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 JUNE 25TH, 2008
NOTE: Due to breaking laws of man and of physics, this writer was able to make it from Pasadena to Comics Ink's Culver City locale in just under seventy minutes. Thanks to emails from many, including the illustrious and praiseworthy Steven Seagle, recommending Pasadena area alternatives. If push comes to shove, that may still happen, but for now it's a long drive ... and possibly shorter reviews, with new ideas about formatting forthcoming. Speaking of reviews, we should get to that ...
Courtesy Jump from the Read Pile (What's that? Check the Prognosis for data. The titular hero gets yelled at and gets treated nicely and deals with lots of conversations in this less-than-tightly plotted issue. Jack's dealing with people from the future, the same people who snatched him back and forth in time and retrofitted him as the King of Cities. But instead of being altruists, they're bozos lobbing signal distortion and air-to-surface missiles at him. Add to this a super powered girl and you've got a nice pastiche of sci fi and noir elements, but this issue isn't as well put together as some earlier ones. Two issues to go in this mini, time to tighten it up.
Courtesy Jump from the Read Pile (What's that? Check the Prognosis for data.If you have a sharp eye, you can catch renditions of the book's writers (and some other comics figures worth noting) drawn into this issue, and you'll also (very briefly) catch Fat Cobra dressed in a rather dapper manner. But most of this issue is kind of "after school special," with Danny essentially showing his off-hours altruism, breaking down his multinational corporate beast into an enaglitarian engine for good. Shame he's never read "Wildcats 3.0," or he'd see how a corporation can be a superhero. In any case, the bulk of the pages feel like a misdirect and soft sell, setting you up for the Christ-like revelation at the end. It's not exactly a "bang" swan song for the amazing creative team of Fraction and Aja, but oh well.
Warning: for the second month in a row, this series is intentionally not funny. As such, it's a low-grade western with some supernatural elements, and that's only interesting as a footnote to everything else going on with the Fables in the present day, from Jack's time in Americana (where, apparently, he should have been known, or at least his doppleganger, founding another legend) to Bigby's history as a hunter. Also, despite being on the cover, Gary the Pathetic Fallacy is nowhere to be seen in this issue. Interesting as reference, but not so much of a good read.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
First, what's a Courtesy Jump? Well, when a series has been doing some great things, and it's a light week (despite putting seventy dollars into the gas tank this week, ow ow ow ow ow), some comic books get the extremely rare benefit of the doubt. This is almost always a bad idea, but when it's a week of really being a jerk in the store (some Asian guy got turned away from about six books from three different companies by asking for an opinion), it's like a hedge against bad karma.
So what does all that mean? Well, even coming in under ten bucks, this wasn't that special a pile of comics.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Thunderbolts" #121 was closest to the mark this week, having a lot of fun with Norman Osborn and Songbird, using Len Samson quite well and having Speedball, er, Penance walk around like a Columbine plotter. There's a boring bit of deus ex supervillain which made things a bit too easy, but the quips and general meanness had some entertainment value.
Have you ever woken up the morning after a date, vaguely remembering enjoying yourself but still being totally dressed (and not at all sticky, so you know you didn't have that much fun) and not really remembering how to get in contact with the person in question? That's what "Final Crisis" #7 was -- it had some moments with the Japanese super heroes, the hidden aspects of the new New Gods and the weird bit with the burger guy. But Superman must be a Skrull, for acting like he wasn't along for every moment of "Death of the New Gods" a little while ago (Hyperflies! Superboy Punch!) and this feels like more of Morrison's extracurricular madness, not a central fact for the DCU proper.
Interesting Skrull focus on Obama's Avengers (led by a Black guy, relatively new at being Avengers, etc), er, "New Avengers" #42, which showcased some of how they do their new trick, showcased how insidious they are at working all the angles and all that. But they get a nasty surprise from the Lenscherr family ... and it kind of stops suddenly after that. Which was weird.
"Pilot Season: Alibi" #1 was adequate, a nice bit of misdirection in making a Human Target-esque character into two. However, with the exception of one, every character in the issue is "blah" and has no raison d'etre let alone joie de vivre.
Speaking of characterization, you could almost say the title character had some in "Ms. Marvel" #28. But with the background of her whining, "oh, it's like that, well bring it, then" commentary running along side sapped it while never explaining why she's so filled by violence and not maturity.
"She-Hulk" #30 wasn't bad, with Hercules showing up to inject some whimsy, but the demigod Bran wasn't exactly riveting and the outcome was never in question.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
Was it just the long drive that made so many things so stupid? Probably not. As a matter of fact, with McCain's Avengers, er, "Mighty Avengers" #15 (they're "experienced") it seems that Marvel's carrying out a theme: really smart people are actually really stupid. A fancy piece of something shiny gets Hank Pym Skrulled (as noted on two covers this week) as he struggled with his own inadequacies and general lameness.
Not to be outdone, "Avengers: The Initiative" #14 showcased Hawaii's Initiative team, the "Point Men" (fun fact: not all members are male) which included a guy who's super power, apparently, is to be Pig Pen from the "Peanuts" cartoons. Yes, Virginia, that's dumb. What could make it even lamer? Triathalon wanders out, only to be handed the mantle of the original 3-D Man by the 3-D Man himself. You don't know who that is? It doesn't matter, few other people do either. This leads to a story development so coincidental that it almost embarrasses and a less than inspiring start for Hawaii's Mightiest Heroes (and yes, everybody wants the assignment, who wouldn't wanna get paid to police Hawaii while sometimes fighting giant Japanese monsters?) in any remote way. To quote this issue's Skrull, "I'm amazed you humans aren't already extinct."
"Number of the Beast" #6 sank even farther, casting The High as an exasperated Neo leading people to the promised land of consciousness. The Authority gets attacked for no reason, though. Wait, that's not smart. Bah.
This week's Indie Spotlight (a new feature, see the bottom of the column) is also the winner of the "WTF?" award. A Gambit knockoff is driving around, avoiding monsters and carrying the head of Medusa (the myth, not the legendary LA-area rapper) as a weapon ... wait, what?
How weird is it to stop a fight -- really meaning "stop" it, as in freezing time around it -- to hit on the teenaged adversary? Ew, Clock King. You made "Teen Titans" #60 creepy.
Try not to panic, but "Ultimates 3" #4 actually showed up today. Panther still has no lines, and it still was marginally entertaining. But "Come with me if you want to live?" Ooh. Good luck with that.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Almost as bad as paying $70 for 15 gallons of gas.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
So what does that all mean? It's like picking up a 1990 Hyundai -- you know there's something wrong, despite individual panels working out.
"... WHEN IT COMES TO THE 'WHAT IT DO,' I DON'T FALL FOR THE 'WHOOP DE WOOP' ..."
This week marks the beginning of "Indie Spotlights" -- since this column will likely read fewer comics (Pasadena and Culver City are not close, and the job moves near the Burbank airport in 2009), at least one independent title will get a look every week ... unless a PDF of them can be emailed to the column on the Monday or Tuesday before it's released, in which case all comers get served. If they send it as a PDF and they don't send it too early or too late.
Also, the Hundred and Four could be at Wizard World Rosemont ... or maybe not. Hard to know.