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Old November 8th, 2007   Ye Olde Iowa is offline   #1
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Default Weekly Review Power Rankings 11/07/07

Each week when Diamond releases the week’s shipping list, I make note of each book I need to pick up and then pre-rank them based upon how I feel they will turn out, taking into consideration the creative team, the previous issues, preview pages, and solicits. Then, after I’ve read through them all, I re-rank them based upon how I feel after actually reading them.

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.

-Ryan “the Iowan” Schrodt

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First, a few “better late than never” reviews:

Dr. 13: Architecture and Mortality
Brian Azzarello (W), Cliff Chiang (A), Cliff Chiang (C
)
First of all, I’d like to applaud DC for taking the initiative to collect the Dr. 13 back-up stories from the resent Tales of the Unexpected miniseries as a trade, picking up on the book’s substantial internet buzz. That was a very cool move, as I would normally expect them to waste a story of this high quality by throwing it in a more expensive trade alongside the Spectre story, which was not nearly as a well received. That being said, this was easily one of the most fun and funniest stories I’ve read in a while; so much so, that I really couldn’t believe that Brian Azzarello (whom I wouldn’t normally associate with hilarity—but that is a story for another day and a non-public forum) actually wrote it. The idea of collecting some Z-listers and mashing them together is nothing new, but Azzarello does so with extreme reverence for the characters and their quirks. The story has little plot, focusing more on the discovery and interaction of the members of “Team13” by the skeptic Dr. 13 (who really, in his own mind, shouldn’t believe that any of the other characters exist). Its filled to the brim with irony and humor of all sorts. The overarching idea of the “Architects” (a very thinly veiled jab at Mark Waid, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, and Greg Rucka) controlling the universe and its hierarchy is incredibly interesting, adding a desperate existentialism to the story while allowing Azzarello to comment on the state of the comics industry—especially when it comes to DC. At times, though, this does border on being a little more sinister than good natured jabbing, but it is never so cruel as to detract from the charm of the story. Cliff Chiang’s art, with its deceptive simplicity (it is really so much more expressive than it first appears) is a great fit, both aesthetically and metaphorically (as nothing is what it first appears in this book). In the end, this is a great collection that is tremendously amusing, though at times both infuriating and though provoking. I highly recommend it.

Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 #2 (--)
David Petersen (W), David Petersen (A), David Petersen (C)

If you’ve been reading Mouse Guard, you know precisely what to expect on this one. The art is beautiful, the story is well-paced, and the world the memorable characters inhabit is rich and complex. In this issue, we see a bit of dissention in the Guardmouse ranks as characters are forced to go separate ways on their journey (thanks to an abandoned weasel burrow). As the story progresses, the world of the Guardmice expands even further, keeping with Petersen’s well established epic scope that has made this book such a joy to read. As with every issue of Mouse Guard, this comes with high recommendations, though I’d definitely advise you to track down issue number 1 (and, if possible, the original miniseries), as this isn’t the most accessible issue.

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And now for this week’s Rankings. No Vinyl Underground #2 this week, so the PreRankings were shifted when it was removed (it was PreRanked at #5). Look for it in a future installment.

--- The Darkness: First Look (--)
Phil Hester (W), Michael Broussard (A), Michael Broussard (C
)
As this is a just a preview issue, it goes unranked. However, I would say that the Hester/Broussard era of The Darkness looks promising. My track record with the character is spotty at best, but thanks to the strong introduction to the Darkness entity and the well crafted first few pages presented here, I have a strong enough understanding of the basic premise to want to pick up the series when it officially launches (then again, its Phil Hester, so I’d be picking it up anyway). Hester’s “letter” to the fans lays out his goals for the series, especially in terms of how he wants the readers to feel while reading it; having read a large number of Phil’s works, I can honestly say that he will make good on these goals (and probably exceed them). Michael Broussard’s art is a good fit, as it looks a lot like what you’d expect from a Top Cow book. There isn’t a lot to judge from in this preview, but what is here looks good. Overall, I look forward to seeing where things go from here with the new Darkness series.

