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 AUGUST 12TH, 2009
Many moons ago, the great and powerful magic that held Fabletown, home of many of the European story characters many in western cultures grow up with, together came apart like an unraveled ball of twine. This issue you find out exactly why that's a problem, as a flying monkey has a discussion with a severed head and a magic mirror that bodes badly for almost everyone. Meanwhile, the aforementioned Fables are discussing how to evict a deadly squatter from their former abode. This issue feels a little short, but writer Bill Willingham has the skill to keep things fairly balanced. The always talented art crew of Buckingham, Pepoy and Loughridge keeps things looking good and this is another solid installment of the industry's best series.
Last issue, Deadpool put a gun to his own head and pulled the trigger. This issue, things only get better as an unusual tour guide, an even more unusual facial hair choice and Bob, Agent of Hydra all come together with more money than anybody else knows. With gems of dialogue like "You are like a demented clown, sent from heaven on wings of angel," "I feel like kissing you as a man kisses a woman" and "You smell like bullets and taco meat," this issue has a solid -- if demented -- plot and the solid humor that has made this series such a joy. Daniel Way is one fun writer, and the art from Shawn Crystal, John Lucas and Lee Loughridge (that guy is good) dials up the hilarity. Fun stuff.
Jump from the Read Pile. From the first page to nearly the last, this issue is all about doing big things and using the scale of cosmic action in ways that could either be considered gratuitious or awesome and Vril Dox finally gets a little more panel time. Suffice it to say that a force field and a methane ocean are the biggest set pieces here and the art of Andy Clarke and Jose Villarubia while Vril makes some cold calls, teleporter combat takes center stage and another world sees a giant starfish fall. This series has been close to making the mark even on the issues than were too unfocused to making it. This issue is an example of getting it right.
Jump from the Read Pile. This issue hinges its success on the distinctive performance of Ultimate Captain America. Ultimate Nick Fury's back in the dimension and Cap gets a disturbing surprise, Ultimate Hawkeye shows off (Ultimate Danvers: "You're insane. You know that." Ultimate Hawkeye: "I believe you mean awesome.") and AIM goes shopping in the abandoned and unguarded Baxter Building. Once again, Ultimate Captain America's unapologetic and unflinching determination makes him a force of nature, and when it's shaken, the depiction of his shock is perfect, presented by by Carlos Pacheco, Danny Miki and Justin Ponsor. Very entertaining.
The last issue of the "No Future" storyline tries to end with a bang but gets there in such a meandering way that it's almost a relief. There's a cult like army in the internecine streets of post-second-civil-war Manhattan, and there's no clear idea of why or what they want. This series has been listing like a Spanish galleon with a cannonball in the hull for some time, and unless next issue steps up the game, this could be a good jumping off point.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Sure, "DMZ" let you down, but the other issues got things right, and "Agents of Atlas" was fun after getting trucked last week. So that was cool.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
After a sterling surprise first issue, "Marvel Divas" #2 was close to making it home but underplayed every storyline but Angelica's and relegating the male characters to sappy roles. Still interesting dialogue and worth watching.
Dick Grayson finally stops whining in "Batman" #689, and even his enemies notice the difference. This issue wasn't bad, but it doesn't exactly sparkle either. Still, the idea of Grayson stopping whining is a relief in and of itself.
"G-Man: Cape Crisis" #1 is a cute comic book by the guy who brought the brilliance of Hulk's haikus. It's an all-ages comic but its narrative is fairly relatable for all audiences. Not bad.
"JSA vs. Kobra: Engines of Faith" #3 had the same problem as the LA Lakers most of the season -- most of the team stood around while one guy ran with the narrative. Mister Terrific takes on Kobra in a battle of intellects that leaves most of the Society questioning each other's judgement. The issue doesn't exactly come together and its lead antagonist could surely use some lessons in how to monologue while battling a hero.
Tim Drake makes a deal with the devil in "Red Robin" #3, and he looks at the lines he might cross and the ones he won't ... and it gets hard to tell the difference. Drake's moral crisis is interesting but mostly back burnered by kicking and punching and -- for reasons that shouldn't be asked -- the Wild Huntsman.
"Farscape: D'argo's Trial" #1 was a pleasant surprise. You don't have to know anything about "Farscape" to appreciate this story of broken interspecies love, intolerance and a thirst for revenge. This is a smart, well crafted issue, and the lead character's central motivation was almost enough to sell this story.
"G.I. Joe" #8 was cute in moments, but it was too scattered to get things done, with an ill-considered Cobra operation in Scotland and a weird Lone Gunmen shtick that had Snake-Eyes playing Mulder.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Booster Gold" #23, "Cable" #17, "Green Arrow/Black Canary" #23, "Captain America Theater of War: To Soldier On" (but it is interesting to know that the Super Soldier Formula means Cap's the anti-Wolverine and remembers literally everything he's experienced), "Green Lantern Corps" #39, "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #1, "Red Circle" Inferno" #1, "Dominic Fortune" #1 (good old fashioned prejudice, just like daddy used to endure), "Red Herring" #1, "Grimjack: The Manx Cat" #1, "Incredible Hercules" #132, "Uncanny X-Men" #514 (Except Cyke and Emma, the rest of the teams were meh), "Hercules: The Knives of Kush" #1, "Adventure Comics" #1 (the twist at the end was a very interesting turn for a mostly dull issue).
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Blackest Night" #2 was just not working. Period. The Spectre, like Lady Shiva, seems more of a paper tiger every appearance, going from the terrifying force that once held Superman back with a single finger to a whining, self-doubting poozer who can't hold his own against a girl scount troop. That's the biggest problem here, indicating that the powers behind the Black Lantern are, essentially, more badass than God. Outlandishly, unacceptably stupid.
Let's see if this is right. In "G.I. Joe Special: Helix" #1, a one-of-a-kind combat operative gets an assignment completely outside of her expertise with virtually zero training. Then, somehow, she goes off the radar. Really? This seemed like a good idea to anybody? Sweet spirit singing, that's dumb.
Speaking of, if this interstellar power that's loosing rings of horrible, zombifying power are all over the galaxy ... and stop to wake up Dick Grayson's parents in "Blackest Night: Batman" #1. Plus, Boston Brand's feeling schizophrenic in a way that's not exactly going together. Can we please make it stop already?
"Ms. Marvel" #43 has left behind the mean determination that made Karla Sofen's reign so compelling and delved back into the incomprehensibility of some of Carol Danvers' tenure. Really, there's a whole "third blonde" thing here that comes not only out of left field but out of a completely different ballpark. Unacceptable.
The "stories" (such as they are) in "Superman: Secret Files 2009" are ... well, at best incomplete and at worst dull. As for the "information" you get on "Codename: Patriot," the only way you could be guided by this is if your name's actually Miss Cleo.
Really? Starfire whines through the entirety of "Titans" #16? Not what's needed by this character -- she deserves awesomeness. Or at least not to be so powerful and so directionless.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Seven good, six bad, a mountain of meh. That's close enough to being a wash as to not matter.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Two jumps, a wash on reads, and a fail from "DMZ?" That's just over the middle ground, so we can call that a good week, one would suppose.
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 are now two official ways to get Hannibal Tabu's blog-related wisdom. For all personal things, there's Hannibal's relaunched Soapbox and for his views on the weird, wild world there's The Hundred and Four.