Friday, January 22, 2010
After some computer issues earlier this week, the Comic Book Review Power Rankings are coming to you a bit later than usual. However, I make it up for it by jam-packing this week’s installment with eleven reviews, including Dan Didio’s debut as writer on Outsiders, the return of Mysterio in Amazing Spider-Man, and more! This week is also full of Rankings favorites like Mice Templar, Anna Mercury, and Nova. Will one of these books take home the Book of the Week honor? Or will it go to a surprise underdog? There’s only one way to find out and it involves you doing a little bit of clicking!
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 Dan Didio
Art by Philip Tan, Don Kramer, Jonathan Glapion, Michael Babinski, and Brian Reber
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Philip Tan and Jonathan Glapion
• Dan Didio’s debut as the ongoing writer for Outsiders finds the team’s dynamic being upset by the events of Blackest Night. Geo-Force has become a tyrannical leader intent on protecting his kingdom at all costs while Katana has developed a meanstreak that greatly unnerves her teammates, especially Black Lightning.
• Didio shows a great level of competence in his writing. The story is paced well, with solid twists, and seamless dialogue. Technically, he shows just as much ability as he did with his Metal Men story in Wednesday Comics.
• The problem is that all of the characters seem to have undergone a drastic change and the other shoe never seems to drop in explaining why. The story builds towards explanations for how different Geo-Force and Katana have become, but the explanations never come.
• It also doesn’t help that there isn’t a lot of plot to hang on to here. Unless you are a huge Geo-Force fan, there isn’t a lot to get invested in as the other characters are marginalized and the thin plot only focuses on what is going on in Markovia.
• This issue ends in a bit of a shocker, with the Eradicator coming to announce Markovia’s stance on allowing Kryptonians within its borders, but considering I hadn’t given Eradicator any though since Superman came back from the dead, once the shock wore off, I wasn’t that excited.
• The art is split between Philip Tan and Don Kramer on pencils. Both artists are incredibly skilled and do a good job with their work here. The problem is that their styles do not gel whatsoever. You can clearly tell which pages are Kramer’s, which is incredibly distracting.
• Tan’s work is pretty solid, though his level of detail fluctuates considerably throughout the issue. His use of shadows to build atmosphere was impressive.
• Kramer, on the other hand, does not produce his best work here. There isn’t much detail on his pages and the art felt really uninspired. It honestly looks like he was called in at the last minute to fill-in.
Verdict: Byrne It. This issue has a lot going for it, but it fails to bring it all together. The end result is a clunky, disjointed read that shows promise in its craft, but the enjoyment factor never really kicks in. When I finished the issue, I was interested in seeing how Didio would progress as writer over the next few issues and not in where the story was going; that’s not a good thing by any means.
Lead Written by Mike Benson
Lead Art by Dustin Nguyen, Derek Fridolfs, and John Kalisz
Backup Written by Marc Andreyko
Backup Art by Jeremy Haun, John Lucas, and Nick Filardi
Letters by Sal Cipriano
• In the lead story, Batman investigates a series of murders that seem to tie into a mysterious prostitute. That’s about it.
• This story is painfully dull. The plot meanders around without solidifying around any certain point or direction. I found myself really, really bored from page one and my excitement only picked up again when the story was over and I knew the Manhunter backup was starting.
• There is simply no excuse for Dick to be written like Bruce Wayne and I have no idea why so many writers seem to be struggling with this. The two are vastly different characters, but you’d never believe it based upon how grim and gritty Mike Benson writes Batman here.
• The best example of this is Dick being so jaded that he seems happy when a criminal is murdered. Is Benson even aware of who is under the cowl at this point?
• The weakness of the writing puts a lot of pressure on Dustin Nguyen to salvage the issue. While he doesn’t make any technical mistakes, his art does look unpolished, which prevents him from doing so.
• This issue features some of the worst expressions I’ve seen from Nguyen and his designs seemed really phoned in. I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t have tried very hard with this script either.
• Things look considerably better in the backup story, which follows Manhunter as she struggles to take down Two-Face both in her costumed identity and her role as District Attorney, despite interference in both conflicts.
• Marc Andreyko does a great job of developing this story quickly and enhancing it with fun dialogue and solid character work.
• Although I feel satisfied with the story, you can really tell that Andreyko has to cut corners to keep this contained within the limitations of the backup page count. As hard as I’m trying not to let it bother me, its hard not to let that bother me.
• Jeremy Haun’s artwork remains a great fit for Manhunter. It is a huge bummer that he couldn’t have taken a shot at the character when she still had an ongoing.