13. Mystic Arcana: Sister Grimm (09)
CB Cebulski (W), Phil Noto (A), Marko Djurdjevic

Having mostly avoided the Mystic Arcana one-shots thus far, I picked this one up because of my love of Runaways (though it is bordering on tolerance these days) and the strength of CB Cebulski’s writing. Now, this wasn’t exactly a bad issue, but after reading it, I’m not so sure there was any reason that I should have. Cebulski obviously understands Nico Minoru and writes her well, but the plot of the story is completely lifeless and has little bearing on the character or her place in the magical world (unless the “Black Mirror” shows up somewhere else). Phil Noto’s art doesn’t do much else to help. It’s fairly lifeless as well, with stiff character work, expressionless faces, and relatively boring panels. Even though, like I said, Cebulski has the chops to write the character, this issue just doesn’t come together. Even the most hardcore of Runaways fans could probably avoid this one.

12. Supergirl #23 (11)
Kelley Puckett (W), Drew Johnson (A), Drew Johnson (C)

Kelly Puckett and Drew Johnson begin their run on Supergirl here and, honestly, I’m not so sure what to make of it. Johnson’s art is good and I like that he draws Kara as being spunky and attractive without being a tramp, but his anatomy is inconsistent and his storytelling jumps around too much (though, honestly, he had the cards stacked against him in this issue do to the lack of dialogue in the last 75% of the book). It’s hard to gauge Puckett’s writing as well, because, like I said, there is no dialogue in the back end of the book to go by. Normally, I wouldn’t hold something like that against a book (I think largely silent issues can be really cool), but the story on this one just doesn’t seem to go anywhere or mean anything. Seriously, what was going on here and why should we care? Anybody?

11. Astonishing X-Men #23 (12)
Joss Whedon (W), John Cassiday (A), John Cassiday (C)

I really think I’m going to have to reread the entire “Unstoppable” arc again, as a whole, once its finished. I have to be missing something, because, honestly, I can’t believe how much I’m really not enjoying this story. I think Whedon has a good handle on the characters (with the exception of Emma Frost, who is simply given too much panel time and too much clout each issue) and Cassiday’s art is as gorgeous as ever (even if he draws the inhabitants of Breakworld too similarly), but I’m just not liking this. The plot has very little cohesion and Whedon leaves too much hanging for it to make sense anyway. It’s great to see some of the moments play out (like Cyclops’s “fake out” or Wolverine’s interaction with the New X-Men girl), but as a whole, this just isn’t as good as it should be. If you haven’t been checking out this storyline, I’d recommend waiting for the trade. I’m hoping this will be better if you read it all at once.

10. Robin #168 (08)
Peter Milligan (W), Freddie E. Williams II (A), Andy Kubert (C)

Longtime readers of the Rankings will know that I absolutely despise the sheer existence of the Damian character. Prior to this story, I haven’t really felt that he has been even remotely necessary and, although he serves a story purpose now, I still think things would be better off without him. Peter Milligan (an otherwise great writer) does very little to change my opinion towards the character. In this issue, we see a different side of Damian (fear), as he is on the run from Ra’s al Ghul, whom we learned in the last issue of Batman, is hoping to steal the boys body. Along the way, he runs across Robin and the two catfight over who Batman loves the most. Seriously. Tim is reduced to whines, moans, and jealousy whereas Damian continues to be Damian, only with more complaining. Thankfully, Freddie E. Williams makes things a little better by being as good as ever, with his energetic style and great pacing (especially when it comes to fight scenes). Still, while I think that the “Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” story can be ten kinds of awesome, this issue spends too much time focusing on an uninteresting character making an interesting character sink to his level to be anything better than “meh.”

