The Buy Pile

Fri, September 11th, 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 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 SEPTEMBER 10TH, 2009

"Adventure Comics" #2
Adventure Comics #2 (DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.  A truly pleasant surprise, the true meat of the matter centers around Connor Kent doing his earnest best to honor both sides of his genetic heritage.  Of course that mean's he's gone completely insane, but in such an eager and homespun way that it’s fascinating to watch.  Writer Geoff Johns plays this sense of super-schizophrenia with such delicacy that it's almost reminiscent of Billy Batson's wide grin walking through parts of "Kingdom Come," but with much more sincerity.  Martha Kent plays a wonderful role here, as does Krypto (a surprise to many readers of this column for certain).  The fact that Lex Luthor and Braniac are along for the ride, supplying the necessary quotient of violence is almost an afterthought.  When you add the well nuanced Legion back up (from the “Action Comics” "grown up anti-xenophobe" Legion period) featuring the Legion's founders, delicate and intimate artwork from Francis Manapul and Brian Buccatello (on the lead) while Clayton Henry and Brian Reber make the future look good on the backup, this is one heck of a comic book!  Nicely done!  

"Thunderbolts" #135
Thunderbolts #135 (Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.  Off the top, there's something outrageously stupid about this comic book, something that does not get addressed and is directly contradicted in (among other places) "Invincible Iron Man."  Walk by that, accept that it's stupid and it doesn't make sense and move on.  This issue clears up another very stupid thing -- why the Thunderbolts have been less than successful -- making Mister X the danger that he never could have been back in "Wolverine" (i.e. "believable" and "almost interesting"). Scourge plays the role of new field leader quite effectively, even with the rogue elements under his command.  If you can get over the one really stupid element (and it's big, but luckily it happened early) this is actually pretty good.  

"DMZ" #45
DMZ #45 (Vertigo/DC Comics)

If you think you know Matty Roth, the arguable protagonist of this series, you're completely wrong.  Not only a full-fledged member of the Delgado Nation, he's now a force to be reckoned with on his own, flexing his newfound power to shock the nations of the world with a thirty-second press conference, stare down the new king of New York and break the laws of multiple countries while he's at it. This man has been changed by his time in the post-second-civil-war streets of Manhattan, and it's a change that's simple, quiet and elegant.  As elegant as one can be with an AK-47 strapped to their back, that is.  A shock and a surprise, and suddenly, after some slow months, something to sit up and pay attention to.

"Incredible Hercules" #134
The Incredible Hercules #134 (Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.  Yes, all that fascinating stuff with Amadeus Cho was interesting ... but apparently it's only happening every other month.  This month, Hercules takes center stage.  "Now that's what I call 'diplomacy' ..." he said, since he has taken on a mission while he safeguards his now de-aged father Zeus, pretending to be The Mighty Thor because he was tricked into it for reasons that are largely academic.  That's convenient when some lightning is needed, but also leads to lots of mockery from the now pre-pubescent divinity, who thinks his son is a buffoon. This leads to fighting trolls, fighting drow, drinking, debauchery and references to both Tolkien and the Kobayashi Maru.  A fun book with great art (thanks to Reilly Brown, Nelson DeCastro and Guillem Mari) a witty script by Fred Van Lente and Grek Pak and a twist at the end that's just about perfect, making the next issue (well, two months from now) a must-see.  Great fun.

"Secret Six" #13
Secret Six #13 (DC Comics)

A surprise only in that it's only really good instead of really, really great (like most months).  Ragdoll tries on a pair of boots (while paying little attention to anything else), Catman struggles with the details, Deadshot stays the course and Scandal Savage gives a guy time to make an important call.  This has a lot of running and stabbing and shooting and killing, but not with much real resonance.  The individual tidbits of dialogue are solid, as always ("Hey! I wonder if I could get in that bustier?" "Dunno. Lotsa people tried.") and the art -- again, as always -- is stellar.  But this story seems to be dragging just a smidgen.  Let's see if it picks up next month.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Even running slow, "Secret Six" can lap most other titles, so with the three jumps, that makes this a good start to the week indeed.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"War of Kings: Who Will Rule" was probably the closest thing to coming home that didn't make it, a very intricate character piece focused on Crystal and Gladiator that's very well done and very smart.  Many great elements: the Fraternity of Raptors, Lockjaw doing what he does, a lot of great action.  However, something went catastrophically wrong at the tail end, and the ending went so very badly that it stole every bit of good storytelling from the previous pages.  Sad, really, and kind of the story of the whole crossover.

"Farscape: D'argo's Trial" #2 was also pretty good, with a clear bit of characterization that was flawed by having predictable story beats and easy narrative points.  Still, the sense of loss held by the lead character was well portrayed and the art was solid.  Maybe this could be enhanced by knowledge of "Farscape," but it's not needed.

