Saturday, November 20, 2010
I’ve got an extra-sized Comic Book Review Power Rankings this week with a whopping 18 books being ranked and reviewed. We’ve got loads of new Batman books, not to mention new issues of the Avengers, Morning Glories, and more. You’ve already waited this long to see what will be this week’s #1 book, so why wait any longer? Hit the jump to see this week’s reviews!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written Brian Michael Bendis
Art by John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, Tom Palmer, Dean White, Paul Mounts, and Rain Beredo
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, and Dean White
• In this week’s Avengers, a mysterious man is collecting the Infinity Gems, we see more of Wonder Man’s tantrum, and the Red Hulk joins the cast—but necessarily the team.
• It’s cool to see the Infinity Gems making a comeback, but its hard to get into the story when you have no idea who the guy is that is collecting them. If he is supposed to be someone that we know, Bendis and Romita need to find a better way of conveying who he is.
• As anyone following me on Twitter knows, I’m a HUGE fan of Wonder Man, so I’m extra annoyed by the simply bland characterization we see here. I don’t mind him going against the Avengers, but the short-sighted and immature take on the character that Bendis presents rubs me the wrong way.
• We are introduced to Noh-Varr’s girlfriend rather randomly here and, quite frankly, it’s a forced and unnecessary plot point. I hope that Bendis is going somewhere with this, because as it stands in this issue, there just isn’t a point other than to get the Avengers together.
• I really love John Romita Jr., but his art on this series just does not live up to the ridiculously high standards that he has set for himself. This looks like a poor copy of John Romita, Jr. I wan the genuine article.
• The facial expressions are strange, the designs aren’t terrible consistent, and even the overall style seems to shift from rounder lines to more jagged lines unexpectedly and without reason.
• The action pages fare a bit better, especially the lone spread or most pages with Rulk. The problem is, the action is really limited here.
Verdict: Byrne It. In theory, I love Avengers and the direction that it is going in. You’ve got a great cast, big threats, a dynamite creative team, and a guest spot for one of my absolute favorite characters in the Marvel catalogue. Unfortunately, somewhere between the theory and the execution, things go astray. The craftsmanship from both Bendis and Romita is subpar considering their histories and the entertainment value suffers as well. This should be a Must Read book every month, but instead I’m scrambling for reasons to justify the purchase.
Written by Bryan J.L. Glass
Art by Tan Eng Huat and Jose Villarrubia
Cover by Jay Anacleto
• The retelling of Thor’s earliest adventures continues this week with a date between Donald Blake and Jane Foster going horribly wrong when Loki gives near limitless power to hack mystic Sandu.
• Kudos to Bryan JL Glass for bringing in Sandu, a villain so obscure he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. Crack open your Essential Thor books, True Believers!
• I’m still digging the way that Glass is developing the relationship between Thor and Blake, with the two of them needing each other far more than they care to admit during these early adventures.
• Much like Avengers, the “big picture” looks great—the Thor/Blake stuff works fantastic and Glass’s take on Loki is sadistically magnificent. Things break down in the execution, though.
• The biggest issue that I had with the writing was the pacing. The dialogue seems at odds with the plotting, making it hard to cut through the issue, especially once the action picks up. The sense of voice is there, but at times there is just too much of it.
• Tan Eng Huat’s art continues to be the killer here. His work has a ton of energy and some wild expressions, but these simply cannot overcome the issues.
• There are simply too many lines in Huat’s style. The art is already chaotic with how much he throws into each panel, but when every single character has about 100 too many lines on their face, it gets even worse. It’s just bizarre.
• The storytelling is equally as problematic. He makes crazy jump cuts throughout the issue that make the action hard to follow and are incredibly distracting.
• It doesn’t help that the colors are simply too flat and lifeless. I think a rounder, more complex job on the colors could overcome some of Huat’s issues and eliminate some of the extraneous lines (or at least blend them).
Verdict: Check It. I actually read this one multiple times before writing this review and, while I did gain a great appreciation for the character work, I couldn’t get past a lot of the issues that I found in this comic. The biggest issue in the writing is the pacing, though I don’t think this would be quite as noticeable if the art wasn’t so distracting. The art should complete the story, not pull you out of it. Unfortunately, Tan Eng Huat’s art works against this book more than for it and the entire issue suffers accordingly.
Written by Adam Beechen
Art by Chard Hardin, Wayne Faucher, and John Kalisz
Letters by Pat Brousseau
Cover by Jesus Saiz
• In this done-in-one fill-in issue, Zatanna acts as a consultant for a new magic museum opening in Los Angeles, but has to spring into action when the residual magic brings the artifacts to life.
• This is a loose, goofy story that really couldn’t be done with most superheroes. There is definitely a Silver Age vibe to the story that plays around with the ways Zatanna is different from your usual DC superhero.
• Adam Beechen does completely overwrite this issue, beating down the reader with too much narration and characters describing their actions as they happen. This slows the pace down to a crawl at times and takes away from the simplicity of how fun this story could be.
