Thursday, May 6, 2010
It’s Seis de Mayo here at Weekly Crisis, which means while you nurse your Tequila-induced hangover, I’m counting down the week’s best books as I am known to do on jueves around these parts. I’ve got a big stack of new books to take a look at this week including the debut of Brightest Day, the newest issue in the X-Men: Second Coming crossover, and perhaps the best ongoing series today, Secret Six, among others. Which book will be Numero Uno? 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.
Written by Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi
Art by Ivan Reis, Pat Gleason, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark, Joe Prado, Vicente Cifuentes, Mark Irwin, Oclair Albrt, David Beaty, Aspen MLT, and Peter Steigerwald
Cover by David Finch, Scott Williams, and Peter Steigerwald
• Brightest Day officially kicks off with this anthology-esque issue that checks in on the recently resurrected character from the final issue of Blackest Night as they find that their resurrections seem to have caused some unexpected challenges.
• With this issue, I really felt like I was reading Brightest Day #0 all over again. Other than a few new twists, almost nothing new happens here.
• Yes, there are the anomalies the characters are facing, such as Aquaman being able to summon dead fish instead of live ones, but that really isn’t enough for this not to feel like a repeat.
• Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi skim the surface with their character writing, as each character reacts to their predicaments as you would expect, but other than that, their personalities are fairly bland.
• The Firestorm storyline is really the strongest selling point for this series to me in theory, but having Jason come across as so whiney and Ronnie come across as so one-dimensional really kills this story thread for me. In my opinion, too many creators have worked too hard to flesh out both of these characters into two of DC’s most interesting for them to be written this way.
• I really don’t care for the approach to the art in this issue. Rather than using a large group of artists that shift with each scene, I’d much rather see the artists cycle by issue.
• Peter Steigerwald does deserve a lot of credit for doing his best to unify each artist’s individual style with the colors, which goes a long way to keeping the look of the book cohesive.
Verdict: Byrne It. Other than the fact that there is very little being offered in this issue that we haven’t seen before, there isn’t much technically wrong with the issue. The writing isn’t terribly offensive and, despite not appealing to my own personal preferences, the art isn’t bad either. The problem with this issue is that it is just incredibly boring. The lack of a single focus really brings the issue down and the uninspired reuse of elements from Brightest Day #0 really kept me from enjoying this issue to the fullest. I’ll stick around for a few more issues to see where they are going from here, but as far as first impressions go, I’m not impressed with Brightest Day.
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Andy Clarke, Scott Hanna, Dustin Nguyen, and Alex Sinclair
Letters by Pat Brosseau
Cover by Frank Quitely
• The very brief “Batman versus Robin” arc comes to a conclusion this week with Dick Grayson discovering that Bruce Wayne is lost in history, Robin making decisions for himself, and the reveal of Oberon Sexton and the Domino Killer’s true identity.
• .This is a really uneven and haphazard story that is completely devoid of rhythm. The lack of transitions and poorly conceived action in the opening pages throws the story off-kilter, making it a very clunky ready.
• This makes the latter half of the book much more challenging as Grant Morrison throws a lot of information at the reader without much context, which definitely requires multiple reads to piece together, especially after the uneven reading experience of the first half.
• Before I get attacked for “not getting it” by the Morrison-ites, I want to clarify that I understand the story perfectly and the way it pieces together. That isn’t the problem. The problem is that the craftsmanship of the issue is all over the place and the lack of polish makes it almost unreadable at times.
• I will say that Morrison’s character writing here is very sharp, with one major exception. I particularly enjoyed the scenes of Damian standing up to his mother and refusing to succumb to her plans. As I’ve stated in my reviews of the previous issues, it is about time that Morrison started following the lead of the other Bat-writers on how best to present Damian.
• I’m also very interested in where Morrison is going with the Joker as both Oberon Sexton and the Domino Killer. Neither character’s purpose has been fully fleshed out, which undercuts the impact of the reveal, but the simple shock factor alone has me curious.
