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 and Jason) and grabs a whole lotta comics. These periodicals are quickly sorted 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). Thursdays (Diamond monopolistic practices willing), 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 12TH, 2008
After a lengthy string of done-in-one character pieces of mixed quality, Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli are back with a new storyline that threatens the end of the wholly un-civil war tearing this alternate-future North America in two. This leaves the door open for a charismatic ethnic newcomer to raise the rabble with inspired rhetoric and an iconoclastic personality. Why does that sounds familiar? Oh well. The opening pages tell the tale, forcing you to learn the rest in flashback, and since this is a six part storyline, there's clearly a lot to tell. With a clear understanding of the populist power of propaganda, Parco Delgado emerges as a loud voice shaking up the bilateral discussion of power in a post-war Manhattan, an uptown native with a big mouth and bigger plans. How this works out is intriguing -- not a big "OMG" style grab for your attention, but a subtle look at a sort of early David Palmer scenario (with worse clothes and a less clean-cut image). Not bad, working its way back to form, perhaps.
Again, an okay issue working its way back to form. After the quadruple-hit of M-Day, Civil War, World War Hulk and the mutant-dispersing Messiah Complex, the area formerly known as Mutant Town ("the 'middle east side?'") is hardly living up to the name anymore as everybody's talking about living a normal life. But Jamie Madrox sees himself and his little mutant-minded investigative firm as the last line of defense since apparently the X-Men have disbanded (which didn't seem to stop any of the titles, and he clearly doesn't know about Logan's blood-spattered new X-Force). The problem is that his team isn't so much of a team anymore, with two desertions, Layla Miller missing in the time stream ... it's a mess. An entertaining mess -- Monet's developed a pop culture-fueled wit, Guido's playing straight man as Jamie's exasperated and confused by turns. Oh, and he's also somebody's baby daddy -- he doesn't know, so why should anybody tell you? All of this is just the lead up to an old ... well, "friend" may be too strong a word, but somebody they know shows up and let's just say it's not a welcome visit. The issue's not bad, but it's -- again -- not exactly gripping.
Well, if you ever noticed that Bill Willingham was gone, this was the issue. His partner-in-crime Matthew Sturges is running the show as the Joker's band of miscreants invades Luthor's compound for ... well, food. Seriously. What's more embarrassing is that led by brain trusts like Mistah J, Killer Croc, Jewelee, Girder and Mammoth, they manage to survive more than two seconds against something Luthor clearly had to seee coming. So either Luthor has Tony Stark Disease (i.e. "when somebody described as a super genius is outwitted by, say, a feint in Nebraska involving Captain Ultra") or the Joker's smarter ... yeah, that sentence can't even work. Let's just say Luthor's temporarily become a moron, since that'll make this work better. Also, Deadshot pansies up, a set of secrets are revealed, and Vandal Savage is horny. When you look at the pieces, it sounds like it should be hilarious. But the dialogue is just "okay," the Joker's rants aren't even funny (let alone engaging), and when the secret of "Hell Planet" comes to light at the end, it's not even that interesting an idea (not to mention giving Luthor everything he wants and possibly making this whole series a wash). Eh.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
A big load of "blah" that actually cost money. That's annoying.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
While it was a joy to see "Gamekeeper Series 2" #1 on the stands, a new creative team took some of the focus away. What made the original series so fascinating was the brutal, crisp persona of Brock, the title character. Here, a good amount of space is put into the characters of a "soccer club" (a euphemism for "assassins and thieves") who will be tasked to eliminate him and steal the world-changing energy formula from his charge. Which would be fine, if more than two or three of them were interesting in any remote way. The arguable "badass" of their crew, Raven, is a cipher and between the stereotypical "white guy who loves rap" and the monosyllabic muscle types, most of them are just placeholders and plot points waiting to happen. Solid in craft but less than inspiring in ... uh, inspiration.
"Wonder Woman" #18 was a pleasant surprise in and of itself, with the title character decides to start dating, gets dragged into a Khundish dispute and gets a shining surprise at the end. Gail Simone's script almost worked, but Diana seemed a little credulous (especially given her well known "truth" powers) and that's kind of ... well, embarrassing, isn't it?
"Thunderbolts" #119 almost made the jump on its sheer crudity alone, as a telepathically-controlled Venom goes head to head with a newly ambitious Andreas "Baron" Strucker while Norman Osborn tosses off quips, Moonstone plays Tetris while Songbird and Radioactive Man look on in confusion. However, the issue was kind of a one trick pony, and the interesting bit with Len Samson and the telepath was short sheeted. Almost made it, though.
"Booster Gold" #7 was okay, as a whole lotta nostalgia took center stage (panel?) once again ... without any of the wit and joie de vivre that made them fan favorites. However, it was good to see a much maligned character being a smart guy once again, even while a goofy crowd of villains actually banded together to think they could be somebody.
