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 JANUARY 12TH, 2011
BEFORE WE GET STARTED: You're likely wondering, "Dude, what the hell -- this isn't Thursday. Where was your freaking column?" Well, this column's writer had an engagement at his stepdaughter's school during the time he's normally trading snarky comments and reviewing comics. In the race between you and his kids, the kids will win every time. Sorry. One day late and no dollars short, we present this week's reviews and apologize for any inconvenience.
Heroes for Hire #2
Jump from the Read Pile.
Again, the last page of this issue grabs the reader by the throat after a solid ensemble performance of superheroics and violent shenanigans as an all-new mission. Somebody's flooding the streets with super weapons that punch through "body armor, vehicles, or walls" leading to a "death toll pushing three figures." This has Misty calling in Silver Sable but brushing off the unrequested assistance of Paladin, who's following up another angle. Paladin ends up being right and the mission turns out to be much more than illegal weapons, bringing in supernatural assistance. The brilliance of the ensemble approach delivers time for each character -- on deck this time, aside from Paladin and Sable were Satana and Ghost Rider -- to shine and showcase a little of what makes them interesting while taking nothing away from the overall presentation. Add to that the delicious twist that gives this series its undercurrent and this is another winning issue from Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (stepping down from their normal cosmic environs), Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy and Jay David Ramos.
Secret Six #29
If you've read the latest issue of "Action Comics," it might give you a little background, but honestly, it's not needed at all as Gail Simone's script here is wholly self contained, allowing Ragdoll's lunacy to serve as a framing device for a tense boardroom confrontation between Lex Luthor and the implacable Vandal Savage as his daughter Scandal looks on alongside the titular team. The wonderful bits of dialogue sprinkled everywhere ("Ooh, gum!" "You'd think loyalty would come less dear in a depressed economy," "Hey, you're rolling, stuff gets said," "This city is too beautiful to exist. It is only right that we should be graffiti on its walls and floors," "They will never understand what we do. How murder is often the most economical solution") make it a true mean-spirited pleasure and as the two leads try to play Xanatos Speed Chess while everybody else just tries to stay alive. Wonderfully balanced (even though some characters -- Jeanette, for example -- didn't get much panel time) and fantastically entertaining.
Jump from the Read Pile.
This column, by and large, is deeply and religiously bored by three subjects: Nazis, zombies and vampires. Mentioning them makes it an uphill climb for any story, even from a favored or buy-on-sight property. Last month, Deadpool was unable to overcome hanging out with "Draculas" (as he calls vampires), but this month, his humor and hilarious approaches couldn't be denied. Most of that can be summed up in one of his best and most un-self-conscious lines of dialogue ever: "What, you've never heard of Google? You should Google it." Sure, you could consider the turn of events a kind of Xanatos roulette (it is quite a week for complicated planning, so thanks TV Tropes), but when the character is as kooky as Deadpool, by the time you see the priest, your brain will go "Yeah, that's about right." Sure, the cleaning dude did kind of come out of nowhere, but it's a minor point in an otherwise chuckle-inducing work by Daniel Way, Bong Dazo, Josem Pimentel and Andres Mossa.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Three great comics already, two of which were jumps? That's a great start to the week.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Infinite Vacation" #1 was sold out at retail by review time, just a day after it was released, so it did not get read. Some would say that's a review in and of itself, but what a shame that the fine people at Image Comics didn't just send over a PDF copy for review. Ah well ...
"Widowmaker" #3 was good but tried to do too much at once, from the loopy series of cross-continental events that led characters where they needed to be to the emotional moment that would have worked better had it had some time to develop organically. The art was solid, the banter between characters great and the action scenes got the job done. The sum of the parts, however, burst at the seams for its ambition. Perhaps the mini is too short -- hard to tell, but this is an ambitious attempt.
"R.E.B.E.L.S." #4 had a similar problem, feeling like it was too short for everything that happened. Vril Dox enjoyed a leisurely diplomatic dinner with Blackfire while Captain Comet tried to drink away his sorrow at being Starfire's boy toy (really? That's a hard one to believe). Adam Strange has family time with his wife and daughter and Lobo gets the issue's interaction with an antagonist, which is a much different experience than he might have liked. Nothing wrong, just too much trying to be right at the same time.
