rushed this issue but I'd say it's decent. I will say the issue has lessened my interest in Batman and Robin.

I really loved Green Lantern, Johns crammed a bit too much but it delivered what we all were asking for: more Light Wars.

Daryll B. said...

I'll give you credit for having the guts to drop Flash: Rebirth Ryan. I collecting it on the faith that Johns will pull it out of the stupid downward spiral it has been on. Let's just say this last issue dimmed my hopes on that. Can we at least TRY to explain how Zoom knows about the Speed Force much less enough to have a P.H.D on how to cripple the other speedsters? I won't even get into the stupid love connections to the speed force thing. But I give them credit for the Kid Flash / Prof. Zoom fight.

Dark Avengers - Other people have noted this but I'll say it here: Asteroid M didn't work, Genosha didn't work, Cyclops are you nuts? And I sorry, Mimic got screwed

No Avengers Initative? I recommend it because once again C Gage does his staple and uses a character I never saw coming to make it my book of the week.

New Avengers and Secret Warriors were good also in setting up fights down the line. Hint: when gods get pissed off..they get fun. Osborn gets pissed, it leads to hilarity!

Thx again Ryan!

Anonymous said...

Brandon asked: "For the life of me I cant remember how < name omitted > ended trapped in the < object omitted > as seen in the end. Anyone?"

Scar trapped her there a few issues ago, during the big attack on Oa.

Daringd said...

8. The New Avengers #56: Bendis/Immonen Marvel $3.99
Can we please drop The Hood storyline, I am just sick out it, I mean this was a great issue until we got to The Hood stuff. Now it’s just an okay issue. This is sad, because yet again Immonen knocked it out of the park on art. With the help of colorist Dave McCaig they have turned in some great work. As of late however NA has seemed less important than Dark Avengers and maybe that will change but. Overall I liked the issue but The Hood is just bringing down the book.
Overall 6.5/10

7. Wednesday Comics #8: Various/Various DC $3.99
I really enjoyed this issue don’t get me wrong. But something felt off, maybe it was my read order but I don’t know. All the ingredients were here for this issue, 14/15 great stories but they just don’t hold up compared to last week. Its not awful its not bad its not good it is something in between. I think I’m gonna score this lower than I should be. Anyway The Metamorpho strip was fantastic this week as was The Flash and Deadman. These three seem to be the stand outs week after week. I am just fine with that to.
Overall 7.5 (I think I enjoyed it more however)

6. Fantastic Four #570: Hickman/Eaglesham Marvel $2.99
The first issue of Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four run is well….fantastic. I really dug the issue, the art is killer here. Especially the flashback sequence. Hickman really makes FF interesting again, similar to Millar/Hitch run. I just hope Hickman and Eaglesham don’t run out of steam. I also had no problem with the bulky Reed and Johnny. I don’t really have much to say other than it was a solid opening to Hickman’s run.
Overall 8.0/10

5. Green Lantern #45: Johns/Mahnke DC $2.99
Well….Not as perfect as the last 2 issue of GL but boy is it good. The ending stuff was great with Agent Orange as was the opening. The book really shows you what is going on around the universe. I thought it could have been a one-shot however. I think more content could have been added. If it had been a one-shot it would of worked much better. But that is just my opinion. As for the art, I am so happy Mahnke is on art duties. I just hope he stays for a while.
Overall 8.2/10

4. Dark Avengers #8: Fraction/Ross Marvel $3.99
I have really been digging the Utopia crossover and this issue keeps up the quality. I am so happy Dean White came aboard as colorist for this issue. Luke Ross’s art doesn’t look like something its not. Fraction keeps it up with the pace. So much happens in this issue I could believe it was only 22 pages. The event ends in a one-shot coming out shortly I can not wait to see how this wraps up. Without a doubt one of the better X-men crossovers in a long time.
Overall 8.6/10

Daringd said...

3. Batman & Robin #3: Morrison/Quitely DC $2.99
Well the end of the first B&R arc has come. Wow. This arc has covered so much ground, this issue alone does a LOT. It is a damn shame Quitely is leaving the book for 6 issues, but thank god he’ll be back. This issue while not as mind blowing as issue 1 has it’s moment. The stuff with Pyg and Robin is gold absolute gold. The ending was also very well done, it has me excited for the next arc. Even if I’m not crazy about the artist. Great issue here, in a small week this would have been book of the week for sure.
Overall 9.0

