Friday, December 4, 2009

Comic Book Review Power Rankings 12/03/09


It’s a short week for comics this week, coming to you a day later than usual due to the Thanksgiving holiday. We’ll be kicking off December in style though, with all of the comics on the Comic Book Review Power Rankings being ranked “Check It” and above. In fact, it is such a good week that this week’s #1 book is definitely in contention for the best single issue of the year. Want to know what it is? You’ll have to hit the jump to find out!

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 ryanreviews@gmail.com.


07. BLACKEST NIGHT: WONDER WOMAN #1
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Nicola Scott, Prentis Rollins, Jonathan Glapion, Walden Wong, Drew Geraci, and Nei Ruffino
Letter sby Travis Lanham
Cover by Greg Horn
preRanking: 05

Greg Rucka returns to Wonder Woman in this Blackest Night tie-in miniseries debut which finds the titular character being called out by Black Lantern Max Lord—whom Wonder Woman killed during Infinite Crisis.
• Considering the history between the characters, I was expecting more emotional resonance in this issue. Instead, we get a bit Lord taunting and then the situation is brushed off in what is essentially a done-in-one story.
• I’m really not sure why the Lord storyline was dropped so fast. I really expected this to be one of the biggest tie-in stories, especially given how Wonder Woman was defined by her slaying of Lord for some time.
• The good news is that Rucka has not lost a beat with his take on the character in the years since he left the title. She retains her proud, peace-warrior stance that made his run so compelling.
• I really liked that her magic lasso was the “light” that defeated the Black Lanterns, though given how much trouble other characters have had with the monsters, it felt really exaggerated that she would be able to take out so many so quickly.
Nicola Scott’s art was very strong, though it was forced into inconsistency due to the large number of inkers. None of the pages really looked bad, but as a whole they didn’t fit that well together.
• Scott’s interpretation of Wonder Woman is perfectly in line with Rucka’s, building instant chemistry between the two. Of course, there are few characters that Scott doesn’t draw well.
• I really cannot sing the praises of Nei Ruffino enough. Her work on the colors here is simply phenomenal and makes up for a lot of the problems caused by the multiple inkers.
• I really don’t care for the cover by Greg Horn here. Wonder Woman and Max Lord are drawn and colored in two vastly different styles. I don’t often make a big deal out of covers as part of the Rankings, but this does bring the book down a bit.

Verdict: Check It. It’s a good sign when a book of this caliber is the worst book of the week. The success of the book really hinges on Rucka and Scott’s interpretation of Wonder Woman, both of which go a long way into making up for the pitfalls of the plot. However, I can’t help but feel a bit burned that was should have been a major storyline is brushed aside in favor of what is essentially a standalone fluff story.


06. FALL OF THE HULKS: ALPHA
Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Paul Pelletier, Vicente Cifuentes, and Guru eFX
Letters by Simon Bowland
Cover by Ed McGuinness, Mark Farmer, and Dave Stewart
preRanking: 07

• Despite being completely hooked on all things Hulk through Planet Hulk and World War Hulk, my interest in the franchise was killed after the first few issues of Jeph Loeb’s (Red) Hulk series. With the upcoming Fall of the Hulks storyline on the horizon, I thought I’d utilize this short week to check it out.
• This issue focuses on longtime Hulk villain The Leader as he recounts the formation, misadventures, and eventual dissolution of a group of super-genius villains bent on amassing immense hidden knowledge.
• It was neat to see these villains written as very “human” rather than just as one-off baddies. Jeff Parker does a good job of setting up the motivation of their discoveries, which helped flesh out their deeds.
• I was a bit turned off by Dr. Doom’s role in the story. It felt extremely forced and didn’t add much to the story other than to put the Leader in a rut towards the end of the story. There needed to be a clearer purpose for this.
• It’s hard to see how this really connects to the Fall of Hulks story though most of the issue. The last few pages plant it firmly into it, but it seemed tacked on to a much larger, seemingly unconnected story. It works well as a standalone villain-centric story, though.
Paul Pelletier’s art is serviceable. It’s clean and gets the job done, but isn’t any different than your average superhero story and lacks the punch he brought to War of Kings.
• A big part of this is the relatively bland coloring. There is almost no depth added from the colors.
Ed McGuinness’s take on The leader on the cover proves that he can’t drawn anyone that isn’t comprised of over-exaggerated muscles, impossibly square jaws, and ridiculously huge physiques without it looking awkward. Yikes.

Verdict: Check It. This is a fun issue that reminds you how cool some of the mad genius villains can be. I really like the idea of a intel-focused villain’s group like this, even if it meant some pretty major retcons. I wouldn’t say that this is the best way to kick off Fall of the Hulks because it is such a limited tie-in, but its still a fun read and the encyclopedia style biographies of the villains in the back are a nice extra.