• I really dig the way that Haun’s sense of realism is not interrupted by some of the stories crazier elements, like Jane Doe in general or the scarred side of Two-Face.
Verdict: Byrne It. The fact that this isn’t an Avoid It book and didn’t pull in a Burrito Book dishonor is really a testament to the strength of the backup story. Essentially, if you pick this up, you are paying $4 for the short Manhunter story and, while it is a great story, its hard to justify that!
Lead Written by Ed Brubaker
Lead Art by Luke Ross, Butch Guice, and Dean White
Lead Letters by Joe Caramagna
Backup Written by Sean McKeever
Backup Art by David Baldeon, N. Bowling, and Chris Sotomayor
Backup Letters by Joe Sabino
Cover by Gerald Parel
• The Captain America ongoing series returns after a lengthy hiatus for Bucky’s first adventure as Captain America after the return of Steve Rogers. In this issue’s main story, he finds himself enlisted by Nick Fury to take down the 1950s Captain America, who has joined a nationalist militia group.
• This is an interesting story, though I am a bit bummed that it seems to gloss over what Steve Rogers is up to. I mean, if we aren’t going to focus on what he is up to, why bother to bring him back in the first place?
• I think it is really cool to see a “real world” issue like nationalist groups making it into the story, though I felt that the way the organization was portrayed seemed to “out there” and that took away from the impact of it. I think it would have been much better to see the deranged Cap leading a more realistic group, especially after we see the very realistic protestors in previous scenes (by the way, the “tea bag” protest sign was hilarious).
• I was surprised by how littler personality this issue had. The dialogue was really stiff and dry. Ed Brubaker normally brings a ton of characterization to ever interaction, but there just wasn’t much here.
• Luke Ross had solid designs and good storytelling, but the overall look of his art just isn’t working for me. It really seems like he is in a transition between styles if you look at his work from the last few months compared to now.
• I’m always glad to see an artist grow, but not when it leads to major stiffness and ridiculously overused spot blacks.
• This issue kicks off the Nomad backup story as the titular character tracks down the 616 analogue for the group that caused all sorts of mayhem on her world and ends up in an impromptu team-up with Arana.
• Honestly, I was totally lost here. I didn’t read the Nomad mini and I’ve never read Heroes Reborn, so I was hoping this issue would give me some recap or build up, but Sean McKeever really drops you in media res here.
• The story itself was fun though, if not a bit fluffy, but unless McKeever can do more world-building, my attention won’t last long.
• David Baldeon does a good job of capturing the spirit and tone of the story with his art. It’s a good fit, though its not tremendously memorable in its execution. On the flipside, its not very offensive either.
• I was really surprised by how inconsistent the colors were. Normally Chris Sotomayor’s work is really solid, but his depth, roundness, and texture is really all over the place here.
Verdict: Byrne It. At its barest bones, this issue has the makings of two good stories. Unfortunately, the execution leaves a lot to be desired as both writers, Ed Brubaker and Sean McKeever, have uncharacteristically weak outings here that don’t get much support from relatively hum-drum efforts from the art teams. You can tell by reading this issue that it is just an off-moment for the creative teams, but that doesn’t make it any better.
Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Patrick Gleason, Rebecca Buchman, Tom Nguyen, Keith Champagne, Randy Mayor, and Gabe Eltaeb
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Pat Gleason, Rebecca Buchman, and Randy Mayor
• Picking up right where last issue left off, this week’s Green Lantern Corps focuses mostly on Mogo reporting for duty and making a major power play to save the Central Power Battery from the Black Lanterns while Kyle attempts to save Guy from being a Red Lantern.
• It is really great to see Mogo in action, especially since there haven’t been that many great Mogo stories recently. I was a bit disappointed to see how easily he disposed of the massive number of Black Lanterns though. It was a badass move, but there was no tension or struggle at all.
• At this point, I’m really not sure how I feel about how Guy’s transformation is playing out. I like it in theory, but the conflict with Kyle seems really forced and unnatural. I think it would have been better if Kyle didn’t come back from the dead so quickly, but its just not working for me.
• Peter Tomasi’s character writing is solid and this one has a fun plot, but its lack that extra personality “oomph” that have made the last few issues so exciting. Because everything happens so fast and so easily, I just couldn’t get excited about a lot of what is going on in this issue.
• Give the pantheon of talent that worked on this issue, I’m surprised by the uncharacteristically weak art. Of course, there is truth to the old adage about too many cooks in the kitchen and that really shows here as there are major consistency issues from page to page (four inkers and two colorists will do that!).
• There is a great sense of movement in the art, though, which really fuels the action sequences and is accented well with strong expressions.
