| operative network | writing archive: columns - reviews - interviews - features

hannibal tabu's column archive

Poetry: The Power of Words 2010

Posted in awesomeness, creativity, culture, entertainment, poetry on July 30th, 2010 by Hannibal Tabu
poetry header image

This just handed to me … here’s the copy for the flyer announcing the next time you can see me reading poetry live!

Hannibal Tabu reads at The Power of Words 2010

Hannibal Tabu reads in Redondo Beach at The Power of Words 2010

Hear for Yourself
The Power of Words
Poetry with Pizazz Read Right Out Loud

Saturday, August 14, 2-3 pm, only
Main Stage
Followed Immediately by Writing Workshop

REDONDO BEACH ART GROUP
5th Annual Power of Art
Celebrating Three Days of the Arts
August 13-15, 2010

Contemporary art exhibit, music, dance, poetry, workshops, storytelling and fashion
All events are free to the public except for Saturday wine tasting.

Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center
1935 Manhattan Beach Boulevard
(Corner of Aviation Blvd.)
Redondo Beach 90278

For more information and complete schedule of events,
visit www.redondobeachartgroup.org

My plan is to read some new and old stuff (“Salsa Con Soul Food” will be read, and maybe something older and romantic to lighten the mood) and then stick around for the workshop because I don’t get to do that often enough.

I hope to have chapbooks for sale (likely the previously out-of-print Born Beneath An Angry Star) as well. I should be sober. For a while, anyway.

See you there!

UPDATED: There will be limited edition CDs for sale, my Inspiration House bootleg from 2002 (more info) updated with new pieces, including “Salsa Con Soul Food.” Probably $5. FYI.

Playing (Music): “Feeling Myself” by Nipsey Hu$$le

Post to Twitter

Tags: , , , , ,

Commentary Track for the July 28th Buy Pile

Posted in 104, awesomeness, bad ideas, black panther, blackest night, blame society, buy pile, cobra, comics, comics reviews, dc, g.i. joe, review, snark, wonder woman on July 29th, 2010 by Hannibal Tabu
buy pile commentary track header image

Every week I do a column full of comic book reviews as I’ve done since March 2003 and currently published at Comic Book Resources. Then, after the reviews post, I try to come over to my blog and expand on the thoughts and ideas listed there. Sometimes it’s profound, sometimes it’s gibberish, but it’s always about comics … let’s see what we get this week!

What? This week’s reviews

As noted, the reviews from last week did not post on CBR, and the apparent cause was that somebody didn’t check an email address that I was allegedly told to stop using. I can’t find any record of that communication, but time marches on and waits for nobody to complain about some old isht.

I already hyped up the big movie deal struck by Stranger Comics for their new (and as yet unpublished) property The Untamed, which has a host of big names involved (produced by Lloyd Levin from Watchmen and Andrew Sugerman from the very creepy, very involving Shopgirl, plus Eureka creator Andrew Cosby directing and Matrix effects guru Ken Locsmandi making with the pretty). This week, I dropped a blog on the fixation on the lone anti-hero and why that’s important culturally for Stranger Comics’ blog. Big things developing over there, and I’m keeping my eye on it.

Now, this week’s comics … yuck. I’m tempted to cover last week, let’s see …

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: I use some terms in the reviews that may not have a definition posted, and you can get a look at some of my rules, gleaned from a lifetime of consuming fiction as well as my training as a writer. They are as follows …

TV GOOD: When you’re flipping through channels and you land on something that looks interesting enough to sit and watch. You might even set a TiVo for it or add it to a Hulu queue. The point is that it’s good enough to enjoy if it doesn’t make you go to any extraordinary lengths: it’s not a pay-per-view, it’s not a premium service like On Demand, it’s just on the TV you have and you are willing to look at it as long as it doesn’t cost you anything extra or make you work for it. Many “okay” comics fall in this category for me (and therefore for the column). Often used in conjunction with or in place of “not bad.”

