Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Comic Book Review Power Rankings for 01/05/11

I know, I know. The Comic Book Review Power Rankings are a week late, but at least they are here! After comics were delayed until Friday at my local shop and a busy weekend kept me from checking out the books, I must apologize for taking so long to post the Rankings!  Rather than wasting any more time, hit the jump to see my reviews of last week’s books!

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, Scott Koblish, and Jim Charalampidis
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Cover by Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales, and Chris Sotomayor
preRanking: 06

• As the fifth new mutant continues to rampage over Tokyo, Hope and Cyclops must determine how best to stop him from creating further devastation.
• The plot of this issue is mostly nothing new as we see the same conflict from the previous issue. The conclusion is handled nicely, but all of the build-up is repeated action.
• I do like how well Kieron Gillen handles Hope, though, which is the crux of the issue in a lot of ways. I’m not thrilled by the plot, but at least the main character works.
• This one is pretty predictable. Once you get to the fact that a final play must be made to take down the deranged mutant, it is instantly clear what approaches Hope and Cyclops will debate over.
• The art from Salvador Espin is a major mixed bag. There are a lot of highs here, but just as many lows.
• Espin’s facial expressions are the strongest part of the art here and he showcases a nice range from the very nuanced to the very over-the-top.
• Cyclops and Wolverine look extremely weird here and there are some inconsistencies in the jawline of Hope that are really distracting. If Espin could tighten these up, he could carry the issue up the Rankings.

Verdict: Byrne It. Gillen and Espin continue to show promise, but fail to consistently live up to their own potential in this issue. The saving grace is that both creators do a solid job handling Hope, the main character, but the inconsistencies in the art and the lifeless plotting keep this issue from earning a stronger verdict.

Written by David Hine
Art by Wayne Nichols, Feigap Chong, and Sansan Saw
Letters by Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Cover by Francesco Mattina
preRanking: 01

• After learning that he is a daemon, private investigator Ryder learns of an ancient war between daemons and humans, as well as the shocking truth of his own past.
• This is a complex issue that covers a lot of ground in a short amount of space. You learn a lot more about the intriguing premise, but the reliance on exposition does drag the issue down some.
David Hine’s inventive approach to character writing and willingness to push the envelope really elevates this “humans versus ancient supernatural force” storyline that we’ve seen countless times before to a new level.
• I really dig how layered this story is, which Hine is able to build in this issue due to the expanded page count that Radical Comics’s books allow. He takes full advantage of that by beginning plot threads early on, but not drawing them together until the shocking conclusion.
• The art by Wayne Nichols is lush and cinematic, mixing the right amount of realism and fantastic elements to hit the balance that the plot dictates.
• There is quite a bit of stiffness in the art that is hard to ignore, but that is par for the course with the style that Nichols employs.
• Nichols uses a lot of overlapping panels that break the grid of his layouts, but he overuses the device. There are certain scenes where this is a powerful tool, such as the action and sex scenes, but in the others, a strict adherence to the grid would enhance the storytelling.

Verdict: Buy It. The moody and atmospheric storytelling of Hine and Nichols come together here for another fine issue of this supernatural-noir series. The reliance on exposition and stiffness in the art do hold it back some, but that shouldn’t keep you from checking this out. It’s well worth your money.

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

• Trapped in a secret metahuman prison, the Freedom Fighters continue their search for the Civil War-era weapon in hopes of freeing the Vice President.
• This issue is pure action as the Freedom Fighters are again tested to the limits of their abilities and, again, find themselves out-gunned.
• This is the first DC issue that I’ve read with the reduced page count and, honestly, I could barely tell that this issue had two less pages. Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray write this so densely you’d swear it was oversized.
• I really like the distinction in approaches that Palmiotti and Gray develop between Miss America and the rest of the Freedom Fighters. It adds depth to the team.
• As per usual, artist Travis Moore packs as much art as he can into each page with his lively and energetic art that is a great fit for the script.
• There is an awesome amount of impact in the fight scenes and a ton of energy in the art that really carries the pace of this action-oriented issue.
• While I do enjoy how much Moore packs into each page, the storytelling does get lost at times as the lack of clear panel separations causes the art to run together. That really takes away from what Moore is putting together.

