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 MARCH 29TH, 2006
Godland #9 (Image Comics)
Delightful lunacy. While the lead character Adam Archer engages in some possibly well-deserved navel gazing over learning The Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything (and it's not 42, as previously believed), his envious younger sister is involved in something big, and quite probably bad. There's a zany bit with a group called the Triad which is reminiscent of Adam Warlock, Pip and Gamora waking up in new bodies ... not sure what that's all about, but it's zany. Wackiest of all is Basil Discordia -- the head of one antagonist strapped on to the body of another, just to twist the nipples of a third. Madness. This issue does little by way of narrative clarity or connecting the dots, but like a roller coaster, the ride is still enjoyable and worth every second.
All-Star Superman #3 (DC Comics)
With this issue and the last, it is truly a week of wonders. Superman gives Lois a one-day dose of his own powers, and that was all fine until Samson (the biblical figure) and Atlas (the Titan of myth) show up like a kooky buddy comedy gone awry. The mystically powered adventurers find a newly metahuman Lois enchanting, and that leads to time traveling trouble and more testosterone-per-panel than this reviewer has seen for some time. Morrison has such a simple yet effective grasp on the why behind Superman that he is (slowly, with Frank Quietly's methodical pace) forging a new path in the footsteps of the past. The matter-of-factness with which his Kal-El approaches historical superheroes and "a reptile invasion from earth's core" makes it all the more wonderful, his affection for Lois so crisp that it seems like it was broadcast in HD. Just an overwhelmingly entertaining comic book.
The New Avengers Illuminati Special (Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Conspiracy theorists would have a field day with this intimate, talky but ultimately fascinating one-shot. Tony Stark. Stephen Strange. Chuck Xavier. Reed Richards. Black Bolt. Namor. T'challa. All sitting down around a table and calmly discussing some of the most dangerous events in Marvel history. That's fascinating all by itself. But with Namor and T'challa making grave pronouncements like "There is a reason the Skrulls had such an easy time trying to turn the world against its heroes. Because deep down everyone knows that this could happen. And now it has. You just decided all by yourselves that you are the earth's protectors. And that you, and only you, not your teammates or family, are trustworthy enough to include in the process ... what happens when you disagree? When one of these earth-changing moments finds you at odds with each other, here in a secret meeting? Walk away now." To see these characters kind of go at each other from a philosophical (and on one instance physical) fashion is riveting. The best passage belongs to Black Bolt, three panels without a single word. It makes the "Civil War" preview in the back make much more sense as this is the sort of internecine madness that one could say has been brewing under the Marvel universe for decades. A revelation.
Lucifer #72 (Vertigo/DC Comics)
You may not hear the strains of Semisonic's "Closing Time" as you thumb through these pages, but Lucifer is closing down all of his business in this new unified creation, one freed of the presence and influence of his father and one without any conception of a Hell ("I'm going to be leaving soon. Alone ... because I've exhausted the possibilities. I've been the government and the dissident. Both palled."). Left to his own devices, he simply collects his things and looks for a way out of this new universe, ruled by his niece Elaine Belloc. This means saying his goodbyes, which goes well and not-so-well, as Carey's delicate use of language works through an issue that could feel like the end of the series ... but it's not. A very intimate, very interesting issue.
Marvel Romance Redux: Guys and Dolls (Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. The kind of sheer whimsy here, where today's creators remix old romance stories in a method that's so entertaining that even Frank Tieri can delight. There are no fewer than six laugh out loud moments here, with Jimmy Palmiotti's story being the apex of a solid set, with so much goofiness that even trying to describe the nuttiness here takes away from it. A "funny book" in the truest sense of the word, and well worth your three bucks.
Blue Beetle #1 (DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. The superheroics here are fairly de rigueur but the flashbacks showing who Jaime Reyes is are simply fascinating, quick brush strokes that illuminate character (and even supporting cast) with a deftness that combines Giffen's skill at plotting with Rogers' ability to quickly win over audiences (in his blog, Rogers talks about learning that from his stand-up history). Cully Hamner shows a surprising tenderness in the flashback shots, and this is suddenly a comic to watch -- who knew?
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Three jumps are already a good sign, but for everything to be this great ... fantastic stuff.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
The drunken, sad mess that is "Queen & Country" #29 is almost tragic as Tara Chase suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and the reader suffers alongside her (although it does have a kind of "Demon in a Bottle" appeal). "JLA Classified" #19 was close to making the mark, with General Tuzik reading from the Hunter the White Wolf handbook of modern super villainy (see Christopher Priest for references), Wonder Woman taking on the Chinese army and Starro under lock and chain -- better art might do the trick. "Iron Man" #6 is balls-to-the-wall action rendered like a series of paintings. Tony Stark's confidence is fascinating, but it makes you wonder why it took six issues to "upgrade." "Action Comics" #837 makes the "Metropolis without Superman" story a bit more interesting, as Clark's crusading reporter shtick makes him actually think for a change. "Sentry" #7 pulls the Dani Moonstar Method in a very convincing way, since we already suspect that the Sentry is crazy. Nobody can make a show of power work like John Romita, Jr. and this issue was no exception -- all getting terribly close to the mark, but somehow missing it through the sheer muddled nature of the premise. Dan Slott did everything right in "Thing" #5, but having the billionaire struggle with the never-changing nature of Yancy Street seemed just too mundane to make it work.
No, just ... no ...
"Superman/Batman" #24 throws in everything, including the kitchen sink, and none of it works, as Clark and Bruce go all "Sliders" and Joker and Mxy make another ill-advised team up (which spells "R-E-S-E-T"). Doom walking up with no explanation after his last amazingly wild defeat kind of robbed the fairly tense "Fantastic Four" #536 of a lot of its punch (a world leader comes back and nobody knows? Argh). "Green Lantern #10" is -- of course -- embarrassing as Hal chases super villains into hostile nations and Ollie cashes in a Hypocrisy Card to dress him down for it. There's a very stupid yellow-related moment, and the idea that "dead Lanterns" are back is addressed in a wholly new and wholly stupid way that makes almost every moment Hal was on Oa seem violently illogical. "New Universe: Psi Force" was the least sucky of the batch, with a fairly normal depiction of the pre-spy era kids that sadly makes a lot of the later issues make no sense if it should be taken "in continuity."
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
It's sad to say that the stupid was so overwhelming that it eclipsed the very thin accomplishments of the work that did get Honorable Mentions.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Three jumps and tolerable reads will ultimately beat even the idiocy of "Superman/Batman" and "Green Lantern," so we'll call it a thin win.