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 APRIL 13TH, 2011
Birds of Prey #11
Jump from the Read Pile.
Ooh. This is a surprisingly twisted done-in-one story that resolves the flirtation between Huntress and Catman once and for all. A jewel heist ends up leaving a violently asthmatic woman an endangered hostage, and Huntress is on the trail. Coincidentally, along comes Catman ("I'm here for business. I saw you chasing that idiot and thought I'd help") and they get together for a hunt that's jam-packed with tension ("I wanted to see you. I want...Hell, you know what I want. I want you" and "I meant that your abs might be fatal to passing female vigilantes"). There's a few twists at the end that will surely raise some eyebrows and this issue has all the elements you need for a very re-readable experience. Wonderful work from Gail Simone (Catman brings out the best in her) and aside from some strange angles on Huntress (her butt's really high in the air a few times when she's trying to get somewhere), the art from Pere Perez and Nei Ruffino is rock solid.
Steve Rogers, Super-Soldier Annual #1
Jump from the Read Pile.
When Steve Rogers is confident, he's virtually a force of nature. Scott and Hope Summers are the prisoners of Blastaar, who's taken over the Negative Zone for himself and desperately claws at the one gate to our world, left in the 42 prison from the "Civil War" story, and all he wants is Reed Richards to beg for mercy. Namor and the acerbic Dr. Nemesis are also stuck in the Negative Zone, desperate for a way home. When Steve Rogers steps through the gate, getting force blasts leveled at him left and right, he makes his way past Blastaar's forces like he's sleepwalking, and his confidence and certainty doing the very simple, tactical things he was designed for is fascinating to watch. There's a fun bit of chemistry between Hope and Scott, playing like a buddy comedy, while Dr. Nemesis is as snarky and ill-tempered as he's ever been in the X-books, given lots of room to work and be wonderful. All the elements here just worked, joining together perfectly while the plot rotated around Steve Rogers' relentless military precision. A great surprise.
Cinderella: Fables Are Forever #3 (Vertigo/DC Comics)
Through decently done exposition, the title character reveals the frightening history of Dorothy Gale and how she's spread bloodshed and anguish across at least three continents, a twisted reflection of Cinderella herself. Along the way, Cinderella does battle with a monstrous creature from Oz, takes a trip to sub-Saharan Africa and generally acts as an international woman of mystery. Breezy but surprisingly nuanced, Chris Roberson's script is fun and engaging, and the art by Shawn McManus and Lee Loughridge deftly conveys both the magic and menace of the characters involved. Simply splendid.
Deadpool #35 (Marvel Comics)
In another case of calm certainty in the face of extreme situations, Deadpool has no questions about what he's doing as he goes out to kill an entire sentient celestial body. Really. Betrayal? He brushes right past it. Danger? Doesn't even slow him down ("I need you to understand something very important. Guys like you don't shoot guys like me with anything. Especially ray-guns"). There's not the degree of belly laughs you get when, say, Deadpool takes on Bullseye, but this is surely entertaining.
Red Robin #22
Jump from the Read Pile.
Timothy Drake has an hour to save a corrupt mayor while a "telekinetic ... pyrokinetic ... maybe telepathic" religious fanatic rains death and fire down on Gotham city as a test of Red Robin's "worthiness." If Red Robin, "Gotham's" Batman (Dick Grayson) or Catwoman can be judged "worthy" then Gotham City will be "saved." Problem is, Red Robin's not much of a religious man, and even though he has a widget on his belt that can hold multiple motor vehicles safely off the ground he's not much a believer. This teleological challenge frames Fabian Nicieza's script nicely as the art from Freddie Williams 2 and Guy Major is dynamic and inspired.
The Incredible Hulks #626 (Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
This issue reads like the old, fun "Hercules" issues, and not just because Amadeus Cho is playing Oracle for "The Spy That Smashed Me." Betty Ross, however, has played her Rihanna card as a good girl gone bad, living rough and making all the wrong friends, all while wearing a spandex halter top. Her estranged husband has a ticking clock bearing down on him, making him considerably more conservative than Betty would like. Artwork from Tom Grummett, Cory Hamscher and Edgar Delgado is both intimate and thrilling as it depicts tuxedos made of unstable molecules and the elite social scene of Rome. Surprisingly smart and carrying all the promise of the first issue of "Steve Rogers, Super-Soldier" (see how that all came back together?), this is a gamma-powered "Burn Notice" and the Greg Pak story is as effective as the engine of an Aston Martin.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Wow. Four jumps. That's an awesome start.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
It's time for a senior exam for two Legion Academy members in "Adventure Comics" #525, pitting the technology and possibility of the future against one of the most pernicious plagues known to sentience, crime. Teenagers rebel against authority and complain and people talk a lot. Not bad, at all, but just "TV good."
