Friday, December 3, 2010

Comic Book Review Power Rankings for 12/02/10

We are the closing weeks of 2010 now as December kicks off with a small load of comics in this week’s Comic Book Review Power Rankings. Of course, light week’s always mean fierce battles for the Book of the Week honor. Could it the conclusion of the current Secret Six art? The debut of Heroes for Hire? The adventures of Ant-Man and Wasp? Something else entirely? 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

Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Salvador Espin and Jim Charalampidis
Letters by Dave Sharpe
Cover by Olivier Coipel and Laura Martin
preRanking: 05

• Following the extremely Akira-inspired meltdown of the fifth new mutant last issue, Hope and the X-Men try to stop him from causing further devastation in Tokyo.
• This issue really feels like a recap and rehash of the last few pages of the last issue. The new mutant continues to wreak havoc and the X-Men struggle to stop it. Almost nothing new happens except the order in which everyone is hit.
Kieron Gillen’s characters are rather disposable here. There isn’t a strong sense of voice from any character, especially Hope. Gillen almost seems at a loss on how to portray her, but has to keep her at the forefront.
Salvador Espin suffers a similar fate with his art. While he shows flashes of brilliance at times throughout the issue, he seems to be struggling to find his design style. While I’m as big of a fan of John Romita Jr. as you’ll find, I can say with some certainty that Espin is at his finest when he isn’t aping the legendary JRJr.
• Espin does do a great job on the action sequences though. His art showcases energy and movement quite well, with a great sense of impact.

Verdict: Byrne It. This series was off to a solid start last issue, but really faltered in this week’s installment. Kieron Gillen struggles to find the right voice for his characters as he trudges through a repetitive plot. While Salvador Espin does showcase some strong work at various points in this issue, the majority of the book sees him having just as much trouble finding the right look for his work. There is promise hidden in random panels throughout this issue, but in the end, I was disappointed.

Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy, and Jay David Ramos
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Doug Braithwaite and Sonia Oback
preRanking: 06

• In the debut of the newest incarnation of Heroes for Hire, the “controller” Misty Knight puts various New York-based heroes to work in cleaning up the streets, but not everything is what it seems (duh, duh, duuuuuh).
• The vast majority of this issue is generic superhero action with Falcon, Black Widow, Elektra, and completely personality-less Moon Knight fight interrelated crimes at the behest of Misty Knight, who comes across more as a sultry late-night radio DJ than Marvel’s answer to Oracle (which is clearly who she is supposed to be).
• The idea of one hero calling in other heroes based upon their specialties to take down a larger plot is a pretty neat idea, but the execution here is pretty dull. This lacks the personality and the constant excitement of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s cosmic books have. I’d trade this for more Nova any day.
• The saving grace is the shocking final pages, which completely turn everything on its head. Even though I wasn’t terribly interested in the way the issue played out, those last few pages really intrigued me. I really want to know where they go from here.
Brad Walker’s art was the highlight of the issue for me. His characters are big, bold, and larger than life, bursting from the page in all of the action sequences. This is some of his best work.
• A huge part of that, though, is the amount of depth from colorist Jay David Ramos. He does a fantastic job of making Walker’s characters pop throughout the issue while still retaining the dark atmosphere dictated by the script.
• I will say that Walker draws a ridiculously horrible Misty Knight, though. She looks like a deformed tranny. It’s pretty gross.

Verdict: Check It. First of all, I’m a little annoyed that this comic has Iron Fist on the cover, but there is no Iron Fist inside. He gets named checked, but that’s it. I wants me some more Iron Fist. Beyond that, this comic is a major mixed bag that scoots by on the strength of a shocking final few pages. Huge fans of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s recent work will be disappointed by how this one builds up, though Brad Walker’s art does a solid job of making up for the writing shortcomings. I’m not sold by a long shot, but I’m intrigued. Approach this one with caution!

