Thursday, August 26, 2010

Comic Book Review Power Rankings for 08/25/10

It's Thursday night!  You know what that means--time for a new edition of the Comic Book Review Power Rankings!  We are running a few hours behind schedule and we've got a lot of great books to get through, so let's get right down to it!  Hit the jump to look at this week's reviews!

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

Written by Tony Bedard
Art by Andres Guinaldo, Lorenzo Ruggiero, and JD Smith
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Guillem March
preRanking: 08

Tony Bedard closes out his fill-in arc on Gotham City Sirens with this issue that finds Catwoman and Harley battling Poison Ivy, who is under the influenced of plant-based alien that is bent on conquering the Earth.
• This issue is almost pure action, with a few small character bits that attempt to make the story more personal, as it would otherwise just be one long fight sequence.
• Catwoman and Harley seem overly reckless in this issue, even for them. That made it hard to get behind them as they attempt to save their friend.
• The character work is relatively decent, but really isn’t enough to make up for how thin the plot is. Were the interaction a bit less shallow, I think I could get into the issue more, but as it stands, there isn’t much to hang on to.
• The real problem, though, is the art. I can’t remember the last time I saw a Big 2 issue that was so inconsistent in terms of character design. Nearly every feature of the main characters, from their builds to their facial structures, shifts throughout the issue.
• There is also a major lack of backgrounds. Nearly every single panel in this issue does not have a background and those that do a re completely devoid of details.
• I’m also not sold on the colors here, as they add some very strange textures and, in many case, a weird “wrinkle” effect to the art that is distracting.

Verdict: Avoid It. I can forgive a lackluster plot if the character work is strong and if the artwork is engaging. While there are moments that Tony Bedard does well with the characters, for the most part, the character writing is just as shallow as the plot. When you add in a very disappointing effort from the art team, you have an issue with few redeeming qualities. Truthfully, from this point forward, I think it would be best to avoid any issue of this series that isn’t written by ‘regular’ writer Paul Dini.

08. BATMAN #702
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Tony Daniel and Ian Hannin
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Tony Daniel
preRanking: 06

• The “missing chapter” of Batman’s life between Batman RIP and the end of Final Crisis is concluded this week as Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel take a look at Batman’s magic bullet and the nature of his time-displacement.
• When this issue is coherent, its actually really good. The problem is that Morrison goes off into unnecessarily weird directions that only serve to further complicate the story.
• I really do like the idea of Batman apparently leaving clues for himself to find as he jumps through time, even if it doesn’t make that much sense when you really start thinking about it.
• The problem is that this issue ultimately creates more holes than it fills, truthfully. Yes, we do get some items answered, but there is really almost nothing in this issue that couldn’t have been assumed by most readers.
• This is really not your average Tony Daniel issue as he seems to be channeling the styles of the current “hit” Bat-artists, most notably Frank Quitely and David Finch.
• Unfortunately, this doesn’t produce the best results as Daniel is way out of his comfort zone here. Towards the end of the issue, you can really see where Daniel is channeling Jim Lee, which works really well from him.
• Daniel is an artist that constantly wears his influences on his sleeve, which both helps and hinders him here.
• The storytelling is really solid throughout, with some panels featuring some of Daniel’s best plot work that we’ve seen in the last year or two.
• There is still one aspect of Final Crisis that Morrison is glossing over which has never sit well with me. Aside from his early, currently out of continuity tales, one of the key features of Batman’s personality is that he does not use guns and he does not kill. Even in the most dire of circumstances, part of what makes Batman who he is happens to be these two facts. I felt that Batman using the bullet that killed Orion to “kill” Darkseid was simply lazy plotting in Final Crisis, but seeing it here again and seeing it glosses over so easily makes me even more annoyed at how Grant Morrison has completely ignored so much out of Batman’s character for the last 5 years so that he can force Bruce Wayne into the stories that he wants to tell. I know that Morrison has a huge, rabid fanbase that will take major issues with this, but I just don’t understand why Morrison has to break his toys to play with them, which is something he has always done, sometimes to success (Animal Man, Doom Patrol, etc), but here is one example (in a story filled with similar examples) of how it can ruin a story.

