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 23RD, 2008
Jump from the Read Pile ... but just barely. Danny Rand turned 33, haunted by the fact that only one hero who has borne his title ever made it past that age. So what does he do? Pick fights with street toughs, agonize over his on-again off-again relationship with Misty Knight and navel gaze. Luke Cage walks around like he's not a wanted fugitive. There are flaws here, sure -- nobody ever mentioned, "oh, right, Iron Fists never live past 33, want some pie?" But with Kwai Jun-Fan (the Iron Fist of 1878 AD) wandering around wild west Texas in extended flashbacks, the solid and evocative art of Travel Foreman (that's what it says in the book ... and the "open the present" page was just right, not too overdone and not too conservative) as well as solid interplay between characters (from Duane Swiercyznski ... did Marvel think people would see his last name on the issue and think JMS was pulling triple duty?) it worked adequately enough. But just barely. Maybe it could have used some Skrulls ...
Parco's in hiding and Trustwell's up to no good. The Free States wanna make a deal and the US is up to no good. People get killed. So essentially it's another day in the DMZ. Nothing really happened this issue, just treading water while waiting for stuff to happen. Not a fatal misstep, but not a good thing. Eh.
Jump from the Read Pile. Now, this is entertainment. The internecine struggles between team members works so well that even when they're in combat ("Our job is to take down unregistered super-humans. Why do you think we haven't been allowed to go after Daredevil? Or Luke Cage? Perhaps because we can't stop a Nazi made of bees without eating him, while you hide like a shrieking schoolgirl because 'you don't like bugs!!'") it's a hoot. A team of people who hate each other (and virtually everything else) is super interesting, especially with a barely contained Venom and Bullseye in the mix. Christos Gage has retained the wicked humor from Warren Ellis run and injected a sense of urgency in the plotting, as the big action pieces at the front and back of the issue work well and the balance with the dialogue is pitch perfect. The week's best read.
Sure, you can point to the fact that this title was ready to get dropped to "evaluate first" (it technically jumped) and the fact that violence is almost all that happened this issue. But when you get into M'rrisey's "operational calculus" (imagine Braniac 5 with direction towards administration), the trickiness of Invisible Kid (who, many people forget, is a scientist), Atom Girl running amok at different sizes and Sanford Greene's edgy yet still whimsical artwork, well, you've got yourself a winner. It almost lost it at the end with a bad deal, but the pseudo-Kirkmanism of the running story's nature worked out, with the events here bleeding into what's next. It still felt like one whole story, which was good.
Jump from the Read Pile. This awesome little guidebook tells the story of ... well, almost every Skrull you've ever seen (yes, Ethan Edwards, Skrull cows and so on) from a very Skrull-esque perspective. Which is so cool. What's a Warskrull? Got it ... although the difference between them and Cadre K isn't so clear. What's the deal with the Citadel of Light and Shadow? That's right here. Why does the Shaper of Worlds look like a Skrull? Answered right here. Great supplementary information that casts light on the "WEHT?" questions about entities like the Beyonder and how the Skrull's handled that. So awesome for Skrulls to get the time on page they deserve ...
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Three jumps and a lot of cool Skrulls? Awesome.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
Since this is coming from a luxury hotel overlooking SDCC and there's panels to cover in the morning, let's just make this quick ...
"Justice League of America" #23 was again close, despite the fact they fought Amazo all issue and nothing got resolved.
Hippie Avengers, er, "New Avengers" #43 actually had almost no sign of the characters (Spidey was there) as the ship bound Captain America gave up his story (and identity) this issue in more illumination content looking in between the cracks of the last few years. Which was okay.
"Ambush Bug: Year None" #1 was okay ... but not nearly as funny as it needed to be.
"Daredevil" #109 was involved and noirish, if you're into that sort of thing. Good but not "holy crap I gotta have this," if that makes sense.
"War Heroes" #1 had an interesting idea, of super powers handed out for soldiers, and it'll be interesting to see how it goes when things inevitably go wrong. The execution was really slow, though.
Speaking of ideas, "Trinity" #8 finally had one, bringing forth an almost Grant Morrison's "Earth 2" concept about why Supes, Bats and Wondy are so successful in the totemic power of things. But a dull party at Wayne Manor and lackluster punching sapped it of its energy. If Jonathan Hickman had written this, we'd be blogging about it for weeks.
"Black Panther" #38 had one cute surprise in Wakanda as Killmonger and T'challa went through their motions in neighboring Niganda, waiting for a new element to change their all-too-familiar dance. Killmonger turns out to be the Flavor Flav of comics at the end, and there's still that damned force field monkey ... closer, but still not cohesive enough.
The "lost history" of the missing year in "Robin" #175 was far more compelling than his whining and thinking about the currently AWOL Batman. Who, of course, is fine in "Trinity" and "Superman/Batman" and ... you get the point.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Number of the Beast" #8 was ... so appallingly stupid, another reboot for the Wildstorm universe (isn't that already rebooting with ... oh who cares?) and the High a lot less interesting than he was when he ran a proto-Authority. Meh.
Speaking of "meh," the continuation of "X-Factor" storylines in "She-Hulk" #31 was "okay," as we find out the Skrulls have their very own magical teddy bear to make them feel better. Which su ... er, is awesome. Sort of.
"Black Summer" #7 was a disappointment, with pages upon pages of babble and arguing, a climactic showdown in a cliche locale and maybe twelve pages of actual story content, all told. Not much screen time for the inheritors, either.
"Uncanny X-Men" #500 was old ideas in new clothes with old names popping up (and noting how long they'd been doing this dance) as San Fran welcomes mutants -- property destruction and all -- way more openly than the east coast ever did. "Why" is a mystery, but whatever.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Save how awesome Skrulls are, it was kind of "meh."
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Well, "Thunderbolts" and the "Skrulls" one shot were bright points and ...
*The columnist falls over ... to return, wearing clothes that look easily a week old*
... what the hell? I was just about to review "Mighty Avengers" #16 and ... I don't remember ... what the ... how did I get to San Diego? Holy crap, it's the 23rd? Where did the last week go? What happened? Why's there a green guy on the floor? That's odd ...
Anyway, this week ... wow, I bought that? Why would I do that? I took notes, though, so it was clearly me ... that's strange. Oh well. I'll have to call it a wash, because it doesn't look like anything really impressive really outweighed anything really stupid or vice versa.
BEFORE WE GO ...
This column was actually posted LIVE (in contrast to, say, having written it in the Omni in the middle of last night and then posting it today ... wait, that is what happened! Damn you, Skrulls!) from the second floor of the San Diego Convention Center, where it's already crowded on Thursday. However, the rooms at the Omni are amazingly relaxing, and if you can get somebody to pay to put you in one, you should leap at the chance, even if it means threatening the guy who'll stay with you. Your mileage may vary. If you're at 'con, I'm a not-so-angry looking Black guy in a black fedora, wearing a CBR shirt that says "Comics Don't Suck." Assassination attempts laughed off. I'm also Twittering up a storm, so check for that.
The Hundred and Four is updated every Wednesday, and soon (hopefully by September or so) will feature a new surprise from the Buy Pile's writer ... original genre fiction. Now everybody else will get a chance to criticize what's done by this guy (and it has to be prose because artists are flaky).