Thursday, August 12, 2010

Comic Book Review Power Rankings for 08/11/10

The Comic Book Review Power Rankings will be taking on a slightly different format this week as I take a look at ten of this week’s releases. For this week only I’ll be doing away with the standard “bullet points” review style that I normally employ, instead focusing more on in-depth verdicts as I review books ranging from Birds of Prey to Morning Glories to X-Men and more. Hit the jump to see which book Ranked at #1!

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

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!

10. X-MEN #2
Written by Victor Gischler
Art by Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco, and Marte Gracia
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Adi Granov
preRanking: 09

After the devastating attacks last issue, Wolverine and Colossus find themselves in an impromptu team-up with Blade against a horde of super-powered vampires. As it becomes clear that the vampires have San Francisco surrounded, Cyclops hatches a surprising plan to take down the threat.

Verdict: Byrne It. The stuff that doesn’t work in X-Men #2 definitely outweighs the things that do. Victor Gischler’s character writing works extremely well, especially with the Wolverine/Colossus interaction, but falls short thanks to some spotty plotting through this relatively uninspired story. When you add in Paco Medina’s extremely boob-happy art, this book simply falls flat. I think there is a lot of potentially here, especially with Gischler at the helm, but this series is going to need a lot of work to secure a spot on my pull list.

09. GI JOE #21
Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by Alex Call and Andrew Crossley
Letters by Neil Uyetake
Covers by Various
preRanking: 08

Ship Wreck, Cover Girl, and their team invade Cobra’s submarine. Unfortunately for them, their attack doesn’t go as planned, leading to disastrous results that threaten the lives of their teammates on Cobra’s mysterious island. But, on the flipside, at least Ship Wreck wasn’t wearing his Village People duds.

Verdict: Byrne It. This is perhaps the most fast-paced issue that this series has seen, with Chuck Dixon rushing through the action as the Joes plan unfolds. Unfortunately, this undercuts the tension that its trying to build and the issue as a whole suffers as a result. I did really dig Dixon’s choice of making the first few pages silent as a tribute to the classic silent issue of GI Joe #21—that was a nice touch. Things don’t get any better for artist Alex Cal as he draws most of the characters to look exactly the same (except for Scarlett, but she looks pretty dang weird here).

08. ZATANNA #4
Written by Paul Dini
Art by Chad Hardin, Wayne Faucher, John Kalisz, and Lovern Kindzierski
Letters by Pat Brosseau
Cover by Stephane Roux and Karine Boccanfuso
preRanking: 04

Zatanna has a gig in Vegas but is surprised to find herself in a battle against an all-new Royal Flush Gang (now with more Sammy Davis Jr.), breaking up a party thrown by her always inconsiderate cousin Zachary Zatara, and in the clutches of three very old witches made of fire.

Verdict: Check It. As usual, Paul Dini does a brilliant job here. I really love the crazy concepts that he puts together in this issue (a Rat Pack version of the Royal Flush Gang? I’m sold!), plus the interaction between Zatanna and Zatara was strong. Unfortunately, Chad Hardin simply cannot live up to the standards set by regular artist Stephane Roux and is wildly inconsistent in his attempts to do so. If not for their clothes remaining the same through this issue, the characters would be unrecognizable at times thanks to their ever-shifting facial features. Plus, seriously, if you are going to have Rat Pack impersonators in your comic, you need to make them look at least marginally like Frank Sinatra and company!

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by David Lafuente and Justin Ponsor
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by David Lafuente and Justin Ponsor
preRanking: 07

Peter Parker’s abductors are revealed this week to be brother-and-sister duo of Chameleons and, now that they know his secret, they are hell-bent on ruining Spider-Man’s life. Plus, apparently, J. Jonah Jameson figures out that Peter is Spider-Man without any sort of context clues or anything.

Verdict: Check it. There really isn’t anything original about this story that hasn’t been done for every other superhero that has faced a shape-shifter at one time or another; the only real twist is that Chameleon is two people in the Ultimate Universe (yawn). This is really the first time I’ve felt let-down by this series, but the hopefully the inevitable action next issue will make up for it. Also, while David Lafuente’s work here is as strong as ever, I’m taking points off for the fact that Jameson is apparently shot in the head and there is nothing to indicate that is happening in the script. I understand avoiding the heavy gore, but this is simply “too clean” to get the point across.

Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Fernando Pasarin, Cam Smith, and Randy Mayor
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Rodolfo Migliari
preRanking: 06

The newest Green Lantern series debuts with Guy Gardner heading to unknown sectors as part of his pact with ex-Guardian Ganthet and the vicious Red Lantern Atrocitus. Meanwhile, Ganthet unearths secrets deep within Oa and Atrocitus sends Bleez on an errand.

