Garage Sale THIS Coming Saturday!! (Plus, Comic Book Reviews.)

First, the big news: the garage sale is this upcoming Saturday, the 19th, and I'm not even remotely prepared. I've got eight longboxes of comics still to sort through so you'll probably get an update on Thursday (and, God help you, Friday). But I can tell you this: it's not going to be in a garage. Or near a garage. It's being held on Cortland Avenue, the main strip of lovely Bernal Heights, on the block between Andover and Moultrie. (See here for a handy Google map.) Last year, nobody would've showed for my sale if it hadn't been for the awesome people who heard about it through this blog or visiting CE. This year, average passerby will have no choice but to stumble over my longboxes, tremble in awe at my cut-rate DVD collection, marvel at how much time and money I wasted on mint-on-card action figures--and pick up some mediocre but perfect condition PS2 games at the rate such items deserve. Currently, my plan for the comics is to put 'em at a quarter apiece, but I'll mark it down to 20 for $4.00, which is still a pretty good deal, and I'm gonna have a ton of dollar manga and 5 for $10 trades. Anyway, you'll get another update before it happens with bus routes and everything, but mark your calendar: Saturday, August 19, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., here.

Second: the comic books. Unfortunately, our giddiness over last week's hat trick found its counterpoint Friday as Hibbs, G., and me looked at the week's new comics. "You know," Hibbs said. "If these books came out last week, I doubt I could have forced myself to write reviews. Because it's all just so meh." It seems unlikely that we'll get to a hat trick this week, and if we do, it'll be because Graeme wanted to talk about "Punchy Punchy Super-Hero," I'm worried no one's gonna show up for my garage sale and I'll have thrown out my back for nothing, and Brian will want to show off Ben's burgeoning understanding of superstring theory. Poor comics. What fair-weather friends you have in the Savage Critics.

52 WEEK #14: Eric Powell drawing Metamorpho is like having some aberrant sexual fantasy fulfilled before ever realizing that you had it--I'm counting the days as to when baby's gonna draw that sexy, sexy Element Man again. The rest of the issue, though, was highly OK--I quite liked the Khandaq stuff, and the mad scientist stuff was great (although, you know, if they had set up the Metal Men stuff in the early issues, it would have been even better). All every issue needs from here on out is a new origin of Metamorpho drawn by Eric Powell and we'll be set!

ANNIHILATION #1: Can't top Graeme's hilariously on-point review, other than to say that this did work for me, not so much because of the "OMFG! Galactus!!11!" factor but that there's a jump in time between the minis and this first issue so the characters have already changed and different relationships exist than the ones originally presented--it kinda reminded me of The Two Towers section of LOTR, weirdly. So it's The Lord of the Rings meets the movie of Starship Troopers but starring every cosmic c-list Marvel character from the '70s (with underwhelming art). Good enough for me, although without (a) a Frodo character, and (b) some bitchin' maps, it may not pay off nearly as well as the set-up.

BEYOND #2: Marvel poops so many mediocre minis out of its butt, I figured this would be more of the same. But I liked Scott Kolins' art here (c'mon, you really didn't like that view of the stitched together planet, with the volcano rising out of the lake and stuff?) and Dwayne McDuffie's script keeps everything lively--again, Graeme's description of this as Secret Wars told like it was the first season of Lost is really apt. Lowish Good because I think the characters are a little too lame for my taste plus the ending makes me leery that McDuffie is gonna try the whole "No, really, my take on [character presented on last page] was awesome! Here, lemme show you again!" maneuver that comic book creators occasionally try and rarely pull off.

DEVI #2: Meet issue #2, which really should have been issue #1. There's some neat stuff here--I really like the writer's attempt to create an Indian equivalent of Gotham City where a similar mingling of past and present urban motifs creates very different results from what you see in Batman's home town--and the art is very pretty and solid in some places (and very Top Cow Studios in others). It's far from great, but it beats the hell out of that Spider-Man: India codswollop from last year. Plus? Some of the oddest fuckin' text pieces you will ever read. So, yeah, OK.

