Sunday, November 29, 2009
I feel that an apology is in order. I know that many of you were looking for your weekly Comic Book Review Power Rankings fix on Thursday, but due to the Thanksgiving holiday, things were delayed a bit. However, its better late than never as I count down the week’s comics. And, as a special treat, I’ll tell you exactly what you should be thankful for with each comic. Since you’ve been waiting so patiently for the last few days, let’s not delay any further—on with the Rankings!
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 James Robinson
Art by Mark Bagley, Rob Hunter, and Pete Pantazis
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Mark Bagley, Rob Hunter, and Pete Pantazis
• The remaining members of the Justice League that aren’t engaged in more interesting conflicts continue their whining in this week’s issue, which finds the B-list heroes facing off against a few undead villains and former Justice League members that you probably hoped you’d never see again.
• Much like James Robinson’s debut issue on the title, this issue has major issues with dull characterization. Unless a character is referring to a specific event from the past or skill set that is unique to them, everyone reads exactly the same.
• If Hawkman was quickly disposed by Black Lanterns, I have trouble believing that Gypsy and Vixen would stand a chance against them. There is no reason that the characters in this issue, other than Zatanna, would last more than a few seconds against the Black Lanterns.
• The “spell-off” between Zatanna and Zatarra is one of the most ridiculously lazy fights I’ve ever read in my entire life. It’s the magic equivalent of “You’re an idiot,” “No, you’re an idiot,” “No, you are,” “No, you are” ad nauseam.
• I’m not sure if James Robinson thought that he could redeem Vibe, but even as a killer Black Lantern, there is nothing to like about this character. Bringing him back here only makes a bad situation worse.
• It doesn’t help that Mark Bagley’s art simply isn’t that good. His female characters look exactly the same and his facial features look incomplete through most of the issue. He does an alright job with the Black Lanterns, but it doesn’t make up for the rest of the drivel.
What to be Thankful for: Honestly? Not much. However, if you are like me, you can be thankful that you used this issue to complete your Blackest Night ring collection and that you’ll never have to read a Robinson/Bagley Justice League comic again.
Verdict: Avoid It. There is almost nothing to enjoy in this issue. The dull plotting is perhaps the high point of the issue, especially when compared to the very rough and rushed looking art and the simply horrid characterization. Unless you’ve been waiting for the "triumphant" return of Vibe, chances are you’ll hate this issue. I know I did.
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Paul Azaceta and Dave Stewart
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Marko Djurdjevic
• After rallying the working man behind his crusade against Dexter Bennett for bogarting federal funds, Electro reveals his true intentions in this week’s Amazing Spider-Man, which continues the much hyped Gauntlet storyline.
• I was pretty intrigued by the setup last issue, which made Electro into a pretty compelling character. He was a champion of the people and a man looking to escape his power. Here, all of that is thrown away in favor of just making him an amped up version of the villain he always was.
• I feel like Mark Waid just wasted a whole bunch of my time with this issue and the last one. If he wanted to make Electro more powerful, just make him more powerful. There is no sense in reinventing the character only to take that way in the very next issue.
• Really nothing of any consequence happens besides this, which makes it all the more depressing. This entire issue is dedicated to undoing the events of last issue. I call bull on this one.
• Paul Azaceta’s art had the chance to be the saving grace on this issue. His old-school approach looks pretty awesome when Spider-Man is swinging around the city. Unfortunately, unless you are wearing a mask in this issue, you don’t look so good. Yikes.
• The worst is Spider-Man’s roommate Michelle. I understand that every artist draws every character differently but 1) she looks nothing like any other artist has drawn her..at all and 2) after seeing his interpretation of the character, I’m beginning to doubt that Azaceta has ever seen a beautiful woman before in his life. This is just…scary.
What to be Thankful for: I’m pretty thankful that this issue isn’t Justice League of America #39 as it was marginally better than that issue. That’s really about it.
