Thursday, March 3, 2011

Comic Book Review Power Rankings for 02/23/11

While most of you have already picked up this week’s comics, we are going to take one last look back at last week’s haul with the Comic Book Review Power Rankings! Since we are all anxious to look ahead at the newest releases, let’s not waste any more time on pleasantries. Hit the jump to see last week’s reviews!

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

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!

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Sara Pichelli, David Lafuente, Elena Casagrande, and Justin Ponsor
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Steve McNiven and Dean White
preRanking: 07

• The prelude to The Death of Spider-Man continues this week as Mary Jane and Gwen have a surprising moment of bonding while Spider-Man and Iron Man go toe-to-toe with Mysterio and Black Cat over the highly dangerous Zodiac Key.
• While things are moving forward in this issue, the odd pacing and plotting makes it feel more like a filler issue than anything else. There is something about the issue as a whole that doesn’t “click,” which undercuts the importance of the events.
• The interaction between MJ and Gwen didn’t work for me. For the first time since I started reading this series, the interaction between the teenaged characters felt forced and unnatural. Brian Michael Bendis just doesn’t seem to be on his game here.
• The heartwarming finale scene between MJ and Peter was a great moment, but the uneven build-up really took away from how effective it could have and should have been.
• I really do not want to point fingers, but one of the three artists on this issue was really disappointing here. I’m familiar enough with Sara Pichelli and David Lafuente that I’m pretty sure it wasn’t one of them, so I can only assume that newcomer Elena Casagrande is the culprit.
• Aside from those pages, I wasn’t impressed with the action sequences in this issue. They suffer from some painfully awkward anatomy and the excessive “speed-lines” really take away from the art.
• While Pichelli and Lafuente’s art really doesn’t stand out as much as Casagrande’s, neither artist was really at the top of their game here.

Verdict: Byrne It. If you are going to follow The Death of Spider-Man in the coming months, this is a really important issue to read and there are some things in the issue that you’ll find to be very enjoyable. The final scene is a really touching moment, but the majority of the issue simply doesn’t fall into place. We all know what this creative team is capable of, but, unfortunately they just don’t live up to it in this issue.

Written by JT Krul
Art by Diogenes Neves, Vicente Cifuentes, Oclair Albert, and Ulises Arreola
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Dorolfo Migliari
preRanking: 10

• In this week’s Green Arrow, the demon Etrigan runs rampant across the Star City forest as he battles Green Arrow, Gallahad, and Jason Blood, leaving a path of destruction and corruption in his wake.
• I really feel like this is the perfect time to shed some light on the truth behind Gallahad, but the point of the character remains unclear. After all this time, the “mystery” just getting annoying. Also, what happened to the other “merry men” we were promised in the first issue?
• Some of Etrigan’s rhymes are HUGE stretches, which really takes away from them, as does the lack of a rhythm to his speech. JT Krul just can’t seem to nail down the right meter and structure for the demon.
• By the end of this issue, I found myself questioning the point of it all. I’m not sure if it is a lack of direction or just the fact that I wasn’t that entertained, but this was a head-scratcher.
Diogenes Neves continues to use a style that straddles a sense of realism and a good take on the fantastic, which is a great fit for the story.
• Unfortunately, the two inkers on the book run roughshod over the issue as each inker has his own spin on Neves’s art, causing a major conflict in styles here.
• This isn’t helped by the tendency for the art to get muddied, especially when the art is overly rendered.

Verdict: Byrne It. I really feel like my love for Green Arrow is being tested with this book lately. I know that JT Krul can put together some amazing stories and he has a great artist to work with in Diogenes Neves, but the more this book features demons, mad men of the Round Table, and enchanted forests, the further it gets from both Green Arrow’s roots and the types of stories that Krul does well. This issue is a prime example of that, as we get with a disjointed mess with decent art (that would be really solid with a single inker and tighter colors).

