Friday, November 20, 2009
The Comic Book Review Power Rankings are coming to you a bit later than usual this week, but that won’t stop me from doing what I came to do—countdown the best comics of the week, from the barely readable right on down to the books you absolutely need to add to your collection this week. Since we’re already a few hours behind schedule, there is no sense wasting any more time—so make with the clicking already and let’s get started!
For the uninitiated, the Comic Book Review Power Rankings is a countdown from worst-to-best of my weekly comic book haul. Before reading the issues, I preRank them based on the creative team, previous issues, solicitations, and gut instinct. The final Ranking number is based upon how the issues actually turned out. I attempt to keep everything as spoiler free as possible, but keep in mind that there may be the occasional minor spoiler that I overlook. As always, I can be reached via responses to this thread or at email@example.com.
It’s on the Rankings, but I did pick up Tiny Titans #22. It’s the usual goodness and shouldn’t be missed. I also picked up last week’s issue of Titans on the recommendation of a friend. I’d highly recommend that you check that out as well. It is probably the best use of Roy Harper since the Gene Ha issue of Justice League of America a few years back.
Lead Written by Geoff Johns and Sterling Gates
Lead Art by Jerry Ordway, Bob Wiacek, and Brian Buccellato
Lead Letters by Steve Wands
Backup Written by Geoff Johns and Michael Shoemaker
Backup Art by Clayton Henry and Brian Reber
Backup Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Jerry Ordway
• My purchase of Adventure Comics is one more example of me falling prey to DC’s Blackest Night rings promotion, though it did have the added bonus of satisfying my curiosity on how Geoff Johns was going to handle folding Superboy Prime into the event.
• After he was transported back into the “real world” at the end of Legion of 3 Worlds, Prime returns here as we see him getting angry about the events of Adventure Comics #4 and storming off to his local comic book shop only to be attacked by the Black Lantern Alexander Luthor of Earth-3.
• Sound stupid? Well, that’s because it is. This is, by far, the most forced tie-in to Blackest Night yet. The story itself is nearly unitelligble, especially Luthor’s choice to give Prime his armor back just so he can “harness more rage.”
• It doesn’t help that Prime has been played up as a whiney villain for so long that its hard to rally behind him in this situation. Honestly, I could care less if he gets his heart ripped out at this point.
• Johns and co-writer Sterling Gates do very little to salvage this mess by writing some of the stiffest and dullest dialogue I’ve seen from either man.
• Jerry Ordway’s art here looks incredibly dated. His designs, his approach to storytelling—everything just screams “old comic.” I don’t mean that in a good way.
• Of course, Ordway is poor choice for this story to begin with. The setting of this is supposed to be the “real world,” yet Ordway’s style is very cartoony (especially with his over-the-top expressions), which really breaks up any sense of realism that could make this issue that much more interesting.
• I honestly can’t tell you what happened in the back up. I tried reading it, found it far too inaccessible for new readers and gave up. Had I been reading this series all along, I might have been able to put something together, but I haven’t so, I can’t.
Verdict: Avoid It. I only picked this issue up for the promotional ring, so I guess I got what I paid for. However, considering you can buy the individual rings at http://www.midtowncomics.com/ for half the price of this debacle, I could’ve saved myself the trouble. This story is a mess from beginning to end and should be avoided at all costs.
Written by Mike Carey
Art by Daniel Acuna
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Mirco Pierfederici
• Do you, by chance, remember the plot of the last issue of X-Men: Legacy? Well, this issue is basically the same story (Rogue hunting down Emplate in his hidden base), but with the added wrinkle of Gambit getting angry and returning to his Death persona.
• There really isn’t much story here at all and what little story there is what already happened last issue.
• There are a few neat character beats, such as Gambit’s concern for Rogue, but they are few and far between. It’s mostly fluff and repeats.
• The Gambit/Death thing never sat well with me in the first place and seemed like a lazy reinvention of a character that didn’t need it in the first place. This time around? Its really not any better and is killing my interest in the character.
• The art by Daniel Acuna is pretty humdrum. There are lots of weird things going on here, especially when Rogue infiltrates Emplate’s base, which is where Acuna is at home. However, when it comes to the regular characters, especially Gambit, the art was somewhere between spotty and simply horrible.
