Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Comic Book Review Power Rankings for 11/24/10

My apologies to all you True Believers who were looking forward to both the Post-Crisis Previews and the Comic Book Review Power Rankings last week! Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the Previews were cancelled and the Rankings were delayed. However, now that I’m back into the swing of things, the Rankings are locked and loaded. Since we are a bit late, I’m dropping them fast-and-furious with an “all-Verdicts” edition this week. Which book was my #1 last week? 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 ryanreviews@gmail.com.

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

After prancing around the forest for several issues, Green Arrow finally sets his sights on the new head of Queen Industries, learns of her connection to his late father, and nearly crosses the line once again when dark secrets are revealed. Also, the point of Galahad remains unknown..

Verdict: Byrne It. This fast-paced issue offers up some solid action as Green Arrow fights Nyx though the big focus is Ollie’s confrontation with his father’s former lover, The Queen, who now runs his former business. While JT Krul has shown a great penchant for writing Ollie in the first five issues of this series, he quickly jumps back into the forced (and violent) characterization that made The Fall of Green Arrow such a train wreck. While Diogenes Neves’ bold storytelling and strong focus on realistic anatomy does help the cause some, the inconsistent inking does keep it from completely making up for the shortcomings of the plot and characterization. I feel like this series still has a lot of potential—it just continues to fall short.

10. X-MEN: LEGACY #242
Written by Mike Carey
Art by Paul Davidson and Brian Reber
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Lenil Yu
preRanking: 11

In this week’s X-Men: Legacy, the merry mutants are enlisted to help with the reconstruction of San Francisco following Bastion’s brutal attack on the city during the Second Coming storyline. Just when all seems sunshine-and-roses, Omega Sentinel starts targeting her teammates and Hellion’s attitude keeps getting worse.

Verdict: Byrne It. I know I shouldn’t really hold this against this storyline, but I feel that the timing is off. This storyline spins directly out of Second Coming and should have followed it immediately, rather than after the recently concluded Mumbai/Children of the Vault storyline. Mike Carey does little offensive with the writing, even putting together some great moments with Magneto’s role in the relief efforts. The art doesn’t fare quite as well, with Paul Davidson struggling to create a consistent design style throughout the issue. Aside from disappointing art, the issue’s biggest problem comes from the fact that is mostly just boring. The plot isn’t terribly interesting and the storytelling in the art is just plain dull. The craftsmanship isn’t terrible per se, but the entertainment value just isn’t there.

Written by Rick Remender
Art by Jerome Opena and Dean White
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Esad Ribic
preRanking: 10

After discovering the truth of Apocalypse’s resurrection last issue, Wolverine and Angel’s new X-Force take the fight to the villain’s forces. As Angel tries to keep his dark side in check, the team finds themselves at the mercy of Apocalypse’s new Horsemen.

Verdict: Check It. As long as you can overlook the continuity nightmare that is Apocalypse and his Horsemen, there is plenty to enjoy about this comic. Rick Remender does a solid job of developing the character relationships and the pacing behind the story is pretty solid. Jerome Opena’s art is highly detailed and consistent, though Dean White’s surprisingly claustrophobic color choices do detract some from the strength of Opena’s designs. The biggest drawback, as mentioned above, is the fact that the continuity issues behind the characters and concepts does make this really hard to get into. For a #2 issue featuring a lot of marketable characters, this issue should be and could be considerably more accessible.

Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Scott McDaniel, Rob Hunter, and Alex Sinclair
Letters by Patrick Brosseau
Cover by Guillem March
preRanking: 08

After one of Bruce Wayne’s ex-girlfriends is brutally murdered and her “corpse” exhumed, Batman and Robin look to crash the “Night Wedding”—a most certainly vile and villainous ceremony being held by a creepy new villain named Absence.

Verdict: Check It. This issue moves fast through a lot of twists and turns as Paul Cornell does a decent job of matching the tone of Grant Morrison’s “anything goes” run on this series. The story does have a number of noticeable holes that are hard to overlook, but Cornell’s instant familiarity with the characters keeps things fresh and entertaining despite this. Scott McDaniel is known for his speed, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this fill-in story was done pretty quickly. It’s not quite up to par for McDaniel, though I’m not sure if this is a matter of being rushed or if Rob Hunter filling in for usual McDaniel collabator Andy Owens is the culprit. In the end, there is a lot to like throughout this issue, but lost of small issues add up to hold this one back from advancing any further up the list.

