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 28TH, 2009
The name of the game is "betrayal" as shapeshifting secret agent Ezra Lowe mounts a daring rescue mission to save his friend Carver from the clutches of the people they once worked for. This issue is good, but may have one plot twist too many as the "who do you trust in an organization full of psychics" and only starts to make sense as a prequel to the upcoming movie if you read the "behind the action of 'Push'" page and start to connect the dots. Like playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, you know where it all ends up, and the ride to get there has thus far been really high quality, with this issue being merely "good" where others have been "great."
Jump from the Read Pile. Apparently, this is the penultimate issue of one of very few major company titles starring a protagonist of color. This issue, rebels from the alien race who created Jaime's armor have come to earth, looking for a leader and with a mission to "dismantle oppressive states" and stop "terrorist cells" that list names you might not expect. In an issue that -- as always -- has fun quotes ("I'm trying to usher in a pantsless society, Brenda. I've never made a secret of this") and solid action (against a whole host of easily dispatched bits of old business) while giving the supporting cast plenty of chances to shine. This series will be sorely missed.
Don't call it a comeback! The "bwa-ha-ha" writers that made the Justice League (and summarily got cleaned out with the villainification of Max Lord) are back with their own creation, a talky deluge of one liners and insults based in a world just like ours that's suddenly visited by a super hero and a super villain (also a former couple) from a parallel one. The last page, though? That's where it gets really, really weird, and ... well, if you're just joining now, this will all be very, very strange to you and possibly off putting. If you've been along for the whole ride, especially back to the JLI embassies, well, this just keeps getting funnier and funnier like a Letterman bit. The art's a little inconsistent in the last pages, but it's not bad at all.
Jump from the Read Pile. Speaking of comebacks, Black Adam's wife is back, and Felix Faust is doing things with her ... well, one can read it many ways, but none of them are savory. Suffice it to say that Faust's idea of how to treat a lady is a famously bad one and leads him to nothing good happening. That, among other developments, has led Isis to have "a swift, spiritual kick to the head that alters [her] reality forever." Which is also a whole lotta bad for some people, including an interesting bit of activity on the Rock of Eternity. Meanwhile, the titular team spends a lot of time talking about who should stick around and who shouldn't. A surprisingly tense issue that brings one of the most dangerous men in DC back to the forefront.
The attacking forces of the Bookburner are at the gates of the Golden Boughs Retirement Village, the home of a great number of forgotten Fables. Things are going well for Bookburner, which is bad for the title character. That's when things go completely amok, and you see a side of Gary the Pathetic Fallacy that is a pleasant surprise, you've surely never seen fighting like this (well, maybe Jack Hawksmoor has) and when the books come out, well, there's no telling what might happen. A little short on actual story but still very entertaining, if for nothing else because of what happens to Goldilocks (still nutty as a fruit convention).
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
Luke Cage working for Norman Osborn? Believe it -- "New Avengers" #49 features some "aggressive negotiation" along with some goodly shows of violence but talks too much and moves too slowly. Nice to see the guy in the warehouse, though.
The quote of the week comes fromwhat's apparently Neil Gaiman's favorite comic these days, "Umbrella Academy: Dallas" #3, which posits the wisdom, "when fighting for freedom, never wear new pants" (which makes a lot of sense, if you think about it). The story itself is all right, with an interesting bit of time travel from Number Five and some interesting uses of super powers by The Seance, but is just solidly okay without doing anything big enough to make it necessary.
The only problem -- really, everything else is stellar -- with "Captain America" #46 is the virtually glacial pace. Namor fighting alongside the erstwhile Winter Soldier made for good chemistry, the handling of old business was framed in a way that made it contemporary and interesting.
"Faces of Evil: Kobra" wasn't far from the mark, with the lead character stepping up with some relatively new ideas about being a global-level threat, using some of the tactics Namor advocated in his recent miniseries and walking around enough memories to fill the minds of three men. Nice set up work, but ultimately not enough past the prologue to either define the real thoughts behind this campaign of terror nor compel purchasing this comic.
"Daredevil" #115 was an interesting bit of labor law that OSHA probably wouldn't approve of, an issue consumed with fisticuffs and violence and featuring a number of guest stars. The problem was it was virtually all fight scenes, and the "wha?" moment came a bit too easily.
"Legion of Super-Heroes" #50 was apparently the last issue in this run, and it had enough ideas for three issues worth of conflict, finally tracking down their elusive enemies and dealing with challenges in two dimensions. Way too quickly shuffled off this retail coil.
"Ms. Marvel" #35 makes a go at a new status quo under the Osborn Supremacy, with SD6 stylings on top of "Smallville" shows of power. Noh Varr gets all posed and serious, the title character can't wear her costume and again this just misses making it home.
The artwork stepped up in a major way on "Buckaroo Banzai Big Size" #1, and the knife fight was good, but the issue fell short on focus, pacing and most importantly price. A fine effort, though, with good character work, good banter, and again much improved artwork (don't let the cover fool you).
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Avengers: The Initiative" #21, "Reign in Hell" #7, "Incredible Hercules" #125, "Superman" #684, "Nova" #21, "Teen Titans" #67 (which knew the melody to Kobra's symphony of sadism but few of the words), "She-Hulk" #37, "Trinity" #35 (although Enigma's rationales are somewhat interesting), "Young X-Men" #10, "X-Force" #11 (now the mutants have their very own Thanos, chasing Selene as if she were Death), and there was no order for "Wind Raider" #1.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
Oh, "Final Crisis" #7 ... no. All right, the "super" Black president was cute, and the "last outpost" had its ability to stir up feelings of sturm und drang but the actual story, including the crazy mathematic concept here (shades of Exedore and Cabell on Tirol 4 before Haydon came calling) and the memory work that Superman does ... it's all just craziness. Largely incomprehensible, and not helped by "FInal Crisis: Revelations" #5, which ... well, what it does is a spoiler, but suffice it to say that what it does is not a good idea.
The stuff that happens around the character Hush in "Batman" #685 is ... well, it's not smart, from his perspective nor from the angle of everyone else involved, and that dumbness bogs down otherwise adequate character work.
Gorilla knights, huh, "Wonder Woman" #28? Zeus brings back the Argonauts? This blank Themisciran Doomsday analogue ... really, WTH? Did nobody think about "why are we doing this stuff?" Horrible.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Largely good stuff.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Good way outweighed bad, so we're calling this a winner.
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 will be back on February 18th.