Friday, April 16, 2010
The Comic Book Review Power Rankings are coming to you a bit later than usual tonight, but I’ve got an extra-sized load of books this week to make up for the delay. It was a great week to be a comic book fan with a ferocious battle for the Top Spot. Which comic made it to #1? You’ll have to hit the jump to find out!
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.
Before we get into the Rankings this week, I just want to once again 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. Steve is within less than $1,000 from reaching his goal and has promised than any donations above his goal will only lead to more Athena Voltaire stories. Please consider donating!
Written by JT Krul
Art by Federico Dallocchio and Michael Atiyeh
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Mauro Cascioli
• The Fall of Green Arrow comes to a conclusion this week as things take a bizarre twist as Ollie turns himself in rather than letting his downward spiral continue only to have his identity exposed, his wife leave him, and oddly enough himself acquitted of the charges.
• After spending months trying to convince readers that Green Arrow has slipped over to the darkside after murdering Prometheus, we are now supposed to accept him apologizing for his crimes and backing down? I thought that the Emerald Punisher angle was the least likable version of Green Arrow I had ever seen, though the mopey, self-loathing Green Arrow (Emo Archer?) is even worse.
• Everything about this issue is extremely forced, from Ollie’s whining to Speedy’s murderous rage to Dinah leaving Ollie to the ridiculous trial. Honestly? This is just stupid and it doesn’t work. I’m not just talking about the direction either; the story itself doesn’t work as the flow is incredibly unnatural.
• I also really don’t get the point of having all of the heroes we’ve loved for years belittling and hating a hero that we’ve also loved for years. Having some of my favorite heroes hate Ollie and having him whine about how right they are does not make me want to read more Green Arrow comics.
• The only thing more offensive than this story is the art. This is honestly one of the worst looking issues I have seen come out of DC in years.
• There is an utter lack of texture and depth that makes this simply painful to look at. Almost everything in the issue looks traced. I have no idea if it was, but if this is true, you’d think Federico Dallocchio would throw us a bone by at least doing some shading or something.
• When you add up everything that doesn’t work about the art, the end result is a grotesque and unnatural look that actually overshadows how ridiculous the plot was.
• The art in this issue looks so bad that I feel incredibly sorry for all of the hardworking artists that have busted their asses for years only to face rejection after rejection from DC while something of this poor a quality gets put on one of the most hyped storylines in years. Go through any artist alley or any portfolio review at any comic book convention anywhere and I can guarantee you will find dozens of unpublished artists whose work is light years ahead of this.
Verdict: Avoid It. The term “Epic Failure” was invented specifically to describe things like this comic. Almost nothing about this story works on any level, unless the end goal was to make you dislike Green Arrow and lose all interest in the June relaunch of the title. I really do not blame writer JT Krul for this stinker as it screams of Editorial Mandate, but I can’t give him much credit for doing a lot to save this. Of course, I might be a bit more lenient on the issues were the art not simply abysmal. This is probably the harshest review I’ve ever written, but honestly, I don’t remember the last time I was so disappointed in a comic. Ugh. Don’t bother.
Written by Tony Daniel
Art by Guillem March and Tomeu Morey
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Tony Daniel
• Tony Daniel kicks off his second arc as writer on Batman this week in an issue that follows Dick Grayson as he investigates a serial killer that mimics Batman’s rogues while the Riddler does his best to get in on the investigation.
• This is definitely the weakest issue of Tony Daniel’s run thus far. Everything about this issue feels haphazard from the plotting to Daniel’s approach to the characters.
• I really do not care for Daniel’s take on the Riddler. He is far too one-dimensional and just plain grating. After growing accustomed to Paul Dini’s fantastic take on the character over the last few years, this just doesn’t hold up.
• It is pretty clear from the moment you crack open this issue that Guillem March was last minute fill-in. This issue reeks of being rushed.
• There are moments where March’s work is up to standard, but there are also times where I cringe at how god-awful it is. Check out the panel of Dick waking up to see what I mean. Did March forget what he was drawing part-way through?
• There are two types of chaos in comic art. The type that reinforces the action and only has the illusion of being disorganized and the type that looks like it was thrown onto the page without a plan and only serves to confuse the flow of the story. This is the latter type too often.
Verdict: Avoid It. I’ve been one of the few vocal supporters of Tony Daneil’s run on the internet, but even I can’t find much to like about this one. The writing is really stiff with poor characterization and haphazard writing, which is only made worse by one of Guillem March’s worst issues since breaking in at DC. I’m really hoping that this one is just a fluke, but it just does not work for me at all on any level.
