Friday, September 24, 2010
It’s a HUGE week for the Comic Book Review Power Rankings this week with a whopping 14 titles being reviewed, including the much-buzzed about debut of Skullkickers, the first Matt Fraction-penned issue of Thor, plus new issues of a number of Rankings regulars. Who will be #1? Hit the jump to find out!
For the uninitiated, the Comic Book Review Power Rankings is a countdown from worst-to-best of my weekly comic book haul. Before reading the issues, I preRank them based on the creative team, previous issues, solicitations, and gut instinct. The final Ranking number is based upon how the issues actually turned out. I attempt to keep everything as spoiler free as possible, but keep in mind that there may be the occasional minor spoiler that I overlook. As always, I can be reached via responses to this thread or at email@example.com.
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Whilce Portacio, Ed Tadeo, and Brian Reber
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson
• Five Lights continues this week in the same formulaic manner as the past few issues, this time with Hope and Storm finding a new mutant in Africa. Meanwhile Kitty knows Emma’s dark secret about Sebastian Shaw.
• This is a paint-by-numbers issue that follows the same formula as the previous issues in this storyarc—the new mutant’s powers are causing problems, Hope shows up, and the problem is solved.
• There is something not quite kosher with Storm letting the new mutant clearly kill the soldiers, then letting her bask in the massacre. I know the story states that she “scared them away” but there is no way anyone standing anywhere near the exploding trucks would be running away—they would be dead. I get what Matt Fraction was going for, but this should have been handled more clearly.
• The entire Emma/Shaw subplot is getting to be a total mess. The lack of a clear direction (or point) isn’t intriguing or mysterious, its frustrating.
• The character work in this issue is surprisingly shallow. There is no depth to the characters and they lack clear personalities.
• The art suffers from the same problems that have plagued Whilce Portacio on this title—stiff anatomy, Hope having really weird looking hair, the women all looking the same, etc.
• The art did look really cool on the two pages of the Namor subplot, even if the story itself felt out of place in the larger context of the issue.
• The storytelling is strong than the style. Portacio uses close-ups effectively and on pages that have more than 4 panels, his progression works really well.
Verdict: Avoid It. Once again, I feel like I am at a crossroads with this title. I love the X-Men and I love the idea of Hope, a character that has really grown on me, tracking down new mutants, plus Kitty pray looks to weigh heavily in the coming issues and is probably my second favorite X-Man. Unfortunately, the lack of clear voices for the characters, the repetitive plots, and the subpar art from Portacio (who will later be replaced by Greg Land—ick) has really sucked all of my enjoyment out of this title. I want to like this comic more than I do and I really wish it could be better than it is; unfortunately, I don’t and it isn’t.
Written by William Harms
Art by Jerry Lando, Jay Leisten, and Brian Buccellato
Letters by Troy Peteri
Cover by Rafael Albuquerque
• The new Pilot Season kicks off with 39 Minutes, a comic that follows a group of former soldiers that go on a violent crime spree in a small town that appears to be part of a much larger and much more substantial story.
• This issue has a fairly interesting premise, with writer William Harms taking on a fairly standard heist plot and spinning it on its head by adding a military conspiracy angle.
• The problem is that the quick pace required to touch all of the bases to setup the story does not allow for Harms to develop any of the characters. We get blips of personality, but its hard to get invested in any of the players.
• The “shocking twists” in the last few pages, which begin to unravel the conspiracy, really lost me. This is the first issue and the status quo has barely been established, so the twists feel forced and are essentially meaningless.
• Jerry Lando’s art is clean and has a very Phil Hester-y vibe to it with its bold characters and strong use of spot blacks. Hester has always been one of my favorites, so its great to see his style emulated here.
• Unfortunately, the lack of consistency in facial structures takes all of that joy away. The design on John Clayton (the most important character not wearing a skimask through most of the issue) shifts considerably from panel to panel. Some pages have up to 6 different looks for Clayton—all of which are fairly Jesus-y, but otherwise completely different in terms of cheekbones, jawlines, etc.
• The straightforward storytelling works fairly well, though. Lando looks to be going for a very stick-to-the-basics approach and it works well for him in this regard. Sometimes you don’t need to get fancy.
Verdict: Byrne It. I like the premise of this book, but it gets lost in the details when you add in a major government conspiracy, an incomprehensible motivation for the criminals, and a complete lack of characterization. While I think this could make an awesome first 20 minutes of a summer blockbuster film, it doesn’t hold much water as the debut issue of a comic book miniseries. I need more to hang my hat on.
