Thursday, July 29, 2010

Comic Book Review Power Rankings for 07/28/10


It’s a big week for the Comic Book Review Power Rankings as I’m bringing you 13 comics to close out the excellent month of July. I’ll be taking a look at the first post-Second Coming titles in the X-Men line, Batman going cowboy in Return of Bruce Wayne, the first issue of Top Cow’s event series Artifacts, and more! Who will be this week’s #1 book? You’ll have to 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 ryanreviews@gmail.com.


13. BATMAN: RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE #4
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Georges Jeanty, Walden Wong, and Tony Avina
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Andy Kubert
preRanking: 09

• The fourth installment of Return of Bruce Wayne finds the time-displaced Batman in the “wild west” of Gotham City facing off against Vandal Savage and Thomas, who have employed legendary gunslinger Jonah Hex.
• This story barely seems to connect with the larger story except in its ultra-vagueness when dealing with the mysteries (like the miniature bat-coffin). Batman isn’t written as though he is a time-lost Bruce Wayne, instead he is presented as if he had always been Bat-Cowboy.
• That being said, there is so little dialogue and interaction with Batman and the other characters that it barely matters that it is Bruce Wayne anyway. The silent cowboy archetype is an interesting approach, but the way it plays out makes this barely qualify as a Batman story.
• After the great cliffhanger last issue with Jonah Hex being hired to hunt down Batman, I really expected more than what we get here. Hex is pushed aside in most scenes and is only given a few pages of cool interaction with Batman.
• There is just a major lack of focus and cohesion in this story that drags it down from page one. Morrison continues to spin his mysteries but without anything within those mysterious for the story to hang on to, his efforts seem futile.
• The art does not fare much better than the writing as Georges Jeanty seems to have trouble locking in one style to use throughout. We see multiple approaches here, from clean lines to heavily rendered characters to sketchier line work. It makes for a very frustrating read.
• It doesn’t help that most of the characters retain the same facial expressions throughout the issue. Yowza.
• I also didn’t’ care much for the coloring, which was more detrimental than helpful. There colors weren’t consistent, to the point that Jonah Hex’s shirt seems to go from gray to blue to black and back and the amount of depth and rendering on the characters’ faces is never consistent.

Verdict: Avoid It. Return of Bruce Wayne has been full of ups and downs from the beginning, but this is definitely the lowest point that the series has reached so far. Between the unfocused writing and the unpolished art, there is little about this issue that works for me. I can’t help but feel like this is a majorly wasted opportunity given the quality of the creative team and the strength of the premise.


12. GOTHAM CITY SIRENS #14
Written by Tony Bedard
Art by Andres Guinaldo, Lorenzo Ruggiero, JD Smith, and Tomeu Morey
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Guillem March
preRanking: 08

• In another arc done by a fill-in creative team, Poison Ivy discovers that her predecessor at STAR Labs made a deal with an alien plant that wanted to take over Earth on behalf of his plant people.
• I’m really not sure how much longer I’ll continue to pick up this series if we are going to continue to have fill-in creative teams. The draw of this series is how well Paul Dini handles the characters and, quite frankly, no one else can do it quite like him.
• That being said, this isn’t up to par for Tony Bedard at all. I’m not exactly his biggest fan, but his work is usually stronger than this oddly-paced story that plods through a slow build towards a predictable ending.
• It doesn’t help that the character work is pretty dull. Ivy shows moments of life, but she spends a lot of this issue delivering long-winded diatribes that do little to show personality, while Harley and Catwoman are pushed to the backburner.
• The art follows suit with a very unpolished showcase from Andres Guinaldo. There are flashes of greatness here and there, but most of the art is filled with inconsistent facial structures, strange anatomical choices, and relatively humdrum storytelling.
• I think I might have a different opinion if not for the coloring, though. I’m not sure if it is just a difference in the two colorists, but some pages feature a very clean, solid fill while others have a washed, watercolor style. The two do not blend well together, making the transitions jarring.

Verdict: Avoid It. I really like this series and I want to continue to pick it up, but without Paul Dini at the helm full-time, it is just going to continue to go downhill. Its not that I don’t think that Tony Bedard has the chops to tell a good story with these characters, because he does, but his work can’t reach that Dini plateau. Of course, it doesn’t help that this is one of the weakest issues I’ve seen from Bedard.


