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). ÊThursday 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 22ND, 2009
Jump from the Read Pile. Starting with a bar fight and ending with a proclamation, this issue hits all the right notes with team interaction ("Cosmo apologize for unprofessional conduct"), the success of the reality show-themed framing device (which helps Jack Flag's running joke -- way for such a C-list character to get rehabbed) and the perfect balance of plot elements. It's hard to believe that any series that features a talking murderous space raccoon and a telepathic Soviet cosmonaut dog could pull off some serious action and great storytelling, but the series has been consistent in doing it well and this issue does it excellently. To add Flag's bit to Groot's regular bellow, throwing in Adam Warlock's new pomposity (way better than his staff-wielding whininess back in the Infinity days) fun dialogue from Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. Toss in the artwork of Brad Walker, Victor Olazaba and Wil Quintana, taking scenes that could have easily been messy or overly busy and instead making them clear and crisply rendered, and you've got a great issue.
Jump from the Read Pile. The world's premiere super team is under the gun and in trouble, and they resort to some fairly extreme measures to start to turn the page on public opinion. The most important thing to know is, with the help of colors from Digikore Studios, Juan Jose Ryp is one of the best and most disturbing talents in the field right now, with an art style that accomplished visually what Gabriel Garcia Marquez did to fiction. With visuals that'll burn a hole in the back of your skull (really, Revere is messed up), Warren Ellis' script gives new meaning to the phrase, "that's really not right." But in a good way.
Jump from the Read Pile. NOTE: Cover at retail has more images alongside the Canucklehead. A Wolverine-specific guide book? Oh, all right ... especially since ... ewww, those images of the Blob are nausea-inducing. Dirt Nap's not a beauty queen either. Anyway, if you ... hang on, Landau, Luckman and Lake are still just out there, and nobody knows what's up with them? Why aren't they involved in the War of Kings? Sorry, distracted again ... anyhow, this tome provides ... wait, what kind of crazy hippie stuff was the Neuri about? Plus, why exactly did Logan have a relationship with an actual midget? What the heck is this lupine, Romulus jazz about? Leaving more questions unknown than answered (much like the character in question), this guidebook is either a springboard for the next three years worth of stories or just fascinating background data into what sort of weird stuff went through the minds of "Wolverine" writers.
Jump from the Read Pile. The cover's a bit of a spoiler, but within is a well-told tale of superheroes struggling to find their place in the current DCU without the company's trinity at the helm. Featuring a powerhouse team of more people of color than you can shake Barack Obama at (four of five current members), the threat of Starbreaker (sized like a guy, but with power that'd make Galactus pause) still marks its progress towards chowing down on the earth like a box of nuggets from Chick-Fil-A. Art from Rags Morales, John Dell and Pete Pantazis balance intimate moments between characters with the same skill as those of great grandeur and showcasing characters in iconic states. As well, Dwayne McDuffie's script shows some really great interplay with Dr. Light and Firestorm (perhaps nobody has made Jason Rusch this entertaining).
Jump from the Read Pile. Neither Gollum nor a flipped out Sylar talking to himself, Don Blake and the Thunder God have a lot to talk about as Mjolnir has been fragmented by re-killing his grandfather an issue or two back. Meanwhile, Loki manipulates with such ease and deftness that he makes Norman Osborn look like a clumsy oaf by comparison. Dr. Doom makes a very good guest appearance and a love story that could have seemed just jammed in worked out quite effectively. A great surprise courtesy of JMS, Marko Djurdjevic, Danny Miki and Paul Mounts.
With wig-tossing scenes jammed into a Route 66 diner, Jack doesn't let the guest appearance of two of the main series' stars upstage him even while the threat of Kevin Thorn maims and rewrites its way through New York City. True, aside from one knock-down-drag-out, nothing much really happens this issue as the main Fables community learns a little about this latest threat to their safety, but it's done in such a kooky and interesting way (courtesy of the Eisner-winning Bill Willingham, scripting alongside Matthew Sturges with Russ Braun on pencils, Jose Marzan Jr. on inks and Daniel Vozzo on colors) that it's well worth the time and money, as it is virtually every month.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Great, re-readable comics all around, and five jumps is one heck of a start.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
The comic closest to making it home but not doing it was "Immortal Iron Fist" #25, which showcased plans within plans, hidden deceptions and lots and lots of violence. However, the artwork didn't service either the intricacy of the script nor the scale of what was happening (if he wasn't so slow, this would be perfect for a John Cassaday), so not quite there.
