Thursday, May 27, 2010
May closes with another big week for the Comic Book Review Power Rankings as I take a look at a whopping eleven comics this week, including the finale to War of the Supermen, the debut of Secret Avengers, and a whole slew of books in between. It’s a strong week so you can expect lots of recommendations as I count down to this week’s Book of the Week. Intrigued? You probably should be. Now quit stalling and hit the jump!
For the uninitiated, the Comic Book Review Power Rankings is a countdown from worst-to-best of my weekly comic book haul. Before reading the issues, I preRank them based on the creative team, previous issues, solicitations, and gut instinct. The final Ranking number is based upon how the issues actually turned out. I attempt to keep everything as spoiler free as possible, but keep in mind that there may be the occasional minor spoiler that I overlook. As always, I can be reached via responses to this thread or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by James Robinson and Sterling Gates
Art by Eddy Barrows, Cafu, Eduardo Pansica, JP Meyer, Bit, and Blond
Letters by John J. Hill
Cover by Eddy Barrows, JP Meyer, and Rod Reis
• War of the Supermen comes to a close this week as Earth’s heroes band together to stop the invasion and sacrifices are made as losses are felt on both sides, despite the fact that we return to the status quo at the end of the issue.
• This issue moves at a very brisk pace and is full of action. This series has need a big battle issue and it finally gets it here. This is what we’ve been waiting for and on some levels it really delivers.
• The problem is that there is a lot that doesn’t sit well with me, which ruins the fun of the action.
• For starters, General Lane’s suicide in front of Lois is disturbing and brushed off far too quickly as Lois seems relatively normal by the end of this issue. After all of the poor-taste choices made in Cry for Justice, I think it is safe to assume that this was James Robinson’s “brilliant” idea.
• That alone was enough to drag this issue down considerably, but I’m also docking points for the use of the Phantom Zone to dispose of the Kryptonians. Isn’t it about time we find a new way to sweep them under the rug? Seriously, it’s getting old.
• In the same vein as that, it would appear that almost all of the Kryptonians (except some that conveniently disappeared for the sake of future stories) were also placed in the Phantom Zone. Now granted, they did invade Earth, but they also just had their planet destroyed. It really bothers me knowing that all of the Kryptonians shared the same fate here.
• The art is all over the place as it is abundantly clear that there are three pencilers working on this issue. The styles didn’t gel well enough, leading to some very jarring shifts.
• The inks seemed to be just as much of a problem as the use of spot blacks was terribly inconsistent.
• I did like how the coloring in the Phantom Zone looked, though. I’m not sure which artist drew these sequences, but the washed looked really suits his style.
Verdict: Byrne It. Despite the low Ranking and poor verdict, the majority of this issue is a fun action-packed conclusion to what has generally been an enjoyable storyline. Unfortunately, the reliance on the Phantom Zone yet again and the disturbing suicide of General Lane nearly ruin this issue for me. I just can’t overlook the lack of creativity and the desperate attempts at cheap emotional reactions. When you add in the inconsistent art, I can’t justify Ranking this one any higher.
Written by Tony Bedard
Art by Adrian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes, Randy Mayor, Gabe Eltaeb, and Carrie Strachan
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Rodolfo Migliari
• This week’s Green Lantern Corps marks a new direction and new creative team for the title, which focuses on Ganthet joining the Corps as a Lantern and the Alpha Lanterns making a major power play.
• There is a lot going on in this issue, but I just couldn’t get into it. A major part of this is that the Alpha Lantern concept never worked for me, so a lot of the intrigue in this issue is lost on me.
• I did enjoy the bits with Ganthet, especially with him forging his own ring, which was a great moment.
• Unfortunately, Ganthet is the only character that really seemed to have much personality to me. There is a large cast here, but their interactions seem very cookie-cutter and lifeless to me.
• The exchange between John Stewart and Ganthet on the architecture of Oa was very awkward. There is something about the pace of the dialogue that seemed very clumsy to me.
• The fact that the opening scene was basically a copy-and-paste from the last issue of Green Lantern really bothers me. I just don’t understand why we needed to see it twice.
• Adrian Syaf’s art is very consistent throughout, which is a good thing, but is otherwise unmemorable. I can’t find much to complain about, but there isn’t much to praise either.
• The rookie Lantern that is taken to be an Alpha Lantern in this issue looks way too much like a hair version of Kilowog, which really brought me out of the story. Has he appeared before? If not, I think a different design should have been chosen for him.
