Friday, February 19, 2010
As I prepare to move into my new house early next week, certain things got delayed, including this week’s Comic Book Review Power Rankings! I know your Thursdays just aren’t the same without our weekly countdown, but hopefully this special Friday edition will help fill that void. I’m looking at some really great books this week, so let’s get right to it!
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 Peter Tomasi
Art by Pat Gleason, Rebecca Buchman, Keith Champagne, Tom Nguyen, and Randy Mayor
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Pat Gleason, Rebecca Buchman, and Randy Mayor
• The saga of Guy Gardner, Red Lantern continues this week as various Green Lanterns do their best to turn back to the side of willpower, with a little help from our pal Mogo.
• This issue is part fast-paced action and part introspective look at Guy Gardner’s inner-demons. While I dig this being a character portrait, there are a whole load of clichés in Guy’s background that make this one pretty predictable. I’m sorry, but tough guys with daddy issues are totally overdone.
• As much as I like seeing Mogo in action, two issues in a row of the living planet conveniently saving the day seems a bit much to me. I don’t like the idea of Mogo being the ultimate fallback plan.
• Is it just me or is Pat Gleason all over the place on this issue? The quality of the art covers a huge range from “totally awesome” to “how the heck is this Pat Gleason?”
• I really dig some of the layouts from Gleason, including the Green Lantern’s reaction to Guy being “cleansed” by Mogo and the gorgeous two-page spread of Guy’s demons and triumphs.
• The good comes with some bad though, especially in the shifting character designs. For example, Kyle Rayner is drawn several different ways throughout this issue. This is especially noticeable towards the end of the issue when his chin triples in size.
• The problem is, I can’t tell if this is a product of Gleason’s pencils or if some of the issues stem from the fact that there are three inkers on the project. The thing is, though, all three of the inkers here have worked with Gleason extensively in the past.
Verdict: Byrne It. There are a handful of moments in this issue that really had me super excited, but the predictability and the fact that Mogo seems to have the magic resolution for the second issue in a row are just too big of issues to ignore. Plus, there is the problem of the art being so uneven once again. After rocking out really hard for several years, the art on this title has really been slipping over the last few months. I really hope that trend reverses sometime soon.
Written by Rich Johnston
Art by Saverio Tenuta and Bagwell
Covers by Saverio Tenuta and Rob Liefeld
• Famed internet comic book rumor monger and sometimes comic book writer Rich Johnston (http://www.bleedingcool.com/) was kind enough to send the Weekly Crisis Crew a review copy of this week’s Chase Variant one-shot from Image Comics. Having really dug some of Johnston’s work in the past, especially the brilliant Flying Friar graphic novel, I jumped at the chance to check this one out.
• The issue is broken into three stories, all focusing on Chase Variant, a multi-armed and scantily clad super agent, as she works her way through various battles. The twist is that her stories are being told through two men playing a turn-based card game (think Magic: The Gathering) which runs parallel to the story.
• The story is a fun send up to various aspects of the comic book industry, but is also a fun commentary on “nerd collectibles” as a whole. The parody isn’t in-your-face though, which allows the story to work on its own level.
• There is some great action mixed with a fun sense of humor that really works for this. There isn’t a real concrete plot, but that seems to be part of the point.
• The stories reminded me a lot of the original Aeon Flux animated shorts, which should be considered a big compliment (as opposed to reminding me of the Aeon Flux movie, which was a horrible, horrible, horrible thing that I’m ashamed to even mention here).
• The art is split between artists Saverio Tenuta and Bagwell. Both artists do a decent enough job, though Tenuta’s more traditional style works considerably better than Bagwell’s very stiff, heavily rendered work.
• Nothing about the art really stands out to me, which is problematic. The humor and action are fun enough, but because there isn’t much of a story to grip on to, that puts a lot of the issue’s success on the art and, although its not horrible, I don’t really feel like it is strong enough to carry the weight.
Verdict: Check It. This is a fun story that doesn’t aim to be more than what it is. If you take it at face value, it’s a good way to kill some time, though its incredibly thin. Don’t expect a lot of depth from this or you’ll be severely disappointed. However, if you don’t mind the lack of plot, there are certainly worse ways to spend your time I suppose.
Lead Written by Greg Pak
Lead Art by Paul Pelletier, Danny Miki, Frank D’Armata, and Guru eFX
Backup Written by Harrison Wilcox
Backup Art by Ryan Stegman, Tom Palmer, and Guru eFX
Letters by Simon Bowland
Cover by John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, and Dean White
• This week’s Incredible Hulk serves up two stories, the first of which follows an attack on the Avengers from the Red She-Hulk and its aftermath as things get more and more complicated for Bruce Banner.