PLOT’S NOT TIGHT/DRIFTING: There are comics that feel perfectly balanced on each and every page. Most of the issues of Dingo for example or a couple of Astro City pieces (the one with Beautie, for certain, and the Infidel’s dinner with the Samaritan). On the other hand, there are issues that start strong and peter out near the end (the first issue of that recent Black Widow series) or ones that chatter on endlessly without having any real story beats (most Avengers books) or hit plot points without making them mean anything through characterization (a lot of Kirkman books like Invincible). Those are all examples where a plot tune up is needed, likely by a more certain editorial hand (and many of the sure editorial hands have seen their workloads increased while the number of assistants they can call on diminishes).

THE TRAILER PARK THEORY: This was huge through DC’s onslaught (52 and Darkest Night/Brightest Day in particular). It goes like this. Show a few pages of something happening to somebody. Move on. Martian Manhunter gloomily considers his past, and gets an idea to go somewhere to check something out. Cut to the new Black Aqualad standing dreadlocked in the middle of a desert looking around like “WTH?” Cut to Hawk punching somebody and Dove looking worried. Cut to Aquaman and Mera with some oceanic backdrop. Cut to some supposedly suspenseful scene with Aliveman or Whiterstorm. End comic book. That’s not a story. That’s a series of movie trailers, stapled together and sold for three or four bucks. Not cool. It’s like decompression’s ADHD little cousin.

BALANCE OF BANTER AND BASHING: A good comic compels. There are issues of Transmetropolitan that had literally nothing but people talking, yet contained such dramatic tension that it didn’t matter. The average capes-and-masks book needs to balance action scenes (mostly melee combat, but you can make with a good chase scene or even a particularly thrilling rescue) with plot development/character scenes (talking/working on stuff in labs/pointing at the sky/fixing stuff/et cetera). Balancing this is hard. I went to college to learn it and still stumble. When it happens it’s amazing. When it misses wildly it can disappoint or break your heart. There’s a lotta ground in between.

RETROGRADE: Let’s say you started reading comics in the early 1990s. Let’s say, suddenly, you have a chance to write for a major comics company. You start pitching a story where a super powered team of misfits who sometimes have problems getting along work for the government, bringing down the bad guys. Or, as many people would call it, “X-Factor” or “Stormwatch” or “many iterations of The Avengers” or “Suicide Squad,” et cetera, ad nauseum. Does your approach have a really unique spin (don’t say “Some characters are gay!” or I’ll scream “The Authority, in their Stormwatch days” and don’t say “they’re people of color!” because I can dig through and find some examples of that, just probably not from major companies)? What’s different about your approach, so much so that it’s worth my money?

What’s that? You just wanna retell the stories you grew up on, adding gratuitous violence, pop culture references or prurient content for shock value to show how extreme and hip you are? I’m sorry, we already have The Ultimate Universe. BE ORIGINAL … or as original as you can be, or I’ll label your work “retrograde,” meaning “been there, done that, no improvements found here.” To be fair, there’s nothing new under the sun, but even when Image Comics asked me to come up with a way to have “Luke Cage done right” I changed almost everything I could, from geography to family to power set to source of the powers. That never got made, but whatever, let’s stay on target here!

PEDESTRIAN: I don’t remember when I first saw a fan image of Hal Jordan as a White Lantern, but I do recall that it was at least six months before it actually happened in a real comic book. If plot elements are that easy to predict, that far out, then it feels like anybody could be coming up with this stuff, as common as any of the feet falling on concrete and blacktop.

MOMENTUM: You’re telling a story, and you somehow manage to draw the crowd in (doesn’t matter how, be it stunning visuals or intriguing developments or an action sequence that grabs you by the throat, flips you over and has its way with you, like the first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan). Once you’ve captivated them, you veer off into a nineteen point dissertation on procedural points for a fictional governing body. In developing your story, you might need to know those details and intricacies, but unless you’re producing a reference work, your reader probably doesn’t need to. Stay on target. Keeping momentum once you have it helps create those “I couldn’t put it down!” kind of reads, and those are far too few in the comics world, IMNSHO.

