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 MAY 29TH, 2008
NOTE: Apparently, a holiday on Monday means comics ship on Thursday. Thursday shipping sucks butt hair. Screws up the whole week, puts sales at Comics Ink down by three to four percent ... it's just no good. Plus it's a busy day, so maybe shorter reviews, no telling, sorry. Rock on.
The characters you've come to know and love are now going to war -- an alliance between Fables from the western traditions and the Arabian world have teamed up to send the Adversary a message in fire and blood, and the other side isn't taking it well. The carefully presented plans of Prince Charming and the Fables war council are now seen in action, and the teleporting Boy Blue is used as a smart framing device as he flits from front to front in the war, keeping tabs on how everyone is doing. The issue's entertaining from a martial standpoint (which is the driving energy of the issue's plot) and offers the same charm and bonhomie from the characters that "Fables" fans are used to. Lumi the Frost Queen and the Emperor construct make secretive plans for a response and the only possible criticism of this issue would be that it's over too soon. Fun stuff from probably the most consistent series in the industry.
Jump from the Read Pile. There's a lot of really smart things in Joss Whedon's script here, from the means by which the Breakworld attacked Marvel's major heroes (the FF looks impressive for a minute, even if their appearance could confuse you into thinking you were reading "Planetary"), plus many X-Men show up for the job in big ways. Colossus gets more hard core than anybody could have expected from the kid from the Rodina, Hank McCoy gets flirted with and you will never see Kitty Pride do anything more impressive than she does here (and almost nobody could depict it as well as John Cassaday). Add to that a cool cover gallery and you've got one hell of a comic book right here. All the cylinders fired correctly, the art was amazing, the dialogue shone and there's a credible gasp moment. Can't beat that.
Guest writer Will Pfeifer handles a date with the title character and Traci 13 which goes goofily, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"-styled awry. The driving force in the plot, frankly, is goofy. However, everything that happens due to it -- the reactions of El Paso citizens dealing with the Beetle and demons in their midst, Jaime's nonchalant witticisms, the clear and appealing art and coloring, and so on -- is picture perfect, and work so well that they actually make the somewhat blah plot work. The biggest surprise was the emotional moment Jaime came to at the end of the issue, and even with the regular voice of the series taking a month off, this is worth a look.
G.I. Joe: America's Elite #35 (Devil's Due Publishing)
Jump from the Read Pile. Stepping up its game big time, Cobra Commander has nukes and no hesitation in using them. Starting off with an intense undercover moment, the story goes from Antarctica to the Amazon rain forest, from Maryland to England to Germany to Russia. Which is fun by itself, but when you get some fun from Shipwreck, a great gag at Storm Shadow's expense ("... says the sap who's been brainwashed more times than The Manchurian Candidate") and Cobra Commander at his cold, calm creepiest (he's best when he's completely over the top or completely composed) and you've got a thriller in the sense of a poor man's "Bourne Ultimatum." Good stuff here ... what will they do next?
This series has been a non-stop parade of fun madness and brilliance, but it steps up its game with Lex Luthor this issue, who has an electric chair moment worthy of "Sin City's" Marv (and more) while linking in Morrison's past works (hello, Solaris the Tyrant Sun) and having Clark Kent write about the death of Superman. Not much more that can be said without spoiling, but Morrison and Quietly have returned to form, turning in another issue that will long be remembered as some of the Man of Steel's finest moments.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Two jumps, great stuff already in the Pile ... good start.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
The closest to hitting the mark was Matt Fraction's wildly imaginative "Immortal Iron Fist" #15, which featured an immortal weapon from a tradition outside of the Seven Cities of Heaven, which was fascinating in and of itself. Lots of interesting things happened, but the emptiness of the issue's lead (there's nobody you know in this issue) and the lack of time exploring his would-be partner (much less their eventual antagonist) sapped the issue's ability to connect, despite the overwhelmingly interesting ideas herein.
"Secret History of the Authority: Hawksmoor" #3 revealed some of why Jack's having such a problem in San Francisco but keep his nascent relationship spinning its wheels. Ostensibly set before "The Authority," it's still got great ambiance but less of a tightly plotted approach as the previous issues.
"Firebreather" #1 kept up the great tradition of the character's angst (even though it seems like he'd have less of this if he's still hanging out with Invincible, Atom Eve and the new Shadowhawk in his off hours) but plays its cards way too close to the vest and moves the story too fast to really explain anything. Plus, if you didn't know the set up from the previous mini series, good luck as this issue doesn't open itself up much at all to neophytes.
