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Old November 15th, 2007   Ye Olde Iowa is offline   #1
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Ye Olde Iowa
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joined: Jun 2007
Location: Dubuque, IA
Posts: 176

Default Weekly Review Power Rankings 11/14/07

Below are the books I picked up this week, counting down from worst to best, creating my “power rankings” for this week. The numbers in parentheses represent where the book was pre-ranked. I’ve also listed the main contributors to the creative team (writer, penciler, and cover artist). Let me know what you all think and feel free to post your own list. 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.

If you have any questions about the Rankings or just want to drop me a line, you can email me at [email protected] or you can always PM me through the message boards. I have been asked recently if I accept review copies; I most certainly will. Any book sent to me will be reviewed. Just drop me a line if you want me to check out your book. I’d be glad to give it a look.

As a heads up, next week’s Rankings may come a little late and will probably be considerably less detailed due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

-Ryan “the Iowan”

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First, a special Advance Review:

The London Horror Comic #1
John-Paul Kamath (W), Lee Ferguson (A), Lee Ferguson (C)

It was my pleasure this week to read an advance copy of the printed debut of The London Horror Comic (formerly web-based). The issue, which debuts in 2008, contains four horror stories by John-Paul Kamath and Lee Ferguson, showcasing a nice range from the humorous to the disturbing. The stories themselves are a nice mix of styles, with Kamath doing a great job of handling the different paces required to make each story effective. The strongest efforts are “Cornered,” a humorous yarn about a vampire, and “NXT2U,” a completely silent and open ended shocker. “Cornered works well thanks to the strong comedic timing, whereas “NXT2U” is most effective because it shows a great understanding of the relationship between horror and minimalism—the most disturbing things are often those that the audience has to create themselves (think “Jaws” or “The Blair Witch Project”). Lee Ferguson shows an equal amount of range, being able to handle the lighter more humorous stories, while still being able to convey darkness and horror when necessary, despite his loose, open style. In that regards, it reminds me a lot of Phil Hester (longtime Rankings readers will know that is a HUGE compliment). That’s not to say the book is perfect. The opening “Up, Up, and Away,” never really connects with either humor or horror and the longest story, “Who Knows?,” suffers from odd pacing that throws off the more complex narrative. In the end, though, The London Horror Comic is a strong anthology that shows great promise and great range. The creators have a great understanding of various horror genres and how to effectively convey them. I strongly recommend checking it out when it drops in early 2008, as well as on the web at www.londonhorrorcomic.com. I have a feeling that this is the start of great things to come.

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And, a “better late than never” review:

The Vinyl Underground #2
Si Spencer (W), Simon Gane (A), Sean Phillips (C
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It looks like Vertigo has another sleeper hit on their hands. Last week’s Vinyl Underground #2 delivers more of the quirky goodness that made the first issue so great. It’s a nice mix of gritty detective stories, pop culture satire and commentary, and supernatural weirdness. The characters are the biggest sell, though Simone Gane’s strong layouts and good storytelling abilities are worth checking out as well. The only real downside to this great issue is that the plot is a bit hard to follow at times, which could easily be solved by adding a bit more recapping of the previous events to the issue. Still, if you haven’t checked this series out yet, I highly recommend it.

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I haven’t picked up volume 4 of Scott Pilgrim yet, but I’m going to recommend it to everyone anyway because, quite frankly, I know it is going to be that good. If you haven’t checked out any of Brian O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim books before, check out volume one ASAP. With the fourth volume dropping this week, there is a good chance you should be able to find the previous volumes pretty easily.

Also, as a note, I’ve switched back to reading Fables in trades, which is why it will no longer be showing up in the Rankings.

And now for this week’s Rankings:

16. Titans East Special (11)
Judd Winick (W), Ian Churchill (A), Ian Churchill (C)

While I like the idea of DC launching a new Titans series focusing on the best incarnation of the team (the Perez/Wolfman era New Teen Titans), this is certainly not the best way to launch it. First of all, the issue is split into two stories, which makes little sense. The first story, which finds the old school Titans fighting the Joker and Bizarro lacks the charm of the Wolfman/Perez era, forces humor when unnecessary, and is really pretty pointless. It is supposed to showcase why the team was so effective, but it really doesn’t. A montage of great moments in Titans history could have served the same purpose in considerably less space, which would have left more pages for the second story, which features Cyborg’s new “Titans East.” This story moves entirely too fast, which undercuts any effective the death of every single character on the cover. If I’ve only seen them for a panel or two, I’m not going to care when they die. Also, while I know that Little Barda and Power Boy were going to be killed eventually because of their ties to Apokolips, and I know that no one will really care much now that Anima, Lagoon Boy, and Son of Vulcan are dead, but the massacre here serves little point and is exactly the type of wasteful killing that makes major deaths (Sue and Ralph Dibney, Captain America, The Question, etc) seem dull, unimaginative, and pointless. The only deaths that really matter are those of Hawk and Dove, but since they are legacy characters, someone is going to pick up the mantle soon enough anyway. Plus, really, why would Cyborg pick his team of Z-listers anyway? Where are Titans reserve members like Arrowette, Zatara, Offspring, etc? At least then people would care if they died. Ugh. Ian Churchill’s art doesn’t make this much better. It’s entirely too stiff, lacks perspective, and his Joker is downright dreadful. Ugh. Avoid this issue like the plague, my friends (and cross your fingers that they don’t screw up the upcoming Titans series).

