Friday, September 17, 2010

Comic Book Review Power Rankings for 09/15/10


After being way too late with last week’s reviews, I’m glad to say that this week’s Comic Book Review Power Rankings are only a day late. This week’s Rankings feature two of my absolute favorite issues of 2010 thus far, so let’s not dilly-dally with unnecessary introductions. You know the drill—hit the jump to see this week’s countdown!

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.


09. BIRDS OF PREY #5
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Alvin Lee, Adriana Melo, Jack Purcell, JP Mayer, and Nei Ruffino
Letters by Swands
Cover by Alina Urusa
preRanking: 01

• This week’s Birds of Prey kicks off a new storyline that is filled with fallout from the previous storyline, focusing on Black Canary’s unlikely team-up with White Canary, Hawk and Dove’s search for meaning in their lives, and Oracle’s plans for Creote and Savant.
• This is a really weird misstep for the usually stellar Gail Simone. I can honestly say that I’ve never read a Simone comic that is plagued with such poorly-paced dialogue. There is no flow to the interaction in this issue at all.
• I do like the direction that Simone is going with Creote and Savant, but the revelation of Oracle’s new Ted Kord Tower seemed to come out of nowhere and the entire situation seems very shoehorned.
• I’m really not sure what to make of the situation with the Canaries, but I am intrigued. I just wish there was a little more to hang on to and more of an explanation for why Dinah is so compliant to White Canary’s demands.
• The art is crazy inconsistent. There are two different pencilers on the issue, but you’d think that there were ten.
• I’m really not familiar enough with Adriana Melo or Alvin Lee to know which artist is which, but whoever was drawing the Huntress’s fight scenes did a great job. Those pages are very clean and energetic with a cool anime/manga-inspired look.
• The rest of the issue, however, is filled with major inconsistencies in terms of facial structures, amount of detail, and storytelling. It’s really a haphazard looking book.
• The inking in the Hawk and Dove scene is simply atrocious. I was really shocked by that. It is one of the worst inking jobs that I’ve ever seen in a DC book. Sheesh.

Verdict: Byrne It. This issue is definitely not what I was expecting. Gail Simone’s writing is nowhere near the level of quality that she is known for, with poor pacing and uneven plotting standing out as the major issues. When you add in some wildly inconsistent art, you get an issue that simply does not live up to the high standards that Birds of Prey has set for itself. There are a few shining moments that will remind you why this book is normally so awesome, but for the most part, this one misses the mark.


08. INCREDIBLE HULKS #613
Lead Written by Greg Pak and Scott Reed
Lead Art by Brian Ching, Victor Olazaba, and Jorge Maese
Backup Written by Greg Pak
Backup Art by Tom Raney, Scott Hanna, and John Rauch
Letters by Simon Bowland
Cover by Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz, and Jason Keith
preRanking: 08

• This week’s Incredible Hulks, much like the issue two weeks ago, covers two stories leading up to the inevitable showdown between Hulk and his son Hiro-Kala. In the lead, the Worldmind of K’ai tries to force Hiro-Kala to succumb to its will, while in the backup, K’ai’s appearance in the galaxy is noted as Hulk and Betty fight about Skaar.
• The lead story is a much better introduction to Hiro-Kala than the previous issue. It uses exposition too much, which is very grating, but its still nice to have a solid and informative recap of why we should care about Hiro-Kala.
• The story is really heavy-handed though. I feel like we are being force-fed the concept of Hiro-Kala and his immense power so that he comes across as incredibly epic. I’d rather a slow build to this rather than having it dumped upon me.
• The backup covers a lot of the same ground as the previous issue, with Hulk and Red She-Hulk (Betty) battling it out. Despite this, I felt that the stronger dialogue in the backup made it a better read.
• I’m really annoyed with the fact that the only other events of the story—Beast discovering the planet K’ai, Steve Rogers trying to recruit Hulk, etc—really only served the purpose of announcing Hiro-Kala’s arrival. I feel like this could have been handled in a more efficient manner.
• Hulk crying at the end as he finds out that he has another son was a pretty cool twist though. I’ve always enjoyed the Hulk more when he is in control of himself and can feel emotions rather than the mindless smashing.
• The lead art is a mixed bag. While some pages have very strong details and great designs—I especially loved the warrior Hulk pages from his time on K’ai—the others tend to blend together thanks to a severe lack of detail and very wishy-washy colors.
• The back up is similarly uneven. Hulk looks great and Tom Raney does a great job adding impact into the action shots. Some of the designs looked really weird though, especially Beast.
• What is with Hulk’s eyes on the last page? I know he is supposed to be showing emotion here, but his eyes look all buggy and creepy. I do not like that at all.

