Tuesday, February 22, 2011
It’s Tuesday…which isn’t exactly Thursday, but we are still celebrating your favorite Thursday tradition…the Comic Book Review Power Rankings! We have a great crop of comics this week and we are running late, so let’s get down to it!
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.
Those of you that follow me on Twitter are already aware of this, but I recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund my self-published comics collection, Matinee Eclectica. We have met our goal, but are still accepting pledges between now and April 1st. Any additional funds raised will go towards increasing our initial printrun and taking the comic to more conventions this summer! Please consider backing the project as you check out our official Kickstarter page. Your support is appreciated!
Also, if you find yourself with a little extra cash this week, I recommend picking up CLiNT Magazine #5, which not only features selections from comics like The Pro, Kick Ass 2, and Nemesis, but also features my professional comic book writing debut! I have a short one page story--Battle of Dansroom--featured in the magazine. If you pick it up, let me know what you think!
Written by Keith Giffen
Art by Mathew Clark, Ron Randall, Art Thibert, Sean Parsons, and Guy Major
Letters by Pat Brousseau
Cover by Matthew Clark and Guy Major
• The Doom Patrol faces off against the Secret Six over the fates of a potential island base for the upstart criminal organization S.M.A.S.H., which is complicated when the island’s volcano erupts.
• I’m not a huge fan of the Doom Patrol, but I was really hoping that the quirkiness of the two teams would be perfect for Keith Giffen and that I’d dig this half of the crossover. Unfortunately, this issue was mostly lifeless dialogue and poor characterization that was missing both Gail Simone’s take-no-prisoners flair (which makes Secret Six so great) and Giffen’s sardonic wit (which is his calling card).
• It really doesn’t help that this plot never really goes anywhere. Much of the issue focuses on the fight that was started last issue, but it ends incredibly abruptly and then is brushed aside. I’m not sure what the point of this was (other than to set up the next Doom Patrol story).
• I’m really just not pleased with the “voices” of the Secret Six. It really doesn’t seem like Giffen was very comfortable writing them, as they are all really off-base here.
• Matthew Clark and Ron Randall share the art duties, which causes to all sorts of design and expression inconsistencies. It’s pretty distracting.
• I really haven’t followed Clark’s work for the last several years and probably haven’t seen any of his work since he left Outsiders (yes, that long ago), but this doesn’t really live up to his work there. It is missing the “wow” factor his work used to have.
Verdict: Avoid It. I hate writing reviews like this. I tend not to pick up comics that I don’t enjoy specifically because I hate trashing a comic (especially one done by creators whose work I generally enjoy). The fact is, though, that I just didn’t enjoy this comic. Even though the lead-in wasn’t the strongest issue of Secret Six, that is still a hard act to follow and, unfortunately, this issue falls short.
Written by Paul Levitz
Art by Yildiray Cinar, Wayne Faucher, and Hi-Fi
Letters by John J. Hill
Cover by Yildiray Cinar, Wayne Faucher, and Hi-Fi
• In this week’s Legion of Super-Heroes, the team continues to deal with the Durlan threat while Brainiac makes a powerplay during Mon-El’s absence (now that the latter is the chairperson of the Legion).
• I had to double-check my collection to see if I picked up the last issue because there seemed to be so much info that I missed somewhere. I did and after flipping through that issue, I can only assume that a large number of developments in this book happened in Adventure Comics. Can someone confirm that? If that is the case, I’ll probably drop this book because I really don’t want to pick up two books just to follow the story in one.
• That being said, even though I felt lost on what was going on in a number of the threads, Paul Levitz’s character writing was still enjoyable. The characters all had unique voices and clear personalities. That I did enjoy.
• Remember how DC had fans vote on the chairperson for the Legion? Well, apparently Mon-El was chosen (I voted for Lightning Lass), but Brainiac looks to be taking control here. I can’t speak for the long-term plans for the book, but considering all of the Legionaires were occupied in this issue except Brainiac, it seems like the plan was to have Brainiac take control no matter who was voted in. That is a tad frustrating.
