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). Â 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 24TH, 2008
Thunderbolts #124 (Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Norman Osborn's freakin' nuts. Gun in hand and cackling madly, he leads his berserker team of criminals gone bad in a counteroffensive against the Skrull invasion. Sort of. Bullseye has some other ideas, Radioactive Man's poised to donate and Swordsman ... well, he's having a bad day. There's lots of shooting and lots of mayhem and just the right mix of snark and sarcasm -- writer Christos Gage has fun wallowing in the wildness of the characters, and Fernando Blanco's art excellently depicts the insanity. Fun, but naughty fun.
Blue Beetle #31 (DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Also, image shown here is not the cover available at retail. The fighting here is largely perfunctory as character is the focus here. Dr. Mid-Nite shows up to save the superpowered mules that Jaime fought last issue and give some words of encouragement, and the title character gets caught in a political tornado. Meanwhile, crime goes on in El Paso with the local talent making a big deal with Intergang, which leads to a supervillain surprise. This issue is a very good mood piece, just a little short on story and probably wouldn't have made it if money were tighter.
The Immmortal Iron Fist: Orson Randall and the Death Queen of California (Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. If there's one thing the new generation of Iron Fist stories knows, it's how to catch the reader's attention with a snappy name. "The Death Queen of California," you say? That's interesting! Set in the same milieu as movies like "LA Confidential" and "Devil in a Blue Dress," Orson Randall fills the gumshoe role in doing a favor for an old friend. But an intoxicating femme fatale is involved and things are nothing like they seem, even in the superficial environs of a nascent Hollywood. Gritty, textured and fun, this is a great one shot worth your money.
Legion of Super-Heroes #46 (DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. In a very well-balanced story, the Legion spends some time getting ducks in a row while policing a city full of wild extrahuman underagers. All while personal dramas develop both in the Legion Headquarters and in the halls of power. A better balance of personal and action elements than "Blue Beetle," this is a worthy jump and shows that not only has Jim Shooter finally reclaimed his mojo after some uneven issues at the start of his run, but also that Francis Manapul, Livesay and McKenna have a good grip on presenting the future.
Deadpool #2 (Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Sneaky -- this story isn't exactly what it seemed, as Deadpool -- delightfully talking to himself -- succeeds in getting hired by the Skrulls to further their ambitions towards taking over the earth. After infecting them with his own particular kind of whimsy, the bullets start flying and the screaming and running start, and it's all great fun. The last page is a wonderful reveal, and this Daniel Way/Paco Medina/Juan Vlasco/Marte Garcia joint has chuckles and character.
Fables #76 (Vertigo/DC Comics)
After the non-stop pace of the war, this issue is like catching one's breath as a certain former foe tries to get accustomed to his new living arrangements. To say much more would be a spoiler, but there's great showings here by The Beast, a nice little speech by Snow White and a glimpse at just how bad the occupation of the homeworlds was. Virtually relaxing by comparison to the last few months, and while not the best issue of the series, not bad at all.
Black Panther #41 (Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Similar in theme to "Deadpool," the Wakandans do what Wakandans do while Skrulls wax poetic like the Cuban colonel in "Red Dawn" (using a similar framing device). To say more would be to spoil it, but this crafty issue really gave Jason Aaron room to shine, and even Lee Loughridge's moody colors work here with their muted tones and nonexistent lighting.
Jack of Fables #26 (Vertigo/DC Comics)
This issue's all about revelations and -- you've got it -- more spoilers as the Bookburner's army of faded Fables circles the area near the Golden Boughs Retirement Home and the Page sisters struggle with their histories as well as their present situations. The visuals presented by Russ Braun, Jose Marzan and Daniel Vozzo again stand out with great vitality, and amusement abounds in another solid issue from a very reliable series.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Sweet spirit, six jumps? Financial considerations aside, that's fantastic!
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Daredevil" #111 wasn't bad even as it introduced the derivative (yet still fairly intriguing) Lady Bullseye, explaining her motivation and origins. The visuals are interesting and there's a moment for Matt that, while being morally challenged, might make many readers also say "it's about time!"
"Aspen Showcase: Benoist" #1 was all right, but it was better when they called it "Hardware" at Milestone.
"Flash Gordon" #1 was a pleasant surprise, a serviceable modern update of the pulp classic, complete with the trappings of our brave new world. The swashbuckling is done under the auspices of intelligence agencies -- a dash of "Alias" here, a smidgen of "Burn Notice" there -- and Flash also borrows a page from the Indiana Jones handbook. Interesting to see this Ultimization of the classic concept.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"She-Hulk" #33 (too talky), "My Name is Bruce" one shot, "New Avengers" #45 (House of Skrull), "Trinity" #17 (House of Trinity, a surprise parallel this week), "Ms. Marvel" #31 (if she's not fighting, it's not working), "Teen Titans" #63 (although you will find out -- sort of -- who sent the dog), "Project Superpowers" #6, "Nova" #17, "Reign in Hell" #3 and "Star Wars: Legacy" #28.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Ambush Bug: Year None" #3 managed a trifecta -- being hateful to fans and their mores, being wholly incoherent (even if you've read James Joyce, this seems a bit much) and by having the brilliant Keith Giffen turn in a book that's legitimately bad. The jokes fall flat, the art was fresh once but seems retrograde now, and there's a listlessness that can't be denied. Tragic, really ...
"Ultimates Season 3" #5 was similarly awful too as Ultimate Black Panther showed his true colors, the culprits are revealed (as is Venom's surprise) ... but it's still just bad. The coloring's too dark, the deaths are like "so?" and the story's a quagmire ... bah.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Not so bad, given the numbers.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Three good, two bad and several "whatever" -- that's the vote if counts are tallied. Given the six jumps, that's one hell of a week in comics, kids!
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 presenting five shots of microfiction from Ritch Hall 2. New content is posted every Wednesday.