Thursday, April 29, 2010

Comic Book Review Power Rankings for 04/28/10


After last week’s “Very Special” Comic Book Review Power Rankings which saw seven Book of the Week winners, we are back to old form with this week’s edition. That means we’ve got a solid mix of comics you shouldn’t miss and comics you should definitely avoid. With new issues of Green Lantern Corps, X-Force, Teen Titans, and more, it is anyone’s guess which books will fall where and which book (singular this week) will be #1. Hit the jump to see how this week’s countdown plays 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 ryanreviews@gmail.com.


07. TEEN TITANS #82
Lead Written by Felicia Henderson
Lead Art by Jose Luis, Mariah Benes, and Marcelo Mailo
Backup Written by Sean McKeever
Backup Art by Yildiray Cinar, Julio Ferreira, and Rod Reis
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Yildiray Cinar, Julio Ferreira, and Rod Reis
preRanking: 07

• In the main story of this week’s “Why on Earth Do I Keep Buying This” Teen Titans, we see the returns of Cyborg, Kid Flash, and Superboy to help their fallen comrades with Milestone Comics’ villain Holocaust.
• I really didn’t think that Felicia Henderson’s scripting could get any worse, but I was so wrong. The dialogue in this issue is simply horrible. Here are some examples: “Consider them protected—Titans style.” “Thanks. Good looking out.” And “Come on. This is like a Nyquil sleep.”
• I wish I could say that these lines make more sense in context, but the fact of the matter is that only makes them worse.
• To top off perhaps the worst dialogue in the history of superhero comics, Henderson’s writing is totally devoid of characterization and features haphazard, ill-conceived plotting. Her writing is simply abysmal.
• There is one scene that really sums up how bad it is. At one point, Sueprboy and Kid Flash think that all of the other Titans were killed, so they very nonchalantly talk about burying their dead, then take moment to fist-bump one another because they are, and I quote, “Teen Titans—forever.”
• Is anyone at DC even reading this pisspoor issues before they hit the stands?
• The art from Jose Luis (not to be confused with legendary Jose Luis Garcia Lopez) is very middle of the rod. His designs are fairly solid and the storytelling isn’t half bad at times, so long as you don’t read what anyone is saying.
• The level of shading and detail does fluctuate throughout the issue considerable, as do the level of backgrounds. That is really jarring.
• The backup features the conclusion of Sean McKeever and Yildiray Cinar’s Ravager story, which finds Rose having to make a fateful decision about what to do with the human slavers.
• This story felt surprisingly haphazard. I had to read it twice to make sure the pages weren’t printed in the wrong order and, honestly, I’m still not sure that they weren’t.
• I did really like seeing Ravager reflect on her actions, but after months of buildup towards and action-oriented ending, I was surprised by how subdued the story ended up being.
• There are some very top-notch panels from Cinar, especially the more action-packed shots.
• Overall though, this was probably the weakest installment from Cinar. There is just something “off” about Rose’s facial features and structure throughout the story.

Verdict: Avoid It. This issue features the last of the Ravager storyline, which means that there is a very good chance it will be my last issue until Felicia Henderson is relieved of her writing duties. Her work is simply painful to read and is an embarrassment to DC. At one time, Teen Titans was one of the strongest titles that DC published, but now it has been reduced to simply amateurish storytelling. The only bright side to how horrible Henderson’s writing is here is that is shows that just about anyone has a chance at writing for DC, even if they have absolutely no place writing comic books.


06. JUSTICE LEAGUE: RISE OF ARSENAL #2
Written by J.T. Krul
Art by Geraldo Borges, Kevin Sharpe, Mario Alquiza, Mark McKenna, Hi-Fi, Mike Mayhew, and Andy Troy
Letters by Rob Clark Jr.
Cover by Greg Horn
preRanking: 02

