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 FEBRUARY 27TH, 2008
Jump from the Read Pile. Jaime Reyes steps up to the plate in a big, big way in this issue, but that's just barely the best part of reading this surprisingly excellent comic book. Jaime's girlfriend shows up, there's a huge gunfight between soldiers of The Reach and local talent and there's a string of one liners here ("I brought cookies," "Improbably hot," "'Heroism' is not an acceptable scientific explanation," "Pants, then spaceship," "Plan M. This is bad enough for Plan M," the one starting "Brenda, I'm not dismissing you," "I've always wanted to do that," and of course the one about Blue Beetles) that just keep the book going like fine Swiss clockworks. In a score of little ways, this issue just keeps doing things right and works really well. John Rogers' script is simply wonderful, and Rafael Albequeque's art perfectly balances the comedic moments with the action scenes and the tension. Fantastic work.
This issue has lots of good things happening, but the story as a whole kind of fizzles at the end and at the beginning. Princess Projectra's fall from grace does only one new thing in its work for this narrative while Saturn Girl showcases her leadership skills, Colossal Boy gets into a somewhat dumb fight and Karate Kid hangs out with half-naked girls. All that, plus a surprise visitor in the HQ? It's not really too much going on, but what is happening isn't as balanced as it could be. Not a bad issue, per se, but not one that you'll be talking about later.
Rogue Angel: Teller of Tall Tales #1 (IDW Publishing)
Jump from the Read Pile. This is a big surprise -- an all new character with an all new origin, where just enough is revealed through the course of the issue to give you an idea of what she's capable of, a good amount of panel time given to supporting characters and ambiance, all while moving along with an interesting plot. Archaeologist and cable show co-host Annja Creed (think Sean Macnamara on "Hearts and Scalpels") has a secret and an interest in subjects off the beaten path. When an old graduate school colleague calls her in on an interesting dig complete with an amusing backdrop and the threat of danger, it gives her a chance to showcase her skill as a scientist as well as her hidden talents as well. Add a dash of historical mystery and you've got a surprisingly intriguing yarn that's got a little something for many audiences. Barbara Randall Kesel would have the best script of the week if John Rogers wasn't so impressive, and Renae de Liz' artwork may need a bit more consistency in faces but her visual storytelling is top notch, as are Ray Dillon's colors. Very nice work, and this issue draws you in to a story that could have easily been nothing special.
Any issue where a guy gets kicked in the nether regions on the front cover has got to be some brand of good, and this issue of "Jack of Fables" is no exception. Given that Humpty Dumpty has some of the best lines here (including "I don't have a penis"), Jack still manages to spread his slippery charm over almost every page through a sordid sexual encounter (and reminiscences of others) while a character is essentially murdered (yowza), the treasure is finally found and statues need hugs. For real. This title lives and dies on the caddish nature of its lead, and he once again comes through like gangbusters. There's three "oh yeah" moments and a number of "that's right" ones as well, which is a great performance from a comic that's consistent in quality.
Love and war are the topics at hand, as Boy Blue musters every ounce of confidence he can (apologies to Teddy Geiger) and Beauty gets a surprise at her job. All while the farm Fables learn of the "freedom" to be had in Haven, Cinderella comes out of the shadows, and Snow White hosts some big names at her house. This issue promises to "pause for a moment, to catch our breath," and does just that with the solid guest artwork of Niko Henrichon (who also did some coloring, how talented) and another effective Willingham script.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Even the arguable clunker was enjoyable for Ultra Boy's banter, so that's a good thing.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
The comic that was closest to making it home was Virgin Comics' "Megas" #1, which posits an alternative history giving the United States a home grown aristocracy in name (not just de facto as some claim we have now). The lead character, a haunted investigator with his own demons, was incredibly well conceived and depicted, and the actual atmosphere of a royal-run US was done fairly well. Problem was that the white-haired Megas themselves are largely indistinguishable, with no clear characters developed nor promised, not even the octegenarian king. With this being a quarter of the story told, it needs more meat on the bones. Interesting start, though, and in months ahead, we may be wishing we'd gotten a better seat on the bandwagon ...
The intrigues of space warfare were pretty interesting in "Star Wars Legacy" #20, but the plot could just as easily have happened during the Galactic Civil War, and actually was fairly reminiscent of something Thrawn did in the novels. Not bad, but not really justifying the advanced stage in the timeline.
"Black Panther Annual" #1 tried very hard, but just didn't connect. It was nice to see Larry Stroman's art once again, but the idea of a certain president getting elected in the US (preposterous) didn't work, nore did the idea of a "Pax Africana" settling over the world (easier once two hothead sovereigns got whacked, admittedly) or Tony Stark's stupidest interface idea yet. Moreover, the sons (and daughters) of the Panther failed to leave much of an impression, and what sense does it make to tell a story in the future just to spend a quarter of it on a flashback to the 19th century. Plus, fun fact, King Solomon's Frogs are annoying. For all that, the ambition of it was interesting, but it would have benefitted from the words "What If?" on the cover.
The notes on "Project Superpowers" #1 say, "Ozymandias w/cyborgs versus Vegan Hawksmoor and an old man." If that does something for you, rock with it.
"Action Comics" #862 actually wasn't bad, with Earth Man showing some depth of character, Big Blue stepping up to the plate and a grim-but-hopeful Giffen-esque Legion working the plan -- slowly, but still working it.