Verdict: Avoid It. As excited as I was to get back into reading this series regularly, the dullness of this storyline and the fact that Mike Carey is trying to stretch five pages of story into several issues is killing a lot of the interest I had in the book. Something needs to happen—anything, even if it isn’t interesting as long as it is something new—and needs to happen soon if there is any hope of this book remaining on my pull list.
Lead Written by Mark Waid
Lead Art by Paul Azaceta and Dave Stewart
Lead Letters by Joe Caramagna
Backup Written by Joe Kelly
Backup Art by JM Ken Nimura
Backup Letters by JM Ken Nimura
Covers by Adi Granov and Marko Djurdjevic
• The much-anticipated Gauntlet storyline begins this week with Spider-Man facing a very unusual threat—down-on-his-luck villain Electro is rallying a mob of angry taxpayers against Dexter Bennett over his successful lobby for federal bailout money for struggling newspapers.
• I really didn’t expect this storyline to go this direction. On one hand, its really interesting to see a villain take a working-class stance and use that as the “cause” of his villainous deeds. It makes sense for Electro to fill that role, so this is a cool twist.
• On the other hand, the plot of this story is highly political and borders on preaching against the federal bailouts. It seems out of place and heavy-handed—it’s almost like the story is being used to push an agenda more than anything else, even if the mouthpiece is a vaillain.
• I really did not care for the scene between Peter and Michelle. It was extremely forced and didn’t add anything to the story other than to remind readers of their situation, despite the fact that this is pushed in nearly every issue of the seires.
• I liked the very “old school” feel of Paul Azaceta’s art. He is definitely channeling the Kirby/Ditko end of the spectrum in this issue. This worked especially well whenever Spider-Man was in costume.
• Unfortunately, in the moments where he wasn’t, the inconsistent facial designs and uneven expressions killed any momentum the art was building.
• I did not care at all for the backup story that was little more than a rumination on the relationship between Spider-Man and Black Cat.
• Joe Kelly’s writing here was very rambling and unfocused. It was so bad that it made Kelly’s Spider-Man/Deadpool nearly incomprehensible team-up last week look intricately plotted by comparison.
• Having seen some of JM Ken Nimura’s art from I Kill Giants, I can say with some certainty that he is a very talented artist. However, whether it is simply the fact that the tone of the art did not fit the story or something else entirely, this was just not the write art for this one. It’s not bad per se, but it is bad for this book.
Verdict: Check It. While there are some problems with the lead story (mostly with the art), this issue would have Ranked considerably higher if it did not contain the backup story. It serves almost no purpose and is so haphazardly crafted that I’m really not sure why Marvel would want to print it at all. I’d much rather have paid the standard price for this issue and only received the story that actually made sense.
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (DnA)
Art by Leonardo Manco, Mahmud Asrar, and Bruno Hang
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Clint Langley
• Spinning out of the War of Kings event, the Realm of Kings one shot follows Quasar on a mission to the other side of the mysterious rift in space known as the Fault, where he fints an even version of the Avengers that seem to have been corrupted by a dark force.
• This issue is a really weird mix of the usual DnA sci-fi action with Lovecraft-style monsters and mayhem. This is definitely a departure from what readers may be used to.
• I’m really not sure what is being set up here or how it will affect the other Marvel cosmic books. Unlike the other even prologues which set up a clear story path, this issue doesn’t do much more than introduce the Otherside Avegners and possible setup a corrupted Quasar (or his Otherside counterpart).
• The dialogue in this issue is really stiff and there isn’t a ton of personality shining through. A lot of effort is put into world building, but not so much into the characters.
• The art chores are split between Leonardo Manco, who handles the art once Quasar enters the Fault, and Mahmud Asrar, whose work covers the universe we are used to.
• Asrar’s art is surprisingly weak. The details run together and the anatomies are very awkward. This doesn’t resemble his earlier Marvel work or his Dynamo 5 work at all, which makes me think that either we are seeing him in the middle of a style shift or this is just an uncharacteristically poor issue for him.