"Fantastic Four" #555 was jam packed with crazy ideas and fun characterizations, but again lacked coherency to make the story actually work. A whole new planet, duplicating this one (although with some crazy and delusional ideas about how the human animal works), Johnny and a female super villain have ... well, let's just say an encounter and Ben seems to be a font of homespun wisdom. Huge ideas, big plot, but there was little room for a narrative to actually breathe.
The crazy firebrand of a space admiral in "Star Wars: Legacy" #21 was okay, but again the substandard artwork is a major hindrance, and the jumpy plot needed just a smidge more focus.
"Wolverine" #63 was again worth looking at, even though its unbeatable protagonist's hard to make interesting when he's spitting up bullets. Mystique provided some cheap laughs, and really seemed to have a plan worth noting back in the 1800s, but it just wasn't meant to be.
The nostalgic stylings and diptych storytelling of "JLA Classified" #54 was okay, but that sappy and overlong ending just sucked the life out of the story.
"Defenders defenestrate!" In "Last Defenders" #1 Blazing Skull got all the best lines (is he the Aaron Stack of this title), but Nighthawk's "aw shucks" leadership style of running the super team based in Hoboken (that's not a joke) barely worked against a Sons of the Serpent cell while a number of strange digressions made an attempt at foreshadowing (the one with the Ancient One had some potential, but Krang and Yandroth seemed like they were trying too hard), and She-Hulk's rationale for joining up is just plain stupid. While we're on the subject, why would Stark (who hand picked the members) have Collossus and She-Hulk on the same team -- doesn't that kind of duplicate the same essential effect? The Initiative seems spread a little thin here.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
The photo you see to the right is the way the day kind of went. It's from a reprint of "Ultimates Volume 3" #2. Yeah. Let's just move on.
If you know a lot about "Serenity"/"Firefly," "Serenity: Better Days" #1 was probably like manna from heaven for you, but it had nothing remotely resembling a hook for people who don't know the characters, worked way too fast to accomplish much of anything.
"Annihilation Conquest" #5 puts its big bad on the cover and claims that Ultron's force of will was enough to take over an entire technologically advanced mechanoid species. So, for the record, stuff that Hank Pym and Bruce Wayne put together in their backyards on slow weekends is dangerous enough to take over cosmically powered foes and eat a planet full of gods. Just in case you wanted to see which way the stupitron particles were going.
Also in the same vein, for some reason Warlock of the New Mutants is back in "Nova" #11 as a foster parent (don't ask) while Richard Ryder whines around the dead Technarchy homeworld (not worth discussing) before Drax and Gamora show up for maybe three seconds before becoming a stupid plot element. Let's move on.
"Green Lantern Corps" #22 continues the tedious story of the Alpha Lantern Boodika going home again and ... well, having a kind of stupid fight that she was equipped to finish in the first two seconds if she wasn't an idiot.
The fight doesn't actually show why this fancy "tactigon" is all that, but "Avengers: The Initiative" #10 had a great moment with the new Ant-Man and Taskmaster (a photo was taken, but the dialogue was too blurry, sorry). Plus, there's a big snipe hunt at the end of the issue, and that seemed ill-considered while people are getting killed, but oh well.
"Green Arrow/Black Canary" #6 had solid art work and a deathly dull plot, with Ollie having a tantrum and there's some smooching and an ending that seemed really kind of ... oh, this column actually has a term for it. "WTH?"
"Amazing Spider-Man" #553 was, even by modern standards, terrible. Writer Bob Gale admits to having no editorial assistance on this issue, and its hackneyed silver-age bombasticity shows it. Imagine the corniest periods of Stan Lee, with ham-fisted captions and overthinking. Then imagine it was drawn by Phil Jiminez. That's this issue. Gah.
There's a lot of visual work of interest in "Superman" #674, but the story is limp as a remixed Parasite, sorry, Paragon (really, have we gotten that bankrupt for ideas that we're upping the ante on Rudy Jones?) has megalomaniac musings and gets punched around. Things don't go well and blah blah blah, look, can we just move on? Without the picture, this comic wasn't even interesting enough to review.
"Avengers Fairy Tales" #1. Really? People sat up in the office and said, "oh, yeah, that's a good idea." Seriously? No, people, just ... just no, come on.
The actual fighting in "Countdown to FInal Crisis" #7 was so dumb and pointless, given the people involved, that this series cannot end soon enough.
The blurry fight scenes in "Tiger & Crane" #1 didn't work so well, but the noirish idea of a kung fu vigilante in the 1940s was interesting enough until you get to the drab dialogue.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Dull purchases, agonizing reads for the most part and ones lacking focus that were okay ... that didn't go well at all.