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 JANUARY 14TH, 2008
The spies strike back as shapeshifting secret agent Ezra Lowe does a smash-and-grab on his former employers, determined to free a number of his cohorts from the shackles of their service. This issue is very cinematic in tone and approach, with hints of characterization under a burden of plot and action. If you read the small print, you'll see a tie in to the upcoming movie and overall this is a solid piece of work.
The title character's delusions are getting stronger, Tiger Shark's back with a vengeance (and a machete) and -- as so often is the case -- a pretty girl means nothing but trouble. Daniel Way's script is a great mix of action and comedy, while the artwork from Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco and Marte Gracia has the right mix of rounded edges and comical presentation to mix with the intensive violence and beatings. Yes, that was Tinkerbell with a tiny microphone, and a goofy character's return is good for some chuckles too.
Parco Delgado, the new functional lord of post-war Manhattan, doesn't trust Matty Roth to go visit his old friend Wilson and come back with a mountain of treasure. The way this ends up playing out is very unexpected, and leaves Matty in quite an uncomfortable position, always at the business end of a gun. Not a bad issue at all, and another interesting look inside Brian Wood's blood-soaked love letter to New York City.
Jump from the Read Pile. Marvel's lost hero gets a very unpleasant surprise when he comes home, leading to a surprising history lesson and a conversation with an old friend that most people can't exactly chat up casually. Using the tapestry of both history and the 616 Marvel Universe, writer Kevin Grevioux creates an intricate pre-Dark Reign picture that fleshes out more of Marvel's newly retconned past. It also reveals something unconsidered -- the Blue Marvel has children out there -- which could lead to some interesting spin offs and/or sequels.
Jump from the Read Pile. The villain you've seen parading around and calling himself Prometheus is not the authentic article, not the man who paraded into JLA headquarters disguised as contest winner Retro ("Here comes justice!") many years ago. The events that led to "Final Crisis: Requiem" have -- like the soon-to-be-discussed events in "Fables" -- woken up something probably best left asleep. Delightful and mean, quickly recapping the character's origins and showing what he's capable of. Question: isn't it about time for Prometheus to upgrade his helmet to read SD cards or accept flash drives? Also, what file format does the data input into his head? Just some thoughts ...
Jump from the Read Pile. "For what profiteth a man if he gain the whole world ..." Magneto's quotation of the Judaeo-Christian canon belies his desire to protect his progeny, even if they have no idea who they are. Erik's quips are in fine form as he calmly maneuvers his way through the best that human government can throw at him on his way to the inevitable "House of ATM" Elseworlds-esque storyline we saw a few years ago. Surprisingly deep and well portrayed, perhaps hindsight made the ideas stronger and more interesting than they were at their inception. Fine work from Gage, DiVito and Hang.
Fabletown is going to pieces, Rose Red's an unlikely savior, Boy Blue gets an unpleasant surprise and old business is about to be re-opened with old enemies on the loose. It's a little jumbled in the main storyline, but the strength of the characters shines through. The Mowgli-centric backup story is stronger than the lead, using some of the good old tricks to pull the wool over the eyes of a goblin tribe. Still plenty entertaining.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
A pretty good haul with three jumps from the Read Pile. That's pretty good.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"G.I. Joe" #1 was very close to the mark, with a "year one" styled approach to the team working together mixing eras into one coherent whole. Chuck Dixon's script was stronger than the artwork, which wasn't very good at making characters distinguishable (the lack of the standard costuming helped). Keeping Cobra in the wings is a good move, and with either better artwork or a quicker pace, this could step up and accomplish.
"Booster Gold" #16 wasn't bad despite proto-Nazis being involved, with the conflicted Enemy Ace appearing as a keen and honorable sword amongst men of poor character, but Booster's improvisational heroism turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory.
"Gravel" #8 was a bit better, with the lead character stepping up to the big leagues. The art and ambiance are gorgeous, but there's not much characterization to go around here, plus jamming in the plot all in the last pages.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Trinity" #33, "Green Arrow/Black Canary" #16, "Nightwing" #152, "Death Defying Devil" #2, "Captain Britain and MI-13" #9, "Cleaners" #2, "Detective Comics" #852.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
Everybody was talking about it, so checking out "Amazing Spider-Man" #583 with the Obama backup was a must ... sadly. The lead story was a little sappy but all right, told from Betty Brant's myopic perspective (including one of the worst pick up lines ever, "Your name must be Mickey 'cause you're so fine"), while the Obama-centric backup was just limp, as the antagonist has never been that stupid. Also, weirdly, Harry Osborn was colored brown. No idea what that was about.
Speaking of weirdness in comics everybody'll talk about, "Final Crisis" #6 had Shilo Norman given the coloring of, say, Ann Coulter. Perhaps he "escaped" this abysmal series and ended up switching place with Harry Osborn. There's no telling. In any case, this issue was almost coherent, like coming down off of a dangerous high, with some sappy and unsupported attempts at emotionalism (which our other reviews somehow found effective), needless one-upsmanship from speedsters running from the Black Cylon, er Black Racer and there's a big confrontation between two largely iconic characters that (in a non-Obama week) would be all anybody could talk about and had the only effective dialogue in the issue. Does it really mean anything? Impossible to say. But overall, the rating's still "fail."
The whininess of Jericho's personal crisis in "Titans" #9 was embarrassing. Seriously, shut up, die in a fire, something.
Kryb was acting like a major threat, but in "Green Lantern Corps" #32 the Lanterns get into a turf conflict with another colored corps in a fight scene that was limp and shortcut. This wasted all that uncomfortable creepiness from the last issue or two.
Re: "Action Comics" #873. Franklin Richards called, he wants his idea from "Heroes Reborn" back. Not to mention the revolving door on the Phantom Zone -- fail fail FAIL!
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Kinda crappy, honestly.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
2009 takes its first one on the chin, as the tedium overpowered the quality.
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, if remembered. Physical comics? Geddouttahere. Too much drama to store with diminishing resources. If you send it in more than two days before comics come out, the possibility of it being forgotten increases exponentially.
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, which is on hiatus until February 18, 2009.