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by David Lafuente and Justin Ponsor
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by David Lafuente and Justin Ponsor
• In the conclusion of the current arc, Human Torch and Iceman battle the Chameleons to save Peter and things take a very interesting turn with J. Jonah Jameson.
• This is a really predictable issue with a slightly less predictable outcome. As a whole, this arc feels like very long setup for much more interesting possibilities. I applaud Brian Michael Bendis for taking this in interesting directions as it closes, I just wish he had done so from the beginning.
• The character work is surprisingly bland for this title. The focus is mainly on the action, so there isn’t much interaction. The dialogue is all incredibly shallow and, in the case of the male Chameleon, is unnecessary narration to what is happening in the story.
• I had a really hard time getting into these villains, especially the male. He can shape shift, is handy with huge automatic weaponry, and takes Mutant Growth Hormone to electric powers—it’s total overkill.
• The art is your usual David Lafuente fare on nearly all levels—strong designs, clean linework, and a ton of energy.
• The expressions, though, are amongst the worst I’ve seen from Lafuente. It seems that every single shot is either the same growling face repeated over and over or the same lifeless stare over and over. I’ve never seen this from Lafuente and, as such, I’m disappointed.
• Iceman’s look seems to shift throughout the issue. Part of it has to do with the amount of detail Lafuente chooses to add in each panel, but there is a major consistency issue with Iceman that isn’t found in the other characters.
Verdict: Check it. A bad issue of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man is still an issue worth reading. I haven’t been a huge fan of this story arc, which carries over into this issue, but there is still quite a bit here that I did enjoy. Although it’s a weak effort from Lafuente, he’s still one of the industry’s more exciting artists and the plot threads laid in the last few pages of the issue definitely have me psyched for future storylines.
Written by Sterling Gates
Art by Jamal Igle, Jon Sibal, and Blond
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Amy Reeder, Richard Friend, and Guy Major
• Supergirl (or Bizarro-Bizzarogirl) and Bizarrogirl head to Bizarroworld where giant aliens are destroying the planet, which is clearly a bad thing.
• In the last few months, I feel like this series has struggled to regain its footing after being plagued by months of constant crossovers. I really don’t think the best way to get the book back on track is to end the first storyline with Supergirl running to Superman for help, which is exactly what happens at the end of this issue. This really kills her credibility.
• I loved the idea of Bizarro creating a Bizarro Lex Luthor that is the most brilliant of all the Bizarro People. This is an awesome idea and its too bad that Sterling Gates chooses to kill off the character so quickly.
• I like the idea that Gates presents of different Bizarro dialects to cover for the rampant inconsistency in writing Bizarrospeak that has been an issue since the character was first introduced. Unfortunately, it feels like it was forced in to cover for his own inconsistency.
• It’s unfair to do so, but it’s very hard not to compare this issue to Geoff Johns and Eric Powell’s brilliant Escape from Bizarroworld storyline. As much as I don’t want to, I kept wishing I was reading that story instead.
• As usual, Jamal Igle’s strong designs, sharp storytelling, and effective expressions shine through on this issue. His Bizarro looks fantastic and is a character I hope we see him draw more often.
• Really, the only issue I had with the art is the colors. Blond makes some really bold choices when a more subdued palette would’ve worked better and his colors really lack depth here. We were spoiled with Nei Ruffino coloring over Igle and Jon Sibal; the bar was raised too high.
Verdict: Check It. In a lot of ways, this issue is a step in the right direction. Jamal Igle’s work continues to be very strong, especially with inker Jon Sibal on board. The concepts that Sterling Gates presents for Bizarroworld are really cool, even if there are some missteps in the execution. My biggest problem is still the ending, as I feel that Supergirl is a strong enough character to stand on her own and this issue would be a great way to bring her out of the funk that the character has put herself into over the last few years. It could be a turning point, but I feel like Gates is backpedaling too hard.
Written by Jay Faerber
Art by Julio Brilha and Ron Riley
Letters by Charles Pritchett
Cover by Mahmud Asrar and Ron Riley
• F.L.A.G.’s superteam, The Primaries, make their full debut here as they tackle the Sons of Dominex, which leads to an issue-long battle and the unfortunate death of a character I really liked.
• The issue is all action from beginning to end. In a lot of ways, that makes it feel a bit too much like the previous issues, which were also almost all action. I feel like we are getting the same fight over and over, just with new combatants chiming in each issue.
