WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?
Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/karaoke host/jackass on Twitter) 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 NOVEMBER 11TH, 2009
Jump from the Read Pile.
Meet the new boss -- William Gravel, in case you missed it and need the spoiler, has apparently whacked every magician worth mentioning in the entirety of the United Kingdom. In doing so, he's started recruiting his own Minor Seven to serve below his less-than-enlightened reign. His original reasons for doing this -- people were trying to kill him -- kind of evolved into an accidental seizing of the steering wheel when there was no actual driver. That's a "concern" to both one of his new acolytes and to the English government, which sends a guy who looks like Julius Hibbert's cousin to chat. This is all framed by the bloodletting of serial killers and a young woman working with some seriously messed up magic.
This series always drifts quite close to being good enough, and this time Warren Ellis' script balanced the talkiness of it (really, that's most of what happens) with some clever bits of innuendo and foreshadowing, like a mean spirited David Mamet film. The brief and brutal story of Caroline Duff was a perfect example from these pages, and the new magic of England is way better here than with Pete Wisdom (ironically, another Warren Ellis creation). This is two issues in a row for the combat magician, by the way.
Jump from the Read Pile.
Writer Jonathan Maberry finally gets the balance of elements just right, in part with one single name, which inspires the text headlining the cover (not shown in the preview art, but clearly revealed throughout the pages) and pushes the action in a new, dangerous direction. The disparate elements work in harmony, with Ororo, T'Challa, and his sister Shuri all showing gritty determination in the face of disturbing forces arrayed against them. There could be a slight nod towards another company's big crossover event, but that might be a trick of the light. In an offbeat way, this is a Dark Reign tie-in book, and the ramifications it promises could either be big or stay ostracized as other big Black Panther stories have ("Enemy of the State," "Sturm und Drang" and so forth), and to see T'Challa step up his game is a very nice surprise.
There are a few things worth noting here, including a political movement amongst magicians, a relentless counterinsurgency against disturbingly powerful forces, a bad man trying to cut a deal, a big mountain of gold coins popping up and the revelation of Frau Totenkinder's travel plans. That tell you anything? Not so much? Good, because the joy is in reading Bill Willingham's script as it allows these events to unfold, under the sure and experienced visual storytelling of his Eisner-winning cohorts, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Andrew Pepoy and Lee Loughridge. Sure, this isn't the strongest issue of this long-running masterpiece, but it's still damned entertaining.
Speaking of "good, but not as good as it can be," the Merc-With-A-Mouth gets less panel time than he deserves as "Slim" Summers stresses out, Norman Osborn continues his brilliant media manipulation, and Deadpool's murderous intellect continues to whimsically wind its way around even the craftiest of adversaries. A morally bankrupt father is under the gun, an Eddie Grant song gets quoted (so wonderful a reference) and ... well, there's this chicken ... the kooky moments tie together well enough, and the humor carries the issue even where the X-Men suck the life out of the scene like Heather Graham in a cineplex (really, she's like death on screen, so boring in most movies).
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
"Transformers: Continuum" seemed like it woulda been a "buy," but it was sold out. Que sera sera. Still, what did make its way home was pretty entertaining, and two jumps is surely a vote of confidence.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Supergod" #1 was an excellent essay by Warren Ellis, but by way of being a story ... well, not so much. A new world full of superhuman, international wonders is being created and it takes time, sure ... but not for four bucks. Worth watching, though.
The last page of "REBELS" #10 was almost enough to overcome the "Black Lantern" madness that infected the title, a turn of events that's both fitting and hilarious. However, the talk and blather overcame the real actual events of kidnapping and brilliance. Shame, there.
The worrisome part about "Robert E Howard's Thulsa Doom" #3 was that the title character didn't step it up, managing to make his way through the circumstances of this story, but the forcefulness and determination that made the Thulsa Doom a standout weren't on display in a fairly by-the-numbers story.
"Red Robin" #6 wasn't bad, involving a bit of misdirection and a lot of kicking and stabbing as Tim Drake struggles to get a grasp on the Jonathan Hickman-esque Hydra scale of the League of Assassins while wrestling with his own morality. The plot was, however, better than the actual depiction of the Council of Spiders was paper thin. Hard to believe in a threat that you can barely remember.
There's ninjas. There's ninjas, and old ninja tricks, and maybe Matt Murdock hasn't gone as far as people believe, so "Daredevil" #502 had a good bit of street justice but seems empty at its core. Dialing back the determination that made this new direction so compelling and hollowing it out inside. Still damned pretty, though.
"Batman and Robin" #6 was another letdown, as a virtually unknown character named Flamingo (who? Well, DC editor Michael Marts said, "If you think you've met Batman's most dangerous, psychopathic, murderous foe ... think again. Meet the 'new crime' in Gotham City -- the FLAMINGO!") who either escaped from a Village People recruiting camp or a casting call for "Glee." Somehow, this purple-pink clad dandy gets a foot in the face of not just Jason Todd but also the new Dynamic Duo. Really. Think about that -- this guy, by himself was fighting Batman (Grayson style), Robin (scion of the League of Assassins) and Jason Todd (undead relentless murderer trained by the Bat) ... and the fight wasn't over in half a second. Nobody knew who this guy was a month ago. So he's maybe the swishy remix of Darth Maul. It could happen.
