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 JANUARY 19TH, 2011
Tony Stark takes part in a cross-temporal puzzle with dual-identity team up as a framing device. Peter Parker, flush with the joys of his "big time" new lease on life, doesn't like Tony Stark very much ("Seriously. You fired me, humiliated me...no, I won't help") but ends up eating a lot of room service on his tab anyway and swinging into action in his familiar blue and red long johns. Pre-Civil War Tony Stark was apparently in some bad, bad business in terms of the dangerous ideas traipsing around his head, and this issue examines his true legacy, as well as his continual efforts to diminish the body counts that are created from it. Hopping between two eras -- the modern day and a shattered 2052 -- Matt Fraction's script barely misses a step with four different art teams (only the art of Nathan Fox and Javier Rodriguez didn't carry the same amount of weight as the rest) tying together threads from the "Iron Man Annual" from some months ago and giving Tony Stark a chance to be a hero while maybe mending bridges with Peter Parker, just a little. Ridiculously well balanced and intricate storytelling.
Jump from the Read Pile. The ending of this issue is not what you'd expect. Seriously, you have no idea how great this issue's ending is, all at once inevitable and surprising -- just like they teach writers in school -- and two characters with labyrinthine plots at work give tour-de-force performances in a Thirty Xanatos Pileup well worth watching. Nobody stands un-betrayed, blood is spilled everywhere with hints of "Fight Club," "Lucky Number Slevin" and -- honestly -- even the Larry Hama-penned Snake-Eyes origin trilogy all influencing the story. Mike Costa and Christos Gage have delivered one heck of a potboiler with tense, intimate artwork from Antonio Fuso and Peter Dawes.
Jump from the Read Pile. It just got real. Remember when The Hood tortured and shot Tigra during "Dark Reign?" Well, footage from that has been leaked on the internet and is slated to be sold as a DVD. How do we know? The students at Avengers Academy found it...and now they're scared and want the super villain community to think twice before coming after capes and masks. Christos Gage strikes again with another brilliantly balanced ensemble piece, showing the team split into conservatives (Mettle, Reptil and Finesse playing it safe) and more pro-active individuals (Striker, Hazmat and Veil with a video camera). Hank Pym plays straight man while Tigra's the axis upon which everything happens, and this issue is stellar. Artwork from Mike McKone, Rebecca Buchman and Jeremy Cox is crisp and intense, framing the scene perfectly.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Two jumps, amazing writing, solid artwork -- all good stuff, here.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"DMZ" #61 was another step back in a good direction, with an all-too-brief-feeling insurrectionist tale of the Free States making their first incursion into the island of Manhattan, a story that was ultimately about getting through the Lincoln Tunnel. Not bad, but not great as it tried to get back on track explaining some things about the DMZ.
"Memoir" #1 would have been one hell of a pilot episode on even basic cable as a smarmy reporter investigates a town that, apparently, lost its collective memory some time in the past. Given the rapaciousness of news cycles and the short-term memory of popular society, he's having a hard time discovering the story until something is unearthed that gives the issue a solid ending. The artwork, sadly, doesn't do much to sell the story and the plot itself is way more "Twin Peaks" in its pacing than is good for a comic book, but there's enough here to garner some attention nonetheless.
"Amazing Spider-Man" #652 was cute, showing Peter Parker not being a sad sack while still enjoying some of the classical relationships that made him interesting. Watching his new girlfriend do roller derby alongside Aunt May, Mary Jane, Flash Thompson and Betty Brant turns into something of a nail biter, Alistaire Smythe is back for more pointless vengeance, Peter does well at work and Jonah does his blustering jackass routine. If anything, this issue had an embarrassment of riches, with just one or two too many plates spinning at once, but some fun, interesting moments -- like Peter on skates -- kept it a long way from stinking.
Only Brainiac 5 and Tyroc did anything worth respecting in "Legion of Super-Heroes" #9 as most of the team either stood around and waited or wrung their hands meaninglessly. On one hand, Tyroc practically led a Legion delegation trying to prevent Durlan assassins from striking again while Brainy thought things through on Durla. Neither had the room to shine, and there was a C plot with Dawnstar that felt like it could have worked with a little more room as well.
You may as well say the same about "Dungeons and Dragons" #3, which was action packed and had great character dynamics, following the team of adventurers as they dive deeper into danger. There's not a lot of secrets revealed, and the whole issue just kind of had swinging edged weapons and banter, but it certainly wasn't a bad comic book.
"Thor" #619 followed this week's "DMZ," in that it seemed to rush through its paces. Loki's back, but he's, like, eleven. That doesn't stop a resurrected Odin (who's none to happy about being brought back to the immortal coil) from cursing the godling out like he, well, was responsible for the murder of hundreds of Aesir and the destruction of the kingdom. Which an eleven year old with no memory of such events would respond to badly, say, even committing grand theft auto. Thor stands up for his "little" brother -- once again in the form he grew up loving -- while Balder and Tyr travel to the place Asgard used to be to fight the extradimensional invaders. Again, a little too ambitious for the page count we have here, but individual pieces were good, if denied room to grow.
Despite the fact Diamond said it's not in stores, the creators assure us that "RPM" #2 is available at retail. It's not a bad comic, with influences of "The Transporter" and "Dead Run" for a narrative wrapped inside a chase sequence, with a descendant of Paul Revere working as a kind of smuggler. It's engaging work but not grippingly so, as the aforementioned works cover a lot of the same ground. Interesting, but it's not quite there.
"Supergirl" #60 has an interesting new idea that allows villains to step into the information age. Wanna kill some heroes? There's an app for that. Unfortunately, that's exactly the extent of what could be considered interesting, as Kara's fairly predictable pugilism and doe-eyed simplicity don't do much to share the load.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Doorways" #3, "X-Factor" #214, "Batman" #706, "Transformers Prime" #3, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" #40, "Soldier Zero" #4, "Green Lantern Corps" #56, "Mass Effect Evolution" #1, "Justice League of America" #53, "Wolverine" #5, "Lucid" #3, "Power Girl" #20, "Morning Glories" #6, "Superman/Batman" #80, "Farscape" #15, "Scarlet" #4 (which is an improvement for this title), "Witchblade" #141, "Wolverine and Jubilee" #1, "Angel" #41
No, just...no... These comics? Not so much...
"Brightest Day" #18 featured Hawkman and Hawkgirl...it's not so clear about what they did, but they seemed pretty happy about it. For a page or two, anyway. Deadman had some kind of awkward phone call, Captain Cold argues with that Boomerang guy...it's like a set of characters were on one set of cards, a set of circumstances were on another, and somebody just tossed them in a bucket, pulling them out in pairs. Let's move on.
"Superior" #4 was just dull, honestly. The "reporter puts herself in danger to score an interview" gag has been done more interestingly in other places. The young hero learning the nature of the work? Boring. Then there's this weird bit at the end that store owner Steve LeClaire said paralleled Millar's set up in "American Jesus" (this column didn't take in that work, so it's hard to say). If that's true, well, yeah, it's a little early to be sampling one's self.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Not awful, and even the stinkers were not that bad.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
A week where the bad stuff didn't stink that also had two jumps has to be seen as a good thing! Fantastic stuff!
Today is the birthday of this columnist, Hannibal Tabu. He's 38 years old. No one is more surprised that he hasn't gone down in a hail of gunfire than him. Well, maybe his mother.
Also, today marks his return to social networking after one solid year away from it. Twitter, Facebook and all. Brace yourselves. Look for data on that in the blog and what not (more on that shortly).
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.