• Yildiray Cinar’s art is the saving grace for this issue. His clean designs and solid storytelling are definitely worth the purchase of the book—if you can ignore some of the issues with the writing.
• There are some really great tight-close-ups with fantastic expressions that are amongst some of the best work Cinar has done with DC.
Verdict: Byrne It. This is a very disjointed issue. There seems to be a big disconnect from the last issue and the plot within the issue jumps around way too much for my liking. The only reason this wasn’t an Avoid It book is the strong work from Yildiray Cinar, whose art really carries this book. In other words, I’m disappointed.
Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Salvador Espin, Scott Koblish, and Frank Martin
Letters by Dave Sharpe
Cover by Olivier Coipel and Chris Sotomayor
• After stopping the fifth new mutant from completely destroying Tokyo, the X-Men return to Utopia, where they must determine the future of the new mutants.
• Kieron Gillen does some good character work here, but there really isn’t enough story to fill an entire issue, so we get a few pages of plot drug out through lots of filler to fill out the issue.
• I really liked the humor in the scene with Dr. Nemesis, who is very witty here, but the build-up to Gabriel beating him up completely killed it for me. That was just way too forced.
• I didn’t think I’d be as interested in Kenji (the fifth mutant) as I am after reading this issue. I’m not 100% sold on the tortured artist thing, but I’m definitely intrigued on where Gillen is going with this.
• There is a really sweet moment in this issue with Hope and Gabriel that I loved at first, but the more I think about it, the more it seems out of character for Hope. It is a scene that would eventually make sense, but I don’t feel like she has been developed to the point that this scene works (not just yet, anyway).
• The art was a mixed bag, leaning towards the dismal. The inconsistency between the design styles and the amount of detail on each page is more than cringe-worthy alone.
• Everything in this issue seems to shift, from the designs to the inks to even the colors. It is highly distracting.
• Why does Kitty Pryde look like she is five years old? Also, what happened to her personality?
Verdict: Byrne It. For every step forward that this issue takes, it takes several steps back. I have faith that Kieron Gillen can do some really great things with these characters, but I’m not sure how much longer I want to stick around to see what these things are. With greater focus in both the writing and the art, this would be a dynamite book, but as it stands, it just isn’t living up to its potential.
Written by Tony Daniel
Art by Tony Daniel, Sandu Florea, Ryan Winn, and Ian Hannin
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Tony Daniel
• In the conclusion to the current story arc, Batman must stop Sensei from harness the destructive power of the Beholder and the Riddler’s mysterious actions begin to take shape.
• Honestly, this is a bit anti-climactic. We get a not-so-daring escape and then Batman shows up just in time to see the Beholder itself defeat Sensei. It is a pretty weak ending.
• Tony Daniel throws in a weird romantic moment between Batman and Peacock that was completely unnecessary due to the lack of build-up for it. It was an odd detour in the story’s conclusion.
• I know I’m being a petty fanboy about it, but I really do not care for Tony Daniel taking the Riddler back into the criminal underworld. To me, this is really a slap in the face of the brilliant reinvention that Paul Dini developed over the last few years. I just don’t like it and I want things back to the way they were.
• Daniel’s artwork has been and remains the biggest draw on this book. His work in this issue is on par with his previous work, so if you’ve been picking this book up solely for the artwork (as I know many have), you have good reason to again.
• The multiple inkers do make this issue a bit uneven at times, but for the most part the switches are seamless, which is promising.
• One of the biggest issues with the writing and the art, still, is the fact that Daniel both writes and draws Dick Grayson’s Batman as if he were Bruce Wayne. I’m not sure why DC doesn’t just let him make this a Bruce book since that is clearly the direction Daniel wants to go in.
Verdict: Byrne It. I’m always going to pick up this time, if for nothing else than the fact that I’m a huge Batman fanboy and I’ve always picked up this title. That being said, it is getting to the point that I’m only picking this series up for the art. Tony Daniel has a lot of talent as a writer, but he isn’t working to his potential yet and so my main enjoyment of this series is coming out of the art. Of course, I think that this book would be considerably stronger if the Dick Grayson was replaced with Bruce Wayne, as Daniel clearly seems more comfortable with the latter despite writing the former.