11. X-MEN: LEGACY #238
Written by Mike Carey
Art by Clay Mann, Jay Leisten, and Brian Reber
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Lenil Yu
preRanking: 238

• I think I have given X-Men: Legacy more second chances than any other comic on the stands. I’m a huge fan of Marvel’s merry band of mutants, but there always seems to be something that drives me away from this title.
• The first post-Second Coming storyline for the title kicks off in this issue with Rogue taking a group of young X-Men to India with Magneto where Indra returns home to find that he has been placed into an arranged marriage in place of his comatose brother.
• This is a really shallow story thus far with not much going on under the surface beyond what you see. That being said, the strength of the character work does add some depth.
• I’ve never fully grasped the relationship between Magneto and Rogue, but their “familiarity” is handled very well here with some strong subtext in their few exchanges.
• While its clear that Mike Carey understands Rogue and has a rock solid take on her character, he overdoes the accent here—which, admittedly, is something that irks me about most representations of the character. I think it is about time that writers start limiting it, as her dialogue becomes brutal after so many “ah’s” instead of “I’s.”
• Magneto’s powers have never seemed as vague as they have here. There is too much talk of “energies” as he uses his powers to manipulate magnetism to keep everyone safe. If you cut the dialogue, it works so much better.
• While I’m really glad to see another culture explored in a Marvel comic, especially through the eyes of the X-Men, I don’t like that the main push seems to be behind a negative aspect of Indian culture. There needs to be something positive to balance out the cliché arranged marriage plot.
• The art is wildly inconsistent as Clay Mann’s work is plagued with all sorts of problems in regards to the amount of detail in each panel, character designs, anatomy, etc.
• I really hate reviewing art when nothing about it speaks to me. I don’t want to sound like a total jerk, but this art is considerably weaker than Mann’s standards.

Verdict: Byrne It. This issue is definitely a “one step forward, two steps back” situation. There are some great things going on with the characters as Carey once again shows he has the chops, but some aspects of the plot are really lacking and the art is a major misstep for me. I’m not ready to give up on this series yet, but I think there is way more potential for greatness than what we are seeing here.


10. UNCANNY X-MEN #526
Lead Written by Matt Fraction
Lead Art by Whilce Portacio, Ed Tadeo, and Brian Reber
Backup Art by Allan Heinberg
Backup Art by Olivier Voipel, Mark Morales, and Justin Ponsor
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson
preRanking: 11

• In the lead story, Hope goes to Alaska to find the remnants of her biological family while the first of the five new mutants is contacted.
• I love the way Hope’s character is built in this issue as she meets her grandmother, but still tries to keep her distance. That is a neat twist that you don’t see often in this type of story. I also really like that Hope’s mother was a heroic firefighter and the implications that has.
• The best part of this story was seeing Hope “ignite” the powers in the new mutant. That definitely adds to her being aptly named and is a nice nod to the idea of her being the next in line for the Phoenix mantle (though I think Rachel Summers is still somewhere).
• While I am a huge fan of Kitty Pryde, the few pages we see of her story felt forced and out place in the context of the larger issue. I think that this is something that needs to be dealt with in a more concrete and substantial way to be effective.
• This might be my least favorite issue that Whilce Portacio has ever drawn. I really don’t understand some of his design choices at all. For example, Hope’s hair looks like a mix between an 80s glam rocker and someone going bald. It’s not a good choice at all.
• There is on page where we see a wide shot of a photo of Hope’s mother, where she looks to be at least 250 pounds, but on the next page, the close-up of said photo shows that she is skinny and pretty. Seriously? What gives? That is so unacceptable.
• In the backup, Magneto learns the existence of his potential grandsons in the Younger Avengers, but must deal with the fact that everyone believes him to be too dangerous to meet hem.
• This is incredibly well handled as Allan Heinberg really makes you sympathize with Magneto without ignoring the core of the character. It’s a great showcase of how complex that he is.
• I really dug the way that Wolverine and Cyclops’s reactions to Magneto differ here. I’ve always felt like there was an interesting connection between Cyclopes and Magneto, which Heinberg perfect taps here.
Olivier Coipel does a very solid job with the art in the backup thanks to his strong designs and fantastic expressions.

