Thursday, April 22, 2010
I’m going to give it to you straight, friends. This is a very special edition of the Comic Book Review Power Rankings. When I started reviewing comics in 2006, it was because I really, really love comics. I love reading comics. I love talking about comics. I love telling people about how much I love comics. Sometimes a week will come along and, well, its hard to love comics because none of the books are really that good. I don’t give out many Must Read verdicts and I have to force myself to choose a Book of the Week. This is not one of those weeks. This is one of those weeks where it is simply awesome to be a comic book fan. Literally, you are a comic book fan and your sum is full of awe. I might be getting a little carried away here, but let’s just say, I didn’t have to force myself to choose a Book of the Week this week. Heck, I didn’t even choose A Book of the Week. I’d tell you more, but it’ll ruin the fun.
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.
Written by Mike Carey
Art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten, and Justin Ponsor
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Adi Granov
• Second Coming continues to truck along with this week’s X-Men: Legacy. In this issue, the X-Men figure out how Bastion has been tracking Cable, Warlock gets all awesome against Cameron Hodge, an X-Man dies, and Rogue’s role in Hope’s rescue takes shape.
• This is a very fast-paced issue with lots of small twists. There is a lot going on in this issue and Mike Carey plows through each scene to get everyone in the right places for the next issue in the crossover.
• This is definitely the weakest character writing we’ve seen so far in the event. The only character that shows a lot of personality is Rogue, which isn’t surprising considering how well Carey has written her in the past.
• I haven’t been a faithful reader of this title, so it was pretty shocking to see Rogue being able to take on multiple abilities without hurting anyone. Since when could she do that? I don’t care much for it, as the “hurt-to-help” drawback of her abilities was part of what made her such a compelling character.
• Greg Land really surprised me in this issue. I was expecting the issue to be full of the sloppily traced characters that have made me hate him and everything he stands for. Interestingly enough, it seems like he actually draw most of the issue free hand.
• There are still a handful of items that are clearly traced and he still seems to be unable to use more than one model for every single female character, but this is a slight improvement.
• With that in mind, I actually think his work here bothers me more than when he is clearly tracing everything under the sun. It is really frustrating to see him draw so much only to fall back on tracing here and there. Its clear that he still has artistic talent, but we aren’t seeing it full time. Seriously, why is no one at Marvel putting their foot down here?
Verdict: Check It. I wouldn’t consider this issue a misstep or even a bad issue, but it is most certainly the weakest issue thus far in the Second Coming event. Carey struggles a bit to juggle the large cast while maintaining clear personalities and Greg Land is still, well, Greg Land. There are some great moments here though and it is entertaining, so if you can overlook some of the issues with the craftsmanship, this is still an issue worth reading.
Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by Robert Atkins, Clayton Brown, and Andrew Crossley
Letters by Neil Uyetake
Covers by Robert Atkins with Andrew Crossley and David Williams with Kelsey Shannon
• Snake Eyes continues to “find himself” while working with Hard Master in this week’s GI Joe, while Destro deals with his exile to Sector Ten.
• This issue is about 10 pages of story stretched into 22 pages of comic. Chuck Dixon is really reaching with this one.
• While this is a very interesting look at the characters, I don’t feel that it is enough to successfully carry the entire issue. There needs to be a bit more plot here to keep things fresh, otherwise it feels like are seeing the same few scenes over and over again.
• I did really dig the scene with Snake Eyes training the little girl by shadow-fighting her. That was a really cool way to do this training sequence and reminded me al ot of the Karate Kid without actually riffing on the movie.
• It seemed very odd to me that the book seemed perfectly fine with the little girl solving her problems with violence. This is the first time we’ve seen a child character interact with a Joe and, let me tell you, it is a far cry from the PSA-type sequences at the end of each GI Joe cartoon.
• While Robert Atkins’s storytelling and expressions are as solid as ever, I can’t help but feel that as a whole, the art isn’t quite up to par for him.
