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 24TH, 2010
There are challenges with this issue, admittedly. It's pretty much one long fight scene where the action isn't depicted very interestingly - at one point, Tony Stark even stops to field two phone calls in the middle of open melee combat with Detroit Steel, and the swarm of drones aren't an inspiring show of violence. Likewise, given the IQs at play here, it takes "Team Iron Man" depressingly long to figure out exactly what's going on, let alone how to stop it (and why don't they use a much easier-to-build mobile phone jammer is hard to fathom). Still, Tony Stark's charm is hard to resist, Pepper Potts is effective as an eager new heroine (the Jamie McKelvie drawn backup was both beautiful - that man can draw, and the clock bit was very effective - and creepy) and the sense of urgency and tension that Matt Fraction's script delivered cannot be denied. Even in an issue that doesn't bowl you over, there's plenty of entertainment here to be worth your money.
An extremely unorthodox team up with three of the Secret Avengers, leads to some great rejoinders ("Hell yeah you are!" "A little, yes." "...I'll sit on your lap" "These are integral to the genius of my genius-y plan!") and a very chaotic set of circumstances involving a hatchback, a tractor trailer, a sniper rifle, lots of people dressed as Deadpool and a little bit of gunfire. Daniel Way's script is on fire, hilarious and taut, and while facial expressions seemed a little flat and one panel was a little confusing ("But I should warn ya...it could get a little weird") the rest of the artwork from Carlo Barberi, Walden Wong and Marte Gracia worked in terms of visual storytelling. Great usage of the character, very funny, good stuff all around.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Less than $8 and wall-to-wall action? Not bad, to start...
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
Closest to making the mark and missing by a hair was "Incorruptible" #12, where the biggest problem was the lead character doing a Jed Bartlett and almost guest starring in his own title (last done most effectively by Spider Jerusalem). Alana Patel could be a good balance against Headcase's Orko/Snarf problems while Max Daring's police contact could have stolen the whole issue with a few more panels. Sadly, the weapon that had everybody worried looked alternatively dull and ridiculous while the enemy forces were largely nondescript. Interesting, but not quite there just yet.
In the category of "bad ideas with excellent execution," "Justice Society of America" #45 delivered a package of guilt for Jay Garrick and a legacy of power descending from - go on, guess - World War 2. The cost of heroism is high, and while this issue had a number of effective moments (the uttering of the name "Ted" never held such tension), the underlying concepts are simply de rigueur.
"Batman and Robin" #17 was weird but had elements of fun, as a mystery involving one of Bruce Wayne's playboy ex-girlfriends who ended up with a hole in her head (he's left a lot of messes around, when you really look at it). The interplay between Dick and Damian is okay (more on that in a moment) but there could be more coherency in the plot.
Speaking of Damian, he's in rare form in "Teen Titans" #89, where he assumes he'll assume leadership of the team and instantly becomes that smarmy showoff kid that everybody hates. When that leads to millions of dollars in collateral damage, well, it didn't go well for anybody. Damian's fun to watch, no doubt, but the rest of the team kind of just sleepwalked through predictable scenes.
"Batwoman" #0 could have a nice subtitle, if they were so inclined: "Girl Tested, Bat Approved." Bruce has his eye on Gotham's newest cape, giving her the same kind of evaluation he gave everyone close to him, finally coming to a decision about her crime fighting. Not bad, but not great.
"Detective Comics" #871 had some interesting - brace yourself - detective work as Dick works closely with Jim Gordon and trying to figure out a set of murders. Dick makes his mark as an investigator and it's not bad, moody and atmospheric, but not exactly a leap in storytelling.
Galactus has to sit Reed down for a chat in "Fantastic Four" #585. Sure, that's a lot to take in, but it was lost in the shuffle as Sue tried her hand at Atlantean diplomacy, Ben and Johnny pal around and the ghost of crossovers past comes back to haunt the title after a seemingly final fate (unless Ravenous worked fast).
Stan Lee has some useful ideas in "Traveler" #1, a comic that somehow tries to meld chatty exposition with a mystery tossed through time. The art's great (the timer sequence almost nailed it, but that's a hard concept to do in sequential art) and the action worked, but if the plot was thinner it'd have an eating disorder. Surely TV good, but not more than that.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Captain America" #612 (but that kiss was a shock), "Action Comics" #895, "Ultimate Spider-Man" #150, "Conan the Cimmerian" #25, "Incredible Hulks" #617, "DMZ" #59, "Kull: The Hate Witch" #1, "JLA: The 99" #2, "Klaws of the Panther" #3, "Vampirella" #1, "Justice League: Generation Lost" #14, "Astonishing Thor" #1 and "Magdalena" #4.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
Given the Ben Reilly-esque problems at the root of "Batman Beyond" #6, the simply insulting "shades of Force Unleashed 2" last panel spoiled in disturbing detail by our pals at Scans Daily) shouldn't have been such a sucker punch. It still was. Despite the tone and tenor of Terry McGinnis matching the animated series perfectly, nothing else went right. This was a multi-vehicle freeway fatality.
Given that Sasquatch is a scientist, it's odd that "Chaos War: Alpha Flight" made him seem like such a desperate moron as most of the team (no Puck?) Got handwaved back into continuity in an issue where literally nothing else of consequence happened.
"Outsiders" #34 upped the "none of this matters" ante with Achilles "The Olympian" and (this is not a typo) his "Manazons." Seriously. If you need to go further than the instantly forgettable Manazons, well, spirit help you. That's just not right.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Two to one adequate versus awful with the regular supply of "meh" meat in between, meaning it's just edging the needle out of mediocrity into "it's aight" territory.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
"Not bad" on purchases, "it's aight" on reads ... that's a good thing, right?
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.