Written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
Art by Travis Moore, Travor Scott, and Rob Schwager
Letter by Travis Lanham
Cover by Dave Johnson
preRanking: 03

• While searching for the second artifact, the Freedom Fighters find themselves on the wrong end of a mysterious experiment that ties in with the growing threat of the Arcadians.
• As with the previous issues, this one is packed from cover to cover with story as writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti continue to pack in more story than you’d think could be possible in twenty-two story pages.
• While the densely packed and fast-paced approach does mean we get more story than you would in most single issues, it does take away from the impact of some moments and forces others to be rushed. I like the value of having so much story, but the quality and depth does suffer for it.
• I recommend reading this one slowly and, perhaps, more than once before putting it down. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you won’t get the full effect by causally perusing this comic.
Travis Moore’s art is a solid fit the writing. He packs each and every page with characters and details, wasting almost no space throughout the issue.
• This does, at times, cause some issues with the storytelling, especially in the action sequences. Moore doesn’t use many panel borders, so his very full panels tend to run into one another. A thin border wouldn’t take too much away from his drawing surface, but would do wonders for his storytelling.
• The cover by Dave Johnson is very simply, but incredibly effective. That is easily one of my favorite covers I’ve seen this year.

Verdict: Buy It. The creative team behind Freedom Fighters has not let up on the throttle for even a moment since the first page of the first issue. That has been a major reason why this series has been such a great read but, as this week’s issue shows, that can work against them. Some of the intricacies of the plot and a lot of Travis Moore’s storytelling gets lost in the densely packed issue because the creative team is pushing too hard to put so much in the issue. It’s still a great read and highly engaging, but it could easily be so much more!

03. SECRET SIX #28
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Jim Calafiore and Jason Wright
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Daniel Luvisi
preRanking: 02

• When things go south on the Skartaris mission, the Secret Six find themselves in a team-up with the Substitute Six to find an evil power—only to be given an offer they can’t refuse.
• The current storyline wraps up rather quickly here, with some details lost and the villain underdeveloped. Gail Simone never fully connects the dots on this storyline.
• This is more than made up for by the intriguing twist with Amanda Waller after the Skartaris situation, which leaves a lot of questions unanswered and has me chomping at the bit for the next issue.
• As per usual, the character work is central to the success of the issue. We get more great moments from Ragdoll, a great emotional struggle from Black Alice, and Deadshot riding a personal roller coaster that is extremely intriguing.
• I’m probably the only person not happy about Lady Vic being written off. I liked her in Nightwing and I think Simone has some great potential her in this story—especially if she brings her back for revenge. Unfortunately, her role in this issue is really underwhelming.
Giganta’s attack on Dwarfstar for the death of Ryan Choi is disturbing and fascinating—continuing Simone’s reign as queen of the intriguing macabre.
King Shark gets the line of the week here, with the exclamation “Arthur Curry’s fishsack!” You are one weird lady, Ms. Simone, but I absolutely love it.
Jim Calafiore’s art plays to his strengths with superb storytelling, strong expressions, and extreme clarity. He’s an artist that rather misses a beat when it comes to his best attributes and this issue is as strong as ever.
• Considering her costume was little more than a thong, I found it really weird that Scandal was drawn without an ass. I don’t think that we need cheesecake by any means, but I found her lack of definition more distracting than the T&A shots would’ve been.
• The most prominent of the few downsides to Calafiore’s art was his take on Amanda Waller. She looks way too much like a frog at times and I don’t really dig that.

Verdict: Buy It. This has been the weakest Secret Six storyline yet and, while it does feature a bit of an upswing this week due to the twists with Waller, the ill-defined conflict and rushed conclusion to the battle for Skartaris does hold it back some. Simone’s character work is as good as ever, as is Calafiore’s art, so fans of the series should enjoy what they are getting here quite a bit, though it is worth noting that this is a bit of a letdown from the earlier storylines.

Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Tim Seeley, Victor Olzaba, and an Uncredited Colorist
Letters by Simon Bowland
Cover by Salva Espin and Guru eFX
preRanking: 04

• In the second installment to their unlikely team-up, Ant-Man and Wasp travel the mindscape to track down the missing “Heaven machine” that was stolen by AIM agents. As expected, action ensues, though no one could expect what Wasp finds in the AIM facility.
Tim Seeley really unleashes his creativity here. He throws out some insane concepts here, going off in Morrisonian directions with his use of the hero’s powers.
• The interplay between Pym and O’Grady is a riot here. Seeley’s got a great understanding of how the characters work and plays them off one another fantastically.
• The parallel between O’Grady finding his focus with SHIELD and the offer Pym is given here. It’s clever plotting that adds a great amount of characterization to Ant-Man.
• The art is top-notch as well. Seeley brings the goods on nearly all levels, especially with his expressions. While many of us have been fans of his for years, this is arguably his “biggest break” into the mainstream and he makes the most of it!
• I like the way that he plays with his panel borders here. This is an aspect of layouts that has a lot of potential, but is often overlooked. The scratchy border when O’Grady is rocking his Ant-Man suit’s powers is really cool move.
• The only real issue with the art is how stiff Pym’s facial expressions are. It’s really the only place in the entire issue where his art is even remotely stiff, which is a bit of a bummer.

Verdict: Must Read. Tim Seeley makes the best of this great opportunity to bring something a bit off-beat to the Marvel Universe while simultaneously showcasing his skills to an audience that may not be as familiar with his awesomeness. This issue features some extremely creative concepts while remaining grounded with strong character writing—all wrapped up in some fantastic artwork. While the title characters may keep some readers away, don’t let them discourage you—this is a can’t miss comic.

01. SHE-HULKS #2
Written by Harrison Wilcox
Art by Ryan Stegman, Michael Babinski, and Guru eFX
Letters b y Ed Dukeshire
Cover by Ed McGuinnes and Morry Hollowell
preRanking: 01

• In this week’s She-Hulks, the original She-Hulk, Jennifer Walters, makes a deal with the Wizard for inside information on the whereabouts of the monkey-loving Red Ghost, while Lyra struggles to find her place in high school.
Harrison Wilcox brings loads of charm in this issue, with each and every character appearing in this issue getting a chance to shine, from the title heroines to the villains to even guest star Wyatt Wingfoot.
• I really dig Wilcox’s take on the Wizard, who has always struck me as a fairly generic villain until now. His manipulation of Regular She-Hulk into getting a posh prison cell was a hoot. I really hope other writers pick up on the development Wilcox is giving the character.
• I’m a sucker for well-written teen heroes (old school Spider-Man, Blue Beetle, Robin, etc), so the developments with Savage She-Hulk is right up my alley. Wilcox plays up the conventions of these stories, adding some fun twists with Lyra’s naiveté and Hulkian anger issues.
• While the writing was fantastic, what really catapulted this issue to the top of the Rankings was the work of Ryan Stegman, who continues to grow leaps-and-bounds with every single issue he draws.
• Stegman’s facial expressions really impressed me last issue and the trend continues here. I’ve compared him favorably to Amanda Conner in the past—which says a lot—and I’d make that comparison again. This is really becoming his biggest strength and is setting him apart from the other artists in Marvel’s stable.
• There isn’t a ton of action in this issue, but Stegman makes the most of it through a great sense of motion and a tremendous amount of impact. His work is extremely energetic and really brings the script to life.
• I have to give a lot of credit to Michael Babinski here. While I dug Tom Palmer inking over Stegman in the Red She-Hulk stories, the chemistry between Babinski and Stegman is undeniable. Stegman’s work has never looked so good.

Verdict: Must Read. This comic really has it all—a fun plot, great character work, fantastic art, and a whole buttload of super-powered apes. Wilcox puts together an incredibly charming issue that had me incredibly engaged in characters I’ve never really cared for before, but it’s the work of artist Stegman that made this the Book of the Week. Stegman’s fantastic expressions, superb storytelling, and great action, not to mention his strong designs and solid monkey-work, elevate this issue to a can’t miss level. It’s not very often that an artist can earn a Book of the Week honor on his own, but Stegman pulls it off (though Wilcox’s fun writing seals the win). I said it last issue, but it bears repeating—this is a career-making effort from Stegman and you do not want to miss it!