• The resolution was a bit too convenient for my taste and choreographed very early on, which takes away from its impact. Plus its silliness doesn’t quite gel with some of the things Paul Dini has developed with Zatanna’s father earlier in this series.
• The art was serviceable, with Chad Hardin continuing to improve on his previous efforts on the book. He is starting to come into his own. His storytelling sees the most improvement, as this flows much better than his previous issues.
• Hardin seems to struggle with finding the right design for Zatanna and this process works out on the page as her facial features seem to shift with each appearance.
• I get that Hardin wants her to look sexy, but there are places where Zatanna is so busty that she shouldn’t be able to stand up straight. That is a tad ridiculous.
Verdict: Check It. I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy this issue, because it was fun, despite its flaws. Adam Beechen brings a great old-school vibe to the story, which feels like it could be ripped from one of DC’s black-and-white Showcase volumes. Unfortunately, the pacing issues and overwritten approach take away from the story, as does Chad Hardin’s struggles to refine his art. There are definitely reasons to read this issue, but I couldn’t find enough to recommend a purchase.
Written by Marjorie Liu
Art by Wil Conrad, John Rauch, and Sana Takeda
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Danni Shinya Luo
• Now partially in Hell, X-23 recounts the horrors of her life as she tries to determine whether or not she even as a soul in this week’s Wolverine In Hell tie-in issue.
• If you’ve been following this series, or X-23 in general, there really isn’t anything new here that is worth noting. We see a lot of the things that we’ve seen before.
• What we haven’t seen, though, is such a strong perspective from X-23’s point of view, which Marjorie Liu develops well and is easily the highlight of the issue.
• The dénouement of the issue is just a rehash of the first two issues—the X-Men debate Laura’s fate, but Storm says she should find her own way. We are moving in circles here.
• While I was totally digging on Wil Conrad’s art in the first two issues, this issue feels like a step back due to inconsistent details and expressions. There are places where his work looks fantastic as usual, but the majority of his pages don’t stand up.
• The page where the X-Men are meeting to discuss Laura’s future is completely devoid of detail and disturbingly stiff. It could easily be my least favorite page of the week and stuck with me much longer than any of Conrad’s stronger pages did.
• Sana Takeda makes a guest appearance by drawing some beautiful flashback pages that were well-played. I really hope we see more Marvel work from Takeda soon.
Verdict: Check It. After two really strong issues, X-23 really spins its wheels this week. Marjorie Liu’s take on the character is still incredibly strong and enjoyable, but you’ll have déjà vu the entire time you are reading this. It’s the same concepts we’ve seen before, but with slight tweaks in the presentation. The surprising misstep from Wil Conrad doesn’t help, though the few fleeting pages from Sana Takeda looked fantastic. I still have a lot of faith in this series, but this issue really missed the mark in a lot of ways.
Written by Ron Marz
Art by Michael Broussard, Fancundo Percio, Stjepan Sejic, Paolo Pantalena, Sheldon Mitchell, Nelson Blake II, Rick Basaluda, Joe Weems, Sal Regla, Sunny Gho, IFS, Bart Sears, Ominous Studios, and Arif Prianto
Letters by Troy Peteri
Covers by Kalman Andrasofszky and John Tyler Christopher
• After determining that Aphrodite stole Witchblade and Darkness’s daughter, teams start to form on both sides of the battle as the Artifact Bearers are introduced and divided.
• First and foremost, you cannot ignore the fact that Ron Marz is busting his hump to make this accessible to new readers. I think this might annoy some longtime fans of the Top Cow universe, but this story remains a great jumping on point for new readers.
• There isn’t a lot of meat or story here, though. We get a lot of recaps on what happened previously and then a lot of introductions to new characters. After a while, the formula for introducing the new characters gets old and the issue starts to get a bit tedious.
• The story is starting to lose a lot of steam because it remains so vague. I get the general concept of what is happening, but we are dealing with a lot of absolutes and big pictures yet. I want a more focused and driven approach.
• There are a lot of artists that worked on this issue and, honestly, I’m not even sure where most of them appear here. The vast majority of the issue is clearly drawn by Michael Broussard, with bits here and there drawn by the others. It’s cool to introduce all of these artists to new readers, but it never really comes together.
• I feel like this is an all-or-nothing concept. Either there is enough of the other artists to make the distinctions clear (think Elephantmen #25 or Superman/Batman #25) or you stick with one artist. The bits-and-pieces approach only serves to make the more notable shifts very jarring.
• The art seems more focused on the “pay off” than on the storytelling. There are a lot of big action panels and semi-splashes that make great pin-ups, but don’t really work towards telling the story at all.
Verdict: Check It. Artifacts #3 is a weird beast. In some ways, the flurry of character introductions puts you in information overload, but on the flipside, the lack of story movement makes you wish there were more meat in the issue. This draws and interesting parallel with the absurd number of artists who touch this issue, but don’t seem to touch it enough. I’m intrigued by where the story is going and I want to know more about the characters we are introduced to here, but I need something more than what we are getting here. This issue is on the right track, it’s just not going anywhere yet.