• Manco’s work, on the other hand, was very solid. His style is very detailed and bold. It reminded me a lot of Frank Frazetta or any other artists whose work would be at home in a fantasy book or the cover to a Dungeons & Dragons guidebook. Its great looking, but very stiff.
• The designs for the Otherside Avengers were very cool, though I didn’t care much for the design on the Scarlet Witch—mostly because she looks almost exactly the same as she does now.
Verdict: Check It. This issue is a fun read that sets forth some interesting premises. Fans of Marvel’s cosmic books and the brilliant work that DnA has done on them may be a bit shocked to find that this is very different than anything they may be used to. The execution isn’t as strong as I expected, but the concept is interesting. I can’t say that I’m not disappointed by the quality, but I’m digging the ideas.
Written by Royal McGraw
Art by Marcos Marz, Luciana Del Negro, and David Baron
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Marcos Marz
• I picked up this week’s Batman: Confidential on a whim after checking out some sweet preview pages on DC’s blog, The Source. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that this was part two of the story, which finds Lady Blackhawk and Batman teaming up after the original Blackhawk’s grave desecrated and exhumed.
• Interestingly enough, despite missing the first chapter of this story, I wasn’t that lost. There are clearly bigger things going on with the villain that I missed the lead-up for, but as a whole, this was surprisingly accessible.
• I really liked how fast-paced this issue is. Despite some twists and turns, this is a fairly simple story and Royal McGraw doesn’t try to make it any more than that.
• The character interaction here was great. McGraw’s Batman is more a detective than anything else, which is the angle I prefer on the character. What really impressed me though was his fun take on Lady Blackhawk.
• The villain is a bit one-dimensional, though the twists and turns make up for it. There is never a dull moment in this issue.
• Marcos Marz’s art features some awesome designs and a great sense of storytelling. It fits perfectly in line with the one of the script and the characters look fantastic.
• The problem is that it is ridiculously stiff. There is no energy or sense of motion in the issue, which really undercuts the quality of the book, especially since it is so fast-paced.
Verdict: Check It. This is fun little adventure comic with some great character work. With all of the overlapping stories and mega-events going on in the regular DCU, its nice to have a story that doesn’t aim to be something larger than it needs to be. Plus, its great to see Lady Blackhawk again; since Birds of Prey has been cancelled she’s been out of the spotlight, which is a shame since she is such a great character.
Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Fernando Pasarin, Scott Hanna, Prentis Rollins, and Brian Reber
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Tom Mandrake
• Much like this week’s Adventure Comics, I only picked up this week’s Outsiders for the promotional ring, but unlike Adventure Comics, I found myself really enjoying this issue.
• Spinning out of her recent run-in with the Titans, Black Lantern Terra is the main focus of the first half of this issue as she infiltrates the Outsiders headquarters to confront her brother, Geo-Force. Meanwhile, in the latter half of the issue, Halo and Katana are attacked by Black Lantern versions of Katana’s husband and children.
• The character writing in this issue is exceptionally strong, which fuels how powerful the events are. This is one of the most emotionally resonant Blackest Night tie-in issues.
• The tension in the issue is also built very well, due in part to the strong character work, but also to the methodical pacing, especially in the second half of the book.
• The formula to this issue is the same as nearly every other tie-in, so readers that are getting sick of that cut-and-paste approach might be a bit annoyed here.
• I’m a bit annoyed that the Outsiders had no idea what the Black Lanterns are when Terra shows up, despite the havoc they are running all over the universe. It would be different, but this is AFTER the Titans have been attacked by Terra. You’d think by then someone would sound an alarm or make a phone call or something.
• The art in this issue really carries the story. It’s amazing how much detail Fernando Pasarin packs into each page without taking away from how strong his expressions were. This is definitely one of his best issues.
• The only problem with the issue is that not a lot really happens. We get some good setup, but for an oversized issue, it would’ve been nice to see more meat here. In terms of craft, it is superb, but the end, you are really only getting the amount of story that you’d get in the first few pages of the other Blackest Night tie-ins.
