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 9TH, 2011
Cinderella: Fables are Forever #2
The mystery of an assassin called Silverslipper is further explored as Cinderella trips down memory lane about some of her missions as an operative for Bigby Wolf. Along the way, some Russian and Chinese Fables are revealed as well while Silverslipper showcases some of the same tactics that made Cinderella so effective in past adventures. You're helped by a knowledge of the series beyond this, but there's nothing you'd need to know that's not revealed here. The artwork of Shawn McManus and Lee Loughridge perfectly captures the combination of whimsy, cheesecake appeal and suspense, and Chris Roberson's script is a great mixture of exposition and plot development. Crafty stuff here, and it draws you in and pushes you on towards the next installment.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Out the door for under five bucks, and with a comic as good as this one? Good start.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
No comic book was closer to making it home than "Legion of Super-Villains" #1, and had DC "held the line at $2.99," this would have done the trick. Remember Saturn Queen? Kind of stood in the background, holding her hand against her head while making vague uses of telepathy? Forget about her. This Saturn Queen makes the Emerald Empress look like June Cleaver, and she has a team of extrahuman operatives at her command who possess powers similar to the Legion of Super-Heroes (although her Coluan seems a little shabby by comparison) and considerably more lethal mentalities. The tempestuous relationship with Mekt Ranzz alone was (literally) electrifying. What they're up to? Well, it's no good for lots of people, taking on one of the DC Universe's most powerful locales in a big, big way as an opening act (one that was reminiscent of "Star Wars: Infinities" and almost sold the issue by itself) and putting forth an agenda that'd make Thanos proud. The price tag was the main problem, but the plot could have been a little tighter, despite its many charms.
"Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #155 was kind of awkward in the best possible way, with J. Jonah Jameson having an extremely unusual chat with our titular hero and then a special moment at his very own home, but not actually having anything really happen. In terms of sheer character interaction, this was a gem, but in terms of storytelling? Not so much.
"Insurrection V3.6" #1 had an interesting start, positing an oddly self-aware mechanoid made to serve the martial desires of mankind. However, the tedious corporate politics and internecine struggles weren't really made out to be very interesting in contrast.
Despite being really, really talky, Jim McCann has a great grasp on the title character in "Hawkeye: Blindspot" #2, which illustrated the archer's deteriorating eyesight effectively -- how he handled mistakes, problems in processing visual information -- but it relied far too heavily on flashbacks and inner monologues.
"Batman and Robin" #21 showed that Damian and Dick are becoming good at teamwork despite their somewhat contentious tone towards one another. However, the mystery they become entangled with seems a little retrograde, as it relies heavily on almost meta textual elements that are taken as givens are only for the deeply initiated.
"Elephantmen" #30 leaves you wanting more, but not in the "sitting back and unbuttoning the top of your jeans" way, but in the "hip new fusion restaurant with the portions measuring less than six ounces total." The artwork is sumptuous and the characters -- when they have room to breathe -- seem complex, but there's a huge cast and a lot going on which doesn't really let anything happen. This series completely feels like it should always be collected, so you never have to get this abrupt ending feel.
"New Avengers" #10 had about three or four interesting comic books jammed into its pages, and that's way too ambitious for what's available here. Nick Fury's 1959 Avengers were the weakest link, despite the excellent presentation of Howard Chaykin on those scenes, while Superbia proved a less than compelling antagonist in the present tense and Luke Cage walking while carrying a tractor trailer was the most interesting part. It was in range of being good, but it didn't quite make it work.
"Booster Gold" #42 presents an unpleasant picture of the 25th century (isn't that where Eobard Thawne's from?) where Booster spent five years in prison for his crimes against that society. That time ... well, it wasn't pretty. Whatever your vision of a horrible cell mate is, that would have nothing on the Perforated Man, who's ... messed up. The story -- with its eventual reveal -- wasn't at all bad, but it wasn't exactly entertaining either.
If you loved CrossGen and miss the mystery of its iconography, "Sigil" #1 is right up your alley, with a new "Sam Rey" wielding the power and visiting the pirate ship of El Cazador (look it up) briefly. However, if you don't know anything about the mystery of red and yellow sigils plastered on people, the teen aged melodrama might seem a touch cliche and predictable. This won't even catch the fans of "Morning Glories" or "Runaways" on its own merits, and exists as a kind of artifact.
