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WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/karaoke host/jackass) goes to a comic book store called Comics Ink in Culver City, CA (Overland and Braddock — hey Steve, Jason, Vince and Sally) 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 (Diamond monopolistic practices willing, and yes, it used to be mornings, but management asked for it to slide back some), 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 25TH, 2009

Transformers: All Hail Megatron #9 (IDW Publishing)

How’s that cover for a spoiler? Well, suffice it to say you have the shadow of one iconic character dominating this issue while the titular Decepticon is MIA. Even the loudmouthed Rumble barely gets any lines, in lieu of human resistance fighters (effective … not) and internecine Autobots. There’s some good tension and a good speech, but overall this issue’s a snoozer. That business with Bombshell and Starscream? Megatron’s musings? Even the cool new image for Perceptor? Forget about it. A bit of a let down, and this series’ first miss.

Jack of Fables #32 (Vertigo/DC Comics)

Remember that massive battle that was going on? It’s over. Like, really over. In a way that’s not very clearly depicted, given the title character’s talent for hyperbole. Also, there’s a weird bit of hijacking and the revelation of something very “Empire Strikes Back,” which was also weird. Let’s just say a lot of this issue was weird, and not in a “bwa-ha-ha” sort of way, but in a “well … uh, okay, if that’s what you wanna do” kind of way. Sure, Jack’s still funny in his scoundrel way (what’s up with the briefcase?) but the issue as a work of narrative fiction is a bit of a mess.

Hero Squared: Love and Death #2 (Boom! Studios Publishing)

Okay, this is a bad trend — there’s a lot of yelling and blaming and what not in another therapy-heavy session. There’s also a Captain Valor with the head of a dog. Not even a normal looking dog, but “Goofy” of Disney fame. Seriously. That’s not even the most zany thing about this issue. Giffen and DeMatteis may be the undisputed kings of “bwa-ha-ha,” but they missed the mark with this whiny, self-indulgent issue. Especially problematic is the possibility that Caliginous may not be what she’s advertised as, which would be a huge let down. Too much navel gazing here.

Top Ten Season Two Special #1 (America’s Best Comics/Wildstorm/DC Comics)

This week’s failure is complete. Girl Two has hung up her badge and gotten reprogrammed as a less-than-gifted lawyer. She’s also dating … well, suffice it to say he’s not the brightest bulb in a socket, and surely she could do better. The court-assigned case she takes on here, going up against a Bruce Banner analogue (with much more control) and the problem here isn’t that anything’s particularly wrong with this issue. The concern is that there’s not much really right — no emotional moments that pull a gasp from you, no artwork to floor the critics, even the scant inside jokes are not that interesting. Pursuing justice, perhaps, but not entertainment.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

It’s time to be way harder on comics if four limp fish made it home on the strength of their reputation. Frustrating. The best thing of the week was last week’s “G.I. Joe: Cobra” #1 (which got a shot and made the jump, post script from the lost week).

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

“Daredevil” #117 was okay, even though the meat of the story only happened in the last third of the issue. Wilson Fisk is back in New York City, and the first person he wants to talk to is Matt Murdock. The mechanism by which this meeting of the minds was created is a bit too contrived — Lady Bullseye just doesn’t work — but the chemistry between these two regular archenemies was good.

“Oracle: The Cure” #1 re-established the title character’s digital competition with the Calculator, who uses a MUSH in a way that the coders never intended and resurrects one of the more dangerous ideas from “Final Crisis” (not that Japanese super team!). It was a little scattered, but it wasn’t bad.

Also worth a look if you like all-action and little plot, “Dark Reign: Electra” #1 re-establishes the now-you-see-her-now-you-don’t ninja as a major bad-ass, refreshes Bullseye, er, Hawkeye’s fatal interest in her and has good art even if the coloring was a little on the somber side.

It was nice to see Jim Gordon step up in “Battle for the Cowl: Commissioner Gordon,” as he faces down one of Arkham’s most cold-blooded escapees without the dark shaded insurance policy he’s enjoyed for so many years. It wasn’t riveting, but it was nice.

The framing device in “War Machine” #4 was good, but it might take two reads to figure out what created the cliffhanger and ultimately too many things went off the rail for the issue as a whole to stick.

The “Meh” Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title

“Proof” #18, “Captain America” #48, “Star Wars: Legacy” #34, “Guardians of the Galaxy” #12, “Umbrella Academy: Dallas” #5, “Ms. Marvel” #37, “Superman” #686, “Wonder Woman” #30, “X-Men: Times and Life of Lucas Bishop” #2 (which took a lot away from the character’s impressive debut, honestly), “Justice League of America” #31 (what’s up with teasing comics that are way, way down the road as plot elements?), “Wildcats” #9, “Immortal Iron Fist” #24 (such a bad time to stop for a parenthetical done-in-one), “Caped” #1, “Incredible Hercules” #127, “Elephantmen” #17, “Nova” #23, “Incredibles: Family Matters” #1, “New Avengers” #51 (a high school revelation does not a story make, Coma Girl, nor does lunch at a diner) and “G.I. Joe” Origins #2.

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

“Fantastic Four” #565 was, in a word, stupid. Stupid because all of a sudden, the brainy Valeria was reduced to crying, stupid because Reed wouldn’t have noticed something fishy about the situation, stupid because the underlying issue here is cribbed from more bad movies than it’s worth noting and stupid because the setting and coloring were so drab that it was like spending a weekend in Tacoma, Washington. A train wreck all over.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Abominable. Too much “meh.”

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Between this and that limp “Battlestar Galactica” finale, it was a crappy week for fans of this kind of fiction.

THE BUSINESS

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.

Furthermore, as if this reviewer here wasn’t obnoxious enough with his opinions, he’s part of an effort to teach writers about how to do the work at The Hundred and Four.

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