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.
06. TEEN TITANS #80
Lead Written by Felicia Henderson
Lead Art by Joe Bennett, Eduardo Pansica, Jack Jadson, Eber Ferreira, and Marcelo Maiolo
Lead Letters Travis Lanham
Backup Written by Sean McKeever
Backup Art by Yildiray Cinar, Julio Ferreira, and Rod Reis
Backup Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Yildiray Cinar and Rod Reis
• Against my better judgment, I picked up this week’s Teen Titans #80 for the Ravager backup. I was also hoping that Felicia Henderson would finally come around to writing well but, sadly, I was mistaken.
• In Henderson’s lead story, Milestone’s Holocaust tries to convince Static that he isn’t a villain while Beast Boy continues to have problems with the fact that Wonder Girl is the leader of the Titans.
• The script is just horrid. There is almost no personality from any of the characters and those that do show some personality are written completely out of character. It seems pretty clear to me that Henderson has never read a Teen Titans comic before, but I’m beginning to doubt that she has ever read a comic book before.
• If she has, she clearly didn’t take any notes. Character work aside, her pacing and plotting are completely disjointed. None of the stories have any semblance of direction whatsoever. It’s just bad. It is just so incredibly bad.
• The art in this story fares better, but is still a mixed bag. Both pencilers, Joe Bennett and Eduardo Pansica, have their high points, but they really don’t get that well together. You can clearly tell where Bennett’s work ends and where Pansica’s work begins, which is distracting.
• Also, I’m not sure who is responsible for Beast Boy’s current look, but its pretty bad. I have no idea why he looks like a stereotypical Victorian-era Irish barkeep, but its not the look for him.
• The backup is the issue’s saving grace, which isn’t surprising. In this story, Ravager catches up with her captors and struggles to refrain from killing, but finds herself resorting to her old ways when innocent girls are murdered.
• The character depth in this story is just tremendous. Quite a few writers have put their own spin on Ravager, but Sean McKeever has developed total ownership. This issue is a great example of why.
• I absolutely loved the fact that Robin is the representation of Ravager’s conscience. That is such a cool idea that fits perfectly with her recent history—though I’d argue that Kid Devil would be an equally as good choice, but wouldn’t fit the tactical purposes that Robin does here.
• The story is hindered a bit by the short page count. McKeever has to put you in the moment immediately, so sometimes it is a bit hard to see the forest from the trees with the larger story.
• How awesome is Yildiray Cinar? The sense of motion and impact, as well as his expressions, are just spot on here. This is his best DC work yet. I really don’t care for the Legion of Superheroes, but I might be picking it up simply because it is Cinar’s next assignment.
• I love the last page of this story. Cinar rocks the house on this one. There is a very distinct chance that I will purchase this at some point.
Verdict: Byrne It. It is really hard to provide a proper verdict on this issue because the quality of the two stories couldn’t be more different. Henderson’s lead story is beyond bad. It is the epitome of an Avoid It comic and it pains me that I paid $4 for this issue because of it. There is no reason that DC should be printing a story that is so fundamentally flawed nor why one of the company’s most recognizable titles should be of this low a quality. The second story, however, is a total Must Read. McKeever and Cinar nailed it and the end result is one of the best stories of the week. So, the bad is so bad that it really does outweigh the good, but only really because of the high cover price. Don’t be a sucker like me—wait until the Ravager story is released in a trade and get yourself as far from Henderson’s abomination of a lead story as quickly as possible.
05. STAR WARS: LEGACY #45
Written by John Ostrander
Art by Jan Duursema, Dan Parsons, and Brad Anderson
Letters by Michael Heisler
Cover by Chris Scalf
• In this week’s Star Wars: Legacy, the villainous Darth Maladi readies a weapon that could drain the Sith of their power; meanwhile the Sith uncover the meeting between the Jedi and the Imperial Remnant and Cade finds that saving his friends on Wayland could be more complicated than you’d think.
• There is a lot going on in this very, very densely plotted issue. It seems like John Ostrander’s goal is to pack more and more into each subsequent issue. This issue is even more dense than the previous, which was already bursting at the seams.
• The problem is that the transitions between the scenes aren’t always the strongest, so there is a “channel flipping” feel to the issue that can be a bit grating at times.
• This leads into the issue feeling very rushed. Ostrander is pushing to get so much story into the issue that he isn’t giving the story room to breathe. There are some really great things going on here, but they come and go too fast.
• One beat that really stood out to me was Maladi’s twisted sense of morality, which is a nice follow-up to her “training” with Cade a few stories back. She is such an interesting character and Ostrander really taps into that.
• Jan Duursema’s art is solid and consisted, but not particularly spectacular. She conveys the story well, but there isn’t anything that stands out or is particularly memorable.
