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 MARCH 10TH, 2010
Jump from the Read Pile
There's a rule for the Buy Pile. If a comic has elements that cause strong reminiscing before two hours have passed, it belongs in the pile. This issue - a series of surprisingly effective short character pieces - fits the bill. From its opening shot with "Eli Stone" creator Marc Guggenheim showing how Spider-Man fits into Earth-616's New York City (done with self-deprecating humor) to an emotional X-Men story about grieving (that involves punching) to an effective Bendis Avengers story. Sure, the Bullseye story was very much like the Daniel Way miniseries (that really could have been the definitive work about the character) and the Runaways story was just "okay," but the effort overall was solid work and the idea that one of the "big two" would open up the doors to new talent this way was refreshing. Well, art talent anyway. Writers? Well, you'd be better off being a screenwriter, or have a critically acclaimed work or...you know. Not be breaking in. Still, darned entertaining work in general, even if it might not have made it on a more crowded week.
Jump from the Read Pile
Alas, poor Agent Brand - we hardly knew ye. Alongside a quip-happy Henry McCoy, Abigail Brand brings the pain to a marauding armada of alien invaders who've been fleshed out quite well over the series' run and who have very kooky dialogue ("There will be a grand consummation and violent rutting"). It's almost sad how much she had to go outside of her own agency's lines to get anything done, but Agent Brand has the same kind of brusque charm that makes the likes of Vril Dox or Pete Wisdom enjoyable characters to watch. The android Unit is really the secretive star here with all the oily charm of Lucifer from 1978's "Battlestar Galactica" and the frightening power of the Purple Man. "You're insane," McCoy told him, and Unit replied, "I possess a certain clarity." With wonderful dialogue from Kieron Gillen and effective artwork from Steven Sanders, Craig Yeung and Matt Wilson, this is a great comic book that stands up to the standard set by the debut issue and this series will be missed.
Following in the "we really don't do this very well" tradition of the Thunderbolts, the team takes on a contract involving one of Brother Blood's spin off cults...and again, the job doesn't go in a way one could call "smooth." Black Alice's place on the team is questioned, Bane's orders don't exactly inspire unimpeded discipline and a phone call really leads to a bad bit of business. Fun stuff, mean spirited, a little on the cursory side but ultimately entertaining.
Jump from the Read Pile
Kidpool? Freakin' Kidpool? You don't really care about why, but Deadpool has the idea that he has to collect Deadpools from alternate universes to save all of reality...maybe. Maybe he just needs meds. It's hard to tell, and nobody really cares. In this case, there's an alternate universe where Xavier's school is an "orphanage for troubled boys" where Chuck's horny and flexible about wigs, Emma Frost runs a school full of similarly themed mutant girls and even here, Slim Summers is a "whiney punk." Victor Gischler's dialogue is funny ("Right now that @$$hat Logan is dancing with your gal Jean Grey. A nice slow dance. He smells like Aqua Velva and Cool Ranch Doritos, and she's eating it up. They'll head out to the veranda. Moonlight. Chapstick. Do I have to paint you a picture?"), Whilce Portacio's detailed pencils with inks from Jamie Mendoza and colors from Thomas Mason are both effective and delightfully kooky in an issue that's full of re-readable goodness.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Three jumps and great pages all around, that's a great start.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
Tracy Lawless has some very bad experiences in "Criminal: The Sinners" #5, a pretty good noir story which answers all of its questions and does so drenched in blood. There's gunfire and tears, consequences and yelling and if you love noir this is a must-have. If you're just a casual fan - like this column - this falls short, but not by far.
"Human Target" #2 again captures a bit of the TV show's spirit and - again - is a little too abbreviated to justify its cover price. The fast paced dialogue between Chance and Winston again is breezy and fun to read, but there's not enough room for Guerrero to shine as he does on the show, and that balance between the three elements makes the whole thing work. Still, not bad.
Inspired by Marlon Wayans, "G.I. Joe: Origins" #13 takes a more ethnic look at Rip Cord, "comedy stylist" and aspiring Air Force pilot...and like the movie, it surprises by not being awful. With an unflappable air of self-assurance and a set of skills capable of achieving many military goals, had this issue had maybe even six more pages to explore the story this would have gotten the job done.
