Thursday, July 22, 2010

Comic Book Review Power Rankings for 07/21/10

Is Comic-Con week and that means most of you have had your attention on San Diego all day. Don’t think you think its time for a break from refreshing live panel transcriptions? I certainly do—and what better distraction is there than the Comic Book Review Power Rankings? None, I say! Hit the jump to find out what I thought of this week’s hits-and-misses.

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

Lead Written by Paul Dini
Lead Art by Dustin Nguyen, Derek Fridolfs, and John Kalisz
Lead Letters by Steve Wands
Backup Written by Ivan Brandon
Backup Art by Ramon Bachs, John Lucas, and Nick Filardi
Backup Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Dustin Nguyen
preRanking: 06

• This week’s Streets of Gotham kicks of the sequel to the phenomenal Heart of Hush with a main story that focuses on Hush learning more about his parents’ connection to the Wayne Family (and cameo star John Zatara).
• There are some interesting concepts at work here, especially with the flashback of the young Waynes, but its terribly disjointed and lacks a clear direction. There is no connection between that story and what is going with Hush in the present, which will leave most readers scratching their heads.
• It doesn’t help that there is very little going on in this story. There is almost no meat, so you have interesting concepts with nothing to hang on and characters with nothing to do.
• I was also disappointed in the art from Dustin Nguyen, whose work is terribly inconsistent here. His anatomy is completely skewed and his characters are relatively lifeless.
• In the backup, Harvey Dent is back on the streets as Two-Face, causing all sorts of problems for Gotham City’s criminal underworld.
• There is a completely lack of coherent transitions in this story, leaving it with a choppy, haphazard feel. It’s really hard to get into a story that jumps around like this.
• The art in the backup is the highlight of the entire issue as Ramon Bachs and Company put together a great, atmospheric look that seems to fit the tone of what little story there is with solid designs and a neat ‘dankness’ that permeates every panel. It just feels seedy, which is precisely what it needs to do.

Verdict: Byrne It. I was really excited for this issue, having really dug the original Heart of Hush storyline. Unfortunately, the complete lack of focus in the main story (which seemed way shorter than the backup) combined with subpar efforts from the creative team left me baffled. There are some neat concepts here and I’d love to see more of the young Waynes, but that is definitely not enough for me to recommend this issue.

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.
preRanking: 07

• After the shocking cliffhanger last issue, the Avengers momentarily face-off against Apocalypse and his Avengers-Horsemen before splitting up to go after Kang’s future and to attack more anomalies head-on.
• After the big cliffhanger last issue, I really expected more than such a brief fight with Apocalypse. It seems to be done and forgotten before it even gets started as Brian Michael Bendis glosses over it to basically put the Avengers in the exact same position they were in last issue.
• The story seems to jump all over the place and yet, not much happens. It’s not hard to keep track of, but with so little movement, its hard to get invested in it.
• I really didn’t mind Spider-Man in this issue, which is a huge step up considering how much I absolutely hated how Bendis wrote him last issue. His “bonding” with Spider-Woman was a lot of fun and I really dug him cracking jokes with Noh-Varr.
• The art was definitely the weakest work I have seen from John Romita Jr in years. I was really shocked to see how poor it was in comparison to JRJr’s usual work.
• There is almost no impact during the action sequences as the characters look weirdly posed and lifeless. This is compounded by the fact that some pages were completely devoid of detail, with very sketch line work. This issue looks incredibly rushed and unpolished.

Verdict: Byrne It. This issue is (very slowly) moving the Avengers in an interesting direction and there are a handful of moments that I really enjoyed. For the most part, however, it is a surprisingly weak effort from the creative team, with some of John Romita Jr.’s most unpolished work in years and a meandering plot from Bendis that spins its wheels through most of the issue before heading off in an unclear direction. This series has an incredible amount of potential, but unless it starts living up to it, I’m not going to stick around.

