Thursday, March 25, 2010

Comic Book Review Power Rankings for 03/24/10

It’s Thursday March 25th and the only thing more exciting right now than the unveiling of the Scott Pilgrim vs the World trailer is your weekly dose of review-y goodness, the Comic Book Review Power Rankings! It is a very weird week of comics this week as there isn’t a single Must Read comic in the pile. Weird, eh? Well, we still have to have a #1, so hit the jump to find out what it is!

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

06. NEMESIS #1
Written by Mark Millar
Art by Steve McNiven and Dave McCaig
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Cover by Steve McNiven
preRanking: 05

• The Mark Millar Hype Machine has been in overdrive these days with Nemesis hitting the stands and Kick-Ass arriving in movie theatres soon. After the bold NYC billboard stunt, I decided to give the former a shot, hoping that it will be as good as the latter. It wasn’t.
• The premise of Nemesis is pretty simply. He is basically Batman, but a villain. He is super rich, super smart, and has a ton of gadgets at his disposal as he wages a war on law and order. As the story opens, he has already taken down police leaders all over Asia, but now turns his sights on Washington DC’s best cop.
• This opening chapter does little more than introduce the characters through a flurry of violence. He see lots of body parts being removed, a train wreck, a hijacked plane being crashed into a crowded city streets, and lots and lots and lots of people being shot in the face.
• What we don’t see is characterization. Millar gives us utterly lifeless stock characters. Nemesis is just a bad guy and Blake Morrow (the cop) is just a good guy. Nothing more, nothing less.
• With boring characters already holding it back, things are made worse by the incredibly uninspired story that isn’t terribly different than the premise of Mark Waid’s Irredeemable or Warren Ellis’s Black Summer, except that this time it is a Batman analogue instead of Superman or Judge Dredd. We’ve been there and we’ve done that, only it was better last time (and truthfully, last time wasn’t that good either)
• Having loved his previous work with Millar, I was pretty pumped about Steve McNiven taking on the art chores of this project. Unfortunately, that too is a major misstep. McNiven is inking himself here and the results are not pretty.
• There are so many unnecessary lines that have the same thickness as standard outlines, especially on people’s faces. This makes everything look melty or craggy; it is very unnatural looking and is a huge step down from what we are used to with McNiven.
Dave McCaig’s colors are alright, but he is clearly stretching to add depth to the art. This is something that should be coming from a combination of the colors and the inks, but the poor quality of the inking forces McCaig to work overtime and the result is not up to par for him.
• Millar ends the issue with an afterward thanking the fans…sort of. In truth the letter is mostly self-congratulatory on all of his recent successes and continued hype for the comic we just read. This is a weird analogue to make, but it really makes Millar come across like Ashton Kutcher. I don’t want to think of Millar is Kutcher because Millar is an incredibly talented writer and well, Kutcher’s only real talent is annoying the shit out of me. The issue was better off without it.

Verdict: Avoid It. This is a dull, lifeless story that is mostly violence for the sake of violence with absolutely nothing to back it up. At least Millar’s Kick-Ass had some heart to it and Wanted was an interesting commentary on the post-Watchmen comic book industry. This, on the other hand, is just an uninspired mess that is nowhere near the level of quality that readers can normally expect from Millar and McNiven. Do yourself a favor and avoid this one at all costs. I wish I had.

05. GI JOE #16
Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by SL Gallant, Robert Atkins, Gary Erskine, and Andrew Crossley
Letters by Chris Mowry
Covers by David Williams with Kelsey Shannon and Robert Atkins with Andrew Crossley
preRanking: 03

• This week’s installment of GI Joe focuses mainly on the Baroness as she gives an update to (presumably) Cobra Commander on the status of the MASS Device and the craziness that ensues.
• This issue is a good look at the ruthlessness of the Baroness and the inner workings of Cobra. It reminds me a lot of the first few issues of the series, which developed the inner workings of the Joes.
• The pacing of the issue is a bit choppy at times, undercutting some of the twists and taking focus away from the build towards the cliffhanger.
• I really like the way Cobra Commander appears here as a strong, shadow figure with very deadly aims. I like how Chuck Dixon is establishing him this way to avoid him coming across as comically inept like he was on the cartoon and in past comic books.
• I really do not care for the decision to split the art between SL Gallant and Robert Atkins. The quality of Gallant’s art is nowhere near that of Atkins, so seeing them side-by-side in the same issue is a bit much.
• The clash in styles and quality really brings this issue down. Even if it meant a delay or meant having a full issue done by Gallant, I would rather have seen this issue done by just one artist.

