Thursday, September 2, 2010

Comic Book Reviews Power Rankings for 09/01/10

It’s time for your favorite Thursday night tradition—the Comic Book Review Power Rankings! This week I’m taking a look at six very strong books. It’s a small crop, but all of them are worth reading. Which book will be this week’s #1? Could it be the newest issue of the upstart Young Allies? Perhaps the debut of Freedom Fighters? Maybe it’s the return of Incredible Hulk to the Rankings. There is only one way to find out—hit the jump!

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

Lead Written by Greg Pak
Lead Art by Tom Raney, Scott Hanna, and John Rauch
Backup Written by Greg Pak and Scott Reed
Backup Art by Brian Ching, Victor Olazaba, and Jorge Maese
Letters by Simon Bowland
Cover by Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz, and Jason Keith
preRanking: 06

• In this issue’s lead story, we check in on the entire “Hulk Family”—Hulk, Korg, She-Hulk, Red She-Hulk, Lyra, Skaar, and A-Bomb (Rick Jones), which leads to all sorts of trouble when Bruce tries to tell Betty (Red She-Hulk) that he loves her.
• This is an interesting introduction to the new Hulk status quo that is clearly meant to be accessible to new readers. I’m sure there are plenty of other readers that jump shipped after World War Hulk, but this issue is a nice way to bring us back into the fold.
• The focus of the issue is clearly on Banner/Hulk and Betty/She-Rulk, which makes some of the other characters feel wasted. You get a few gags with Korg and A-Bomb, plus a little bit of Skaar (who is apparently puny and gray now?), but for the most part these characters are panel dressing.
• I found myself really wishing this story had more meat to it. I like the concept and I’m interested in the characters (except Rick Jones, whom I will always despise), but we mostly get predictable surface conflict between two of the seven main characters.
Tom Raney does a solid job with the art, though. He clearly feels at home with gigantic monster people. I’m impressed with his ability to give them strong expressions despite their outrageous proportions.
• There are some awkward perspectives and the anatomy gets a little weird at times (usually around character’s necks), but for the most part Raney’s art really works here.
• The backup story introduces (or at least introduces to new readers), Skaar’s twin, Hiro-Kala, who is apparently trying to destroy the Old Power, despite harnessing it to survive.
• This story is a pretty heavy-handed reintroduction to the character that, truthfully, isn’t entirely helpful. I mean, I get who the character is, but his quest and his connection to the lead story are pretty lost on me. It feels like a very strange and unnecessary tangent (though the two will clearly intersect eventually).
• I get that I’m supposed to care about what happens in this story, but its so detached and, at times, nonsensical, that I had a lot of trouble getting invested into it.
Brian Ching’s art has a very interesting style with some cool designs, but his characters all blended together too easily which, when combined with the colors being far too dark, made some hard to distinguish on a casual read.
• I really did like some of the designs though, as they really emphasized the savagery of the situation. I’d just like to see a bit more clarity.

Verdict: Check It. I didn’t count the pages, but it certainly felt like more of this issue was dedicated to the less interesting backup than it was to the stronger main story, which I believe will be the main hook for most readers. Having sparsely read the Hulk line of comics since the end of World War Hulk, I found that the lead was a nice way of easing back into the franchise while, by comparison, the backup blindsided me and left me more confused than ever. While I’ve always agreed with the old adage, “put your best foot forward,” you still need to back that up with a reasonably strong foot. This issue certainly had potential, but it lost me towards the end. I’ll be back for another issue, but the Hiro-Kala story needs to have more focus and a more concrete connection to what’s going on with the other Hulks to keep my interest.

