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 17TH, 2010
Jump from the Read Pile.
When the issue starts with the US president on the line talking about you like a dog and Steve Rogers bouncing his shield off of your face, chances are that today's not going to be a good day for you. The battering that Norman Osborn endures, however, is the least of the really impressive things that happens here. Often this column makes complains that really big events aren't given a sense of grandeur and scope that they really deserve. In this issue, Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales and Laura Martin say "check this out." How can Osborn lose and win and lose and win, all at the same time? You'd be surprised. Really, really surprised. Between edge-of-your-seat action, writer Brian Michael Bendis' well-established gift for dialogue ("How many gods will I have to kill today?" "Really? I barely remember you") and a very effective balance between the two (no "blah blah blah" for pages and then a thrown in fight scene) with things of real consequence happening (in a truly impressive fashion). A great surprise.
Jump from the Read Pile.
A host of notable names take a trip to Athens to celebrate the life of the original Prince of Power, showcasing how he used his innate skills (drinking, debauchery, punching, et cetera) to not just make an ass of himself but to legitimately help people, often in ways they'd never understand, all with a smile on his face and a zest for life. That was good and kind of heartwarming in and of itself, but when you combine it with two of the Agents of Atlas traveling the globe to discover that the Olympian also had a lot of money pass through his hands while generally being something of a swell guy (children's hospital, for example) and having a lot of fun ("... that's the last of the seventeen breweries." "Now we start in on the wineries. A lot more of those, I'm afraid") and, oh yeah, getting kind of rich in the process ("When Stark Industries was first starting out, Hercules invested over a hundred thousand dollars and now his investment is worth ..." "... that's a lot of zeroes. I like how they continue on a second line"). While all that's funny, it's interesting to see the reactions of lives that Hercules touched throughout his lengthy time on planet Earth, and makes you wonder about lots of aspects of living on this version of the world. Interesting reading.
Jump from the Read Pile.
"I have done what no one else has managed in ten thousand years," Victor von Doom says, almost in passing. "I've conquered Wakanda." With the queen and T'challa's mother at gunpoint, one lock standing between him and all the vibranium, and a certainty that's so complete he could have almost taken a nap, this is a Doctor Doom that isn't spouting pompous platitudes or maniacally shaking his fist at the skies or even suffering indignities. This is world-class villainy happening here, and as impressive as T'challa and his sister have made themselves to battle Doom, as many heavy hitters (Wolverine, Ben Grimm, Kurt Wagner) as they've lined up to help, they still all seem like they're flailing around as Doom calmly, inexorably makes his way towards his goals. Even with some slight confusion about what happened at the end there, great action scenes, great valor in combat (the speech that starts with "We are the Dora Milaje" and ends with "and our time has come!" is rousing enough to have had the likes of Russell Crowe shouting it) and fascinating chessmanship presented by Jonathan Maberry's spandex-tight script and solid art from Scot Eaton, Andy Lanning (that guy's talented), Robert Campanella, Jean Francois Beaulieu and VC's Cory Petit.
In similar tones as the "Astro City" court case where a common criminal defense attorney used the fantastic circumstances of the world around him to beat the system, this issue presents a capital case held under monarchical law. A popular athlete (and former murderous soldier) is accused of drunkenly ending the life of one of Haven's other immigrant citizens and in doing so ratcheting tensions between disparate racial groups (and even species) in a kingdom not accustomed to tension. Things that simmered from previous issues leap into amazing prominence and the story moves along quickly and smartly. This issue steps it up in a big way after some more laid-back months, and it's a welcome change. Amazing work once again.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Three jumps and an all-star performance from an all-time favorite. That's great stuff to start with!
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
In the shadow of Hank Henshaw's campaign against Coast City, "Booster Gold" #30 was almost pretty good, with a solid bit of emotional tug from the involvement of his sister (time travel can make some tragedies) while making Booster have some hard choices to make. As cute as all of this was, it wasn't quite enough to overcome the retread nature of the story.
The Rhino is much smarter than people would have believed in "Amazing Spider-Man" #625, trying to sacrifice everything and really man up. This issue was the closest to hitting the mark and making it home, and would have done so if not for art that was a little on the sloppy side and Peter Parker being more of a whiny drag than a character worth seeing.
Remember a TV show called V.I.P.? Fast cars, lots of action, busty women all over the place? It was a perfect example of something that's "TV good," meaning that if it was on and nothing else was happening, it was okay to watch. "Executive Assistant Iris" #4 was an example of the same sort of thing happening ... just less funny. The art's good looking -- this is a book from Aspen, after all -- but the characters pose better than they emote. If it was on TV (or even Hulu) it'd be worth a watch, but for actual money? Maybe not.