Verdict: Avoid It. Everything I enjoyed about last issue was completely undone in this one. The character work isn’t bad, but considering it erases everything that worked just one issue ago, I’m not going to cut it any slack.
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Neil Edwards, Andrew Currie, and Paul Mounts
Letters by Rus Wooton
Cover by Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, and John Rauch
• This week’s Fantastic Four follows the Human Torch and Thing’s vacation to Nu-Earth and the troubles that they find there, as well as the misadventures of their stowaways, Val and Franklin Richards.
• This issue would probably be more effective had I read all of Mark Millar’s Nu-Earth issues instead of dropping them after the first few. Unfortunately, Jonathan Hickman doesn’t backtrack much to fill readers in on who the characters are and why their relationships are important.
• This issue moves at an incredibly quick pace, which doesn’t work as well as I’d like considering the complexity of the plot. Although the ending makes sense, it is very deus ex machina in how quickly it wraps everything up without much build towards the resolution.
• The character interaction is fun, especially with Torch and Thing. I wasn’t as impressed with Val and Franklin, as they felt pretty interchangeable. I’ve never cared much for them and this issue doesn’t do much to help that.
• Neil Edwards’s art is serviceable. There aren’t many major issues aside from stiffness. It’s not that good, but it’s not exactly cringe worthy either.
What to be Thankful for: Although they take a backseat to Franklin and Val in this issue, I’m glad to see that Hickman has just as strong of a command of Human Torch and Thing as he does with Mr. Fantastic. That shows a lot of promise for future issues.
Verdict: Check It. This issue really is the epitome of a “Check It” book. Nothing really major happens and it doesn’t really push any major storylines forward, however, the writing and art are enjoyable enough that you won’t feel like you wasted your time reading it. It’s a decent read, but keep in mind that there are many much, much stronger comics out there this week.
Written by Joshua Ortega
Art by Mel Rubi and Vinicius Andrade
Letters by Simon Bowland
Covers by Lucio Parrillo, Jackson Herbert, and Mel Rubi
• Red Sonja’s path to becoming queen becomes that much clearer in this week’s issue, which finds her teaming up with estranged princesses in an attempt to return stolen artifacts that quickly turns into a rebellion against a vicious empire.
• This issue does a great job of straddling the line between a complex plot and a straightforward execution. There is a lot exposition to set up the story, but its easy to follow and moves along a very clear, albeit predictable, path.
• I like Joshua Ortega’s take on Sonja here. She balances no-rules barbarity and unflinching honor very well. The other characters are fairly devoid of personality, but Sonja comes across very well.
• This isn’t Mel Rubi’s strongest issue. As per usual, his action is full of energy and impact, but his expressions are weak and the lack of clarity during the exposition-heavy flashbacks really greats on me.
What to be Thankful for: Ortega is planting some seeds here for a good supporting cast for Sonja, something the character has ALWAYS lacked. There isn’t much here, but I suspect the princesses will be major players throughout Ortega’s run.
Verdict: Check It. You can’t ask for much more than cool swordfights and interesting interaction between warring kingdoms in a Red Sonja comic, so in that sense, this issue really delivers. On the flipside, the story is pretty thin and this isn’t the best outing from Mel Rubi.
Written by John Ostrander
Art by Dave Ross, Dan Parsons, and Jesus Aburto
Letters by Michael Heisler
Cover by Chris Scalf
• The saga of Admiral Stazi—Star Wars: Legacy’s largest subplot—continues in this issue which finds a group of Jedi working with Stazi to retrieve a Jedi who has been helping the Mon Calamari refugees.
• This issue moves very quickly and covers a lot of story—considering it doesn’t include many “main player” characters that appear in the book regularly, it can be a bit hard to follow at times.
• There are some big twists throughout the story focusing on the betrayal of certain characters. There are cool twists that keep things going, but they are resolved almost immediately after they happen, cheapening the effect.
