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 MAY 6TH, 2009
Bruce Wayne: Fugitive, er, Tony Stark is on the run overseas and he's working on a "consumer grade" version of the Iron Man armor (all while wearing jet powered sneakers -- cool), Maria Hill is using her challenged past to fight The Controller in the present and Norman Osborn has a little chat with Pepper Potts. As a matter of fact, Norman's quite chatty and it's quite entertaining, while Tony is on the run from armored "scrubs" and iPhone hungry "supernerds." This is a good issue, but it doesn't pack the punch of some previous ones. It's not that Fraction and Larocca are resting on their laurels, but it's not like this issue breaks new ground either.
Stories from past and present come together as the new Captain America comes up against the very morally challenged Jimmy Woo and his team. Combining mental episodes and real-life fisticuffs, the story that once seemed like it was drifting all over the place now clicks brilliantly into place, framing not only the Agents' own work into the order of things, but the 1960s action and the current material all creating a latticework narrative that's really rather elegant when you look at it. Just when this series was starting to look a little lackluster, this issue roars back and says, "get some!" Nicely done.
Charles and Royal Williams have a mission, a vendetta that stretches back decades and straddles some of the most important developments in Astro City history. Chronicling the change in extrahuman activity through the Reagan years, the elder Royal works hard at going undercover in a supervillain army (imagine Hydra or Kali Yuga) and the younger one maintains a support position. This is textured, carefully crafted stuff, a continuation of Busiek and Anderson's finest work, and yet another issue to cement their testament of quality superhero work.
Jump from the Read Pile. The last time Deadpool and Bullseye met in the former's older series, the traditional Daredevil villain told Wade that his then-non-killing stance was making him be seen as soft (or words to that effect). This time, Deadpool has run afoul of Bullseye's new boss Norman Osborn and is marked for death. Deadpool's crazier than ever and Bullseye's now the Avenger Hawkeye and a media darling ... but still a wholly murderous psychopath. Add to all that a very mean-spirited assassination and robbery, Norman Osborn pimping the media and a besmirchment of the highest degree and you've got another kooky issue that hits just the right number of laughs, has just the right balance of plot and action and has both excellent art from the Paco Medina/Juan Vlasco/Marte Gracia team but a spandex-tight script from Daniel Way. Excellent!
All right, what do we have this time? Ooh, a complete timeline of the Morlock Massacre, with all the high points and latter-day revelations, that's useful. An Isley Brothers-themed summation of Photon, er, Captain Marvel, that is, Monica Rambeau's first super powered appearance, nice. Seriously, all Peter Parker used to do is beat guys up and make out with girls, though, what's up with that? Oh, but this one also covers the classic "Demon in a Bottle" issue, chronicling Tony Stark's struggle with alcoholism, brilliantly rendered by Michelinie, Layton, Romita Jr. and Bob Sharen. Mmm, them's good comics. Admittedly, the "All-Devourer" (a computerized demon -- really) and the Endotherm (like a Katy Perry song, he's hot and he's cold ... and that actually beat Tony Stark for a few pages in 1980, really) reminds you of the ridiculousness possible (that was a Peter John Palmer plot, to be fair) and there's that time Hydro Man and Sandman combined to form Mud-Thing (really, it was 1981) ... well, best just to chuckle at those and stay focused on well-put together storylines like "Iron Man" #137-139.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Not overwhelming but not bad at all.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"War of Kings" #3 was good but far, far too quick, as the central axis upon which the issue revolved was too weak as a character and the decisions therein too convenient for the good moments -- Rocket Raccoon wielding a mop, Crystal's delicate balance, great war stuff -- to work.
Hopping on the "Reaper" bandwagon, "Demon Cleaner" #1 is another Jeremiah Harm-type badass hunting down the scum of the underworld as they wander around the world we know and love. The cleavage-sporting Oracle in his ear had nice interplay with the unimaginatively-named lead, and the bit about the steak, salmon and chicken was disturbing but funny. It showed up for the job, but it didn't distinguish itself once at the office.
If you like a pretty good procedural, "Battle for the Cowl: The Network" #1 would do it for you (speaking of Oracle flirting over com), as Hugo Strange is loose and the stakes are high as a "Dark Knight" styled hostage crisis ties up many of the masks in Gotham with moral and tactical dilemmas. Again, not bad but not great either, and we aim for great in the ones that go home (even when we miss).
"Daredevil: Noir" #2 wasn't as good as the debut issue, drifting around a bit from a narrative perspective with tricky maneuvers around the femme fatale and Matt Murdock less controlled and more confused. Still, not bad and still worth watching.
"Irredeemable" #2 focused in on the woman who loved The Plutonian and all the challenges she faced, especially the wonderful bit where she finally learned the truth. This issue, like the first, was good but moved ... far ... too ... slowly. The reasons for the Plutonian's turn are still way too far in the background, as is the character himself -- kind of the Cylon problem from "BSG."
