Saturday, October 30, 2010

Comic Book Reivew Power Rankings for 10/27/10

It’s Halloween weekend and I’ve got a special (somewhat late) treat for you, True Believers. It’s a special Monster sized edition of the Comic Book Review Power Rankings! This is the largest crop of comics that I’ve reviewed since bringing the Rankings to the Weekly Crisis in May 2009. Which book will top all others to be this week’s #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

18. X-MEN: LEGACY #241
Written by Mike Carey
Art by Clay Mann, Tom Raney, Jay Leisten, Sandu Florea, and Brian Reber
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Lenil Francis Yu
preRanking: 16

• In the conclusion to the current storyline, the X-Men take the fight to the Children of the Vault in order to save Mumbai and the mysterious Luz has to make some hard decisions.
• This is an all-action issue with the only twists being characters seemingly overpowered, then coming back to defeat the villains.
• It’s very much a paint-by-numbers issue. For the most part, the only characterization comes from the character’s using their powers—otherwise all of the dialogue was fairly interchangeable and the characters quite disposable.
• I feel like there is a lot more that Mike Carey could have done with this story and with the characters. The only character that ever shows personality is Rogue, who is Carey’s pet-character.
• The art doesn’t look too bad on a page-by-page basis, but as a whole is very haphazard. The pages simply do not gel with one another.
• The biggest issue is the lack of detail and depth in the art. It looks simply unfinished a lot, especially with the characters faces.

Verdict: Check It. The action in this issue is interesting, but the lack of strong character voices is very disappointing. There are some solid scenes towards the end of the book that pick up on the more interesting story beats that are otherwise ignored for more punching, but its too little too late. This isn’t a bad issue by any means, but its too formulaic and feels like a missed opportunity.

17. UNCANNY X-MEN #529
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Whilce Portacio, Harvey Tolibao, Ed Tadeo, Sandu Florea, and Frank D’Aramata
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson
preRanking: 17

• In this week’s Uncanny X-Men, Hope finds the newest “Light” (new mutant), Box has a date with Danger, and Emma Frost enlists Fantomex on her mission to get rid of Sebastian Shaw.
• The biggest problem I have with the writing is that the setup for the Frost/Show plot has been poorly developed for some time and it really shows here. Their history is well-known to most X-Fans, but the current issues haven’t been built up very well.
• The scene with Box and Danger was weirdly sweet, if you ignore the fact that it makes no sense to take a robot on a picnic date. At least, I assume it wouldn’t. I’ve never dated a robot. Honest.
Matt Fraction writes a really awesome Fantomex, which elevates this issue. Unfortunately, the rest of his characters are pretty lifeless. The whole time, I found myself wishing that Fraction were writing a Fantomex solo miniseries instead.
• After getting some very cool introductions for the other new mutants, the newest Light’s intro felt rushed and was really unsatisfying. I get that he is running on pure instinct, but I need more.
• The art is wildly inconsistent. Whilce Portacio and Harvey Tolibao’s individual pages are easy enough to identify, but even within their own set of pages, both artists are highly inconsistent.
• The biggest problem seems to be with the inking, especially in the last few pages where the inks only serve to muddy up the page. I was pretty disappointed by that.
Frank D’Armata’s colors do their best to unify the art, but ultimately, even his work is simply too unpolished to be effective.

Verdict: Check It. This is a “great concepts, not-so-great” execution issue. Matt Fraction is doing some very interesting things with the characters, but he struggles to find their voices or develop a rationale behind their actions. The only character that really stands out is Fantomex, but since he isn’t the focal point of the issue, things fall a bit flat from there. But, hey, at least Greg Land didn’t draw it, right?

Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art by Scott McDaniel, Andy Owens, and Guy Major
Letters by Dave Sharpe
Cover by Barbara Ciardo
preRanking: 13

Bruce Wayne’s Road Home comes to its conclusion with this one-shot that focues on Ra’s al Ghul’s endgame against Vicki Vale, which forces Bruce Wayne’s hand.
• The issue really suffers from the fact that the larger story was written into a corner with no clear exit. It’s anticlimactic because there was so much buildup, but there was nowhere for the story to go.
• Despite the fact that Fabian Nicieza is a master of writing the Bat-Family, I found that the bits with Bruce revealing his identity were very forced and out of character. It seems like the perfect opportunity for Batman to do something clever, but instead uncharacteristically abandons it for the easy route.
• The narration jumps from character to character between Bruce, Vale, and Ra’s al Ghul. Its an interesting idea, but it throws the pacing for a loop early on and never really recovers.
• The art team of Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens are known for their speed, which I can only assume is what put them on this issue. I’m usually a huge fan of their work, but it looks like they traded speed for polish here.
• There are some great designs and solid expressions, but the storytelling and energy of the art is extremely disappointing. This is not up to par for this normally fantastic art team. Normally I really like what they do, but I just can’t get into this.