Verdict: Check It. Both stories in this issue feature some strong characterization, which nearly earned this one a Buy It verdict. However, the briefness of the backup (it was done long before I was ready for it to be) and the extreme weakness of the art in the main story pull this one down into the Check It range. It is definitely a step in the right direction for Uncanny X-Men, which had severely lost its way prior to Second Coming, but it still has a way to go before I’ll be totally jazzed with it.


09. SECRET AVENGERS #3
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Mike Deodato Jr. and Rain Beredo
Letters by Dave Lanphear
Cover by Marko Djurdjevic
preRanking: 02

• The secrets of the Serpent Crown are revealed to Captain America by its ancient protectors as Nova manages to cause all sorts of havoc on Mars using its powers.
• There is a lot of really great stuff going on in this issue, most notably the way that Nova’s use of the Serpent Crown is handled. I really like the way it not only showcases the power of the crown, but also of Nova as its wielder.
• The explanation of the Serpent Crown is a bit longwinded, but it does add some emphasis to the danger it poses to the entire universe. I’d prefer a less ham-fisted approach, but at least the story is moving in a cool direction.
• I am still struggling with the fact that there are so many characters that are written out of this series so that Ed Brubaker can focus on the leads. Characters like War Machine, Black Widow, and Moon Knight have been almost completely absent this entire story. If they aren’t going to be used, why have them on the team?
Mike Deodato Jr.’s art is the strongest aspect of the issue as he shows off some great designs and fun layouts, especially during the action sequences. He brings a lot of life to this issue. I wasn’t a big fan of his work on books like Thunderbolts, but he is really winning me over here.
• The extreme lack of backgrounds is disappointing, especially since the pages that do have them are very detailed. I really hate how backgrounds are becoming so drastically overlooked.
Rain Beredo’s colors don’t gel quite as well with the line work as I would like. In some cases, his bolder choices look fantastic against Deodato’s very heavy, dark art. The Avenger’s uniforms are a great example of this. On the flipside, just about everything is too dark, giving the art a very heavy, almost claustrophobic feel that I’m not a huge fan of.

Verdict: Check It. Much like Uncanny X-Men #526 before it, Secret Avengers #3 came very close to jumping into the Buy It range thanks to some cool things going on with Nova and a very strong effort from Mike Deodato. Unfortunately, the colors were a bit weak and, quite frankly, I’m getting very annoyed with how poorly the ensemble cast is being handled in this series. While I’m glad to see my favorite members of the team being spotlighted, there is no reason for the rest of the team to be written off so casually. If they are going to be part of the team, they need to be part of the story.


08. ARTIFACTS #1
Written by Ron Marz
Art by Michael Broussard, Rick Basaldua, Sal Regla, and Sunny Gho
Letters by troy Peteri
Covers by Varous
preRanking: 13

Top Cow’s big event storyline kicks off this week as mysterious forces seem to be plotting against the bearers of some of the companies biggest weapons (like the Witchblade, the Darkness, the Spear of Destiny, etc) and Witchblade’s daughter becomes a target.
• I’ve never actually read a Witchblade comic and my main exposure from Top Cow has been from a handful of Phil Hester’s Darkness issues and the first few issues of the new Magdalena volume. In other words, I’m really not the ideal audience for his miniseries.
• That being said, I found it to be tremendously accessible and kudos to Ron Marz for pulling that off. Given that this pulls from a massive amount of continuity and company mythology, its amazing that I could jump right in from the get go without any problems.
• I really dig the intensity of this issue, which kept me engaged throughout. Every page adds a new layer to the plot as it pushes along at a solid pace towards a cliffhanger that was very shocking even without much knowledge of the characters.
• Top Cow is a company that really sticks to its guns when it comes to art and this issue is no different. Michael Broussard utilizes the “Top Cow style” throughout and it works quite well at folding some very fantastic elements into a relatively realistic style that still retains some wildness in the line work. Fans of Lenil Yu should feel right at home with this.
• The storytelling a was a bit choppy thanks to some stiffness in the art and some awkward panel progressions. On the flipside, the art perfectly captures the mood of the art with a great sense of atmosphere and good expressions.
• What sticks with me about the art is that you leave the issue with the sense that it shouldn’t be drawn any other way. There is instant chemistry between Marz and Broussard that is evident from page one.