Written by Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi
Art by Fernando Pasarin, John Dell, Cam Smith, Prentis Rollins, Dexter Vines, Art Thibert, Peter Steigerwald, and Beth Sotelo
Letters by Nick J. Napolitano
Cover by David Finch, Scott Williams, and Peter Steigerwald
• The post-Blackest Night world is fleshed out a bit in this week’s Brightest Day #0, which follows Aliveman—the former Deadman—as he bounces across the DCU checking in the resurrected characters from the aforementioned event.
• This issue is almost entirely setup for the current status quo of the characters with just a hint of the overarching story that will connect them. You get glimpses of their lives and not much else.
• Because there really isn’t an underlying theme or main plot developed yet, the jumps between characters feels very haphazard. Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi rarely focus on any one scene long enough to bring their reader in fully.
• Unless you already have an attachement to a character, chances are you won’t be able to find anything to latch onto in this issue.
• The problem is that everything is so ill-defined. Clearly Aliveman is supposed to be helping the characters with something, but the issue never seems to be building towards anything concrete.
• Fernando Pasarin’s art is serviceable, but suffers fro having too many inkers. This gets to be pretty jarring, though with an issue this long, it is hard to fault DC on bringing in extra help. While this may come with the territory, though, it does not changing how disruptive the shifts can be.
• After a while, most of the male characters start looking the same. Max Lord, Boston Brand, Carter Hall, and Ray Palmer all might as well have been the same dude in different clothes. The only men who really looked that different out of costume were Jason Rausch, who is black, and Ronnie Raymond, who looks like a teenaged skateboarder now.
Verdict: Byrne It. This is all set-up and at that, its really not that great of set-up. Clearly there are some stories here that are going to be a big deal down the road, so you might want to check it out for that. You might also want to check it out if you really dig some of the characters (I personally was most drawn to the Firestorm and Osiris stories). I really wish this was like 52 where the issues as a whole could suck you in, but instead it’s like Countdown, which isn’t a good thing.
Written by Sean McKeever
Art by Mahmud Asrar, Scott Hanna, Victor Olazaba, Matt Milla, and Jorge Maese
Letters by Dave Sharpe
Cover by Marko Djurdjevic
• I’ve been trying to avoid extra event tie-ins as much as possible these days, but I really couldn’t pass up a chance to check out Sean McKeever and Mahmud Asrar doing an issue with the painfully underutilized Young Avengers.
• This issue casts a wide-net over the team as they are dealing with the events of the Siege storyline: Hulkling and Wiccan battle the Wrecking Crew, Patriot and Hawkeye are trapped underground, and Speed faces the fact that he can’t actually be everyone at once no matter how fast he runs.
• McKeever’s character writing is really solid. He has a great grasp on most of the characters, especially Speed, Hawkeye, and Patriot. Wiccan and Hulkling are a bit dull at times in comparison, though.
• The biggest problem is that there is absolutely no point to this story. It doesn’t add anything to Siege at all, nor does it set anything up for the characters. It almost feels like it is here just to remind readers that the characters exist.
• There are a lot of things being built up here that don’t really go anywhere—mostly Wiccan’s Norse obsession. Maybe I missed the point of that, but I didn’t see it.
• Asrar does a solid job with the art. His designs are clean and his storytelling is solid throughout.
• I have to give the art team kudos for their consistency despite having two inkers and a large cast. The style and designs stay steady throughout the entire issue, which is something that had plagued Asrar in his previous Marvel work.
• There are some really weird moments where the anatomy looks unnatural—most of these seem to fall on Hawkeye and Speed
Verdict: Check It. This issue was very, very close to Buy It territory, but couldn’t quite make it because of its major lack of a point. Big fans of the creative team or the characters will enjoy the issue, but nothing about this really demands that it be read by the casual fan. The story never gets off its feet and despite taking place during Siege, it really has nothing to do with the main story. I like the craft and I love the characters, but there isn’t enough meat to justify a stronger verdict.
Written by Josh Howard
Art by Josh Howard
Cover by Josh Howard
• Josh Howard continues to expand the mythology of the Dead @17 franchise with this week’s issue, which finds Violet revealing some harsh “truths” to Nara as the Zodiac members in Purgatory prepare to make a stand against the Witch Queen, who has captured Asia.
• This issue really feels like a reward for longtime fans. It’s like Howard is thanking us for sticking around all this time as he brings the franchise full circle back to some of the earliest Dead @17 stories.
• Howard’s character work is amongst his best here. The issue is almost entirely talking heads, but the strong personalities keep it fresh.
• The story is very straightforward, which is interesting considering how complex the bigger picture is. It is interesting that this chapter would play out so simply (this is not a bad thing at all).
• The art is exactly what you expect from Howard, almost the point of fault. Howard is ridiculously consistent on all levels.