• The only major issue I found with the character writing was Morrison’s approach to Deathstroke. Thanks to many wonderful stories by many wonderful writers, Slade is the furthest there is from a one-note character and yet Morrison writes him as incredibly simple and narrowly-focused. That did not sit well with me.
• Scott Hanna really deserves top-billing for the art on this issue as he is the glue that holds everything together. Were it not for his work, the mix of Andy Clarke’s pencils and Dustin Nguyen’s layouts would have been far too jarring.
• That’s not to say that there aren’t issues, however. Clarke and Nguyen have two very different approaches to storytelling and design, so despite Hanna’s best attempts to bridge the two, the transitions are a bit hard to swallow.
• Despite all of this, both “sections” of art stand well on their own with all of the artists involved putting in a strong effort. Unfortunately, as a whole, the clashing of the styles overpower the individual merits of each.
Verdict: Check It. For every big step forward that this issue takes, it takes an equally big step back, which has become the norm for this title. There is a lot about this issue that I really like, as it features some of my favorite moments from the entire series thus far and hints at the complex genius from his early work that Morrison has built his reputation on. Unfortunately, the lack of polish and, at times, downright lazy approach to plotting mucks up everything positive about the issue. I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to repeat it until the issue is resolved, Grant Morrison needs to go back to basics and focus on the mechanics of telling a good story. Once he gets back into the hang of that, then he can go for the “genius“ moments and absurd twists.
Written by Mike Mignola
Art by Richard Corben and Dave Stewart
Letters by Clem Robins
Cover by Richard Corben and Dave Stewart
• This one-shot opens with Hellboy and Abe in Mexico, where the titular character recounts a series of adventures form the 1950s where he teamed up with monster-fighting luchadores and the heartbreaking end to their collaboration.
• The concept behind this issue is simply fantastic, but it really deserves more time to develop than this one-shot will allow. All we are really getting is a recap of a much cooler story.
• While the majority of the issue is told through narration, the character work is as solid as ever. That shouldn’t be surprising since these are Mike Mignola’s characters, but there is nothing that would be off-putting to even the most obsessive Hellboy fanlads.
• The story is extremely brisk and skims over much of the conflict in favor of giving us a complete “big picture” story. If you are expecting a more involved story, you are going to be disappointed.
• The art by Richard Corben works well for most of the issue. He taps into the prototypical Hellboy/BPRD style well enough to keep things familiar, but adds enough of his own twits to keep it from feeling like a ripoff.
• There are some issues with designs that can’t be overlooked though. The scale of the characters and their anatomical makeup shifts throughout the issue, making some panel-to-panel transitions very jarring.
• The lack of backgrounds also doesn’t sit well with me, though kudos to Dave Stewart for fleshing out the art with strong textures and shading—essentially picking up Corben’s slack.
Verdict: Buy It. The biggest problem with this issue isn’t anything about the actual story itself. I don’t really take issue with what this issue is, but rather with what it isn’t. Mignola has a killer concept here and a fantastic story that demands more time to percolate and develop than what we are seeing here. This feels like a pretty cool trailer or pilot to a much, much more awesome and engaging larger tale. As a standalone issue, I’m not disappointed, but as a fan that knows what this story is capable of, I am a bit let down.
Written by Sterling Gates and James Robinson
Art by Jamal Igle, Jon Sibal, and Blond
Letters by John J. Hill
Cover by Eddy Barrows, J.P. Mayer, and Rod Reis
• The debut of the War of the Supermen issue picks up immediately at the end of DC’s main Free Comic Book Day offering from last week with General Zod’s forces preparing to attack the Earth in a culmination of nearly three years of Superman stories.
• While the issue’s intial focus is on Zod’s invasion force, we also see Supergirl learning of her mother’s crimes, Jimmy and Lois gathering the troops, and the brutal destruction of New Krypton.
• This issue only works as well as it does because of how solidly the pacing is with the writing team of Sterling Gates and James Robinson doing a great job of placing scenes in just the right spots for maximum build towards the shock of New Krypton’s destruction.
