Thursday, April 1, 2010

Comic Book Review Power Rankings for 03/31/10


It may be April Fool’s Day, but its no joke that there is a slew of great books to be reviewed on this week’s Comic Book Review Power Rankings. Of course I’ll be checking out the week’s biggest release—the Blackest Night finale—but I’ve also got the start of the next big X-crossover, X-Men: Second Coming, plus new issues of Teen Titans, Star Wars: Legacy, and more. What book is going to be this week’s #1? The only way to find out is to hit 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 ryanreviews@gmail.com.

Before we get into the Rankings this week, I just want to remind everyone that Friend of the Rankings, Steve Bryant, has a Kickstarter going to help make more of his amazing Athena Voltaire comics a reality. If you’ve never checked out Athena Voltaire, you should. If you have, you’ll know that the world will be a better place with more of the character’s high-flying adventures in it. If you’ve got a minute, check out the site and if you’ve got some extra cash, please consider donating!


06. TEEN TITANS #81
Lead Written by Felicia Henderson
Lead Art by Joe Bennett, Jack Jadson, and Marcelo Maiolo
Lead Letters by Travis Lanham
Backup Written by Sean McKeever
Backup by Yildiray CInar, Julio Ferreira, and Rod Reis
Backup Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Yildiray Cinar, Julio Ferreira, and Rod Reis
preRanking: 06

• Once again I told myself that I wouldn’t bother picking up this week’s Teen Titans and, once again, I was swayed by the strength of the Ravager backup during my flip-through. I really wish I had more self control.
• In the lead story, the Titans continue their efforts to save Static, Beast Boy continues to whine, and Cyborg shows up reinforcements.
Felicia Henderson continues to be the single worst writer that is working for either of the Big 2 right now and, potentially, the worst writer in the history of DC Comics. This script is a total trainwreck.
• There is no sense of character here at all. None of the characters have discernable personalities and those that hint at it don’t hold on to them long enough to be meaningful. Almost every single line in this comic could be given to a different character without having any noticeable impact on the comic. That is not a good thing at all.
• Things get worse when the characters start quipping. I can’t imagine any situation where it would be considered witty to say “One attack deserves another!” when fighting a villain. Also, “Welcome to the jungle?” Seriously?
• As excited as I am to see Superboy and Kid Flash rejoining the Titans, its hard to get excited about anything when the writing is this bad.
• The art in the lead story was really solid. Joe Bennett pulls of some of his best expressions, which is really the highlight of the story.
• I think Jack Jadson might be changing up his inking style here, as some pages look totally different than others. Everything looks good, but I wish he would’ve committed to one style or another.
• Things get even more intense for Ravager in the co-feature as her battle with the human traffickers reaches a boiling point and she must decide between her own survival and saving the lives of some innocents.
• I really dig the complexity that Sean McKeever brings to Ravager. This story has a very simple plot, but its very cerebral. McKeever’s characterization is just brilliant.
• I love Yildiray Cinar’s art in the back up as well. His expressions have always been awesome, but he is getting more subtle with them.
• I really dig it when you can see this much growth in an artist. Cinar has come such a long way in the last year or so, which is very evident here.

Verdict: Byrne It. There are a lot of really awesome things about this issue. The co-feature is tremendously well done and the art the lead is really strong. Unfortunately, the blatantly horrible writing in the lead story overshadows at all. This could easily be a high ranking comic were the writing not so bad. I really don’t get why DC would allow someone who so clearly does not understand how to put together a good comic script to be the ongoing writer of one of its premiere titles. Honestly, I’m a little embarrassed for them. It’s time for a change!


05. GOTHAM CITY SIRENS #10
Written by Paul Dini
Art by Andres Guinaldo, Raul Fernandez, and Ian Hannin
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Guillem March
preRanking: 03

• After being captured by Dr. Aesop last issue, The Riddler realizes that the Sirens used him as bait, just as the titular “heroines” arrive to save him.
• It is really interesting to see Riddler’s thought processes, which is a major focus of this issue. Paul Dini does a great job of getting us in his head.
• I also really liked seeing all of the Sirens in action here. For the most part, there interaction has been limited to chatting before or after their solo adventures. They really seem like a “team here.”
• This issue has a great old-school feel to it. Dini captures the crazy “anything goes” vibe of Silver Age comics here, which is a good fit for the characters.
• The issue does feel overwritten at times when the heavy narration is heavy-handed and the dialogue describes the action as it happens, which is a personal pet peeve.
Andres Guinaldo and Raul Fernandez fill-in for regular artist Guillem March here. Their work isn’t terrible, but it doesn’t live up to the standards that March has set.
• The expressions are really the weak link here, as they don’t always match up with the script and aren’t always easily discernable to begin with.
• There were a few places where Harley knocks Aesop down in their fight, only to have him up and fighting in the very next panel. That’s poor fight choreography.

