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
Writer Michael Alan Nelson finishes up the adaptation of his blog novel in fine style, with blood and gunfire and explosions and holy crap. The biggest surprise of all? The final denouement is a scene filled with really effective emotional content that breathes life into the characters so wonderfully that it's breathtaking. The sole ding against this issue making the best miniseries of the year is artwork that doesn't showcase the action as well as it really should (especially if you read the prose version; things get a little abbreviated here) but there's nothing really wrong here...it just feels like another issue worth of space would have let everything really shine, and given you a taste of what Cerberus is really capable of. Still, amazing work in spite of those minor deficits.
The balance of things in this series often showcases costumed heroes fighting against tremendous odds...for reasons that seem irrelevant to the larger plot. The Williams brothers are still hunting for vengeance, but their prey is tired of being chased. While they're dealing with that, we see the start of Silver Agent's time-tossed quest...at the end of things, oddly enough. Those two plots - which have danced around one another since this long form story started - seem to be closing in on one another as the heroes (including the visually fascinating Mirage from the cover) and this issue continues to entice and draw in the reader. Consistent quality.
There's been a lot of good issues in this mini-series, and this issue may not stand up as high as some, but it gets the job done. Focusing on the tragic, Ben Grimm-esque figure of the August General in Iron (once the August Captain in Iron, so he's moving up in the world), whose powers were granted by an accident with a Durlan scout squad. That connection, however, may be the cause of the host of "divinities" wreaking havoc in the People's Republic and Tony Bedard's brisk script moves on to develop the uber-story's plot while developing character and tension between the players involved. Solid work here.
Don't call it a...reboot? The main action here's not...well, it's not so certain why the Ghost doesn't accomplish pretty much everything he's been dreaming of since before Norman Osborn came to power. Let's move on from that. The moments near the end are where Tony Stark really shows up for the job. The last scene of this issue gives the...well, the ideological groundwork for the Heroic Age to...well, kind of work. Let's just say that had things not gone this way, things could have been awkward between Tony, Steve and Don Blake. However, in retrospect, that might have been more interesting, actually...oh well... Hm. Anyway, Steve Strange, Maria Hill and finally, Tony Stark all did jobs effective enough to make the rest of it work.
Speaking of unexpected turns, the title character has tracked down the source of magical artifacts leaking into the "mundane" word...and it's weird. There's a very different style of espionage happening here, deep cover behind enemy lines. It's less Sydney Bristow and more Anne Frank, which is a different aesthetic than the rest of the miniseries - not in a bad way, but distinctive and different - while Aladdin gets the Han Solo in Bespin treatment. Cindy's action chops remain solid, and the pointless side story with her shoe store back in Fabletown and an old, familiar face flies in to say "hi." Solid storytelling and great artwork on display here.
Jump from the Read Pile.
NOTE: This is not the cover that was available at retail.
The framing device only gets more interesting with multiple readings as Wonder Woman's ex-boyfriend recalls how he infiltrated a secretive criminal syndicate...but then a random element in the form of a DCU favorite comes to play and its all car chases and misdirected reveals, a wonderfully crafted script from Ivan Brandon with art from Cliff Richards and Matthew Wilson, giving a kind of schizophrenic Michael Westen vibe in the voiceover. The only part that's...well, there's a weird part that seems to riff off of "Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape," which was from the same writer yet largely incomprehensible. Get past that, and this is good stuff.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Minor dings on solid work, so all is well here.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
While Virgil Hawkins made an all-star appearance, "Milestone Forever" #2 was ultimately a love letter that could go unsent. The explanation for how Milestone characters are now milling around the DC universe is explained here...and it's nothing to really know. It's nothing to really spoil - Static's in the Teen Titans doing the old favorites with Holocaust, so the characters are here and they're not going anywhere - but the means by which it happened? Frankly? Kinda limp. Sorry to say. Again, Static was great, but not great enough to justify six bucks, not like Wise Son's all-star showdown last issue.
"Chew" #9 was very close to making the jump, adding a "cibolocutor" (very interesting) and bringing back another riveting character (who got far too little panel time) while leaping all over the map through a wide variety of disturbing and extreme crime scenes and creating a sense of urgency. The plot stretched itself just a little too thin, and in a week with less than six purchases, this bad boy would have come home.
Let's say you take a big dose of "Friday Night Lights," a smattering of Harmony, Indiana as seen by the Midnighter, add in a dash of "Jericho" and a sprinkle of "Freakangels." You'd likely end up with something like "Sparta USA" #1, an all set up issue that was all ambiance and flag waving until it went horribly wrong...in a good way. However, there was a big build that essentially said, "see ya next issue." Interesting to watch, but not there yet.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Amazing Spider-Man" #623 (not bad quips from the Spider), "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" #33, "Mighty Avengers" #34, "Adventure Comics" #8, "Punisher Max: Butterfly" #1, "Green Hornet" #1, "Authority" #20, "Ultimate Comics Avengers" #5, "Sword" #22, "First Wave" #1, "Ultimate Comics New Ultimates" #1, "G.I. Joe" #15, "JSA All Stars" #4, "Avengers: The Initiative" #32, "Justice League: Cry for Justice" #7, "Fall of the Hulks: The Savage She-Hulk" #1
No, just...no ... These comics? Not so much ...
As shocking as it was for my wife and the regulars at the shop to hear this, there was nothing injured so much as to require insults.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Nothing stank. That's awesome to even consider, regardless of how much "meh" was on deck.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
A solid jump, nothing in the stinky section and interesting stuff from Tony Chu, Virgil Hawkins and a sword-wielding quarterback. That's a week worth remembering.
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. For real, this week. By Sunday at the latest. Shut up.