• I’ve been a fan of Josh’s for years, but I hate reviewing his art. He doesn’t make many mistakes with his super clean art, but he also doesn’t take many chances.
• The only issue I have with the art is that there is a lot space that seems wasted. There are almost no backgrounds, leaving a lot open space around the characters. On a few pages, this even extends to empty space around the panels themselves.
Verdict: Buy It. If you are a Dead @17 fan, then Howard delivers in a big way on this issue. You get great characters, very clean art, and some great twists. The problem is that Howard has settled into his comfort zone, especially his art. He is dealing with very complex issues and a very dense story, which opens him up to try new things, but we aren’t seeing any. If this series is going to make as a Must Read, which I know it is capable of, Howard is going to have to start bringing something new to the table creatively.
Written by Zeb Wells
Art by Ibraim Roberson and Brian Reber
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Adi Granov
• This week’s installment in Second Coming follows the X-Men Alpha Squad’s attempts to save Cable and Hope as the titular New Mutants lead an attack on Cameron Hodge’s weapons facility.
• This is almost all action from the beginning, with the intensity being built from page one. The stakes are raised with each page as it becomes abundantly clear that the X-Men might be too poorly organized and too outmanned to win this battle.
• Kudos to whoever plotted this issue, whether it be Zeb Wells or the larger X-Franchise Braintrust. What we see is clearly chosen with great foresight as to what would provide the maximum effect and it works.
• The characters are a bit lacking. Unless the character has a major plot point surrounding them (basically Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Cyclops, and Cable), Wells writes them interchangeably.
• The art from Ibraim Roberson was solid. I really dig his character designs. He has an awesome take on all of the characters.
• Although the designs were great, the art itself was very stiff. Too much of the issue looks painfully posed, which takes way from the fact that it is supposed to be cover-to-cover action.
• There is one panel and one panel only that looked traced to me and it sticks out like a sore thumb. It is a close-up panel of Rogue that looks very familiar. Nothing else looks traced, but this panel really did not sit well with me.
Verdict: Buy It. The character writing really leaves a lot to decide, but the pacing in this action-packed issue really impressed me. I went in not caring much about the New Mutants, but I left the issue being very excited about the next chapter in Second Coming. Even with this issues faults, its hard to ask for much more than that!
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Letters by Nick J. Napolitano
Cover by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
• Barry Allen returns to the spotlight in the debut issue of the new Flash series, which follows Allen as he settles back into his old life and almost immediately finds himself in the midst of an unusual murder investigation.
• This issue is pure setup and introduction to Allen and his life. In that regard, it works really well as we see relationships budding, roles formed, and a strong supporting cast introduced.
• I really like the interaction between Iris and Barry. I found myself immediately drawn into their very genuine relationship. Kudos to Geoff Johns for hitting all the right notes here.
• This issue is full of personality, which is a major improvement over how Johns had been writing Allen elsewhere. In every other book we have seen him in, he has come across as little more than Hal Jordan’s boring friend. I’m glad to see Johns fleshing out his personality for readers that are used to Wally.
• The twist ending caught me off guard and really has me excited for the next issue. I picked this up on a trial basis, but I am definitely on board for the next issue thanks to that awesome cliffhanger.
• Francis Manapul channels John Romita Jr. here in a HUGE way. This issue is so heavily influenced by JRJr that he should get an acknowledgement on the credits page!
• As Manapul feels out certain parts of this advancement in his style, there are a few panels that don’t quite work and seem between styles. That is to be expected, but they are a bit jarring.
• I really dug the subtle facial expressions. Considering how over-the-top Manapul was when he burst onto the scene a few years back, this is really impressive.
Verdict: Must Read. The issue does drag a bit towards the middle, but that is really the only major complaint that I have on this one. This was definitely one of the most entertaining comics of the week and the creative team did a great job with the craftsmanship. As a lifelong Wally West fan, I had my doubts about a Barry Allen book, but I was blown away by this issue. Do not miss it!
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
• The second volume of Mice Templar kicks into high-gear in its penultimate issue this week, which follows a flurry events during the Festival of Samhain, including the return of Pilot the Tall, the Druids unleashing their endgame, and Karic makes his own major play against Icarus.
• This is a very fast-paced and very intense story. Writer Bryan JL Glass wastes absolutely no time jumping into this story and does not let up for a moment until the issue is done.
• I like that Glass uses a mix of narration and dialogue to push the story forward. This allows him to play with the pace better and build tension effectively.
• I really like the way that the pace picks up as the story goes along. It starts off with a brisk flashback sequence, then speeds up with every subsequent twist…and there are A LOT of twists.
