Thursday, March 18, 2010

Comic Book Review Power Rankings for 03/17/10

With March Madness now in full swing, most people might think that all of the competition is being played out on the hardwood, but astute Weekly Crisis readers knows that the only hard-fought battles that matter on a Thursday are between the week’s top comics as they shoot for the Book of the Week honor in the Comic Book Review Power Rankings. So, get out your brackets and place your best, because the road to #1 starts after the jump!

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

Written by JT Krul
Art by Federico Dallocchio and Michael Atiyeh
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Mauro Sascioli
preRanking: 07

• Just in case you have been hiding from comic sites for the last few weeks, this week’s issue of Green Arrow is kind enough to recap everything that happened in last week’s Justice League: Rise and Fall Special, which in itself was little more than a recap of the final issue of Justice League: Cry for Justice. So, now there is no way that you won’t know that Green Arrow murdered Prometheus and that Flash, Green Lantern, and Black Canary are all pretty pissed about it.
• I was really hoping that JT Krul would be able to salvage this issue with his awesome character writing, but the premise of this story ruins the characters too much to be saved. You can’t really write these characters well when the story forces them to act totally out of character.
• I also really don’t get the choice of beating us over the head with the fact that other heroes don’t care much for Green Arrow. He can be a jerk sometimes, but this issue makes it sound like no one likes him and they never really have. Barry Allen is the only person to really say it, but it is definitely in the subtext of Ollie’s interaction with Hal, Dinah, and Conner Hawke as well.
• It also doesn’t help this issue much that it is covering the same story that has already been told in two other issues. There is really only four or five pages of new material here, including the weird choice of having Speedy also decide to be a killer. ‘Cause, you know, ruining one character just isn’t enough.
• Weirdly enough, the Emerald Punisher angle isn’t the worst thing about this issue though. Federico Dallocchio and Michael Atiyeh’s art is simply horrendous.
• It is incredibly stiff, features poor storytelling, has incredibly inconsistent character designs, and, at times, looks like it was heavily traced from photos of actual people (which would explain the inconsistent designs). I don’t throw that accusation around very often, but this art has that same unnatural “Greg Land” quality to it.
• The coloring is amongst the worst I have ever seen in a modern DC comic. The lack of textures makes everyone look like misshapen, melting wax figures. There is no depth and everything looks highly unnatural. Its pretty frightening.

Verdict: Avoid It. This issue is a failure on so many levels. It is really sad that Green Arrow #30 was an easy choice for Book of the Week, only to have it followed up by an issue that completely misses the mark in almost every single way. I don’t want to fault JT Krul because he is an immense talent, but he does very little to make this mess of a storyline compelling. I can honestly say that I was able to approach this issue objectively (despite my previous unhappiness with its direction), but even looking at this with a clear head and no baggage isn’t enough to make it enjoyable. Green Arrow is one of my all-time favorite superheroes and, much like Batman, I have a heard time fathoming a world where I wouldn’t be reading his starring title, but this is so bad that I’m probably going to drop this book until this stupid storyline is dropped and forgotten.

07. BATMAN #697
Written by Tony Daniel
Art by Tony Daniel, Sandu Florea, and Ian Hannin
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Tony Daniel
preRanking: 06

Tony Daniel’s opening arc as the (recently-announced) ongoing regular writer and artist for Batman closes out this week as Batman takes down and unmasks the new Black Mask and Catwoman makes a very interesting choice regarding Kitrina Falcone’s fate.
• This arc has been consistently inconsistent from the get-go and fails to break the streak in this issue. Once again, it is one step forward, one step back for this story.
• I’m still really not sure what the point of this story was. The journey was fun at times and I like where we have ended up, but the point of the story never really emerged. Somewhere the details fell apart in between the punches.
• There is a lot of buildup on certain plot points at the beginning of this issue (most notably Black Mask’s toxin-attack) that sorta disappear towards the end as the fight between Batman and Black Mask picks up.
• I do like the reveal of who Black Mask is. Although there is little explanation, it works with what I know of the character and it has some interesting parallels with the original Black Mask.
• I didn’t care as much for the way the character developed two separate personas in-and-out of the Mask, which is something we’ve seen a million times before, especially with Batman villains.
• I did really like the way that the issue ended up Grayson setting himself apart from Bruce, both in his monologue and his final meeting with Catwoman, but still coming into his own as Batman. That was very cool.
• I’m also thinking that I like the choice of having Catwoman take Kitrina on as her sidekick. I think that is a fun choice and I think that it could lead to some cool tension between her and Batman. It also makes me wish that the Catwoman solo series (which was awesome) was still being printed so we could see it unfold on its own.
• The art, much like the writing, is hit-or-miss. Daniel has some really awesome moments, especially in his close-ups and action shots, but there are some really cringe-worthy moments.
• I don’t care for how he makes Batman’s cape look like it is liquid. That looks horrible. I’m also not a fan of the “iconic” shots of Batman looking so gritty. That was the old Batman, so lets try something new.
• Speaking of which, this is one of the first times where I’ve seen an artist draw the new Batman utilizing Dick Grayson’s unique acrobatic fighting style. Kudos to Daniel for remembering that Dick fights completely differently than Bruce did.
• Also, how awesome was the title spread with Batman and the Network (including Wildcat and Manhunter--woo-hoo!) rushing into battle? That rocked hard.

