WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?
Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/karaoke host/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) about all of that...which goes something like this...
THE BUY PILE FOR JUNE 6TH, 2010
In the wilds of Vegas, Deadpool's got a plan that's got little to do with heroics and a lot to do with a kind of Kansas City Shuffle involving large armored suits and heavy amounts of property damage. Appearing as new armored hero Wildcard, he alternatively thrills and terrifies the powers that be behind Sin City (apologies to Frank Miller), while telling people how it is ("DO you honestly think you have a choice?") and having a blast on somebody else's dime. The plot twists more deftly than a water moccasin in gloved hands, so you'll likely feel like you're on a roller coaster the first time and enjoy it even more on subsequent reads. Daniel Way turns in another witty, crafty script and the artwork from Carlo Barberi, Juan Vlasco and Marte Gracia shines.
This issue delves deeper into the hidden history of two sisters, Snow White and Rose Red, looking at their quest for status, ironically hooked on the same kinds of fairy tales they ultimately became. You'll get a look at the Seven Dwarfs that Disney would surely never approve, and find Snow White's history plagued by assassination attempts and improper advances. This leaves an interesting hanging plot element and introduces all kinds of rich backstories to characters that you might have felt comfortable with, but now realize have all kinds of unrevealed layers. The Eisner-winning team of Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Andrew Pepoy and Lee Loughridge turn in another winner.
Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: A to Z Update #2
There are characters here that -- like the depths of Rose Red and Snow White -- are shown to reveal nuances and fascination. Fat Cobra is profiled here, and dude, nobody can deny the awesomeness of Fat Cobra. Derek Khanata, you're a pretty cool dude. American Eagle seems to transcend the wackness of his name, even, with the tie in to a historical parallel. Then there's characters where you have to look at the biographies printed here and ask, "dude, why?" Really, Lady Bullseye? You're gonna spontaneously develop this amazing accuracy, and run around in an outfit that Lil Kim would consider "too far." You really wanted to get stuck as a squirrel, Deathurge? Did you really never develop any other ideas about your life, Attuma? You wanted to pick a hero to be the opposite of, Black Spectre? You chose Moon Knight? After all that stuff, it's still not clear what's up with those wacky brass frogs. There's ups and downs here, much like any experience in a fictional universe, and there's tons of interesting stuff here, and even the dumbness of the Marquis of Death can be chuckled at with this kind of distance.
Jump from the Read Pile. There's a lot going on, in a good way. Vril Dox, as always, is one crafty bastard. His new green eyed associate's dealing with some family problems, two neophyte Green Lanterns try to do a kind of Reggie Hammond shtick, Lyrl Dox has a hand in starting a huge dose of trouble and everybody seems to be balancing their levels of unhappiness, the essence of diplomacy. There's just the right balance of elements here with a plot that's intricate but moves on smartly. Tony Bedard knows how to balance a large cast with vibrant artwork from Sergio Arino, Scott Hanna and Jose Villarrubia.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
All solid, all good stuff.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
If you like westerns, "Pale Horse" #1 will do it for you. It's a very solid and serviceable tale of vengeance and frontier justice with rough hewn artwork that's perfect for the style of narrative. Very close to making the mark even though this column does not lean in a "western" direction.
"Atlas" #2 was "not bad," even not doing much. It points the finger for the Icelandic volcanic disaster, has a lot of exposition and generally just gives Delroy a chance to get into the comic. Slowly.
Destro mans up in a big way for "G.I. Joe" #19, forcing management to address conditions on the field like he was Michael Westen. The Joes are still playing catch up with an enemy who's largely invisible, and their large numbers still seem largely anonymous -- for all the development Cover Girl got last issue, she's just a face in the crowd this time. Interesting try, though.
"Black Widow" #3 wasted a few pages on a super pointless fight with Elektra (it was real action, too, not cheesecake, but did nothing to develop the story), layering on the subtleties and revealing both Natasha's spycraft and the old secrets that affect the characters and aren't just "stuff that happened." With a little more focus, this could be a contender.
"Spike: The Devil You Know" #1 was "TV good," and if you caught it while flipping through channels, you'd likely stick with it. A big danger meets the kind of hand shaking, deal-making evil that the Los Angeles of the Whedonverse is famous for. While the art was interesting, however, the antagonist was a well-drawn empty blazer, and that made this threat fairly generic despite the good elements around it.
"Executive Assistant Iris" #5 added a dash of regret and emotion to the story, giving the title character the barest of development while establishing her boss as a threat. Everything else was pretty anonymous, and that vagueness made it hard to keep interested with everything.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Ultimate Comics X" #3, "Berserker" #6, "Dark Wolverine" #87, "Azreal" #9, "Amazing Spider-Man" #633, "Magdalena" #2, "Farscape" #8, "Marvel Her-Oes" #3, "Joker's Asylum: Harley Quinn" #1, "Amazing Spider-Man" #634, "Joker's Asylum: Mad Hatter" #1, "Amazing Spider-Man Presents Black Cat" #1, "Magog" #10 (try to tell the difference between "ethernet" and "internet").
No, just...no... These comics? Not so much...
"Heralds" #3 is terrible. Really. It seems to imply that there's some kind of comeback due for Frankie Raye, but unless you're well versed in a whole lot that's not said here, there's no possible way you could know what that means or why it matters to anybody, especially with that weird opening dream sequence. Just bad storytelling all around.
If you have ever read this column, the fact that "Brightest Day" #4 is considered a really bad comic should be no surprise to you. The previous three issues were virtually identical in quality and composition, the new "trailer park" style storytelling that's flying out of all of the DC event comics these days. The art's pretty, there's a strange kid in the middle of the desert, there's literally no Firestorm in the comic despite him being on the cover...it's...well, for a "Brightest Day" comic, it's just pretty de rigeur even as it's pretty bad for any kind of overall storytelling.
Even Amadeus Cho wasn't good in "Incredible Hulk" #610, which was a huge build up for something all of us knew would happen anyway. It's less of an anticlimax and more of a disappointment.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Far better than worse, which is always a good thing.
Also, there was no order for "Alpha & Omega Cry Wolf Volume 1" #1
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Good buys, a jump and reads that don't annoy very much? Yay! That makes it a great (but admittedly light in number) week to love comics!
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. Enjoy, you bastards.