Friday, June 25, 2010
Due to some major back pain earlier this week that kept me from sitting at the desk long enough to type out the reviews, I’m coming to you a bit later than usual with this week’s installment of the Comic Book Review Power Rankings. However, to make up for the delay, I have an oversized pull list this week as I take a look at a whopping twelve books! All of the biggest names in comics are covered this week from Superman to the X-Men to Batman to the Fantastic Four and more! Who will be this week’s #1? 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 Jonathan Hickman
Art by Neil Edwards, Andrew Currie, and Paul Mounts
Letters by Rus Wooton
Cover by Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, and Javier Rodriguez
• This week’s Fantastic Four follows the unlikely team of Johnny Storm, Franklin Richards, and Leech for a trip to the villainous Arcade’s toy store while Reed’s young protégés decide on their first world-altering project.
• I think the biggest problem with this issue is the simple fact that it really isn’t that interesting. Much of the issue focuses on a very predictable plot that with the Torch/Franklin/Leech/Arcade bit that really doesn’t make that much sense when you think about it (what exactly is Arcade trying to accomplish here?).
• I did find the twist with the Thing and Reed’s genius school to be interesting, but it really feels like a forced plot point to tell a more interesting story down the road. I’m all for setting things up in advance, but not when the story can’t stand on its own merits, which this really can’t.
• There is no doubt in my mind that Jonathan Hickman has something in store for Nu-World, but the spread in this issue really doesn’t make much sense in the context of the issue, is far too abstract, and is poorly timed. It pulled me right out of the plot of this issue and completely derailed the flow of the story.
• Neil Edwards does a passable, but ultimately forgettable job with the art. His style is consistent, but there is nothing else that really wows me.
• Part of the problem is that its very stiff, which is amplified by how over-the-top the expressions are. Plus, there is something unnecessarily creepy about the way he draws children and this issue is full of them.
Verdict: Avoid It. Even when I’m reading a comic that I don’t particularly care for, it is very rare that I’m actually bored while reading. Unfortunately, this is one of those rare occasions as Hickman and Edwards present a forgettable and ridiculously predictable story whose most notable moment isn’t the relatively interesting twist ending (which can’t hold up the issue on its own), but instead is a two page spread that has nothing to do with the issue and is only memorable for how poorly timed it is and the adverse affect it had on the rest of the issue. I’d highly recommend passing on this one as it is definitely the weakest issue so far in Hickman’s run.
Written by Tony Bedard
Art by Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes, Randy Mayor, and Gabe Eltaeb
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Ardian Syaf, Vincente Cifuentes, and Ulises Arreola
• Following the disappearance of Green Lantern Stel, John Stewart and Alpha Lantern Boodikka head to Grenda, only to find a sinister plot is afoot, which prompts a rescue mission from Natu, Ganthet, and Kyle Rayner.
• What? You say the Alpha Lanterns are bad? Yawn. Oh? Cyborg Superman is behind it? Yeah, that’s nto really a cliffhanger if you give ita way on the first page of the issue.
• I’m probably not the audience for this because I’ve never cared for John or Kyle and I’ve thought from the very beginning that the Alpha Lanterns were a poor concept (especially compared to the awesomeness of the Green Lantern Corpse concept).
• Even though I knew I wasn’t the audience for this issue, I did pick it up knowing that Tony Bedard is a really solid writer. Unfortunately, the character interactions in this are really lifeless and cliché—it really does not live up to Bedard’s standards.
• Ardian Syaf does a pretty good job throughout the issue and is probably the highlight. It’s not amazing by any means, but it is passable save two pretty major issues.
• First, and this is probably just a personal preference but is still noticeable, artists really need to stop having John Stewart use his ring to construct military gear when heading into battle. It’s been done too often and really doesn’t make sense. He has a ring that protects him and is already an amazing weapon, the flak jacket and assault (or sniper) rifle just doesn’t make sense.
• Second, and much more importantly, John’s design changes in every single panel. I’m not exaggerating either—there are no two panels in this issue where his facial structure is the same. It’s almost as if Syaf consciously made the decision to see how many different faces he could draw for the same character in one issue. As it turns out, it’s a lot.