ESCAPISTS #2: The charm takes a hit in issue #2 and there's probably a lot of reasons for it--the art becomes more of a muddle, for example--but I blame the pacing, as the absurdly effortless and breezy first issue becomes a huffy-puffy affair with excerpts from the creative team's new comic, an adventure of our new Escapist, and a possible romantic triangle jammed into one issue with all the indelicacy of someone jumping up and down on their too-full suitcase. (When the only female character is suddenly prone to kissing people on cheeks to express support, you know some vital piece of the creative engine isn't working like it should.) Still fun and interesting--at the risk of sounding like a dick, I think BKV is one of the few mainstream comics writers that respects (i.e., flogs the hell out of)the power of a good metaphor as much as top-notch prose writers do--but a real let-down from last issue. OK.

MARTIAN MANHUNTER #1: Yeah, what Graeme said. Plus, why'd they give him a skrull chin? Is that a clever nod to Marvel's shapechangers, or is it just that nobody was paying attention? I also wasn't crazy about the neck brace--is J'onn faking a disability claim to soak the JLA's insurance company? Is that how angry he's become? The whole outfit made me think of poor, fat David Ogden Stiers in a cape much more than the orignal costume ever did. Crap.

MS MARVEL #6: Hmmm. What does it say about Ms. Marvel that this issue, in which she barely appears, was the most interesting so far? What does it say about the future vitality of a work-for-hire universe that the only character who wasn't a female spin-off of an established male character was The Shroud? (This book had *two* separate female Spider-Man rip-offs.) What does it say about my attention span that this is only the seventh book I've reviewed this week and it all rhetorical questions? Eh.

SECRET SIX #3: Second issue dropped off my radar but this was a Good issue, even if there's not as much "dead means dead" as I would like (and also howzabout we shoot Vandal Savage into space for a year or two, huh?). The Mad Hatter suddenly suffering from what I assume will turn out to be mercury poisoning was a neat touch, though. Yeah, Good.

SHE-HULK 2 #10: If we can't get Bobillo on the art, I'll certainly take Rick Burchett: the guy's got storytelling chops, and his slightly cartoony art is a good fit for Slott's similarly fun but well-told stories. I'm a little worried about that silver bullet Slott gave the Two-Gun Kid back in that one-shot a few issues back, and the death-dealing on the last page was a bit jarring, but chalk that up to quibblage. A high Good, if you ask me.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #2: Very much a follow-up to that recent arc in USM where all the same characters (Spidey, DD, Moon Knight and Punisher) showed up and kicked each other in the head for a while (although that also had, like, Elektra, and Iron Fist and MOKF and stuff, right?). Here, more head-kicking but with a far more clever set-up and a nasty, weirdly unresonant, pay-off. Good but in a "hey, these Hostess Twinkies are fresh from the delivery truck!" kind of way.

PICK OF THE WEEK: SHE-HULK 2 #10 was fun. (Come to my garage sale.)

PICK OF THE WEAK: MARTIAN MANHUNTER #1 was crap. (Come to my garage sale.)

TRADE PICK: Looks like all the goodness is smack in the 'L's this week: LITTLE LULU VOL 11, two works by the mighty Chester Brown, LITTLE MAN TP NEW PTG and LOUIS RIEL in softcover. (And on each side, LEGEND OF GRIMJACK and an all-Jeff Parker-scripted MARVEL ADVENTURES FF DIGEST). But I didn't go for the goodness, I went for PENNY ARCADE VOL 2 LEGENDS MAGIC SWORD TPB which I read and quite enjoyed--the art's still not at the point where I really fell in love with it (although they throw in a lot of extras to make up for it) but the jokes are pretty funny and I'm a slobbery fool for Tycho's writing and commentary. Also, if you haven't read them before, that second volume of ESSENTIAL MARVEL TEAM-UP has some truly horrible work in it where Gerry Conway hacked out astounding levels of campy, shoddy, goofy work (I'll never tell you how depressed reading the second part of that Spidey/Man-Wolf/Frankenstein team-up made me, decades after reading part one). But God bless Bill Mantlo, he came on like gangbusters and kept Sal Buscema inspired--I don't care what anyone says, that issue with the Sons of The Tiger is awesome--and not a single story in this volume is less than three issues, all of 'em filled to bursting with affection, charm and something kinda like talent (if you squint hard enough). It's hard for me recommend, but it's kinda impossible not acknowledge.

NEXT WEEK: By which I mean Thursday! More details about the damn garage sale! Hope you can make it!