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 JANUARY 16TH, 2008
Remember that old song by Rockwell? Hunter Rose could easily be singing that he always feels like somebody's watching him, as his paranoia continues to haunt him on this "lost adventure." He comes into direct and bloody conflict with Argent the Wolf while the journalist whose hounded his steps finally sees what he's been chasing and almost can't handle it. The issue's delicious in its tension but over all too quick, beautiful and elegant and smart and spirit it needs more pages. A treat nonetheless.
Yet another done-in-one vignette, this one feels more like an actual story than some previous ones while doing little to illuminate the big picture issues still at work in the series. A DJ named Random Fire wants to rock, and he hits some snags on the way to that, and all hell predictably breaks loose, as its wont to do in this post apocalyptic Manhattan. The Halliburton-like spectre of Trustwell shows up again, and this story may not have what's considered a happy ending, but few endings are in this bleak series. Guest artist Nathan Fox is convincing without being impressive, Brian Wood's script hits all the right notes and does it in syncopation, but not with a great deal of inspiration. This series has been coasting for a while, and this issue is another example of that. Let's pick up the pace.
Dominion #4 (Boom! Studios)
This new "buy on sight" title continues its "freak of the week" shtick while advancing the meta-plot zippily. What's very effective is how little talking the newly-extrahuman do, seen like forces of nature that happen around our protagonists as they try to bring in CDC support for the outbreak. Tim Hamilton's artwork could be less busy, or maybe it's the fairly flat coloring of Fran Gamboa. In any case, the very well told story continues the adventures of detective Dick Urbanski and his hapless doctoral sidekick, fighting the probable nuclear annihilation of the Windy City. How's that for "consequences?" The big splash pages didn't do anything special (the name check one was particularly "eh") but that last page reveal is a clever one. Good solid reading.
The smartest, sneakiest book of the week, courtesy of Paul Jenkins and Paul Gulacy. You read that right. Robbie Baldwin, the punching bag formerly known as Speedball, has stolen one of the fastest, sneakiest most dangerous ships in the SHIELD arsenal and he's headed for Latveria faster than anybody can deal with. Why this is interesting is that Robbie's got a plan -- his kinetic powers can deal with almost any conventional forces, he's got enough destructive power at his command to level Doomstadt, and every move that can be made he's worked out in his head, like he was the original V for Vendetta going nuts in a cell by himself. The fight with Doom is a good one and has an ending that works well, despite the actual specific mechanism of the victor's victory not being very clear. The most compelling read of the week due to sheer impetus -- the avalanche is getting closer to the ski chalet, and oh boy, is it a doozy!
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Pretty good, all around.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
Two books came extremely close to making their way home. "Incredible
Hulk Hercules" #113 again lets Amadeus Cho run amok ... but essentially steal Robbie Baldwin's idea from the "Penance: Relentless" #3 (SHIELD should just call themselves Avis at this rate). The bit of history with Hercules and Ares was a bit meandering in getting where it was going, having Ares act more like the super villain he's been for, what, decades? Points for preparation, though. For Amadeus to be so smart, he kind of waited for the game to come to him this issue and that made the plot sag where it should have jogged.
"Fell" #9 was our other closest contender, a shock to even see on the stands. A hostage situation in Snow Town is not what it seems and while his fellow policemen think he's unraveling, the titular detective goes for a solution that could be considered street justice.
Some theorized that the lack of more Fat Cobra is what slowed down "Immortal Iron Fist" #12, which revealed a lot about the mysterious Prince of Orphans (whoa), fought it out with Hydra while Luke Cage couldn't feel his toes and K'un Lun get set for a big surprise. Danny Rand's serenity was effective, accepting his role in another game so much bigger than himself, but there was simply too much going on at once for this issue to focus. Not far from the mark, though.
It's very important to say that the art in "Robin" #170 was really, really good. When you open the book, the visuals just kind of leap out at you. When you've got Chris Batista and Jamal Igle on pencils, the trio of Rodney Ramos, Cam Smith and Rick Ketcham on inks, all with Guy Major's vibrant coloring ... really, can we get this art team on "Dominion" or "Scalped" or any of a variety of books that could benefit from this kind of skill? Oh sure, the story itself was fairly lackluster, robberies and sports gambling and the title character's high school deceptions. But the art would make you stand up and notice.
The action and characterization in "WWH Aftersmash: Warbound" #2 was all right if not very extraordinary, (gotta like the Leader's methodology though) and the "secret origins" backup is still dull.
The metaphorical implications in "Fallen Angel" #23 are interesting -- war marching on the world and plotting to take down religion on its way -- but the storytelling was a bit convoluted, which is strange coming from a master of form like Peter David.
"Justice League of America" #17 was two good stories that were both too short. The fall out from "Salvation Run" fueled the lead, which had a nice last page (seriously, nobody notices the freaking Shaggy Man running amok? Seriously?) while Vixen's secret got weirder in the second half story (which really seemed like it needed more meat on it).
Again misunderstanding what could make the conflicts more "devastating," "Transformers: Devastation" #4 continues to fail on fulfilling the threat of Sixshot, and since his super-genocidal buddies came to play, they also didn't seem like much to look at. The central storytelling is solid -- the Sunstreaker subplot, for example, is effective even without actually having any characterization for the antagonists -- but continuing to deliver the art with the "camera" at shoulder level for the mecha robs the combat of context.
"Checkmate" #22 is "okay," with the Mademoiselle Marie storyline finishing up, shooting and handbooking its way through history you probably didn't know. If the action were more tautly delivered -- more "Bourne Ultimatum" and less "Bridge Over The River Kwai" -- it would have been a keeper, but as it is it was an expanded "Secret Files and Origins" story.
"Umbrella Academy" #5 was an interesting story fragment, with a surprising bit of romance, a nice bit of destruction and the series' normal kookiness. It just sort of middled, though, without ever really starting or stopping.
"Catwoman" #75 was a nice surprise, with the title's lead shipped off to the "Salvation Run" planet and pressed into service by Luthor for doing what she does best -- sneaking in and stealing stuff. The issue works right until Cheetah does something impulsive and a gun enters the picture, which felt more like "Sliders" or "Exiles" than the rest, but it's an interesting piece with great internal workings from Selina.
Despite not having much actually happen and being too scattered and vague to buy, the rebellious energy of "New Warriors" #8 was interesting as Night Thrasher makes uneasy pacts, other people debate fascism while talking about switching sides and there's dinner conversation over the ideology of terror.
"76" #1 was not actually a story per se but a series of scenes not even big enough to be fragments, setting a great sense of the "bow chicka bow bow" ambiance and vanity of the pleasure suit era with a sort of poor man's "Power Man and Iron Fist" or "seventies Chuck Norris" vibe done in black and white. Not bad, but not apparently going anywhere yet.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
Re: "Booster Gold" #6 -- all of that sturm und drang to bring back an old joke? Seriously? As much as this column has wanted it and longed for it ... too late. No.
Before you ask, Diamond shorted Comics Ink their entire order of "Amazing Spider-Man" #547. No shipment means no sales which means no review. Sorry.
This week's "WTH?" Award goes to "Wildstorm Revelations" #2 -- seriously, WTH?
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
The good was mediocre, but not that much was actually really bad. A number of issues -- "Birds of Prey" #114, "Cable/Deadpool" #49, "Sword" #4, et cetera -- didn't do enough to be called good or bad.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Sometimes you take your wins where you can find them, and a win by default still counts.