2. Secret Warriors #7: Hickman/Vitti Marvel $2.99
This book is without the best book marvel is putting out. The opening of the issue is my favorite opening to any book this year. Great stuff! The art well I didn’t want to see Caselli leave but Vitti does a great job. I hope they keep Caselli and Vitti as the rotating art team. I also read recently that the book is going to be less than 60 issues which really upsets me. This book is so good I don’t want it to end. But I know Hickman can turn out the quality for the remaining 29 issues. I can not recommend this book enough.
Overall 9.3

1. The Flash: Rebirth #4: Johns/Van Sciver DC $2.99
I was really harsh on the first two issues of this series. Issue three however gave me what I had been wanting in the title. Having gone back and re-reading 1-3 I must say it reads a lot better. This issue is the best yet. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed this issue. Sciver’s art is I think some of the best he has done assuming he was the reason for the delay between issue 3 and 4 I must say it was well worth the wait. Johns really just starts the story here. I absolutely loved it. Best of the week without a doubt.
Overall 9.7/10

Flip The Page said...

X-force is both the comic to make me stop caring about Rahne AND the first comic where I've actually been pushed to bitching about too much of the ole claret. especially with this issue where some of the x-23 stuff almost hits Guro levels

Anonymous said...

Daryll B said, and with reason, this issue of avengers initiave was a surprise.i loved the story. green lantern is a crammed right now, with everthing happening at once, but the franchise's never been this interesting for years...and flash rebirth...weelllll.... i really like geoff's work, so i'll continue to give it a chance, but right now, i'm sick of barry allen, it's like he's a saint of the speedsters, his importance keeps getting higher and higher, and he doesn't appeal to me as a character.poor wally west, will soon be forgotten. and why so many goddamned speedsters in the dcu?? they keep poping all over the place, only worst than them are kryptonian-daxamites-supermanlikes people that are now in the dcu.

Anonymous said...

Does no one recall that Alan Moore did the Supremacy with all the various Supremes?
The 2nd half of FF570 is a virtual cut and paste of when Supreme went to the Supreme-verse and met all the (here's the difference) previous versions of himself as he discovered he is a ret-con of a ret-con of a ret-con etc. etc. whereas Reed is a Reed Richards of different earths.
Still the similarity is amazing and I've read 3 reviews so far that were not aware of this.
Marvel---the house of no ideas.

david miller said...

Not the most amazing week for me. I picked up two Star Trek books from the past couple of weeks too, so I'll add those in:

6. Fantastic Four #570 - I got pulled in by the lovely Alan Davis cover. I enjoyed Eaglesham's art in JSA but it didn't seem a great fit here. The buff Reed seemed pretty goofy to me. The story was fine but I liked it better when Alan Moore wrote it as his Supreme storyline.

5. Doctor Who: Cold-Blooded War - I've quite enjoyed the new IDW Who ongoing so I opted for this one-shot. Loved the art, enjoyed them bringing in Ice Warriors and Draconians but the whole equal rights for women story seemed heavy-handed and not very engaging.

4. The Spider: Judgement Knight - I'm bumping this a spot simply because of the format. It's an illustrated short story in comic form and I quite enjoy the format. The format itself was a little by the numbers and I don't think I'd buy it as an ongoing series but as an oddity it was fun.

3. Wednesday Comics #8 - I think a dozen issues is the perfect number for this series as I don't know that my interest would hold for many more. As it stands what the various stories may lack in some cases are more than made up for with opulent art and the brilliant format, don't think that would hold true indefinitely. Kamandi, however, continues to be a triumph on all fronts and as practically worth the price of admission alone.

2. Star Trek: Nero #1 - Plotted by the writers of the recent movie, this mini sets out to delineate the motivations of the main villain and also breakdown what happened once he arrived in the past. It's by the same team that created the surprisingly excellent Countdown mini. This doesn't immediately hit quite as well as that mini partially because Nero is not as compelling a character as Spock, Picard and crew. It was a good start however and works as a pleasant companion to the earlier mini and the wonderful movie.

1. Star Trek: Spock Reflections #2 - Dang, easily the book of the week for me and proof positive (along with last week's Dr. Who #2) that a good media spin-off series can stand head-to-head with any other title on the stands. This issue does the rare task of creating a comic book mood piece that is genuinely moody. We don't really know what's going on, the majority of the story is told in flashbacks and Spock, the protagonist is playing his cards close to his chest. This set-up could be played in a coldly oblique manner or it could have come across as ham-fisted. That it is neither is a true testament. I'm eager for the next issue and pleased that I opted not to wait for the trade as I'd planned to do after reading the very good first issue.

Jeremy said...