Written by Sterling Gates
Art y Jamal Igle, Jon SIbal, and Jamie Grant
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Shane Davis and Jamie Grant
preRanking: 05

• Following up on last issue’s debut of Bizarro Supergirl (or, Bizarrogirl), this week’s Supergirl follows Kara’s first action-packed meeting with the villain. Plus some stuff happens with Jimmy Olsen.
• Much of this issue is spent with Supergirl continuing to feel sorry for herself before taking action, which is something that we’ve seen way too many times before. That is time that would have been better spent focusing on the battle scenes.
• The opening bit with Jimmy Olsen, while humorous, really didn’t anything to the story. It would be different, but Olsen has never been a bit part of this series. This felt like totally unnecessary filler.
• The character work in the issue is about what you’d expect from Sterling Gates, as he clearly knows these characters and can right them well—there is just too much going on in this issue that we’ve seen before.
• I did really dig the way Bizarrogirl’s powers were the opposite of Supergirl’s. This is something we’ve seen before with regular Bizarro (Bizarro Classic?), though the twist with the “Solid Vision” was really cool and pretty unique.
• The art in this issue is really not up the standard that I’m used to with Jamal Igle on this title, though I’m not entirely certain that it is his fault. His usual calling cards—solid storytelling, good expressions, strong perspectives, etc—are still present through the vast majority of this issue.
• There are some awkward choices with the character’s poses and anatomy though, including one splash of Supergirl rushing into action that is disturbingly awkward.
• The biggest problem, though, is the coloring. After several issues with Nei Ruffino, the work of Jamie Grant feels like a step down. The depth Grant adds seems strange and the skin tones are weirdly unnatural. It just doesn’t look right.

Verdict: Check It. Supergirl #54 is not inherently a bad issue, its just an issue that should be considerably better than it really is. Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle do showcase a lot of what has made this series so great under their watch, but the repeated plot elements, awkward anatomy, and poor coloring drag this issue down further than the high points can really bring it up from. With Kara back into action at the end of this issue (well, sort of, but I won’t spoil it for you), I’m hoping next issue will be a step back to form for this title.

05. GI JOE: COBRA #6
Written by Mike Costa and Christos Gage
Art by Sergio Carrera, JK Woodward, and Peter Dawes
Letters by Chris Mowry
Cover by Antonio Fuso and Ben Templesmith
preRanking: 08

• The second story arc in GI Joe: Cobra continues this week as our private investigator hero Leonard gets in way too deep wit The Coil cult as we learn the origin of Serpentor.
• I really like the way that Mike Costa and Christos Gage alternate pushing Leonard’s story forward as they also reinterpret the origin of Serpentor in a way that combines his original cartoon origin with the more realistic tone.
• The plotting is careful and methodical, which is absolutely perfect as we see jumps in time as Leonard is indoctrinated. This is a difficult type of story to pull of but Costa and Gage nail it.
• The problem with this issue is the art. Sergio Carrera’s art continues to be unpolished, with an oddly traced-looking style, but without the realism. There is no depth and it looks awkward. I’m not a fan.
• The strange coloring choices by Peter Dawes only compound the problem. Dawes’s colors are very flat and bland, adding no depth, but containing strange textures.
• The painted pages by JK Woodward were an interesting choice for the pages on Serpentor’s origin. They were oddly whimsical, which added a cool irony to these pages. It was very unique and definitely salvaged the art some.

Verdict: Check It. This is a big step up from the previous issue in a lot of ways as the story of The Coil and the origin of Serpentor are two of the most interesting additions to IDW’s GI Joe mythos that we have seen thus far. When you add in the very craft storytelling and plotting, the writing is top notch. Unfortunately, the art really brings this down. The best way I can describe it is “awkward”—which is a total bummer as this issue had a lot of potential.

