Monday, September 13, 2010

Comic Book Review Power Rankings for 09/09/10

It's Thursday evening and that means...Wait, what? It isn't Thursday anymore? It's MONDAY?! Well, it looks like this week's Comic Book Review Power Rankings are more than a little late, so let's not waste any more time. Hit the jump to check out my reviews of last week's comics!

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

09. X-MEN #3
Written by Victor Gischler
Art by Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco, and Marte Gracia
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Adi Granov
preRanking: 10

• In this week’s X-Men, Cyclops continues to make poor (unquestioned) leadership decisions, including going through with the resurrection of Dracula and sending Wolverine into the den of vampires, alone, to save Jubilee.
• Seriously, how stupid is Cyclops? I know that he has always made poor decisions and that is something that you just have to live with as a fan of the X-Men, but this issue is so riddled with stupid choices that my head nearly exploded. I’m willing to suspend disbelief with one or two little bad choices an issue, but there is no way I can believe that Cyclops would do all of this stupid stuff without someone being like, “Uh, Cyke, maybe we shouldn’t do it. I mean, I know you have a track record for leading us down the wrong path and all, but this might just bet he last straw. Thanks, buddy.”
• I’m also really torn on the whole vampire issue to begin with. It’s a played-out gimmick these days and that’s showing here. You do get flashes of cool vampire application, like the devious Vampire Jubilee, but its followed up by vampire nonsense, like Vampire Wolverine.
• For the most part, though, Victor Gischler does a pretty decent job of handling the characters, even if he is putting them in really stupid positions. He takes Cyclops a bit far, but at least his voice is true to the character.
• The art was a mixed bag, but the best of the three issues we’ve seen so far from Paco Medina. It helps that a huge chunk of the issue featured Wolverine heavily—that is really the only character that Medina nails every time. The final action sequence looked really cool.
• The storytelling was a tad wonky, with some panels not following a logical progression and the expressions do little to carry the story at all. The vast majority of the characters have the exact same lifeless stare throughout the issue.

Verdict: Check It. I know that I do have a lot of harsh things to say about this issue, but it was definitely an improvement over the last two issues and could easily make it to a Buy It verdict with some tweaks. I think that there is a lot of potential for this series because of Gischler’s ability to write the characters with such strong personalities, but it might take an artist shift or, at the very least, a plot that doesn’t involve vampires.

08. BATMAN #703
Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art by Cliff Richards and Ian Hannin
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Tony Daniel
preRanking: 07

• In an unscheduled fill-in story, Batman and Robin chase after a new Getaway Genius as they continue to cross paths with the relentless Vicki Vale, who is still convinced that she knows the identity of the Bat-Family.
• This is a fluff piece, but its still a strong done-in-one that sets some very cool things in motion for Bruce Wayne’s return next month.
• I really loved the parallels between Damian and Dick that are built here. It’s not something that other writers have really latched on to, but Fabian Nicieza present it as a very natural progression.
• The bits with Vicki Vale do seem a bit forced, especially he confrontation with Dick, and they take away from the superb character development is building between the three “brothers” of the Wayne family.
• The twist with the Getaway Genius’s last heist really surprised me and had a lot of impact. It served as a nice reminder that Batman is not always the Dark Knight.
Cliff Richards’s art has some flashes of brilliance thanks to his strong anatomy and decent storytelling, but there are a lot of issues that bring it down.
• The biggest problem is that the art is painfully stiff. There is no sense of movement or life in this issue whatsoever. This brings down both the action and character sequences.
• There are also some shifting facial designs and a lot of weird depth things going on—major consistency issues that drag this down.
• There is nothing more awkward than the way that Red Robin looks when he first shows up in this issue.

Verdict: Buy It. This issue has a lot going for it and definitely has the makings of a Must Read story—especially in terms of how well Fabian Nicieza handles the relationships between the Bat-family, particularly the strong bond that is developing between Damian and Dick. There are a few missteps with the writing, but the biggest issue is the art by Cliff Richards’s that has very strong moments, but ultimately falls a bit flat.

