Thursday, December 17, 2009

Comic Book Review Power Rankings for 12/16/09

It’s a big week as we prepare to close out 2009 with the penultimate Comic Book Review Power Rankings of the year. This week I’ll be looking at 15 of the week’s new releases, including the ever-exciting Elephantmen, a look at the next-amped up villain in Amazing Spider-Man, a handful of Batman titles and many, many more. Which book will walk away with the coveted Book of the Week honor? There’s only one way 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

As a heads up, next week’s Comic Book Review Power Rankings will be coming to you a little late due to Christmas travels. I’ll be spending a few days with my in-laws, which means that the Rankings won’t be posted until Sunday December 27th! Then, be sure to check back on Thursday December 31st for a very special look at the year’s best comics in my Yearly Review Power Rankings!

Written by Fred Van Lente
Art by Javier Pulido and Javier Rodriguez
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Paolo Rivera
preRanking: 10

Sandman is the next villain in the Gauntlet to get facelift in this week’s issue which finds the villain committing a series of heinous crimes—including murder—to give a little girl that world of her dreams, while Peter’s friend Carlie finds herself in hot water when the murder weapons disappear.
• This issue is pretty dull from start to finish. The plot plods a long with some less-than-surprising twist and an ending that is incredibly predictable.
• I get that the Spider-Man Brain Trust is trying to regain some credibility for Spider-Man’s villains, but Sandman is jacked up to the point of ridiculousness here. Spider-Man attempting to murder him because of it really isn’t working for me either.
• I’m glad that Carlie is working her way back into the book as she is a great character, but she doesn’t have much personality.
• I will say that Fred Van Lente absolutely nails the handful of pages between J. Jonah Jameson and Robbie Robertson at the ruins of the Daily Bugle, though. It was a powerful and poignant scene.
• Javier Pulido’s art runs into lots of consistency problems, especially with his use of depth and shadows. A big part of this is because his lines are really tight with no heavy blacks to balance it out.
• There are a few strong designs—most notably Jameson or winterized Spider-Man—but the vast majority of the characters are far too open and lack any real distinct features.

Verdict: Avoid It. After the major misstep in the previous storyline, I was really hoping that Fred Van Lente could step things up in this issue to salvage the Gauntlet storyline before we get much further into it. Unfortunately, this issue is incredibly predictable and lifeless, with fairly humdrum artwork. Things are not looking good for the Gauntlet at this point.

14. X-MEN LEGACY #230
Written by Mike Carey
Art by Daniel Acuna and Mirco Pierfederici
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Ben Oliver
preRanking: 13

• The first storyline of X-Men Legacy’s new direction comes to a close this week as Rogue plays her end game against the mutant-siphon Empath in at attempt to save her fellow mutant Bling! (who has the single worst name of all time—seriously, what is up with that exclamation point?).
• This is yet another very light, very brisk read for this series. There’s almost no depth to this story and the all-too brisk pace isn’t doing the issue any favors.
• The story really breaks down towards the end as it becomes clear that the X-Men will triumph over Empath, especially with the weird conversation between him and his crony.
• The epilogues do a little to salvage the issue, mostly because they are so grounded—something that the remainder of this storyline should have been.
• With a character like Rogue and the new direction of this series, inter-dimensional impossibly-powered madmen kidnapping characters that no one cares about really isn’t the best way to kick things off.
Daniel Acuna’s art is pretty much exactly what you’d expected—hyper-stylized designs, thick lines, lots of stiffness, etc—though I’d say that it is at a much lower quality than I’ve seen from him before.
• You’ll make up your mind on the art at page one and, as a fan of his DC work, I didn’t really feel that this was up to par for Acuna.
• Mirco Pierfederici handles the art in the epilogues with a style that is very similar to Acunas, but with better expressions. Pierfederici’s take on Rogue is much stronger, but these three pages really can’t overcome the pitfalls of the remainder of the issue.

Verdict: Avoid It. There really isn’t a whole lot going on here that is worth reading, truthfully. You get a handful of cool character moments, but most of them come in the epilogue when it is far too late to save the issue. I really like the concept of this book’s new direction and I’m a huge fan of Rogue, but if this is how things are going to be executed, I’m not sure it’ll be worth reading for much longer.

