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 7TH, 2010
The long trail of magic-based espionage ends, fast and hard, in this issue, but it's still pretty satisfying. The title character deals with some of the baggage from her past as another old friend (and favorite of many storytellers) goes horribly wrong, but it all makes perfect sense and plays out with fantastic pacing and skill. The artwork from Shawn McManus and Lee Loughridge has the right mix of clarity and whimsicality, and Chris Roberson's script is tight and savvy. A great and fun finale to a great miniseries.
If we may paraphrase the late, lamented Ol' Dirty Bastard, "in-tro-duc-ing the Ghost...Fox...KILLER! No one could get iller!" Her very touch means death and she has hunted criminals in the streets of Hong Kong for decades...but sometimes she lets honorable thieves live and they can become her willing thralls, living on borrowed time. Using that dynamic as a framing device, this continues to work the overarching plot of a struggle between faux "gods" of Chinese myth while delivering some lessons about Chinese culture along the way, introducing a bit of political gamesmanship that's really rather smart. The way Tony Bedard develops the characters -- the back story on Ghost Fox Killer is actually rather fascinating, with elements that are influenced by the likes of Danny Rand leaves us with a story that is very smart and very involved. Great stuff all around.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Less than seven bucks, two great and re-readable comics...that's a pretty good start.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Nemesis: The Impostors" #2 was very, very close to coming home, as Tom Tresser faces the disbelief of the extrahuman community while trying to deal with his own disorientation after his "Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape" experience. The story meandered a bit after the surprise in his pocket, but it was not bad at all.
"Star Wars Purge: Hidden Blade" was also not bad, as a very young Vader is more beholden to his bloodlust than to his master's orders, determined to extinguish escaped Jedi and indifferent to his orders regarding a new weapon the Empire is creating, a psychologically terrifying walking armored vehicle striding on four mechanical legs (the clone troopers still had their original helmets). Vader's inexperience and the predictability of the plot were a bit of a disservice, but hardcore fans of the property will probably consider this one a keeper.
If "Codebreakers" #1 was an episode that came on USA Network after "White Collar" or "Psych," it'd be an instant hit. A procedural with a good team dynamic, the characters are introduced in shorthand and the plotting's a little facile, but it'd be "TV good," solid enough to catch on cable. However, for money on its own, it's a little flat for its own good.
"Red Robin" #11 means a family reunion of sorts that had Tim Drake trying to play chess with Ra's Al Ghul...and that means playing with real people as chess pieces. Every name in Bruce Wayne's smartphone is endangered by this game, and it's not easy for the rogue hero to figure out what to do, while his possible love interest dodges bullets as well. Not bad, but not much to it outside of the initial threat and an interesting confrontation with his "older brother."
The Wayans-influenced "G.I. Joe Origins" #14 had Ripcord cracking jokes mostly to himself in a tropical, mercenary-infested jungle as he practices the principles of SERE. The story's not so complex, but it's not bad.
"Uncanny X-Men" #523 was a much more high-octane version of an issue of "Cable," where he and Hope run from parties determined to kill her. The action movie quotient is pretty high, with tons of kinetic artwork and a plot that moves the time-tossed twosome further towards...what exactly? The chase has been drawn out so long, it's hard to remember.
"Milo Ventimiglia Presents Berserker" #5 had some surprisingly effective characterization in a short amount of space, but had to shortcut plot to make it work. Serviceable material, but not strong enough to buy.
There was one gag involving Tryco Slatterus "Deadpool Corps" #1 that was funny enough to check out. Otherwise, it was just kind of tedious, and more Deadpools doesn't equal more funny lines, unfortunately. Not for four bucks ...
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of Our Fathers" #1, "Authority" #21, "A-Team: Shotgun Wedding" #3, "Ultimate Comics X" #2, "JSA All-Stars" #5, "New Avengers: Luke Cage" #1, "Invincible Returns" #1, "Realm of Kings: Son of Hulk" #3, "Sparta USA" #2, "Electric Ant" #1 and "World War Hulks" #1.
No, just...no ... These comics? Not so much ...
Had "Blackest Night" #8 not been so much of an atrocity, "S.H.I.E.L.D." #1 would have had a lock on worst book of 2010. Not only playing fast and loose with both continuity (somebody showed up in 1582 Rome that wasn't expected for another four hundred years) and mythology (it's impossible to be the son of "Horus" and the son of "Set" at the same time as they're mortal enemies), this reinforces the idea that maybe Jonathan Hickman plays best in his own sandboxes.
"Batman and Robin" #11 was actually mostly a "meh" issue, but the problem is on the cover, which read, "The Return of Bruce Wayne Begins Here." The problem was that those exact same words were on the cover of "Batman and Robin" #10 as well. "People think this is a reprint of the last issue!" the store's owner Steve Leclaire complained. Bad for business, kids.
"She is why I came back to the present," Cable said in "Deadpool and Cable" #25. Uh, what about X-Force? The Twelve? Apocalypse? Cute banter with Deadpool, but the plot was really stupid.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Bad things happened, but they could have been worse.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Didn't spend much money, managed to enjoy some reads while enduring some travesties...a marginal win works, right?
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 (including a poem a day for National Poetry Writing Month, including poems about T'Chaka and Bizarro already this year) 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 (including a scathing analysis of "Blackest Night").