• The character work is very solid throughout given the large cast, with the Supergirl scenes coming across especially well. The only character that didn’t work so well for me was Jimmy Olson, who was just a bit too “badass” for my taste.
• After the destruction of New Krypton, Kara picks up the planet’s flag and leaves her cousin, which was a great ominous end for the issue. Unfortunately, there is one last, highly unnecessary page, that really undercuts the impact of Kara’s actions.
• I’m very pleased at how accessible this issue was for new readers. I’ve only been reading Supergirl and, even at that, I’ve been avoiding the plethora of crossover issues in the last year, yet I was able to jump into this issue without any problem.
• Jamal Igle handles the art chores for this issue and does a very stellar job. He really stepped up his game when he came onto the Supergirl title and this issue is a great extension of that.
• I’m especially impressed with how well he captures some of the expressions—particularly Supergirl’s as she runs a gamut of emotions here between the truth behind her mother’s actions to the destruction of New Krypton.
• I wasn’t quite as impressed with the inks from Jon Sibal as I have been in the past. His use of spot blacks is a bit shoddy and the level of detail in the inks fluctuates quite a bit.
• I’m also not 100% sold on the coloring by Blond. The lighting shifts form scene to scene were clearly done with a purpose in mind, but the end result is several scenes that don’t gel together tremendously well with one another.
Verdict: Buy It. The main purpose of this issue is clearly to build tension for the remainder of the miniseries and on that level, this issue works very, very well. The stage is set for the big battle and the ante is upped with the destruction of New Krypton. The strong character writing and expressive art do a great job of sucking the reader in, which is precisely what this issue needed to do. There has been a lot of buildup towards this story and I’d say, so far, it seems worth it.
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson, and Justin Ponsor
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Adi Granov
• After the death of Nightcrawler in the previous issue in the Second Coming crossover, the X-Men attempt to regroup in this week’s Uncanny X-Men as the team comes face-to-face with Hope for the first time.
• The superb character work from Matt Fraction is the driving force behind the success of this “quiet” issue that ends the first major movement in the larger story.
• I’m glad that Fraction explores the reactions of the X-Men to Hope, both as a savior of mutantkind and as the one damning the team. I dig the action as much as the next guy, but in an emotionally charged story like this, the reactions of the characters can be just as exciting.
• I really dig that Magneto is the only character that Hope immediately takes to and is able to connect to her without outwardly judging her. That was a cool move that I can’t wait to see how it plays out.
• Nightcrawler’s funeral was incredibly touching and very powerful. Wolverine’s “eulogy,” which closes out the issue was probably the best moment of the week.
• I’m not a huge fan of how Beast is presented here. I understand that he is overcome with grief and has been at odds with Cyclops for a year or so now, but seems way out of character here. I really hope that this is a swerve because it doesn’t work for me.
• The art is exactly what you’d expect from the Dodsons—thick lines, bulky characters, and bold, simple storytelling.
• I really dig the style of the Dodsons and their clean designs with excellent expressions, but the limited backgrounds and stiff characters really take away from the overall quality of the art. Had they overcome these issues, this book definitely could have taken a serious run at #1.
Verdict: Must Read. This is, by far, the strongest issue of the Second Coming crossover. Fraction takes a break from the action and gets very character focused in this issue, which is to its advantage. His great interpretations of the characters and how they interact is the key to this issue’s success. I’m bummed that Nightcrawler, a great character, had to die for this story, but this issue makes up for that as Fraction sends him off in style.
Written by Gail Simone
Art by J. Calafiore and Jason Wright
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Daniel Luvisi
• Catman’s wave of vengeance intensifies this week as he continues to hunt down his son’s kidnappers, while the rest of the Secret Six cope with his absence in their own neurotic and violent ways.
• Just when you think that Gail Simone has tapped all of the darkness in her seemingly sweet soul with last issues depravity, she digs a bit deeper for perhaps the darkest issue of this series yet.