05. NOVA #32
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Andrea Divito, Bruno Hang, and Jay Dvaid Ramos
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Brandon Peterson
preRanking: 03

• After being transported away from an exploding planet, Darkhawk and Nova find themselves as pawns in a game by the Sphinx along with time displaced versions of some special guest stars in this week’s relatively humdrum issue of Nova.
• This issue is pretty light. What you see is what you get here—the reintroduction of a villain, the surface of a mystery, and not a whole lot of anything else.
• I’m surprised by how bland some of the characters were here, especially Darkhawk. Nova and Sphinx were handled well, but the rest didn’t have much for personality.
• I like the buildup of Sphinx as a credible threat and the fact that it is done so in a way that is rewarding to new and longtime readers. It’s cool to be see a classic villain treated with some reverence rather than being cannon fodder.
Andrea Divito brings great energy to the art and solid storytelling. His artwork really controls the pace of the issue.
• There is a surprising lack of detail in this issue. The setting means bland backgrounds, but that really shouldn’t extend to the characters.

Verdict: Check It. This is a fun issue with a cool team-up with some surprising special guests and an interesting mystery. Unfortunately, it is one of the weaker issues of this series in terms of craft. I’m not sure if it was rushed or what, but neither the writing nor the art had the depth that I’ve come to expect from this series.


04. THE BOYS #37
Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Darick Robertson and Tony Avina
Letters by Simon Bowland
Cover by Darick Robertson
preRanking: 06

• The origins of The Boys continues in this week’s issue, which finds Frenchie explaining his origin to Wee Hughie in a bizarre story that involves Frenchie being a popular war hero and a bicycle joust with stale loaves of bread.
• I think it is really cool that Frenchie’s origin is told in such an unreliable manner, which adds a sense of mystery around the character. At this point, I’m actually even doubting the fact that he is French.
• While the framing device does help develop Frenchie as an unreliable narrator, the lack of setup really disturbs me. There is nothing more forced than “I suppose I should tell you my origin now…” Ick.
• There is a lot of charm in this story and the bizarre nature of it made it that much more interesting, especially since, in the end, it is grounded in a very real story of a man torn between the idyllic nature of his memories and the horrors of war that he has faced.
Darick Robertson’s art was rough in some areas with very shaky linework, uneven designs, and very stiff characters.
• In the spots where he was looser, the art featured some of his best expressions in the last few years. The problem is that these moments were few and far between compared to the rouger moments.

Verdict: Check It. The flaws in this issue very apparent, but in spite of them, I really found myself enjoying this charming little story. Its one of the most absurd things we’ve seen in this series, which is good because if there is one thing that The Boys has lost, it’s the sense of fun that permeated the early issues as a nice reprieve from the grim, sadistic world that the characters live in. Plus, even though we don’t know any more about him than we did in the previous issues, Frenchie is now one of the coolest characters in the series just because of his insanely ridiculous “origin.”


03. GI JOE #12
Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by SL Gallant and Andrew Crossley
Letters by Robbie Robbins
Covers by Howard Chaykin with Edgar Delgado and Robert Atkins with Andrew Crossley
preRanking: 04

• The second major storyline for GI Joe closes out this week as Destro finally impresses Cobra and several other story beats come to a close, including the fates of Scarlett and Snake Eyes.
• This issues incredibly fast-paced and covers a lot ground as it closes out some beats that have been developing since the first issue and jump starts a few for the next arc.
• We still have yet to see the full extent of the Cobra organization, but the new twists with Destro keep things fresh. His vile side is really starting to come out, which makes him all the more compelling.
• The storyline with Scarlett comes to a close, but does so in an awkward manner that made me feel like nothing has really been resolved. It’s one of the few weak points in the issue.
Chuck Dixon’s great character work adds a lot of weight to the issue, making for some very powerful storytelling moments. This is amongst his best issues.
• I’m impressed with the strides that SL Gallant makes in this issue, even if the end results still isn’t quite up to what I’d really like to see from this title. The overall look of the issue is still very uneven, mostly due to inconsistent inking and anatomy.
• However, his storytelling and expressions are considerably stronger this go around. Gallant is getting much better and I hope that he can live up to his potential. This is definitely his best issue thus far, but he still has a ways to go.

Verdict: Buy It. This week’s GI Joe is a very solid effort and one of the stronger issues of the series thus far. After a full year’s worth of issues, I’d say that this series is definitely hitting its stride and quickly approaching the quality of the America’s Elite series from Devil’s Due, which is a big compliment. SL Gallant still has some headway to make before he can live up to his potential, but I’m glad to see how much growth he shows in this issue alone. Thankfully, though, the ever-awesome Robert Atkins will be back next issue!