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Daniel Acuna
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Jae Lee and June Chung
• Despite having his soul escape from Hell last issue, Wolverine fights with the invading demons over control of his body in this issue, prompting a showdown with his allies Cyclops, Magneto, Namor, and Emma Frost.
• The tension is built well by Jason Aaron from scene to scene, aided by the characters’ reactions to the horrors that Wolverine is facing.
• The personalities of the characters a bit paint-by-numbers as Aaron plays it safe with the dialogue and characterization, never really getting beyond the surface of any character’s insight on what Wolverine is going through or the next course of action.
• I do take issue with the fact that Cyclops’s plan appears to be taking down and potentially killing Wolverine because he might kill more people, but that his plan to do so involves teaming up with Magneto, Namor, and Emma Frost, all of whom are former villains and have stacked up some pretty shocking body counts. I know this is nit-picking, but I feel like Cyclops would approach this with a more rational plan of action.
• Artist Daniel Acuna makes some strange choices here, leading to a very varied output in the art department. It’s not bad, per se, just different.
• Most of the issue looks like Acuna’s usual work, which is pretty hit-or-miss with me, but some panels have a looser, more traditional look that is completely unlike what I’ve seen from the artist in the past. Honestly, I was blown away by these panels that, unfortunately, were few and far between.
• The detail really drops off in some of the wide shots; in some cases, this causes the art to actually look unfinished.
Verdict: Check It. I like where Aaron is going with this story, especially since he acknowledges the fact that Wolverine seems so prone to mind-control, but I’m a little dismayed by some of the plot holes and the inconsistent output from Acuna. I had fun reading this comic, but it’s hard to get past some of the flaws. You certainly wouldn’t regret reading this, but you should still approach it with caution.
Written by Phil Hester
Art by Don Kramer, Eduardo Pansica, Andy Owens, Sean Parson, Eber Ferreira, and Alex Sinclair
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Don Kramer and Alex Sinclair
• After being systematically hunted by unseen foes for the last few issues, Wonder Woman goes on the offensive, while the unlikely trio of the re-imagined Artemis, Giganta, and Cheetah continue to run roughshod over the Amazons.
• Phil Hester’s emphasis on the nobility of Wonder Woman and the epic nature of her adventures continues to impress me. It permeates everything from the plotting to the dialogue and works tremendously well. I just love Hester’s take on the character.
• This is classic good versus evil playing out in an iconic fashion as the ruthless villains will stop at nothing to stop our noble, but flawed heroine. It’s classic for a reason, folks!
• The bit with the Minotaur was really cool and quite revealing in what separates Diana from her sisters, but also in what bonds keep their sisterhood sacred. Again, I just really, really dig Hester’s take.
• This does still feel more like an Elseworld’s tale, though. We are seeing more flashes of the classic Wonder Woman, but it is so isolated from the rest of the DCU that these end up feeling forced. I think we need some outside connection to really sell these moments.
• This is simply a far cry from the usual output of Don Kramer, who is normally one of my favorite artists in the DCU stable. I’m willing to accept that some of this could be the unfamiliar inkers, but there is something just not right here.
• The core of Kramer’s strengths are here—good designs and clear storytelling—but the execution does not hold up. I’m sure I’d be more forgiving if I wasn’t such a fan of Kramer’s work, but I just don’t care for what I’m seeing here.
Verdict: Check It. This is really, really on the fence between Check It and Buy It. The writing is superb as Hester has firmly established his take on Wonder Woman and is doing a phenomenal job with the character. Unfortunately, he is still trapped in the plot that JMS built before he abandoned the title and that plot has some holes that need plugging. What sends the book over the edge to the Check It level, though, is the art. This is not up to Kramer’s standards by any means and, as a huge fan of his work, its hard to swallow!
Written by Paul Tobin
Art by Matthew Southworth, Paul Azaceta, Chris Sotomayor, and Andres Mossa
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Jelena Djurdjevic
• As Spider-Girl tries to move forward in her personal life following the death of her father, she is stalked by Kraven’s unhinged daughter Ana.
