Friday, December 11, 2009
This week’s Comic Book Review Power Rankings are coming to you a little later than usual this week thanks to the massive snowstorm that rocked the Midwest. Although I was willing to trudge through the 11” of snow that hit my town on Wednesday for comics, my local comic book shop owner was not. Despite the setback, I’ve still got a slew of new issues to review this week including the debuts of Toy Story, Nation X, and God Complex, plus new issues of Amazing Spider-Man, Red Robin, and more!
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 Mark Waid
Art by Paul Azaceta and Dave Stewart
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Marko Djurdjevic
• The amped-up Electro continues his attack on Dexter Bennett this week despite not really having any reason to do so and, in the process, destroys one of the most notable landmarks in Spider-Man’s world.
• Last issue, it was made clear that the political angle of the story was just a means to ends for making Electro more powerful. This week, it becomes clear that Electro becoming more powerful is just a means to ends for destroying the Daily Bugle.
• This is easily one of the most forced plots I can remember reading in some time. Nothing really makes sense and the inconsistency of Electro’s plans and motives only make things worse.
• Speaking of forced, the quipping between Spider-Man and Electro in this issue is simply awful. Spidey is known for his jokes and cracks, but if it doesn’t make sense don’t push it. It just makes the issue that much more grating.
• Also speaking of forced, what’s the deal with the melodramatic epilogue? Was this all really done just so Peter could have an unnatural conversation with Betty Brant that foreshadows the fact that his villains are going to all get juiced up during the Gauntlet storyline?
• Sadly, the art doesn’t do much better than the writing. Paul Azaceta’s “old school” style is a lot of fun, but for every step forward he takes with cool designs, he takes several steps back with stuff designs, horrible expressions, and an utter lack of depth.
• Plus, he draws Betty Brant in a ridiculously low-cut shirt with incredibly weird boobs. Not only does the slutty shirt not make that much sense, but the boobs look gross.
Verdict: Avoid It. Had this been my jumping on point for the thrice-monthly Amazing Spider-Man, it would also be the last issue I picked up for a very long time. All of the problems that this story has had from the start culminate into a mess of an issue that fails on nearly every level. I’m sorry to say that I paid for this and I’m even sorrier that I couldn’t have warned you not to do so sooner.
Written by Jesse Blaze Snider
Art by Nathan Watson and Mickey Clausen
Covers by Various
• Just in case you were wondering what Buzz, Woody, and the gang were up to between the first and second Toy Story films, Boom! Studios drops its Toy Story series this week which finds Buzz caught in a case of mistaken identity with another Buzz Lightyear action figure with predictably disastrous results.
• I should probably warn everyone that I’m a ridiculously huge Toy Story fan to the point that this issue really had its work cut out for it to impress me. I tried to be objective, but my love of all things Toy Story made it hard.
• Jesse Blaze Snider does a good job of capturing the voices of Buzz and Woody, which is pretty impressive considering the limited source material for them (only two released films). Unfortunately, the other characters really fell by the wayside with dull filler dialogue. It’s great to see the main characters nailed, but the supporting cast is too important to have throwaway interchangeable dialogue.
• I was really pleased to see Snider linking the Toy Story concept to the Buzz Lightyear cartoon by introducing Booster from the cartoon series. That was a fun touch.
• This works well as an all-ages comic. The plot is easy to understand and the dialogue is clear. The problem is, adult fans aren’t going to find as much to latch on to.
• I was really disappointed by a lot of the gags that were reused from the films like the recon from the toy soldiers, the toys rushing back when Andy is coming, the alternate Buzz, etc.
• The killer for this issue, though, was the art. It’s hard to capture the strength of Pixar’s 3D designs, but flat, lifeless art simply isn’t going to cut it.
• Much like with the writing, Buzz and Woody were handled the best with the art, while the others were lacking in detail and personality.
• Andy looks weird, which could be because of his anorexic arms. Somebody feed that boy a sandwich!
Verdict: Byrne It. If this is your first exposure to Toy Story or if you are a youngin’, you’ll probably enjoy this issue a lot more than older, longtime fans will. The flaws, especially in regards to how the non-marquee characters are handled, are simply too apparent and outweigh a lot of the good that Snider begins to build here. This series has potential, but this isn’t the best start.