"Amazing Spider-Man" #658 is very cute and has energy reminiscent of Marvel's swinging heyday as Peter joins the Future Foundation on impossible missions around the world and throughout alternate dimensions. Spidey gets to study at the footsteps of Reed Richards as he pals around with Ben and Sue. His trademark humor is here, the matter-of-fact handling of extraordinary situations is here and again there's nothing wrong with this comic, but it fell just shy of being good enough to purchase.
"Nevermore" #1 tried a little too hard with its various flashbacks, but this alternate universe tale is only a little more arid than an episode of "Fringe" despite some tension and action to spread around the chatter. Worth watching, and not just due to the best selling author attached to the concepts.
The chemistry between the snarky Damian and the giggle-prone Dick Grayson in "Batman and Robin" #22 is still a great selling point, but the White Knight made for a visually and conceptually tedious villain and his scenes with melee combat failed to connect. Watching Dick Grayson become the Superfriends version of Batman is cute, though.
If "New Avengers" #11 could ditch the 1950s Howard Chaykin-drawn sections (nothing wrong with the art, but the concepts and script are deeply deficient) it would be a lot better off. The modern-day drama of Mockingbird's injury at the hands of Superia's forces was much better scripted and the emotional payoff was better conceived. Nick Fury's creaky Nazi hunting ... meh.
If you like labyrinthine plots and snickering, "Booster Gold" #43 found its way to the thirty-first century to make friends with Brainiac 5 and try to fix his chronal maladies, only to show who really has a Xanatos gambit of truly impressive scale but really meager impact.
May as well review "Ultimate Comics Avengers vs. New Ultimates" #3 and "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #157 together, as they kind of told the same story from different angles, as the huge storyline finally tied together and the right person did a very bad deed. Unfortunately, the reason all the heroes have turned against one another remains obfuscated, answers are eschewed in favor of fisticuffs and there's a segment where Ultimate Blade, Ultimate Nick Fury and Ultimate Jim Rhodes all catch a beating in the same couple of pages. Uh ... okay.
"R.E.B.E.L.S." #27 is an advocate for the advanced sciences of boozing, all while Starros fall on the galaxy and Lobo breaks stuff. The issue didn't focus on much of anything, and the lead character got very little time on panel. Cute elements, less-than-successful execution.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Flash" #10, "Spike" #7, "Hawkeye: Blindspot" #3, "Transformers: Rising Storm" #3, "Justice League: Generation Lost" #23, "Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box" #6, "Iron Man 2.0" #3, "Butcher Baker: The Righteous Maker" #2, "Outsiders" #38, "Carbon Grey" #2, "S.H.I.E.L.D. Infinity," "Infinite Vacation" #2, "Superboy" #6, "Li'l Depressed Boy" #3, "Uncanny X-Men" #535, "Superman" #710, "Farscape" #18.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
In "Black Panther: The Man Without Fear" #517 T'challa is in school, saying, "I've learned how much more difficult it can be to protect a neighborhood." Given that he failed to protect a country, his possibility of protecting Hell's Kitchen doesn't look so good. Essentially, this issue makes T'challa look like an over-reacting bumpkin whose enemies are even less competent, and -- to add insult to injury, there's a line from the classic Christopher Priest series used with little of the effect.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Just one stinker? That's encouraging by itself.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Four jumps, just one really bad book -- let's call that a major victory like it was with the Force of July.
First, as noted in last week's commentary track, the writer of this column was sleepier than he needed to be. There are significant errors in last week's review of "Skaar: King of the Savage Land" #1, which are corrected on the same aforementioned commentary track. Sorry. Teething toddler can throw you off, what with not sleeping and all. Really, trying to get that together.
Second, after sitting on this news for some time, it can be announced that Hannibal Tabu is going to be launching a new website aimed at "Black geeks and people who like to get down like them," called Komplicated (website still being built, but there's Twitter and Facebook pages already). The site, created in conjunction with Geekweek, is launching May 1st with a webcast featuring the lovely and talented Myshell Tabu as the host.
Does this mean the Buy Pile is leaving CBR? Hell no. Why quit a perfectly good job when you can do both? Also, you'll likely find fun links here to Komplicated content (because there surely will be links on Komplicated to CBR). Best of both worlds! Hoo hah! Please follow Komplicated on Twitter and click "like" on the Facebook page to stay updated on all the news, including some announcements about content partners and team members due next week.
Back to this website, have you 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.