Friday, January 8, 2010
We are kicking off 2010 in style with the first installment of this year’s Comic Book Review Power Rankings. It’s a short week with only five releases, though in that we’ve got big event releases from both Marvel (Siege #1) and DC (Blackest Night #6) as well as new releases from Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, Red Robin, and the continuation of Suicide Squad. Which of these books will pull in the first Book of the Week honor of the year? 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 email@example.com.
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales, and Laura Martin
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Cover by Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales, and Laura Martin
• Marvel’s first big event of 2010 kicks off this week as Norman Osborn and Loki attack the displaced Asgard after setting up Volstagg of the Warrior’s Three to blow up Soldier Field in an attempt to stir up anti-Asgardian sentiments.
• This is, by far, the weirdest start to an event that I’ve ever read. The setup is sparse, the character work is almost nil, and the action seems to happen almost without reason. There is no depth her because the story rushes along so quickly.
• This feels more like one of Marvel’s “Saga” freebies that summarize an event than an actual event comic. There’s no emotional resonance because the dialogue is stiff and plot-focused, while the action happens too fast to have much meaning.
• If you are a fan of Brian Michael Bendis, you may find yourself very confused here. Bendis’s trademark quipping and decompressed storytelling style are completely absent here as he presses the story on in a very unsatisfactorily sparse manner.
• It seemed forced to me that Ares would go from having such a strong stance against the attack on Asgard to being its cheerleader so quickly. Also, Thor really takes it like a chump here, doesn’t he?
• The artwork from Olivier Coipel is pretty humdrum. There aren’t many details and, in some cases (most notably the Dark Avenger’s planning session), faces are actually missing facial features like noses, cheekbones, etc.
• There is a major error in the back up feature, which is a “planning session” that gives insight into the Dark Avengers’ thought processes as they prepare for the attack. Is there a reason this wasn’t included as part of the comic as a comic? Not really, nor is there a reason for such a ridiculous error (repeated dialogue from the wrong characters).
• Kudos to Marvel for jumping on this, though, and posting the correct pages on their website within hours of the comic being released.
Verdict: Avoid It. This is the best example I can think of for how NOT to start an event storyline. There is really nothing of substance to hang onto in this haphazard, incredibly rushed issue. The craft is ridiculously below the standards for the creative team and there is really nothing here to come back for (especially with Steve Rogers in his Captain America costume closing out the issue, despite him giving up the mantle two weeks ago in the Who Will Wield the Shield? one-shot). Its great that Marvel is keeping this only four issues, but if its going to be four issues like this, I’d much rather have seen the story slowed down and fleshed out of the standard six or eight issues.
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert, Joe Prado, and Alex Sinclair
Letters by Nick J. Napolitano
Cover by Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert, and Alex Sinclair
• This one was technically released on December 30th, but my shop didn’t start selling copies until yesterday, so it is included on this week’s Rankings.
• After taking over resurrected heroes like Green Arrow and Wonder Woman, Black Lantern rings try to snag Barry “Flash” Allen and Green Lantern Hal Jordan, which sets off a series of events that culminate in some very surprising deputized Lanterns.
• This was a total filler issue. Aside from the new Lanterns debuting in the final few pages, there isn’t much here and the big shocker of the resurrected Black Lanterns (like Superman) from last issue are largely ignored.
• If all of the Lantern rings were created with Oan technology and Ganthet can control the rings so that they find deputies, couldn’t the Guardians have also taken over the Yellow Lantern rings during the Sinestro Corps War? Just saying.
• There were some cool fanboy moments, most notably the deputized Lanterns (Lex Luthor as an Orange Lantern is easily my favorite—check his armor!), but these aren’t really strong enough to carry the entire issue.
• I’m really not buying that Ganthet can just declare himself as a Guardian again after abandoning the Green Lanterns and starting his own corps. This seems all too convienet just to set up the deputized Lanterns.
• The transitions between scenes were very, very weak, making the issue feel choppy and hard to follow. Of course, considering nothing of substance happens during most of these scenes, it doesn’t matter too much.
• Ivan Reis does a great job of capturing the sense of chaos in this issue, but at times it simply gets too busy. Part of this is that the details aren’t really popping at all. There are too many pages that look like nothing more than colored masses running into one another.
• I will say that the designs are very solid, which is something Reis really excels with. I’m not as thrilled with the storytelling, but the characters look great!
Verdict: Byrne It. This is really lives and dies by its last few pages, which introduce the 24 hour Lantern deputies. On one hand, its really cool to see characters like Wonder Woman suit up as a Star Sapphire, but on the flipside there isn’t much else going on in this issue and this scene is filled with major plot problems (it really opens up a can of worms about the powers of the Guardians and the Lanterns themselves). In the end, its great to see the new Lanterns, but by now you’ve probably seen the images on the ‘net or on the revealed covers for Blackest Night #7.
Written by Gail Simone and John Ostrander
Art by J. Calafiore and Jason Wright
Letters by Swands
Cover by Daniel Luvisi
• The “resurrected titles” gimmick kicks off this week as Suicide Squad makes an all-too brief return in a Blackest Night storyline that focuses on Amanda Waller’s anger over having a Squad without Deadshot, who is currently anchoring the Secret Six.