• One of the big reasons that this issue works so well is the way that Glass manages to tie everything together. Almost every first and second tier character has a moment and plays a part in the story, which brings together all of the story threads.
• Victor Santos brings his A-Game on this issue. You can tell just by looking at the pages that he had to have put in an ever greater effort than normal to pull this one off.
• I absolutely loved Santo’s inventive page layouts and panel choices. He is thinking outside of the back, which helps emphasize how important the events of this issue are.
• Santos has come a long way with his expressions and it really shows in this issue. That is especially important in helping the story move forward when Glass switches to the heavier narration.
• There are a few points, especially towards the end of the issue, where the art starts to get too chaotic and runs together. This makes the final sequence less clear than it should be. In Santos’s defensive, however, this only happens because he is trying to pack so much into each page.
Verdict: Must Read. I am really impressed with Bryan JL Glass’s ability to keep this issue so focused despite the fact that there are so many plot threads converging here; that is a major testament to his talent as a writer. This issue is amongst the strongest of this volume and is certainly the most intense thus far. When you add in a solid effort from the very talented art team, you’ve got yet another very fine issue of this amazing series!
Written by Bryan Q. Miller
Art by Lee Garbett, Jonathan Glapion, Richard Friend, and Guy Major
Letters by Pat Brosseau
Cover by Stanley “Artgerm” Lau
• Apparently I was the one that was messed up with this week’s Batgirl, as I was expecting the conclusion of the book’s crossover with Red Robin when, instead, it is the start of a new storyline that finds the Calculator readying a new attack on Oracle just as Batgirl is getting csome confident in her new role.
• This issue is simply overflowing with personality. Bryan Q. Miller brings pure magic to the Batgirl/Oracle relationship that is simply awesome. This may be the best take on Oracle since Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey.
• There are lots of great moments throughout this issue that add up to make such a wonderful story. Batgirl’s meeting with Commissioner Gordon was simply stellar.
• The pacing in this issue was really interesting and took some getting used to, but once I got the hand of it, I really dug it. Miller plays it out very cinematically with small, self-contained scenes building towards a fun twist. You aren’t sure where Miller is going in the beginning, but it works really well in the end.
• Artist Lee Garbett has fantastic chemistry with Miller. The art and the writing work perfectly in synch in this issue.
• Garbett’s very straightforward storytelling works very well. There isn’t much flash in this issue, but it doesn’t need it. I am liking that Garbett is playing around a bit with his layouts, though.
• The expressions in this issue are spot on. Garbett plays it loose, but does a brilliant job of helping the ton along through his characters.
• This issue has a simply awesome cover by Artgerm. I love that he is using a realistic style, but it doesn’t look traced. How often can you say that about a cover artist these days?
Verdict: Must Read. Stephanie Brown as Batgirl was a hard sell for a lot of readers, but with issues like this, that debate seems totally unnecessary as Bryan Miller and Lee Garbett do such amazing work that I can’t imagine any reader wanting it any other way. The craftsmanship in this issue is amongst the best you’ll find in any superhero comic and its incredibly fun to boot.
Written by Gail Simone
Art by J. Calafiore and Jason Wright
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Daniel Luvisi
• Gail Simone is one sick, sick, sick lady.
• This week’s edition of the always-awesome Secret Six picks up where last issue left off as Catman has to decide between killing his teammates or having his son die, but ends up turning the tables on his tormentors.
• Simone’s range as a writer blows me away. She can go from being the funniest writer in comics to one of the most depraved at the drop of hat. This issue definitely falls into the latter column, though she finds just as much success going this route as she does when she is writing a gag-a-panel.
• I absolutely love the contrast between Catman’s passion and ferocity in this issue and the way that his teammates see him. Simone is making a comment on her readers see the character, only to pull out the rug from everyone with some of the most disturbing scenes I’ve seen in a comic.
• I really dig the idea of Bane and Jeanette starting their own Secret Six after the rest of the team heads off to find Catman (and, if you include Catman and Chesire, form a Secret Six of their own). I can’t wait to see how this plays out.
• J. Calafiore is an awesome fit for this series. His style perfectly matches the tone of the script.
• Calfiore’s strong suit has always been his storytelling and that is no different here. His panel choices, reaction shots, and excellent pacing are a major part of this issue’s success.
• I really have to give some of that credit to Jason Wright’s colors. He brings out the best in Calafiore’s art and is a major contributor to the book’s tone.
Verdict: Must Read. Just when you think that Gail Simone can’t surprise you, she writes an issue like this. This is one of the most intense, darkest, and deliciously satisfying issues so far this year. This issue is ten kinds of crazy and even more kinds of awesome. It was a tough fight for Book of the Week, but how could I not pick the sheer insanity of this issue?