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 18TH, 2009
Jump from the Read Pile. Whoa. It may be a little premature to say that this title is back in fighting form, but this issue -- talky as it is -- is a tour de force, a masterpiece of craft and misdirection by writer Peter A. David. David himself once again asked readers and reviewers not to discuss the specifics here ... and with good reason. In an issue that combines a lot of police cars ... you know what? There's not much more that can be said without ruining the delicious surprise, one that works best if you have no idea what it is. Suffice it to say that the moody artwork from Valentine De Landro, Pat Davidson and Jeromy Cox perfectly captures the tension and irreverence. Great work.
So it all comes down to this -- it's Lorraine versus Lorraine as the ascendant Duke faces off against his magic using daughter in a duel that can take no prisoners. Meanwhile Dr. Sauniere takes part in a daring escape attempt from Lorraine's torturers and the body count stacks up in a way that few could have expected mere issues ago. The alternative history yarn keeps winding its way, slowing down a bit but filling that time with intense emotional moments for the characters. Secrets are revealed, spells are cast and very little is left the same at the end of the issue. Another win for the team of Nelson and Ferreyra.
Jump from the Read Pile. When you're reading a comic in the store and you're really enjoying almost every panel, you should buy it. This issue is a great example of that -- from Superman's chat with Icon to the wide series of fun quotes ("I've found the mace thing works in pretty much every situation," "I don't suppose you brought the shadow a deck of cards?" a riff on Frank Miller, "I've been flying in space since I was a kid, I'll eyeball it" and more) on top of very defined artwork from Jose Luis, JP Mayer and Peter Pantazis. Sure, the action's a little old school and maybe even a bit facile, but the moments between the punches shine like ... well, if you get the issue you'll see. Great fun.
Jump from the Read Pile. Very, very early in the life cycle of the covert special ops team, Duke, Scarlett and Stalker are each given a secret mission the hard way -- with a parachute tossed out of a cargo plane ahead of them. Armed only with what they carry and mysterious code-words, they're dropped in the Nevada desert and forced to figure it out as they go. The results? Well, let's just say that Larry Hama has not only refused to lose a step in the years since the demise of the legendary Marvel series, he's stepped his game up in a major way. Meanwhile, a gun-toting billionaire is tracked down in a police standoff (sure are a lot of massed police cars this week) and even some obvious spell-checkable typos (parder?) don't malign the deep sense of research and backstory (the fifth general order, the Goya reference) that makes this issue so rich and content-dense with goodness. A great start to another IDW take on a classic franchise.
Jump from the Read Pile. Nobody in comics is having more fun than Norman Osborn, and that fun is simply infectious. King Arthur's dire female nemesis has traveled through time to settle the score with one Latverian monarch, and after some pep talks (loved the admission he gave to the HAMMER troops) and lecturing his new Avengers on how to act, it's time for an trans-Atlantic flight. Once across the sea, the Sentry shows a little of why he could actually be somebody (the jury's out on whether or not he could handle the Blue Marvel) while magic gives technology something of a hard time. This issue keeps with Marvel's delightfully mean spirited current tendencies, features great action and keeps pushing the envelope on how far things can go, like "Thunderbolts" with better publicity. Great fun for the morally flexible.
Friedrich Nickelhead has an army of super villains stashed in the Standard on Hollywood's Sunset Strip. What else could he do but start his own personal Project Mayhem and get political? Meanwhile, the title's arguable lead is way across the galaxy, getting blasted and trading blows with cosmic magnates of massive power who have (sadly) little characterization, although N'ull Pax Miner does have some interesting shades of Thulsa Doom. More Kirby-esque crazy that tickles the funny bone while expanding your mind like the brown tabs -- in a good way.