• This issue goes a long way in developing Catman’s character between his own violent actions, the look into his disturbing childhood, and a nod or two to his less-than-stellar past (like when he was fat and downtrodden in Brad Meltzer’s Green Arrow run). Simone is connecting a lot of dots here.
• Bane and Jeanette unveil their Substitute Six, who are just as depraved as their predecessors, only a lot less charming. There were a few characters I didn’t recognize in the group, but those I did were great additions. I may be the only person who was excited to see Lady Vic on the team, but I’ve always thought she was a pretty cool villain.
• The super solid character interaction makes the Scandal/Black Alice standoff interesting, but I couldn’t help but feel that it needed a bit more setup. It happens far too fast to make much sense at this juncture and is probably the only thing in this issue that didn’t work for me.
• Jim Calafiore rocks super hard on this issue. I still consider Nicola Scott to be the perfect artist for this series, but you can’t deny the chemistry between Calafiore and Simone.
• I’m a sucker for cool panel borders, so Calafiore wins me over with the awesome borders in the flashback scenes. It’s a simple touch, but goes a long way.
• Calafiore’s storytelling has always been his forte and this issue is no different. He makes the most of each page with fantastic panel choices.
• The cover design for this issue is all kinds of awesome. It is too bad that there are elements that look like they may have been photoshopped in from actual photographs (like the tree frog), but from far away, this is a dynamite cover.
Verdict: Must Read. Another month, another simply amazing issue of Secret Six. This issue was very, very, very close to taking home the Book of the Week honor and probably would have if it weren’t for the weird misstep with the Scandal and Black Alice confrontation. Even if it isn’t quite #1, it is still definitely worth your money and is a book that I absolutely implore you to pick up this week…even if you already bought your comics this week. This one is worth a second trip to the comic shop.
Written by Chris Yost
Art by Marcus To, Ray McCarthy, and Guy Major
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Marcus To and Ray McCarthy
• Chris Yost ends his run as writer on Red Robin with this issue which finds the titular character in a final battle against Ra’s al Ghul after a very long set up that begin in the very first issue of the series.
• This is a great way to wrap up Yost’s run with Tim coming out on top after a very prolonged and intense war with Ra’s. This is a great payoff for a year’s worth of stories.
• I really dig the way that this issue ends with Tim not only saving his friends and family, but by doing so with the help of a community of superheroes—this is a great contrast to the opening issues that found Tim striking out on his own.
• This issue really encapsulates what makes Tim such a great character—fantastic interaction with his friends and family, an unending commitment to completing his duties, and some of the best detective work in the DCU.
• Yost does a great job of highlighting all of this as he shows all the ways that Tim and Bruce are extremely similar, but also the ways that they are at the opposite ends of the spectrum.
• Yost does a fantastic job with the entire cast of this issue, even with characters that only have a line or two (Kid Flash “saving” Catwoman was probably my favorite).
• The twist on what Ra’s actual goal was came across perfectly. I did not see it coming at all, making it a great shocker, though it makes a lot of sense in the much, much larger scheme of things.
• Marcus To continues to be the perfect artist for this series. He has a perfect interpretation of the title character and may be the only artist that has drawn Tim in this costume without either making far too old looking or far too young.
• The storytelling and pacing in the art was superb. To is just as important in this regard as Yost was, which makes the issue that much stronger.
• I just love the cleanliness of the art. To provides a great amount of detail, but never bogs the art down with unnecessary elements or crowding linework. The end result is just magnificent.
Verdict: Must Read. This issue is the total package. You get brilliant character work, a great plot, some fantastic twists, and utterly stellar art. I’ve been digging this series from its first issue and so I’ve got high expectations, but this issue blew those out of the water. I hate to see Yost and To separated when they have such amazing chemistry with the title character, but I’m glad to see them go out on top. I had a tough choice to make in picking this week’s #1 thanks to a strong haul of issues, but this Book of the Week honor was well-earned.