"B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Gods" #1, by comparison, was napping on the job. There was a slow, simmering build up to a supernatural conclusion as a community of homeless people follow the lead of a seemingly prescient but clearly ill (feverish, not dancing with invisible ostriches) teenage girl. Two or three characters are built up to an extent, but they're still fairly plain and possibly not even named.
"Batgirl" #17 managed to get all the way into "cute" as she experiences an unexpected team-up with the son of the Bat, Damian Wayne, and has to teach him something along the way -- how to "play." There's a kidnapping plot afoot and hijinks aplenty (with a couple of smirks at Robin's expense) with crisp artwork and coloring, but it would have worked better as an episode of an animated series than three dollars of your actual money.
"Starborn" #2 wasn't bad, borrowing heavily from early scenes of "The Matrix" while using smatterings of "The Last Starfighter" and probably other genre favorites as a hapless office drone gets drawn into interstellar intrigues and quite a bit of violence. It all feels a little too familiar, with a female lead who's all business and invariably feels like she could be a love interest down the line and a protagonist who's predictably working his way from womp rats in Beggar's Canyon to becoming a galactic hero. Or so it seems, and that predictability is less than compelling.
Remember Mark Waid's "Empire?" A similar shtick to "the secret behind it all" is at play in "Halcyon" #3 with the Batman and Superman analogues finding answers and surprises. Things move very slowly, which isn't a good thing, but it's surely a pretty trip getting ... wherever you end up.
"Titans" #31 pushes the Tattooed Man to the brink as Roy Harper is jonesing for sweet, sweet heroine. Wait, what? No, that all happened and that was all right if only the last heir to Black Adam's legacy could man up and stop being such a whiny pansy every five seconds between killing people. Weirdo.
There was a big climax in "The Darkness" #88 between Jackie Escovedo and the shadowy forces he's hounded around the globe, leading to some action scenes that are depicted well but seemed to lack a little "oomph." There's also a lot of tension between characters that's either buried in back issues too far to remember or not displayed at all, because some crucial moments that should have been big were merely "there."
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Star Wars Knight Errant" #4, "Birds of Prey" #8, "Spawn" #200, "Booster Gold" #40, "Amazing Spider-Man" #651, "Justice League Generation Lost" #17, "Chaos War: Dead Avengers" #3 (was no better when it was "Blackest Night"), "Knight and Squire" #4 (was better when Quesada did it in "Iron Man"), "Daredevil Reborn" #1, "Red Robin" #19, "I Am An Avenger" #5, "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents" #3, "Incredible Hulks" #620, "Wonder Girl" #1
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
Damian Wayne summed up the problem in "Batman and Robin" #19 when he said, "If she was a proper psychotic, this would all be much less tiresome." True enough, as Dick Grayson yammered on where kicking in the face would work better. This issue tried hard to be insightful and meaningful, but ended up empty (pun intended) in its wordplay and futility.
"Black Panther: Man Without Clue," er "Man Without Fear" #514 started to brush past some major problems, like how a guy who's been on TV since his early 20s is suddenly gonna go underground. Luke Cage stops by and draws way too much attention, something that could have been handled with a call to T'challa's "brother" and one of the world's eight smartest men (according to MODOK and the Leader) suddenly can't see a trap being sprung in front of him. Frankly? This whole exercise is kind of embarrassing.
"Superman" #707 got very morally murky as Clark and Lois have an argument in front of company and The Man of Tomorrow essentially signs off on environmental damages for financial considerations. Wait, what? Oh, it gets weirder when the multiverse sticks its goofy head in near the end and ... let's just stop. It was bad. We get it. Moving on ...
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Only three real stinkers, and a lot of the books in the Read Pile really tried to do some interesting things, even when the execution didn't keep up with the ideas.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Money well spent on comics that are great to read again and again, not much of a chore getting through the also-rans, so let's call this week a winner.
If you missed the Best and Worst in Comics from 2010, it's over at the Operative Network.
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.