• I know it doesn’t help that I haven’t really been following the Fall of the Hulks storyline, but this story is not easy to follow. There are lots of double-crosses and shifting alliances, which may be fine for readers following all of the Hulk books, but for casual readers is hard to keep track of everything.
• Greg Pak somewhat makes up for how unapproachable the story is with solid character writing. This story has a huge cast and the vast majority of the characters have a solid in-character line or two.
• I really like the idea of Banner rounding up heroes who have suffered great losses to save team, but I’m not entirely convinced that this would be enough to sway guys like Wolverine and Namor to join his team. Spider-Man always seems up for anything, but those two not so much.
• When did Rick Jones become a teal version of Abomination? This makes me like him less and I already hated him.
• Sadly, this is not Paul Pelletier’s best outing by any means. The biggest problem is that he makes some very weird design choices with some of the characters, like Amadeus Cho looking very old and Banner having a weirdly craggy face.
• The art is also way too busy. I understand the need to convey chaos, but the art still needs room to break a little bit. Of course, a major party of this is how muddy the colors are.
• I really loved the gorgeous battle spread where everyone attacks Skaar, though I find it odd that most of the characters, especially Thor, look totally different on the very next page.
• In the second story, we get to see Samson (who is the only character in this book I hate more than Rick Jones) argues with MODOK (who always was, is, and will be a badass) about Red She-Hulk readiness before she heads out on her first mission.
• The story is relatively ho-hum, with very little personality coming through on any of the characters. I do appreciate the attempts to humanize Red She-Hulk, though, considering everything else I’ve read has her written only as an unstoppable, personality-less force.
• I really only picked this issue up for the backup art by Ryan Stegman and I’m not disappointed. His work is full of energy with fantastic expressions. He really brings this one to life.
• The final page of the story is a really great iconic splash of Red She-Hulk that plays off of classic She-Hulk images.
• One of the things that I really dug about the art is the way that Stegman throws in thoughtful little details. The most prominent of these is the way that guest stars Domino and Elektra navigate a construction site very differently, including how they land after a jump. This is something other artists would overlook.
Verdict: Check It. There is a lot going on in this week’s Incredible Hulk, but unless you’ve been closely following the story, you might get lost in the multitude of twists. That makes it really hard for me to appreciate this issue to the fullest extent It also doesn’t help that Paul Pelletier, normally a superb artist, has a really rough go here. The solid character writing from Greg Pak and great backup art from Ryan Stegman go a long way, but its not quite far enough to bump this into Buy It territory.
Written by Tony Daniel
Art by Tony Daniel, Sandu Florea, Norma Rapmund, and Ian Hannin
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Tony Daniel
• In this week’s Batman, the titular hero, under the control of the Penguin, makes an attempt on Black Mask’s life and inadvertently may have discovered the villain’s true identity.
• This is a major step up from Tony Daniel’s previous issues. This is definitely more on par with his Battle for the Cowl miniseries, which is far better than it gets credit for.
• I’m glad to see Batman being written as Dick Grayson, unlike previous issues where it seemed like Daniel was writing him as Bruce Wayne still. Of course, having Batman under mind control through most of the issue meant that Daniel only had to write him “in character” for a handful of pages.
• The plot in this issue is very dense and methodical, though Daniel does break it up with some cool twists. All of this helps to build up tension towards the cliffhanger.
• Daniel does a good job with most of the character’s voices, especially Damian and Barbara Gordon in this issue, though his villains felt very one-note. Most writers tend to write guys like the Penguin with too much personality, so it is weird seeing them written so subdued.
• Not surprisingly, the art is the highlight of the issue once again. I’m seeing more and more of Jim Lee in Daniel’s work with every issue, which makes me very happy. He isn’t aping Lee’s style, but they are developing a lot of strong similarities.
• The few panels of Oracle reacting to Dick’s injuries were spot on for me. Daniel does a beautiful job of conveying so much emotional baggage in just a few facial expressions.
• The big problem with the art is the complete lack of backgrounds. Daniel does beautiful character work, but it looks incomplete without some sort of back drop. We aren’t getting the total package.
Verdict: Buy It. This is, by far, the strongest issue of Tony Daniel’s run thus far and, quite frankly, the strongest issue for this title in a very, very long time (of course, other than Gaiman’s one issue as part of Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?, this series has had a rough few years). There are a lot of issues that still need to overcome, but with some polish, this storyline could definitely close out on a high note. If you dropped this story because of the rough early issues, you might not have been patient enough!
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke and Randy Mayor
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, and Hi-Fi
• The big showdown between Hal Jordan (as Parallax) and the Spectre (as a Black Lantern) wraps up in this week’s Green Lantern in a surprisingly quick fashion.