• It is really awesome to see the Suicide Squad back in action, though this just makes me miss Checkmate, which was one of the most underrated comics of the 2000s. Also, I was a bit surprised to see Nightshade back on the Squad and that makes me wonder whatever happened to Shadowpact (another totally awesome and underrated series!)?
• A big chunk of the story centers around Deadshot’s replacement as the Squad’s “shooter” and I really dig the way she was also used as a narrator, which helped push her as a foil to Deadshot.
• There is a scene between Bane and Scandal Savage centering on Scandal’s new girlfriend that really felt forced to me. If you are following Secret Six, this is all old news; if you aren’t what you get here isn’t going to give you that much knowledge. It would have been better off just being cut and replaced with something more relevant.
• Black Alice’s role as part of the Secret Six was explored a bit more here and I really like it. She’s an outsider on a team of outsiders, which is cool enough, but it is made better by the fact that some of the nastiest of nasties on the team are actually scared of her (though her thinking Ragdoll was hot just didn’t seem to click with me).
• J. Calafiore’s art was solid with his usual strengths showing through—strong storytelling and great expressions.
• It did seem to be lacking in the flare that he has developed over the last few years, though. There isn’t anything technically wrong with it and it is a good fit for the issue, but there isn’t anything that really stands out about it either.
• The issue really misses the mark on its tie-in to Blackest Night, though. We see former Squad member The Fiddler at the beginning of the issue, but he doesn’t show up again until the end of the issue and the story really works independently of him. I’m sure the continuation of the story (next week’s Secret Six #17) will fold him back in, but as it stands, this does nothing more than waste a handful of pages that could’ve gone to something considerable more interesting.
Verdict: Check It. This would easily jump into Buy It territory, but the fact that this doesn’t really tie-into Blackest Night other than a few random pages about a former Suicide Squad and Secret Six member that just happens to be a Black Lantern really didn’t work with me; plus there is the problem of the very forced Band/Scandal scene. Other than that, this is a really solid issue with some awesome character work and it serves as a strong reminder of why the Suicide Squad was such an awesome concept and comic (and, now, why this creative team should be given the reigns to these characters once again).
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by David Lafuente and Justin Ponsor
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by David Lafuente and Justin Ponsor
• Things get complicated for our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man this week as his home becomes a superhero hostel as Iceman and Human Torch settle in and take up fake identities to enroll at his high school. As you can imagine, all sorts of insanity ensues.
• This is a great character-focused story that perfectly taps into the teenage spirit and mentality. The interaction between the characters is light but with a poignancy that is simply awesome.
• I love the distinctions that Brian Michael Bendis makes from the very beginning between Spidey and his hero housemates through strong dialogue and their differing reactions to the threat of Mysterio.
• The pacing of this issue works really well as Bendis really sucks you into the character work before unleashing the action-oriented sections of the plot, giving a lot of momentum to the story before the reveal of Shroud’s identity (I won’t spoil it for you, but my first pick was right!).
• I didn’t care for the very long and rambling monologue in the opening pages, though I will applaud Bendis for doing something new and taking a unique approach to recapping the story without detracting from the gorgeous opening spread by David Lafuente.
• On the subject of Lafuente, he continues to do the best work of his career on this series with this issue. His chemistry with the script is amazing as he not only matches the energy and personality of the story but enhances it with great storytelling and very strong designs.
• Lafuente seems to loosen up with this issue, going a bit bolder and more stylized than he did on the previous issues. There are flashes of Humberto Ramos-esque art here, which I consider to be a good thing!
Verdict: Must Read. Once again I’m simply blown away by how much fun this series is. Bendis and Lafuente do a brilliant job of bringing these characters to life with a great deal of personality that is unlike any other teen-centric comic that I’ve read in years. There are very few flaws in this issue and all of them are more than made up for by this issue’s strengths.
Written by Chris Yost
Art by Marcus To, Ray McCarthy, and Guy Major
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Marcus To
• The titular hero has his hands full facing off against the deadly Council of Spiders in this week’s Red Robin as he finds himself in over his head in a war between the Council and the League of Assassins.
• This is a simply awesome look at Tim’s thought processes and the qualities that make him a unique member of the Bat family. Chris Yost perfectly captures Tim’s influences—Batman’s analytical mind, Dick’s dramatic flair, etc—and blends them perfectly with his own prowess.
• Yost’s use of an inner monologue perfectly frames and positions the story, filling in the blanks that couldn’t be covered through dialogue or art, but runs a fine line in doing so, ensuring that he doesn’t overdo it.
• Even beyond the awesome character work, this issue hits all the right notes with simply solid action that shows great chemistry between Yost and artist Marcus To. The choreography is fantastic, as is the personality that To builds in the character’s designs, movements, and body language.
• I really cannot say enough about the pacing of the art, as that is really the backbone of the issue. The flow is really dictated by the art and To could not have done a better job controlling it.
• I also really dig how minimal the art is here. To doesn’t bog down panels with details when it isn’t necessary, but at the same time his art never looks incomplete.
• You also have to give To credit for the amount of energy and impact he puts into every panel. He really brings this one to life.
Verdict: Must Read. This issue isn’t flashy and it’s not overly complex; however, it is a ton of fun and a great character-focused story that explores who Red Robin is, but does so without skimping on the action. More importantly, though, this is a just plain enjoyable issue. It’s a fun read from start to finish with solid craftsmanship. You really can’t ask for more!