02. ULTIMATE COMICS: SPIDER-MAN #5
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by David Lafuente and Justin Ponsor
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by David Lafuente and Justin Ponsor
preRanking: 02

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man becomes a modern version of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends this week as Aunt May agrees to take in yet another wayward superhero and Spidey battles it out with Mysterio.
• I really dig the idea of Iceman and Human Torch becoming regulars on the series, filling the roles that Iceman and Firestar filled in the old Amazing Friends cartoon series.
• This is really the first issue that has made me really interested in the mysterious Shroud, who saves Spider-Man here. On a related note, I had been guessing that Kitty was the Shroud, but that seems unlikely after this issue, so I’m going to put my money on Jessica Jones now.
• While I loved the battle and all of the teenage drama in this issue, there were two scenes that felt slightly out of place—the girl telling Spider-Man how hot he was and the bit at the police station. Both fit with the plot, but the tone didn’t gel quite as well with the rest of the issue.
• Every issue of this series frightens me a little bit more with how well Brian Michael Bendis can write teenagers. It’s uncanny.
• As per usual, David Lafuente is simply awesome here. His storytelling in particular blows me away. I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit for his panel progression.
• His expressions are equally as awesome and combine well with the energy of the art to really help set the tone and pace of the story. Bendis is certainly driving this series, but Lafuente is laying the track for him.
• The only problem I had with the art is that some facial designs seemed to lack the depth of others, making it look a little strange when certain characters were on panel together. It’s a minor gripe and not something you’d notice on a quick read, but is still worth noting.

Verdict: Must Read. I’m still completely infatuated with this series. Bendis and Lafuente are putting on a clinic with their awesomeness here. This is precisely how classic superhero styling can combine with a modern flair. There are a handful of better comics out there right now, but I can’t think of any straight-up superhero books that are this good. Another month, another big win for Ultimate Comics Spider-Man.


01. MICE TEMPLAR: DESTINY #5
Written by Bryan J.L. Glass
Art by Victor Santos and Veronica Gandini
Letters by James H. Glass
Covers by Michael Avon Oeming and Victor Santos with Veronica Gandini
preRanking: 01

• This week’s issue of Mice Templar: Destiny has been described as writer Bryan J.L. Glass’s favorite issue and I can see why as it is by far one of the single best issues of the year—not only from Mice Templar, but from any book.
• The issue finds Cassius and Karic at the mercy of a camp of Templar survivors led by Cassius’s rival Ronan and his wife, Llcholorianewho had previously been the love of Cassius.
• This issue was a wonderful introduction to the Maeven Archers and was well worth the wait to see them in action!
• Bryan Glass really stepped up his “sense of voice” in this issue as the characters are more distinct here than they have been at any other point in the series.
• Stemming from that is the wonderful character interaction and the raw emotion behind it that is comes together beautifully. For mice, the characters of this issue are by far the most human characters you can find any comic this week.
• I absolutely loved the interaction between Karic and Ankara. Glass perfectly captures the youthful spirit of their meeting and how heartwarming it really is. This makes for an excellent foil to the darkness that Karic shows throughout the rest of the issue and reminds us of just how sweet of a mouse he can be—when he isn’t strong arming that is!
Victor Santos is amazing. There really isn’t any questiona bout it. The life and energy he brings to these characters is accentuated by the fact that ridiculously strong expressions he brings them. Considering the characters aren’t even human, I cannot begin to express how impressive that is.
• His layouts are equally as strong. He uses very striking layouts and inventive ways to create panels as well as to work without conventional panels. It’s very innovative and skillfully used—at no point does it feel gimmicky.
Veronica Gandini’s colors cannot be forgotten in this discussion by any means. The depth and textures she provides bring Santos’s art to another level. Do not be surprised when she becomes a huge deal over the next few years!

Verdict: Must Read. I’ve been praising the depth and charm of this incredibly well-crafted franchise from day one, but Bryan Glass and the art team go beyond even their own high standards with this issue. Nearly everything about this issue works in perfect synch with everything else. The chemistry between the writing and the art is simply astounding. This issue features some of the best character work I’ve read in years and should not be missed under any circumstances.


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13 comments:

Daringd said...

So pretty solid week for books unfortunately my store was shorted copies of BN: Flash so I won’t be able to review it.