• Considering how well last issue built up the battle between the two as a something major, there isn’t a lot of payoff here as the brisk pace of the issue pushes the storyline past the battle a little too quickly.
• I feel like we are getting the runaround on the Parallax situation. There isn’t much story here with it and its clear that this issue is meant to put pieces in place more than anything else. I guess I expected more out of this.
• The character work is really solid, though. I loved the opening exchange from Luthor and Larfleeze as they fight over being the true Orange Lantern and the chest-thumping between Parallax and Spectre was pretty cool.
• While the story was a bit disappointing, the art most certainly was not. Doug Mahnke is the selling point of this issue and his work is so good that the story honestly doesn’t matter that much.
• I love the gruesome details that Mahnke throws in, especially when Parallax rips through the Spectre. There may not have been a more intense shot in any comic this week.
• The art is practically flawless, which more than makes up for the unnecessarily rushed and unfocused story. Mahnke brings his A-game and runs the show.
Verdict: Buy It. After how awesome Green Lantern #50 was, #51 was a bit of a letdown story-wise. The Spectre is defeated all too easily, we get some repeat scenes with the non-marquee Lanterns, and a totally unnecessary scene with Nekron threatening to kill everyone. Tighter plotting certainly could have given the story the room it needed to flourish, but I suppose that really doesn’t matter when the art is so good that it earned this issue a Buy It verdict on its own. Mahnke owns this issue and Johns is really just along for the ride.
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art by Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts
Letters by John J. Hill
Cover by Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts
• Despite all attempts to return to some normalcy in her life, Power Girl finds herself battling Satanna’s menagerie of animal warriors in this week’s incredibly fun issue.
• This issue finds a great balance between the action that dominates the second half and some great character work in the opening scenes.
• I love how down to Earth the writing team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray present Power Girl as. Even though crazy for her is animal armies and not a weird day at the office, she responds to the craziness in her life much the way that we would, which is a refreshing take on superheroes, who tend not to be written all that “human.”
• There is a lot of fun quipping between Power Girl and Satanna that doesn’t detract from the action, but helps control the pace of the scene. The chemistry between the writing and art is phenomenal.
• I love how outrageous and “anything goes” this story is. You get insane villains, fun twists, and animal warriors. Who could want more?
• To top things off, we get art by the superb Amanda Conner. As charming and as fun as the writing is, Amanda Conner is the real reason to pick up this series.
• There is no one in the industry that does better facial expressions than Conner. She is already amongst the greatest artists today, but this aspect alone will make her legendary.
• I also really dig the panel progression here. This might just be her best issue in this series in terms of storytelling.
Verdict: Must Read. I’ve said it before and I’ll continue saying it until everyone I know is reading this series, there is not a superhero title on the stands that is as much fun as Power Girl. That alone should make you read it. When you add in the brilliance of Amanda Conner’s artwork, there isn’t a single reason this comic is not on your pull list. This issue is just another fine example of that.
Lead Story Written by Sterling Gates
Lead Story Art by Jamal Igle, Jon Sibal, Mark McKenna, Nei Ruffino, and Pete Pantazis
Backup Written by Jake Black and Helen Slater
Backup Art by Cliff Chiang and Dave McCaig
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Michael Turner and Peter Steigerwald
• This week’s extra-sized anniversary issue features two stories, the first of which finds Supergirl battling the Insect Queen to save Lana Lang’s life (after she “died”), while the second is a brief look back at the character’s recent adventures.
• The main story is a great mix of action and emotional character scenes that is plotted extremely well. Kudos to Sterling Gates for his solid pacing, which puts the action at the forefront, but still builds up the more personal scenes quite well, all leading to a very strong finish.
• I really liked how well Kara’s dilemma about being part of a human family and her anger at Lana played out. I did not expect it to play out as it did, but it really emphasized how powerful this experience has been for the character and clearly sets up her role in future Super-franchise stories.
• I loved General Lane’s reaction to the return of Superwoman in the story’s subplot. It is a cool parallel to Kara’s reactions to Lana.
• Jamal Igle does a great job with the art in this lead story. The multiple inkers and colorists work gel well to form a very clean, consistent issue with Igle’s style and solid storytelling at the forefront.
• I really like how epic Igle makes certain scenes look. This is a fun, but not particularly spectacular plot, but Igle really makes the most out of it.
• Nei Ruffino is so awesome. I can’t think of any colorist whose work I’d rather see at the moment.
• The backup is a nice slice of life look at Kara’s place in the DCU told through a talk show featuring Cat Grant and other pundits, running down Supergirl’s recent history.