"Realm of Kings: Imperial Guard" #1 had the new ruler of the Shi'ar Empire uncomfortable with leaving things to others, with an almost "Battlestar Galactica" sense of tension behind the lines of the Guard itself and manipulations unseen and unknown. It was just shy of the mark, covering too little ground with too large a cast.
Time for a spanking in "DMZ" #47, as a nuclear deadline looms and Matty Roth centers himself on righting a few past wrongs. Daddy issues and a disturbing look through a sighting scope aside, the events of this issue ran a little close to the vest, and while ignoring the larger issues for personal stories isn't a bad thing, to make those personal stories not really connect with the audience ... we can do better.
"Strange" #1 was a cute "done in one" with the good doctor (he is still an MD, despite losing his "job" as Earth's premiere mage) having a day out at the ball park ... which of course ends up dealing with demons and their infernal small print. It was okay, but didn't really shine in terms of plotting (a little facile) nor art (the coloring was a little washed out and the demons were a little generic).
"JSA vs. Kobra: Engines of Faith" #6 came off of a huge build up and ... well, it just kind of spun its wheels and ended ... well, it's unfair to say, but suffice it to say that this ending was not satisfying, despite Jason Burr really changing the game in terms of post-extrahuman terrorism.
"S.W.O.R.D." #1 showed exactly what's happened to Henry Peter Gyrich and made Abigail Brand thoroughly unprofessional. In this issue, Gyrich shined and Brand simply glowered, while Hank McCoy's whimsicality came close to the heights his quips achieved in "Astonishing X-Men" a week or two ago. Brand was the issue's biggest disappointment, and the agency watching the skies got treated like it was Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway. Cute, but not something that demanded to come home.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Sky Doll: Doll Factory" #1, "Anchor" #2, "X-Force" #21 (or you may know it as "Blackest Night: X-Men" ... dude, what the heck?), "Action Comics" #883, "Star Wars: Purge - Seconds to Die" (all that for what's essentially a clip show?), "Batgirl" #4, "Jersey Gods" #9, "Batman" #693, "Tracker" #1, "Batman/Doc Savage Special" #1, "Booster Gold" #26, "Shield" #3, "Titans" #19, "Blackbeard" #1 and #2, "Punishermax" #1 (was a racial slur on page three really necessary? Also, haven't we seen Wilson Fisk's rise to power before Frank Castle's campaign started? If not for Steve Dillon, this would have dropped farther)
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Dark X-Men" #1 should be rebuked in the name of John Byrne (no, not like that - we found out John Byrne actually died in 1989 and people have been arguing with a Skrull all these years) for digging up a ... well, let's just say the last page is grotesquely disappointing (not to mention largely out of context and unknown to anybody who started reading comic books after 1996). Also, it starts out with a centralized mystery which is virtually ignored by the last third. The only saving grace would be the chemistry of the team, which makes Dark Beast a wonderfully acerbic element and leaves Mystique flustered at his antics. Snippets of banter can't save this train wreck, however.
"Green Lantern Corps" #42 should have rightfully been a "meh" if not for the "big" events of the last few pages which were treated very shallowly, with art that didn't portray the significance of what happened nor make it an "event" with an image that'll stick with you (remember the cover with Superman holding Kara's corpse in the original "Crisis?" Nothing like that). That nudged this from "mediocre" into "annoying," as the characters involved deserved bigger and better. Yes, it was hard not to spoil what actually happened.
Speaking of failures in execution that pushed a title's ranking down from mediocrity, "Stormwatch PHD" #24 brought out something big -- a warship full of Kheran warriors that had been trapped in the Bleed for years -- and completed the storyline in one issue. A ship full of Majestic-grade powers (i.e. "Superman-level extrahumans") and their storyline finishes in one regular sized issue. Don't even ask "did they do some really impressive visual stuff?" The answer's "no." Way too fast for the subject matter (whereas, say, "Invincible" is way too slow dealing with the same problem).
Ray Park's turn as a comic book writer doesn't really answer its own questions and is surprisingly talky with "G.I. Joe Movie Snake Eyes" #2. It has some good amounts of fisticism (and sword swinging), but story? In the words of Brian Williams, "fuhgeddaboutit!"
"Dear 'Vengeance of The Moon Knight' #3. This storyline was just barely interesting when the Hood resurrected people to kill Frank Castle. It is considerably less interesting when the same concept is aimed at Marc Spector, especially when the undead are led by a guy who looks like he escaped a 1990s issue of 'Spawn.' Please send this back."
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Sixteen "meh" books outpace even eleven "okay" comics and five stinkers. So, that makes this part essentially so-so.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Two jumps overtake the mountain of "meh" in the reads, so we'll call the week a winner. You know, why not?
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.
Did you order "The Untamed" #1 from Stranger Comics yet? If you don't ... THIS CHICKEN'S GONNA GET IT! Sorry, Domino ...