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) about all of that...which goes something like this...
THE BUY PILE FOR MARCH 31ST, 2010
Things are happening on earth and things are happening in space. In both places, two Archer siblings are trying to make heads or tails of it all. From a certain point of view, neither situation is terribly comprehensible, from Freidrich Nickelhead's Super Villain Congress standing against a winged invasion to R@d-Ur Rezz hell bent on maintaining a five o'clock shadow while ushering in the end of all existence. However, despite the madcap pacing and non-stop deluge of wild ideas, there's a charm and fascination here that can't be denied. This series is allegedly ending in five issues, so there's no desire to slow down and explain things to neophytes, but this comic book really goes at its work with a kind of manic glee that's very entertaining.
Astro City The Dark Age: Book Four #3
The Williams brothers are living in interesting times as a mysterious, powered vigilante rides ghostly through the streets of Astro City, exacting harsh justice on everyone from a hired assassin to teenaged shoplifters and the Silver Agent continues his chronological journey to save everybody from everything, dropping inspirational Steve Rogers-styled speeches as he goes. The brothers' decades-long vendetta against the man who killed their parents remains unrequited and one starts to question what they're doing and why. The story remains involved and engaging but -- again -- does nothing for neophytes. If you've been along for the ride this far, this is another solid installment with the always evocative art of Brent Anderson showcasing Kurt Busiek's emotional script as a fine literary example. However, it's not for the weak of heart, and probably would take some web-research to catch up with if a reader is late to the party.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
A little insular, but solid work nonetheless.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
If "Fantastic Four" #577 was part of a piece written in prose, it would likely be a thing of wonder. However, as a comic book it's paced very slowly in a talky way that tries to keep pace with Jack Kirby's imagination with a sheer volume of words. Once you throw out the illogical nature of the name used by the central characters here (and no, Reed and the family are not the central characters here, nor do they get a lot of the dialogue), the ideas presented are actually interesting. Laborious, but interesting. Jonathan Hickman may just not be made for work-for-hire.
"Unknown Soldier" #18 was a strange, schizophrenic episode that borrowed a hair from the 1997 miniseries while complicating the life of the main character and leaving blood everywhere. It was far too scattered to have worked as an issue or as a conclusion to the storyline in question, but it had some good moments of resonance with the young boy the title character befriended.
Chuckles is in very deep and his new contact Chameleon is afraid too, and in "G.I. Joe Cobra 2" #3 its the edge of a showdown. The tension in this issue was fantastic, and the dissonance between the twins has developed into something kooky -- even Croc Master had an appearance that worked. This was an effective spy thriller that simply felt incomplete. The anticipation of the storyline was effective but just not enough.
"New Mutants" #11 was something of a pleasant surprise, with Dani Moonstar working by herself for the most part and fulfilling an old promise that had her riding a horse with wings. The narrative plays out in a fairly interesting way and has some parenthetical effects on the events of "Siege" (that crossover barely even came out this week) but was a little on the saccharine side, playing the Al Pacino in "Devil's Advocate" card a little too strongly. Nice try, though.
"Star Wars: Legacy" #46 wasn't bad with Cade Skywalker once again walking the tightrope between the dark and light sides of the Force, playing both sides against the middle as the disparate forces of the galaxy continued to clash against one another. Lightsabers clash, loyalties are tested and danger looms, but it's all stuff you've seen before and the stuff of melodrama.
"Web" #7 was a slight improvement as Oracle steps in to force some tech support on the rich superhero while he struggles to understand the challenges before him. He's not the best detective, nor does his alarming amount of leeway from law enforcement professionals work so well, but his actual action scenes did the job.
