Thursday, November 12, 2009
Holy new comics, Batman! This week’s Comic Book Review Power Rankings feature a slew of Batman related titles, plus a whole mess of Blackest Night tie-ins, a handful of Marvel books, and one non-Big Two title (hang in there, G.I. Joe #11!). There are a lot of great issues getting reviewed the books; but you know the drill, only one can take home the Book of the Week honor. Hit the jump to find out who the big winner is!
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.
I won’t be ranking this week’s Sky-Doll: Doll’s Factory #1 because there really isn’t enough new material to warrant a full review. However, I will say that it is a must-have for any fan of the original story that Marvel published in conjunction with Soliel last year. It’s worth the cover price for the rough art for the entire first issue, so stuff like the new origin story and various other extras can be treated as bonuses. If you’ve never read Sky-Doll, I highly recommend it. It was definitely amongst my favorite comics released in 2008.
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Philip Tan, Jonathan Glapion, and Alex Sinclair
Letters by Pat Brosseau
Cover by Frank Quietly
• After much hype and to-do built over the last few issues, the assassin Flamingo makes his debut in this issue, arriving just in time to interrupt the battle between the duos of Batman/Robin and Red Hood/Scarlet.
• Considering how much hype Grant Morrison spewed before the Flamingo’s debut, you’d think that he would have served more of a purpose than to boost Jason Todd’s ego moments before Todd is arrested. The only thing worse than Morrison’s fan-fiction style “development” of the character is how utterly pointless he turned out to be.
• This does follow suit with the rest of the issue though, as for the most part all this issue does is abruptly end what Morrison has been building up without much real resolution or point. Morrison seemed to be building up to a huge payoff, but instead we get Jason in jail, Flamingo defeated, and Scarlet abandoning her life of crime. Blech.
• Then, of course, there is the mysterious Bat-body at the end of the issue. Is it Bruce Wayne? If so, Morrison has apparently gone rogue and is ignoring everything else that the other writers on Bat-books has been doing. Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time.
• Also, Robin calling Flamingo “gay” is simply lazy, stupid writing that not only lacks professionalism on the part of Morrison, but also shows just how much unjustified leeway he is getting from DC Editorial.
• The art by Philip Tan is probably the best thing about the issue, which isn’t saying much as it is also one of Tan’s weakest efforts. It’s chaotic, messy, and features some of the most inconsistent design work I’ve seen in a long, long time.
• There is also a weird hint of Frank Miller in Tan’s work that I don’t think I’ve ever noticed before. If he were to tighten up his work and focus on greater consistency, that might actually for him.
Verdict: Avoid It. After a very, very strong start earlier this year, this title has really started to spiral downward as Morrison continues to fall back on his least impressive ways. After all the buildup in this storyline, I expected a lot more than whining characters and a two-bit villain in a story that backtracks over everything Morrison had been building. Blech.
Written by Joe Kelly
Art by Eric Canete and Andres Mossa
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Skottie Young
• Remember a few years back when you couldn’t pick up a Marvel comic without a guest appearance by Wolverine? Well, that’s the situation with Deadpool and now he brings his wisecrackin’ ways to New York for a confrontation with Spider-Man.
• I’ve been pretty open about the fact that I don’t get the major appeal of Deadpool and I can honestly say that this issue doesn’t do the Merc With a Mouth any favors.
• It’s not that I don’t like the gags or I don’t get the appeal of the humor, I just think that it gets overdone. In this issue, the gags come at such a flurry that it completely overwhelms the story. That’s not good.
• I think it might have been different if Joe Kelly spent less time focusing on the jokes that Deadpool is making and more on building the purpose of his appearance. When it becomes clear that Deadpool is meant to be a distraction, I found myself not caring—even when a Spider-character is unceremoniously killed off in the final pages.
• The nail in the coffin for the writing was how the new Kraven was written. In Kraven’s First Hunt—one of my favorite stories of 2008—she was cool, calculated, and ruthless. Here she iswhiney, childish, and annoying. It’s almost like Kelly either a) didn’t read the original story or b) read it and purposefully ignored it because he wanted to write a vastly inferior version of the character.