Written by Michael Avon Oeming and Dan Berman
Art by John Broglia and Dan Berman
Letters by Aaron Walker
Cover by Mike Oeming and Val Staples
• Mike Oeming’s newest project, God Complex, dropped this week and follows Apollo, son of Zeus, as he forsakes his godhood in favor of becoming a mortal, much to the dismay of the Pantheon.
• This series has a cool concept and the characters themselves are interesting, but the big problem is that their conflicts are very ill-defined. A lot happens without much explanation.
• The pacing of the script is a bit rough as well. Some pages are incredibly dense and hard to push through, while others are quite script and there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to the shifts.
• I think that this issue would be a lot stronger if the development of the main character wasn’t so rushed and if there was a bit more world-building. When supervillains start showing up near the end of the issue, it feels jarring since that end of the world hadn’t been addressed. It makes the entire story seem chaotic.
• The art by John Broglia is a mixed bag. For most of the issue, his art looks way too much like Oeming’s, which seems like an odd choice, especially since Broglia lacks a lot of the polish that Oeming brings to this style.
• Towards the end of the issue, though, Broglia apes Mike Mignola’s style and its considerably more effective. Had he used this style throughout the entire issue, it would have been so much better.
Verdict: Byrne It. God Complex is a very interesting premise that certainly has potential to be a can’t miss book, but the poor setup in this issue makes it very hard to get invested. Additionally, the unevenness of the art is hard to swallow, especially considering how dramatic the shifts in style are. This book could be a huge hit and that’s clear after reading this issue, I’m just not sure how patient I can be as it finds itself.
Written by Various
Art by Various
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Dustin Weaver and Morry Hollowell
• We’ve just seen another status quo shift for the X-Men, which means its time for another anthology miniseries checking in on everyone’s favorite mutants. This time the world’s mutants face life on Utopia, the mutant-haven island created by Scott Summers from Magneto’s former Asteroid-M.
• The first story by Simon Spurrier and artists Leonard Kirk and Jay David Ramos is fairly dull test of wills by Magneto on the X-kids that is only really notable for its weird looking art and incredibly boring character work. Yawn.
• Story number two is a very strong team-up road trip between Wolverine and Nightrcrawler told by James Asmus and the artistic duo of Mike and Laura Allred. This is definitely the most charming tale in the book and makes me wish that the Allreds would get a Nightcrawler miniseries. They definitely have an awesome take on the character.
• Chris Yost’s scripted the third story starring Iceman with art by Michele Bertilorenzi and Antonio Fabela. This is fairly predictable tale about how Iceman copes with trauma through humor. The art is decent, though Bobby looks weird when not powered up. This is a good introduction to the character, but longtime fans might be a bit bored.
• The final story by writer Scott Snyder and the art team of David Lopez, Alvaro Lopez, and Nathan Fairbairn is the anchor of the issue. It is an interesting look at Colossus and his struggles to cope with the last few years worth of storylines and is everything that the stupid tattoo story in Uncanny X-Men tried to be last year, but couldn’t pull of. Despite being a short tale, this is one of the deepest Colossus stories in some time.
Verdict: Check It. These anthologies are always a struggle to review because they do often cover a wide range on the quality spectrum. However, as it stands, this is worth at least flipping through for the Colossus and Nightcrawler stories. The Iceman story is pretty so-so, but the horribleness of the first story is just too cruddy to bump this one up the Rankings any further.
Written by Chris Yost
Art by Marcus To, Dexter Vines, and Guy Major
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Marcos To and Ray McCarthy
• Things look pretty bad for Tam Fox in this week’s Red Robin as she is viciously attacked by the Council of Spiders as they raid the headquarters of the League of Assassins.
• It’s a bit hard to get invested into this issue because Tam isn’t exactly bursting with personality, though Chris Yost’s decision to carry the story through her thoughts does heighten the sense of chaos and panic in the story.
• The flashbacks that introduce the Council of Spiders were interesting, but the lack of transitions made these a bit jarring. A shift in the art or some other bridge between these and the main story would have helped considerably.
