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Comics: The Commentary Track for the February 9th Buy Pile

Posted in 104, awesomeness, bad ideas, buy pile, dc, marvel, randomness, ranting, writing on February 12th, 2011 by Hannibal Tabu
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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

PACE YOURSELF: Lots of times I read comics that either have too much happening or too little. It’s a tough balance to get right — in my own fiction writing, I’d wager I get it wrong a decent percentage of the time (especially on first drafts). With both physical storage space and cost issues (and I’m gonna discuss that in a sec), I try to be selective in my purchasing and that means making some weird and idiosyncratic decisions. When I “buy on sight” a title, I consider its moments of balance to be proportionately more than it’s moments of inbalance. I don’t think that’s unfair.

Let’s be specific here: X-Factor #215 was a “not enough” case. Here come the [SPOILERS]

Still hanging on?

So Layla (who may or may not know what’s gonna happen before it does, she may have caught up to herself with a weird time loop paradox thing) and Jamie take the case of an African immigrant whose rich father was killed by what looks like a vampire (in the 616 universe, that’s not even considered that weird). Yes, “vampires” are on my list of things that bore me (along with Nazis, zombies and pirates). They talk to the client, another Jamie talks to the suspect (stepmother) … and they talk to each other for a few pages. Interesting chat? Sure. Pushing the plot? Not so much. The character work here reinforces what we know about these two already. This is “not enough” to justify the purchase, since I believe the team has been drifting without purpose (private detective work has been inconsistent) despite loving, loving, loving the talent of Peter A. David (who was also very gracious and helpful when I met him).

How about “too much?” Lessee here … how about Fabian Nicieza’s “Red Robin” #20 (another really nice person, we’ve traded emails). On one side, Red Robin — who’s turning out to be one of the real contenders in unarmed combat as far as the DCU goes — squares off against Catman. When Catman went against Bronze Tiger, it was an epic battle. Here? Catman’s got appointments to make, he’s just on the job and redirects Tim Drake with a feint, putting Lucius Fox’s daughter Tam in danger and getting away while the hero has to make a choice. Okay. Then, there’s this mad hunt to stop the Calculator’s countermeasures from killing people, and that turns out to be a geography lesson with detective work, undercover work and a guest appearance by the Teen Titans. Way too many characters on panel (Ravager gets short shirted, some “senior” Titans didn’t even show, making it more like a Young Justice reunion), the Calculator’s game is very thinly explained, too many scene settings and overall it just seems like juggling before returning to a kind of status quo. That’s too much happening that doesn’t really accomplish anything. Calculator can’t be stopped by these guys, and he probably won’t whack any important licensed properties (outside of her damsel in distress bit, we don’t know much about Tam Fox as a character anyway), so it’s just musical chairs without anybody taking anything away.

Both of these examples are titles I’ve purchased before from creators I’ve praised before (David’s Incredible Hulk and Nicieza’s Thunderbolts I believe were seminal works), so there’s no personal beef in saying this issue didn’t get it done. The rules are simple — three buys in a row = “buy on sight” until there’s three misses in a row. Hope that clears things up there, for all the people who say I “hate everything.”

PLUG IN, SON, GET CONNECTED: I checked out two new pieces on Diamond Comics Distributors’ new plan for in-store digital sales, to try and serve two masters (keep brick-and-mortar retailers happy while sticking a toe in this digital content distribution model). The official stance from Diamond’s Dave Bowen at The Beat talks about the mechanism of the project …

The retailer will login using their Diamond retailer login and be presented with the opportunity to create store-specific, item-specific codes in whatever quantities they need. Then we’ll use some approved cryptographically secure method to generate random codes for the retailer to use. And we’ll format those in a PDF which they can then print out. Likely what will happen is, it’ll print easily on Avery 30-up laser labels. So what you have is a sheet of Avery laser labels with a bunch of different books and codes on individual labels. In that case the retailer takes that material and secures it and then when someone wants Transformers #16 they simply ring the sale and give the label or sticker or cut-out to the consumer. We have some idea for a card that would allow you to do aggregate purchases and stick a bunch on there. But we’re looking for retailer input before we design that piece of the point of purchase materials. We think something like that would be necessary.

It’s really very simple. Then the consumer that has that code, which is live, they could literally step out of the line, pull out their iphone or ipad or whatever other device and redeem the code and begin reading the material.

However, this guy Todd at Indignant Online has some other ideas

Is the Digital Market the Direct Market? … # Is This Cannibalization Unto Itself? … And If the Digital Consumer Isn’t Already in the DM… A Monopoly? In Comics? Surely Not … How Many Platforms Does This Work On? … Are You Sure This Is Effective Outreach? … The Format Problem Nobody Wants To Discuss … I Hope This Company is Healthy

… and he threatened that he could have dropped 5K-10K words on what’s wrong, but he was trying to hold back.

Me? Well … if I could spend, say, a buck less per comic and avoid the ever-growing storage problem I have, I’d be less touchy about things. I would buy more. That’s just true, especially since I’m debating tablets right now. I would like to buy more, even though I’m not inclined to spend more. Following this story with some interest, as I would be happy to buy some Honorable Mentions digitally while I’m at Comics Ink, helping take care of the retailer who’s done so much to take care of me.

THAT’S THE NEWS, AND I AM OUTTA HERE: I’ve gotta go rain down the wrath of MFin’ god on somebody at my job, so moving on …

Playing (Music):DJ Felli Fel’s New @ 2 mix on Power 106

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