Verdict: Check It. This issue just barely missed out on the Buy It plateau. There is great character work and Fernando Pasarin’s art is top notch, but in the end, there really isn’t enough story here to justify the increased page count and price. If Peter Tomasi could’ve scaled this back just a bit and included a bit more of the aftermath of the characters meeting the Black Lanterns, this would be that much stronger of an issue.
Written by Zack Whedon
Art by Joelle Jones and Dan Jackson
Letters by Nate Piekos
Covers by Kristian Donaldson
• As part of Dark Horse’s “One-Shot Wonders” initiative, the Dr. Horrible one-shot dropped this week and simultaneously please fans of the original Joss Whedon-directed musical and serve as a good gateway to anyone who’s been curious about the property but hasn’t checked it out.
• This issue, which follows Dr. Horrible’s “origin”—the villainous act that inspired him to be an evil genius and his first encounter with Captain Hammer—captures the wit and charm of the original film. Writer Zack Whedon does a splendid job with the character voices (which makes sense considering he co-wrote the film).
• The story moves at a great brisk pace and has a very fun tone. It never takes itself too seriously, but isn’t complete camp either.
• Its absolutely hilarious that Dr. Horrible’s main goal wasn’t to defeat Captain Hammer, but rather just to get noticed—this is perfectly in line with the original story.
• Joelle Jones’s art is a great fit. It’s very cartoony, which matches the tone, but has an unexpected touch of realism that bridges the gap between the cartoony antics and the film.
• I was really blown away by how well the expressions of Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion translated in the art. Jones perfectly captures their mannerisms and facial quirks. Felicia Day’s character (Penny) and Horrible’s henchman Moist (Simon Helberg) looked good, but weren’t captured quite as perfectly as Fillion and the NPH.
• I was a bit disappointed by the uneven distribution on backgrounds. One or two panels per page will have great backgrounds, while the rest are mostly dull, single-color fills.
Verdict: Buy It. Fans of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog should absolutely love this quirky one-shot. Zack Whedon’s quality script and the art by Joelle Jones bring the characters alive and perfectly capture the magic that made the original film so much fun. The biggest problem? It’s just a one-shot and with quality like this, you’ll wish it were an ongoing.
Written by Sterling Gates
Art by Matt Camp and Nei Ruffino
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Joshua Middleton
• Following up on the recently completed Hunt for Reactron crossover with Action Comics, this week’s Supergirl focuses on the trial of Reactron on New Krypton and the divisive effect it has on the Kryptonians. Interspersed with this story is a touching recount of the courtship between Kara’s parents, Zor-El and Alura.
• Sterling Gates does wonders to develop the character of Alura in this issue. This is honestly the first time in recent memory that she hasn’t been presented as completely one-dimensional. She retains her personality, but we see her in a more well-rounded manner her.
• Much of this comes from the very natural very sweet, and very telling courtship scenes. These are amongst the best scenes that I’ve ever read from Gates.
• There are a ton of non-marquee characters in this issue that all weigh in on how Reactron should be handled, but the lack of personality from tehse characters makes it a bit hard to follow at times. The big picture makes sense, but following who thinks what can be a bit troublesome at times.
• I really like the set up of “What would Zor-El do?” that runs through this issue, especially since it is mainly done so that it could be twisted in the end. It eventually only matters what Zor-El would want or do so that Alura could do the exact opposite.
• The art by Matt Camp took some getting used to at first. He uses thick outlines around his characters, but not around their individual features, making them appear very flat at first—they look more like filled-in outlines than complete drawings.
• However, as you grow used to it, the strength of his designs and expressions were just fantastic. I’m not terribly familiar with Camp’s work, but after this issue, I’m definitely a fan.
• The art wouldn’t be nearly as effective, though, without the gorgeous and lush colors by Nei Ruffino. She is seriously one of the best young artists in the industry and this issue is a prime example of why.
Verdict: Buy It. This issue was very, very close to make it to “Must Read” status, with the adjustment towards the art and the confusing background characters really being the only major problems that stood out to me. After being bogged down by crossovers through most of the year, this is the type of issue that can put Supergirl back to the status it held in the latter part of 2008. This is definitely my favorite Super-book in some time.