• I like using the younger Kraven (Kraven-ette?) as a foil for Spider-Girl. There are some interesting parallels between the two if you dig deep enough and Paul Tobin does a good job of highlighting them here.
• When did Kraven the Hunter come back, by the way? Kraven’s Last Hunt is probably my favorite Spider-Man story of all time, so I’m torn on his apparent return.
• Tobin does a really great job of establishing Anya’s new roommate Rocky and her friends in this issue. The best young superhero comics always have a strong supporting cast (Spider-Man, Robin, Blue Beetle, etc) and Tobin is doing a good job of building that foundation. I find myself just as engaged with Spider-Girl’s antics as I am Anya’s personal life.
• The pacing in this issue is really methodical as Tobin segments the story quite well, slowly building tension towards the fun showdown at the end. That has me pumped for next issue.
• The art by Matthew Southworth and Paul Azaceta isn’t what I expected, being a big departure from the art we saw in the previous issues, and isn’t what I wanted, as it doesn’t really match the tone of the book.
• The scratchy linework and lumpy designs simply do not match the tone of Tobin’s script of the style of the book. It was an odd choice to put this art team on this book.
• The storytelling was solid though, as the progression from panel to panel works perfectly.
Verdict: Buy It. It took me quite some time to determine where this book would fall on the Rankings and what verdict it would receive. Paul Tobin’s writing is stellar and could easily take in a Must Read verdict if I were judging the book on writing alone. On the flipside, the art isn’t really my thing and is most certainly the wrong fit for this book. In the end, the writing edge the art out and just barely bumped his one up a level.
Written by David Hine
Art by Moritat and Gabriel Bautista
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Ladronn
• When a new crime organization starts human trafficking operations in Central City, the Spirit is on the case, as is the Octopus.
• David Hine does a great job of establishing the threat of the new crime family through all of the main characters in the book. Everyone is affected here, from Dolan and his daughter to the Spirit and the Octopus. This gives instant credibility to the group.
• This is probably the best issue that we’ve seen from Hine in terms of sheer personality from his characters. The sense of voice in this book is just great.
• I love the fact that Central City is so corrupt that the Octopus will openly assist local law enforcement (that he already owns anyway) to keep another crime organization from coming in. That is a fun twist.
• As usual, Moritat does really solid work here that has incredible chemistry with the writing. He and Hine are a perfect fit for one another.
• This issue features some of the best expressions that we’ve seen from Moritat as of late. He is making great strides in this regard.
• Did Pia Guerra contribute to some pages here? She gets special thanks in the credits and some of the pages seem like they could be hers. If so, colorist Gabriel Bautista did a bang-up job of blending her work with Moritat’s. If not, then there are a few pages where Moritat broke style.
• Gets special thanks and some pages look like her, but blend well thanks to Bautista’s colors.
Verdict: Buy It. Another month down and another issue from this incredibly solid, but criminally under-read title is on the stands. While The Spirit may not be on every reader’s radar, it is one of the finest books that DC is currently producing. Once again, Hine and Moritat make a formidable team with this quirky crime story that sets up some interesting pulp-style action for the next installment in the storyline. Too many of you aren’t reading this title and now seems like a great time to give it a shot!
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke, Keith Champagne, Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen, and Randy Mayor
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Adrian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes, and Randy Mayor
• In this week’s Green Lantern, Hal Jordan faces off against the obnoxiously powerful ex-Guardian Krona, requiring our hero to enlist the aid of various other Lanterns, much to the dismay of the Justice League.
• Geoff Johns does a great job of establishing Korna here as a major villain in a way that should satisfy fans that are familiar with the character as far back as Crisis on Infinite Earths as well as fans who are just meeting the villain for the first time.
• The dilemma that Hal faces being torn between the Lanterns and the JLA plays out really well here, even if Johns does go a little overboard with both Batman’s xenophobia and his machismo posturing.
• We get some awesome Larfleeze moments, but not nearly as much Larfleeze as I’d like. Then again, you can never have enough Larfleeze.