• Eric Canete’s art is wildly energetic and keeps pace with the story with relative easy. No matter how manic the script got, the art could keep up.
• The problem is that it is also wildly uncontrolled. There is no consistency at all. From character designs to line widths to perspectives to overall style, Canete is all over the place.
Verdict: Byrne It (For an explanation of this new Ranking, check out Kirk’s Soapbox this week!). If you dig Deadpool at his craziest, even at the expense of a story, then you’ll probably love this issue. If you prefer your Deadpool in small doses, you’ll hate it. In the end, though, if you are interested in the upcoming Gauntlet storyline, you are really going to have to read this one as some important things happen with the Kravens attack on Spider-Man.
Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by SL Gallant and Andrew Crossley
Letters by Neil Uyetake
Covers by Howard Chaykin with Edgar Delgado and Robert Atkins with Andrew Corssley
• Things continue to plod along in this week’s GI Joe as Destro is forced to demonstrate his teleportation device to Cobra, Scarlett’s court-martial gets a bit complicated, and the Joes have to face the fact that the Cobra organization isn’t a myth.
• They key to enjoying this series really is patience. Chuck Dixon is providing plenty of action and cool character work, but you want a fast-paced plot, this isn’t the GI Joe story for you.
• I absolutely love Dixon’s take on Scarlett here. I can’t say that I saw what she does coming, but it is perfectly in line with his take on the character and fits well with the core of the character we’ve known and loved for years.
• I’m still really annoyed with the crappy Scottish accents for Destro and his cronies. I appreciate the Dixon is sticking to his guns, but this is something he needs to abandon as soon as possible.
• SL Gallant’s work remains the weakest part of this series. Part of it is that we were spoiled with the work of Robert Atkins in the opening arc, but Gallant’s work just can’t compare.
• The anatomy is shoddy, the lines are far too thick, and the inconsistent amounts of detail form panel to panel are just major disappointment and really bring the overall quality of the issue down.
Verdict: Check It. Chuck Dixon is doing some very interesting things with the writing in this issue, including some great steps forward in the Scarlett storyline as well as some awesome buildup in the mystery behind Cobra. Unfortunately, SL Gallant’s art is so ill-fitting that it cripples the entire operation.
Written by Tony Bedard
Art by Andy Clarke and Jose Villarubia
Letters by Swands
Cover by Kalma Andrasofszky
• Truthfully, I only picked up this comic because I wanted the Blackest Night promotional ring and I only read it because so many posters have been begging me to. I fell into both traps and while I wouldn’t say I was disappointed, I wasn’t exactly blown away either.
• This issue sees Vril Drox’s L.E.G.I.O.N. battling two fronts as the Black Lanterns run roughshod over the galaxy at the same time that the more immediate threat of Starro the Conqueror remains a major force to be reckoned with.
• I really appreciate the fact that Tony Bedard approached this issue knowing full well that it would fall into the hands of a lot of new readers thanks to the rings promotion. There is a lot of setup here with a full rundown of the L.E.G.I.O.N.’s history as well as an introduction to all of the characters.
• Unfortunately, though, much like most of the other Blackest Night stories, the success of it is hinged upon the emotional connect the reader has to the characters. I really don’t have any attachment, which doesn’t help, but more importantly Vril Drox is such a jerk that I couldn’t bring myself to care for what happens to him, his kid, or his team even if I tried.
• I did really enjoy the twist with the Sinestro Corps in this issue, as well as the appearance of Black Lantern Harbinger, though. Those were major surprises, but really helped keep my interest in the latter half of the issue.
• Andy Clarke’s art is solid. There’s no major issues that stuck out to me, though his style is a bit bland and his story telling is very by-the-book.
Verdict: Check It. Tony Bedard does his absolute best to make this accessible and enjoyable for new readers, but in the end its clear that this one is really meant for hardcore fans and hardcore fans alone. Or, at least I hope that is the case, because if not, I see no reason why anyone should care about the adventures of a total jerkbag and his crew of less-than-interesting comrades.
