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 and Jason) 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). Thursdays (Diamond monopolistic practices willing), 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 APRIL 2ND, 2008
Casanova #13 (Image Comics)
First and foremost, do not try to read this comic while sitting in a darkened parking garage. You will need a well lighted area to appreciate the nuances here. Using a series of flashbacks, the title character makes a sort of return to the series through a collection of flashbacks (the main story has blue tones, while the flashbacks are grayish) while some of last issue's surprises get defused (and some don't) while characters are explored and the mad plan of the wild haired Benday family is revealed. This issue takes some time to absorb -- on the third read through, it really started to work -- and it has some of the best quotables around. "I'm a robot inside of a robot inside of a robot. I'm like a nesting doll that gives blowjobs steeped with existential ennui." That's good crazy. Now, the tachyon-related science may flip your wig over, but this issue is ultimately worth the effort, and therefore worth your dollars, although it kind of didn't seem that way on first glance. That Matt Fraction's a crafty devil, ain't he?
Trials of Shazam #12 (DC Comics)
So it all comes down to this -- guest starring the biggest names in the DCU, Freddie Freeman leads an all out assault on Sabina's forces in Vegas, hell bent on absorbing one million human souls for the cause of evil. How about that for high stakes? Artist Mauro Cascioli does some wonderful renditions of your favorite heroes -- his Freddie on the cover looks suspiciously like Drew Fuller on some of the later seasons of "Charmed," a grizzled Batman looms over page six (eight if you count ads), the character Zareb looks fantastic in a close up on page fourteen (sixteen with ads) and a close up on Red Tornado near the end really rocks, along with some fantastic fight scenes and close ups. While Cascioli brought thr ruckus, Judd Winick's script never let go of plot or character development, crystallizing the struggle between the warring philosophies of Sabina and Freddy. Great action, great surprise reveal, great art, great script and a fitting conclusion to one heck of a maxi-series.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Thought provoking, effective and it all came in under six bucks. Fantastic!
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
Paul Dini's script in "Detective Comics" #843 was very close to the enjoyable energies he once wielded in animation, as the Bat struggles against a new Scarface and Ventriloquist (with an interesting link to Bruce Wayne's past). What made the issue a real treat was an unbilled guest appearance from Zatanna, who had some fantastic chemistry with the Dark Knight Detective while Dustin Nguyen's playful artwork perfectly depicts the hedonism and salacious sensuality of the adventure. Why didn't it make it home? It was a good bit of story if you were watching it for free in your living room. But for the price, it was just shy of the mark.
We should mention the week's "big book," Marvel's Skrulltastic "Secret Invasion" #1. It's okay. It's not a bad comic -- CBR's newfound Kevin Church had an interesting dissection of the work -- the Skrulls actually revealed here make a lot of sense, and if you enjoy Bendis' dialogue you'll have fun. However, the nostalgic inhabitants of a crashed space ship seemed too easy a choice to make from a metatextual standpoint, "he loves you" is a cute tag line (but if the "big bad" turns out to be a shlub like the one in "Annihilation Conquest," that just won't work) leading to cute tactics against some of Earth's best defenders and the fact that Tony Stark tells Reed about the Skrulls in front of Hank that way (note photo shown here, was that supposed to play off the meeting in "New Avengers: Illuminati" #5, or did Bendis forget he wrote that far superior issue? Besides, didn't Reed say he was out due to issues of trust? Unlikely given that the issue itself notes Bendis has been planning this "Deep Space 9" inspired yarn for three years, so what the heezy?), but this is surely an issue people will be referring to for some months to come regardless.
The finale of the Legion of Super-Heroes storyline in "Action Comics" #863 was the best issue yet, with all loose ends tying themselves up and Superman getting a chance to do what it's so hard for him to do in the jaded present day -- inspire. Gary Frank and Jon Sibal's art work really sold the materials, but the story was all primary colors without nuance. Brainiac 5's smarminess shone through, and there was an allusion to Sun Boy's character, but so many others -- the conflicted actress Yera Allon, the determined Polar Boy -- got no room to breathe, a consistent problem with the huge casts involved in Legion-related stories. Hyperflies notwithstanding, an interesting look at another possible future.
The new Avatar title "Anna Mercury" #1 is intriguing -- all fast talk and complicated language -- and has amazing artwork from Facundo Percio ... but it's like dating Delirium of the Endless, a bewildering collection of ideas and events that even on second read are difficult to penetrate. Interesting to observe, though.
The last page of "The Twelve" #4 is the best part, a newspaper column written by the Phantom Reporter, as most of the rest of the issue simply meanders save a poignant section with Rockman. Not having a real raison d'etre is really a drag on many of these characters, who don't have enough development nor personality to warrant much reader interest.
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" #13 featured an interesting team up with Dracula (the real thing, apparently) going against an ambitious gang of Asian vampires, all while Willow wheedles for details of Buffy's sexual behavior and Xander wonders about race relations. Not bad, but not very focused, as many of the issues in this "season" have been.
"Nightwing" #143 was a fairly good buddy story with the title character and his eventual successor in the Batcave taking on an island full of very nasty surprises. Great banter between the two friends, cute in the same way this week's "Detective Comics" is, but far from vital.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
It's not exactly clear why the title isn't even on the cover of "Project Superpowers" #2 -- maybe someone was embarrassed by the lackluster storytelling that couldn't be saved by solid artwork (the Black Terror looks cool, no matter what). But a lot isn't clear about this Golden Age-inspired tale.
Did somebody throw up on the cover of "DC Special: Raven" #2? Somehow, the interior art is even more grotesque, so much so that reading past page four is really ... just painful. Ow.
Exactly who thought the tedious fight involving Mary Marvel was a good idea for "Countdown to Final Crisis" #4? This thing isn't over yet? Sadly, the ad showing Superboy Prime leading Mordru, Lightning Lord and an angry Legion of Super Villains in the future was the most interesting part of this issue. The ad. It's almost like the last issue didn't happen, which is weird.
While we're asking questions, why does issue eight of "Infinity, Inc." say it's their "first mission?" You're starting missions in issue eight? Let's "WTH" Award that just for the cover.
As much fun as the title is to say, "Kick Ass" #2 was a salvo of urine in the face of the fans that's as sad and embarrassing as watching the school geek masturbating over a poster of Leia in her slave girl outfit. The lead character spends most of the issue in traction or on crutches -- rightfully so -- and laughter is more the response than anything else. If this is going somewhere, it's doing so at a pace so laborious that Yertle the Turtle looks like Speed Racer.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Not bad, just mediocre.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Cheap purchases, not a lot of stuff to read, fairly painless ... sounds like a win, no matter how thin the margin.
JUST ONE MORE THING ...
Welcome to Fight Club. Since this is your first night, you're gonna have to fight ...