Verdict: Check It. This is a really fun story, but some of the mechanics are really lacking. It has been a while since we have seen a Paul Dini comic that I would consider unpolished, but this issue really fits the bill, unfortunately. It doesn’t help that the art was a bit of a let down after Guillem March’s solid improvement over the last few months. This one is still definitely worth reading and nearly made it to a Buy It verdict based on entertainment value alone, but I felt just a bit short overall.


04. BLACKEST NIGHT #8
Written 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
preRanking: 02

• The Blackest Night event comes to a close as the battle of pretty much everyone against Nekron climaxes and we see a slew of character resurrections.
• Let’s face it, it would be impossible for Blackest Night’s finale to live up to the hype, especially given that it was longer than a lot of recent events have been. That being said, this feels anti-climactic.
• Two of the biggest “surprises” of the event, Nekron being the big-bad and Sinestro as the White Lantern, are really brushed aside here in favor of what was essentially a non-story onslaught of pin-up art and the kickoff to Brightest Day. Nekron ends up becoming meaningless while the White Lantern concept was a total swerve.
• That being said, I was pleased with some of the emotional moments. Some of the returning characters had heartfelt reunions like Aquaman and Mera or Hawkman and Hawkgirl. These really worked for me, as did Barry Allen being so upset about Ralph and Sue Dibney not returning.
• There are a ton of questions about the characters that were resurrected, though I think the biggest question isn’t going to be answered. Why were these characters specifically brought back while others weren’t? Is there a connection? Were the Black Lanterns more than just “programmed” husks?
• The return I’m most interested in was Ronnie Raymond coming back as Firestorm and what its ramifications will be for Jason Rausch. I suspect that the latter will be written off or regulated to a supporting character, which is a shame given how fantastic his solo series was.
• It is interesting to see the positions of the various Lanterns coming out of this. The Indigo Tribe comes across as considerably more sinister than we once thought, Larfleeze gets his Guardian, and the White Lantern concept isn’t quite dead yet.
• Speaking of Larfleeze, he really stole the show with his few panels. I almost expected Geoff Johns to write in a laugh track for it. What fun.
Ivan Reis’s artwork has been the focal point of this issue for most readers and rightfully so, this is some of his most beautiful work yet.
• Reis really channels George Perez in some pages. His two page spread of the characters attacking Nekron was gorgeous.
• The problem is that most of this issue felt like it was meant to be pin-ups. There are almost no backgrounds, its very stiff, and the storytelling is pretty so-so. It sure does look pretty, but to me, that isn’t enough to carry an issue if the other core elements of being a comic book artist are ignored.
• Finally, I just need to point out that everyone should be way more worried about the Anti-Monitor than they are here. I know that he has been treated like a one-off joke in the last few years, but remember when he was the single greatest threat ever seen in a super hero comic book? Let’s stop patting each other on the back and worrying about non-threats like Captain Boomerang for a second here. There is something way worse out there.

Verdict: Buy It. The last issue of Blackest Night is pretty epic and full of awesome moments. It’s a popcorn-flick style comic that delivers up to expectation on almost every level. It certainly could be more and there is a lot that could’ve been done better, but as far as event comics go, this certainly beats out the finale of the last several events we’ve seen from Marvel and DC in the last few years. I enjoyed it and I’m sure you will too, just don’t dissect it too much or the flaws will ruin it for you.