Written by Tony Daniel
Art by Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea
Letters by Jared Fletcher
Cover by Tony Daniel
• Dick Grayson’s quest to take down both the Falcone family and Black Mask’s gang intensifies in this issue as he attempts to balance his costumed and non-costumed identities.
• First and foremost, I’m glad to see that Tony Daniel is showing how important his network of allies is to the success of Dick Grayson as Batman. This has been majorly ignored in all of the other post-RIP Batman stories, despite being something that was set up in a big way during the Battle for a Cowl mini-event.
• Daniel’s take on all of the characters is very strong. I especially enjoyed the tension he builds with Huntress showing some “affections” for Dick and Barbara’s reaction to it. That was a very cool moment.
• I didn’t care for his take on the Riddler, though. He’s more obnoxious than clever and the twist of him returning to his villainous persona will hopefully be short-lived. Paul Dini did such a brilliant job reinventing the character that I would hate to see that take on the character wasted.
• I found myself a little let down by Tony Daniel’s art. He is one of my favorite active artists, but there is just something that feels a bit “off” in his art this week. Part of it could be that I really do not care for his take on “Bruce Wayne,” though I think it is most likely linked to how stiff the art was.
Verdict: Buy It. Tony Daniel is really starting to come into his own as a writer and this issue is a great example of how far he has progressed since Battle for the Cowl. His take on the characters and his plotting is very strong. I’d still consider him a better artist than writer, but he is on his way. Oddly enough, as great as his writing is here, I wasn’t as thrilled with the art as I normally am. Let’s hope that is not indicative of what’s to come as I’d hate to see his superb art suffer for the sake of his bourgeoning writing career.
Written by Brian Azarello
Art by Phil Noto
Letters by Clem Robins
Sketchbook by Rags Morales
Cover by JG Jones
• DC’s “First Wave” pulp universe kicks off in this issue which finds a brash young, gun-toting Batman squaring off against the legendary Doc Savage as the former investigates a mysterious murder that seems to be connected to a shadowy organization.
• This issue reminds me a lot of Batman: The Animated Series in its pulpy adventure approach and the “timeless” designs—but with a considerably larger amount of violence.
• The version of Batman that Brian Azarello presents is very much in line with the Batman we know and love, but with a distinct edge that makes him more suited for this world—such as the use of guns (something Batman did use in his earliest comic adventures).
• I find it interesting that Doc Savage is clearly meant to be analogue for Superman based upon his interaction with Batman and how he is treated by everyone else. This makes him an excellent foil character and makes it easier for readers who are unaware of the character’s history to get into his adventures.
• While the plot is exciting and the interaction is fantastic, the story does drag on a bit, especially given the limited number of characters that appear. This does allow Azarello to take his time to world-build and develop the relationship between the title characters, but it does get to be a bit much at times.
• Phil Noto’s artwork hits a wide range in terms of quality here. He brings a fantastic energy to the story with strong designs filling his big, bold panels.
• Unfortuantely, there are some very strange things going on with the depth and lighting thanks to some odd coloring choices. At times this means that characters look like they are floating off the ground, while at other times their facial features seem to disappear.
• As a bonus, the issue comes with a great sketchbook by Rags Morales with annotations by Azarello that teases what is yet to come for the First Wave universe. This was a really neat touch that helps build excitement for the upcoming miniseries.
Verdict: Buy It. This one is going to be a hard sell due to the $4.99 price tag, but the creative team does their best to make it worth the high price. Azarello’s work is very strong as he introduces readers to this new universe and his new take on the classic characters. Unfortunately, the unevenness of Phil Noto’s artwork does hold the issue back at times, despite the fact that there are a handful of simply jaw-droppingly awesome panels in the issue.
Written by Chris Yost
Art by Marcus To, Ray McCarthy, and Guy Major
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Marcus To and Ray McCarthy
• Tim Drake’s uneasy alliance with the League of Assassins this week as he attempts to trick the Council of Spiders out of hiding in an action packed issue of Red Robin.