09. X-23 #6
Written by Marjorie Liu
Art by Wil Conrad, David Lopez, Alvaro Lopez, and John Rauch
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Kalman Andrasofszky
preRanking: 09

X-23 faces some existential questions in this week’s issue as she is caught in a really weird war between Mr. Sinister and Miss Sinister.
• I got lost somewhere in this plot and I’m not entirely sure it is Marjorie Liu’s fault, though I think she could’ve helped me out some. Pretty much everything about the Miss Sinister/Mr. Sinister situation went right past me. So, the plot was a bit of a wash.
• That being said, I love what Liu is doing with X-23, especially with her introspective inquiries. We really don’t have enough existential questioning in superhero comics!
• While I wouldn’t say that Gambit and X-23 are a natural pairing, I dig the interplay between them. X-23’s search for her “self” works well with Gambit’s past struggles. Liu makes it work.
Wil Conrad and David Lopez split the art duties here, which does the book no favors, even if neither artist is particularly offensive in this issue. They simply don’t gel.
• The more open designs that Lopez uses is a better look for the character, but the darker style of Conrad is better fitting for the tone. Both have their merits, but together, they bring one another down.
• I don’t really feel like we are getting either artist at the top of his game here, which just compounds that. This isn’t horrible by any means, but doesn’t live up to what we’ve seen from Conrad in the past on this title and is a far cry from Lopez’s awesome work on Hawkeye and Mockingbird last year.

Verdict: Check It. There is a lot to like about this issue, but for everything I dig, there is something around the corner that doesn’t sit well with me. The end result is a perfectly adequate comic that shows great potential and is just enjoyable enough to keep me hooked. This book is definitely going in the right direction; it just needs to stop being its own worst enemy!

08. AVENGERS #10
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, Tom Palmer, Dean White, and Paul Mounts
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Cover by John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, and Dean White
preRanking: 11

• The various Avengers teams split up to look for the remaining Infinity Gems, while tensions rise between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers over the existence of the Illuminati.
• Bendis does a good job of selling how epic the struggle for the Infinity Gems is in this issue, which justifies the fact that so many characters appear in the book. It feels more like a classic Avengers story than almost every single _____ Avengers story has in the last five plus years (fill in your own adjective).
• He does need to do more work with the Hood to sell him as the villain though. I understand that he is a pet character for Bendis, but for your average reader, we haven’t been given any reason that he should be taken seriously as a villain, let alone as a ultramegahypersuperbadassvillain, other than the fact that he has been able to inexplicably locate and collect the Infinity Gems.
• We get lots of big, silent panels of Red Hulk, Namor, and Thor in the ocean, but the Danger Room scene is brushed aside? I don’t understand those priorities, because we are missing out on what could’ve been some amazing action scenes.
• I get what Bendis is going for with the quipping, but some of the gags just aren’t doing it for me. I’d much rather have seen an extra page of action than the Ant-Man and Iron Fist scene, for example.
John Romita Jr.’s work is still not as sharp as his classic works or even some of his most recent stuff (like Kick-Ass or World War Hulk). It really seems like he is phoning in some of these pages!
• That being said, the Danger Room spread was just gorgeous and a perfect example of what I wish this book looked like all the time!
• I’m glad that the extra $1 on this book’s price means we get a full reprint of Heroes for Hire #1 rather than the dreadful prose Avengers bits of the last how many months, but I’d still much rather pay $2.99 and just get the Bendis/Romita stuff. Also, where was this rockstar treatment on Thor: Mighty Avenger? If Marvel would’ve dropped the first issue of that in the back of Avengers, it would’ve been huge for that incredibly brilliant, but completely under-read book.

Verdict: Check It. This is much closer to the type of comic that I want Avengers to be, but still a far cry from the type of book that the combination of Bendis and Romita Jr. are capable of producing. This story has the making of being the biggest non-event Avengers story of the last few years, but instead we get a brilliant creative juggernaut running at half-speed. Lesser Bendis and Romita is still better than most, but I want this to be so much better than it is!