03. FANTASTIC FOUR #577
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Dale Eaglesham and Paul Mounts
Letters by Rus Wooton
Cover by Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, and Javier Rodriguez
preRanking: 01

• The Fantastic Four continue their tour of discovery through uncharted cities in this week’s issue as they explore a city-ship that has landed where Attilan used to be and interact with its “Universal Inhuman” inhabitants.
• This is full-on talking heads issue as Jonathan Hickman lays out more high-concepts and continues to build set up for what I’m assuming is going to be a big storyline.
• There isn’t a lot going on here plot-wise, but the concepts introduced are really fascinating. Hickman brings great sci-fi goodness to the table.
• The idea of the Universal Inhumans is a pretty major retcon, but it actually works with the history of both the Kree and the Inhumans. I really can’t wait to see where Hickman takes this.
• I’m really not sure what is up with Invisible Woman in this issue. Did she have too much to drink in the space shuttle to the moon? Her jibbajabbering is probably the worst part of this issue.
• The art isn’t the most consistent effort I’ve ever seen from Dale Eaglesham. He covers a wide range of quality here.
• Some pages look simply fantastic (pun unintended). Any time he is using larger panels, it looks gorgeous. The “throne room” spread was awesome.
• Other pages, particularly those with wide-angle panels were majorly lacking in details and featured very oddly proportioned characters. These pages are like night-and-day with some of his stronger works.

Verdict: Buy It. This issue is clearly meant for patient readers looking for high-concept sci-fi. There isn’t much plot movement and almost no action, but the concepts and character work are fascinating. Hickman has brought back the sci-fi curiosity and sense of unending discovery to this title that made the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby run so fascinating. If Eaglesham sharpened up his art a bit, this could have easily pulled in a Must Read verdict.


02. STAR WARS: LEGACY #46
Written by John Ostrander
Art by Jan Duursema, Dan Parsons, and Brad Anderson
Letters by Michael Heisler
Cover by Jan Duursema
preRanking: 04

• In this week’s very dense issue of Star Wars: Legacy, all hell breaks loose in the battle between the Sith and the Imperial Remnant as Cade must make a choice between the Light and Dark sides of the Force as he fights to save Deliah.
• This is an incredibly complex and packed issue. I’m amazed at how much story John Ostrander crams into this issue without shortchanging any plot point. His plotting is simply superb.
• There are a ton of characters in this issue and Ostrander does a great job of developing unique voices for them all. That alone is worth applauding.
• I loved the very dark twist in Cade’s efforts to defeat the Sith Lord that imprisoned Deliah. We’ve seen him walk the line before, but this was just insane.
• I didn’t care so much for the Light side of the Force and the “power of love” ending. It was really lame and incredibly cliché. You know how Trinity kissing Neo to give him the power to Agent Smith was the worst thing about The Matrix? Yeah, its pretty much the worst thing about this issue too.
Jan Duursema has been struggling a bit with her art over the last few months, but she is back in a big way with this issue. This is easily her best issue in months.
• There are some really great complex looking pages here. As stupid as the aforementioned love scene was, there is this awesome “montage” page in there of Cade’s relationship with Deliah that was just dynamite. That is probably my favorite page of the entire week.
• What I really dig about Duursema’s art is that she never wastes any panel space. I get frustrated at her lack of backgrounds at times, but if you look at her art, she really doesn’t have any room to put them in. Her panels are that full!

Verdict: Must Read. I really struggled on giving this issue a verdict. On one hand, it is the single best issue of Star Wars: Legacy since the book started, but on the other hand, the Cade/Deliah “I can overcome anything because I love you” scene was so incredibly insipid it makes me want to scream. To be totally honest, this is a really awesome issue and almost everything about it rocks so hard. Unfortunately, I can’t overlook that single plot point and that really holds this one back. I’m giving it a Must Read, but just barely and only because Ostrander and Duursema clearly busted their asses here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you about that scene though!


01. X-MEN: SECOND COMING #1
Written by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost
Art by David Finch, Matt Banning, and Peter Steigerwald
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Adi Granov
preRanking: 05

