Saturday, October 16, 2010
Greetings and salutations, faithful readers! Some scheduling mishaps earlier this week caused me to be unable to read all of my comics on Wednesday night, which meant the Comic Book Review Power Rankings were delayed by a day. Despite the delay, I’ve still got a baker’s dozen of reviews coming your way after 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 email@example.com.
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Ryan Sook, Mick Gray, Pere Perez, and Joese Villarubia
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher and Travis Lanham
Cover by Andy Kubert
• Despite the fact that Bruce Wayne makes his official “return” this week in the Road Home one-shots, we are still two issues behind on Batman: Return of Bruce Wayne, which dropped its penultimate issue this week.
• In this issue, Bruce returns to Gotham City shortly after his parent’s murder and is, quite coincidentally, wrapped up in a conspiracy involving the Black Glove tainting the memory of his deceased mother.
• This is seriously one of the single worst Grant Morrison comics I’ve ever read. I know I harp on Morrison’s recent output a lot, but this issue simply fails on all levels. I know a lot of Morrisonites will tell me I just “don’t get it,” but there is simply no way around how poorly written this issue is.
• I’ve read this four times since Wednesday and with each read, I find more issues with its cohesion and clarity. Ideas are thrown against the wall in rapid succession to see what sticks (the Kane family hating Thomas Wayne, Bruce’s father not really being murdered, etc) but the end result is an incredibly muddy swarm of half-developed retcons wrapped in an underdeveloped mystery.
• The dialogue is incredibly stiff and, in many cases, completely nonsensical. When you add this to the plot holes and throwaway plot points, you have a comic that just doesn’t work.
• Kudos to Jose Villarubia for bridging the two line artists with his colors. Their styles aren’t tremendously similar, but they gel well because of the colors.
• Ryan Sook’s art is gorgeous, but painfully stiff. You can have the best designs in the world, but if your art has no energy, it falls flat.
• On the flip side, Pere Perez’s art has that energy and flow, but suffers from consistency issues and poor spot blacks.
Verdict: Avoid It. I’m sure there will be several anonymous posters that complain about me hating Morrison (which, for the last time, I don’t), but I can honestly say that every other Morrison comic I have complained about looks Eisner-worthy in comparison to this mess. This is easily the word comic I’ve seen from Morrison since the Joker prose story that should have never seen the light of day. The worst part is that Morrison could’ve phoned this story in and nailed it. Bruce Wayne would be perfect in a noir-style detective comic, but instead we get a piss poor conspiracy comic that highlights all of the ridiculous retcons that Morrison has been jamming down our throats for the last several years filled with simply horrendous dialogue. I had high hopes for this comic, but its lack of clarity, cohesion, and quality killed those.
Written by Brad Inglesby
Art by Thomas Nachlik and Nathan Fairbairn
Letters by Troy Peteri
Cover by Bagus Hutomo
• Top Cow’s Pilot Season rolls on this week with Forever, a thriller/mystery that takes place in a world where science has allowed humans to age at a considerably slower rate.
• Forever struggles early on with a lot of issues, the biggest of which is its lack information. Brad Inglesby can’t seem to find the right balance between character and plot, leaving both completely underdeveloped. In a competition to launch a miniseries, your first issue cannot have this problem.
• A mystery story does need to leave some information behind, but you have to have a hook and something to ground the reader. This issue doesn’t have that. It just has action happening rather inexplicably.
• There is also a distinct lack of personality from the characters that makes it even harder to get engaged here. I have no interest in what happens to the protagonist when he bores me from the get-go.
• The art doesn’t fare much better. Thomas Nachlik appears to be going for a very realistic style, but his linework is just too busy and his inking is too one dimensional, making his character’s look craggy and deformed.
• The storytelling is also problematic with strange jumps from panel to panel that disrupt the flow and appear quite unnatural. It’s simply too choppy.
Verdict: Avoid It. Pilot Season was going quite well for Top Cow until this issue really derailed the awesome-train. The lack of plot and character development makes this a very frustrating read and the art does it no favors. I always hate trashing review copies, and I’m glad that Top Cow provided this for me to check out, but it most certainly won’t be getting my vote when Pilot Season voting opens up in a few weeks.