• I really don’t care for the Guy Gardner Red Lantern design and I’m trying really hard not to let that bother me, but it did affect my enjoyment of the issue. The odd proportions and stark blacks really take away from the design. I would rather have seen his costume be a better mix of his Green Lantern outfit and the standard Red Lantern look.
Verdict: Check It. This is a fun action-oriented story that skirts by more on fanboy excitement of seeing things like Guy as a Red Lantern and Mogo in action that it does by the actual tension and intensity created by the action. Between the ease of the Black Lantern’s defeat and the unevenness of the art, this issue runs into a lot of issues that really take away from how much fun it could be.
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Marcos Martin and Javier Rodriguez
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Marcos Martin
• In the midst of a gang war between Maggia crime family and Mr. Negative’s forces, various deceased members of the Maggia resurface, with their deaths revealed to have been illusions created by the returning Mysterio, the next villain for Spider-Man to face in the Gauntlet mega-story.
• I’m glad to see that the next villain in line isn’t being reinvented as ridiculously overpower as part of the Gauntlet’s reinvention. This is a solid follow-up to the more personal and considerably more effective story in the last issue as it doesn’t fall prey to the pitfalls of the previous stories featuring Sandman and Electro.
• This issue is filled with explanation and back story. The meat of the actual conflict is placed on the back burner to set up Mysterio’s return, which makes the issue a bit of a taxing read by the time you get to the end.
• I’m glad to see Carlie Cooper back in the title as she is a great character, though her sudden infatuation with Peter felt really forced. The two have great chemistry that Dan Slott taps, but this seemed to come out of nowhere in comparison to her last few appearances.
• Marcos Martin shows several moments of sheer brilliance in this issue. The title splash is an amazing page and his expressions throughout the book are top notch. Martin has always been a great artist and he steps up his game in several places throughout this issue.
• On the flipside, there are some pages where his bare-bones style is far too simple. Pages like Mysterio’s “reveal” are too plan and lack depth to the point that it is really distracting.
Verdict: Check It. This issue was really close to jumping up to the Buy It range, but for every few steps forward it took, it had to take another step back. There is a lot about this issue that works really well, including some of my favorite Marcos Martin pages sine Batgirl: Year One and some fun interaction between Peter and Carlie, but the end result just wasn’t strong enough to pull in a stronger verdict.
Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by Robert Atkins, Clayton Brown, and Andrew Crossley
Letters by Robbie Robins
Covers by David Williams with Kelsey Shannon and Robert Atkins with Andrew Crossley
• The newest GI Joe storyline kicks off in this week’s issue, which splits its attention between Snake Eyes visiting Hard Master and the Joes attempt to keep Cobra from capturing a college professor that might be able to provide the knowledge necessary to make the MASS device work properly.
• The Snake Eyes story is very loose and its purpose is never really fleshed out. It is ac ool character study, but it doesn’t seem to have much of a point beyond developing Snake Eyes’s character a very minimal amount.
• The main storyline, however, is solid action, making it a good foil for what Snake Eyes is up to.
• Chuck Dixon’s ability to write GI Joe as a functioning organization rather than as a collection of quirky characters is a HUGE reason why this series has been so successful since its relaunch last year and that really shines through in this issue.
• The plotting here is really tight, which makes up for the lack of personality in some places. Dixon wastes no time in this issue and packs in quite a bit of story at a very brisk pace.
• Robert Atkins continues to rock out really hard on this series. His designs showcase a good sense of realism while still paying homage to the classic toy and cartoon designs, which fits perfectly with the tone of Dixon’s script.
• The only downside to the art in this issue is that the expressions were a little dull. The art fits the tone of the script, but the expressions are never clear enough to really enhance it—there isn’t much “acting” in the art.
Verdict: Buy It. Anytime Robert Atkins handles the art on GI Joe, you can almost certainly count on it being a Buy It or above book and this issue does not disappoint. It’s a solid mix of character-focused storytelling and action that works on a number of levels with only handful of issues, none of which are especially major. Could it use some polish? Of course, but that doesn’t mean it is isn’t worth your cash.
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Andrea DiVito and Bruno Hang
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Brandon Peterson
• After being abducted by the mysterious and incredibly powerful Sphinx last issue, Nova has trouble dealing with seeing Namorita alive again as he and the ragtag group of time-displaced heroes finds out the truth behind their abduction and finds themselves caught in a battle between Sphinxes.
• This is very “old-school” styled superhero action. Everything from the plotting to the character development screams “classic Marvel style,” which works really well with the charm of the story.
• I really loved the interaction between Nova and Namorita. His emotional response to seeing her is developed really well as his complex mix of emotions feel incredibly genuine.
