Sunday, January 2, 2011
It took a few days longer than usual, but its better late than never for the final Comic Book Review Power Rankings of 2010! The year ends with a bang as I look at thirteen issues, five of which are Book of the Week caliber. Which comic will come in as the last #1 of the year? 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by JT Krul
Art by Mike Mayhew and Andy Troy
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Mauro Cascioli
• This week’s Green Arrow finds Ollie reliving the death of his parents before the supernatural forces of the Star City Forest deliver him an interesting message.
• The longer that Green Arrow continues to straddle supernatural and more grounded story threads, the less interested I am in the series. Green Arrow is a street level hero, so having him deal with ghosts of dead loved ones doesn’t work for me.
• The retcon of the death of Ollie’s parents is an interesting twist, but doesn’t really add anything to the story. It just puts him in a bad spot so he can be in a better spot.
• JT Krul has a strong enough take on the titular hero to keep this interesting despite the relatively lackluster plot, but its getting to the point that the lack of focus from this series is starting to overcome the strong character writing.
• I’m normally not a huge fan of Mike Mayhew’s interiors, as I feel his art is usually too stiff for anything but a cover. However, I did enjoy his work here, which was considerably more energetic.
• Mayhew’s expressions were top notch throughout. They fit perfectly well with his hyper-realistic style.
• I’d like to see a bit more texture from colorist Andy Troy. He does a good job of rendering, but the lack of texture keeps everything from being as realistic as Mayhew’s art demands.
Verdict: Check It. This issue squeaks in at a Check It verdict on the strength of Mike Mayhew’s art, which might be the best interior work that I’ve ever seen from him. His hyper-realistic style is a great fit for Green Arrow, even if the story wasn’t. While I’m sure that this series will return to being more grounded once Brightest Day is over, I’m just not sure I want to stick around until then, as the supernatural and fantastic elements just aren’t the right fit for Green Arrow.
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, Dean White, and Paul Mounts
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, and Dean White
• The infamous Illuminati return in this week’s Avengers as they discover that the Infinity Gems are being stolen. Meanwhile, the Red Hulk explains how he got his ass handed to him by the Hood.
• Brian Michael Bendis does a solid job of using the Illuminati reunion to emphasize the threat of the Infinity Gems being in the wrong hands for those readers that might not be as familiar with the infamous weapon, the Infinity Gauntlet.
• A good chunk of this issue is just completely rehashing the Hood/Rulk fight from last issue, which is disappointing. I’d rather see the story press on or explain how someone of the Hood’s stature could steal something as major the Infinity Gems.
• The last page was spectacular and has me really excited for the next issue. This showdown is a long time coming!
• The art is a bit of a mixed bag as we see John Romita Jr.’s art looking fantastic, but also looking extremely rough. There are major consistency issues.
• There are certain faces throughout that look extremely rough and somewhat inhuman. These moments are simply not up to par for Romita.
• On the flipside, there are some equally as impressive moments, like the seven panel sequence of reaction shots during the opening Illuminati scene or really any of the action shots during the Hood/Hulk fight.
• The oral history of the Avengers remains a major waste for me. It would be neat as a standalone book or something, but I really wish I didn’t have to pay an extra dollar for something I don’t want to read.
Verdict: Check It. This issue is really, really close to making it into the Buy It range. I love the epic scope of the plot and the final spread is easily one of the coolest moments of the week, but the rehashed fight scene and the haphazard art really drag this one down. I definitely feel like this series is finally heading into the right direction considering its ridiculously impressive creative team, but there needs to be more focus and greater consistency if this book is ever going to live up to its potential. There is no reason a Bendis/Romita Avengers book isn’t always near the top of the Rankings.
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Scott Kolins and Brian Buccellato
Letters by Sal Vipriano
Cover by Scott Kolins and Michael Atiyeh
• This week’s issue of the Flash focuses on the origins of the Reverse Flash and how his relentless pursuit of perfection (and revision) in his own life made him one of Flash’s most dangerous villains.