Written by Victor Gischler
Art by Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco, and Marte Gracia
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Adi Granov
• The X-Men take to the offensive against the vampires that have invaded San Francisco, leading to a confrontation between Xarus and Cyclops and the unveiling of Vampire Wolverine.
• There is really nothing wrong with the writing of this comic technically, its just that the story isn’t that interesting. There really isn’t any personality in the characters and we aren’t seeing the threat really be established in a meaningful way, which makes the issue hard to get engaged in.
• I feel like the scene with Angel and Blade is a prime example of where a strong sense of character could’ve sucked readers in. Instead, we get lifeless quipping. You could substitute any two other characters in this scene without much tweaking to the dialogue.
• The pacing was pretty strong though as the issue builds towards the eventual face-off between Cyclops and Wolverine, but it falls flat once we get to that climax.
• The art is equally dull with uninspired designs and storytelling. But, on the flipside, its not all boobs this issue, so maybe Paco Medina is turning a corner.
• There are a lot of inconsistencies in character design though, especially with the shifts in Emma Frost’s face and Jubilee’s body.
• Why is Blade colored like he is a white dude here? Also, why does he have that Hulk Hogan moustache? Whatcha gonna do, brother, when Daywalker-mania runs wild over you?!
Verdict: Byrne It. This is really just not a very interesting comic. Aside from the subpar art, there isn’t a lot to complain about here in terms of craftsmanship, but the lack of personality keeps this one from being entertaining enough to justify a purchase. I think we are on the cusp of some cool plot twists with Wolverine and Cyclops battling it out (plus whatever it is they are planning with Dracula), but this issue itself just isn’t fun to read.
Written by John Jackson Miller
Art by Federico Dallocchio and Michael Atiyeh
Letters by Michael Heisler
Cover by Joe Quinones
• Thousands of years before the Star Wars films, the Sith Lords have a stranglehold on the galaxy and are fighting for power and influence. In the midst of this, a group of Jedi seeks to disrupt a Sith Lord’s plans as he strip-mines a planet, only to be caught in a destructive act by his rival.
• This is a serviceable introduction to the status quo of this era of the Star Wars franchise that is easy enough to jump into, even if you only have a passing knowledge of the Old Republic era.
• The story meanders too much for the majority of the issue, spinning its wheels on side details when it could focus more on the main character, who is a panel dressing for most of the book.
• Kerra Holt, the protagonist, doesn’t have a real strong personality, which makes it hard to get invested.
• I did really like the concept of the Sith being so powerful that they are fighting amongst themselves for the right to finish off the Jedi once and for all.
• The art by Federico Dallocchio is disgustingly stiff, completely lacking in any sense of movement. Every panel is painfully rigid.
• The art also has a bold sense of realism with a complete lack of depth. It doesn’t look like the characters were traced from other sources or anything (and there is enough specific detail that we aren’t talking Greg Land here), but it is rough.
• Dallocchio is using a “widescreen” storytelling style that is very reminiscent of Bryan Hitch but, unfortunately, it actually hinders the story as it scrunches a lot into the center of these panels, making it hard on the yes, while the wider margins are lacking in detail.
• Truthfully, after seeing the strength of his work on cover, I’d much rather that Joe Quinones drew the series.
Verdict: Byrne It. First issues of Star Wars comics are always a hard sell because you have to do so much setup to introduce the characters and era while, balancing against developing a sense of familiarity to tie it into the greater franchise. Even looking back at the first issue of the modern classic Star Wars: Legacy, it wasn’t a good indicator of where the series would go. I’m hesitant to say that I’ll be back for more as I didn’t care for this issue, but the series does have potential.
Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art by Cliff Richards and Ian Hannin
Letters by Dave Sharpe
Cover by Shane Davis and Barbara Ciardo
• Bruce Wayne’s return kicks off here as he poses as the enigmatic “Insider” to lead Batman and Robin in a chase as he assesses their progress and growth. Meanwhile, Vicki Vale continues to hunt for proof that the Bat-Family is really the Wayne family.
