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Old November 15th, 2007   Ye Olde Iowa is offline   #1
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Ye Olde Iowa

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”

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 I have a feeling that this is the start of great things to come.

And, a “better late than never” review:

The Vinyl Underground #2
Si Spencer (W), Simon Gane (A), Sean Phillips (C
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.

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.
Check out the Weekly Review Power Rankings, counting down the best comics of the week, each and every week in the General Talk forum!
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Old November 15th, 2007   Ye Olde Iowa is offline   #2
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Ye Olde Iowa

joined: Jun 2007
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09. Green Arrow and Black Canary #2 (04)
Judd Winick (W), Cliff Chiang (A), Cliff Chiang (C)

While this wasn’t nearly as good as the first issue, Green Arrow and Black Canary #2 is still an enjoyable enough read and I’d still recommend it to fans of the characters. The biggest problem is that Winick is moving too swiftly through the plot and when he attempts to backtrack and explain how he got to where he is, the narrative gets muddled (see Black Canary’s explanation as to why she came to Paradise Island). Winick continues to show that he has a good understanding of the Arrow Family, but he comes across as too heavy handed when it comes to using Mia. Given Winick’s history this isn’t surprising, but the change of pace when she starts spouting social commentary does not work with the otherwise whimsical and fun sense of adventure that you get in the book. Cliff Chiang’s art is solid and consistent, though there was a weird lack of detail in this issue that made many of the pages appear to be simply too bland. That’s a problem with his open designs and stark linework, without any additional details, the pages look empty. It’s a solid issue front-to-back, but with the (at times) odd-looking art and the uneven pace of the storytelling, its hard to rank this one much higher.

08. X-Factor #25 (13)
Peter David (W), Scott Eaton (A), David Finch (C)

I would really like to applaud how Peter David handles this issue in terms of its placement in the “Messiah CompleX” crossover. Instead of simply covering as much ground as possible with whatever characters he can grasp at (which is how most large crossover’s tend to work), David keeps the focus on the X-Factor characters and their role in the events of the crossover, while providing a secondary focus on the New X-Men characters, setting up the next chapter. In that sense, it feels more like a tie-in issue than a chapter in a crossover. I think it works exceptionally well in keeping the issue somewhat self-contained for X-Factor fans who aren’t following “Messiah CompleX,” without alienating those who only picked up the issue because they are. Scott Eaton’s art blends well with the previous artists in the storyline (Billy Tan and Marc Silvestri), making the crossover all the more coherent. The only problem is that the coloring and inking make the issue so dark and claustrophobic that it is hard to appreciate Eaton’s linework. While I’m not incredibly motivated to keep picking up X-Factor after the crossover is over, I did enjoy this issue and I think it served its purposes very well.

07. Nova #8 (08)
Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (W), Wellington Alves (A), Adi Granov (C)

I know that Wellington Alves is only filling in for a few issues on Nova, but I’d really love to see him tackle this, or any other sci-fi book full time. He has a great attention to detail, a nice sense of scope and depth, a strong ability to convey action, and a very imaginative approach to design that makes him perfect for a book like this. I’m not familiar with his work outside of this issue, but I really think that he has found a niche here. The story itself, which finds Nova on the absolute edge of the universe dealing with talking Russian astronaut dogs and even crazier intergalactic zombies, has a fun, over-the-top old school feel to it that makes for a great read. Abnett and Lanning have shown a great handle on how they write Nova thus far, so its nice to see them writing him completely out of his element here. The story is a tad incoherent at times, mostly because there is simply so much going on, but its clear that Abnett and Lanning have very ambitious aims for this story. I look forward to seeing it play out (just so long as that cosmonaut dog stays around, because he was awesome).