• The character work is strong though. Despite most of the dialogue coming in short snippets, we get some very good action. Kudos to Jay Faerber for being able to make quipping come naturally from his characters, which isn’t something you see often.
• The shock of Firebird’s death does give the battle more meaning and impact. I’m sad to see the character go, but it definitely changes the stakes from this point forward.
• Julio Brilha continues to impress me. He has gone from being “the artist that isn’t Mahmud Asrar” to really coming into his own here.
• I loved the chaotic layouts that he uses to emphasize the action. That’s good storytelling.
• The coloring on the final page is dramatically darker than the rest of the issue, which is off-putting. I get what Ron Riley is going for here, but it feels forced and out of place. A gradual shift to this point would give the same impact, but wouldn’t look so much like a printing error.
• After Jay Faerber was cool enough to let me know that the backup (which, sadly, I’m not a fan of) has nothing to do with the book being priced at $3.99, I’m going to pass on reviewing. I came for the Dynamo 5 and its satisfying enough for me.
Verdict: Buy It. This one squeaks into the Buy It range on the strength of its art mostly. There are some great moments in terms of writing, especially in the latter half of the issue, but in a lot of ways it feels like we are treading down the same path, which is frustrating. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the issue or that I wouldn’t recommend it, because I think you should read it, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you!
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Pasqual Ferry and Matt Hollingsworth
Letters by John Workman
Cover by Pasqual Ferry
• Matt Fraction’s long-awaited debut on Thor is finally here with a status-quo setting issue that finds Volstagg teaming with an Earth scientist to talk Armageddon while Thor and other Asgardians deal with the aftermath of Siege.
• There is a lot going on in this issue as Fraction densely packs the issue with story beats and concepts. He clearly understands that this is going to be a jumping on point for readers as he catches us newbies up while still laying the foundation for upcoming stories in a way that should satisfy longtime readers.
• The relationship between Thor and Donald Blake is very Firestorm-y and a tad off putting. I’m not sure how much I care for their give-and-take and I didn’t like Thor telling Blake to shut up. What’s up with that?
• The other concepts here are great though. Fraction’s attention to detail when world-building is admirable. This issue definitely reminds me of the revamp that he did alongside Ed Brubaker on Immortal Iron Fist (a book that I miss dearly).
• The art looks really good and is a fine fit for this title. Pasqual Ferry’s clean style and ability to great an epic scope are absolutely perfect for Thor.
• The lack of backgrounds is frustrating and does take away from the strength of Ferry’s character designs though. I’d love to see his panels filled out a bit more.
• The coloring is a bit of a mixed bag. Matt Hollingsworth’s colors have a watercolor feel to them that looks great on the more fantastic elements—such as Thor’s arrival at Asgard. Unfortunately, it looks awkward and muddy on the more mundane items and close-ups.
Verdict: Buy It. With two other great Thor titles being published by Marvel right now (Thor: Mighty Avenger and Thor: First Thunder), this title does have a high standard to meet if it wants to stay on my pull list. While I wasn’t blown away by this debut, you can definitely see the potential here. Fraction’s interpretation of the Thor/Blake relationship doesn’t thrill me, but the grandiose nature of the issue and the strong art does. I’d really love to see Fraction do for Thor what he did for Iron Fist. A similar approach could definitely give this title a unique edge and would definitely keep me on board.
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
• In this issue, Flash and Future Top try to stop the battle between the Renegades and Rogues from inadvertently unleashing the Mirror Lords, though it would appear that something far more sinister is at play.
• This issue is filled with wild, fast-paced action smothered in dialogue that reminds us of what we’ve already heard before. It’s not often that I think Geoff Johns should lay off the dialogue, but this gets very heavy-handed at times.
• The twist with the Top was surprising and well-played. I can honestly say that I did not see that coming.
• The two pages of Brightest Day tie-in completely pulled me out of the story. They felt incredibly forced and highly unnecessary. I’d feel differently if I were reading that comic, I’m sure, but I don’t think the cohesion of this story should be sacrificed to tie in with that.
• Don’t think about the implications of time travel paradoxes in this story, whatever you do. You’ll quickly get a headache. Instead, just enjoy the fast pace and bold storytelling choices.
• Francis Manapul does a brilliant job of capturing speed and chaos in this issue. There is a brilliant sense of movement in every single panel. Few artists can truly harness the speed of the Flash, but Manapul does here.
• The level of detail and the depth of the colors are inconsistent at times. When they are on, though, they are simply brilliant.