• I really enjoyed the interaction between Alfred and Tam’s father, Lucius. This not only helped the pace of the story, but it also helped connect it to what is going on in the other Bat-titles.
• The art by Marcus To really carried this issue. His energy and expressions were simply awesome. Plus, he seems to play around with perspectives a little more here, which helps keep things fresh.
• The storytelling was a bit rough. Sometimes the panel progressions just didn’t seem to click and the pacing was a bit clunky during the action scenes.
• Guy Major does an awesome job with the colors, though. His bold work brings a lot of life to the issue, plus it reminds me of the work that he did on the regular Robin title, which is a good thing.
Verdict: Check It. This is probably the weakest issue yet of Red Robin, mostly due to the stiffness of the Tam Fox characters. Its hard to push someone else into the spotlight of a solo title without that character having a strong personality. There are a few other minor issues, but there’s a lot to like about this issue as well. It’s certainly not one I would avoid by any means, but it is a book I’d approach with caution.
Written by Andrew Kreisberg
Art by Mike Norton, Bill Sienkiewicz, David Baron, Renato Guedes, Jose Wilson Magalhaes, and David Curiel
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Ladronn
• The villainous Cupid and her “Dark Arrow” (Everyman) hit the streets in this week’s Green Arrow/Black Canary, which also reveals Cupid’s history as part of a violent covert ops organization.
• Andrew Kreisberg’s character writing is really the backbone of this issue. I love the personality that he brings to each character, including Everyman, who has been a bit of a wet blanket since his debut in 52.
• I loved the way Cupid’s back story is playing out. This really gives her a lot of credibility, especially since a lot of what she has done wouldn’t be possible for the average citizen.
• In the same vein, this is yet another issue where Kreisberg’s using the co-feature in an effective and unique way. Having it used to tell Cupid’s back story makes this feel like an oversized issue rather than multiple stories in one book.
• The art in the main story is much stronger than in the shorter story. The combination of Bill Sienkiewicz and Mike Norton are as awesome as always. With these two you get the best of both worlds—Sienkiewicz control of mood and Norton’s awesome storytelling.
• The art by Renato Guedes is considerable stronger than some of his efforts, mostly due to the fact that nobody really looked that bloated in his story.
• The big problem in this issue really isn’t that the second feature art was that bad, but rather than the contrast between the art styles is far too jarring considering they are essentially part of the same narrative.
Verdict: Buy It. Andrew Kreisberg continues his impressive run on this title with more of what has made it so addictive this far—clever use of the format, a solid plot, and simply awesome character work. The dual art teams continues to be a problem for this series, perhaps more so here than in previous issues because of the connection between the stories, though I’m glad to say that Guedes is fixing a lot of the issues that have bothered me about his work.
Written by Bryan Q. Miller
Art by Lee Garbett, Sandra Hope, Oliver Nome, and Guy Major
Letters by John J. Hill
Cover by Phil Noto
• Batman and Robin guest start in this issue of Batgirl as they confront Stephanie and Barbara about Stephanie taking over the mantle in a less than positive way.
• I really enjoyed the interaction between Damien and Stephanie in this issue. This is definitely one of the best issues for him and I hope that other writers take Bryan Q. Miller’s lead on how to put these two together.
• There is a lot of charm in this issue, in general. Miller has done a tremendous job of building Stephanie’s credibility while still highlight her schedules and through this he has made her incredibly likable character.
• The only major problem I had with this issue was how Dick was written. For some reason Miller really pushes the envelope with his reaction to the new Batgirl to the point that Dick actually kicks Babs out of the Batcave. This just really seemed out of character.
• It cracks me up that Commissioner Gordon is trying to hook up Babs with the detective that Batgirl has eyes for. I don’t envision this ending well.
• Lee Garbett really steps the energy in the action sequences in this issue and accents them with really great expressions. Action-wise this is probably his best issue yet.
• On the flipside, the quieter moments pale in comparison, suffering from a surprising stiffness. The lack of backgrounds in a lot of panels is also more apparent in these scenes, which is really distracting.