Verdict: Check It. I really hate to judge this book solely on potential output versus actual results, but given the strength of this creative team and how enjoyable Road Home has been to this point, this issue is simply disappointing on a number of levels. Granted, the creative team did have their backs against the wall due to the direction of the story, but I still feel like the end result could have and should have been much better than it was.

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 Janson, and Dean White
preRanking: 15

• In order to stop a horrible future, the Avengers travel through time again to confront Ultron about his impending battle with Kang, whose plan is more complicated than it seemed at first.
• I get what is going on here and I understand how it played out, but there is an extreme lack of clarity in this story that completely hinders its effectiveness. Brian Michael Bendis is trying to play some clever time-travel tricks, but it never really works.
• There are some interesting character moments, though, like the intelligence of the Hulk, Noh-Varr joining the Avengers, etc. that carried the issue, but could only carry it so far.
• There is no point to the Next Avengers being in this story. They were a disappointing tease that completely frustrates me. They were nothing more than panel dressing.
• Despite its shortcomings, I do like the epic scope of this issue, which gives it the air of a classic Avenger’s story. The Avengers should always be taking on big threats like this.
• The art in this issue is not John Romita Jr.’s finest in any way shape or form. His work on this series is a far cry from what he is capable of and this issue is a prime example of that.
• It doesn’t help that the inking styles between Klaus Janson and Tom Palmer are so distinct. That does Romita no favors.
• There are some cool “big” moments, like Thor flying over a restored New York or pretty much every appearance from Ultron, but the vast majority of this issue is just not up to par.
• I really don’t care for the Oral Avengers backups. They simply aren’t worth the extra pages they take-up. Honestly, I’d rather see more ads instead. At least that could potentially lower the price of the book.

Verdict: Check It. The big moments in this issue propel it up the Rankings a few places, but the wasted opportunities and subpar craftsmanship keeps it from jumping up any further. This feels like an Avengers comic, but its just not the Avengers comic it should be given that it has one the best creative teams in comics today. I’m hoping that we can chalk this storyline up as a learning experience and that the next storyline will finally live up to the potential that this book has.

Written by Rob Levin and Troy Peteri
Art by Bing Cansino and Andrei Pervukhin
Letters by Troy Peteri
Cover by Tae Young Choi
preRanking: 18

• In the debut of this comic created by Darren Lynn Bousman (one of the Saw directors), a real estate agent has to sell a house where a brutal massacre took place, leading him to cross paths with one of the creepiest chaps you’ll see this week.
• This issue feels like a good horror film. It starts with an extreme shock and extreme violence, but then slows it down to build tension through frightening possibilities. Rob Levin and Troy Peteri do a great job of following that convention.
• It is hard to get invested, though because the characters aren’t the most interesting. I felt like I was reading mostly for the next shock and not for the characters themselves.
• Even though I saw it coming, the finally page really sucked me back into the story. It was a great cliffhanger that has me excited to see where the story goes next.
Bing Cansino’s art has a strong sense of realism that heightens the creepiness of the issue. He makes you feel like this really could happen.
• Unfortunately, there are major pitfalls in his style. The biggest problem is that it’s incredibly stiff. It’s lifelike, but in the same way that really good wax statues are.
• There are also design consistency issues, especially when the characters start showing very strong facial expressions. I’m not sure if this is because of the difficulties of maintaining such realistic style or what, but it’s a disappointment.

Verdict: Check It. To be quite honest, this comic really isn’t my cup of tea. I’m not a huge fan of horror comics, but this issue does tap into my longtime enjoyment of horror films—its something you could easily imagine on the big screen. That being said, it does border on Buy It territory because its strengths are very prominent. Unfortunately, a large number of smaller issues add up and hold the issue back before it can really get off the ground.