Norman Osborn was really good in "Dark X-Men" #5, but little else was, where we find out some very interesting things about the man's psychological makeup and makes his ability to hold on to power this long all the more fascinating. Seriously, the rest of it - Raven's indecision, the whininess of the rest of them...Norman had to outshine them or this comic would have been a stinker.
If an issue as big and star-spanning as "R.E.B.E.L.S." #14 doesn't make the jump, it's gotta be a shortage of Vril Dox at the root of it. There's some very big moments of combat that got some relatively small panels to be explored, and that didn't help, but more Dox could have clearly made up for it as his last speech was worth waiting for.
Ultimate Rick Jones gets an...interesting job in "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #8, taking in some travel and hangs out with The Human Torch, Iceman and Spidey (ultimate style). This led to lots of funny lines but nothing really actually happening, so that's cute, but it's nothing that needed buying.
Lois Lane does more with her cell phone in "Action Comics" #887 than most costumed heroes do in entire year runs of their own comic series. Seriously, she's completely determined, and that's a good look for her. However, she mostly just goes from point "A" to "B" for herself, and while that could lead to something happening, it didn't happen here.
"Jersey Gods" #11 has a nice surprise ending but ultimately spent most of the issue waffling over a question of love and emotion. The series has always drifted very close to being "good enough" but doesn't really push hard enough often enough to be enough to purchase.
Bruce Wayne...on vacation? In love? "Batman: The Widening Gyre" #5 posits a much more mellow Dark Knight Detective, Tim Drake eating a sub sandwich in the middle of his "shift" and a new superhero crying a lot. On one side, the love story of Bruce Wayne has some interesting elements, and on the other side the introduction of Baphomet could lead somewhere. Together, however, those competing plot lines take away from each other and lead this comic to stay in the store where it could push a little harder and get it done.
A black and white comic that plays like an anthology, "Mystic Hands of Dr. Strange" #1 was okay, comparable to the recent "Strange" miniseries in quality, with some of the same problems (hard-to-parse magical artwork that's as much mess as matter) and some of the same benefits (dry wit, interesting oaths and spells). An old school treatment that leaves all the toys in place.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Justice League: The Rise and Fall Special" #1, "Powers" #3, "Cyberforce Hunter Killer" #5, "Batgirl" #8, "Elephantmen" #24, "Doom Patrol" #8, "Amazing Spider-Man" #624, "Ex Machina" #48, "Cable" #24, "Magog" #7, "Wolverine Mr. X" #1, "Anchor" #6, "A-Team: Shotgun Wedding" #1 and "Hulk: Let The Battle Begin" #1.
No, just...no ... These comics? Not so much ...
Let's say you're the last surviving members of a whole species who were blown to smithereens. You spent years and years held captive by a psychotic genius. You finally escape, and in the process get godlike superpowers for each and every member of your race. Do you develop scores of plans and contingencies to make sure you can honestly say, "Never again?" Do you just kind of plotz around and get into beefs with your new neighbors? Well, in "Superman: The Last Stand of New Krypton" #1, guess which one the very smart and technologically advanced Kryptonians did? If you guessed "the stupid one," you're right. Argh. Even friends from a long way off can't offset Zod's overwhelmingly limiting arrogance.
Really, "Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers Unleashed" #1? Chasing Frog Thor? Whiny dog chatter? The story's meat started three-quarters of the way in, and that was gamy and tough. Make it stop, please.
Given how good the atmosphere and characterization has been for most of the miniseries, the ending of "Farscape: D'argo's Quest" #4 was a huge letdown, anticlimactic and tepid. It sucked all the wind out of any enjoyment the previous issues might have created, with sound and fury signifying absolutely nothing.
With saccharine sentiment and combat that verged on the ridiculous, "Transformers: Bumblebee" #4 had the nerve to try and upgrade itself into something worth reading, failing miserably. Exhausting in its lameness.
From intensity to whininess, "DMZ" #51 took navel gazing to all-old depths of boredom and pointlessness. If you were looking for some kind of development of the story, even the fallout won't fall here, hiding from life.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
The entire shipment of "Batman and Robin" #10 intended for Comics Ink was, for reasons only Diamond can know, sent to Redlands, CA. That's just what it is, no judgements.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
It was a little tough getting through the reads, but nobody had to die.
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.