Verdict: Byrne It. Despite my criticisms, I feel like this issue is a step in the right direction from the previous and an improvement in terms of overall quality. I’m really starting to get hooked on the plot of this issue, especially with the inevitable showdown between Hulk and his clearly psychotic son Hiro-Kala. Unfortunately, the execution fails to live up to the promise of the premise.


07. GI JOE: COBRA #8
Written by Mike Costa and Christos Gage
Art by Sergio Carrera and Wil Glass
Letters by Neil Uyetake
Covers by Antonio Fuso and Ben Templesmith
preRanking: 09

• Semi-brainwashed Scoop learns about Cobra’s training exercises from a very chatty guard in this week’s GI Joe: Cobra, which introduces IDW’s version of Skullbuster.
• As the story is told to Scoop, there is a ton of exposition. This follows suit with the previous issues’ approach, as well as my criticisms of them. I’d much rather see a “show, don’t tell” approach to storytelling.
• That being said, this is a really cool story that shows just how vile Cobra is while maintaining the semi-realistic tone of IDW’s approach to GI Joe. Despite the outlandish costumes and codenames, this seems like something that could feasibly happen.
• I really dig Skullbuster here and I hope that we see more of him in the GI Joe books. Mike Costa and Christos Gage do a great job of making him a frighteningly enjoyable character.
• The art is still a major issue that it is inhibiting my enjoyment of this series. The linework is far too open and completely lacks depth. The characters look like paperdolls because of this.
• The colors aren’t quite as filled with weird textures here like they were in the last few issues, thankfully. They still add very little to the art, but at least they no longer look like weird wallpaper.
• The storytelling is an improvement, though. Sergio Carrera’s panel progression makes a lot of sense with his very cinematic approach.

Verdict: Byrne It. There are a lot of great ideas here in what could be consider one of the stronger plots in any of IDW’s GI Joe plots that we’ve seen thus far. Unfortunately, it is betrayed by haphazard execution that relies far too much on exposition to tell the story and features art that remains subpar. I love the ideas presented in GI Joe Cobra, but without an improvement on its execution, I can’t justify sticking with this series.


06. GREEN LANTERN: EMERALD WARRIORS #1
Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Fernando Pasarin, Cam Smith, Randy Mayor, and Gabe Eltaeb
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Rodolfo Migliari
preRanking: 07

• Guy heads out on his secret mission in the forbidden sectors in this week’s Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors and is joined by Arisia and Kilowog. Meanwhile, a new threat emerges.
• My big problem with the last issue was that there simply wasn’t enough meat to the story and the issue was largely unfocused. I feel that this issue is mostly resolved here as Peter Tomasi builds a clear direction and drops more hints on what the purpose of the story is.
• The bits with the new villain seemed to come out of nowhere and were presented like I should know something about Green Lantern history that I apparently don’t. Am I missing something here? Anyone know anything about this mystery character?
• The bits with Arisia and Kilowog were fantastic. It was a great setup for the personal issues tht they need to work out on their quest and a great reminder of why Tomasi’s run on Green Lantern Corps was so great.
Fernando Pasarin does a really job with the alien characters. The new villain looked totally killer and his take on Kilowog was pretty fantastic. Fans of Pat Gleason’s work on GLC should feel right at home with this.
• Unfortunately, when it comes to the more humanoid characters, there are some issues that need to be worked out. For prime examples, check out Guy’s really weird lips or the strange disconnect between Arisia’s head and the rest of her body (there is something not right about her neck).
• The art is also really stiff. This isn’t a major issue because there is so little action in this issue, but if in a more action-packed book, this is going to be a big problem. Hopefully Pasarin can resolve it by the time Guy’s mission gets more exciting.