• The issue really falls short when Sphinx explains why he abducted the heroes because of how convoluted it is. The rest of the issue is pretty straight forward, but the specifics of this conflict are really haphazardly thrown together and throw a confusing wrench into the works.
• Andrea DiVito does some really great things with the layouts in this issue. The “dream sequences” and the layouts on Sphinx’s flashback are simply awesome; I would consider them amongst the best pages of the week.
• Unfortunately, beyond that, the art suffers from a lot of issues, including inconsistent details and a severe lack of backgrounds at times.
• Plus, the first panel that shows Nova and Namorita kissing makes it look like she is eating his face. Honestly, I’ve never seen anyone kiss like that and, truthfully, I never want to. Sheesh.
Verdict: Buy It. This week’s Nova really overcomes all of the problems that crop up with solid storytelling and some simply awesome character work. When its bad, its pretty bad, but the rest of the issue is incredibly solid as Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning tap into a great old-school style approach that has made Nova one of Marvel’s best heroes since the 70s. Without those issues, this is a Must Read, but even with them it is still a fantastic comic.
Lead Written by Greg Pak
Lead Art by Paul Pelletier, Danny Miki, and Frank D’Armata
Backup Written by Harrison Wilcox
Backup Pencils by Ryan Stegman, Tom Palmer, and Guru eFX
Letters by Simon Bowland
Cover by John Romita Jr, Klaus Janson, and Dean White
• The pull of the artists behind this week’s Incredible Hulk #606 (Paul Pelletier and Ryan Stegman) was enough to snag this issue a spot on my pull list and, must to my pleasure, it turned out to be one of the best books of the week.
• The lead story picks up the current status quo for the now-powerless Bruce Banner as “attempts” to be a “father” to Skaar, though his true alliances come to light as the Red Hulk sends him to Latveria to take on Doctor Doom.
• For being so action-oriented, this is a really complex story with a slew of twists and turn. Greg Pak does an awesome job of spinning and insanely dense story here.
• I’ve only read bits of the Fall of the Hulks story, so I was really surprised by how accessible this issue was. Pak does a good job of filling in some of the larger story gaps.
• The ambiguity of where Banner sits is interesting, though I don’t like that he seems almost villainous here.
• I love the appearance of Betty Ross here, though. This added a great layer of mystery to the story that I can’t wait to see unfold.
• The art in the lead story was really strong. Pelletier does a great job with every single character that shows up, from the Hulk to Skaar to Doom to the Fantastic Four. Each character’s design and expressions were really superb.
• The art did have a tendency to be a tad too busy at times, especially in the action sequences. Super-detailed art is good, but sometimes too many details at inopportune times cause the art to lose focus, which is the case in some place here.
• Frank D’Armata’s coloring really stands out here. Over the last year or so he has really broadened his color choices and become all the better for it. This issue is a great culmination of that growth.
• The backup story is a bit of a fluff piece as there isn’t much story, but it is a good introduction to the Red She-Hulk. Mostly, though, its just a fight scene.
• The writing from Harrison Wilcox is pretty sparse, though he does well with what the story allows. The few characters that show-up seem to be in character and his quipping is enjoyable.
• The thinness of the story forces the art to carry the story and it really does as Stegman steps up with a very solid effort.
• The body language and expressions at a ton of impact and emphasize the movement during the fight, which is well choreographed with a strong panel progress.
• Tom Palmer does a great job of inking Stegman, giving the art a nice flair that really pops and makes up for the somewhat limited backgrounds. I’d love to see more from these artists as a duo.
• I did notice that Stegman’s art gave me the runs, though. I mean, I really enjoyed how it looked, but the side-effects were troubling. Your mileage may vary, though.
Verdict: Buy It. This issue was ridiculously close to being a Must Read, but fell just short, mostly due to its inaccessibleness to new readers at a time when there might be an influx of unaware newbies and the super thin plot of the backup. However, when you’ve got two artists that really bring their A-games, it goes a long way. Pelletier and Stegman’s work are worth the purchase price alone.
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
• The last issue of Mice Templar: Destiny set the bar ridiculously high for the creative team, though they don’t disappoint with another stellar issue of this criminally under-read series.
• In this issue, Karic’s prophecy is brought before the Bats of Maeve, who make an interesting demand of the young warrior while Cassius finds himself defending the camp from a dangerous adversary while Karic and Ronin are away.
• This issue is really fast paced and throws a ton of plot points together. You might need to read this one through a few times before you catching everything; that’s not all bad, though, as it does get better with each read (I’ve read it three times since Wednesday).
• The two stories build well off of one another as Bryan Glass carefully paces the two stories for maximum effect. I’m really impressed with how skillfully be builds tension in this issue.