• This is a solid start to the return of Bruce Wayne, immediately jumping into Bruce developing his new mission. It’s interesting to see that Bruce, rather than reuniting with his family, starts to neurotically stalk them—I hate to say it, but that’s actually in character for him.
• The interaction between the characters, especially Dick/Batman (how long until some smartass blogger dubs him Batdick now that Batbruce is back?) and Damian. Fabian Nicieza has such a fundamentally sound understanding of how these characters work that I don’t think it would be possible for him to write a bad Batman Family comic.
• The Vicki Vale storyline is bring drug on far too long. First she is no longer on the trail in Red Robin because of Tim’s genius move, but now she is back to being convinced?
• The art is what kills this issue, though. Cliff Richard’s painfully stiff, extremely awkward art cuts all of Nicieza’s writing off at the knees.
• Every character looks disturbingly feminine with the sole exception of Vicki Vale, who looks like a creepy alien. Bruce and Tim look like women, while the one woman in the comic doesn’t even look human. What up with that?
• The panel of Hush, masquerading as Bruce, kissing Vicki is in the top ten worst panels I have ever seen in my entire life. Has Richards never seen two people kissing? I mean, Vale is supposed to be surprised and not kissing back, but it looks like Hush is trying to climb jaw-first into her mouth.
Verdict: Check It. Every time that Fabian Nicieza takes a step forward with his high quality writing, the art forces the book to take a step back. Unfortunately, those backward steps tend to be a bit longer than those going forward. There is a lot of neat concepts being developed here and it is required reading if you want to follow the return of Bruce Wayne (even if you don’t read the other Road Home one-shots), but it isn’t the strongest comic, despite Nicieza’s best efforts.
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Pasqual Ferry and Matt Hollingsworth
Letters by John Workman
Cover by Pasqual Ferry and Matt Hollingsworth
• Following up from last issue, Volstagg brings his human scientist friend to Asgard, where Thor is still distraught over its destruction (and misses Loki). Meanwhile, a group in the same universe as Asgard is destroying planets.
• It realy doesn’t’ feel like a lot has happened since last issue. The threat doesn’t move forward much, Thor doesn’t do much different, etc. There isn’t a lot of development.
• As other characters point out to Thor, Loki was at the center of the Siege of Asgard and he was a major villain, so its hard to feel sympathy over his death.
• It is really interesting to see Asgard being described as part of a larger universe and I look forward to seeing how Matt Fraction plays this one out, especially since the Asgardians are normally seen as gods.
• Despite the fact that the story doesn’t move much, this still has the hard-to-describe feel of a Thor comic. Fraction nails that.
• The art is your usual Pasqual Ferry fare—clean designs of a unique style with bold storytelling. If you dig Ferry, which I do, you’ll dig this.
• The colors are hit-and-miss though. I really like that Matt Hollingsworth is going for a textured, watercolor-esque feel, but in the places where this texture is less evident, the art looks flat and unfinished. Unfortunately, that happens more than I’d like.
Verdict: Check It. This issue is definitely teetering on the edge of Buy It territory thanks to the strong sense of atmosphere in the writing and the always awesome work of Pasqual Ferry. Unfortunately, the lack of plot movement and the repeated beats from last issue drag this one back into a Check It verdict. Its still a fun issue and I’ve got a feeling that, given time, this will be a much-talked about run for the title, but it needs to start picking up a little before it starts losing readers (including this one).
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Fernando Pasarin, Cam Smith, Randy Mayor, and Gabe Eltaeb
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Rodolfo Migliari
• Guy Gardner’s mission to confront the enemies of the Guardians sequester in the Unknown Sectors is finally revealed as he reluctantly accepts Red Lantern Bleez onto his team. Plus the new villain shows the extent of his powers and Sodam Yat awakens on Daxam.
• This issue is a huge step forward after two slow-moving issues. I’m glad to see Peter Tomasi packing in the story to make up for the slow-burn approach seen previously.