• As someone who really didn’t know much about the history of the Reverse Flash, this issue is a good primer on what makes the villain so unique. I’m not sure how much is retcon and how much is simply retelling, but it serves as a great reintroduction.
• The time travel twists and revisions to the villains story throughout the issue were really cool and were a great way to show how his mind unravels as he attempts to rewrite his own history.
• The ending is a tad disjointed though, as Geoff Johns seems to be skipping a plot point or two as he wraps things up. Maybe it’s my lack of knowledge with the character, but it feels like something is missing.
• Over the last year or so, I’ve noticed a major shift in the art of Scott Kolins which continues here. Kolins still seems to be feeling out this new design style and the art suffers for it.
• I do still love the energy that Kolins brings and his strong storytelling, both of which are on display here.
• There is a lot of awkward anatomy though, whether it is the entirely too-rendered muscles or bodies with disproportionate limbs. This just isn’t as sharp or polished as Kolins’s earlier works.
Verdict: Check It. Clearly the Reverse Flash has a major role to play in the upcoming Flashpoint storyline and this issue is an entertaining way of bringing readers up to speed on the character’s history. I really dig seeing Geoff Johns be playful with how he unfolds this story, even if the ending does seem to miss the mark. The biggest downfall for me, though, is the art of Scott Kolins, which simpy isn’t up to par on his previous work. A stronger outing from Kolins and this issue would be much higher up on the Rankings.
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke, Keith Champagne, Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen, Mark Irwin, and Randy Mayor
Letters by Nick J. Napolitano
Cover by Gary Frank and Randy Mayor
• A battle between Atrocitus and the Spectre is the main focus of this week’s Green Lantern, which also sees the Red Lantern entity, the Butcher, make its debut.
• This issue is mostly a big action piece as the majority of the issue focuses on Atrocitus and the Spectre battling it out or the Butcher taking on the Spectre. A lot of reviewers are taking issue with the fact that Atrocitus holding his own against the Wrath of God, so your enjoyment of the issue may hinge upon how believable that fight is to you.
• While I won’t let this fight ruin the issue for me, it does seem a tad outrageous that the Spectre wouldn’t be able to crush Atrocitus quite easily. I’m glad to see the fight end with Spectre letting him go, but it does kill some of his credibility for the fight to be a stalemate prior to that.
• The debut of the Butcher is pretty cool, with Geoff Johns immediately elevating the character to Parallax or Ion status, which only makes sense. I really liked the idea that even Atrocitus, leader of the Red Lanterns, seems frightened of Butcher’s power.
• It is great to finally see more of Atrocitus ‘s origins, though one tacked-on page is a bit underwhelming. Johns has hinted at his past before and this spotlight issue would have been a great time to expand on that more.
• The art is your usual Doug Mahnke. Great designs, strong action, and strong consistency continue to make him one of the finest artists in the industry.
• Once again I have to commend the inking team on this series for doing such a great job of keeping things consistently great in this issue. It is really rare that a book with multiple inkers isn’t jarring, but Green Lantern rarely is.
• I was disappointed in the coloring, though. I understand that we’ve got a Red Lantern against the Spectre, but the issue is almost entirely red with splotches of green, with very little variation in there. It really overwhelms the line-work. I think mixing up the shades some could’ve prevented some of this, but as it stands, a lot of Mahnke and the inkers work is lost on the colors.
Verdict: Buy It. While I am disappointed that this issue doesn’t directly pick up on the Krona plot thread from Green Lantern #60 a few weeks back, this action-packed issue is still highly entertaining and does add some depth to the character of Atrocitus. Johns has hinted in the past at him being more complex than he seems and this issue begins to flesh that out. There are some faults with the writing, but if you can overlook them, you’ve still got a fun issue with more fantastic art from the amazing Doug Mahnke and his army of inkers.
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art by Emma Rios and Jose Villarubia
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Cover by Ben Oliver
• The Green Goblin makes a major play to get Norman Osborn out of prison in this week’s Osborn, which also sees Norah Winters getting herself deeper into her investigation of the cult.
• Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick has a strong understanding of how Norman Osborn is both methodical and maniacal, which makes this issue extremely engaging. You get the full breadth of Osborn here.
• The prison break is well-plotted and DeConnick’s ability to get into the head of the vile criminals that are housed with Osborn is central to the issue’s success. Her writing reminds me a lot of Gail Simone in that regard, only without the depraved sense of humor.
• The bits with Norah Winters feel a tad underdeveloped and tacked on. I’d like to see more on what exactly she is after and what she plans to do once she gets it. There just isn’t enough direction in this issue.
• Artist Emma Rios has superb chemistry with DeConnick and perfectly matches the dank tone of the plot with her highly atmospheric art, expertly colored by Jose Villarubia.
• Rios shifts between two slightly different styles—one which is much tighter and one which features more extraneous lines and sporadic designs. Both look great, but I’d love to see her stick with one or the other.
• The designs for Ben Urich and Norman Osborn look too much alike for my taste. Given that they are the most prominent male characters in this issue, that is disappointing.
Verdict: Buy It. Another fine issue from the creative team of DeConnick and Rios, who put together a great thrill-ride story that sees Osborn manipulating his surroundings as he works his way out of custody. This issue isn’t tremendously deep, but it is highly entertaining thanks to the fine craftsmanship of the creative team. You aren’t missing much in terms of a highly important plot if you skip this issue, but you are going to miss out on a fun story that features some really great art.
Written by Marjorie Liu
Art by Will Conrad, Marco Checchetto, and John Rauch
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Lenil Yu
• After escaping the clutches of Soulless Logan in the last story arc, X-23 hits the road in this week’s issue, only to find herself in the midst of a frightening situation masterminded by a major X-villain (or villainess, I suppose).
• The plotting in this issue is fairly simple, but Marjorie Liu does a great job of utilizing it to add some depth to the character. In this issue you get a great sense of how lost Laura feels, but also how deep her sense of honor goes.
• Liu writes a great Gambit, whose guest appearance here works really well. I was surprised at how well he plays off of X-23, but it’s a good combo. I hope we see more of him in this book, or just more of him written by Liu.
• The reveal of the villain on the final page of this issue really isn’t that surprising, especially after the character is mentioned and shown in the first page recap. The really kills all tension built in the final scene.
• Will Conrad and Marco Checchetto work extremely well together as the artists on this issue. So much so, in fact, that I had no idea that there were two artists on the book until I looked at the credits page to write this review.
• The storytelling in this issue is clear, simple, and effective. One of the things I really hope we see in 2011 is a return to this approach. I dig fancy layouts as much as the next reader, but I think too often the ability to tell a clear story is lost on them.
• I really like the look of Lenil Yu’s cover and his design for X-23, but the perspective on the claws is way off and I really don’t understand why she is doing the splits. What’s up with that?
Verdict: Buy It. As X-23 heads into its second story arc, things are looking good for the series. This issue features strong character work from Liu on both Laura and the guest starring Gambit. While the ending is a tad predictable thanks to some strange editorial decisions, this is still a strong, finely-crafted issue.
Written by JT Krul
Art by Nicola Scott, Doug Hazlewood, and Jason Wright
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover Nicola Scott, Doug Hazlewood, and Jason Wright
• The Teen Titans track and attempt to contain a super-powered teenager in this week’s issue, only to find that the mysteries surrounding the boy run far deeper and are far more dangerous than they had imagined.
• JT Krul continues to showcase his strong take on all of the Titans and how they interact. This issue features a lot of action and Krul brings a lot of personality to their quipping.
• The interaction between Ravager and Robin (Damian Wayne) is a ton of fun. The two are both very similar, which gives them fun chemistry but also builds a lot of natural tension; Krul really runs with that here. I think they are going to make a great big sister/little brother combo under Krul’s watch.
• The issue opens with more of the newest Titan, Solstice (who will be joining the team in a few issues), but Krul never comes back to her or ties her story into the main. That makes it feel really forced and thrown away.