Verdict: Buy It. It isn’t often that I can say this, but I really feel like there is too much of Geoff Johns in this issue. Francis Manapul does a superb job of carrying this issue and telling the story, but Johns has a tendency to overwrite here and that hijacks a lot of what Manapul is accomplishing. There are some major issues that would keep this from being a Must Read comic, but with a minimal approach to dialogue, Manapul could have run this one a few more spots up the Rankings!
Written by Ron Marz
Art by Kenneth Rocafort and Sunny Gho of IFS
Letters by Troy Peteri
Cover by Kenneth Rocafort
• After her teammates were poisoned last issue, Velocity is racing against the clock to save them, which leads to a confrontation with the Hunter/Killer team.
• As always, big thanks to Top Cow for being awesome enough to pass a copy of this issue off to us for review!
• This issue is just as fast-paced as you would expect given the title character, with Ron Marz jumping from concept to concept quickly and furiously. Marz does a great job of developing that sense of urgency.
• If you haven’t read the Cyberforce vs. Hunter/Killer miniseries, this issue would lose a lot of its impact. While it doesn’t specifically reference the story much (and has good editorial notes), the subtext of the events relies heavily on having read that series.
• Because everything move so quickly, it’s hard to get invested in the story. The characters are distilled to their core essences threat seems to lose some credibility. A more varied pace throughout would do wonders.
• I’m a big fan of Kenneth Rocafort’s art and he does not disappoint here. His inventive designs and unusual storytelling give this issue a very unique spin that works extremely well.
• I have to hand it to Rocafort for being able to “keep pace” with Marz in terms of developing a sense of urgency in this issue. The two work perfectly in synch that regard!
• There is a two page spread of Velocity in action that contains over twenty background panels that showcase other elements of the battle. It’s one of the coolest scenes you’ll see in any comic this week.
Verdict: Buy It. While the story left me wanting a bit more, the art in this issue is simply spectacular. I really feel like Kenneth Rocafort is one of the best artists outside of the Big 2 and I’m surprised that DC and Marvel have yet to scoop him up for full-time work. His artwork alone is Must Read material, but the story does pull it down some. This is a satisfying read that is probably under the radar for a lot of readers, but don’t let that keep you from checking it out.
Lead Written by David Hine
Lead Art by Moritat, Gabriel Bautista, and Andre Szymanowicz
Lead Letters by Rob Leigh
Backup Written by Brian Azarello
Backup Art by Eduardo Risso
Backup Letters by Clem Robbins
Cover by Ladronn
• In the lead story of this week’s Spirit, Ebony pretends to be the titular hero to save the kidnapped Imani, which leads to Spirit getting on track for his inevitable showdown with Kass.
• This issue moves quick and hits hard. David Hine does a great job of adding a mature spin in this story that suits the Spirit better than some of the goofier interpretations we’ve seen before.
• What really impresses me is how well Hine builds tension as he pushes the story along. Each page pushes you closer and closer to the edge; it’s a real thriller.
• I love the cinematic approach to this story, both in terms of writing and art. It looks and feels like a movie—and makes you disappointed that the actual Spirit film couldn’t be this awesome.
• Moritat hits all of his usual right notes with the art. There’s a great sense of drama and tension in the atmosphere that he builds.
• The strong colors from Gabriel Bautista and Andre Szymanowicz emphasize the boldness of Moritat’s storytelling. The trio is incredibly effective together.
• The backup story reunites the 100 Bullets creative team of Brian Azarello and Eduardo Risso, who tell a story of Ebony and her true love—a boxer that doesn’t love her back—as she waits for the Spirit to rescue her.
• While the opening story has a very mature, hard-edged tone, this story is actually shockingly light-hearted. I can’t say that I’ve ever read an Azarello comic that was so playful.
• In that regard, it does feel a bit awkward. The structure of the issue follows a song, which doesn’t flow tremendously well to me.
• It is really interesting to see more of Ebony’s personality, though. Azarello fleshes her out more here than we’ve seen in any of the previous issues. It’ll be interesting to see if any other writers pick up on this.
• It is interesting to see Eduardo Risso’s work in black-and-white. Personally, I prefer it in color, but it still looks pretty decent.
• I’m not a fan of how much he overemphasizes lips and noses on African American characters, which feels really stereotypical and makes me a bit uncomfortable. This was an issue I had with 100 Bullets as well (though it didn’t stop that series from being brilliant).