• I do have a minor beef with the coloring, though. Many of the “non-human” characters, most notably the Sith, are colored in a very flat manner. When they are in scenes with humans, this makes them look very unnatural and weird. If some shading or depth were added, this would definitely help the issue.
Verdict: Check It. This issue is a really fun read and definitely worth checking out, but it is actually too dense for its own good. There is way more story in this issue than the confines of its page count can successfully handle. If Ostrander dialed it back a little bit and only focused on half of what he does here, it would still be a tightly plotted and full comic, but the story beats would have the room to breathe and the entire reading experience would be that much better.
04. GOTHAM CITY SIRENS #9
Written by Paul Dini
Art by Guillem March and Tomeu Morey
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Guillem March
• After a mysterious dead body crashes into their pool and appears to be an attempt at framing the Sirens, they turn to the Riddler to solve the mystery.
• Paul Dini’s character work is simply superb and is the highlight of this issue. His takes on all four of the issue’s main characters (Riddler, Catwoman, Ivy, and Harley) are always iconic and their interaction is precisely what you’d expect from Dini.
• The Riddler’s inner-monologue is a bit confusing, but seems to be spinning out of what happened to him a few issues back in the Batman solo series. If Dini could offer up a bit more information, this would come together much better.
• I really liked the alibis that all of the ladies had, especially Catwoman’s. Her connection to Wildcat isn’t touched on that often, so seeing the two spar was a very cool moment.
• There is some noticeable unevenness in the designs by Guillem March. If you look at Catwoman and Riddler, especially when they appear on the same page, it looks like they were drawn in two totally different styles. This is very jarring.
• The level of detail also fluctuates greatly throughout the issue, which is something March has struggled with in the past as well.
• Despite some hang-ups, March still produces some great looking work here. The fight sequence between Catwoman and Wildcat is the best action I’ve seen from March. There are a handful of other panels that look nearly as good. When March is on, his work is fantastic. The problem is that he isn’t always on and when he’s not, it’s not pretty.
Verdict: Buy It. Dini and March come together for a fun little mystery with some great surprises and incredible character work that showcase exactly why this is becoming one of the best titles in the Bat-franchise, alongside Batgirl and Red Robin. I do have some reservations about March’s artwork, though its hard not to see how far he has come since this series launched.
03. FANTASTIC FOUR #576
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Dale Eaglesham and Paul Mounts
Letters by Rus Wooton
Cover by Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, and Javier Rodriguez
• After AIM takes interest in an Antarctic anomaly, the Fantastic Four head off for some investigating, only to discover an underwater civilization inhabited my three different lost species.
• For the second issue in a row, the team heads out on a discovery expedition, which is very cool. The theme of seeking out the unknown harkens back to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original run on the title and is a lot of fun.
• It is really great to see Sue Storm at the forefront of this story. Even though she has been pushed to the background in the Marvel Universe for years, Jonathan Hickman really makes you believe that she deserves the place and the title she earns in this issue. It’s a bold move that pays off.
• I’m a big fan of the textual updates to the stories that Hickman adds at the end of his issues. It’s a simply way to add some closer to stories that end on cliffhangers while still looking forward. We don’t need to know what happens moments after this issue ends, instead we can now focus on how what we did see will affect future stories.
• There is a major chunk of this issue that is completely silent. Given how high concept the story is and how fast-paced the dialogue is, this is a really bold move. I think it pays off and it is awesome to see Hickman take risks to tell the story he wants in the way that he wants.
• This does put a lot of pressure on artist Dale Eaglesham to handle the storytelling in a good chunk of this issue, but he is more than up to the task.
• Eaglesham’s panel progression and expressions, especially on the silent pages, are very strong and do wonders for carrying the tone and story of this issue.
• There are a few moments where his designs are a bit bulkier than I’d like, including the very first shot of Sue where she is built like a bodybuilder. It’s a minor frustration, but is still worth noting.
• I really dig the final page. Eaglesham brings a lot of personality to the page, especially in Sue’s facial expression, which shows both honor and trepidation at her new situation.
Verdict: Buy It. It’s amazing how quickly Jonathan Hickman has energized this series from a once middle-of-the-road title to one of the strongest books in Marvel’s catalogue. High concept issues like this with bold storytelling choices have become the norm, which is most definitely a good thing. This is definitely one of the best Sue-centered Fantastic Four stories in a long time and well worth checking out.
02. BLACKEST NIGHT #7
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert, Joe Prado, and Alex Sinclair
Letters by Nick J. Napolitano
Cover by Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert, and Alex Sinclair
• After dilly-dallying around with the Black Lanterns, the Multi-Colored Lantern Coalition sets their sights on Nekron in this week’s penultimate issue of Blackest Night. Of course their unity is short lived as a Guardian falls.