Written by Paul Levitz
Lead Art by Yildiray Cinar, Wayne Faucher, and Hi-Fi
Backup Art by Francis Portela and Hi-Fi
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Yildiray Cinar, Wayne Faucher, and Hi-Fi
• The lead story of this week’s Legion of Super-Heroes finds the United Planets under attack from angry shape-shifting Durlans while Earth-Man still can’t seem to play nice with his fellow Legionnaires.
• This story is mostly action, which means less personality that Paul Levitz normally jams into his stories. When the characters shine, though, they really do. I’m amazed at how intriguing Levitz has made these characters that I never used to care about.
• The biggest moment of this story, for me, is what is going on with Earth Man. I really dig the confrontation he has with Mon-El and I love the relationship they are building with Shadow Lass. Unfortunately, we are hit with word that this story is going to continue in Adventure Comics. I cry foul on this. You can’t spend seven issues building up an awesome story, only to shove it off to another book. I’m not happy with this decision, DC.
• It is great to see Yildiray Cinar standing on his own with the art in this issue rather than sharing the story with another artist.
• Cinar remains in top form with strong designs, great expressions, and an awesome hand-for-action. The battle with the Durlans looked superb.
• The backup follows Chameleon Boy and Brainiac 5 to the new home for the Time Institute, where they uncover some very dark secrets.
• This is definitely less interesting and less developed than the lead story. It simply doesn’t stand on its own well. It definitely needs the natural breaks that integrating it with another plot would provide.
• Of course, it doesn’t help that the lead characters are the least developed (Chameleon Boy) and least likable (Brainiac 5) of Levitz’s run. I’m sure longtime Legion fans take less of an issue with this, but combining the characters it seems Levitz cared least about with a story that’s underdeveloped is a recipe for disaster.
• Francis Portela’s art is looser and more energetic than his previous efforts in this series. It seems like he is trying to break out into his own style now rather than emulating Cinar.
• I also dig the cooler, flatter colors used in the back up, which helps set it apart from the lead.
Verdict: Check It. This issue almost pulls in a Buy It verdict, but falls short thanks to an underdeveloped back-up and a lead story that is simply too short for my liking. I’m trying not to throw the Adventure Comics curveball into my decision, but I do feel like the rug has been pulled out from under me as a reader. Levitz has spent so much time developing the character of Earth-Man and his connection to the new Green Lantern Corps that it seems shifty for DC to push that off onto another book while continuing other storylines in this one. Levitz has made me love the Legion, but I’m not sure that love means picking up two titles a month!
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Randy Mayor, and Gabe Eltaeb
Letters by Swands
Cover by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, and Randy Mayor
• The search for the Lantern Entities continues this week with the arrival of the Indigo Tribe on Earth, the first strike from our mysterious villain, and the Flash giving Hal Jordan his two-cents.
• There is a lot of new twists and turns in this issue, but at the same time, there is a ton of stuff that we’ve already seen before or see multiple times in this issue. I think Geoff Johns might be writing himself into a corner and signs of that are just now starting to show.
• I really like the complexity of the issues being presented here, as everyone seems to have a valid point in their actions and criticisms of the actions of others. The problem with so many complex motives and seemingly valid arguments is that, eventually, everyone starts to be wrong in the eyes of the others. You hit a point in this issue where it’s hard to like anyone but Larfleeze.
• I absolutely loved the return of Black Hand and the argument for his redemption versus Hal’s “rebirth.” This will be one of the defining moments in the multi-year, multi-title epic that Johns is building.
• The final page was a total shocker and should make things very interesting from this point forward. I am a little sick of the villain involved though. Honestly, this “character” is quickly becoming the new Anti-Monitor or Doomsday, being overused to the point of losing all meaning.
• Let’s face it, Doug Mahnke is, quite simply, the man. Even though this issue isn’t his strongest effort, it still looks damn good.
• There are some noticeable consistency issues, though its hard to pinpoint of these are the fault of Mahnke or the multiple inkers. Although there are only three inkers on this issue (Alamy, Champagne, and Mahnke himself), the shifts between the three are jarring enough that its distracting. They each do great work with Mahnke, but its time to get settled into one inker per issue (even if it changes each month).
• I am a bit disappointed that the Green Lantern movie character shown in the back of this issue is Hector Hammond. I know that it might spoil the fun, but I want to see a high quality still version of one of the Corps members to quell my fears about the quality of the CGI! Plus, I’ve always thought that Hammond was lame.
Verdict: Buy It. Is this the best issue of Green Lantern that we’ve seen lately? Not by a long shot, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the cover price. The seams are starting to show in this is current storyline as Johns circles a bit in this issue, but when he does take a step forward, it’s practically a leap. In terms of story, this issue nearly earns a Buy It verdict on the strength of Black Hand’s appearance alone. When you add in a solid, but not quite up fantastic, effort from Doug Mahnke and crew, you get another issue of Green Lantern that is worth your cash.