Verdict: Check It. This issue isn’t necessary bad, but its not that great either. The best way to describe it is to say that it is “just there.” If you are hardcore fan of Ganthet or even John Stewart, you might get more out this issue than I did, but I was just tremendously underwhelmed. I didn’t hate it, but I’m not sure that I’d ever want to read it again either.
Written by Tony Bedard
Art by Peter Nguyen, Jack Purcell, and Tony Avina
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Guillem March
• Tony Bedard and Peter Nguyen are the guest creators on this week’s Gotham City Sirens, which finds Catwoman searching for her sister, who is in-turned convinced that Selina is possessed, while things between Poison Ivy and her “captor” from the previous issue take a strange turn.
• While Bedard does an acceptable job on this fill-in, I’m bummed that Paul Dini has to bow out for a few issues. He is clearly overcommitted with writing multiple titles for DC, so maybe it is time to scale back so we can avoid fill-ins. As long as he keeps this title and Zatanna, I’ll be happy.
• Apparently this issue spins out of a Blackest Night tie-in that I didn’t read (thanks Wikipedia!). I think a bit more setup and explanation would go a long way to helping fans like me that might have missed that issue, which sets up Maggie Kyle’s current state.
• Bedard does a solid job with Ivy and Maggie, but his character writing with Selina and Harley are really hum-drum. The personality that Dini normally brings to these characters just isn’t here.
• The issue ends on a solid cliffhanger, though the “angel” with Maggie seems out of place with the tone of this series. I hope there is some solid explanation of that in the next issue or it might be considered a misstep.
• The art is majorly inconsistent. Nguyen has a few great panels with some fantastic designs, but they are definitely in the minority here.
• The problem is that he seems to be “overdoing” the character designs at times, with some unnecessary shading lines or in some cases, strange lines on character’s faces that serve no purpose (this is a major issue in the scene with Maggie and the exorcist).
• I also really don’t get why Ivy’s captor looks like she is balding half the time. That really brought me out of the moment, as did the fact that Selina’s facial structure shifted multiple times throughout the issue.
Verdict: Check It. This is a fun issue with a really cool premise, especially if Maggie can remain a “rogue” for Catwoman in stories after this. Unfortunately, the issue isn’t without its flaws and they are rather glaring. Tony Bedard doesn’t quite live up to Paul Dini’s standards, but its actually the massively inconsistent art from Peter Nguyen that drags this one down.
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Neil Edwards, Andrew Currie, and Paul Mounts
Letters by Rus Wooton
Cover by Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, and Javier Rodriguez
• Things continue to build towards something big somewhere down the line that we may or may not see in this week’s Fantastic Four as Reed quits a foundation of scientists that he founded to put his sights on the future with a makeshift school for young super geniuses, meanwhile the Moloid orphans showcase some interesting powers.
• The haphazard pacing in this issue really takes away from the cool concepts that Jonathan Hickman is building up here. Just when you get into the flow of things, the lack of transitions from scene-to-scene derail the flow.
• I really dig Reed’s “future school” and the buildup towards him creating it. This really works for me as Hickman puts forth some of his best character work from Reed that feels like a natural evolution from his first storyline on this title.
• The interlude from Nu-World and the stuff with the Moloids felt really out of place. I think they are both meant to be far more intriguing than they were. This will probably read better in a trade form, but as for being parts of a single issue, they just didn’t work for me.
• Artist Neil Edwards has some very strong moments in this issue, especially when drawing Franklin, Val, and Dragon Man. I really didn’t miss Dale Eaglesham during these sequences.
• His best work, though, are on the expressions with the Wizard towards the end of the issue. He really rocks a sense of insanity here.
• While Hickman’s best work in this issue was on Reed, this is where Edwards does his worst work. To put it bluntly, his take on Reed looks far too stiff and far too constipated far too often.
Verdict: Check It. The lack of transitions and seemingly unnecessary “distraction scenes” mar the fantastic concepts that Hickman is building here. He is clearly taking a slow-burn approach to this series which will read better in a trade format, but as a month-to-month reader, I can’t help but feel like there are just as many misses as there are hits in this issue.
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Frazer Irving
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Covers by Andy Kubert and Frazer Irving
• After his battle with prehistoric Vandal Savage last issue, Batman finds himself in early colonial Gotham City in the midst of a witch hunt, while Superman and his time traveling posse find out a dire truth about Batman’s disappearance during a visit to the end of all Time.
• Much like the first issue, this reads more like a cool Elseworlds story than an in-continuity tale and a major reason behind that is the fact that the Bruce Wayne scenes work so much better than the clunky Time Masters subplot.
