Sunday, January 31, 2010

Comic Book Review Power Rankings for 01/27/10


I must apologize for my tardiness this week, as some family business and my impending move forced a delay in this week’s Comic Book Review Power Rankings. Hopefully I can make it up to you by reviewing a whopping fourteen issues this week. Who will take home the coveted Book of the Week honor? I’ll give you a hint, it takes the top spot based almost exclusively on the art by one of the most underrated artists in DC’s stables that is just now getting the recognition he deserves. Any guesses? You’ll have to hit the jump to find out!


For the uninitiated, the Comic Book Review Power Rankings is a countdown from worst-to-best of my weekly comic book haul. Before reading the issues, I preRank them based on the creative team, previous issues, solicitations, and gut instinct. The final Ranking number is based upon how the issues actually turned out. I attempt to keep everything as spoiler free as possible, but keep in mind that there may be the occasional minor spoiler that I overlook. As always, I can be reached via responses to this thread or at ryanreviews@gmail.com.


14. TEEN TITANS #79
Lead Written by Felicia D. Henderson
Lead Art by Joe Bennett, Jack Jadson, and Marcelo Maiolo
Backup Written by Sean McKeever
Backup Art by Yildiray Cinar, Julio Ferreira, and Rod Reis
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Joe Bennett and Jack Jadson
preRanking: 12

• After a two-issue Blackest Night tie-in written by J.T. Krul (which was awesome), Felicia Henderson returns as writer for this series in a story that focuses on Static and his return to his hometown of Dakota.
• After Henderson’s first few issues, my expectations were really low for this issue. However, I did my best to approach it with a positive mindset in hopes that things would get better. They didn’t. They got much, much worse.
• This script is simply bad. In terms of dialogue, there is no personality from any character whatsoever. Every single character is written with the same stiff, dull voice. There is nothing in this issue that any thought was even given to what the characters should sound like.
• The plot isn’t any better. Although there are some interesting possibilities in how the vaccine is being handled in Dakota, the lack of structure makes this nearly incoherent.
• Things aren’t helped by the fact that readers that aren’t familiar with Static, which most readers aren’t, will have no idea what is going on with any of the characters in Dakota (though, to be fair, Henderson misses the mark so badly that Milestone-obsessed fans probably won’t either).
• I was really surprised by how weak the art from Joe Bennett and Company was. Even the designs, which are normally a strong suit for Bennett, are off. There are just some weird anatomies going on here and Static is drawn like a woman. I have no idea why he would be drawn so femininely.
• There are also some very odd storytelling choices from the art team, like the poor pacing in the 4-panel pages and the illogical panel progression in the Titans workout scene.
• Things do look up a bit in the Ravager back up, which finds the titular character nearly being enslaved before finding out that she has been out of action for weeks.
• The character writing from Sean McKeever is as good as ever. The amount of depth and complexity he conveys in Ravager’s character is awesome.
• The plot execution is a bit iffy though, as its not tremendously clear what McKeever is trying to accomplish at some points. Of course, this isn’t helped by what looks to be a lettering error in some repeating dialogue early on in the story.
Yildiray Cinar does his best to be the saving grace of the issue though with this very solid art effort. His strong designs and great sense of motion can only do so much, though.

Verdict: Avoid It. Aside from the strengths of the backup story, this is an embarrassingly bad comic. The main story is, quite frankly, horrible. I tried really, really, really hard to find some positives, but the lack of focus, the incoherent plot choices, and the single worst character writing this title has ever seen defeated all attempts at optimism. I’m honestly baffled by the fact that no one in DC Editorial threw up a red flag when this script came in. As much as I love Sean McKeever’s take on Ravager and want to finish that story, this issue leaves such a bad taste in my mouth that this very well could be my last issue of this series until Felicia Henderson is as far away from it as possible. Seriously, this comic is that bad.