• I am so glad to see Nicola Scott on this series. I really dug her work on Secret Six, but she is so at home with the teen characters that I really prefer her here. She is such a natural fit.
• While Scott does fill most of her panels to the brim with characters and details, there are a handful of pages that have a ton of empty space. Scott uses these really wide shots, but then sticks all of the characters and action to one side. It’s really distracting.
• There is a lot of impact in Scott’s action, which helps build tension and excitement during the action-packed second half of the issue.
Verdict: Buy It. Krul and Scott’s revitalization of Teen Titans continues this week with another fantastic issue that features a strong mix of personality-driven character writing and simply gorgeous art. There are some plotting drawbacks that keep this from jumping further up the Rankings, but the great work from the creative team keeps this fresh and exciting throughout. If you jumped shipped on this title at some point in the last few years, now is the time to come back as it hasn’t been this good since Geoff Johns was at the helm.
Written by Scott Snyder
Lead Art by Jock and David Baron
Backup Art by Francesco Francavilla
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Jock
• In the lead story of the double-feature Detective Comics, Dick Grayson probes into the Mirror House, finding himself in a mysterious auction that focuses on the goods of the worst criminals.
• Writer Scott Snyder does a great job of scraping the underbelly of Gotham in this story to produce a gritty, dark story without forcing Dick into a Dark Knight persona. He manages to balance a dark story while maintaining the core of the character.
• I really liked Snyder’s use of Harvey Bullock as Batman’s contact in the GCPD in this issue. Given the history of the Mirror House and the corrupt Gotham Police Department, it’s a cool choice to see Batman get info from a seedier veteran.
• I really liked how well Snyder handles the relationship between Dick and Babs. My love for this couple is well known and I was really satisfied with the subtext that we get here.
• I’m not quite as thrilled with the way things played out with the Mirror House. The scene was rather generic and the villain isn’t highly original. I hope we see a few more twists and turns here. I did, however, love that the first item up for bid was Joker’s crowbar.
• Jock is an amazing artist, but has always been hit-or-miss with me on interiors (though he rarely has an off cover). That trend continues here as Jock is, not surprisingly, hit-or-miss.
• I really like the ground-level stuff that Jock does here—the way Bullock looks, the party scene, etc. He really excels in the less-fantastic.
• There is something about the way he draws Batman’s cowl, though, that doesn’t quite for me. He can’t seem to make the shape of the mask work here.
• In the backup, Commissioner Gordon meets with Babs to discuss the potential for Jimmy Gordon’s return and what troubles that could spell for their family.
• If you aren’t up to speed on Jim Gordon’s son, Jimmy, you aren’t going to get as much out of this story. Snyder does not leave many clues for readers.
• He does, however, do a great job of developing the relationship between Gordon and Babs. It helps that he has a strong sense of voice for each of them.
• Francesco Francavilla’s art is simply gorgeous. Seriously, this is some of the best art you will see in any comic this week and it’s a damn shame that he only draws a handful of pages here. It’s absolutely perfect.
Verdict: Must Read. This one just barely inches into the highest verdict bracket despite some issues that were hard to ignore. However, when Jock is one he is damn near unstoppable, Snyder has a great ear for his characters, and Francavilla is amazing; when you add these up, you get a superb comic that should not be missed. It’s hard not to be impressed by a comic with so much talent involved!
Lead 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
• This week’s Action Comics is the last to include a double feature and starts with a lead story that finds Lex Luthor hiring the Secret Six to take down Vandal Savage, which, to the surprise of no one, goes awry.
• As much as I hate the idea of anyone but Gail Simone writing the Secret Six, Paul Cornell does a bang-up job of working with the characters. He nails the voices and the odd-ball interaction that Simone has so skillfully mastered.
• I absolutely love how calm and conniving Cornell’s Lex Luthor he is. He is such a magnificent bastard, which is precisely how I feel the character should be presented.
• I feel like I might have missed something with the Lois Lane Robot that keeps her part of this story from clicking. Granted, I did miss an issue early on in this storyline, so Cornell might have connected the dots there.