Verdict: Buy It. Another month and another fine issue of The Spirit. This issue has really caught fire under writer David Hine and this issue does not disappoint. The darker tone and serious edge make for some incredibly tense storytelling that works very well. As a huge fan of Azarello’s writing, I was a bit disappointed in the back up, which does pull the issue down a tad. Still, all-in-all, it’s a solid read.
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, Tom Palmer, and Dean White
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by John Romita Jr., Klaus Jason, and Dean White
• After four issues of wheel-spinning, the Avengers finally learn the truth about time unraveling as they are told of a war between Kang and Ultron that has caused reality to go haywire, then channel Groundhog Day as they try to stop it.
• The slow build up to this point is dropped in favor of a surprisingly dense and fast-paced issue that is immensely more satisfying. This was the last chance for this series to capture my attention and it comes through in just the nick of time.
• The story is considerably more interesting once the actual threat becomes clear, though there are still a lot of plot holes and unexplained actions. Hopefully Brian Michael Bendis can fill some of those gaps as he wraps this up.
• I feel like the Next Avengers are being wasted here. The first issue made it seem like they were going to be a huge deal, but instead they are essentially panel dressing. There are so many possibilities with these characters that could be exploited here.
• Bendis does a solid job of injecting the very serious story with fun, quirky dialogue that makes it feel more like a classic Avengers adventure. This is really the first time that this title has been able to capture that sensibility.
• The art is a bit too loose for my tastes. It seems like John Romita Jr. is really phoning in a lot of his work here.
• The anatomy gets a bit awkward in places and is probably the biggest issue the art faces, though the lack of detail throughout is rather grating as well.
• The splashes and spreads all look great though; it only seems to be the paneled pages that are problematic. The Thor versus Galactus spread was simply stellar.
Verdict: Buy It. This is the first time that I’ve really felt like this series is something special, which is how every Avengers issue should be. These are Earth’s Mightiest Heroes facing Earth’s worst threats—it should be epic and, here, it finally is. Bendis hits all the right notes here and probably could have taken this for a run at the top spot on the Rankings were it not for an uncharacteristically weak effort from the legendary John Romita Jr.
Written by Jim Zubkavich
Art by Edwin Huang, Chris Stevens, and Misty Coats
Letters by Marshall Dillon
Cover by Chris Stevens
• The much-hyped Skullkickers squeaked into this week’s Rankings thanks to an almost-too-late review copy that swung my way. Since I couldn’t find a physical copy of the issue this week, I’m glad that I was able to check it out!
• For those of you that couldn’t find this quick sell out, Skullkickers follows two mercenary-types in a fantasy world that find themselves in the middle of a murder investigation (that’s an oversimplification, but you get my drift).
• I can tell you that the quirky fun of this issue deserves all of the buzz that it has generated. Jim Zubkavich has put together a hilariously charming story here that is unlike any other comic that I’ve read recently. It’s a bit Groo and a bit Bone and a bit Starsky and Hutch (if all of those things were a bit more violent) and all totally awesome.
• I like the “anything goes” approach that is set from the very beginning. Skullkickers is crazy and irreverent—it does not deny this; in fact, it revels in it.
• The artwork is really top notch. Kudos to the entire art team for their clean lines and uncanny consistency. They do not miss a beat here.
• I really like the coloring in this. It’s a lot softer than you’d expect from the cover, but it works really well. It, like the rest of this issue, really toys with your expectations.
Verdict: Must Read. Until the second printing drops, you are going to have a hard time finding Skullkickers #1. You might have to do some hunting and you might have to pay more than cover price, but trust me, it’s worth it. Skullkickers is quirky and entertaining with a highly imaginative approach to the fantasy genre that should have a broad appeal. There is a lot of buzz about this book and, quite frankly, it’s well-earned.
Written by Richard Starkings
Art by Axel Medellin and Gregory Wright
Letters by Comicraft
Cover by Jason Howard
• The Crocs are unleashed by MAPPO in this week’s Elephantmen as Sahara has a secret meeting with Granger and things get dangerous for Hip and Ebony as they spend some quality time with Blackthorne.
• It has been a few months since the last issue of Elephantmen, but Richard Starkings does a great job of seamlessly throwing in context clues to close the gap for readers. Thank you for that!
• The story of the Crocs is incredibly horrifying and really makes their battle with the “heroes” that much more engaging. In just a few pages (all about meat), Starkings really makes the Crocs disturbing. I got chills reading it thanks to the detached narration’s casual explanation.
