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 OCTOBER 13TH, 2010
To get an idea of how cool this title is, let's look at some of the sets where the action takes place: a decommissioned Soviet missile silo full of cash, a naked photo shoot for a multi-ethnic girl group and - hang on - inside the brain of a giant Japanese war robot. One of the captions here says it best: "
The seven-fold smackdown several issues in the making! Girls versus boys who fight girls who hate boys! It's a nice day for a fight wedding! I LOVE COMIC BOOKS!" Truer sentiments couldn't be said, as the plot moves along perfectly, the characterization is a wonderful surprise ("my beautiful girl," "..." "Grandmother is very excited to kill some white people") and the joy of this comic book is wonderfully balanced by the skill and deftness of its creators. The title character makes the impossible happen through a conflict that had surprisingly less bloodshed than one might have anticipated. Great stuff, as always, from the mad mind of Matt Fraction.
Going two-for-two, Fraction's script for this issue is a deft combination of corporate espionage and super villain chutzpah. Of course, Spymaster's clumsy car bomb wasn't the trick, as Tony Stark wrestles with his frustrations over the challenge Justine and Sasha Hammer present in creating his new technological vision for the future. Tony's futuristic car? Sweet spirit singing, it's beautiful - like "Tron" had sex with a Lamborghini. All the cards are on the table now and even though this penultimate chapter of the storyline is complete in and of itself, it surely holds your attention and primes you for the next issue. Brilliant, beautiful comics from Matt Fraction, Salvador Larocca and Frank D'armata.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
I believe it can only be said one way: Matt Fraction for the win!
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Top Cow First Look" or "Pilot Season Declassified 2010" #1 (depending on how you look at it) was the closest to coming home at only five bucks, which is quite a commendable price point for a comic book with more than a hundred pages of content. Gathering new first issues for a lot of new Top Cow comics, it had some real gems including the return of "Genius" by Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman and Afua Richardson. "Sunset" by Christos Gage, Jorge Lucas and Felix Serrano has shades of "Payback" and the original "Red," and that's pretty entertaining. However, "Black Vault" was slow as hell and never let on where it was heading, "Mysterious Ways" needed to pick up the pace, as did "Last Mortal" and "Echoes." Two out of six, even for five bucks, isn't a good enough ratio, alas.
"Thanos Imperative" #5 was not bad but far too busy in its plotting as the Cancerverse's "Revengers" track down Thanos with murder in mind. There are two betrayals - the first kind of hollow, the second kind of interesting - that the story rotates upon while the space battle of massive military forces and even "weaponized abstracts" like The Galactus Engine (and way worse behind it) almost as background music. Still worth watching.
The main story in "Adventure Comics" #519 is actually divided into two parts. There is an espionage squad mission chasing a murderous space pirate, and that's pretty pedestrian. Brainiac 5, however, does a subversion of Connor Kent's list on a mission to the past in a way that's simply sublime. Had it been the entirety of the story (there was more to tell at the barn raising, for example) this could have been a purchase. However, when combined with the sappy and ineffective Atom backup, it was just an amazing third with two more pieces dragging it down.
Speaking of single elements held back by the rest of the book, there's a simply amazing Steve Rogers story leading off "I Am An Avenger" #2, created by Rucka, Lark and Gaudiano. It's really, realy good. The issue went from the sublime to the ridiculous, ending with D-Man winning an Avengers pie-eating contest (seriously) with a whole heap of meh in between.
"Thor" #616 had Thor moping over his brother's passing (they really haven't been close in centuries, so that's weird) and getting weepy alongside Balder. Why wasn't this a worse comic? The hilarity of Volstagg and the coming of the extradimensional invaders who are hungry for the nine worlds. That stuff was still interesting even as Thor got all emo.
"Superman" #703 had an interesting confrontation between the Bat and the Man of Steel where (arguably) Dick puts on the big boy pants and tells Clark about himself. The problem is, the end of the issue (which feels super clipped) essentially proves him right. Interesting discussion, but ultimately not getting the work done with the "fragment" bit not being strong enough to carry the second and third acts.
"Irredeemable" #18 shows that the Plutonian is a little better informed than we were led to believe and that doesn't even matter. There's more secrets revealed from the dysfunctional family of heroes, more violence and more surprises. It wasn't done in a way that tied the story together effectively - the Samsara element could have been an effective narrative throughline, but it was just presented plainly instead of tying all the elements together.
Following the anthology examples from before, the opening story in "Iron Man: Titanium" #1 was strong enough to watch if it were on TV, but it surely couldn't carry the weight for the rest of the "meh" here.
"Frenemy of the State" #3 was definitely "TV good," and if it was on the USA Network it'd be a solid draw like "Burn Notice" or "White Collar." For actual money? Well, it's cute and confectionary in a largely harmless way, but the artwork is a little "plain Jane" and the story didn't have really interesting stakes, despite some decent character chemistry.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Booster Gold" #37, "Star Wars Knight Errant Aflame" #1, "Superior" #1, "Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne" #5, "Amazing Spider-Man Presents The Black Cat" #4, "Green Lantern" #58, "Incredible Hulks" #614, "Green Lantern Emerald Warriors" #3, "Pilot Season: Forever" #1, "New Avengers" #5, "Spike" #1, "Justice League Generation Lost" #11, "Shadowland" #4, "Titans" #28, "Shadowland: Blood on the Streets" #3, "Farscape: Scorpius" #6
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
May as well review these all at once, since they're essentially the same comic book. "Bruce Wayne The Road Home Batgirl," "Bruce Wayne The Road Home Batman and Robin," "Bruce Wayne The Road Home Outsiders," "Bruce Wayne The Road Home Red Robin" ... they're all really the same thing. Unusually, this leaps ahead to a point after the unpublished "Return of Bruce Wayne" #6 (annoying) to a time hen Bruce Wayne is back in action as...The Insider! Yes, a fresh costumed identity, complete with a set of powered armor doing all kinds of crazy things (super speed, teleportation, invisibility, et cetera) and, essentially, testing all of his "family" members to see if they're up to, well, just up to snuff, it seems. Alone, they'd be a set of "mehs," but together they represent one long storyline wasting a lot of money. This could have been a set of back up features in other books, because none of them is strong enough to support their own story.
"Transformers" #12 was a big disappointment, as a throwdown between Combaticons, Predacons and Autobots was far too intimate to highlight the level of mayhem that should have been seen, Thundercracker's big showing was shortcut into maybe two panels, and Bumblebee's Nathan Petrelli attempt was less than effective. Shoulda been better than that, seriously.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Way less bad than okay stuff, that's a good thing.
FYI: the Comics Ink shipment of "G.I. Joe Origins" #20 was all too damaged to sell and shipped back to Diamond. Sorry.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Given the genius of Mssr. Fraction, an economical set of purchases and really, this week wins with style and ease.
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 on deck 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.
Finally, I'd like to wish a happy birthday on Friday to my lovely wife, who tolerates me typing into the early Thursday morning almost every week, and then even more tolerates my sleepiness and crankiness Thursday night.