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 MAY 24TH, 2006
The most important thing to say about this issue is how fun and whimsical Waid has made Kara Zor-El. Apparently, during the madness of the Rann/Thanagar War, she was literally blown through time to pop up in the middle of the Legion's future. Why she thinks this is all a dream in her head is not in evidence yet, but as a character she's positively kooky, and that's a good thing, as it helps counterbalance the real horrors lying underneath a shiny future devoid of any passion. Chameleon shows some real inspiration with his "undercover" work, Ultra Boy is wonderfully boyish, clearly showing a big crush on his historical teammate, and Braniac 5 is probably stark raving mad (but not in a Computo way ... yet). A super fun issue which shows a world with a history that doesn't begin and end with the twenty first century, with (as always) Barry Kitson's delightfully open and optimistic artwork showcasing the future in the best possible way.
Jennifer's transformation problem is solved in the first three pages (and is another bit of fallout from the House of M), while her boyfriend is put in a difficult position by two authority figures he respects. Rage and Justice come to press a legal matter, wrought with angst over the deaths and tragedy of their teammates, but the court case brings up shades of the Zacarias Moussaoui trial, replete with grieving relatives. A smart and complex issue that in a mere 22 pages examines all the possible ramifications and perspectives of the Civil War crossover while still providing an entertaining issue, contained within just these pages. Fine work from Slott and Smith.
Jamie's nemesis at Singularity Investigations attempts some aggressive negotiations (somewhere between Bill Gates and Darth Vader) to start and end the book (nice narrative framing device) while Siryn shrugs off some bad news, an X-Man makes a cameo, and while there's precious little actually happening, what does happen is of great dramatic relevance and both Jamie and Siryn get some real moments to shine. Ariel Olivetti's artwork is perfect for this noir mood, so somber and moody, completed by Jose Villarubia's downbeat coloring. Fascinating process work.
There's only one bit of arguable violence in this issue, and that manages to be somehow sweet and funny all at the same time (dead bodies notwithstanding). Ororo and T'Challa are sending out holographic "save the date" invitations, and it's got literally everybody talking. The scenes in Wakandan barber shops and beauty shops were particularly smart, showing the everyday Wakandan outside of bowing down to the king. Best of all, the announcement brings all kinds of historical Panther nutcases out of hiding, and for even their one page pronouncements, they're worth the cameo. The emotional centerpiece plays a little too quickly, somehow, but there was a lot of ground to cover in this issue, so perhaps that's forgivable. This issue covers a lot of ground and a lot of talking heads, but does so in such short spates that you're kept guessing "what's next?" and just following along. Dean White's coloring was a bit somber for this issue (except for the French and "somewhere in Africa" scenes), but strong work from Scot Eaton and Klaus Janson makes it work anyway.
One of the nuttiest books on the stands, this book succeeds in its details (much like the digressions in "Family Guy"), with delightful terms like the War Garden or the hilarious flashbacks with Captain America and Cable. The specific profane terms bleeped out in the Celestial flashback were a bit confusing, but it doesn't slow down the whimsy nor detract from the enjoyment of the issue. Between what's growing in the War Garden, the "widdle cuddly bears ... of death" and samurai robots, literally every page in this issue has something weird or wrong (in a fun way) and that's just about perfect. Wildly entertaining.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Five virtually flawless comics? That's a good sign, moving forward ...
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
"Checkmate" #2 almost made it home with a tense issue hearkening back to the days when Stormwatch was being threatened with shut down by the UN, using a tone close to the classic days of "Queen and Country" and delineating the jobs of each side of the board (white for politics, black for ops). Sadly, it was a bit too talky and a bit too scattered to get the job done. "Daredevil" #85 clearly shows something of a crush on Michael Scoffield, with alliances being struck on the exercise yard and the Kingpin calm and steady in his purpose -- again, close, but no cigar due to being so openly derivative and so little actually happening (Punisher shows up and nobody dies? WTH?). "Blue Beetle" #3 didn't make it because it's not a good thing for the reader to be as mixed up as the discombobulated lead. The rift with the mother was well done, the learning curve and talking to the armor was cute, but it's hard to get a read on any character but the lead, and that's a problem in retaining interest in pages where nobody gets punched. Tony Stark's distraction leads "Iron Man" #8 to be a bit more scattered than the previous issue, with another suit of armor following some brutal imperative. Two major villains make a swipe at returning to greatness in "Birds of Prey" #94 and "52" #3 (which had the added bonus of Black Adam throwing down the gauntlet) but that's really all either issue had going for it. A surprising and ill-defined force caused a problem for "Squadron Supreme" #3, which closes up shop on the storyline so fast that one could almost miss it, but you get a great look at Dr. Burbank and the trouble he could easily become with his "JLA: Tower of Babel" methodology. There was nothing wrong with "Secret Six" #1, but there was nothing particularly right either as the team gains and loses a member, still reeling from vengeful thoughts spinning out of the Infinite Crisis. The same could be said of "New Avengers" #19, where the Law of Conservation of Energy is observed in a high flying issue that also shows Spidey and the Young Avengers' Vision getting arrested and probed. "American Way" #4 proved a rift right for the times as a home-grown problem runs amok (a cautionary tale, perhaps) in a brutal issue that doesn't pull any punches but doesn't really get anywhere in 22 pages. Finally, "Wolverine" #42 doesn't do anything special as Logan centers himself on vengeful justice, hell bent on chasing down the spark that ignited the Civil War and relying so heavily on the built in cliches of the character that it could have been written via Madlibs.
No, just ... no ...
The problem with not killing villains is that they always, always show up again, which leads "Green Lantern" #11 to resurrect ghosts perhaps best left dead on a Borg-styled robot world hidden in a nebula, powered by a shtick right out of Waid and Kitson's "Empire." Nothing about anybody involved in "Ronan: Annihilation" #2 makes any sense, from the central antagonist going native to Ronan's lunatic quest for frontier justice and going all Roland of Gilead while missing a new major player pulling the strings. "Villains" #1 was nothing special at all, aping Oeming's Powers art but not doing as good a job as one chooses to apprentice in the field. Both "JSA Classified" #12 and "Teen Titans" #36 could have left well enough alone, with the Doom Patrol going all Jonestown in an uncomfortable way and Vandal Savage borrowing a page from Hush in tricking Sentinel.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
The good was way better than the bad, even though the shop never got their shipment of "Buckaroo Banzai" #1, causing store owner Steve LeClare to stand outside, shaking his fist at the sky and screaming, "DIIIIIAMONNNNNNNNDDDDDDD!"
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Easily working its way into the win column with even a set of reads where a smidge of difference in any of a number of books could have led to jumps, and the actual purchases hauling ass like a dump truck full of strippers.