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 FEBRUARY 11TH, 2009
Jump from the Read Pile. This is what we've been waiting for -- the English "combat magician" has stepped up into the big leagues, and instead of the slow-paced close-but-not-close-enough stuff we've seen before, this issue has tons of characterization, snappy action, a lot of plot development. The work is framed wonderfully by the lead character's narration and a great deal of simply wonderful scenery from the hands of Mike Wolfer and Juanmar. There's no use spoiling the wonderful surprises here, but the barroom scene was well crafted in word and visuals, the stickup was also great, as was the "hiding place." A great issue that stepped up its game in a major way.
Sometimes, things go badly, and this issue chronicles that in intimate detail. The horrible boogeyman unleashed by the fall of the Adversary (who, of course, is still up to no good) has come to New York City, Flycatcher makes an appearance and Rose Red gets told some inconvenient truths. It helps to ratchet up the action that the dread Frau Totenkinder is shaking in her magical booties, so this issue is both tragic and tense. More solid work from this Eisner-award winning team.
This issue was a little chatty, with even Reed Richards beating political points until those ponies just wouldn't run anymore, but now you know exactly why The Blue Marvel and Anti-Man are so ridiculously powerful (and, honestly, could have been pretty useful during the Annihilation crossover), there's a nice chat with Namor, (you've gotta check out where that happens) and we find the root of the Anti-Man/Blue Marvel enmity as well. Not fantastic, but not bad, and hopefully it'll step it up next issue.
Jump from the Read Pile. Vril Dox is a jerk. There's no better way to describe that. His arrival on Earth and subsequent recruiting of Supergirl into his hilarity is greatly entertaining. He spits out great lines, manipulating events and people like chess pieces for his own goals. Meanwhile, the Omega Men discover some of Dox's challenges deep in space and he introduces another guest star of dubious cordiality. If you like mean spirited comics that showcase anti-heroes, this is great stuff about a man willing to do lots of bad things for good results.
Jump from the Read Pile. Loki is smart. Using magic and chessmanship that even Vril Dox could appreciate, the dead walk the earth again, Thor lays the smackdown while getting three less-than-pleasant surprises (the last of which being the most clever) while Asgard's elite get an offer they probably should refuse. Loki is in fine form, all incredulity and deference, manipulating events way better than he ever did when he was a guy. Good stuff. There's also a new Stan Lee-penned story that's surprisingly good and a Mighty Marvels backup which takes one very simple running joke and keeps making it funnier and funnier, playing off Letterman rules of repetition (and, weirdly enough, making Volstagg cry) while riffing on "Secret Invasion" as well. Some truly old school "Tales of Asgard" reprints round out the issue, all of which make it worth the five bucks.
The ascendant Parco Delgado has made some really strange bedfellows in his meteoric ascent to power, supported by all brands of people with a wide variety of motives. Meanwhile, Matty Roth is his unwitting pawn, driving around stressed out about his girlfriend Zee and dealing with lots of old friends from previous issues and realizing how little he knows. There's just enough material here for the issue to feel solid, and despite Matty's cluelessness, the developments here are worth noting in an alternative future that's all too possible.
Jump from the Read Pile. Zack Overkill is back in action and his former boss -- who uses either telepathy or some complicated code of communication -- is none too happy about it. Zack finds out some creepy things about the object of his twisted affections, enjoys his nocturnal forays into violence and accidental heroism before getting stuck in some ignorant mess that he should have known well enough to avoid. This is a noirish good time deep in moral complications that can keep you riveted through every panel. Sexy, brutal and smart, the team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have done it again.
Jump from the Read Pile. The set up? Two JLA powerhouses are under the mental control of international forces of evil, poised to kill their teammates on the African plains. The high powered artwork from Cafli and Santiago Arcas brings the action in very effectively, with G. Willow Wilson's script blocking out the action smartly. The lead character fights to reclaim her birthright and her friends, she kicks major butt in the process and brings this mini back to the heights its first issue achieved. The whole package will read better collected, but this issue was very strong.
Jump from the Read Pile. Deep underground, the Joes are on the cutting edge of technology (even as some of them listen to David Allen Coe) while chasing international espionage in Manila. Meanwhile, Destro has his hooks in the covert team and ... well, lots of stuff happens that is very integral to the plot, so again, let's not discuss those details. Suffice it to say that Chuck Dixon's script is spandex-tight, and even though the art from Robert Atkins, Clayton Brown and John Wycough has some kookiness in facial detail, his sense of layout, scale and working with action is top notch.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
How about six jumps, fool? That's a good start to the week, even with the preachiness in "The Blue Marvel."
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"New Warriors" #20 was a good closing chapter to this series, even though there were easily 36 pages worth of material here. The part with Tony Stark was way, way too fast, the action scenes seemed abbreviated and some great character moments got short shrift in the page count. Alas ...
"Batman" #686 was described by store owner Steve LeClaire as being "like a Grant Morrison story you can understand!" An intriguing story that kicks off when Alfred says, "and please, help yourself to food. There's pie," telling multiple versions of the death of the Bat, with friends and foes alike and no more secrets, which seems refreshingly honest. It'll take a look at the second half of the story to really gauge whether or not it'll work.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Booster Gold" #17, "Eternals" #8, "Green Arrow Black Canary" #17, "Brit" #12 (although there's one panel that's really disturbing) "Green Lantern Corps" #33 (although the Gardner panels were good), "Nightwing" #153 (although Bab's birthday was cute and well dialogued) and "Titans" #10.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
WTHellcat? "Patsy Walker: Hellcat" #5 was ... bewildering. Like Grant Morrison writing "Love and Rockets." Kathryn Immonen ... please, stop.
Also on the "Please Stop" train, "Trinity" #37, which had all of the boredom of "52" with none of the coherency or relevance.
Really, "Avengers/Invaders?" An evil Pinocchio shtick? An extremely limp "Secret Invasion" joke (Like Chris Brown jokes, still too soon, except in the brilliant Mighty Marvels way)? Only Spidey's Gollum riff was any good, but otherwise, seriously, just ... no.
Does Blade have the wizard Shazam as a hairstylist? This is just one of the bewildering questions in "Captain Britain and MI-13," which was way better as a personal interaction book (with more sexual tension than an episode of "Grey's Anatomy") than a superhero title, including an antagonist that's been cliched for centuries. Bah.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Wow, it was really rather bad, wasn't it?
WINNERS AND LOSERS
There were six jumps and only four true stinkers ... that's a win, even if it's a thin one.
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 next week. New content is posted every Wednesday.