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 10TH, 2008
NOTE: When Diamond ships on Thursday, you'll get reviews on Saturday. Sorry. When there's a show to do that Saturday night (which is rare), it might be Sunday. Again, sorry. Moving on ...
Jump from the Read Pile. Wow. First of all, this is no longer a Read Pile title. Three issues this solid, three jumps in a row -- may as well call it a winner now. The struggle of Tony Stark (here less super villain and more honest international lawmaker) is really something to behold, and his interaction with Pepper is note perfect. There's a great balance between protagonists and antagonists, between action and dialogue. Matt Fraction is shooting three pointers from the parking lot on this one.
Jump from the Read Pile. If you really enjoy this comic book, you might be a bad person. If you're a bad person, of course you don't care. The Clown Prince of Crime puts on his Elvira/Cryptkeeper/(insert your favorite creepy storyteller here) hat to present a love story starring Oswald Cobblepot. It's a fairly typical set up, with the squat, tubby Penguin getting dissed and carrying the proverbial chip on his diminutive shoulder. The he finds affection in the form of a woman he liberates from a very unusual shopping complex. However, it's hard to find love when you're -- and we're back -- a bad person, so a part of his life stays hidden ... until it can't. Jason Aaron has crafted a tale so mean, so unpleasant and so delicious that it simply had to get purchased.
Jump from the Read Pile. The cover gives you a great sense of the gleeful mayhem that this issue takes in. Plot? Not so much. But here? Really, who cares? The Decepticons roll and fly into Manhattan and start breaking stuff. There's a weird and ultimately pointless "Top Gun"/"Luke in the hangar bay" moment, but mostly this issue is about showing how badass Decepticons are. Mission accomplished. With art very much like the TV series (that's a good thing, Guido Guidi, with great colors from Josh Burcham) down to Megatron's classic smirk, as cowed and battered Autobots hunker down on Cybertron. You could have just as easily called this "Transformers: Bring On The Bad Guys." Great fun and empty calories for fans of bad guys.
Warning: there is no Captain Awesome in this issue. Nonetheless, this issue has lots of great stuff -- stuff like what you'd see on the show, but without budgetary restraints -- plus some genre-specific dangers that are too fun to spool, great pop culture references ("for relaxing times, make it ... Suntory time") and of course agents Walker and Casey shooting and punching a lot. There's a kooky backup that flashes forward to 2020, which you could take or leave, but this is all around fun. Not as much fun as the first issue, but whadda ya gonna do?
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Two jumps and good times all around? Good start.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
Speaking of lots of fighting (as we were in our last review), "Green Arrow/Black Canary" #10 looks great as our heroes (alongside Batman, a British walker-of-gray-areas and Mia/Speedy) take on the League of Assassins ... sort of. But there was a lot more "fight" than "content" as only things of tactical, not strategic, importance occurred.
The week's closest to making the jump (and it should have replaced "Chuck," honestly) was "Guardians of the Galaxy" #3, with bishops (borrowing a page from the Shi'ar Gladiator -- is that a common power source in deep space?) working well even if Starhawk didn't (bird got your tongue?). Gamora was very well presented, and if the bishops had a bit more character or the plot were just a page tighter, this would have made it home. In retrospect, as it is, it probably would have beat out "Chuck" if the latter had been read in the store (which means "Chuck" has to justify its existence next time and this title gets a leg up).
It was a week for good characterization as Richard Ryder makes some brave choices concerning Galactus in "Nova" #15. The smart move of never having the Devourer speak, but having Norrin Radd represent him (much like Medusa did for Black Bolt, or the Skrull in his place) worked wonders for the narrative, but despite the two events that happened here (the planet's destruction, while well portrayed, was a foregone conclusion), it seemed fairly uneventful and talky.
"Justice Society of America" #17 shows how worried heroes get when things go mysteriously right, as Gog grows a cult following and performs some miracles (some which may change the way the team works) before ... well, let's just say his happy smiley act has another side. Which is kind of interesting. The issue moved a bit too slowly to buy, but it's surely worth following.
Getting back to space, "Guardians of the Galaxy" #3 would have benefitted from just a hint more clarity -- the Universal Church's Bishops were a little too derivative of the Shi'ar Gladiator, unless that's a common modus operandi in deep space, and Star Hawk or whoever he was could have said one line of dialogue, just to tantalize, couldn't he? The debriefing framing device was still solid, there was a wonderfully done callback with Gamora and Groot was fun too.
"Young X-Men" #4 had some interesting developments and a taste of steel, but the storytelling was a little jerky. The ersatz New Mutants don't make much of a show for themselves, with their fancy clothes and all.
"Booster Gold" #1,000,000 is not bad with a Batman guest appearance that worked well, the introduction of Peter Platinum (hilarious) and a couple of nice surprises from Rip Hunter. But "not bad" is about as good as it gets.