• The biggest problem with the art was the consistency. I’m not sure if this is the fault of Atkins or inker Clayton Brown, but the details in the issue are far too loose, which causes the look of characters to shift from page to page.
Verdict: Check It. There are a lot of things that I really, really liked about this issue. Unfortunately, for everything I dug, there was something else that I didn’t care much for. It was one step forward and one step back throughout the majority of the issue. When you add in the lack of plot substance, I can’t justify ranking the issue any higher, despite its many admirable qualities.
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Keith Chapmagne, Mark Irwin, and Randy Mayor
Letters by Nick J. Napolitano
Cover by Doug Mahnke and Randy Mayor
• Geoff Johns begins exploring the post-Blackest Night DCU with this week’s Green Lantern. Or, rather, he sorta explores it, but then tells you that the princess you are looking for is in another castle.
• Much of this issue follows Hal Jordan and Carol Ferris as they bond over their recent experiences. This is fine enough as Johns has proven over and over again that he has the chops for writing these characters.
• I’m not sure why he brings up Hal’s “girlfriend” ‘Cowgirl,’ as I don’t think she has appeared in the comic since the Daniel Acuna-drawn Star Sapphire arc. It makes even less sense when you consider that in the context of this issue, bringing her up makes Hal seem like a two-timing sleaze.
• The issue also introduces the newest big-bad for Green Lantern—a mysterious figure that is collecting the entities of the various Corps. This seems like an interesting character, but I really don’t care for him/her/it being the “protector” of the universe before the Manhunters. I’m really getting burnt out on the massive retcons in this franchise. Sooner or later, no one is going to care about the horrible ideas that Guardians had before the Green Lantern Corps.
• The rest of the issue is made of snippets introducing new plot points that branch out into five different titles (if you count this one). We get a snippet of what Lex Luthor and Larfleeze are up to, which will continue in Action Comics. Guy Gardner has a story launching his new series Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors, while Ganthet is going to anchor Green Lantern Corps, and Hal’s story will continue in Brightest Day.
• So, we get a lot of non-story for a good chunk of the issue, only to be told that the actual stories are going to continue in other books. As a reader, that is really frustrating and overshadows a lot of the goodness going on in the issue.
• The art really isn’t the sharpest work that we’ve seen from Doug Mahnke. I’m not sure if this is because of the multiple inkers, but there are some major inconsistencies throughout the issue. Sinestro seriously never looks the same way more than once.
• It also seems like Mahnke is trying out a new style here, which is very similar to Howard Chaykin’s. This is a natural progression for Mahnke’s style, but it is a bit jarring at first (especially when you see how blocky Hal’s head is).
• I do like some of the little touches that Mahnke throws in. Larfleeze perching on top of his Guardian’s head was creepy and hilarious.
Verdict: Check It. I’m having a really hard time with this issue. When I first read it, I really liked it because of the fantastic character work and the intriguing plot points are set up. The more I think about it, though, the more frustrating it is that the issue is mostly filler and then a reminder that the character’s stories will be told in other books. That just doesn’t work for me. I’m never 100% sold on the issue, but my opinion does fluctuate every time I think about the issue. I suspect your mileage will vary.
Written by Jesse Blaze Snider
Art by Nathan Watson, Mike DeCarlo, Mickey Clausen, and Eric Cobain
Letters by Deron Bennett
Covers by Nathan Watson and Mickey Clausen
• The first story arc of BOOM!’s Toy Story ongoing series comes to a close this week as the battle between the Buzz Lightyear finishes up.
• I’ve been really hard on writer Jesse Blaze Snider for his struggles to find the right “voices” for the characters throughout the last few issues. While I don’t expect it to be 100% perfect in comic form, I will say that Snider does a much better job here than he had in the past.
• The comics format still keeps Snider from perfecting the tone of the movies though and I don’t think that is anything that can be fixed. So much of the movies’ successes come from the pacing of the dialogue and the action, and that can’t be replicated in this medium.
• You can tell Snider is making an attempt at it, but the result is very herky-jerky as some sense end up being far too dense with dialogue while others are very sparse.