09. New Avengers: Illuminati #5 (--)
Brian Michael Bendis and Brian Reed (W), Jim Cheung (A), Jim Cheung (C)

I dropped the Illuminati miniseries a few issues in, but seeing the “Secret Invasion” logo plastered at the top of this one, I picked it up. With the Skrull-centric crossover on the horizon, this issue serves as a strong kick-off for Marvel’s next big event. Without giving too much away, we find out who another Skrull is (which has interesting ramifications for World War Hulk #1), how powerful the Skrulls now are, and the major theme of mistrust is established. Bendis and Reed do a fair job of handling the overall story, though the interaction between the members of the Illuminati is more stiff and lifeless than it is tense. The pace of the issue is uneven, with the flow between conversation and battle being jarring (and not in good “hey look a surprise throw-down” way, bur rather a “where the heck are the transitions” way). Jim Cheung’s art is good, but not spectacular. He captures the tone well and draws an impressive Skrull, but his faces are inconsistent and unexpressive. In the end, this is going to be an important issue for the next Marvel event, so it is worth checking out (plus the Skrull reveal was totally awesome), but it isn’t the strongest effort from this creative team.

08. Uncanny X-Men #492 (07)
Ed Brubaker (W), Billy Tan (A), David Finch and Marc Silvestri (C)

This is another series that I dropped, but new events have caused me to come back to. After the Messiah CompleX one-shot piqued my X-interest once again, I returned to Brubaker and Tan’s Uncanny X-Men for the next installment in the crossover. While I wasn’t blown away, this was a good issue and enjoyable read. I especially enjoyed the tense interaction between Cyclops and Xaiver, which was very well-written and did a nice job of building off of the last two years of Brubaker’s X-Men stories (starting way back with Deadly Genesis). The guest appearance of X-Factor’s Rictor, Layla, and Madrox also worked especially well, as did the banter during the X-Men’s fight with Exodus’s goons. The only major complaint I really have is that there are times where it wasn’t exactly clear why characters were doing what they are doing (there is just too much going on with very little backtracking to help the reader out). Billy Tan’s art is good, but too heavily inked in some places. He has a nice sense of semi-realism and subtlety with expressions that I think worked really well at times (again the Xavier/Cyclops scene) but didn’t really fit in others (Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Beast don’t gel well with this style). In the end, things are so far so good with Messiah CompleX now two issues in.
 
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Old November 8th, 2007   Ye Olde Iowa is offline   #2
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07. WildStorm Armageddon: Welcome to Tranquility (05)
Christos Gage (W), Neil Googe and Horacio Domingues (A), Mike McKone (C)

I probably would have liked this issue more if I had read more than the just 3/4 of an issue of Welcome to Tranquility (I bought the first few issues, but I just haven’t gotten to them). I liked the characters that Gage presents here and he does a good job of only focusing on one or two—which makes this much more accessible to new readers—though I really have no idea if he is consistent with Gail Simone’s version. Still, they seemed to fit in the story well and were engaging enough for me to consider finding where I put that stack of Tranquility back issues. I also enjoyed how Gage avoids simply retelling last week’s Midnighter Armageddon issue by showcasing a completely different view of the destruction of WildStorm’s Earth. In keeping with the quirky tone, there is an almost lighthearted approach to the Armageddon, which I really liked, though it did seem to undercut the sense of panic at times. The art chores, split by Googe and Domingues, were great, with a light and open design sense that fit with the tone of the writing. There are a few places where the shift between artists was a little jarring, but the two styles were close enough that it wasn’t too distracted. The end result is a fun book that is a nice companion piece to the previous Armageddon one-shot, though I’d need to be more familiar with Tranquility to really judge the success of this issue. I’d love to hear the thoughts of regular Tranquility readers (or from Gail Simone herself, as I know she has stopped by the Rankings before).