"Ultimate Origins" #2 was very Cap-centric, covering ground that's similar to what's seen elsewhere, except you can see the very Ultimate-specific mean streak already apparent even when Ultimate Steve Rogers is a "ninety-eight pound weakling." Nothing wrong with it, but despite seeing Dum Dum Dugan, there's no "crack the internet in half" styled surprises here.
The surprise of the week? "Shark Man" #3. The core story -- a Batman rip off with a belt buckle that makes his crotch look hungry -- is atrocious, but Steve Pugh's writing makes it not intolerable and his amazing artwork almost makes it mediocre.
"Captain Britain and MI-13" #3 again leans heavily on the inspiration factor (the flags part was kind of cool, and the "looking off panel" bit works well ... as a matter of fact, only the speechy stuff works. The actual Skrull magic and all is kind of dull.
"BPRD: The Warning" #1 was mysterious and creepy and well written in all the ways fans of creepy, mysterious comics would like. This column recognizes the craft while admitting to not being such a fan of that work. Nothing wrong here, though.
"Iron Man: Legacy of Doom" #4 could have been the whole series, with zippy recaps and great work as Tony grapples with identity and his own mortality, Doom's a fantastic foil and Merlin (that guy again?) plays chess with the best of them. The big bad here could have been indistinct, but the art made it very effective.
"Gamekeeper Series 2" #5 needed to have clearer art, given that most of the issue was action. The essential storyline about betrayal, money and gunfire was interesting, but it's easy to see the silver screen aspirations of the series here, in that the work was essentially shorthand for direction more than working inside the art form itself. Still, it wasn't bad.
"Eternals" #2 answered a lot of important questions (although the idea of Ajak being sent on a mission for Ikaris while also being part of Hercules' "God Squad" in the erstwhile "Incredible Hulk" title is fishy ... more Skrull madness?) and established the Deviants and Eternals as another piece of a grand cosmic-psycho-spiritual tapestry ... which was cool in a way, but also kind of cliche in a way, given that it essentially either minimizes the Celestials' importance or makes them something like the Presence, which is too much for them to be. Either way, just a hair short of making its way home.
Helena stumbles into the Bat's operations in "Huntress: Year One" #5, a series that keeps chugging along just above mediocrity but just below actually doing anything impressive. The encouragement of Catwoman, making her own vote for chaos, was interesting. The rest of the book was just "okay" though.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
About Action Comics #867, the Twitter post says it best. "Dear Geoff Johns. I liked your idea about Braniac better when it was called Ultimate Galactus. Please stop. K, thx, bye." Seriously, no. The Grant and Lombard stuff, shaving with the heat vision in the mirror, whatever. The farm stuff was cute. But to come in with the "You've never met Braniac?" Now? Kara never mentioned this when learning about Lex (okay, she got bored, still), it never came up ... really? Come on now. Aren't we all better than this?
"I Kill Giants" #1. WTH? Oh, and Ultimate Thor called, he has some "swipe file" questions ...
Oh, "Trinity" #6 ... on Saturdays, you'll find Comics Waiting Room columnist Vince Moore working the retail chores, and when he saw Hawkman's berating the admittedly ridiculous Gangbuster ("This is bigger than the abilities of a local ... street cleaner"), said, "That just doesn't fit the character," and claimed that it was written by a "jackass." Now, that's not the official policy of this column -- Busiek and Nicieza have seemed pretty cool in emails and when Busiek was seen at a Wizard World con one year -- but it sure makes Hawkman seem like a jerk (is he still smarting over having Hawkgirl and Red Arrow together? While we're here, does anyone really care about Hawkman? Martian Manhunter's dead and this Thanagarian's got a Resurrection Man pass ...), and the overall comic was just a bit overmuch with the psychoanalysis and the tarot reader (will she shut up already?) and what not.
Since we have to go with our new running joke for one certain comics personage, let's just say that in "Last Defenders" #5, the idea that Kyle Richmond is the J'onn J'onnz of the Defenders is enough to make somebody go "meh."
"Number of the Beast" #7 continues to fail at living up to the promise of its first issue, as the High now has not only gone from having any personality at all to (sorry, gotta spoil this one) having his lack of personality in scores of killer government-controlled clones. Which is stupid on many levels. The feds had an army of Majestic-class soldiers completely under their sway. Yet the Authority rolled into the white house, Captain Atom almost blew up the universe when he came to visit ... really? You wanna pull these guys out for Engine Joe (or whatever his name is) and a girl in a bee costume? The idea that TPTB in the Wildstorm Universe essentially "boxed up" the entire JSA-styled generation in their world just seems goofy. The only good points are the art and the fact that, with one issue left, there's little remaining to screw up.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
The only insultingly stupid things to happen were limited in scope and page count, so you gotta count that as a positive.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Switch "Chuck" with "Guardians of the Galaxy" and you'd have a big win, but even as it is, the week went well ... Diamond's laziness in shipping notwithstanding. Do those guys ever think about whose week they may be screwing up? Sheesh ...
Monday. 7AM PST (maybe a little earlier, hard to know). The Hundred and Four will be revealed. Brace yourselves: change is coming.