Written by Written by Tony Daniel
Art by Tony Daniel and Ian Hannin
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Tony Daniel
• In the wake of Bruce Wayne’s return, international investors with spandex secrets want to buy land from Bruce Wayne, meanwhile Batman (Dick) and Catwoman find themselves in the middle of these investors’ dirty-dealings.
• This issue feels like a natural progression of both Tony Daniel’s previous issues on the title and the concepts that Grant Morrison is developing in the larger Bat-mythos.
• While Daniel has a much better take on Dick Grayson’s civilian identity than he had previously, he still struggles to bring that personality out once the cowl comes on. The moment he becomes Batman, he is back to being the gritty Bruce Wayne version again.
• There are some weird pacing and plot development issues that undercuts the clarity of the issue. Daniel has a lot of great ideas, but they aren’t strung together in the most effective manner.
• The art is gorgeous. Daniel is one of DC’s premiere artists and this issue shows why.
• When Daniel first burst into my view with his great run on Teen Titans, I would not have expected his art to develop into a weird mix of equal parts Jim Lee and Frank Miller. Like I said, it looks great, its just unexpected.
• Here’s the issue with the art, though. It looks fantastic, but it isn’t always the best fit for this story, especially once Dick becomes Batman. The dark and gritty outlook was a great for Batman RIP, but the tone of this story and its characters is different. So, even though the art is gorgeous, it actually detracts from the story by being such an ill-fit.
Verdict: Buy It. I really debated whether or not I should rank this issue higher or lower than where it currently sits. I feel like Tony Daniel is putting forth a tremendous effort, both in terms of his improvement as a writer and his incredible amount of ability as an artist. In terms of craftsmanship, I can’t deny the quality of his work. The problem is that, as a storyteller, he still struggles. He can’t seem to find the right voice and visuals for Dick Grayson as Batman, often times putting himself at odds with himself as the writing doesn’t always mesh with the art and vice versa. So, although this is a Buy It, it’s a Buy It with an asterisk. The moment Daniel finds that voice, though, he is going to blow us all away.
Written by Sterling Gates
Art by Jamal Igle, Jon Sibal, and Blond
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Amy Reeder and Guy Major
• After a series of kidnappings point in the direction of the incarcerated Toyman, Cat Grant and Supergirl investigate only to find things are lot more sinister than they seem.
• This issue really isn’t quite as effective if you aren't 100% aware of Cat Grant’s history. Sterling Gates does drop a lot of information into our laps to explain it, but it doesn’t balance out against the bitchiness of the character. Even with this information, its hard to relate to her or sympathize for her unless you’ve been along for the ride all along.
• The interaction between Grant and Supergirl are simply superb, though. Gates has done a great job of building up their rivalry in issues previous and that really comes to a head here as the two find themselves working together.
• I really dig the creepy atmosphere of the writing, which all comes from strong dialogue dropping hints at just the right moments and strong pacing to build tension before the big moments, like the reveal of the new villain.
• The last two pages, which focus on Lois and Lucy Lane, are interesting and certainly are important to this book, but feel really tacked onto this issue. This plot isn’t mentioned at all previously and makes little sense in the context of the larger issue. It just happens and when it does, it just happens to be part of this issue.
• Jamal Igle’s art showcases the same strengths as usual—great expressions, a tremendous amount of impact, and solid storytelling through a logical panel progression. Igle has really honed his craft on this series.
• There are some really great “big impact” moments throughout this issue that Igle just nails without having to use splashes or spreads—he makes the most of a small amount of space, generating the same effect of a splash, but doing so on a 6 or 7 panel page.
• I was surprised at how inconsistent Cat Grant looks throughout this issue. It’s not like Igle to have shifting designs, but he seems to struggle with Cat only.
• How amazing is that Amy Reeder cover? Seriously, she is so freakin’ good! I cannot wait to see her work on Batwoman next year.
Verdict: Buy It. This is one of those few issues where the sum of the parts really outweighs the individual achievements. If I nitpick, there are quite a few little things in this issue that don’t work for me, but when I step back and look at the issue as a whole, it really comes together quite nicely in spite of the development of Cat Grant, some art inconsistencies, and a head-scratching final two pages. When you take it all in, this is a great way to kick off Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle’s final storyline as the Supergirl creative team, bringing together a lot of plot threads they’ve left hanging while encapsulating a lot things that made their run so enjoyable.
Lead Written by David Hine
Lead Art by Moritat, Andre Szymanowicz, and Gabriel Bautista
Backup Written by Walter Simonson
Backup Art by Jordi Bernet
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Ladronn
• In the lead story, the Spirit finds himself in the midst of a brewing mob war amongst the families in the Octopus’s crime ring when the young husband—and mob son—is found dead by his wife—a mob daughter from a separate family.
