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 NOVEMBER 12TH, 2008
Eternals Annual #1
Jump from the Read Pile. This one was a close call, with two concerns about being vague (in the titles applied to characters -- knower? teller? what the heck? -- and in the generic-osity of the antagonists themselves) but ultimately made it on the strength of Legba (playing the Loki card better than Thor's half-brother himself) and the clear portrayals of the titular characters. True, the antagonists have a set of "fact pages" that describe them a little bit, but especially given such a throwaway origin (DC did something similar with its "Millennium" crossover) there's not much character for them to be. Still, watching Ajak's hatred for Makkari, and enjoying Legba's delicious effectiveness, makes it all worthwhile.
Batman: Cacophony #1 (DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Note: this is not the cover that was available at retail. Lots of people may have individual concerns with Kevin Smith as a comic book writer. "Where's Spider-Man/Black Cat?" they may wonder. "Why did you use the 'n'-word in front of a Rosemont conference room full of fans and never follow up on your commitment to atone for it?" "Why is there so much reference to gay sex in your work?" Yadda yadda yadda. Detractors aside, this issue is pretty entertaining, from what the Joker's willing to do for a briefcase full of cash to Deadshot's on-target characterization, this issue hits its marks on plot points and dialogue. Some rumors allege that there's no such person as Walter Flanagan, but whoever joined Sandra Hope and Guy Major on the visuals for this issue is certainly an artist of whimsicality and skill. Enjoyable stuff, and when we see the next issue ... what, six years from now? That'll probably be good too. Look for it right after the next issue of "Battle Chasers."
Push #1 (Wildstorm/DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Note: this is not the cover that was available at retail. Much like Larry Hama did with "Spooks Omega Team," WIldstorm wunderkinds Adam Freeman and Marc Bernardin showcase some team dynamics between professionals, all of whom exhibit mental powers. Telekinesis, mental suggestion, precognizance, even taking latent impressions from inanimate objects. In a relatively small amount of space, they're all given some chance to shine. All of which brilliantly sets up the twist at the end, and this is an interesting start to a new project, and yet another home run for Bernardin and Freeman, who are surely showing up as some of the most interesting new voices in comics.
Fables #78 (Vertigo/DC Comics)
Sure, the Adversary's vast interdimensional empire was founded on murder and oppression ... but they also managed to clamp down on some very disturbing magical elements while making the trains run on time. This issue, one of the bad old influences is back, and he's not gonna be happy with Fabletown. The many wonderful points in this issue are mostly spoilers, but it sets up wonderful levels of conflict for the series to mine while providing the regular doses of chuckles and fascination. Good stuff.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Solid stuff all around.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Anna Mercury" #4 was pretty good in the moments where it thought about things. The action scenes, while interesting, made the issue fly by too quickly and left the experience feeling a bit hollow, despite the great art and solid start.
"Spooks: Omega Team" #3 had the same problem, with last issue's big bad becoming a footnote and a lot less team chemistry this issue. Still, not bad and the antagonist, if she can get some more fleshing out, could be somebody.
"JSA Kingdom Come Special: Superman" #1 was less a story and more a prelude with padding, as the "surely not a writer" Alex Ross strip mines the comic classic to cast this older Kal-El as a "loose cannon" making everybody nervous while he watches, terrified, as his own apocalyptic past looks like it's happening again. The history twists are interesting, but there are too many slow points to actually make it work.
"Wolverine" #69 said it right on the title -- "things just keep getting worse" as the blinded Hawkeye and his hairy Canadian cohort continue to have one extraordinarily crappy day. Their travelogue across a post-heroes nation united under super villains has some interesting points (and simply fantastic visuals) but still feels a bit too much like fan fiction.
The writing continues to improve on "Manhunter" #36, but the art is completely not right for this work. Terribly ill suited for this.
The central conceit of "Gravel" #6 was played too long -- we get it, you don't want a following -- but the nice scene in the basement helped this issue be "okay."
"Nightwing" #150 has a really big dance number dealing with Harvey and an interesting plan for the Big Apple, but Dick's single minded obsession made him seem nuttier than his mentor. Not in a good way, as a certain visitor tells him.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Brit" #9 (Connor Kent called, he wants his storyline back), "Cleaners" #1 (or "CSI: The After Party"), "Big Hero 6" #3, "Black Terror" #1, "Green Lantern Corps" #30 (Kryb is creepy), "Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" #52, "Captain Britain and MI-13" #7, "Leviticus Cross" #1 (no order).
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
If "Action Comics" #871 had picked fewer of its story threads -- the Kryptonians versus Doomsday, explaining the creature, or Lex Luthor's meeting with Sam Lane, or the Kryptonian councilmen plotting their takeover, or the weird costumed characters popping up at the end -- then maybe it could have been less messy and more effective. But as is, this is a pastiche reaching beyond its grasp.
Speaking of "all over the map" there's "Voltron: A Legend Forged" #4, which would have been better off sticking with the prince and the pirate instead of armored men with helicopter blades on their backs or the weird bit with Allura.
Hey, "Trinity" #24 -- WTH? The backups work better than the lead stories. Come on, now ...
While we're talking about stuff like that, "Titans" #7 proves Rule of Acquisition #99 as the nut didn't fall far from the murderous tree, which sows further discord amongst the old friends. The "not so smart" old friends.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Not that bad.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Let's call it a win with three jumps and very little serious annoyance.
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 yours truly rocks a new short story (really short, less than 600 words) called "Sing." New content is posted every Wednesday.