Thursday, June 17, 2010
Thursday! Thursday! Thursday! Come one, come all! Come on down to the Weekly Crisis! It’s the Comic Book Review Power Rankings! Thrills! Spills! New Avengers! Birds of Prey! Muppets! Magdalena and more! You want it, we got it! Bring the kids! Bring the dog! You’ll pay for the whole seat, but you’ll only need the edge!
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.
10. NEW AVENGERS #1
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, and Laura Martin
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Cover by Stuart Immonen
• In the debut of Marvel’s final new Avengers title, New Avengers, Luke Cage puts together his own Avengers squad after having a spat with Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, only to immediately be thrown into some bad hoodoo as some of the biggest names in Marvel sorcery find themselves in quite a bit of trouble.
• I’m going to start with the things that I like about this issue, which means I’ll be writing this review a little out of order because the only thing that I really, really liked was the art. Stuart Immonen does a very solid job with the art in this issue. His clean linework and strong designs are a great fit for every single character in this issue’s rather large cast. Every character looks great.
• I also dug Immonen’s layouts. He sticks with standard panel shapes, but his arrangement is creative, which keeps things fresh, and he very effectively allows for some characters at certain times to break the panel borders.
• I also found it pretty funny when Wolverine made a crack about multitasking being his mutant power.
• Beyond that, almost nothing about this issue works. The biggest problem is that there is simply no reason for this team to exist. Luke Cage whines a bit, so gets to form his own Avengers team with no rhyme or reason to who he choose, which is how his team is made up almost entirely of characters that belong to other teams already.
• Seriously, you have Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel from the adjective-less Avengers, Hawkeye and Mockingbird from their World Counterterrorism Agency, Thing from the Fantastic Four, and Wolverine from both New Avengers, X-Force, and every incarnation of the X-Men. Oh yeah, and the team’s leader, Luke Cage, is also the leader of the Thunderbolts.
• The only reason that we are given in this issue for the team to exist is that Luke Cage wanted it to exist. Well that and some really pointless bickering between Cage and Steve Rogers that went nowhere fast.
• I consider it a problem when the only character I was remotely interested in this issue was Victoria Hand, whose crimes are completely washed over because she ‘thought she was doing the right thing’ under Norman Osborn.
Verdict: Avoid It. If there was any reason whatsoever for this team to exist, I think there would be more to like about this issue beyond Stuart Immonen’s art. Unfortunately, the formation of the team is completely ignored in favor of cracking a few jokes and building up a plot about Brother Voodoo, who I’m pretty sure no one cares about. I guess if you are a mega-Bendis fan, you might find more to get out of this issue, but as for me, there needs to be a reason for team book to exist for me to like it. You don’t get that here. Maybe this should have been called Bendis and the Pet Avengers since these are clearly just all of the characters he wanted to write thrown together simply so he could write them; of course, that would probably confuse fans of Lockjaw.
09. JOKER’S ASYLUM: HARLEY QUINN
Written by James Patrick
Art by Joe Quinones and Alex Sinclair
Letters by Pat Brosseau
Cover by Claudio Castellini
• As a big fan of Harley Quinn, I felt obligated to pick up this one-shot—part of the second Joker’s Asylum series of villain-centered done-in-ones—which follows Harley as she breaks free from jail and goes on a rampage to find the Joker on Valentine’s Day.
• I really like seeing Harley in the spotlight again. While I’ve been digging her role in Gotham City Sirens, it is nice to see her as the focus rather than as a supporting character.
• The plot of this issue is a ton of fun and works really well with Harley’s mindset and personality. In theory, it is as close to a perfect story for the character as I can think of.
• The problem is that she is surprisingly dull. James Patrick never really finds Harley’s voice here—at least not in any conventional sense that gels with any of her other appearances. This just doesn’t “feel” like Harley; the personality just isn’t there.
• The pacing also leaves a lot to be desired as the cuts between scenes are too jarring and take away from the fun of the plot, all of which serves to undercut the twist ending.
• Having loved his work in Wednesday Comics, I was super pumped to have Joe Quinones provided the art on this issue. While it wasn’t bad, I think I might have set my expectations a bit too high.
• Quinones does do a good job of bringing personality to the art and to the character. He has solid expressions and a great sense of humor that shines through on every page.
• The problem is that he lacks design and detail consistency here, which is the downfall of the art. Too often the shape of Harley’s head or the placement of her facial features (especially in regards to the size of her forehead) shift throughout the issue.