• I will say that there were some great “style” moments in this issue though, including good action splashes and a simply awesome large panel of Damien standing ominously next to a tree, frightening Stephanie’s classmates.
Verdict: Buy It. As this series continues to settle into “its place” amongst DC’s other titles, I’m really pleased with how things are coming together for the creative team. Lee Garbett struggles at time, but has good chemistry with Bryan Q. Miller who is doing some simply amazing work as he makes Batgirl one of DC’s most engaging characters. The unlikely duo of Batgirl and Robin in this issue only fuels that and makes this a really enjoyable issue.
Written by Dan Jurgens
Art by Mike Norton, Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, and Hi_Fi
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund
• This week’s Booster Gold picks up right where last week’s issue left off with Black Lantern Ted Kord committing a very vicious attack that leads to the development of a new “Blue and Gold” with Booster and new Blue Beetle Jaime Reyes.
• This issue has a really great epic feel thanks to the controlled pace that really builds each dramatic twist up. Dan Jurgens is really putting on a storytelling clinic here.
• This also pours over into the character work as well. Jurgens nails every character with strong interaction that builds a great emotional resonance here, especially with Booster having to face his undead best friend.
• The end result is an issue that is a great tribute to one of DC’s strongest characters, even if he appears as a villain here. Between the fun interaction between the characters and beautiful tribute in the “funeral” that Booster gives him, this is definitely the best send off that Ted Kord has been given since he died 4 years ago.
• Jurgens and Mike Norton do a brilliant job with the art here. Both men are really at the top of their game right now and their combination in this issue makes it feel all the more special.
• Of course, the art really wouldn’t be nearly as powerful if it weren’t for the finishes by Norm Rapmund on top of both artists. I really can’t praise his work enough as the work of Norton and Jurgens blends so perfectly because of the strength of Rapmund’s finishes.
Verdict: Must Read. This is easily my favorite issue of Booster Gold yet and one of my favorite Blackest Night tie-ins. The interaction between Booster and the two Blue Beetles is simply priceless and the tribute to Ted Kord is incredibly moving. When you add in the gorgeous art you have an incredibly strong issue that shouldn’t be missed.
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Peter Nguyen, Doug Hazlewood, Mark McKenna, and Jason Wright
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Daniel Luvisi
• One of my favorite underutilized characters in the DCU, Black Alice, attempts to strong arm her way into the Secret Six in one of the more disturbing issues of this often off-kilter series.
• I can honestly say that the opening scene of this issue is one of the sickest, most disturbing things I’ve ever read in a comic book. That being said, it is also one of the most devilishly satisfying. It blows my mind how dark Gail Simone can get.
• This issue is strange because it isn’t very heavy on plot, despite clearly being a turning point in the series. The majority of this issue is spent setting up Black Alice and the team’s reactions to her, though, on that level it remains an excellent read that doesn’t disappoint in any sense.
• The reactions to Alice from all of the Sixers was very interesting—unlike other folks that have joined the team, we really get a proper introduction to her and how she may upset the balance in the group.
• I absolutely loved the ominous ending, especially with Catman questioning if Alice is perhaps too powerful and, perhaps more importantly, Scandal being left in the dust as she is replaced.
• Peter Nguyen’s art is really solid. He lacks the flair that Nicola Scott normally brings to the title, but he puts in a solid effort with very few major issues.
• The only real problem is that there are some design consistencies, though this could easily be attributed to the two different inkers attached.
• The designs that Nguyen put together for Alice taking different powers were simply great, especially her Phantom Stranger outfit.
• The art really excels though at carrying the tone and pacing of the script without issue. I’m really impressed with the immediate chemistry Nguyen has with Simone. I think he’ll make an excellent fill-in for Scott (who I’m hoping will return to the title after Blackest Night: Wonder Woman is completed).
Verdict: Must Read. It was a really close battle for the Top Spot in this week’s Rankings and Secret Six nearly lost it because its art wasn’t as strong as Booster Gold’s. However the strength of the character work and the disturbingly awesome opening scenes of this issue carried it to #1. For those keeping track, Secret Six will end 2009 with a whopping EIGHT Book of the Week honors on the Rankings. This shatters the record set last year by Criminal at five. Wow.