• The superb pacing of this issue allows David Hine to start with an interesting big picture of a simple story, but then quickly spiral it into the key cog in a potentially complex mob war. It’s very cool plotting.
• I wasn’t tremendously impressed with the majority of the characters in this issue as Hine sticks close to standard, but generally overused, archetypes. We get some fun reactions from the Spirit to these characters, but that is really the only characterization that I really dug.
• There are some great moments within the mystery, but once it starts to be revealed, you’ll see that its quite shallow and predictable. The means are much better than the ends here.
• The from Moritat is strong as ever, with equal credit going out to colorist Gabriel Bautista. The two have a great chemistry that is very evident here.
• I really like the dramatic panel choices that Moritat goes with here. His perspectives are all very effective and cinematic. I dig it.
• In the backup, an evil twin takes over the life of her squeaky-clean sister once she realizes that her sister has it all.
• The brevity of this story forces the conclusion to come together faster than it could have. It’s a fun story, but given more room to breath, it would’ve made an excellent full-length done-in-one.
• Its interesting to see that Walt Simonson treats the Spirit as an afterthought in this story. He plays around a lot of the other characters in building the story, bringing in the Spirit in just the right time to solve the mystery. Again, something that could be alleviated in a logner format.
• The art by Jordi Bernet is probably my favorite of the black-and-white backups so far (after Justiniano’s effort, of course). His clean designs make good use of the format. Plus I dig how far-out his expressions are.
Verdict: Buy It. This is another great issue for The Spirit, which continues to flourish under the watchful eyes of David Hine and Moritat. They spin a fun, but somewhat shallow mystery in the midst of a larger and more satisfying plot that I think has some real potential. When you add in a solid black-and-white backup from the legendary Walt Simonson and equally-as-legendary Jordi Bernet, you’ve got a really solid issue that is worth a purchase in spite of needing some polish in all aspects.
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Francis Manapula and Brian Buccellato
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Frances Manapul and Brian Beccellato
• The first storyline for The Flash concludes this week as Barry topples the Top’s plan, forcing everyone to reconsider their approaches to crime fighting.
• Not surprisingly, this issue is a fast-paced wrap-up to the story that highlights not only the Flash as a superhero, but Barry Allen’s commitment to justice.
• I really dig how Geoff Johns brings together the Flash’s battle with the Renegades and Barry’s quest to solve a rushed cold case. That was a pretty cool twist that worked perfectly.
• I really liked the parallel between the Renegades and the police department at the end of this issue, even if it was a bit hokey. It’s cool to see Barry’s commitment to justice shaking things up.
• I laws letdown by the “involvement” of the Rogues in this conclusion. It seems like there was a lot of build-up to absolutely nothing of consequence having to them. To have the Rogues then comment on this themselves was a bit frustrating.
• Francis Manapul’s art continues its John Romita Jr.-inspired ways with clean lines and a great sense of motion that makes him the perfect fit for a Flash comic.
• The action in this was pretty inventive. Any time the Flash is fighting a character, the art tends to take the same approach to a flurry of super-sonic fists, but Manapul (and Johns) take this in a different direction and it really works.
• The coloring was great, but it seems like Brian Buccelleto is working in two different styles—a solid, bold style and a more subdued and textured watercolor-like style. Both look great, but the issue as a whole could benefit greatly from sticking to one or the other.
Verdict: Buy It. The first storyline for this series wraps up just as well as it began, with Johns and Manapul showing that they both have the goods to make Barry Allen a compelling and exciting character (as a Wally fan that hated Flash: Rebirth, I was worried). The inconstant coloring does give the art a disjointed look and the Rogues were completely underutilized (with weird ironic meta-commentary to boot), which holds this issue back from a Must Read verdict, but its still a damn fine issue.
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by David Finch, Batt, Ryan Winn, and Peter Steigerwald
Letters by Dave Sharpe
Cover by David Finch
• Batman returns, yet again, in Batman: The Return, which sees Batman setting up the new status quo for his operatives while battling an enigmatic new villain and teaming up with Damian as Robin for the first time.
• It is great to see Bruce Wayne back in old form in an issue that serves as a strong bridge between the more outrageous concepts of Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin/Return of Bruce Wayne and the seemingly more grounded direction of the current Bat-franchise.
• I really love how Bruce teaming with Damian was handled with Bruce not being able to work with his son, despite Damian outperforming expectations. It’s a great move on the part of Morrison to justify some of the new directions the characters will be taking.
• What I didn’t care for, though, was the way it was handled with Bruce dictating the moves of Batgirl and Oracle, which doesn’t exactly gel with the cooperative Batman that Morrison has been setting up elsewhere. It just left a bad taste in my mouth.
• As much as I’m unsure about it being out in the open that Batman is being funded by Bruce Wayne, it is cool to see Wayne Industries so boldly creating things for Batman. It pulls a page out of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films quite effectively.