Verdict: Byrne It. I’m way more in love with the idea of this issue than I am with the actual execution of it. James Patrick puts together a near-perfect story for Harley Quinn, but fails to find the character’s unique voice to flesh that story out. Harley isn’t like Batman, where each writer can bring something new as long as he/she hits the basics; you either get Harley right or you don’t, there is no grey area. Joe Quinones certainly has the potential for doing some amazing work and I’d love to see him give Harley another go-round, but only if he can add a bit of polish and tighten up his consistency.
Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by SL Gallant, Gary Erskine, and Andrew Crossley
Letters by Robbie Robbins
Covers by Kelsey Shannon and Robert Atkins with Andrew Crossley
• This week’s GI Joe follows the team as they deal with the existence of Cobra’s MASS Device as Destro stages a hostile takeover of the Section 10 gulag prison.
• There are a lot of really interesting things going on in this issue, especially Destro’s actions. I absolutely love how well his plan came together and how this really elevates his credibility in this series.
• Some of the concepts, though, fell short in their explanation. For instance, part of Destro’s takeover has to do with the rules of the Section 10 prison, which weren’t terribly clear, especially when they weren’t terribly necessary for the story anyway. The same goes for the bit with the mysterious island that Cobra is apparently using as a front for some sort of devious action.
• I loved the opening sequence with the history of the Clan Destro, but it felt really out of place in this issue. I wanted to know more, but I think it would be best handled as a story unto itself as it didn’t add a ton by being tacked onto this issue.
• SL Gallant continues to improve, but his work is a still a far cry from Robert Atkins, who I still wish could be on this series full-time.
• It amazes me how the differences between the art in the Destro storyline and the Joes storyline are like night-and-day. During the more action-oriented sequences with Destro, Gallant’s work looks considerably stronger. The exact opposite happens when the Joes take center stage.
• There is really no excuse for the fact that Scarlett’s design changes in every single panel in which she appears. Yes, I really do mean every single panel. She does not sport the same facial structure or hair design more at any two points in this issue. That is pretty unacceptable.
Verdict: Check It. When this issue works, it really works. Unfortunately, it only works part of the time and the rest of the time, it is wallowing in mediocrity. The biggest problem that this issue has is that SL Gallant is still struggling with consistency. When he tightens up his work, he is capable of some really great work, but too often he is plagued with problems like his inability to draw Scarlett the same way twice. This isn’t necessarily a bad comic, but I know that this creative team and this comic can do so much better!
Written by Jesse Blaze Snider and Patrick Storck
Art by Shelli Paroline and Brandon Lamb
Letters by Deron Bennett
Covers by David Peterson and James Silvani
• After taking me by surprise last month, I was super excited for this week’s continuation of Muppet Snow White, but was a bit shocked to find that, while still enjoyable, the charm from the previous issue just isn’t there in spades like I was hoping.
• This issue focuses on the Wicked Queen (Piggy)’s attempts to off Snow White and the exploits of the Seven Dwarfs (the Electric Mayhem) once they have discovered Snow white in their house.
• While the first issue was pure win, this one is more of a mixed bag on all levels. For starters, the character work just isn’t as sharp in this issue compared to the previous.
• Jesse Blaze Snider (with Patrick Storck) did a bang-up job with finding the voices characters like Janice, Doctor Teeth, and Animal, but others, like Scooter were completely lifeless. Crazy Harry and Uncle Deadly were completely devoid of personality and felt terribly out of place, despite being integral to the plot.
• The jokes were a lot more hit-and-miss as well. There were some that were downright groan worth, especially the American Idol bit—then again, I’ve felt for a long time now that all American Idol jokes in any medium are played out.
• I will say this, though, pretty much every single joke that Fozzie had was golden. I really dug his interaction with Piggy. Wocka-wocka!
• The art was just as inconsistent as the writing, if not more so.
• Shelli Paroline does a brilliant job in all of her work with the Electric Mayhem, who make a great translation to 2D, so the vast majority of this issue looks pretty solid.
• Unfortunately, with the other characters…ouch. Statler and Waldorf look simply horrible, Crazy Harry’s proportions change constantly, and Gonzo never really looks that much like Gonzo to me.
Verdict: Check It. I don’t think I would be as critical of this issue had there not been so much to love about the first issue of this miniseries. While there is still a lot of charm and personality in the writing, it just isn’t as strong or as consistent as I know that it can be. When the writing is on, it’s a total riot, but when its off, I was terribly disappointed. The biggest problem though, and I think that this is an across-the-board issue with BOOM!’s kids line, is the quality of the art. I know you aren’t going to bring in a top name for a kids a comic, but there is no reason that the art on this series isn’t stronger and more consistent. The Muppets are a storied and revered franchise—they should be treated that way in both the writing and the art! The writing is there, but the art needs improvement.