Roy Harper’s downward spiral continues in this week’s Rise of Arsenal as he gets fitted for his painful new robotic arm, sinks further into addiction, and breaks down at the funeral of his daughter, all before being attacked by his supervillain baby-mama Chesire.
• Was Chesire’s attack on Roy supposed to be a cliffhanger? It comes very late in the issue without warning, but also appears on the cover and the solicitation.
• While the last issue felt very genuine and in-character, this issue was just non-stop whining and screaming that does little more than make Roy come across like a jerk. Pain is to be expected and even some level of lashing out, but this issue really makes Roy an unlikable character.
• Remember how much I hated Fall of Green Arrow because it made Ollie out to be nothing more than a prick? Well this issue feels very forced in the exact same way and doesn’t work because of it.
• As much as I disliked the writing, the art is what really brought this issue down.
• For starters, the opening pages feature a dream sequence by Mike Mayhew that looks painfully unnatural as Mayhew goes for a level of realism. Mayhew is going for an Alex Ross-type feel and totally misses the mark.
• The team-up of Geraldo Borges and Kevin Sharpe handle the remainder of the issue and have trouble gelling as an art team. Neither penciler has a distinct enough style to set himself apart from the other, with both artists mucking through the issue. The only way to tell the difference between the two is their wildly different designs for Roy.
• Beyond their very mundane approaches, the art from Borges and Sharpe suffer from majorly inconsistent character designs, stiffness, and poor perspectives. You name a problem, this issue probably has it in spades.

Verdict: Avoid It. After being pleasantly surprised by the last issue, I was really blown away by the poor execution of this one. The only saving grace for this issue that kept it out last place on the Rankings was the fact that Felicia Henderson is the worst writer in comics today. If it weren’t for that, this stinker would definitely be holding down last place as there is almost nothing I liked about it.


05. FANTASTIC FOUR #578
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

Johnny Storm stumbles upon a cult for Annihilius in the Negative Zone in this week’s Fantastic Four, just in time for the other societies recently discovered to start declaring war on one another.
• This issue is very choppy with very strange pacing and poor transitions between scenes, making it surprisingly hard to read at times.
• The sequence of events really doesn’t work for me, which required me to read the issue twice to start connecting the dots. Given that the concepts themselves aren’t that hard to follow, it irks me that the storytelling is.
• I did really enjoy the scene between Val and Johnny, especially since she comes across as much smarter than him, but still childlike. Too often Val and Franklin are either written as too smart or too child-like, neither of which fits with the characters. I’m glad that Jonathan Hickman finds that balance here.
• The art is definitely on the lower end of the Dale Eaglesham Quality Spectrum. This is definitely his stiffest issue and his designs aren’t terribly consistent.
• His expressions were solid though, especially in the aforementioned Johnny and Val scene.
• I know this is a minor issue, but it really bothers me how inconsistent the coloring on Reed’s stubble was. Over the course of two pages, it seems to change shade and severity at least 4 or 5 times. Yowza.
• I do really dig the cover by Alan Davis and company. It’s a simple concept, but the execution is just top notch.
• I know it has appeared in various other books, but it hadn’t really hit me until this issue that the Negative Zone Prison (“42”) was basically abandoned after Civil War. What is up with that? What a huge waste of taxpayer money!

Verdict: Byrne It. This week’s Fantastic Four is definitely the weakest issue of Jonathan Hickman’s run so far. It is clear that he is setting up big things and I’m excited to see them play out, but this issue’s haphazard plotting and horrible transitions keeps me from fully enjoying the ride there. Things don’t fare much better for Dale Eaglesham and Paul Mounts, whose art simply does not live up their own standards. Perhaps my expectations were just too high, but I feel totally let down by this issue, despite being excited to see where the series goes next.


04. GOTHAM CITY SIRENS #11
Written by Paul Dini
Art by Andres Guinaldo, Raul Fernandez, and Ian Hannin
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Guillem March
preRanking: 04

