Friday, December 10, 2010

Comic Book Review Power Rankings for 12/08/10

I’m a few hours later than usual with this week’s Comic Book Review Power Rankings, but I’ve still got a solid haul of comics to review and rank. Rather than waste any more time with pleasantries than we have to, hit the jump to check out this week’s countdown!

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 John Jackson Miller
Art by Ivan Rodriguez, Belardino Brabo, Marcio Loezer, and Michael Atiyeh
Letters by Michael Heisler
Cover by Joe Quinones
preRanking: 08

• In this week’s issue of Star Wars: Knight Errant, abandoned Jedi knight Kerra Holt sneaks into the forge of Sith Lord Odian in an attempt to stop his plans for the destruction of Chelloa, only to ignite his wrath further.
• This is an extremely disjointed comic that suffers from deplorable pacing. There are no transitions between scenes and the pacing of the dialogue is choppy. There is no flow at all.
• It doesn’t help matters that the characters have almost no personality whatsoever and their dialogue is completely stiff and unnatural.
• In terms of the writing, this issue feels like a bad dollar store imitation of Star Wars. It really does not live up to the standards that Dark Horse has set for the comics in this franchise.
• The art by Ivan Rodriguez is a step up from the art in the previous issues by Federico Dallachio, but still has issues.
• The multiple inkers cause for some jarring transitions. When you add that to the jostling you get from the writing, the flow of the issue is completely killed.
• I do like some of Rodriguez’s designs and he uses some fun, highly-cinematic shots, but there is little clarity in his panel-to-panel storytelling.

Verdict: Avoid It. I was hoping this would fill the void left in my pull list after the end of Star Wars: Legacy based upon the potential of its premise, but after three uninteresting and ill-crafted issues, I can’t justify spending any more money on this series. This comic simply fails to live up to the standards I’ve come to expect from Dark Horse’s Star Wars comics on a number of levels.

Written by Jim McCann
Art by David Lopez, Alvaro Lopez, and Nathan Fairbairn
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Jae Lee
preRanking: 06

• In this follow-up to two recently canceled comics (Black Widow and Hawkeye & Mockingbird), someone masquerading as Ronin is kill spies all around the world, causing the former couple Hawkeye and Mockingbird to ally themselves with fellow-Avenger Black Widow.
• The first thing I think of when I look back on this issue is how oddly paced it is. There simply isn’t a flow from scene to scene and even the dialogue is choppy. It’s a rough read.
• Despite having a snowmobile chase scene, this is one of the slowest-paced spy thrillers that I’ve ever read. It really just meanders around a bit. Even the chase scene is so packed with heavy dialogue that it loses all momentum.
• While Jim McCann clearly has a good handle on all of the characters and their relationships, the personality is much more subdued here than it was in the Hawkeye and Mockingbird comic. Since my enjoyment of that series was my main motivator for checking this out, that’s disappointing.
• The art was a bit of a mixed bag, as David Lopez seems to be stretching away from his comfort zone here. On the large panels or on pages with more structure, Lopez’s art runs clean and looks great.
• On smaller panels or pages with more unique layouts, Lopez uses a much scratchier style of line work. This is especially prevalent in the last third of the book. Honestly, I’m not a fan.
• I’m also a bit disappointed by the lack of facial expressions from Mockingbird. She makes the same 1 or 2 faces throughout the entire book. It’s really distracting, especially when characters like Dominic Fortune and Hawkeye are considerably more expressive.

Verdict: Byrne It. After the cancellation of Hawkeye and Mockingbird, I was really hoping that this brief miniseries could continue my enjoyment of Jim McCann and David Lopez’s take on those fantastic characters. Unfortunately, this issue really falls short of my expectations. There are certainly things to like and the mystery behind the new Ronin is intriguing; unfortunately, the issues really overwhelm this book’s strengths and hindered my enjoyment of it.