Verdict: Buy It. This issue just barely squeaks it into the Buy It range, but does completely restore my faith in the possibility of this series being majorly awesome down the road. This issue feels like an extension on Peter Tomasi’s Green Lantern Corps run, which is a great thing, and is clearly heading in the right direction. Yes, there are still issues, including some problems with the art, but that doesn’t stop this issue from being very entertaining.


05. THOR: FIRST THUNDER #1
Written by Bryan J.L. Glass
Art by Tan Eng Huat and Jose Villarrubia
Letters by Joe Sabino
Cover by Jay Anacleto and Brian Haberlin
preRanking: 03

• Writer Bryan J.L. Glass, whose Mice Templar comics you absolutely must read, sets out to retell Thor’s origins in this miniseries and starts off by retelling the first ever Thor story—Thor versus the Kronan rock creatures from Journey into Mystery #83—this time giving equal weight to both Thor and Donald Blake.
• This is a solid adaptation of Thor’s first appearance that is faithful while still expanding on the relatively flimsy plot of the original. I’m really lad to see that story reprinted in the back of this issue. I have it reprinted elsewhere, but its nice to have for side-by-side comparison.
• It’s awesome to see Korg (from the Hulk franchise) show up here. This was retconned in during Planet Hulk, but I’m glad to see Glass throw it in here.
• Glass does a great job of developing the separate personalities of Thor and Blake here and I’m really impressed with how he handles their relationship. I look forward to seeing how that plays out.
• I’ve always felt like the transition from Blake to Thor was tremendously awkward and I feel like this is a perfect opportunity to correct that. Unfortunately, it still comes across as too random. It’s a minor gripe, but I feel like Glass could have done more here.
• While I’m really sold on the writing, the art isn’t quite what I’d like it to be. Tan Eng Huat uses a lot of lines that doesn’t seem necessary, especially on characters’ faces, which muddies the art up very quickly.
• There is a lot of impact in the action though. Huat does a great job of making this issue feel very epic, which is precisely what needs to do. He drives this home with strong storytelling, especially in his use of close-ups.
• It might be a printing error, but the colors in this issue seem really inconsistent, especially the yellows. There are some places where Thor’s hair looks almost white, while in others its downright sunflowery.

Verdict: Buy It. I had very high expectations for Bryan Glass’s writing here, as his Mice Templar series is one of the best comics of the last several years, and I wasn’t disappointed. Glass is clearly looking to add depth and humanity to Thor’s origin and is right on point here. There are some minor gripes here and there, but for the most part, my biggest issue is with the art. Huat’s ability to convey action and his storytelling are strong, but in terms of actual designs and style, I was not impressed. Despite these issues, I definitely think that this comic is worth your time and money.


04. ZATANNA #5
Written by Paul DIni
Art by Chad Hardin, Wayne Faucher, and John Kalisz
Letters by Pat Brosseau
Cover by Stephane Roux and Karine Boccanfuso
preRanking: 06

• Quicking thinking keeps Zatanna from being killed by demons in this week’s issue, though its her relationship with her cousin and fellow hero Zachary Zatara that will really capture your attention.
• This issue is very fast-paced and filled with personality. It is definitely true to form for Paul Dini, so the fact that it is highly entertaining should surprise no one.
• I really enjoyed the relationship between Zatanna and Zachary here. It adds a ton of depth to both characters. Zatanna has always been a “pedestal” character with few obvious flaws, whereas Zachary has never really been written sympathetically before. Dini does a great job of using his animosity towards her busy schedule to round both characters out.
• The twists and turns with the demonic villain help keep things fresh, which is nice considering how easy it is to overuse Zatanna’s magical abilities to counteract almost every threat instantaneously.
• The art is definitely an improvement over Chad Hardin’s work last issue. I’m really impressed with his inventive designs on the demons and when he’s on, he draws one heck of a Zatanna.
• There are some consistency issues though most of them can be attributed to some weird perspective shifts that lead to awkward anatomies and shifting facial structures.
• The biggest problem, though, is that the men all tend to look too much alike. Check out Zachary side-by-side with the villain and you’d think they were father-and-son (which would make the end so much creepier).