• The character work in the main thread of this issue is superb. I really liked the fact that Grant Morrison put Bruce in the gray area between two conflicting parties that seem to be equally in the wrong. It’s a straightforward story centering on complex concepts and I really dig that.
• On the flipside, the pseudoscience in the subplot bored me to tears. I get that Morrison is going for the high concept, but the contrast between the two stories in this issue make the secondary plot seem horrible in comparison.
• I was also pulled out of the story at precisely the wrong time with the Archivist at the end of Time taking on Bruce Wayne’s face to send a message to the other heroes. It just didn’t fit for me.
• The art is great in theory, but it falls apart in execution. I really dig what Frazer Irving is going for, but I think this issue would be a lot better if someone took his designs as “concept art” and ran with it themselves.
• There are just too many problems with the art. It is incredibly stiff, the coloring is distractingly dark, and the designs switch between cartoony and realistic far too often. Plus, this issue may feature one of the worst takes on superman I’ve ever seen.
• I’m also not a fan of using textured colors in place of backgrounds. That doesn’t make the lack of real backgrounds any better. Its just a different kind of bad.
• Yes, there are moments where the art is just plain gorgeous, but by-and-large, I’m just not a fan of Irving’s output here. I mean, seriously True Believers, all of the male characters look exactly alike.
Verdict: Check It. This is a huge step in the right direction over the incredibly uneven first issue. Morrison puts together a really great Batman tale here that I found myself to be very engaged in…until the Superman and the Time Masters stuff got started up. That really pulled me out the flow and is a major reason this didn’t quite make it to a Buy It verdict. The rest of that blame rests firmly on the shoulders of the art, which has its moments, but is mostly a big miss for me.
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen, Keith Champagne, Randy Mayor, and Gabe Eltaeb
Letters by Nick J. Napolitano
Cover by Shane Davis, Sandra Hope, and Barbara Ciardo
• Brightest Day continues on in this week’s Green Lantern as the unlikely trio of Hal, Sinestro, and Carol Ferris examine the White Lantern, Atrocitus is up to something, and the mysterious villain takes control of another Lantern Entity.
• I can’t help but feel like we’ve seen the opening of this issue three or four times now. I don’t get why it has to be repeated here again.
• Beyond that, the issue gets really good and mostly because of the awesomeness of Atrocitus. Geoff Johns is really rocking out with him here. I really dug his take on Earth-style “justice” and the twist with his Mera construct was very awesome. I can’t wait to see how that plays out.
• I’m really intrigued by the new villain, but he/she seems way too powerfully. I’m still in my post-Blackest Night hangover, so having yet another super powerful villain is just too much. When you have back-to-back super powerful villains, regular baddies lose all credibility. After the Sinestro Corps War, Atrocitus, Blackest Night, and now this villain, the likes of King Shark aren’t going to be powerful enough to be credible anymore.
• Doug Mahnke continues to prove that people should have listened to me when I was singing his praises years ago with yet another superb issue with great designs and strong storytelling.
• Given that all of the inkers on this book have inked for Mahnke for a long time, I was surprised to see that their styles didn’t get together as well as they usually do. It’s a minor squabble, but its still noticeable.
• The “white wash” scenes with the White Lantern didn’t look good at all. Mahnke is one hell of an artist, but he thrives on darker pages. When washed out like this, his work isn’t nearly as strong.
Verdict: Buy It. This issue has some flaws, but the strengths definitely overcome up it. I’m absolutely loving what Geoff Johns is doing with Atrocitus and I hope there is some connection between him and the character revealed in the cliffhanger. I could have done without the repeated scene at the beginning of the issue but once things pick up, this one is great. As for the art, Mahnke is earning his keep here in big ways, though I think something needs to be done if his work is going to be drowned out by the White Lantern in future issues to avoid the poor quality of those pages in this issue.
Written by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost
Art by Mike Choi and Sonia Oback
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Adi Granov
• In this week’s installment of Second Coming, the X-Men deal with Bastion’s invading force from the future, knowing full well that there are serious repercussions for their efforts.
• The opening half of this issue is completely silent and incredibly powerful as the X-Men fight off the future Sentinels while trapped in San Francisco. Maybe it is just me, but I find it even more powerful if you play the music from the Inception trailer in your head as you read it.
• As great as these opening pages are, it is a bit jarring in the back half of the issue when the dialogue picks up as there is a major shift in pace. It’s unavoidable given the nature of silent versus scripted pages, but its still notable.