Lead Story 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: 04

In the lead of this week’s Action Comics, a haunting prophecy given to Vandal Savage concerning Lex Luthor is explored over a very large expanse of time as Lex’s search for the Black Lantern energy continues. In the backup, Jimmy Olsen uses his power to be as boring as possible to save the Earth from alien invaders, even if it doesn’t bring an end to any of his problems.

Verdict: Buy It. If you have the patience to follow the lead story carefully, Paul Cornell is build an interestingly complex story here between Vandal Savage and Lex Luthor, though I think most readers will respond best to the final page which sets up next month’s guest appearance from the always awesome Secret Six. The time-jumps and lack of upfront explanation do cause some readability issues in the story that are hard to overlook though. The premise is cool, but the execution is a bit too haphazard at times. Pete Woods’s work is alarmingly uneven, though. Some pages are polished with strong details and excellent expressions, while others are completely phoned in; the jumps in quality are, in turn, incredibly jarring. As with the previous issues, the real gem is the Jimmy Olsen backup story by Nick Spencer and RB Silva. The story is ludicrously charming and the chemistry between the writing and the art is simply unmatched. The only problem I have with the backup is that we aren’t getting a Jimmy Olsen ongoing series from this creative team. In the end, the Must Read backup edges this issue into Buy It territory by elevating the interesting, but haphazardly-crafted lead story.

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by David Lafuente, Justin Ponsor, Sara Pichelli, Joelle Jones, Sunny Gho, Sakti Yuwono, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Skottie Young, and Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Letters by Cory Peteit
Cover by Mark Bagley, Scott Hann, and Pete Pantazis
preRanking; 03

Celebrating its 150th issue, this week’s Ultimate Spider-Man features the core Ultimates—Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man—giving their opinions on Spider-Man as SHIELD must determine how the hero should be treated. Plus, as a “bonus,” the Ultimate Spider-Man Super Special is reprinted.

Verdict: Buy It. This is really fun, really well-crafted comic. All of the art teams do a great job of working with Brian Michael Bendis on their respective stories, with Sara Pichelli’s fantastic expressions and superb designs in the framing device stealing the show (though all of the artists put in amazing work). The multiple stories concept is strongly executed, despite being a bit of a cliché, and the new status quo introduced here should make things extremely interesting for this series in the coming months. To be perfectly honest, the biggest problem with this comic is the fact that it comes with a hefty $5.99 price tag, presumably due to reprinting of the haphazard and not-tremendously-interesting Super Special story. If we only take the new material (which comprises roughly 40% of the issue) at $3.99, I’d feel a lot better about this comic. Unfortunately, I feel like I’m paying almost double the usual price for “extras” that are wholly unnecessary and add almost nothing to the lead.

Written by Scott Snyder
Lead Art by Jock and David Baron
Backup Art by Francesco Francavilla
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Jock
preRanking: 07

Scott Snyder makes his debut as the ongoing scribe for Detective Comics with a double-feature issue. In the lead story, Batman (Dick) follows a series of brutal murders done by a mysterious villain named the Dealer that lead him to stolen evidence from the Gotham City Police Department. In the backup, Commissioner Gordon is called to review a bizarre crime that may have been committed by his often-forgotten son James.

Verdict: Buy It. Scott Snyder—whose American Vampire is one of the best comics I’ve read in trade this year—pulls off a solid debut for his run as the Detective Comics scribe. His moody and atmospheric approach is definitely a darker spin on the Bat-mythos than we’ve seen in the other post-Return of Bruce Wayne titles, so if you are looking for a Darker Knight, this might be your best choice. He does struggle some in balancing this darker approach with the generally lighter personality of Dick Grayson. While this isn’t quite as bad as the identity crisis Dick faces under the pen of Tony Daniel, Snyder does fall back on a Bruce Wayne-styled Batman at times. Kudos to DC for hooking Snyder up with fitting artists in Jock and Francesco Francavilla on these stories. Both artists do a great job of capturing the tone of Snyder’s stories and play off of one another nicely. Jock’s art did have some consistency issues, especially in regards to the amount of detail included on each page, that are a bit off-putting at times. Francavilla, however, makes the best of this high-profile gig by showcasing a near spotless effort that combines strong designs with effective storytelling. There is a lot that readers are going to love in this issue (despite some glaring problems), but Francavilla’s debut for DC is what everyone will be talking about!

