The Buy Pile

Thu, July 30th, 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 JULY 29TH, 2009

"Dark Reign: Hawkeye" #4
Dark Reign: Hawkeye #4 (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile.  Very nice -- this issue reveals the secret behind the crazy events in this mini series.  Things that once made little sense now are "ah" moments, as this issue plays well into continuity with a callback to ... well, that would be telling.  Suffice it to say that there's lots of people getting killed and some deliciously fantastic dialogue in an issue that has twists and action and humor.  Very well done, with some very mean surprises and Ben Urich digging into trouble at the same time.  

"The Stuff of Legends" #1
The Stuff of Legends #1 (Th3rd World Studios)

Jump from the Read Pile.  Thanks go to Marvel's CB Cebulski, who tweeted a recommendation about this.  Taking the childhood concept of "toys coming to life when you're not looking" and adding the mysterious element of a Boogeyman come to life as well, this carefully told story transforms simple playthings -- a toy soldier, a jack-in-the-box, a piggy bank, a music box and more -- into much different creatures beyond the dark borders of a bedroom closet.  Magical in its ambiance, there's adventure and emotional resonance, cowardice and confusion.  A very pleasant surprise.

"Unknown Soldier" #10
Unknown Soldier #10 (Vertigo/DC Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile.  There is a struggle between Moses Lwanga and the titular spirit, who demands the murder of socialite do-gooder traipsing around Africa like a modern-day Sally Strothers, leading to some intense political discussions, the accidental murder of maybe twenty guys.  Nothing wrong with all that.  This series works fairly well a lot of the time, and this issue it steps up in its narrative structure and creative tension.  

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Three jumps from a no-sum day's a good start.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

Len Wein steps in to write "Justice League of America" #35, which is an okay upgrade of the Royal Flush Gang along the same lines as Checkmate, taking the somewhat laughable team of punching bags and giving them some structure, some organization and some backing from "Wild Card," looking for all intents and purposes like a new organization.  Better in conception than in execution, nothing goes wrong but it doesn't go right in a way that's really worth noting.  

Also "close but not close enough" was "Secret Warriors" #6, which had an okay plot and okay visual storytelling.  However, the monochromatic coloring made it hard to differentiate some of the actual activity at points, and while Fury and Dugan's chemistry was as good as Hydra's strength and the last page reveal, and that detracted from the entire process.  

Bill Willingham took over with "Justice Society of America" #29, but like his days on "Shadowpact," his step isn't as sure as it is on books like "Fables," but you can see his skill in the framing device that tells the story.  The actual moments of this issue are too busy by far but the issue overall is "not bad."

Similar in quality is "Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink" #3, which shows the Tattooed Man struggling with making hard decisions like a hero.  Again indistinct coloring doesn't serve the storytelling so well, which is a shame, but there are some redeeming qualities here.

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

"War of Kings: Ascension" #4, "Superman" #690, "Dark Reign: The Hood" #3, "Star Wars: Legacy" #38, "Detective Comics" #855, "Dark Reign: Lethal Legion" #2, "Teen Titans" #73, "Son of Hulk" #13, "Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps" #3, "New Avengers" #55, "Wonder Woman" #34, "Ignition City" #4, "Wildcats" #13

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

It's hard to tell who anybody is in "Dark Reign: Young Avengers" #3, which features a moment of deception and surprise that falls flat.  Despite a few moments of decent dialogue and misdirection, the whole effect is one of a blown out tire.

"Fantastic Four" #569 was disturbingly bad, with a sad attempt at making things work through this insipid Marquis of Death shtick, one that makes due with paradoxes and a faceless legion of alternate universe FFs and ... really, it's all terrible.  

"Thunderbolts" #134 had a last page reveal that was overwhelmingly outlandish, so insulting in its choice of ignoring many, many things that happened while making a number of other things make a lot less sense.  One single comic book that does that much is a bad, bad idea.

All that said, no book this week, or likely this month, is as bad as "Ultimatum" #5, which leaves pools of blood everywhere, tweaks the magnetic axis of the planet in a single panel, turns two heroes into remorseless killers and makes a storyteller out of Ultimate Nick Fury.  Oh, and there's a scene stolen directly from "Heroes" ... where the writer of this comic once worked.  

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Mostly just stuff passing by, so no harm there, one would suppose.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

It's hard to call a week that tried so little as a victory, but three jumps are what they are, even with books as criminal as the last selections.  

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.

There's no such thing as The Hundred and Four.

TAGS:  the buy pile, dark reign: hawkeye, the stuff of legends, unknown soldier

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