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 17TH, 2010
Jump from the Read Pile. After many issues standing just below the mark, this intriguing title finally shows its cards and steps up. Iago might be the most complicated character here and Juliet and Hamlet reveal some of their secrets and become more nuanced in the process, all framed with one of the "play-within-a-play" mechanisms. To say more would spoil the wonderful reveals hidden within, but this issue has finally delivered on the promise this premise holds. Fantastic work from writers Conor McCreary and Anthony Del Col, with smart and effective artwork from Andy Belanger and Ian Herring.
Jump from the Read Pile. There are two words that matter here: "cognitive dissonance." Cobra Commander is much more of a thinker and less of a posturing megalomaniac in this incarnation, monologuing so effectively that Al Pacino in "The Devil's Advocate" would be forced to applaud. Chuckles is pulled deeper and deeper down Cobra's slippery slope towards ... well, there's no telling what the end game is from this point, but the journey there is nothing short of fascinating. Sure, the rough hewn artwork of S.L. Gallant and Antonio Fuso may not be everybody's cup of tea, but their storytelling chops are unmistakable and they bring the script from Mike Costa and Christos Gage to suspenseful life. A psychological potboiler punctuated with pistols and punching, this is a solid piece of work.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
None too shabby ... even though it was almost a close call there.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Batman, Inc." #1 wasn't bad but "Batman: The Return" #1 was closer to the mark in the start of Bruce Wayne's international aspirations. The problem with the former was that it ran too slowly, acting like a kind of episodic procedural (surprisingly linear, at that). The latter, however, had the opposite problem, trying to move too quickly and covering a lot of ground (from Wayne's offices to briefing the troops on their new role in his war on crime. The groundwork is here for really innovative storytelling, if it can stick the landing. Right now, everything's still up in the air.
"Mindfield" #4 kept its story of federal agents with mental powers going well as it could, but honestly the artwork just doesn't carry the work, attempting to depict complicated mindscapes and displays of telepathic power. Given the awe inspiring visuals of movies as recent as "Inception," there's just not enough visual enticement to support the solid writing, which is an interesting turn of events for a title from Aspen.
The problem with "Legion of Super-Heroes" #7 is that its two-story format does it a disservice, shortcutting the lead narrative and tacking on an extraneous closing section. On a good side, Tyroc does some interesting things to showcase his suite of sonic powers (ironic given Levitz' comments about the character in the past), investigating a closed door murder mystery and then confidently tracking down assassins. On the other hand, the actual motives behind the killings, the intrigue between Mon-El and Earth Man - all short sheeted.
"Elephantmen" #28 was a crescendo of action, sending Ebony and Hip Flask into the line of fire against a ruthless killer, ratcheting up the emotional stakes while showing off some of the overarching plot elements tied through the entire run of the series. The issue moved a little too fast for its emotional beats to land properly. Close, though.
The Man of Steel confronts domestic violence and (again) his own limitations in "Superman" #705 as his walk across America takes him into the Windy City, where he's questioned by the people he seeks to protect and inexplicably struggles with a magical threat in the night. The best part is Supes handing a business card to a little boy (really a great moment), but his night time struggles were weird at best and dull at worst and his "special time" with Lois smacked of the most self-indulgent navel gazing.
Just when "X-Factor" #211 was getting somewhere, as Norse gods and mutant heroes traded blows, it cut itself off. The ending was superbly abrupt in the most frustrating possible fashion, but the machinations of Hela and the interplay between characters was solid. With a less discouraging ending, this might have been okay.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Brightest Day" #14, "After Dark" #2, "Thunderbolts" #150, "Azreal" #14, "Hellboy: Double Feature of Evil" #1, "X-Men" #5, "Flash" #6, "Morning Glories" #4, "Green Lantern" #54, "Deadpool Corps" #8, "Justice League of America" #51, "Hulk" #27, "Power Girl" #18, "Iron Man: Rapture" #2, "Supergirl" #58, "Spider-Girl" #1, "Zatanna" #7 and "Superior" #2.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
The less-than-halcyon days of Dixie may be gone, but "Osborn" #1 clearly illustrated what happens right before the sentence, "don't throw me in dat der briar patch!" Spending a good amount of time with a nervous reporter (yawn) and establishing an "inside man" in a way so contrived and overwrought that it strained credibility, what could have been a fascinating character study of the equivalent of Lex Luthor (in the good Michael Rosenbaum way) instead became a wildly telegraphed return to villainy. Tragic.
The problem with "Green Lantern" #59 is Barry Allen. No, it's not a "Flash" comic, but something happens to him on the last page, after pages of nagging and pleading unbecoming a super hero, that makes this superbly annoying work here. Gah...
"Avengers" #7 showcases some of the Infinity Gems working together. What's that? You think the Living Tribunal said that couldn't happen? Well, perhaps that has more to do with how you read the ruling, so having some rich guy waltz past Reed Richards like the good doctor was a $15-per-hour security guard asleep at his post - no, wait, that's still terrible. Terrible in conception and just barely adequate in execution.
Apparently somebody was taking notes during DC's last big crossover, because "Chaos War: Dead Avengers" #1 read like an internecine Marvelized "Blackest Night" ("ooh, ooh, I know, let's have the dead guys come back all angsty and angry") while "Chaos War: Chaos King" #1 was just talky and slow for no comprehensible reason. Together, they made the babbling bread for a crap sandwich of stillborn story potential.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
There was a lot less bad than okay, so that's a step in the right direction.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Two jumps means a low cost for the week, a smaller number of stinkers than non-stinkers means that the reading didn't go that badly. May as well call that a win.
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.