Verdict: Buy It. I can’t say that there have been many major event storylines that are good jumping on points for new readers, but with a little bit of Wikipedia research, this is a great place for newbies to start out in the Top Cow Universe. The characters are introduced well and the concepts seem to unfold naturally as it builds up to a great conclusion that has me excited for the next issue. Am I newfound Top Cow junkie? Not yet, but I’m certainly on board for this exciting story.


07. WONDER WOMAN #601
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Don Kramer, Michael Babinski, and Alex Sinclair
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Don Kramer and Michael Babinski
preRanking: 10

• After being less-than-thrilled by the snippet of story by J. Michael Straczynski in Wonder Woman #600 and finding the reboot-light premise of the storyline highly unnecessary, I was perfectly comfortable not picking up this issue. But, as a huge fan of artist Don Kramer, I really had to give it a shot. I’m really glad that I did.
• This issue sets up the new status quo for the slightly de-aged Wonder Woman as she learns of Paradise Island’s destruction, the death of Hippolyta, and her revised Superman-esque origin as she establishes herself as protector of the surviving Amazons.
• There is a lot to hate about the premise of this story. For starters, its unnecessary as there is no reason to start over with Wonder Woman in continuity. This stuff didn’t work well when JMS did it over in Amazing Spider-Man either. Additionally, it is ridiculous to completely rip-off Superman’s origin. It just doesn’t make sense to do so.
• That being said, this issue is a very strong debut for the new status quo. A big reason why it works so well is that the story clearly points out that this is only temporary, as Wonder Woman has a flash of her previous identity. That definitely soothes the nerd rage.
• I really dug the way Hippolyta is presented here, especially when she proves that she would rather die than betray her sisters, losing the Lasso of Truth in the process. It was a very powerful moment that was done very well.
• There is a great mix of action, character, and intrigue here, so it should be pretty hard for most readers not to find something that they can be engaged in here.
• The character writing is a bit weak thanks to the exposition-heavy script and the limited personality that we see from the revised Wonder Woman. The flashbacks of her younger self worked really well, but we need to see more of her now and how that is different from Wonder Woman two issues ago.
• Don Kramer was the selling point of this issue for me, and with good reason. He has an awesome take on the character and really makes the new costume work. Even if you didn’t care for Jim Lee’s designs, you should give this a shot simply to see Kramer put the new costume in action.
• I absolutely love that Kramer presents Wonder Woman as authentically Greek-looking as possible without resorting to caricature. He facial features are extremely Grecian, highlighting the heritage of the character in a way that I’ve never seen done before. That was awesome.
• While there is a lot to love about the art and it is the highlight of the issue, there are moments where it simply isn’t Kramer’s strongest work. Michael Babinski is inker over Kramer and some of the crispness you might come to expect from Kramer is lost with the change. If you’ve been following Kramer’s work over the years, you will definitely notice a difference now that Wayne Faucher is no longer inking him.

Verdict: Buy It. I came into this issue expecting the worst and was pleasantly surprised with what the results. There is a lot about the “new” Wonder Woman that I don’t agree with an see as highly unnecessary (something that I believe to be JMS’s calling card), but it all works really well here as Wonder Woman seems fresh. Much of the credit belongs to artist Don Kramer, though, as he makes the most of this high profile gig. He has been one of my favorite artists for years and this issue is a prime example of why.