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Klep said...

I actually really enjoyed Heroes for Hire right up until the last couple pages. I liked the twist at the end, but part of what Misty says is something that really bothers me, given Marvel's attitude towards other heroes' relationships in the past. I don't want to say what it is because I know Ryan likes to keep his reviews spoiler-free, but anyone who read it knows what I'm talking about. I'm really hoping it's a red herring resulting from the actual twist at the end because otherwise it's a very distressing development.

I would like to add that Misty is not being patterned after some random DJ, but specifically the one from the movie The Warriors, and I found it to be an excellent callback to that movie and to the atmosphere characters like Misty evoked back when they first came on the scene. I was disappointed by the lack of Iron Fist, but moreso by the lack of Colleen. I really hope we see some of them in the coming issues.

Zdenko said...

The event she talks about is depicted in I am an Avenger #1. It happened, so... :)

Btw. isn't the villain Heroes for Hire dead?

mugiwara said...

*The twist at the end of Heroes for Hire annoyed me more than anything. I guess I'm tired to see this guy dying and coming back. But I may be biaised, because I hate the cast of the comics (too much iconic characters for my taste)

*Ant-Man and the Wasp is one of the best action science comics right now, up there with Atomic Robo. Since he became the Wasp, Pym makes a better science hero than even Richards and Stark. A shame he's regressing back to his old school identity.

*She Hulks was a desappointment. Not bad, but nowhere as good as the first issue. Lyra crying was a bit too much for me: I know she was frustrated, but this is a girl who spend her life fighting males, who saw many of her comrades dies and was betrayed by her friends. She's acting too much like a normal teenage girl.

Radlum said...

Generatin Hope being so mediocre is a major dissapointment; I loved SWORD and Phonogram but somehow, Gillen has been totally mediocre so far. I mean, the characters aren't that bad (I like Hope, the blue girl and the Hispanic speedster) so the problem ins't exactly the cast or setting, but they haven't been portrayed in a good way and the dialogue has been clunky; the plot has been lame and the "Akira" references haven't helped the plot one bit and they could have gone without it.
I'm guessing that maybe SWORD and Phonogram didn't deserve a longer life, since they would have ended up been so mediocre like this.

nf said...

The scene with Dwarfstar and Giganta was so awesome. Loved how that happened since Simone brought them together in the All-New Atom. I still miss Ryan Choi.

The Dangster said...

i hate misleading covers. no punisher or ghost rider. what gives?

Ryan Schrodt said...

@Klep - Good call on The Warriors. I completely missed that reference, but that is pretty damn cool.

@Zdenko - The fact that this happened pretty recently and almost no context clues were given irks me quite a bit. This is a #1 issue--it should be completely 100% accessible to new readers.

@mugiwara - I'm glad someone else is loving Ant-Man and Wasp! I will say that Marvel does need more consistency with Pym across the board. I think readers are ready to get behind the character again (after years upon years of every Pym story reminding us of the same despicable act), but there needs to be more uniformity in how he is presented.

@Radlum - My love of SWORD is really what drew me to Generation Hope and has me holding out for another issue or so. I know that Gillen is capable of much better writing than this and Espin shows so much promise. This comic has the potential to be a Must Read, it just isn't living up to it.

@nf - I never got into All-New Atom (or the original Atom), but that was a great scene that I'm glad Simone got to write.

@Dangster - No Iron Fist, either! While I have a lot of faith in DnA, they need to settle on a consistent core line-up for this book or it won't be successful. Misty Knight just isn't a strong enough character to carry the book on her own. This book needs the advertised characters like Punisher and Ghost Rider to stay afloat!

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