13. HULK #18
Written by Jeph Loeb
Art by Whilce Portacio, Danny Miki, and Dean White
Letters by Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Cover by Whilce Portacio
preRanking: 15

• I’m toying with the idea of following the Fall of the Hulks storyline, which led me to pick up this week’s Hulk, despite my reservations based upon how horrible the first few issues were. Truthfully, in the last 15 issues or so, things haven’t gotten much better.
• The issue follows Doc Samson through a therapy session in preparation for taking down the Hulk. He reveals his motives for being a “hero,” the truth behind his feelings about Betty Ross, and the surprising origin of his powers.
• This is a cool concept and when taken at face value, it adds some depth to the twist of Samson being a bad guy. If you haven’t been following the Hulk books, this is a good primer for what you might have missed.
• The problem is that this is perhaps the most ridiculously cliché issue I’ve read in years. Jeph Loeb falls back on very tired storytelling methods and twists. You’ll see the end of this issue coming from the third or fourth page.
• It doesn’t help that Samson’s motivations aren’t terribly original nor are they powerful enough to make me believe that he would really turn his back on years of being a good guy.
• That in itself is part of the problem. I can handle when a good guy goes bad because he honestly things that he is working towards the greater good despite his heinous acts. Here, however, Samson admits to being evil now and I really don’t feel like we get enough rationale for this turn.
• I can honestly say that in this issue you will see both the best and worst of Whilce Portacio. There are some panels in this book that simply blew me away, but they are few and fleeting; meanwhile the rougher stuff is here in abundance.
• A big part of the problem is that Portacio has major perspective issues here. Unless a shot is dead-on with very little to focus on other than the main character, things aren’t looking so good. There are a handful of birds-eye shots that were simply cringe-worthy because of how unnatural they looked.

Verdict: Avoid It. I was tempted to bump this issue up to “Byrne It” status because it does give some insight into the future of the Fall of the Hulks storyline, but the predictable twists and incredibly uneven nature of the art are just too hard to swallow. I really hate to jump on the bashing Loeb bandwagon because I know how ridiculously talented he is, but this is a far cry from the brilliance he was exhibiting while at DC.

Written by Various
Art by Various
Letters by Various
Cover by Andy Kubert
preRanking: 08

Batman: 80-Page Giant is a massive anthology of stories, each focusing on a different set of characters and how they deal with a massive blizzard that has struck Gotham.
• The issue opens with a story by Kevin Gervioux and artists Grey, Nelson Asencio, and Wes Ozioba that is a relatively lifeless look at the pressures faced by Batman and Robin to save all of Gotham’s citizens. The dull character writing and poor pacing kill this one early.
Alfred acts like you’ve never seen him before in the second story as he takes a prostitute as his date to a fundraiser in the second story by David Tischman, Alex Konat, Ray McCarthy, and JD Smith. This one is charming, but feels really out of place and, at times, out of character.
• Mike Raicht does his best to channel Kick-Ass in the third story about wannabe heroes that really misses the mark. The art by Clayton Henry and JD Smith is a solid effort, but can’t save this one.
• The most interesting story is written by Peter Calloway. It’s a powerful story about the Veil, a woman deeply connected to Gotham an features very strong art by Marcus To, Saleem Crawford, and JD Smith.
• The story I was most anticipating turned out to be the most confusing due to the weird choice in villain. This is the Catwoman story by Ivory Madison that features some pretty solid character writing. Kat Roch and Josh Finney’s hyper-realistic art runs the gamut of looking gorgeous and looking quite bad, but rarely ventures between the two.
Chris Samnee does a beautiful job with the art on his Poison Ivy story, but writer Simon Spurrier’s lack of focus and dull characterization ruins Samnee’s efforts.
Commissioner Gordon takes the spotlight in a great story by Kevin Shinick and Rafa Garres that does a great job of making Mr. Freeze interesting again, but this one ends far too quickly.
• The issue closes with a one-page story by Steve Niles and Stephanie Buscema that never gets off the ground and is ultimately pointless.

Verdict: Byrne It. Eight stories and eighty pages for $5.99 is a pretty good deal, but nothing really stands out as none of the stories really capture the “total package” of strong art and great writing. The Veil, Catwoman, and Commissioner Gordon stories show a lot of promise, but lacked the oomph to make this one worth buying.

Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Fernando Pasarin, Derec Donovan, Keith Champagne, Brian Reber, and Hi –Fi
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Tom Mandrake
preRanking: 12

• After sneaking her way into the hearts of the Outsiders team, Black Lantern Terra tries to rip them out while Halo realizes that she has the power to beat Black Lanterns with ease.
• I’m glad to see that a lot of the “twists” from last issue about Terra being pure evil weren’t quite as reliable as they first seem and that they were all part of Terra’s plot to rouse emotions.
• I really liked how Terra tried to elicit a reaction out of the Outsiders before she went for their hearts, though this felt very forced based upon how different it is from how the other Black Lanterns were presented.
• The quipping between Creeper and Killer Croc was simply bad. If you were to cut that out, this issue would be loads better than it is now. I get that comic relief is needed, but this just isn’t working.
• This issue is ultimately just set up for Halo being another “secret weapon” against the Black Lanterns, much like Dove or Wonder Woman’s lasso. Everything else is just filler.
• The art really cripples this issue. I can’t think of any comic this week that was this consistent in terms of art. The styles presented by the two artists did not gel well together at all.
• The expressions in the latter half of the issue were especially rough. It’s just not a good situation.

Verdict: Byrne It. If you replaced the art and cut out the Creeper/Croc stuff, this would be a pretty decent issue thanks to the fun twists with the Black Lanterns. Unfortunately, there isn’t much else going on here beyond Halo becoming a major Blackest Night player and that’s something that could easily be told in a one-or two page synopsis in another book. With the jacked-up price tag of $3.99, I need a bit more here.

Written by Dan Slott
Art by Khoi Pham, Craig Yeung, and John Rauch
Letters by Dave Lanphar
Cover by Khoi Pham
preRanking: 04

• This week’s Mighty Avengers jump starts the team’s confrontation with Loki in a roundabout way as the trickster frees the Absorbing Man in the midst of a Project Pegasus facility that leads to the unlikely team-up of the Mighty and Dark Avengers.
• This issue is really jam-packed with story, but the rush to get it all done in one issue cheapens the effect and makes it hard for anything to have impact.
• I’m really confused about Loki here. When did he stop being a woman? He was a woman last issue. Someone should tell Marvel that not everyone is reading every Marvel book and we need some context clues here.
• I liked the bickering between teams and the rivalry setup between Pym and Osborn, but much of this stems out of some well-worn plot points. I didn’t feel like I was getting anything new here.
• I was really surprised by how rough the art was. Khoi Pham’s work is usually much stronger, though I think a big part of this might be the inking style of Craig Yeung.
• There are a lot of lost details here, especially on the faces of the characters. Honestly, it looks unfinished.
• I’m glad to see that Dan Slott is having fun with how pointless US Agent is. This is the first time I haven’t been annoyed at the character being part of the book and that’s really only because so much time was spent mocking him.

Verdict: Byrne It. The character interaction in this is fun, but the breakneck pace of the issue undercuts the plot considerably and the art simply isn’t up to par with Khoi Pham’s standards. Chances are, you already know that the Mighty Avengers and Dark Avengers don’t like one another, so there isn’t a lot for most readers to latch onto here.

09. BATMAN #694
Written by Tony Daniel
Art by Tony Daniel, Sandu Florea, and Ian Hannin
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Tony Daniel
preRanking: 11

• The madness of Devil’s Square continues to cause problems for Batman in this issue as the mystery behind Black Mask deepens.
• Much like Mighty Avengers, this is very dense issue that looses a lot of power because it is unfocused and the pace moves too quickly. It is pretty hard to follow at times.
• There are some cool moments in the issue though like Kitrina standing up to the Falcones or Damien’s detective work, but the lack of focus makes these moments few and far between.
• This would be a considerably stronger issue if Bruce Wayne was still Batman. Unfortunately, the dark and violent take on the Caped Crusader does not work with Dick Grayson being under the mask at all.
• This problem also carries through with the art. Honestly, if you didn’t know that Dick Grayson was Batman, neither the art nor the script would tell you otherwise. This gritty take just screams Bruce Wayne.
• The art is pretty solid otherwise. Daniel does a good job with his spot blacks and brings a lot of flair to his panels. The problem is that too many panels look like posed-pinups because of the lack of energy.

Verdict: Byrne It. I find it really interesting that the events other Bat-books are referenced here despite the fact that Daniel has crafted this like a Bruce Wayne story. I could be blowing this out of proportion, but there needs to be some consistency across the line for how Dick is presented and this feels like a step in the wrong direction to me. There are some great character moments worth checking out, but otherwise this one falls short.