Verdict: Check It. This is a fun issue that features some cool characterization, but the poor pacing and the very uneven art really hold it back. While this issue does feature some of the coolest scenes and concepts we’ve seen so far, it feels so haphazardly put together that I can’t justify giving it a stronger verdict, even if I did still enjoy it as a whole.

04. UNCANNY X-MEN #522
Written by Matt Fraction
Lead Art by Whilce Portacio, Ed Tadeo, and Justin Ponsor
Backup Art by Phil Jimenez, Andy Lanning, and Soto
Letters by Andy Lanning
Cover by Terry Dodson
preRanking: 04

• I haven’t read any X-Men comics in several months, so I was a bit lost on some points of this (like Magneto being back) and I really only picked this up because it featured the return of my favorite X-Man, Kitty Pryde.
• In the lead story, Magneto pulls Kitty’s bullet (from the end of Joss Whedon’s run on Astonishing X-Men) back to Earth and, in the process, tries to unify the X-Men.
• This isn’t the way that I would have though to bring Kitty back, but it is still pretty cool. The only thing I felt was missing is her reaction to having been ignored by her teammates all this time. What, you watched her on radar? Way to put in the effort, X-Men.
• I really liked the idea of Magneto trying to “will” the X-men together as he brings Kitty back. If we are supposed to be taking him seriously as a good guy, this is a great way to develop that while remaining true to the core to his character.
• Some of the dialogue felt very unnatural and forced as Cyclops tries to put all of the pieces in place. I get what Matt Fraction is trying to do as the X-franchise prepares for the Second Coming crossover that kicks off next week, but this was a bit rough.
• The bit with Reed Richards scolding the science team was awesome. I’d love to see an Uncanny X-Men/Fantastic Four crossover co-written by Fraction and Jonathan Hickman after this scene.
• This story is more about the ends than the means and, in that vein, the ends work very well, which salvages a lot of the issue.
Whilce Poractio’s art is incredibly inconsistent. For every gorgeous panel he draws (and there are several), there is a horrible one. When he is on though, the art looks spectacular.
• I really don’t like the way that Justin Ponsor colors Cyclops’s stubble. It looks weird and unnatural. It reminds me way too much of how Cyclops looks when Greg Land traces him.
• The backup story follows a planet that deals with the arrival of Kitty’s bullet and their impending doom…or something.
• Truthfully, I’m not sure what the point of the backup story was. It wasn’t terribly interesting and its lack of a connection to the main story killed all interest I had in it. It doesn’t help that the script was really rambly.
• The art by Phil Jimenez wasn’t much better. It was serviceable, but ultimately forgettable.

Verdict: Check It. There are so many great things about this issue when you look at the big picture that I would love to give this a “Buy It” verdict. Unfortunately, there were an overabundance of things that didn’t work at all, including the completely unnecessary back-up story. I can’t help but feel that this is a wasted opportunity in a lot of ways, though it does serve as a nice segue for lapsed fans like me between the current state of the X-Franchise and next week’s Second Coming crossover.

Written by JT Krul
Art by Geraldo Borges, Mario Alquiza, and Hi-Fi
Letters by Rob Clark Jr.
Cover by Greg Horn
preRanking: 06