• This week’s Gotham City Sirens finds Poison Ivy starting her new job at STAR Labs and having a very eventful first day while Catwoman and Harley Quinn go on the search for missing dogs in their neighborhood.
• This plot behind this issue, particularly the Catwoman and Harley thread, is very strange, but very fun. It is great to see Paul Dini thinking outside of the box.
• I loved the character work throughout this issue. Every character has bold personalities and the interaction between Harley and Catwoman is simply fantastic.
• I really liked the twist with the missing dogs. It is telegraphed early on in the issue, but is a very dark twist on an otherwise whimsical story.
• The pacing in this issue is also commendable, especially considering one subplot is a done-in-one, while the other continues on in the next issue.
• The art was really middle of the road to me, with Andres Guinaldo filling in for regular artist Guillem March.
• I really like the energy throughout the issue and the expressions helped sell the tone of the book.
• The biggest problem were the design inconsistencies. Poison Ivy’s hair changes design throughout the issue and the other character’s facial features seem to shift greatly depending on the perspective of the panel.
• When the art looks good, Guinaldo does a fantastic job, but overall it is just too unpolished for my taste.

Verdict: Check It. This is a fun little issue that plays to Paul Dini’s strengths as a character writer. I dig the quirky plot and the interactions between Catwoman and Harley. The only thing really holding this issue back is the unpolished and inconsistent art. The issue was definitely on the cusp of a Buy It verdict, but the art doesn’t justify this issue reaching the next level.


03. STAR WARS: LEGACY #47
Written by John Ostrander
Art by Jan Duursema, Dan Parsons, and Brad Anderson
Letters by Michael Heisler
Cover by Sean Cooke
preRanking: 03

• This week’s issue of Star Wars: Legacy closes out the largest subplot in the series as the final fate of Dac (home of the Mon Calamari) is decided as the Rogue Squadron makes a last-ditch effort to save the planet’s inhabitants before the Sith can kill every living creature on the planet.
• This issue covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time as John Ostrander picks up the pace and the intensity in this issue.
• The issue is mostly action as we see the Sith and Rogue Squadron do battle. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of reaction or emotional resonance, which makes it hard to get fully invested in the meaning behind the characters’ actions.
• Most of the dialogue in the issue is either characters barking orders or quipping in battle, so the character writing in this issue, with the exception of a few Sith Lords, is pretty nil.
• The twist at the end was fantastic and is a great way to jump start the final three issues of the series (in case you hadn’t heard, Star Wars: Legacy will be ending with issue #50).
• Despite the relatively limited scope of the writing, the art shows a ton of range as Jan Duursema has to draw pretty much everything you’d expect from the Star Wars franchise—giant space battles, crazy aliens, individual skirmishes, and even Stormtroopers.
• The art isn’t quite as polished or as detailed as you’d expect from Duursema. She stays consistent, it just isn’t up to her standard.
• I wasn’t terribly impressed with her use of spot blacks either. In a lot of cases, it really didn’t make much sense for Duursema to use them when she did.

Verdict: Check It. This issue was really close to earning a Buy It verdict and I flip-flopped on the issue several times before finally deciding to stay at Check It. The plot is very engaging and the action is fantastic, but ultimately the lack of real character writing and the unpolished art pulls this one down. If you read it, chances are you will enjoy it, but the flaws are simply too overbearing to ignore.


02. X-FORCE #26
Written by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost
Art by Mike Choi and Sonia Oback
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Adi Granov
preRanking: 05

Second Coming rolls on this week with a new issue of X-Force that, interestingly enough, doesn’t really focus on X-Force. Instead, it focuses on Bastion tracking down the fleeing trio of Hope, Rogue, and Nightcrawler on their way to Utopia and the brutal attack that ensues.
• There is fantastic pacing in the issue towards the death of a major X-Man. It moves very methodically and a bit slower than most action-packed comic, which stretches out the character’s inevitable death for maximum effect.
Craig Kyle and Chris Yost do a great job with their character writing, even if most of the characters only have a line or two.
• The strength of the character work really comes in the aftermath of the character’s death and how everyone reacts. The writing team keeps it simple and it’s very effective because of that.
• Wolverine’s reaction in particular, despite only being one word, was just fantastic.
• The art was amongst the best work that I’ve seen from Mike Choi and Sonia Oback and definitely the best work we’ve seen so far in the crossover from any artists.
• I really liked the character designs, especially after last week’s abysmal Greg Land designs.
• There are major stiffness issues, which is part for the course with this creative team. They really don’t do fluidity well. There is some “movement blur” but it looks very forced and doesn’t add much liveliness.
• I’d also love to see more backgrounds as they are sparse. When they do appear they look nice, but too often there are no backgrounds or there are backgrounds, but they aren’t terrible detailed.

