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 OCTOBER 7TH, 2009
You're not hallucinating. You are not having a stroke. The long-rumored, oft-disbelieved finale for the critical darling has finally, finally arrived, and some people might even believe that there's a six-page sketchbook for the next issue of "Battle Chasers." Best of all: it's glorious. Borrowing threads from the Halo Corporation (and no, this isn't bound by all the Mad Max-styled craziness in the rest of the Wildstorm universe) and keeping all of the hyper-kinetic momentum of the series' heights, the archaeology of the impossible continues to be, in the words of Elijah Snow, "a strange world, Drums. Did you for a minute think that I wasn't going to keep it that way?" A rescue mission that flies in the face of Schroedinger and Heisenberg, this issue cranks up the "wild ideas" quotient far past levels considered safe and delivers a beautiful, emotional conclusion that satisfies on every level. The relentless talent of John Cassaday (with Laura Martin's coloring) is matched by the surprisingly sentimental script of Warren Ellis. A true delight and one of the year's best reads ... admittedly worth the wait.
Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #1
Jump from the Read Pile.
Dr. Jericho Drumm suffers from a problem of perception. Sure, he's served as the humanity's Houngan Supreme for a number of years, but he's still seen as an "infant," an "insect," gambling with "such sinister magics" with "incompetent hands" doing work "far beyond your station." Insulted and underestimated at every turn, what does he do? He takes on Dormammu in the first six pages, teaching Stephen Strange something in the process and taking on both a demon and Doctor Doom. Quite a busy day, hm? Through it all, the newfound Sorcerer Supreme argues with the undead spirit of his brother (and Houngan Supreme predecessor) and shows a kind of relentless determination that DC's new Hangman strives for but can't achieve. Sure, the art could be a little more refined (honestly, it'd be nice to see Craig Yeung from "Captain Britain and MI-13" on this), but Rick Remender's script carries it through on both plotting and characterization. A solid start.
House of M: Masters of Evil #3
Jump from the Read Pile.
Despite the dubious beginnings from the "House of ATM" crossover, this series has once again taken the tabula rasa of Parker Robbins and turned him into something interesting. This series has already turned him into the Norma Rae of "sapiens rights" and now takes that up a notch into a profit-minded Che Guevara model, invading a country with his army of non-mutant super-powered hooligans. Further cementing the idea of his relationship with Madame Masque, the major thing in his way was the dangerous Jeffries brothers, Madison and Lionel, wielding machines and men as if they were simple tools. A surprisingly complex revolution, complete with intimate character moments and grandiose splash pages full of heaving bosoms and fast-paced fisticuffs.
Wade Wilson wants a piece of Scott Summers' mutant homeland. However, given that the last time he was a resident of a mutant-themed island haven to the lost and dispossessed it ended with shooting and fires and not so much of an island actually being an island anymore, Scott's less than inclined to bring a weapon-wielding schizophrenic into a tenuous situation. However, as Dagger points out, "Isn't that why we're all here? In Utopia? Because no one else wants us?" So to live up to his egalitarian rhetoric, good ol' Slim Summers has to do something about Deadpool, and that involves guns and rooftops and even pancakes. 372,844 pancakes, which serve as one of the best humorous bits in the issue. Toss into this a Norman Osborn-inspired public relations challenge and a ridiculous costume and you've got another great issue from the team of Daniel Way, Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco and Marte Gracia.
Official Index to the Marvel Universe #10
This issue synopisizes some of the most confusing and most maligned days in comics history. Ben Reilly's clone saga in "Amazing Spider-Man." The "Heroes Reborn" era issues of "Iron Man." The "Twelve" storyline from "Uncanny X-Men." This issue proves, definitively, that those were some really, dangerously stupid comic books. However, reading about them in one felled swoop is hilarious. The idea that the mastermind behind "Wildcats 3.0" was the guy dropping "Rocktopia: Part 8 of 5: on you, or the concept of one half of the genius "Bwa-ha-ha" team plotting an installment of "Maximum Clonage" ... it boggles the mind, honestly. But it all happened. Otto Octavius being resurrected by ... look, it's too zany to even go into. But trust that this comic will, should one be so inclined, allow one to cogently discuss the madness of the late 90s without actually soiling their brain by actually reading the books.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
All good all around.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"R.E.B.E.L.S. Annual" #1 was close to the mark, spending a lot of time on the characterization of the new power behind and in front of Starro, explaining the hive-mind's mission of conquest across the stars. Which would have been cool, save for two things: first of all, the idea that these characters will be relevant to anyone outside this series in a year is fairly infinitesimal, and, second of all, the draw for this comic book is Vril Dox, and he doesn't even get a line of dialogue here. So let's just move on.
Brubaker and Phillips are back with "Criminal: The Sinners" #1, with more from Army deserter and serial bad luck case Tracy Lawless. He's inherited his father's work and his father's ways, working for a local crime lord while being morally conflicted. This had all of the noir hallmarks, from the elements of an investigation to danger on every side and even doomed romance. However, none of these elements leapt off the page at you, they all just kind of hit their marks and kept moving. Not bad at all, and great for fans of noir and mystery, but not outstanding for anyone who doesn't yearn for these kinds of gritty tales.
