WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?
Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/karaoke host/jackass) goes to a comic book store called Comics Ink in Culver City, CA (Overland and Braddock -- hey Steve, Jason, Vince and Sally) and grabs a whole lotta comics. These periodicals are quickly sorted into two piles -- the "buy" pile (a small pile most weeks, comprised of planned purchases) and the "read" pile (often huge, often including comics that are really crappy but have some value to stay abreast of). Thursday afternoons (Diamond monopolistic practices willing, and yes, it used to be mornings, but management asked for it to slide back some), you'll be able to get his thoughts (and they're just the opinions of one guy, so calm down) about all of that ... which goes something like this ...
THE BUY PILE FOR JULY 16TH, 2008
Transformers: All Hail Megatron #4 (IDW Publishing)
The secret to this series is in one key detail: the Autobots, at best, are an afterthought. The Decepticons -- looking good, in all their G1 glory with every bit of detail you ever wanted from the cartoon but they didn't have time to depict -- have stomped in the faces of everyone who could possibly stop them. Unrestrained, they have control over the entire United States. Meanwhile, with broken windows and shattered hopes, the Autobots cower in a steadily darkening hole, struggling with internecine issues while running on fumes. A fairly common theme in many comics is the victory of villains, and here it's no difference. The bad guys winning is delicious fun, and its only compounded by all the hopelessness of the alleged heroes. The appearance of a latter day bot makes it all the more delicious.
Daredevil #112 (Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. This title habitually hovers just on the brink -- Ed Brubaker does great tension, and his ability to draw you into a scene's among the best. But this issue does more, weaving in plot elements from "New Avengers" (the Elektra discovery), bringing along a nice guest appearance, managing a little police procedural (very well played) to enhance Matt's feelings of guilt over the events of last issue. There's a virtually perfect set of plot developments here, with moody artwork by Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano and equally satisfying coloring from Matt Hollingsworth. Nicely done.
DMZ #35 (Vertigo/DC Comics)
The series has stuck pretty close to the island of Manhattan, but there are more islands than that in New York City. Protagonist Matty Roth travels the 9,418 yards across the river to "embed" with United States Army troops who have a very unique approach to prosecuting their roles in the war. This leads to another zany interlude with the Free States and a cliffhanger ending that kind of stops short, but this is another good issue in a long line of 'em.
Noble Causes #37 (Image Comics)
Slate Blackthorne has to make some hard choices when Invincible (or "Vince" as Zephyr likes to call him) makes a guest appearance. An character makes a comeback from relative obscurity, leading to a cliffhanger that doesn't really connect with the rest of the issue. Not a shining example of the series, but it has some cute moments.
G.I. Joe #0 (IDW Publishing)
Jump from the Read Pile. The team is shown in anti-terrorist activities in eastern Europe, we see a popular character get inducted into the team (the hard way) and Chuckles gets a moment to shine, espionage style. Add on some character sketches at theend and you'vbe got something very short but very satisfying.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
The jumps worked well, the regular purchases did fine, so no problems all around.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Unknown Soldier" #1 posits an interesting theory, taking the character from its purely US-based roots and planting it in the story of a pacifist Ugandan doctor. This issue grapples with some complicated material maturely and with seriousness, and with just a little more clarity in plot, this could go somewhere. Worth watching.
Speaking of complicated ideas, "She-Hulk" #34 wrestles with Jazinda's identity, earthquake relief and geopolitics.
"Captain America" #43 almost made the jump, with Bucky's real struggle with the legacy he's accepted, which tied in nicely to a bit of his history as the Winter Soldier. Well paced, smart, and interesting ... and held back solely by one ridiculous element that's just too goofy and tainted to be redeemed, even by the serious treatment here.
"Birds of Prey" #123 could have really been something, with the Joker/Babs meet, scaring the Calculator and identifying some of Platinum Flats' Syndicate members. Sadly, it was all prelude and exposition, with little "biff" or "pow" to commend it.
"Hulk" #7 brought back some fun and introduced "The Bod Squad" that also popped up in this week's passable "She-Hulk" issue. It had too fragmentary a feel, like interrupted thoughts, despite vibrant artwork and coloring.
Remember when there were actual Avengers in "Avengers" comics? Well, Obama Avengers, er, "New Avengers" #46 (really, how have the Palin Avengers, er, Mighty Avengers put out so fewer issues?) actually focused on more Skrullitude with the Hood revealing his new origins while and the villain community gets its taste of Skrullpocalypse. Not bad.
"X-Factor" slowly works its way back to the "good stuff" category with lines like "Women. Can't live with them. can't leave bodies to be traced." Still, even with Darwin changing the rules, it's just quips and crazies, not actual developments.
Get a taste of Stark World Order in "New Warriors" #17, with the team stuck in a SHRA world gone all Iron Man'ed out. Not too hard a future to envision, sadly. Plus, most of the team literally stood around slack jawed, which isn't good.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Cyblade" #1 ("Gemini"/"My Own Worst Enemy"), "Tangent: Superman's Reign" #8, "Criminal Volume 2" #8, "Trinity" #21, "Rest" #1, "Blue Beetle" #32, "Ms. Marvel" #32 (she's John McCain?), "Wildcats" #4" and "True Believers" #4.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
First and foremost, "Thor: Truth of History" (which is so innacurate a title as to be insulting), the attempts at Egyptology border on the juvenile, the cultural imperialism is annoying ... gah! Die, comic, die!
Really, "Final Crisis" #4? What the hell? That part with Kalibak? Wow, just ... no ... While you might spend some time trying to log on to the "unternet" (add your own umlaut), this issue was bursting with pithy lines and images without ever bothering to tie them into something resembling a plot.
While we're at it, "Secret Invasion" #7 had similar problems. Like an episode of the old "G.I. Joe" cartoon, there's lots of violence but not lots of casualties (don't try and count the girl, you don't know her), even while Hawkeye impresses and Jarvis goes back to work.
The actual events in "Final Crisis: Submit" are more of a sidebar for the main series than anything else, a weird "Rashomon" style thing looking at some events from "Final Crisis" #4 in a different light. Not a great light, with lines like "i make electricity dance like Beyonce" (urg) and more playing up marginal characters. Really an eight to twelve page story padded out to full size.
While we're speaking of "Rashomon" styled interludes, "Thunderbolts" #125 splices in some media coverage making a hero of the wildly insane Norman Osborne, but otherwise lifts whole sequences, dialogue and all, from the melee in "Secret Invasion" #7. At least this set of characters is kind of interesting -- hippie and square Avengers alike all acted like stock characters from Central Casting.
The "Superman: New Krypton" one-shot borrowed heavily from "Smallville's" big funeral a season or two back while upping the ante and putting a full sized, super powered Kandor next door to the fortress, whacking whales and messing up. 100,000 Kryptonians, huh? Plus the however grillion power rings that are floating around ... seems ... messy ...
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
That "Thor" issue's really annoying, but things were still all right.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Just over the line for a good time, so let's call it a thin win.
Got a comic you think should be reviewed in The Buy Pile? If we get a PDF of a fairly normal length comic (i.e. "less than 64 pages") by no later than 24 hours before the actual issue arrives in stores (and sorry, we can only review comics people can go to stores and buy), we guarantee the work will get reviewed. Physical comics? Geddouttahere. Too much drama to store with diminishing resources.
Furthermore, as if this reviewer here wasn't obnoxious enough with his opinions, he's part of an effort to teach writers about how to do the work at The Hundred and Four, where this week Lupe Fiasco's "The Cool" is reviewed by Chinedum Richard Ofoegbu. New content is posted every Wednesday.