07. GI JOE #22
Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by Alex Cal and Andrew Crossley
Letters by Neil Uyetake
Covers by Charles Paul Wilson III and Robert Atkins with Clayton Brown and Andrew Crossley
preRanking: 08

• After the semi-botched-siege of the Dreadnaught caused a miniature tsunami, the GI Joes find themselves struggling to survive as they battle Cobra forces, while Cobra Commander makes some administrative changes within the organization.
• The crux of this issue’s success is the strong pacing from Chuck Dixon’s script. He does a wonderful job of pushing the action along in away that builds intensity from page one right on through the shocking dénouement where we see that Destro has received a promotion.
• I really like that we see the members of GI Joe come out on top without really being victorious. Despite the ridiculousness of the premise, this is a pretty realistic end to a military mission.
• For the most part, the character interaction in this issue is a tad shallow despite all of the characters having very strong, unique voices. The only exception to this is the interaction between the Baroness and Cobra Commander, which comes across exceptionally well. I can’t wait to see more of them together.
Alex Cal’s art is still a bit weak, but he is showing tremendous amounts of improvement. I really dug the widescreen approach to storytelling, which added a lot of intensity.
• The designs did work well in theory, with Cal doing a good job of mixing a realistic, contemporary style with a playful aesthetic that matches the toy line.
• Unfortunately, some characters look really weird, especially Scarlett. What gives with the way he draws her hairline?
• Stiff expressions are a major issue here. There are few things that can pull a reader out of an issue like unnatural facial expressions—there are a far too many here.

Verdict: Buy It. This is probably the strongest non-Robert Atkins-drawn issue of the series so far. That’s good as that is a major stumbling block GI Joe has had since its relaunch. Chuck Dixon does a solid job with the plotting this action-packed issue, but a lot of the pressure falls onto Alex Cal’s shoulders. I’m glad to see that he handles the burden well and does a solid job of upping his game to carry the issue. It still has problems, but it was a lot better than I had expected.

Written by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col
Art by Andy Belanger and Ian Herring
Letters by Chris Mowry
Cover by Kagan McLeod
preRanking: 03

• Hamlet finds himself stuck between alliances in this week’s Kill Shakespeare, so he strikes out on his own and runs into even more of Shakespeare’s creations, meanwhile the alliance between Lady Macbeth and Richard III gets a bit rocky.
• In comparison to the previous four issues, it does feel like Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col are spinning their wheels here a bit. We are seeing a lot of concepts that we’ve already seen before and only marginal plot movement.
• On the flipside, we do see more of Hamlet’s personality here than we had in past issues. I really dig that his trademark indecisiveness is at the center of this issue’s plot, as his inability to escape his father’s ghost as a means of making decisions.
• Another great bit of characterization is the treatment of Iago and Othello. Whereas one could easily expect Othello’s rage against Iago to quickly turn to violence, Othello’s loyalty to Juliet supersedes. Again, this is perfectly in line with Shakespeare’s original creation.
Andy Belanger’s art seems to be turning a corner in this issue as he appears to be experimenting with his close-up shots and heavier shadows. Both of which are working well here and improve the overall feel of the art.
• I’m really impressed with the colors in this issue. There isn’t a ton of depth in them, but they are very clean and bold, plus the schemes blend really well together.
• I really don’t know why so many of the panels are trapezoids. That doesn’t affect anything, but it is noticeable.

Verdict: Buy It. With a smidgen more plot movement this issue would easily jump into Must Read territory. The writing team does a great job with the characterization, but I don’t feel like we are any closer to the core of the story than we were in the previous issue. The good news is that Andy Belanger’s art is really starting to win me over. This issue is a great improvement and I hope that we see similar growth over the next few issues.

Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Miguel Sepulveda, Jay David Ramos, and Wil Quintana
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Aleksi Briclot
preRanking: 06

• The battle between universes over Life and Death continues this week as Nova’s cosmic super team goes face-to-face with the Cancerverse’s heavy-hitters while the skirmish between Thanos and Drax gets serious (even more serious than Drax blowing up Thanos last issue).
• This one is big action from beginning to end. If you really like dudes hitting each other in space, there is no better comic for you this week. You’ll quickly forgot how heady the concept of this series is once you see the likes of Silver Surfer and Beta Ray Bill battling the Revengers.
• The quipping did feel a bit forced at times, especially with Nova’s band of heroes. Even the characters themselves comment on this when Silver Surfer starts cracking deadpan jokes.
• Of course, none of these quips were quite as lame as some of Cosmo’s jokes. I’ve never thought of him as being a strong source of comedy relief unless he is playing of Rocket Raccoon and this issue is a prime example of why it should stay that way.
• The bit Drax and Thanos as a bit predictable, but the concept behind their actions is anything but. I really like how entirety of this miniseries can be encapsulated in these two coming to blows. Plus, how crazy is it that the characters are supposed to be cheering on are actually fighting for the sanctity of Death?
• The art by Miguel Sepulveda is still really good and is easily the most detailed work we’ve seen thus far in the series, but is still lacking the punch of the penciled art seen in the back of issue #1. I know that I keep bringing this up, but the disconnect between the pencils and the finished art is just too large not to note.
• I’m not sure which of the two colorists handled the Thanos/Drax fight scene, but it looks a million times better than the vast majority of this issue. The colors on these pages really makes the art “pop” and is closer to the pencils mentioned above than anything else we’ve seen. I really wish the rest of the title had been colored this way from the first issue.

