The Buy Pile

Thu, August 27th, 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 AUGUST 26TH, 2009

"Deadpool" #14

Deadpool #14 (Marvel Comics)
The two most obvious things about this issue -- and the series as a whole, honestly -- are the two things that make it so enjoyable. Deadpool is, for all intents and purposes, a lunatic moron. Even he'd have a hard time arguing that. Likewise, things almost always end up turning out pretty much okay for Deadpool. This being his, what, third or fourth series, it may be a hard road to get there, but that's also almost always true. So now that he's turned his attention to piracy in the seas around the rich but dangerously unprotected island of Jallarka, and is squared off against a pirate called (but never to his face) Wackbeard (see, he had one of those patchy facial hair things that would never grow in right and ... never mind), well, that's a whole new set of crazy circumstances for him to get involved in. Including recruiting a curvy blind "navigator" (what's with him and wisecracking blind white women?), repeatedly whacking a nerdy Hydra agent dressed in a parrot costume with a stick and the normal amounts of gunfire and bloodshed that follow him around like DUIs chase Billy Joel. Best line in the issue? "That boat's loaded with more gold than the BET Awards -- I'll be damned if I send it to the briny deep." Hilarious. Another great issue.

"Gotham City Sirens" #3

Gotham City Sirens #3 (DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
A joke around the shop claimed that all it took to make this series readable was to remove its tuitular characters. In an issue that features less than two whole pages with Catwoman, Poison Ivy or Harley Quinn, Edward Nygma and the nascent Dark Knight Detective ("Thank God for Alfred and the Batcomputer. Tim was always better at this than me") square off to try and end a rash of surprising deaths, sizing each other up all the way. Narrated equally by both, this Scott Lobdell script (you read right) is wonderfully crafted, intimately presented by artwork from Guillem March, whose angles and close ups are detailed, moody and a perfect fit. Very well done.

"Dark Wolverine" #77

Dark Wolverine #77 (Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Logan's son is one crafty so-and-so, dancing between manipulating his teammates (he gets under Ares' skin very effectively), manipulating Marvel's first family, manipulating Norman Osborn all while taunting and frustrating Bulls, er, Hawkeye. "Squirreling around this joint like you own it. Always with that big, fat, grin on your face." Hawkeye growled. Between his secret pheromone powers and his ambiguous sexuality, Daken has half of Avengers Tower spinning in a tizzy for -- it seems -- no reason outside of his own amusement, like a hedonistic Jim Profitt with claws. Which is awesomely entertaining, and while the art from Guiseppe Camuncoli, Onofrio Catacchio and Marte Gracia might be a little on the rough side, the script from Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu is smug and delightful in all the right ways. Very effective working a pretty big cast of characters (from Reed's skeptical optimism to Hawkeye's grim hatred) and interesting to watch the seams of Norman Osborn's scam stretch and strain.

"Rex Mundi" #19

Rex Mundi #19 (Dark Horse Comics)
This is the last issue of the alternative history series, and it ends with an anticlimax more than anything else. Given the megalomania of the Duke of Lorraine or the struggles faced by Dr. Julian Sauniere, you'd expect some grand sentiments expressed, some amazing shows of visuals like the reveal of the temple early on in the series. Right? Well ... not so much. Lorraine yells a little, but not even in a convincing villain way. There's a kind of special effects thing that'd impress you had those "Pirates of the Carribean" movies not made skeletons so commonplace, but all of it is presented in a rather "matter of fact" fashion by Juan Ferreyra, who's capable of a great deal. This ending to a truly grand story seemed to lack a sense of scale, staying focused so tightly but never giving these central characters anything to really work with dramatically, even as grand events happened countries away. Sad, really.

"Incredible Hercules" #133

Incredible Hercules #133 (Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Working as part recap-driven clip show and part psychadelic head trip (you know, what they tried to do with Ryan Choi in that last "Atom" series but it rarely seemed to gel), this all-Amadeus Cho issue showed the titular Olympian only in the aforementioned flashbacks, and didn't suffer for it. Amadeus illustrates some of his effective intellectual prowess, runs around with a leggy rogue secret agent and runs into some seriously weird stuff with some serious science behind them. Surprisingly well-formatted for such chaotic concepts, and very interesting stuff.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Despite "Rex Mundi" not showing up for the job, 80 percent still means it was a good week of purchases.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Secret Warriors" #7 was very, very close to coming home, as it had the atmosphere of a truly fine spy movie ... but unfortunately, despite the fact Nick Fury has assembled an actual army full of well-trained hard cases with grudges to share, and despite the fact that Osborn and Strucker had a great chat together, this issue was short on many things in terms of characterization and works in a "chapter of a TPB" sense but not as an individual issue. That bland coloring issue seems to be cleared up.