05. SECRET SIX #25
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Jim Calafiore and Jason Wright
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Daniel Luvisi
preRanking: 01

• We finally see Bane and Jeanette’s Substitute Six in action this week as the stage is set for their inevitable battle with the Secret Six is setup over the sovereignty of a prehistoric nation.
• It’s great to see Bane’s team in full-on mission mode this week. Gail Simone does a great job of establishing their team dynamic in the opening pages of this issue. That goes a long way to adding credibility to this ragtag team in comparison to the regular Sixers.
• There are also some really great character moments, such as Deadshot trying to save Black Alice’s piece of mind and the completely insane Catman let loose in a zoo.
• Unfortunately, the storytelling does jump around a bit too much and there isn’t a ton of focus in its execution. In comparison to most comics, these aren’t major issues, be compared to Simone’s usual work on this title, there is a noticeable difference.
Jim Calafiore continues to do an excellent job on this title with his usual superb designs and solid storytelling.
• I was surprised by how stiff the action was, though, especially in the Catman scenes. This is definitely not the usual fare from Calafiore in this regard.
• I really like the concept for this cover, but Daniel Luvisi’s work still looks far too traced when it doesn’t need to be. This is only noticeable on the characters that aren’t wearing masks, but there is an extreme style difference between someone like Dwarfstar and someone like Jeanette on the cover. To me, this is pretty unacceptable.

Verdict: Buy It. Truthfully, this is probably the worst Secret Six issue I’ve ever read. That being said, I can honestly say that the worst Secret Six book is still better than the vast majority of the comics you’ll read in any given week. Does it deserve a higher ranking than #5? Probably, but I am docking points of for this issue not living up to its potential. That’s nothing something I do for most books, but when you are the best comic being printed today, there are standards that must be maintained. Although, I do have to give credit to Gail Simone for giving Lady Vic some awesomeness here, as I always felt that she was a character with a lot of unrealized potential.

Written by Jason Aaron
Lead Art by Renato Guedes, Jose Wilson Magalhaes, and Matt Wilson
Backup Art by Jason Latour and Rico Renzi
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Jae Lee and June Chung

• In the debut of the new Wolverine series, Logan bonds with his Weapon X comrade Wraith, who is now a pastor. Later, Wolverine’s soul is trapped in Hell and his soulless body goes on a killing spree.
• The character work is front-and-center in this issue with Jason Aaron doing a brilliant job of quickly developing the bond between Wolverine and Wraith, setting up the shocking final half off the story.
• The concept is really hard to tackle, truthfully. Its not that I see Wolverine as a street-level hero by any means, but having his soul in Hell while his body is on Earth causing a ruckus is just a bit too out there.
• That being said, the sheer violence and shocking actions of the killer soulless Wolverine is really compelling and really puts in perspective how, despite being a ruthless killer, how tame our regular Wolverine actually is in comparison.
• I was a little taken back by Wolverine’s girlfriend, who hasn’t been referenced in any of the other books I’m reading with Wolverine in them. I’m assuming that this is something that started in Aaron’s Wolverine: Weapon X series, but there wasn’t any indication of who she was at first, which pulled me out of the story at the wrong time.
• I’ve never cared much for the art of Renato Guedes during his tenure on the Superman books over at DC, but I could definitely get on board with his work here. It’s considerably less bulgy and seems considerably less influenced by Frank Quitely (which I consider to be a good thing).
• There are a lot of really strange perspectives going on here. I like that Guedes is going for some dynamic angles here, but they end up causing more problems than anything else.
• The backup story tells the “final tale” of Silver Samurai as he battles some other samurai. It comes out of nowhere, truthfully, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun.
• The story is very simple and told very directly, but it really fits with the character and the style meshes well with the tone. I’m not sure why it is included in the issue, though.
• The art from Jason Latour and Rico Renzi is very unique and extremely stylized, but it works really well with the story. There is a nice range to the art as well, which gives some depth to the otherwise simple story.

Verdict: Buy It. This is a really, really solid debut issue for this new series. Jason Aaron clearly has a fantastic take on the complexity of Wolverine and is using that to his advantage in a really trippy way with this story. It is extremely predictable, though, despite the craziness of the concept, which is a bit grating. This is definitely the best issue I’ve seen from Renato Guedes, though there a lot of small issues with the art that start to add up in retrospect. All-in-all, though, it’s a fantastic issue that definitely has me pumped about the future of this title.

