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The Missing Buy Pile Comic Reviews for July 21st 2010

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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

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