• This story is mostly exposition, so the writing takes a major backseat the art.
• I’m really confused about how much input Helen Slater had on this story, unless she’s really up to date on the current storylines (somehow I doubt that she is).
• Cliff Chiang really blew me away with his art in the backup. He does so many awesome things in just a few pages. I would absolutely love to own the awesome Teen Titans page or the final page, which features one of the single best shots of Supergirl that I’ve ever seen.
• Am I the only one a little bummed out by seeing the Michael Turner cover on this issue? Seriously, what a talent. I really miss seeing his work.
Verdict: Must Read. The price of this issue is a bit high, even for an oversized story and a backup, but the creative teams certainly do their best to give readers the most bang for their buck. Not only do you get two really fun stories, you get some of the best looking Supergirl art in ages, as both Jamal Igle and Cliff Chiang really step it up here. This issue took me by surprise, but really impressed me with how it turned out.
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 with Veronica Gandini
• Things pick up in a big way in this week’s Mice Templar: Destiny as Karic and Cassius plan their final stand against corrupt king Icarus, as a new threat makes an equally important move against the thing, and a character from volume one makes a surprising return.
• This issue is very dense, very fast-paced, and very intense. This is a great example of how to kick things into high gear as you head into a conclusion.
• With each scene, the story spins more, building more tension and adding new layers to this already complex story.
• There is a scene between the imprisoned Leito and the king’s consort, Alexis, that is a nice break from the intensity of the issue, though it does feature one of the darker twists in the entire storyline thus far. It is incredibly cruel and heartbreaking. It’s a great hope-crushing scene.
• The issue really puts into perspective just how much Karic has changed, grown, and become a bit monstrous since the first issue. I love the contrast between Karic’s actions in this issue and Leito’s innocent recollection of him.
• Victor Santos does a wonderful job with the art. He perfectly captures the intensity and movement in the action sequences, but also showcases superb expressions during the talking heads scenes.
• I really love how slinky and devious, with a hint of surface “innocence,” Alexis is drawn. You can see her acting like a human with her qualities would act, despite the fact that she is a mouse. This is a testament to Santo’s strengths.
• There are some details that fluctuate through the issue, mostly in the facial details. However, given how much Santos has to draw in this issue, it is really not surprising that some details would be lost.
• Veronica Gandini deserves a lot of credit for how well she controls the mood in this issue with her bold colors and great textures.
Verdict: Must Read. Bryan Glass turns the intensity up to eleven as this volume of Mice Templar begins to rocket towards a close with one of its strongest issues to date. When you combine the excellent plotting and thoughtful use of characters with the fantastic art by Victor Santos and Veronica Gandini, you have one amazing comics that should not be missed under any circumstances!
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Wes Craig, Serge LaPointe, and Nathan Fairbairn
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Alex Garner
• This issue picks up from last issue’s shocking ending, which revealed that the Guardians we all thought were dead are actually the prisoners of Magus. In this issue, we see the aftermath of the battle that set this off and follow Phyla-Vell as she attempts to escape Magus’s clutches.
• The pacing in this issue, as well as its excellent twists, set it apart as every moment of this issue builds towards what I can only describe as a satisfying, “f*ck yeah” ending.
• This issue really reminds me of why Phyla had become such a great character coming out of the Annihilation stories. It is really great to see her back in form.
• I really like the dichotomy of Life and Death as it relates to the inside of The Fault and the regular universe. I’m definitely hooked on seeing how this high-concept plays out.
• The return of “King” Blastaar was really well handled. The humor of his exchange with Starlord was a great relief for all of the tension that builds through the issue.
• This is the first time that I’ve felt like Wes Craig’s art did not hinder the series in any way. Considering I’ve thought that he actually ruined previous issues, this is a major compliment.
• Craig’s loose style could use some polish, but his very lively approach and his excellent expressions really impressed me.
• There is one page in particular, which featured Magus directly attacking Phyla’s mind that blew me away with its great layout and awesome execution. It was definitely one of my favorite pages of the week.
• I didn’t care much for how Craig draws Rocket Raccoon. He looks way too much like a dog.
• If Craig continues to improve and draw at the level he does in this issue, I could handle him being on this book full-time. The shifts between Craig and artists with vastly different styles are way too jarring for me, though.
Verdict: Must Read. I’m not 100% sold on Wes Craig’s art just yet, but it has improved drastically since his last issue on this title. When you combine that with very tight plotting and some of the best character writing of the week, this issue is simply amazing and shouldn’t be missed. What bumped this issue to the Top Spot, though, was how incredibly entertaining it was. This is just a flat-out enjoyable issue. When you’ve got a book that is this entertaining and this well-crafted, how can you go wrong?