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 ...
THE BUY PILE FOR APRIL 15TH, 2009
Jump from the Read Pile. A team of gun-toting mercenaries, hired by The Hood, hired by Norman Osborn, has cornered Frank Castle in the sewers of New York's Chinatown. There's three squads of them. They have the element of surprise, training, a mountain of guns and even some genetic enhancement. However, since this comic book is not called "team of gun toting mercenaries," you can guess that they don't exactly have a good day. Along the way, The Hood makes with the banter (fun), The Grizzly tracks his prey (hilarious) and lots of stuff blows up while people get shot. Toss in some pop culture references ("Code Weezie." "Got it, Mr. J." Later: "You boys like Skynyrd?"), more hard-boiled dialogue from the lead character and you have another great example of why this character has become so enduring. Another excellent comic book.
"... so it all comes down to this." Starscream's plan finally comes to fruition, the Autobots finally face their darkest hour and two of the property's biggest players come out to ... er, play. This issue does it all right, from Megatron's bravado ("More. Show me! You want to take this from me? Show me! Tear me down! Do it!") to the first big surprise's Groot-like dialogue to the grandiose plans of the Decepticon empire. If, through the years, you've wanted a Transformers comic book to make you go, "wow," IDW has done that with room to spare, bringing events so big that they make giant robots look up in shock. Amazing work.
Ooh. Things take a step towards the really, really weird. With the bloodline of Yeshua ben Josef as the central player in a drama with roots two millennia old. A favorite character makes a surprising return, Doctor Sauniere does some very surprising things, all while armies are on the march in the middle east. This is big scale stuff, and it looks good with Juan Ferreyra's amazing talents bringing Arvid Nelson's words to life. Complicated storytelling that rewards the avid reader.
Speaking of big stories, "all hell" is being introduced to "breaks loose" in Vertigo's flagship title, and The Beast throwing down with Bigby Wolf is just the appetizer. In the mean time, Boy Blue has become the root of a new religion, Jack of Fables has a warning all the way from his wacky title while Mister Dark makes himself at home in the Big Rotten Apple. Escalating much more quickly than the struggle with the Adversary, this current struggle has all the same earmarks, but this time the lead characters have none of the preparation needed to make things go smoothly. Thrilling happenings here.
Adam Archer is tied up in more mind-bending cosmic kookiness, joining forces with Leviticus and Vakiyra of the Gaza Ruule to battle interstellar despots and what not while looking for his sister. Meanwhile, back on earth, Friedrich Nickelhead has taken a page from the Parker Robbins book and has convened a super villain congress and murdered most of the legislators in the capitol. Got all that? Hang on to your wigs, then, as Tom Scioli and Bill Crabtree deliver the goods in ways that'd make the King proud. From the bombastic dialogue to the disturbing levels of violence in the streets of DC (even more than the city's used to), this is good crazy.
Jump from the Read Pile. Go behind the veil with Chuckles, who's so far undercover that he may as well be under the bed. He's making reports via a creative and virtually untraceable means of communication, driving through eastern European streets acting out violent scenes reminiscent of "The French Connection," forced to do bad things in pursuit of a good result. Nobody knows who Cobra is or what they're capable of, and walking so deep into gray areas that its hard to see the light. Toss in some romantic tension and some witty wordplay and you've got a comic well worth checking out.
Zack Overkill is in trouble, deep, as his "best friend" is blackmailing him into super powered idiocy, which leads to a cascading series of screwed up things happening, even further taking the arguable lead down a road he can't even start to comprehend. So again, let's make with the explosions and the shooting and the running nd the screaming, because that's done alongside deft noir storytelling and the Sean Phillips' artwork, which continues to refine his already skillful hand at visual storytelling. Ed Brubaker's done it again.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
An amazing stack of comics.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"DMZ" #41 was a rare un-jump from the Buy Pile, a done-in-one issue that shows Zee engaged in foolhardy altruism. Nothing wrong here, but the storyline seems adrift, with Matty abandoning journalism in favor of working as a media operative for Parco Delgado. It needs to try harder, probably.
At $3.50, even the almost-steady stream of not-bad jokes in "Super Human Resources" #3 wasn't enough to make it work, but it wasn't far from it. The characters are good, but there's not much by way of plot.
Despite the fact that "Captain America" #4 is a mild "WTH?" sort of issue, this Sharon Carter-centric issue still has a lot of good moments ... it just doesn't work as a whole.
Even in a wheelchair, Barbara Gordon shows that she's a badass in "Oracle: Search for the Cure" #2, where the Calculator keeps looking for a way to put the Anti-Life Equation back together, just so he can save the life of his daughter Wendy (of "Marvin and Wendy" fame, who had such a bad time with Ares' son in "Titans"). Everybody in between the two of them just look like collateral damage waiting to happen. Not bad, but not good yet -- either keep the mystery in the online game or keep it corporeal, the split's not serving either storyline.
Grimlock shows his teeth in "Transformers: Maximum Dynobots" #5 while Scorponok and Shockwave engage in more of the fratricidal combat that you might enjoy in "All Hail Megatron." If the artwork was a little more clear to read, if the story was a little more focused, this could have done it.
"REBELS" #3 was okay, with Vril Dox trying to make his own Legion ... of sorts, with his 31st century successor (or a software emulation therein) yelling in his ears. Again, a concern with staying on task keeps it from really doing the job well.
Speaking of focus problems, "X-Factor" #42 should have stuck with Jamie Madrox's storyline because despite great dialogue back at the office (Monet St. Croix, "I don't hate everybody. I think I'm better than everybody. Completely different") there was nothing really worth seeing there, whereas everything around Layla Miller -- especially looking at the XSE-influenced future -- is at least kooky enough to keep your attention.
Another un-jump? Sad but true, "Air" #83. Things moved too slowly in the episodic examination of Zayne as an enigma, and this issue stuck with "good" when the series used to go for "magical." Hard to dial that back down, kids.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"100 Bullets" #100, "Beta Ray Bill: The Green of Eden" #1, "Action Comics" #876, "Wolverine: Noir" #1, "Green Arrow/Black Canary" #19, "Squadron Supreme" #10 and "Vigilante" #5.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
Four bucks for a black and white title? Facing Nazis even? Come on, "Rampaging Wolverine" #1 -- you can do better than that.
Dear "Uncanny X-Men" #508 -- you lost it at "Madelyne Pryor." Even the gorgeous art of Greg Land couldn't make that work. Sorry, no.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
A bunch of interesting tries, seven dead heats, two stinkers ...
WINNERS AND LOSERS
With as much good stuff as we had with the purchases, nobody can be mad at a week like this.
Got a comic you think should be reviewed in The Buy Pile? ÊIf 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. ÊPhysical comics? ÊGeddouttahere. ÊToo much drama to store with diminishing resources. ÊIf you send it in more than two days before comics come out,Êthe 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