Verdict: Buy It. Its business as usual, as the high-octane Freedom Fighters delivers another densely-packed issue. The issue is wall-to-wall action and a great cliffhanger. There are some small issues that just barely keep this issue from reaching a Must Read verdict, but, as a whole, the comic is highly entertaining, well-crafted, and definitely worth your money.

Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Miguel Sepulveda and Rain Beredo
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Alex Garner
preRanking: 05

• After the fall of Thanos and the defeat of the Cancerverse, the galaxy’s warriors attempt to make peace in the power vacuum that followed, prompting Cosmo to create a new super group.
• This issue is an excellent coda to the original miniseries, spinning out of those events to launch the next phase in Marvel’s ongoing cosmic saga. After the loss of both the Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy ongoing titles, its great to see that arm of the Marvel Universe moving forward.
Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning do a great job of mixing humor, action, and character moments to keep this story fresh and engaging throughout. There is a little bit of everything here.
• I really dig the Annihilators team and I’m excited to see where DnA are taking them, especially with the intriguing new character that shows up (who clearly has a connection to a certain cosmic character that Marvel can no longer publish for legal reasons).
Miguel Sepulveda’s art is absolutely huge here. His bold panel choices and larger-than-life characters give this issue a huge amount of impact and an epic feel.
• I like that DnA let Sepulveda do a lot of the storytelling here. He really controls the flow of the story and it works well.
• There is some stiffness in the art, especially in the reaction shots that are focused on character’s faces or big group shots. There is a tendency for these to be really posed looking.

Verdict: Must Read. The fact that Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have written yet another Must Read comic should surprise absolutely no one. The duo bring their usual magic, teaming up with artist Miguel Sepulveda to take Marvel’s cosmic characters around the corner to the next movement in their saga. It looks like there are big things on the horizon and this is a great way to kick them off…even if it doesn’t address the disappearance of Nova and Star-Lord at the end of the miniseries.

Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Tim Seeley, Victor Olazaba, and Val Staples
Letters by Simon Bowland
Cover by Salva Espin and Guru eFX
preRanking: 04

• In the conclusion of this miniseries, Ant-Man and Wasp make a final play against AIM to stop Monica Rappaccini and save Pym’s iHeaven.
• This issue is a great end to a really fun book that follows suit with the wit and charm that made the previous issues so enjoyable. Tim Seeley has a wonderful handle on the characters and it shows.
• We only see them for a page or so, but Seeley does such a great job with the Avengers Academy cadets’ cameo that I officially nominate him to fill-in for Christos Gage any time he needs to take a break from that book.
• Seeley finds a nice balance between humor and action, with just the right amount of character drama. He’s been mixing the three over the first two issues, but he really nails it here.
• Anything I’ve said about Seeley’s writing counts double for his art. It’s charming with a strong take on the characters and is loads of fun.
• The storytelling in the art is absolutely top-notch. His layouts are strong with great perspectives and have a fantastic flow to them.
• My biggest problem with the art in the issue is that we are subjected to Punisher with a headband (even if it is an alternate Punisher). The Punisher’s headband is easily one of the worst things that happened to comics in the 1990s.

Verdict: Must Read. In all honesty, I’m sad to see this miniseries end. Tim Seeley is absolutely superb on all levels in this incredibly fun issue. You get big crazy concepts, great characters, and fantastic art—you really can’t go wrong with this one. Ant-Man and Wasp is a really well-crafted comic and one of the biggest surprises of the last few months.

