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 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 AUGUST 5TH, 2009
NOTE: According to store owner Steve Leclaire, an eighteen wheeler somewhere in the middle of the US crashed, carrying lots of Marvel and lots of independent comics. These comics apparently never made it to Diamond, so Diamond never got to ship them to comic book stores west of the Mississippi River ... including Culver City's Comics Ink, where these reviews are done. Lots of comics -- "War of Kings" #6 for example, "Absolution" #1 or "Luke Cage: Noir" #1 -- got "trucked" and were not available for review. Sorry. Full list of what was missing below. Moving on ...
Jump from the Read Pile. The strangeness factor of cibopathy steps up in a major way with the introduction of food critic Amelia Mintz, who is a saboscrivner. What the heck is a "saboscrivner?" "That means she can write about food so accurately, so vividly and with such precision people get the actual sensation of taste when reading about the meals she writes about." That effectively doubles the levels of usual crazy in this series, especially when Amelia takes a turn for the sadistic and runs afoul of the FDA. Interesting? Well, when it turns into a love story, it gets even weirder ... in a good way. There's a lot of fun stuff going on with this issue, which takes everything that was going well and Emeril's it up a notch. Rob Guillory's mockingly distorted artistic style is -- much like previous collaborator Dave Crosland -- incredibly well matched for Layman's matter-of-fact whimsicality. Very entertaining.
Jump from the Read Pile. The main feature ... well, it's lacking some things, honestly. A pivotal event is very deficient in visual storytelling, it has team dynamics that border on the schizophrenic (Dusty Marlow, for example, got very little exposure, as did the caustic Dr. Niles Caulder, while Larry Trainor's devil-may-care bravado dominated the pages). So let's walk by that -- the actual lead feature is not a reason to buy this issue, despite some decent lines of dialogue sprinkled in here and there. No, what you want here is "A Day In The Life," the ten page backup feature focused on the Metal Men, presented by Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire (with Guy Major on colors). What's that, you say? The men behind "bwa-ha-ha" are back together again? That's absolutely right, and here, every member of the team (including the wonderfully "forgettable" new member ... what was her name?) gets time to shine and enough panel time to really clarify their character while the clean cut plot moves along smartly. In ten pages. Absolutely brilliant. So yes, ten pages is worth four bucks. That's some serious talent.
Madame Masque is crazy. Drive-across-the-country-in-an-astronaut-diaper crazy. Which, by itself, is normally just fodder for late night comedians or juvenile sitcoms. However, this crazy lady has got a gun. A crazy ex-girlfriend has a gun, and she's nuttier than a pecan tree on an acorn farm. Like, scary crazy. That kind of call-for-help lunacy serves as the central axis upon which this very solid issue rotates, with Tony Stark staying calm in the face of danger, Norman Osborn unable to make a repulsor work, Maria Hill freaked out and Pepper Potts stepping up in a big way. An emotional roller coaster and another fantastic issue from on of the most consistent teams in comics -- Matt Fraction, Salvador Larroca and Frank D'Armata.
Wonder Woman shows up, and she is not happy. The team is split down the middle over the difference between honoring a contract and supporting evil. Really, deeply, seriously bad stuff -- stuff that'd make Dick Cheney say, "well, okay, come on now!" Along the way, Jeannette goes toe-to-toe with Diana and shows the real depth of her powers, Ragdoll gets his normal set of fantastic one-liners, and things get twisted in a surprisingly old school fashion. Gail Simone has never been this wrong and this brilliant, the art team (Nicola Scott, Doug Hazlewood, Mark McKenna and Jason Wright) are in a stone groove and this series could almost not get better. Fantastic work.
Jump from the Read Pile. A little smarter than things have been, in a good way, including a Wakandan news commentary show (how much fun would that be to watch on a weekly basis?), T'Challa re-enacting scenes from "Men of Honor" and even a guest appearance from a man who's been in more comics than Wolverine lately (well, almost). A surprisingly frank chat with the retooled Everett K. Ross adds some IQ as well, since the arguable antagonists here are either completely anonymous (good for their purposes, not so much for the reader) or less than tangible. A better issue that steps up the game a little bit.