06. THE FLASH #4
Written by Geoff Johns
Lead Art by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Backup Art by Scott Kolins and Brian Buccellato
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Francis Manapul
preRanking: 06

The Flash continues to face off against the Renegades (future police versions of the Rogues) in this week’s issue as he saves them from the resurrected Captain Boomerang and learns the truth behind the crime he hasn’t committed yet.
• I absolutely love the Silver Age goodness of this issue. There is a real “anything goes” approach that allows for some of the crazier elements to work without question. This definitely harkens back to that ‘classic comic book’ feel.
• Even though Top spells out exactly how the plot could progress, I actually found that it made the story that much more compelling. There is so much insanity and so many twists in the story he tells, its hard not to get excited.
• There is still a major logical rift in the story as the whole concept of future comics never makes much sense and feels forced. I’ve seen this concept used before, but it never sits well with me. When one Renegade tells another that telling Barry of his future crimes is publishable by death because it would alter the time stream, it completely negates the idea of arresting someone for a crime they have yet to commit, as it does the exact same thing.
• Seriously, how awesome is Francis Manapul? He is quickly cementing himself as the quintessential contemporary Flash artist. I don’t want to see the character drawn by anyone else for at least the next decade.
• I really dig the little touches in the art, most notably the fact that the colors are amped up on the Flash while is running, yet muted on everything around him. That is a much cooler way to disconnect Flash from his surroundings than the standard “blur” effect or the “everywhere at once” approach.
• Flash running across the blades of a helicopter to save the people inside is pretty much the coolest ever. That is my new mental image for what makes the Flash so awesome.

Verdict: Buy It. This issue is practically exploding with awesomeness as there are a ton of cool concepts going on and another amazing effort from artist Francis Manapul. I wasn’t quite as thrilled with the short back-up on the Mirror Master’s origins and the plot does have some very major holes when you start thinking about it, but you shouldn’t let that keep you from enjoying the issue.


05. GREEN ARROW #2
Written by JT Krul
Art by Diogenes Neves, Vicente Cifuentes, and Ulises Arreola
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Mauor Cascioli
preRanking: 05

Hal Jordan drops in (literally) on Ollie in the Star City forest, where Ollie explains his current situation and the new leader of Queen Industries tries to send a message to Green Arrow.
• There isn’t a ton of plot in this issue as it continues to explore the parameters of the current situation for Ollie. If you are looking for the story to make leaps and bounds forward, you’ll be disappointed. For what it is though, it is very effective.
JT Krul does a great job of nodding towards, but ultimately putting all of the recent plot points behind Green Arrow as he focuses on the current storyline. It’s great to see that Krul is putting the events of Cry for Justice behind him—let’s just hope the fans can follow suit.
• I really like how well Krul captures the spirit of the friendship between Ollie and Hal. There is definitely a “Hard Travelin’ Heroes” vibe to the issue that is really enjoyable (of course, I’m partial to those old O’Neill/Adams stories).
• I really did not see the cliffhanger coming at all, but there was a great build towards. The action sequences that break up the conversational tone of the issue come to a close at just the precise moment for the cliffhanger to be so effective.
Diogenes Neves has found the perfect mix of standard superhero conventions and realism for this title. It’s the prefect fit for the tone of the book—there is a nice hint of Mike Grell’s style here.
• I have to applaud Neves for the amount of detail he puts into each page. There is not a single panel that isn’t filled to the borders, which is a nice change of pace from so many books this week that were lacking backgrounds.
• The expressions in the characters’ eyes were done really well. It’s not very often that so much of expression is done through the eyes in comics, but Neves nails it.

Verdict: Must Read. Given that this series spun out of some of the worst storytelling that Green Arrow has ever been a part of, I’m simply floored by how excellent this series has been so far. JT Krul has found the perfect tone for Green Arrow in the midst of a premise that really suits him. When you add in the stellar efforts of artist Dioenes Neves, you have a book that, in just two issues, has come a long way towards redeeming Green Arrow after some truly horrid stories.


04. TIME BOMB #1
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art by Paul Gulacy, Charles Yoakum, and Rain beredo
Letters by John. J. Hill
Cover by Paul Gulacy
preRanking: 07