01. SHE-HULKS #3
Written by Harrison Wilcox
Art by Ryan Stegman, Michael Babinski, and Guru eFX
Letters by Ed Dukeshire
Cover by Ed McGuinness and Paul Mounts
preRanking: 02

She-Hulk and Lyra continue to hunt down members of the Intelligencia as the younger She-Hulk finds a friend as she tries to acclimate into “normal” society.
• You know how there is always a vocal end of the fan community that complains about how there aren’t any “fun” comics anymore? Obviously those folks aren’t reading this book, because there are fewer comics that are as simply enjoyable as this one.
Harrison Wilcox does great balancing the humor and charm of the lighter scenes with the thrilling impact of the action scenes. You get the best of both worlds here.
• I never thought it would be possible that the Wizard would be one of my favorite characters in a book, but somehow Wilcox makes it happen. Then again, I also never thought I could enjoy a She-Hulks book this much.
• I cannot say enough good things about Ryan Stegman’s art. You are probably getting tired of me saying this, but this is a career making performance from the artist.
• The facial expressions in this issue are stellar. This is quickly become Stegman’s calling card as he is able to be both nuanced and bold in his execution. Few artists can toe that line this well.
• This issue is a perfect example of why artists should not discount the effectiveness of clear storytelling and structured panel layouts. There is a simple elegance in how Stegman puts this together and the issue is that much stronger for it.

Verdict: Must Read. The problem with this comic is that it doesn’t tie into a major event and doesn’t feature marquee characters. In other words, too many readers are going to miss out on this incredibly entertaining and finely crafted comic. Harrison Wilcox and Ryan Stegman have been generating a lot of buzz over the last year and hit all of the right notes here. With issues like this, it won’t be long before they are major players in the industry. This was an easy choice for Book of the Week and a fine example of why this should be an ongoing.

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Aaron K said...

I can't admit to being a huge fan of the team name "Annihilators", and then it occurred to me why with this issue of Thanos Imperative. Why would Peter Quill or Cosmo suggest such a name in the wake of the utterly awful Annihilation Wave? That strikes me as akin to putting together a post-WWII team called the "Holocausters" or something equally absurd and offensive. I don't think you trivialize a horrible event that killed billions and billions, destroyed the entirety of the Skrull Empire, and ravaged the Kree just because it sounds tough. I think anything to do with "annihilation" would simply feel taboo for these veterans of a horrible war.

But, maybe that's just me...

twobitspecialist said...

I'm trade waiting She-Hulks but I'm kinda wishing I got the regular issues instead. I have been buying Ant-Man and the Wasp, though. I'm glad fun books are claiming top spots this week, er, last week. ;)

Dave said...

Nice call on Thanos Imperative -- although, basically, a "we're-getting-a-team-together"-type of story, it was the most fun book I've read in a while. The image of Cosmo riding the Silver Surfur's board, tongue wagging in the solar wind, was an instant classic!

Space Jawa said...

Disney should just buy the rights to Rom and let Marvel use him or something. They certainly have enough money, and has Rom even show up anywhere anytime recently?

Anonymous said...

After reading the negative review of "Thanos Initiative: Devastation" on CBR, I was set for a letdown. While the issue wasn't hit outta the park, it was satisfying enough to keep me around as I await Annihilators #1.

I would've liked to see more of the Guardians in their grief, but since Abbnett & Lanning kinda did that already when half the team was assumed killed by the Magus during "Realm of Kings", I'll forgive the oversight. Frankly, I'm a little surprised that Rocket Raccoon didn't keep the whole team together after Star Lord's demise, but since half of the team is now actually dead, maybe the Gamorra and the others decided that enough was enough.

Not 100% sure about Ikon, but I do like how they retained the distinctive look of ROM's LED-eyes. I was worried that A&L were going to bring back Wraith, who was rumored to be a new incarnation of ROM during his underwhelming tie-in to "Annihilation: Conquest".

It was a little disappointing that they abandoned some plot threads left dangling from Nova, as well as the last Inhumans and Darkhawk mini-series, but I blame that on the contraction of the Annihilation line instead of the creators.

Aaron K said...

@Anonymous 5 - Maybe Rocket Raccoon *did* keep the GotG together, but a team of himself, Groot, Bug, Gamora, Moondragon, Mantis, Jack Flag, and Major Victory aren't going to be able to accomplish what Silver Surfer, Beta Ray Bill, Ronan, Gladiator, and Quasar can. Just because they aren't the stars of "Annihilators" doesn't mean they're not still trying to guard the galaxy though. There's that backup feature with Rocky and Groot after all.

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