Things don't go so well for people calling themselves heroes in "Irredeemable" #12, as the lead character struggles against the ghosts of his past (while maybe being manipulated) and the extrahumans aligned against him find themselves bereft of hope or second chances. Good tension but it boils instead of actually getting somewhere.
If art was enough, "Superman 80 Page Giant" #1 would have made it happen, as it's a good looking issue despite not having any "marquee" level names attached. The stories were the stuff of "meh," but you get a really good look at Metropolis and some of its better known denizens.
Sure, Matt Wagner managed to drop "emporor" without rocking the spell check, but "Green Hornet: Year One" #1 was like a good jazz song performed by a skilled performer -- interpreting familiar notes with flair and panache. Kato's fleshed out with some details about his upbringing and his history, Britt's less of a fop and more of a ... well, that's really the problem, he's kind of boring. Good action, good framing device, dull lead.
Oh, Lester ... "Dark Avengers" #15 sets the scene for the jump-making "Siege" issue this week, with one of Norman's plans finally seeing fruition and tension building with great intensity. The fact that so few people knew what was happening made it all the better ... but it's really just one act, stretched out over 22 pages. Nothing wrong with that, but not worth the money.
John McClane sweats his way through some reminiscences and pulls his hero card in "Die Hard: Year One" #7, but the story definitely spends too long treading water before it got to the point, and still questions remain unanswered with the boys from Tuxedo, NY.
Sure, you'd expect this column to probably come down hard on "A-Team War Stories: Hannibal" #1 ... but it wasn't actually bad, if a little predictable. The title character (who riffs in a similar way as this columnist, although his cultural references were maybe a month or two premature) mugs his way through a lot of shooting and things blowing up, skimming over the details and generally having more fun than doing the actual work of a soldier. Cute, good action, effective visual storytelling, but not a "must have."
Sticking with the vein of 80s nostalgia, "G.I. Joe: Operation HISS" #2 moved a little too fast for its own good but still managed some decent bits as Duke (as played by that boy toy in the movie) enjoyed some undercover work (much like, say, Steve Rogers infiltrating the Watchdogs ... or Bucky Barnes infiltrating the Watchdogs ... suffice it to say, it's not a new gag) but wrapped in an empty mystery that falls flat.
Phyla-Vell really wants to grow up and be somebody, and in "Guardians of the Galaxy" #24 she finally gets something that will make people remember her in a way unlike her brother or her father. Also there's punching, trickery, blasts of energy and yelling. Oh, Rocket Raccoon gets a cute line. Not bad, again, but not necessary.
Sticking with the spacebound action, "Realm of Kings: Imperial Guard" #5 has Kallark step up in a huge way to represent both his leadership on the field of battle and in the field of politics. The actual Guardsmen still need more room to be actual characters, but they're all in there trying, you know?
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Prelude to the Deadpool Corps" #3, "The Authority: The Lost Year" #7, "Siege: Embedded" #3, "Farscape: Ongoing" #5, "Avengers vs. Atlas" #3, "Azreal" #6, "Marvel Boy: The Uranian" #3, "The Shield" #7, "Nation X" #4, "Supergirl" #51, "Nova" #35, "Batman" #697, "Spider-Woman" #7 and "Vengeance of the Moon Knight" #6.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
The only possible reason that a comic as whiny and self-indulgent as "Titans" #23 could even be sent to retailers is that somebody lost a bet. Really, it's terrible. There's a retcon/reinterpretation about why a certain award-wining storyline actually happened (and made it so much lamer by comparison) and just chatters on and on like an episode of "The Young and The Restless."
The previews talked about it, but "Hulk" #21 actually did it, gamma irradiating a character for no good reason (especially since he's had gamma irradiated blood before and remained as abnormal as he ever was, hello, Joe Kelly run) ... sure, there was some arguable stuff happening, but ... why? Make it stop.
More corpses? Sure, "Green Lantern Corps" #46, why not. Why didn't these ones appear sooner, given the storyline? Well, you can almost justify the big one (even though "fighting" him was dumb) but the lady on the cover should have been dug up far earlier if there's any sort of plan from Nekron. What's that? Cavill and his Cylons were better planners? Oy.
"Incredible Hulk" #608 tried to Bobby Ewing you. That's all that needs to be said, really. Not cool, man. Not cool.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Twelve adequate comics, fourteen mediocre ones, four stinkers. The jumps count too, so that sounds like a week where it was all right.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Good reads outweighed the crap, so that's cool.
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.