Written by J. Michael Straczysnki
Art by Don Kramer, Eduardo Pansica, Jay Leisten, and Alex Sinclair
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Don Kramer and Alex Sinclair
preRanking: 08

Wonder Woman faces his mother’s “killer” and finds out the truth of Hippolyta’s fate, but still finds herself far from the truth of her new status quo.
• There is more questions than answers in this issue and more action than plot. In some ways, that’s fun and intriguing, but in others, it’s frustrating. I want some answers on the “soft reboot.”
• While this still isn’t the Wonder Woman we know and love, JMS writes a solid Diana for what she is supposed to be and its very cool seeing her come into her own in this issue.
• There are hints that the canonical Wonder Woman’s status quo still exists, which I believe Hippolyta’s fate ties into, but I still want something more concrete. I like this as a detour, but I want to see this creative team back on the open road.
Don Kramer and Eduardo Pansica both put in strong efforts, but never quite reach the quality of their usual output. It’s not bad by any means, just not as good as it could be.
Jay Leisten’s inks do no favors to either men, which could attribute to the issues above. Sometimes details just run together because the inks are muddy, while on other pages the inkers are considerably tighter—to much great success.
• I’m also surprised by how stiff the art is given that this is an action-oriented issue. There are also way too many close-ups, which just kill the flow of the story. They look cool, but really disrupt the storytelling.

Verdict: Buy It. When this issue is on, it is fantastic. On the flipside, when it isn’t, it’s a bummer. The art is a bit of a wild ride at times and, while JMS is showing off some great concepts, the unanswered questions are starting to get frustrating. In the end, the good definitely outweighs the bad, even if the bad is fairly memorable. If you been digging this run so far (which I have), you’ll definitely want to check out this issue.

Written by Marc Andreyko
Art by Agustin Padilla and Brian Buccellato
Letters by Dave Sharpe
Cover by Shane Davis and Barbara Ciardo
preRanking: 12

• In order to stop the League of Assassins from killing Vicki Vale, Oracle enlists the help of the entire Network (Gotham’s heroes) as she teams-up with the “Insider.”
• This is a very action-packed issue that shows Oracle’s influence and touches upon her relationship with Bruce Wayne, but suffers from the fact that it can’t decide which strong concept to really focus on.
• The scenes of Barbara and Bruce post-Killing Joke were effective. Marc Andreyko taps into some great emotional resonance in these scenes without adding any unnecessary undertones—something that I see too often when the Bruce/Babs relationship is explored.
• There are a lot of characters in this issue and most of them have throwaway dialogue, but when Andreyko gets focused, he shows that he has the chops to write them all. It’s a nice reminder of his awesomeness, even if we don’t see enough of his work these days (and seriously, I miss Manhunter).
Agustin Padilla, whom I’m not very familiar with, makes me both his biggest fan and his biggest critic in this issue as his work covers a wide quality range.
• There are some pages from Padilla that are just plain gorgeous. Some of my favorite pages of the week come from the book. On the flipside, some of the worst pages of the week also come from this book.
• I appreciate that Padilla is trying to capture the chaos in his layouts, but he can do that within the panels. He needs to stick to basics here as it would greatly improve his work.
• With a little polish, I’d love to see Padilla take on any number of characters in this book full time—from Oracle to Ragman to Manhunter and beyond. He has the chops, just not the focus.
• I’ve enjoyed Shane Davis’s covers for these one-shots, but this one is a major misstep and is probably my least favorite Shane Davis cover ever. I had no idea that Oracle was a tranny with a fashion sense trapped in 1987.

Verdict: Buy It. Marc Andreyko’s writing is the biggest draw for me on this issue, especially in terms of his exploration of Bruce’s admiration for Barbara Gordon’s resolve and resourcefulness. Agustin Padilla’s art will give you whiplash and you follow it up and down, up and down, up and down, but in the end he shows enough potential and has enough great pages that I’m willing to call this issue a win.

Written by Jay Faerber
Art by Julio Brilha and Ron Riley
Letters by Charles Pritchett
Covers by Mahmud Asrar with Ron Riley and Paul Renaud
preRanking: 11

• After donning the aptly named Strong-Suit, Hector (“Smasher”) kills all three sons of Dominex, ending the extended battle and ostracizing him from his family/team. Meanwhile, Maddie wants to know what F.L.A.G. is up to with their new super-team.
• Character writing is central to this issue, which makes me really happy as I feel that Jay Faerber’s trademark for this series really took a backseat to the action in the last few issues.
• I love the character twists, especially with Hector. This is a game-changing issue for sure.
• The pacing is a tad wonky, though. The last 2/3 of the issue are considerably slower than the opening scene and it’s a bit rough switching gears like that.
• The art is extremely big—large characters in full panels. It has a very old-school feel that I enjoy immensely.
• The layouts do drop the grid in favor of some strange angles and overlapping panels that isn’t terribly necessary and just makes the pages hard to read. It’d look just a good with a standard layout.
• I really dig the expressions, though. Julio Brilha has really come into his own in this regard. This might be his best issue yet in terms of “acting” from his characters.

