Thursday, August 5, 2010
After last week’s massive 13-book haul, this week’s Comic Book Review Power Rankings is considerably lighter with only 6 issues. Of course, a smaller pack means a fiercer fight for the Top Spot! We’ve got a lot of Rankings-favorites this week including new issues of S.H.I.E.L.D, Secret Six, Red Robin, and Kill Shakespeare! Who will be this week’s #1? Hit the jump to find out!
For the uninitiated, the Comic Book Review Power Rankings is a countdown from worst-to-best of my weekly comic book haul. Before reading the issues, I preRank them based on the creative team, previous issues, solicitations, and gut instinct. The final Ranking number is based upon how the issues actually turned out. I attempt to keep everything as spoiler free as possible, but keep in mind that there may be the occasional minor spoiler that I overlook. As always, I can be reached via responses to this thread or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On an unrelated side note, I may be attending Wizard World Chicago on Saturday August 21st and would love to meet any loyal Rankings readers. If you plan on attending the show, let me know!
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Dustin Weaver, Christina Strain, and Justin Ponsor
Letters by Todd Klein
Cover by Gerald Parel
• This week’s S.H.I.E.L.D. is another sweeping alternative history lesson as Isaac Newton recounts his history with The Brotherhood of the Shield, including his search for The Five Understandings, all building up to the arrival of Leonid and Leonardo da Vinci.
• This issue is an onslaught of ideas and concepts as Jonathan Hickman floods the pages of this issue with rewritten histories, twists on longstanding concepts, etc. You definitely need to come into this issue ready to be bombarded.
• I will say that on a casual read, this issue is extremely hard to follow because there is so much going on and there really aren’t enough cues that jump out. This requires either a very close read or multiple rereads before you’ll catch everything.
• Even then, there are some concepts that are just “too high,” such as The Five Understandings, to be effective. There is nothing to ground all of Hickman’s ideas, which is really off-putting at times.
• While Hickman is able to tap into an enormous sense of wonder here and its hard not to get excited about things like Galileo versus Galactus, the pace at which he has to rush through the issue left me wanting. I feel like we are being teased with these amazing stories, but instead we are brought back to the Leonid storyline from the previous issues that has yet to really take hold of me.
• Dustin Weaver’s art in this issue looks great, is highly detailed, and perfectly matches the high concepts of the writing.
• Weaver shows an impressive range in this issue as he switches styles on the fly as the story weaves in and out of different eras with different characters.
• While that range is impressive, it also gives the issue a very disjointed feel. The multiple styles do not flow organically from one another, so each switch is jarring. Of course, it doesn’t help that the one unifying aspect of each scene—Isaac Newton himself—seems to change designs with each style.
Verdict: Check It. This issue came very close to a Buy It verdict and, in a lot of ways, has characteristics of a Must Read book. Unfortunately, for everything this issue does right (which is a lot), there are so many missed opportunities, poor transitions, and a severe lack of focus that pulls it down. I love so much of what is going on in this series, but with nothing to ground the unbridled plethora of ideas that we are seeing here, its hard to get invested. I feel like Jonathan Hickman has so many great ideas, he is in a rush to put them out on paper before he loses them—unfortunately, that means we get a lot of fantastic ideas that will make for amazing stories, but there is no cohesion or focus to turn them into a great story now.
Written by Jim McCann
Art by David Lopez, Alvaro Lopez, and Nathan Fairbairn
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Paul Renaud
• The unlikely trio of Dominic Fortune, Hawkeye, and Mockingbird storm into a trap laid by Crossfire and Phantom Rider in this week’s issue, following up from the brutal attack on Mockingbird’s mother last issue.
• Things really start to heat up in this issue, with a lot of the threads being laid in the previous issues coming together. Jim McCann does a brilliant job of spinning that into a very intense issue.
• The twists with Hawkeye not being able to handle Mockingbird’s new edge are really neat and a great spin on the usual way things play out in situations like this. Mockingbird being in the stereotypical “male” role of power and toeing the line is a cool twist and works very well.
• McCann’s biggest strength is his character work and that shows here with superb interaction and a strong subtext to each exchange. There is a lot of depth in this otherwise action-oriented story.
• The dialogue during the action scenes does get a it problematic as it is either too dense or the quipping is tremendously awkward.
• The vast majority of the art in this issue looks great. There is strong consistency in the work of David Lopez and company, especially in regards to the amount of detail, storytelling approaches, etc.