Written by Sterling Gates
Art by Fernando Dagnino, Raul Fernandez, Nei Ruffino, Ulises Arreola, and Pete Pantazis
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Joshua Middleton
Preranking: 09

• This week’s Supergirl is essentially two stories wrapped under the guise of one issue. The first follows Supergirl as she confronts Lana Lang over her secret illness while the second is an examination of the origin of Silver Banshee while Supergirl’s detective friend attempts to solve a long-forgotten case.
• It’s really strange how this issue is split, especially since there isn’t a strong transition between the two plots and they aren’t treated as two separate stories. It makes for a very jarring shift.
• The Lana Lang stuff is considerably more interesting than the Silver Banshee stuff. Of course, after how Gail Simone revealed that Jeanette was a banshee in Secret Six, I’m convinced that she should be the only writer allowed to touch banshees for DC.
• A big problem with the second story is that it seems far too focused on delivering the twist ending and not enough on setting up why it should be happening. Given a full issue to flesh all of this out, it might work a lot better.
• As it stands, though, the second half of the issue really undercuts the emotional resonance of the first half. On the flipside, the first half forces the second half to rush through its beats. This really should have been two separate issues.
Fernando Dagnino shows off some strong expressions in this issue that really help the impact of the story. Unfortunately, his anatomy isn’t nearly as strong, leading to some weird looking characters.
• There are three colorists on this issue and you can tell as each uses a different style. Nei Ruffino’s work stands out more than the others. While I really dig her work, having her set apart stylistically is distracting.

Verdict: Check It. The biggest problem with this issue is that Sterling Gates is trying to cram far too much into one issue and it simply isn’t working. The first half of the issue really outshines the second half, making it a hard book to get invested in. This definitely could have been two “Buy It” issues if Gates allowed his story the room to breath that it demands.

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Bryan Hitch, Butch Guice, and Paul Mounts
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Covers by Various
preRanking: 02

• After the shocking events of last issue, Captain America Steve Rogers finds himself battling for control of his body against the Red Skull who has taken over, while his friends and allies strike out against the Skull’s forces.
• This issue is very fast-paced with lots of action. It is very much a plot-first story with thin character work.
• For the most part, all of the dialogue in this issue is battle-quipping and isn’t exactly overflowing full of personality. Oddly enough, Sin, who only has a few lines, ends up being the most memorable character here.
• The Cap-trapped-in-the-Skull stuff was very cool, though a tad bit cliché at tiems.
• I absolutely loved the layouts during those scenes though. Kudos to Bryan Hitch for doing something new to separate these scenes from the rest of the book.
• The rest of the issue doesn’t quite live up to Hitch’s standards, though. He seems to be branching out into a new style visually and it isn’t as polished as what I’ve seen from him before.
• There is also some major inconsistencies in how Cap is drawn in the “real world.” His anatomy seems to shift with every page.

Verdict: Check It. It seems like for every step forward with this issue, there is another step back. The Cap/Red Skull stuff is very cool, but the rest of the issue really doesn’t live up to it. A big part of this is because the action scenes rely heavily on Bryan Hitch’s artwork, but his less than memorable performance here doesn’t give these scenes the jumpstart they need to put this book any higher on the Rankings.

06. CABLE #21
Written by Duane Swierczynski
Art by Humberto Ramos, Carlos Cuerva, Lan Medina, Robert Camponella, Paul Gulacy, Edgar Delgado, and Thomas Mason
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Marko Djurdjevic
preRanking 14

• I made the “in-shop” decision to pick up Cable after seeing the eye-catching cover and realizing that it is a setup issue for the finale to the X-franchise’s “Messiah” events trilogy.
• The issue follows Cable and Hope (now in her late teens, early twenties by the looks of it) as they are returning to Earth while still being chased by Bishop.
• The issue is broken into three chapters, each focusing on a different main character as their chase gets closer to its conclusion.
• I haven’t been a regular reader of Cable, but I still have yet to get a sense of concrete reasoning for Bishop wanting to kill Hope (other than preventing a horrible future, apparently), which means that their conflict is starting to get old.
• On the flipside, the conflict has caused the relationship between Cable and Hope to flourish and I absolutely love him in the role of her mentor. It is one of the first times that I’ve found Cable interesting since the mid 90s.
• The biggest problem with this issue is that, while it works as a character study, the plot is one big circle. The issue ends in almost the same place that it begins, which is pretty much where it was at the end of Messiah CompleX two years ago, except that now Hope is older.
• Each chapter has a different artist and none of them gel particularly well do to their wildly different styles. Humberto Ramos fares the best of the three with good consistency, while the other two struggle to hold their quality.
Lan Medina’s middle chapter has the best potential of the three and features some of the most gorgeous panels of the issue, but when he is off, the art looks so bad in comparison. This really holds the overall look of his story back.

