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 29TH, 2010
Jump from the Read Pile Nick Fury's covert team of superhuman operatives has just gone through the wringer, losing two of their members last issue and coming to a climactic point in their struggle against two globally potent terrorist organizations. This issue, however, only tangentially cares about that, focusing on Sebastian Druid, who learns that despite the letter her got six months ago, "there is no out" and takes to the intensive, personal training of John Garrett to "act your way to right living." "You lack full control of your powers because you lack control of your life," Garrett tells him, and he goes through a training montage that'd fit in any decent action movie before taking his talents on the road to middling success ("You're better...but still inconsistent. You did good in China. Terrible with Magadan. Excellent in Ursa Minor. So-so in London...") before intersecting with the aforementioned overarching plot in a deft manner that's enormously rewarding for the reader. This series has consistently drifted near "that's great" territory and finally made its mark, stepping up with an issue that hit all the right notes and managed to cover lots of plot and character points within its boundaries. Fantastic work from Jonathan Hickman, Alessandro Vitti and IFS.
Jump from the Read Pile Speaking of action movie stylings, Chuck Dixon turns in a script that's virtually bulletproof. For a number of issues, the Joe team has been struggling to overcome a massive strategic advantage their Cobra adversaries have with the MASS Device, making it possible for the snake-themed terrorists to teleport men and weaponry virtually anywhere instantaneously. The problem with technology is that sooner or later somebody will catch up, and the Joe team's brain trust has reverse engineered Cobra's technology while figuring out the modus operandi under which it is utilized. This means a fast deploy to a South American police state which is less-than-friendly territory and jam packed with narco-cartels. The character moments are largely focused on the cipher-styled badasses Helix and Snake-Eyes, but the tension with Scarlett is still depicted effectively and Storm-Shadow's interlude with a Cobra official also has great atmosphere and dramatic presence. The detailed and effective artwork from Robert Atkins, Clayton Brown, Joan Castro and Andrew Crossley succeeds in intimate moments and action scenes. Great work all around.
Jump from the Read Pile Eobard Thawne is messed up. If you can handle some spoilers, there's some of the reasons why at Scans Daily, but here's the deal. The Reverse-Flash has been freed and is loose to travel through time, tweaking his origins to suit himself. Younger brother ruining his academic chances? Not so much. Frustrated personal or romantic ambitions? Redacted. Interfering parents superiors? Consider them wiped away. The story of Eobard Thawne changes in these pages, and Geoff Johns' script makes it so compelling a process that one can barely look away, with each "edit" a homicidal shock more monstrous than the last. Scott Kolins and Brian Buccellato deliver artwork that's intense and compelling. A great shock to the system and the making of some really impressive villainy.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Three jumps, amazing storytelling, all for less than ten bucks. That's a great start!
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
Lex Luthor has an unorthodox board meeting with Vandal Savage in "Action Comics" #896, complete with a crafty backstory about hiring the Secret Six to watch his back, just in case. The standoff is more talky and less smart as neither Luthor nor Savage appear very impressive while the Six steal all the best lines. The Jimmy Olsen back up featuring Chloe Sullivan was just weird.
"Osborn" #2 was an improvement as the conspiracy of the Goblin tattoos comes to the titular character's attention while he makes friends with his new criminal friends on the cell block. Surprisingly, this issue tried to fit too much in, and moments where the story could have reveled in Norman's evil genius instead rushed through things. Likewise, the scene with the guard calling for the cell to be opened was a mess of red vagueness, and that robbed the issue of a lot of its dramatic impetus.
"Echoes" #1 was creepy, as the heavily medicated son of an Alzheimer's patient discovers a horrible secret about his father and struggles with whether or not it is reality. Intense and stark in monochromatic hues both visually and in terms of the narrative, it needed to reveal more about this "unreliable narrator" to have sold the story.
Equally harsh was "Red: Eyes Only" #1, which tricked another one of the United States' broken super soldiers into doing something unthinkable while invoking David Palmer-esque imagery. A true tragedy, this one, which tries to humanize the murderous lead but leaves that plot line unfulfilled.