• In the debut of Time Bomb from Radical Comics, a team digging in Germany discovers a hidden underground Nazi instillation and accidently set off a biological weapon that threatens to wipe out all life on Earth within 72 hours. A team is then sent back in time to stop the dig from happening, only to find they were sent back to Nazi Germany instead.
• This is one of the craziest, most off-the-wall creative concepts that I’ve read in a while and I love every single iota of it. This book definitely lives up to the creativity of its premise.
• I really dig that Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray chose to start the issue by showing the threat firsthand with the virus already sweeping across the world. Too often in stories like this, that threat goes unseen. That ratchets up the intensity from the very beginning.
• Although we don’t spend a lot of time with the main characters in this issue, what we see of them is instantly engaging. There are a ton of storytelling possibilities for the fact that the group contains a couple going through a divorce—that adds a lot of humanity to the story.
Paul Gulacy’s artwork is very clean and crisp, with a good consistency throughout all 50+ story pages in this issue. That alone is impressive.
• I like the way that Gulacy straddles a strong sense of realism with a looser, more animated feel. It keeps things lively while remaining very grounded.
• Gulacy’s storytelling is very straightforward with fairly rigid layouts and standard perspectives, but is very cinematic in how it unfolds, especially in his dramatic use of close-ups.

Verdict: Must Read. Time Bomb might not be the easiest comic for you to find this week, but is definitely one of the most satisfying. Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray take a great concept and milk it for all that it is worth in this well-paced and finely crafted issue that is engaging from page one and leaves you wanting more. You should definitely pick this comic up if you can find it, though I strongly recommend going out of your way to hunt it down.


03. GREEN LANTERN #56
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen, Keith Champagne, Randy Mayor, Gabe Eltaeb, and Carrie Strachan
Letters by Nick J. Napolitano
Cover by Doug Mahnke and Hi-Fi
preRanking: 03

• After an eventful run-in with Atrocitus last issue, Hal Jordan stops in to visit Larfleeze, who has been terrorizing a small town in Minnesota to find how the loose entities can be trapped.
• I’ve never been a huge fan of Hector Hammond, who plays a major role in this issue, but Geoff Johns does a great job of making him a foil for both Hal and Larfleeze in this issue. The interplay between the three of them was a lot of fun.
• There is a really solid interlude in this issue with Saint Walker and the Question visiting the grave of her predecessor that is extremely heartfelt and a nice way to balance out the humor of the issue. I was a bit confused on why they were spending time together, but I let it slide.
• Not surprisingly, Larfleeze and his Orange Lantern constructs steal the issue, though. I’m amazed at the amount of depth that Johns can pack into the character considering how ridiculous (and hilarious) he is.
• Larfleeze’s rationale for living on Earth is priceless and poignant. Plus, the thought of him watching commercials to learn about humanity is awesome. I also like the setup for the Larfleeze Christmas special that Johns has hinted at—with Larfleeze assuming that you can have anything you want so long as it is on a list.
• What can be said about Doug Mahnke that hasn’t already been said a thousand times? He continues to be amazing on this series.
• Mahnke really blew me away with his expressions in this issue and how well they carry the story. I was especially impressed with how much he could convey with Larfleeze and Hector Hammond—to characters that don’t exactly lend themselves to standard expressions.
• If you look close enough, you can see the switches between inkers in this issue, which isn’t surprising given the number of inkers working on it. However, for there being four separate inkers on this issue, I’m really impressed with how subtle these shifts really are.

Verdict: Must Read. Green Lantern maintains its post-Blackest Night momentum with another incredibly strong issue this week. This issue really is a total package, excelling in nearly all aspects of craftsmanship. Plus, it features some downright hilarious scenes with Larfleeze that are easily amongst the most memorable moments I read this week. You really cannot go wrong with this issue, but you definitely shouldn’t go without it.


02. HOTWIRE: DEEP CUT #1
Written by Steve Pugh
Art by Steve Pugh
Letters by Steve Pugh
Cover by Steve Pugh
preRanking: 04

• After saving the city from hordes of the “blue lights” (scientific ghosts!), Detective/Exorcist Alice Hotwire is back in action this week when the ill-advised and ultimately destructive actions of the police against the blue lights becomes too much for her to watch quietly.
• This is a very fast-paced issue that covers a lot of material quickly as it hits the ground running. You get an introduction to the character, a short recap of the first miniseries, and then its go-go-go until the end of the issue. Steve Pugh wastes no time in this issue but, at the same time, keeps it accessible to new readers.
• I really dig the amount of back story we get on Alice in this issue, which is perfectly in line with what we had seen in the original miniseries. What we found out here definitely makes her actions and gruff demeanor more relatable and I’m glad that Pugh waited until now to start filling the readers in—you have to warm up to Alice’s nature before you can find out the reasons why she is how she is.
• The plot of this issue is considerably more complex, as Pugh spins more shades of gray into the story. No one in this issue is technically a “good guy,” as they all have questionable methods and actions that are ultimately justifiable from their own points of view.
• Pugh’s art is also a step up from his previous work, as he adds considerably more detail and fluidity than we saw in the first miniseries while maintaining the unique style of his art.
• There is a bold sense of realism here that comes into conflict with the more fantastic sci-fi elements. The juxtaposition works extremely well though, as Pugh’s art is simultaneously familiar and incredibly alien.

