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 SEPTEMBER 4TH, 2008
NOTE: What the heck? These reviews are, like, forever late! Yes, that's all true. Y'see, when a holiday early in the week pushes shipping day for new comics from Wednesday to Thursday, it throws a normally ordered, considered process into a tizzy. Cats lying down with dogs, copies of "The Monarchy" raining down from the skies ... total chaos. So on those weeks, normally, comics will be reviewed on Saturday for posting that day ... except when family dramas like a divorcing sibling pop up, and all heck breaks loose. Sorry. Here we go ...
Secret Six #1 (DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. You know that thing Brian Michael Bendis does when he has characters have a seemingly breezy conversation before getting into something more story-related? Imagine if that were done while developing character and plot directly. Like at the same time. Gail Simone pulls it off in one of her best writing efforts in some time, an issue with humor and drama and action and bloodshed and an interesting set up, a new villain that's immediately fun (what's with the speech pattern? Fantastic) and an ending that raises the stakes considerably. Just for kicks, the art from Nicola Scott and Doug Hazlewood are virtually pitch perfect, with Jason Wright's colors perfectly handling every situation and mood. Way better than the previous series (which wasn't bad at all) and a distinctive experience well worth owning.
Ms. Marvel Annual #1 (Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Spider-Man makes a guest appearance that's simply entertaining, and it leads to a fascinating revelation: Peter Parker needs a straight man. Exasperated and straightlaced, Ms. Marvel's a perfect foil for his irreverence, with so many quotable lines that it'd be impossible to chronicle them all (from both characters, as Ms. Marvel's rarely been this interesting). Stepping back into the days before the Secret Invasion, this post-Civil War struggle leads to an unlikely team-up and a just-as-surprising antagonist. Action packed and chuckle-inducing, this avoids the navel-gazing drudgery that ol' Web-head can dip into when left to his own devices in his own comics and just be fun and action packed. In one issue, this comic manages to dissect the disparate views of heroism in a post SHRA world, smash up a lot of Manhattan, let Spidey do some rather smart things, do a great callback gag and get Ms. Marvel all worked up about Spidey saying he got to second base with her. Sure, the art's a little rough edged and exaggerated, but that works with the kineticism of Brian Reed's script. A fun, fun comic book.
Fables #75 (Vertigo/DC Comics)
The war ends here, whether you like it or not, and everybody's not gonna make it home. The Empire's down to one gateway to the regular world and one last ditch plan to stop the rebel Fables, and they're hell bound to leave it all on the battlefield, holding back nothing. A lot happens in this thick, extra sized issue, but even at five bucks, it's more than worth it. For panel after panel, Buckingham and Leialoha pour it on, with more combat jammed into this collection of pages than in most runs of a war comic. All the while, there's some great character moments -- Sinbad and Charming developing quite the friendship, the intensity of the Emperor -- all while never letting go of the final goal, the end of the war and things changing irrevocably. A masterpiece ... and to know Bill Willingham did all this just to get to new stories to tell? Fascinating. Truly one of the finest series on the stands.
The Invincible Iron Man #5 (Marvel Comics)
Tick ... tick ... tick ... Ezekiel Stane's got plans to take down Stark where it hurts -- everywhere. On three continents, the scene shifts with skillful scripting and the sure hand of Salvador Larocca (how great is it that Stane's wearing a "Tony Was Right" t-shirt from Fraction's design). The chase is so well done, drawing you into the tension and eventual claustrophobia of it until it explodes with armored action. That Matt Fraction, he's sure hitting some kind of stride these days.
Noble Causes #36 (Image Comics)
Speaking of pulse-pounding action, the Nobles compound erupts into combat when the big spoiler from previous issues spoils even more and grabs the McGuffin so eagerly sought. The surprises here include Slate (not much more that can be said about that without spoilers), a new Noble really making her presence known and discovering that Colonel Comet's amulet is like an amped-up Green Lantern ring (have we discovered an early iteration of another Rainbow Lantern?). Fun stuff, and just about right on length.
