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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 JANUARY 31ST, 2007

Annihilation #6 (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. There has been war made in heaven, and at long last it comes to an end. Andrea DeVito finally delivers some grandeur and awe on mostly shots of Galactus (but also on a nice shot from the skies of Hala) in a cosmic conflict that makes “Rann/Thanagar” look like a border skirmish. You get several fun moments here — a bit that shows the Klingons have nothing on the Kree, what happens when Galactus gets angry, a really rather good fight scene between the titular antagonist and the last Nova Corpsman, and a moment with Thanos that’s almost poetic. Sure, the last few pages are talky as hell, but it’s all done well even within the very limited space. A fitting conclusion that leaves a significant change to the spacefaring edge of the Marvel universe, and told in such grand form while maintaining such intimacy that it simply refused to stay at the store. Kudos to Keith Giffen for masterminding this.

Jack of Fables #7 (Vertigo/DC Comics)

Note: The cover image here is in no way what was available at retail, and why will be made clear momentarily. When we last left Jack, he was hiding in a frozen cranny with other runaway Fables, telling a story about how he became Jack Frost. However, rather than finish that story (as was solicited months ago, and the cover image we have here at CBR still shows), Jack gets bored and jumps ahead in time to waking up naked, hung over and married in Vegas. The title character opens the issue with this explanation: “Okay, so that bit with me and the Snow Queen, where I became Jack Frost? That one didn’t end so good. Maybe I don’t feel like finishing that one right now. I’ll get back to it later. For now, try this other story on for size. It’ll be more suspenseful that way. And anyway, they’ll fix it in the trade.” Huh? Did writers Willingham and Sturges go off on a bender, or are other forces at work? Who cares? Jack’s in Vegas baby! If you like throwaway debauchery, cheating the casinos, and generally making a mess of things (only this time he has the Pathetic Fallacy along as a stooge and sidekick). Whimsical, amusing and as meaningless as waking up with a girl whose name you never expect to know.

Ultimate Fantastic Four #38 (Marvel Comics)

Ultimate Ronan has come to render judgement, and that’s almost never a good thing. The team and their otherdimensional adolescent allies have to somehow fight against the son of Ultimate Thanos and his relentlessly powerful Universe Weapon. This leads to a complicated fight that’s part magic, part science and part beat down, all rendered lovingly and fascinatingly by Pasqual Ferry. The idea that it gives Reed will add another classic Marvel element to the Ultimate universe, and Mike Carey has brought a level of stupefying wonder to this title that is wholly refreshing. What’s next?

JLA Classified #33 (DC Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. NOTE: The image seen is from an interior page from the previous issue, and the cover available at retailed looked drastically different. The Red King has taken the wasted potential of Dr. Destiny’s Materioptikon and really made something of himself, positioning three versions of himself in alternate possible versions of the DCU, so he can take over the world. Still holding on to your wig? It gets deeper — his plan (this time) involves giving the League a snow job, using his mack hand on Wonder Woman, using the Royal Flush gang as puppets and making himself look like the coolest kid on the block. Dan Slott has created a delightfully devious villain here who gives Prometheus a run for his money on sheer inventiveness, while only one minor art faux pas blemishes this issue (somewhere between Jurgens’ breakdowns and Trevor Scott’s finishes, a two dimensional representation of the villains went awry for a few panels, but to be fair, that’s a tough trick to pull off). Fun stuff.

Black Panther #24 (Marvel Comics)

The first pleasant surprise is the work of Aspen Studios on this issue, with a virtual platoon of artists (including talents like Koi Turnbull, Sal Regla and Marcus To) showing up to tell this story. From their austere Iron Man to a wordless sparring session between the Panther and Captain America, this book looks really good (even though a very weirdly tense page with Monica Rambeau had some odd color issues and T’Challa’s face didn’t exactly match up with the rest of the issue). Then when you get to Hudlin’s very complicated story, showing the Panther’s covert alliance with the “Secret Avengers” in their struggle against Stark, SHIELD and the Feds, well … there’s a lot going on there. What was up with that wordless meeting with Tigra? What’s up with the bickering on Wakanda’s royal council? Do US forces in Niganda make sense to anybody at all, as even a pretense of showing strength? Intricate storytelling with a veneer of simplicity, shrouded in clever wordplay and solid characterization.