NAZIS/ZOMBIES/PIRATES: Sorry, if I see any of these types of characters, my eyes starts to glaze over. The Nazis perpetrated the largest atrocities of the twentieth century, and were the last people to help push an entire world towards war with their fascism. This is the twenty first century. Terror is the enemy, whether your opponent is a suicide bomber, a Predator drone or a paunchy cop with a bad attitude. It’s a new day, and the horrors of yesteryear served their purpose. I believe in looking forward while still being able to remember what happened before.

BUY ON SIGHT: The opposite of the above. For example, Fables has consistently been the best series on the stand … like for years. I pick it up and I have a reasonable expectation of a level of entertainment worth the money. I’ve come to trust the series and its creative team, and rarely has that trust been misplaced. On the other hand, Wonder Woman has barely been interesting since the Embassy days, and then it was a thin margin. I have no trust, so each issue must try to win me over, as I want to like everything I pick up. Yes, that means I live with a lot of disappointment. I deal.

If three issues in a row are worth owning, I label a series “buy on sight.” If three issues in a row of a “buy on sight” title are bad, I drop that designation. Simple rule. I’ve been waiting for, say, X-Factor to quit messing around in third gear and haul ass like it used to, becoming a “buy on sight” title again. Ditto Legion of Super Heroes and G0dland. Off the top of my head, some “buy on sight” titles include …

  • Invincible Iron Man
  • Secret Six
  • Doomwar (although it needs a kick in the pants, and I’m not sure Deadpool is it)
  • Almost anything that is from the Astro City line
  • Gravel (took a while to get there)
  • The Great Ten
  • Almost any book with Amadeus Cho as a lead character

There’s probably more, but those leap to mind easily. I’m not in much of a mood to go with the “ones that almost never get it right” list.

More than I expected there, but that should help me when people ask me repetitive questions. I do love a good reference work.

WHAT ABOUT THE ACTUAL COMICS YESTERDAY, JACKASS? Oh, right, sorry. Interrogator was cooler than his name, and I liked that a lot (much like the reworkings of Xamot and Tomax — that’s a way to avoid being “retrograde”). Deep Six is an underwater version of Tripwire without having any of his motivations revealed. It could do better.

Kieron Gillen has a great grasp on Thor as a character and keeping the Asgardians in an awe-creating position but making them relatable as well. There’s no simple definitive like last issue’s matter-of-fact “To Hell,” but Mephisto is a delight, as was (honestly) Ultimate Captain Marvel. Less “drift” could have helped both. (I like this reference system already, I should put anchor links in … and done).

Incorruptible is literally inches away from being a “buy on sight” book.

I am afraid that Artifacts is too ambitious.

The Black Cat book made me wanna check out the show Leverage. Well, that and the Kung Fu Monkey blogs about it.

BEFORE I FORGET … Oh, did wanna note from las: week: there was a bit about ancient Egyptian (once called “Kemetic”) spirituality in Prince of Power #3 where Sekhmet was transformed into “Hathor” (it’s really “Het Heru,” but the Kemetic approach to vowels often confounds westerners), which was mostly accurate except for the fact that the Kemetic goddess of love actually has the head of a cow. Making that work visually, transforming a lion-headed angry goddess into a nice cow-headed one … that would have been tough. Sure, she looked like Bast (who’s been revealed as the 616’s universe’s Panther God for the Wakandans), but I can actually allow that one.

Okay, screw that noise, off I go.

Playing (Music): “Thank God” by Malcolm & Martin

Post to Twitter

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The Missing Buy Pile Comic Reviews for July 21st 2010

Posted in awesomeness, buy pile, comics, comics reviews, creativity, effectiveness, entertainment, g.i. joe, snark, work, writing on July 29th, 2010 by Hannibal Tabu
comics topic header image

NOTE: So, for reasons I don’t know and honestly don’t care about, my reviews didn’t post on CBR last week. What do I think of that sort of thing? “Invoice for it and post it on your own site — that’s what freedom is all about!” So, a week late and no dollars short, here’s reviews written in the shadow of SDCC, while #notatcomicon.

On the eve of the year’s biggest con, comics turn out okay with Deadpool getting crafty, Larry Hama remixing the classics, Amadeus Cho being himself and more in a week that wins handily.