06. Y: The Last Man #59 (03)
Brian K. Vaughan (W), Pia Guerra (A), Massimo Carnevale (C)

I don’t normally review Y (I pick up the issues for my fiancée, then play catch up arc-by-arc when she is done with them), but after the heartbreaking events of last issue, I simply couldn’t wait until the story was completed. BKV does a good job of drawing things together here, by slowly closing off certain threads that have been left dangling and bringing the rest together, but the real highlight of his writing is the subtlety of his dialogue. He has always had a handle on realistic conversations in this series, but here is his minimal approach that is so effective (the final scene’s conversation between Hero and Yorick is a great example, as is Yorick’s confrontation with Altar—one particular line of which really makes me want to jump into spoiler’s so I can discuss it, but I’ll hold off until #60 drops to see my suspicions are correct). My only problem with the issue is it seems like some story threads are simply dropped with little dénouement. Some reaction or explanation to how events played out would make the read that much more satisfying. On the art side, Pia Guerra continues her excellence and consistency with another finely drawn book. She has a great storytelling sense from panel to panel that works well in this issue with BKV’s dialogue. Since I’m not used to reading this book in one-issue installments, its hard to pass final judgement onthis one, so I’m going to just say it’s a good read and that I’m both excited and nervous about January’s final issue.

05. Star Wars: Legacy #17 (06)
John Ostrander (W), Jan Duursema (A), Travis Charest (C)

Moving into the “Claws of the Dragon” storyline, Star Wars: Legacy had been spinning its wheels a bit, but things have certainly picked up in the last few issues, with this week’s being the strongest issue the title has seen in quite some time. As Morrigan Corde, Delilah, and Syn begin planning how they are going to invade the Sith Temple to save Cade Skywalker, Cade (much like his ancestor Anakin) appears to be falling under the grip of the Dark Side, thanks mostly in part the “bond” developing between Cade and his Sith trainer, Darth Talon. The parallels between this storyline and the fall of Anakin Skywalker are interesting enough, but it’s the differences in the inherent characters of Cade and Anakin (Anakain was good but dabbled in being evil, while Cade is more of a jerk who dabbles in being a nice guy). The strong supporting cast are handled well by Ostrander, who has done a phenomenal job of building the world around Cade in a relatively small amount of issues (which he has done mostly through the book’s very large cast). Jan Duursema’s art works well with the sci-fi elements of the story, but it’s the claustrophobic feel of the art that is especially effective in this very dark storyline. Over all, this is a can’t miss issue for fans of the series, which should be can’t miss title for fans of the expanded Star Wars universe.

04. The Immortal Iron Fist #10 (04)
Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction (W), David Aja and Kano (A), Jelena Kevic-Djurdjevic

As cool as Iron Fist has always been, I don’t think I ever could have fathomed that he would ever have a book as wildly imaginative, creative, and ridiculously entertaining as this title. Brubaker and Fraction continue the “Seven Capital Cities of Heaven” storyline with more crazy mystic kung-fu action (this time with the Bride of Nine-Spiders taking on Dog Brother #1), more double-dealings and mysterious happenings, more crazy ideas like “Terror Priests” invading the Earth realm, and more rich legacy stories like Wendall Rand’s definitive battle against Davos, the Steel Serpent. There is, quite frankly, no book quite like Iron Fist and this issue is another fine example of why it is so incredible. Every page and panel has something to love, with moments of fantastic humor (such as Fat Cobra’s dinner with Davos), great action, and intriguing plot movements. The art by David Aja is accented with guest art by Kano, but while the two differ stylistically, the story purposes are strong enough of that this actually to the strength of the title. There are consistency issues, which keeps this from being a bit higher on the Rankings, but in the long run, it’s a minor complaint on another wise great book. Iron Fist is, quite simply, the best superhero title at Marvel, though it is a stretch to pigeon-hole this genre-bending pamphlet of awesomeness as simply another superhero book. As always, Iron Fist gets ridiculously high recommendations.

03. Annihilation: Conquest #1 (02)
Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (W), Tom Raney (A), Aleksi Bricolt (C)

Annihilation was, very quietly, the best “event” book of last year and if this issue is any indication, it looks like Annihilation: Conquest is set to exceed the high standards set by its predecessor. This issue picks up where the prerequisite miniseries left off, with the Phalanx having devastated and enslaved the Kree Empire, with various pockets of resistance doing their best to take down the baddies, despite only being able to use low-tech and no-tech weaponry. Abnett and Lanning do a great job of setting up the overall conflict in the opening pages, though they stumble a bit while integrating the various miniseries’ storylines. You might be a bit lost to begin with if you weren’t following the lead-up stories, but the pace of this book moves so quickly and the overall tone of the story is handled so well that you will only be lost on the details. With the stage set for the major conflict and most of the players placed where they need to be, the issue ends with an incredible cliffhanger. The true menace behind the Phalanx is revealed and, quite frankly, the villain could not be more fitting nor more frightening. While this does not quite have the epic scope of the original Annihilation, Annihilation: Conquest matches it in action, memorable characters, and tension. Tom Raney does a great job of handling the breakneck pace of the story, while still showing a great attention to detail and providing tons of impact for the action. If you’ve been looking for an exciting sci-fi read, or you are just in the mood for some offbeat action, this book should not be missed.