15. Thor #4 (12)
J. Michael Stracyznski (W), Olivier Coipel (A), Olivier Coipel (C)

While I think that the New Orleans bit last issue worked well and allowed for some good social commentary, I think that JMS takes it a bit too far this week with his Darfur analogy. While its good to raise awareness to the horrors of the region, I think it cheapens and trivializes things too much to have superhero intervention. That being said, I still like the idea that Thor is on a quest to rebuild Asgard one God at a time, but I think that the story takes a lot of prior knowledge of Thor to really understand. It’s going to make the fanboys happy, but I think that it will leave some readers in the dark a bit. Olivier Coipel’s art is as strong as ever though, but I must say that it’s a huge misstep in design to have two of the new Asgardians look like a buccaneer and an exaggerated obese cartoon squire. It simply doesn’t fit with the other designs that Coipel has shown thus far. In the end, this one has cool elements, but it doesn’t come together and is way too heavy handed with the social message (even if it is a worthy one).

14. Punisher: War Journal #13 (14)
Matt Fraction (W), Cory Walker (A), Ariel Olivetti (C)

Is it just me, or did this title make a sudden shift in tone during this issue? Fraction seems to abandon the gritty-but-funny-in-an-absurd-way tone of the previous twelve issues in favor of a violent-but-funny-in-a-series-of-one-liners-way. It’s considerably less effective, as Fraction relies too much on cartoony antics to get the humor across. Cory Walker’s art is a good fit for this new tone, but again, I’m not sure that the tone is a good fit for the book given the way Fraction has been presenting the character. One of the major problems (aside from the cartoony look) is that Walker’s art is simply too uneven and inconsistent, especially in terms of details and depth. I’ve been a big fan of this series thus far, but if this is the new direction its going to take, I don’t see myself sticking around for much longer.

13. Gen13 #14 (15)
Simon Oliver (W), Carlo Barberi (A), Carlo Barberi (C)

Gail Simone left some big shoes for Simon Oliver to fill with Gen13 and I commend him for having a good understanding of her interpretation of the main characters, but this issue definitely lacks the signature punchy humor and charm that Gail brought to the characters. Still, I’m glad to see that Oliver didn’t abandon all that Gail had built up, but instead, is using the quirks she crafted for the Gen13 kids against them. It’s an interesting twist, but it does feel a bit forced at times and the dialogue isn’t nearly as punchy as I’d hope. The art, too, was a bit of a disappointment this week, as there are too many times where the non-main characters feel completely interchangeable and the panels look way too posed and stiff. While I think there is some promise to Oliver’s run, this first issue felt a little dull and, at times, a little forced. Worth checking out if you liked the first 13 issues, but you wouldn’t miss too much if you passed on it.

12. The New Avengers #36 (09)
Brian Michael Bendis (W), Lenil Yu (A), Lenil Yu (C)

I’ve been a huge fan of Lenil Yu’s scratchy, stylized art on New Avengers, but I was really disappointed in the quality of the art on this issue. The linework is very sloppy in this issue, looking uncontrolled in most places, leading to really weird anatomies and character designs. It doesn’t help that the inks are way too heavy. The end result is a series of wild and messy looking pages that do not live up to the quality Yu has shown in the series thus far. The story itself isn’t much better, with much of the issue dedicated to a conversation between Jessica Jones and Luke Cage that goes in circles. The rest of the issue is dedicated to the “Venom virus” outbreak which is solved in a matter of pages, which doesn’t make it very effective. The climax, which finds nearly every hero in the Marvel Universe (including Howard the Duck) showing up to stop the Hood and a few other bank robbers comes on too quick, has no explanation, and simply feels excessive. Despite some great moments (Wolverine’s infiltration of Avengers tower, the attack of the Venoms, Jessica Drew’s new position, etc), this issue is a bit of a dud.

11. Batman and the Outsiders #1 (07)
Chuck Dixon (W), Julian Lopez (A), Doug Brathwaite and Ryan Sook (C)

There is no doubt in my mind that Chuck Dixon and Julian Lopez were a bit rushed to complete the debut issue of this series (given that they replaced the original creative team on pretty short notice) and it shows, but I have to give the creative team credit for crafting a fun issue that works as a nice launching pad for the new series. The plot itself is a bit flimsy, but allows Dixon and Lopez to introduce each of the team’s members and showcase their role on the team. Dixon does a good job of using each character well, including Thunder, who actually comes across as having a reason to be there (even if she still bores me to death). It’s clear that Dixon is more comfortable with some characters more than others, but he still allows each character to have his/her moment to shine. Julian Lopez’s art is good, but not spectacular. There are times where the anatomy of certain characters is a little iffy and the storytelling is awfully straightforward. In the end, while this isn’t the most spectacular debut issue of the year, I think that it shows a lot of promise and has me hooked for at least another issue or so.

10. Simon Dark #2 (10)
Steve Niles (W), Scott Hampton (A), Scott Hampton (C)

Steve Niles and Scott Hampton’s very unusual Simon Dark continued this week with another strong issue that I’m really surprised isn’t a Vertigo book. It certainly fits in the vein of the old Vertigo mainstays (Hellblazer, Swamp Thing, Sandman, etc) in that it has a foothold in the DCU but otherwise goes off into supernatural directions that have a more limited appeal and should probably be kept away from the kids. Niles shows his mastery of the art of disturbing storytelling in this issue with some gruesome killings, some very dark twists as we learn a bit more about Simon, and a strong grasp on pacing. I really enjoy how he is only using Simon at a bare minimum, keeping him an enigma, and enforcing the idea that he is an urban legend. It’s a risk given that he is the title character, but it pays off well. Scott Hampton’s haunting, dreamlike art is a great fit, though at times the art is very stiff in its realism. Does anyone know if Hampton is a lightbox artist? If so, I think he might need to ease up on it a bit to give his art a more fluid feel. While this book isn’t for everyone, its certainly worth a look.
 
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