• This issue full of big action and fierce confrontations that come across really well thanks to the superb pacing of the issue.
• I really like the way Tim’s dilemma is presented here as he needs to help the League despite disapproving of their actions and purpose. This is a great follow-up to how dark his actions weer becoming in the first few issues of this series.
• Chris Yost’s take on Tim is still central to what makes this series so great. Every line of dialogue and every bit of monologue is full of personality and comes across very naturally. I’ve said it before, but its worth repeating—Yost just “gets” the character.
• The Council of Spiders get a lot of attention here and I’m glad to see that they are getting some fun designs and interesting back stories. This is a major contrast to the faceless ninjas of the League of Assassins and really helps build credibility for the Council.
• Marcus To makes his debut here and does a tremendous job from the get go. Right away it becomes clear that he can fix the biggest problem that Ramon Bachs had—he can draw Tim both in and out of his costume as a young man and not a grizzled veteran superhero.
• To’s work has a ton of energy that helps carry the action. His choreography of the fight scenes came across especially strong as well.
• I was disappointed by the lack of backgrounds during some of the action sequences, though. This was very distracting and really took away from the action in my opinion.
Verdict: Buy It. Marcus To’s debut as the new ongoing artist for this series is incredibly strong as he brings a lot of life to this action-packed issue. When you add in the strength of Chris Yost’s character writing, you’ve got a great issue. The only drawback is the plot doesn’t move forward much and forgetful readers might be a bit lost on why the League of Assassins is at war with the Council of Spiders as there aren’t many context clues to remind readers of the events of the last few issues.
Written by Andrew Kreisberg
Lead Art by Mike Norton, Bill Sienkiewicz, and David Baron
Backup Art by Renato Guedes, Jose Wilson Magalhaes, and David Curiel
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Ladronn
• This week’s Green Arrow/Black Canary has all sorts of explaining to do after last issue ended with a second Green Arrow showed up.
• The lead story follows that second Green Arrow—the real one—as he has a hallucinatory encounter with a younger version of himself on the island where he became a hero. This is an awesomely introspective story that not only pushes the plot forward, but also bridges today’s Green Arrow with his origins as presented in Andy Diggle and Jock’s awesome Green Arrow: Year One miniseries.
• The backup, on the other hand, was an emotionally intense roller coaster that featured Andrew Kreisberg flexing his character writing muscles as the Green Arrows fight to prove to Dinah who is the genuine article in a twist that harkens back to the earliest issues of this series.
• I absolutely love Ollie’s devotion to Dinah in this story. After the last few months of roughness for their marriage, I’m glad to see Kreisberg really tap into what makes them so great as a couple. Plus, hopefully this means their adventures won’t be split for much longer and the co-feature in this series will follow what Speedy has been up to!
• The art in the lead story was great, with Bill Sienkiewicz’s scratchier art finishing up on Mike Norton’s layouts. This is a great fit for the hallucination, especially since Sienkiewicz tightened up his work once Ollie woke up.
• It was very cool to see Jock’s designs from the Year One stories again. It was a great move from Sienkiewicz to pick up on these.
• The art in the second story is your typical fare for Renato Guedes. The female designs are rough, the anatomy is in consistent, and the perspectives make the characters look like Colorforms pasted on a premade background.
• There are a few moments that worked really well, but every time he would do something awesome, Guedes would follow up with five things that would make me cringe.
Verdict: Buy It. This is a great payoff for fans who were patiently waiting by as things got rougher and rougher for Dinah and Ollie, which means I suspect that Kreisberg will attack the next storyline, which is also set up here, with renewed vigor. The character work here is simply superb, as is the art the lead story. Unfortunately, Guedes’s art in the back up is just too inconsistent and holds this one back—otherwise this definitely would have been a Must Read issue.
Written by Bryan Q. Miller
Art by Tim Levins, Lee Garbett, Dan Davis, Aaron Sowd, Trevor Scott, and Guy Major
Letters by John J. Hill
Cover by Phil Noto
• After officially taking over the role at the end of the last issue, Stephanie Brown has her first night out on patrol as the title character in this week’s done-in-one Batgirl story.
