Thursday, February 11, 2010
It’s Thursday evening and that can only mean one thing: it’s time for another installment of your favorite weekly comic book countdown, the Comic Book Review Power Rankings! There’s a slew of old favorites in this week’s Rankings including Ender’s Game, Secret Six, Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man and more. Let’s not waste any more time on introductions and dig right in, shall we?
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 Grant Morrison
Art by Cameron Stewart and Tony Avina
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Covers by Frank Quitely and Cameron Stewart
• Picking up from the baffling end of last issue, this week’s Batman and Robin “tries” to explain Batwoman’s appearance and reveals that the reanimated Batman is actual a stillborn clone created by Darkseid. Also, Robin has a new spine.
• There is absolutely nothing about this story that works on any level. The dialogue is lifeless. The plot is incoherent. The pacing is atrociously unreadable. The twists are desperately contrived to force the events of this story together.
• The story is told in a haphazard flashback style that ignores all storytelling conventions to the point that it is nearly incomprehensible. I’m all for innovation and creative storytelling, but if your structure is as flawed as this issue’s, you’ve got major problems.
• The only thing worse than Dick Grayson being written so out of character that he’d even consider reviving Batman in a Lazarus Pit is the pathetic backtracking to say that Batman’s body (which was apparently locked in a closet here, even though it was buried in Blackest Night) was actually a convenient clone created by Darkseid. There is a reason why the rest of DC’s writers have completely ignored Final Crisis and I’m pretty sure this failed plot point is a pretty good indication of what that reason is.
• Cameron Stewart does his best to salvage this with his clean artwork. It looks pretty good and his storytelling works well. I don’t care for how fat he draws children’s faces, but I’m willing to overlook that for how fun his fight scenes look.
• The problem? The art in now way matches the script. There is a major disconnect in both tone and style, making this issue appear all the more haphazard.
Verdict: Avoid It. This series kicked off in a strong way with Grant Morrison writing like Classic Morrison. You know, the good one. Since the first arc it has quickly devolved, all culminating in this mess of a comic that should never have been approved by editorial. Of course, if interviews with Dan Didio are any indicator of DC’s editorial approach to Grant Morrison, this was probably approved without anyone looking at it. I’m thoroughly convinced at this point that Morrison isn’t even trying to tell competent stories and more, which means that I’m not even going to try to read the drivel he is producing. I’m done. I’m dropping this steaming pile of crap (which is too bad because they’ve brought in some quality artists that deserve to be drawing better books than this). Save your money, True Believers. Avoid this one like the plague. There are better places to spend your cash, like root canals or paying someone to punch you in the face.
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Marcos Martin, Javier Pulido, and Javier Rodriguez
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Marcos Martin
• The Mysterio-focused installment of The Gauntlet comes to a close this week as Mysterio, Spider-Man, and Mr. Negative battle it out, Carlie gets angry, and yet another villain is recruited for Team Kraven.
• This is your average paint-by-numbers two villains and one her action story. The two villains don’t like each other, the hero is caught in the middle, punching ensues. You’ve seen it before.
• I understand that not every story is going to have an Earth-shattering conclusion and I’m grateful for that, but at the same time, it is really frustrating to read an entire story only to find that every single character is in the exact same place at the end of the story that they were at the beginning.
• Maybe I missed something somewhere, but it seemed to be that Carlie’s blow-up seem excessively abrupt? It would be different, but I didn’t think Peter had done a ton to piss her off (no more than usual) and nothing in this story really seemed to warrant this.
• The dialogue in this issue is pretty ho-hum. It’s not exactly lacking in personality, but its not drowning in it either.
• Much like the rest of this issue, the art is very middle of the road. There isn’t a ton of impact in the action, but its not very stiff either. The expressions aren’t particularly strong, but they still match the tone of the story.
• I do think kudos are in order for Marcos Martin and Javier Pulido’s art gelling so well, though. As much as I hate multiple artists on a single issue, it works surprisingly well here..
Verdict: Byrne It. The best way I can describe this issue is that it is “just there.” Nothing stands out to me, positive or negative, other than the odd scene with Carlie. It isn’t bad enough that you should avoid it, but not really good enough that you should seek it out either. This is the perfect definition of an underwhelming comic book.