06. THOR #618
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Pasqual Ferry and Matt Hollingsworth
Letters by John Workman
Cover by Pasqual Ferry and Matt Hollingsworth
preRanking: 07

• The refugees of the other Tree of Life worlds come to Earth in search of Asgardian aid as they seek shelter from the invaders of the 10th World in this week’s Thor, which also features the return of a major player in the franchise.
• A lot of what Matt Fraction had been building over the last few issues is finally coming to fruition. There are a lot of great concepts at play here. I really dug the twist of the refugees stampeding towards Asgard not as invaders, as hinted last issue, but as refugees.
Odin really comes across like a badass here, doesn’t he? That adds some fun mystery to his return. Will he be a tyrant or a savior? How will he react to his ruined kingdom?
• The story still screams to be read in trade. There are great ideas and great concepts here, but its too grandiose to be effective in monthly form.
• The art is good, but simply isn’t the right fit for this series. Pasqual Ferry is incredibly talented and one of my favorite artists, but he is out of his element.
• The coloring of Matt Hollingsworth doesn’t do him justice at all. The water color style is interesting and a neat fit for the fantastic elements of the issue, but it muddies up Ferry’s line work and detracts from his designs. It’s the right coloring for the wrong artist.
• Of course, it doesn’t help that Ferry’s level of detail is too inconsistent. Some pages are full of minutiae while others look practically unfinished.

Verdict: Check It. I hate giving this a Check It verdict, because I am really enjoying the story and the creators are clearly putting a tremendous amount of effort into making this an epic storyline. Unfortunately, it seemly doesn’t work in a serialized form. I can almost guarantee that this comic would be a Buy It if I were reviewing the storyline as a whole in trade format. As a single issue, though, it’s not working. Plus, I’m just not happy with the output from Ferry. This is a step down for him and a far cry from some of his strong works (like my personal favorite, his adaption of Ender’s Game for Marvel).

05. THE FLASH #7
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Scott Kolins and Brian Buccellato
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
preRanking: 05

• This week’s issue of the Flash is almost completely Flash-less, instead focusing on Captain Boomerang with an expanded origin story being recounted as he searches for answers on his fate from one of Flash’s most notorious villains.
Geoff Johns does some interesting things with Boomerang as he tries to humanize the villain, but eventually falls back on tired villain clichés of broken homes and abusive father figures. The big picture is nothing we haven’t already seen before.
• I like the idea of Boomerang searching for a purpose as his main motivation, even though he knows that everything might backfire. It definitely makes him one of the more interesting villains in the DCU.
• The more present day stuff doesn’t work as well for me, but a big part of that is the fact that I’m not reading Brightest Day. This certainly could be more accessible to all readers.
• I’m surprised that nothing is mentioned of the second Captain Boomerang, Owen, in this issue. I’ve always found him to be an interesting character and I think there is ample opportunity to bring reference to him in this story.
Scott Kolins and colorist Brian Buccellato use multiple styles throughout this issue depending on the scene, showing a good amount of range from both artists.
• The art is really stiff, though, and suffers from a lot of consistency problems, especially in regards to how Kolins draws the characters’ hair and faces.
• There is a very dramatic shift in the art during the last present day sequence, which doesn’t match the other present day scenes. It’s really jarring and doesn’t really serve a purpose.
• The art falls short of Kolins’s previous work. He seems to be feeling out some new styles here, but the end result is surprisingly unpolished.

Verdict: Check It. For every step forward this issue makes, it takes another big step back…over and over and over again. There is a lot that the creative team does really well here that is at war at all the things they could have done better. The end result is a wildly uneven ride that, while entertaining, can’t overcome its flaws to be the comic it has the potential of being.

Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Jimmy Broxton and Guy Major
Letters by Swand
Cover by Yanick Paquette, Michel Lacombe, and Nathan Fairbairn
preRanking: 04

• In this week’s Knight and Squire, the British equivalent to STAR Labs clones notorious monarch Richard III, who uses a strong PR campaign to regain some popularity before getting all tyrannical in his attempt to take over England.
• This is another great done-in-one story from Paul Cornell that pulls some elements from previous issues, but still stands really well on its own. This really doesn’t feel like the midpoint of a miniseries.
• This is perhaps the most British issue of this miniseries yet, with tons of Easter eggs and decidedly British humor. This may cause the book to have a niche audience amongst American readers, but for those of us in that niche, this is amazing.
• I really like the interplay between the awkward Knight and the more self-assured Squire. This is a great twist on the usual hero/sidekick relationship. Cornell is a brilliant character writer.
Jimmy Broxton’s art is clean and clear without frills or risks. It’s very straightforward in all regards and works quite well because of it. Sometimes you don’t need more than fun designs and clean storytelling.
• There isn’t a ton of energy in the art. There isn’t a lot of action for Broxton to draw, but even those few action pages are quite stiff. The talking heads pages don’t have much of a chance.