Verdict: Buy It. This is a strong debut issue with Peter Tomasi setting the new status quo immediately, then branching out from there with Guy’s new mission. I like that he is keeping enough mysterious to keep me interested, but showing just enough to avoid alienating the reader. It’s a fine-line and he toes it quite well. Fernando Pasarin’s artwork is strong throughout with lots of detail and great designs for the non-human characters (his Bleez looks killer). I’m not sure if it is a problem with the inks or what, but Guy’s face does go through some changes throughout the issue depending on the shadowing. That could be tightened up. While there are some places where this could be tightened up, after the disappointment of what Green Lantern Corps has become, I’m glad to see that this series is off to a great start.

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Joe Eisma and Alex Sollazzo
Letters by Johnny Lowe
Cover by Rodin Esquejo
preRanking: 10

The much-hyped Morning Glories debuted this week, following the newest students enrolled at a mysterious academy with deadly secrets. The issues focuses on world-building, which includes quickly layering the mysteries and building intrigue about the exact purpose and power behind the academy.

Verdict: Buy It. I had no plans to pick this up, but after it had been heavily hyped over the last few months, I felt that it was worth a shot. I’m glad I did. Nick Spencer is dealing mostly with stock characters in this issue, but the barrage of twists and turns he puts them through more than makes up for that. Plus, I have to give him points for the way he handled, Jade, the resident “goth,” shutting down when she learns that her family doesn’t remember her—not your typical reaction from an angsty goth character. The pacing in this issue is fantastic as Spencer starts with big action, then slows it to a methodical pace as he starts layering the twists on. Joe Eisma’s art is enjoyable with clean line work and strong designs, though he consistently draws some of the weirdest lips I’ve ever seen, which can quickly derail and otherwise fantastic page. I’m not quite sure where this series is going from here, but I’m pretty sure I want to go along for the ride.

Written by Gail Simone
Art by Ed Benes, Adriana Melo, J.P. Mayer, and Nei Ruffino
Letters by Swands
Cover by Alina Urusov
preRanking: 01

White Canary’s plan and identity are revealed in this week’s Birds of Prey as the team finds themselves at the mercy of not only this new villain, but also former friend Savant and the villainous Penguin. This issue is full of twists and turns, with writer Gail Simone making it clear early on that not everything is what it seems in this issue.

Verdict: Must Read. I really suspected that the identity of White Canary would be the big talking point of this issue, but in reality, I’ll be surprised if most readers even know who the character is or what her connection to Black Canary is. Simone manages to make the reveal satisfying nonetheless by outlining some of the character background, but also by providing enough story in the subplot to make up for any disappointment. The twist with Savant, which I won’t reveal here, is one of the most intense scenes that Simone has scripted this year and is worth the cover price alone. I still have trouble telling the difference between the art of Adriana Melo and Ed Benes as they tag-team the art on this issue, which I consider a good thing. Both artists bring a lot of energy and detail to the pages—plus, much to my pleasure, they are starting to differentiate how each character’s faces are drawn more distinctively, which is a major improvement. This is another great issue for this series; though I believe a more familiar character being White Canary would make it all the more satisfying and might have even catapulted it to the top spot.

Written by Roger Langridge
Art by Chris Samnee and Matthew Wilson
Letters by Rus Wooton
Cover by Chris Samnee and Matthew Wilson
preRanking: 02

Thanks to his treacherous brother Loki, Thor is having terrifying visions that cause all sorts of problems in this week’s Thor: Mighty Avenger, as Hank “Giant Man” Pym and Janet “Wasp” Van Dyne head to Oklahoma to investigate the murder of Pym’s mentor.

Verdict: Must Read. Reading this series is easily the most fun I have had with a Marvel comic in years. Roger Langridge does a superb job with this issue’s guest stars as Pym and Wasp translate extremely well to this “lighter” world without sacrificing any bits of their core personality. The character interaction is solid throughout, which has me really excited for more characters to guest star in this book—I can’t wait to see what Langridge has in store for characters like The Hulk and Iron Man. Chris Samnee’s art, which originally drew me to this book, continues to be pure fried gold. He seems to be growing more into the open designs with each issue—showing that his work will look just as amazing in color in black-and-white (emphasis on the black!). Much like the script, the art really makes me excited to see what this series has in store for other Marvel characters. This series can’t seem to lose and this issue is no different than the two previous.

Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Miguel Sepulveda and Jay David Ramos
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Aleksi Briclot
preRanking: 05

The war against the Cancerverse heats up on two fronts in this issue as Star-Lord’s team learns how death was overcome in this other realm from the revolting robots, while Nova is charged with putting together a strike team that could potentially end the war in one hard strike. Of course, all is for naught if Drax and Thanos kill each other before these plans can come to fruition.

Verdict: Must Read. I’ve really enjoyed this story so far, but this issue really raises the bar as Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning introduce some of the highest concepts I’ve seen from there. There are definitely shades of writers like Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison, and 4th World-era Jack Kirby in this issue. I really like that each scene in this issue throws something new into the mix that builds the tension even more—this story goes from huge to epic rather quickly. The art is definitely a step up as well. While I still don’t think we are seeing the best of Miguel Sepulveda’s line work (again, I refer to the sketch pages from the back of issue #1), but Jay David Ramos definitely seems to be coloring with more attention to detail here. This is definitely the strongest issue yet from this miniseries and after seeing the awesome debut of Nova’s strike team, I’ve got a feeling it is only going to get better from here!

01. BATGIRL #13
Written by Bryan Q. Miller
Art by Pere Perez and Guy Major
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Stanley “Artgerm” Lau
preRanking: 03

Despite all attempts to have a normal Tuesday as a normal college student, Batgirl finds herself working with the Gotham City PD to take down a determined Clayface, who is breaking into a bank for a very surprising reason.

Verdict: Must Read. Batgirl is easily DC’s second best book after Secret Six and, with issues like this, it is going to give that title a run for its money. This issue is filled with heart and personality while delivering a very strong done-in-one story. It’s not filled with shocking revelations or major twists, but its highly entertaining and features one of the best endings from a single-issue story that I’ve read in a long time. It was simple, but very powerful and highly evocative of the type of storytelling that made Batman: The Animated Series so amazing. Simply put, Bryan Q. Miller is establishing himself as one of the best character writers in the business. This is Pere Perez’s first full issue on the series and, while I wouldn’t say he is as sharp as Lee Garbett yet, he makes the most of it. The art isn’t flashing, but its paced incredibly well and does a brilliant job of establishing the tone of the story. It’s solid work that is perfect for this story. I cannot recommend this series enough and this issue is a perfect example of why!

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Patrick Hulman said...

shouldn't that be The Thanos Imperative #3

Radlum said...

For me, the Moment of the Week has to be that power walk of Nova's strike team

At least one current Marvel event lives up to the hype and expectations I had.

Anonymous said...

Ryan, I'm usually one to agree with almost everything you post, but I thought Zatanna was very strong even with the artist change. Also, even though Secret Six is one of my favorite books, Birds of Prey has faltered a little for me the last too issues. I, for one, think the change between the artists on that title is jarring.

kareem said...

I'm shocked you don't find the shift in artists in Birds of Prey ridiculously jarring! I really, really, really hate the weird plastic, glossy look Melo gives the characters.

Flip The Page said...

"Victor Gischler’s character writing works extremely well"

Yeah, I love how he writes Dr. Nemesis totally in character and isn't shoddy enough to make every word a character says sound stilted and awkward. I especially love how it took all of one speech bubble (the "girl's drink, tovarich" line) for me to hate him entirely more than I already do.

But then that's just one cliché that I hate seeing come from Colossuss' mouth (he's been a man of the world, moreso america, for about 9 years of Marvel Universe time, he's not ALWAYS gonna spout lines of russian in his sentences, if ever really)

.... sorry, I guess I really have my hackles up about this hack, I shouldn't be ranting at ya Ryan. Other than that I'm 100% with all ya views here.

nf said...

Even as a big fan of Secret Six I just don't find much enjoyment out of Birds of Prey. It doesn't help that I really have no interest in the team beyond Hawk and Dove.

GL Emerald Warriors was a rather "meh" beginning to me as I feel they should do a better job at getting you in on the hook of the book. The "reveal" at the end landed with a thud to me.

Steven R. Stahl said...

I have to strongly disagree with Lindsay's assessment of THANOS IMPERATIVE (TI). DnA are trying to glue together two separate concepts: Elder gods invading Earth's dimension and Death dying. Tbe necropsy ritual might have seemed like a nice way to connect the two, but there's no underlying logic to it.

There's also the fact that biological systems depend on life/death cycles to reallocate resources. Without death, living organisms can't replenish their energy stores. If the rationale in TI is that the "many-angled ones" are providing the energy, then there's no need to involve Death. The story can be reduced to elder gods taking over, and a counter-ritual that will expel them. The only reason for the Death material seems to be to get Thanos involved.


Matt Duarte said...

@Steven: Just a small correction, this was reviewed/posted by Ryan Schrodt, not Ryan Lindsay.

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