Verdict: Check It. For everything that I loved about this issue, there was another thing that I hated. In a lot of ways, this is the best issue of Daniel’s run, but in others it is one of his worst. That is incredibly frustrating as I’d really love to see Daniel live up to his potential on this series and this issue honestly could have been where that happened. Don’t get me wrong, this is enjoyable, it just doesn’t come together as nicely as it could have.

Lead Written by Greg Pak
Lead Art by Paul Pelletier, Danny Miki, CrimeLab Studios, Frank D’Armata, and Veronica Gandini
Backup Written by Harrison Wilcox
Backup Written by Ryan Stegman, Tom Palmer, and Guru eFX
Letters by Simon Bowland
Cover by John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, and Dean White
preRanking: 04

Bruce Banner’s very complicated plan unfolds in the final Fall of the Hulks issue as it because comes that he was playing everyone, only to find that the Intelligencia were one step ahead of him the entire time.
• The big picture of this story is clear, but the details of how things play out exactly were a bit muddy. There is almost too much going on here for it all to make sense as the breakneck pacing and surface dialogue makes it hard to tell who is where and hitting whom and why at times.
• I do really dig how complex Banner’s plan was and how much he was willing to toe the line for Betty. That is the Banner I know, especially when it becomes clear that his intentions weren’t nearly as dark as the means—a nice parallel to how destructive the Hulk is.
• I really loved Skaar and Betty standing up to Banner over his actions both here and during the Planet Hulk and World War Hulk storylines.
• The art, much like the story itself, gets a bit too muddy at times when there is too much going on to make sense of everything.
• I’m really impressed with how much detail Paul Pelletier crams into this issue. There is not an inch of wasted space here. I would like to see some room to breathe, but its still impressive.
Frank d’Armata’s colors are too rendered looking at times, which only serves to make the pages look even busier. I much prefer the places where it is clear that Veronica Gandini filled in.
• The Red She-Hulk back up story is fun for the action, though it doesn’t really do much other than to set up stories that already happened. I’m not so sure there was a point to it.
• The reasoning behind Red She-Hulk ripping off Domino’s clothes is way too forced. I get that she needed to have them for the X-Force plot point, but the setup is way too stupid.
• I dig Ryan Stegman’s art on the back-up. His work is clean with solid storytelling. Most importantly, though, it is fun. I always enjoy it when you can tell by looking at the page that the artist had a good time.
• Stegman’s expressions are getting stronger and stronger every time he puts out something new. They are quickly becoming his calling card.

Verdict: Check It. This is another issue that was a lot of fun to read, but in terms of craft and clarity, falls short. There is too much going on here that isn’t set up well, making a lot of the action and twists totally unclear. The ride is fun, but to be wholly satisfying, I need something more to grip on to. However, it is good setup for the upcoming World War Hulks story, so mission accomplished in that regard. The backup story lives and dies by the art, so it is a good thing that Stegman bring his A-game. I just wish he had a more substantial story to draw here.

