NOTE: Woops -- forgot to post in the afternoon. Sorry!
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 21ST, 2008
Jump from the Read Pile. Did you know about the long standing, secret relationship between Emma Frost and Atlantis' Avenging Son? As Kurt Angle might have said, "It's true, oh, it's true." At least today -- this annual examines Emma's role in the Osborn Supremacy (or "Illumi-naughty" as it was called at Wizard World Rosemont, or "the only lady in a room full of scoundrels like that" as Namor said) and her complicated "moral flexibility" and some of what she's bringing to this new world order. Fraction's script rocks the quotables ("This one. I like this one. We don't have blondes where I come from ..." or "Rescue girls from the surface world in hope for a quick reward and then some post-coital posing in the mirror?" or "Revenge is so bourgeoisie. This is a vendetta") while poking around the characterizations of Tony Stark, Norman Osborn, Sebastian Shaw and the aforementioned two troublemakers. This issue -- like some other jumps, proved exactly why Marvel's doing better having the villains win ... but we'll speak more about that shortly.
Jump from the Read Pile. ... and here we go. The reason why "Dark Reign" is already a lot of fun whereas Final Crisis is bewildering -- Norman Osborn, and everybody working with him, is having fun. How does Norman do it? By making the Avengers in his own twisted image, complete with his own deranged versions of "The Amazing Spider-Man," "Hawkeye," "Wolverine," "Ms. Marvel" and "Captain Marvel." Then there's the Iron Patriot ... oh ... oh, no. Norman's cracking up every step of the way, taking the iconography of heroism and remixing it into something wrong in a TV broadcast that would clearly have many people in Marvel's Manhattan spewing out their drink and saying "Aw hell no!" As it should be. Sure, this is a Brian Michael Bendis comic, so there's a word count that could choke a valedictorian, even with some more fun quotes ("I feel like I've taken crazy pills" or "True that" or "Skrulls make me gassy, Ozman" or "I'm fascinated by you") that evidence how zany things are here. Oh, there's some stuff with Dr. Doom too, but so what? The fun here is spelled O-S-B-O-R-N.
However, while we're here, what's up with that blank cover? What's that even about? The blank cover costs more? What does that even mean?
Jump from the Read Pile. The old-school, nostril-showing, monologuing bombasticity of Starbreaker (think Galactus fueled by opinion polls) is well balanced by some subtle storytelling (loved the mages' montage) and strong character work from the Silver Age JLA (Barry! Hal! Arthur in the orange fishscale!) while providing a relevant bit of background for the Milestone/DCU story being managed by regular writer Dwayne McDuffie. Nostalgic good times that flesh out the larger story.
Jump from the Read Pile. Jack Flag's back and he's fighting his way through endless armies of Negative Zone weirdoes. There's a real "last stand at the Alamo" feel before the naked guy even shows up, and the documentary-style framing device works well in the idea of things already being all over and you're just trying to figure out how it happened. In a rougher week, this might not have made it. When Rocket Raccoon gets involved, it's just plain old laughs. This title's consistently near the "buy me" level, and this month it made it.
Jump from the Read Pile. So Norman Osborn's making ripples with the vilain community, he's making big headlines with a new team of Avengers ... but what about the things Norman doesn't want people to know? Carrying over some elements from "Dark Avengers," the director of HAMMER sits down with the commander-in-chief (done exactly as the real world did). But he's already been busy doing some secret recruiting, much as Henry Peter Gyrich did with his Shadow Initiative, and between that and some complicated comments twisting Len Samson's words on himself Norman leaves the surprising ending open to some serious wackiness. Fun, wrong stuff.
Jump from the Read Pile. Jefferson Pierce meets Clark Kent and the heights and challenges of Suicide Slum make the front page of the Daily Planet with some heroic help. With Laura Martin's savvy coloring, Cully Hamner's crisp lines make Metropolis' worst neighborhood -- one so bad that it saps Superman's powers -- leap off the page. Jen Van Meter's thorough script plays well and the whole package showcases a fairly believable picture evidencing the forging of a hero, with mistakes as well as triumphs.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Walked in the door planning to spend nothing, walked out with six comics. That's a great way to start.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
Somebody gets an upgrade in "Birds of Prey" #126 and the villains of Platinum Flats have quite an interesting day, as do the titular heroes here. To say much more would reveal too much, but this issue was very close and could have made it happen if only the plot could have tightened up a bit. However, we did receive a call from "New Mutants" #18, they'd like their gestalt back.
The ridiculous factor of "War Machine" #2 has some value, and there's also some legitimate dramatic tension with the man on the satellite and a brutal examination of conditions in some messed up parts of the world. You can argue the politics of the last page's guest appearance, but it's kind of fitting. Not bad.
The second stylish villain makeover of the month, "Faces of Evil: Deathstroke" gives Slade Wilson a new raison d'etre and showcases some pretty interesting talents many people may not suspect. The problem is that Slade got really rather creepy in the process, gaining some technical coolness and getting very Unabomber Manifesto in the ideological sense.
Writer Peter David put a request in the front of "X-Factor" #39 that people not reveal what happens in this issue (whoa) and this column is happy to honor that request. What did happen took too long, honestly, as the build up was effective but lagged a bit, and the reaction time was too short for something that ... well, we may have said enough already.
Tim Drake mans up in a major way in "Robin" #182 as he steps out of the shadow of the Bat and does things his own way, forcing Gotham City to play along. That means dealing with a big gang war, arguing with his costumed comrades and generally taking the reins. Why wasn't it good enough? Well, the action sequences were flat and the plot sagged in the middle.
It's hilarious that the "Faces of Evil" villain on the cover of "Vigilante" #2 was ... Vigilante. The narration was a smidgen schizophrenic with some of Frank Castle's energies (as well as, honestly, some Michael Scoffield) with a brush across the brutal elements of incarceration.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Brave and The Bold" #21, "Supergirl" #37, Tangent: Superman's Reign #11, "Trinity" #34, "Elephantmen" #15, "Squadron Supreme: Volume 2" #7 (taking the scenic route to Gruenwald country) and "Spooks: Omega Team" #4.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
Dear "Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3-D" #2 ... WTH? This issue makes brains hurt.
Despite Hercules' assertation, "It's time to man up!" "Mighty Avengers" #21 did not get the job done with a confusing story about magic and vengeance and teleporting and sudden reappearances and ... it was almost as if this issue was written by Grant Morrison.
He's the Wiz and he lives on ... Oa? "Green Lantern" #37 has Blue Lanterns hoping, Green Lanterns policing, Red Lanterns raging, Sinestro Lanterns, er ... Yellow Lanterns ... uh ... screw it. It's a freakin' bag of Skittles up in here, and things look quite unclear on the art side while the plot, such as it is, doesn't do much worth doing.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Mostly mediocre it seems, and that's not bad, per se ...
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Six jumps from a week where nothing was a guarantee is a winner, no matter how you slice it. Go This 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, 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.