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 Quislet) 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 FEBRUARY 3RD, 2010
"So you think us all villains from some melodrama, that we'll explain our full plans as soon as you are within our grasp? Do you think yourselves heroes?" Cinderella's not doing so well as a super spy this time, but the results are still darned entertaining as she and Aladdin find the source of magical elements leaking into the normal world, but said source isn't so happy to be found. There's a great balance of character interplay and plot here, as Chris Roberson's script works well and the art from Shawn McManus and Lee Loughridge is virtually flawless. Great entertainment and great comics.
If you're jumping on now, you might be wandering through the high grass, but this wickedly fun tale of betrayal and violence steps things closer to some kind of endgame as a final location is selected and Michael Alan Nelson's script hums along like a fine luxury sedan. This issue's all about action, as bones are broken and deals are made and the reader finally finds out what's inside the magic box. The last page's surprise ratchets the story into a new level of crazy in all the best possible ways, and this adaptation of Nelson's blog novel continues to astound. Great stuff.
This installment spotlights the Immortal Man in Darkness, the identity of a series of increasingly more lethal pilots of a reverse-engineered alien spaceship (which is also the source of powers for August General in Iron and the aforementioned IMID). While the character is explored, the plot of Chinese divinities putting the fear of "god" into the people's politburo gets expanded upon and a common thread begins to appear. A mystery expanded, history discussed and every time the Dragonwing takes off, a year comes off of the pilot's life...which means that a stream of new pilots must always be waiting to take over. Interesting stuff and fast paced as well.
This issue is a lot slower than many, as Tony Stark struggles with...well, something inside. The "reboot" didn't take because something inside Tony Stark wasn't ready for it to take, and Stephen Strange does something much more akin to psychoanalysis than magic or surgery as he counsels the brain damaged hero while the Thunderbolts' Ghost closes in with murderous intent and Maria Hill has a conversation with Pepper Potts that nobody's happy with. More talk than anything actually happening, but Matt Fraction does sets quite an effective scene and even a slow issue like this is worth re-reading. Good stuff.
If you love the Milestone characters - and this column is chock full of love for that continuity - this will be like a warm homecoming for you. Rocket, Icon, the Blood Syndicate, even the newest Teen Titan Static...framed by the musings of the Shadow Cabinet's leader Dharma (no Greg, sorry, and nothing for "Lost" fans). There's some logic problems here - Holocaust's powers suddenly work very differently than, well, they ever have, and the posing scenes that passed for gang warfare didn't exactly stand up and say "hello." Still, the framing device worked and the general vibe was entertaining, so even at the premium price of six bucks, not bad, like going back to the old neighborhood and spending time with old friends.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Two slow notes that still worked well, three great books with no reservations, that's not bad at all.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Indomitable Iron Man Black and White" #1 worked best with Howard Chaykin's "Multitasking" story, all phone calls and punching. The rest was "meh," but it was an interesting attempt at modding the rules. Not the most successful, but it is what it is.
"Authority" #19 feels like it should be better than it is, but the artwork didn't do much to distinguish many of the characters - talking heads and weird goo - while the story had a cast that was too big to safely work out. Ambitious, but slow in getting where it's going.
Remember all that crap people talk about the Sentry? "Siege" #2 goes a long way towards quieting that down as friends become enemies and Norman stops holding back as he leads an assault on Asgard and tries to arrest a Thunder God. There's a little more chatter than one might expect, but there's still a whole lotta good stuff here. If it could coalesce into a coherent story, that'd be just about ready for prime time.
"God Complex" #3 had some pretty good fight scenes and a touch of inspirational dialogue, but hiding its cards with the Asian divinity on deck just muddied the waters and one character's sudden shift in behavior was way too abrupt.
Hiro Kala may be completely nuts or may be a lost scion of Bruce Banner (honestly, it's hard to tell), but in "Realm of Kings: Son of Hulk" #1 he continues his leadership of the lost people of Sakaar, setting himself on a path that looks intent on what most people call villainy. Is he a future archenemy for his "brother" Skaar? Hard to say what's happening, but it's done in such a determined fashion that it has some entertainment value.
"Scalped" #34 kept up its rough string of storytelling, finishing some plot threads with alarming finality and requisite amounts of anguish and gunfire. At the end of this issue, nobody likes where they end up, and that's great stuff. Sure, this kind of brutality may be an acquired taste, but if you like it, this issue's another sterling example of Jason Aaron's talents.
"Jonah Hex" #52 was almost as mean. "Too mean to die," the cover reads, and it comes true, with a delightfully well crafted tale...if you like westerns. It's steeped in genre, which is far from a bad thing, but it's not every reader's cup of tea. If it does it for you, however, this series is on freaking fire and hits every single note right, from the plot twists to the sparse dialogue to the sudden bursts of gunfire.
Speaking of gunfire, "Criminal: The Sinners" #4 had its share of firearms and surprises as characters grappled with the realities of their brutal lives in a city filled with corruption and avarice. Nothing wrong here, but this series has hit the reader harder than it did this time, as the priest's subplot keeps simmering, taking focus away from the rest of the action.
"Marvel Heartbreakers" #1 wasn't as bad as it easily could have been, and Marvel's Jim McCann finally got a Dazzler story to "spotlight" the character he loves so much. Honestly, this issue had some charm to it, talky and intimate without really doing much else. It was a weird kind of hybrid, though - too much weird stuff for your "traditional" female reader (not like anyone knows what that even means) and too much touchy-feely girl talk for your "average" comics reader (much easier to pin down, with sales figures and science). An interesting experiment, though.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Ultimate Comics X" #1, "Milo Ventimiglia Presents Berserker" #4, "Blackest Night: Wonder Woman" #3, "Doom Patrol" #7, "Superman: World of New Krypton" #12, "Deadpool Team Up" #896, "G.I. Joe Origins" #12, "Question" #37, "Cable" #23, "Red Robin" #9, "Zorro Mantanas" #1, "Justice Society of America Annual" #2, "Siege: Embedded" #2 and "Aladdin: Legacy of the Lost" #1.
No, just...no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Nova" #34 was a lot better when it was called "Contest of the Champions," as two iterations of the Sphinx take the place of the Grandmaster and the Collector and pit two teams of temporally tossed extrahumans against one another. Given that, functionally, neither iteration gained ultimate power in the distant past and took over the 616 universe (unless there's yet another divergent timeline we're dealing with here), there doesn't seem to be much at stake here. Not the worst comic of all time, but the worst this week, probably (although that "JSA Annual" was pretty tedious, despite the warden's hilarity on the phone).
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
One sucky book? That's a victory all by itself - way to quality control, industry!
WINNERS AND LOSERS
One bad book versus a virtual preponderance of b-minus and above work? That's more than enough to call the week a win.
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, where I also post (mostly) weekly commentary tracks about these reviews.