Friday, July 9, 2010
Thanks to the 4th of July, comics were delayed a day this week, as were this week’s Comic Book Review Power Rankings. Since I’m sure all of you have been waiting ever-so-patiently to start your weekends until after you’ve counted down the week’s best comics with me, let’s dispense with the pleasantries and get right down to it. Hit the jump to see what I thought of this week’s comics!
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 Grant Morrison
Art by Frazer Irving
Letters by Patrick Brosseau
Cover by Frank Quitely
• In this week’s Batman and Robin, Dr. Hurt returns, “outing himself” as Batman’s father, Thomas Wayne, as Batman and Robin try to get to the root of the Joker’s domino crimes.
• I really dig what Grant Morrison is doing with the Joker here, especially with the twisted logic behind him taking on the role of Oberon Sexton as a response to the death of Batman.
• This is probably also the best issue for Morrison’s take on Damian. His attack on the Joker worked extremely well thanks to the amount of depth that Morrison is starting to add to the character. I still consider Morrison to have the weakest take on him (despite basically creating him), but this is another huge step up.
• The mega-arc with Dr. Hurt is just getting hold. The repeating elements and constant back-tracking are getting very old. Hopefully this arc with finally close-out this story.
• As far as storytelling goes, I feel like Morrison dropped the ball on the opening frame with Dr. Hurt. It’s interesting, but there is no point of reference to it later in the story. It honestly feels like two totally different stories appear in the issue. I’m not saying that Morrison needs to have the two meet up in this issue, but there needs to be a stronger connection between the two to be truly effective.
• I really hate to say it, but this is the absolute worst issue I’ve ever seen from Frazer Irving. Normally I’m a fan of his work, but this is a major step in the wrong direction.
• The biggest problem is the major disconnect between the elements within each panel. Body parts do not appear to belong on the same person at times, there’s no depth whatsoever, and the way he handles faces is just brutal.
• The fact that the art is completely devoid of backgrounds, is incredibly stiff, and features some of the strangest texture choices I’ve seen in a comic only make the problem worse.
Verdict: Check It. There are a lot of things that go absolutely right in this issue, a few things that work but could be done a lot better, and, unfortunately, a lot of things that completely miss the mark. In terms of writing, this is one of Morrison’s best efforts since the opening story arc, despite some missteps and strange plotting choices. On the flipside, this is not the Frazer Irving I’m used to seeing at all. I hate to speak so ill of such a talented artist, but this is some seriously bad mojo that pulls this book from what could potentially be a Buy It book to just barely making the Check It range.
Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by Alex Cal and Andrew Crossley
Letters by Chris Mowry
Covers by Kelsey Shannon and Robert Atkins with Clayton Brown and Andrew Crossley
• After discovering an island Cobra is using to filter financial transactions through, the Joes go into infiltration mode by storming the island only to uncover more secrets.
• Chuck Dixon does a solid job of introducing “new” characters Ripcord and Shipwreck in this issue. The more realistic tone does take some of the personality out of the characters, especially if you grew up on the cartoon, but Dixon still finds unique voices that suited my expectations.
• The fact that Cobra uses a bio-gel to house data for their computers is still a little weird to me and pulls me out of the story. I can handle things like the MASS Device, but somehow this seems like too much of a stretch to me.
• The pacing in this issue is excellent as Dixon juggles multiple facets of the plot well, giving each enough time to develop as he builds towards a strong cliffhanger.
• Alex Cal takes over the art chores this month, doing so in a surprisingly forgettable manner with the epitome of middle-of-the-road art.
• Part of the problem is that, with the exception of Shipwreck, most of the male characters are dressing and looking the same through much of the issue. Shipwreck does look pretty cool though, especially since he is sans-Village People duds.
• The only major issue I had with the art, though, is the fact that Cal seems to struggle with the female characters. Scarlet has a wicked receding hairline, which was creepy, and Cover Girl constantly looks like she is auditioning for a porno. Seriously, what is up with her body language and facial expressions? That is just not right.
Verdict: Check It. This issue has lots of cool concepts and does a solid job at introducing a few new Joes (including one of my favorites, Shipwreck), but is fairly mediocre thanks to some nagging issues that just didn’t click with me. When you add in the humdrum art, you get an issue that is mostly just “there.” You won’t hate it, but you won’t love it either.