Charles and Royal Williams want vengeance. They don't care that Astro City's version of the Celestials have come to judge humanity and found the planet's fleshbags unworthy. This is what the Silver Agent has been bouncing around in time to address, and if all hell ever broke loose, it did so in these pages. All the loose ends get tied up and new loose ends spin out of control, all leading up to a great announcement in the lettercol. This mini ends on a big, big scale and still keeps the story very intimate. Solid stuff.
Jump from the Read Pile. The Plutonian also steps up his game in a major way as well, with an answer for "some viewer mail" that shows how scary a Superman-class power can be, for no reason other than his own amusement even more, and "a black super-hero with electrical powers" takes center stage as he reminisces on his relationship with "Tony" while dealing with the regular idiocy of the modern world as well. Two big secrets get revealed and the world's most dangerous mind is dangerously amok. All the seeds have started to bloom and this series is hitting a serious stride. One more like this and this series is on board for the Buy Pile.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Four jumps, great stuff and wild ideas. Great start.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Tyrese Gibson's Mayhem" #1 is a solid surprise, a well plotted action story with a very fun, almost Faerber-esque twist at the end (back when he used to pull of twists like that, now it's kind of a Shyamalan thing where you expect it). The characterization is razor thin, but the art and plotting are solid, so it's worth paying attention to.
"Star Wars Dark Times: Blue Harvest" #0 was okay, more with again a better sense of atmosphere than character, with a Jedi who escaped order 66 looking to make an honest buck. Not bad for material that was actually printed a long time ago.
Heroes randomly drawn together as disparate threads draw them towards ... JUSTICE! "Justice League: Cry for Justice" #2 is a little pompous, works very hard to make some less than sterling characters interesting and even tries some Bendis-styled dialogue. With less than sterling results. Not bad, but not great either.
Don't be alarmed: this comic is not actually three years late. "House of M: Masters of Evil" #1 continues the trend of minis after the crossover being better than the real thing, as Parker Robbins becomes the Norma Rae of super villains (again) organizing to make a living in a mutant-ruled world. Which again, ain't bad but isn't good enough to justify buying into a long lost continuity.
"Mighty" #7 might be called "Irredeemable: Year One" as it takes another Superman-level power and watches him going off the rails slowly. Which might be better if it didn't have to deal with that moronic detective story trying to figure out what's already largely obvious.
"Amazing Spider-Man" #601 was funny when in costume and typically Peter whiny when doing otherwise, with the spectre of MJ more of an influence than the actual woman, while the main feature wanders and the backup again outshines it. The last issue was big, and this issue just doesn't try as hard.
A single guest star on just a few pages has all the value of "Ultimate X-Men: Requiem" #1, which has obituaries of all the dead mutant characters (useful by way of reference, but so is Wikipedia) and closes some accounts for good. Most of it was just whining and what have you, but that guest star, man, that's what it's all about, isn't it?
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth" #2, "Dynamo 5" #23, "Red Circle: The Hangman" #1, "Iron Man & Armor Wars" #1, "Jersey Gods" #6 (the relationship stuff was fine, the rest was meh), "Hulk" #13
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Greek Street" #2 remains incomprehensible.
"Captain America: Reborn" #2 borrows both from "Lost" and "Quantum Leap," and not in a good way. Only Norman Osborn does anything even close to useful, and that's not for long.
"Superman: World of New Krypton" #6 doesn't do well with oratory, doesn't do well with a major plot element (Nathan Petrelli, anyone?), doesn't do well with the grandeur of a Kryptonian city, and doesn't do anything particularly well at all.
Ben Grimm's the only good part about "Ultimate Fantastic Four: Requiem" #1, which gives background for his role at the end of "Ultimatum," but otherwise makes Reed whiny, Sue intolerant and Johnny even more whiny.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
What's missing? "Absolution" #1, "Dark Reign: Zodiac" #2, "Ghost Riders: Heaven's On Fire" #1, "Luke Cage: Noir" #1, "War of Kings" #6, "Uncanny X-Men" #513, "War Machine" #8 and "War of Kings: Warriors" #2.
Some interesting surprises, some limp attempts, a lot of missing comics ... let's call that a wash.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Four jumps past a wash of reads equals a win, just on math alone.
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.
There's no such thing as The Hundred and Four.