Verdict: Buy It. While I’d still much rather have Stephane Roux handling the art chores on this issue, Chad Hardin makes a big leap forward from last issue, though the success of this title still rest firmly on the shoulders of Paul Dini and his fabulous character writing. For being a very plot-driven comic, I’m really pleased with how much depth that Dini adds to the characters here. I can honestly say this issue may feature the best take on Zachary Zatara that I’ve ever read and, as always, Dini’s Zatanna simply shines.


03. X-23 #1
Written by Marjorie Liu
Art by Wil Conrad and John Rauch
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Danni Shinya Luo
preRanking: 05

• The ever-awesome X-23 finally gets her ongoing series this week with a debut issue that finds her struggling to figure out where she fits in the world as she is an outcast amongst the other X-Men and is fighting some horrifying nightmares.
• This issue unravels in a very slow, methodical way that should be very engaging for new readers while still satisfying for longtime fans. It’s a departure of sorts from previous X-23 stories, but Marjorie Liu is also very concerned with building character here.
• Despite the unrealistic nature of the characters and situations, the relationships and reactions in this issue feel incredibly natural and genuine. Liu does an amazing job of capturing the alienation of a teenager.
• The bits with Cyclops and Emma are far too similar to the conversation between Wolverine and Storm. This is really the only issue that I have with the writing in this book. It’s otherwise 100% spot on.
• It is awesome to see so much personality emerging from X-23. Aside from Chris Yost and Craig Kyle’s work, most writers seem to approach her rather shallowly. Liu clearly wants her to be as complex as she was intended to be.
Wil Conrad’s art is really sharp here. His expressions were tremendously well-handled and very effective in building tone in concert with Liu’s writing.
• I like that Conrad is adding lots of detail without the art becoming too busy. Conrad picks the best possible places to focus on so that he draws your eye across the page. It’s very thoughtful art.
• The coloring from John Rauch is a bit too drab for my taste. It does match the ton, but it also makes some of the art run together. I’d like to see him add some punch here and there with bolder choices.

Verdict: Must Read. I had very high expectations for this issue and Marjorie Liu’s brilliant character-focused writing did not disappoint. This is one of the most compelling portrayals of X-23 that I’ve ever read. The moment I put this comic down, I immediately wanted another issue because I have to know what happens next. When you add in very strong art from Wil Conrad, you have a total package comic that should not be missed under any circumstances.


02. MORNING GLORIES #2
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Joe Eisma and Alex Sollazzo
Letters by Johnny Lowe
Cover by Rodin Esquejo
preRanking: 02

Morning Glories really seemed to take everyone by storm with its mysterious first issue. It was a well-received launch and I suspect the reception will be very similar for this issue that follows the newest students at the academy during the scariest detention I’ve ever seen.
• This comic is incredibly intriguing. Between the what-could-possibly-happen-next-style mystery and the engaging characters, this comic is instantly addictive. I want more now.
• Few comics (or movies, or shows, etc) could pull off such insane concepts being so casually received by realistic characters without it being incredibly off putting. By Nick Spencer manages to make everything here, no matter how unnatural, seem perfectly reasonable in its insanity. Think about how the characters in LOST reacted to the craziness of the Island or how Harry Potter reacted when he found out he was a wizard—it takes a master stroke to make this work and Spencer pulls it off perfectly.
• I love the way that Spencer is toying with archetypal characters here. You get characters you’ve seen thousands of times before, but the complexity of their interaction and the subtlety of Spencer’s twists make them feel completely fresh. There is brilliant subtext here.
• I was a bit hard on Joe Eisma’s art in the first issue, but he has really worked out the kinks in this issue. This is a major improvement.
• There is really nothing fancy about the art. It’s very straightforward and clean, both in terms of design and storytelling. This is an interesting contrast to the anything-but-straightforward nature of the story and that makes it all the more enjoyable.
• I feel like Eisma and Spencer must be sharing a brain or something. From the designs to the angles to the tone, the art works perfectly in synch with the writing.