• The character work throughout this issue is fantastic and the credit for that goes to Mike Choi and Sonia Oback’s art as much as it does to Craig Kyle and Chris Yost’s art as both are full of personality and the chemistry between the two are impeccable.
• This issue is really carried by the art though, as Choi and Oback put together one of their best issues ever. Not only are the designs top notch, but the perspectives and panel choices are just killer.
• I don’t want to give away too much, but the cliffhanger on this issue is really powerful, especially with the “goodbye” scene between two of the stories main characters. We all know that Wolverine will come back safe, but you can’t say that for the other characters and that is emphasized well here.
Verdict: Must Read. The pacing issues are really the only thing that kept this issue from making a stronger run at the top spot than it did, but I really can’t emphasize enough how great of a comic it really is. Choi and Oback put on a clinic here and the superb chemistry that they have with Kyle and Yost make this one of the most compelling X-Men comics in quite some time. Even if you haven’t been reading Second Coming, I highly recommend this one just for the craft of it.
Written by John Ostrander
Art by Jan Duursema, Dan Parsons, and Brad Anderson
Letters by Michael Heisler
Cover by Jan Duursema
• With just a handful of issues left, Star Wars: Legacy continues to push on towards its conclusion this week as Cade starts hunting down the Sith while the mystery of Darth Krayt’s missing body is answered.
• This story is as intense as it is densely packed and let me tell you, there is not a wasted inch of paper in this entire comic as John Ostrander crams in more story than you’d think would be possible.
• I absolutely love how complex this issue is. There multiple sides to everything here as we see years worth of stories all coming to a head. Every conflict is moving in the same direction, but there are so many divergent paths that I’m amazed even Ostrander can keep it all straight.
• It all works so exceptionally well because of the strength of the character writing. There are very few one-note characters in this issue’s huge roster and it shows in everything they say and do—that’s right, Ostrander is even packing in the subtext within the dialogue.
• I really dig the moral ambiguity in everything we see here, which makes it all the more intriguing. Its hard to blame Cade for his actions against the Sith, even when they are horrifying. The same goes for the Imperial Remnant rebelling against the Sith and even many of the Imperials within the Sith system.
• This issue would not be nearly as effective if not for Jan Duursema’s ability to keep pace with the script. Her art works perfectly in synch with the wrting here.
• This issue features some of her best expressions, which do a great job of selling the emotional impact of the events at times where Ostrander’s script simply does not have the time to delve into.
• The lack of backgrounds can be frustrating at times, but when you consider the sheer amount of detail that Duursema packs into every character in every already packed panel, it isn’t surprising that some backgrounds have to go.
• The only major downside to Duursema’s art is that her fight choreography leaves a bit to be desired as we see some very strange anatomy and story flow during the action sequences.
Verdict: Must Read. It amazes me how much story is packed into this issue. I know that I’ve said that about the last several issues of Star Wars: Legacy, but Ostrander and Duursema outdo themselves with this incredibly intense and densely packed issue that brings together threads from the very beginning of the series up through the present. The only downside? The creative team has clearly hit their stride and only have two issues left on this title before its cancellation.
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Mike Deodato and Rain Beredo
Letters by Dave Lanphear
Cover by Marko Djurdjevic
• Steve Rogers puts together his cover operations version of the Avengers in this week’s debut of Secret Avengers, which finds the team hunting down the Serpent Crown both on Earth and on Mars.
• The pacing in this issue is absolutely superb as Ed Brubaker switches between the main story and flashbacks to Rogers’s recruitment drive without batting an eye or losing any momentum as the issue rockets towards its exciting cliffhanger.
• This issue has a large cast but Brubaker absolutely nails the voice of every single character. Not only that, but he also takes their wildly different styles from Valkryie’s Asgardian tone to the much more grounded Steve Rogers to the sci-fi tone of Nova and manages to blend them all together into a cohesive unit. That alone is incredibly impressive.
• I really dug all of the interaction in this issue, especially the banter between Beast and Steve Rogers (personally I’m just glad to see Beast not being written as a whiney jerk like he is in Uncanny X-Men these days). It is Valkyrie, though, that steals the show in much the same way that Hercules does whenever he shows up in a team book.
• Brubaker very comfortably straddles the line between espionage noir and standard superheroics in this comic, which is the main reason it works so well. He is just as comfortable with Black Widow doing covert ops at the beginning of the issue as he is with Nova zooming through space towards the end.