• I really like that Bleez is starting to show some personality rather than her usual red spewing. The fact that she instantly forms a bond with Guy is even more interesting.
• Kilowog and Arisia still feel like panel dressing though, as the only purpose they serve here is for someone to be shocked that Guy will team up with Bleez.
• The art in this issue is the epitome of middle-of-the-road. There is nothing offensize or spectacular about what Fernando Pasarin does here.
• The use of spot blacks is really rough and highly inconsistent. It’s a tricky technique and it doesn’t work for Pasarin in this issue.
• I do really enjoy how full Pasarin’s panels are, though. He maximizes his space without unnecessary clutter.
Verdict: Check It. Much like Thor #616, Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #3 just barely missed out on a Buy It verdict. I’m glad to see the story moving forward and the use of Bleez is just fantastic, as is the return of Sodam Yat. Unfortunately, the other characters aren’t used tremendously well and the art, although enjoyable, just doesn’t have what it takes to push this issue to another level. It was fun, but just not fun enough.
Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art by Ramon Bachs, John Lucas, and Guy Major
Letters by Dave Sharpe
Cover by Shane Davis and Barbara Ciardo
• In the second chapter of Bruce Wayne’s return, he teams with Tim Drake to infiltrate the mysterious “Assassins Tournament,” which captures the attention of a major Batman villain.
• Once again, Fabian Nicieza’s incredible ability to write the Batman Family characters is forfront at this issue’s success. I love how he develops the relationship between Bruce and Tim, with the latter finally being viewed as an equal to the former.
• The Assassins Tournament isn’t developed as well as I would like it to be, which makes the issue frustrating at times. It is being treated as a flimsy excuse to move the players around.
• How awesome is Alfred in this issue? The way he stands up to Vicki Vale—who has quickly become the worst of Bruce’s exes—is simply fantastic. I absolutely loved his confidence.
• I really don’t understand why DC didn’t think to establish a standard design for Vicki Vale prior to this event. She looks completely different here than she did the Batman and Robin one-shot and I’m sure will go through several other looks before the end of this event.
• Ramon Bachs’s work her eis completely on par with his work on the first storyarc of Red Robin, in both positive and negative aspects.
• Bachs still struggles with making Tim look like a teenager when in costume, which is frustrating, especially after Marcus To has absolutely nailed this aspect.
• There are some pages that look really unpolished, which I believe is an issue with the inking. The line width and intensity shifts far too much in this issue.
Verdict: Buy It. With a solid effort from artist Ramon Bachs at his back, Fabian Nicieza is able to ramp this one up the Rankings with his great character work leading the way. Nicieza has established himself as the single best writer when it comes to Tim Drake and this issue is just another fine example of that. Are there issues? Of course, but none of them so prominent that you shouldn’t pick this one up.
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, and Randy Mayor
Letters by Nick J. Napolitano
Cover by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, and Randy Mayor
• In this week’s Green Lantern, Sinestro and Atrocitus take matters into their own hands on Earth, while Adara, the Hope Entity, chooses its hosts.
• I’m really glad to see Geoff Johns fleshing out the other Lanterns. We’ve really only seen Atrocitus in a one-dimensional way until recently and issues like this, where he shows no patience for murderers, goes a long way at making him more complex.
• Is it just me or does it seem like there is almost no sense of urgency in Hal’s quest to find the person trapping the Entities? What’s up with that?
• Solid character action throughout is key to this issue’s success. I really enjoy the way that Johns writes Hal’s interaction with the other characters. His approach to dealing with Carol is vastly different to how he speaks with Saint Walker, but it all remains in character.
• Everything that Larfleeze does is perfect. We need a Larfleeze ongoing series as soon as possible.
• Doug Mahnke continues to rule. There is really no other way to say that.
• I really like that Randy Mayor is adding textures to the Lantern constructs and energy, but it isn’t consistent. When he isn’t adding bold textures, the pages with this energy starts too look flat. As cool as it is, it needs to be an all-or-nothing thing.