Written by Jim McCann
Art by David Lopez, Alvaro Lopez, and Nathan Fairbairn
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Paul Renaud
• Following up from last issues flurry of revelations, this week’s Hawkeye and Mockingbird finds our titular hero reunited our titular heroine with her family as Crossfire and Phantom Rider unleash their attack on the duo.
• This issue does a great job of fleshing out Mockingbird’s personality and personal issues through a great flashback with Nick Fury, as well as present-day interactions. This issue is definitely all about reintroducing the character to readers.
• While their interaction was pretty predictable, I really liked the scene between Mockingbird and Dominic Fortune. They play off one another well and the inevitable showdown between Fortune and Hawkeye is going to be great.
• There really isn’t enough rationale behind Phantom Rider’s actions to keep my satisfied at the moment. I get the history between the entity and Mockingbird, but there needs to be more meat coming from the villain to keep me interested in the conflict.
• The shocker ending was fantastic and pulled me right back into the story at a time when the bits with Phantom Rider were losing me. I probably should’ve seen it coming, but it still surprised me and has me pumped for the next issue.
• The art from David Lopez is a mixed bag. Some pages are simply amazing while others were total downers.
• The action sequences were especially stellar as Lopez has great fight choreography and a strong sense of movement.
• Unfortunately, the quieter moments suffer some. A big part of this is the fact that the title characters look simply horrible without their masks on.
• This is a minor point, but I feel that it is worth noting. The Hawkeye and Mockingbird logo that is used on the “character rundown” page looks so much better than the one used on the cover. It definitely needs to be the full time logo for this title.
Verdict: Check It. One step forward, one step back. Great character moments, followed by less than pleasing plotting. Awesome action sequences, followed by horrible looking civilian identities. The good definitely outweighs the bad, which vaulted the issue up a few places, but the series could definitely use some polish before I’m going to commit to anything beyond the next issue.
Written by Victor Gischler
Art by Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco, and Marte Garcia
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Adi Granov
• The newest X-Men volume launches this week with the X-Men finding themselves in the midst of an attack on San Francisco by the world’s vampires, leading to the infection of depowered mutant Jubilee.
• Writer Victor Gischler has a solid take on all of the characters in this issue and their relationships, especially the uneasy friendship/alliance between Cyclops and Wolverine and pretty much everything involving the X-Club Science Squad.
• I’m glad to see Jubilee back in the spotlight, even if its as the victim in a vampire story. The development of a friendship between her and Pixie is a cool idea and natural development as Pixie is the “little sister” of the X-Men in much the same way that Jubilee was in the 90s.
• With vampires being really overdone these days, its really hard to get engaged in a story that is so clearly trying to jump onto the current trend. This story definitely has an uphill battle ahead of it, but puts its best foot forward with this issue.
• There are times in this issue where artist Paco Medina simply blows me away, but others that really left me scratching my head.
• Medina’s designs on the male characters are really great and he has a solid sense of storytelling. I absolutely loved some of his bigger panels, including an awesome spread inside the vampire bunker.
• I’m not a fan of Medina’s female characters, though, as he really pushes their sexuality to the point of ridiculousness. I mean, seriously, look at Pixie’s chest. There is no reason a teen character should look like a Hustler model.
• I also didn’t care for how similar all of the women looked, especially Pixie and the girl that becomes a vampire. I had to do a double-take on multiple occasions because they were drawn nearly identically.
Verdict: Check It. With Paco Medina putting in a solid effort (aside from Pixie) and some great character writing from Victor Gischler, I strongly considered giving this a Buy It verdict, even though it is falling prey to the current vampire craze (thankfully none of these vampires sparkle). Unfortunately, there are some nagging issues and the unjustified high price tag holds this back. I’ll gladly pay $3.99 for a comic with solid extras, but one page advertisements for the other X-Titles are totally not worth the extra buck.
Written by Sean McKeever
Art by David Baldeon, N. Bowling, and Chris Sotomayor
Letters by Joe Sabino
Cover by David LaFuente and Morry Hollowell
• The recently formed Young Allies deal with the aftermath of Warhead’s brutal attack on NYC in this issue, only to find that no one seems to take the young heroes seriously.
• Sean McKeever’s calling card of fantastic character is central to the success of this issue. This one issue is mostly reactions to the events of the previous one, making this mostly a character development issue. Given McKeever’s penchant for writing teen characters, I’m totally okay with that.