• David Finch’s art work is dark, bold, and iconic. He hit the ground running with his take on Batman. There is no learning curve or easing into the character at all.
• As we’ve seen elsewhere on the Rankings this week, different inkers yield different results here. You can’t overstate the importance of the relationship between the penciler and the inker. Finch works quite well with both Batt and Ryan Winn, but their unique approaches to make for some jarring shifts.
• I really dig Finch’s bold designs and inventive storytelling. I only know Finch from his very dark, very claustrophobic work at Marvel, so I’m glad to see him cut loose here.
• Since this is a $4.99 comic with a $3.99 count of story pages, I’m glad to see there were some cool back-up pieces on the designs for the new world of Batman, though I really don’t feel like this justifies the hefty price tag.
Verdict: Buy It. This issue just barely misses the Must Read verdict. You have writing from Grant Morrison that easily earns the verdict, but the art just barely falls short and, when combined with an unjustified $4.99 price point, I can’t rationalize bumping this book to the next level. That being said, it’s still a very strong comic that has me extremely excited for the future of the Bat-line and, perhaps most importantly, Grant Morrison’s participation in it. He casts aside the chains of his convoluted high-concept Batman versus Dr. Hurt epic in favor of a more directed and grounded approach that should appeal to both his loyalists and his fans that were disenchanted with his recent output. It’s not quite a Must Read, but it’s still a winning comic.
Written by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col
Art by Andy Belanger and Ian Herring
Letters by Chris Mowry
Cover by Kagan McLoed
• After their big win against Richard III’s forces last issue, Juliet’s Prodigals regroup and attend a performance that is all-too-familiar to Hamlet, while Lady MacBeth’s devious plans begin to take shape.
• This issue, perhaps more than any other in the series, highlights just how complex the premise of Kill Shakespeare is, despite how straightforward it has been presented thus far. There are loads of twists and turns through the Bard’s original works that really fascinating and intriguing.
• The “revelation” of Juliet and Hamlet’s respective pasts was really powerful. I was especially impressed by the parallels drawn between Ophelia and Romeo, something that I’ve never seen done before. Kudos to Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col for making such a surprising, yet entirely logical connection (or at least logical within the world that they are working).
• This is a great launching point for the rest of this series and the writing team does a great job of developing that by bridging the previous threads with the new through reactions from new and returning characters.
• The art is on par with the work that Andy Belanger has produced in the past. His characers are bold and expression with strong designs that meld the various cultures and time periods of Shakespeare’s works well. You can tell that not everyone belongs together, but he makes it work.
• This issue features an interesting twist on the layouts that really blew me away. Many of the most important panels are shown as “frames” and new scenes are highlighted by page borders that are curtains. It gives the issue a very unique look that fit perfectly with the story—but on a meta level makes you question just who is “acting” in each scene and who is being genuine.
• There are a handful of pages that feature a large number of frames (all intricately detailed) in a faux-3D layout that’s hard to describe, but really must be scene. I was really impressed by these pages, which are also, arguably, the most important pages in the book.
• The only problem that I had with the issue is how weird the female characters’ lips are. They really just look bad and, in some cases, completely ruin the design of the characters. It’s really off-putting.
Verdict: Must Read. This is easily my favorite issue of Kill Shakespeare yet and, much like the other books in the Top 6, has plenty of reasons for why it was a contender for Book of the Week. This is the most emotionally and thematically complex issue of the series, with the writing team of McCreery and Del Col showcasing just how much thought went into the plotting of this series. Another solid effort from Belanger—with some of the coolest layouts you’ll see this week—elevates the book to the Must Read level, despite featuring the weirdest swollen lips I’ve seen in some time!
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Yanick Paquette, Michael Lacombe, and Nathan Fairbairn
Letters by John J. Hill
Cover by JH Williams
• In the debut of Batman Incorporated, the titular hero and Catwoman head to Japan so Batman can train his first international franchise, Mr. Unknown. As expected, things don’t go quite as planned once he gets there.
• This is focused Grant Morrison at his best! This issue features very clear storytelling with a strong direction, but still allows for Morrison to throw as many crazy concepts and strange undertones at the story as he wants.
• I really loved the complexity of Batman’s relationship with Catwoman as presented here. Morrison does a stellar job of showcasing how their relationship can simultaneously between distant and closed-off while still being passionate and, in a way, loving.
• Mr. Unknown and his nemesis Lord Death Man are both very cool concepts that I’d definitely read more comics about. I’m glad to see that the “Japanese Batman” has his own “Japanese Joker.”
• Yanick Paquette’s art runs the gamut here from completely fantastic to completely less than fantastic, though I wouldn’t exactly blame the problem on anything Paquette is doing.
• The problem rests almost solely on the inks. When they are tight against the pencils, the pages just pop and are completely gorgeous. The title spread is a prime example of this. On the flipside, when the inks are looser or too thick against the lines, the great designs look completely sloppy.