• This is a great “slice-of-life” story that is a solid jumping on point for new readers that strengthens the status quo of the book and provides some insight into how Stephanie will handle being the new Batgirl and what type of guidance Oracle will be providing her.
• I’m so glad to see Barbara Gordon in a major role again, especially since Bryan Q. Miller has such a great take on her character. It may not be as marquee as a role as she had in Birds of Prey, but its great to see her again.
• The character work in this issue is much more important than the plot, so some things get glossed over a bit just to put the players in the right position—which is fine for this type of story as the plot holes are fairly inconsequential, so the ends justify the means.
• I love the sense of humor that Miller injects into this issue. The exchange between Livewire and Batgirl, as well as Commissioner Gordon ribbing Detective Nick for his crush on Batgirl were both fantastic.
• I would have expected the art to be much more inconsistent that in was since it was coming from two pencilers and three inkers. There are a few design inconsistencies with Batgirl’s cowl and Barbara’s hair, but otherwise Tim Levins and Lee Garbett’s styles blended very well together.
• Otherwise the art is pretty middle of the road. It looks alright and it gets the point across without many major errors, so I can’t really complain.
Verdict: Buy It. This is a great introduction for Stephanie Brown as Batgirl that is an excellent jumping on point, but should be just as much fun for people who’ve been following along since the series debuted. The art isn’t much to write home about, the character writing is simply superb. Bryan Q. Miller has found a winning formula for this series and I can’t wait to see where he takes it from here. There really aren’t enough books like this that are just plain fun. In all honesty, with issues like this, this series just needs a slight improvement on art before it could potentially become one of the best comics on the stands.
Written by Dan Jurgens
Art by Dan Jurgens, Mike Norton, Norm Rapmund, and Hi-Fi
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund
• The main and co-features in this week’s Booster Gold combine for the issue’s Blackest Night tie-in, which features the return of Blue Beetle Ted Kord…as a Black Lantern. As expected, this causes all sorts of problems for Booster Gold and the current Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes.
• A good chunk of this issue is spent on Booster going back in time to the superhero memorial service that was given to Ted Kord. Through this we get Booster’s “euology” of sorts, which is long overdue, but incredibly heartfelt. Dan Jurgens does a brilliant job of balancing Booster’s self-centeredness with a genuinely heartbreaking sense of loss into an absolutely beautiful scene.
• It’s fun to see Skeets teaming up with Blue Beetle to check in on Booster’s ancestor, Daniel “Supernova” Carter. This broadened the scope of the issue and also provided some unexpected, but very fun interaction.
• I was a bit disappointed by how over the top Jurgens’s Ted was. I’ve always preferred him to be a mix of seriousness and “bwa-ha-ha,” but here we are only getting the jokes.
• I was very pleased with how Jurgens handled Blue Beetle. Jaime is one of my favorite characters and I’m always a little protective of how he is presented, but Jurgens does a fine job.
• The art in this issue is fantastic throughout and I think a huge amount of credit is owed to Norm Rapmund for that. He really stepped up his game in this issue to unify the work of Jurgens and Mike Norton. There are shifts between the artists that can be identified, but Rapmund’s finishes kept hem from being jarring.
• The design for Ted Kord’s Black Lantern uniform is easily my favorite Black Lantern design yet—beating out even the supremely awesome Firestorm design.
• The gorgeous memorial spread and the 3 x 3 grid of reacting heroes that follows it are easily my favorite pages of the week. They are simply gorgeous and powerful.
Verdict: Must Read. This issue really has it all—superb character work, gorgeous art, and a gripping plot. I’ve been complaining a lot about how stale the Blackest Night formula has become—Black Lantern comes back, hero is shocked, hero is overwhelmed in fight, rinse, and repeat—but this issue shows that even a very tired concept can be made fresh with quality craftsmanship. This could very easily be the best issue of Booster Gold since the heartbreaking Killing Joke issue and that says a lot!
Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Pat Gleason, Rebecca Buchman, Tom Nguyen, Randy Mayor, and Gabe Eltaeb
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Pat Gleason, Rebecca Buchman, and Randy Mayor
• The Black Lantern attack on Oa continues this week with some interesting twists as a member of the Indigo Tribe joins the fight, a Red Lantern is unleashed, and a major Green Lantern falls.
• This issue is nothing but non-stop, super intense, and tightly plot big time action. This is one of the biggest action books of the year.
• In the midst of this, though, is some great character work, both in terms of highly emotional reactions, such as Kilowag lashing out at the formerly-Green but now-Black Lanterns, and great “in the trenches” quipping.
• When the Red Lantern Vice was unleashed upon the unsuspecting Black Lanterns, it was one of the coolest and most unexpected moments of the week—which made the even more unexpected response by an Alpha Lantern all the more powerful.
• I was completely blown away by how this issue ends. The sacrifice made by one of the most important Green Lanterns makes perfect since in retrospect to what Peter Tomasi has been building and it comes with heavy weight despite how quickly and unexpectedly it happens.
• I’m not sure how permanent this is going to be, but it brilliantly shows not only how heroic this character really was, but also the harsh realties of war—no one is safe and not every death is glamorous or comes after months of hinting. This is probably the first majorly shocking moment I’ve seen from DC since the death of Ted Kord.
• Pat Gleason’s art is simply awesome and perfectly captures the intensity of the action from beginning to end with tons of details, awesome energy, and major impact. The action never lets up and neither does Gleason.
• Gleason’s storytelling and choreography keep this one from becoming a total mess when the action becomes chaotic and he accents that well with simply awesome expressions.
• There is an amazing spread featuring all of the Black Lanterns on Oa simultaneously attacking the Central Power Battery that is simply unreal.
Verdict: Must Read. We’ve seen some pretty great moments and some strong issues over the course of the Blackest Night event thus far, but this issue is really the game changer. I say that not only because it features really the first death of any consequence (no offense to the links of Hawk, Hawkman, or Hawkgirl—coincidence?) but also because it is, hands down, the single best issue in terms of quality and entertainment of the entire event. This issue might not have capture the Book of the Week honor but it is certainly of that level of quality. You’d be a fool not to check out this issue.
Written by Chris Yost
Art by Pasqual Ferry and Frank D’Armata
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Pasqual Ferry and Frank D’Armata
• This week’s installment in the Ender’s Game adaptation takes on one of the most emotionally powerful moments in the entire original novel—Bonzo Madrid’s attack on Ender and the aftermath of what transpires.
• Chris Yost does not miss a beat in this issue. He picks-and-chooses the most important moments of the sequence to maintain the maximum accessibility for unfamiliar readers while still rewarding longtime fans—all while perfectly capturing the gravitas of the situation.
• It also would seem that Yost is lifting key bits of dialogue out of the novel, which really helps convey how powerful these moments really are and shows his dedication to accurately adapting Orson Scott Card’s original work.
• Pasqual Ferry’s artwork remains absolutely perfect for this story. He absolutely nails the mood and tone of the story with his atmospheric approach and clean sci-fi designs. This issue looks exactly as I would imagine it while reading the novel.
• Where Ferry really steps up his game, though is in his expressions. They’ve been good throughout the run of this miniseries, but they are simply amazing here. He perfectly sells how emotional and powerful these scenes are—from Petra’s concern to Ender’s breakdown to Bonzo’s anger, it’s all here and superbly conveyed.
• The only problem I had with the art is that Bonzo seems a bit shorter than he should be. In the dialogue, he is described as having twenty centimeters” on Ender, which is likely to be an exaggeration, but still, there isn’t much reason for Ferry to draw them as being close to the same size.
Verdict: Must Read. I really cannot put into accurate enough words exactly how great of an adaptation this issue is. Chris Yost and Pasqual Ferry perfectly capture what Orson Scott Card had original created, but actually enhance the original story by emphasizing the importance of certain story beats and bringing it to life through gorgeous artwork. This is simply stunning craftsmanship and something that should not be missed by anyone, whether they be fans of the original novel or not!