• It’s cool seeing Sigel Dare again, as she has been one of the more interesting side-characters in this series. I’d love to see more stories that focus solely on her and fleshing out her personality, as too often it is short-changed in stories like this that move so quickly.
• The art here is solid, but with some design inconsistencies. The tight inks from Dan Parsons make these a bit more evident as there is little embellishment to draw focus away from the main lines.
What to be Thankful for: This issue brings together quite a few of the dangling subplots that have been started in between Cade Skywalker’s adventures. This really helps broaden the scope of the series.
Verdict: Check It. The brisk pace of this issue allows for John Ostrander to push this story forward considerably in a quick fashion that is grounded in the solid character writing. It does appear at times like Ostrander is attempting to be too ambitious, but the end result is still worth a read.
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert, Joe Prado, and Alex Sinclair
Letters by Nick J. Napolitano
Cover by Ivan Reis, Obclair Albert, and Alex Sinclair
• The universe’s heroes begin to take a stand against the threat of the Black Lanterns in this issue of Blackest Night, which is a direct continuation of this week’s Green Lantern #48 (more on that later).
• After the “big reveal” of Nekron last issue, he makes a surprisingly small amount of appearances in this issue. I wasn’t that excited at the reveal because I hadn’t heard of him before; I’m not that excited now because Geoff Johns isn’t really giving me any reason to be excited.
• The big moment of this issue is clearly meant to be the introduction of Black Lantern Batman, which has been building for months now after Black Hand stole Bruce Wayne’s skull. Unfortunately, Batman comes and goes almost immediately without any fanfare and without an explanation of his return opens the door for characters that returned from the dead to become Black Lanterns. It makes no sense whatsoever.
• There really isn’t a lot going on here. Other than the two big reveals (Batman and resurrected Black Lanterns), the story barely moves. It seems like this issue is mostly a vehicle for the art.
• I will say that Ivan Reis does do some amazing work here…on the splash pages. This issue features some of the best splashes I’ve seen from Reis, but the storytelling and consistency for the pages in between aren’t nearly as impressive.
• The two page spread of the representative Lanterns should be a print (even with the weird “inset” of Larfleeze on the right hand side). I would buy and frame that. Heck, I’d even buy it on a tshirt.
What to be Thankful for: I’m going to go with the gorgeous spreads and splashes here. It’s clearly what Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis want you to pay attention to.
Verdict: Check It. If more energy was put into explaining the “big shock moments” and telling a good story and less was put on building towards flashy splash pages, this would be a considerably stronger issue. It’s totally worth getting your hands on it for the art as its features some simply amazing work, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Erik Larsen, Rob Liefeld, Todd MacFarlane, Whilce Portacio, Marc Silvestri, Jim Valentino, Nikos Koutsis, and Mike Toris
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Covers by Various
• The long-awaited and tremendously hyped Image United finally dropped this week and delivered pretty much exactly what you’d expect—a cool mash-up of artists and a loose plot that teams-up their various characters.
• The story moves fast-and-loose without relying too much on continuity or focusing a lot on details. You get the gist of the characters are early on, but not much else is offered.
• Of course, it only makes sense that the story would take a backseat to the art, but be prepared for a pretty thin plot and surface characterization.
• The character of Fortress is a good point-of-view character because he doesn’t have the history that the other characters do—its easy to see it all through his eyes because he doesn’t bring much to the table. It’s a very smart move to tell the story through an all-new character (even if his costume is a bit on the lame-side).
• Considering each of the original Image founding artists (except Jim Lee) had a hand in creating every single page of this issue, I’m blown away by how consistent and coherent it is. Major kudos need to be given to Rob Liefeld for his layouts and to the coloring team for bringing this together.
• Certain artists work clearly blend well together more than others. Erik Larsen and Rob Liefeld’s work especially works well together, while the work of Marc Silvestri and Todd MacFarlane stand out a bit more and occasionally look awkward.