Verdict: Check It. If you haven’t been following the Cable/Hope saga at all since Messiah CompleX, this issue is a good primer for what has been going on. It’s a fun, character-focused tale that achieves what it sets out to. Unfortunately, the cyclical plot and unevenness of the art prevents it from living up to its full potential.

05. GI JOE #13
Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by Robert Atkins, Clayton Brown, and Andrew Crossley
Letters by Robbie Robbins
Covers by Robert Atkins with Andrew Crossley and David Williams with Kelsey Shannon
preRanking: 07

• This week’s GI Joe is a done-in-one story focusing on less famous Joe members Beachhead and Tripwire as they guided through some ruins by Tunnel Rat after being ambushed on a mission.
• This is a great “slice of life” story that highlights some of the key strengths of Chuck Dixon’s writing on this series—strong character work with a real sense of “military” to the Joe organization.
• I loved the use of protocol and process to get the Joes out of harm. There is a very “official” feel to this story and it shows that Dixon clearly put a lot of thought and research into this story.
• Beachhead and Tripwire aren’t the most memorable Joes, but Dixon does a solid job making them so here.
• The plot is very thin. The story doesn’t really build off of anything that came before, nor does its set anything up. If you are looking for depth, there isn’t much here.
Robert Atkins is back in a big way here. His usual strengths are all quite evident here—tons of detail, strong expressions, and simply fantastic storytelling. It’s a shame that he was so absent from this series for so long.
• The downside to the art is that Andrew Crossley’s work is far too dark. He is clearly going for a dank atmosphere and tone, but he loses a lot of details in the process. He really needed to find a happy medium here..

Verdict: Buy It. This issue is a lot of fun if you are a big fan of GI Joe. The character work is great and Robert Atkins absolutely knocks it out of the park. More casual fans might be turned off by the non-marquee characters and the lack of a plot, though.

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art by Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts
Letters by John J. Hill
Cover by Amanda Conner
preRanking: 06

Power Girl finds herself at odds with the overzealous suitor Vartox, as he arrives on Earth to find a mate after an attack leads to the sterilization of his entire world except him.
• This is easily the most ridiculous and insane issue of Power Girl yet, but also the most charming.
Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray do a great job of reinventing Vartox as a schmoozing egotistical superman, making him a great foil to their very down-to-earth interpretation of Power Girl.
• This issue is a perfect example of how action comic can be hilarious without resorting to ridiculous gags that take away from the story.
• I can’t say that I ever expected an issue featuring Vartox and Blue Snowman to be this much fun.
• Some of the jokes and situations do get a bit repetitive, but once the action kicks in and the characters are fighting monsters, things really even out.
• As per usual, Amanda Conner is simply awesome here. It amazes me how much personality and energy she can bring to her pages. There are few artists out there that can draw something as lively as she can.
• There are some design inconsistencies throughout the issue, most of which involve Conner over-rounding characters faces so that they look oddly swollen. There is a great example of this with Power Girl on the cover, though it is problematic in the interior as well.

Verdict: Buy It. It’s amazing how refreshing an issue like this can be. The creative does not scrimp on the action or the character development, but they keep it all light and infuse it with a great sense of humor that is accented by strong art from Amanda Conner.

Written by Richard Starkings
Art by Moritat, Chris Burnham, and Gregory Wright
Letters by Comicraft
Cover by Book Cook
preRanking: 01

• Last issue, the mysterious Simm lured Vanity into Obadiah Horn’s tower and in this week’s issue, the consequences are felt as the mystery surrounding the MAPPO sleeper cell deepens.
• This is an incredibly intense issue that ends with a series of great twists and turns that jumpstart the next storyline in the series. This storyline closes out in a big way with this issue as some of secrets regarding the MAPPO cell surface.
• The issue starts off a bit unfocused. I understand that Richard Starkings is weaving a mystery, but the lack of clear direction from Simm in the first half of the issue is a bit off-putting.
• I loved the subplot running through the secondary story (a mysterious fire at Skycab) surrounding Tiny’s love for Miki. This was really heartfelt and heartbreaking.
• If the main goal of this issue was to ignite my interest in the upcoming Questionable Things arc, then I say “mission accomplished” in a big way.
• The art duties are split between Moritat (the main story) and Chris Burnham (epilogue), both of whom do a commendable job.
• Moritat’s art is considerably looser than what readers might be used to. There are some inconsistencies with facial features, but they are pretty minor. His expressions are fantastic, as is his pacing.
• Burnham’s very tight lines and highly detailed art in the epilogue is fantastic. I really hope that we see more of him on this title in the future.
• The coloring in the issue is really the downfall for the art. There is a lot of texture in the colors which, at first glance looks great, but by the end of the issue it feels completely overdone and looses its luster.