Scarface: Scarred For Life #2 (IDW Publishing)

Jump from the Read Pile. Tony Montana … oh, how crafty you are. Everybody knows what you’re about, and yet they fall prey to the charm and the will anyway. Imagine the decadence described in “Jack of Fables” ratcheted up into perversity, mixed with a dollop of gratuitous semi-nudity and violence. Yes, the storyline could easily be from a “Grand Theft Auto” video game (writer John Layman has some experience crafting narratives for the console world), and that’s not a bad thing. Much like a Tommy Vercetti, Tony Montana has to negotiate a world of murderers and thieves to ascend within their ranks, all while carrying the baggage of his history behind him. Involving and mean spirited, in the best of all possible ways.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

A few panels of art could have gone better, but great overall.

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

“Blue Beetle” #11 came close to the mark with a fantastic portrayal of Metron and good banter, as well as some poking fun at the not-so-secrets of the whole 52/One Year Later shtick, but was ultimately too slapstick and too busy to coherently tell the story.

Again “Elephantmen” #6 has the same problem — just as you’re reading along and saying, “ooh, this is getting interesting,” the story just stops dead. The half-and-half format here really robs each part of its possible resonance, and the backup about Sahara’s mom was sized right, but took crucial characterization pages away from Horn and Sahara, which was needed.

“Daredevil” #93 came close to making the cut despite hitting the reset button in a major way, but Michael Lark’s art isn’t distinctive enough on the final page reveal to make the revelation impressive, and when you look objectively at what really happened here, despite the high level of craft with which it was told, it can only make you go “WTF?”

“Teen Titans” #43 posits an interesting side project for Slade Wilson, which turns an old concept all new and creepy, which is cool. But the actual meat of the story is told in a somewhat scattershot method, with the pacing too quick for most of it, not allowing the real horror of what this means to sink in.

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

Somebody at DC probably thinks the Everyman gag in “52” #39 is pretty funny. They’re wrong. As well, this issue has as its selling point a super-powered Lex Luthor beating up a girl. Here’s a short story about that: no.

“Marvel Spotlight: Dark Tower” was essentially one big advertorial with some preview pages. Big whoop. Get it in “Wizard.”

Even though yes, Ion is ridiculously powerful, his quickie handling of some of the Tangent Universe’s finest (note he didn’t face their Superman) in “Ion” #10 was a bit too pat, even while even further letting the not-so-secretive secret of “52” get a bit more Hypertime-esque air. Oops, that may be saying too much …

“Ultimate Civil War Spider-Ham Crisis” #1 started out well, but ended up all “World’s Funniest” and self-referential. The last three quarters of the issue were not entertaining.

After reading it done right in “Annihilation,” the idea that Blackfire and Hawkman could even have anything resembling a decent battle (as the cover and the so-called story of “JSA Classified” #22 would have you believe) is goofy. Moreover, would it kill somebody to get some decent backgrounds on some of these panels?

Apparently, Ms. Marvel’s books are selling around fifty copies per issue at Comics Ink, which boggles the mind, especially with pointless stories like the one in “Ms. Marvel Special: 1 Shot” #1 which essentially makes a new Proteus/Wanda … why, exactly?

Really, can we just stop “Uncle Sam & The Freedom Fighters” with #7? Its overdone histrionics (Uncle Sam standing next to the Washington Monument? Seriously?) and a change of plans for Father Time (who has next to no real characterization) bore.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Kind of painful to get through.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Less than twenty bucks for some great and epic reads, including a number of jumps, will trump a slightly painful week of “no-purchases” for a narrow victory.

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