06. House of M: Avengers #1 (--)
Christos Gage (W), Mike Perkins (A), Mike Perkins (C)

A few months back (after reading the Annihilation: Prologue), I commented on how I was pleasantly surprised by the range that Mike Perkins had shown in the issue. While we had come to expect high-intensity, action-oriented big-budget-summer-blockbuster-movie style art with a strong sense of realism from him (thanks to his great work Captain America and Union Jack), I didn’t expect him to be able to see easily take on the sci-fi genre with just as much zeal and just as high of a quality. Adding to that, I’d really like to commend Perkins for capturing the gritty, dark, low-budget feel of a 1970’s blaxploitation film. That is exactly what House of M: Avengers appears to be emulating and Perkins nails the look so well, while still being able to incorporate things like winged mutants and lizard people without looking out of place, that I am simply floored at his abilities. Christos Gage closes the deal by writing a version of Luke Cage that is considerably familiar but fits perfectly within the genre-specific feel of the issue (then again, blaxploitation films are a huge part of the movement that helped spawn Cage in the first place). The dialogue is straight out of Cleopatra Jones or Shaft (so much so that I was actually waiting for the Issac Hayes music to begin). While trying to take on this feel could have easily slipped into parody or satire, Gage and Perkins approach it more as an homage and it works perfectly. The only problem is that, truthfully, the plot really isn’t that interesting thus far; it’s a standard alternate superhero origin tied to a standard team formation. Still, you shouldn’t write this issue off simply because of that, otherwise you’d be missing a fine showcase of talent as Gage and Perkins skillfully reinvasion Luke Cage through a very unexpected filter. I could pass on the story, but I highly recommend this one for the craft.

05. Nightwing #138 (06)
Fabian Nicieza (W), Don Kramer (A), Tony Daniel (C)

Finally, after all the last few years of torture, someone approach’s Nightwing as the capable, intelligent, and ass-kicking character that we all know he is, but that he is rarely written to be! Fabian Nicieza writes Nightwing to hold his own against hordes of ninjas, crazy assassins, and even Batman as he attempts to save Damian and Robin from the cronies of Ra’s al Ghul. In the end, he doesn’t simply stumble upon a solution through a series of inept decisions (as he would have if say, Marv Wolfman of 2007 were writing him); instead, he is faced with a moral dilemma that pushes him to his limits and shows that he not only understands how to be a hero, but that he can actually follow through with the actions that define one. Plus, Nicieza throws in some fun jabs at the character of Damian (who, not surprisingly, still annoys the hell out of me) through Nightwing. The art is by Don Kramer. That should be enough to let you know that it is full of energy, has a great sense of storytelling, and showcases action and impact quite well. The creative team has a lot of great chemistry and are a perfect fit for the character; so much so, in fact, that I’m really, really disappointed that they will only be sticking around for this issue and have to keep things within the confines of the “Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” crossover. If you’ve been disappointed by Nightwing over the last few years (and really, who hasn’t), this is a can’t miss issue. Hooray for a chump-free issue of Nightwing!

04. Wonder Woman #14 (02)
Gail Simone (W), Terry and Rachel Dodson (A), Terry and Rachel Dodson (C)

I’m still absolutely shocked that it took this long to place the most prolific female creator in comics today at the helm of Wonder Woman, the most prolific female character in comics history. That’s not to say that men haven’t been able to craft great stories with Wonder Woman, but I think its about damn time that someone like Gail Simone has had a shot at the character (more specifically, its about damn time that Gail Simone got a shot at the character, as she’s obviously deserved to be on this title for a long time now). Needless to say, Gail does not disappoint in the debut of her run. Her trademark humor and charm is ever present in this issue, which finds a much more regal and confident Wonder Woman tracking down the Society through various channels. There is a good balance between the somewhat naïve and “human” Diana Prince and the iconic Wonder Woman, which is a nice change of pace from having the two be interchangeable as they had been with the previous few writers. Simone also utilizes the supporting cast well, including her “new” addition, an updated Etta Candy (who is no longer a walking fat-joke). The only problem with this issue is that there are times when it borders on ridiculousness in its humor (basically the talking gorilla parts), but that is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. Terry and Rachel Dodson continue to showcase a commanding interpretation of Wonder Woman in this issue, though I must say that their art is a better fit with Gail’s version of Wonder Woman than the previous visions they have illustrated (including Allen Heinberg’s incompetent Wonder Woman and Jodi Piccoult’s extremely naïve Wonder Woman). This one comes with strong recommendations, but that should be expected given the creative team.

03. Booster Gold #4 (05)
Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz (W), Dan Juergens and Norm Rapmund (A), Dan Juergens and Norm Rapmund (C)

This issue had me hooked from the opening page, where Wally West is instructed on the dangers of drinking by Barry Allen after a run-in with a very hung over Booster Gold. It kept me hooked with the continued sense of humor throughout the issue, the unexpected twists and turns, and the great sense of pacing throughout the issue. The humor isn’t forced in this issue, a problem in the previous ones, nor does it undercut the severity of the situations that Booster and Rip Hunter find themselves in. Dan Juergens art (finished by Norm Rapmund) continues to look incredible with great consistency, expressive linework, and a fine balance with the details. I love the emphasis on legacies in this issue, with the parallels between Booster’s lineage, the Flash legacy, and even Rip Hunter’s legacy. It’s not the most accessible issue of the week, but for those who can handle a book this steeped in continuity, it pays off. Another great issue from the best book to spin out of 52 and one of the best new series of 2007.

