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 10TH, 2010
The Suicide Squad and the titular group here have bigger problems than their mutual desire to perforate and pummel each other, as a horde of undead ring wielding murderers are hell bent on tormenting every possible emotional response out of them. Sure, this sounds a lot like the plot of, oh, fifty-leven other DC comics over the past few months, but they didn't all have the razor-sharp wit of this dialogue nor the gritty determination of these characters. All of this was done to try and get Deadshot back into the fold of the Suicide Squad, and his ultimate response to that request is a perfect evolution of his character. Fun stuff even in the midst of all the crossover madness.
Jump from the Read Pile.
One of the reasons this series has been having a problem making its way home is that it tends to have too little Braniac manipulation and hilarity. The solution here is great: double your Doxes. Starro the Conqueror (not the goofy little starfish you remember vexing the likes of Snapper Carr) is set to take down his tenth and most challenging galaxy after beheading Despero and stomping in the faces of the Dominion and the Khunds, all with the help of Lyrl Dox, now known as Brainiac 3. His father, Vril Dox, on the other hand, has assembled a desperate cadre of megalomaniacs, psychopaths, would-be heroes and halfwits to oppose the Conqueror's rush towards earth ("... if Starro is stopped, I want the credit," Dox said). This issue's a wonderful mix of tension and talk with just a dash of Oedipal action thrown in for kicks as the powerful think they're in control and the smart allow that to happen. Great work on the verge of a big confrontation.
Jump from the Read Pile.
Short stories combine to give this issue a chance of re-establishing itself in a zone that's 100 percent Parco Delgado-free. Matty Roth goes back to doing what really made this series shine -- telling the stories of the people in this post-insurrection New York and its environs, taking a really informative look inside the Free States, showing the quiet and pervasive power of Chinatown's Wilson and evidencing the humanity that lives on amidst gunfire and explosives, personified in Matty's ex-girlfriend Zee. With a cadre of artists on board -- from understated cameos by the iconic Jim Lee and Eduardo Risso to thoughtful and well-drawn pieces from Rebekah Isaacs and Ryan Kelly, this issue shines while taking restock of the series as a whole. Yes, the underlying nuclear showdown created by Parco is important, but this is the meat of what made this series great, and it's good to see it back again.
What a way to go go -- Kid-with-knife is the central act here, and his simplicity and dauntlessness in the face of people clearly past him is a force to be reckoned with as he's the only person on this one night at a club who really wields magic in an effective way (apologies to Seth Bingo and the Silent Girl). Sure, Kieron Gillen's sparse script shines, but what Jamie McKelvie is able to do in just one page, "we're howling forever howling forever howling forever" ... it's one of the most evocative scenes in recent memory. Add the Mastodon-inflected backup with Indie Dave and edged weapons, a wonderfully introspective bit with a Talking Heads song and considering stepping away from ones twenties and you've got a very good, "significant chunk of culture," weird in the most wonderful way. Really effective stuff as an individual issue, and actually inspiring interest in a collected read.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Mean, thought provoking, intimate, magical ... that's a stack of good comics right there, pal.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
Capturing some of the spirit of the Mark Valley-fueled TV series, "Human Target" #1 was pretty good, if abrupt. Like watching the first thirty minutes of the show, it gave you a good sense of the core players and the sort of action that satisfies. It didn't exactly conclude a story, but it had a lot of elements that worked pretty well.
Norman Osborn had some all new ideas in "Dark X-Men" #4, which made for some interesting conversations while opening the door for another old friend that people might be less pleased to see, smelling of "blondes and death and victory." If not for the ridiculous elements at play and the slightly slack plotting, it might have been something.
Scott Summers also had some thoughts worth noticing in "New Mutants" #10, even if the main body of action was fairly simple. The framing device worked better than what you saw within, but it was at least not annoying as some other recent issues.
The week's biggest surprise was "Colt Noble and the Megalords," a kind of snarky, horny take off on the "Masters of the Universe" mythos, complete with the sort of humor that comics fans would enjoy and a story that actually made more sense than the source material. Why not take it home? Well, it was six bucks to take a slightly funnier road to somewhere we've already been. Not bad, though.
"Realm of Kings: Imperial Guard" once again centered on themes of service and loyalty as the Fraternity of Raptors stood exposed while visiting one of the universe's most dangerous locations. Kallark strains against protocols and the trappings of office while his former teammates worked their way through some challenging scenes in a truly hostile environment. The esprit de corps was interesting to see, but ultimately nothing new.
Speaking of space-based action, "S.W.O.R.D." #4 had Henry Peter Gyrich having a heart-to-heart with Norman Osborn, Abigail Brand enjoying lots of ridiculous banter with her furry boyfriend all while alien races scheme and plot and seek the subjugation of mankind. Just an average day for the agency tasked with watching the skies, and the matter-of-factness is part of the problem, because only the mysterious robot had any real desire to see things happen. Brand's a good character, but she has the same problem Vril Dox used to -- she needs more time to work in her own title.
The struggle in realms mundane and infernal continues to interest in "Anchor" #5, which finally had the character Hofi show some character greater than "ooh, look what's happening!" The rest of the issue kind of kept treading water, but it wasn't anything wrong ... just not very much to stand up and say, "this is worth owning!"
Ultimate Tony Stark has much more going on than his 616 counterpart in "Ultimate Comics Armor Wars" #4, where he finds the suddenly-appearing antagonist that's been proliferating his technology around the world and settles the accounts of everyone who's done him dirty ... but is it a victory worth relishing or Pyrrhic after all? Too brief given the major revelations here, but at least "TV good."
There's a house full of heroes in "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #7, and this means checking in on the new extrahuman in town. Sure, that lead to some pretty cliched moments and goofy plot points, but the art and dialogue were really strong.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Action Comics" #886, "Farscape: D'argo's Quest" #3, "JSA All-Stars" #3, "Captain America" #602, "Adventure Comics Starring Black Lantern Superboy" #7, "Legendery Talespinners" #1, "Booster Gold" #29, "Marvel Boy: The Uranian" #2, "Batman and Robin" #8, "Strange" #4, "Tracker" #3 and "Green Arrow Black Canary" #29.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Titans" #22 kept up a tradition of awfulness for one of the whiniest comics in the industry. Phobia (formerly from the Brotherhood of Evil) is back from "Salvation Run," and her ill-informed attempt to get the Get Out of Hell Free card over in "Secret Six." How's she doing? Whiny. Taking on Starfire and Cyborg all by herself? Okay, ambitious too, given she's got one power that has diminished effects on a robot man and an alien. Every issue of this series is an ongoing question of "why is this still being published?"
Comics Ink owner Steve LeClaire called "Hit-Monkey" #1 "a waste of time," and that's about the best one could say about it. Played wholly straight, what was this supposed to be? Irony? As it was, riddled with cliches and showing no real need to do much of anything worth doing, it's like 22 pages of your life, drifting away for no reason. Sure. Whatever.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Nine tolerable reads, eleven mediocre books, two sucktastic ones ... that's more good than bad, right?
WINNERS AND LOSERS
There's nothing to be mad about in the purchases, two jumps and more good stuff than bad in his week's batch, so that's a victory on most score cards.
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.