Lead Written by Dan Jurgens
Lead Art by Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, and Hi-Fi
Lead Letters by Swands
Backup Written by Matthew Sturges
Backup Art by Mike Norton and Guy Major
Backup Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund
• In the lead story of this week’s Booster Gold, the titular character is forced to make some tough decisions about the fate of Coast City as he finds out the truth about the time traveler—Sondra Crain—that tried to stop Hank Henshaw from becoming the Cyborg Superman last issue.
• Solid character work from Dan Jurgens is the highlight of this issue, as the plot spins its wheels a bit for the sake of developing Sondra’s character and to build tension about the eventual destruction of Coast City.
• The subplot in this issue involving Booster’s city being trapped in Coast City didn’t click quite as well as the main plot for me. A major part of this is that her personality isn’t quite as strong, so it is harder for her to carry her own story thread.
• Even though Booster has been told time and again that he can’t change the past, I love the ethical dilemma that he faces here, especially since it seems to be spinning out of his own frustrations with the enigmatic Rip Hunter.
• Jurgens and Norm Rapmund continue to be a formidable team on the art for this issue. Their slick designs and strong expressions shine as always.
• Watching them tackle a relatively recent event (and one that I actually read when it first came out rather than in trades or back issues I had to hunt down) makes me really wish that the art at the time Coast City was destroyed was up to par with what Jurgens and Rapmund do here.
• The co-feature closes out the Blue Beetle story as Peacemaker makes a last minute save, keeping the Reach from using Jaime as a weapon to enslave the Earth.
• I’m glad to see that writer Matt Sturges is reaching back to the Blue Beetle ongoing as he tries to close out some old stories and tie up loose ends.
• The problem is that the reduced page count forces him to rush to a conclusion, so the story ends without much fanfare or much explanation. We see some explosions and apparently all is well. As someone that followed the story from Blue Beetle #1 and started picking up this series initially just for the Beetle story, this is a major letdown.
• I did enjoy the gag at the end where Paco complains about his favorite comic being cancelled and Brenda attempting to console him by pointing out that the title character will still be in a team book. This is fun meta-commentary that mirrors exactly how I felt when the Blue Beetle ongoing was canceled.
• I hate to say it, but I was disappointed by the art from Mike Norton. The art is considerably less detailed than what I’ve come to expect from the artist and his expressions were surprisingly weak.
• Norton’s storytelling, which is definitely one of his strong suits, still looked really good. It just looks like he was rushed through the execution (which, given his large workload these days, is a distinct possibility).
Verdict: Check It. I never thought I’d say it, but this issue is held back by the Blue Beetle backup. Although its clear that this is meant to be a send-off for the character and a payoff for longtime fans, it is far too rushed and there is no dénouement to give it any impact. The Booster story is solid and might have made it into Buy It territory on its own, but the Beetle story falls flat, which is a major disappointment for a HUGE fan like me.
Written by Andrew Kreisberg
Art by Mike Norton, Bill Sienkiewicz, and David Baron
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Ladronn
• Andrew Kreisberg’s extended Cupid storyline draws to a close this week as the titular duo must save the villainous Cupid from her former ops team, Cobalt, before things can get any worse.
• This is a very solid ending to the story that Kresiberg has been building since his first issue. He manages to close out or build off of all open threads, making this a solid wrap up that will flow nicely into the next Green Arrow story.
• The interaction between the characters keeps the issue fresh despite the fact that plot is focused mainly on very straight forward action. As per usual, the interaction between Ollie and Dinah is incredibly solid.
• I really dig the twist with Cupid’s memory coming back, even though she still calls Ollie “babe.” This asks a lot of big questions about the true nature of Cupid’s madness, which I hope comes back eventually, hopefully under Kreisberg’s watch.
• The twist with Lt. Hilton is a bit dull to me, so I’m hoping some new twists are introduced before this becomes a major storyline. Maimed public servants becoming madmen killers are a bit played out.
• The issue closes out with Hal Jordan reaching out to Arrow and Canary, which will no doubt either tie into a Blackest Night storyline or the story spinning out of Cry for Justice. Either way, it felt very out of place and totally unnecessary. The issue should have ended when the story did.
• The art is a great mix of styles from Mike Norton, who handles layouts, and Bill Sienkiewicz, who handles finishes. You get the best of both worlds—Sinkiewicz’s style and texture with Norton’s superb storytelling.
• I love the fractured look that Sienkiewicz gives to certain scenes. It is a subtle way to reinforce the tone of the story.
• The coloring is a bit iffy at times. David Baron seems to be switching between styles throughout the issue. It looks good page-by-page, but as a whole it is very disjointed.