02. World War Hulk #1 (01)
Greg Pak (W), John Romita Jr. (A), David Finch (C)

There are really only three ways in which World War Hulk could have logically ended: 1) Hulk kills everyone and probably destroys the Earth in the process, 2) everyone else bands together and finds a way to stop the Hulk, probably killing him in the process, and 3) Hulk actually sorta learns his lesson and there are some changes to the status quo because of it. I’m sure, without me spoiling anything, you can figure out which of these is what actually happens. There are a lot of twists and turns throughout this issue that lead to the ending, which isn’t Earth-shattering by any means, but does set up the new Jeph Loeb-Ed McGuinness Hulk series and debuts Skaar, Son of Hulk, well. I’m still not sure how they are finagling the new Incredible Herc series out of this, but I don’t think that is really relevant. Still, the action in this is huge and violent and builds off of everything that we’ve seen thus far. The final showdown between the Sentry and the Hulk managed to be as powerful and exciting as I was hoping and definitely did not make either character look like a chump. Greg Pak (who did do a good job where necessary here) puts this issue’s writing onto autopilot a bit, allowing John Romita Jr to really tell the story through his huge, impactful panels. I’ve said it before and I still mean it, this is the best art of Romita’s career and I think a huge part of that is the great inking and coloring by Klau Jansen and Christina Strain. Its rare that inkers and colorists get the recognition they deserve, but these two really deserve marquee billing on this title for all that they’ve done. In the end, the event comes to a close in a bit of an underwhelming fashion, but given the huge build-up and the tremendous amount of action we had seen thus far, its hard for it not to be. While I wasn’t exactly blown away, World War Hulk ends almost as strongly as it begins and serves a prime example of how events should be handled.

01. Mice Templar #2 (03)
Bryan JL Glass (W), Michael Avon Oeming (A), Michael Avon Oeming (C)

I don’t think I have ever read a comic book that tries to cover so much ground in terms of establishing the mythology and history of a new creation quite as quickly as Bryan Glass and Mike Oeming do in this week’s issue of Mice Templar. It’s simply incredible how much information is conveyed in this issue. After a while, it becomes a bit overwhelming, though it never becomes tedious thanks to the sheer imagination of it all. Glass and Oeming have crafted a very rich world here, but it needs a bit more focus at times. Outside of the history, the story is brisk and engaging, with the last surviving member of last issue’s massacred village begins his training as a squire under one of the last members of the Mice Templar. I spoke with Mr. Oeming at the Minneapolis FallCon shortly after issue #1 came out and it was clear through his enthusiasm that this is really a labor of love for him and it shows. The art in this issue is amongst the best that he has ever produced, borrowing as much from Mike Mignola as it does from Don Bluth, showcasing a sinister side that blends seamlessly with the whimsy and adventurous tone. While this issue does show that the creators need to focus a bit more to avoid losing their reader inside this lush world, Glass and Oeming are crafting a fine epic that, in many ways, feels like the comic book medium’s answer to The Lord of the Rings. I just hope that it series continues on the fine path it is paving, as its got all the making of a classic. It’s the combination of ambition, craft, and scope that makes Mice Templar #2 issue my Book of the Week.
Check out the Weekly Review Power Rankings, counting down the best comics of the week, each and every week in the General Talk forum!
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Old November 20th, 2007   Ye Olde Iowa is offline   #3
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Ye Olde Iowa

joined: Jun 2007
Location: Dubuque, IA
Posts: 176


For those interested, here are this week's PreRankings:

12. Birds of Prey #112
11. Incredible Hulk #111
10. New X-Men #44
09. GI Joe: America's Elite #29
08. Detective Comics #838
07. The Boys #12
06. The Loners #6
05. Iron Man: Director of SHIELD Annual #1
04. Drafted #3
03. Checkmate #20
02. Captain America #32
01. Action Comics #859

The final Rankings and reviews will be posted this Thursday!
Check out the Weekly Review Power Rankings, counting down the best comics of the week, each and every week in the General Talk forum!
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