• I did really dig the clever ending, which brings the story full circle. I honestly didn’t see it coming, but it was a very heartwarming and charming end to the story.
• The art still bothers me as much as it had in previous issues. While the designs do look like the characters, that shouldn’t be considered good enough. There needs to be some more oomph and depth to the art.
• You can’t replicate 3D, but you can throw in some shading here and there. The art is far too flat, making it look lifeless and incomplete.
• There are a few places where it is very clear that there were two pencilers working on this. The most obvious are the final few pages where the design of the boy and his mother shift dramatically from page to page.
Verdict: Check It. Even though I am a HUGE fan of the Toy Story franchise, I think I might not be the right audience for the Toy Story comic. I understand that this is meant to be a kid’s comic, so the standards are different, but I can’t help but feel like the attitude of BOOM! is that the comic needs to be “just good enough.” You are going to get that from the writing as Jesse Blaze Snider is clearly busting his ass to capture the voice and spirit of the original films in his script. This issue is definitely the best so far in that regard, so kudos to Snider for that. His continual improvement is what keeps me coming back. The art, on the other hand, just isn’t good enough. It’s incredibly flat and minimalistic, which is a big shock considering the Toy Story films are amongst the flashiest animated films ever. I know that this is a kids comic, so I shouldn’t be expecting Alex Ross or anything, but a little bit of shading, better backgrounds, and a stronger focus on the art mechanics will go a long way into making this more than just a great comic for kids that don’t pay attention to craft, but instead, just a great comic. The story is fun and I’m willing to make concessions, but it could be so much better.
Lead Written by Mark Schultz
Lead Art by Moritat, Gabriel Bautista and Andre Szymanowicz
Back-up Written by Denny O’Neil
Back-up Art by Bill Sienkiewicz
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Ladronn
• The newest volume of The Spirit, taking place firmly in the DC’s First Wave pulp universe, kicks off this week with a great introductory tale by Mark Schultz and Moritat that does a splendid job of establishing this incarnation of the Spirit and the world around him.
• Schultz does a great job of balancing out different interpretations of Will Eisner’s creation. It’s very seedy, but also has a refreshing lightness to it. It is perfectly situation between the far too hardcore movie and the far too whimsical previous DC series.
• If you are a fan of the character or have any sort of familiarity with him, you should dig Schultz’s iconic vision without many reservations. The only twists on the classic formulas are easily palpable and, in some cases, very enjoyable.
• I really dig Schultz’s take on the Dolans. Ellen as a strong-willed activist is a cool contrast to her passive father, who is crushed into submission under the weight of a corrupt system. In their own ways, they will both make great foils not only to one another, but to the Spirit as well.
• Having been a huge fan of Moirtat’s for some time, I was really pleased to see he was taking over the art duties here. In fact, it was the biggest reason I picked up the issue. I was not disappointed.
• What really stands out to me is the way that he brings Central City to life. It is almost as if the city itself is a character in the book, which is on element of the classic Eisner stories that newer writers and artists have never been able to fully capture.
• There is one page that I really didn’t care for. When a major new character is introduced in the final splash page, he anatomy is simply weird looking. The proportions do not seem right at all and it instantly stands out as really the only bad looking image in the entire book.
• Gabriel Bautista (with help from Andre Szymanowicz) do a solid job with the coloring. It has a hazy, almost dream-like quality to it. This is a perfect match to the seedy, dingy tone of the story. You won’t see many colorists using this style, but I wouldn’t have it any other way with this one.
• The backup features the Spirit getting caught between two warring mobster-type brothers in a story that I can only accurately describe as being horrible.
• The story is incredibly disjointed and haphazardly thrown together. I’ve been a huge fan of Dennis O’Neill for years and I can honestly say that I’ve never read anything that he has written that was quite this bad.
• Of course, a huge part of that is the ill-defined, chaotic art from Bill Sienkiewicz. It is an interesting style that is really awesome at first glance, but it is so frantic that your eye is never drawn to any particular point. From a storytelling perspective, it is a freakin’ nightmare.