Verdict: Buy It. Dynamo 5: Sins of the Father reaches its conclusion this week and ends on a strong note, closing out the extended battle sequence that has been the four previous issues, addressing some of the issues that came about in the storyline and, perhaps most importantly, laying the threads for future issues. It’s a great comic that lives up to the high standard of this series—so much so that you’ll wish this book was still an ongoing.

Written by JT Krul
Art by Diogenes Neves, Vicente Cifuentes, and Ulises Arreola
Letters Rob Leigh
Art by Mauro Cascioli
preRanking: 09

• After a very brief battle with Nyx, Green Arrow finds himself defending the Star City forest from Black Lanterns, prompting him to face his past mistakes.
• I do have to hand JT Krul credit for having such a strong take on Green Arrow that I didn’t mind him “facing his demons” for the 5,000th time. It is a tired plot point for the character, Krul makes it work.
• I like Gallahad as a foil for Green Arrow in this issue, which is something that Ollie needs. I do wish we’d learn more about the character—and that we’d see more of Ollie’s Merry Men—but he works better in this issue than he has in the past.
• I’m not reading Brightest Day, so I was completely lost about the Black Lanterns returning. I feel like more information was needed here.
• Since I’m not following Brightest Day, I felt like this story was pretty unnecessary. It’s covering well-traveled ground and is taking away from the actual story that was setup last issue (Ollie’s face-off against Nyx).
• What really made this issue, though, was the art from Diogenes Neves. He is getting stronger with each issue, with this simply destroying his work in the first few issues.
• I really dig the sense of realism that he brings to the art while still making the more fantastic elements seem perfectly natural. That’s not something many superhero artists can effectively do.
• It isn’t very often that you can really notice and appreciate the good work that an inker is doing on a comic (too often inkers go unnoticed unless they are hindering the art), but I feel like Vincente Cifuentes really makes a difference here and deserves a lot of credit for the success of the art.

Verdict: Buy It. I’m really surprised to be typing this considering how things have gone with this series so far, but the writing is really saved by the art here. Krul has a great take on the character but, quite frankly, this story does very little for me between the fact that I’ve read it countless times before and it ties into an event that I’m not following. It starts strong by carrying over the plot from last issue, but quickly abandons it, leaving it up to the art to salvage the book. And it does…beautifully. Neves and company really win me over here. If he can continue to put out issues like this, it won’t be long before he’s on one of DC’s top-tier titles.

09. ZATANNA #6
Written by Paul Dini
Art by Jesus Saiz and John Kalisz
Letters by Pat Brousseau
Cover by Stephane Roux and Karine Boccanfuso
preRanking: 06

• In the clutches and at the altar with Sonny Raymond, Zatanna needs help from her cousin Zachary Zatara to save her soul from the demon Mammon.
• I love the interaction between Zachary and Zatanna. Paul Dini is doing wonders by fleshing out their personalities through this relationship. Zachary has more depth here than he has in any other comic I’ve read with him.
• Everything with Mammon feels really casual. He never comes across as a credible threat, though I did enjoy the fact that this particular demon is running rampant through Las Vegas—a town that embodies his personality/desires/wrath.
• Dini does a great job of building up the shocking actions of Zatanna in this issue that not only show how powerful she can be, but also the tremendous emotional cost of her powers. What she does to Raymond is a new defining moment for her.
Jesus Saiz does brilliant work here. His work is very clean and very consistent, plus he brings the goods in the action. When was the last time a flying slot machine looked so good?
• There is a great amount of subtlety in the expressions, especially with Zatanna. I was really impressed by how nuanced her “performance” was.
• I do wish there was more consistency in the inking though, as some lines and spots are just too heavy and detract from the quality of the art.

Verdict: Buy It. While the story does falter a bit at times, particularly in the threat of the villains, Paul Dini’s ability to bring the characters to life remains strong as ever and is complimented nicely by the art of Jesus Saiz, who puts together one of his best efforts in the last few years.