The very first page of "Batman and Robin" #3 shows that Dick Grayson might be done with the whining and ready to show up for the job as the Bat. Despite his homicidal tendencies, Damian didn't do bad as Robin and the weirdo new villain got a bit of a chance to shine. Not bad, but still missing something as everybody seems to just be waiting for daddy to come home.

The title characters barely showed up on panel in "New Avengers" #56, but when they did, they worked hard to make up for lost time. Meanwhile, the Wrecking Crew and many others who rejected the administration of Parker Robbins came up with an offer Norman Osborn was hard pressed to refuse. Nice shows of gumption by Mockingbird, Ronin and Spider-Man, and the Sentry does something nobody has seen him do for some time. Just a bit more going on than need be, and the central work of Jonas Harrow didn't get the spotlight it deserved.

Why exactly is Tokyopop doing comics with Image? No telling, but "King City" #1 was an interesting presentation, a story of would-be slacker spy-types in a strange, almost "Shaolin Cowboy" styled world. However, with far more confounding questions than intriguing answers, it missed the mark by a bit.

"Nova" #28 maintained the good ambiance of previous issues, showcasing the esprit de corps that's missing with a certain set of green-clad sentients, but their plucky bonhomie is just a little too cornball, just a hair too hokey to carry over with the one-note, "Starship Troopers" movie characterization.

Kevin Smith loves Nazis and the Joker, that much is clear in "Batman: The Widening Gyre" #1, which introduces another do-gooder to Gotham City, features the over sexualization of Pamela Isley (seriously, does she even like guys that way?) and another pastoral day at Arkham Asylum. The script's take on Nightwing is very good, but the plot itself is very "been there, done that" despite the enjoyable (and chatty) narration from the Bat himself.

The good part? "Dark Reign: Elektra" #5 shows that the title character's ninja whamma jamma is still impressive. The bad? She's caught a case of the "selective memories" and we find out exactly when she was abducted by the Skrulls ,,, and it's not even that big a deal.

"Final Crisis: Ink" #4 was pretty good until its ill-advised family related curveball ending. To be honest, its schizophrenic midpoint and disturbing love triangle was a little weird too, as was the art work, but the hard scrabble heroism of the Tattooed Man was worth watching.

"Incredible Hulk" #601 showed a craftier Bruce Banner than many people would have expected, showcasing a plan that has some serious foresight as well as leaving some of Marvel's brightest brains looking pretty silly. Familial in intent, it still didn't push hard enough to make it work.

With great tension and some complicated character moments, "Unknown Soldier" #11 was pretty good, but never seemed to settle on being a thriller, a tragedy or some weird pastiche of both.

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

"Unknown" #4, "Justice Society of America" #30, "Star Wars Legacy" #39, "Dark X-Men: The Beginning" #3, "Red Circle: The Shield" #1, "Hulk" #14 (and "meh" is an improvement), "Wonder Woman" #35, "Ms. Marvel" #44

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

As if it couldn't get more stupid, "Fantastic Four" #570 borrowed a page from Alan Moore's "Supreme" and broke out toys like it was jury rigging an insanely huge game of Heroclix. It's insulting how overwhelmingly stupid this was.

Speaking of dumb, "Flash: Rebirth" #4 introduces science that makes "Smallville's" Lanastronomy seem like a graduate dissertation. Really? Wow. There's just too many speedsters running around here, and ignoring that pesky death inconvenience.

Dear "Dark Avengers" #8, if it didn't work for Cable or Magneto, do you really think Scott Summers can pull it off? Oh, rehashed plots, how stale you smell when you pop up years later, assuming people forgot how badly it worked before.

Blackest Night is an ongoing atrocity, and "Green Lantern" #45 only managed to pull off the piece with Agent Orange, while simply throwing characters at one another with bodies dropping left and right just to serve as set pieces. While we're at it, "Blackest Night: Titans" #1 had the same issues, whereas some bodies couldn't be bothered ... just really, make it all stop.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Way more "okay" than "eww."

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Despite some really dumb stuff happening -- really, Reed? The space bridge? -- and the failure of "Rex Mundi," the week went pretty well.

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 are now two official ways to get Hannibal Tabu's blog-related wisdom. For all personal things, there's Hannibal's relaunched Soapbox and for his views on the weird, wild world there's The Hundred and Four.

TAGS:  the buy pile, rex mundi, blackest night, incredible hercules, batman

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