Written by Roger Langidge
Art by Chris Samnee and Matthew Wilson
Letters by Rus Wooton
Cover by Chris Samnee and Matthew Wilson
preRanking: 01

In two intertwining stories, Thor makes his way to the Rainbow Bridge to Asgard, only to be cast aside by Heimdall, but finds considerably more success on a night out with Jane Foster. Also, Thor: Mighty Avenger has been cancelled. That has nothing to do with the actual content of this issue, but I am still very upset by the news and wanted to remind you all that you should have been reading it. Yes, I’m talking to you, Johnny and/or Susie Rankingsreader.

Verdict: Buy It. This issue jumps and back-and-forth between scenes, which can be a bit jarring at times, though the dichotomy between Thor finding a life on Earth just as he is being denied one in Asgard is incredibly intriguing. Roger Langridge does a great job with Thor and Jane, as usual, but falters a bit in finding the right voice for Heimdall, who toes a difficult line between being Thor’s friend and acting in accordance to the orders Odin—the difficulty of position would be hard to convey and it shows. Chris Samnee’s art is, as expected, strong, especially with his highly effective expressions. The level of detail does fluctuate at times and the art could go further in distinguishing between plot threads on sight. Overall, however, this week’s Thor: Mighty Avenger is as charming as the previous issues and a great showcase of everything that has made this book so creatively successful. It’s a damn shame that we only have two more issues left of this fantastic book.

Written by JT Krul
Art by Nicola Scott, Doug Hazlewood, and Jason Wright
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Nicola Scott, Dougle Hazlewood, and Jason Wright
preRanking: 05

This week’s Teen Titans find Damian “Robin” Wayne joining DC’s premiere team of teen heroes, much the chagrin of his new teammates. It doesn’t take long for his trial-by-fire, as the team is immediately called in to stop a destructive young teen at a trade show.

Verdict: Must Read. Writer JT Krul is still developing his take on the Teen Titans in this issue, but does so rather stealthily be creating his team dynamic through fast-paced action and witty interaction, avoiding long and boring talking heads scenes as much as possible. His take on Damian Wayne does lack some of the subtle nuances developed by other writers, but that is easy to overlook when you get into the reactions of the Titans to his inclusion on the team. Not surprisingly, my favorite parts were Damian butting heads with Ravager—its two of my favorite characters in the DCU and Krul has a great take on them both. The villain is a bit underdeveloped here as Krul is more focused on the team dynamic, which, again, is forgivable considering how strong this development is. Nicola Scott shines just as much here as she did on Secret Six. While Krul is easing into his take on the characters, Scott has hit the ground running, immediately establishing new iconic takes on the characters that will certainly raise the bar for whomever has the misfortune of following her on the title (can you imagine trying to fill those shoes?). I have to give a lot of credit to colorist Jason Wright, who accents Scott perfectly and brings a great amount of depth to her work and does a solid job of helping establish the tone of the issue. This issue is all about quality craftsmanship and impressive character work—in the end it is clear that Teen Titans is back to form and now is a great time to jump on board!

Written by Jim Zubkavich
Art by Edwin Huang and Misty Coats
Letters by Marshall Dillon
Cover by Chris Stevens and Saejin Oh
preRanking: 06

In this week’s Skullkickers, the as-of-yet-unnamed protagonists, Baldy and Beardy, continue their quest for the missing corpse through all sorts of crazy situations. To make matters even crazier, after eating some poisoned stew, Beardy starts hallucinating.