• The art from Mike Deodato, by comparison, is a bit of a mixed bag. He does a great job with all of the characters in costume, but when their masks are off, it’s a different story.
• While this doesn’t look as traced as his work in the past has, it is still incredibly stiff at times.
• He does excel at his storytelling though with great perspective choices that draw the eye across the pages effectively. I really dug his close-up reaction shots.
• I would prefer that the art weren’t quite so dark. While this does fit the tone, it does take away from the stronger qualities of the art and drowns out the details quite a bit.
Verdict: Must Read. I had a good feeling about this series, but I really did not expect it to be quite this good. Brubaker flexes his mystery-building and character-writing muscles to draw the reader in almost immediately; while Mike Deodato puts in one of his better efforts as of late (I can’t say that I’ve ever been a huge fan). This issue is worth it alone just for the Beast/Steve Rogers interaction, but beyond that I can’t see any reader not finding something to love in this one.
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy, and Wil Quintana
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Aleksi Briclot
• Astute readers will know that I’m a huge fan of Marvel’s cosmic line, so it should be no surprise that I was incredibly excited about this week’s Thanos Imperative: Ignition which follows the characters return and sets up the next exciting cosmic event.
• This issue is all fantastic character work and superb action, which is precisely what you should expect from Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. Once again, the team of DnA does not disappoint.
• The pace of this issue works really well as it starts slowly with Thanos recapping his recent history then bursts into action and never looks back until it reaches the very shocking ending.
• The opening bit with Thanos was a lot of fun, but I’m not sure that it was a perfect fit with the rest of the issue. It was a lot like the “testimonials” from Guardians of the Galaxy, but seemed oddly out of place.
• Beyond that, though, there is really nothing that doesn’t work about the writing as DnA hit all the right notes from Moondragon’s anger to Star Lord’s dilemma to the shocking truth behind the Universal Church and the Fault.
• Brad Walker is working in true form here as he puts in one of his strongest efforts in quite some time.
• The action in this issue was extremely well put together with great pacing and awesome layouts that supported the chaos of the action.
• The highlight, though, was the strength of the expressions. I can’t imagine it is easy to pull of such great reactions on everything from giant purple death gods to space raccoons to cosmonaut dogs, but Walker does a brilliant job with them all.
Verdict: Must Read. You can’t tell me that you were actually expecting anything less from this series, could you? I mean, you’ve got all of the heavy hitters from Marvel’s cosmic line, the return of one of Marvel’s coolest villains, and a simply superb creative team. There is no way this comic wasn’t going to rock incredibly hard. Now you just need to do your part and not miss it!
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 Power Girl marks the final issue for the creative team of Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Amanda Conner. Not surprisingly, the team closes out their run just as they started it—with style and a can’t miss issue.
• In this issue, Power Girl unwinds from her recent adventures and quickly realizes that there is no sense of normalcy in her life.
• There isn’t a clear plot in this issue per se, as it weaves through parts of Power Girl’s life ranging from her friendship with Terra to her relationship with her cat to her civilian role as head of Starr Industries.
• That works really well, though, as the creative team is able to touch upon beats from all of the previous storylines, including cameos from the likes of Vartox and the Vega 9 girls, which brings a nice sense of closure to the series.
• Beyond that, Palmiotti and Gray also build up a number of potential story threads for the next creative team to run with when they takeover next issue. In that sense, its just another day at the office for this title.
• Of course, another day at the office means brilliant character work with some very heartfelt emotional resonance. The concepts are outrageous and the characters are ridiculous, but its hard to deny how realistically touching the friendship between Terra and Power Girl is here.
• There is little I can say about Amanda Conner that I haven’t already said before. She steals the show here, as she does with every single comic that she draws.
• There is no great artist in comics today when it comes to facial expressions and it shows here. When even PG’s cat gets great expressions, you know you are dealing with some seriously effective art.
• From there it’s the usual gorgeous consistency and well-planned panel choices that you should expect from Conner. I can’t think of any artist today that can do what she does any better than her.
Verdict: Must Read. Despite the strength of this week’s haul, including four other Must Read titles, there was no questioning and no debating which comic would walk away with the Book of the Week honor this week. The creative team of Palmiotti, Gray, and Conner close out their run with the same quirky approach and fantastic quality that made this title such an addictive read. I know I won’t be the only reader that jumps ship with this creative team, but I’m glad to know my readership ended on such a high note. You’d be a fool to miss this issue, but then again you’d be a fool not to have been reading this run from day one.