Rann-Thanagar War #1
Written by Dave Gibbons
Penciled by Ivan Reis
Inked by Marc Campos
Colors by John Kalisz
Letters by Nick J. Napolitano
Rann-Thanagar War #1 is the third of the "Infinite Crisis" tie-in series I'll be reviewing here. I had great hopes for Rann-Thanagar War, which picks up right where the highly enjoyable Adam Strange miniseries left off. The drop-off in quality is considerable, but Rann-Thanagar War is still enjoyable.
As with the other "Infinite Crisis" books, there's so much going on that a lot of the action has to be pushed off-panel, with explanations reserved for later. Here the mounting distrust between Rann and Thanagar is established entirely through exposition, and the actions and beliefs of a dangerous cult are merely hinted at. There's also little explanation as to what Rann and Thanagar are — there are enough hints that I can follow what's going on, but someone who hasn't been following DC Comics for years will be totally lost.
If nothing else, Dave Gibbons really seems to have a handle on the various characters. He's able to establish personalities for Adam Strange, Hawkman, and Green Lantern with a few spare lines of dialogue. Unfortunately, if you don't have any interest in the characters, there's no real reason to come back for the second issue.
This is actually a pretty well-composed spread from a storytelling perspective. The spaceships in the first panel radiate from a point just left of center, which puts more weight on the right hand side and leads your eye over to the second panel. Note that a few of the spaceships line up with the borders of the second and third tier on the second page, which is a nice bit of continuity. The second, third, and fourth panels form a nice sequence — Sardath's floating platform in the second panel lines up with the the Thanagarian's floating chair in the third panel, which lines up nicely with the profile of the Thanagarian warrior in the fourth panel. The fifth panel is a bit dodgy — the idea of going with a reverse diagonal to lead the eye away from the edge of the page is nice, but the angle itself is too extreme and unnatural. Unfortunately, it's necessary to fit most of Adam Strange in a slat that size. The sixth panel quite nicely establishes a vertial flow which lands you right back on the bottom of the page.
If there's a serious problem with these two pages, it's that they're too detailed. In order to convey the grand size of the upcoming war, Ivan Reis packs the panels with dozens of spaceships, viewscreens, and refugees. But there are so many spaceships, viewscreens and refugees that they dilute the directness of the imagery by adding visual clutter. So rather than a powerful scene of an armada of spaceships fleeing a doomed planet, we're left with what seems to be a random scatter of spaceships flung across an orange and black background. To some extent, these weaknesses can be compensated for with excellent inking and coloring. What's here isn't bad, but it can't compensate for fundamental weaknesses in the underlying composition.