Friday, July 2, 2010

Comic Book Review Power Rankings for 06/30/10

All apologies for the late posting of this week’s Comic Book Review Power Rankings. Between preparing for a housewarming and dealing with the big news that I will contribute a short story for Mark Millar’s CLiNT Magazine, it’s been a busy day. You’ve waited long enough already, so let’s get on to it. Hit the jump to check out this week’s countdown!

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

Written by Tony Bedard
Art by Peter Nguyen, Andres Guinaldo, Jack Purcell, Raul Fernandez, and Tony Avina
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Guillem March
preRanking: 06

• The conclusion to Tony Bedard’s two-part fill-in story, Catwoman fends off the attack of sister Maggie, who has been possessed by an angel, only to find that the attack is steeped in actions Selina took years prior.
• There is a lot exposition in this story as Bedard spends nearly as much time explaining the events of the issue as he does with the action. Last issue, I complained that the story wasn’t terrible accessible; that issue is resolved now, but in an overzealous way.
• Along the same lines, because so much of the story needs explanation, the baggage behind the story makes it hard to get invested and slows the pace of the issue. For readers that are more familiar with the background, this is going to feel like overkill.
• The other problem with this story is that the supernatural element doesn’t seem to gel as well with the street-level characters like Harley and Catwoman. It’s one thing when only Maggie sees the angel, but when Harley sees it, I was pulled out o fthe story.
• The art in the issue is too uneven for my tastes, mostly because Peter Nguyen and Andres Guinaldo’s styles do not blend well together, even with a single colorist attempting to unify them.
• I’m not familiar enough with artist to say who is who, but the looser style in the front of the issue lacks polish, depth, and detail, which makes it the weaker portion.
• The second half is much strong with some great expressions, but the anatomical designs themselves are a bit awkward—for example, Catwoman’s face is surprisingly manly.

Verdict: Byrne It. The premise of this story is interesting and Bedard does a solid job with the characters, including setting up Maggie Kyle as a major rogue for Catwoman, but the haphazard execution causes the story too fall apart at times. With a more consistent art team and strong pacing (maybe even stretching this out by an issue), this story could definitely swing into the Buy It category, but as it stands, I was really underwhelmed.

Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Pete Woods and Brad Anderson
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by David Finch, Joe Weems, and Peter Steigerwald
preRanking: 07

Lex Luthor takes over the starring role in Action Comics this week as he begins his hunt for Lantern power rings, especially a Black Lantern ring, after having his brief stint as an Orange Lantern.
• I really like a lot of the concepts that are coming together in this issue, such the complexity of the reasons for Lex’s lust for power and his interaction with all of the other characters in the issue.
• I’ve always been a huge fan of Luthor, so it is great to see him a lead role, especially with a writer like Paul Cornell at the helm. Cornell does a great job of having Lex toe the line between being psychotic and simply being driven.
• The choice of the first “villain” to put Luthor up against is an inspired one. Its easier to sympathize with him when he is facing off against something worse.
• The biggest problem with this issue is the fact that are simply too many logical leaps that Cornell puts forth. Items like a robot Lois Lane being Luthor’s conscience or many of Luthor’s gadgets are cool in theory, but simply don’t make enough sense to make the story flow seamlessly.
• The biggest problem I had, though, is the fact that Luthor has surveillance in Smallville that is apparently set upon the Kent Farm. There is no reason for this, especially when, logically, this would mean that could easily surmise the secret identity of Superman.
Pete Woods does a solid job with the characters, though there are a few small items that add up in the end. There are some stiffness issues throughout, which gives the art a clunky feel.
• Plus, for some reason, Lex spends most of the issue with his mouth closed, only flashing teeth once or twice. After getting so used to these odd closed-lip expressions, he looks a little freaky when his mouth is open. I’m not sure what is up with that.
• I did really like the designs that Woods uses for Lex and Lois, though. Lois looks a little like Zooey Dschanel, which is always a win in my book.
• Lex, on the other hand, is a bit pudgier than most readers will be used to, which actually harkens back to his earliest “mad scientist” appearances in Superman’s earliest adventures.

Verdict: Check It. Given the last minute creative team switch on this issue, I’m not surprised that this isn’t the strongest issue of Paul Cornell’s that I’ve ever read (Marc Guggenheim was originally solicited as the writer), but there is still a lot to like about this issue and enough to show that the concept has a lot of potential. It is a bit unfocused and the logical leaps are a bit much to swallow, but I think it is still worth a read if you’ve got a chance.