6. Superman: WONK #10: Robinson/Rucka/Woods/Randall DC $2.99
James Robinson is a good writer when he wants to be. 90% of his Superman books are great. However the other 10% range from okay to absolute crap. This issue is just okay, I think WONK really ran out of story 4 issues ago. I mean with two writers I expect more. But then again one of the writers wrote the abortion that is JLA #39 (I JUST WANTED THE RING). Back to the issue, it’s just filler I men they could do so much more with the concept. Hopefully the next two issues can bring the series back.
Overall 6.0/10

5. Haunt #3: Kirkman/Ottley/Capullo/McFarlane Image $2.99
I must say Haunt has surprised me. It has been really good. Not Kirkman’s best but the art’s slick and the story seems to be blooming. This isn’t a bad issue it really good especially compared to the previous 2 issues. If marvel hadn’t but out a huge helping of awesome this would have been higher in the rankings. Overall Haunt seems to be a book everyone should keep on their radar. Good things are bound to come out of it.
Overall 8.0/10

4. Dark Avengers: Annual #1: Bendis/Bachalo Marvel $4.99
I would love if some could explain why this book was $4.99. I mean really $3.99 would have been just fine. Price issues aside this was a strong annual. Bendis really get Marvel-Boy and Bachalo bravo man. This is some of the best art I’ve seen from Bachalo. Amazing work from him, Bendis is elevated by the art in my opinion. The only “must know” thing is the last page. I’m not gonna spoil, but wow just wow. This was a fun and enjoyable read but completely overpriced.
Overall 8.4/10

3. Siege: The Cabal: Bendis/Lark Marvel $3.99
I’m saying it now IF Marvel man turns out to be the shadowy figure I will drop all my marvel books except Daredevil, Uncanny X-men, Secret Warriors, Fantastic Four and Spider-man. This issue to be honest scared me. I got a bad feeling that it is Marvel man. But for now it’s still unknown, so I was able to enjoy this issue immensely. Everything worked for me the writing and the brilliant art from Lark. I even found the set up for Siege to be great. Yes they are using the same set up as Civil War but it makes perfect sense. This one shot really got me excited for Siege next month.
Overall 9.0/10

2. Thor #604: Gillen/Tan Marvel $2.99
JMS brilliant run ended last week, and it’s like he never left. I had to check to make sure he hadn’t written the issue. It felt like something straight out of his run. The art even surprised me usual I dread Billy Tan’s art but here wow. It was absolutely great. I had given serious thought to dropping Thor but I decided to give it one issue. Boy did these guys win me over. Great work!
Overall 9.4/10

1. Uncanny X-men #518: Fraction/Dodson Marvel $2.99
Fraction does it again for the 7th time this year Uncanny X-men has been book of the week. I am a huge X-men fan so every issue of Fractions run has been real treat. It took 4 issues to find its footing but ever since issue 505 he’s been on fire with this book. The Emma/Void story is the main focus of the issue the way Fraction ends it is so brilliant. It sets up a lot of possibilities. Dodson’s art is always a joy, I just wish we could get more of it. As a X fan I love everything Fraction has been doing he is really making Uncanny have an epic feel again. I just hope he sticks around for a long time.
Overall 9.7/10

Andrenn said...

Hey Ryan, some great reviews. Totally agreed on Ultimate Comics Spider-man this week.

I guess you dropped Haunt after issue #1, it's gotten really good and I highly recommend you pick it up again. issue #3 doesn't do a lot but it has a really high point near the end that makes Daniel's character a lot more interesting.

brandon said...

Great reviews as usual.

What's the methodology behind picking up BN Wonder Woman but not BN Flash? Just curious.

Also didnt GI Joe have a character die in this issue? How did that play out? Was it a "cheap" one? I dropped the book but I am still curious.

Ryan Schrodt said...

@Brandon - I just haven't been feeling the Flash franchise as of late and I LOVED Rucka's Wonder Woman run, plus the added bonus of Nicola Scott whom I enjoy more than Kollins. Still, it seems like I made the wrong choice based on other reviews. May pick up BN Flash this weekend.

It was a pretty cheap death in GI Joe. Destro killed his male cronie to save himself from being executed by Cobra--basically he showed how ruthless he could be. It worked and was a cool moment, but certainly wasn't a major death by any means.

brandon said...

@Ryan

Thanks. I can't say I blame you on the Flash. I'm just not understanding the long term game plan for that franchise.

Also for those Ellis fans out there - Supergod was terrific this week.

Kirk Warren said...

@brandon - I checked out the first issue of Supergod, but it was just one long narration with no dialogue or anything. It read like Ellis wanted to write a prose novel isntead of playing to the strengths of the comic book medium. Does it continue with that trend in the second issue?

brandon said...

@Kirk

Yes, the second issue is exactly the same except with a couple of new characters and a set up to the series of confrontation/battles. I liked it. But I hear ya.

Primewax said...

@Ryan: I want you to pick up BN: Flash. Just try it. I'm not a huge Flash fan or anything, and Rebirth is pretty much just Barry running, but man, Johns nailed it this time.

Daryll B. said...

Damn..totally forgot to pick up Uncanny and Templar this week...I am ashamed....*shakes head*

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