Verdict: Buy It. Elephantmen closes out a fantastic year and a great storyline with this really solid issue that lives up to the high quality standards that this series is known for. There are a few missteps in how the story unfolds and the coloring is tremendously distracting, but as a whole, it’s another great issue for this fantastic series. As well as this issue kicks off the next storyline, I have a feeling that 2010 is going to be just as prosperous for this series.

Lead Written by Paul Dini
Lead Art by Dustin Nguyen, Derek Fridolfs, and John Kalisz
Co-Feature Written by Marc Andreyko
Co-Feature Art by Cliff Richards, Art Thibert, and Nick Filardi
Letters by John J. Hill
Cover by Dustin Nguyen
preRanking: 05

• In the lead story of this week’s Streets of Gotham, Batman and Robin uncover a series of grisly child murders while investigating toys stolen from a police charity. In the co-feature, Manhunter finally comes face-to-face with Two Face and must make a decision with deadly consquences.
• The lead story was impeccable paced by writer Paul Dini for maximum impact; the end result being a powerfully emotional story with a simply disturbing twist ending.
• I was really blown away by how great of a character Humpty Dumpty comes across as in this issue. He’s always been an interesting one, but this is easily his best appearance.
• My favorite part of the issue, though, was seeing Damien written so personality once he found out that children had been murdered. We don’t often see any sense of honor from him, so this was a nice twist. In fact, as a whole Damien retains his edge but is considerably more likeable in this issue than he has been in any other depiction.
• The art by Dustin Nguyen is very solid with strong pacing, great designs, and excellent expressions. He has really mastered the style he has been using and it shows.
• The co-feature was a great culmination of the previous installments. Marc Andreyko puts together a great payoff here, especially when Batman and Robin show up at the end—a nice nod to one of the original Manhunter storylines.
• The interaction between Manhunter and Commissioner Gordon stole the show in this issue, though. It’s always cool to see Kate the Lawyer in addition to Kate the Superhero and that really came through in this scene.
• While I’m sad to see yet another artist change on this story, Cliff Richards and company do a solid job here. There is a good sense of realism that matches the tone of the script and blends well with a slightly cartoonier style that is used for the costumed heroics.
• Sadly, the worst page of art for the entire issue was the final splash page of Batman and Robin. Both characters look absolutely horrid, which ended the issue on a very sour note.

Verdict: Buy It. Both stories in this week’s Streets of Gotham are fantastic reads with great twists. Paul Dini and Marc Andreyko have hit their strides with the writing and are helped out with really great art. Plus, and perhaps most notably, Damien is written as an interesting character for what feels like the first time ever.

Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Pat Gleason, Rebecca Buchman, Tom Nguyen, and Randy Mayor
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Pat Gleason, Rebecca Buchman, and Randy Mayor
preRanking: 03

• The last issue of Green Lantern Corps ended with the surprise death of Kyle Rayner, whose sacrifice kicks off this week’s issue and leads directly into Guy Gardner freaking out and become a Red Lantern.
• This issue is an emotional rollercoaster and writer Peter Tomasi really needs to be commended on absolutely nailing every single twist and turn in it through simply superb pacing and excellent dialogue.
• It’s no surprise that Kyle’s death didn’t last long and, while the “two hearts as one” jazz that led to his return was incredibly hokey, Tomasi found a way to actually make it inspiring and uplifting.
• There is a really nice balance between the action and the character work here. I don’t feel like either is short-changed at all as the plot moves forward.
• There is something inherently awesome in Mogo collecting the rings of the deceased Green Lanterns and finally joining the battle. This is pretty much the easiest way to up the stakes for a Green lantern story.
Pat Gleason’s art is top-notch throughout, though kudos are in order to his inkers as well for keeping the look and feel of this issue consistent despite so many hands being involved.
Randy Mayor also deserves a lot credit for his dynamite colors here. The effects that he brings to the rings and the lighting is simply awesome.
• The real crux of this issue, though, is how amazingly well-handled Guy’s transition to a Red Lantern is. This is easily one of the coolest moments of the year and the art team is to thank for this incredibly intense and effective scene.
• I just absolutely love how wildly unhinged the Red Lantern Guy design is. Gleason and Company perfectly blend the standard Red Lantern design with his classic interpretation. It’s simply stunning.