• I don’t often comment on the covers, but I must say that the standard cover for this book is probably the best cover that Ladronn has done for DC. It’s simple, but effective and I really dig it.
Verdict: Buy It. On its own, the lead story in this comic is a total Must Read. There aren’t many faults that can’t be overlooked as Mark Schultz has one of the best interpretations of The Spirit that I’ve read. The story is expertly brought to life by a very capable art team that puts their own unique and exciting spin on the character. This issue is worth owning for the strength of the lead story art alone. Unfortunately, I’m not just reviewing the lead story; I’m reviewing the entire issue. In a stark contrast from the opening story, the backup is simply abysmal. There is almost nothing about it that works and it really brings the issue as a whole down tremendously. Is the comic still worth $3.99? Of course, but don’t say I didn’t warn you about the backup.
Written by Ron Marz
Art by Nelson Blake II, Sal Rega, and Dave McCaig
Letters by Troy Peteri
Cover by Ryan Sook
• The good folks at Top Cow were kind enough to send me a copy of Magdalena #1, which is interesting for me because, in all honesty, I don’t think I would have thought to pick this one up at my local shop.
• The issue introduces Patience, the current Magdalena—the female protector of the Catholic Church, who is a direct descendant from Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene—who has broken away form the Church, only to be called back to stop Armageddon.
• This is a really cool concept that is introduced and established well. Ron Marz does a great job of catching new readers up to speed with the current state of the character while hitting the ground running in terms of plot development.
• The character work is solid. All of the main characters have clear personalities that are bold and easily recognizable, though there are clearly underpinnings that we aren’t fully seeing yet. None of the main characters seem one dimensional despite the fact that they are being built from well-worn archetypes.
• The art is not at all what I expected. Top Cow is known for its scantily clad women with impossible anatomies and very strange eyes. Nelson Blake II breaks the mold with a very clean, considerably more traditional style.
• The art is very fluid with solid expressions, which allows Blake’s art to work equally well in action scenes as it does with talking heads.
• The biggest problem is that there are almost no backgrounds. While the character designs look awesome and the storytelling is solid, the book isn’t going to make it to a higher level without some backgrounds!
• The issue also contains a timeline of previous Magdalena, exploring the history of the role and explaining some of the more famous actions taken by its bearers. This really helped engage me into the series, though it also makes me want to read some of the other Magdalenas’ stories!
Verdict: Buy It. I was very pleasantly surprised by this issue. Ron Marz has a great concept here with very engaging characters that I was immediately interested in. Nelson Blake’s art is a perfect fit for the series and is a welcome breath of fresh air form the standard Top Cow style. I’m super glad that the Top Cow folks sent me this issue and I hope they continue to do so with this series!
Before I get on with the rest of this week’s Power Rankings, I want to take a moment to reflect on the next seven entries. I’ve been writing the Power Rankings in one form or another for almost 3 years now. During that time, I have never had as much trouble breaking the reviews into a countdown format as I did this week. I’ve only awarded one Book of the Week tie in the history of the Rankings (April 22, 2009 – Elephantmen #18 and Guardians of the Galaxy #13) and I’ve tried to avoid them as much as possible. Sometimes, though, you have to do what you have to do. I’m very proud to say that this week, we have a slightly ridiculous 7-way tie for the Top Spot in the Rankings.
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art by Ryan Stegman, Tom Palmer, Victor Olazaba, and Juan Doe
Letters by Joe Sabino
Cover by Travel Foreman and June Chung
• I came into this issue really not knowing who Kelly Sue DeConnick or Sif were. I came out of this issue wishing that the two of them were part of pull list full-time instead of just as a one-shot.
• This issue focuses on the titular Sif, the official Lady Badass of Asgard, as she is recruited by Beta Ray Bill to save his sentient spaceship from a group of virus-laden pirates. From there, as you can guess, it’s mostly ass-kicking.
