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 20TH, 2010
There's one element of this issue that saps it of both its humor and the potential strength of its plot. Dredging up a villain from only the most ridiculous of Marvel's characters didn't help, nor did limiting Deadpool's on-panel time (when he is there, he's great, including a "Top Gun" riff). However, there's some interesting pathos between the lead villain and his unexpected dragon while the Secret Avengers make a guest appearance that's unconventional at best. Not a bad issue, but it wouldn't have made it home had it been read first.
Kind of a dry one, this time, including the weirdness of the paraplegic Bushmaster, the suaveness of Doctor Nemesis (the same could be said for Mister M, wherever he is) and an attempted explanation of how Julie Power went all Miley Cyrus on us (which mostly works). Then there's the blandness of Black Axe (not ripe for a comeback, is he?), the lack of explanation for what happened to Prison 42 and three pages on some crystalline dude from the 31st century. There are facts that help understand the current Marvel landscape and pointless minutiae that's easily forgotten or better never remembered. Worth having, though, just to never again be wrong about which one of the Lopez brothers is alive and using the Machete identity. It's Mariano, by the way. Right.
Jump from the Read Pile.
Framed by a wonderful spiritual opening, this issue answers some questions about the nascent hero while making some wonderful lampshading gags while playing with genre conventions ("Don't let the bullwhip and Princess Leia afro fool you, baby," or "You will use seishinshugi, our power of mind over matter, on this inanimate object, Ryota?" "Yes. I will refresh browser history."). Everybody wants the new Power Man for their own purposes, while he's trying to figure out exactly what kind of Power Man he wants to be. A nice issue showing a would-be hero at the crossroads, literally.
When two super powerful elemental forces have a chat, it can be intimidatingly informative. With a very smart bit of narration from a wonderfully omniscient voice, Mister Dark (or "Dullahan" to his friends -- this guy maybe?) stands ready to claim and defend our world as his own, all while the North Wind's grandchildren get some instruction in how to be proper elementals. The best comic on the stands sets up a monumental conflict for the next issue while delivering a solid, complete story that satisfies. Writer Bill Willingham is totally on point, while guest art from Inaki Miranda and Eva De La Cruz was simply spectacular. Great stuff.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Two are great, two are okay - that's not bad to start.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Soldier Zero" #1 marked a new, big, splashy foray back into comics for Stan "The Man" Lee, with Paul Cornell doing the heavy lifting on a script that manages to create some real characterization, deliver an element of actual romance and create a situation that's fairly solid...if it wasn't so immediately abbreviated. Things got cut off a little too quickly for this to work, and the almost Heinlein-esque nature of the protagonist needed a little more meat on its prosaic bones.
"DMZ" #58 was close to making it home by examining the fascinating character of Decade Later, who survived brutal detention and artistic suppression unbowed and unchanged. A little too talky and inconclusive, even for the series' character studies, but not bad.
"Hulk" #26 shows the Red Hulk focused on his mission and willing to take orders, even in the face of the rage he's inspired in people he's previously punched. Bruce Banner as a kind of dispatcher with a sword of Damocles he can hang over anybody's head is a little unusual, but Thor's guest appearance is solid and Steve Rogers probably does better here than...oh, we'll get to that soon enough.
"CBGB" #4 had two cute vignettes about how the legendary club and its iconic music connected people and left an impression on parts of their lives. However, unless the music in question has just as much effect on you, the comic may not.
"Legion of Super-Heroes" #6 also had two short stories instead of one whole one, and while Earth Man's effect on the team was explored interestingly in the first half of the issue and the Legion Academy backup had its cuteness, neither had enough story to really be considered worth buying.
The title character in "Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier" #4 wouldn't know a Xanatos Gambit if he saw one, apparently, especially when the guy he's worked so hard to fight turns out to be a Dragon Ascendant. Not a bad issue, but not as smart or as stylish as the series began.
"Pilot Season: 7 Days from Hell" #1 had a cute hook that automatically resets itself like an episode of "Reaper" (we miss you, Ray Wise), with a cipher-styled anti hero looking for redemption and a chance to escape the consequences of his life. The giggling demon character also needed more room to be somebody, and the victim du jour was nothing memorable either. The premise is interesting enough to keep an eye on, should the series survive Top Cow's Pilot Season.
Supergirl teams up with the newest Robin in "Superman/Batman" #77, tracking down who left a stack of bodies in the shiny city of Metropolis. Damian spends most of the issue berating Kara while she struggles with the darker edges of the DC universe, and while the case they track is kind of de rigeur (borrowing an almost forgotten element of Blackest Night as well), but their interplay has its cute edges. It'd have worked well on TV, probably.
"Ultimate Comics: New Ultimates" #4 was pretty dry and predictable until Ultimate Loki made a very crafty turn near the end, misdirecting perceptions and manipulating events in the most mischievous way possible. Took a while to get there, but it was pretty watching things happen along the way.
"G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero" #159 had lots of shooting. Lots and lots of shooting. Luckily, Cobra has tons of cannon fodder to fall under those bullets, and when it's all just a...well, that'd be telling. Suffice it to say that somebody has a surprise here, while Cobra Commander gets back into the kind of alliterative ranting that he was once so famous for. Not much story, though, but it was a fun ride getting there.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Batman and Robin" #15, "Carnage" #1, "Soulfire Volume 2" #8, "Brightest Day" #12, "Chaos War" #2, "Guarding the Globe" #2, "Bruce Wayne, The Road Home: Catwoman," "Daredevil" #511, "Green Lantern Corps" #53, "Kick-Ass 2" #1, "Farscape" #12, "Justice League of America" #50, "Thor: First Thunder" #2, "Power Girl" #17, "Transformers: Drift" #4, "X-Factor" #210, "Ragman: Suit of Souls" #1
No, just...no... These comics? Not so much...
"Azreal" #13 implied that the lead character...you know what? That'd be a spoiler. Let's just say he whines through lots of the book and the weird looking antagonist was just kind of whiny too. The climactic reveal, what is implied there, it's...well, honestly, it's kind of insulting and makes the whole franchise kinda dumb. That's no good.
The problem that almost dragged down "Deadpool" jumps on the back of "Batman Beyond" #5 and does things to it that are illegal in Arkansas. Bad things happened here, y'all. Really. Also, Octegenarian Bruce Wayne gets super emo. That's no good.
"Supergirl" #57 has a whole planet full of Bizarro people who don't know, apparently, how to speak like Bizarros. Including Bizarro #1. Really. That's just offensive, like having Francois Mitterand and scripting him to speak, oh, Farsi. Then, as emo as Super Old Bruce Wayne was, Kara amps that up by like a grillion percent, and a "climactic" battle scene died due to flat coloring and low stakes (if everybody on the panel died, nobody would care -- those are low stakes).
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Much less bad than "okay," so let's say that's a good thing.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Things could be better but they easily could have been way, way worse. That's a win in almost anybody's book.
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.