13. CAPTAIN AMERICA: REBORN #6
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Bryan Hitch, Butch Guice, and Paul Mounts
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Covers by Various
preRanking: 09

• Despite the fact that we already know what happens, Captain America: Reborn wraps up this week with the final battle between both Captain Americas and their ragtag Avengers allies.
• Aside from a handful of pages at the end, this is an all-action issue. If you are looking for story, this is not the comic for you.
• Usually I’ve got no problem with Ed Brubaker doing an all-action issue because he can effectively write battle-dialogue. This issue, however, is full of thin, interchangeable quips that were really lacking in personality.
• The last few pages were the most interesting part of the issue that do put some credibility into Steve Rogers’s decision to step down as Captain America, though it doesn’t quite gel with the next installment in the story (the Who Will Wield the Shield? one-shot that was released a few weeks back).
• The thin story puts a lot of pressure on Bryan Hitch’s art to carry the issue and, unfortunately, he falls really short here.
• The biggest problem is how rushed and unpolished the art looks. This could be from Hitch’s pencils or Butch Guice’s inks, but somewhere in the process is an artist that needed to tighten things up.
• The action choreography didn’t do much for me either. The action feels very stinted because there isn’t much movement or impact. In the smaller panels, there isn’t enough room to convey the action properly; while all of the larger panels (basically ¼ page and up) look like highly-posed pin-ups.

Verdict: Avoid It. This miniseries had a lot of ups and downs, but up to this point I’d say that the good ultimately outweighed the bad. However, this issue screams quite loudly that the story went on for one issue to long. There isn’t enough story here to fill the issue while the art team looks like they blasted through the finish on this one just to wrap up the story (I don’t know if that is the case, but that is how it looks). By this point, we all know that Steve Rogers is alive again, so I can’t see any reason to pick this up other than to be a completist on the miniseries.


12. SUPERGIRL #49
Written by Sterling Gates
Art by Matt Camp and Nei Ruffino
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Joshua Middleton
preRanking: 08

• This week’s issue of Supergirl divides the titular character’s attention between two story beats as she wraps up her impromptu battle with Silver Banshee in the first half, then switches gears to react to the death of Lana Lang.
• There really isn’t enough room in this issue for both stories to unfold properly. Both stories are competing for face time and that takes away from both of them.
• The Silver Banshee story is a bit of a mess and relies too heavily on expository dialogue, which really takes away from how fast-paced it should be. The end result simply does not click.
• While Lana’s death is handled well and Sterling Gates does touch upon the right emotional beats, there isn’t enough room for the impact to really set-in before Supergirl has to rush off to the next part of the story. This really should have been drawn out more for maximum effect.
• I was pretty disappointed that regular artist Jamal Igle had to take the issue off, but Matt Camp wasn’t a bad replacement. His visual take is very basic and effective with clear storytelling.
• The biggest problem is how inconsistent Camp’s designs are. There are some panels where his take on Kara is amongst the best that we’ve seen in some time. The problem is that this design does not hold and her facial structure takes on several more looks before the issue is finished.
• The art is also incredibly stiff and the tight inks do little to add much depth. Thankfully Nei Ruffino’s colors make this one pop and do provide some much needed depth at times.

Verdict: Byrne It. This issue has all of the makings of a great issue, but falls apart in execution. There is simply too much story to be contained successfully in one issue, so neither of the two major story beats ends up really being that successful. Matt Camp does his best to salvage the issue, but struggles with his own major inconsistencies too much to save this one.


11. PILOT SEASON: DEMONIC
Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Joe Benitez, Victor Llamas, and Arif Prianto
Letters by Troy Peteri
Cover by Marc Silvestri
preRanking: ---

• The good folks over at Top Cow were kind enough to send along a copy of this week’s Pilot Season candidate, Demonic, which focus on a cop who is haunted by a bloodthirsty demon that forces him into some serious ethical dilemmas.
• The premise of the series is that Scott, a cop, is haunted by a demon that drives him to kill. While the demon really wants the souls of innocents, such as Scott’s wife and daughter, he prefers to kill the “impure.” Meanwhile, he is assigned by his boss to take down the killer that is plaguing the streets, which, as we know, is actually himself.
• This reminds me a lot of the first issue of Robert Kirkman’s Haunt series. There are major differences of course, but the overall structure and tone are too similar for my taste.
• I do really like the ethical dilemmas that Scott faces and the fact that its not even clear if the demon is real or if Scott is just going insane.
• The dialogue really takes away from how interesting the plot is. Kirkman never really gets past the surface and there isn’t much depth in anything that anyone says or even in the personalities of the characters.
Joe Benitez’s artwork is considerably more controlled here than his more outrageous work for DC, though it is still quite stylized.
• There is a good sense of movement in the action sequences, which really kicks up the story a notch during these scenes.
• There are some very strange things going on with the anatomy of certain characters, most notably Scott’s wife, that doesn’t really gel with the style that Benitez uses throughout the rest of the issue.