Written by Josh Howard
Art by Josh Howard
Letters Uncredited
Cover by Josh Howard
preRanking: 05

Josh Howard’s Dead@17 franchise returns for its penultimate storyline, which finds Nara trapped in Purgatory after killing her best friend Hazy in the final issue of the Afterbirth miniseries.
• I really ripped on Howard during the last miniseries for not being accessible to new readers, which is still something that can be said for this issue. However, it is so clear here that Howard is writing this as a payoff for his longtime fans that I really can’t dock him for not writing towards new readers.
• I am really impressed with how well Howard is able to distill complex emotions and concepts into a very simple and direct package. This story is told minimally, but without short changing anything. It is really a testament to Howard’s abilities.
• It is great to see the mythology of the franchise expanding here and the cameos from important characters that we haven’t seen in a while were great as well.
• I would like to see some better explanation for some of the things that are going on, though. It has been a while since I’ve reread the previous stories, but even as a hardcore fan I found myself reaching a bit to connect the dots.
• The art is classic Howard—clean designs, beautiful girls, and ugly monsters.
• Howard seems to be playing a bit with how he does shadows. They are very subtle, but well handled to give the art some depth without betraying Howard’s style.

Verdict: Buy It. This issue is a great follow-up to the last Dead@17 miniseries that should please fans of the franchise. Howard does a good job of playing to his strengths while clearly pushing to improve in certain areas. It is great to see that growth. I would like to see a bit more meat to the story, as well as a better reminder of what has already happened. As a long time fan, I found a lot to like here, though I really must stress the importance of reading the entire epic to this point rather than trying to hit the ground running as a new reader.

Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Pat Gleason, Rebecca Buchman, Keith Champagne, Tom Nguyen, Randy Mayor, and Gabe Eltaeb
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Pat Gleason, Rebecca Buchman, and Randy Mayor
preRanking: 03

• The battle between the Various Lantern Corps and the Black Lanterns continues to rage on this week in this oversized issue, while Guy and Kyle find the fight getting personal when Ice and Alex come after them.
• There really isn’t much in this issue that we haven’t seen before as the battle has been raging for several issues of this title and in several other titles for the last few moments. What sets this issue apart though, is the abundance of “hell yeah” moments during the battle.
• I absolutely loved the light-net used to stop the Black Lanterns and the Star Trek reference that it stems from. I never would have pegged Guy for a Trekkie.
• The best, though, was the way that Dove was turned into a super-powered bullet to be shot by Bedovian of the Sinestro Corps. That is one of my favorite moments of the entire event.
• The issue does have a tendency to be overwritten at times in between these moments. Peter Tomasi doesn’t let the plot go on its own without explaining things as they happen. More trust needs to be put into the reader to fill in the spaces.
• I really didn’t care for Kyle having to relive Alex’s death, especially in such a graphic manner. I get the point and I see why it was done, but I think this is a plot point that most people want to get past. It keeps cropping up unnecessarily and I really hope that the way Tomasi writes it off is the end of it.
Pat Gleason clearly worked his ass off on this issue. He puts in a great epic effort in making this issue seem grandiose and bombastic. This is a big issue and he makes it feel that way.
• The problem is that the three inkers on the issue do have noticeable style differences so the pages don’t gel completely. On a quick read, its not noticeable, but if you take your time to ingest the art, its distracting.

Verdict: Buy It. If you are into big action, this is the issue for you. This is one is pure battle from start to finish and is one of the most exciting fights that we’ve seen since Blackest Night began with some of the more creative moments. The problem is that this is really undercut by the fact that this battle has been raging forever and the story itself is nothing new. This feels tacked on to the story to fill time, especially when someone like the Anti-Monitor is dispatched fairly quickly (despite at one time being the biggest horror ever faced in the DCU). As a standalone issue, this one is fantastic, but as part of the larger story, it feels unnecessary.

03. NOVA #35
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Mahmud A. Asrar, Scott Hanna, and Bruno Hang
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Brandon Peterson
preRanking: 02

• The battle between Nova, aided by his time-displaced pals, and the Sphinx rages to a conclusion in this issue and ends with Nova making a surprising change to the timestream.
• This is a very weird conclusion to a very weird storyline. There is a lot here that pretty high concept, despite being a simple action story at heart.
• I really love the way that Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning present Nova as a top-tier hero. He is one character that never really been given the credit he deserves, so its cool to see that happen here.
• This issue is more about the consequences than the actions themselves and, I must say, the consequences are super intriguing. I won’t spoil it for anyone here, but the immediate affects of this issue really exciting and the possibility of more have me pumped.
Mahmud Asrar really steps it up in this issue. This is the type of art I have wanted to see from him since he started at Marvel, but hadn’t seen up this point. This is up there with his Dynamo 5 work.
• Asrar’s strong expressions help push along the story when the script runs away from it and is added by the artist’s strong sense of storytelling. Asrar really carries this issue.
• I’m a sucker for Kirby krackle, which I’m glad to see so much of here.