• The last page, which features a splash of the Flash, is a real mixed bag. I love that Mahnke gives me a very lean design with a true runner’s physique, but the proportions of his head, arms, and torso seem off, giving him a very deformed look..
Verdict: Buy It. I’m tempted to give this issue a Must Read verdict on the strength of Doug Mahnke’s art and the awesomeness of Larfleeze alone, but the somewhat haphazard plotting and the lack of urgency in the plot stuck with me long after reading. A bit more focus and a tightening up of the pace would go a long way, potentially even making this issue a contender for Book of the Week.
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Miguel Sepulveda and Jay David Ramos
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Aleksi Briclot
• Thanos Imperative turns a major corner this week as the Guardians of the Galaxy and Thanos find themselves at the “birthplace” of the Cancerverse and the Galactic Alliance make a major decision regarding their role in the war against the Fault.
• This issue has an absolutely brilliant, game-changing shock ending that completely floored me. This is the turning point in this series and I cannot wait for the next issue.
• The ending would not be nearly as effective if not for the strong pacing that builds tension from page one. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning pulls this off by finding the right balance between the fast-paced action in the Cancerverse and the slower political machinations from the Galactic Alliance on the front line.
• I am so glad to see Nova showing off how badass he is in this issue. He has been hanging out in the background as a generic soldier for too much of this story. His personality and awesomeness really shine here.
• I was really blown away by the improvement in the art here. Miguel Sepulveda’s art has been strong throughout, but this is the best that this series has looked.
• I think a big part of this is the stronger colors from Jay David Ramos. Perhaps someone told him that his thick, dark colors were taking away from the strength of Sepulveda’s line work.
• I really don’t care for the fact that Rocket Raccoon looks like a teddy bear on the last page of this comic. Not cool, y’all.
Verdict: Must Read. This is easily the best issue of Thanos Imperative yet, which says a lot considering how awesome the series has been thus far. The great action, superb art, and utterly fantastic twist ending make this a comic that you absolutely have to read. On a lighter week, this one could’ve easily been the Book of the Week. Take that to heart and buy this comic as soon as you can. You won’t regret it (and if you do, I’m not so sure we can be friends anymore).
Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Jimmy Broxton and Guy Major
Letters by Swands
Cover by Yanick Paquette, Michael Lacombe, and Nathan Fairbairn
• On a “truce night” in a mystical London pub, we are introduced to the British hero-and-villain scene as Knight and Squire must spring into action when the normally quiet gathering gets a bit rough.
• It is really interesting that Paul Cornell doesn’t use this story to establish the larger plot of the miniseries, but instead uses it to introduce characters and concepts. It’s a daft move, truthfully, and really sets it apart from the opener of most minis.
• How awesome are all of the British heroes and villains? We get gags on British pop culture and history, plus “covers”—characters that rip off American characters, like the British Joker, Jarvis Poker.
• I love the authenticity that Cornell brings to the characters. He makes you feel like these charming characters have existed for years, you just haven’t seen them before. Plus, he writes a mean Wildcat, who has a fun cameo.
• This issue is just pure fun. You don’t often read comics that are simply this fun and entertaining.
• Jimmy Broxton’s art is clear and straightforward. It’s a strong, workhorse effort without any frills. I really like it.
• Kudos to Broxton for flexing his creative muscles with this issue as he has to draw a ton of new characters. That is really impressive.
• The action scenes could use a bit more fluidity, as they have a tendency to be stiff. However, when the rest of the issue looks this good, minor stiffness is more than forgivable.
Verdict: Must Read. I really considered skipping over Knight and Squire, waiting for the reviews to pour in, and potentially picking it up in trade. This would have been a horrible decision. This comic is incredibly charming and entertaining with a great bit of action and superb character work. It feels like a natural extension of Grant Morrison’s use of the characters (some of his best work in the last few years) and is a showcase of superb craftsmanship. I really, really dig this comic and I think you’d be absolutely insane if you didn’t give it a shot. I told myself I would only feature one Book of the Week this week, but this issue made it extremely hard for me to decide what book that would be. While this didn’t capture the top spot, it was certainly deserving of the honor.