• My biggest complaint about the art is that there are almost no backgrounds in any of the panels. I know that I shouldn’t be expecting much, but it does make the art look that much more pin-upish.
• I have no idea what the cover of this book was printed on, but it feels so weird. It is not your usual stock, but I dig it.
What to be Thankful for: Without question, it’s the simple fact that the original Image founders were able to come together to work on this issue without any major hitches and make it look halfway decent. I know the big thing is to rip on the 90s, but if you were a fan (and so many of us were, even if we won’t admit it), this is a great love letter to the characters and to the fans.
Verdict: Buy It. There are comics Ranked below this that have better stories, stronger character writing, and more consistent art, but this issue is worth picking up for the sheer awesomeness of its collaborative process and the fun that oozes from every page. It’s easy to see from looking at every page in this comic that it was a labor of love and that a lot of hard work went into it, which makes this issue that much more enjoyable than the comics Ranked below it.
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (DnA)
Art by Brad Walker, Victor Olazaba, and Wil Quintana
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Alex Garner
• Last issue saw the Guardians sacrifice a number of members to stop Magus from causing all sorts of mayhem at the fault and this issue follows up on that as the inhabitants of Knowhere debate what needs to be done from this point forward.
• DnA take an interesting approach to the deaths from last issue here—the team clearly acknowledges them, but continue to press on. There are a few cool scenes that press on the issue, but its kind of cool to see the memory of the dead respected by having the mission go on.
• I really don’t care for Moondragon and this issue does very little to give me any reasons to. I still don’t understand why she couldn’t have been sacrificed in favor of Phyla-Vell.
• As per usual, Rocket Raccoon steals the show, though Groot drinking a comically large tropical drink in the bar was my favorite moment of the issue.
• The pacing of the writing is a bit choppy. Some scenes are overloaded with dialogue and monologue boxes, while others are pretty sparse—the problem is that the shifts really don’t build towards anything or emphasize anything, making it a rather rocky read.
• It is so great to have Brad Walker back on this series after a few horrible issues from Wes Craig. Walker does a great job with expressions—he does a wonderful job of matching the tone of the script through the characters, especially the non-humans, who show great emotional range.
• This isn’t a major gripe, but the art mixes thick white panel borders with thin black borders way too much. It becomes difficult to distinguish panels with the thin black lines after a few pages of the white borders, while the white borders seem almost too harsh after a few pages of black borders. It gets to be very distracting.
What to be Thankful for: Despite killing off some of the most enjoyable characters in the series, DnA kept the supremely awesome Drax, Groot, and Rocket Raccoon alive, then gave them lots of “panel time” in this issue.
Verdict: Buy It. The line-up may see some dwindling after the deaths of some of the team, but the quality holds steady on this issue. Pacing issues aside, this is a solid read with a lot of the trademark personality that makes this series so irresistible. Plus, now that Wes Craig is off the book (hopefully for a while), this issue is a step in the right direction to bring the series back to “Must Read” territory.
Written by Paul Dini
Art by Guillem March and Tomeu Morey
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Guillem March
• A lot of readers were left scratching their heads after last issue’s reveal that the Joker’s former partner Gaggy was responsible for the attack on Harley and had been impersonating the Clown Prince of Crime; this issue attempts to set readers straight by explaining all that.
• This issue does a great job of covering Gaggy’s origin without holding the rest of the issue back because of it—the origin isn’t tremendously overwhelming and folds into the larger story quite well.
• I love the interaction between Gaggy and Harley Quinn here. Paul Dini really has carte blanche with Gaggy and makes the most of it by building him from the ground up as a foil to Harley—a character he created and clearly has a great handle on.
• The resolution comes out of nowhere, but is good setup for future stories. Considering this arc was clearly meant to establish Gaggy, I’m okay with the abrupt ending because of how it works as setup.