"Doom Patrol" #3 was a complex story with a body count that could inspire terms like "atrocity" or "tragedy." Dr. Niles Caulder calls in unexpected reinforcements as the team battles a force that could literally swallow the world whole. The plot has some concerns with story density and leaves two characters in particular a little short on their development, but shines through in the banter of Larry and Cliff. The Metal Men backup was weird, however, with Copper facing off against a delusional actor while the team waits at the DMV. Yeah, seriously. Moving on ...
Matt Murdock has decided that it's time for a change in "Daredevil" #501, and that means doing a lot of different things from the Wolfram and Hart rule book, making things much more personal than they were before as he's wracked with guilt over the death of more than a hundred innocents. It fell just shy of coming home due to the mid-section with Foggy and Dakota dragging along in a talky way that slowed down the rest of the storyline.
"Irredeemable" #7 takes another step into the twisted world of the Plutonian, who really was ill-equipped to shoulder the responsibilities of his role. He's distracted by the storytelling of Charybdis, as his old friends paws through his version of a Fortress of Solitude with time running out. Its solitary crime was its brevity -- a little more would have done the job.
"Greek Street" #4 had a little more linearity than previous issues, centering best on the indiscretion of Lord Menon and his wife's paranoid investigation. The attempted lead character, Eddie, is sadly uninteresting and a weak axis upon which to position the story. The "indie" nature of the artwork doesn't help, even if it does cheesecake really, really well.
Nick Fury outmaneuvers Norman Osborn in "Dark Reign: The List - Secret Warriors," walking in to the man's bedroom and comparing lists (only one of them gets to mark something off as "done"). It was a great and sneaky game of chess and only failed because it stopped when it got really good.
If you cut Congorilla and the weird blue guy out of "Justice League: Cry for Justice" #4, it would have been better off, as Freddy Freeman makes an impact without the word, Kara Zor-El gets a crush and Ollie shows people far more powerful than he is why he shouldn't be taken lightly. Still, the Jack Bauer treatment was not bad but for an issue that tiptoed around Prometheus. A little of his cold determination would have been an asset.
There was more news coverage and more people you don't know in "Black Panther" #9, which featured a cute acronym ("Princess Regent Intelligence Division Executives") and T'challa going a long way to accomplish his goals. No individual piece shone that well nor failed that significantly, but there were a lot of them and some completely forgettable antagonists and that doesn't make for an effective product.
"Magog" #2 plays best when the lead character expresses his disdain for traditional superheroics and even goes through an act so they'll let him do his much more intense work at the edge of their world. That was all very cute, but there's not much of a story around his act.
It seems that the Mysterio in "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #3 manipulates his powers with an iPod Touch. It's good to know that even for supervillainy, there's an app for that. In any case, the relationship with MJ is awkward (great argument there) and his teenage struggle is believable but those things don't connect with Spider-Man's life very well.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Authority" #15, "Amazing Spider-Man" #608, "Batman and Robin" #5, "Astonishing X-Men" #31, "Batman Annual" #27, "Cable" #19, "Batman Unseen" #1, "Mighty" #9, "X-Men/Agents of Atlas" #1, "Superman: World of New Krypton" #8
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
The WTH award has to come back for "Kill Audio" #1, which is about some kind of immortal character who starts a "Wizard of Oz" style quest ... no idea what that's all about.
Ignore the cover of "Vengeance of the Moon Knight" #2 -- a stare down with the Sentry is not worth seeing, bringing back old business for the character is a horrible idea, and his crankiness was not ... what's the word? Entertaining.
The art was good on "Final Crisis Aftermath: Run" #6 ... and other than that there's really nothing to recommend, given the ineffective Shaggy Man shtick ... look, let's just move on.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Those three weird books can't sabotage the whole week.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Jumps, interesting reads ... despite the "Inhuman Flame" and cranky old man Spector, that's a week that has to be called a winner.
First of all, time for shameless shilling, a tradition established by former columnist Rich Johnston. This reviewer has accepted a position with Stranger Comics and I'm proud to announced that "The Untamed" #1 is available in this month's issue of Previews on page 286. Why should you care? Well, it'd be easy to talk about what "Watchmen" producer Lloyd Levin said ("What's not to love about Jones and Bertging's THE UNTAMED: it's a Sergio Leone, Frank Frazetta, William Blake fever dream mash-up. And that's just where it begins") or what master of horror Clive Barker said ("THE UNTAMED promises to be an epic tale, conceived and crafted not only with a great love of comics, but also a profound understanding of the power of visionary storytelling"), but it's actually way easier to show you the animatic trailer on YouTube for this new dark fantasy based in a world of swords and vengeance. While Stranger Comics titles will not be reviewed here (conflict of interest much?), you might wanna pre-order some copies while they're still available. Just saying!
Anyway, 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.