The Buy Pile

Thu, June 18th, 2009 at 2:28pm PDT

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/karaoke host/jackass) goes to a comic book store called Comics Ink in Culver City, CA (Overland and Braddock -- hey Steve, Jason, Vince and Sally) 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 (Diamond monopolistic practices willing, and yes, it used to be mornings, but management asked for it to slide back some), 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 JUNE 17TH, 2009

"Invincible Iron Man" #14

Invincible Iron Man #14 (Marvel Comics)

Tony Stark tries to get by with a little help from his friends. Everybody's going to Russia with love, as Tony Stark works hard to evade Norman Osborn's relentless international pursuit while slowly deleting every bit of data from his now largely cybernetic brain. This issue's mostly a showcase for Dmitri Bukharin to be a whimsical behemoth launching missiles and lumbering around the Russian tundra, but Maria Hill's homeless crazy act gets some panel space, as does Pepper Potts' "what do I do now?" routine. This issue's not as stellar as some of its predecessors, but provides a solid story with some good dialogue and some fun moments, as always graced by the art of Salvador Larocca and Frank D'Armata.

"Rex Mundi" #18

Rex Mundi #18 (Dark Horse Comics)

Things are rapidly drawing to a head between the forces of Duke Lorraine, the newly-christened "king of the world" and the upstart Dr. Julian Sauniere, who's discovered a secret that makes all other secrets pale by comparison. Sure, Lorraine's exhibiting some Anakin Skywalker-styled traits and Mitch Shelley or Craig Hollis might sue Sauniere for stealing their gag, but that's all just stuff that happens along the road. This issue was likewise a lot of set up for a big confrontation, but it had some interesting moments of tenderness between Sauniere and Genevieve that helped it along. True, this series as a whole is probably better collected, but there's nothing wrong here.

"Jack of Fables" #35

Jack of Fables #35 (Vertigo/DC Comics)

This issue, on the other hand, is great as Bigby gives in to his true nature without ruffling the hem of his skirt, the Genres show their hand and Old Sam makes his play at long last. Plus, Babe the Little Blue Ox gets two whole pages this time and Jack's disturingly gullible and dangerously powerful sun comes out to play and there's even another cryptic appearance by Dex (who looks a lot like a younger Thurston Howell the Third). There's also a two page spread that could give nightmares to the weak at heart at the twenty page mark (counting ads), and while this conflict stays very close to one set piece, it's well told and funny, hitting all the right marks and doing so with fantastic artwork from Russ Braun, Jose Marzan Jr. and Daniel Vozzo. Even without its title character (who's over in the main title), great fun.

"Red Mass for Mars" #3

Red Mass for Mars #3 (Image Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. Oh, sure, with "The Mighty" and "Irredeemable" on the stands (let alone Hyperion floating menacingly around in "Squadron Supreme"), another Superman analogue with anger management problems may seem like overkill. Except for two things: first of all, this issue is ten months late (whoa) and second: it carries the undiluted brilliance of Jonathan Hickman. Showcasing the title character's millennia-long journey and frustration with humanity -- no matter how he tries, things just never go his way on the big ticket items -- leads Mars to ultimately decide that the safest way to deal with a Starro-styled invasion force is the old fashioned way. The way Mars calmly chats and even smiles just covers the ancient anger within him. "Society -- humanity -- had reached its pinnacle, but the architect of that remained someone who was nurtured in the dark ages," the Benefactor's narration intoned. "They were men of violence -- men of rage." When he decides it's time to quit playing around, no one is safe, and it's done with the speed and terror-inducing suddeness that "Irredeemable" could benefit from. Welcome back.

"Incognito" #4

Incognito #4 (Icon/Marvel Comics)

Things haven't been good for the man formerly known as Zack Overkill for a while now, and they're way worse. The feds have him dead to rights, he's stuck in his Wesley Gipson-styled life (more so than ever) and, right, his old friends are on their way to try and kill him. There's not a lot that can be said about this issue without spoiling the wonderful twists Ed Brubaker has in store, but suffice it to say that this series has been a non-stop delight since it started and shows no signs of relenting.

"The Brave and the Bold" #24

The Brave and The Bold #24 (DC Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. Many people believe that former education secretary Jefferson Pierce is as crooked as the Sepulveda Pass after serving in the disastrous Luthor administration. Among that number is Virgil Hawkins, a Dakota resident who doubles as dynamically powerful super hero Static. What's that? Dakota's in another dimension you say, as established by the Milestone/DC crossover of the 90s? That can be explained in two words: "Superboy Punch." Or, how about "hyper-flies?" Best not to think about it -- Dakota and all of its fun (including this issue's sadly uncreative antagonist, who discarded the name his mother gave him to return to the classics) is now smack dab in the middle of the DC Universe, and you'd better get used to it, pal. That notwithstanding, Black Lightning and Static meet "for the first time," and Virgil's Peter Parker-esque quips (look for the "delicious" line, which is a bit of a spoiler if written out) and this issue hits a lot of great notes. It ain't high literature, but it's fun and entertaining.