Written by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col
Art by Andy Belanger and Ian Herring
Letters by Shawn Lee
Cover by Kagan McLeod
preRanking: 06

• After months of build-up, Hamlet finally comes face-to-face with Shakespeare, only to find that The Bard is nothing like his expectations. Meanwhile Lady Macbeth’s treachery finally comes to light and spells trouble for all.
• Admittedly, I might have psyched myself out a bit too much about Shakespeare’s appearance here, but I was really underwhelmed. I like the idea of what Conor McCreeery and Anthony Del Col are doing with the character, but this scene really lacks the punch that I was expecting.
• I do like the fact that there are more jokes and nods in the direction of Shakespeare’s works in this issue that in most, both subtle and overt.
• Iago and Hamlet seem to move in parallel arcs in this issue, which is a pretty cool move, if intentional.
• This isn’t Andy Belanger’s most consistent effort. He is surprisingly uneven in almost ever way.
• Belanger remains at his best when he can get creative, so the Globe Woods pages looked phenomenal, much as his “stage” pages and “frame” panels did a few issues back.
• The designs on Hamlet and Iago aren’t as distinct or consistent as they have been in the past—both characters seem to shift features a few times in the issue.

Verdict: Check It. This is a really hard issue to review because so much of the book’s success hinges upon the appearance of William Shakespeare. Looking at this issue alone, I’m a bit underwhelmed, but that’s not to say that this won’t read a million times better once the story is completed. This is one comic that is really going to benefit from being read in trade format (or even in chunks of issues) and I think that my opinion of this issue in particular could change retroactively after we see more of what McCreery and Del Col are doing. That’s not to say that there aren’t some problems that are hard to overlook, though. This isn’t the strongest issue of Kill Shakespeare yet, but in the grand scheme of things, I remain extremely positive about this series as a whole.

Written by JT Krul
Art by George Jeanty, Rob Hunter, and Jason Wright
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Nicola Scott, Doug Hazlewood, and Jason Wright
preRanking: 04

• In a continuation from the last issue of Red Robin, Tim Drake teams up with the Teen Titans to fight an army of robots sent by the Calculator.
• This issue is basically one giant fight scene, it’s a fight scene with a lot of interesting character moves. JT Krul does a great job of sneaking in some very revealing facts about the team and their structure/interaction through the battle. It’s very character-focused punching and kicking here.
• I love the way that Krul builds the relationship between Robin and Red Robin, who really come across as brothers here. The depth of their relationship unfolds naturally as we seen their extremely public rivalry, but underneath the surface is an unspoken respect and admiration from both characters.
• Some of the characters really slide to the background here, as they have with other issues as well. Krul is going to add at least one more Titan to the group next issue, but in order to establish her role, he is going to need to find a better balance amongst the characters.
Georges Jeanty fills in for Nicola Scott here and is completely out of his element. Scott is a hard to act follow for any artist, but this simply isn’t the book for Jeanty. His style just doesn’t fit.
• I really hate to completely trash an artist, but Jeanty draws pretty much the worst Red Robin ever. It’s just bad.
• Other than Red Robin, I wouldn’t say that Jeanty’s work on this issue is bad by any means, it just doesn’t fit with the tone of the script and teenaged characters clearly aren’t his forte.

Verdict: Check It. JT Krul does some really fun things with the Teen Titans here as he continues to establish himself as the right man for the job on this title—especially after the last writer was pretty much the worst possible choice. Unfortunately, guest artist Georges Jeanty struggles to find his place on this issue, which drags this otherwise Buy It level book down .

Written by Mark Waid
Art by Marcio Takara and Nolan Woodard
Letters by Ed Dukeshire
Covers by Garry Brown and Jose Holder with Mitch Gerards
preRanking: 05