• I really loved the energy and intensity in the art. There is a great sense of life and motion in all of the pages, both in the high-octane action scenes, but also in the quieter moments as well.
• There is really no excuse for how ridiculous Catwoman looks in the “workout” scene though. Yikes. Who approved that?
Verdict: Must Read. I have to be totally honest, this could have been the Book of the Week or a very strong runner-up if the art was just a bit more under control. Grant Morrison absolutely shines in this issue with his clever-yet-clear approach to the characters, concepts, and plots. There is so much about this issue that I absolutely loved, it just kills me that the inking holds back the art so much. Inkers are often considered the unsung heroes of the business, but here, the inker is definitely the villain! A great performance from almost all around earn this the Must Read verdict, though it clearly had the potential for so much more!
Lead Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Lead Art by Emma Rios, Jose Villarrubia, and Matt Wilson
Backup Written by Warren Ellis
Backup Art by Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Cover by Ben Oliver
• In the lead story of this issue, the government has trouble determining how to charge Norman Osborn and settle on transferring him, while journalist Norah Winters struggles with her perceived personal responsibility for his actions.
• This is an incredibly complex story that spins and weaves through a large cast and a lot of plot threads all centering on the incarcerated Osborn. At times its hard to see the bigger picture, but the ride is well worth it.
• I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve ever read a version of Osborn that is more compelling and thoughtfully written that Kelly Sue DeConnick’s approach. There is a complexity and authority to his tone that is disturbing. This is Norman Osborn as Hannibal Lecter.
• In general, the way this issue is plotted and executed is completely different than your average superhero book. This is nothing like any other book that Marvel is currently putting out, which is precisely why it’s so interesting.
• Artist Emma Rios brings the goods—if you aren’t familiar with her book already (and therefore a huge fan), this issue will make you the newest in her legion of followers. It’s just fantastic.
• Each page is just as complex as the writing in its strong sense of storytelling and expressions.
• Some of the quieter moments do lack the polish of the more intriguing pages, though. The talking heads just don’t seem to get the attention as the prison shots.
• The back up explores the origins of June Covington, one of the inmates introduced in the main story, through the premise of an interview.
• Warren Ellis gets to write a disturbing genius villain with a disposition for genetic manipulation. You can imagine how the ends up. It’s creepy. It’s weird. It’s bloody freakin’ brilliant.
• I really dig how well the art and the writing worked together. While its an interview with flashbacks, instead of using captions or narration, Covington speaks about what she’s doing. It’s a strange move that takes some getting used to, but once you’ve got it down, it really sucks you in.
• Anything I say to you about how awesome Jamie McKelvie’s art in the backup is wouldn’t do his clean designs, strong storytelling, and superb “acting” justice. Just take my word for it that its awesome and that you need to own it.
Verdict: Must Read. I was admittedly on the fence about this comic before I read it. I have never cared for Norman Osborn or, with few major exceptions, Norman Osborn stories, but I really dig all of the creators involved. In the end, the creators won out and I am so glad that they did. DeConnick, Rios, Ellis, and McKelvie flex their creative muscles and throw their weight around in a disturbingly complex and satisfying comic that pushes the boundaries of a “superhero” comic. This comic is nothing like anything else that Marvel is currently publishing and is an absolute must have book for your collection. This will get overlooked by far too many people, but don’t be one of them.
Lead Written by Richard Starkings
Lead Art by Alex Medellin, Gregory Wright, and Marian Churchland
Backup Written by JG Roshell
Backup Art by Andre Szymanowicz and Gabriel Bautista
Letters by Comicraft
Cover by Steve Skroche
• In this week’s Elephantmen, our heroes Hip, Ebony, and Blackthorne find the midst of a MAPPO attack in the form of renegade crocs and SIMMS.
• I really dig that the execution of this story is so straightforward, despite the complex undertones. The focus is almost solely on the action at hand, but bubbling under the surface is so much more. That’s a hallmark of the series and it works just as well here.
• Kudos to Richard Starkings for using narration to build subtext without drawing too much attention away from the action. He toes a thin line in doing so, but executes it perfectly.
• The insight that we get into Ebony’s thought-processes, feelings, and personal history was astounding. There may not be a better exploration of a more complex character in any comic this week.
• Alex Medellin’s art looks great with superb consistency, a strong range, and a great amount of expressed emotion. His characters retain enough realism to make their world frightening, but enough “cartoony” features to make the less plausible elements seem realistic. He find a great balance.
• I can only imagine how hard it must be to create facial expressions for a massive anthropomorphic hippopotamus, but Medellin kills on Hip Flask’s expressions. I tip my the to him on that.
• We also get a few pages of art from Marian Churchland, all of which are so very…Marian Churchland. If you’ve never experienced her absolutely breathtaking art, my words aren’t going to do them justice. If you have, you know what to expect here.
• In the Charley Loves Robots backup, Charley heads to get his new throwbot while riding in his carbot.