Verdict: Byrne It. When this issue works, it works in spades. Morrison’s outside-the-box plotting is his biggest weapon and his most consistent downfall here in this tremendously inconsistent issue. I think there is a lot of potential for Morrison to be able to finally tell a complete and coherent story out of two of his most hole-filled and incoherent stories of his career, but instead he creates more problems in an issue that, quite honestly, reads like a half-assed apology. If you are going to plug the gaps that you are admitting exist (which is clearly the point of this storyline), plug them—don’t drill more holes.

07. X-MEN: LEGACY #239
Written by Mike Carey
Art by Clay Mann, Jay Leisten, and Brian Reber
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Lenil Francis Yu
preRanking: 09

• Picking up where last issue left off, runaway Luz shows of her light-bending powers in rather obscene ways, which puts her at odds with Paras’s parents, after he decides to go through with the arranged marriage. Also, the source of the electrical storms is revealed.
• I still think that focusing this story on an arranged marriage is in poor taste, especially when it isn’t balanced against anything more positive about Indian culture. I’m not saying that every cultural representation in every comic needs to be fair or balanced, but this just seems to be pandering towards negative stereotypes.
• Is Luz supposed to be Hispanic in origin? Her dialogue seems that way, but she is drawn about as white as can be. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, its just a bit confusing.
Mike Carey does a great job of developing a closeness between the younger X-Men that fuels the character interaction in this story. Kudos on that.
• I’m totally fine with the Children of the Vault being revealed as the villains here. They were a cool set of villains in their storyline a few years back.
• The art is really iffy throughout this issue. The most notable problem is that it is very awkward and stiff. There is no sense of movement in the issue and the poses chosen are often highly unnatural.
• There is also a major difference in terms of quality and style between close-ups and wide shots. There is always going to be differences between the two, but somehow Clay Mann manages to make it look like two different artists worked on the pages.
• The close-ups have a great amount of detail and strong depth, whereas the wider shots are done in a considerably less realistic style with no depth or detail whatsoever.

Verdict: Check It. Aside from some personal issues with the plot of this story, I was actually pretty pleased with how well written it was. Carey did a solid job of developing the characters and their relationships, which is a major plus. If there was something to balance out the negative image of Indian culture and a stronger showing from the art, this could’ve easily been one of the best books I picked up this week.

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: 05

• The fight between the Sons of Dominex and the heroic group of Dynamo 5, Firebird, and Invincible continues this week, with the heroes being joined by some surprise guests. FLAG enters the fight with one huge surprise on their hands.
• This issue is almost pure action from front to back, with much of the script being quipping. I’ve never felt that quipping was Jay Faerber’s strong suit, but he does a solid job of infusing the fights with personality as much as possible.
• While I did really like the twist of Captain Dynamo’s “return,” it is countered by the dull twist of adding Savage Dragon’s kids to the fight. At this point, the multitude of guest stars is starting to feel really gimmicky.
• There really isn’t a lot of story going on here. There are a few off-hand comments that have one member of the team questioning his origins, but other than that, this issue is mostly just punching.
Julio Brilha is the biggest draw of this issue as he does a great job with the action in his big, full panels and strong fight choreography.
• I really dig how he varies his panel sizes and layouts. There is one really awesome “spread” that smashes 14 action panels in less than half of a page juxtaposed with a ¾ spread. It’s really awesome.
• There are major consistency problems with the line width and the inking in general that should be addressed. If Brilha had a strong tight-inker, this issue would be vaulted to a whole new level.
• At this point, I really have no interest whatsoever in the Notorious backup feature. There simply isn’t enough story in any issue to catch my attention and what story there is lacks the originality and liveliness of Faerber’s previous works.
• The art does little to help the backups cause. Joe Eisma has a cool style and some strong designs, but he seems to waste a lot of space in his very roomy panels, which makes the lack of story in the script all the more apparent.