Written by Roger Langridge
Art by Chris Samnee and Matt Wilson
Letters by Chris Eliopolous
Cover by Chris Samnee and Matt Wilson
• In this week’s Thor: Mighty Avenger, the titular hero decides he wants to see more of Earth’s splendor and takes Jane on a trip around the world that culminates in a run-in with Namor in Australia.
• This issue is fun, fun, and more fun.
• I really dig Roger Langridge’s take on Namor. He is wise beyond his years, but arrogant enough to assume that this wisdom gives him the right to impart his opinion upon others. He makes an excellent foil to Thor due to their very strong similarities, which is a fun twist.
• I really like how Langridge was able to slip in a few story beats featuring Loki, which is a ncie way to keep this standalone issue connected to the previous issues without making it reliant upon them. He is slowly building towards something, but wisely avoiding that becoming the focal point of the issue.
• Thor watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail was easily one of my favorite moments of the week. That cracks me up so hard.
• Chris Samnee’s art is precisely what you’d expect from Chris Samnee—sheer brilliance.
• Namor has an excellent design here that shows clear forethought. His muscle tone and physical features are that of an Olympic swimmer, but also aren’t quite human. It’s a great design.
• Jane has more personality in this issue than we’ve seen previously and it is developed almost exclusively in the art. Kudos to Samnee for his brilliant body language.
• This week had more comics with problematic spot blacks that I’ve seen in a very, very long time. Honestly, they should also study this issue as it is practically a clinic on how to use them effectively.
Verdict: Must Read. I love this comic so much and this issue gives a slew of new reasons to continue loving it. Between Roger Langridge’s accessible, entertaining script to the unstoppable awesomeness of artist Chris Samnee, this issue is pure win. Again, I had a really hard time choosing my Book of the Week, but don’t think that this issue isn’t of that caliber because it most certainly is. This issue is incredibly entertaining and chock full of awesome.
Written by Bryan Q. Miller
Art by Pere Perez and Guy Major
Letters by Dave Sharpe
Cover by Shane Davis and Barbara Ciardo
• The third chapter of Road Home (or fourth, since apparently this happens slightly after or at the same time as the Outsiders one-shot) follows Batman as the Insider, this time testing the newly appointed Batgirl, Stephanie Brown.
• This issue is a perfect follow-up to years of great Stephanie Brown stories where she struggled for acceptance in her roles as Spoiler and Robin. Bryan Miller does a great job of channeling those stories as she “officially” comes into her own here.
• As per usual, this issue is all about brilliant character writing from miller. He hits all the right notes in terms of humor and drama. I really dug Batgirl’s “asides” when she was speaking with Bruce.
• I’m glad to see the Cassandra Cain situation addressed and a larger role hinted at for her. I feel that Stephanie is better in the role of Batgirl due to her parallels with Barbara Gordon (something addressed here), but Cass is too fantastic of a character not to have a role in all of this.
• Stephanie finally standing up to Batman was classic. Miller absolutely nailed it. That page is a prime example of why this is one of the strongest character-focused comics on the stands today.
• Pere Perez does a great job here with the art, though it does suffer from the same issues with spot blacks that plagued his Return of Bruce Wayne art this week.
• Perez’s energy and strong expressions are a perfect fit for this issue. His style works perfectly well for the character.
• There is an action page that has Batgirl serving as the background for three small fight shots drawn over top of her. This is an awesomely inventive page. Kudos to Perez for that.
Verdict: Must Read. It has been a long time since I’ve had this much trouble choosing a Book of the Week, but in the end, the quality craftsmanship and strong entertainment value of this issue won me over. Bryan Miller brilliantly crafts a turning point in the career of Stephanie Brown in a manner that acknowledges her past struggles while emphasizing her capability of a character. I’ve been singing Batgirl’s praises since issue #1 and this issue is a prefect example of why it is simply one of the best comics on the stands today. It may not be the best selling comic book at the shop and it may not feature your favorite character, but if you give it a shot, I can almost guarantee it will win you over. You cannot deny character writing of this quality and charm.