Verdict: Avoid It. Other than the issue with how John is drawn, Ardian Syaf’s art is what really kept this otherwise uninteresting issue out of last place on this week’s Rankings. I’m sure you can get more out of it if you are fan of the main characters, but I just couldn’t get interested in this issue no matter how hard a I tried thanks to the lackluster plot and lifeless characters.
Written by Mike Carey
Art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten, and Justin Ponsor
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Adi Granov
• The Second Coming crossover gets one issue closer to its conclusion as X-Force puts a stop to the Nimrods in the future and both Magneto and Hope step up their game to save the mutants in the present.
• After several issues of building up the threat of the Nimrods, this issue really felt anti-climactic. You get lots and lots of build-up, but then a fairly easy final battle. It wouldn’t be as disappointing if we hadn’t been waiting for so long.
• I really liked seeing Hope stand up for herself and bring herself to the forefront of this issue, but the way Cyclops seems to shrug her off didn’t sit well for me. It didn’t seem like a natural progression for the story.
• Its pretty clear that Cable is going to be a major threat in the closing moments of this story, which is a pretty interesting twist and one that makes a lot of sense, even if I hadn’t considered it before.
• The techno-babble nonsense with Cypher didn’t work for me at all. I get that Mike Carey is trying to go high-concept for this part, but it was more of a distraction than anything else. The problem is that it just wasn’t necessary. Cypher could have done his job without it and the issue would be that much stronger.
• The art in this issue is the same horribleness you’d expect from Greg Land. You’ll see panels that you’ve seen before in other comics, items that are clearly traced from photos, and even some art that was probably traced from other artists. There’s no justification for it and, frankly, I’m tired of trashing it.
Verdict: Avoid It. Writing-alone, this issue could easily be considered a “Check It” comic as Mike Carey is doing some very interesting things here and I dig the way he writes Hope. Unfortunately, everything that works about this issue is ruined the moment that Greg Land touches it. It’s unfortunate, but there is no artist that can ruin an issue faster than Land.
Written by James Robinson, Dan Jurgens, and J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Bernard Chang, Blond, Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, Pete Pantazis, Eddy Barrows, JP Meyer, and Rod Reis
Letters by John J. Hill
Cover by Gary Frank and Brad Anderson
• Superman hits the big 7-0-0 this week with an anniversary issue that features three separate stories and a few extras as well.
• In the first story, Superman spends some quality time with Lois after saving her from an attack by Parasite.
• This is a cute story and James Robinson does a solid job capturing the voices of the two lead characters. The problem is that it goes on way too long as we get several pages of the couple professing their love for one another with little else going on.
• Bernard Chang’s character designs are bold and I really dig the tight close-ups that he uses to give this issue a cinematic feel.
• I don’t care much for Change’s facial design for Superman, especially his really distracting lips that never seem consistent or natural to me.
• In the second story, Superman saves a headstrong Robin (Dick) from a night out crime fighting that goes awry during the early years of their respective careers.
• This is definitely the strongest story in the issue and it’s a lot of fun. It feels like a good episode of the Timm-verse cartoons with a very timeless sense of character and a great sense of humor.
• The art looks a bit dated compared to more recent work from writer/artist Dan Jurgens. It actually looks more like a poor man’s George Perez than your average Jurgens work with busy panels and a lot of panels per page.
• The issue is anchored by the prologue to the upcoming “Grounded” arc, which finds Superman walking across America as he tries to reconnect with his routes.
• I like the overall gist of what J. Michael Straczinsky is doing here, but it doesn’t work terribly well as a standalone story thanks to its very plodding pace and uniteresting character work.
• Plus, there are two major plot points that left a bad taste in my mouth. For one, I don’t get why Superman would be okay with Batman basically recreating Brother Eye.
• Secondly, there is a slippery slope with Superman’s guilt over not being able to save a man with an inoperable brain tumor because he was busy doing something else. For starters, its way too heavy, plus there is no way to reconcile it without making Superman far “too good.”
• Eddy Barrows handles the art in a very standard superhero style that isn’t terribly fancy or stylized. It’s really just “there.”