02. Fantastic Four #551 (10)
Dwayne McDuffie (W), Paul Pelletier (A), Michael Turner (C)

Fantastic Four is yet another book that I dropped a few months back, but returned to this week. While Supergirl and Illuminati were disappointments, I’m now kicking myself for having given up so easily on Dwayne McDuffie and Paul Pelletier (though I’m still not sold that either of them can make Storm interesting, let alone interesting enough that she would have a place on the Fantastic Four). A new storyline kicks off here with Future versions of Dr. Doom, Black Panther, and Namor returning from a near-Utopian future to stop Reed Richards from fixing every single one of the world’s problems. Building off of the mistrust laid down during the Civil War, McDuffie does a great job of developing Reed as a scientist first and a family man second (which I think is inherent in the character and one of the more engaging flaws of the Fantastic Four’s family structure), with good interaction between Reed and the characters from both the future and the present. His action at the end of this issue is mortifying, but based upon the planning and plotting we see Reed doing throughout this issue, you know there I some sort of utilitarian reason behind it, though its still a great cliffhanger. The story itself works a lot like a classic Silver Age FF story, with an odd, over-the-top threat presenting itself, a bit of discussion, and squabbling between the FF members before moving towards science and logic solutions that will require a bit of clobbering. We stop a little short before the solutions and the clobbering, but I like where McDuffie is taking things. The art by Pelletier is much closer to what I would expect from him than the caricatures and exaggerated faces that we saw in the “New Fantastic Four” storyline, which is a major relief. His expressions are great, as are the designs of the futuristic versions of Doom, Namor, or T’Challa. All in all, I’m hooked now for at least another issue or too, with this being much closer to what McDuffie and Pelletier are capable of.

01. Criminal #10 (01)
Ed Brubaker (W), Sean Phillips (A), Sean Phillips (C)

I read a lot of comics. Between back issues, trades, and new releases each week, I’m amazed at exactly how many comics I plow through. And yet, still, I can’t think of any book being published today that is better than Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s Criminal. There is no other book that does a better job of capturing my focus and depositing me into the world of the comic than Criminal. You cannot deny the chemistry between the artist and the writer, and with these two working in such perfect sync with one another, its no wonder this book is this good. In this issue, the story of Tracy Lawless wraps up, with all of his lies and machinations catching up with him. Needless to say, as with much of the world of Criminal, things do not end up going his way. It’s gritty and cynical, but at the same time feels hauntingly realistic and comes full circle with the way in which things started for this story’s main character. Things are not pretty here and, although things do not end up as bad as they could, there really aren’t any happy endings either (crime doesn’t pay, right?). That is, of course, all dependent on the reader’s perspective. Brubaker skillfully uses an objective and omniscient third person narrator to describe and establish Tracy’s fate. The “good” or “bad” is all dependent on what the reader brings to the book. Should we be compassionate towards someone as ruthless and deceitful as Tracy? Did he get what he deserved or should we consider him a product of his upbringing and environment? While this is uncertain, there is no denying that Sean Phillips’s art is nothing short of stunning. His great use of shadows and expressive body language helps enrapture the reader into the world he is presenting, while his realistic, consistent anatomy and cinematic approach to storytelling show that he is, quite frankly, a master of his craft on this book. In the end, there is no doubt as to why, once again, Criminal is my pick for Book of the Week. Brubaker and Philips have created a hauntingly realistic and dismal world of backstabbers and murderous thieves that I certainly don’t want to inhabit, but that I am ultimately and undeniably addicted to.
 