• Some of the expressions are a bit weak—especially with Mockingbird. I’m not sure what the issue is, but she looks more constipated than anything else in a good chunk of this issue.
• There is still a major issue with how Hawkeye looks out of costume. Its hard to believe it is supposed to be the same person with and without the mask. Removing his hood should not completely change his jawline and bone structure, but it certainly looks like it does here.
Verdict: Buy It. This is a great issue that builds upon a lot of the many, many things that have worked over the last few issues. McCann has been dropping threads left-and-right, many of which start to come together, giving this issue multiple levels of conflict that are tremendously interesting. There are some pacing issue with the dialogue and certain aspects of the art still grate on me, but overall, I’m calling this one a win (albeit just barely) and a book that way too many people are missing out on.
Written by Sean McKeever
Art by David Baldeon, N. Bowling, and Chris Sotomayor
Letters by Joe Sabino
Cover by David Lafuente and Morry Hollowell
• In this week’s Young Allies, the titular team continues to track down the Bastards of Evil, who start to crack under the pressure of their infamy just as their unseen director orders a them to kill the Young Allies.
• The story is starting to spins its wheels a bit, as the plot really only moves forward in the final few pages, with the rest being devoted to character interaction and world building. Under most writers, I’d call foul here, but Sean McKeever continues to showcase his uncanny ability to write teen characters in a fresh and interesting way that more than makes up for it.
• The character interaction in this issue is simply spectacular. I’m amazed at how much McKeever can get me invested in these characters despite the fact that many of them are completely new creations (such as the villains) and the rest are characters I have no history with.
• There is a really natural and organic feel to this issue, which is part of the reason why I’m okay with the slow-moving plot. From Firestar and Gravity’s dismissal of the younger heroes to the way that Nomad and Arana are sidetracked by their everyday “teen troubles” like school and relationships—McKeever unfolds everything in a natural, relatable way.
• The art here is definitely the best that we’ve seen from David Baldeon on this series as his storytelling is definitely a step-up from the previous issues and he works with much greater consistency.
• There is something really weird with how he draws the characters’ eyes though, that creeps me out a bit. They don’t seem to gel well with the rest of the designs and, in the case of Firestar especially, the characters have a tendency to look very crosseyed.
• It seems like Baldeon is transitioning between styles with this books. Some aspects are very loose, looking manga inspired, while others are a bit tighter and have a decidedly Silver Age feel to them. I feel like there is something absolutely superb coming up with Baldeon, its just a matter of it coming to the surface.
Verdict: Buy It. This issue really sums up everything I love about this book—strong characters, interesting plot twists, energetic artwork—but also suffers from some nagging issues that could easily be fixed, such as the slow-moving plot, weird eyes, etc. You can tell from page one that this series has the possibility of being one of Marvel’s strongest titles, but its not quite there yet. Don’t get me wrong this is a fantastic comic from a criminally under-read title, but you can tell after reading it that it has the potentially to be something much greater.
Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art by Marcus To, Ray McCarthy, and Guy Major
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Marcus To, Ray McCarthy, and Brian Buccellato
• Realizing that Vicki Vale has learned the secret identities of the entire Bat-family, Tim has to fake an attack on himself in order to keep their secrets safe in this week’s Red Robin.
• I’m really surprised that no other writer has tried this exact storyline given how easy it would be to deduce the identity of the Bat-family. It seems pretty logical to fake-debilitate the civilian identity of one of the characters.
• While the story is fairly predictable, its still extremely engaging. A major part of this is how methodically and systematically unfolds. This is something that Fabian Nicieza uses quite a bit in his Tim Drake stories—he metatextually writes stories in the same manner that Tim thinks/acts. It’s a really cool move that is showcased quite well here.
• I really don’t understand how Stephanie Brown would have contacts in the Middle Eastern underworld—that really pulled me out of the story.
• Damian only has a line or two in this issue but he really steals the show here, especially after his confrontation with Tim in last month’s issue.
• Once again, Marcus To absolutely kills with the art. It’s amazing how much chemistry he has with Nicieza’s writing. They are definitely a dynamite team.
• I’m really glad to see that nearly every panel has backgrounds, which is something that seems to be ignored more and more often from artists these days. They aren’t necessarily the most detailed, but they still appear and that goes a long way!