Verdict: Must Read. Boldly unique and unflinchingly creative, Hotwire: Deep Cut is a prefect follow-up to the exciting and compelling original miniseries from Steve Pugh. Its an improvement on nearly every aspect of the original’s already strong craftsmanship with a more complex plot and stronger art. Much like Time Bomb #1 (Ranked at #4), this might not be the easiest comic for you to find, but it will be well worth the effort if you do manage to track down a copy! Do not miss this comic!


01. THOR: MIGHTY AVENGER #2
Written by Roger Langridge
Art by Chris Samnee and Matthew Wilson
Letters by Rus Wooton
Cover by Chris Samnee and Matt Wilson
preRanking: 01

• After helping him reconnect with his hammer last issue, Jane takes in Thor as he tries to adjust to life on Earth, meanwhile Hyde has his villainous sights set on here in this week’s excellent Thor: Mighty Avenger.
• This issue is simply amazing on so many levels. I had so much fun with the first issue earlier this month, but this one really proves that the first was no fluke. This series is the real deal.
• The interaction between Thor and Jane was a ton of fun. Roger Langridge does a great job of building the complexity of their personalities from the start, then plays them off of one another perfectly.
• The pacing in this issue is excellent as Langridge flows seamlessly in and out of the action, while maintaining focus on building the characters, all leading the extremely strong dénouement after Thor’s battle with Hyde.
• At the end of the issue, there is an amazingly heartbreaking moment where Thor expresses sadness over chasing a rainbow that he thought was the Rainbow Bridge, but could never get closer to. It was a great twist on the “post-battle, sun is shining” cliché that speaks volumes about the tone of this series.
• I don’t think I could say enough great things about Chris Samnee’s art on this issue. Having followed his career since Capote in Kansas, I’m amazed at the growth and range he has shown with every subsequent project. Thor: MA is right in line with that.
• Samnee’s playfulness in the issue shows just how much fun he is having with this book, which is incredibly infectious. How can you not have a good time while reading this book?
• The expressions in this issue are top notch, from the subtlety of the humor-based moments between Jane and Thor to the incredibly intense action sequences—Samnee nails them all.

Verdict: Must Read. We may only be two issues into this book, but I’m ready to hand this series the title “Best New Series 2010” already. Langridge and Samnee have an undeniable chemistry that bleeds through on every single page of this incredibly well-crafted and highly entertaining comic. There are very few things I could even dream of complaining about in this book and they are all outshined by its many, many, many strengths. While everyone’s eyes are on the leaked Thor trailer today, I really hope they don’t overlook the excellence that is this series. This week had a slew of Must Reads, but nothing could come close to unseating this issue was Book of the Week.


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12 comments:

Simon McDonald said...

Thor: Mighty Avenger is the best comic being published right now, no doubt. Nice reviews! Agree with your list entirely.

twobitspecialist said...

As I already mentioned in Kirk's reviews, Secret Avengers #3 felt too short to me, like it quits when it was just getting good. I also thought it was kinda cheap to knock out Black Widow and Moon Knight off-panel. Of course they couldn't stand a chance with Nova, but the way it was done was, well, cheap.

Minhquan Nguyen said...

I have just a little beef to pick with Ryan's assessment of the Wonder Woman semi-reboot. Yes, even though the fact that Diana being spirited away from her destroyed homeland is reminiscent of Superman's origin, I don't think it's "ripping off" anything. Paradise Island isn't self-destructing; it's being destroyed by outside forces. Not all of Paradise Island's denizens died; in fact, in the comic, it's claimed that most of them have escaped and are living elsewhere on Earth.

