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 SEPTEMBER 15TH, 2010
Deadpool wants a burrito. That seems simple enough, right? Somehow, that involves (in order) being in Wisconsin, a team of regenerating masked men, a suit of powered armor and then a group of Secret Avengers. There were some pretty good laughs, but things ran far too quickly, allowing too little time for Deadpool to be funny and too much time for ultimately pointless pugilism. Domestic terrorism, solid gold and the challenges of a post racial mid-west. Not bad, but not as good as it could have been.
Jump from the Read Pile. The lead character in the loose adaptation of Warren Ellis' tense thriller is an assassin with no connections and an almost laser-like sense of determination. He plays reluctant babysitter to a rookie agent with crucial intel and goes about shooting, murdering and blowing up half of Cairo in pursuit of his mission. The twist at the end makes it perfect, subverting any warm fuzzies that may have been developing along the way. A pleasant surprise.
The Heroic Age: Super Heroes
This is an attempt at a guide book, with Steve Rogers giving personal evaluations on most of the extrahuman heroes based on eight criteria given to him by a First American spiritual presence. Seriously. The problem is that Steve Rogers is dangerously uninformed about a whole lot, especially to be the country's lead intelligence operative, and approaches the idea of "maintaining global peace and security" from an alarmingly moralistic and imperialistic perspective (he often talks about people who "may embark on missions adverse to US interests" or casually discusses containing the Hulk or calling people "savage murderer" or "casual killer"). As well, he's got some whacked out evaluation skills - he thinks the Asgardians are an "eight" on the power scale whereas he thinks Fred from Big Hero 6 is a "nine." Really? That guy is more powerful than your garden variety divinity? Steve's a wackjob. So on one hand, it's interesting to know that the US' superhuman intelligence apparatus is both dangerously uninformed (no idea what's happening at Avengers Academy) and disturbingly inaccurate.
Jump from the Read Pile. Now this - this is a very nice surprise. A younger version of Morgan Freeman takes part of something that's either a Xanatos Gambit or a Kansas City Shuffle, depending on your point of view (and given Bruce Willis' involvement in "Lucky Number Slevin," it's more likely to be the latter). The writing - from a story by the movie's screenwriters Jon and Erich Hoeber and a Doug Wagner comics script - is truly intricate, with an effective and emotional ending as well as some great surprises. Superb work.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Two great surprises and two weird choices for Marvel.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"X-Factor" #209 takes the team to Las Vegas to screw with people, check out strip clubs, oh, right and try to track down Hela for kidnapping Pip the Troll. Meanwhile, there's a pregnant werewolf back home with little sense of decorum. It's not a bad issue, per se, but there's an all-too-convenient conference taking place in the area which warms things up for the next guest star - kind of meandering, though.
"Rawhide Kid" #4 had about a third as much of the dialogue elements that it needed and a less-than-inspiring central action sequence to pay off the lingering threat of violence, but it was nice to look at and had at least two solid chuckles.
The storyline of "Red Marvin Special" follows a similar theory from the film "Conspiracy Theory" - what do you do with a broken super soldier? Kind of like an amped up version of the Russians' plot in "G.I. Joe" #2, the titular character here is a triggerman who gets more information than he wants with bloody results. Not bad, but not as good as it needed to be to do more.
"Morning Glories" #2 leaned heavily on "The Breakfast Club," adding a murderous, almost Arcade-like element to the challenge of horny, smart teens trapped in a situation. There was a smidgen of character development, but it wasn't enough.
"Pale Horse" #4 fell down on the job and tried to become much bigger than it was, elevating itself from simple, personal revenge to the backdrop of an entire war. The lead character remained compelling, but events just got out of scale for the intimacy of the story that was being told. It didn't have to be a big conspiracy.
"Red Victoria Special" was close to being good enough, borrowing a page from Sterling Archer's mother (love and spycraft, ah, what an intoxicating mixture) and exploring some of her activities as an assassin and sniper. Closer than "Marvin," but it lacked the plot cohesiveness of "Frank," much less the superb delicacy of "Joe."
"Marvel Universe vs. The Punisher' #4 is about monsters, sure enough, as Frank Castle is on his own against a Marvel universe full of murder. He berates himself for ignoring Rule 285, but proceeds to act as he does in almost every Punisher comic, which is fine if you're a fan of that, but rather rote otherwise.
"Steve Rogers, Super Soldier" #3 was less spying and quick action scenes, delving into exposition and not focusing on what made the last two issues so great. He makes a good showing of himself with a considerable tactical advantage, but it's not even a surprise as it's one that's been discussed by, oh, everyone he's ever trained. Not bad, per se, but surely not as good as what's gone before.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Mystery Society" #3, "Birds of Prey" #5, "Transformers" #11, "Heroic Age: 1 Month 2 Live" #3, "Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors" #2, "Pale Horse" #4, "Shadowland: Ghost Rider," "Justice Society of America Special" #1, "X-23" #1, Zatanna" #5, "Farscape" #11, "DMZ" #57 and "5 Days to Die" 33.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Thor: For Asgard" #2 spends a surprising amount of time with gods whining and debating over their actions, which makes some sense after a war party ends up going all "Anakin and the Tuskens." Nobody likes their warrior gods to be emo, dude.
Oh "Brightest Day" #10, you never had a chance, did you? From the second that your subplot was on the cover, leaving the travails of Whiterstorm in the periphery (although, page wise, it was most of the book), things were bad for you. Then to say that the very things Krona sought were right in the flame-headed spandex of our arguable hero and have it get all "Challenge of the Super Friends" in there - really, it's just not gonna work for you. Maybe next time. But maybe not.
Getting back to emo, "Incredible Hulks" #613 was drenched in self-absorption and navel gazing. A gamma powered domestic dispute is bad enough, especially given that Bruce Banner's essentially a two-time deadbeat dad, but to be so talky about it. And while we're at it, shouldn't the Hulk hand clap be used a lot less frequently? Who doesn't walk in the door, prepared for that, these days?
The ending of "Batman Beyond" #4 was either a horribly done misdirect or another Red Hulk-style red herring. Either way, it wasn't entertaining, it was hard to parse and squandered what positive momentum this story had going.
"Shadowland: Power Man" #2 had some moments where it could have shown promise, given the fight scenes, but with a Big Bad who was broke and working for MODOK not so long ago (yeah, that's not so long ago) it seems a little far fetched, what with the stretch hummer and the criminal organization, as well as Danny Rand getting tossed around so easily.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Everybody just kind of seemed to tread water - not a bad week at all, but it seemed like nobody tried very hard.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Two jumps can beat a mountain of meh, so let's call it a win ... but not with much enthusiasm.
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, if you're so impatient that you can't wait on Wednesday nights (hopefully by 9PM), you can get an "Early Forecast" of what's going into the column on the Operative Network Mobile Edition. Enjoy, you bastards.