Written by Ron Marz
Art by Nelson Blake II, Sal Regla, and Dave McCaig
Letters by Troy Peteri
Cover by Ryan Sook
• Top Cow was kind enough to provide us with a review copy of Magdalena #2 this week, which was pretty cool of this as I really enjoyed the last issue. Thanks Top Cow!
• Following from last issue, agent of the Catholic Church Kristoff continues his attempts to recruit the current Magdelena, Patience, to help the Church take down the son of Satan, who starts making some pretty bold moves.
• There isn’t a lot of plot to found in this issue. In fact, much of the issue is just Patience and Kristoff having the same argument, but in different venues with a solid action sequence thrown in part-way.
• That being said, Ron Marz does a solid enough job with the characterization that I don’t really mind that much. I’m really engaged with the characters after only two issues, thanks in part to their good personalities, but also because of the interesting dilemmas that they are facing.
• I’m really interested in seeing how Kristoff is going to deal with the Church when they finally decide to replace Patience with a new Magdalena. It is clearly going to happen, despite Patience reluctantly allying with them in this issue, but I’m really interested to see how it plays out.
• I’m impressed with the pacing in this issue, especially considering how little plot there is. Marz is definitely stretching the story out, but the amount of time given to each scene and the timing of the cuts do a great job of making up for that.
• Artist Nelson Blake II does a really good job with the art here. I really dig his character designs and his super clean style. His storytelling is top-notch as well.
• I am bummed that he does include much detail though, especially in his backgrounds. Up close, the panels look great because of his solid character work, but in the larger sense, it actually looks bland at times because of the lack of backgrounds.
• While I really do like Blake’s work here and I dig his designs, after seeing Ryan Sook’s take on the Magdalena armor from the covers of this issue and last, Blake’s just doesn’t hold up, which is no fault of his, but still disappointing.
Verdict: Buy It. I can’t say that I would ever think to buy Magdalena if it weren’t for the fact that Top Cow was nice enough to share it with me. Now that we are two issues in, I’m pretty sure I would buy it now. While I would like to see more plot in this issue and more backgrounds in the art, this is really solid comic featuring some strong craftsmanship and a lot of potential. I could have easily missed this comic but that doesn’t mean you should. I don’t think you’d regret buying this comic at all.
Written by Zeb Wells
Art by Ibraim Roberson, Lan Medina, Nathan Fox, Brian Reber, Matt Milla, and Jose Villarubia
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Adi Granov
• Second Coming rages towards its conclusion this week as the X-Men unleash their last hope for defeating Bastion’s time-displaced Nimrods—releasing the Omega-level mutant and mentally unstable Legion—as X-Force looks to shut down the Nimrods for good in the future.
• I’ve never been a huge fan of Zeb Wells, but I have to say that I was impressed at how well he handles the large cast of characters in this issue. He does a very solid job with everything character involved, including some characters that I’m admittedly a major stickler about.
• One of those characters is Rogue, who actually shines here. She only appears in one brief scene with Hope, but the interaction between the two is really stellar. Kudos to Wells for this scene in particular.
• The pacing in this issue is equally as impressive. Wells has mostly action to play with here and its plotted well as the intensity is jacked up in every single scene, all building towards the twist ending that could be the moment that turns the battle back in the favor of the X-Men.
• All of the art in this issue works well for what it is. I dig the choice of using multiple artists here because it was done for a purpose—it made sense for Legion’s “world” to have a separate art team.
• Ibraim Roberson handles the majority of the art and does it well. It doesn’t exactly blow me away by any means, but it’s impressive enough that I can’t complain about too much (except the lack of backgrounds).
• Adi Granov’s covers for this entire storyline have been great, but I especially dig this one. I really love the realism of the costumes, but I’m mostly impressed with how he draws Rogue, which is a departure from his usual way of drawing women’s faces. I dig it.
Verdict: Buy It. I absolutely love the intensity of this issue as Zeb Wells puts together what is probably my favorite issue that he has ever written. His strong sense of character voice allowed for so many characters, many of whom only have a panel or two of face time, to shine without detracting from the intense action of this storyline. When you add in some solid art, you’ve got another big win for this enjoyable crossover.
Written by Jeph Loeb
Art by Arthur Adams, Mark Roslan, and Peter Steigerwald
Letters by Richard Starkings and Albert Deschesne
Cover by Arthur Adams, Mark Roslan, and Peter Steigerwald
• In this week’s Ultimate X, the newest member of the team, the Angel-esque Derek Morgan, is introduced as Jeph Loeb examines his life through that of his older brother—a cop who is given the task of taking Morgan down now that all mutants outlawed.