• I’ll preface this review by saying that I’m a HUGE X-Men fan. The franchise is really what pulled me into comics and I admittedly hold X-Men comics to a higher standard than most superhero comics. The last big crossover, Messiah CompleX was one of my favorite X-Men stories in a really long time, but, in truth, the aftermath was totally botched with dull storylines and the bane of my existence, Greg Land. I picked this issue up as a last-ditch effort of sorts to revive my interest in the franchise. Mission accomplished.
• The issue kicks off with Cable and Hope (the first mutant baby born since House of M) returning from the future only to find themselves being immediately attacked by anti-mutant forces. Once he gets word of the situation, Cyclops readies all of the X-Men for their arrival, believing Hope to be the only hope mutantkind has, but trouble starts to brew when the secret behind X-Force is revealed.
• This is a total thrill ride from start to finish. Chris Yost and Craig Kyle do an awesome job at building tension from the very beginning and ratcheting it up with every scene. Big things are happening now, but you can tell bigger things are coming. It’s a great way to kick off the story.
• The character work is precisely what you’d expect from these writers. I really dig how complex their approach to Cyclops is and the relationship between Cable and Hope is really well handled. Most other characters only have a few lines, but they are all have strong unique voices.
• It’s really cool to see the tensions building within the X-Men just as they have united. You can see their desperation and mistrust as they face the horrifying possibility of their extinction.
• I was a bit iffy on the announcement that David Finch would be doing the art, but really nails it. This is amongst the best work of his career. I’d throw this up with his run on Moon Knight, which I consider to be his pinnacle.
• There is an awesome sense of movement and impact in his action sequences. The spread of the X-Men attacking the vans was killer.
• Finch’s style was a good choice for this opening chapter as he does a wonderful job of conveying the bleak tone of the script. His scratchy, dark look perfectly fits the story and he does a solid job of capturing the intensity.

Verdict: Must Read. Opening chapters of any crossover are always the most important part of the story and are very difficult to pull off. You have to have the perfect mix of action and intrigue with great character work that gets you instantly invested in the fate of the cast while still giving just enough away to snag a commitment from the reader who might not be ready to purchase more comics than they normally would. X-Men: Second Coming has all that in spades. This is a great way to kick off the new storyline and it instantly raises the bar for an entire franchise that has struggled to keep reader interest since the last big storyline. This was the easy choice for Book of the Week and a great place for lapsed X-Fans like me to jump back on board.


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16 comments:

Ivan said...

I did a quick Google search for Felicia Henderson, and the woman is a successful TV writer (Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Gossip Girl, Fringe, etc.)

Are her comics really that bad? Would you say maybe she hasn't adjusted well to the comics writing or does she plain sucks?

Ryan Schrodt said...

It could be that she hasn't adapted to not having an actor to put character in the script, but her comics work is just plain bad. She has the pedigree for writing, but maybe comics just aren't her thing. All I know is that things are not working out with her on Teen Titans!

Aaron Kimel said...

Didn't David Finch sign an exclusive deal with DC? http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=24289

Kirk Warren said...

@Aaron Kimel - I imagine this was contracted work that was agreed to before the signing and thus required to be completed regardless of his DC contract.

Anonymous said...

I just quickly skimmed through Second Coming at my shop this week, but was there a reason as to why the X-Men didn't send a teleporter (say Vanisher) to Cable & Hope's location? Or why they didn't have any of their telepaths contact Cable?

Chris said...

@anonymous
They did teleport to the mansion, but before they did, Cable managed to somehow cloak Hope and himself so they were unsure where he went after they were attacked...so the telepaths couldn't get a read on them to contact Cable or tell the X-Men where they were.

JonesHawkeye said...

I completely agree with Ryan's assessment of the Anti-Monitor situation. The second he was resurrected, everybody in the DCU should have been freaking out! Especially Barry Allen, who died trying to stop him in Crisis.
If I remember correctly, after Crisis the memories of the event were mostly wiped from everybody's minds. But in current continuity, I believe that was retconned and now everybody remembers. Is that correct?

Anonymous said...

the only thing i didnt get about second coming is that there is a panel of cable looking back at the vans getting fucked up when hes driving the jeep. why not turn around?

Lucho said...

I agree 100% with your Blackest Noght review.
By the way you´re absolutely right about the AntiMonitor. He was the character that started everything the DC Universe still suffers today.

He is the major Bad Guy in DC Universe. Maybe it´s time to use it like the menace he really is.

Anonymous said...

Between "Fantastic Four" and the last issue their Realm of Kings mini, I'm really taken with the Inhumans now. What with the Inhuman versions of the Badoon and the Dire Wraiths, and Medusa ready to treat the Shi'Ar Imperial Guard as "cannon fodder" to keep the Fault open in the hopes of getting the Kree out of their evolutionary dead-end, the Inhumans have never before been this interesting (or frankly, frightening.)

TheGoose said...

I can't wait to see Yildiray Cinar shine on Legion of Superheroes!

The Irredeemable Shag said...

In regard to Firestorm's return, I believe we'll be seeing a merger of Ronnie and Jason on a regular basis. Hopefully that combination will provide a good mix of new interesting stories, with the classic jock/brain combination that made Firestorm so likable in the 80s.

The Irredeemable Shag
http://firestormfan.com

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