Written by Various
Art by Various
Letters by Various
Cover by George Perez
preRanking: 08

• After the fans demanded it, DC updates the renumbering on Wonder Woman this week with a milestone issue that features multiple stories, a load of pinups, and a genuinely heartfelt introduction from Lynda Carter.
• Before we get into the stories, I have to give DC kudos on the pinups and the great artists they put together to do them. They are all very sharp, but the show is stolen by Phil Jimenez’s very complex and detailed two-page pinup that should definitely be sold as a poster.
Gail Simone kicks the issue off by teaming with legendary George Perez to tell a story of Wonder Woman leading a charge of female heroes against Professor Ivo before running off to Vanessa Kapatelis’s graduation.
• This is an incredibly sweet story that explores Wonder Woman’s legacy as both a superhero and as a woman. This is definitely the strongest story in the issue and, quite frankly, is the best comic ire ad this week. Both Simone and Perez bring their A-game.
• I loved the character moments in the issue, especially the more unexpected moments like Ravager and the Question gushing over Wonder Woman in their own way and the appearances by Misfit and Grace Choi, both of whom need to show up more often.
Amanda Conner writes and draws the second story which follows team-up between Power Girl and Wonder Woman.
• Conner’s take on Diana is incredibly unique, but fits with the history of the character and her original concept better than most WW stories you’ll see. Plus, as per usual with Conner, the artwork is breathtaking and features the best expressions you’ll see in any comic this week.
• The issue takes a sharp turn with Louise Simonson and Eduardo Pansica’s Superman and Wonder Woman team-up story that is very middle of the road. It is neither special nor offensive, but certainly lacks the insight of the first two stories.
• Things get a little worse with Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins’s story that sets up the final story of the issue, but ultimately serves little necessary purpose. It honestly feels like wasted space, which is unfortunate considering the quality of the creative team.
• The issue really crashes with the final story, though. J. Michael Strczynski’s story, which sets up Wonder Woman’s new status quo (by basically making her a new Wonder Girl), lacks focus and rambles on incoherently for several pages. The new status quo is already a hard sell, but this story does little to sell me on it.
• The saving grace is Don Kramer, who does a very solid job on the art and is really the only reason I’d be interested in picking up the next issue. His fight scenes have a lot of movement and impact, plus he makes the new Jim Lee-designed costume look pretty awesome.

Verdict: Check It. The biggest problem with Wonder Woman #600 is that it simultaneously tells readers that Wonder Woman is a beautiful, timeless concept that embodies some very strong ideals, but also that she is completely broken and needs to be reimagined for a modern audience. In one corner, you have the heartfelt story by Gail Simone and George Perez that sums up everything that we love about Wonder Woman, but then you have the story by JMS that blatantly tells readers that they are wrong. The war between these two stories is what firmly plants this issue in Check It territory. The Simone/Perez story is a definite Must Read, but its downhill from there in varying degrees before the Avoid It finale that reminds us that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it (Remember how well that worked with Spider-Man—I mean, “Sins Past?” “The Other?” “One More Day?” These should be warnings!)

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Mike Deodato, Will Conrad, and Rain Beredo
Letters by Dave Lanphear
Cover by Marko Djurdjevic
preRanking: 03

• After a very strong debut issue, the Secret Avengers return this week as they explore a Mars base in search of Nova and the Serpent Crown.
Ed Brubaker has a great take on the large cast of this series, but the cast is almost too large to be managed. Most the characters serve as little more than panel dressing in most scenes. It’s like Brubaker knows how to write the characters, but struggles to put them together effectively.
• Given how strong the cliffhanger was last issue, I was hoping to see more of Nick Fury here, but instead he is pushed aside to just a few mysterious pages.
• I did really like the character interaction that Brubaker is building between Ant-Man and War Machine. The contrast between the two makes for an interesting read, which isn’t something that I saw often about anything involving War Machine.
• Brubaker’s take on Beast is more than enough reason to buy this issue. It’s Beast being Beast and that is always awesome. If I had my way, Beast would take the lead on this book (along with Nova) and it would be renamed “Beast and Nova: Chillin’ with their Secret Friends.”
Mike Deodato’s art is very solid with a good sense of character and very strong atmosphere-building. He nails the tone of this issue.
• There are times that the spot blacks get too heavy which, when combined with the dark colors, can take a lot away from the detail of the art.
• The expressions are also a bit stiff and limited to mostly character’s screaming. You’ll get more out of the body language, which is good, than you will out of the faces.