Verdict: Buy It. This issue really delivers the action with Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning putting together a very exciting issue that sees nearly all of the major players in this storyline embroiled in some battle or another. While it’s great to see the fights, it is still a little hard to grab onto the very high concept behind the war between the regular universe and the Cancerverse (simple conquest yes, but the battle between Life and Death is a lot). Still, with action this sweet and extremely solid art behind it, it’s hard to go wrong with this issue.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen, Keith Champagne, Randy Mayor, and Gabe Eltaeb
Letters by Nick J. Napolitano
Cover by Doug Mahnke and Hi-Fi
preRanking: 05

• In this week’s Green Lantern, Orange Lantern Hector Hammond sets out to find Carol Ferris who is hunting down the Predator for her fellow Star Sapphires, leading to an impromptu road trip to Las Vegas for Hal Jordan and Larfleeze.
• Larfleeze in Las Vegas is the best concept for a comic ever and I’m sad we only see a few pages of it here. Geoff Johns is teasing us here. I want a full-length Larfleeze: Vegas Vacation comic.
• I really like the complex take on Love that Johns presents here. It adds a lot of depth to the Star Sapphires and makes them considerably more interesting than they have been presented in the past.
• I’m taking points off of this comic for the fact that Hector Hammond goes after Carol early on, but we don’t see him again for the rest of the issue, despite the fact that the rest of the issue is spent with Carol, Hal, and Larfleeze.
• Johns does a great job with the character interaction. In particular, I was really impressed with Carol, who has more personality in this issue than I think I’ve ever seen from her before.
• The art, as per usual, is fantastic, but does suffer from the same problems we’ve seen in the past.
• The biggest issue is that there are simply too many inkers. Yes, they do work really well together and all bring similar spins to Doug Mahnke’s work, but the seams do show and are more apparent here than in past issues..
• That being said, Mahnke’s awesome designs and brilliant details really shine here. I really dug the “kiss” page where Carol defeats Predator.

Verdict: Must Read. This issue really rocks on a number of levels with Geoff Johns putting together some great character work that adds a ton of credibility to the Star Sapphires that the group had been lacking when compared to some of the other Lantern Corps. Add in some very strong work from Doug Mahnke and his pantheon of inkers and you’ve got fantastic issue despite some nagging flaws that bring it down.

03. RED ROBIN #16
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 Beccellato
preRanking: 04

• Tim continues to set his plan to overturn all of Gotham’s criminal element, but runs into a major wrinkle when the new Anarky starts killing kids who might be Red Robin.
Fabian Nicieza’s plotting in this issue is simply phenomenal. The way he builds each scene off of the one previous is fantastic and is uncanny in its ability to build tension.
• The twisted parallel between Anarky and Red Robin was very interesting and extremely well-played. As the two find respective successes, it really sucks you into the intensity of the book.
• The budding relationship between Tim and Tam Fox is really starting to grow on me. It’s a fun twist to see Tim, overflowing with confidence as a superhero, losing his cool around her. Nicieza is great at writing Tim as a teenager.
Marcus To never misses a beat, does he? The great storytelling, awesome designs, and great sense of atmosphere is essential to this issue’s success.
• The colors by Guy Major are really bright in vibrant, even in the darker scenes. It’s a great fit for the issue, though I think there are some places where a darker palette or style could be used. It would be interesting to see To’s work colored by a different artist.

Verdict: Must Read. Honestly, this issue is pretty flawless. The craftsmanship from everyone involved is top-notch and its pretty entertaining to boot. There is a lot to like about this issue and a lot that is building up to that I think I’ll like even more. There is no reason whatsoever to miss this comic.