Written by Sean McKeever
Art by David Baldeon, N. Bowling, and Chris Sotomayor
Letters by Joe Sabino
Cover by David Lafuente and Morry Hollowell
preRanking: 03

• The truth behind the Bastards of Evil starts to unravel in this week’s Young Allies as the titular team finally comes to blows with the villains after a few issues of build-up.
• This is a solid action issue with some great character moments. Sean McKeever, as per usual, is amazingly fantastic with his character writing. I’m amazed at how much personality he can put into even throwaway lines.
• I really dig the twist with the Bastards of Evil’s head honcho being the Superior. After finding out that the villains aren’t exactly who they say they are, its cool that their leader seems to be irrefutably the son of the Leader.
• This series does still lack a concrete direction as the characters seem to be just running into one another. That works for the first battle, but beyond that, I want to see greater focus.
• The other problem is that issue is pretty brief and predictable. I would like to have seen a bit more meat here.
David Baldeon’s work is still very strong. He seems to be borrowing heavily from David Lafuente’s playbook, especially in terms of telling. That is working for him.
• Baldeon seems to be going through a bit of an identity crisis in this issue as he moves between a very clean, but standard superhero style and a more dynamic and exaggerated manga-esque style. I would like to see more cohesion in the art and, truthfully, I’d like to see it coming from the latter style.

Verdict: Buy It. With a little bit of direction and focus, this issue could’ve easily jumped into the Must Read range. The character work from McKeever continues to be top-notch and the action was satisfying. When you add in a strong, but someone shifty effort from Baldeon, Young Allies continues to be one of the best books you probably aren’t reading.

Written by Jim McCann
Art by David Lopez, Alvaro Lopez, and Nathan Fairbairn
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Paul Renaud
preRanking: 02

• After being seemingly defeated, Hawkeye and Mockingbird get their act together to unleash their plot to defeat both Crossfire and Phantom Rider.
• This is a very complex issue with a lot great twists and turns that flow incredibly well from start to finish. Jim McCann deserves some kudos for his plotting alone in this issue.
• I’m glad that we are finally seeing Hawkeye’s personality shining through. Watching him get a bit mouthy with Dominic Fortune and finally taking charge of the WCA is a great reminder of why the character has been so popular for the last few decades.
• I loved the pacing of the final sequence as the titular characters set their trap. It’s very methodical and well-handled.
• A big reason why this issue works so well is that, despite being a conclusion of sorts to the main conflict, there are lots of underlying issues that start bubbling to the surface here. While its clear that the threat of Crossfire and Phantom Rider will be neutralized in short order, the story is going to continue on and, truthfully, get way more interesting from here.
David Lopez and JimMcCann have an undeniable chemistry on the page that is a major reason why this issue works so well. The writing and the art are perfectly in synch throughout.
• Lopez’s work really gets stellar when you start looking at the pacing and storytelling. The last half of this issue could have gone completely silent and it would still work just as well.
• The biggest weakness in the art is still how horrible Hawkeye and Mockingbird look out of costume. They look tremendously unnatural in compared to their superhero identities, though it doesn’t help that their civilian designs seem to shift from panel to panel. This has plagued the book from issue #1 and is just as grating here.

Verdict: Must Read. I had been generally enjoying this series over the first three issues, but with this issue it has officially solidified its place on my Pull List. Jim McCann’s spot on plotting and great character writing are complimented perfectly by David Lopez’s engaging and exciting art in one of the more thrilling issues of the week. There are still kinks that need to be worked out, but with this issue, Hawkeye and Mockingbird has vaulted up to the echelon of Marvel’s best titles.

