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 2ND, 2008
Ooh, yeah, that's the stuff. Boy Blue gives a guided tour of the brilliantly conceived battle plans of the Fables, as the powers Arabian and European join forces to shock and awe the Adversary's forces into terror. Lumi the Snow Queen and the Emperor-puppet fret over how to fight a war that's largely lost while the skies are filled with gunfire and old friends reunite. The developments here may be foretold by previous storytelling, but they still feel effective (the cover image is a beautiful representation of actual events in the issue) and one might say things are going too well. Let's see how that plays out. Entertaining work, even if a new reader might be a little puzzled.
Jump from the Read Pile. Guest writer Will Pfeiffer turns in a great done-in-one with detailed and crisp artwork vt David Baldeon, Steve Bird and the always solid Guy Major. Something's terrorizing the town and a decades-old super villain has popped up, so the titular character has to do some impromptu (and frankly less-than-effective) detective work. Fun add-ons are the fact that there's a "Grand Theft Gotham" game in the DCU (how awesome would that game be? Four stars, chased by Robin, Nightwing at five and the Bat at six, with Birds of Prey and JLA surprises the longer you hold out? The mind boggles at the cheat codes alone), great dialogue ("By which, of course, I mean ...") and a great narrative callback that was just shy of being "too cute." Fun stuff from one of DC's most promising titles.
The air was let out of last issue's last page reveal, but there's still good stuff here (Doc Noble knows how to make an entrance) as Detective Will O'Mega makes a return and a discovery, Celeste shows a softer side and Crucible gets a surprise. Plus punching, oh yes, lots of sweet punching. One of the industry's most consistent confections, it won't win an Eisner but it's surely fun. Packed with action and plot twists from start to finish, that's one good comic book there.
Jump from the Read Pile. This one will sneak up on you -- sugary and sweet on the surface with some genuine bite underneath. Sure, lots of the developments are straight from the property's canon, but that's done in such a zippy way that it manages to work. The Captain-Marvel-in-a-suit bit's still funny, Mary's motormouth know-it-all routine is endearing (which may be the bias of a similarly dispositioned four-year-old in the home of the reviewer) and the picture-perfect sitcom styled set ups and deliveries are timed so flawlessly that even they stand up and get the job done. It even stays in continuity with the "Monster Society of Evil" mini. A really pleasant surprise that's good the first time you read it and gets better as you repeat.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Two jumps, lots of violence, fun stuff all around.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
The "Ambush Bug is Dan DiDio" strip at the back of many of this week's DC Comics was almost enough to grab any random DC book for. Sadly, "Blue Beetle" #28 didn't have it. But still, that was hilarious.
"Secret Invasion: Front Line" #1 was a surprise, close to making the mark. A very, very intimate look at the lives of New Yorkers (getting to know them too just a bit too long, which was the big problem) before the Skrulls hit, using Ben Urich's reporting as a framing device. Interesting.
"Hellboy: The Crooked Man" #1 wasn't bad, a moody and deliberate potboiler about murder and mystery along paths less trod. The title character's practically a guest star, as a somber hayseed takes the spotlight in a fairly interesting way. Horror fans would surely enjoy this.
"Nightwing" #146 was a straightforward tactical episode with Dick Grayson making the most of his training and experience in attacking the machinations of a mad scientist. It was a little too quick and too pat -- the scientist's big reveal happened way too fast and without any visual "oomph," and the poetic language at the end was shortchanged by mundane visuals. Not bad, though.
"High Rollers" #1 was very Tommy Vercetti in its establishment of an extraordinary street soldier who has everybody asking for his expertise and nobody wants to appreciate him afterwards. This could be a great set up for a video game. As a comic, it's not bad, with Gary Phillips' sure pacing keeping it moving along. It's just not exactly overwhelming (an argument that falls on the Eisner-winning "Criminal" as well, to be fair) in sometimes presenting archetypes and not characters. Sure, the main courses are filling, but the peripheries suffer.
"Astonishing X-Men" #25 was ... well, weird, honestly. Everybody spent lots of time kind of riffing in that surly Warren Ellis way that many of his characters do, and Ororo is apparently bored of endless "lovemaking and guilt free shopping." What? Scott's a little less stiff than normal, but that's not saying much, and Armor seems like she could become somebody, but she's not there yet (part Jubilee for her whimsy and part Daria for her snark). Nothing wrong with, say, a singing Hank McCoy ... but nothing really demanding to get purchased either.
"Joker's Asylum: The Joker" #1 tells a harmless (how did that happen?) Joker tale set in a television studio. One wonders who spliced together the video, but those kinds of details are flickered past as the narrator was less than reliable. Great sense of tension and release in the Arvid Nelson script, which hits lots of good notes but doesn't exactly harmonize with the less-than-sterling artwork and coloring.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Trinity" #5 was only good where Batman's concerned. Wonder Woman's flirting was weird and Superman's never very smart. Plus, that tarot card backup is just ... "Gangbuster?" Really? No.
Sure, "Patsy Walker: Hellcat" #1 is pretty as the model and part time heroine goes to Alaska to sniff around ... but is she high, with that ranting? Is this a lost script from "Men In Trees?" Seriously, WTH? In the words of Jim McCann, "meh."
Speaking of confusing, retailer Steve LeClaire (and this is part of why the long drive from Pasadena to Culver City is worth it) called "Batman" #678 "psychotic and psychedelic" as the Bat tries to understand the mind of the Clown Prince of Crime and probably goes too far as his wards worry. This comic takes advantage of your vulnerability and surely won't call.
How far they fall -- "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" #16 was simply incoherent, especially when you remember how good the previous issue was. Willow's expository moments were the only really good point here, as even the banter fell flat.
As one might expect, "Supergirl" #31 was horrible. That's no surprise. The macabre bits with Resurrection Man were ... that's no good. Just ... maybe it's time to just stop the bleeding and give up here? She's never gonna be as interesting as she was in the Legion. Argh.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Slow day, but not a bad one.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Let's call that a good week with the jumps and all.
BEFORE WE GO ...
There were some emails about some mistakes in last week's column. Woops. Adjusting to being awake all day like normal people with the new day gig (is it weird to have gotten a raise in the first two weeks?) has altered the consciousness of this reviewer. Apologies for mistakes, for not finishing "Tales of the Starlight" and a lot of other stuff.
Likewise, we're just ... eleven days (now) from everybody finding out about The Hundred and Four.