Jay Garrick is shouldering a lot of guilt in "Justice Society of America" #46 as he and a number of other extrahumans work on a "social experiment" of trying to fix a city devastated by their activity. Alan Scott, however, is paralyzed and Ted Grant is trying to punch the city into some kind of order, while a new generation of super villains keeps the old school guessing. Not bad, but not quite achieving its grand ambitions.
The three plots in "Elephantmen" #29 didn't always work together, as the part with a bar for Mappo's creations felt like it was marching in place, the dancer playing a role merely navel gazed despite amazing artwork and the girl carrying an umbrella had the biggest surprises. The whole issue could have centered on that and done better, but oh well. Good looking stuff, but not really settling into its own groove.
"What If?" #200 offers the idea that the Sentry was "tired" after killing Ares, and that's what made him beatable at Broxton, Oklahoma. Here, he's refreshed and ready for anything, and things go...well, a little messier, but ultimately about the same. Uatu killed Galactus (which is the first page) of a Stan Lee-penned backup that was actually more interesting than its opening act.
"Batman: The Dark Knight" #1 focused on detective work as one of Bruce's childhood friends has gone missing and the city's in a tizzy to find her. It's a mildly interesting story that dawdles more than it should.
"Deadpool Team-Up" #886 was surprisingly not bad, as Danny Rand joins the merc-with-a-mouth in chasing down an immortal warlord who's caused suffering throughout centuries. The gags are all right, everyone hits their marks but it's done without any real over the top moments that haven't been done before in more hilarious or outrageous fashions.
"Widowmaker" #2 continues a tensely told spy story where the relationship problems between Mockingbird and Hawkeye challenge their transcontinental chase of a new man in the Ronin costume, one whose secrecy is paramount and whose homicidal intent never relents. Like much of the "Bourne" movies, this is closer to action and exposition than actual clarity -- had you not read the recent "Hawkeye and Mockingbird" stories, you wouldn't get the basis of the couple's challenges. Still, interesting enough if you've been following along.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Ultimate Comics: Avengers 3" #5, "Heroic Age: X-Men" #1, "Hellboy: The Sleeping and The Dead" #1, "Hulk" #28, "Detective Comics" #872, "Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis" #4, "Gotham City Sirens" #18, "Bullseye: Perfect Game" #2, "Jack of Fables" #49, "Captain America" #613, "JLA: The 99" 33, "Chaos War: X-Men" #1, "Superman/Batman" #79, "Daken: Dark Wolverine" #4, "Teen Titans" #90, "Deadpool Corps" #9, "S.H.I.E.L.D." #5
No, just...no... These comics? Not so much...
"Green Arrow" #7 was superlatively emo about Ollie Queen's dead mother (no idea where that came from) and included either dreams or hallucinations (it's not so clear which happened) in a whiny fashion that failed on multiple levels.
There are five easy ways to tell "Carnage" #2 was awful. The main antagonists were armored characters named (and these are all really from the actual issue) "Paris Green, Firebrick, Royal Blue, Burnt Orange" and "Gun Metal." When they leapt into battle against Spider-Man and Iron Man, they hoped for a successful "product release." Go away.
"Green Lantern" #61 featured Atrocitus fighting the Spectre. Go on. Think about that for a second. Some hopped up jackass with a ring on his finger versus the wrath of god. If this isn't the clearest indication that Crispus Allen is both the weakest Spectre ever and new poster child for the Worf Effect, it'd be hard to find evidence of it being, oh, good. Stop it.
The long-forgotten WTH? Award goes to New Mutants" #20. No idea what happened here, but whenever Legion's involved, it can get confusing.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Numerically, the bad was in a heavy minority, so that's not a bad thing, right?
WINNERS AND LOSERS
The year ends on a good note with more good than bad and everything that got purchased winning on merit alone. Happy new year, everybody!
The commentary track took...what, two weeks off now? It's Kwanzaa, people are busy. Look out for a commentary track seven days from now that'll cover the five best and worst things in comics from 2010. That's, what, January 6th? See you then.
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.