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 (how?) 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 ...
SPECIAL NOTE: On March 5, 2003, The Buy Pile was born. After writing a lot of reviews for the now-defunct NextPlanetOver.com and its equally defunct successor Spinnerrack.com, I was so used to reviewing comics that I didn't wanna stop. So for some time, posting links to the reviews on Usenet, I yammered my madness into the universe via my own website. I started doing The Comic Reel here at CBR on October 6th of that year, and after a while I got a syndication offer for The Buy Pile from a big New York based website. After a couple of great years there, I brought it all home to CBR and have been here for three fantastic years, with no end in sight. If you're reading this column, the first and foremost thing I have to say is "thank you" -- you have choices, and you don't have to read my lunatic rantings, so I appreciate that. I'll keep plugging away, and hopefully you'll enjoy it as well. In the immortal words of Dan Slott's Spider-Man, "enough talk -- let's make with the 'biff' and the 'pow!'"
THE BUY PILE FOR MARCH 4TH, 2009
So it all comes down to this -- the big McGuffin gets its hash settled as a veritable legion of super villains comes to blows on the bridge into Gotham. There's no fewer than three interesting plot twists, four moments of genuine characterization (interesting stuff from Deadshot) and a quiet little surprise that's simply splendid. Gail Simone's on fire with this one, and the art -- which easily could have been busy or jammed up -- is a thing of wonder from the team of Nicola Scott, Doug Hazelwood, Rodney Ramos and Jason Wright. Morally conflicted fun in a gorgeous package.
Norman Osborn wants our favorite merc-with-a-mouth dead ... and takes forever getting around to actually trying something. Deadpool marches right up to the front door of Avengers Tower, machine gun at the ready and split personality admonishing him in his ear. It's a cute issue, but it only tells half a story, relying too heavily on hallucinations and continuing into the next issue of "Thunderbolts." Not bad, but shoulda been a "read."
The fight with Onomatopoeia is almost an afterthought here, as the Bat has a heart-to-heart with his most tenacious foe (no, not Ra's Al Ghul) that's ... well, honestly, it's kind of riveting. The interplay between these two avowed enemies is something to see. Moreover, there's a solid bit of action here with some major surprises and even managed to stay fairly current by working in a reference to Christian Bale's well-publicized, profanity laced, on-set meltdown. Fun and very well told, even if not really a big "event."
The good part here is a story set in the present, "The Sale," featuring the Agents of Atlas tricking Norman Osborn's super powered ATF goons into buying the "vast criminal organization" shtick while having Namora throw a tantrum, shooting to occur and lots of yelling. The less good part is a historical "flashback" (less good in storytelling, as the nostalgic art works well) called "The Dragon's Corridor," which has some creepy weird stuff happening that doesn't (yet) show any modern relevance. Not bad, but we're trying to chuckle along with the atrocities Norman Osborn is working on (he's so Cheney-esque). Add the son of the Mandarin popping in to talk some trash and you've got a solid issue that works but doesn't overachieve.
When a realistic hero fights a strange magical creature, it can suck. Here, with foreshadowing and tension, writer Jen Van Meter makes it work, while bringing in Superman for ambiance and tossing in hallucinations as well. The crisp but still hard-edged artwork from Cully Hamner and Laura Martin works, and while it takes a bit for the voiceover narration to really connect with what's happening in the panels, things proceed with the same fictive depth of previous issues, breathing life into Suicide Slum, itself a character as much as anyone else in the issue. Fine work.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Everybody showed up and played hard, which is a good thing even when the results aren't spectacular.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"War of Kings" #1 was okay as Vulcan surprises absolutely nobody and the Inhumans throw the society event of the galactic year.
More of the same from "Haunted Tank" #4. Nice points to make politically, but not so compelling storywise.
Jim McCann's "New Avengers: Reunion" #1 was extraordinarily close to the mark, giving great character interplay and great pop culture references ... it was just shy on stuff actually happening. Okay, it had an okay fight scene, but it was much ado about nothing, as the status of things remained pretty much where it was from the start of the comic to the finish ... unless this issue secretly links to the big secret in "Secret Warriors" #2, in which case it'll be retroactively jumped. Interesting trip getting there, though.
Again, talk was better than plot in "Jersey Gods" #2, which had better interplay in the love story than the "civil war." The coloring's a little busy too, and there's still no real word on who (or why) all these gods are.
What else suffered from "a little less talk, a little more action" syndrome? "Dark Reign: Fantastic Four" #1, which had a thoughtful Johnny Storm (what?) and an ill-timed HAMMER invasion of the Baxter Building. Oh, Reed ... you and your zany ideas, and giving Sue time to get mad.
"Black Panther" #2 was very, very close ... but just didn't have the stamina to close the deal, sticking with the "Lost" style of back-and-forth storytelling but handling the tension of the nervous Wakandans well.
"Mighty" #2 was ambitious, which is to be commended, showcasing a world essentially policed (brutally) by a Superman analogue. But its ending was way too abrupt, its creepy energy didn't serve as foreshadowing and overall it swung and missed. Too interesting to dismiss but too slow and unfocused to purchase.
"Daredevil" #116 was effective ... but slow, showcasing a new life for Wilson Fisk and then showing where that new life leads. The framing device of the work was very good, but oy was this issue slow.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk" #3 (it was really there -- no sign of "Battle Chasers" or the other portents of armageddon), "Gotham Gazette: Batman Dead" #1, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" #23, "Solomon Grundy" #1, "Cable" #12 (what was with the art switch?), "Hulk: Broken Worlds" #1, "Authority" #8.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Terror Titans" #6 was a huge let down, a very weak ending with a bit of deus ex machina to settle everyone's hash (although explaining Star Spangled Kid's bit with the sewer lid) leaving Ravager the only vaguely interesting element, casting the Dark Side Club aside uninterestingly and generally taking all the air out of Clock King. Saddening.
Speaking of let downs, "Secret Warriors" #2 is one of the first Jonathan Hickman-penned comics not purchased by this column. The "big reveal" of the last issue turns out to be a red herring, making somebody a dupe instead of a much more complicated character than anyone could have believed. Boo, bait and switch! Boo!
Also, "Superman: World of New Krypton" #1 had a less-than-inspired bit from Kal-El, who's either the system's worst spy or a simpleminded dupe (lots of that going around). This is your plan, Clark? Really? Are you being played by Tom Welling this week? Urgh.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Pretty good for such a light week (well played, James the Counselor ... well played).
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Uh ... let's call it a win, just because it didn't really suck. A thin win's still a win, right?
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.