• As far as the art goes, all you need to know is that Pete Woods is drawing the Secret Six. That alone should be good enough for you.
• If, by some chance, that isn’t good enough for you, then you should know that Brad Anderson is coloring over Woods. I don’t want to live in a world where that combination isn’t enough to sell you on a comic.
• In the final Jimmy Olsen story that will appear in this title, Jimmy takes part in a date auction, only to find himself in a whirlwind romance with the mysterious Maggie Mxyzptlk. Yep, you read that right, her name is Maggie Mxyzptlk.
• Nick Spencer’s brilliant wit and charm that have made this story so undeniably awesome is just as witty and charming here as it had been on the previous issue.
• I loved the twists with Olsen potentially finding romance, only for it to turn into a nightmare. It fits perfectly in line not only with Olsen’s wild life, but also with the fact that he simply cannot catch a break in this storyline.
• I cannot say enough good things about RB Silva’s art on this back up. I’ve never read anything of his before this, but that hasn’t stopped this story from making him one of my favorite artists of the year. I absolutely must own a page from this story.
Verdict: Must Read. You get a brilliantly written Lex Luthor, a fantastic guest appearance the Secret Six, the insanely enjoyable Jimmy Olsen by Nick Spencer, and art from two of the finest creators in the business today. You cannot go wrong with this issue of Action Comics, which is definitely a Book of the Week caliber comic and would be a shoe-in if not for the fact that this has was such a great week for the industry (which, in all honesty, featured five Book of the Week caliber comics). Don’t miss this.
Written by Paul Tobin
Art by Clayton Henry, Ray Height, Walden Wong, Paris, Livesay, and Chris Sotomayor
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Jelena Djurdjevic
• Spider-Girl springs into action against the Red Hulk following his attack on City College and the Fantastic Four only to have her world rocked by the death of her father.
• This is an incredibly tragic issue that hit like a ton of bricks. Paul Tobin captures the pain of Spider-Girl as she deals with the death of her father. It’s incredibly powerful.
• The pacing of the issue is a major component of its success as Tobin skillfully unfolds the issue in an effective manner, opening with the fast-paced action of Spider-Girl versus Rulk, then dialing it back as the shock of her father’s death finally hits her.
• I really like the way that Tobin uses her Twitter account in place of an inner-monologue. Not only is it very contemporary, but it allows Tobin to write her as a true teenage girl. It feels very natural.
• The art duties are split between Clayton Henry and Ray Height, who blend very naturally together both in terms of design and storytelling. I always hate to see multiple artists on a book, but they make it work here.
• I have to give a lot of that credit, though, to colorist Chris Sotomayor who is the driving force in unifying the art. His work really bridges that of the two artists.
Verdict: Must Read. After bursting onto the scene with a great debut issue, the creative team behind Spider-Girl follows it up incredibly well with the action-packed and tragic story that is extremely powerful. Tobin’s brilliant character writing is accented nicely by both of the main artists, resulting in an issue that carries the momentum forward from the first issue and earns this title a place on my Pull List.
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips and Val Staples
Letters by Sean Phillips
Cover by Sean Phillips
• In the second issue of the second volume of Incognito, Zack Overkill continues to infiltrate the criminal underworld on order from the S.O.S., but finds himself in a world of danger when word gets out that he is making a comeback.
• Ed Brubaker continues to scrape the bottom of the barrel for the seediest, pulpiest characters he can muster and wraps them up in a highly-entertaining high-octane plot. It’s a great mix.
• Despite having a relatively straightforward plot, I love how Brubaker adds layers upon layers to the concept here. Incognito takes place in a black-and-white world, but as it turns out, there are varying degrees of black at play here.
• I really dig the tension between Overkill and Zoe Zeppelin. There is plenty of subtext going in multiple directions here and I look forward to seeing where Brubaker takes it.
• As usual, I cannot say enough good things about the art of Sean Phillips. His work is simply brilliant here.
• What really impressed me about Phillips’s art are the great perspectives and cinematic storytelling techniques he uses here. Every shot is carefully chosen and placed for maximum effect.