• Following their violent confrontation last issue, reformed villain Max Damage finds himself allied with the superteam Paradigm to “fix” the ruined city of Coalville, much to the chagrin of his “sidekick,” Headcase.
• This is fast-paced but strongly-character focused issue that adds some great depth to not only Max Damage, but also the Paradigm team—both for the positive and the negative. I’m glad to see Mark Waid round out all of these characters.
• If you haven’t been reading Irredeemable (which I think is the weaker of the two titles), you are going to be lost here. A lot of this series has stood well on its own as long as you know the basic premise of Irredeemable, but this issue definitely requires a stronger knowledge base of its companion series.
• I love the way this issue builds up the tension with Headcase in the opposition to Damage becoming more calm and focused than we’ve ever seen—the two threads work in a great collision course towards the cliffhanger.
• I like the idea that, while Damage may be reformed, anyone within his sphere of influence is easily corrupted and works in opposition to his plans. That is a great twist.
Marcio Takara’s art is very loose and energetic, which works well with the superhero themes. He has a good take on all of the characters as well.
• In some ways I would like to see this series with a darker, grittier artist that would employ a greater sense of realism, but in a lot of ways, the loose, open style of Takara fits Damage’s quest for reformation.
• Takara’s art does have a tendency to drop details in wider shots, which is pretty common for artists of his style. That does make some panels look incomplete, which is tremendously distracting.

Verdict: Buy It. I know that I’m a late comer to this series, but issues like this have really made me a huge fan. Mark Waid has done a great job of adding depth to the character of Max Damage and this issue really highlights that as Damage finds himself going in a very different direction than his protégé, Headcase. When you add a solid effort from artist Marcio Takara, you’ve got a fun and enjoyable comic that I give a solid recommendation to.

Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Francesco Francavilla
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Francesco Francavilla
preRanking: 08

• As Batman (Dick) struggles with the aftereffects of his last adventure, Jimmy Gordon tries to convince his father, Commissioner James Gordon, that he has changed.
• The main plot in this story, which follows the Gordons, is extremely gripping and cerebral. This is prime example of how strong character writing make a simply “talking heads” story incredibly enthralling. Scott Snyder really nails this.
• I really dug Jimmy’s “joke,” which is a total mindf*** for his father. It was very twisted and shocking moment that was quite effective.
• The bits with Batman work well, but are a bit disappointing in comparison. It’s not that they are bad, but they tie too closely to the last arc, which ended a bit flat for me. I’m ready to move on and focus on the main story.
Francesco Francavilla shows extreme brilliance in this issue. His execution on the Gordon story is gorgeous. These scenes were absolutely perfect.
• Unfortunately, once Batman and Red Robin got involved, things fell apart. His superheroes look really clunky and awkward, especially compared to the main thread.
• Francavilla’s storytelling is really good throughout though. He is a very thoughtful artist and it shows on the pages with his fantastic panel choices and progressions.

Verdict: Buy It. Scott Snyder does a wonderful job developing the complex relationship between Jim Gordon and his psychopath son in this issue’s main thread. This story is powerful in its simplicity and one of the finest things I’ve read from Snyder—which makes up for the faults in Batman’s place in this issue. The show stealer, though, is artist Francesco Francavilla, who absolutely shines here with his clean, atmospheric artwork that is evocative of Tim Sale and Darwyn Cooke. The stumbling block for Francavilla, much like Snyder, is the Batman sequence. If the two could have replicated the success they had with Jim Gordon on these scenes, this would’ve been a major contender for the top spot on this week’s Rankings.

Written by John Ostrander
Art by Jan Duursema, Dan Parsons, and Brad Anderson
Letters by Michael Heisler
Cover by Jan Duuresema
preRanking: 03

• As Darth Krayt and his Sith warriors attack the hidden Jedi temple, Cade Skywalker must face his destiny and make peace with his mercenary mother.
• This is a very dense and very complex issue filled with twists and turns that, ultimately, are incredibly satisfying.
• I really like the way that John Ostrander has plotted this issue to allow all of the characters to put their affairs in order without being in-your-face about it or forcing the issues. He does a great job of building heartwarming moments out of a sense of unbearable despair.
• The great pacing and steady tension-building from beginning to end really punches up the ending and makes it a great cliffhanger.
Jan Duursema continues to do the best work of her career with this series. She has really stepped up over the last three issues.
• Duursema uses a lot of small profile shots that feature really great expressions, allowing her to tell a lot of story in a small spacing, leaving more of the pages open for the epic action.
• Bantha looks exactly like Crosby of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. That kinda weirds me out.

Verdict: Must Read. Star Wars: Legacy continues to roll towards an exciting conclusion with this brilliantly plotted and finely crafted issue that showcases everything that I’ve loved about this series from day one. Ostrander and Duursema are putting out some of the best work of their respective careers and we are reaping the benefits of it.

