WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?
Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/novelist/poet/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 books that are too good to not own) 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 thoughts about all of that ... something like this ...
THE BUY PILE FOR JULY 19TH, 2006
Giant teenagers on a secretive and perplexing spree! Supergirl everywhere (and, admittedly, a much more fun and light-hearted Supergirl than anything seen in her own title). The Legion painted as sell-outs! All that plus romantic tension, figuring out how to defeat death by rewriting a guy's brain, all while giving a shout out to continuity that's all explained while you wait. The chemistry between Mark Waid and Barry Kitson (Tony Bedard is along for story help, as are Adam DeKraker and Mick Gray on art assists) is cooking like crazy here, with a story that answers one lingering question while depositing a fresh conundrum in our laps. That's the best part of the Waid/Kitson Reboot Period ("W/KRP" for all usenet fans) The bright eyed wonder and derisive teenaged attitude is rendered perfectly with every panel, as the Legion is once again stumbling around unaware of the plans of others, from the good-intentioned but hamfisted publicity efforts of the United Planets to the unfathomable thinking of six giant-sized teens doing building-nappings around the globe. A fascinating futuristic flight of fancy.
Jump from the Read Pile. First of all, this cost fifty cents -- there's not a lot you can be mad about for costing that little. Second of all, it's a surprisingly well-packed bit of reading, giving a fairly insightful (if somewhat JJJ-centric) view of virtually everything that's happened so far in Marvel's least annoying crossover in years (even brushing on events as peripheral as "Planet Hulk" -- more on that in a bit). With interesting exclusive art ("Lobster Man?" The X-Factor press conference shot was nice, though, as was the FF hospital room "photo") and smartly managing to pimp upcoming product in the process, this is more than just an ad for upcoming events, it's an interesting artifact of the state of the Marvel Universe as it stands today, and a delightful piece of reference material.
Casting the biblical myth of Joseph in a very different light while again paralleling a modern-day example of the same situations, divine forces again do battle with one another through the minds and actions of mankind. The issue itself is not for the faint of heart nor the easily distracted -- there's no point where this issue slows down and coddles the new reader, despite this being the first part of a new storyline -- but the work is well worth it as the ideas explored here, of a struggle between the "modern" spiritual influences and those of the ancient world, remain riveting.
Rebounding from that insulting "Westerns" installment, this fascinating reference tome fully paints a picture of a well-developed alien world and culture, doing the sort of world building one would expect from a Kevin Anderson and only relying on two familiar faces to give the reader any thread to the normal Marvel universe environs. If this is indeed a real new direction and not just a diversion from the Hulk's everyday life (like that Jarella thing that was much ado about nothing), this "publication" of an extraterrestrial publishing company is a fantastic way to draw readers in, itself written with great skill by Anthony Flamini and Greg Pak with art helmed by the great Jim Calafiore with contributions from the likes of Aaron Lopestri, Ladronn, Ryan Sook, Alex Maleev, James Raiz and more. Even though the likes of "Wolverine" writer Marc Guggenheim (and yes, it's just taking shots at that guy for kicks these days, more for amusement than for being "mean") don't understand why having such fascinating reference material is crucial and interesting, knowing the facts of things can only enhance and inform any other reading one does with a mental framework of order that only a shared universe can provide.
"Don't you forget my bride down there when you're balls-deep in robot whore!!!" That snippet of dialogue is as clear an indication of why the madness of "Casanova" is a no-brainer for The Buy Pile. In the same way that Marvel's "Nextwave" is craziness tossed willy-nilly at you, this second issue (and its predecessor) do the same in a much more concentrated fashion, jamming lunacy on top of madness and shotgun-blasting them off the page with berserk glee. Take the genre tropes of SHIELD or an "Austin Powers" and add the multi-dimensional possibilities of "Noble Causes," the double agent tension of early Jennifer Garner "Alias" and the offbeat sensibilities of Doop's "X-Force" and you'll have an idea of what you'll see here. As for what's happening, the title character sums it up best. "Have sex with robot, infect with virus. Check. Steal different robot. Do not have sex with. Check. Recover EMPIRE agent gone batsh*t from inside his turbo-creepazoid f***-hut. Check. That's it?" Even more whimsical was an in-issue appearance of this reviewer's good friend, Image Executive Editor Eric Stephenson in a captioned bit of brilliance (that even incorporated a design element from his personal webpage, not linked only because it has his email address on the front page) that hearkened back to the classic days of Marvel's virtual conversations between creators and editors in the pages of the issues. Fan-freaking-tastic. This is one great comic book, even in grayscale.