On the eve of the year’s biggest con, comics turn out okay with Deadpool getting crafty, Larry Hama remixing the classics, Amadeus Cho being himself and more in a week that wins handily.

WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/jackass on Twitter) goes to a comic book store called Comics Ink in Culver City, CA (Overland and Braddock — hey Steve, Jason, Vince and Quislet) and grabs a whole lotta comics. These periodicals are quickly sorted (how?) into two piles — the “buy” pile (a small pile most weeks, comprised of planned purchases) and the “read” pile (often huge, often including comics that are really crappy but have some value to stay abreast of). Thursday afternoons you’ll be able to get his thoughts (and they’re just the opinions of one guy, so calm down) about all of that … which goes something like this …

THE BUY PILE FOR JULY 21ST, 2010

Deadpool #25 (Marvel Comics)

Whatever you think is happening, you’re probably wrong. With the reintroduction of an old Deadpool character and a plot that twists and turns like an exotic dancer, where only the truly insane has any idea about what’s happening. Vegas is a complicated town, but with a great “Star Wars” quote and a Kansas City Shuffle that really is delightful to watch this leads to Deadpool getting just what he wanted … which is often not what people really expect. Daniel Way’s script is witty while the artwork from Carlo Barberi, Juan Vlasco and Marte Gracia is both clear (through some obfuscation, a real trick) and engaging. Another consistent and effective issue for this very reliable creative team.

G.I. Joe, A Real American Hero #156 (IDW Publishing)

Jump from the Read Pile Not exactly picking up where the Marvel series left off, Cobra has managed to work their way into a Haliburton/Blackwater kind of position which is wonderfully woven into the current state of national security paranoia. The Joe team — the classic one, from the 1980s action figure line — is being hunted and made into outlaws. Without any of the colorful personalities that made Cobra so goofy and only using their wonderfully subversive elements (preying on the disaffected, sleeper agents planted all over the country), property veteran Larry Hama immediately made the old relevant again, showcasing the lethal talents of familiar characters while making Cobra’s threat pervasive and important (while admittedly focusing far more on plot than character). Art from Agustin Padilla and J. Brown works especially well on the laconic killers of G.I. Joe and Cobra, and this managed to combine a sense of nostalgia while embracing the challenges of counter terrorism in today’s environment.

Prince of Power #3 (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile Amadeus Cho, you brilliant bastard, you. Even with the strong arm of Thor at his side, the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet is murderously unhappy. Amadeus’ ability to mock divinities where it really hurts is virtually Peter Parker-esque in its uncanny knack of unsettling whoever he’s facing while being fairly well researched about them at the same time. There’s a sub plot that’s perfectly presented, featuring Amadeus’ Gorgon-esque Delphyne and Athena, that has another great callback to action movies long gone. Great quips, smart plot and pitch perfect pacing in a brilliant script from Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente with evocative artwork from Reilly Brown, Zach Howard, Terry Pallot and Val Staples.

NOTE: In retrospect, there was a pretty big mistake in the manifestation of Egyptian spirituality, but it did make it mildly funny and would have been more confusing to explain the way it really was.  Vaguely allowable for how much was done correctly.

X-Men: Phoenix Force Handbook (Marvel Comics)

Yes, it’s another handbook. Yes, it is weird to have Alfie O’Meagan included, but nothing about the recent developments for Storm. The entry about Hope means that you could easily skip the entire “Second Coming” crossover, while … who, there was a dude Phoenix in the future? Not sure why there’s so much Excalibur-related stuff in here, except that sometimes these handbooks predict what’s to come as well as what’s recently happened. In any cases, as handbooks go it’s plenty authoritative while not being as ridiculous or entertaining as some others.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Three very solid reads and one solid reference work.

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it’s not good enough to buy

“Avengers” #3 had good moments of characterization scattered amidst a whirlwind of apparently inane activity. Maybe Brian Michael Bendis is paid per story beat, because this issue sure tried hard to jam in as many as possible. In the quieter moments — Spider-Man, Noh-Varr and Spider-Woman on the wall outside, for example — this comic worked well. An alternate timeline Apocalypse with mutated heroes as Horsemen? Not so much.