Written by Paul Levitz
Art by Yildiray Cinar, Francis Portela, Wayne Faucher, and Hi-Fi
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Yildiary Cinar, Wayne Faucher, and Hi-Fi
preRanking: 03

• In this week’s Legion of Superheroes, Earth-Man is forced to save another planet by his newly adorned Green Lantern ring while a handful of other Legionnaires deal with Saturn Queen’s attack.
• I really dig the twist with Earth-Man having to save a non-human sentient species and the subtle shifts in his character that come out of it. Given his history, this makes for some really compelling storytelling and definitely rounds out the character considerably.
• The story with the Saturn Queen is certainly interesting, but it seemed very tacked on here given how little build-up it has had and quickly it is seemingly resolved in this issue. I’m just not 100% sure what the point was.
• There are a few random scenes in the issue that only get a page or two that are jammed into the issue. These are interesting, particularly the search for Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad’s children, but they don’t have enough room to full capture my interest. Paul Levitz either needs to commit to the subplot or pass the pages to another story thread.
• The art was a total mixed bag as Francis Portela and Yildiar Cinar split the art duties. It seems like we get way more Portela than Cinar here, which is disappointing given how phenomenal Cinar has been.
• The problem really isn’t that Portela is that much worse than Cinar, as both artists put in very solid efforts and have strong enough styles to carry the book.
• The problem is that the switches between artists are very apparent and jarring. This is a long issue with a lot of characters and is already a lot take in; when something comes along that pulls you out of the story, like these art shifts, its hard to get your rhythm back.

Verdict: Buy It. This series is three-for-three on fantastic, reasonably accessible issues as Paul Levitz and company are put together the best Legion title in quite some time (and really, the only one I’ve been able to stomach). There are some really cool thing brewing with Earth-Man that are worth buying the issue for alone, though the fact that it is filled-to-the-brim with intriguing characters drawn quite well solidifies this as a worthy purchase.

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
preRanking: 04

Dynamo 5 team-up with the younger Firebird and Invincible to take down the sons of Dominex in this week’s issue, but only after learning the history of Dominex’s battle with Images biggest superheroes.
• This issue moves very fast as the plot trucks forward, but kudos to Jay Faerber for making the most out of each brief moment by giving all of the characters’ personalities a chance to shine through.
• I really like the concept of the children of the Image heroes having to take on the sons of Dominex. Its predictable, but still a fun idea that is open to some interesting twists given that there really isn’t a “villain” in a battle for honor.
• This issue actually makes me want to read Invincible, even though I’ve never had much interest in it before. Faerber makes the most of being able to use the character as a guest star.
• The art is a strong fit once again, with Julio Brilha being a logical progression from Mahmud Asrar. I think we can full expect Brilha to make the jump to Marvel or DC within a year or two.
• Brilha’s expressions are top-notch, especially on his tight close-ups, which he uses extensively. He does balance them out with a few gorgeous spreads though.
• The limited backgrounds on some panels are a big disappointment, especially when there are others with highly detailed backgrounds. I’d rather they all be somewhere in the middle than having a few full panels with the rest mostly empty.
• The backup, starring Faerber’s Notorious, is just as rambling and uninteresting as the last installment. In fact, honestly, it seemed like little happened in this story that was any different than what happened last issue.
• The art is decent, but the story doesn’t give Joe Eisma and Paul Little much to work with, so they can never really break out to show how strong their art is. I hope that is remedied next issue.

Verdict: Buy It. This issue is just as strong as any of the previous Dynamo 5 issues, as Jay Faerber and Julio Brilha bring the goods on a number of levels. I was a bit worried that we would see some rust, but I’m just as pleased with this issue as I was with the original run of the series. In fact, were it not for the relatively uninteresting back-up feature, this would definitely rank as a Must Read and would’ve taken a strong run at the Top Spot in this week’s Rankings.