• It seems like this is the third or fourth character named Derek Morgan to show up in a comic over the last few months. Is this a coincidence or does everyone just really love Criminal Minds? For those who don’t know, that’s the name of one of the show’s lead characters.
• The dilemma with Derek’s brother is really compelling but a tad cliché. I did really like that we see the events unfold through his brother’s eyes though. That was a cool way to introduce the character.
• There is a great bit in this issue with Jimmy (Wolverine’s son) and Jean on a train that was pretty funny and showed a lot of personality. It was a great way to break up the dense intensity of the rest of the issue.
• It is starting to grate on me that we are now three issues into this series and we still know absolutely nothing about its premise or the reason behind the mutant get-together. What gives, Loeb?
• As per usual, Arthur Adams continues to do a stellar job here. He has an awesome design sense and his panel choices were simply sublime. He remains one of the best storytellers in the industry.
• Credit needs to go to inker Mark Roslan and colorist Peter Steigerwald on this issue, though. This is a really dark issue, which could easily overpower Adams’s work, but inks and colors do a great job of building the atmosphere while accenting, and not working against, the linework.
• The only problem with the art is that Adams still seems to struggle to make Jean Grey not look like a creepy porcelain doll. Her weird features and creepy lips just aren’t working for me, despite the strengths of the rest of the art.
Verdict: Buy It. While my patience for the lack of an overarching plot is growing thin, I am still very pleased with how finely crafted Ultimate X is as a continual character study. Jeph Loeb is back in old form here once again with a compelling and engaging introduction to the newest member of the Ultimate X crew. When you add in the art by the ever-awesome Arthur Adams, you get an issue that is so good that you’ll forget momentarily that you have no idea where this story is going.
Written by Jeff Parker
Lead Art by Gabriel Hardman and Elizabeth Breitweiser
Backup Art by Ramon Rosanas
Letters by Ed Dukeshire
Cover by Carlos Pacheco and Christina Strain
• The 3-D Man joins the Agents of Atlas on a mission in this week’s issue as he tries to solve the mystery surrounding him, which Lao the Dragon clearly understands.
• This issue is a great introduction to new readers as 3-D Man is treated as POV character, which allows Jeff Parker to retell the team’s origins while still pressing onward with the story. It’s a slick move.
• Parker’s character work is the crux of this issues success though. He clearly has mastered the voices of all of the characters involved. Heck, he even made 3-D Man interesting, which says something considering how lame the character is.
• I’m really digging the interaction between the main story, which takes place in the present, and the backup story, which takes place in the past. That makes the story that much more compelling and makes me super happy that we get two stories for just $2.99!
• I’m glad to see that Parker is turning this into a hardcore mystery story. I think that the Agents were best positioned somewhere between superhero antics and straight-up espionage. You get that here.
• Gabriel Hardman’s art in the main story is very solid, despite some issues with expressions. His storytelling is solid though and I really like some of the more inventive choices he makes in that aspect.
• Elizabeth Breitweiser makes the art in the main story though, with her dreamy, almost liquid-y colors. She has a style all her own and it’s a perfect fit for this story.
• The best art in the issue, though, comes in the backup by Ramon Rosans. His cleanliness and clarity is fantastic. I just wish he hade more story to draw here rather than working mostly with reaction shots.
• How awesome is the cover to this issue? We need to have Carlos Pacheco and Christina Strain take a crack at a full story on this book as soon as possible!
Verdict: Buy It. After being let down a bit by the last volume of Agents of Atlas (I loved the original miniseries), I’m glad to see that Jeff Parker’s pet team are back to form with this new ongoing. I had high hopes but did not expect this issue to be as fantastic as it was. When you take a character as lame as 3-D Man and make a story compelling around him, you know you are onto this one. I wouldn’t recommend missing out on this issue as it is well worth your time and money.
Lead by Mark Schultz
Lead Art by Moritat, Gabriel Bautista, and Andre Szymanowicz
Backup Written by Michael Uslan and FJ DeSanto
Backup Art by Justiniano
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Ladronn
• In the main story of this week’s The Spirit, assassin-for-hire Angela Smerti continues her attack on Ellen and the Spirit, only to find that our haphazard hero is a kindred spirit.
• Mark Schulz’s character work here is simply brilliant. I love how well all three if this story’s main characters played off of one another, especially in regards to building towards to twist with Smerti. I hope that this is not the last we wee of that character.
• I really dig that there is a clear moment where things start turning for Smerti and the Spirit in this issue (when they are falling to their deaths). That allows Schulz to have a clear break from the first half of the story as he builds up the second half. It’s an interesting storytelling move that really pays off.