Alan Moore is back with “Neomonicon” #1, and it’s a very well-done supernatural procedural, focused on two partners struggling with challenges of personal and professional in nature. If one were interested in procedurals, this would be a guaranteed good time as there’s great chemistry between the two leads and there’s tons of easter eggs for anyone familiar with the word “Cthulhu.”

“X-Factor” #207 was close to making it home, as Hela walks through the detective agency door as the noir-est of femme fatales in a mystery that had some meat on it. Unfortunately, it was saddled with side stories involving Baron Mordo and a pillow while Shatterstar and Rictor make some discoveries. There was just too much going on to validate the very, very good lead story, and while each piece had its good qualities, they all kind of crowded each other out.

“Batman Beyond” #2 was very much like the animated series, remixing and re-presenting old Gotham City villains with a rough-hewn new edge. The dynamic of the decrepit Bruce Wayne yelling at the skillful but inexperienced Terry McGinnis is intact and just the way fans of the show would remember it. However, in the same way that the last issue seemed like a fragment of an episode, this felt like what happens in between the commercial breaks. Surely not bad, but not more than “TV good.”

“Pale Horse” #2 had more of the good stuff that worked well in the first issue — a grim, determined and skillful protagonist working his way through his unconventional quest. The addition of a southern gentleman as an antagonist was interesting but underdeveloped, and the old business between the two didn’t really come across as clearly as it could have either. Another one that’d be all right if you flipped through the channels and found it.

In “Superman/Batman” #74, Lex Luthor said, “I am constantly dependent on lesser men.” If he was as smart as he believes, he’d have figured a way around that — Bruce Wayne did. In this issue, Lex tries to play chess on two boards at once, manipulating Batman to keep him out of the way while fostering a plan against Superman. Three guesses how that turned out, and the first two don’t count. Lex’s steely determination has its appeal, but despite Levitz’ skill, the plot was a little predictable.

Framed by Ultimate Valkyrie’s narration, “Ultimate Comics New Ultimates” #3 showed the envy of the people on the periphery of the team even while Ultimate Steve Rogers showcases some of why he’s probably inspired some of the actions of his 616 counterpart. Why not a buy? It’s just Loki’s puppetry again, played more intimately than when he, oh, took over the entire country. Also, this makes Marvel’s second baby daddy comic in the last month … what’s that about?

Remember those comics that said “The Return of Bruce Wayne Begins Here?” Now “The Search for Batman” begins here in “Time Masters Vanishing Point” #1, which tries to develop Rip Hunter as a lead character (middling results) while making Superman something of a nag (questions, questions, questions). Far from a marquis story for such a heavily hyped subject, and it also essentially makes most of the “Return for Bruce Wayne” and “Red Robin” stories irrelevant, summing them up like a guidebook entry.

“Now there are two of them?” That question could be asked from “Ultimate Comics Avengers 2″ #5, which showcased the vice president cutting a deal to deal with Ultimate Ghost Rider. Millar’s script is very Bendis-esque in that the character’s chatter between themselves is more interesting than the actual plot, a fairly mundane action sequence stretched out to pretend like it was a story.

“Zatanna” #3 moved well until its all-too-abbreviated last third, which took the storyline’s conclusion and jammed it into a space too small by a half. Great art, great spunk from Z herself, but the “magic” wasn’t exactly captivating.

The “Meh” Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title

“Amazing Spider-Man” #638, “Azreal” #10, “Age of Heroes” #3 (even with the Blue Marvel getting his Jerry Lawler on), “Green Hornet” #6, “Atlas” #3, “DC Universe Legacies” #3, “Charmed” #1, “Justice Society of America” #41, “Dynamo 5: Sins of the Father” #2, “Welcome to Tranquility: One Foot In The Grave” #1, “CBGB” #1. “New Mutants” #15, “Air” #23, “Thunderbolts” #146, “Shadowhawk” #3, “Lady Deadpool,” “New Avengers” #2 and “Spike: The Devil You Know.”