Verdict: Buy It. Andrew Kreisberg ends his run on the title just as strongly as he started it with a very solid close to what was a very enjoyable story. His take on the characters is incredibly solid and the twists he introduces were a lot of fun. I was really impressed with his work as a whole here. When you add in great art from the team of Sienkiwicz and Norton, this is a very solid issue despite a handful of frustrating flaws.
Written by Chris Yost
Art by Pasqual Ferry and Frank D’Armata
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Pasqual Ferry and Frank D’Armata
• I’m going to warn you right now, I’m going to be a bit nit-picky and fanboy-ish in this review. Longtime readers know that I’m pretty laidback when it comes to my comics, but that might change for a few brief bullet points here. Please accept my sincerest preemptive apologies.
• Marvel’s adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game novel ends with this week’s issue which follows Ender’s final exam and the horrifying consequences of the actions that he unknowingly committed.
• For the majority of this issue, just as it has been for this entire miniseries, Chris Yost absolutely nails it. He perfectly captures the intensity of the novel’s final act, as well as the heart that a brilliant character like Ender can bring to it as he pushes his squad to the limits.
• Yost understands the novel quite well and his adaptation works perfectly. He taps into the core of the events and the characters, with the end result being a fantastic adaptation. Clearly, I am incredibly impressed with how the majority of this issue goes.
• I say the majority because, in my opinion, the ending is botched. I’m not sure if this is something that was worked out with Card or if it was dictated by Marvel or if it was Yost’s personal decision, but the ending doesn’t work at all.
• I’m not upset because it was changed; I’m just frustrated because it does not match the gravitas of the story that had been building throughout this brilliant miniseries. The tonal shift is jarring and the end result is baffling.
• The reasons behind Ender’s desperate attack in his final exam are never fully explored, neither is the extant of his guilt over destroying an entire species. These are major moments in the novel that the comic had clearly been leading to.
• The break from these is incredibly shocking, especially when the issue ends on happy, joking note and not with the grave seriousness of Ender facing the consequences, both those imposed by himself and those imposed by others. This isn’t the direction the comic was going in and so to close the comic out this way seems unnatural.
• While this particular part of the writing doesn’t sit well with me, the art does not disappoint in any way. Pasqual Ferry continues to shine with his gorgeous designs. The designs in this part of the novel were sparse, but Ferry runs with that freedom to do some spectacular things.
• The expressions were the weak point of the art, which does add to some of the emotional confusion in this issue.
• This is easily my favorite issue that I have ever seen from colorist Frank D’Aramata. The colors are simply brilliant. Wow.
Verdict: Buy It. I’m sure this verdict is going to confuse some based upon how harsh my comments were about how the ending was handled. I really need to make it clear that this is a beautiful done comic. The craftsmanship is superb and the entire creative team should be commended for not just their work here, but on the miniseries as a whole. The ending is a misstep and I’m really focusing on it because this series has had so few of them, one like this is a bit of a shock. However, as a standalone story, this still works. Does it work as good as it could? Of course not, but the strengths of the issue really come through to pull this one up to the verdict it received. I’ll put it this way, you’d be a fool to miss this one, but I’m really hoping you’d check out the novel as well for its shockingly brilliant ending.
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Takeshi Miyazawa and Justin Ponsor
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by David Lafuente and Justin Ponsor
• A new storyline kicks off in this week’s Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, focusing on the newly powered Rick Jones and Spider-Man’s attempt to welcome him into the world of superpowered teenagers with the help of his “amazing friends” Human Torch and Iceman.
• There are some really interesting things going on with the Jones stuff, but a chunk of the issue is taken up with a conversation between MJ and Peter that is nothing new. That is a bit of a disappointment.
• Torch and Iceman make great foils for Peter. I really dig how Bendis has cut them from the same cloth, but with different tweaks.
• Having never read any Ultimate books prior to jumping on this series, I was a bit confused by the bit with the Watchers and the Fantastic Four. I think that just a smidgen more explanation would go a long way here.
• As per usual, strong dialogue and awesome character interaction is king, so the issue really excels during “talking heads” portions. It falters a bit when the action picks up and when long expository dialogue takes over.
• It is great to see Takeshi Miyazawa filling in for David Lafuente. I’ve been a huge fan of Miyazawa’s since his work on Runaways and I was not disappointed here.
