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), 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 19TH, 2009
Dark Reign: Mr. Negative #3 (Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. There's one catastrophically stupid thing about this comic book that, in retrospect, makes it kind of crappy. However, that one thing -- a crafty narrative about who Martin Li really is -- is fascinating, as is his struggle with the practically implacable Parker Robbins. There's a crafty bit of betrayal here (which, honestly, is one of the same things that "MODOK's 11" hinges upon), an interesting tie to established characters (the darkforce is interesting) and more of Norman Osborn's wackiness (his working relationship with Robbins isn't so good) in a story that tells the truth about Chinatown's crimelord and makes him much a more interesting character while advancing the plot. Given all that, one extraordinarily goofy bit of exposition can be overlooked, right?
Honestly? This isn't that good an issue. The title character wanks off within the first third, and most of this issue focuses on his sadly uncharismatic and now much less powerful son, Jack Frost. From a few pages of whining to a fairly decent fight scene, the issue kind of "ho-hums" its way through what appear to be surprisingly uncompelling paces. Has this series lost its way after helping close down the Great Fables Crossover so effectively? Let's give it an issue or two to see, but it could be back to reads-ville for this if not.
Unthinkable #4 (Boom! Studios)
Jump from the Read Pile. Once again ratcheting up the suspense and the intensity, novelist Alan Ripley and his cadre of fatalist thinkers travel to the mountainous expanses of Switzerland and the dungeons of China, going deeper into the rabbit hole and trying to get their brains around the global disasters they themselves envisioned. The moral concerns of this work gives the men here pause as they grapple with their own morality weighed against the lives of millions. There's some wonderful plot twists and a host of corpses on multiple continents, plus some of that good old fashioned torture that makes Jack Bauer and Dick Cheney get so excited in their special places. While characterization is often done in shorthand, it plays its role in the fast-paced script, and while the art of Julian Totino Tedesco and Juan Manuel Tumburus, this could have really taken off with a much more detailed artistic style. Still, damned good reading.
Daredevil #500 (Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. It would be something of a spoiler to tell you which fictional characters (a vampire and a former secret agent) welcome Matt Murdock into their ranks here, but there's ninjas everywhere, no fewer than three open betrayals, a large number of dead bodies and developments that could change Matt Murdock's life forever while drawing the certainly unwelcome attention of the aforementioned Norman Osborn and his target-happy marksman. Defty using flashbacks and aided by a host of the industry's best artists (Michael Lark, Stefano Giordano, Klaus Janson, Chris Samnee, Paul Azaceta and Matt Hollingsworth on colors), Ed Brubaker's main feature feeds a wonderfully atmospheric backup by Andy Diggle (the Billy Tan/Batt/Justin Ponsor art may even be a better fit than that of the main feature) and a great nostalgia story from Ann Nocenti and David Aja with more Matt Hollingsworth on colors. This remarkable change to the status quo is an interesting new direction for the title character. Add to all of that a gritty and effective reprint of the Frank Miller classic "Daredevil" #191, dissecting the Daredevil/Bullseye relationship plus a gang of wonderful artwork and you've got one weighty comic well worth the five dollar price tag.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Even though it feels like Willingham phoned it in, three jumps stepped up and said what needed to be said.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
The ideas behind "Transformers: All Hail Megatron" #14 are better than the execution, which tried to jam two stories into one issue. This just wasn't enough room for either to get anything done. In the front, Sunstreaker was some kind of Autobot hero and talented military mind who hit a bad patch. Okay. Galvatron appears from nowhere in an alternate universe and ... says stuff. Also, setting people on fire with mysterious powers. Wait, what? Either one of these could have come out as its own issue and had room to be interesting. Together? Ambitious, but flawed.
One could practically review "Doktor Sleepless" #13 and "Gravel" #13 at the same time, as the notes for them read identically: "scattered but not bad." The first tried interspersing a love scene with lots of disparate action. Meanwhile, WIlliam Gravel keeps doing his intimidating interviewer shtick and doing something interesting only on the last page. Both issues could benefit from some editorial direction but have more than enough talent and interesting ideas to catch your attention.
"Swordsmith Assassin" #1 was an interesting Asian-themed tale of hubris and vengeance, sharing some influences with "Kill Bill" and even Larry Hama's Zartan origin, focusing on the swords and their making. Why didn't it make it? While hitting all the right notes, they weren't exactly new notes nor were they played with any particular vigor in terms of making a compelling character or a riveting plot.
With the radio-show appeal of The Shadow and the fashion sense of Wild Dog, "Punisher Noir" #1 goes after historical figures and believes in good old fashioned shooting just like the modern version. The old-time trappings of the thirties weren't enough to make this an even average Punisher story, let alone keeping up with the finer examples of the modern day.
Scarlett is played as the much more effective Izzy Stevens of the team in "G.I. Joe Origins" #6 (look it up), wearing her heart on her sleeve as she struggles with the murderous edge of her black ops work and the real emotional connections she's made throughout her life. The story wasn't as good as the characterization, and that made this close but no cigar.
Literary figure turned detective? Sure, that could work, and in "Poe" #2 the titular raven-obsessed writer goes into zoned out states and makes leaps of deduction in a way that's as good as an average episode of "Monk." However, that costs less to watch. Just saying ...
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Air" #12, "Batman: Streets of Gotham" #3, "Invincible" #65, "Brave and the Bold" #26, "Amazing Spider-Man" #603, "Justice League of America" #36, "Dark Reign: The Hood" #4, "Outsiders" #21, "Mighty Avengers" #28, "Supergirl" #44, "Punisher" #8, "Superman Annual" #14, "X-Factor" #47, "Vigilante" #9,
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
Okay. In "Blackest Night: Superman" #1, the dead Kal-L and Earth-2 Lois Lane are back and powered by Black Lantern rings. Uh huh. For reasons nobody can really ascertain, they wait for Memorial Day to invade Smallville, which happens to have Connor and Clark at Ma Kent's house. Well, if that's what you wanna do, sure. Here's where it goes wrong: Earth-2 Superman has a less-intense cache of powers that resemble the Supes we all know. Zombie Lois has a Black Lantern ring, which works as a distance weapon. They claim their goal is whacking people, which makes more Black Lanterns. So what's outrageously, insultingly stupid here? Up close and personal fisticuffs and inane chatter. Really? No heat vision? No nuke the farm with a power ring blast from the sky? Does anybody even slap a ring on Jonathan Kent's corpse? Really? For the love of pie, make this stop.
"Project Superpowers: Meet The Bad Guys" #1 showcases a curvy female character named Bloodlust. Why? No freakin' idea. Seriously, she has some weird vengeance desire but it's not very clear. At the end of the issue, nothing could be said to have happened. Why are all these characters so flat? Bah.
Once you find out the identity of the newest Gotham mask in "Batgirl" #1, you should react with something like disgust. Really. It's somebody who just does not work. She's as unqualified and illogical in the role as Barbara Gordon was at first. She's as busy hiding it from the people in her life. What's that? She's almost exactly like the original Batgirl, except that she's a character with much less actual development and worth. Plus, everybody dislikes her. Really. She may have gotten her uniform on eBay. Hard to tell. No.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Mostly meh, but there was more "okay" than "icky."
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Three jumps beats the dumbness in Kansas, the dullness of Dynamite and the goofiness in Gotham. Call it good stuff.
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.
Fun fact: today (the day the reviews get posted) is 8/20, which is called by some Hannibal Tabu day, since the eighth letter in the alphabet is "H" and the 20th is "T." Admittedly, all those people write this column. Let's move on.
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.