WTF @ B&R being at the bottom. Easily best book of the week. I have absolutely no idea what was wrong with the artwork, if anything it confirmed Quitely is the best in comic history. He can convey so much with a single page, hell a single panel. His action is kinetic, his mastery of sequential storytelling is unparalled. It has all the cool little nods to the '60s Batman that the series gets a bit of inspiration from(the double kick attack by B&R, the onomonopia in blood), but its still got the crazy creepyness that made his early Batman work great(yes, I really enjoyed and defend RIP. Bite me).

Its incredible how a book so fast paced can fit so many things. Grayson finally believes in himself. Gordon doesn't know exactly what happen to ol' Bruce, but he's put his trust in Batman. Damien gets a newfound respect for Grayson. And its done all without cheesy narration or angst-written dialog(Winnick, take notes). You can just tell by the simple lines said or the way the art looks. "I'm Batman". "Did you just save my life?"

And again, its all the little things that really made it work for me. The title, "Mommy Made of Nails" and theres a tall structure made of thorns and nails, with a woman face on it "Where every hug is a cruxification". That chilling first person shot of Damien reaching back to Sasha, her screaming "Don’t leave me! You promised!" realizing his selfish desire to kick ass might have cost someone there life(a three panel sequence, and yet its a pivotal moment in Damien's arc). Gordon commenting on how much he "hates this place"(the same place he was stripped naked and tortured with pictures of his newly-crippled daughter in The Killing Joke). Coming full circle with the beginning of Batman RIP with Le Bossu.

Even the COLORS are fantastic! When's the last time a Batman book has been so bright? When's the last time Batman had covers with bright yellow and lime green on it? The colors match the gaudy, neo-Blade Runner-esque look of Gotham Morrison was going for, but they also have a muddy, arttifical look to them as well, giving it a sense that something just isn't right here.

Honestly, I know Morrison/Quitely are love them or hate them, but I think they've knocked this one WAY out the park. The greatest creative team in the industry has given us some of the freshest, creepiest, and plain FUN Batman books in a long, long time.

I can't wait for Quitely to come back to conclude the run.

David miller said...

OK, this site's love for Nova has convinced me to order the first trade used from Amazon. Should I move through the trades one by one or could I also pick up the latest issue at the store and enjoy it without the background?

Kirk Warren said...

Hmm, about where to start, the Annihilation prelude miniseries (not sure what first trade you got, but he had a miniseries before his actual ongoing) is the place where he gets the full Nova Force and a perfect intro to the current Nova books. From there, pick up Annihilation and you should be set to go right into the main series and Conquest (although you could skip Conquest if you wanted).

If you wanted to jump right into the ongoing, a good place to go would be a few issues back (not sure exact number) where he regains the Nova Force, maybe issue 25 or thereabouts. The current few issues are tied into the War of Kings event, but Nova's issues sort of stand off on their own, only mildly reflecting the conflict, so shouldn't be too tough to get into.

If you like reading full stories without the wait from month to month, grab the trades. Better bang for buck usually, too. Once you catch up/if you like it, you can switch to singles.

Ryan Schrodt said...

Jeremy, I'm glad that you enjoyed Batman and Robin, but I still respectfully disagree. I think that Morrison is really being carried by his reputation in this issue. I think he is honestly getting too wrapped up in his own genius and that is getting in the way of quality writing--it's the same way I feel about how JH Williams III sacrifices the ability to craft a solid, readable comic in favor of having eye-catching layouts. Both are supremely talent creators and are capable of producing some of the best work in comics; the problem is that just aren't doing it right now.

As far as Quitely goes, I just don't see it, especially not in this issue. I think his work is sloppy and is facing major problems in terms of design consistency. Part of it lies in his style--much in the same way that Lenil Yu's sketchiness holds back his art--and so I think a lot of his problem could be solved with a strong inker.

Still, thanks for dropping your opinion! Believe it or not, there is nothing I like more than when people defend the books I trash. I think it gives readers a better sense of exactly what they are in for on a book when they pick it up.

Ryan Schrodt said...

@David - I echo Kurt's sentiments on checking out Annihilation, but I'm not sure that reading the Nova Annihilation miniseries is required reading. It's not a bad place to start, but you can get a lot of what we love about the character out of the main series alone.

If you are into classic stuff (and not everyone is), I'd recommend checking out the Essential Nova collection. It took me a few years, but I actually own all of the original "Man Called Nova" single issues from the 70s and I can honestly say it was one of the funnest titles of the era.

If you dig Nova and the Annihilation stuff, I also really recommend Guardians of the Galaxy. Marvel's cosmic books are amazing these days and it makes a great companion series to Nova.

david miller said...

@Kirk and @Ryan OK, I've ordered the three Annihilation TPBs and the first Nova TPB. Thanks so much for the assist!

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