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 8TH, 2006
In the 2017 edition of the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary, next to the definition for the term "pop comics," you will see a "NextWave" logo with a photo of Warren Ellis, drinking whiskey. This issue goes fast, as in "wowdidyouseewhattheyheyit'soveralready" fast. The characters are spot on with their bullet point characteristics -- Tabitha yammers on a cell phone about celebutante pap while she's supposed to be alert, Elsa Bloodstone drives on the wrong side of the road while shooting and ranting insanely. and virtually every panel in this issue zips along with an almost spastic glee. Which is a good thing, but doesn't keep your attention for very long.
On either the last page, or four pages prior, things start to look a smidge worrisome. This is not to say that there is a shark in evidence, let alone that there is any indication of anybody doing any jumping, but things that happen here are patently not kosher. Now, Waid and Kitson have reforged the future of the DC Universe with such deftness and skill that they surely deserve a bit of slack while they factor in the overall "OYL" changes in the entire line. The Waid/Kitson Reboot Period (W/KRP) has given us at minimum fourteen amazing issues (issue fifteen doesn't count since it was all elseworlds and old continuities) with as much wonder and youthful glee as almost anything from the classic periods. So here, as Kara Zor-El has one of the most impressive and poster-worthy entrances in recent comics history, the Legion is filled with the swagger of virtual invulnerability from prosecution. All the fun elements of the series are in place as they apprehend a fake Science Police officer and work on rebuilding their shattered home. But the bewildering conundrum presented by this issue's conclusion leaves fans hanging, waiting for next month's issue to clear up this conundrum.
In a somewhat chatty issue, Black Panther ties in Malcolm X and a moment with the elder Panther King when he tells Luke Cage about why he's decided no one but Ororo Monroe will do. Hudlin's normal command of dialogue continues to shine through, while Scot Eaton and Klaus Janson turn in solid but not spectacular artwork. More enjoyable in small moments -- T'Challa's baiting a rival, Luke Cage admitting Ororo wouldn't go out with him, Logan and T'Challa not liking one another -- than as a complete product. Still, that's beating the hell out of most comics on the stands, so that's solid enough to buy.
Back in the world of pop comics, this sexy, sassy issue perfectly balances great action with snappy dialogue and actual pathos (from Race) ... whose memories conveniently match up with the original Race, who died, and this alternate universe Race came in to ... oh, never mind. Anyway, everything moves quickly but this issue is jam packed with character development and content anyway, a harmonious blending that writer Jay Faerber seems to accomplish effortlessly. As noted in previous reviews, Fran Bueno gets better and more confident with every single panel, and his composition and visual storytelling are gaining both scale and intimacy. A great work in terms of craft and a fun issue in terms of plot twists and developments.
X-Factor #5 (Marvel Comics)
The clearest word for this issue is "creepy." Siryn falls into the clutches of a depowered mutant who has some fairly serious psychological issues, with the Irish heroine trapped in an abandoned theatre. An unlikely person comes to her rescue and almost ends up bleeding all over the stage in a story that's very intimate and very disturbing. There's not a lot that can be said about this very well done but very unsettling issue that's done like a thriller and showcases Dennis Calero in a way that'd make Michael Lark proud (with great assistance from the moody colors of Jose Villarrubia). Good ... but maybe uncomfortable to read multiple times.
Rex Mundi #17 (Image Comics)
Further down the rabbit hole as the good Dr. Julian shows some surprising abilities, a huge fight with a golem gets messy, and there's much to be answered for. The "wait for the trade" mentality is the death of monthly comics financially in many cases, but this intricate and involved story is very difficult to follow if you don't catch yourself up. Even the brief recap at the beginning can't take the reader back to the Cimitere du Montmarte, which was the location of an event of some importance in the past that's not immediately noticeable. Surely even the newest readers could come in and get caught up, like a new viewer of 24 or Lost finds their way. The uphill climb is surely worth it with this consistently engaging and brilliantly executed work ... but it's still an uphill climb.
She-Hulk #6 (Marvel Comics)
Starfox is on the cover and love is in the air as Dan Slott brings so much of his "A" game to this issue of She-Hulk that it's mind-boggling. There's a great Pretty In Pink metaphor woven in to the start, and a surprisingly romantic moment at the end between two characters that surely would surprise you. It's all a part of the madness as Starfox is accused of using his pheromone-based powers to sexually assault a somewhat unlikely partner ... but his powers (and his enthusiasm) may be causing too much trouble to make it possible for his defense to proceed. Will Conrad may take some shortcuts on faces in a panel or two, but his realistic art style is much more appropriate for this story (called "Beaus and Eros") than that of the regular artist. A savvy and silly story that hits all the right buttons, in a virtually uninterrupted line of them.
Jeremiah Harm #2 (Boom! Studios)
Jump from the Read Pile. It's another fascinating project from the little company that could, as Keith Giffen and Alan Grant craft an engrossing narrative that somehow makes Rael Lyra's jerky and Aeon Flux-ish artwork just about right. The title character gets two medical professionals up to speed pretty quickly as three deeply dangerous extraterrestrials go to town in New York City, and even if this is your first issue (it was for this reviewer), you're pretty quickly brought in -- Harm is a badass, his prey are not nice people either, and all hell is breaking loose -- with a deft hand and sure plotting. A nice surprise.
Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z: Copperhead to Ethan Edwards (Marvel Comics)
Continuing the cavalcade of the forgotten and freakish, this issue continues weird choices (the very busy and involved Copycat getting a three paragraph entry, while The Crazy Eight got five ... and Death's entry doesn't even mention Thanos) while delighting all the way. A guy named Dazzler? Tons of info on both Death's Heads? Even Debrii sneaking in? A fun and expanded catch-up on Doom's abandoned empire (that fool! The vibranium! The nukes! Gaaaah) on Counter-Earth (the Franklin Richards one, not the High Evolutionary one). All good crazy, and all simply delightful. Worth the snubs and slights, by a huge margin.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Expensive, but so worth it, with not a clunker in the bunch.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Did DC slow down their output this week? "Ultimate Fantastic Four" #29 so codifies the 99th Rule of Acquisition as wonder turns to horror with almost predictable speed. "American Way" #2 takes the road of new ideas and real world applications, getting closer to being good enough to buy with snappy dialogue and intriguing plot developments -- not the most ambitious pace for a mini, but ah well. "Robin" #148 brings in a new writer and new problems as the Boy Wonder is allowed to clean up his own messes. "New Avengers" #17 has a confusing antagonist and a confused finale, while T'Challa's appearance was a bit too coincidental (even for a "shared" universe) in the uneven "Storm" #2. Murdock Gone Wild is the central theme of "Daredevil" #83 as the fat man simply considers things. "Squadron Supreme" #1 is JLA-riffic, right down to the unfindable and quite Bat-like Nighthawk with an unpredictable superman (lowercase "S") at the core.
No, just ... no ...
The Vandal Savage history lesson in "JSA Classified" #10 was tedious and unimpressive (he slaughtered descendants for organs? Eww!), the Bucky nostalgia in "Captain America" #16 was almost as bad as when he cried into the flag (wussy), "Sable & Fortune" #3 fell to the Read Pile with art that sometimes shined and sometimes fell down on the job with a plot that read like "She-Spies." "Supreme Power: Hyperion" #5 was just a little too easy, trying to lay ground for "Squadron Supreme" but ultimately just hitting the reset button.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
No significant problems -- even the bad stuff was kind of entertaining.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Given the amazing number of great stories, it would be impossible to call this anything short of an amazingly great week of comics.