• McKeever’s uncanny ability to “get” teenagers makes every scene in this book work. I was especially impressed with how well he handled the scenes between Toro, Arana, and Nomad as he tells as much of a story through what they don’t say to one another as he does with the actual dialogue.
• The parallels between how Reed Richards reacts to Gravity and how easily Electro dismisses him are really cool and quite unexpected. I expect the lack of respect he gets from both men to fuel further development in the character.
• Artist David Baldeon has very strong chemistry with McKeever. The tone of the script is matched by the artwork thanks the solid expressions and pacing found in the artwork.
• Baldeon does make some strange choices with the perspectives he uses as he often tries to show too much, which makes everything look a little wonky.
• There are some consistency issues, with the most obvious being the shifting anatomy of Gravity and Firestar.
Verdict: Buy It. Wonderful character writing should suck readers right into this immensely fun comic as the haphazard team of underestimated teen heroes deal with the fallout of Warhead’s attack and prepare for the next show of force from the so-called Bastards of Evil. McKeever and Baldeon make an excellent team with great chemistry. For readers like me that have become immensely disillusioned with DC’s Teen Titans over the last six months, this series could definitely fill a void on their pull lists and this issue is a prime example of why.
Written by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost
Art by Mike Choi and Sonia Oback
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Adi Granov
• The penultimate chapter of Second Coming dropped this week with the final showdown between Bastion and Hope as Cable sacrifices himself to bring X-Force back from the future.
• This issue is great payoff for all of the build-up with Hope and Cable. Their relationship comes to a head in a big way as Hope finally graduates from distressed damsel to dangerous soldier.
• I really like how the manifestation of Hope’s powers played out. There is a hint at the Phoenix force without beating the readers over the head to it, which leaves some mystery. Plus, its cool that she had to completely lose control to defeat Bastion—it finishes the fight without diminishing the power of either character.
• The repetition of Cable and Hope’s discussion about coming home was really well handled. It added a ton of emotional impact to the final battle.
• The art is precisely what you’d expect from Mike Choi and Sonia Oback—semi-realism with interesting depth and strong rendering. They are an art team that is consistent from issue-to-issue.
• The art is tremendously stiff, though, which makes me almost rather have another art team handling this issue. This is the big action-packed finale, so we need to have more movement and impact than we see here.
• I do really love the designs though. There isn’t a single character in the issue that Choi and Oback don’t make look amazing; the problem is that these very pretty looking characters are ultimately lifeless for the majority of the issue.
Verdict: Buy It. With the battle of Second Coming essentially over, I’m glad to see that this massive storyline closes out in a big way. Chris Yost and Craig Kyle do a superb job of adding emotional impact to Hope’s coming of age and defeat of Bastion that makes this an excellent payoff for the last few months of stories. The art also looks fantastic, but has trouble keeping up with the action-packed plot. If there was just a bit more movement in the art, this would have been a major contender for Book of the Week.
Written by John Ostrander
Art by RB Silva, Alexandre Palamaro, and Jason Wright
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Daniel Luvisi
• John Ostrander fills in for Gail Simone on Secret Six this week with a story that finds the titular team on an island of sadistic hunters, with our “heroes” as the prey.
• This concept of this issue is totally awesome and is a total no-brainer for this team. This is pretty much the perfect storyline for this team.
• John Ostrander has shown a penchant for these characters in the past and does not disappoint here. Each character is only spotlighted for a page or two, but he makes the most of all of them, especially Ragdoll, who once again steals the show.
• There really isn’t enough meat to this story though. The team shows up, they kick ass, and its over. I’d much rather have seen this fill-in story become a two or three issue fill-in arc.
• In the end, what we get is just a fun, badass fluff piece. It’s a great done-in-one that shows you can tell a great story without Earth-shattering revelations or major changes.
• This issue feels like the perfect pilot for a Secret Six TV series or an extended opening sequence to a Secret Six movie—it’s perfectly cinematic.
• If the issue has a weak point, it would be the art. The art isn’t bad, but RB Silva’s work is mostly just serviceable.
• The storytelling works really well and he has a solid handle on the action. Since this is mostly an action-oriented story, this is a good thing.
• The big problem is that the designs are really bland. The characters are just “there.” It doesn’t help that the colors are amongst the flattest and most lifeless I’ve seen from Jason Wright. If he added a bit of depth to the art, it would drastically improve the overall look of the issue.