Verdict: Check It. I like the mystery that is building here and the character writing is strong, but the overall execution of the issue is a tad too uneven to earn a Buy It verdict. There isn’t much of a team-dynamic with characters like Moon Knight, Valkyrie, and Black Widow taking a major backseat despite the fact that Brubaker clearly has a good handle on the characters. I think that this issue will read much better when you take this story arc all at once, but as it stands, it’s a fun issue that could use some polish.

Written by John Ostrander
Art by Jan Duursema, Dan Parsons, and Brad Anderson
Letters by Michael Heisler
Cover by Chris Warner and Brad Anderson
preRanking: 04

• In the penultimate issue of Star Wars: Legacy, Cade and the Hutts set a trap against the Sith, while Draco seeks out Princess Sia in yet another intense issue.
• Seriously, who introduces new subplots in the second to last issue? That is a gutsy move, but it pays off as this issue has an immensely epic feeling because of how much story, including new story points, that John Ostrander packs in.
• I love the intensity of the issue as every interaction between the characters in this book’s immense cast furthers the tension as this story rockets to its conclusion.
• I really liked the parallels between Draco and Cade as Draco’s quest begins. It’s a neat twist that makes it easy to get engaged in the character’s story.
• It is hard to keep track of everything at times, especially when Ostrander starts pulling plot threads from the earliest days of the series. This issue definitely warrants a careful read.
• While I’m just as pleased with Ostrander’s writing as I have been for the last several issues, this is probably the first issue in quite some time where the art was a bit disappointing, most of which is because inconsistency.
• There are some moments of design inconsistency and style snafus, but a bit chunk is actually from Brad Anderson’s colors as he appears to switch styles and palettes at multiple points in the issue.
I will say that I was pleased with the body language and “acting” of the characters though, which adds a lot of depth to the script and enhances the tone of the issue.

Verdict: Buy It. It’s hard to believe that there is only one issue left of this series, but I’m glad to see that Ostrander and Duursema are still going out in a big way with another fantastic issue. It still amazes me exactly how densely packed, yet emotionally charged this series has been over the last several months, all of which carries over here. This issue leaves a lot of unanswered questions, but does leave the characters in prime position for an explosive finale. Star Wars: Legacy has never taken home a Book of the Week honor, but with the strong buildup in this issue, next month could finally be time!

Written by Richard Starkings
Art by Various
Letters by Comicraft
Cover by Boo Cook
preRanking: 01

• There’s lots of story movement in this week’s Elephantmen, as Vanity finds out the truth about Simm, Blackthorne’s history is explored, and Sahara steps out.
• The anthology-esque approach to this issue is off-putting at first as the jumps and shifts between stories and art-styles are a bit jarring at first.
• Once you get used to the delivery, the sheer personality of the issue and the complex underlying issues more than make up for it. Richard Starkings puts a lot of story and character into each page, which makes for an immensely satisfying read.
• I really enjoyed how well all of the stories worked both on their own as individuals snippets, but also in the larger context of the entire issue.
• As mentioned above, the shifts in art are jarring at first, but when read as a mini-anthology of interlocking stories, it works much, much better. Of course, it helps that all of the artists put in top notch performances.
• I was especially impressed with the clean line work of Alex Medellin, whose style is a bit of a departure from the styles we’ve seen on this book in the past, but it works extremely well.
• As always, Marian Churchland’s work is fabulous, even when we only get a few pages of it here.
• The sneak preview of Charley Loves Robots by JG Roshell, Andre Szymanowicz, and Gabriel Bautista in the back of this issue was a lot of fun. I cannot wait for this story to pick up in full next issue.

Verdict: Buy It. This slightly disjointed issue of Elephantmen may not be the strongest that this series have ever seen, but buy now you should know that even the weakest issue of Elephantmen is going to be lightyears ahead of most comics you’ll see on the stands. Starkings throws a lot of plot points out there this week, which opens the story up to go in a number of different directions and does so with the help of a cadre of talented artists. Could it have been better? By Elephantmen’s standards, possibly, but its still an awesome read that you should definitely check out.

