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 MARCH 3RD, 2011
Incognito: Bad Influences #4
Is Zack Overkill going crazy? While making his destructive way back into the paths of crime, a strange sense of morality seems to be creeping into his cold-hearted sensibilities, and this becomes a liability as both Black Death and Simon Slaughter have forces converging on the would-be "hero." Ed Brubaker's writing is as sharp as ever and Sean Phillips artwork does a great job of conveying the bleakness and neurotic conditions under which Zack is forced to operate. The plot's tense, the story's bleak but effective and the result is a wonderful mix of noir and super powers.
Secret Six #31
When you're a premier team of superhuman operatives, what can you do in a down economy? You make a commercial, of course! The team (who get an interesting technical point about their staff) make pretty for the camera, while at the local strip club, Scandal's girlfriend has a bad night. Scandal doesn't do much better herself, having some bad dreams and bringing up the team's oldest secret. The internecine nature of the collective is always good dramatic grist ("What's the team policy on eatin' dead teammates?") and the creative union of Gail Simone and J. Calafiore deliver with their perennial effectiveness and aplomb, even to the gates of Hell and/or Iowa (whichever comes first).
This issue -- one of Marvel's done-in-one jumping on points -- is a wonderful bit of misdirection that begins with a relatively simple real estate concern and ends with a lot of delicious Polish soup. Deadpool takes on The Wrecker from The Wrecking Crew, and that's a considerably messier proposition than even the titular character could have envisioned.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Three rock solid comic books. A great way to start.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Heroes for Hire" #4, surprisingly, didn't live up to the standards of previous issues largely because the focus was far too tight. Misty Knight's delusion is under siege as her mind strains against -- well, it'd be a spoiler to really say, despite the fact it's been noted in every issue, but the real power behind her current Heroes for Hire plot is having some problems keeping the wheels on the wagon. Unfortunately, this left Paladin, Iron Fist and all dangling plot threads hanging, and that's kind of a letdown for people following along. Not exactly a full fledged story in its own right.
"Azrael" #18 was closer to making the mark than any issue in recent history, as the man in the armor faced off with an Islamic version of himself. Haunted by loss, driven by a radical interpretation of his faith, forced into combat he neither wants nor enjoys, Azrael and Fireball face off over a sandy plain as someone else plays the tune they dance to. The reveal of the ultimate personality orchestrating this seemed to not find a sense of solid conclusion, but the interplay between the two extrahuman combatants hit a lot of the right notes.
The always unexpected "Chew" #17 hinted at a new kind of food-based superpower without ever coming out to say exactly what it was (a let down) while fleshing out this fictional world a little more effectively. A mystery was developed but not completed as a competing storyline about a hostage situation nattered along, but each element had its own charm, even while they didn't fit together as the most cohesive whole.
"X-Factor" #216 again had great dialogue -- Monet and Shatterstar on the rooftop are priceless, and J. Jonah Jameson makes an interesting guest appearance -- but the plot doesn't tie together so well as a whole (again) as the firm is tasked to do a favor for the mayor's office (before the tragic events of recent issues of "Amazing Spider-Man").
"Bring The Thunder" #3 answered a lot of questions about how the powers here work (and how they consequently don't) for protagonist Wayne Russell, who's working hard to shut down street crime in his family's neighborhood with his newfound abilities while putting off finding out what happened to the missing eighteen months of his life. The art is still not up to the caliber of the writing, which detracts from the story a great deal, and the plot doesn't seem to be moving at a pace that's quite peppy enough, but this story has real heart and some elements worth noting.
Veil acted in character -- which is not so smart -- in "Avengers Academy" #10, which focused on Hazmat and Speedball addressing issues of challenging emotions and responsibility. A surprise visit and a guest appearance from the Future Foundation gives it a real after school special sort of feel, but things didn't quite come together as effectively as they had in previous issues or as they needed to here.
"Captain America and Falcon" #2 had maybe three or four pages of Captain America, as Sam Wilson revisited the Harlem streets of his youth and found them strangely unfamiliar after worrying about Arnim Zola and hanging around Sharon Carter. Another after school special sort of vibe -- "stay in schools, stay out of gangs" this time -- and it was good to see the character get the spotlight, but this has a saccharine aftertaste for its treacly plot.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Thunderbolts" #154, "Irredeemable" #23, "Wulf" #1, "Brightest Day" #21, "Doorways" #4, "5 Ronin" #1, "G.I. Joe: Infestation" #1, "Giant-Size Atom" #1, "Astonishing Thor" #3, "Batman Beyond" #3, "Carbon Grey" #1, "Green Lantern" #63, "Intrepids" #1, "Powers" #7, "Earp: Saints for Sinners" #2.
No, just -- no ... These comics? Not so much ...
It's hard to grasp "Herculian" #1. Not physically -- the thing's big. However, the point of it is challenging. The artwork is done by Erik Larsen -- normally a consummate professional, here turning in artwork that looks half-done or sketch quality -- with lettering that looks like it was done by your little cousin Jimmy on a sugar bender and a punch-em-up plot intertwined with a weird diner conversation. This comic book is not good, which is a big surprise given the talent involved.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
One actually bad book? That's almost a vacation.
Also, there was no order for "Bodysnatchers" #1 and "Ethan" #2, so take that as you will.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Three solid and affordable reads, only one actually bad book -- it's like Mardi Gras -- oh, wait, that's next week. It's still pretty cool!
Big news in the commentary track blog today. Hang on for that one, kids. Look for it by 7PM PST.
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.