Verdict: Check It. I really dig the concept of Demonic and think that, given time, Kirkman could spin a very complex and thought-provoking story that would balance well with the action and gore that the story warrants. I imagine something a long the lines of Showtime’s Dexter show, but with more supernatural influences and less John Lithgow. You can see that promise in this issue, though as a standalone story, Kirkman never gets past the surface setup, so it never really sucks the reader in. It’s a cool idea, but I’m not 100% sold at this point.


10. BATMAN AND ROBIN #7
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Cameron Stewart and Alex Sinclair
Letters by Pat Brosseau
Cover by Frank Quitely
preRanking: 06

• Artist Cameron Stuart reunites with Grant Morrison for this Batman and Robin arc, which finds Dick Grayson teaming up with the Knight and Squire to uncover a Lazarus Pit in England, which Grayson has some serious plans for.
• I really like the fun, relatively light interaction between Batman and Squire. Morrison has done a great job of building up her character to the point that she really holds her own. While her appearance here isn’t as strong as the League of Batmen story from a few years back, its still pretty solid.
Batwoman makes a totally unnecessary appearance in this issue that doesn’t click. The big problem is that she seems unaware of anything that has happened since Batman RIP, despite the fact that I’m pretty sure she was around during Battle for the Cowl.
• I really do not care for the Lazarus Pit plotline. It seems very out of character for Dick and doesn’t gel with a lot of things going on in other books like Blackest Night (with Batman’s skull) or Red Robin (with the hunt for the truth about Batman’s “demise”).
• There is a great scene between Talia and Alred that took me by surprise. Morrison finally seems to be tapping into the depth for Damian that every other Bat-writer has given him over the last few months, but has been completely missing from Morrison’s take on the character.
• Cameron Stewart’s art is very clean and clear, which is a refreshing departure from the grim and gritty artists that we’ve seen so far on this title.
• I’m not terribly thrilled with some of Stewart’s design choices. The bat-bike that Squire rides looks ridiculous and I have no idea why he is drawing her face so oddly, especially her lips. Her design looks nothing like the style he uses for the other characters.
• I do dig some of his panel choices though. It’s clear that Stewart’s approach is just as concerned with the angle from which you show something as it is what you are actually showing. That leads to some very dynamic choices that really work.

Verdict: Check It. This issue is very much a “one step forward, one step back” situation as there seems to be a negative aspect to counter every positive aspect in this issue. The end result is a very middle-of the-road issue that features Morrison at his best (the Talia/Alfred scene) and at his worst (the Batwoman business). Along the same lines, Stewart’s art wasn’t quite what I was hoping for, but he makes up for some design issues with some very solid layouts and panel choices. In summation, you’ll neither hate nor love this issue, but you’d probably be entertained if you read it.


09. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #619
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Marcos Martin and Javier Rodriguez
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Marcos Martin
preRanking: 11

• After making his return last issue, Mysterio makes a major power play against the Maggia crime family as some of his illusions are revealed. Meanwhile, our titular webhead is framed for murder and one of the most important characters in Spider-Man’s past apparently returns.
• The “is he or isn’t he” ploy with the undead characters is interesting, but overdone. There are simply too many characters in this issue that could be returning from the dead or could be illusions to be effective, which takes away from the shock of the returning character (which I won’t spoil for you).
• Spinning out of this, there really isn’t a clear direction for the story. There are some cool things happening, but they don’t seem to be building to much.
• I really liked the personality that Dan Slott brings to this issue, especially with Spider-Man and Carlie. He is adding some great depth to her, both in terms of how she interacts with other characters and the back story that is revealed here.
Marcos Martin’s art is very crisp and considerably more detailed than some of his previous issues, but is never really bogged down with extraneous particulars.
• There isn’t a lot of energy in the art, though, which is normally a calling card for Martin. Almost every panel looks painstakingly posed.
• Martin’s designs here are very strong. I’m starting to see a Mike Allred-esque flair to the art that I’ve never notice in Martin before, but without the weird lips and eyes that always seem to ruin everything that otherwise looks great with Allred.