• The issue is rounded out with a few short interviews with the creative teams behind the other Superman Family titles that really didn’t add much value to the issue.
Verdict: Byrne It. The first story in this collection would be really great if it were three or four pages shorter. The second story was spot on, even if the art doesn’t live up to the Dan Jurgens/Norm Rapmund standard. The third issue is going interesting places, but doesn’t stand well on its own. In the end, you have an issue that never lives up to its potential and, while enjoyable, doesn’t have the feel of a milestone anniversary comic and isn’t worth the hefty $4.99 price tag.
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Yanick Paquette, Michael Lacombe, and Nathan Fairbairn
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Andy Kubert
• After his adventure in early colonial Gotham, Batman finds himself in the pre-Revolutionary Era in a battle with pirates over the treasure of the legendary Black Pirate.
• I really felt that this issue was misleading, as the solicitation and cover implies some big high seas swashbuckling action, which would have been amazing, but what he get is considerably calmer.
• Much the dialogue from the lead pirate, Thatch, is pretty standard cliché pirate talk, while the twist with the Black Pirate is very similar to the Princess Bride and other similar stories. While the story is interesting, I wouldn’t say its Grant Morrison’s most original or innovative.
• I do really like how methodical the story is and how much it feels like an actual Batman story rather than a story with someone that is supposed to be Batman in it, which is how the first two issues felt.
• While I get where Morrison is going with the Bat People, but their inclusion here seemed like a major shift in tone from the pirate theme. When you add in the less than adventurous story, it really does feel like Morrison didn’t want to write a pirate story all that badly.
• I’m glad to see Morrison giving Red Robin his due during the “present day” interlude, which was considerably better than the nonsense with Superman and Green Lantern in the previous issues.
• I loved the twist with Jonah Hex at the end of the issue, which has me very excited for the next issue.
• While I thought that Yanick Paquette’s work would be the biggest draw on this issue, its actually a mix bag that holds the issue back in a lot of ways.
• I will give Paquette props on his design for Thatch, as he looks really awesome and makes me wish that we could’ve seen more classic pirate looks like that in the issue.
• Part of the problem is that everyone has weird squinty eyes, which makes almost every bold expression in the issue look like a constipated face.
• Also, I seriously do not get why Red Robin looks like a massive bodybuilder. If Paquette were drawing Hawk (of “and Dove” fame), I would understand. It’s honestly like he doesn’t realize who is supposed to be under the mask.
Verdict: Check It. There is a lot that I really like about this issue, which says quite a bit considering how much I was on the fence about the two previous issues and how disappointed I was by the lack of high seas adventure in this issue. Morrison is definitely on the right track with this issue, which is the strongest so far in the series, but it was, surprisingly, the art that held this one back from attaining a Buy It verdict.
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, and Dean White
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, and Dean White
• After Kang’s ominous warning last issue, the Avengers enlist the help of the former Marvel Boy, Noh-Varr, to build a time-watching device to look into the claim but are attacked by Wonder Man while time starts to break down, causing all sorts of messes.
• It’s great to see the Avengers taking on a big reality-threatening situation like a broken time-stream. That has a very traditional Avengers feel that I really dig.
• It bothers me that so many of the characters have no purpose in this story. In this issue, only Noh-Varr, Iron Man, and Steve Rogers have roles to fill. The rest are only there to take up space or crack jokes, neither of which work very well.
• I’m glad to see Wonder Man make an appearance and be acknowledged for his awesomeness, even if its as a crazy person with a major destructive streak.
• While some of Spider-Man’s jokes are funny, they great really old, really fast as they invade almost every scene. I like that Bendis is using him for humor, but he ultimately becomes more annoying than anything else.
• The interaction between Noh-Varr and Tony Stark was really well done. I loved the way they played off one another, plus John Romita Jr. really stepped up the art during their ‘workshop’ scene.
• The rest of the issue isn’t terribly consistent though. Romita has moments of brilliance, but then there are pages like the cliffhanger spread that are amongst my least favorite Romita pages ever.