Verdict: Buy It. Personally, I wanted to give this a Must Read verdict. I loved the bits of British humor and history that are packed throughout this incredibly fun issue. However, I do recognize that most American readers aren’t going to get a lot of the references and might have a hard time tackling this issue without some familiarity for everything that Cornell is referencing. I’m part of the target audience for this book and so I loved every second of it. If your not, though, it’s still a great read, but you are missing out on a lot of what makes it phenomenal.

03. BATGIRL #16
Written by Bryan Q. Miller
Art by Dustin Nguyen, Derek Fridolfs, and Guy Major
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Dustin Nguyen
preRanking: 01

• After being framed for the murder of a classmate last issue, Batgirl has to clear her name with the GCPD hot on her tail.
• There are loads of great character moments throughout this issue as Bryan Q. Miller remains in true form here. From Batgirl and Detective Nick’s encounters to Babs giving Stephanie lessons on justice to Wendy’s growing frustrations, this is not stop great character moments.
• The fun, loose style of the writing puts a new spin on some heavy themes here without resorting to the grittiness that is often overused in DC’s comics.
• I really like how well Miller builds Stephanie’s life outside of being Batgirl while still advancing the story. We get quick, fleeting scenes, but they add a ton of depth to the character.
Dustin Nguyen is up to his usual greatness here with very clean line work and extreme consistency.
• I loved the title splash on this book. It’s a simple shot, but the placement and perspective are just superb.
• Nguyen continues to struggle with wide angle shots. His facial expressions in these shots aren’t up to par.
• I do have to give some kudos to Derek Fridolfs and Guy Major for their use of shadows to add depth to Nguyen’s art. His work wouldn’t be nearly as effective without them.

Verdict: Buy It. Another month and another fun issue of Batgirl, one of DC’s top titles. Between Miller’s superb character work and Nguyen’s clear storytelling, this issue is as technically sound as it is entertaining. I’ve been singing this book’s praises nonstop since its debut and this issue continues that winning trend, despite a handful of stumbling blocks that keep it from reaching a Must Read level.

02. RED ROBIN #18
Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art by Marcus To, Ray McCarthy, and Guy Major
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Marcus To, Ray McCarthy, and Brian Buccellato
preRanking: 03

Tim Drake travels to Russia in this week’s Red Robin, setting up a new Neon Knights center and investigating the last use of the villainous Unternet network, only to run afoul of former ally Red Star in an impromptu team-up with debuting vigilante Promise.
• There are a lot of great twists and turns throughout this issue, with nothing being quite what it seems on this little field trip. The twists with Red Star as the protector of Russia toeing some frightening lines alone are worth checking out this issue.
• The introduction of Promise was handled really well. Fabian Nicieza is doing a great job of having Tim being torn between his methodical heroic nature and the hormonal tendencies of all teenage males.
• Tim being taken out by Promise using only a bar of soap was a great way to break up the tension of the issue with some humor, but also gave Promise some cool credibility as a fighter.
Marcus To continues to absolutely rock on this series. He is taking a bolder approach to his storytelling here, especially in the larger panels. It’s a subtle shift, but it’s noticeable.
• The strong expressions over fantastic designs continue to be a hallmark of To’s work on this series. I can’t think of any artist who’d be a better fit for this series.
• To added a hook to Red Robin’s mask in this issue, making it more bird-like. It was distracting at first, but by the end of the issue, I was really sold on it. It’s a cool addition to the design.

Verdict: Must Read. Nothing goes quite as planned for Tim Drake in this issue, but its business as usual for Red Robin with another top notch issue. This is one of the most complex and densely packed issues of the series thus far, with a great amount of action and plot movement. Nicieza balances that out with strong character work, including an intriguing debut for the new character Promise. All of this is rounded out by another solid effort from artist Marcus To.

