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WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/novelist/poet/jackass) goes to a comic book store called Comics Ink in Culver City, CA (Overland and Braddock — hey Steve and Jason) and grabs a whole lotta comics. These periodicals are quickly sorted into two piles — the “buy” pile (a small pile most weeks, comprised of books that are too good to not own) and the “read” pile (often huge, often including comics that are really crappy but have some value to stay abreast of). Thursdays (Diamond monopolistic practices willing), you’ll be able to get thoughts about all of that … something like this …

THE BUY PILE FOR FEBRUARY 14TH, 2007

Marvel Legacy: The 1990s Handbook (Marvel Comics)

Seriously, what was wrong with us in the 1990s? From the opening page with cheesy Spider-Man villain Annex (Spidey had a long string of goofy villains) to the ridiculous extremes of … well, X-Treme (gah), this handbook shows us how far we’ve come. Let us never again revisit the horrors of Slapstick, Maxam (there’s a typo on his page — “art by with Tom Grindberg”) or Morphine Somers. A heap of unintentional laughs with some actually interesting information included, it could almost qualify as a humor magazine.

Casanova #7 (Image Comics)

The first “album” (Fraction’s term) of his transdimensional super spy comes to a close with drinking, kung fu, giant killer robots (you never get a really good look at that, sadly) and one of the week’s best quotes: “You’re talking as if you’ve suddenly put on the big boy pants!” The sweeping scope of the story gets almost intimate but still ties up most of the loose ends while leaving room for more stories to follow. Whimsical, witty and challenging, but worth it for all of its spy-fu hilarity.

The Trials of Shazam! #5 (DC Comics)

Freddy Freeman is surely learning things the hard way, as he and an avatar of Achilles take on an empath demon and the forces of the Council of Merlin and things don’t go according to plan. This is a great character piece that takes us inside the head of Freddy Freeman, while succeeding in all the small points — the fact that predecessor Billy Batson likes “Veronica Mars,” the banter Freddy has with his guide, and so on. Howard Porter’s bold artwork takes this struggle from the realm of the merely violent to that of an epic, and this mini has yet to disappoint.

Scarface: Scarred For Life #3 (IDW Publishing)

Really — this needs to be a video game. Tony Montana dodges betrayal and bullets while brutally killing his way back to prominence and dodging the scrutiny of the authorities. Using nothing more than sheer force of will, he intimidates and impresses his way back into operation, stepping over the corpses of any who stand in his way and always reminding people “I don’t f*** with anybody who don’ f*** me first!” The blood, the gallows humor, the ruthlessness — John Layman and Dave Crosland were born to make this comic, and the vibrant colors of Len O’Grady only help things along (how wonderful is that bright reunion scene in front of the hotel?).

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. #12 (Marvel Comics)

Wow. Just … “A MODOK and a MODAM made sweet monkey love by the light of a rack of ‘World of Warcraft’ servers and I was the result!” That quote will haunt you, and the cruel cheer with which this issue takes place — all dramatic reveals and bold pronouncements (and punching and blowing things up, please don’t forget that) — is just flat out entertaining. When you find out the real “who” and the “why” behind S.I.L.E.N.T. and the Beyond Corporation … if you can avoid laughing, you’re probably some kind of robot yourself. Not the sexy kind, either. “Where’s Mommy and Daddy? I want to make them eat you!” Why can’t this be a monthly? Gone all too soon.

G0dland #16 (Image Comics)

First of all, this issue only cost sixty cents, so that’s hard to beat. Second of all, this issue catches you up on every bit of Kirby-esque hijinks that’s gone on (although done in a way that’s not funny, but makes perfect sense in the story sense … okay, it’s a little funny). Third, you don’t lose the random non sequiturs and random elements (ah, drugs and porn). Maybe not what the King had in mind, but surely inspired by his legacy, and another great bit of nuttiness from Image.

JLA Classified #34 (DC Comics)

The second of three “possible” worlds for the nigh-omnipotent Red King shows him making a catastrophic mistake and dooming the planet. Luckily the JLA is on hand, aiming to one up the Authority by moving the entire planet — man, woman, child and beast — to another world, which they will make habitable from scratch, permanently. Cool. More of a rescue than a story, as only the Bat stays on the case as line “you have no — eh? The activator light? That isn’t supposed to …” sums up all that has to be said here. The reality hopping antagonist will quickly write this possibility off and we’ll all forget about it, which almost makes this issue superfluous.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Useful warnings, wild imagination, brutal funny business … yeah, that’s all good, from the drug trade to the mysteries of the cosmos.

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it’s not good enough to buy

“Thunderbolts” #111 almost made it on sheer meanness and gumption, as a violent confrontation addresses the Jack Flag issue, but the issue is long on violence and short on actual story, a fact you can almost miss with the amazing atmosphere created by Ellis’ sardonic script and Deodato’s moody artwork.

“Green Arrow” #71 had the exact same problem — great action, great character work and a plot that felt abbreviated (although the “surprise” at the end was a smidge predictable, it worked). But it was so good when it hit the right notes that it was very close to making it past those shortcomings.

“Blade” #6 was told in two time periods, with the flashbacks being more compelling than the events of present day, an attempt at tension and “Empire Strikes Back” styled anxiety that swung mightily but still did not connect.

“Star Wars Legacy” #8 continues its struggle towards achieving quality, coming closer than ever with an issue that settles issues of war and destiny, fleshing out the cast and showing better nuance in its characters.

“Thunderbolts: Zemo – Born Better” #1 plays an interesting trick of time travel while chasing down the Zemo family tree, but ultimately falls in on itself predictably, much as the ambitious failure “Books of Doom” did.

Vague art work sabotages the not-bad story in “Green Lantern Corps” #9, where the idea of a black ops group inside the Corps plays out with lethal results.

Still with parts greater than the sum of the whole, “Astonishing X-Men” #20 succeeds mightily in easily ten individual pages or panels, but fails completely when you try to put them all together as a story, with things moving too fast and then too slow and then too fast again, all in one issue.

Still in Westchester, “Ultimate X-Men” #79 was a moody funerary piece that has the same exact issue as “Astonishing,” with great moments and a less-than-compelling totality.

No, just … no … These comics? Not so much …

General Glory gets whacked … off panel? Oh, the indignity, as an old friend comes back with a fairly old plan in “Justice Society of America” #3, which is hard to explain since this guy is supposed to be irreparably dead as of a recent issue of “JSA Classified.” Maybe it’s the secret of “52” all over again …

The title character doesn’t even show up until the last third of “Ghost Rider” #8, and this title has proven itself too dull to even read. Dropped until further notice.

Nothing really happened in “52” #41, all crying over spilled milk and one big guest appearance.

Watching Hank Pym fall apart in “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes 2” #6 is just creepy. Seriously.

The antagonists taken down in “Martian Manhunter” #7 took a whole Justice League at one time, and now J’onn’s just mowing through them? Really? Here’s a short story about that: no.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Slight edge to the forces of “not suck” over stupitron particle emissions.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Let’s call it a win, because it was so much fun reading the stuff that was actually paid for.

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