• I really do not care for the oral history of the Avengers backup and I don’t think it is a good enough justification for the $3.99 price. I’m willing to pay an extra dollar, especially for good extras, but this isn’t worth it to me at all.
Verdict: Buy It. This issue just barely squeaks in a “Buy It” verdict thanks to the strength of the Noh-Varr/Tony Stark sequences and the epic feeling of the story. There are definitely some places where the script could be tightened up and I’d like to see more rationale behind the team following Kang’s warning, but overall I have to say that I enjoyed this more than I have most Avengers books in the last few years.
Written by Josh Howard
Art by Josh Howard
Cover by Josh Howard
• The penultimate chapter of Josh Howard’s Dead @17 epic comes to a close this week as the story’s heroine Nara makes a final attack on the Witch Queen with very unexpected consequences.
• This is definitely the most densely packed issue that this franchise has ever seen as Howard packs the story into this one.
• Thanks to the superb character work and fun action, this is a great payoff issue after three considerably slower-paced issues in this miniseries.
• I really dig the twists with Asia and I’m glad to see that she wasn’t written off into the background, as I really dug the character in previous parts of this story.
• The relationship between Mal and Nara still feels a bit forced. While I like what Howard is doing with them, there really wasn’t enough build-up for this to be 100% believable, especially with the intensity of their love in this issue.
• The twist with Nara at the end of the issue is a major turn for the series that may not sit well with some longtime fans. However, I felt the same way with the end of the last volume and this one turned out to be fantastic. I look forward to seeing where Howard takes it.
• The art is classic Howard—bold characters, strong expressions, and beautiful women. You know what you are in for with Josh’s books and he rarely disappoints.
• Much like with the writing, Howard packs more into the art than he has in the past. Each page is filled to the brim with art.
• I like the cinematic approach to the art here. While Howard’s style is consistent with his past work, his storytelling is rounding a corner her. If this is any indication of what’s to come, Howard is only going to get more impressive in the next volume.
Verdict: Buy It. This is a great ending for the most unique chapter in the Dead @17 franchise yet as Josh Howard packs the story into this issue before bringing it to a close with perhaps his best cliffhanger yet. It isn’t perfect and there are bits that certainly could be done differently, but its immensely satisfying and highly enjoyable. Having follow Howard’s work on this franchise for years, I’m sad to see it all coming to the end that this issue ushers in, but if this is any indication, we are in for a real treat as this epic story reaches its conclusion.
Written by Sterling Gates
Art by Jamal Igle, Jon Sibal, and Nei Ruffino
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Jamal Igle and David Baron
• Spinning out of the War of the Supermen, Supergirl reconsiders her life as both a costumed hero and a Kryptonian immigrant, while the female Dr. Light stumbles upon a brand new villain…Bizarro Supergirl!
• This is clearly a transition issue, which forces Sterling Gates to pack in the story and to make a lot of sudden twists to get Supergirl where she needs to be at the end of the issue. That means this issue moves at a very brisk pace.
• The success of this issue hinges upon the strength of the character writing and Gates excels in that regard. Through some excellent interaction between Kara and Lana, Supergirl’s troubles feel genuine and a bit heartwrenching.
• I’m not tremendously thrilled with anything involving Dr. Light, but she makes for a nice hero-on-the-scene when Kara can’t be. On the flipside, I’m ridiculously excited about Bizarro Supergirl, especially with the brilliant design from Jamal Igle.
• Speaking of Igle, he is in top form here with superb storytelling and very strong designs. He really is one of DC’s most underrated artists!
• As much as I love Igle’s work inked by the equally as underrated Keith Champagne, I really do think that Jon Sibal is the best inker for him. This issue is a prime example of why.
• I know I’ve said this a thousand times, but I’ll keep saying it until you all confirm that you agree with me. Nei Ruffino is the best colorist working in superhero comics today..
Verdict: Buy It. After the last year or so has meant that Supergirl has gotten lost in crossover after crossover, I’m glad to see that the book is back on track and hasn’t missed a beat. As a transition story, this isn’t my favorite issue ever, but it shows that Gates and Igle have not lost a step and that Supergirl could easily become DC’s best non-Secret Six book once again (of course, now it has to tangle with the ridiculously underrated Batgirl).