Verdict: Buy It. This very strange storyline ends in a very strong manner as Mahmud Asrar carries the issue to this spot in the Rankings. His art is easily the strongest work he has done for Marvel to date. When that is combined with the very intriguing conclusion to this issue, you’ve got a great read on your hands. I really cannot see where they take this from here and I hope that Asrar sticks around for it.

02. SIEGE #3
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales, and Laura Martin
Letters by Chris Elipoulos
Covers by Various
preRanking: 08

• Things really pick up in this week’s Siege in a HUGE way as Norman Osborn’s reign is toppled, Obama puts his faith in the Avengers, and Sentry stands as the biggest threat to life in the Marvel Universe.
• This issue is mostly built around big splashes, large action panels, and “hell yeah” moments. If you are looking for character development or dense plotting, you are looking in the wrong place.
• That being said, this issue is exactly what it is mean to be. Not much happened in the last few issues, but things really pick up here as the action comes in full force and the story races forward.
• Event comics to me are a lot like summer blockbuster movies. I don’t go to those movies because I want memorable performances and touching characters; that is why I watch Colin Firth movies. This is all about explosions and ass-kicking. This is not a Colin Firth comic.
• I’m not a huge fan of using President Obama and his advisors to push the story forward because it is so heavy-handed, but it does allow for the sudden regime change, so I understand the choice.
• There isn’t al ot of banter here, but all of it is strong and in character. I really dug the Captain America/Bucky interaction and the reactions of the Young Avengers to the real Avengers as awesome.
• It is about time that we see The Sentry unleashed. The Sentry as the unstoppable superpower is precisely why characters like him exist, not so that they can be crybabies. Now I just wish there were a few more issues to this story so we can get a better buildup to the inevitable blowout fight of the century.
• I know a lot of people are complaining about Osborn painting his face under the Iron Patriot armor, but to me, that was awesome. It is perfectly in character for part of his pre-battle ritual to put on the make-up to reassert his fractured identity. He sees himself as the Goblin, the armor is just for everyone else.
• Much like the writing, the art goes for the big, epic moments and Olivier Coipel nails them. This issue looks epic, just as it should be.
• Strong expressions help push the story forward when the dialogue backs off, which allows Bendis to hold off on the overboard banter he is known for. I’m glad to see him put trust in Coipel to do the talking.

Verdict: Buy It. Is this issue a little too simple? Maybe. Is it a little too cheesy at times? Definitely. Is it an epic of awesome battle scenes and cool explosions? Hell yeah. This is what an event comic should be. You don’t buy Siege for character, you buy it to see sh*t get f*cked up, which is exactly what you get here. A total improvement on the first two dismal issues.

Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Wes Craig, Serge Lapointe, and Nathan Fairbairn
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Alex Garner
preRanking: 01

• Picking up from last issue’s solid cliffhanger, the thought-dead Guardians must battle their way through the Universal Church this week while their known-living compatriots deal with intergalactic politics in this week’s issue, all leading up to the return of one of the biggest badasses in comics.
• I really loved the “this is how you fight” narration in the opening scene. That was a great way to establish and build-up the characters while keeping the focus on the action. It tells a lot by doing very little and a nice alternative to standard banter.
• The strong character interaction throughout really makes this issue as Abnett and Lanning find a great balance between drama and humor.
• I love the rivalry between “King” Blastaar and Star-Lord, especially when Groot gets involved. It is so much fun.
• How great is Gamorra here? She only has a few lines, but they are all quite memorable, making her the issue’s breakout star.
• Okay, SPOILER ALERT. Thanos is back and still rules. END SPOILER ALERT.
Wes Craig continues to tighten up on quality while still retaining his cartoon-y quality. That worked for him last issue and continues to work here.
• There is a great sense of movement in the action and a great sense of personality in the characters. Craig “gets” what he needs to do here and the art ends up being very effective.
• A big reason behind the improvement in Craig’s art is the little additions here and there that he is adding. Subtle detail and a stronger use of shadow go a long way in making the art as a whole look better.