• You can’t talk about the art without mentioning the colors of Val Staples. His atmospheric colors are the perfect mix of neon electric sex and dank back alley shadows. While the art of Phillips is what carries this series, it would be nothing without the work of Staples.
Verdict: Must Read. As if there was any question, the brilliant creative team of Brubaker, Phillips, and Staples come together again for a top-notch issue that hits all of the right notes in this pulpy thrillride. This creative team is as good as they come and continue to showcase that in this issue. If you aren’t reading this book, you should be.
Written by Richard Starkings
Art by Axel Medellin, Jason Wright, Brian Buccellato, and Marian Churchland
Letters by Comicraft
Covers by Camilla D’Errico and Lisa Wood
• This week’s Elephantmen intertwines three separate stories following Vanity, Miki, and Sahara as they each deal with the fallout of recent events and try to find meaning and direction from them.
• All three stories work together well, though obviously Vanity and Sahara’s work the best together as they intersect in the end. Miki’s story doesn’t tie into the others, but fits well thematically.
• It’s great to see Marian Churchland pitching in on the writing duties for Miki’s story, which is a powerful look at the darker side of the Elephantmen that had previously gone unseen.
• Elephantmen continues to round a corner that started six or seven issues back as Richard Starkings heads into some very dark territory, both in terms of the violence ahead and the emotional impact it is having on the characters.
• Axel Medellin is really coming into his own as the main artist on this series. He hit the ground running last issue, but really wows me in some places in this issue. His expressions are top-notch and are definitely what stands out most about his art.
• I would’ve liked to see a single colorist on the issue, though, as Medellin’s art never reaches its full potential because of the two colorists using separate styles. It still looks great as a whole, but it could’ve hit a whole other level.
• I cannot say enough great things about Churchland’s art here. She is such an incredible talent and someone we absolutely need to see more of!
Verdict: Must Read. Once again, the Elephantmen crew put together a powerful and incredibly well-crafted comic. I’ve made no secret of my love for this series; it is issues like this that have earned that praise and adoration. I’ve told you this over and over and over again—you absolutely must read Elephantmen.
Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by Robert Atkins, Clayton Brown, Juan Castro, and Andrew Crossley
Letters by Robbie Robbins
Covers by Trevor Hutchinson and Robert Atkins with Clayton Brown and Andrew Crossley
• The GI Joe team have finally cracked some of the secrets of Cobra’s M.A.S.S. Device and use it to unleash their biggest assault on the terrorists yet.
• This issue begins payoff from the slow build of the first two years of IDW’s relaunch of the franchise, with the war between the Joes and Cobra finally heating up.
• I really dig the interaction between the old-school badass Snake Eyes and the new-school badass Helix. The two make great foils for one another and the way their plan plays out here is perfect.
• It’s also great to see Storm Shadow getting some action in as well. Chuck Dixon is doing a great job of slowing bringing him into the fold with a few pages here and there.
• The pacing in the issue is impeccable as the tension slowly builds before the action packed finale and high-octane cliffhanger that has me incredibly excited for next issue.
• What makes Dixon’s run work so well, even beyond his great use of the characters, is the way he infuses the story with realism, from the military protocols to the complexity of the socio-political surroundings of the operation.
• Robert Atkins continues to be the perfect artist for this title, finding the right balance between the classic GI Joe aesthetic and a realistic flair that brings the franchise into the modern age.
• Atkins really excels in the action sequences, but does just as well with the quieter moments. He has wowed me since the first issue of this series, but his ability to handle both types of scenes well is where he has shown the most growth in this series.
Verdict: Must Read. It was extremely difficult choosing this week’s Book of the Week, especially since all of the Top 5 issues this week were worth of the honor. It was a close race, but the action, character work, and great craftsmanship of this week’s G.I. Joe just barely inched out the competition. Dixon and Atkins are a great creative team with a ton of chemistry that comes together here in their finest issue yet. This is the GI Joe franchise at its best and it should not be missed.