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 JUNE 10TH, 2009
DMZ #42 (Vertigo/DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Just when this series seemed like it was just limping along, this powerful new storyline comes along and punches you directly in the guts. There's a mysterious cult of killers living in the Empire State Building. Without warning or discussion, they come wearing gas masks and wielding automatic rifles, an ineffable scythe of murder and mayhem cutting through the war torn streets of the city. But who are they? Why do they deliver death to Manhattan's weary citizenry? This issue takes you inside the Empire State Building and gets you up close and personal with these men, shows you how they work and gives you an inkling as to their motivations. Their identity is a tragic surprise, but there are mysteries left after this issue's last page. A very intimate story that's complete while leaving lots of room for the rest of the storyline to develop.
Anna Mercury 2 #1 (Avatar Press)
Jump from the Read Pile. The basics are easy: there's a series of parallel earths and the UK has the ability to send people over to them for limited amounts of time. Things get complicated from there -- one of those earths has sent a spaceship through to this earth, and the only way to know what they're about is real, human intelligence. That's where the ultra-violent, Sydney-Bristow-running title character comes in, tasked to go have a look see about what all this is about. Of course, that can't go well, and Warren Ellis' script takes a "How I Met Your Mother" approach to the storytelling that's quite enjoyable. There's not enough good you can say about Facundo Percio's art (with vibrant colors by Digikore Studios), which has both detail and grandeur that's a wonder to behold. An impressive piece of work.
Deadpool #11 (Marvel Comics)
The only real complaint one could have about this delightfully, wickedly amusing comic is that it feels like it's too short by just a smidgen. Daniel Way's mean, funny script hits a ton of great notes, from the radio call in show to Bullseye, er, Hawkeye's permission for Owen Pasternak (Owen: "An' you're sure dis is legal?" Hawkeye: "According to H.A.M.M.E.R., yes. According to the FDA? Less so." Owen: "$#%@ the FDA." Hawkeye: "Cool. I'm a vegetarian now, by the way") to "Fly, you beautiful bird! Fly!" The action keeps coming with violence as expressive as dance (nice flashback/hallucination there on page ten) and the inner dialogue ("Hukka-hukka! Sandimashigh schoolfoot ballrules!") as much fun as the outer banter. This series is now a Buy Pile regular as long as Daniel Way, Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco and Marte Gracia keep bringing it to you like Fed Ex.
G.I. Joe: Origins #4 (IDW Publishing)
Jump from the Read Pile. Like the movie one-shot, Snake Eyes makes his bad-assery (that's not a word) evident in every panel where he's seen, but there's enough happening that it doesn't overpower the story. The very, very skillful Joe team crashes into an abandoned Army base and have lots and lots of shooting and stabbing and punching. The plastic surgery addicted Chimera provides a kooky element, Cahill looks familiar and there's a good mix between the wit and the wildness providing an action packed issue that's just worth the four bucks it'll cost you to go home with that.
Fables #85 (Vertigo/DC Comics)
There's a wickedly smart thing that happens here, something that -- truth be told -- has probably been brewing for more than a year. The issue seems like it's all just whimsy and offhanded activity, but it's a clever bit of misdirection underneath the very funny things that are happening. Jack gets into all kinds of shenanigans, including meeting his estranged son and babysitting Bigby Wolf and Snow White's kids (which involves a lot of poker and raiding Bigby's liquor cabinet). The very expressive artwork of Tony Akins, Andrew Pepoy, Dan Green and Lee Loughridge make Bill Willingham's sparkling script virtually dazzle.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
A winnah! Every purchase is a winnah!
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
Among the closest to hitting the mark was "Booster Gold" #21, which had a pretty fun Blue Beetle backup story and gave the new Bat a moment in the sun with its feature tale. There wasn't enough good in the less-than-imposing new Bat and the Jaime Reyes story seemed too short for its own good.
Also very close to making it was "Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter" #1, where the Oath Brother of Thor takes his vendetta against Galactus very seriously. The problem is that he faces a secondary, all-too-convenient adversary as well which gives the comic a weird second act that throws the rest off, despite Bill's brilliant plan and show of force.
Getting back to Gotham, there's still a lot of whining and navel gazing in "Batman" #687, where Alfred was the most hard core cat in the whole book. The new guy in the cowl does an okay bit of oratory intent on refurbishing the myth of the Dark Knight Detective, but the pieces never really came together here.
If the events of "Amazing Spider-Man" #597 had any chance of real consequence, this would be the most talked-about issue in years. However, that's clearly impossible for reasons of licensing and corporate demands, let alone Tobey Maguire. That said, it has a hair's breadth of Peter Parker's legendary wit and something so goofy that only a guy with a brillo hairdo could have dreamed it up. Harry Osborn's complicated subplot plays out more fascinatingly than anything in the foreground.
"Unthinkable" #2 has some fairly far fetched scenarios happen, from a gun-toting hacker to uncontested raids on fortified positions. However, the protagonist (who could clearly be pulled off by a Christian Slater-type) goes through the twists and turns of this plot with cool aplomb ... almost too much, honestly. The female lead's more interesting, grappling with distrust and danger, and even the Lone Gunman-styled Harry Knowles knock off has more flavor.
Another comic with a backup story that worked better than its lead was "Wolverine" #74, which has an inconclusive ending to its grayed-at-the-edges biker story, while Spider-Man psychoanalyzing Logan in a bar works way better for the short time it's on the page.
The future could do a little more in "Buck Rogers" #1, which has the titular hero typically confused and iconoclastic as he wakes up in the 25th century (maybe). It was fine by itself, but far from a "take me home" title.
Closer to the mark was "REBELS" #5, which still worked on remaking the central antagonist to become somebody impressive (unlikely) while Vril Dox continues his exasperated frustration at leading people so clearly dumber than he is. More Vril Dox and this series might take off.
The build up, the dialogue, the art work -- "Uncanny X-Men" #511 succeeds on every level there. But the wispy and hollow ending failed miserably, sapping the resonance from the book's better moments.
Sure, "Life and Times of Savior 28" #3 was talky as all get out, but it was thoughtful talkiness, considering a legacy of closed fists as a failure. Plus, there was a really creepy groping moment which was kinda not cool. This feels like it would succeed much better as prose.
"War of Kings: Savage World of Skaar" was much better when it was the "Galactica 1980" episode "Return of Starbuck," as Sun Boy of the Legion of Super He ... er, Starbolt of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard battles (at first) Gorgon of the Inhumans, all while stalked by the the savagely cunning son of the Hulk. Predictable, but not in a wholly bad way.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Action Comics" #878, "Veil" #1, "Green Lantern Corps" #37.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Fantastic Four" #567 was abominably stupid, with its saccharine dream sequence (nobody would have believed that of Sue) to the stupid disposition of one doctor and the creation of another. Everything that happened here was pointless, and to top it off, run by a character named (if you can believe it) "The Marquis of Death." Isn't that like naming yourself "The Archduke of Butt Kicking?" Is that the best we can do these days? Pathetic.
Almost as dumb was "Titans" #14, which hit many low notes, including "The First Church of Anti-Technology" (in Cyborg's own words, "That can't be good"), a dating service for capes and masks (oy) and "Nano" (the less said the better). A catastrophic failure that could barely complete a thought.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Those last two were terrible, but there was more than enough good to outweigh that.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Three jumps, all great buys, stuff worth watching like "Unthinkable" and "Rebels" and even a Jaime Reyes-led renaissance for Booster Gold. That's a week that can't be considered anything but positive.
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 the suspense will eventually be resolved, Rodney.