Friday, October 30, 2009
Thanks to everyone who checked out yesterday’s installment of the Comic Book Review Power Rankings, which counted down the Bottom 8 books for this week. Now that we can put the duds behind us, it is time to look at the week’s best books to see who’ll take home the honor of Book of the Week. Will Superman: Secret Origin take the Top Spot once again? Could the debut of Queen Sonja be #1? What about the newest issues of Green Lantern, Fantastic Four, and X-Force? If you really want to know—which I’m sure you do—the only way to find out is to check out my reviews and Rankings 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
• This week’s X-Force focuses almost entirely on X-23 and Agent Morales’s daring escape from the facility in one of the more brutal and emotional issues of the series.
• This story is very simple and direct, barely touching upon any subplots and moving in a clear linear fashion.
• It’s very interesting to see X-23 facing the horrors of her own life and, most notably, her reaction to them at the end of this issue. Craig Kyle and Chris Yost have done wonders at developing the character over the years, but we’ve never really seen her open up before. It’s a cool development that I hope they stick with.
• There isn’t a ton of personality in this issue, other than the closing moments of the issue. I dig action as much as the next guy, but there isn’t much else to hold on to.
• The art by Mike Choi and Sonia Oback is good, but suffers from the same problems that they have for some time—Oback is using too limited of a color palette on this series so the art tends to run together and Choi’s style, while strong and consistent, is very stiff.
• I was surprised by how much the violence seemed downplayed in the art, especially given how brutal the subject matter was. I’m not saying we needed lots of blood and gore, but we see more of the reaction to violence than the violence itself, which seemed out of place oddly enough.
Verdict: Check It. This issue caps off the story arc well and provides a solid lead-in to X-Necrosha, but the lack of personality really holds it back. It feels more like a mindless action thriller in some places, despite how emotional the final scene is—it just feels like the book is building towards the explosion and not the more important aftermath.
Written by Joshua Ortega
Art by Mel Rubi and Vinicius Andrade
Letters by Simon Bowland
Covers by Mel Rubi, Lucio Parrillo, and Jackson Herbert
• Red Sonja is back on the Rankings this week (I dropped the previous series a few issues back for budgetary reasons) but in a new form as the She-Devil with a Sword is now a Queen, though we don’t see much of her regality as this issue focuses mainly on a flashback of Sonja’s quest for a mythic sword.
• This is the usual Red Sonja hacking-and-slashing, with Joshua Ortega having a good take on Sonja’s boldness and fierceness that is developed through minimal, but focused dialogue.
• I really enjoyed the framing device that opens the issue with Sonja being addressed by a female soldier and it ends with her being attacked by that same soldier in the flashback.
• Mel Rubi shows why he is one of the best Red Sonja artists there is with his return in this issue, as his take on the character is a great balance of power and beauty that works well with his strong knack for the sword-and-sorcery genre.
• The only problem with the art is that it is too geared for the payoff—Rubi uses pin-up style splash pages excessively, which causes the pacing to becoming awkward. While these are usually impressive looking, they don’t always fit in well with the story.
• As a bonus, this issue also includes a reprint of Marvel’s first Red Sonja story and some penciled pages by Rubi from Queen Sonja #2. This is a nice way to make the issue feel like it is worth your $2.99 without having to expand the story.
Verdict: Check It. This is a very fast-paced and direct story that ends almost as soon as it begins, so don’t approach this one expecting a lot of meat. Ortega has a good take on the character and, as always, it is great to have Mel Rubi back even if he seemed to be more focused on twisting the issue towards impressive splash pages than he is in telling a good story.
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Kevin Sharpe, Nelson Pereira, and Bruno Hang
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Brandon Peterson
• After discovering a “lost” Nova Corps member and getting attacked by the Mindless Ones last issue, Nova finds himself in a no-win situation this week as he and his crew battle the Mindless Ones as Ego the Living Planet decides to evict the Nova Corps.
• This one is a solid action/adventure story with a fun twist ending that feels a lot like an old-school Nova issue. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are getting very good at channeling the feel of classic Nova stories with a modern twist.
• Given how fast-paced the action is in this story, I felt that the dialogue was a bit thick. At times the story began to drag as I waited for people to stop talking.
• Starslayer comes and goes way too fast in this issue, making me wonder what his purpose was—the story could’ve been done without him and this issue doesn’t really set much up in terms of future stories for him.
• Kevin Sharpe’s art was a bit uneven. His designs and storytelling were good, but his lack of detail and limited expressions were a bit grating. In the long run, it wasn’t bad, but there were a few cringe-worthy moments.
Verdict: Buy It. While this isn’t the strongest issue of Nova, it does feature a good amount of fun action and strong character work with some great twists. The pacing of the script does betray the pace of the story at times, as does the inconsistency of the art, but if you are just looking for a fun read, this issue will do you just fine.
Written by Tony Daniel
Art by Tony Daniel, Sandu Florea, and Ian Hannin
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Tony Daniel
• Tony Daniel returns to the Caped Crusader this week, handling both the writing and art chores on this issue which features the new Batman tracking down the mysterious Black Mask and teaming with Catwoman to do so.
