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 16TH, 2008
Secret Invasion-tastic! Sort of. The mutant Darwin is loose in Detroit, and he's got a friend who may or may not be familiar to fans. His dad misses him, and hires X-Fa ... er, "XF Investigations" (good job at being secretive, guys) only to have Val Cooper threaten them (she's become such a charmer these days). This issue moves fast and has some hot Skrull action (what does that even mean?) while featuring the artwork of Larry Stroman back in comics. Which is good in some spots -- his Monet is solid, as is his amorphous depiction of Darwin or his exaggerated Guido -- but the facial acting on supporting characters is kind of weak, and both Madrox and the "is he or isn't he" guest star (trying not to do spoilers here) look terrible. Not bad, but this series is kind of on the skids.
Alternate reality! Dead friends! Sister gone amok! It's crazy and colorful, but confusing honestly. The source of the newly cosmic powered Neela Archer remains, at best, mysterious as Adam struggles against being trapped in a life of tedium while New York and Australia become artifacts of the past tense. This issue doesn't seem to have its act together, with a big reveal page for Neela needing probably two to be properly effective. Plus, it's announced here that the "final year" of the series starts next issue. What? That's either good or bad, but it's hard to see here.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Less than impressive. Irksome when planned purchases go that way.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Ultimate Fantastic Four" #56 had some cute ideas when Ultimate Agatha Harkness and the Seven finally had the curtain pulled back on them (thanks Ultimate Namor) but there was a whiff of being overly derivative in the last third of the issue that threw it off the mark.
"Scalped" #19 is really, really good from a perspective of writing and craft. It's really masterfully done, plotted smartly, excellent characterization, smart and moves along with its meta story while not sacrificing the needs of the immediate issue. Why not buy it? Like recent issues of "Criminal," it's depressing. It's true to the characters and the situation, which is also depressing ... truly amazing, award-worthy work, but maybe not to have in your actual house.
"Voltron: A Legend Forged" #1 almost made it for having Vehicle Voltron (the writer of this column admits to being one of the last six surviving fans of that version, hunted down and exterminated by Lion Voltron fans the world over) but with a cast so huge that there was no time to spotlight anybody (Allura and Lotor maybe got the most chance for character work) and a plot that hinged on some hinkety sci-fi tropes that weren't depicted very well (dream? flashback? huh?) again, execution took down good ideas before they could bloom.
There was so much whining in "Captain America" #40 that it was almost like Steve Rogers really was back, as one of the 1950s Caps (yes, Protocide wasn't the only one, there was a Nazi one too ... really! Gotta get those vita rays, man) smacks Bucky around for most of the issue before ... well, let's just say a certain character's pretty smart. Sharon and Sin have some rough times too, but kinda "whatever" on that, you know? The art's gorgeous, and the plotting's zippy at least.
Speaking of giant robots and paper-thin characterization, "Transformers Spotlight: Hardhead" had the title character almost guest starring in the issue, with the uber plot from the "Cyclonus" special carrying on. Why not just do this as a storyline in an ongoing series? Hard to know. But Hardhead's mean, tough and taciturn. Apparently. No mention as to why. Okay.
The key story and ideas of "Incredible Hercules" #16 was really good, even with the puppy surprise, but the visual representation of gods in combat just never seemed to click. Not that the art was bad, but the essential "what's happening" when push literally came to shove
"Birds of Prey" #120 was okay, with the new teammate Infinity (is she wholly new? Where's she from? Stumped Wikipedia ...) got into some trouble working out the secrets of Platinum Flats while Babs argues with Black Canary (if you didn't read the pre-wedding stuff about Canary, that would totally throw you) and some other stuff happens. Nothing wrong here, but nothing all that right either.
It was nice seeing some familiar characters in "Spike: After The Fall" #1 but the idea of the blond vampire protecting a flock seems a bit much, even with Illyria's "help."
Wanna find out how Skrullektra got in to her shtick? Well, you should read Right Wing Avengers, er, "Mighty Avengers" #16, which has (fun fact) absolutely no members of the team in the issue. Seriously. It's not a bad story, showing how disturbingly easy it was to infiltrate the Hand (no ninja senses? So, say, The Sentry could come in and take over the Hand, seriously?) but it could almost have been an issue of "Secret Invasion" ... or was it an issue of ... oh sweet spirit, that's it! That's what's happening! THE SKRULLS ARE REPLACING OUR COMICS WITH SKRULL COMICS! THAT'S THE "SECRET" OF THE "INVASION!" HOLY CRAP, WE'VE GOTTA TELL SOME ...
*brief pause while reviewer falls over ... and then gets back up to keep typing ... or does he?*
... er, that is, "Mighty Avengers" #16 was still really cool, with those Skrulls and all kicking butt. Those Skrulls rock. Right. Er, moving on ...
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
Four words: "Tim Dugan's Flying Commandos." No, "Iron Man, Director of SHIELD" #31. Let's go with "no" there. At least Stark's not a moron here, but he's surely overtasked. Meh.
"Justice League Weekly" ... er, "Trinity" #7 finally tied in that whiny Tarot card reader as Bats put out an APB and John Stewart works in the Danger Room, er, holodeck, er, "Kitchen" in a backup story giving Firestorm something he could have read on the Watchtower computer, or even looked up on DC's own Wikipedia (no sponsorship and two plugs, you'd almost think they were run by Skrulls, invading the internet ... er, let's move on).
Ooh, villains are kicking ass on unsuspecting humans after pages of downtrodden tedium in "Marvel 1985" #3. Meh, who can be moved to care. There weren't even any Skrulls in there!
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Kinda crappy. Except for those Skrulls. Damn, they're good looking. Smart, too. Seriously, sure you could like the art of a "Batman and the Outsiders" #9 or chuckle at the idea of a mutant-hater's war in "X-Force" #5 ... but it just fails to have any "oomph," you know? Like "wow, that's a comic I'd like to read again?" None of this accomplished that.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
This didn't go well.
Finally, The Hundred and Four is online, presenting writing unlike any you'll see anywhere else on the web. Crime fiction, science fiction, historical fiction ... and that's just the first few assignments! Not to mention essays, news writing, journalism, random thoughts, and more. Updated at least once a week (mostly on Wednesday mornings), it's a look at the future of writing, today. Although it is Skrull free, which is a problem ... for now ...