Verdict: Must Read. This week’s only “Must Read” issue and the easy choice for Book of the Week was well-earned for this week’s Green Lantern Corps. This is, hands down, the best Blackest Night tie-in issue that DC has produced. Peter Tomasi and the Pat Gleason-led art team work perfectly in synch to develop this emotionally powerful and incredibly exciting issue. The cover to this issue generated a lot of buzz when it was first revealed a few months back, but I don’t think anyone expected the actual issue to be this good.

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Matt Ampersand said...

Wow, this really was a brutal week for the Power Rankings.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing, based on some of the obvious things you seemed to have missed in Amazing Spider-man, that you didn't actually read the issue and just skimmed through it. You didn't even bother to put up to correct cover. It was actually really good this week and this review does not sound much like the actual issue at all.

Primewax said...

@Anonymous - Um, that is the cover of the issue of ASM I read this week. And it was pretty much crap. Did you read another issue or something?

The Dangster said...

Probably one of the most darkest issues Dini has ever written. Didn't expect him of all people to write a child death fight storyline.

brandon said...

Wasn't the 80 page Batman book $5.99 not $4.99?

Chris said...

@Ananymous + Primewax
Thats not the cover for ASM that I got either, I got the one that was solicited for next week....there is a variant too I think.

Eric Rupe said...

According to this is the regular cover and this is the variant

Chris said...

Yeah the variant cover is the one I saw at my LCS but that is not the cover that me or anyone else in my area got for the regular cover. I assumed maybe Marvel had the covers switched around for 615 and 616.....

Eric Rupe said...

Chris - I know DC will occasionally use a different cover than the one that was solicited but I can't ever remember Marvel doing that.

Ryan Schrodt said...

@Anonymous - Blame Marvel's solicits on the incorrect cover. As far as me "skimming" the issue goes; no, I read it. I just didn't like it. Feel free to post the "obvious things" that I missed--maybe you are right about me missing something, but I doubt it would salvage this mess of an issue.

@Brandon - I did fix the price point Batman: 80 Page Giant--typo on my end. Thanks for catching it!

Andrenn said...

Great reviews Ryan. I really loved Mighty though, even though the plot did move too fast and the art was Pham's best in a long while.

I'd say Streets of Gotham was my favorite for this week, though I regret not picking up GLC.

Tyler said...

@Ryan- Spidey even says in the issue that it wont Kill Sandman, that he doesnt think anything can

Anonymous said...

@Primewax If you got this cover then you somehow got next week's issue.
@Ryan You make it sound like in this issue Sandman randomly kidnaps some girl, murders some people, and then Spider-man tries to kill him. If you actually read this issue it is obvious the girl is Sandman's daughter (or at least he thinks she is), he did not actually murder those people (or steal the evidence I would guess) and as Tyler mentioned above, Spider-man specifically says the stuff he used won't kill him...I mean, he specifically says that and yet you claim in your review he tries to murder him! This is one of the only negative reviews I've read for the issue, which is fine if you back it up, but the way you desribe it makes it sound like you did not actually read it. Anyways the rest of your reviews are pretty spot on and sorry if I come off sounding like a jerk.

Radlum said...

I actually liked ASM, I thought it was an interesting issue, Van Lente is currently my favorite Spider-Man writer. Also, I always liked Carlie, I was hoping that she and Peter would hook up but since the wedding it seems less possible to happen.

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit curious - I'm seeing X-Factor 200 virtually ignored by the comic blogs, this wrap-up included. Anyone want to clue me in as to why? I thought it was a stronger 'new direction' issue than many of the ones listed here...

Ryan Schrodt said...

@Anonymous1 - I caught the stuff about it being Sandman's daughter. That was pretty clear but I tried to steer clear of spoilers. I'll reread the stuff about the murders, I'll give you that much. As far as the "attempted murder" goes, I was exagerrating in my review. I caught that Spidey "knew" (though he seemed pretty unclear, truthfully), but the excessive violence just seemed to irk me, even if Sandman is apparently immortal now.