• If you’ve been following Blackest Night and you have the internet (which clearly you do if you are reading this), chances are the “big reveal” of this issue has already been spoiled for you, but if not, be aware that a SPOILER WARNING is in full affect for the rest of this review.
• This issue is almost all action and has a very epic feel, which is exactly what you’d want from the second to last issue of a major event story. Mission accomplished creative team.
• There are a handful of moments that seem to happen without consequence, or at least consequences that we can see, because of the quick pace. None of these are that important, but you may find yourself hoping for more follow-through.
• After her awesome showing in the Blackest Night: Titans miniseries, I’m glad to see Dove make an appearance here, though I wish it would be more substantial. If there is a White Lantern Corps, I full expect her to make an appearance.
• Speaking of White Lanterns, how awesome is it that Sinestro is the one that took the title by snatching up The Entity of Life from Hal? Hal was too obvious of a choice, so this is a very cool swerve. I really hope he steps it up and saves the day, as that would be a better ending than having Hal swoop in at the last minute to clean up the mess.
• I’m a bit on the fence with Earth being the center of all Life. This does makes sense given the way that the DCU works and how Earth has often been described as the focal point of the universe (hence why it has such a HUGE hero population), but something about this reveal seems tacked on to me.
• This may just be Ivan Reis’s single best issue at DC. He does a perfect job of capturing the epic nature of this issue with huge, impactful, detailed-filled art.
• The spread of Guy Gardner leading the various Lanterns to Earth may be the best two-page spread of the entire event, rivaling Ethan Van Sciver’s War of Light spread at the end of the Sinestro Corps War that kicked off Blackest Night. That is just awesome.
• The expressions of the various characters as Sinestro harnesses the white light is equally as impressive. I only wish that they were bigger or that there were more of them to make the moment even bigger than it was.
• I am a bit disappointed in Sinestro’s White Lantern outfit. It seems awfully bland, though we can’t see too much of it here. I was expecting something sleeker and more stylized like the Yellow Lantern uniforms.
Verdict: Must Read. This is AWESOME. This issue is absolutely epic in every way possible, from the strong writing to the absolutely gorgeous art. This is definitely on the best single issues from a major event that we’ve seen in a long, long time. The highlight, of course, is the reveal of Sinestro as the long-awaited White Lantern, which is a great new twist in one of the most intriguing character histories in all of DC’s holdings. I cannot wait to see where Geoff Johns takes the story from here!
01. GREEN ARROW #30
Written by JT Krul
Art by Diognes Neves, Ruy Jose, Vincente Cifuentes, and Chuck Pires
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Greg Horn
• It looks like we are doubling up the Blackest Night at the top of the Rankings this week, as our Book of the Week is a special Black Lantern issue of Green Arriw that takes place shortly after Ollie was transformed into a Black Lantern a few months ago in the main even book.
• The issue follows Green Arrow as he is trapped within his Black Lantern body as he watches himself do battle with his loved ones and must struggle with the horrors that he has committed in his life.
• The backbone of this issue is the strength of JT Krul’s character work. He clearly understands Green Arrow, his motivations, his relationships, and his fears, which goes so far into making this a successful issue. It is simply the best that Ollie has been written since the original Hard Travelin’ Heroes stories by Dennis O’Neill and Neal Adams.
• It is awesome to see Ollie own up to the horrible things that he has done to the ones he loves as Black Lantern Green Arrow forces him to relive such failures as his relationship with Shado and his abandonment of Connor Hawke.
• The great character work does not stop there, though, as Krul extends it to Ollie’s family. We see brilliant reactions from the likes of Black Canary and Speedy, which makes this issue all the more compelling and horrifying.
• The issue is just loaded with great moments and superb character work. Remember when I said that JT Krul was amongst the aspects of the industry you needed to watch in 2010? This issue alone proves how right I was.
• Diognes Neves supports the issue with very lush, beautiful art that is the prefect compliment to the script. There is a great amount of chemistry between Krul and Neves that is very natural.
• I loved the way that Neves “negatives” the art when switching between the real Ollie and his Black Lantern counterpart. This is a really cool affect that shows just how different they are in a creative way.
• There are some really great layouts and superb bits of storytelling that balance out lush the art is. It isn’t just pretty to look at it; it can actually carry the story as well.
Verdict: Must Read. There have been some really great issues in the Blackest Night event that have subsequently topped one another, but as the story ends next month, I can honestly say that I don’t think there will be a better tie-in issue than this one. This issue balances the action and horror elements of the story with brilliant character work. I can’t think of any issue that I’ve ever read that so perfectly captures the spirit of Green Arrow the way that this one does. This is not only the easy choice for Book of the Week but is also leading the shortlist for Best Single Issue of the Year.