08. GI JOE: COBRA #9
Written by Mike Costa and Christos Gage
Art by Sergio Carrera and Peter Dawes
Letters by Chris Mowry
Covers by Antonio Fuso and Ben Templesmith
preRanking: 14

• In the conclusion of the current storyline, which introduces Serpentor and the cult of The Coil, Leonard (“Scoop”) escapes from The Coil, only to find his life in shambles and his credibility ruined. With nothing life, he turns back to the organization.
• This is an incredibly haunting issue that is extremely disturbing as we watch Leonard slowly unravel from his escape to his sacrifice. It’s a frightening issue that exists in the long shadow of real-life monsters like David Koresh and Charles Manson—pure psychological horror.
• The pacing is paramount to this issue’s success as Mike Costa and Christos Gage keep it slow and plodding. This issue couldn’t have worked if done any faster.
• The shock ending really sticks with you and completely took me off-guard. It’s a perfect culmination of everything we’ve seen in the previous issues.
• The art is a step up from the previous issues, with Sergio Carrera showing greater consistency and a much more natural approach to his characters.
• There are still problems with the lack of details and the lack of depth that are off-putting. The art just looks unfinished—it’s the outline of something better.
• I do like what Carrera does with Leonard’s appearance as he breaks down and, especially, when he finds himself accepted back into The Coil. It’s extremely effective at enhancing the script.

Verdict: Buy It. The pure horror of this issue nearly pushed it into Must Read territory. I still get the chills thinking of how casually it plays out. It’s just perfect in that regard. Unfortunately, there are issues with the art that hold it back. Yes, it is an improvement over the abysmal art of the last few issues, but it still suffers from many of the same problems that have plagued it from the beginning and really hindered my enjoyment of the book.

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Sara Pichelli and Justin Ponsor
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by David Lafuente and Justin Ponsor
preRanking: 01

• After Peter Parker’s life was disrupted by the Chameleons that raised all sorts of hell in his name (as Peter and as Spider-Man), everyone deals with the aftermath of his actions—Gwen is pissed, MJ is still in love, and J. Jonah Jameson has a change of heart.
• The hallmark of this series has been Brian Michael Bendis’s frightening ability to write believable teen characters and natural interactions, which carries over into this issue. From Gwen’s confrontations with Mary Jane to Bobby and Johnny razzing Peter over Lana (the villainous Bombshell), everything works.
• I really loved how Bombshell’s return is handled. She’s fun and spunky and incredibly vulgar—a nice foil to the squeaky clean girls in Peter’s life.
• J. Jonah Jameson as Spider-Man’s biggest supporter and keeping the secret of his identity is precisely the type of thing that makes the Ultimate universe so great.
• The biggest problem with this issue is that it can be overwritten. Bendis repeats dialogue in several places as he stretches the story to fill the issue, often times going too far and ending up with dialogue that is simply too dense.
Sara Pichelli joins the book this week (as co-regular artists with David Lafuente, I believe) and makes a splash early on. I’m a huge fan of her work and this issue shows of all the reasons why I dig—awesome designs, tons of personality, and a fantastic energy.
• I dig how Pichelli doesn’t toy with the designs from lafuente, instead simply adapting them to fit her style. The end result is something wholly familiar that also stands uniquely on its own.
• I get what Pichelli is going for with the repetitive panels as part of her storytelling style, but too many look to be completely cut-and-pasted. That I’m not a fan of.
• There is still no excuse for Iceman wearing that stupid bandana and I wish that Pichelli would just kill it while she has the chance.

Verdict: Must Read. Another month, another solid issue of Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man. I was, admittedly, disappointed in the last story arc, but this issue more than makes up for it by digging deep into the repercussions of Spider-Man’s identity being tainted by the Chameleons. It’s got great character drama and interesting twists, plus some of the best looking art of the week. Don’t let its placement at #7 on the Rankings fool you—this is a comic you do not want to miss.