Written by Paul Levitz
Art by Yildiray Cinar, Francis Portela, Wayne Faucher, and Hi-Fi
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Wildiray Cinar and Wayne Faucher
• Following up on the destruction of Titan in last issue, Paul Levitz puts more story that you’d think is possible in this week’s issue of Legion of Superheroes with a slew of new plot points including Brianiac 5 alienation himself, the rampant xenophobia on Earth, an attack by Saturn Queen, and Earth Man taking control of his Green Lantern power ring.
• There is so much going on with this issue and so many characters packed in that it requires a very slow and careful read, but it is well worth it. Levitz is packing in the subplots.
• I’m really impressed with how strong the character work is and how unique each character’s voice is given how large the cast of this issue is.
• It helps that so many of the characters are so complex and rich. Even Earth Man, who was pure evil when appearing in Action Comics, seems to be more well-rounded here. I found myself wanting to know more about him when, in the past, I just wanted Superman to punch him in the face.
• Perhaps the most important aspect of the issue, though, is that its very accessible to more casual fans, which automatically makes this better than nearly every single Legion comic I have ever read.
• Francis Portela teams with regular artist Yildiray Cinar on this issue and, as individual artists, their work is just fantastic. Unfortunately, their work doesn’t gel perfectly. The two have similar styles and storytelling approaches, but the designs don’t getl that well.
• Both artists do such a fantastic job with their individual pages that its hard to fault this issue for the fact that the transitions between the two are so jarring.
Verdict: Buy It. Having never been a fan of the Legion of Superheroes, it is a testament to the work of Paul Levitz that I’m digging this new volume so much. Then again, how could I not when you have issues like this where he is cramming the book with great subplots and engaging characters? Were it not for the jarring transitions between the two very talented artists on this book, this could have easily been a contender for Book of the Week.
Written by Jay Faerber
Lead Art by Julio Brilha and Ron Riley
Backup Art by Joe Eisma and Paul Little
Letters by Charles Pritchett
Cover by Mahmud Asrar and Ron Riley
• After a lengthy absence, Dynamo 5 returns this week with the start of the Sins of the Father miniseries which finds the team still dealing with their recent power switches, FLAG putting together a dangerous new team, and Maddie reflecting upon a past adventure of Captain Dynamo’s.
• It is so great to have this book back after being away for way too long. While I am sad to see that Mahmud Asrar is not returning as well (having since moved on to Marvel and DC), Jay Faerber makes up for it by firing on all cylinders!
• The focus of this issue is split between action scenes and character work, with Faerber using a lot of subtext and nuance in his character writing. It’s less bold than in the past, which works really well and shows a lot of precision in his dialogue.
• I’m glad that he is playing up how hard it is for the team to deal with their new powers. That made for some great moments during the action scenes and keeps things really fresh.
• While I’ve never read Invincible, I really dug the guest appearance from Omni-Man, as well as Image staple Supreme, during the flashback. It was a lot of fun and made this issue feel really special.
• Julio Brilha has some very big shoes to fill by taking over for Asrar, but does a really solid job using a very similar style. In fact, had I not known there was an artist switch, I might not have suspected it for the vast majority of this issue.
• I dig that Brilha uses a slightly more open style in the flashback, which colorist Ron Riley highlights with a lighter palette. It’s a subtle shift, but I dig it.
• I really didn’t care much for the backup story in this issue. It’s an interesting premise with some potential, but I’d rather just have a longer Dynamo 5 story or extras like a sketch gallery or even a cheaper issue.
Verdict: Buy It. I’m so glad that the hiatus has not meant a dip in quality for Dynamo 5. It has been far too long since we’ve seen a new issue from this always awesome series, so it is so good to have it back. Faerber has absolutely no rust with these characters and with a bit more polish, Brilha could easily become the next big thing like Asrar was. This one was close to a Must Read, but a few nagging issues—including a really uninteresting backup story—held it back, but just barely.