"Legion of Super-Heroes" #42 failed to justify its existence while still presenting an adequate episode. The Legion's back on Rimbor, learning (at a dreadfully slow pace) about the highly adaptable mechanical/organic hybrid creatures attacking everybody (familiar? Hm ...) while getting mysterious new outfits. Sure, the whimsy of Cham is fun and the testy interaction between characters like Saturn Girl or Ultra Boy have their amusement values, but there's not much meat on these story bones.
"Daredevil" #107 shows -- quickly -- some dissolution and renaissance for Matt Murdock, still struggling with the loss of his wife Milla to the chemical-induced madness of Doctor Fear. Sure, punching Luke Cage may not be the best idea in the world, but this issue sticks to the street level and never looks up, letting Murdock's pain pool as a place for the reader to wallow in. Not bad, but not something you'd be itching to reread.
Clock King apparently enjoyed an upgrade post-Infinite Crisis, as he keeps his Terror Titans at the throats of the titular heroes in "Teen Titans" #59.
"Thor" #9 was a crafty tale of Loki and Balder, with seeds of sedition and basketball in Asgard as side orders. The question of what a Ragnarok-free Asgard will be like hangs in the air like the scent of ambrosia, and it's almost enough of an answer to make it. Almost.
"Alathia" #1 had some interesting ideas about Greek gods in a modern tableau (almost in a "10th Muse" vein), but between its largely impenetrable script and sometimes indecipherable art, it's hard to see where any of it was going.
Once you get over the fact that they're struggling against Machinesmith (wasn't he in pieces and in the witness protection program back in "Penance: Relentless?"), "New Warriors" #12 was all right, as the team work of the players involved continues to stink and they manage to make it through on grit anyway.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
Okay, "Final Crisis" #1. Maybe you didn't read all the issues of "Countdown" -- maybe you were one of the lucky ones. Maybe you even missed the "Death of the New Gods" mini -- it was all Starlin-styled, maybe you thought it was reprints (Even Superman seemed to act as if he'd never heard of any of it, despite narrating the majority of it). But if "Countdown" was leading up to you, why do you so heavily contradict so many of its elements? Sure, the idea of Dr. Light scamming super Viagra for a date with Giganta, that's cute. Killing off a Justice Leaguer? Not bad, even though it's one that can be missed. Even the Godfrey as Al Sharpton gag could be forgiven (remember when he was a big public figure on Earth back in "Legends?" Few do ...) due to "hyperflies." Whatever. This is less of a story and more of an incomprehensible bender ... how much more of this do we have to deal with?
Hi, "Marvel 1985" #1? Have you ever heard of a comic book called "DC Comics Presents" #87? In it, characters from the DC Universe went into a "real world" where they were just fictional characters. Sound familiar? Sound like, oh, your plot? Go away, please. We're all full on retrograde ideas.
Admittedly, Jezebel Jet asks a lot of questions that many sane people would in "Batman" #677, but there's a lot of retcons and pissing on the past that just don't add up. The alleged revelations of Thomas Wayne's misconduct -- unless they're a result of Superboy Punch! -- would have come out in any of a number of "Secret Files and Origins" (remember the big expose on the Wayne family history? Oh, you didn't read that either ...) already and the thing that happened to Bruce Wayne? Just plain out of character for the "Bat God" of the last, what, ten years? You too, get out.
"New Avengers" #41 tried to fit a story in between the cracks of previous stories, and showed that Spider-Man must have forgotten some of his team-ups when he got his Brand New Day. Is line item amnesia contagious around the comics industry this week?
"Action Comics" #865 posits the idea that Toyman has been the victim of Doombot Syndrome for some time. Which is a convenient dodge for, say, murder or any of a host of crimes. "It wasn't me, it was the robot duplicate!" Then again, he thinks Jimmy Olsen is still a pubescent cub reporter, so his sanity barometer may be a little short on the mercury (that ... is mercury in barometers, right?) in the end analysis. Here's a short story about that: no.
There are three words in the notes for "Ms. Marvel" #27 -- "whiny, horny, dumb." Pretty much says all that needs noting there ...
"Number Of The Beast" #4 cheaped out on the actual premise and the real stakes of things, somehow mixing reality and unreality through the resurrection of The High (who, funny enough, led the proto-Authority with their own Engineer and Doctor -- everything old is new again) alongside the getting-less-interesting-by-the-issue super team being focused upon here. At least the Rapture and Armageddon are being played out with beautiful art. That's always cheery.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Nine adequate-to-good beats seven crappy, especially with two jumps.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
A 60-40 win thanks to the jumps, this week of comics came through.