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Old November 8th, 2007   General grievous is offline   #3
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Countdown #25 didn't even make your top 13 books?

wow,

BTW, Countdown #25 was excellent this week.

Ron lim's art.

and the stories are meshing really well now.

best issue in a while.
 
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Old November 8th, 2007   Jake1823 is offline   #4
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Dr. 13: Architecture and Mortality
Brian Azzarello (W), Cliff Chiang (A), Cliff Chiang (C
)
First of all, I’d like to applaud DC for taking the initiative to collect the Dr. 13 back-up stories from the resent Tales of the Unexpected miniseries as a trade, picking up on the book’s substantial internet buzz. That was a very cool move, as I would normally expect them to waste a story of this high quality by throwing it in a more expensive trade alongside the Spectre story, which was not nearly as a well received. That being said, this was easily one of the most fun and funniest stories I’ve read in a while; so much so, that I really couldn’t believe that Brian Azzarello (whom I wouldn’t normally associate with hilarity—but that is a story for another day and a non-public forum) actually wrote it. The idea of collecting some Z-listers and mashing them together is nothing new, but Azzarello does so with extreme reverence for the characters and their quirks. The story has little plot, focusing more on the discovery and interaction of the members of “Team13” by the skeptic Dr. 13 (who really, in his own mind, shouldn’t believe that any of the other characters exist). Its filled to the brim with irony and humor of all sorts. The overarching idea of the “Architects” (a very thinly veiled jab at Mark Waid, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, and Greg Rucka) controlling the universe and its hierarchy is incredibly interesting, adding a desperate existentialism to the story while allowing Azzarello to comment on the state of the comics industry—especially when it comes to DC. At times, though, this does border on being a little more sinister than good natured jabbing, but it is never so cruel as to detract from the charm of the story. Cliff Chiang’s art, with its deceptive simplicity (it is really so much more expressive than it first appears) is a great fit, both aesthetically and metaphorically (as nothing is what it first appears in this book). In the end, this is a great collection that is tremendously amusing, though at times both infuriating and though provoking. I highly recommend it.
ddf
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Many thought the ribbing was bad natured, too. However, Rucka and the rest seemed to be ok with it, making it seem like they were in on it. We haven't heard any outcry of any sort, except for a Rich Johnston rumor that someone was offended. But, as with a lot of Rich's rumors, nothing seemed to come of that.
 
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Old November 8th, 2007   Ye Olde Iowa is offline   #5
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Countdown #25 didn't even make your top 13 books?

wow,

BTW, Countdown #25 was excellent this week.

Ron lim's art.

and the stories are meshing really well now.

best issue in a while.
ddf
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Ron Lim is on Countdown now? I stopped picking it up about two months ago. The Rankings actually only cover the books that I read, so anything that isn't on there, I haven't checked out (which is why I really love getting suggestions on what I've missed). I might have to check it out this week. Thanks!
 
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Old November 8th, 2007   Steve J is offline   #6
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Default Astonishing X-Men

The delay between issues on Astonishing X-Men has really hurt this story. I know after the last issue I spent time looking up "Leviathan" to see what I missed. However, I didn't remember that until the reveal in this issue because so many months have passed since the last issue. Also, the scene transitions were clumsy. I thought I skipped pages because of how the transitions were put together. I do think this series will read better in one sitting as it was much better reading it the second time this morning.
 
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Old November 13th, 2007   Ye Olde Iowa is offline   #7
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For those interested, here are this week's PreRankings:

15. Gen13 #14
14. Punisher: War Journal #13
13. X-Factor #25
12. Thor #4
11. Teen Titans East Special
10. Simon Dark #2
09. New Avengers #36
08. Nova #8
07. Batman & The Outsiders #1
06. Nightwing #138
05. Booster Gold #4
04. Green Arrow/Black Canary #2
03. Mice Templar #2
02. Wonder Woman #14
01. World War Hulk #5

I'll also have an advance review of London Horror Comic #1. Look for that and the rest of the reviews and Rankings this Thursday!
 
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