• Doug Mahnke continues to be so incredibly awesome that I absolutely hate reviewing his work. It’s gorgeous and consistent. He is working with multiple inkers, but never loses a beat. Seriously, how awesome is Doug Mahnke? Mega-Awesome, that’s how awesome.
• The JLA/Lantern faceoff was so great. I wish it would’ve been a full spread instead of a ¾ spread, but it was still amazing.
Verdict: Must Read. You already know that Green Lantern is a Must Read for Doug Mahnke’s art alone, but Geoff Johns does a great job of establishing the threat of Krona while giving Hal Jordan something more personal to worry about in the midst of this crisis. It’s a set-up issue, but Johns keeps it fresh with his great character writing. Chances are this is already the most-read title on this week’s Rankings, so you probably already bought this comic. But, in the off chance that you didn’t, you need to!
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Humberto Ramos, Carlos Cuevas, and Edgar Delgado
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Paulo Siqueira
• In this special “Point 1” issue of Amazing Spider-Man, Flash Thompson goes out into the field as the government sponsored Venom, but finds that he might not be as in control as he once thought.
• This is a great introduction to the new Venom persona that has an awesome James Bond feel to it. If this any indication of what the ongoing series is going to be like, I am extremely psyched.
• The “twist” is a bit predictable given the history of the Venom symbiote, but it is extremely intriguing. This wrinkle is just going to make the ongoing series stronger.
• Flash’s concern for Peter Parker is really great. I love the character depth that Dan Slott brings to this story and I really hope it carries over to the new series. It is hard to think of a world where Venom cares for Spider-Man, isn’t it?
• I am a bit worried that Rick Remender might not be able to live up to those few Venom stories that Slott has written. Remender is a top-tier talent, but Slott has really taken ownership of the character!
• Humberto Ramos is Humberto Ramos here. You are either going to love his work or hate—personally, I am huge fan and so I loved the look of this issue.
• One of the things that really struck me was how tame Ramos was for the majority of this issue, but how nicely he let loose with his more exaggerated style when the action picked up. That gave these scenes a lot of impact and energy.
• There is more subtlety in the expressions that I had expected. Ramos has really come a long way in this regard from when I first started following his work five or six years ago.
Verdict: Must Read. Both Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man run and the new Venom continue on their awesome way here with a fantastic action-and-espionage story that is a perfect introduction for Flash Thompson’s new role. Humberto Ramos does a wonderful job bringing this story to life and has an awesome chemistry with Slott. This book has quickly become one of Marvel’s strongest titles and this is a prime example of why.
Written by Christos Gage
Art by Mike McKone, Rebecca Buchman, and Jeromy Cox
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Mike McKone
• After Veil, Hazmat, and Striker brutally beat the Hood in retaliation for his Siege-era attack on Tigra, the Avengers must determine the fate of the cadets. Finesse uses the ensuing time off to track down Taskmaster, the man who could be her real father.
• Christos Gage puts forth perhaps his best character writing ever in this issue. The scenes between Finesse and Taskmaster a brilliantly genuine and absolutely perfect in how they played out.
• Taskmaster “lamenting” over the fact that he loses all non-combat memories instantly makes him one of the most intriguing characters in the Marvel Universe. This simple revelation completely revitalizes the character by adding an astounding amount of depth to him.
• Normally I’m not terribly interested in Tigra, but some of the twists on her threads here are really engaging. I cannot way to see where Gage takes this.
• I believe that this is the last issue for artist Mike McKone and he goes out in style by completely killing on this issue. Last year, I said that Avengers Academy #2 might have been the best work of McKone’s career, but he completely blows that away here. This is him at the top of his game!
• The fight sequence between Finesse and Taskmaster is simply gorgeous. I would love to own a page from this scene!
Verdict: Must Read. Avengers Academy has been simply amazing from day one, but Gage and McKone take it to a completely new level here. This is one of the finest issues I’ve ever seen from either creator. The Taskmaster/Finesse situation is incredibly intriguing and the way that it plays out here is simply incredible. This will be the new standard for this title and for these creators. Not only is this an incredibly easily pick for Book of the Week, it is also the first standout contender I’ve seen for 2011’s Single Issue of the Year!