Verdict: Check It. This is a reasonably fun issue that is bogged down with a lot of minor faults that add up to the point that I can’t justify ranking this one any higher. Slott and Martin both flex their creative muscles well though, so when this issue is on, its really on. Unfortunately, its hard too look past some of the more glaring problems like the posed look to the art and the lack of a concrete direction in the story.


08. FANTASTIC FOUR #575
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Dale Eaglesham and Paul Mounts
Letters by Rus Wooton
Cover by Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, and Javier Rodriguez

• In this week’s Fantastic Four, the team receive a surprise visit from the Mole Man who wants help from stopping ultra-advanced Moleoids from raising an underground city created and abandoned by the High Evolutionary.
• This is very dense issue with a lot of complex plot points that crop up, despite the relatively linear and simplistic plot.
• In truth, not a lot really happens here plot-wise. We get a lot of explanation, but not a lot else as this is clearly a set-up issue.
• I do applaud Jonathan Hickman for not shying away from the high-concept sci-fi stuff that he has made his calling card. If you dug his indie work, you’ll feel right at home with some of the concepts he throws out here.
• I also really liked seeing Mole Man as a leader instead of just as a villain. For being the leader of an underground race, you don’t really much of that from him, its always just “conquer the world” this and “kill Reed Richards” that.
• For the vast majority of this issue, Dale Eaglesham’s art is pretty spot-on. I would say that ¾ of the book is highly detailed and incredibly well done. The rest was pretty lacking.
• I didn’t care much for Eaglesham’s expressions as they didn’t always gel with the script or show much emotion.
• It seems that Eaglesham was most focused on the big epic moments like the unveiling of the city or the surprise appearance from a dead future Galactus.
• I also really think that Hickman deserves some praise for address criticisms over his usage of the word “retard” in the letter column. A few issues back Val called Franklin a retard several times and Hickman stuck to his guns, offering up a sincere and logical explanation for his choice that was respectful to the fans that he angered.

Verdict: Check It. This one is almost entirely setup for what is clearly going to be a major storyline. In that sense, mission accomplished, although I would have liked to see more of an actual plot than just plot devices. There isn’t much movement here story-wise, which is disappointing, especially after the dramatic entrance from Mole Man, who largely disappears from the issue after he sets things in motion for the Fantastic Four to set more things in motion. It is certainly worth reading if you’ve got the time, but I wouldn’t drop everything to pick it up.


07. AVENGERS: INITIATIVE #32
Written by Christos Gage
Art by Mahmud Asrar, Rebecca Buchman, and Jay David Ramos
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by David Yardin
preRanking: ---

• Since the Rankings were delayed by a few days, I was able to pick this one up after my other purchases for the week, having realized after Wednesday that Mahmud Asrar was handling the art chores.
• This issue follows the Initiative cast through the opening pages of Siege #1, focusing mainly on the Taskmaster as he manipulates the situation for his own game.
• For being an event tie-in issue, this was a surprisingly character-focused issue and possibly the best insight into Taskmaster’s personality and motivation that Marvel has put out in years
Christos Gage does a great job of balancing him as both a sympathetic character and a conniving manipulator, which adds some complexity to what would be an otherwise straightforward issue.
• The story spins its wheels considerably in the second half, however, as the characters mull over the same issues over and over again in the midst of the attack on Asgard.
• This leads to an incredibly predictable ending that doesn’t exactly have me clamoring for the next issue.
• I did pick this one up based on the strength of Asrar’s art alone and, for the most part, he doesn’t disappoint.
• The solid storytelling, strong designs, and good expressions that made his Dynamo 5 work so impressive are still present, though there were some consistency issues in terms of page-to-page detail.
• What really cut the art down, though, was the inking by Rebecca Buchman. She has a tendency to ink far too heavily, which detracts from the strength of the pencils and causes images to run together. This same problem has creeped up in her work on Green Lantern Corps with penciller Pat Gleason.

Verdict: Check It. I bought this one mostly for the art and, in that regard, I can’t say that I’m terribly disappointed. The thick inks take away from the overall aesthetic quality, but the writing does make up for it some with a great character-focused exploration of Taskmaster, who has never really been the most interesting character to me. In the end, it is a fun read despite its flaws and with relatively middle of the road overall quality.