Punisher: War Journal #23 (Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Wow. Jigsaw ... wow. He'd be right at home in Arkham. The tricky villain brings the crazy in large amounts, crying and shouting and ranting and declaring his love. Which is, you know, weird. But in a good way. Meanwhile, Bridge's female fighters tangle with the Wrecking Crew (who really should be embarrassed at this outing) and a surprise guest star ("I'm from the union an' we heard the Wreckin' Crew was workin' on a Sunday. That ain't no good by the charter!") which gives Frank a great line ("Whatever feels right. Listen to your heart.") that's way funnier in context than it is excerpted. The ending? Seriously, deeply messed up. Another great Matt Fraction comic (Rick Remender's along on scripting duties, with the always impressive Howard Chaykin on art, shaking the Brooklyn Bridge to its foundations). Naughty fun and every note hitting right on time.
Spooks: Omega Team #1 (Devil's Due Publishing)
Jump from the Read Pile. The week's biggest surprise. Out of virtually nothing, Larry Hama has made a cast of interesting characters that the reader can get involved with almost immediately. The easy, almost taken-for-granted familiarity that this team of clandestine operatives shares is the secret, as they borrow a page from Indiana Jones while keeping their Planetary cards handy, shooting and quipping their way through high adventure that'd turn the minds of ordinary men into pudding. Great work, great visuals (Tim Seeley with Nick Bell colors) and a great start. Hama's still got it, baby!
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Four jumps, a gang of entertaining reads, and all-star performances from Fraction, Hama and Reed. Hell yeah!
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
In this week's first "holy crap, didn't that used to suck?" prize, Supergirl" #33 was a distinctive improvement as -- similar to a recent issue of "Ms. Marvel" -- Kara finally got sick of her own whining and girled up to try and get over herself. Which led to an actually smart play against a plot involving magic and kicking some butt, all while giving her a fairly interesting friend. Who knew?
Also stopping the suckage more and more is "Trinity" #14, which showed the CSA's world teetering on chaos and the "trinity" stuck on how to react. The Hawkman-centric backup was okay too (the shot of him with his wings casting shadows over most of his body was great).
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" #18 could have used a little focus, but as with all issues it still managed its quips and minor moments even while never really doing much plot wise. The "big surprise" was cool but ultimately didn't mean much either. Oh, and the topless Dawn centaur cover? Totally false advertising, nothing like that inside.
"Fringe" #1 was an interesting start, with enough science fact to ground the science fiction. But the ordinary art and less-than-captivating colors didn't help, nor did the glacial pacing. It is a good ad for the show, however.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
The votes are in, and they're unanimous. In a move certain to annoy Jim McCann, readers overwhelmingly voted to see what books hit the "average" line without evoking much of a reaction. Thanks go out to Jason Newcomb, Javier Novoa, Nathan Gale, Hildebran, Mark Jerrett, Adrian M. Velazquez, John G. Heller, Keith Purfield and Keith Yu for writing in. Without further ado ...
"Eternals" #4 (action was okay), "Green Lantern" #34 (Sinestro was okay), "Angel: After the Fall" #12, "Sub-Mariner: Depths" #1 (Namor an urban myth?), "End League" #4, "Secret Invasion: Front Line" #3 (ooh, killing normal people, what a challenge) and "Authority: World's End" #2.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Marvel Apes" #1? Appallingly bad. The idea that people sat in a meeting and said, "okay, yeah, this'll work," while someone else said, "well, people do buy books about monkeys, Julius Schwartz said that" ... it's terrifying. If it was played for laughs, maybe, but this is done with a complete straight take ... and it's like "Superman/Batman" bad. The Gibbon as the lead? Seriously? Isn't he dead? Shouldn't he be? Wow.
The Sons of Trigon, eh, "Titans" #4? With different emotion powers? Been watching the "Teen Titans, Go" series much? The episode with different color hoods on Raven? Oh, never mind, just go away, given you did all that for such a lame ending.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Actually not bad at all, despite that awful business with the Gibbon.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Four jumps, good reads: this is why we read comics, ladies and gentlemen! A fantastic week.
Got a comic you think should be reviewed in The Buy Pile? If we get a PDF of a fairly normal length comic (i.e. "less than 64 pages") by no later than 24 hours before the actual issue arrives in stores (and sorry, we can only review comics people can go to stores and buy), we guarantee the work will get reviewed. Physical comics? Geddouttahere. Too much drama to store with diminishing resources.
Furthermore, as if this reviewer here wasn't obnoxious enough with his opinions, he's part of an effort to teach writers about how to do the work at The Hundred and Four, where this week with actual comic book content from Hannibal Tabu. Detractors, have at it ... new content is posted every Wednesday.