Verdict: Check It. If this issue was $2.99 or even $3.50 without the backup story, I think that it could have easily been a Buy it level book. Unfortunately, when reviewing the issue as a whole, I have to include the simply uninteresting backup feature. The backup alone is bad enough, but when you add in otherwise forgivable issues in the main story (they wouldn’t be so bad if they were the only problems I had with the issue), this one tumbles back down the Rankings. I think that this issue is going to seem a lot better in trade, truthfully.

Written by JT Krul
Art by Diogenes Neves, Vicente Cifuentes, and Ulises Arreola
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Mauro Cascioli
preRanking: 02

Green Arrow’s first “Merry Man,” Gallahad, saves Green Arrow using the White Lantern healing powers of the forest as we see some of the more trippy elements of Star City’s newest attraction and learn the identity of Queen Industries’ new head-honcho.
• There is a lot of really weird stuff going on in this issue that take away from the more grounded storytelling from the first few issues. This stuff is interesting, but not moreso than what we had seen before.
• I don’t read Green Arrow for resurrections and mystical space magic. I feel like those were a good means to a more realistic end, but having them play such a major part in this issue really held it back.
• I really liked the history of Ollie’s family and the new ruler of Queen Industries. We don’t often see much about Ollie’s parents. I really dug the parallels that JT Krul is developing between Ollie and both of his parents.
• The clearly insane Gallahad is a cool addition to the book and is a character that could easily be adapted to both the more fantastic and more realistic styles of storytelling that are at war in this issue.
Diogenes Neves does a solid job with the art, following the tone of the script perfectly. I like that his style is firmly planted in both a more realistic approach to design and standard superhero conventions.
• What really impressed me about Neves, though, is the subtlety that he shows in his expressions and body language. This is definitely a step-up in those regards.
Ulises Arreola’s colors do a great job of pushing the tone of the book and highlighting the line work.

Verdict: Check It. The art is definitely the saving grace in this issue, as I feel that the plot really betrays the quality of the character work and the strength of the new Green Arrow status quo. To me, Green Arrow always works best as a “street hero” and the best runs he has are always firmly planted in that idea (even the “Hard Travelin’ Heroes” was very grounded despite so heavily involving Hal Jordan and his Green Lantern antics). There are some great concepts here and the bit of the villain’s history was fantastic, but unless they dial back the White Lantern stuff, this series simply won’t live up to its immense potential.

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, and Dean White
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by John Romita Jr.
preRanking: 07

• In this week’s Avengers, the team members in the present find themselves tangling with Martians while teaming up with Killraven, while the Avengers in the future meet up with the Hulk, the Next Avengers, and the future Tony Stark.
• There is more plot movement in this issue than there was in any of the previous issues combined. That goes a long way into this being a major step up over the last few issues.
• The interaction between the characters was fun and light without being overpoweringly silly, which was a major problem in the last few issues. This feels a lot more like the type of dialogue we’ve come accustomed to with Brian Michael Bendis.
• I really don’t know much about Killraven, but this issue did make me interested in the character. I suppose that counts, right?
• There is still a lot of this story, including a lot about the conflict, that we don’t know about yet. By four issues into a story, we should have some idea what the heroes should be fighting (a broken timestream is a very vague threat).
• I really dug a lot of what John Romita Jr. is doing in this issue, especially in the action sequences. Thor’s attack on the Martians was one of the coolest scenes in any title this week.
• I would like to see a bit more detail in the art, though. If you look at the highly detailed (and very awesome cover), its hard to believe that the same creative team was behind the interior.
• A huge part of the problem is that Dean White’s colors are simply too flat and too bland for my taste. I would love to see more pop and depth in the art. Remember how great JRJr’s work looked when colored by Christina Strain on World War Hulk? We need more of that.