NOTE: The cover seen here is the actual cover of the issue, although Marvel listed this as the cover for issue #8. Whatever. Jamie Madrox is being forced into a corner (the results of which are shown in the aforementioned "Daily Bugle" special thingy) and this issue shows him working his way towards it. In the process, we get guest appearances from fifth-tier characters only OHOTMU fans would remember, have Layla Miller show her true colors and not flinch from the results, and Pietro shopping for real estate, all while the X-Men throw down with Jamie's team while debating the finer points of the crossover's logic. Interesting stuff from interesting characters, and David almost has the whole band back together from his classic run on the previous incarnation of the title. Truthfully, Madrox makes a way more fascinating protagonist than Alex Summers ever did, and Monet's pouty indifference beats Polaris' green hair. Good stuff here.
The political maneuvering and gun-toting of the past issues comes to a head as international relations at a top secret Chinese facility bring everybody to the table. Gunfire, philosophical discussions, backroom politicking, metahuman combat and a super-cool team of masks from the People's Republic (the August General in Iron is worth a look almost by himself). Somebody loses their job, somebody else keeps a secret, somebody else makes an ass of themselves (almost predictable, given the character's history) and Beatriz flirts with a space ship. Seriously. The more you read it, the better it gets, and it starts off pretty well already. It's almost as if Rucka grafted his "Queen & Country" sensibilities on a DCU engine and took off. Cool.
She-Hulk #9 (Marvel Comics)
NOTE: Because the image could be considered spoiler-esque, it seems Marvel didn't send us an image for the cover. Whatever. The central development in this issue can't be discussed, because it's a spoiler (but if you've seen solicits for next month, you know what it is already ... let's theorize that you haven't). Let's just say that Jen makes a big decision and her roommate Pug suspects that it's not of her own free will (and the delicious way that ties in to earlier issues is quite fun to note), and J. Jonah Jameson spends much of the issue cursing angrily ... until Jen tells him something that has the creepiest result: making the old man smile. Add in an awkward dinner with her guy's parents that devolves into mechanical mayhem, and you've got another winner from Slott, with Paul Smith and Joe Rubenstein drawing out the action skillfully (although the dinner part was actually done with art by Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema -- kicking it old school).
Public Enemy #1 (American Mule Entertainment)
Jump from the Read Pile. If the first seven pages of this issue were indicative of the entire issue, the only adjective one could apply would be "kick ass." Borrowing a page from the Wu-Tang clan's aborted comic book venture, the musical group takes down some domestic terrorists (and what's funny is that group member Professor Griff probably really could do what you see here, as he's a licensed and experienced bounty hunter in what we laughingly refer to as "real life"). Unfortunately, the book devolves into self-congratulating back patting of the group's accomplishments and tags on an under-developed plot element of a runaway super soldier. However, the art is fun on the fight and concert scenes (not so much on some of the close ups -- what happened on the last page to tat guy? Sheesh), and seeing Flavor Flav kick somebody in the head is almost worth the price of admission by itself. There's just enough worth buying here that one can get past the didactic posturing and the disappointing absence of Terminator X (who's better suited for a comic book than he?). Oh and the "break beat special" is a wonderful homage.