The twist ending on "Sword" #23 was the best part about it, as the hapless military men didn't look so effective and the fighting was simply "okay" (and there was a lot of it). It was a long road to get here, but it's interesting to have arrived at this point. But it was a really long, and ultimately expensive road, still.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Cloak and Dagger" one shot, "Incorruptible" #4, "Dark Wolverine" #84, "Impaler" #5, "Realm of Kings: Inhumans" #5, "Terminator 2029" #1, "Adventure Comics" #9, "Transformers" #5, "Detective Comics" #863, "God of War" #1, "Gotham City Sirens" #10, "Legendary Talespinners" #2, "Jack of Fables" #44, "Green Hornet" #2, "Outsiders" #28, "A-Team War Stories: BA" #1, "X-Force" #25, "Aladdin: Legacy of the Lost" #2 and "Teen Titans" #81.
No, just...no... These comics? Not so much...
"Blackest Night" #8 was, without a doubt, the most infuriating comic book in at least the last two years, possibly more than that. It's...there are so many reasons why it's bad, from the "yes, you've seen this splash page before" artwork to the bit with Boston Brand, to the "this tactic didn't work before, let's try it against the same guy and see if it works" shtick to the seeds of crossovers to come in so many panels. It's sickening. So much so that, especially now that this final installment has been seen, this will be the subject of a blog called "The Reign of the Mediocre (Comics Edition)" that should be on The Hundred and Four within a week or so. Wow. This...this was a crime against comics...
By comparison, "Amazing Spider-Man" #627 couldn't be that bad, even though a plot element that didn't work for a street level hero all the way back in 1989 still makes little sense interacting with Peter Parker today. Tedious stuff, still.
"Justice League of America" #43, however, was...what's the word from the notes here? Ah, here goes: "stinky." It tried hard not to suck but couldn't manage that, having Donna and Dick yammer on in a fairly weird voiceover throughout the punching and the what have you. An element of The Great Sadness, it's just...weird.
More terrible, however, was "Prelude To Deadpool Corps" #5, which looked like it had been rendered through Poser with a dose of LSD and had a plot cribbed in part from "Contest of the Champions" and in part from recent (less than solid) issues of "Nova." The good elements of the previous issues, involving the humor the characters could pull together, are all gone. Everything that could have gone wrong here did, and it's embarrassing, truth be told, attempts at being funny that fall flat like any panel involving Impossible Man.
How can Gail Simone work so well with "Secret Six" and here on "Wonder Woman" #42 stink up the joint so effectively? Despite a start that wasn't so bad, given trainee Green Lanterns and a threat from beyond the stars...but it was so limp and tedious, involving estrogen-powered aliens borrowing motives from the Borg. It's that hard to give Wonder Woman something worth punching? That's tragic.
Speaking of female characters who deserve better, "She-Hulk Sensational" #1 celebrated thirty years of Jen Walters in a way that was more whiny than celebratory. Bringing back the fourth-wall breaking days of old, she dithered and groused about turning the big three-oh, played out a limp "Christmas Carol" mock up and then flashed back to before the Skrulls got all wacky for a very cliched bit with Ms. Marvel and someone who was either Jessica Drew or a certain Skrull. Shulkie deserves better.
"X-Men: Second Coming" #1 was like, basically, every issue of "Cable" since Bishop started chasing him, except sub out "Bishop" for "xenophobic wackjob humans who've been laughable since the 90s" and swap out "angry militias or cockroach men" for "X-Men trying to help." If that sounds like it's a good thing to you, that's a tragedy in and of itself. Does Hope look familiar to you? If so, that's also sad. Let's just move on...please!
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
This was the worst week of comics in recent memory, with seven superbly terrible comics easily overpowering seven merely "all right" books and a veritable mountain of "meh" that just as easily could not have happened.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Despite two perfectly okay comics coming home for a less-than-troubling price, the awfulness of "Blackest Night," "Prelude to the Deadpool Corps" and "She-Hulk Sensational" contributed to overpowering the purchases. Terrible stuff.
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.
There are now two official ways to get Hannibal Tabu's blog-related wisdom. For all personal things, there's Hannibal's relaunched Soapbox and for his views on the weird, wild world there's The Hundred and Four, where I also post (mostly) weekly commentary tracks about these reviews.
Sorry April Fool's wasn't more committed. It's hard to do Bizarro Reviews.