WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?
Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/karaoke host/jackass) goes to a comic book store called Comics Ink in Culver City, CA (Overland and Braddock — hey Steve, Jason, Vince and Sally) 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 (Diamond monopolistic practices willing, and yes, it used to be mornings, but management asked for it to slide back some), you’ll be able to get his thoughts (and they’re just the opinions of one guy, so calm down) about all of that … which goes something like this …
THE BUY PILE FOR SEPTEMBER 2ND, 2009
Incognito #6 (Icon/Marvel Comics)
Wow. Finishing big and finishing strong, this amazing triumph from the team behind “Sleeper” answers all the questions and settles all the old accounts while stacking up a huge body count and blowing tons of stuff up like crazy. Leaving almost no mystery unsolved (okay, the Black Death still has some around himself, which is good for him as a character), this issue’s a pulp masterpiece of super powers and misguided ambitions and punching. Sean Phillips “just the facts, ma’am” art styles work well with Val Staples simple color palette, and this has been one non-stop winning mini series since word go. Kudos all around.
The Invincible Iron Man #17 (Marvel Comics)
Tony Stark is getting progressively dumber, deleting large portions of his brain to keep the internal database of secret identities safe from the mad whims of Norman Osborn. That’s funny and sad and entertaining all at once. Madame Masque claims to have killed Pepper Potts and retrieved her last-generation Stark-tech suit, a major get for the aforementioned Osborn (even though he really wants Tony’s corpse). Maria Hill, former SHIELD director, is also cracking up and tries to take a meeting with the Winter Soldier. The throughline is clear — in the words of the Wu-Tang Clan, “the glorious days are gone, and everybody’s doing bad,” with both Stark and Hill losing ground and reverting to older, less efficient methods. The issue didn’t exactly settle anything, but the storytelling ability of Matt Fraction, Salvador Larocca and Frank D’Armata is so entrancing that this issue plays well nonetheless.
Northlanders #20 (Vertigo/DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
It’s an old paradigm — a pride of young lions get the idea they can make a name for themselves by taking on an older hunter. They are many, he is few. Should be easy, right? Well, when the issue is called “Sven the Immortal,” chances are old Sven won’t be an easy win. It’s a simple and almost claustrophobic (in a good way) done-in-one tale of frontier justice, just with swords and axes and helmets. There’s bloodshed and trickery and savage Norsemen storytelling in a way that’s more succinct than the current runs on “Conan” while not being as intense as what you’d find in the likes of “Wolfskin.” Still, really good stuff and well worth the money.
Deadpool #15 (Marvel Comics)
A little more introspective than the rest of the run, the title character ponders his raison d’etre while arguing with himself and seafood and struggling with everything he really wants. Plus, going extra insane. Again. On the bad side, he gets an idea he’s had before, and on the good side, it’s really funny along the way. Which works out well, but had a little less laughs than normal … which was like saying it was a “B+” instead of an “A.”
Agents of Atlas #10 (Marvel Comics)
The Jade Claw is a masterpiece of character development, brought up from humble beginnings to a transnational criminal empire. Nice. The issue plays well with all its pieces, giving Namora a wistful moment, playing with some of the shared universe toys recently used in “Incredible Hercules,” showcasing Jimmy Woo’s complicated time-tossed situation, The Uranian’s overworked role on the team as well as setting the scene for an extreme new status quo. It’s hard to fulfill a mandate to be a less than criminal organization when you’re at war. Great storytelling, great art, evocative coloring and solid action. Fantastic work here.
Official Index to the Marvel Universe #9 (Marvel Comics)
Comics in the ’90s were really bad. Disturbingly bad, honestly. This piece of the index covers some of Marvel’s deeply dumb moments, including tons of Ben Reilly stuff, “Young Tony” at Columbia University and that weird period where Bishop teamed up with Deathbird. The best part about this issue is that you don’t have to read the actual comics that happened during that period. Unintentionally hilarious.
WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?
Pretty damned good, truth be told. The Index can’t be blamed for what it had to cover.
THIS WEEK’S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it’s not good enough to buy
“Irredeemable” #6 wasn’t as intense as last issue, but it was still very good, as the Luthor analogue proves just as dangerous in pseudo-life as it was when it threatened the Plutonian. Plus, a man with no powers deals Tony the harshest blow yet, and almost stops him in his tracks. Lotsa good stuff here, and just barely missing it due to a plot that relented when it didn’t need to.