Verdict: Buy It. Once again John Ostrander has proven that he is more than capable of being the only person fit to fill in for regular writer Gail Simone with this fantastic action story that showcases just how badass the Secret Six really are. The biggest problem? This issue is done long before I was ready for it to be done as Ostrander rushes through this great concept to keep the story down to one issue. It’s great for what it is, but it could be so much more!
Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art by Marcus To, Ray McCarthy, and Guy Major
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Marcus To
• After a solid first issue back with Tim Drake, Fabian Nicieza continues to take Red Robin on his crusade against crime in this week’s issue that also features an eventful team-up with Damian “Robin” Wayne.
• Fabian Nicieza continues to be my all time favorite writer for Tim Drake with this issue and is quickly make a grab for the best writer to handle Damian as well. The relationship between the two is presented as complex and engaging, with a subtextual brotherly rivalry that I really hope is picked up on by other writers.
• The rationale behind Damian’s anger and the confrontation it leads to are definitely the coolest things I’ve seen from the character. It’s amazing how putting him in the hands of creators besides Grant Morrison can quickly make him one of my favorite DCU characters.
• The reveal of Tim’s contingency plans was a great move that definitely shows how much like Batman he really is. That is one aspect that most writers tend to ignore, but here we see it in spades.
• The pacing in the issue is superb, with Tim’s narration controlling the flow of the story effectively. It’s amazing how naturally all of this comes to Nicieza.
• As per usual, the art by Marcus To is absolutely killer. He is one artist that keeps getting better and better with every single issue he does. In this issue, his fight choreography in particular sees vast improvement.
• I know that I bring this up with every single issue of this series, but To seems to be the only character that draws Tim, in costume, at the appropriate age. Until others follow suit, I’m going to continue to commend him on this.
• The issue ends with some Cousin Oliver jokes that really cracked me up. In such an emotionally charged issue, its great to see Nicieza throwing in some humor (that can be read metatextually, too!).
Verdict: Must Read. I absolutely loved this issue. Nicieza continues to show that he is the best man for the job when it comes to Tim Drake and his chemistry with To is simply stellar. When you add in one of the best uses of Damian yet, you have an issue that should absolutely not be missed. If you are following any of the Batman books right now, you absolutely have no excuse for missing out on this issue. If you aren’t, this issue is a shining example of why you should be.
Written by Roger Langridge
Art by Chris Samnee and Matthew Wilson
Letters by Rus Wooton
Cover by Chris Samnee and Matthew Wilson
• Kudos to Marvel for taking a chance with this new Thor series that strips away years of continuity which, at least in my opinion, has been a hindrance for enjoying the adventures of the God of Thunder in his main series.
• In this debut issue, Thor makes his first appearance on Earth by bonding with Jane Foster, the real star of this issue.
• One of the many, many, many things that I love about this issue is the fact that it feels completely different from every other superhero book that Marvel is putting out right now. The pacing, the approach to development, the tone—everything about this is unique.
• Roger Langridge writes an immensely likable Jane Foster, who is developed very well here. Its interesting to see that Langridge chooses to make her a POV character her rather than immediately putting the focus on Thor. That makes the story all the more magical feeling when Thor finally does show up.
• This issue is fun and that really needs to be emphasized. I’m a big Thor fan, but I’ve been put off because of how “heavy” the current series is. It’s great to get back to the fun of Thor and his mythology in a way that is totally accessible and enjoyable for both new and longtime fans.
• Then, of course, there is the real draw for this series, artist Chris Samnee (pun intended). Samnee is simply superb.
• This is definitely the loosest style that I’ve ever seen from Samnee, which is a perfect fit for this issue. He puts a ton of energy into the issue in a much lighter manner than most readers might be used to.
• Samnee’s storytelling is fantastic as he perfectly paces each page with a clear progression and strong expressions that support the tone of the issue.
• Plus, there is definitely an old school, Kirby-influenced feel to the art that is unmistakable. Can you think of anything more awesome than Samnee channeling Kirby?
Verdict: Must Read. This issue really captures everything I have loved about Thor since I was a wee little lad, while stripping away the years of intense continuity that have made the main series pretty inaccessible to a lot of readers. What’s left is an incredibly charming tale written by Roger Langridge that is full of personality and is drawn by Chris Samnee in an amazing twist on his usual style. To beat the near-perfect Red Robin #14, it took one heck of a book and Thor: Mighty Avenger #1 is just that. I really can’t imagine anyone not having an absolute blast with this issue, which makes it an easy pick for Book of the Week.