Some might consider it a spoiler even putting this review here, but "Mighty" #4 had quite a big surprise at its end after giving a creepy "Arthur-Guinevere-Lancelot" reference and doing more to show how weirdly isolated this Superman analogue is. The issue, sadly, was all over the place, either so intent to misdirect from the final surprise that it worked too hard or just taking a while to figure out its own direction.
The title character was talky in "The Life and Times of Savior-28" #2, giving a pretty good speech on the floor of the Grand Canyon as he'd seemingly stumbled on a bit of knowledge he surely should not have had. His assassin's confession didn't work as well as a framing device this time, though, and the gun bit ran way too long, as everything else maintained the same level of quality as the fantastic first issue.
"Destroyer" #2 was slower, quieter and sadder than the hilarious first issue. Not bad, but not as good as the last one, and that didn't make it home, so ...
"Prince of Heroes: Chapter Two" #1 is one very, very pretty comic -- every background is worth examining in detail, following the intricacy and linework. The simple foreground characters are still very effective in visual storytelling and emotion ... if only they had something to do. The story itself is glacial at best, striving for "epic" but merely hitting "lengthy."
She's here to save you -- with her breasts! "Power Girl" #1 (seriously, check the Adam Hughes cover) was better in craft and construction than content. Sure, the team of Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Amanda Conner know a lot about how to put together a professional comic book, but the topic matter here (even as she restarts her company for some corporate altruism) shares the Carol Danvers problem -- not enough characterization to be important to readers past the, er, visual enticements. Plus, the Ultra-Humanite "wanted" her ... creepy! Truthfully, if you think of how many people would be hacked off, it's kind of stupid too ...
"G.I. Joe Movie Prequel: Baroness" #3 was a good heist book, with Anastasia showcasing her acrobatics and craftiness while taking on an oil sheik's security staff. It was, however, way too fast given the rushed-looking art and brevity of actual content. Running, shooting, yes -- it's like a love scene, it can move a story along, but is not a story in and of itself.
"Jersey Gods" #4 was funny in that the "Ugly Betty"-styled investigative journalism subplot was far more interesting than the cosmic-themed main event, which showed friendship and fury but really seemed kind of "eh." However, the threat was real and stakes were believable on the ground, and maybe more focus there is what this series needs.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" #25, "Authority" #10, "Superman: World of New Krypton" #3, "Final Crisis Aftermath: Run" #1, "Cable" #14 and "Hulk Broken Worlds" #2.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Flash: Rebirth" #2 ... oy. Okay, the last page is ... well, it's sad, in a way, so insular and uninspired a development that it borders on pedantic. Moreover, really, unless you buy every guidebook and develop a deep love for these fogeys and has-beens that keep trotting out, why would anybody know or care about what's happening to the characters, therefore the plot? Can we call the Anti-Monitor and whack Barry again? Please?
Speaking of tedious fits of nostalgia, "New Mutants" #1 brought the old gang back together (don't ask about Magik, just roll with it) to deal with more old business that you'll only remember if you were a fan of the team and have any inclination to care. If you don't walk in with that perspective, you might find this a little "naw, dawg" despite Slim Summers' effective pep talk.
Continuing a stream of incomprehensibility that began with "The Filth" and soiled all of "Final Crisis," "Seaguy: The Slaves of Mickey Eye" #2 is more "WTH?" wackiness from the [ADJECTIVES REDACTED] mind of Grant Morrison. Introducing the persona of El Macho the world's greatest (this is not a typo) bulldresser ... you know what? It's not worth it, let's just move on.
If you thought Impossible Man was interminable, you'll probably feel the same way about "Fin Fang Four: The Return" #1, which features the "all new" shtick of having people psychoanalyzed by Len Samson (which was groundbreaking in "X-Factor" #11 when Peter David wrote it and now has become something of a cliche) and having hijinks in an anthology styled book. Get this out of here ...
Did Poison Ivy get violated in "Solomon Grundy" #3? Let's not even think about it. A "WTH?" award winner in general even before that.
Reading "Sword of My Mouth" #1 was like going on a long date with somebody weird that, despite your own feelings, is aggressively attracted to you. You'll first note the lettering, which either looks like it was done by an Arkham escapee or some kind of drunken third grader. That throws you off more than the lack of panel borders through most of the issue, which could have been a series of pin ups that seemed strangely uncomfortable. Let's never speak about this again.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
The bad was really bad, but as lackluster as the good was, the bad didn't have the numbers, so that's a good thing, right? Plus, somebody asked for "Atomic Robo," but it wasn't easily found (i.e. "at all") at the shop this week.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
In the words of Rick Jones, "it's an ending. I'm happy. Close enough."
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.