06. GOTHAM CITY SIRENS #8
Written by Guillem March (plot) and Marc Andreyko (script)
Art by Guillem March and Tomeu Morey
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Guillem March
preRanking: 10

Guillem March plots this week’s fill-in issue of Gotham City Sirens, while Marc Andreyko scripts this story that questions just how human Poison Ivy is when a series of murders all point to her.
• This is a really interesting character-focused done-in-one that established Ivy’s current state. This story is clearly aimed at building some depth for her and, in that regard, is incredibly successful.
• I can’t say that I’ve ever read a story that works so hard to explain who and what Ivy is, as well as why she does the things that she does.
• Andreyko brings a lot of personality to the script and makes a strong case that he should be scripting this story more often if regular writer Paul Dini cannot fulfill the schedule.
• The problem with the story is that the plot really loses steam towards the end, only to erratically wrap up. It’s almost like the creative team couldn’t figure out how exactly the story should end, but then ran out of pages before they could decide.
• This is probably Guillem March’s worst issue for designs and consistency. For all of the great strides that the writing takes, the art holds it back.
• The most glaring issue is the fluctuating levels of detail throughout the issue. This is really distracting.
• I will say that March does rock it on the layouts. There are some really inventive pages here as March works with and builds from 12 panel grids very effectively.

Verdict: Check It. This issue comes incredibly close to earning a Buy It rating, but falls just short as the rough ending and lack of artistic consistency hold it back. Still, as it stands, I will say that this is one of the strongest explorations of Poison Ivy in some time and its about time that Marc Andreyko is given the reigns to a full-length issue again (this Manhunter backup stuff is great, but not good enough).


05. KICK-ASS #8
Written by Mark Millar
Art by John Romita Jr., Tom Palmer, and Dean White
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Cover by John Romita Jr.
preRanking: 05

• The first volume of Kick-Ass closes this week as the titular “hero” teams-up with Hit-Girl to kill a whole slew of mobsters, then reflect upon the cultural phenomena that he has created.
• In a lot of ways, this issue is underwhelming because of the major delays. It stands well on its own, but loses the epic feel that it strives for because it has been so long since the last issue.
• The fight planning and personality that crops up in the opening battle is really extraordinary. That is a really cool scene that played out incredibly well.
• It is really interesting to see Hit-Girl and Kick-Ass going back to their “regular” lives in a world that has changed around them.
• The end of this issue feels really similar to Wanted. Dave’s unreliable narration of his life forms an interesting parallel to Wesley’s, which is both good and bad. It’s not as in-your-face as Wanted, but its close enough that it doesn’t feel terribly original.
• I’m glad to see that Mark Millar is kicking off a second volume in this issue, though this story feels very finished now. The second volume is going to have to start in a big way to spark the same interested that this issue built up in me.
• As per usual, the star of the show is John Romita Jr. with his awesome art.
• The creativity in Romita’s brutality is amazing. His sense of movement in the fight scenes, combined with his excellent choreography makes this issue a joy to look at.
• The character’s bodies do look pretty “off” in some places. The body types and sizes don’t always click together, which takes away from the art considerably.

Verdict: Buy It. This issue is a fitting and enjoyable end to the first volume of Kick-Ass that closes things out in a strong, albeit familiar, manner that should be relatively satisfying for most readers. There are some creative missteps in the writing that are frustrating,


04. STAR WARS: LEGACY #44
Written by John Ostrander
Art by Jan Duursema, Dan Parsons, and Brad Anderson
Letters by Michael Heisler
Cover by Chris Scalf
preRanking: 07

Cade Skywalker’s return to Wayland goes south rather quickly in this week’s Star Wars: Legacy as he falls victim to some unusual tactics, while elsewhere the Sith prepare for their endgame attack on displaced Emperor Fel and the true identity of Nyna Calixte is revealed.
• This is a hugely dense story with an incredible amount of story packed in. In that sense, this might be the best “value” comic of the week.
• There are a lot of interesting twists in this issue as John Ostrander starts drastically altering the status quo and begins to pay off longtime readers in some surprising ways.
• There are times where the multiple plot threads can become a bit overwhelming, which causes the issue to be slightly inaccessible to even the most astute readers. You really need to take your time with this to catch it all and connect it to previous stories.
• The reveal about Nyna Calixte is HUGE. I never could have seen this coming and Ostrander nails the unveiling. I cannot wait to see how this plays out.
• The art in this issue is pretty solid. Jan Duursema excels in her consistency and expressions, which goes a long way here.
• There are some minor squabbles that keep this one from jumping up higher (though it was close), like how oddly flat the brighter pages look and how inconsistent the spot blacks are.