02. THE FLASH #3
Written by Geoff Johns
Lead Art by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Backup Art by Scott Kollins and Brian Beccellato
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
preRanking: 02

• In this week’s installment of The Flash, Captain Boomerang finds a surprising new power, Barry learns the frightening truth about the death of the Mirror Monarch, and the Renegades continue their hunt.
• The character work in this issue is just as amazing as it has been in past issues, especially with Barry and Iris. As long as we get some good interaction between these two, the issue is going to be a win for me.
• I can honestly say this is one of the very few issues where Captain Boomerang has interested me. I’m not one for giving someone powers just so they can have them, but it is cool to see how that changes the mindset and approach of an already hardened criminal.
• The barrage of twists and turns work really well in this issue, thanks mostly to the pacing. The story picks up steam early and never lets go, which makes it feel like a Flash story not only in tone and content, but also in structure.
• The last two pages by Geoff Johns and Scott Kollins are an interesting interlude that gives background on Captain Boomerang, but are the only part of the issue that felt unnecessary. I’d rather have seen two more pages of the main story.
• The art is still the main selling point for this series. Francis Manapul is absolutely killing on this series.
• I was especially blown away by his expressions in this one. I wouldn’t say that these are normally his strong suit, but it definitely nails them here.
• Props also need to go to colorist Brian Buccellato, who brings some interesting textures to the coloring, which really sets the look of this issue apart from other superhero comics.

Verdict: Must Read. Another issue, another big win for The Flash. Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul are working perfectly in synch to build an exciting story here with a slew of twists and turns while remaining extremely character focused. This series is a ton fun and this issue really should not be missed.

Written by Geoff Johns
Lead Art by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen, Keith Champagne, Randy Mayor, and Gabe Eltaeb
Backup Art by Shawn Davis and Jamie Grant
Letters by Nick J. Napolitano
Cover by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, and Randy Mayor
preRanking: 05

• It’s a knock-down-drag-out-what-the-heck battle this week as Lobo battles the unlikely team-up of Hal Jordan, Carol Ferris, Sinestro, and Atrocitius that leads to an even more unlikely alliance.
• The character interaction from all of the characters is a lot of fun as Geoff Johns nails the bold personalities of each character.
• I absolutely loved the moment of unity from the various Lanterns, with each creating a construct army to stand against Lobo. That was such a great moment made even better with great designs from Doug Mahnke.
• The twist with the Atrocitus/Lobo situation really blew me away. I loved the surprising humanity and darkness in the situation, which completely fleshed out Atrocitus in just a few panels. Talk about brilliantly efficient storytelling!
• Doug Mahnke puts in his best Green Lantern effort here with incredibly bold and detailed art. There have been some amazing artists on this volume, but Mahnke is really taking ownership of this title.
• It still amazes me how well Mahnke works with his pantheon of inkers. How many artists can work with four different inkers and still manage to have an issue as cohesive as this one?
• What really earned this issue the Top Spot wasn’t the main story, though, it was the back-up that explores the origin of Dex-Starr.
• The art in the back-up is merely serviceable, but doesn’t detract from the writing, which is all it needed to do as the writing is stellar.
• I love the revelation that the rage the fuels the Red Lanterns is from heartache and not hatred. That is an immensely powerful idea that completely changes the game.
• I can honestly say that the final “good kitty” panels of this story were amongst the most powerful and heartbreaking panels I’ve read this year. There are echoes We3 and the “Jurassic Bark” episode of Futurama in this scene. It’s that powerful.

Verdict: Must Read. Green Lantern pulls in its third Book of the Week win of the year with a superbly crafted and smartly played issue that combines solid action with efficient characterization to be one of the most well-rounded comics that we’ve seen from Geoff Johns in a while (which says a lot, as he is having another great year). This issue works so well on so many levels that there really wasn’t a question about its placement on the Rankings, though I suppose things could’ve been different if the Gail Simone/George Perez story from Wonder Woman #600 was a full issue.

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Philipe said...

Kudos for Green Lantern. A solid issue and my favorite book of the week as well. The twist at the end was the cherry on the cake.

The Dangster said...

You really summed up my feelings on the Green Lantern issue. Loved Dex-Starr, that back up stole the whole book. Shawn Davis, possibly Shane Davis's brother, does a good job using a similar style to Shane.

What I loved about The Flash is how the cliffhanger of issue 2 got resolved. I thought it was brilliant and I didn't see it coming.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

I liked the Secret Avengers issue but it certainly wasn't great. Too much of the dialogue felt like exposition, which is a shame. What's happening is interesting but I want it to happen quicker and we not be told about it through dialogue.

Radlum said...

I wouldn't compare this issue of Green Lantern to Jurassic Bark or We3, but I agree that Dexter's story was very sad and sort of makes the Red Lanterns more interesting than just blood spewing berserkers.

Steven said...

Shawn Davis is a misprint, it's Shane.

Philipe said...

I know most of you probably didn't bother to pick up Astonishing X-Men #34 and, call me crazy but I actually thought it was good. The plot is silly but the interaction between team members was very well done, particularly Cyclops and Beast. Of course it's no excuse for such a delay but it might be a good trade.

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