• I think I’ve made my dislike for what is going on with the Arrow family pretty clear over the last few weeks, but I’m still a total sucker so I decided to give this week’s The Rise of Arsenal #1 a chance. This is not what I expected.
• The issue follows Roy Harper from the moment he loses an arm at the hands of Prometheus as he deals with the horrors of all that he is lost, especially the death of his daughter, Lian.
• This is an engaging character piece that plays to JT Krul’s strengths. He is character writer first and foremost, which shows here. His excellent understanding of Roy allows him to make the right connections between this story and others in the past, hitting all the right notes along the way.
• There is some back-peddling here as the story covers a lot of the same ground from Cry For Justice, The Rise and Fall Special, and the last issue of Green Arrow. That feels like wasted space.
• Roy turning to addiction again to escape his pain is perfectly in line with the character’s past and is a much more believable plot than Green Arrow becoming a murderer.
• I really don’t care much for the nanobot explanation for Roy not being able to get a new arm. For one, with the technology and magic in the DCU, I doubt that Prometheus could whip something up that no one could fix. More importantly though, it feels shoe-horned in and deteracts from the rest of the issue.
• There are a ton of design inconsistencies, especially with Roy’s face and a lot of them seem to stem from the inking. It is really distracting when the main character’s facial structure shifts three times on one page. Ugh.
• Some pages do work well though, as Geraldo Borges has a pretty good handle on his expressions. I really liked the silent page of everyone’s reactions. It was powerful and all of the expressions worked, except Batman, who looked like he was pooping.

Verdict: Buy It. This is a really solid issue that caught me off guard with its quality. JT Krul’s strong character writing is paramount to the success of the issue and he does wonders. Had the art been stronger and less time been wasted in recaps, this could have been a Must Read issue. I look forward to seeing where they take it from here.

02. POWER GIRL #10
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
preRanking: 02

Power Girl’s prolonged battle with Satanna takes a few weird turns this week as our titular heroine hangs out with her gal pal Terra, goes shopping for comics with a pre-teen, and the Ultra Humanite makes a surprising return…a very surprising return.
• This issue is pure fun from cover to cover thanks to the loads and loads of enjoyable character interaction. If there is talking in a scene, Jimmy Palmioitti and Justin Gray make it fun.
• I really dug the comic book shop scene. It is nice to see comic book fans treated lovingly for once. In any other book, they would’ve been drooling, overweight, ridiculously weird fanboys. I don’t remember the last time comic book fans were treated with respect and not shown as stereotypes. Kudos to Palmiotti and Gray for not betraying the fanbase.
• There are some pages in the middle of the comic that sag a bit as we get some filler before the twist with Terra. It’s minimal, but cutting it would’ve allowed for a longer action sequence to start.
Amanda Conner works her usual magic here. You see her name on the cover, you know you are going to get spot on consistency, awesome expressions, and fun designs.
• I think that Conner may be the only artist there is that can make chatty sequences more interesting than the action scenes. She is the single best facial expressions artist there is.

Verdict: Buy It. It’s business as usual for Power Girl. You pick it up, you read it, you have fun, and you are glad that you had this experience. You then spend the rest of the day wishing that every artist could be as awesome as Amanda Conner.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Rebecca Buchman, Keith Champagne, Randy Mayor, Gabe Eltaeb, and Carrie Strachan
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Dough Mahnke, Christian Alamy, and Randy Mayor
preRanking: 01

• This issue picks up after the big reveal in the last issue of Blackest Night that Sinestro is the fabled White Lantern. Interestingly enough, it also ends in pretty much the same spot.
• It was an odd choice to have this issue come full circle as really nothing of any importance actually it happens. The most common complaint about this issue is well founded, as it is mostly filler.
• While there is no denying this, I have to say, it still rocks pretty hard. It is filled with solid action and some fun character moments. Unnecessary? Probably. Still cool? Definitely.
• If nothing else, it is worth picking up the issue to see Sinestro recounting the creation of the Universe starting with the creation of Earth, followed by the emergence of the emotional spectrum.
• I loved the way the avatars of the spectrum were revealed. It was a really cool moment that grounded the series a bit. Plus, the designs are totally awesome. Avaraice as a serpent? Perfect.
• I also really love that Parallax, the avatar of Fear, and Predator, the avatar of Love, are so similar. That is an interesting commentary on the nature of these “drives.”
• Given the sheer number of artists working on this book, it is amazing how consistent it is. You can still tell where artist switches happen if you look close enough, but for the most part, the style is spot on throughout.
Doug Mahnke keeps getting better and better and better. He brings so much intensity to every single page. Ivan Reis might be the most high profile artist in all of Blackest Night, but Doug Mahnke has stolen the show.
• The impressive look of the issue, starting with Mahnke’s great storytelling, expressions, and designs, is really what launched it to the top spot. It would still be a fun issue, but without Mahnke, it wouldn’t be nearly as successful.