"Kick Ass" #1 was okay, a slow but solid "all build up" issue which depicts the protagonist as the kind of fan that comics fans are often chided about being. Which is fine, if you like to poke the fans with sticks and laugh at them. Somehow even John Romita, Jr.'s dynamic artwork was muted here.
The part with townspeople interacting with Asgardians in "Thor" #6 was pretty good, but when the Thunder God got all cosmic, with the new female Loki (how weird is that) monologuing like she was Puck in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," it just got weird and indistinct.
"The Circle" #4 was an improvement from last issue, with drama and a ticking clock on the missile train, a fun motorcycle interlude and some flashbacks that were a little disjointed but ultimately effective. Closer to the mark.
Bill Foster got most of the funny moments in "World War Hulk Aftersmash: Damage Control" #2 (nobody gets his name right) while adamantium is all over New York City and Penance has a very weird flashback and chat. Cute but far from crucial.
"Urban Monsters" #1 was an adequate yet forgettable dramedy about monsters living an integrated life amongst human society, looking at their dreams and habits and weirdness fitting in fine with your average person's weirdness (addiction to "Lost," obsessive devotion to working out, being named "Beauregard" or something).
"Captain America" #35 was also "not bad," as Bucky's slow on the uptake, sticking to stuff he knows (i.e. "punching" and "kicking") while Black Widow plays either Oracle or Chloe from "Smallville." The bad part is that as embarrassingly stupid as the heroes are here, the Red Skull has never been smarter, as more of his machinations are revealed. It'd almost be better to turn the book over to him, because a field op like Bucky just doesn't seem qualified to punch and kick this problem until it goes away.
If you can get past some really gross imagery, "Gravel" #1 has a fairly good story of a determined man shooting his way towards answers. It's not groundbreaking, but it's good if you like that sort of thing, but wanted more really nausea-inducing images in your brain.
The art made it hard to tell who's who, but "Fallen Angel" #24 was good in a Whedon-esque way with an invasion of Bete Noire getting everybody's attention (and the joke at Dolf's expense? That's cold ...).
"House of M Avengers" #5 was a surprise again in not being as bad as the crossover that spawned it, despite the fact it's more than a year after the crossover ended. Let's just move on ...
"Transformers: Devastation" #6 once again fell down on the art side ("Reapers," hmph ... at least a few panels of Megatron and Starscream looked good) as Galvatron made a secretive play and the Autobots turned tail. Not much to go by for the end of a mini series.
"Nexus #100" was okay. As was "Shark Man" #2, "Young Avengers Presents" #2, "Rasl" #1, "Narcopolis" #2 (despite the message on the cover which many customers took as an instruction), "New Warriors" #9, "JLA Classified" #53 and "Thunderbolts: International Incident." Just "okay" as in "not anger inducing, but not in any way impressive either."
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
Comics not ordered by Comics Ink (a review in and of itself): "Ropeburn" #1, "Justice For Hire" #2. Diamond shorted the order on "Justice Society of America" #13 (a tepid prequel to "Kingdom Come" with chatting Supermen and no real reason for Gogs or Magogs) and accidentally shipped Comics Ink's invoice to Orange County, leaving owner Steve LeClaire to look up prices on the internet and check against his records to see where Diamond shorted him. Good times, good times ...
Please make it stop -- "Countdown to Final Crisis" #9 cracks open Val Armorr to see what his deal is (it's not important), Desaad goes head to head with Piper (nobody cares) and Darkseid's willing to gamble it all (which is stupid since there should be no risk). Brother Eye must have gotten hold of the really good Wheaties to get this kind of madness together. Urg.
The idea that 616 Tony Stark's recent episodes of stupidity are caused by him being a Skrull is almost acceptable, but for Ultimate Reed Richards to be so incalculably dumb in "Ultimate Fantastic Four" #51 is embarrassing. Kudos to Ultimate Thanos for presence and tactics, though.
Re: "Crime Bible: The Five Lessons of Blood" #5 -- this was so much better when this ending was in "Agents of Atlas."
"She Hulk" #26 was just plain not entertaining in a downer finale to the storyline which leaves bodies all around as well as smashed metal and hurt feelings. If the story had done something to describe the titular character's emotional struggle here, build it up so her decisions might be considered gripping, the plot could have worked. However, Jen's angry and bitter and it's not really certain why -- not that she doesn't have reasons with "World War Hulk" still in recent memory, but she's given no indications that those are her reasons.
The man known online as Deceptifocus called "All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder" #9 "comics porn," and one could see why when the Bat throws away a safehouse so he can meet Hal Jordan in an all-yelllow room (which he got Robin to paint) only so Hal could suffer the most ignominious defeat since Squirrel Girl took down Victor Von Doom. Oh, and there's crying. Zany, if that's your sort of thing ...
Re: "Teen Titans" #56. Terror Titans? Led by Clock King, late of Justice League Antarctica? Really? Is that what you wanna do? Plus, wasn't Clock King killed along side half of his team as a Suicide Squad member (unless Wikipedia has it right and this is a new guy ... but why?)?
Bendix and Rose Tattoo again in Authority Prime #5? Seriously? Are we that bereft of ideas?
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Long and tedious, but not actually bad.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Good reads, two jumps and a mountain of mediocrity ... that's a wash, people.