"Superboy" #5 was cute and episodic as Bart and Conner engage in a race for charity to save farms after the Parasite's destructive rampage. The race itself, however, brushed past stopping a bank robbery or tussling with a super villain in Hawaii, instead focusing on how Conner misses his ex-girlfriend Wonder Girl and how easily distracted he is by random stuff. There's also the weird shadow of incestuous romantic feelings, which is super awkward and creepy. So, "TV good" elements sabotaged by weird emo stuff.
"Venom" #1 wasn't bad as Flash Thompson went into combat against Jack O'Lantern over a McGuffin scientist in some crappy nation. He had some problems in his professional and personal life, but didn't let it slow him down in both saving innocents and kicking people in the face. This issue was pretty close, as the lead character has a lot of personal struggles (cast in the Peter Parker mode, perhaps?) but keeps the action toggled to "high octane." The problems with it would be nit picking -- more vibrant coloring, more interesting antagonists, and so on.
The new OGN "Skullkickers" is hard to put down. Really, it's a lot of what "Dungeons and Dragons" was trying to be, with a perfect balance of character interaction and the kind of axe-swinging, monster-battling adventure that makes the genre so compelling. Sure, the two lead characters are never actually named, not even to each other, and sure, most of the supporting characters were cardboard caricatures. Still, it was fun -- so much that this column, which normally doesn't have time to go past 22 pages, could not stop reading it. Too pricy for a weekly haul, but if you buy trades, this is surely a deal.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"27" #4, "JSA All-Stars" #16 (although Citizen Steel did shine -- no pun intended), "Soulfire Volume 3" #0, "Batgirl" #19, "Guarding The Globe" #4, "5 Ronin" #2, "Lil Depressed Boy" #2, "Doom Patrol" #20, "Farscape" #17, "Outsiders" #37, "Jurassic Park: Devils In The Desert" #3, "Titans" #33, "Starborn" #4, "Spawn" #204, "Wonder Woman" #608, "Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Sun" #3, "Zatanna" #10, "Incredible Hulks" #624, "Ghostbusters: Infestation" #1.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Sarah Palin Versus The World" is one of the worst comic books that's come out in the last year, maybe two. It's abysmal. Between limp jokes about genitals, malformed video game gags, ham-fisted attempts at political and cultural references and an ending that just kind of gave up, it's an embarrassment, not only for the makers of this comic but for the art form as a whole. In attempting to lampoon and insult the subject matter, it ends up legitimizing her by showing the immaturity of her detractors while doing nothing to actually deal with her own literal, factual foibles. After receiving external validation, this has been said to have achieved the levels of horribleness held by truly awful works -- the first six issues of "Superman/Batman," for example, or the monument of bad comics, "Monarchy." It's that bad. Awful.
"Onslaught Unleashed" #2 was a badly drawn emo story of possession involving the Secret Avengers and the Young Allies. "No, I know you're in there, fight him!" "You're not going to win this time!" You know the standard lines, and they're all here, and they're no more interesting than they've ever been. If the central character for your story is Rikki Barnes, you're in trouble.
"Justice League: Generation Lost" #21 took the big emotional climax of the last two issues and ... this is not what comics are supposed to be about. It's just not. Aside from the deus ex machina element to that last page -- which is ridiculous -- there's just the kind of emotional yo-yoing that doesn't do anything but provide needless hand wringing. All bad.
Imagine the least Autobot thing that an Autobot could possibly do. Then, triple that. Then, pick the Autobot you would least expect to do this horrible thing, an Autobot who has an intricate understanding of the human condition and even an affection for them. An even tempered Autobot, one who you think of with terms like "cool" and "calm," not some emotional wack a doo like Brawn or Cliffjumper or Sideswipe. Put those two things together and you have why "Transformers" #17 was bad. Megatron's tedious monologuing was nothing to take home, especially after the strength of "All Hail Megatron." What happened?
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Sure, there were only four stinkers, but wow, they were really terrible. Really, like, talk about it the next day in the commentary track bad.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Yes, this week saw the new lead contender for worst comic of the year (maybe two years), but it only cost one comic book worth and ... screw it, let's call it a wash.
There's a lot going on at Henry Clay Middle School, and if you're a Los Angeles resident, you should care. You can get caught up on all of it at The Hammer Lane website, and meetings are happening today. You don't want people to grow up and rob you, so this is some of how you make that happen. More on this in this week's commentary track, which might take until Saturday or Sunday to get online due to some wacky travel plans. If you can send an email to try and help kids have a chance (and not, you know, threaten you with a shank or something), go on, follow the Twitter account, send an email and do something. Hey, it's free.
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.