I apologize if I'm nitpicking at details, but I think they are major enough in distinction that concluding the Wonder Woman semi-reboot rips off Superman's origin is too strong.

DesiGeek said...

If u wanna read a real good India-based arc, try the recent Hellblazer one.

Jank said...

As an Indian, Legacy made me wince a little bit. The arranged marriage thing is a bit cliche, but there are plenty of Bollywood movies made on the same subject, so I can't blame him. I was just hoping for something a little more original. Also, in my personal experience, I've never seen a situation as depicted between Indra and his brother in regards to the marriage, but I can't say it's impossible.

The Hindi was a nice touch though.

Bobby Weenus said...

I felt like that Uncanny backup was written with a refreshly clear view of the MU that characters rarely acknowledge unless as a campy fan-service joke. Wolverine speaking for both the X-Men and the Avengers, and then just the Avengers as he saw Cyclops was going to treat Magneto with kid gloves, was all handled pretty well and it finally gave us writer's meta view on the current state of the MU with actual characters discussing it.

I wish I could read more full issues like that.

The ultimate problem with Magnus as a good guy again is that any rational, experienced reader knows that in some time, maybe 2 years, maybe 5 years, some writer will come along and hamfistedly give him another heel turn and unwrite all of this. It sort of makes the bigger, more obvious villains hard to sympathize with in these storylines.

I hope this Kitty situation doesn't drag on like this for too long. I hope bringing her 'sorta' back wasn't just a compromise that was beneficial to selling Magnus as a hero and a way of shutting up a fanbase that was giving the "what the fuck is up with Kitty?!" question more and more often. One of the writers had stated at a con last year that Kitty would be needed as a guiding figure in the X-Men's post Second Coming world, and I whole heartedly agree with that, but making her mute and distressed isn't quite the way to inspire Post-War Utopia.

Well, at the end of the day, I'm sure the writers have a plan for it.

Anonymous said...

THE GREAT ANONYMOUS

@Ryan: hey I told Kirk in the comments section for the previews that he would probably like green arrow 2 and was not wrong about it!

It is great that you decided to give it a chance, I think that krull is slowly learning from his writing mistakes and can evolve into something better...

Have a great weekend!

Philipe said...

God, Green Lantern is simply an amazing comic. It's what every major superhero comic book should be...and I wasn't even a big GL fan but now I'm completely hooked. Geoff Johns is a genius. I just wished he was at Marvel...

Secret Avengers is very underwhelming...Brubaker does not deserve an artist like Deodato at the moment. The pacing is soooooo slow (which reminds me at lof of his first X-Men arc....)

I'm getting sick of Morrison's crazyness. ROBW is a miss for me, nothing great about it.

Radlum said...

I'm losing hope in Brubaker and SA; the art in this issue was great, but the only reason this one was better than the previous two was that most of the cast is unconscious; Brubaker should stick to a smaller cast.
Regarding ROBW, I love Morrison's crazyness and finding out small details and plot elements that date to the silver age, but this issue was just plain bad. I'd like to give all the blame to the art (which was seriously awful and innapropriate for the context), but Morrison's writing was very incoherent and weak in this issue. Still, I hope the last two issues are better.

Anonymous said...

i think that if we learn anything about de run of brubacker in uncanny x-men, is that he can't handle a team very well, i mean, he cand develop two or three caracters like he does in captain america, but with a big group doesn't feel well.

Flash and Green Lantern are just awesome, i love the work that jonns is making

Philipe said...

I refuse to read Flash until they bring Wally back, even if it wins an Eisner.

Steven said...

@Minhquan - It never states that MOST of the Amazons escaped. It was stated in a JMS interview that some, very few of the total, survived and are hiding.

While it READS better than JMS' Superman debacle, it is another case of him apparently wanting to tell a story that wouldn't sell unless wrapped around a marketable character. It's a story about a different character, going by the same name.

My big question is, why in the pre-universe change flashbacks, the Amazons are not wearing their wristbands that they NEVER remove?

And I swear, if the bald dude with the magic lasso turns out to be Luthor I'm going to have to officially label JMS an unrepentant hack.

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