• I said this last issue, but I think it remains relevant—I’d love to see more of the Carpenter. She is a bit of a wildcard and does a good job of filling the same role that Lady Blackhawk did in Birds of Prey. Dini should keep that dynamic going.
• This is probably my favorite issue of Guillem March’s. His art has never been more consistent as he plays to his strengths and avoids a lot of the pitfalls that have plagued his art—most notably his reliance on cheesecake shots.
• A big part of the art’s strength is the colors from Tomeu Morey. The colors add a ton of depth to the art as Morey does splendid job of playing with the lighting with a very distinct palette.
What to be Thankful for: With this issue, Gotham City Sirens seems to have finally found its place. After struggling with tone and dynamic, Paul Dini has hit his stride at the same time that Guillem March starts living up to his tremendous potential.
Verdict: Buy It. This issue is far from perfect, but its still a great read. It’s mostly setup and two of the main characters spend a lot of time in the background—but it still gets the job done and is a great reminder of why Harley is such a fun character. I was on the fence for a while, but this issue really solidifies a place for Sirens on my pull list.
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips and Val Staples
Cover by Sean Phillips
• Tracy Lawless’s investigation into a series of murdered mobsters continues this week in another fine issue of Criminal.
• In terms of writing, this issue is everything you’d expect from Criminal—moody, atmospheric dialogue, subtle characterization, strong pacing, etc. Criminal is my least favorite comic to review, but one of my favorite comics to read simply because Ed Brubaker is always so spot on with the writing.
• I’m really digging the layers in this story. There is more depth in this one than there really has been in any other Criminal arc. It makes the read that much more satisfying.
• The only reason why this issue isn’t ranked higher is because of how disappointed I am with the art. The designs of the characters and the use of blacks is really inconsistent here, both of which contribute heavily into this being one of the muddiest issues of this series. It’s very disappointing.
• As usual, the coloring, though, is fantastic. Val Staples seems to spread out the palette he is using here—he is still working in the same style, but it feels like this is considerably more colorful than past issues.
What to be Thankful for: Friend of the Rankings, Ryan Lindsay provided one of the two back-up essays in this week’s issue. Congrats Ryan!
Verdict: Must Read. There isn’t much I can say that I haven’t said in the past about this series—it’s a phenomenally crafted and supremely enjoyable series and this issue follows suit. Were it not for the uncharacteristically uneven art from Sean Phillips, there is a good chance that this one would be #1 on this week’s Rankings!
Written by JT Krul
Art by Joe Bennett, Jack Jadson, Ruy Jose, and Rod Reis
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Joe Bennett, Jack Jadson, and Rod Reis
• I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for both Deathstroke and Ravager stories, which means that I’m the target audience for this week’s Blackest Night tie-in issue of Teen Titans; however, I’m also really protective of the characters, so when I say that this is a good issue, I mean it’s a damn good issue.
• This issue follows an unlikely team-up of the father-daughter duo of Deathstroke and Ravager against a number of Black Lanterns from Deathstroke’s violent past.
• This is a great examination of the character of Deathstroke that is an informative as it is nostalgic—it’s a rewarding ready to folks who aren’t as familiar with his history and to new readers alike.
• The character writing here is crazy awesome. JT Krul shows a tremendously strong handle of the characters, live and dead, which makes this issue incredibly compelling. He also finds a strong balance between plot-moving dialogue and quipping that works really well to give the issue meat without holding back the action.
• Joe Bennett and company really cut loose with the action here. This issue has a ton of energy and strong storytelling that is just really exciting.
• There are a few panels where the perspective is a bit odd and there are times where both Ravager and Deathstroke look a bit bulky.
What to be Thankful for: I’m always thankful for more Ravager stories, but I feel like that might not appeal to just about anyone. Instead, we’ll go with JT Krul proving once again that he has the chops to write the Titans-family characters in another awesome comic; maybe after this, DC will let him have the ongoing!