No, just … no … These comics? Not so much …

“Dark Wolverine” #88 was tedious not just because it was a very weird fight scene between Daken and … ugh, Franken-Castle (this column has worked hard not to have to include that term) but because of all the awkward flirting that happened as well. Sure, that’s one of Daken’s shticks, throwing his enemies off with his variable sexuality, but when the opponent has a tube going into his chest and swinging around his back … ew.

“Brightest Day” #6 introduced a kind of retcon for Aquaman’s wife (“the elements were always there!” Shut up) while offering a cheeseburger to a psychopath, showing J’onn J’onzz on walkabout and having Whiterstorm throw up all over someone he’s trying to save. Heroing while drunk? Argh. So little happened, this comic was less like an occurrence and more like a statue.

“G.I. Joe/Cobra 2″ #6 went completely, scarily off the rails. Like, “voiced-By-Burgess-Meredith“-level, “the-last-ep-of-BSG” pigeon chasingly bad. Serpentor is introduced … and wow. That’s … really? “WTH” would be too kind.

Published something like seven billion years after its last issue saw the light of retail, “Red Mass for Mars” #4 is one long extended fight scene. It may have mattered or had some resonance back when someone could remember who any of these people were or what was happening, but it just looks like a monochrome version of JLA analogues fighting some weird aliens in space … or as it’s more commonly known, “stuff that wasn’t even new in the nineties.” A real disappointment from the normally information-rich Jonathan Hickman.

“Supergirl” #54 introduced a new Bizarro power that’s … well, to be frank, even by Bizarro standards, it’s stupid. Stupid as in “why add that? That doesn’t need to be there!” Also, Supergirl whines a lot. Sure, she just saw her whole family and world die. Kal-El had the common decency to moon about that stuff off panel. The fact that this increasingly navel-gazing comic still hits the stands is a scary statement about who we are as a fanbase.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

First of all, Diamond screwed up the order and delivered none of the copies of “Power Girl” #14 that the shop ordered. Whadda ya gonna do, it’s a monopoly?

Second of all, some good stuff went wrong, but some unexpected surprises (“Neomonicon”) made this an okay week after all.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Got that jump there, some interesting reads, more “good” listed than “bad” … let’s call it a win.

THE BUSINESS

The writer of this column is not going to be joining the rest of the CBR crew at Nerd Spring Break but wishes you all the safety and fun and drunken hook ups that you can enjoy. Oh, and maybe read some comics too.

Speaking of, got a comic you think should be reviewed in The Buy Pile? If we get a PDF of a fairly normal length comic (i.e. “less than 64 pages”) by no later than 24 hours before the actual issue arrives in stores (and sorry, we can only review comics people can go to stores and buy), we guarantee the work will get reviewed, if remembered. Physical comics? Geddouttahere. Too much drama to store with diminishing resources. If you send it in more than two days before comics come out, the possibility of it being forgotten increases exponentially.

Oh, and there’s blogging too: I’m back with a newly unified blogging platform thanks to (yes, I’m eating crow for even saying this) WordPress and the theme-adapting styles of Suuru Designs at the Soapbox. That’s where you’ll find Commentary Track blogs on these reviews, normally within a day or two of their publication. Also, if you’re so impatient that you can’t wait on Wednesday nights (hopefully by 9PM), you can get an “Early Forecast” of what’s going into the column on the microblog at the Operative Network Mobile Edition.

Speaking of that, there’s a great possibility that by the time this sees print (posting?) a very major announcement will have hit the news circles, and if there will be content about it in both the Commentary Track and the mobile microblog. Maybe, maybe not, who can say? See you in the funny papers.

Playing (Music): “Have Faith In Me” by A Day To Remember

Post to Twitter

Tags: , , ,

| writing & web work | personal site | writing archive | contact |





the operative network is a hannibal tabu joint.
all code, text, graphics, intellectual property, content and data
available via the URL "www.operative.net"
are copyright The Operative Network, LLC 2003,
and freaked exclusively by hannibal tabu


accessing any of these pages signifies compliance
with the terms of use, dig it
.