• To’s really starting to shine with his body language and clean facial expressions. The art definitely goes a long way at setting the tone of this issue.
Verdict: Must Read. This series is definitely in the running for my favorite comic of 2009 and this issue is a great example of why. Fabian Nicieza and Marcus To are working perfectly in sync on this series and the results are just phenomenal. There aren’t many major flaws in the issue and those that do exist are more than made up for by its strengths. You really cannot go wrong with this book.
Written by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col
Art by Andy Belanger and Ian Herring
Letters by Chris Mowry
Cover by Kagan McLeod
• Still on the run from Richard III’s forces, Hamlet and Falstaff find themselves in an impromptu team-up with Juliet and Othello in a battle with Iago and his cronies. Yes, that is what really happens in this issue.
• If you haven’t already done so, I recommend checking out my review of issues #1-3 of Kill Shakespeare for a good primer on the series and a list of reasons why you definitely need to pick it up.
• This issue continues to play to the strengths of the series—strong character work featuring the Bard’s most well-known characters in a completely absurd situation that seems frighteningly natural thanks to the strength of Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col’s understanding and lovef or them.
• I really love the way that the plots of the plays are finally starting to seep through here. It is mostly surface work, such as the Iago/Desdemona/Othello situation, but it does add some depth to the series.
• The twists on the characters really fascinates me You expect Othello to be a warrior, but Juliet is far from it in Romeo and Juliet; however, it doesn’t feel forced because of how well the writers tap into her headstrong nature and impulsive passions—the core of Juliet is retained.
• Andy Belanger’s art is a tad weaker than the writing, but it works well with the tone of the script and does a great job of capturing the energy of story.
• Where Belanger really excels, however, is in his deceptively simple designs. He is able to capture a lot of personality with very little frills. The different eras and settings of the character’s “homes” are present in the designs without being blatant or making any of the characters seem out of place.
Verdict: Must Read. I really loved the first three issues of this series and the fourth follows suit by showcasing the same strengths as the creative team does wonders in turning a strong but whacky premise into a highly engaging story that is as intelligent as it is irreverent. I’m really not sure exactly what I expected with this series, but I do know that every single issue has exceeding any expectations I could have had and this issue is no different.
Written by Gail Simone
Art by J. Calafiore and Jason Wright
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Daniel Luvisi
• This week’s Secret Six is a little hard to explain without giving away too much of the fun. So, I’ll put it this way, imagine if the Secret Six were actually a Western and Gail Simone were even more depraved than normal. That about sums it up.
• This issue clearly is not in continuity and really doesn’t seem to have much to do with anything currently going on in the series (for now). Don’t let that fool you into thinking that you don’t need to read it. That would be a mistake.
• Simone is at her darkest and most disturbingly awesome here as she seems to throw every absurdly offensive idea that she’s ever had at the page. We get murder, bathtub sex, naughty puppet shows for children, explosions, people biting one another, mayhem, saloon whores, etc.
• I really dig the surprise guest star in this issue, whom I won’t ruin for anyone that hasn’t read it yet, and I really hope that this is foreshadowing a showdown between this character and Deadshot. Few things could make me happier.
• Simone does a great job of adapting the Secret Six to the western genre without compromising her usual style and still hitting on some conventions of the genre. She is really flexing her creative muscles here.
• Jim Calafiore, who is consistently kicking tail on this series, is up to his usual awesomeness here. This is definitely my favorite issue from Calafiore since the puzzle-piece issue of Gotham Underground.
• The art, much like the writing, takes strong cues from the conventions of the western genre while still being able to add in the more fantastic elements without much issue.
• Calafiore does a great job of selling the horror in this issue through some fantastic action sequences and equally as effective reaction shots—not all of which are strictly facial expressions. There is one great panel of Ragdoll’s naughty puppets (Harley and the Joker) in front of a blaze that perfectly sums up this issue.
Verdict: Must Read. As of this week, this is the sixth issue that I’ve pegged as a potential Single Issue of the Year candidate and, quite honestly, I now think it is the book to beat. This issue works on every single level of its craft and is incredibly entertaining to boot. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to miss this book. If it weren’t so practically impossible (and financially irresponsible), I would buy all of you a copy to enjoy the crap out of—this book is that good. There were some awesome comics this week, but none could touch this one, making it one of the easiest Book of the Week picks this year (and the 4th Book of the Week honor of 2010 for Secret Six!).