Verdict: Buy It. I am really, really, really impressed by how much story Ostrander manages to cover in this issue. I can’t think of the last time I read a comic that was so densely packed. This issue is just as much fun to deconstruct as it is to read. Some minor troubles keep this one from jumping further up the Rankings, but as it stands, it is a supremely enjoyable issue and definitely one of the strongest this series has ever seen.


03. SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGIN #4
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Gary Frank, Jon Sibal, and Brad Anderson
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Gary Frank and Brad Anderson
preRanking: 01

• This week’s installment of Superman: Secret Origin is retcon filled look at Superman’s first face-off against a supervillian—Parasite—which times into Lex Luthor’s developing hatred of Superman and the first moment of bonding between the Man of Steel and Jimmy Olson.
• The large number of retcons in this story might not sit well with some readers, but Geoff Johns ties them all together in a way that doesn’t drastically alter events to the point that they are unrecognizable, but instead spins them into a considerably more satisfying and complex story.
• The interaction between these characters is phenomenal. I’ve always said that the biggest strength of Superman lies in his supporting cast and Johns proves that statement with this issue, especially in the interaction between Lois and Clark.
• The Superman/Jimmy Olson scene was incredibly heartwarming, especially the “parental advice” comparisons.
• This issue is cover-to-cover personality, both from the script by Johns and through Gary Frank’s art. Every character comes across incredibly well with unique voices, both verbally and nonverbally.
• Frank continues to prove that he is THE iconic Superman artist of modern times and the best Man of Steel artist since Curt Swan.
• There are a few odd designs here and there, where the facial features don’t get that well together. However, the vast majority of the issue looks phenomenal.
• I really enjoy the fact that Frank clearly understands that expressions are more than just the mouth and eyes—his characters convey their expressions with every part of themselves.

Verdict: Must Read. I really can’t imagine this miniseries being any better than it is. Did we really need another retelling of Superman’s origin, even with the revisions like we see in this issue? No, probably not. However, when the craftsmanship is this freakin’ good, we shouldn’t argue. This issue looks amazing and also reads quite well. I’ve never been a huge Superman fan, but it is issues like this that show me exactly why the character has endured as long as he has!


02. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #22
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy, and Wil Quintana
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Alex Garner
PreRanking: 02

• The Universal Church of Truth, having kidnapped Moondragon because she “pregnant” with their “god,” face off against the Guardians of the Galaxy in this week’s issue that is a return to form for this series.
• This issue is awesome on so many levels. It has a great plot that breaks down not only into awesome action, but also into really enjoyable talking heads scenes. The writing just plain works.
• All of the characters showcase a ton of personality that translates well through very strong dialogue. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have mastered epic storytelling, but at heart, they are very much character-ofucsed writers.
• I’m glad to see that the post-mission testimonials make a comeback in this issue. Those are always lots of fun and they don’t disappoint here, especially Rocket Raccoon's.
• The pacing of this issue as it flows into the major action piece and back down again into the denouement is the perfect buildup for the amazing cliffhanger. I honestly did not see that coming, but the real leader of the Universal Church being revealed as Magus and the Guardians we thought were dead being held captive blew me away.
Brad Walker’s art captures the insanity of this issue quite well without becoming overwhelming as he develops the chaos of the scenes.
• His expressions and body language work perfectly with the style of his designs. It is just the right mix of cartoony elements and standard superhero conventions.
• There are a few moments of awkward anatomy, especially in the character’s torsos, but this is relatively minor.
• Walker really steps up his detail and that really makes this issue pop.