Written by Dan Slott and Christos Gage
Art by Sean Chen, Craig Yeung, Mark Morales, and John Rauch
Letters by Dave Lanphear
Cover by Marko Djurdjevic
• In the conclusion to the current story arc, Avengers of all sorts team-up to take down the Unspoken in one of the most action packed issues of the year.
• This issue does a great job of solidifying the Mighty Avengers as a team (except US Agent, who remains pointless), but also brings Hank Pym back to his brilliant likable self once again.
• There are a ton of characters in this issue and the writing team of Dan Slott and Christos Gage do an amazing job of handling the voices of all of them, from the major players like Pym down to the characters with only a handful of lines like Captain America.
• This story had the feel of an old-school Avengers story, something that has really been lost on almost every mainstream continuity Avengers story since before Avengers Disassembled.
• Sean Chen’s artwork is the perfect complement to that. His approach is basic with clean designs and lots of energy. It just screams “classic superhero.”
• Chen’s storytelling was great here. I really enjoyed his panel progression, as well as his mix of wide action shots and reactionary close-ups. This really helped control the pace and tone of the story.
• The only problem is that some pages are lacking in details while others are overflowing it—it gives certain parts of the issue a very rushed and incomplete look.
Verdict: Must Read. Mighty Avengers has steadily gotten better over the last few months, all building up to this very impressive issue. The writing team of Slott and Gage bring back the fun that superheroes are known for without sacrificing the action or the impact of the story (the latter is especially true in the highly emotional epilogue). This issue will remind you what made the Avengers so addictive for the last several decades.
Lead Written by Chris Yost
Lead Art by Dustin Nguyen, Derek Fridolfs, and John Kalisz
Lead letters by Steve Wands
Backup Written by Marc Andreyko
Backup Art by Jeremy Haun, John Lucas, and Nick Filardi
Backup Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Dustin Nguyen
• This week’s Streets of Gotham dropped in a big way this week with not one, but two fantastic stories. In the lead, Man-Bat and Huntress fight for their lives after being captured by a seemingly demented priest, while in the co-feature, Manhunter faces the threat of Two-Face in her non-heroic persona, but comes face-to-face with her ally Dylan while busting some of Two-Face's goons while stopping a robbery.
• This issue is a great mix of fun action and strong character work…in both stories.
• I really like Chris Yost’s take on Huntress and Man-Bat, especially with how hot-headedly Huntress reacts to him.
• I really didn’t see the twists coming in the lead story, which made the read all the more satisfying. Yost shows amazing control of the tension in this story.
• As odd as it sounds, I’m glad to see that Batman takes merely a supporting roll here. He’s had a major presence in this title, even though it seemed like he wouldn’t. Its pretty cool seeing some of his great supporting players taking the lead.
• Dustin Nguyen’s art is fantastic. It’s full of life thanks to his stellar expressions and tight designs. He keeps things simple, yet manages to convey so much.
• His perspectives were equally as impressive. I love how he places with angles of sight and shifting distances to emphasize certain parts of the story. His panel choices have come leaps and bounds over the last few years.
• Marc Andreyko continues to show a great sense of comfort in working with the shorter page count of the co-features. This is something he really struggled with early on, but those problems are completely absent here.
• I absolutely loved the interaction between Kate and Dick Grayson. Having them meet and immediately flirt was an interesting choice, but it worked really well thanks to how skillfully Andreyko builds chemistry between the two. I’m a die-hard Dick/Babs fan, but this is something I’d love to see play out a bit more.
• Jeremy Haun’s art is really solid here. His sense of realism is a perfect fit for the “adult” nature of this story—Manhunter is generally a more mature, more focused, and more realistically toned (even with the crazy superhero stuff) than most books, so having Haun take this approach is just a great choice.
• I’m really impressed at how well Haun managed to convey that sense of realism while remaining very comfortable with the superhero stuff—it’s not something most artists with this type of style can pull off.
Verdict: Must Read. This issue really brings the goods on all levels. You get two fantastic stories with solid plots, great character writing, and simply superb art. There is very little to complain about in either stories, which makes it all the more impressive. What really sealed the deal for this issue though was how much fun I had reading them. These were just solidly entertaining stories and the superb craftsmanship is icing on the cake that earned this issue the Book of the Week honors.