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 DECEMBER 8TH, 2010
Wow. Well, it's been a long time coming. There's a whole lot of malevolent power in New York City calling himself Mister Dark, and he's about to face the second real test of his powers ever. A large chunk of the main story (62 pages) is devoted to the witch formerly known as Totenkinder going one-on-one with this Duladan spirit, but along the way you get running color commentary from Ozma, the new mage on the scene, plus the premature labor of Beauty and the Beast all while we learn what Bigby thinks about contingency planning. Wonderful character moments woven into a tense and savvy narrative (with two twists that really satisfy) get it done.
However, that's just one course to this gorgeous feast - artist Mark Buckingham steps up in a major way, penning an engaging prose story about Gepetto's continual machinations, a cool cut-out Puppet Theatre (please make color photocopies) and drawing up a custom board game. Toss in some burning questions from celebrities and two other short stories and you've got a considerable chunk of culture right here. There's a ten dollar price tag on this, and it's worth every single cent. Fantastic.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Flawless victory by the best monthly on the shelves, bar none.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Red Robin" #18 was very close to the mark, weaving international corporate espionage with personal tension and costumed shenanigans. The meeting and the part with Tam was a bit too rushed, as was the tension with Lucius Fox's daughter, his hero beard. Still, this was pretty good, and the new direction as an international hero of mystery is worth watching.
In a world without crisis, "Halcyon" #2 shows a group of heroes struggling for a raison d'etre. Talky and cinematic, this issue wasn't bad but played like a random fifteen minutes from "Hancock" (in a good way), not a comic that needed to be owned.
Despite the idea that Dick's supposed to be holding down Gotham City, "Detective Comics Annual" #12 had two Batmen in the field, road tripping all the way to Paris, France while trying to convince less-than-enthusiastic gendarmerie that American costumed vigilantism is right for them. Sure, okay, whatever. Chasing a cult that inspires assassination across political lines, the plot was okay but not really distinctive. As well, the coloring was a bit muted, even for the nocturnal adventures of Dick and Bruce, which gave the whole story something of a drab feel.
At one point in "Thor" #618, Volstagg turned to Balder and said, "You are a terrible king," to which Balder could only reply, "I know." The issue itself, however, wasn't bad as the refugees from what looked like seven of the nine worlds along Yggadrasil came to Broxton, Oklahoma, demanding results. Despite Tony Stark along for a chat, this issue essentially decided to tread water as an interlude between thing that actually happened. Interesting character work, though, but not much by way of plot.
Vril Dox tried to face down John Stewart in "R.E.B.E.L.S." #23, indulging in a little bit of morally questionable behavior while a certain five-limbed parasite-driving pan-galactic conqueror is anxious to find his way back to murder and mayhem on a stellar scale. The politics behind the Green Lanterns was a little sticky, but this issue was okay, despite the kind of gray area Dox decided to inhabit. Remember Zemo as Citizen V? This has some shades of that - heroism isn't always about altruism.
"Widowmaker" #1 was like a nice opening for a spy movie, cloaked in the familiar stretchy clothes of non-powered heroes. Yeah, it was a little talky (not "Marineman" talky, but easily "Halcyon" talky), but in a Mamet way, so that's not bad. A set of Russian heroes shows up (not exactly the order of things from the recent "Winter Guard" mini, but maybe things have changed) as a little bit of information has been leaked and everybody's suspicious of everybody else, but not quite enough for the reader to get hooked.
"T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents" #2 featured a decent story about a Kenyan man drafted into DC's franchise-minded "Strikeforce: Morituri" team, showing how he was unfairly robbed of everything he'd worked for and shown the real, horrible nature of his new super powers. The character beats were a little predictable, which was the problem that kept it from being good enough to buy.
"G.I. Joe Origins" #22 took you a long way down the rabbit hole to look at Cobra's recruitment of Michael Monk, building a better terrorist out of him while setting him up for his first real test of action. It's slow but the methodology is good, and if you possess saint like patience, this might be fine for you. Otherwise, either trades or taking a slower road might be your trip.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Shadowland: After the Fall" #1, "Batgirl" #16, "Dark Tower: The Little Sisters of Eluria" #1, "Superboy" #2, "Lady Mechanika" #1, "Booster Gold" #39, "Star Wars: Knight Errant" #3, "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero" #161, "What If? Wolverine: Father," "Flash" #7, "Chaos War: Ares" #1 "Justice League: Generation Lost" #15, "I Am An Avenger" #4, "Transformers" #14, "Knight and Squire" #3, "Witchblade" #140, "Captain America and the Korvac Saga" #1, "G.I. Joe Future Noir Special" #2," "Northlanders" #35 and "Incredible Hulks" #618.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
Hey, whadda ya know? Nothing's bad enough to hate! Second time this year, who knew?
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
No comics to hate? Call that a triumph in and of itself. Hh ... look there, almost no real crossover books this week. Coincidence? Hmm ...
Oh, coincidentally, it would have been nice to review "27" #1, but apparently the entire lot of issues was stolen from Diamond Comics Distributors. Sorry! That's the problem with having a monopoly run the distribution ...
WINNERS AND LOSERS
A big winning week with "Fables" doing their thing and nothing to grate on nerves, well, it almost doesn't get better than that.
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.