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

• Stopping in Shrewsbury, Hamlet finally chooses his side when Richard III’s forces have a clear battle against Juliet and her rebellion.
• At this point, Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col are incredibly far from the source material, yet I’m amazed at how well they bring the characters together by staying true to their core personality traits—Juliet’s headstrong passion, Iago’s opportunistic cunning, etc. They know their characters well, even when twisting them.
• Juliet’s rousing speech to the people of Shrewsbury was a great moment, especially when it gives way to action against Richard’s forces.
• I loved how aloof Hamlet was when dealing with Adriana. It retroactively puts an interesting interpretation Hamlet’s behavior towards Ophelia in his play.
Anthony Belanger’s art is sharper here than it has been at any other part in the series. I really dig a lot of what he is doing here.
• His expressions really impress me. They aren’t nuanced by any means—the characters wear them openly and boldly. But, when you think about it in the broadest sense, these are characters from plays—on stage you have to be so bold. It’s a fun concept that Belanger runs with.
• There are some consistency issues in the designs, but the strength of the storytelling makes up for it. The panel choices and progression are the smoothest we’ve seen in this series.

Verdict: Must Read. Hitting the halfway point in the series, Kill Shakespeare has really started to hit its stride. Artist Andy Belanger really steps up his game here, while McCreedy and Del Col play to their strengths in pushing the strong concepts and unusual juxtapositions that have worked for them so far. If this issue is any indication, the second half of this series will be even stronger than the first.

Written by JT Krul
Art by Nicola Scott, Doug Hazlewood, and Jason Wright
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Nicola Scott, Doug Hazlewood, and Jason Wright
preRanking: 04

• The awesome new creative team behind Teen Titans makes their debut this week and quickly establishes the new status quo in this issue as the Titans face of against the mysterious Feral boys, deal with Ravager causing a stir, and have a contentious new member forced upon them.
JT Krul flexes his character muscles here. The story moves only incrementally, but Krul clearly establishes his take on the characters, their personalities, and their relationships in this issue. I expect more plot next issue, but for now this is a solid way to debut.
• I really love how Ravager is turning heads both in and out of her costume. Krul’s take on the character borrows heavily from Geoff Johns’s run on Teen Titans, which is a great place to start.
• The scenes between Damian and Batman were great. I cannot wait for Robin to become a big part of this series.
• As mentioned above, the plot does take a backseat to the character writing, which can be off-putting at times. It doesn’t help that the villains in this issue aren’t tremendously interesting or tremendously dangers.
Nicola Scott has not lost a single step since leaving Secret Six and handles the adjustment to a lighter tone without any problems. Her work here meets my very high expectations of it.
• There is something weirdly unnatural about Scott’s Wonder Girl, which is the only character she has trouble with. The problem is that Wonder Girl really dominates much of this issue.
• There is a ton of personality in the art, which makes it the perfect fit for Krul’s script. Once these two establish a rhythm, this title is going to be hard to beat.

Verdict: Must Read. This is easily one of the most anticipated books of the year for me and I’m glad to say that the creative team not only met, but also exceed my expectations. This is a great character-focused comic that shows how well both Krul and Scott can handle the characters. There are a few missteps here and there, but as a whole, I could not have asked for a better debut from these fantastic creators.

Written by Steve Pugh
Art by Steve Pugh
Letters by Steve Pugh
Cover by Steve Pugh
preRanking: 02

• After being waylaid by Rantz and his team of mercenaries, Alice Howire has to stop them from unleashing a super weapon that kills Blue Lights, essentially challenging her beliefs.
Steve Pugh continues his winning ways with this high-octane comic that runs through a fast-paced plot without ever giving up on the bold personality that makes it so addictive.
• I really like that everything Alice holds to be true is being challenged in this issue—the comfort of her Blue Light “boyfriend,” her cold distance from her coworkers, and even her detatched scientific view of the true nature of the Blue Lights.
• The way zombies are used here—the dead that don’t know they are—was really cool and a nice twist on a trend that is starting to get stale. Plus its incredibly creepy.
• It’s really hard to review Steve Pugh’s art because it is so unlike anything else on the market right now. It’s highly detailed, highly kinetic, and strongly realistic while still wildly fantastic.
• There is still a stiffness issue that comes with the semi-realistic style. Some of the action sequences look painfully posed.
• The colors are probably the weak point in the art. The contrasts are almost too strong, making all of the lighting look strange and, at times, completely washing characters out.

Verdict: Must Read. I admit that I was a little worried that my expectations for this second Hotwire miniseries might be too high, but Steve Pugh goes above and beyond them. His craftsmanship on both the writing and the art are superb in this complex and thrilling issue. It’s definitely a comic that you don’t want to miss—even if it takes some hunting down.