Written by Roger Langridge
Art by Chris Samnee and Matthew Wilson
Letters by Rus Wooton
Cover by Chris Samnee and Matthew Wilson
preRanking: 02

• Just when it seems that all is going right for the exiled Thor on Earth, a massive robot attacks turns the tables on our titular hero and hands him his first defeat in the penultimate issue of this brilliant series.
Roger Langridge brings just as much personality and charm to this issue as he has in the past, so fans of this series will be just as pleased with the work that he does here. His take on Thor is elegant in its simplicity while remaining true to the core of the character. This is Thor, pure and distilled.
• I love how Langridge handles the relationship between Thor and Jane. There is a genuine quality to their interaction that is heartwarming. I’m also pleased with how the intimacy of their relationship is hinted at without being overt—it’s a subtle nod.
• The strong pacing of the issue makes the twists in the second half all the more powerful. The ending is inevitable and predictable (based upon the cover), but the build toward it makes it highly effective nonetheless.
• The Bunson and Beaker gag with the mysterious scientists was nothing short of fantastic.
Chris Samnee works his usual magic here and leaves me with absolutely nothing to complain about.
• There is a brilliant splash of Thor fighting a giant robot that is easily my favorite shot of the week and something that I wish I had on a tshirt.
• We get clean lines, bold expressions, effective spot blacks, clean designs, and stellar storytelling. Chris Samnee’s work here is practically flawless.

Verdict: Must Read. There is little to be said about Thor: Mighty Avenger that I haven’t already said before. This is the penultimate issue of this brilliantly charming and incredibly well crafted comic and, if you haven’t already been reading it, its unlikely that I can sway you to read it now. Quite honestly, that is your lost. There is a reason that this is my favorite comic on the stands right now and I can’t think of any reason for you not to be reading it. This issue is no different. There may only be one more issue left, but if you’ve got a few extra bucks this week, check this one out. It was an easy choice for Book of the Week and a comic that absolutely belongs in your collection.

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twobitspecialist said...

Wasn't there a Thunderbolts arc called "Widowmaker"?

There's only so much you can do for Black Widow arc names, I guess.

Aaron K said...

I have never, ever seen the Black Widow look so old and so ugly. Apparently, her Infinity Formula (or whatever she took) just wore off.

Matt Fraction's brief run on THOR has been, sadly, the worst story arc on THOR since pre-Jurgens! Few of the characters feel like themselves and almost nothing happens issue to issue (and then something huge like the return of Odin happens with absolutely no set-up). I had such high hopes since Fraction's AGES OF THUNDER series was fantastic; I've been horribly disappointed and hope he can turn things around.

Matt Duarte said...

Jeez, Odin returned too? Didn't Loki return just last issue?

Kinda glad I decided to trade-wait it.

Midnight Monk said...

First Loki now Odin? I guess comic characters simply laugh in the face of death

As for Red Robin, I've never seen a book this consisently strong in a longtime. Simply awesome

The Dangster said...

i'm so disappointed by Geoff Johns this issue. I'm a regular die hard fan of his but I just couldn't take this issue of Flash.

The origin is a rehash of Captain Cold and I think he sticks too close to his backstory. For someone who retcons constantly, I wish he'd be more creative than having Digger be a boomerang spokesman.

I do like Kolin's art on this issue. He did some rushed and scratchy work lately, and I think this is a better example of his work.

Ivan said...

I haven't read Flash #7, but you seem to be complaining about one thing that Johns actually did not change. His origin as a boomerang spokesperson/promoter was stablished in Ostrander's Suicide Squad.

Anonymous said...

This is why I like this column. We can agree to disagree. Perhaps I'm the only one who liked Widowmaker. Although the art may not be my preferred style I did find the book a decent read. Not too hard to follow after a long week at work. It simply is what it is.

- Retcon Joe

megan said...

I will never understand American's facination with we Brits

Matt Duarte said...

@Megan: We love your delightful politeness and your dry humor!

Zdenko said...

I loved Widowmaker, but I'm probably the biggest Ronin fanboy on the face of the planet, so... :)

The Dangster said...

that's my point, he should change the origin. it's bizarre.

Ivan said...

Oh, that didn't come across in your first post. Yeah, "how DARE they laugh at me" is a pretty silly motivation, I guess. But he did have a shitty life before that, it was just what drove him off the edge.

GhostCritic said...

I know you can't read everything (maybe you can, I don't know) but really, missing off Fables #100 this week hurts. Hoping it may have been included in Moments of the Week but it wasn't so I'm here to complain most indignantly !! *stamps feet and pulls out tongue*

Matt Duarte said...

@GhostCritic: We usually don't feature moments from books like Fables, Walking Dead, Scalped, etc. because there is a huge portion of readers that follow those series through trades. Even if we see those scans (which are usually rarer to come across), we don't want to risk spoiling something big for readers.

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