Jump from the Read Pile. Also, a NOTE: The image shown here depicts events from the actual comic, but is not the image on the issue purchased. Guess what we think of that? Say it with us, children: "whatever." Cable versus the Great Lakes Champions (formerly the Great Lakes X-Men, formerly the Great Lakes Avengers, formerly the Lightning Rods ... ah, delightful) with a battle against the newest badass in the Marvel Universe (hearing her name will make you either shiver or giggle) and groping a super model in a way you'd never expect. Plus, best of all, Deadpool thinks he's talking in first person narration while he's actually speaking aloud through the whole issue (yes, it's "How can I tell them I have no inner monologue" all through, which rocks) and that's quite funny. Cable, however, just shows up to do a kind of cool "man behind the scenes" shtick as he opens his private island as a sanctuary for those seeking asylum from the Superhuman Registration Act. Deadpool tries to wrestle with the ideological ramifications of what he's doing (and being a goofball, he's not so good for that) while Daredevil quotes George Carlin (so loving that). Fun stuff in and of itself while respecting the madness going on in the "big game."
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Even with the marginal amount of lackluster material in "Public Enemy," it was a great -- if expensive -- week of comics.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
If it had stuck more closely to its metaphors and ideals instead of rushing through the big moments (like that assassination -- nice), "Freedom Fighters" #1 would be on the Buy Pile. Alas. "Daughters of the Dragon" #6 completely hauled ass to make a conclusion that was more satisfying than any of the preceding issues, so we'll call that "too little, too late." We find out that both Bruce Wayne and Tim Drake like The Clash in "Robin #152," but structurally the issue had the same problem many episodes of "Invincible" have in just kind of tossing out "stuff that happens" without an actual story behind the whole thing. "Eternals" #2 was the flip side of "Freedom Fighters," because something almost happens but Gaiman plays the atmosphere and ambiance too strongly in lieu of actual plot points. It was such a shock to hold the actual issue of "Red Star: Sword of Lies" that it was almost worth buying just to prove it happened, like a sighting of an issue of "Battle Chasers," but despite some really solid work in the second half of the issue, the dreary slow-mo-voiceover style opening just took too long to get to the point (kind of like "Eternals"). "Nova: Annihilation" #4 was the same thing as "Daughters of the Dragon," ending strong with a super clever battle between Nova and the vastly more powerful but apparently less clever Annihilus. "Elephantmen" #1 from Comicraft approached the almost cliched "what do you do with discarded super soldiers" question and invested it with a real dose of emotional resonance to it, which was quite a feat in such a small space, but the inherent goofiness of the images just overwhelmed the desire to buy it. "Ultimate X-Men" #72 had a fascinating last page twist, as did "Civil War #3" (but that development really makes no sense, the more you think about it) where Cap falls for the same old tricks because heroes are just plain predictable. "Superman/Batman" #28 was almost not stupid, with a real dangerous opponent that would take the skills of both of the World's Finest to topple (a powerful mystery element, not bad).
No, just ... no ...
"52" #11 says "Batwoman Begins?" Uh, no. You call that a death in "Runaways" #18? Lackluster and under-developed, even though the symmetry with a previous issue was cute. "Shadowpact" #3 could have been a lot better (Karnevil is delightful) without that cop-out ending (it's hard to write good magic using stories). "Civil War: X-Men" #1 was boring with a kind of "Bridge Over River Kwai" theme that should file for unemployment, because it ain't working. bart whines himself into activity in "Flash #2" in a "duh" moment. "Galactic Bounty Hunters" #1 is a creepy kind of meta attempt at cashing in on the King's legacy, and it can make you feel dirty just for picking it up. "Crisis Aftermath: Battle for Bludhaven" #6 brings back the ghosts of "Armageddon: 2001" (yes, we remember even that) to do what was always intended (according to rumor) while offing a major annoyance and going all Ken Connell on the city (points for all New Universe fans or people determined enough to spelunk through Wikipedia for that one). "Justice League of America" #0 was super confusing, jumping around in time and continuities like a hypertime tour bus, and despite the catalog of great artists, can't be saved to be considered at all coherent. What's up with stealing The Doctor's shtick in "Witchblade" #100? Seriously? Oh, and the impersonation in "Ion" #4? Again, no.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Despite the bad being really stupid, there was again enough good to shine through.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
A hard fought win against the forces of inadequacy.