Verdict: Check It. This is definitely a step up for this title and was close to making it into the Buy It range thanks to some solid character interaction and cool action scenes by John Romita Jr. Unfortunately, there is simply too much of this story that isn’t being told, which is getting very aggravating. I like the overall plot, but with so much left unsaid, I’m beginning to wonder why I should bother sticking around. If some of that plotting can be tightened up and something can be done about how lifeless the colors have been, this series could be a major win for Marvel. Instead, we are left with a surprisingly mediocre title.

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

Lightning Lass joins Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad in the hunt for their twins as they track down a cult that worships Darkseid. Meanwhile, Earth Man’s Legionnaire ring may be the cause of his unusual behavior.
• This is a densely packed issue full of story beats and a ridiuculously huge cast, though kudos to Paul Levitz for keeping it from becoming overwhelming.
• The very clear character voices are perhaps the biggest reason why this issue is so accessible. This may have one of the largest cast in comics, but Levitz writes each character with a unique tone and purpose.
• The stuff with Darkseid was very cool, though I hope we learn more about why Saturn Girl seemed so respectful of him—I mean, he is one of DC’s biggest villains.
• The most interesting part of the entire issue was the fate of the Green Lantern Corps (now just the current Ion, Sodam Yat). Unfortunately we only get two pages of this before moving on.
• The art has a lot of ups and downs, with very clear shifts between Yildiray Cinar and Francis Portela. Cinar and Portela have very similar styles, which gives a general unity to the issue, but are just different enough to make all of the shifts very jarring.
• I really dig the wash-effect in some of the fight scenes, as well as the abundance of Kirby Krackle. These definitely added to the coolness of the art.
• The coloring was a bit problematic, especially when certain panels seemed to be very muted for no reason. I’m not sure if this was a printing error or a conscious choice of the colorist, but it looked very bad.

Verdict: Buy It. I’ve said this on every single review of every single issue of this series, but I’m totally surprised by how invested I have become in this series. Paul Levtiz’s character work has been simply amazing as he has done a tremendous job with making this series accessible and enjoyable to new readers. I cannot commend him enough on that. There are still issues with the multiple pencilers, though. If either Portela or Cinar (preferably Cinar) were taking on the issue in full by themselves, this issue could easily have made a run at the Top Spot on the Rankings.

Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Don Kramer, Eduardo Pansica, Jay Leisten, Michael Babinski, Ruy Jose, and Alex Sinclair
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Don Kramer, Michael Babinski, and Alex Sinclair
preRanking: 04

• This week’s Wonder Woman sees the titular hero battling soldiers to save her Amazonian sisters and, in the process, learns more of her people’s fate.
JMS continues his interesting take on Wonder Woman that is simultaneously wildly different from what we are used to, but still feels very true to her core. I’d much rather see something this as an out-of-continuity approach, as I think it is a great concept, but as long as there is some way to synch it up with the Wonder Woman we know and love, this is just fantastic.
• I really like how well Wonder Woman is played off of the supporting characters here. Their personalities are interesting, but ultimately they are just there to help flesh out JMS’s Diana. It works really well in that regard.
• The violent ending is going to rub some readers the wrong way, but I like seeing Diana the Warrior. We see her ferocious loyalty to her sisters here and it works. She isn’t meant to be a superhero here, she is an Amazonian protector.
Don Kramer’s work here is simply superb, though he is hindered by the multiple inkers, all of which twist the crispness of his line work.
• It is also very clear where Eduardo Pansica akes over and, while his pages are good, they simply cannot live up to Kramer’s work.
• Both artists, though, have a great sense of movement and impact, which translates well into some superb action sequences.