• The character work is as brilliant as ever, especially considering how seamlessly Karic has grown and darkened over the last few issues, which really comes to light here. For the second issue in a row, though, the young archer Aquila steals the issue.
• There seemed to be a lot detached narration and “explanation boxes” that stood out to me as an odd addition. These aren’t completely abnormal to the series, but they seemed to show up in abundance here, which struck me as odd.
• Hear me out on this one before passing judgment, but the greatness of this issue is actually held back a bit by the weakest effort we’ve seen from Victor Santos yet. This is still an amazing book and it still looks great, it’s just not up to par with what we’ve seen from Santos in the past. Still, though, Santos at his worst is still pretty awesome.
• The biggest problem with the art is how Santos has drawn the character’s faces. There seems to be less detail and vibrancy here. A lot of the character’s faces just looked flat to me.
• I do really dig the action and layouts though. Santos uses some pretty straightforward storytelling in his panel choices, but spices it up with cool panel placement. I dig it.
Verdict: Must Read. While not quite as awesome as the monstrously amazing Mice Templar: Destiny #5, this week’s issue lives up the title’s high standards and delivers with a complex issue that puts a lot of interesting things in motion. We are entering the last leg of this miniseries and, if this issue is any indication, we are in for some exciting things before it wraps up.
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art by Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts
Letters by John J. Hill
Cover by Amanda Conner
• Last issue found Power Girl being “courted” by the flamboyant and chauvinistic Vartox, which ended in him unleashing a monstrous entity in an attempt to impress her. After cleaning up the mess this issue, the bulk of the story follows the two on a celebratory dinner where Vartox’s true intentions come to light.
• Despite opening with some action, this issue is essentially a talking heads story. However, it is such a well-done talking heads issue that you really cannot fault it for that. It is incredibly engaging.
• The writing team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray do wonders with the character work here as the interaction between Power Girl and Vartox is hilarious and charming. There was no issue this week that had more personality than this one.
• It was great to see Power Girl cut loose as we see a new side of her personality here that, while quite unlike what we’ve seen before, is very much in line with her classic interpretations. This new side played really well into the twists in this story.
• Amanda Conner’s art is pushed to another level as she carries the tone of the story and works double-time to keep things fresh because there is so little action.
• I absolutely loved the twist on the classic comics “cheesecake” shots, with Vartox being the one that is objectified. Conner’s sense of humor here is not only hilarious, but also a rather poignant, but good-natured jab at art in superhero comics.
• There are almost no flaws in the art. Conner brings her A-game here and delivers with near perfection.
Verdict: Must Read. This issue is pure fun from cover-to-cover. In a really competitive week, this issue almost took the top spot on its ludicrously charming execution. The creative team have put together a comic that is really unlike any other superhero titles on the stands, which is just one more reason why you should be picking it up.
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Facundo Percio and Digikore Studios
Covers by Various
• Things get intense for the titular character in this week’s Anna Mercury 2 as the full extent of the threat of the inter-dimensional space Vikings becomes clear, leading Anna’s bosses on Earth to formulate a major attack plan.
• This issue moves at a thrillingly quick pace with a cinematic approach from both the writing and the art. This is like reading an excellent high-concept, big budget action movie.
• The pacing in this issue works very well thanks to the very tight plot and perfectly executed dialogue. Warren Ellis masterfully controls how the reader works through this issue for maximum effect.
• The concepts in this issue really blow me away. This is a very “heady” pulp sci-fi story, but told in the fashion of something more action-focused. Ellis toes the line carefully and combines these approaches with surgical precision.
• Despite the minimal dialogue, this issue ahs a ton of personality. The dialogue here is mostly reactionary, but through the reactions and interactions we get to know Anna more here than we have in any other issue previous.
• Anna’s partner in the upcoming operation, Max Jupiter, has a simply awesome three-panel introduction to close out the issue. Ellis sucks the reader in immediately with this character, making his brief debut a surprisingly effective cliffhanger for the issue.
• Facundo Percio blows me away with this issue. His attention to detail, sense of motion and impact, expressions, and acting are out of this world. This is easily the best looking issue of the week.
• Everything that works about the writing applies to the art—from the awesome pacing to the high-concepts to the loads of personality—this issue excels on all levels.
Verdict: Must Read. This week’s Book of the Week winner (the third in a row for this miniseries) is the total package—fantastic writing, superb art, and supreme entertainment value. The only problem you may find in this issue is that it is done before you want it to be as the issue leaves you yearning for more high-concept pulp adventures. This issue excels in every aspect of craftsmanship and should not be missed under any circumstances!