Written by J.T. Krul
Art by Diogenes Neves, Vicente Cifuentes, and Ulises Arreola
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Mauro Cascioli
• I’ll be the first to admit that The Fall of Green Arrow was a big misstep for DC and that I was really not expecting much out of the Green Arrow relaunch. In fact, after reading the first few issues of The Rise of Arsenal, I was downright frightened of what this issue could be. This was silly.
• This issue is all about exploring Green Arrow’s new status quo as the Robin Hood of Star City’s mysterious star-shaped forest as we check in on Ollie’s attempts to topple a corrupt system after he saves a female do-gooder citizen.
• I love the tone of this issue as JT Krul is channeling Mike Grell in a big way. While I don’t feel that the concept of Green Arrow/Black Canary was broken, I love this change in direction.
• I’m glad to see that Krul isn’t weighing this issue down with the baggage of Fall of Green Arrow, instead focusing on developing a new world with a new focus.
• I’m also really intrigued by the new characters that are introduced here—both Ollie’s new ally and the new villain. I can’t wait to see where Krul is going with the latter and hope we see more of the former.
• There was really only one thing that I didn’t like about the writing in this issue. Once Hal Jordan shows up at the end, I was pulled completely out of the story for the last few pages. While elements of the issue are totally outrageous, it still has a semi-realistic tone, which is ruined by Hal’s appearance. I’d rather see this series break off on its own like Grell’s series did rather than being trapped so deep in the DCU.
• Diogenes Neves does a great job with the art thanks to his flexibility and versatility. Throughout most of the issue he uses a very realistic style and tone, but can very naturally loosen up when need be.
• I really love the grittiness of the inks and colors, both of which go a long way at setting the tone for this issue.
Verdict: Must Read. Outside of the Batman family, Green Arrow is, by far, my favorite character in the DCU and so I’ve had a hard time with some of the choices that have been made in how to present the character this year. I’ve been very vocal about my displeasure and was very nervous going into this issue. That being said, I could not have been more wrong about how this issue was going to turn out. Krul and Neves do a solid job of crafting a new world for Green Arrow that is very engaging and very exciting—I just hope that it isn’t ruined by the more fantastic elements of being under the Brightest Day banner.
Written by Paul Dini
Art by Stephane Roux, Karl Story, and John Kalisz
Letters by Pat Brosseau
Cover by Stephane Roux
• This week’s Zatanna proves that last issue was not a fluke as Paul Dini and Stephane Roux bring just as much charm to this issue, which sees Zatanna battling Fuseli, the Lord of Nightmares, in her dreams.
• This plot of this issue is a great way to showcase the tone of this series and how it will manage to bridge the elements of a mystical/fantasy approach and standard superhero conventions. Its clearly different than how Dini writes other comics, but it works incredibly well.
• I love the playfulness of the characters despite some of the really dark territory that this issue covers. There is so much personality in Zatanna and her enemies. Fans of Power Girl who were sad to see Palmiotti, Gray, and Conner leave that title should definitely replace that book with this one on their pull lists.
• The twist ending, which shows the next surprise in Brother Night’s arsenal, is very shocking and definitely ups the ante for his rivalry with Zatanna.
• While the first issue had some rough patches as Stephane Roux transitioned from cover art to interiors, this issue is nearly flawless. It seems that the learning cover was very short for Roux.
• The storytelling in the art is just superb as Roux find a perfect rhythm that follows the script perfectly but still manages to leave the art open for some very fun layouts. The “dream” pages, which feature a looser structure, are amazing.
• The personality of the issue is not limited to the writing as the designs and expressions from Roux are just as playful and energetic. The chemistry between the writing and the art is uncanny.
Verdict: Must Read. After being so impressed with the first issue of Zatanna, I was a little worried that it might have been a fluke as the character has never seemed strong enough to carry her own stories in the past. There was no reason to worry, as Paul Dini and Stephane Roux’s take on the character is simply amazing yet again in this issue. This is wildly entertaining with superb craftsmanship that completely blew every other issue this week out of the water. As soon as I read this issue, there was no question in my mind about which book was going to take home the Book of the Week honor. Seriously, do not miss this comic.