Verdict: Must Read. After spinning its wheels for the last few months, Guardians of the Galaxy comes back in full force this week with one of its most exciting and intriguing issues yet. I’ll admit that I’ve been disappointed with the direction of the series as of late, but this issue really brings back my faith in this series. This issue nearly took the number one spot this week and really should not be missed.


01. GREEN LANTERN #50
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Rebecca Buchman, Tom Nguyen, Mark Irwin, Randy Mayor, and Gabe Eltaeb
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, and Pete Pantazis
preRanking: 05

• This week’s issue of Green Lantern picks up right after the end of the last Blackest Night, as the deputized Lanterns team-up with the Assorted Lantern Corps to take on the Black Lanterns, while the Spectre sets his sights on Hal Jordan.
• This is a really fast-paced, action-oriented issue that is supremely satisfying.
Geoff Johns peppers the issue with great character moments to keep things fresh. In particular, I really dug how the deputy Lanterns are showcased during the battle.
• While the cover did give it away, it was still really shocking to Hal willingly become Parallax, though it is also worth noting that he was momentarily a Black Lantern. I believe that Hal has now officially been a member of every single Corps except the Star Sapphires and the Indigo Tribe.
• While the action is fun and the character work is really strong, the real story here is the art from Doug Mahnke. I’ve been saying for years that Mahnke is amazing, but this is going to be the issue that solidifies him as a top-tier artist.
• This issue is overflowing with detail and Mahnke unleashes it consistently. There is a ton going on in this issue that he captures, but he does so without shortchanging any panels nor muddying up his work.
• The action is also perfectly conveyed through very strong expressions, great choreography, and stellar layouts. This issue’s plot demands that it be epic and the art does not let anyone down.
• I really have to hand it to the art team on their consistency. Counting Mahnke, there are five inkers that worked on this issue and two colorists, yet you’d be hard pressed to sift out where one inker starts and another ends. That is incredibly impressive.
• Every single page of this issue is simply gorgeous. There is other way to put it.

Verdict: Must Read. It’s not very often that the Book of the Week honor is earned on the merits of the art alone, but even if Johns had an off issue—which he doesn’t—I think that Doug Mahnke and his pantheon of artistic helpers could have still been number one this week. I’ve been a huge Mahnke fan ever since StormWatch PHD, but I’ve never seen him step up his game like this. I know it is early, but this could easily go down as this single best looking superhero issue of the year. You’d be a fool to miss it.


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21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dig the rankings as always, just two notes:

1) I don't believe Hal has been a Star Sapphire or Indigo Lantern yet, though I could be mistaken.

2) The "big return" in Amazing Spider-Man was actually undone on the next page, as they show the character's face is a ripped mask.

Radlum said...

As fun as Batman and Robin was, I thought that making Batwoman a guest-star was pointless, leave in her own book if you can't justify the crossover, she's a great character but here she was featured in a weird way.
Also, I like that Initiative is focusing on Taskmaster, he needs more respect and mainstream exposure.

Aaron K said...

Thought the last few issues of GotG had dragged a little bit, I really thought this one was a return to form - to the fun, comedic action we all expect from this series. While Brad Walker is a fine penciller though, he CANNOT draw Drax right. His face just always looks smashed by a rock. He needs to take some lessons from Paul Pelletier since every time I see the Walker-Drax I'm immediately drawn out of the story. Drax needs to look like a complete badass, not like his face was planted into the ground one too many times.

Brandon Whaley said...

@Anon- You're right, Hal has not been a member of the Star Sapphires or the Indigo Tribe...yet. I think the interaction between Hal and Carol in this issue may be leading to one or the other, however.

Ryan, I pretty much agree with your review of Batman and Robin, but you didn't mention the HUGE lettering mistake that made the issue even more confusing and incoherent than it already was. After waiting two months, how this got through the editors I'll never understand. Ugh.

Ryan Schrodt said...

You guys are right, he hasn't been a Star Sapphire or Indigo Lantern. I'll fix the review.

@Brandon - I did have that in my notes, but figured that my other problems with the issue were abuse enough. That was a horrible mistake though!

onefinemess said...

I agree with you on most points.

I found the FF issue to have a great start then just... what happened? It was one of the strangest written/plotted comics I've seen in a long time. All build up to nothing. And the Mole Man just jumped away off screen and ...ok?

I found this issue of GL to be the weakest in a long time. Not bad, just weaker. I'll have to re-read and see if I can better articulate my ditaste.