• I was really surprised to see the Falcone family making their return here and that Daniel was building heavily off of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s Batman: The Long Halloween, which is one of my absolute favorite Batman stories.
• The interaction between Dick and Selina was the highlight of the issue for me. Daniel clearly “gets” the characters in this scene and does a good job of tying it to Gotham City Sirens.
• I was disappointed by how dark Dick is written to be in the opening pages—it feels more like Daniel is writing Bruce as Batman.
• As per usual, the art is fantastic. Daniel does a great job of balancing the darkness of the Batman scenes with the lightness of Dick’s out-of-costume activities. His take on Catwoman is perhaps my favorite since Jim Lee’s take in Hush.
• Daniel seems to be taking cues from JH Williams III in this issue, mostly in regards to layouts, which isn’t always a good thing. Yes, its cool to see Daniel play around with image placement, reading order, etc, but the Williams method doesn’t always make the most sense in terms of storytelling—though Daniel makes up for it by being considerably more fluid than Williams.
Verdict: Buy It. Tony Daniel is still coming into his own as a writer and so he stumbles a bit with dialogue pacing and, while he has a great take on Dick Grayson, he seems to be struggling to find the right voice for Dick as Batman. Still, it is a vast improvement over the Winick/Bagley issues and no matter how rough the writing can be, Daniel will also comes through with top-notch art.
Written by Paul Dini
Art by Guillem March and Tomeu Morey
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Guillem March
• The Sirens take the fight to the “Joker” this week after his brutal attack on Harley Quinn in the last issue—only to find out that it wasn’t really Harley’s puddin’.
• Gaggy has to be the weirdest and most unexpected Silver Age character to resurface in some time, but is an awesome choice as the villainous foil for Harley. The reasoning is sound and, since he hasn’t appeared in some time, the door is open for Paul Dini to update the character.
• Dini is really back to old form in this issue with superb characterization and great interaction. I really dig the dynamic he is building between the three main characters; it is all very true to the characters, but still offer a really refreshing take on them.
• Even though it was essentially a filler scene, I thought it was very cool that Catwoman called upon Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum’s Carpenter to fix their hideout. It’s a fun aside that breathes some life into an otherwise fairly useless character.
• Guillem March is still growing into his art, but he gets closer and closer to hitting the next level with each issue. This is easily his loosest issue yet and, for the most part, I think it fits him. The problem is that there are a few times where he gets too loose and moves into cartoony territory, which does not fit his style at all.
• His layouts were great though and I enjoy that his expressions are just as much about body language as they are about facial cues.
• The biggest problem with the art though, was how flat the coloring was. It took away a lot of the life and depth of the art.
Verdict: Buy It. This series has a lot of potential given the creative team, but has struggled from the get-go. In this issue, though, Paul Dini seems to be getting back to his style of character-first storytelling and it certainly helps, as does the fact that Guillem March is moving away from the stiff, cheesecake style art that he first displayed when working with DC and beginning to find a style that is much more suited to his talents.
Written by Jay Faerber
Art by Various
Letters by Charles Pritchett
Cover by Mahmud Asrar
• This week’s Dynamo 5 is an oversized anniversary issue that concludes the team’s battle with Father Gideon and Synergy and features a whopping five back-up stories that introduce the new status quo for the team.
• Dynamo 5 has had a rough year, but this issue is definitely a return to form for the title. Jay Faerber finds a perfect balance between action and character work as he sets up multiple story threads and brings a few to close as well.
• I really like the depth that Faerber is adding to the characters. The villains end up being far from one-dimensional while the unexpected power switching for the heroes allows Faerber to further explore the core of the characters by shaking them from the roles that they’ve been in since the series started.
• Mahmud Asrar does a wonderful job with this final issue on the series. He plays to his strengths—great action, strong “acting,” and solid storytelling. It’s a shame that he won’t be on the series any longer, but its clear that bigger things are in store for him.
• The artists on the back up represented several different styles and approaches, but all blend well with Asrar’s work and brings their own individual flair to the table. Tim Seeley, in particular, does such a great job that I wish he were taking over this title instead of his upcoming Wildstorm work.
• The issue is pricey, but the $4.99 cover price is well worth seeing the series back to the level that it was at when the series first started.
Verdict: Must Read. Dynamo 5 was once one of the hottest titles on the stands and, while things might have cooled off for it in 2009, this issue sets things in motions for a comeback in a big way. Jay Faerber works with a slew of great artists to establish an exciting new status quo as he closes one chapter for the series and begins a new one. The only bad thing about this issue? It is Mahmud Asrar’s last as the regular artist!
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen, Mark Irwin, and Randy Mayor
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, and Hi-Fi
• While the main Blackest Night series might have given us more of the same this week, Green Lantern trudges forward, revealing new insights and showing new alliances that are sure to be important facets of the story.
• The character interaction and the development of unexpected alliances in this issue were great to see unfold. As per usual, Geoff Johns does a great job with the Sinestro and Hal scenes, but the team-up I can’t wait to see more of us Red Lantern lead Atrocitus and the Orange Lantern Larfleeze.
