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 APRIL 19TH, 2006
Ah, a comic that just does its job, or in its own words: "This is NextWave: Selling you a huge crazy mutant cop menacing an attractive young woman and calling it Fun." In this issue, a runaway weapon of H.A.T.E. (no need to cover that, it's done on the recap page -- which is damned funny) turns a corrupt cop into two different punchlines (one from "Tokyo Storm Warning" and the other from the dreams of most people living in disenfranchised neighborhoods) while breaking things and yelling a lot. The origin scene for The Captain is a high point, showing a very realistic look at how normal people would deal with getting super powers, and there's some fun quick banter-styled gags. The issue seemed to fly by, which wasn't good because it's like a quickie with somebody you really like -- you just want it to go on a bit longer. Nothing at all wrong here ... but you kind of wonder, "what craziness can they come up with next?"
Jump from the Read Pile.
NOTE: Since coming to CBR, the Buy Pile has eschewed using the first person in an attempt to get closer to true journalistic standards. That policy will be rescinded for the following review. Please remember to strap yourself in, and don't try this at home -- we're professionals.
In July 2005, I released a novel called The Crown: Ascension through a small Los Angeles-based publisher called Telepoetics. The male protagonist of this novel was a man who was wholly impervious to harm, superhumanly strong, could fly and who could command people (and animals, and possibly anything he could talk to that was alive) with his voice to do literally anything. In this issue of "Squadron Supreme," the nascent super team is tasked by the US government to take down a metahuman dictator in subequatorial Africa who's bulletproof, superhumanly strong and who can use his voice to command people -- including super people -- to do anything he wants. Now, even though I handed CB Cebulski a copy of that novel at Wizard World Rosemont in 2005, I have no reason to believe that anybody on this creative team ever saw it. People come up with similar ideas. Okay. But that coincidence is about ninety percent of why I brought this issue home, and that's a fact.
To the issue itself: it's an enjoyable yarn about the first mission for the team (and that term is used loosely) in which even a casual observer, even a drunken observer could see that this group of individuals has not only no cohesion and is certainly headed for disaster. Much like The Ultimates, this is a situation fraught with peril played out on a hugely public scale ... but this looks like it'll be a much more speedy downfall. Which, in a way, could bes a good thing. But it's too early in the story to tell whether it'll play out well or go toes up. But as always, Gary Frank and Jonathan Sibal turn in pretty art, and Chris Sotomayor's colors make things sing. Right.
Jump from the Read Pile. Another issue that's sum is less than the whole of its parts. In the last storyline, Tony Stark's exposure to the Extremis Virus (a performance enhancing pathogen that makes Iron Man about six times more impressive than he used to be). Got that? In doing so, it allows Tony one of the best super-genius multitask moments in comics history (while beating a new Crimson Dynamo, and no, they made no mention of the last, brilliant but doomed series, Stark can "spearhead a hostile takeover of Futurepharm, engineer a cooling system for our next generation rail-gun unit, and bid on a very nice ancient Cuirass breastplate"). The two pages that follow show Iron Man fighting in a really smart way, but his resolution of the situation is actually surprisingly harsh, leading to Tony getting dressed down by both Captain America and Nick Fury. However, in the background, somebody's aping Tony's modus operandi and whacking people around the world. Writers Daniel and Charles Knauf (new names?) handle the work with real deftness, with the able hands of Patrick Zircher and Scott Hanna taking care of business on the art side. Very interesting as part of a wave of people changing their minds about how superhero business is done (Green Arrow, Iron Man, maybe a few others).
Jump from the Read Pile. A mild surprise, worth keeping an eye on. The opening and closing pages of this issue made it worth buying all by themselves, but the pressure cooker stylings of Brubaker's terse plotting work well and Michael Lark shows a lot of the style and grace he used to be known for on "Gotham Central." The worst possible people to be in prison together are all, basically, trapped in one place with the controls of the "bulls" about as effective as military force is in quelling centuries old sectarian hatred. Matt Murdock's innocent act is unintentionally hilarious every time he speaks, and the hard lines of him when he sets it down are a great contrast. Out "in the world," Ben Urich keeps digging for a way to help Matt, and the parallels to "Prison Break" are overwhelming, down to the struggles between law enforcement and high ranking political powers. Worth watching.
Jump from the Read Pile. Looking back at Mitchell Hundred's run as The Great Machine, he's plagued by what could be one of the first super villains in this world. Worth seeing Chris Sprouse and Karl Story taking on the world of "Ex Machina," and while it interestingly covers both the mayoral and pre-mayoral periods, it seems to go by a bit too fast.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Not bad, but not a convincing win here. Plus, that voice thing is haunting ...
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Not sure if the return of Grant Morrison's greatest supervillain in "Birds of Prey" #93 is a good thing, but it's worth watching even though the plot was a bit messy. "Nova: Annihilation" #1 was the best of the batch so far, staying on story and being straight forward, but still wasn't strong enough to make the jump. "JlA Classified" #20 was only worth watching another Morrison-esque turn as the Batman stops playing capes and punches and takes things seriously -- was Simone reading some TPBs recently? The MacGuyver turn in "Sentinel Squad ONE" #4 was some kind of amusing, but not quite enough. "Justice" #5 would have made the jump if the super villains weren't already counting their chickens before they'd hatched, but boy with art like that it will make one hell of a trade. Oh, and Dan Slott's "Big Max" #1 was okay and open for all ages, but apes and monkeys just don't sell like they used to, and while all the relevant facts are here, they're not altogether compelling enough to justify spending money on.
No, just ... no ...
Mecha-inspired Serpentor in "GI Joe vs. Transformers Volume 3" #2 ... let's never speak of that again. All the shooting in "Captain America" #17 doesn't make Cap any less gullible, while "JSA Classified" #11 was origin-riffic, flashing back more than a closet full of throwback jerseys and sentimental memorabilia, but telling very little story and doing something so stupid at the end as to make your eyes cross. The new art on "Sable and Fortune" #4 is very distracting. Watching the title character relearn his detective roots was about all that worked in "Robin" #149, which was less believable than the police station escape in "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City."
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Uh, it was kind of ugly this week.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Gotta call it a loss due to some intriguing but ultimately problematic issues in the purchases weighing the whole week down.