What about X-Factor 201? Better than most of those books imho.

Matt Ampersand said...

Just out of curiosity, what changes were made in Superman Secret Origin? I'm not reading it, and I'm not a big fan of Superman, but I did read Birthright and enjoyed that very much.

Chris said...

You should read Atom and Hawkman. It seems to me the story was supposed to be part of GL 50, but was spun off to this one shot. It seems like it'll be essential reading for Blackest night.

brandon said...

I actually cant remember Hal wearing the Orange ring either. I remember him fighting Gonzo, but did he ever actually wear the ring? I'm not saying he didnt I just cant visualize what went down....

Kirk Warren said...

@brandon - He had the orange latnern momentarily and it gave him a ring and costume. He desired hamburgers. 2 to be exact.

Nathan Aaron said...

"The thin story puts a lot of pressure on Bryan Hitch’s art to carry the issue and, unfortunately, he falls really short here." Really!? I swear our art tastes could NOT be more different, when you praise someone like Humberto Ramos or Skottie Young and then declare this art "subpar." I thought it was beautiful, and the issue as a whole was just all sorts of fun. The whole "War Of The Worlds" thing was a bit odd, but I guess they had to have SOME reason, so alright, I guess.

I think Bryan is trying to find a middle ground with his art. He used to take FOREVER to do things like Ultimates, etc. but it was freakin' gorgeous. Then when he got onto FF they needed him to be monthly, so he really had to cut a lot of corners; and it showed. And it still does sometimes, but I think he's trying to maintain as much of his rockin' talent while being able to keep monthly schedules. I think as he goes along he'll get it down to a science. And when you add Butch Guice to the list, you've got perfection. Butch Guice is seriously a master artist. He's amazing, and he's been around forever.

Personally I'm really hoping Steve Epting comes back to Captain America when Marvel Projects is over. OR they get Butch Guice to be permanent artist (but that won't happen, I don't think he can maintain a monthly schedule for long periods either.) But Luke Ross just isn't cutting it for me. The art on 602 was really good until half way through the issue. AND then I realized Butch had inked the first half. Bring back Steve, he was great!

Kirk Warren said...

@Nathan - Not Ryan, but I found the same problem with Hitch's art on Reborn. He used to do Authority on a monthly basis, even finishing issues in 3-4 weeks instead the typical month and it looked gorgeous and very similar to his Ultimates, which took months to do an issue.

His current art is faster and a bit looser, but I find it really lacking in comparison. Splashpages and other iconic shots (certain fights or characters) look amazing. The connecting bits? not so much. There's a lot 'same face' syndrome prevalent as well with colouring or clothing th eonly difference between many characters. You can tell when Guice and others are picking up the slack on his work and I'd have preferred Epting or Guice with Ross helping out (basically the Cap ongoing team) to handle the art if it was going to be delay ridden for a subpar effort on hitch's part.

However, I droppedi t due to story reasons. The art didn't overly bother me, but it is worth mentioning for those buying it primarily based on Hitch doing the art. Think how Jones's Final Crisis ended in such a muddled way and had Mahnke and an army of inkers picking up the slack. that's how I view Hitch's Reborn.

Ivan said...

One thing I dislike about Eaglesham is how every character has a terribly flat face.

The Dangster said...

Ryan, you didn't find Parasite's origin a little too... comedic? Last year Robinson and Johns promised to make Superman's rogue gallery more serious and awesome. Just weird seeing his origin being a man who eats a radioactive donut

Matt Ampersand said...

So Parasite is basically Homer Simpson?

Ryan Schrodt said...

@Nathan - I probably should have prefaced that I normally really enjoy Hitch's work. I loved his work on Ultimates and Authority, but his work on this issue just didn't live up to his own high standards.

I am with you on hoping that Epting comes back on the series soon. I really dug his Cap work. If I could have any recent Cap artist back, though, it would be Mike Perkins.

@Dangster - That part was a bit ridiculous, but I really loved the idea that his origin now ties into Lex Luthor's "attempts" at bringing hope to Metropolis. It was a weird choice and could have done better, but, in terms of the big picture, I dig how it played out.

The Dangster said...

i will say this: Gary Frank made it at least look cool.

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