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 NOVEMBER 10TH, 2010
Jump from the Read Pile. This series almost always floats around the "I'm good, you know it, but I'm just not closing the deal mark," like somebody stuck in the friend zone. This issue, it added just the right ingredients to catapult it into the "discussing it with your friends" neighborhood. Those ingredients can be summed up in two amazing words: "General Glory." Oh, it's true, he's back and he's funnier than ever, skewering the "kid sidekick" concept with such brilliance that it's worth pasting on the wall of your office, all while spouting ridiculous nationalistic blather and literally singing. All of this because a little girl read a few things and got an idea, one which ties together events here and in"Justice League Generation Lost" smartly. A great example of playing with the toys in a shared universe and putting the pieces together well, lovingly crafted by the amazing chemistry of writers J.M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen, then depicted by Chris Batista, Rich Perotta and Hi-Fi.
Jump from the Read Pile. A very big surprise from one of the men who made Jaime Reyes matter. Here, in a very small amount of space, writer John Rogers manages to set the scene of a rustic village called Fallcrest, establish five main characters (who fall into familiar and analogous roles for anyone who enjoys RPGs and swords and sorcery stories -- warrior/heavy hitter, thief, mage, dwarf/tank, elf/accuracy hitter) and actually makes them have nuance and interesting elements. The busty mage is new to the team, the dagger-wielding thief's a scoundrel who's not wholly trustworthy, the dwarf's a proud berserker who has elements of Prince Vultan, the elf's got shades of Orlando Bloom and the cookie cutter warrior would love to grow up and be Han Solo, and you can see him walking in that direction. Surprisingly engaging, entertaining through wonderfully effective dialogue and a plot that keeps you involved in every panel. Good stuff.
Jump from the Read Pile. People often forget how smart Thanos is. He's a lowercase "g" god from a race he almost exterminated many times, now he is a genius of robotics, magic, energy manipulation and has all kinds of crazy powers. This series is named after him, so you'd probably be able to guess that he has a pivotal, amazing role to play here...and this issue made the jump, so you could probably guess that he did so in a fashion that could safely be called "awesome." Normally, when the final confrontation with a villain of this scope comes, the final confrontation can feel short sheeted. Here, everything looked great and played out with brilliant finality. This is the way a crossover should do it -- big but personal, smart but relentless in its action.
Jump from the Read Pile. This just made the grade by hitting a lot of marks well instead of just a few excellently. Covering Cassandra Cain, Lynx and even the return of the Bat (finally tying up a loose end from Bruce Wayne's childhood also) as Tim Drake Wayne carves out an all-new role as the second in command of the new international effort. A great establishing effort that combines a good balance of exposition and action (manifested in Fabian Nicieza's spandex-tight script) with fantastic artwork from Marcus To, Ray McCarthy and Guy Major. One more issue this good, and this title becomes a Buy On Sight comic.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Four comics that stand up well to reading again and again? None of which was a guaranteed purchase Wednesday morning? That's a fantastic way to start.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents" #1 was an interesting start, trying to shine a light on corners of the DC Universe that normally don't get attention. In a nutshell, the US government has super powered (and apparently largely replaceable) agents at their command. While the plot showed some signs of promise, the characterization was very empty, leaving the completed project feeling incomplete.
"G.I. Joe Origins" #21 gets deeper into Cobra's recruitment techniques, looking at how an upstanding US veteran becomes a terrorist. Interesting stuff, especially when looking at Cobra's personality scale. However, the cardboard thin characterization took something away from the razor sharp plotting.
Like a great meal, "Chew" #15's greatest fault was that it left the reader wanting more. Tony Chu goes home for an illegal Thanksgiving dinner, and his extended family (many of whom get a very brief look, two of whom really mattered) all have different opinions about him and his position in the family. The story needed a little more substance to have made it home, but as always there's stuff here worth seeing and fans of the series would surely be on board.
"R.E.B.E.L.S." #22 was a story fragment more than an actual story, looking at disturbing Psion practice taking place that Starfire cannot abide. Unfortunately, dealing with it breaks pretty much everybody's rules and the bloodshed involved did little to deal with the actual problem. Also? Not so much Vril Dox in this issue. Not bad, though.
The fact that "Ant-Man and The Wasp" #1 manages to quote the Principia Discordia is an impressive feat in and of itself, as two Pym-powered men wrestle with a fairly crafty twist on Rule 285. The plot elements were a little predictable (especially Ant-Man's little speech near the end) but the character work was great and the development of Hank Pym as a character was good to see.
"Star Wars: Knight Errant" #2 wasn't bad, a game of chess writ large in the blood of whole worlds, as the overly emotional Jedi lost in the middle of a Sith not-so-civil war is cursed with the ignorance and perceived invincibility of youth. Nothing really wrong here, but aside from the start of some interesting characters in the person of the Sith themselves (the one on the cover isn't in the issue, just referred to) there's not much of a personal connection to latch on to.
"Birds of Prey" #6 wasn't bad, involving Lady Shiva and the mechanics of honor, but the predictable turn for one supporting character weakened the narrative and the central antagonist went down like a sack of wet hair. Not exactly satisfying as a whole, but good in places.
"Ultimate Comics Thor" #2 gave Ulti-Loki an interesting turn of character while having a lot (like, a lot) of exposition about the nature of Asgard and the ultimate nine worlds. However, surprise or not, the talkiness (especially from the Braddocks) was a momentum killer.
Magog guest starred in "Justice League Generation Lost" #13, going after Captain Atom as hard as he could, with Maxwell Lord egging him on all the way. Suffice it to say that it ended in an explosive fashion leaving the team all the more determined to get the dangerous puppet master. It's a cute story with a crafty Xanatos Gambit but not something needed by any stretch of the imagination.
"Halcyon" #1 was an interesting start from Marc Guggenheim's new shingle, and it balances great dialogue with beautiful artwork in a world where villainy is hard to come by and super powered heroes are getting bored. Nothing wrong here, but nothing compelling in terms of characters (some JLA analogues mostly) here.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Star Trek Khan, Ruling In Hell" #2, "She-Hulks" #1, "Batgirl" #15, "Witchblade" #139, "Avengers Prime" #4, "Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors" #4, "Thor" #617, "Angelus" #6, "Chaos War: Thor" #1, "Knight & Squire" #2, "Incredible Hulks" #616, "Titans" #29, "Iron Man: The Rapture" #1, "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero" #160, "Amazing Spider-Man" #648, "Angel: Illyria" #1, "Transformers" #13, "Thor: For Asgard" #4, "Spike" #2
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne" #6 was, in a word, incomprehensible. Time traveling clothes, killer ideas - there were some concepts here that could have been interesting, given proper room to be developed, but they were all jammed into one another. Given that Bruce Wayne is already back in a number of books, it's even worse.
Despite another great performance from Pietro Maximoff, "Avengers: The Children's Crusade" #3 had a terrible ending, lots of pointless waffling and tons of dialogue that didn't drive the story along. Make it stop.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Not enough bad stuff to really be mad.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Four jumps, just two bad books, this week's a statistical winner as well as a solid emotional victory. Good stuff.
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, Wednesdays have two sneak peeks at what's going to be in the column (one Wednesday afternoon, the second hopefully by midnight) from the Operative Network Mobile Edition. Enjoy, you bastards.