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips and Val Staples
Letters by Sean Phillips
Cover by Sean Phillips
preRanking: 07

• Months after the events of the original Incognito, Zack Overkill is now working as part of the S.O.S. and struggles with the ramifications of working on the side of “angels.”
• Unlike the first storyline—which didn’t really grab hold of me until the last two issues—Incognito: Bad Influences hits the ground running. Reading the original is required to get the full effect, but if you have, this grabs you early and doesn’t let go.
Ed Brubaker uses narration effectively to establish the pulp world of the comic, but also to build characters. I love how blatantly skewed Overkill’s world view is, which is puts the reader on edge early on. It’s a fun approach.
• I like the parallels between the “good guys” in this story and the “bad guys” in the previous—there is a lot of grey are and Overkill is clearly struggling to bring that into perspective.
• As per usual, Sean Phillips’s artwork is simply gorgeous. His lines are much cleaner here than they were on the last miniseries, but it retains the well-worn look that matches the script’s pulp sensibilities.
• I have to commend Phillips on sticking to a standard grid here. If you compare this week’s Check It books against this issue, you’ll see exactly what those artists are missing by eschewing the effectiveness of clean layouts.
• As usual, Phillips’s work wouldn’t be as effective without the work of colorist Val Staples, who brings a great sense of atmosphere to the art with his bold choices.

Verdict: Must Read. It took me until the end of the first Incognito miniseries before I was fully satisfied—that isn’t the case in this miniseries. I was hooked from page one and impressed with the craftsmanship throughout. This is a highly entertaining and engaging issue that excels on all levels. You’d be a fool to miss it.

Written by Sterling Gates
Art by Matt Camp, Marco Rudy, Blond, and Brad Anderson
Letters by Swands
Cover by Amy Reeder, Richard Friend, and Guy Major
preRanking: 10

• After her adventure on Bizarroworld (which earned a Book of the Week honor last week), Supergirl finds herself transplanted to the 31st century where she must team up with the Legion of Superheroes to stop a flurry of threats, including the debuting Satan Girl.
• This is a bit off-putting at first if you are expecting the Legion from the Paul Levitz series, but Sterling Gates does a solid job of establishing this version of the Legion early.
• This issue has a huge cast and the main players all have great personalities. Even Brainiac, whom I generally hate, comes across pretty well here.
• I really like that this issue works well as both a big-action book, but also as a character exploration of Supergirl. This brings together a lot of the themes that Gates has been developing through the course of his run.
• I really liked how the Superman Museum was handled—especially with Sueprgirl learning of her tragic death and still not backing down from saving the world.
Matt Camp does a great job as the main artist on this issue. His characters are full of personality, have a great sense of motion, and are designed beautifully.
• Camp’s design from Kara is a bit different from most artists, but still looked great. There’s something unexplainable about the design that I really like and hope other artists pick up.
• The switch from Camp to Marco Rudy worked really well. The drastic change in artists as Supergirl and Brainiac head to the desolate future was very fitting.
• I absolutely love Amy Reeder’s cover on this book. I’m so glad we are seeing more of her work in the DCU!

Verdict: Must Read. This may not be the Legion that I’m used to, but the awesomeness of this comic transcends familiarity—Sterling Gates, Matt Camp, and Marco Rudy are brilliant here. This is a highly entertaining comic that mixes strong character work with an exciting plot and art that delivers the goods. You cannot go wrong with this comic!

Lead Written by Paul Cornell
Lead Art by Pete Woods and Brad Anderson
Backup Written by Nick Spencer
Backup Art by RB Silva, Dym, and Dave McCaig
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by David Finch, Batt, and Peter Steigerwald
preRanking: 05