Verdict: Must Read. This comic is pure awesomeness from cover to cover. Not only does JT Krul have a simply awesome take on two of my favorite characters, but his story brings out the best in the art team. Joe Bennett has done some great work recently, but this is definitely his best work in a very long time. This series has been a little rough lately, but this issue belongs in your collection.
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen, Randy Mayor, and Gabe Eltaeb
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, and Hi-Fi
• The War of Light takes an interesting new direction in this week’s Green Lantern as the unlikeliest of alliances is formed between representatives of each Lantern Corps to face and destroy the Black Lantern threat.
• This issue moves at a great pace with incredibly snappy dialogue that is filled with personality. Geoff Johns has done a superb job with all of the characters in this issue since the event started, but he really steps up his game with this issue.
• Larfleeze completely makes this issue on his own. His quips, side-jabs, and random comments are hilarious and awesome. I really hope that there is a place for this character after Blackest Night is over.
• The touch upon the origin of Atrocitus and the massacre of Sector 666 was incredibly well-played and poignant. I absolutely loved Blue Lantern Saint Walker’s response to it.
• Doug Mahnke continues his amazing ways with this issue. I really got into his work on StormWatch PHD and Batman—very grounded books—but I think that his calling is in the epic sci-fi genre as he can bring expressions to alien creatures that are uncanny.
• There are a few moments where Mahnke’s work is lacking in detail—most often in very wide shots—that look just plain awkward. I know it’s impossible to cram detail into shots where the characters are so small, but these just look weird and are pretty distracting.
What to be Thankful for: The excellence of Orange Lantern Larfleeze is something we can all enjoy, but I think we should be thankful that the massacre of Sector 666 is finally revealed and in a way that makes Atrocitus a considerably more sympathetic character without downplaying his rage and power. Well played, Geoff Johns, well played.
Verdict: Must Read. This issue is everything that Blackest Night #5 probably should have been, but wasn’t. Not only does it feature some jaw-droppingly awesome art from Doug Mahnke, but also simply awesome character interaction between the various Lanterns. This is an issue that you’ll want to read again the moment you put it down.
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Gary Frank, Jon Sibal, and Brad Anderson
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Gary Frank and Brad Anderson
• This week’s issue of Superman: Secret Origin takes a very unique look at what Metropolis—and most importantly, the Daily Planet—was like before Superman became its stalwart protector.
• I love the approach of this issue. We’ve seen countless stories about how inspirational Superman is, but this issue really hammered home his importance to Metropolis and making it the “City of Tomorrow.”
• Geoff Johns does an awesome job in setting up Lois Lane as a foil to the very bumbling and naïve Clark Kent. Their relationship is a very complex one and Johns does a great of capturing all of the facets of that in just that scene.
• It’s cool to see some of the major players of the Daily Planet here for the “first time,” with Johns doing a great job of linking their personalities here to how they’ve been appearing in the Superman titles recently.
• The art is what really bumped this issue to the top of the Rankings, though. Gary Frank’s art is simply superb. I’ve been a huge fan of his work for some time, but was blown away by his work here. Some of his best panels appear in this book.
• I love how differently he draws Superman and Clark Kent—they are clearly the same man, but the subtle differences in facial expressions and body language were phenomenal.
• The big splash pages towards the end as Superman saves Lois were amazing. These are iconic moments and Frank simply nails them with beautiful interpretations.
What to be Thankful for: The end of this issue features a major component of Superman’s origin that hasn’t really been explored before, but is perfectly in line with the values and personality of early Superman—doubt that becoming Superman in Metropolis is the right decision. It’s a minor event in this issue, but speaks volumes.
Verdict: Must Read. I’ve been loving this series so much, but this issue is easily my favorite so far. This issue really captures the magic and wonder of the Superman/Clark Kent dichotomy and is a great showcase of how awesome Lois Lane is. I’ve never been a huge Superman fan, but this series, and this issue in particular are really converting me.