Lead Written by David Hine
Lead Art by Moritat, Gabriel Bautista, and Andre Szymanowicz
Backup Written by Marv Wolfman
Backup Art by Phil Winslade
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Ladronn
preRanking: 02

David Hine makes his debut as new ongoing writer in the lead story, which follows the Spirit in action as a new drug called Frost hits the street and is causing massive problems on both sides of the law.
• I dig that Hine immediately sets himself apart from previous writer Mark Schultz. His version of the Spirit is a darker, in a more complex world. This is a considerably less playful story than the three previous issues.
• I loved the way that both the criminal and heroic elements close in on the drug dealers for their own reasons. It is great to see so many shades of gray in this story, with so many different angles working in concert.
• Hine’s got some great pacing in his very film noir-ish approach. I was really digging the book before, but this is something else.
• What really impresses me is how quickly Moritat develops chemistry with Hine here. You certainly wouldn’t guess that this is their first issue together on this title.
Andre Szymanowicz and Gabriel Bautista also deserve credit for how much their colors enhance the atmosphere of this issue. I love how hazy and gritty the colors look, but how seamlessly than can insert some very bold color choices.
• The backup by Marv Wolfman and Phil Winslade is a surprisingly complex story that follows a blackout in Central City and is full of little twists and turns as Wolfman moves the story along at a breakneck pace.
• I really like how well Winslade works the black-and-white format as he uses the strong contrast to make his details pop. This does cause the art to be a bit busier than it would have been in full color, but the strengths of the black-and-white look far outweigh the weakness on this story.

Verdict: Must Read. The change in creative teams does absolutely nothing to slow this series down as David Hine’s debut is just as strong, if not stronger, than the three previous issues thanks to his complexly plotted story and instant chemistry with artist Moritat. When you add in a strong backup feature, you’ve got another win for this awesome series. If you haven’t been checking out The Spirit, now is that time!

01. ZATANNA #3
Written by Paul Dini
Art by Stephane Roux and John Kalisz
Letters by Pat Brosseau
Cover by Stephane Roux
preRanking: 01

• The first story arc in Zatanna comes to a conclusion this week as Zatanna must save her crew from Brother Night in a final battle for magical supremacy.
• This issue is a great mix of action and character. I really dig how Paul Dini develop’s Zatanna through the way that she battle Brother Night, especially once her father’s spirit enters the fray.
• I really dig how creative Dini is with the fight sequence. Most of Zatanna’s fighting is done defensively, which speaks volumes about her character. This sequence also allows Dini to flesh out the rules of magical combat for future storylines.
• I was really surprised by the twist ending, in which Zatanna takes care of Brother Night in a way not too dissimilar to some of her more controversial actions in the last few years. This is an interesting move that I hope Dini addresses down the road.
• The art in this issue is simply phenomenal. Stephane Roux has completely shed his growing pains that were apparent in the first two issues. After seeing this one, you would never have guessed that he is normally a cover artist.
• Roux’s expressions in this issue really blew me away. I had no idea that he was capable of such subtlety and range in his work.
• The storytelling is also stellar with some fantastic layouts, very strong perspectives, and fantastic progression. Roux’s covers were fantastic, but if he can keep churning out interiors like this, he is going to be HUGE in this industry.

Verdict: Must Read. Zatanna has been a fantastic book since its debut, but Dini and Roux really raised the bar with this amazing issue. Everything about this issue works perfectly in synch as this amazingly talented creative team puts on a showcase for quality storytelling and characterization. From the strong dialogue and inventive action sequences to the gorgeous designs and stellar expressions, this comic is pure gold from cover to cover. You absolutely should not miss this one under any circumstances.

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Sean said...

Actually, the main feature of Streets of Gotham was just 12 pages, so it really was shorter than the Two-Face story. As much as I've enjoyed the title, I've also found it to be incredibly frustrating since the solicits haven't been very accurate. Last month's issue, for example, was promised to be the start of the House of Hush story, but was actually the second part of the Carpenter's storyline. And then there were the random fill-ins.

I'm really hoping that Dini doesn't drop the ball on Zatanna like he did with Streets and Gotham City Sirens since it's easily become my favorite non-Gail Simone title

MisterSmith said...