“Greek Street” #3 was much less incomprehensible this month, with the week’s best quote (“You know, sometimes I fantasize about garroting you. Very slowly.”) while trying to thread in many of the other characters. It got within range of adequate but still had a lot of its modern Vertigo confusion weighing it down.
“Black Panther” #8 had a number of cute moments that left it a shade above “meh” range, and that Wakandan “Meet the Press” show is solid gold, but there’s simply too much going on. The Doctor Doom subplot, the investigation, the conspiracies … with more development, each element could have shone, but all together they were less than complete.
After last issue, “Chew” #4 took a very unexpected turn which did not serve the series’ internal logic nor the storytelling. The characters themselves had some good moments (loved the bit with the ash) but the ending soured.
“Robert E. Howard Presents Thulsa Doom” #1 could have benefited from a lot more Thulsa Doom, as the art presents him with a knowing smirk and a lingering threat of violence erupting at any moment. However, the supporting characters are razor thin and the plot doesn’t really seem to be going anywhere.
“Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” #2 had some nice moments with Kitty Pryde and the teen angst, but there wasn’t much more than a collection of vignettes in the end analysis.
“Magog” #1 was an okay story of a simple guy doing a simple job, bringing the pain to bad guys. He drifted against the brightly colored world of traditional DC superheroics, mocking and ignoring it as he went. Punisher-style, he had his requisite tech assistant, but this person surely wasn’t the “deus ex machina” sort of element that a Chloe Sullivan has. This series could develop into a mean, smart metaphorical view of the DCU or it could just go all egg-shaped. No telling, but worth watching.
“Dead Run” #4 had a very cinematic end, facing down an army of post-apocalyptic ne’er-do-wells with all sorts of pithy comments and guns blazing. It was, however, a little too easy, with a prefabricated climax that led to a confrontation that didn’t live up to the promise. Cute dialogue, cute character tension, but “cute” wasn’t enough.
“Authority” #14 was passe — more of the persistent losing and falling down that has become de riguer for Wildstorm characters — but the “Planetary” #27 preview at the end was something to see.
Going from Norma Rae to modern Norman Osborn, “House of M: Masters of Evil” #2 again showcased the endless ambition of Parker Robbins, again ending up in the arms of Madame Masque and this time going up against Wolverine and the House of M’s elite peacekeepers. Not bad, but again not really strong enough to justify the price of admission.
“Jersey Gods” #7 again had better writing in its relationship section than its main plot, partially due to the fact that every character is more interesting than the protagonist Barock.
The “Meh” Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
“Immortal Weapons” #2 (a big let down after Fat Cobra), “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” #28, “Batman” #690, “Mercy Sparkx” #4, “Iron Man Armor Wars” #2, “Final Crisis Aftermath: Run” #5, “Grimjack: The Manx Cat” #2, “Mighty” #8, “Last Resort” #2, “Supergirl Annual” #1 (and “meh” is an improvement for a “Supergirl” issue), “Sweet Tooth” #1, “Cable” #18
No, just … no … These comics? Not so much …
Jack Bauer, er, Hal Jordan plays rough in “Justice League: Cry for Justice” #3, which does a lot to sell the idea that Prometheus has become a laughingstock in the DC Universe. Uh … well … he did almost kill the entire Justice League all by himself once upon a time. Robinson tosses in tons of heroes making lackluster demands for JUSTICE ™, and the Congorilla subplot that doesn’t really add up. Big names — Green Arrow, Green Lantern, the current Shazam wielder, Supergirl … and then two weirdoes? No.
“Starr the Slayer” #1 was simply inadequate, weirdly meta in some spots and dryly uninteresting in others, with a weird almost Etrigan-esque framing device along the way.
“Red Tornado” #1 … why, really? Who demanded this? The idea that the title character is one of a set now … dude, no. This is like a day at the EDD — it’s not working.
“Solomon Grundy” #7 is not a “Blackest Night” tie in. There are less than two pages worth of material that even tangentially refer to that. Moreover, it’s not interesting. Good to see this be done.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Let’s just call it a wash amidst this sea of mediocrity.
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.
There are now two official ways to get Hannibal Tabu’s blog-related wackiness. For all personal things, there’s Hannibal’s relaunched Soapbox and for his views on the weird, wild world there’s The Hundred and Four including special commentary on the Marvel/Disney deal.