• The Octopus seemed really underwhelming here. I’m not sure what it is about him but I guess I feel like he should have had more of a presence than he does.
• Moritat and Company rock extremely hard on the lead story. The pulpy, grimy look and feel of the art perfectly captures the seedy tone of the story and enhances the script. They are the perfect artists for the job.
• Its really hard to explain, but I was blown away by how Moritat can pull of expressions that are simultaneously bold and nuanced. There is a subtext to his expressions that is just dynamite.
• In the backup story, the Spirit takes down a terrorist that is posing as a Rupert Murdock-analogue in a fun story that makes jabs at Fox News. That is never a bad thing in my book.
• I really liked the modern twists in this story. The fact that this story is decidedly modern makes it a nice foil for the more “timeless” main story.
• The highlight of the entire issue, though, and one of the highlights of the entire week in comics was the art in the backup story by Justiniano. His work here is seriously amazing. Why are we not seeing more work from him?
• I love how atmospheric his art his. The way that he plays with shadows and perspective is just phenomenal. The art is just brilliant.
• There is a great sequence where the Spirit fights his way through a series of rooms, down some stairs, and back again, which Justniano draws as one continuous sequence across a spread. Its simply amazing.
Verdict: Must Read. I had a really hard time deciding on this week’s Book of the Week and a huge reason for this was the sheer badassery of this week’s Spirit. This issue excels on almost every single level with not one, but two great stories including, by far, the best of the Spirit: Black & White stories that we’ve seen so far. You get great writing and art from cover to cover, with artist Justiniano absolutely stealing the show and, in a lot of ways, stealing the entire week.
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Ed Benes, Adriana Melo, Mariah Benes, and Nei Ruffino
Letters by Swands
Cover by Ed Benes and Nei Ruffino
• The mysterious White Canary (it’s totally Sin) continues to systematically rip apart the Birds of Prey in this week’s issue, starting with ruining Black Canary’s life and then going for the juglar by killing on of the team’s biggest allies.
• Remember how last week I ranted and raved about how brilliant Gail Simone is when she taps her dark side? Yeah, you can apply that to this issue too. This isn’t as violent and disturbing as Secret Six was, but its certainly dark and its certainly amazing.
• I absolutely love how methodical White Canary is and how strong the pacing is as Simone unveils hit after hit after hit against Black Canary. Were it not for the pacing, White Canary’s actions wouldn’t be nearly as shockingly effective.
• I really like idea of letting Black Canary narrate the issue, especially in the places where her exterior reaction is not the same as her interior. That allows Simone to show how complex the character is, but also how horrifying the situation is for her.
• Simone also skillfully uses the Penguin to break up the tension at just the right times with his humorous, near-delirious passes at Dove. Simone could fill en entire issue of non sequiturs uttered by Penguin as he bleeds to death and it would be a major contender for Book of the Week, even if it was “drawn” by Greg Land. That’s how fun this is.
• The deaths in this issue were a major blow against the team and were incredibly surprising. I honestly didn’t see this coming, especially with Simone at the helm of the series.
• Ed Benes does a solid job with the art here, but were it not for the fact that Gail Simone wrote this one so damn well or this would not be the Book of the Week.
• I really dig Benes’s action sequences. He has great choreography and a fantastic sense of movement. Given how much of this issue is action that works damn well.
• I’m also pleased with how well Adriana Melo and Ed Benes gel in this issue. You really can’t tell where one artist ends and the other begins. That is a good thing.
• The problem? Too often, the female characters have the same faces and are often using the same facial expression as one another in the same panel. That’s not a good thing. We should be able to tell the difference between characters by more than their clothes and haircuts.
• Nei Ruffino is as brilliant as ever with her sleek colors, great textures, and eye popping choices. There is no colorist in the Big 2 that can hold a candle to Ruffino right now.
• I still have one rather large problem with Birds of Prey right now, though. We still haven’t seen Misfit. What gives, Gail? Make it happen!
Verdict: Must Read. Despite a few setbacks with the art, this is an amazing comic book and just one more sign that Gail Simone is at the top her game and perhaps the best superhero comic writer out there today. Every single page in this issue features Simone doing something brilliant and, as a whole, it simply destroyed every other comic out there this week, including the phenomenal issue of The Spirit that came in at number two on this week’s Rankings. If you only buy one comic this week, it absolutely, positively must be this one. For the second week in a row, Gail Simone owns the Rankings with one of her brilliant comics, which also happens to be the second Book of the Week honor for Birds of Prey.