02. BATGIRL #14
Written by Bryan Q. Miller
Art by Lee Garbett, Trevor Scott, and Guy Major
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Stanley “Artgerm” Lau
preRanking: 02

• In a rather fluffy done-in-one story, Supergirl pays a visit to Batgirl and the two find themselves battling a horde of movie monster Draculas.
• This is a pretty silly one off story that is pure fun. This comics aims to do nothing more than entertain and it does a fabulous job at it.
• I really love the way that Bryan Q. Miller plays the characters off of one another. The amount of humor in this comic and the quality of its execution is superb.
• The creation of the Draculas is a tad forced, but it fits with the fun nature of the story. Its great to see Miller just cut loose with the crazy at a time when the Bat-comics are so overrun with dismal attitudes and grim plots.
• I really wouldn’t mind seeing Millar have a go at writing Supergirl after this issue. He does a great job developing her personality and I think he’d do just as great of a job with Kara as he has with Stephanie.
Lee Garbett’s art was extremely clean and fun—a perfect fit for the script. It does look a bit unpolished compared to previous issues, but its still very strong.
• I loved the differences in texture between the Dracula constructs and the other characters (even beyond the black-and-white coloring). It’s a subtle shift but it looks really cool.
• How awesome is this cover? Artgerm is really killing with his covers on this book, but I think this one is my favorite.

Verdict: Must Read. I’ve seen a lot of reviews trash this issue for being a silly done-in-one story, which is absolutely ridiculous. This story is meant to be brief and fun and self-contained; these are strengths, not its weaknesses. This is a bit silly and it is inconsequential, but it is also a ton of fun and extremely charming. This is one of the more entertaining comics I’ve read all year.

Written by Roger Langridge
Art by Chris Samnee and Matthew Wilson
Letters by Rus Wooton
Cover by Chris Samnee and Christina Strain
preRanking: 01

• In this week’s Thor: Mighty Avenger, the Warriors Three stop in to check on our titular hero and end up partying with him (and Captain Britain) in England.
• This issue is insanely fun. Roger Langrdige really cuts loose here and the result is a bit goofy, a bit charming, and super entertaining.
• I’ve never really cared for the Warriors Three or Captain Britain much, but Langridge wins me over with them here. I hope we see more of them in this book and I can’t wait to see what other characters Langridge is going to put his spin on.
• I hope people can see from this issue that this isn’t a “kids comic” just because it is continuity-free. I feel like it isn’t getting the attention it deserves because of that stigma but, honestly, are you really going to see a drunk Thor in a kids comic?
Chris Samnee’s art is absolutely killer. His simple, clean linework is incredibly effective and full of personality.
• I love the energy that Samnee brings, which is a perfect match for the script. His strong expressions work just as well. The chemistry between Langridge and Samnee is undeniable.
• It’s really interesting to see the difference between Christina Strain coloring Samnee on the cover and Matthew Wilson coloring him on the interior—I love Wilson’s work, but it would be cool to see Strain color a full issue.

Verdict: Must Read. Once again, the combination of superb craftsmanship and undeniable charm rockets Thor: Mighty Avengers up the Rankings to take home the Book of the Week honor (the third in just four issues). This issue is incredibly fun and features some of the best writing and art that you’ll find in any comic this week. This is easily the strongest comic to debut in 2010 and, if we keep seeing issues like this, it is going to give Secret Six a run for its money on the Best Ongoing Series honors.

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Flip The Page said...

any time I see a reviewer rag on a comic for being silly or episodic I facepalm harder than ever.

Comics aren't about constant continuity. They're about fun experiences anyone can enjoy. and when you're apply the 'every comic is someone's first' logic, comics like Batgirl #14 are the quintessential perfect issue.

So yeah, with it in mind that you've actually "got it" when so many people haven't, bloody good reviews!

jdudhead said...

Awesome to see the Thor: Mighty Avenger love! Hope this book continues to catch on cuz I would be heartbroken if it were canceled!

Jormungand said...

THOR MIGHTY AVENGER #1: 20,076 copies
THOR MIGHTY AVENGER #2: 14,315 copies
THOR MIGHTY AVENGER #3: 12,112 copies

In August it was outsold by 137 titles. Here's hoping that the positive reviews will swing things around (imagine ME saying that after Thor #380!)

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