• In the lead, Lex Luthor has an encounter with Death—formerly a Vertigo-exclusive character from the Sandman universe—which gives him some insight into his own true nature.
• If you are looking for action or fast-paced storytelling, you’ll be disappointed. However, if you are looking for brilliant methodical character studies, you’ll find few better. Kudos to Paul Cornell for using this issue to take a step back and examine Luthor from a new angle. It was a superb maneuver.
• I’m not the most well-versed reader when it comes to Sandman, but I really dug how playful Death was here, which seems to be perfectly in line with her other appearances that I have read.
Pete Woods does a solid job with the art in the lead, capturing that playfulness of Death and balancing it against the detached seriousness of Luthor. It works perfectly with the script.
• Expressions are the key to the success of the art and Woods nails them. He really carries the tone of every scene.
• In the backup, Jimmy Olsen learns that the alien invaders want to use Earth as their private club for a destructive party and that one of the aliens is quite sweet on him.
• The fun of the last installment carries over into this issue with Nick Spencer bringing out the best in Jimmy Olsen, making him the everyman geek that seems have been lost over the years.
• I loved the twist on what the aliens want with Earth. It’s definitely unique and it’s a ton of fun.
• The interaction between Chloe and Jimmy was engaging and a nice twist on how shallow his interactions with the alien and his rival are. There’s some nice subtext there.
RB Silva’s art is just as sharp as the script. His line work is incredibly clean and straightforward with some gorgeous designs.
• The expressions on the “phone call” page between Jimmy and Chloe are the best you’ll see in any comic this week and, quite honestly, the best I’ve seen since the last time I cracked open an Amanda Conner comic!

Verdict: Must Read. Two great stories make for one awesome comic that shouldn’t be missed. Death’s reintroduction into the DCU is handled beautifully and helps along a great character study of Paul Cornell’s fantastic interpretation of Lex Luthor. The show-stealer, though, is the Jimmy Olsen backup story which is a perfect example of why DC needs a Jimmy Olsen ongoing by Nick Spencer and RB Silva. Yes, I said that DC needs a Jimmy Olsen ongoing—but only with this creative team! In a highly competitive week of comics, Action Comics #894 steals the show with two great stories and wins the hotly contested Book of the Week honor.

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for that massive spoiler in ultimate spidey

iwasherefirst said...

If you don't want spoilers, don't read the REVIEWS of the comics you haven't read yet. It's not a difficult concept to grasp.

twobitspecialist said...

I got Secret Avengers #6, Thunderbolts #149, and Spider-man / Fantastic Four #4 (which you should be buying). T-bolts was a great read once again. I'm a little frustrated that once again not all members of the SA appeared in the book again, like War Machine or Moon Knight, but oh, well.

Anonymous said...

Well this is a bit of a review area, that's what you get for reading it.

WW said...

Its says kept spoiler free you cant blame him also to be fair the spidey review gave spoilers in the first bullet point .

Ken said...

It does say spoiler free as possible.

These are the breaks, break it up break it up break it up.

Jank said...

@WW - no, what it says at the top is this : "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. "

He never says there are no spoilers, just that he tries to keep them at a minimum. So again, there's no point in complaining about spoilers.

Ivan said...

"had no idea that Oracle was a tranny with a fashion sense trapped in 1987."

I'm not seeing what you're talking about here AT ALL.

James said...

Yes but there were MAJOR spoilers in there . The whole plot was given away . The MJ Gwen thing is a minor spoiler . And really who reads reviews after they have read them? The reviews are to tell us what to buy

ryan schrodt said...

My apologies to anyone that were offended by the Ultimate Spider-Man spoilers. I am generally very good about only giving minor spoilers in my reviews. Hopefully this won't prevent anyone from picking up the comic.

Eric Rupe said...

If a spoiler ruined your enjoyment of story then it probably wasn't a very good story begin with.

hayley said...

ok guys . the guy pointed out that there were some major spoilers in the review and ryan apologised . can we move past this?

Staredcraft said...

Unforunately, did you hear the upcoming Manhunter trade collecting the back up stories from Batman Streets of Gotham was cancelled due to low pre-order sales?

Ryan K Lindsay said...

I'd put Kill Shakespeare firmly into the Buy It pile but it's not a Must Read book, though close.

I just wish Othello would commit the ultraviolence you know he wants to. To write him as not might be presenting him as nobler but it also rings false, and is nowhere near as compelling.

Daryll B. said...

Staredcraft, please tell me you are joking about that? Man, there goes my Halloween fun high already....

Dennis N said...

I would actually consider buying a collected Oral History of the Avengers. But I want it to be my own choice, not forced upon me. I buy comics for comics, not text, so a back-up that is a comic is fine, but text is not.

Hey, maybe this alternate Wonder Woman timeline is making Superman act like a dick over in Grounded? Please, anything to make it non-canon.

I still have a bad taste in my mouth from the past issues of Teen Titans, so I don't think a new creative team would do it for me, but a new team+Damien? Sign me up. It'll be interesting to see a Robin on the Titans who isn't automatically the leader.

Is it the three-boot Legion in Supergirl? I haven't read the issue yet. I really like what's going on in the LoSH title.

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