Verdict: Must Read. It’s hard to believe that not too long ago, any Guardians issue that was drawn by Wes Craig was immediately docked a few spots in the Rankings. He comes a long way in this issue as the chemistry between his art and the scripts from Abnett and Lanning continue to build. This is a total package issue where every single aspect of the craft and every single panel of the end result click. There are few things about this issue that don’t work and don’t entertain. It has been far too long since Guardians has snagged a Book of the Week honor (August 26, 2009 to be exact), but this one is well-earned. Do not miss it!

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Dickey said...

Regarding the "Green Punisher" direction, it looks like DC might be sticking with it. The Source announced today that they were gonna go with an outlaw vigilante direction starting in June, and from what I read it seems that they will still be invoking the Grell run on Green Arrow. So Johns might have been off when he told you that you'd be more pleased with the future direction of the title.

Two things on Batman. Is Catwoman still the castaway child of the Falcone family? I thought Loeb wrote that into her character, makes her teaming up with a Falcone Catgirl sound slightly fun. And in the Winick arc of Batman last summer Grayson was written as fighting more acrobatically. That was one of the ways Two-Face could tell there was someone new under the cowl.

jonathan said...

The Top three books were marvel. has this happened before? may have to mail you some random marvel issues, i think you joined the merry marvel marching society.

Anonymous said...

So far I have very negative feelings about Catgirl, but it could just be due to that horrible black and pink Halloween outfit. One of my main problems with Daniel's run is that I feel he stuffed in way too many villians just so that he could draw them. And I still don't understand Black Mask's plan.

brandon said...

I read IH 607 and 608 and none of the other Hulk titles and was lost. I didnt understand how the two issues meshed together and the recap page didnt help. Did I need to pick up some other Hulk title to understand this issue?

This is how I feel when I pick up a random DC title. Oy.

Ivan said...

Can someone spoil Black Mask's identity? I'm really curious.

Anonymous said...

It's Dr Jeremiah Arkham. Grayson kicked his arse this week. And that is Dick's first tropy for the batcave as his tenure as batman.

David Hine is continuing his story in Detective comics soon.

Ryan Schrodt said...

@Jonathan - I only have the data since I joined Weekly Crisis last year, but the following dates had Marvel on top (at least the top 3):
06/24/09 - #5 Nova, #4 Dark Wolverine #3, #2 Guardians of the Galaxy, #1 Uncanny X-Men
08/26/09 - #3 Nova, #2 Fantastic Four, #1 Guardians of the Galaxy
10/07/09 - #3 X-Men vs Agents of Atlas, #2 Ultimate Spider-Man, #1 Criminal: Sinners

James said...

I didn't read the Nova issue. Can someone please spoil the big reveal and save me $2.99?

Ryan Schrodt said...

It's been a few days. Namorita has been plucked from the timestream.

Also, purchasing Nova is never a waste of your $3!

jpbl1976 said...

I didn't like Siege 3 as much because it represents my issue with Marvel treating Thor like any ordinary high-powered clod or otherwise writing him in such an uneven manner.

It also represents why Thor worked well when JMS was writing him: by taking Thor out of the mainstream MU, JMS did away with the "superhero power scale" and concentrated on character development.

In a way, JMS' approach was similar to the way Gaiman handled Sandman: like Morpheus, Thor wasn't there in every single issue but when he did appear, it was a worthy appearance.

Anyway, I digress. Thor is the God of Thunder. At no time should he have any problems with a filler character like the Sentry. It just shouldn't happen.

The fact that Bendis scripted Thor as acting surprised at all during their fight is another miss: this is same the guy who threw a sword through a Celestial and broke through another Celestial's armor with a concentrated hammer-blow.

In fact, the Sentry's feat of causing Asgard to crumble is something Thor himself should be able to do. Yeah, I know they "de-powered" Thor with the whole broken Mjolnir story but that just seemed like lazy writing to me. I think Marvel could do better.

I'm getting worried now that Bendis will write Thor as "part of the scenery" the way other writers in the past did.

I appreciate their conundrum, of course, it's difficult to write interesting stories about a character who can level mountains but a writer of Bendis' caliber could have done better than to shoehorn Thor into the whole "Sentry is an Evil God" story. Come on. This is almost as bad as the Molecule Man dusting the Beyonder.

Very disappointing. I just hope Fraction doesn't decide to do a Thor: Disassembled story. His recent interview gives me hope in that it seems Thor will be up against cosmic juggernauts for a change.

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