Verdict: Must Read. I’m clearly enamored with this issue of Morning Glories. Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma have put together a shockingly awesome comic that is clearly the “next big thing” for Image, a company that has spent the last several years churning out “next big things.” Between the haunting mysteries of the Morning Glory Academy, to the undeniably engaging characters, to the shockingly awesome final page, this comic is stellar in every single way. Get in on the ground floor by picking this comic up right now. You won’t regret it!


01. TIME BOMB #2
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art by Paul Gulacy and Rain Beredo
Letters by John J. Hill
Cover by Paul Gulacy and Rain Beredo
preRanking: 04

• Now transplanted back in WWII-era Germany, the team of future scientists must act fast to infiltrate Nazi-controlled Berlin to stop the super-weapon from being built in order to save the future from it beign unleashed.
Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray take full advantage of Radical Comics’ expanded page count with a highly complex story that is filled with twists and turns. You could never pack this much story into a standard page count comic.
• You get sucked into the characters and their relationships instantly in this comic. It’s amazing how well Palmiotti and Gray are able to keep this so focused on the characters despite the epic scale of their actions.
• It’s not very often that a comic that involves Nazis or a comic that involves time travel isn’t tremendously shallow. This issue is one of those few comics that can pull off both plot concepts without falling prey to clichés thanks to a lot of ingenious twists and a lot of strong subtextual details that make the issue all the more engaging.
Paul Gulacy’s art is a perfect fit for this series. His work is very fluid, which works very well with the pacing and action, while his realistic approach to the characters makes its historical setting all the more palatable.
• There is such a great sense of atmosphere in the art. It’s hard to explain, but you can feel the urgency of the mission just by looking at the pages. I honestly wish I had a better way to state that, but its an intangible element that Gulacy deserves a lot of credit for.
• The layouts and storytelling in this issue are just awesome. Gulacy works the grid incredibly well, using up to 10+ panels per page at times without sacrificing any details or story. It’s tremendous.

Verdict: Must Read. This is one of the most complex comics of the year and also one of the most satisfying. Palmiotti, Gray, and Gulacy have put together an amazingly tight plot with extremely engaging characters around a very strong concept that looks absolutely fantastic to boot. Honestly, even at a staggering 50 story pages, I am ravenous for more. It took me a really long time to decide which comic should be this week’s Book of the Week and honestly, both Time Bomb and Morning Glories deserved. However, the supreme intensity and complexity of this comic combined with its simply staggering craftsmanship gave it the edge. I know that Radical Comics titles might not be as easy to find as your average DC or Marvel comic, but do not use that as an excuse to get your hands on this incredible comic. There are no excuses for you not reading Time Bomb.


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7 comments:

Ivan said...

So, how did the Rogers/Hulk meeting go? Too spoilerish to get into details?

Ryan Schrodt said...

@Ivan - It barely went at all. Rogers and Amadeus Cho showed up, told Hulk it was K'ai and asked for Hulk's help. Hulk and the Hulk Family turned him down and he left. It was more of a minor plot point just to get to the point that Skaar reveals Hiro-Kala to Hulk. If you were looking for a big showdown between the two, there's nothing there.

brandon said...

any reason why the Punisher is on the cover of GI Joe?

Yup, Time Bomb and Morning Glories are excellent reads.

Anonymous said...

What does Byrne it mean? Thanks.

mugiwara said...

X-23 was great, better than I expected.
My only concern would be that like most writers, Liu agrees with Kyle&Yost's portrayal of Surge (basically Nori = annoying bitch). It's a shame, because the character was less one-dimensional and more likable during the Weir/Defilippis days.
But hey, the big reveal that Baywatch Ninja has cellulite made my day!

Anonymous said...

I expected more out of X-23. It was the same portrayal we've seen of her time and time again. She's got zero personality, everyone feels sorry for her, she has no goals. Her look isn't even that distinctive. You only know it's her for a fact when her claws are out.

Daken, to me, is the better crafted Wolverine ripoff. But Daken's book has no substance to it either.

Anonymous said...

dakens better ?...........ahahahahahaha

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