"Doom Patrol" #2 was actually better than its first issue, with an interesting bit of science discussion that had some violence and whimsy attached to it in a way that was almost entertaining enough to buy.  The backup "Metal Men" feature was less interesting than its predecessor, drifting around and not ending up anywhere.  

Norman Osborn shows his smarter side (in contrast to some things we'll discuss later on here) in "Dark Reign: The List - Avengers," where he and Ares discuss what's best for the world in general.  That, of course, is no good for a lot of people in specific, but that's a whole other party.  Clint Barton has had just about enough of Norman Osborn's grinning mug on the TV screen and the suffering of good people.  This is not the best idea, given even incomplete support from his fellow hippie Avengers (and now the old Republican Avengers are Tom Strong-inspired Science Avengers, which makes the new Dark Avengers the essential Republican Avengers and it's all kind of like a head twister). Good action and again more of the brilliance of Norman Osborn ... which is sorely missed later on.  

"Red Robin" #4 wasn't so bad, with Tim Drake traveling the globe on his insane quest, teaming up with the Demon's Head and facing off with masks domestic and international.  So what's the problem?  Well, aside from what could be considered throwaway characterization on supporting characters and scattered plotting?  Okay, that's pretty much it.  

Captain America is a freaking explosion of butt kicking in "Ultimate Comics: Avengers" #2, as the secret psychotic legacy of his illegitimate son (borrowing a page from the Hyperion manual from "Supreme Power") and essentially how to make the most lethal single human being the Ultimate Universe has seen since ... well, the 1940s, frankly.  You just can't make a super soldier without having an off switch in mind.  It's a bad idea.  Still, the spectacle of it all is quite enjoyable even while admitting that it's completely empty inside.

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

"Kick Ass" #7, "Blackest Night: Batman" #2, "Tyrese Gibson's Mayhem" #2, "Booster Gold" #24, "The Shield" #1, "Dark Reign: Young Avengers" #4, "Titans" #17, ""G-Man: Cape Crisis" #2 and "Hulk Team-Up."

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

"Models, Inc." #1 was bad. Really bad.  It seems that Marvel editorial thought that things went so well with "Marvel Divas," why not just completely mirror the writing rhythms of "Sex and the City" while dredging up a lot of crappy cardboard characters from spirit knows where and tossing them out scatter shot style.  The Tim Gunn-inspired backup was predictable and saccharine, trotting out an anonymous AIM cell as the jobbers for a closing that simply could not work if you know anything about Stark tech.  Sad, really.

"Green Lantern Corps" #40 was just dumb, by comparison.  Seems that the Black Lanterns love to get somebody all worked up with some emotion -- love, will (not really an emotion, but still), hope, fear and whatever else -- before killing them and eating their hearts like some Crom-inspired barbarian of old.  Uh ... okay.  But there's mostly just empty punching and power bolts (in contrast to the more shocking brilliance of "DMZ").  

Speaking of dumb, "Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Exodus" leads us back to the pre-“House of M” days of Genosha, or even the more recent days of Cable's island nation, with Scott Summers and his goofy gang setting up shop on Alcatraz and fighting Norman Osborn.  The fun thing that's almost not a spoiler?  There's absolutely no substantive change in facts here from the first page to the last.  What's most insulting here is Norman Osborn -- who was so fascinating and prescient in his tactical planning in both "Thunderbolts" and "The List" -- is suddenly unable to see a very, very obvious conclusion coming at him. Insulting, in a way.

Also dumb, "Superman: World of New Krypton" #7 shows Kryptonians once again needing masks to breathe in space (come on already!), in combat with ... wait, what, really?  Fighting Thanagarians?  Shirtless guys with space metal feathers?  Against Kryptonians under a yellow sun?  How did that fight even happen?  How could one Kryptonian not take out an entire fleet of Thanagarians, by him or herself, and still have time to pick up an order of Harold's Chicken with mild sauce, unbeknownst to the authorities on Earth? Anyway, back to the issue itself, it's dumb for other reasons including trying to take one of Jupiter's moons for New Krypton (why the heck would they need a moon?), unexpected job shifts and just generally idiotic plot twists all around.  Really, an abysmal comic book.

However, in "comics that seriously did not need to live that also involve planets on the other side of the sun," "Nomad: Girl Without A World" #1 brings back a character from Heroes Reborn (try not to cringe in revulsion) for ... well, she mostly has some tepid high school angst (go on, try "Glee" for a better take on that) and poverty and stalking super heroes.  It's scary how bad this issue is ... well, writing at least, the art looked good, but it had to work around this script, and that was just saddening.  Wow.  

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Nine "meh," six "okay" and five "really terrible."  Uh ... that's good enough, right?

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Most "meh" can't overcome two jumps and some great purchases, 

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, dark reign, adventure comics

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