02. GI JOE #27
Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by Robert Atkins, Allan Goldman, Clayton Brown, Juan Castro, Eber Ferreira, and Andrew Crossley
Letters by Robbie Robbins
Covers by Tom Whalen and Robert Atkins with Clayton Brown and Andrew Crossley
preRanking: 01

• In the action-packed final issue of the current IDW volume of GI Joe, Agent Helix and Snake Eyes must escape from Cobra’s arctic base without being caught by the terrorist group after the MASS Device is destroyed.
• This issue is great payoff for the massive MASS Device epic. Chuck Dixon has done a brilliant job of expanding upon the original story and turning into a two-plus year tour de force.
• This issue perfectly encapsulates what makes Dixon’s run so special—a great mix of realism in the operations of GI Joe with the insane flair that has made the franchise so wildly popular.
• This issue really makes me wish we had more scenes between Cobra Commander, Baroness, and Destro before Cobra Commander was killed off. The interaction Dixon puts out here is fantastic.
Robert Atkins and Allan Goldman aren’t a perfect match, but they share enough aesthetic similarities to make it work. They are a clean combination.
• The storytelling in this issue is really great and more than makes up for the occasional design snafu.
• There isn’t anything flashy about the art, but it’s serviceable and it fits the tone of the book. You can’t ask for much more than that.

Verdict: Must Read. The current volume of GI Joe ends in a big way with a great conclusion to the epic retelling of the MASS Device saga. What started as five episodes of the original cartoon has become a 27-issue thrillride that ends quite well thanks to the great work of Chuck Dixon and a strong team of artists that both honors and expands upon the original Real American Hero premise and potential.

Written by Dan Slott
Art by Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Marcos Martin
preRanking: 02

• After Marla Jameson’s funeral, Spider-Man has trouble accepting his own personal failures and questions his effectiveness in the wake of so many loved ones that have died.
• This is a beautiful story that perfectly captures everything we collectively love about Spider-Man before crushing hum under the weight of his own responsibility. This issue is exactly what Stan Lee meant when he wrote “With great power comes great responsibility.”
• This is the darker side of Spider-Man that we don’t often see and Dan Slott does great job of bringing that out without having to resort to cheap grittiness and tired clichés.
• The simplicity of the silent first half of the issue is broken by the introspection of the very surreal second half quite brilliantly. I love the duality that Slott builds here.
• Everything about this story works. It is a perfect follow-up to the last issue and a stunning example of how powerful a Spider-Man story can be.
Marcos Martin’s artwork is simply perfect this issue. It is an amazing fit, as every single panel of this issue shines.
• Martin’s clean storytelling and tight designs allows him to do some pretty wild stuff in the surreal scenes without losing any clarity or effectiveness.

Verdict: Must Read. This is a brilliant comic that is perhaps the best Spider-Man story told in years. Enough said.

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Anonymous said...

Asm along with F4 were awesome last wk, will there be a tbolt n secret six review this wk. My only two books this wk but they nothing short but fantastic.

Anonymous said...

As a long time Spidey fan, even I have to admit that F4 was a lot better than AMZ. The talk between Peter and Franklin was heart wrenching.

I read F4 and AMZ back to back. Comics were so good last week.

Jeremy said...

For a minute, I was thinking you'd skip out on doing ASM #555, and that would be a misstep :D

Rocker69 said...

This issue of Spider-man was highly overrated. Who cares about Marla Jameson's death? I didn't even remember she existed. I flipped through the entire thing.

FF 588 was ten times better than this.

Radlum said...

Haven't read FF, but I thought AMS had one of the best issues in decades.

twobitspecialist said...

I agree that ASM was really good this week. Not to beat a dead horse, but it's not about Marla being important, but about how her death has affected those around her, especially Parker.

Anonymous said...

the best 2 issues of the week and maybe in a long long time (ASM & F4)

twobitspecialist said...

"I’d much rather have seen an extra page of action than the Ant-Man and Iron Fist scene, for example."

I'm surprised Ryan L. didn't have to say something about this. ;)

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