• Miyazawa strengths are his designs, expressions, and storytelling, which are all bold and clear. There are some places that are lacking in detail and his backgrounds are a bit weak, but those are really the only problems with the art.
Verdict: Buy It. Another month and another fun issue of Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man. This is a light, charming issue with solid character interaction and a take on Rick Jones that is surprisingly not-annoying. The issue does lack the polish of the previous issues, but even a rough issue of this series is heads and tails above most comics on the stands this week.
Written by Bryan Q. Miller
Art by Lee Garbett, Trevor Scott, and Guy Major
Letters by John J. Hill
Cover by Phil Noto
• The uneasy alliance of Batgirl and Robin continues in this week’s issue as the duo team-up to save Batman from Roulette’s twisted game.
• This issue is an action tale with a ton of heart. Bryan Q. Miller finds just the right balance between the two.
• Miller may have the best take on Robin that captures his edge, his age, and his charm without shortchanging any of the three. If he were writing Batman and Robin right now, I wouldn’t have had to say all the mean things I said earlier.
• There is a great sense of recklessness in the action sequence that perfectly fit with the two least experienced members of the Bat-family making a rescue on their own. It was ton of fun as Miller manages to show just how capable they are without ignoring the fact that they are still basically novices.
• The final conversation between Dick and Babs about their charges was awesome. The interaction was heartfelt with a great amount of subtext in the dialogue. Miller does a brilliant job of showing everything that works about the two characters together without beating us readers over the head with it.
• Lee Garbett’s art is superb. He has developed a great chemistry with Miller, which really shines in this issue in particular. The tone, style, and pacing of the art and script match perfectly.
• The only thing that I didn’t care for with the art is the design of Batgirl’s pod-bike. I understand that it has to conceivable work as a quick getaway vehicle for the wheelchair-bound Oracle, but it just doesn’t look right to me. Then again, I didn’t care for the Bat-Pod in Dark Knight either.
Verdict: Must Read. From cover to cover, this is a finely crafted, incredibly entertaining comic. Miller is getting stronger with every single issue and this one showcases exactly how strong of a writer he is. I would not be surprised if you start seeing him take on more prestigious projects by year’s end. When you add in the excellent art from Garbett, you’ve got an excellent comic on your hands that is likely to be criminally overlooked. Don’t be one of those fools, go pick this one up!
Written by John Ostrander and Gail Simone
Art by Jim Calafiore and Jason Wright
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Daniel Luvisi
• This week’s Secret Six concludes the title’s tie-in to Blackest Night, as the Six uneasily join forces with Amanda Waller’s Suicide Squad to battle the Black Lanterns.
• This is a very dense and complex issue that is full of twists and features a “stalemate” ending that is just as intense as the action is.
• This issue has a HUGE cast and the writing team of John Ostrander and Gail Simone perfectly capture everyone that shows up, whether they have just a few lines or if they are a major player.
• The solid action serves as a backbone for the intense psychological thrill ride that runs through the issue. As awesome as it is to see Deadshot take down the undead Fiddler, it is even better to see him face off against Waller in a somewhat less violent fashion (even if he does take violent action because of it).
• There are so many great moments in this issue that stand out, from Black Alice realizing she is in over her head to the aftermath of Catman’s battle with Bronze Tiger to the huge reveal of who Mockingbird actually is. There is not a single dull moment in this issue.
• I really have to hand it to the writing team for how well they paced this issue. With so much going on, it would be easy for a plot point here or there to be rushed or to fall through the cracks, but nothing does.
• I’ve been saying this for a while, but this issue proves my point once again. There is no reason that Jim Calafiore is not a bigger name in this industry than he is. He is easily one of the most underappreciated artists in the DC stable.
• Calafiore is a master storyteller and it shows here. His pacing is superb, as are his layouts and expressions. Even without the script you can easily see how things flow and understand a lot of what is going on here. Considering how dense and well-layered the writing is, that is a huge compliment.
• There isn’t a character that Calafiore does not draw well here. His designs for all of the characters look superb, though once again it is his Black Lanterns that steal the show. He really emphasizes the creepy here.
Verdict: Must Read. I’m sure that all of you are shocked to see Secret Six topping the Rankings once again, especially after the huge number of Book of the Week honors the title brought in last year. Once again Gail Simone puts on a clinic, this time with the help of John Ostrander and Jim Calafiore. This issue has it all: big action, great characters, stellar dialogue, and amazing art. You aren’t going to find a better comic out there this week than this one.