• This is a great done-in-one story. It isn’t tied to anything bigger and doesn’t try to be more than what it is. You get an awesome adventure starring a fun character that isn’t bogged down by unnecessary guest stars or oppressive continuity. That is refreshingly old-school.
• DeConnick does an awesome job with Sif. She makes the character incredibly compelling and well-rounded as we see Sif at both her lowest and her highest points. Like I said, I finished this issue wanting an ongoing series, which is a testament to how well the character was written.
• The pacing in the issue is equally as fantastic. You get a great build up towards the action and a shocking “drop off” right before the ending where, quite honestly, DeConnick makes you believe that anything could have happened. I love it when writers can so effectively toy with readers like that.
• The main reason I picked upt his issue is for Ryan Stegman’s art and I was in no way disappointed. His clean designs and straightforward storytelling harkens back to the same class approach to comics that the writing follows. It screams old school style with a decidedly modern flair.
• Stegman’s expressions are top-notch. He adds just as much to the character as DeConnick. The two are working in perfect sync to build the character here.
• I was also really pleased with the sense of motion and impact in the action sequence. Stegman makes Sif’s storming of the ship very larger-than-life.
• Finally, Beta Ray Bill’s ship is seriously named The Skuttlebutt? Really?
Verdict: Must Read. Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Ryan Stegman show incredibly chemistry as a creative team on this one-shot as they make a strong case for a Sif ongoing with this very fun, action-packed story. They really made the most of this one-shot by telling a very entertaining tale of a badass warrior in action, but also making the character incredibly compelling. This one is just good old, well-crafted fun. This was a totally unexpected Book of the Week.
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Andrea DiVito and Bruno Hang
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Mike Deodato
• This week’s Nova is the last issue before The Thanos Imperative takes over Marvel’s cosmic line for a few months and follows Nova and Darkhawk as they infiltrate P.E.G.A.S.U.S. to find out why Dark Quasar (Quasar from the Fault) has gone there.
• This issue is a very fun action-oriented story that is a nice culmination of the last few story arcs. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning do a great job of bringing several different story threads together, so if this is indeed the last issue of volume, it is a great way to close it out.
• I really liked the way bits of Nova’s personal life, particularly his romance with Namorita, comes into play here. DnA sneak it in the midst of the action without breaking away for too long, which helps bring everything into perspective.
• As per usual for them, the character work from DnA is top-notch from cover-to-cover. All of the characters really shine here, especially the supporting characters that are normally lost on stories that are this action-packed.
• This is definitely my favorite work from Andrea DiVito. The linework is extremely crisp with very strong expressions and great action. There aren’t many flaws in the art at all and none of them are particularly glaring.
• Bruno Hang deserves a lot of credit for the colors. He sticks to a pretty basic palette, but his bold choices really make the art pop off the page.
Verdict: Must Read. While I’ve been trying to ignore the rumors of this titles demise as it takes a hiatus after this issue, I have to admit that if it is going to be cancelled, this is a great way to go out. This issue manages to capture everything that I’ve loved about this Nova series and about Nova in general. Kudos to the great creative team for stepping it up in a big way with this issue and earning themselves a shiny new Book of the Week honor.
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
• This week’s issue of Power Girl is the penultimate issue for this brilliant creative team (which is sad), but features Power Girl battling it out with Terra, who has been possessed by the Ultra-Humanite (which is awesome).
• This issue is yet another fine example of why this is the most fun superhero book on the stands. Everything about this issue is entertaining, from the great plot to the solid action to the loads upon loads of personality.
• I really dug the way Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray made a very harsh distinction between what PG would do against the possessed Terra and what should do to Satanna because of it. I’ve never seen PG let loose like this, but it was damn effective.
• The new twist with Ultra-Humanite is very interesting, though it is a total bummer that this creative team won’t be sticking around long enough for us to see what they had planned for this strange new situation.
• The final scene with Satanna was very menacing and very cool. It had an awesome, old-school villain vibe to it.
• The art in this issue is gorgeous, but you already knew that. If you see Amanda Conner’s name attached to a project, you know that you are in for a treat. She is amongst the greatest comic book artists to day and she never has an off issue.