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art by Travis Moore, Trevor Scott, and Rob Schwager
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Dave Johnson
preRanking: 06

• The new ongoing Freedom Fighters series kicks off on an action-packed note with Uncle Sam putting the team back together to save the Vice President by finding a long-lost Civil War-era superweapon.
• This is one of the most action-packed comics I have read in years. Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray jump right into the action by reintroducing the characters through a series of battles to start the issue. It’s a bit jarring compared to most comics these days, but it sets the tone immediately—this is a “summer blockbuster” style comic.
• The backend of the issue does slow things down considerably as the team learns of their new plan, which is a bit jarring at first. It’s hard to make that switch from go-go-go to the more methodical pacing of the last half of the issue.
• I really dig the character work here. Palmiotti and Gray do a splendid job of filling the action scenes with personality without resorting to overly distracting quips or unlikely dense fight-dialogue. Within the first few pages, you’re hooked by the characters.
• The density of the dialogue in some places does make for some awkward pacing, though. Because the action takes center stage, the talking points are smashed into smaller sections, which means plodding through a lot of dialogue in a short amount of space.
• When Travis Moore is on his game in this issue, he is absolutely killer. This issue has some of the most dynamic close-up shots of any comic on the stands this week.
• There are some wonky storytelling bits at times, both in terms of unnatural perspective jumps and being out of synch with the dialogue (though that could just be attributed to the dense dialogue in these instances).
• One of Moore’s biggest strengths is also one of his biggest weakness here as his panels are almost too full at times. The action in this issue is huge and Moore makes it larger-than-life, but there are times where some breathing room would help the art from looking cluttered.

Verdict: Must Read. When I first starting writing the Rankings for this week, I had Freedom Fighters at #5; then, every time I flipped through it, I found something else that I loved about it—next thing I know, it’s the Book of the Week. This book is full of exciting action, great characters, and awesome art. There are some pacing issues that are hard to ignore, but kudos to the creative team for breaking the mold of modern decompressed comics by giving us a comic that tells a ton of story and is insanely fun! And to think I almost didn’t pick this issue up!

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The Dangster said...

absolutely love that worst issue of Secret Six is still a Must Buy.

Sleepy Eyed John said...

"Bruce tries to tell Betty that he loves her."

We've sure come a long way since Hulk #1 back in 1962 when Bruce tried to find a way to show Betty that he loved her... wait a minute...

Steven said...

Skarr is finally not angry, so he is obviously spending a lot more time powered down.

The real question should be why Lyra was powered down. Since she loses her powers when she gets mad, not the other way round.

Jonathan Perez said...

I too thought that Renato Guedes art work took a quantum leap forward on Wolverine #1. I hated his Superman work. Hated it. I think sometimes, certain artists need the right character to bring out their best work, and Guedes has found it with Wolverine.

Flip The Page said...

@steven I believe Lyra learnt how to power down after her experiences with the new versions of bzzt and the like in the back-ups from the first arc of the new IncrediHulk series.

As for Hiro-Kala, Ryan, I'm with ya on the back-up not being a good introduction. The best way to get a grip on him is to read Dark Son Rising AND Realm of Kings: Son of Hulk, which is a lot of commitment to a hit or miss character.

Oh and I'd call Baldeon's art less manga-esque and more european, much like Lafuente's style is.

Great reviews, moreso than usual because you've convinced me to jump on Hawkeye & Mockingbird

Sharp said...

Just wanted to point out that this Wolverine soul in hell thing might be actually continuing a story arch from a few years back. Where it explained that every time Wolverine 'died' he had to fight the Angel of Death (Lazaer). When he won, his soul would be sent back to his body. But something happened that I can't remember and now he can't do this anymore. I think it was in Wolverine #57-#61.

So it wouldn't be a stretch to assume something happened and Lazaer has won, causing all this craziness.

OR something else is going on :P

Philipe said...

There's no way you can take a character like Uncle Sam seriously...not even Alan Moore can pull it off.

Ethereal said...

I guess I'll have to pick up Freedom Fighters. Seems like a mix between JSA and Secret Six.

Minhquan Nguyen said...

@Philipe: I disagree. People do take Uncle Sam seriously, so it's not possible to say you can't. While it's true that Uncle Sam's nature of symbolizing America's ideals can be viewed dispassionately (considering the state of Americans' optimism in America), I think there is value in having a character act as a reminder of what is good about America. In any case, Uncle Sam should be taken about as seriously as, say, Captain America.

On a separate note, I also picked up "Freedom Fighters" and I enjoyed it a lot. I look forward to a crossover with "Mighty Crusaders" somewhere down the line.

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