Things get personal between Jefferson Pierce and the 100, and when his crimefighting activities bring in Talia al Ghul, she has exposition that makes even the wild events of last issue start to fit into context. Toss in a lot of electrically shocked bad guys, a corpse or two, very realistic dialogue and Black Lightning's quest to clean up Suicide Slum continues in a very "New York Undercover" fashion. This mini has yet to make a mis-step.
Why exactly is Celeste with that crazy old coot Colonel Comet? You find out here, in nostalgic style that is very accurate, down to the newsprint styled lettering and dot heavy coloring (nice touch courtesy of Ralph Niese). A tale of time travel and true love, Celeste gets to reveal lots more sides of her character while not shortcutting the salacious twists and turns the series is well known for and keeping the punching and blasting in effect as well. Yildiray Cinar adapts his artistic styles to a more classical milieu with seemingly no effort. Solid good times.
Jump from the Read Pile. Aside from confirming that Skeleton Ki is a complete pansy (no surprise), Blastaar likes to yell/smash/intimidate (all done well), what's best here is how Jack Flag takes a tiny turn in the story and turns in a star performance. From "Thunderbolts" to this, he's quite solid in taking little parts and making them big. Rocket Raccoon's always solid for some quotes, "I am Groot!" just gets funnier every time it's written, and Reed Richards even gets a guest appearance. Meanwhile, Adam Warlock's hellbent on finding himself some religion despite the fact that his identity is in question. The plot's balanced well, better than in some previous issues, and there's a "War of Kings" tease that's not annoying. Very enjoyable.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Five jumps is a hell of a start.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
The drama at Platinum Flats comes to a speedy and explosive conclusion in "Birds of Prey" #127 (which, fun fact, appears to be the last issue of the series) which worked a little for characterization on the team and with the Calculator but mostly had too much to do in too little time.
Ultimate Sue's the focus of "Ultimate Fantastic Four" #60, which deals with her mommy issues while introducing some Ultimate Atlanteans who were also imprisoned under the sea like a Disney song. The coloring's a touch murky, but a lot of it happens deep underwater, so that's not so bad. Some good moments happened here.
There's a new boss in "Outsiders" #15 who asks for a big commitment of the team. Alfred plays Charlie in telling his covert ops team what's what, and they mostly talk about it for this issue. A little more plot would have helped, but not bad.
"Uncanny X-Men" #506 has San Francisco becoming a political powder keg as the X-headquarters has mutants past and plenty crowding their doorway seeking asylum. Peter's moments to shine really were the only parts that stood up and said something, as he got all "protector from the rodina" on it.
"Robin" #183 was another "final issue," and only a very smart trick he pulled on this issue's antagonist made it worthwhile. The art was stellar, though.
Thanks to a guy who bought the last issue, we're happy to say "Transformers: Maximum Dynobots" #3 was not bad, with Swoop getting more lines than you'd expect, a virtual army of faux Sunstreakers and a familiar visage at the tail end. Loved Shockwave's quote too, but he really didn't get to do much.
"Vigilante" #3 showed the title character's determination and lack of self delusion, even while he talks to grave stones and fires on superheroes. If the pacing was a bit snappier, or maybe the dialogue, this would work.
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" #22, "Dynamo 5" #0, "Stormwatch PHD" #19, "Invincible" #59, "Supergirl" #38, "Superman/Batman" #55 (which is almost an improvement, given this "Freaky Friday" plot), "Squadron Supreme" #8, "Trinity" #38 (again, almost an improvement), "Invincible" #59 (Powerplex?), "Young X-Men" #11, "Street Fighter 4" #1
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
The only really bad book this week was the caption-heavy "Tangent: Superman's Reign" #12, which took two crossover-worthy villains and jammed 'em into way, way too little space. The Superman/Luthor fueled plan was less than inspired in its thinking, showcasing the same kind of thinking that led Braniac 5 to say, "yeah, three Legions should do it!"
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
One actually bad book? That's a win by itself.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Things went well, lots of books bought, that's all good.
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, where this week we take a look at the other side of Katy Perry's hit song.