Verdict: Buy It. The decision to kill of a major character in this issue, which has been telegraphed since the first issue of Second Coming, is going to be talked about a lot more than the craftsmanship will, which is a shame because the issue is very well executed. There is a lot that I really like about this issue—almost enough to bring this to a Must Read. However, there are a number of very minor issues that all added up to keep this one from reaching that highest echelon. You really can’t go wrong with this issue though and I do highly recommend checking it out.


01. GREEN LANTERN CORPS #47
Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Pat Gleason, Rebecca Buchman, Tom Nguyen, Keith Champagne, Mark Irwin, and Randy Mayor
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Pat Gleason, Christian ALamy, and Randy Mayor
preRanking: 06

• The fallout from Blackest Night is the focus of this week’s very densely packed issue of Green Lantern Corps, which explores the burial of the recently deceased Lanterns, a fateful decision for Kilowog, the fate of Guy Gardner’s bar on Oa, and the relationship between the Guardians and the Lanterns.
• This issue packs a ton of story between its covers, answering a lot of questions that were lingering around Blackest Night, and jump starting a number of potential storylines. It is probably the biggest Green Lantern shake-up issue in years.
Peter Tomasi does brilliant work here. His plotting is solid, his transitions are well-handled, and his character work is out of this world.
• My favorite Green Lantern has always been Kilowog, but I found myself rallying around nearly every Lantern featured in this issue as Tomasi does such great work with all of them.
Arisia punching a Guardian was easily the highlight of the week for me and a great payoff for the development that Tomasi has given the character since taking over this series.
• I believe that this is Pat Gleason’s last issue as regular series artist and he goes out in a big way by bringing his A-game.
• Everything about Gleason’s art works tremendously well, from his expressions to his layouts to his superb storytelling. This issue really shows the growth that he has made since this title started.
• I’m amazed at how consistent the art looks despite the multiple inkers. The style never really changes from page to page.
• The tighter the inks are, the better the art looks. There are places where it is inked heavier than others, but a distinct style shift doesn’t happen because of it, so kudos to the inking team for staying consistent throughout.

Verdict: Must Read. This issue was the easy choice for Book of the Week. There are so many great moments throughout the issue as all of the Lanterns that Tomasi has spotlighted throughout his run get a chance to shine here. This creative team has made this book one of DC’s finest and they go out strong with this finely crafted and supremely enjoyable issue.


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9 comments:

Aaron Kimel said...

I enjoy how both the solicit ("Annihilus is back and hungry for revenge!") and, to a lesser extent, the cover of FF state that Annihilus has returned when he's nowhere to be seen and his return isn't even mentioned or alluded to by anyone, including his cult. I understand that this issue is a stepping-stone towards his return and clash with Blastaar for rule of the Negative Zone, but this issue was heralded as much more. (For comparison, Thanos actually appears in GotG #24, the issue BEFORE the "return of Thanos" issue.) By the standards of this issue, the appearance of those who loved Ben Parker constitutes the return of Uncle Ben!

Radlum said...

X-Force was great; I hated the decision to kill off a major character just to show that things were serious but the way it was developed, the art and the emotional weight of the death convinced me that despite the unnecesary nature of the death, Kyle and Yost managed to make it one of the best issues so far in Second Coming. As a fan of the character I must admit I was pleased to see that he went out like a hero in a great issue.

Allen G said...

I completely agree with Radlum. I've never been a big fan of killing characters, no matter how popular they are, just to show how an event is suddenly "serious business", but I felt X-Force did an excellent job with it. It felt so true to the character that he died not battling against hordes of enemies or anything like that, but that he died saving a life.

Dan said...

I think all the bugs in that Fantastic Four issue kept repeating an-nih-lusss or something like that. It qualifies as a mention, but just barely. Still, I think I liked that issue more for the character stuff, like seeing Val put the pieces together or Reed talking to Johnny about change.

Aaron Kimel said...

@Dan The bugs do speak Annihilus' name. I contest that they do not mention his return though.

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