WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?
Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/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, and here's some common definitions used in the column) about all of that ... which goes something like this ...
THE BUY PILE FOR SEPTEMBER 29TH, 2010
There are a number of wonderful turns of plot here that are pretty enjoyable, as the title character engages in some science fiction espionage and trading barbs with his altogether too kinky sister (remember Joan Severance and Kevin Spacey on Wiseguy? That weird) involving wagering and theft. There's missions and counter missions that'd make Sydney Bristow's mind boggle at the concept, there's crazy ideas that'd make the crew from "Gødland" stand up and applaud and there are actually two separate but intertwined stories craftily delivered together in the most skillful of ways. There might not be as many quote-worthy moments as there were in the last issue but there's a really compelling prose interview at the rear of the issue that's simply riveting writing about the process of creativity and the demons that sometimes hound the creative soul. Surprisingly thoughtful and deeply entertaining.
Jump from the Read Pile. The lead story here was okay, but it simply would not make the cut on its own. What's remarkable - what's transcendent, honestly - is a prose story by Duane Swierczynski about Joe member Skid-Mark on a recovery mission against a very determined and well-equipped Cobra operative. It's fantastic, with stunning characterization and wonderful detail. The lead story - about a captured Cobra operative who gets turned - is okay but kind of just plods along, the crafty plot twist buried in the backside of the narrative. You don't normally turn to comics for really well written action prose, but wow, here it is. Well worth the five bucks all by itself just for that.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Holy crap, those were two damned good slabs of culture!
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
With the inevitability of cancer, "Heroic Age: 1 Month 2 Live" #5 doesn't exactly have an ending that could be considered a spoiler, but the almost ABC Family-esque approach at which Dennis Sykes tried to live his final days did carry some emotional resonance and intensity. Had this been a storyline in, say, "Avengers" or "Fantastic Four" it would have made for a wonderful counterpoint. As its own in a mini-series with characters left behind and soon forgotten, it's hard to get traction and spent a lot of time just talking and having intimate moments better suited for a book that didn't kick Ego the Living Planet in the face or beat up dinosaurs and mercenaries just a month or two ago. Ambitious but flawed.
Lex Luthor is still chasing Black Lantern energy in "Action Comics" #893, visiting Gorilla City and going against Grodd's best combat spoon (really). There are some SHIELD-worthy moments of robotic misdirection (including an interesting panel where Grodd tries to interrogate "Lois") and the tone goes from slapstick to murderous and back. Hard to pin this down - too much skill in simple moments and art to say it's bad, too confused to say it's good.
To say that things don't go Nick Fury's way in "Secret Warriors" #20 would be an understatement, as somebody has a secret and somebody fails at a crucial moment while Fury ambitiously tries to take on everything at once. The artwork and coloring are fantastic, the story is okay and the action has some mild consequence. Not bad.
"Widow Warriors" #3 had a very literary quality that felt abbreviated and confined by the periodical format. The cover's a bit of a dodge as well, implying action that wasn't apparent in the issue. This is very interest subject matter presented in a not-so-interesting way.
As if the final credits never rolled, "Terminator 1984" #1 posits another member of Kyle Reece's unit coming back in time to fix things as Cyberdyne Systems foolishly plows towards a humanity-free future. Fitting between the cracks, it posits a much more extinction-worthy humanity and gives Linda Hamilton her militaristic paranoia much more quickly. Probably essential if you're a fan, not bad otherwise.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Machete" #1, "Star Wars: Blood Ties" #2, "First Wave" #4, "Atlas" #5, "Gotham City Sirens" #16, "Avengers Prime" #3, "Green Arrow" #4, "Captain America: Patriot" #2, "Justice Society of America" #43, "Kato" #3, "Time Masters: Vanishing Point" #3, "Angel" #37, "Wonder Woman" #603, "Namor: The First Mutant" #2, "Transformers: Sector 7" #1.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Teen Titans" #87 continued a recent trend of comics making heroic characters into crappy parents, which leads to super villainy. That's bad, and disturbingly overwrought. Then, a member of the team is depowered and shuffled off to the side. Who is it? Let's just say it's a lot like what you'd expect from a horror movie. Get this thing outta here.
Really, Zemo? Monologuing? Torturing? A Not So Different shtick? Really? "Captain America" #610 lays it on thick for James Buchanan Barnes, setting up a death trap so elaborate that even Dr. Evil would find it excessive. Quite irksome given that this is the supposed payoff for a whole storyline.
Between the spotty amnesia and the incessant sexual come ons of a character best known for a hick mentality born in Brooklyn, "Valkyrie" #1 did not compel. It meandered when it needed focus, it was vague where detail would have helped, it had violence for little reason at all and characters drawn together for no clear reason that made sense. Send it back.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Ambitious attempts, not much really awful ... that's a good thing, right?
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Two very thought provoking purchases still beats three sucky comics at the end, so the week wins by a thin margin.
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.
Oh, and there's blogging too: I'm back with a newly unified blogging platform thanks to (yes, I'm eating crow for even saying this) WordPress and the theme-adapting styles of Suuru Designs at the Soapbox. That's where you'll find Commentary Track blogs on these reviews, normally within a day or two of their publication. Also, if you're so impatient that you can't wait on Wednesday nights (hopefully by 9PM), you can get an "Early Forecast" of what's going into the column on the Operative Network Mobile Edition. Enjoy, you bastards.