Verdict: Buy It. I never thought there would be a day where I would like anything written by JMS more than I did when it was written by Gail Simone, especially not a Wonder Woman comic, but I am very pleasantly surprised by how strong this run on Wonder Woman is thus far. With a great sense of mythology and mystery, this storyline has me hooked. Of course, it helps that the art is (mostly) done by Don Kramer, who remains one of DC’s best artists. He does a great job of bringing this story to life and, hopefully, will be taking on this series solo in the issues to come.

Written Geoff Johns
Art by Gary Frank, Jon SIbal, and Brad Anderson
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Gary Frank and Brad Anderson
preRanking: 01

• After a very long delay, the look at Superman’s earliest days comes to a close this week as General Lane unleashed an enhanced Metallo against Superman.
• The craftsmanship in this issue is so superb from both the writing and the art that I could sum up this entire review in just one word—iconic. If I had to add a second word, it would be awesome. Iconic and awesome is precisely what this issue is.
Geoff Johns does a superb job of sticking to the most iconic understanding of the characters, but then adding a few twists that keep it fresh. For example, it is amazing to see Superman somewhat struggling with the extent of his powers during the fight with Metallo and even losing his cool during the battle—this is something that works well with the character in this instance, but isn’t something you’d usually associate with Superman.
• I’m glad that the supporting cast gets a chance to shine here. To me the best part of Superman stories are always how well he interacts with people like Lex Luthor or the Daily Planet gang. We get all of that in spades here.
• This issue is a great “first day out” for Superman without alienating any past Superman stories with massive revisions. Johns isn’t really setting up much that hasn’t been told before, but he is telling a great story that naturally leads into the rest of the mythos.
• What can I say about Gary Frank that I haven’t said before? He is the most iconic Superman artist of this generation and one of the all-time greatest artists to tackle the character.
• This issue features some of Frank’s best expressions and storytelling. Even without the dialogue, you’d still be able to follow this story perfectly.

Verdict: Must Read. As Superman: Secret Origin comes to a close, I can easily say that this is an instant classic and should be held in the same regard as some of the greatest Superman stories ever told. Geoff Johns does a great job of reintroducing the Man of Steel in a way that is fresh and exciting without heavily retconning anything about the character’s origins. When you add in the art by Gary Frank, which is simply amazing, you have a story that should not be missed under any circumstances whatsoever. Do we need a new version of Superman’s earliest days? Probably not, but if you can tell it with this much style and personality, why not give it a shot?

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JP said...

You are 100% correct in your assessment on how Morrison is ignoring Batman's character to put Bruce Wayne in stories he wants to tell and breaking his toys to play with them.

While those might work and be incredibly successful for more obscure characters like Doom Patrol or Animal Man, it does not work for characters like Batman.

It has become clear in the wake of "Batman R.I.P." and "Final Crisis," and even now in the "Return of Bruce Wayne" that Morrison undermines himself with his obcession with the silve age and far-out there concepts.

However, when Morrison puts aside this obcession with silver age stuff and pushing these really out-there ideas, he tells really great stories like his JLA run. Or an even better example: the final chapter of "R.I.P.," which was one of the best single Batman issues I ever read, atleast until Morrison went on to suggest Hurt was the Devil.

brandon said...

I'm a huge fan of Grant Morrison and I liked the concepts he introduces in this Batman issue.

However, I didnt read Final Crisis for a variety of reasons. As a result I was lost with the bulk of this issue.

I place the blame squarely on editorial. Final Crisis ended over a year and half ago. Why is this fill-in-the-gaps issue included in the Batman series during another event?

I was fairly pissed about this. This should have been some sort of Final Crisis follow up series or something set off to the side but to jam it into the Batman proper title assumes that every person buying Batman has already read all the crap published over the last two years.