• This is an extremely short, extremely charming little story that is so full of personality that you’ll wish it were more than two pages in length. You hear that, JG Roshell? I want to a full length Charley Loves Robots comic!
• The art matches the writing in this story perfectly, with Andre Szymanowicz and Gabriel Bautista working their usual magic and charm. Again, I just wish there were more!
Verdict: Must Read. This week’s Elephantmen features all of the characteristics that make this series such an addictive series—great characters, quality action, complex themes, and superb craftsmanship. On a purely visceral level, you get a great comic about giant animal/human hybrids and robots battling it out, but under the surface, as with all Elephantmen issues, is a haunting history and multifaceted conflict that makes it all the more engaging. Plus, on top of that, you get another fun Charley Loves Robots comic. Who could ask for me? Not me, that’s who.
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Joe Eisma and Alex Sollazzo
Letters by Johnny Lowe
Cover by Rodin Esquejo
• In this week’s enigmatic Morning Glories, Casey rallies the other students for a ill-advised scheme to save the missing Jade.
• This issue downplays the mystery a bit, but instead sees loads of character development as Casey goes from classmate to classmate as she puts her plan in place. Through each interaction, Nick Spencer does a brilliant job of fleshing out the characters.
• The pacing is impeccable as it plods along, slowly building steam towards the shock ending. Slow burns are hard to pull off, but Spencer nails it.
• I loved the back-and-forth between Casey and Ike. The two are polar opposites and Spencer highlights this well in their extended interaction.
• The fact that someone is watching the teachers watching the students is pretty damn intriguing. Add another great layer to the mystery!
• The amount of improvement that Joe Eisma has shown since issue #1 is simply staggering. He has hit his stride in this issue and the results are awesome. The dude is on fire.
• This issue is all talking heads but there is never a dull moment, which is a true testament to the power of the art and the “acting” of Eisma’s characters.
• Towards the back end of the issue, Eisma really starts to fill his panels. In the previous issues, and even early on in this issue, his pages are almost too open and too empty. Filling up the pages works in his favor.
Verdict: Must Read. With just one more issue left in the opening storyline, things really pick up with this week’s issue of Morning Glories. We see more character development in this issue than any of the previous, which bodes well as Nick Spencer absolutely kills here. To back him up, Joe Eisma steps up his game with perhaps his best effort yet. Two great creators working in perfect sync on an equally as great concept—how can you go wrong? Seriously, if you aren’t reading Morning Glories, you are totally missing out.
Written by Paul Tobin
Lead Art by Clayton Henry and Chris Sotomayor
Backup Art by Dean Haspiel and Edgar Delgado
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Barry Kitson and Chris Sotomayor
• In the main story of the debut issue of Spider-Girl, the titular heroine moves to a new apartment in NYC, has dinner with Sue Storm, and finds herself in the middle of all sorts of action.
• This is a near perfect debut issue for this series. You get everything that you need to know about the character and more, but it’s so craftily done that you won’t feel like you are plodding through pages upon pages of setup.
• Paul Tobin’s character development here is fantastic. By the end of this issue, you’ll feel like you had been reading Spider-Girl comics for years thanks to the slick usage of Anya’s monologues (in the forms of Tweets) to her great interactions with her father and Sue Storm.
• The pacing in this issue is equally as impressive. Tobin kicks the issue off with some great action, and then slows it down for some solid character work, before jumping back into the action in the end. This roller coaster approach makes the ending all the more shocking. You’ll be chomping at the bit for more when this ends.
• Clayton Henry is the absolute perfect artist for this series. His style fits perfectly with the tone of the script and the amount of energy he brings to the book does a great job of bringing Tobin’s work to life.
• The clean lines and bold designs from Henry are very evocative of the Silver Age. You can definitely see the Ditko influence in his art.
• In the second story, the young Anya meets the Fantastic Four for the first time when her father interviews them.
• The backup is incredibly charming and a nice addition to the lead that fits thematically, but also expands upon the plot.
• Tobin writes a great Thing. I think we need more of that.
• Dean Haspiel’s loose style compliments Henry and perfectly captures the joyousness of youth. He should be Marvel’s new go-to guy for charming flashbacks.
Verdict: Must Read. It was another hard-fought week on the Power Rankings where any number of books had good reason to be the #1 book. Only one book, however, could take home the Book of the Week honor and Spider-Girl #1 earned its place atop the Rankings with loads of heart and charm, not to mention some of the finest craftsmanship you’ll find in any comic this week. Paul Tobin and an amazing crew of artists hit the ground running and never look back on this finely paced and extremely charming debut comic. This comic is wildly entertaining and extremely fun—something you don’t see often enough from Big Two books these days. There is definitely a chance this book could go the way of Young Allies or Thor: Mighty Avenger, so do yourself a favor and jump on board while you still can. You won’t find a better comic this week and that says a lot considering the great comics that hit the stands. This one is damn near perfect and belongs in your collection!