Summary of Avengers #1: Fighting (Kang), minimally-progressive banter, with a last page reveal of characters from alternate timelines (Maestro Hulk and a Spider-Girl)
Summary of Avengers #2: Fighting (Wonder Man), minimally-progressive banter, with a last page reveal of characters from alternate timelines (Apocalypse & The Four Horsemen)
Summary of Avengers #3: Fighting (Apocalypse/Horsemen), minimally-progressive banter, with a last page reveal of characters from alternate timelines (for the sake of spoilers I won't say)
Prediction on #4: Fighting (with said characters I won't name), minimally-progressive banter, with a last page reveal of characters from alternate timelines.

Did I miss anything?

twobitspecialist said...

Dang. I am glad I decided to skip regular Avengers.

Philipe said...

It's a sad, sad week when Supergirl is better than the Avengers...

andrewsaltz said...

Dunno if anyone else saw it, but I just finished Prince of Power #3. Very little plot development, but tons of fun.

JP said...

Looking back,when Morrison was dominating attention with his "Batman RIP", Paul Dini was actually telling a better story, and one-uped Morrison, with his "Heart of Hush".

So when this sequel to Heart of Hush was announced, I thought Yes!!!, Dini is now going to one-up Morrison's "Return of Bruce Wayne."

I know that Dini has had a couple of fill-in stories, but as I pointed out to a friend, Morrison's "Batman and Robin" has been delayed almost as often as Dini has had fill-ins. I also know that Dini has been busy with his TV work and writing a sequel to his award-winning "Batman: Arkham Ayslam" video game.

However, after this first issue I am a little worried.

Is it possible that with his current workload, in addition to his new "Zatanna" series, (a character he may love more than Batman,) and his "demotion" from top title "Detective Comics" to a new, low-tier title "Streets of Gotham," Dini may just "phone-it-in"?

Also worrisome is the fact that in October, all the Batman titles are going on hitaus for the "Batman: The Return" one-shots, with no mention of "Streets." Also, the Catwoman one-shot is solicted as being a follow-up to Selina and Bruce's moment at the end of "Heart of Hush" where Bruce proclaimed his love for Selina, yet Dini is not writing this one-shot, Fabian Nicieza is. In addition, after October the Bat-titles undergo a massive shift, and currently there is no word on Dini or Morrision's position in the Bat-universe.

In the end, I really don't think Dini will disappoint. The story this issue, while short, was as good as past Dini stories. And in the end, anything Dini writes is 10 times more true to Batman's essence than anything Morrison could ever dream of writting.

Wez said...

I rate Volume 1 of the New Avengers as one of my favourite books but the reviews of the latest batch of Avengers books is really disheartening.
It might be time to pick up Thunderbolts instead.

Sean said...

@JP: To be fair to Dini, I did prefer his Detective Comics run to Morrison's Batman run, and it is true that Batman and Robin has been delayed a bunch. However, I felt that Batman and Robin at least maintained some consistency and direction whereas Streets of Gotham and Gotham City Sirens have both been really inconsistent. That said, when Streets of Gotham was good, I preferred it to Batman and Robin.

October doesn't have an issue of Gotham City Sirens either, so he's probably just dialing down his workload for the Arkham Asylum sequel. I doubt that he'll let go of Zatanna since he's the character's biggest fan and that title really needs to keep its creative team since Zatanna has never had an ongoing book. Personally, I don't mind the one month delay in his other work if it'll make sure that they stay consistent.

Taking into consideration that the issue is just supposed to be a prologue, I'm giving Dini the benefit of the doubt with this story arc. I'm just hoping that the next issue will have the House of Hush story containing the standard amount of pages since 12 pages felt too cramped for what Dini was writing.

Don Winslow said...

Batman and Robin has had only two delays,the planned December delay and the one from Irving. I don't understand how that amounts to 'delayed a bunch.'

Whereas, SoG has had four to five delays/fill-ins, depending on how you want to treat issue 13.

Sean said...

Shoot, sorry, my bad; didn't check how many delays there really were and went with memory

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