It's a good way to alienate some folks. It validates me steering clear from most DC titles. They are made for the hardcore fans which is fine it just blocks out the casual reader.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the Avengers. I've said it before I'll say it again... I'm a fan! I'm enjoying the art and the story. With that said though some of the panels, some of the story, especially the arrival of Killraven reminds me a little too much of Busiek's "Avengers Forever". However, even with maybe the nod to Busiek I'm really excited that Killraven is getting used!

- Retcon Joe

Jay Faerber said...

Hi, Ryan -

Dynamo 5 isn't a book that gets reviewed very often, so I'm always thankful when it does. I just wanted to chime about the Notorious back-up and its impact on the price tag. The inclusion of the back-up isn't what's making the book $3.99. That's just what we need to charge to be able to do the book. That's what the cover price would be even without a back-up. So we put together Notorious for free (no one on on the Notorious creative team has seen a dime) just to help ease the pain of the $3.99 price tag on the readers.

Obviously, whether you enjoy Notorious or not is another matter entirely. But I wanted to at least clear up a misconception about the pricing structure of the book.

Thanks for regularly reviewing D5!

Brandon Whaley said...

I could go into the whole "Batman killing Darkseid with a gun" thing, but that's a discussion for another time haha. However, I do love me some Morrison Batman. I still do not understand why this is just coming out now. Final Crisis has pretty much been forgotten by DC editorial (which is a shame) so this seems like a lost oppotunity.

Anonymous said...

Morrison's Batman run is not no other in the history of the character. I never want the man to leave this title. Some of the narration in this issue was just pure poetry and beautiful. Everything is coming together into a neat, perfect mythology for his Batman run.

Ivan said...

I would never hold against Batman the fact that he broke his 2 main (debatable) principles when the alternative was the literal end of the world.

Were there other means available? He didn't seem to think so, and if Batman couldn't find his way around killing, I think it says a lot about how serious the situation was instead of sacrificing the character in favor of the plot.

Dennis N said...

On the Batman with a gun thing, Batman uses guns in Dark Knight Returns, and I always thought that was a horrid concept that the book should take more heat for. And yet it doesn't. Why? It's not that great of a story, it seems to fundamentally not understand Batman at all. At least Final Crisis had Batman being a badass ball of willpower and escape artist, getting out of that chair.

Naymlap said...

I think the real problem with the art in X-Men Legacy is the inking. Leisten is not a good inker. While you (and pretty much everyone else) hates Greg Land, I think Leisten deserves some of the blame for why his art is subpar. His inks make the art look more static.
You should check Legacy's crossover issues from Necrosha to see the difference. Not only that, but it's actually a good story that stands on its own.

onefinemess said...

What you mean Moon Knight's girlfriend getting beaten and perhaps losing her baby wasn't awesome? Oh right, it completely wasn't.

Steven R. Stahl said...

There are severe problems with the time travel plot in AVENGERS. Stark is apparently going to be punished by his older self for doing something that he hasn't done yet, and moving physically within the time stream prevents him from being there and aging -- so, to avoid a paradox, he has to return to his original time, but if he forgoes doing what he's being punished for, the time stream changes and his older self won't summon him to the future.

Short version: Bendis's storyline is full of logical impossibilities. If that makes your head hurt, that's not because time travel stories are inherently difficult to understand; it's because Bendis is writing a terrible time travel story.


Anonymous said...

the thing that I always appreciated with the Batman killing Darksied moment was how he shot him in the shoulder. To me it felt more like he poisoned him with the bullet instead of a direct kill shot to like the head or something.

Steven said...

The Darkseid's mercy line by Saturn Girl was a callback to the epilogue to The Great Darkness Saga. During the story it was revealed that Darkseid had taken one of Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad's newborn twins at the moment of birth, mutated him and moved him back in time to become the Fatal Five's Validus (whose power has always been his mental lightning bolts).

In a later Legion annual, Saturn Girl discovered this and in confronting Darkseid earned his respect. So he chose to reverse what he had done and return her child to her. Thus her respect for the mercy of Darkseid.

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