• The scenes between Sahara and Granger broke the tension nicely and added some solid character depth to an otherwise action-packed issue. I really didn’t see this friendship coming, but it works very well.
• Axel Medellin makes his debut here and does a very solid job. His work is very fluid and his open designs are eye-catching.
• The art is a departure from some of the styles we’ve seen previously on this title with a much more “traditional comic book” feel, but it works really well. Medellin’s got chops.
• The color by Gregory Wright is very dark and claustrophobic, which really helps set the tone for the issue. I can’t help but feel like we might be losing some detail though—but I think the trade-off is worth it.
• There isn’t much I can say about the Charley <3s Robots backup by JG Roshell and Andre Szymanowicz except that it is awesome and is a nice treat for readers. I dig it!
Verdict: Must Read. It’s getting harder and harder to write justifications for Elephantmen’s Must Read verdicts—not because it doesn’t deserve them—but because I’m running out of ways to praise this series. I think it is well-known at this point that Elephantmen is my favorite comic and this issue is another great example of why. You’d be a fool to miss it, True Believers.
Written by Paul Levitz
Art by Yildiray Cinar, Francis Portela, Wayne Faucher, and Hi-Fi
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Yildiray CInary, Wayne Fauncher, and Hi-Fi
• The xenophobic reaction to the arrival of intergalactic refugees boils over in this week’s Legion of Superheroes, which featured some surprising twists for the once villainous Earth Man.
• Paul Levitz absolutely kills on the character writing here. His ability to find clear, unique voices for the ridiculously large cast of this book blows my mind. It’s uncanny.
• The clearly allegorical plot of this issue is extremely relevant and could rub some readers the wrong way. Admittedly, this story plays towards my own politics and I will say that influenced my enjoyment.
• Earth Man’s characterization is incredibly fascinating. The changes in his character have come fast, but still feel very natural. Granted, there is clearly a twist in the path for this, but as it stands, I’m impressed at how this has played out.
• Strong pacing allow for Levitz to pack a lot into this story as he builds tension towards the revelation of Earth Man’s true allegiance and the very shocking conclusion of the issue.
• The art is strong, but the dual pencilers are still problematic. Both Yildiray Cinar and Francis Portela are doing a great job on this book, but they don’t gel. The transitions between artists are jarring and distracting.
• I really don’t have anything bad to say about the art beyond that. It’s clean and engaging with strong action and good storytelling. It would just be better if one artist would handle each full issue, even if they had to take turns month-to-month.
Verdict: Must Read. Earth Man is the Damian Wayne of the 31st Century. He has gone from being one of the most annoying and one-dimensional characters to come around in quite some time, into a complex and conflicted character. Yes, its clear that he is probably being manipulated by Brainiac, but I have a feeling that, when all is said and done, he’ll be just as interesting and engaging—even if he goes back to his villainous ways.
Written by Christos Gage
Art by MikeMcKone, Rick Ketchum, Cam Smith, and Jeromy Cox
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Mike McKone
• Picking up from the end of the last issue, this week’s Avengers Academy finds Veil, Hazmat, and Mettle face-to-face with their former tormentor Norman Osborn inside The Raft. Also, we get a look at the origins of Mettle.
• Once again, tremendously effective character writing is central to the success of this title. Christos Gage is writing some of the best character-focused work of his entire career.
• There is a great mix of action and intrigue here. You get shocking revelations followed up with hard-hitting battles. There is something for everyone.
• I love how sinister Osborn is here while still retaining his villainous charm. You can see why the young “heroes” could be so easily manipulated by him. Gage really taps why Osborn has been such a fantastic villain for decades now.
• Mettle’s story is just as heartwrenching as the other cadets’ origins were. Gage is just killing on these. It’s impossible not to sympathize with the characters.
• As per usual, Mike McKone delivers with extremely consistent high-quality art.
• There is nothing flashy about his approach, but it works incredibly well. It’s a real workhorse effort with a strong focus on clarity in storytelling and consistency in design.
• There are some great iconic shots in this issue, especially in the action sequences. Some are a bit staged and stiff, but they are all really memorable.
Verdict: Must Read. After three straight second place performances on the Rankings, Avengers Academy finally snags its first Book of the Week honor and I can almost guarantee it won’t be the last for this phenomenal series. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite comics and is easily the strongest title in the Avengers franchise right now. This week was full of great comics and it was hard to choose one to take the top spot, but thanks to its superb craftsmanship and intriguing story, Avengers Academy was the clear winner.