Keeping up its consistent level of quality, "Scalped" #28 maintained its Showtime-styled pacing and gritty storytelling, but didn't make it home because it was so steady. In a television show, that's great -- tune in every episode and know what you're getting. For three bucks a pop, jaws have to drop -- over art, over story developments, over character work, something -- and that didn't happen this time.
Things fall apart in "Avengers: The Initiative" #23, when the secret of Michael Van Patrick gets out, Vance Astrovik works the press and this steps back to look at Norman Osborn while he was still trying to figure out what to do with the keys to the world. Not bad, but not stellar either.
"Ex Machina" #41 stepped up from some boring and self-indulgent issues, giving His Honor a really big agenda with almost WWF-level consequences. The flashbacks gave a little bit of foreshadowing, but the bit with the reporter didn't advance the story, seeming to not keep with the pace of things.
Speaking of stepping it up a little, "Dynamo 5" #21 rocked some dating action, being almost as good as "Ex Machina," showcasing characters well and doing a pretty good curveball at the end. But Maddie's subplot seemed just dropped in and since the issue was just tooling along, it was enough to derail the progress.
"Like everything I do, it was both mythic and legendary!" With Hercules' hilarious declaration, "Mighty Avengers" #24 got some good stuff done with cracks starting to show in Norman Osborn's confidence, Loki again showcasing his skills as an agent provocateur. It did several small things right, but didn't really make you say "ooh" at the whole product.
"Ignition City" #2 improved from its first issue, but remained too slow as the lead character continued her quest to avenge her father's death on the last place on earth a body can get into space. The twists and turns take some time, and this really would be better served in a longer format.
Despite what Harry Hamlin and Ray Harryhausen would have you believe, it was actually Athena who made Medusa a gorgon as was noted in "Incredible Hercules" #128, and in the shop certain sleep-deprived columnists may have asserted that it was actually Aphrodite. Woops. With that in mind (and the help of an internet search that time didn't permit earlier), this issue may have been a bit better than believed at the time, with a throwdown between Greek gods, the Dark Avengers (fun fact: all of 'em are white, not even a Sicilian on the roster) and Hercules with Athena and Amadeus Cho in tow. There's lots of fighting, true, but the plot is advanced along the way as Osborn keeps making big deals. Not bad.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"New Avengers" #52, "Azreal: Death's Dark Knight" #2, "Skrull Kill Crew" #1, "Buck Rogers" #0 (looked okay, but didn't really do very much as character or story), "Outsiders" #17, "Invincible" #61 and "Fantastic Force" #1.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
Still one of the worst titles on the stands, "Supergirl" #40 tried to do a big surprising reveal at the end and it just fell limp. There was so little investment created in the supporting characters that unless Superwoman turned out to be Superman, nobody was gonna care.
Speaking of plain dumb comics, "Hulk" #11 featured fighting that Ed McGuinness can make beautiful but which nobody can make meaningful. Second class banter tossed around, limp locales for combat ... why bother.
The idea of "Battlestar Galactica: Final Five" #1 is way better than the execution, with artwork that makes it hard to figure out exactly which Cylon you're looking at. It did detail how the "thirteenth tribe" happened, which was cool, but still ...
"Astonishing X-Men" #29 failed to even surprise as it brought back an old character with a really bad idea, trying to tie in that expensive "Ghost Boxes" stuff and not doing so well. Storm and Emma Frost have zero on-panel chemistry teamed up, the rest of the team were almost afterthoughts (despite more great commentary from Dr. Henry McCoy) and the threat is just like "oh, really? Yeah, whatever."
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Mostly pretty good.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Five jumps, interesting reads, not that much crap ... it's a winning week if ever there was one!
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.