• There is a ton of big action and plot movement in this issue—it pushes the story further than any other Blackest Night tie-in that we have seen, but doesn’t skimp on the battles against Black Lanterns.
• How cool is it that the Red Lanterns are so filled with rage that removing their hearts does absolutely nothing to stop their rampage?
• I’m glad to see the Five Inversions show up to hunt down Atrocitus—they were the other characters involved in the original Blackest Night prophecy story written by Alan Moore—though I was disappointed to see them disappear so quickly. I’m hoping they will have a bigger impact on the series given their connection to the story’s origins.
• Doug Mahnke continues to make the best of this prime gig with his impressive line work and simply superb storytelling. His work excels in nearly every aspect, especially in his designs. His take on the Five Inversions was insanely awesome.
• The multiple inkers were apparent at multiple times, as some of the inkers were working considerably tighter than the others. For the most part it looks good, but there were a few places where the switch inkers were easily recognizable.
• I was a bit confused by some of the white “gleams” used by Hi-Fi on the colors, especially when there were no clear light sources established. It made a lot of thinks, especially the character’s uniforms, look unnecessarily shiny.
Verdict: Must Read. This week’s issue of Green Lantern is the polar opposite of this week’s Blackest Night thanks to its tight storytelling, big action with a purpose, strong storytelling, and simply gorgeous artwork. In fact, the two are so different that it is hard to believe that the same man wrote both issues. Of course, this issue was also helped by Doug Mahnke’s superb artwork. I’ve been a fan of Mahnke’s for years and I’m glad to see that he is doing such an amazing job on this high-profile gig.
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Gary Frank, Jon Sibal, and Brad Anderson
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Gary Frank and Brad Anderson
• Geoff Johns and Gary Frank take a look at Clark Kent’s first contact with the Legion of Superheroes in this week’s Superman: Secret Origin, which also focuses on Lex Luthor’s downward spiral towards villainy.
• Unless you are looking at minute details, there isn’t a lot new that is developed here (at least, not to a casual fan), but it is still a fun retelling of one of the more important stories in Clark Kent’s development as superman.
• Johns does an amazing job of building Clark’s social alienation and the way that it contrasts with the rising popularity of Superboy without much unnecessary exposition. It’s great to see him show us this rather than tell us about it.
• The Legion scenes were a ton of fun and tap into the inherent job that a good superhero story can bring. Readers, much like Clark, can easily get enveloped in the light, almost whimsical old-school adventure.
• If you are a fan of Frank’s work (which I most definitely am), you’ll find a lot to love here. I was especially impressed with his take on the Legion, which managed to capture the classic look, but also gave them a futuristic edge.
• Much like the last issue, there were a few panels where Clark’s age isn’t completely clear and, because of this, he looks a bit weird. This is clearly because Frank is so intent on capturing the essence of Christopher Reeve, but at times he clearly struggles making that work with the younger Clark.
Verdict: Must Read. A lot of people have asked why another retelling of Superman’s origin is necessary and, in truth, it isn’t. These stories have been told countless times before, but the superior craftsmanship of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank bring them to life in a whole new way that manages to capture the magic and wonder of Superman’s earliest adventures and bring them to life in a beautiful new way. It may not be necessary for you to explore the first team up between Clark Kent and the Legion of Superheroes again, but this issue is so much fun that you’ll be glad that you did.
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Dale Eaglesham and Paul Mounts
Letters by Rus Wooton
Cover by Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, and John Rauch
• The first arc of Jonathan Hickman and Dale Eaglesham’s run on Fantastic Four comes to an amazing conclusion as the Council of Reeds fights off the Celestials and our Reed ponders the importance and price of “solving everything.”
• This issue has great buildup to an awesome payoff. This ends not only as an awesome sci-fi story, but as an even better exploration of who Reed Richards is and shows exactly how great of a take Hickman has on the character.
• The action at the beginning of this issue is great, but it is the quieter, more personal story that closes the issue that really pushes this one to another level.
• I was blown away by how emotional the end of this issue is without being heavy handed. Hickman handles Reed’s final conversation with his father perfectly, capturing how heartwarming and heartbreaking it is. It’s just—for lack of a better word—fantastic.
• Eaglesham’s art is a perfect compliment to the script. Through his fluidity he nails the action sequences, while his subtle, precise expressions perfectly convey the more touching moments.
• His panel progression was also very impressive. Its clear that a lot of thought went into the storytelling and it pays off as the art controls the overall flow of the story for maximum effect.
• I don’t think I would have ever paired up Hickman and Eaglesham, but they have developed great chemistry over the course of this arc and have brought new life to this series.
Verdict: Must Read. I knew that I could expect great things from this creative team’s tenure on Fantastic Four and I thoroughly enjoyed the first few issues of this arc, but they cranked it up to 11 with this week’s issue. There have been few Fantastic Four stories in the last few years that have been this good. Hickman and Eaglesham have latched onto the key to the success of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s groundbreaking original run—great sci-fi action is important, but the lynchpin is the genuine sense of family that sets the Fantastic Four apart from all other superhero teams. This is already one of my favorite Fantastic Four stories and, just think, we are only at the beginning of what is sure to be a classic run.