Verdict: Must Read. Once again, the more absurd Skullkickers gets, the more enjoyable it is. This issue is chock full of action as the “heroes” storm the castle of their enemies, but the highlight is Beardy’s hilariously absurd hallucination. I had no idea until now that I’m a sucker for constellations coming to life to deliver prophecies to angry dwarves. And here I thought I knew myself so well! Despite little in terms of concrete character interaction, I’m amazed at how well Jim Zubkavich develops his characters here, though much of that credit should be shared by artist Edwin Huang. The “acting” of his characters is just as important—if not more—than the words they speak. This comic is big and bold in every single way—from its over-the-top concepts to its lush art to its ridiculously high entertainment value. Skullkickers has been incredibly fun thus far, but the creative team turns it up to eleven here in every single way. You cannot go wrong with this comic.

Written by Dan Slott
Art by Humberto Ramos, Carlos Cuevas, and Edgar Delgado
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Humberto Ramos and Edgard Delgado
preRanking: 02

The Hobgoblin returns in this week’s Amazing Spider-Man in an incredibly explosive way, putting a damper on Peter’s first day at his new job. This is in addition to new developments for John Jameson, Norah Winters, and the Daily Bugle from their plot threads set up in the last issue.

Verdict: Must Read. I was really impressed with the first issue of the new Big Time storyline in Amazing Spider-Man, but having been burnt so many times in the past by this title, I was a bit worried that could be a fluke. It wasn’t. The return of Hobgoblin is intense and well played thanks to strong pacing and a great “frame of violence” that starts with a big shock and ends on just as shockingly—with the middle of the book used to bring this down a bit and ease the reader back into a false sense of comfort. It’s great plotting from Dan Slott that is accented by strong character. Plus, seriously, how moving is Aunt May’s take on Peter’s first day at Horizon Labs? The writing is great, but it is elevated by the work of artist Humberto Ramos. Slott couldn’t ask for a more fitting artist as Ramos perfectly matches the tone and energy of the script throughout the entire book. His hyper-stylized designs convey the perfect amount of intensity when needed, but works just as well during the quieter, more expressive moments. Slott and Ramos have an incredible amount of chemistry that brings out the best in both creators, launching this issue up the Rankings and making this the second consecutive Book of the Week for Amazing Spider-Man (and the third week in a row a Spider-Franchise comic has topped the Rankings!).

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twobitspecialist said...

I, too, worried that ASM being a GOOD comic was a fluke, too. Isn't it great to be wrong sometimes?

Max Barnard said...

Man, Amazing Spider-Man this week... Words just don't cover how much I'm loving Slott's material, and Ramos is blowing me away with any scene he draws with Phil Urich in it. Such brilliant insanity.

Teen Titans was great too, but I couldn't quite reconcile Krul's take on him with how he's been previously treated. The actual developments with him were bang-on, but his dialogue was just off. too many contractions and colloquialisms.

Ivan said...

Ramos is pretty much love or hate, and I've got two feet firmly planted on "hate". That said, the writing is getting so many compliments that I want to check it out anyway.

patrick said...

Batwoman was great and feels like it picked up right where it left off. Hope you checked it out Ryan

Ryan Schrodt said...

@Ivan - Ramos is a polarizing figure and I admit I've always been a huge fan of his work. This issue probably won't convert you to being his biggest fan, but his chemistry with Slott is undeniable. I'd recommend checking out at least these first two issues if you are a Slott or Spidey fan, even if you don't like Ramos.

@Patrick - I flipped through it in the store and it looked amazing. After reading the first Batwoman arc in floppies, then buying the Elegy hardcover, I've decided that, whenever possible, I'm going to read JH Williams work in an oversized format. His work looks a million times better on a larger page. I may not have picked up this issue, but I'll definitely be checking out this story!

Jeremy said...

Ramos used to be my LEAST favorite artist working for the big two. But his art has changed a bit from totally ugly to stylish and intense. Maybe not the best guy for action scenes, but I really enjoy his work.

I've been a big supporter of BND, and while I was sad to see some of those writers go, Slott is doing great things as the solo head of the book. The first issue was good, but it was kind all over the place with all the character and plot introductions. This one is more focused, delivering all the humor, action, soap opera-style drama, and intrigue you want from a Spidey book. I want more!

Dennis N said...

I shied away from ASM after OMD, so I missed out on BND except for a few of the later issues. However, I've started back up with Big Time and it's been phenomenal; I just skip the pages with Carlie Cooper.

Detective #871 would be my #1 of the week from this list, then Teen Titans, then ASM.

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