"G.I. Joe: Cobra" #4

G.I. Joe Cobra #4 (IDW Publishing)

Jump from the Read Pile. Chuckles finally gets some answers in this issue, but nothing ends the way he expected. There's gunfire, an explanation of an old bit of G.I. Joe lore, illustrating a brilliant bit of terror and manipulation by the forces of Cobra along the way. The script from Mike Costa and Christos Gage works well as a bit of mean-minded storytelling that sets the stage for Cobra's international aspirations well and also gives Chuckles a body of characterization that's fascinating. You read that right. Brutally good, and a wonderful establishment of the new status quo, making Cobra a lot cooler than they've ever been before.

"Mighty Avengers" #26

The Mighty Avengers #26 (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. Reed Richards. Henry Pym (with some help from Amadeus Cho). Going brain-o-a-brain-o, this intellectual showdown cum heist story misdirects, bobs, weaves, creeps you out (oh, Jocasta) all while giving you a look at the "fantastic" life of Marvel's first family and breaks out some wild scientific ideas the likes of which would make Warren Ellis say, "what the heezy?" A very pleasant surprise with many, many layers and making the interplay of Reed and Hank an intellectual conflict more satisfying than most slugfests. Kudos to Dan Slott for the script.

"Air" #10

Air #10 (Vertigo/DC Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. In 1063, a young Aztec priestly acolyte named Luc asks questions that are "without a real answer" as an age of wonder had to give way to an age of darkness and suffering, and this microcosm shows some of the ancient world's resistance to that idea. Building upon a metatextual understanding of the universe, this issue gets more and more complex the more times you read it. Great work from G. Willow Wilson.

"Phonogram: The Singles Club" #3

Phonogram: The Singles Club #3 (Image Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. Despite her air of aloof superiority, Emily Aster's running away from the ghosts of the past in every note of her complicated musical tastes (from The Knife to The Luniz). On a night out with reputed phonomancer David Kohl, she comes face to face with the last person she'd ever want to see and strikes back at that erstwhile enemy with the most lethal weapons in her arsenal. The dialogue here sparkles, Jamie McKelvie's artwork remains some of the finest in the industry (really, he can take talking heads and make it fascinating, and doing dance scenes is really hard, but he has it under control). Sure, this dance club may have banned magic, but it's rife with old business that won't be banished by an upbeat tune. Plus, the annotations are fascinating reading, even if you have no interest in looking up the bands referenced (in the first mini, this stuff was exclusive, here it seems to draw the reader in a bit more) and the backups are hilarious. Gorgeously designed, intricately presented and wonderfully wicked. Just one thing, though -- it's not spelled "idealogical." Just FYI.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

The first two books and "Brave and the Bold" were good, while the rest of the pile was amazing. That's a good thing!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Dark Reign: Mister Negative" #1 was surprisingly okay, as New York's Chinatown crime boss fights to maintain his territory in the face of the costumed phalanxed commanded by Parker Robbins. The character's uncanny ability to convert anyone who touches him into a fanatical follower (oddly enough, not mentioned on his Wikipedia page) gives some chances for interesting narrative twists and turns, but needed a little more originality (aside from his powers and numbers, it's the same video game the Hood is playing with Frank Castle) to get over the hump.

"Executive Assistant Iris" #1 was a nice surprise, a bit of corporate-styled intrigue as an unassuming Japanese employee does some overtime work that's Lara Croft in wardrobe and Sydney Bristowe in behavior. Worth watching.

Getting back to our man Frank, "Punisher" #6 spends more time with a resurrected army of super villains (which CBR focused on in a series of special reports) than with the taciturn and tired title character (working harder than he has in years), and that's cool, but it just kind of simmers and never actually gets up to a boil. Interesting, but not something you'll kick yourself for not having.

If you wanted a poor man's Punisher, "Vigilante" #7 is freed from crossover-inspired muck and ready to say "hello!" He's taking on organized crime and not doing so well in an undercover assignment, but there's tons of action and even the muddy coloring doesn't do a bad job establishing the noirish mood.

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

"Destroyer" #3, "Action Comics Annual" #12, "Caped" #3, "Batman: Streets of Gotham" #1, "Transformers Spotlight: Cliffjumper," "Green Arrow/Black Canary" #21, "Invincible" #63, "Outsiders" #19, "Dark Reign: Young Avengers" #2, "Power Girl" #2, "Cable" #15, "War Machine" #7 (tried to shock, but was just like "WTH?").

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

"Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance" #2 was a little bit better when it was the latest version of "Youngblood." Not by much, though.

"Trial of Thor" shows the Thunder God showing off his keen investigative mind and ... wait, what? That's preposterous! Moreover, given Odin's extrasensory powers, this story makes no sense! Send it back!

"Supergirl" #42, like the previous 41 issues, was not good. This should not be a surprise. The interminable "Superwoman" storyline continues (despite promising to end last issue) with lots of people being mad at Kara and her heading home to mommy. Seriously? They charge people money for this stuff? Wow.

"War of Kings: Ascension" #3 may be the final proof that any comic with Darkhawk in it -- even trying to be a ruthless interstellar enforcer -- is automatically diminished. Chris Powell woke up on the Shi'ar homeworld after using his anger (it gives him focus, makes him powerful) in a whole lotta mess after getting stuck in between pages of an old issue of "Miracleman" with a Skrull of all people. Asks too much and gives too little in return.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

That's a big shrug, good buddy.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Great purchases trump shrug-worthy reads, so that's all good all the way to your 'hood.

THE BUSINESS

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.

Announcements soon. Brace yourselves.

TAGS:  the buy pile, review, gi joe, fables, static

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