Verdict: Must Read. This issue is a prime example of why DC is having a major loss with this creative team leaving this title. There are no other superhero comics on the stands that are this much fun and this full of personality. The writing and the art work in perfect harmony and the end result is a very refreshing comic that has a little something for everyone. How could I not pick this issue as my Book of the Week?
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by David Lafuente and Justin Ponsor
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by David Lafuente and Justin Ponsor
• Apparently Spider-Woman is Peter Parker’s female clone. That is something you really need to know going into this issue, which finds Spider-Woman making nice with the Human Torch, Peter getting a haircut, and things crashing down in Kitty Pryde’s life.
• This is a ridiculously dense issue with a lot going on. Brian Michael Bendis moves forward at a very brisk pace though, which allows for him to pack a lot into this issue. What is impressive, though, is his ability to cram so much into the issue without shortchanging any of the scenes.
• The character interaction is superb. I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite scene in the book because all of them are so fantastic. I mean, if Bendis can make Peter getting a haircut interesting because of how it forces him to interact with other characters, clearly he is doing something right.
• It is almost freaky how well Bendis understands how teens think and react, which is what really pushes this issue to a higher level. Everything feels incredibly genuine.
• The art by David Lafuente is very fluid and lively. He brings a lot of life and personality to each of the characters and really takes charge of the tone of the book.
• I love that Bendis is able to make a crack about how round Lafuente draws Spidey’s head. That just cracks me up and shows that the creative team is having just as much fun crafting this issue as I am reading it.
Verdict: Must Read. Once again, Brian Michael Bendis creeps me out by his uncanny ability to write engaging and realistic teen characters in the most unusual and unrealistic of circumstances. This issue strays away from the action for the most part and instead focuses on the most mundane of teenage activities. While you might think that this would mean the issue would be less than thrilling, the creative team keeps things very fresh and entertaining. Who would’ve thought a comic featuring an extended haircut scene could earn a Book of the Week honor? Only in comics, folks.
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy, and Wil Quintana
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Alex Garner
• Much like its brother-title Nova, Guardians of the Galaxy is taking a hiatus after this issue, but the rumors are that it won’t be coming back. Also much like Nova, if this is the end for Guardians, it is going out in style.
• After Thanos made his return last issue, the Guardians scramble to put a stop to the destruction that follows him in this week’s issue, with Star-Lord having a very surprising ace up his sleeve.
• I love the sense of shock and awe that DnA give to the characters as they face Thanos’s return. They have such great control of their characters that their reactions feel ridiculously genuine. It’s simply fantastic.
• I don’t care much for Phyla being killed off so quickly after she returned, but it does really up the ante for Thanos’s return and helps build that sense of fear that permeates the entire book.
• This framing device of alternate future Guardians was a great way to setup the Thanos Imperative storyline while being able to keep the main story very focused on the moment. What a great storytelling device!
• It amazes me how this issue can be so filled with action and destruction, yet it is so much fun. I can’t help but have a good time with these characters. Even Groot getting his bark handed to him was fun.
• Brad Walker’s work was very solid. He did a great job of matching the tone with his expressions and selling the action throughout.
• His crazy layouts were the highlight of the art for me. He really pushes that sense of chaos with his layouts, but holds back just enough to keep things coherent. That is just awesome.
• I don’t care much for how naked Thanos is in this issue. That is just a personal preference.
Verdict: Must Read. Thanos makes one hell of a comeback here, just in time for the series to take what could be its final bow. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning continue to amaze me with their awesome character work and superb plotting in this action-packed thrill ride of an issue. Brad Walker keeps pace quite well with his strong art, especially in his chaotic layouts. I’m really hoping that this isn’t the final issue of this series, but if it is, I’m glad to see it go out with a Book of the Week win.