@Anonymous2 - I didn't even realize that it came out this week, truthfully. X-Factor has never been a book that I could get into. I've heard good things about this, though, so I'll see if I can snag a copy.

@Radlum - I'm with you on Carlie and, normally, Van Lente. This issue was a misstep for him, but hes still generally the best ASM writer now that Guggenheim is gone (even if his farewell arc tanked).

Matt Ampersand said...

Anon, I read X-Factor, although I don't normally do reviews of single issues.

Once I read it (I am stopping on my comic book shop later today) I might do a image heavy review, kind of like the one Kirk did for Green Lantern Corps.

Nathan Aaron said...

The Amazing Spiderman cover I got this week was the one with Spidey in the sand/spider farm (since it does show spiders, and not ants); with Sandman and a girl looking into the farm. I'd RATHER have gotten the one shown here. LOL

Kirk Warren said...

I was the one that uploaded the images for the covers. It was listed on Marvel's catalogue ( as the cover to the issue. Ryan simply uses the templates for the title/credits/image I upload for the Post-Crisis Previews in his reviews.

Nathan Aaron said...

SPOILER WARNING! ... (Uhm, for REELZ! No one freakin' died in Dark Avengers!? What the crap. I swear.) Also "From what I understand, Marvel sent out notice this was ending post-Siege." where did you hear this information, I'm curious!

Kirk Warren said...

@Nathan Aaron - I heard of that from people with subscriptions. It's unverified, but supposedly ending around issue 16 or so, which is the end of Siege.

Daryll B. said...

ok..going off from what I bought with other books to be read at the shop on the weekend:

-GLC I liked but didn't love. Some of the inconsistencies were apparent like: we have seen the black rings latch on to heroes the instant of death yet here we get a "Matrix 3" type grieving before it tried to latch on to Kyle. However, Guy as a Red Lantern showed the awesome potential for bearers of that ring who also have strong wills.

-Mighty Avengers keeps being the Avengers book for me. All the right notes were hit and Osborn was more Osborn here than in Dark Avengers.

-Dark Avengers: Seriously, is Sentry a God? And I am still wondering how you measure the power of a million exploding suns??? Victoria Hand definitely shone here and earned my respect... however Deodato fell into "Benes syndrome" with having in bra and pantries throughout...although to be fair Osborn was starkers too. And yes I laughed at the Ares aftermath too.

-You think Yost and Kyle are pissed that Ellis is hitting all the right "undead" notes in Astonishing better than they are in X-Necrosha? Plus where else are you going to see a Brood-Krakoa combo attack Island X???...I'm serious...

-Legacy I liked but Emplate has never been that strong as a villain to me but I am loving the role Rogue is in now.

-Last but not least Cap Reborn hit familiar notes and the action scenes were cool but count me in the camp where this issue got spoiled by the delays and reveals from last week.

(Speaking of which I know you guys had to see DC pushed back Flash Rebirth to Jan 27th...)

arrrrgh...yet another book I regret picking up in singles....

Good Job yet again Ryan!

Daryll B. said...

Ok I really need to recheck my posts before submitting...I forgot a Victoria in the Dark Avengers section after Benes syndrome and I had too many buts (*giggle*) in the X-Men Legacy section...

Sorry about that WC....

Kirk Warren said...

@Daryll B. - Re: GLC, the previous black lanterns were formed instantly because a Black Lantern was doing the killing and the rings were on hand. Recall something like the Hawks from the first issue of BN. Black Hand had to show up and summon the rings first. They didnt just turn into BL's on the spot.

However, with Kyle, he literally destroyed every ring within say a kilometer or so. It would take time for the rings to react to the death and come to his location. It also may have something to do with Nekron back and the rings not being the focus of the attack anymore (he's fully charged remember, the BL's arent even trying to kill the GLCs, just the battery at the moment). So, I'm actually more shocked a ring came for him that quickly than put off by one not being on his corpse the minute he died.

Peter Calloway said...

Thanks for the kind words re: Veil. It was my first foray into comics and was more fun than just about any other kind of writing I've done. But I'd like to give my penciler Marcus To a lot of credit, as well the editor in charge of the book, Mike Marts. They elevated it more than I ever could alone.

Daryll B. said...

Ah I see your point Kirk...very plausible...and it makes sense too..=)

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