Verdict: Buy It. Is this filler? Yes, but if you are going to have a filler issue, this is the way to do it. Geoff Johns may be dragging his feet, but he does it with style. What makes this the Book of the Week though (the third in a row for this title) is the strength of the art. I think we can officially say that Mahnke is a bonafide superstar now, can’t we?

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Ivan said...

Would you say Amanda Conner is better than Kevin Maguire as far as expressions go?

adezzy131 said...

i disagree with your opinion on the art of Uncanny but maybe thats cuz ive been following it and suffering through Land. I was really disappointed in this issue, again Fraction stuck with Emma and Scott everyone else is just background noise.

Anonymous said...

Agreed with both Power Girl and Green Lantern. Great books. So sad to lose Connor on Power Girl, but I'll definitely think hard about following her wherever she goes.

Ryan Schrodt said...

@Ivan - I would say they are both on about the same level. Conner is the best active today, but Maguire could be the best ever, even if we don't see his stuff as regularly these days(certainly of the modern era!).

@Adezzy131 - I dropped Uncanny because of Land, so I feel your pain. Portacio is an improvement, but just isn't consistent enough for me.

@Anonymous - Conner is awesome in everything she does. If you don't mind the very racy nature of Garth Ennis, I highly suggest checking out The Pro. It is pure Conner goodness (and the best comic I've ever read about a super powered hooker).

Andrenn said...

Someone actually liked Wanted? Wanted was garbage and Kick Ass' only redeemable quality was that it wasn't as horrible as Wanted. I find Millar to be one of the most bland, uninspired and talentless writers in the industry. Most of his work, like Kick Ass, I can't stand.

But I liked Nemesis more then any of his other creator owned work because it was nowhere near as annoying as Kick Ass or nowhere near as eye bleeding inducing bad as Wanted.

But I do agree with most of the complaints, but I still think this was better then most of Millar's usual crap. Also really saddened by McNiven's art.

mugiwara said...

Didn't read Uncanny, but I heard that the true big return was Cecilia Reyes. Did we see her reaction about the X-Men not really trying to find her when she was pu in a concentration camp for mutants (especially since unlike the phasing girl, she was somewhere in USA, not in a giant suppository flying in outer space)?

adezzy131 said...

@mugiwara nope no reaction, she had one line i believe. cyke told x-club to find reyes, they did off panel. total cop-out. also fantomex made his way to utopia finally.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Millar's thank-you letter, I'm not surprised. He searches for and re-tweets every single positive Twitter post made about him.

Anonymous said...

Millar is a terrible writer. I don't rate him at all.

Anonymous said...

Good God, while I can usually respect my LCS owners' tastes I am inclined to slap one of them with the copy of Nemesis they convinced me to buy this week. The cover immediately turned me off, but hey they rarely steer me wrong. First time for everything though. The whole thing is just insultingly dumb. I just have to wonder if they actually liked it themselves or needed to unload the buttload of copies they bought to anyone they saw.

Dickey said...

Green Lantern was pretty fun, but the heavy Judeo-Christian roots sucked me out of the reveal of the emotional avatars. Especially implying Jesus Christ on the cross for compassion. Memos need to be sent to writers everywhere that strong Christian overtones need to be left to Tyler Perry productions.

Anonymous said...

Although I loved Green Lantern this week (and agree on it being filler), it leaves me confused as to the whole birth of life and emotion. Aren't there planets and lifeforms in the DC universe eons older than Earth? Or has this been retconned post-Infinite Crisis?

Steven said...

I am not sure where all the JT Krul love is coming from. So far everything he has done for DC has been competently written and yet still fairly awful. There may be editorial mandate in the current GA stuff, but considering Krul is writing all of it, there's a good chance a lot of it was his idea. Hell, for all we know, the arm, Lian, etc. All of that could very well have happened just to lead into Krul's book.

His pre-DC work was mainly for Aspen, and that isn't stuff known for its coherent storytelling. When Krul writes something that isn't awful, I'll reappraise his ability.

Anonymous said...

Pretty danged sure that Krul didn't dictate to Robinson what to write in his much hyped "Cry For Justice" series. In fact I'd bet sex to donuts that he didn't.

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