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Cliff Chiang and Trish Mulvihill
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Jesus Saiz
• This week’s Book of the Week was a bit of a surprise to me as I hadn’t planned on picking up this week’s The Brave and the Bold. I’m a sucker for classic Batgirl though, and, honestly, how can I say no to Cliff Chiang’s artwork?
• This issue works from the very strange premise of Zatanna recruiting Wonder Woman and the original Batgirl for a girl’s night out and spends much of its time focusing on the women as they have drinks, dance, and have a generally jovial time.
• With that premise in mind, I really did not expect this issue to be as powerful as it ended up being. The twist in the issue centers around Barbara Gordon being shot by the Joker, which quickly turns a very happy-go-lucky issue into one of the most heartfelt and heartbreaking issues of the year.
• J. Michael Straczynski hits all of the right notes to develop some amazing emotional resonance here. I nearly teared up in this issues final pages and that was only possibly because of how well JMS balances the heartbreaking final moments with the heartwarming majority of this issue.
• At the center of this is some fantastic character work with characters we know incredibly well in a situation we wouldn’t expect. We do see a different side of these powerful women, but it is perfectly in line what we know and love about them.
• This is a very simple story with a very simple twist, but it is incredibly effective (though this will probably be lost on fanboys freaking out at the girl-on-girl fake out).
• Cliff Chiang is as awesome as ever. There are few artists with a cleaner style than Chiang.
• I really like that, when drawing the characters out of costume, he didn’t rely on cliché visual cues. Wonder Woman’s dress isn’t half blue and red nor does Batgirl wear bat-earrings. He draws them like regular women out on the town, but still brings twinges of their personality to how they act. That is really impressive.
• This issue features the best expressions I’ve ever seen from Chiang, which carry a lot of the weight of the issue. It wouldn’t be nearly as effective without him.
Verdict: Must Read. I’m not sure that I’ve mentioned this before, but The Killing Joke is my all-time favorite comic book story and I’m very protective of how this story is presented in other comics, whether it be retellings, reactions, etc. Very few issues connected with this story have ever impressed me. This issue, on the other hand, blows me away. JMS and Chiang present a deceptively simple tale that is an absolute must read for any Batgirl fan and a comic that really belongs in the collection of any comic reader that has any sense or good taste. I picked this issue up on a hunch, but I don’t think I could have expected that it would end up being my choice for Book of the Week.
01. ELEPHANTMEN #25
Written by Richard Starkings
Art by Various
Letters by Comicraft
Cover by Boo Cook
• It should be no surprise that Elephantmen #25 ended up making my list of Book of the Week winners, as only two other books have enjoyed the successes that this title has had on the Power Rankings (Criminal and Secret Six).
• This special anniversary issue retells the origin of the Elephantmen through the most recent storylines as scene by supporting character Agent Greunwald in a series of splash pages, each by a different superstar artist.
• By using a different artist for each page, this issue feels incredibly special and all the more epic. It is a bit jarring at first, but with Gregory Wright coloring the majority of the pages, there is a sense of cohesion to it.
• This issue is very new reader friendly, making it a great jumping on point. On the flipside, there are blips of new information and twists thrown in that should be very rewarding for long time fans. It is the perfect mix of looking back and looking forward.
• The story itself is told very simply through a narration, but the story that Richard Starkings is presenting to the readers is so compelling that the lack of dialogue is hardly noticeable. Starkings pulls you in from page one and doesn’t let go, even after you’ve finished the issue.
• Each artist brings something new to the story, which makes it feel that much bigger and more lush. As I said, this issue feels absolutely epic in nature.
• To make things even better, there aren’t any “off” pages in the entire book. Everyone puts in a great effort, whether they be emerging superstars like Marian Churchland, established talents like Pia Guerra, or even industry legends like Dave Gibbons.
Verdict: Must Read. It is really hard to explain why this issue works as well as it does. The concept is simple, the storytelling is straightforward, and the splash page concept is gimmicky. None of that is detrimental though as it all combines into a powerful and fantastic issue that really sums up why Elephantmen is perhaps the single best comic book being published today. This is the type of comic that makes you glad that you are a comic book reader.