The Buy Pile

Thu, September 24th, 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 23RD, 2009

"Immortal Weapons" #3

Immortal Weapons #3 (Marvel Comics)
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Fat Cobra won big time, Bride of Nine Spiders failed majorly, so how fares Dog Brother #1? Rick Spears, Tim Green II and and Edward Bola showed up in a big way, representing the hero of the hopeless in a story starting during the early 1840s. It's an origin story that takes a twist at the end, following the tradition of the last "Agents of Atlas" mini-series and some other stories of legend while making a very solid emotional turn. "Never look back. Nostalgia is for the weak. Fight for the horizon." The irony of this being said in a period story is its own hilarity, but the overall story is strong and "the legends will write themselves." Good stuff, and well told.

"Spider-Woman" #1

Spider-Woman #1 (Marvel Comics)
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This issue is a big surprise, with Jessica Drew working her way through "a real, honest-to-goodness crisis of faith. Faith in myself, faith in the world, faith in ... faith." She's working through ... well, a lot. The weight of being the face of the Skrull invasion weighs heavily on her, she's full of anger and frustration, and Abagail Brand and her wacky kids at SWORD thinks that makes her their kind of girl. Alex Maleev's evocative artwork is reminiscent of a more linear David Mack, with painted artwork and photorealism to die for. Brian Michael Bendis' savvy script incorporates everything you'd ever need to know about the character in just two pages, and so delicately draws the reader into the story and delivers on every level. Nicely done all around.

"The Web" #1

The Web #1 (DC Comics)
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The "Red Circle" reboot issue preceding this, reintroducing the character, was dull. It was so dull that it was forgotten before even getting a "meh" like the rest of the titles. This issue brushes past the actual origin story -- Oliver Queen-styled fop moneys himself into super powers to overcompensate for being a crappy human being and letting his brother die. Writer Angela Robinson (who could be the first Black woman to write an issue for DC Comics, the research is still out on that) delivers a script that delivers on action and narrative, smartly using technology and money to get results. Whereas Green Arrow has a devil-may-care attitude and Batman has traditionally been cloaked in psychosis, the indifferent, vengeful determination of John Raymond works well here. The backup feature with the Hangman (the irony of having a "Hangman" feature in a book with a lead story by a Black writer is strange enough on its own) is a way better reintroduction of El Diablo, er, the Red Circle character than its own comic. A very big surprise here.

"Nova" #29

Nova #29 (Marvel Comics)
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This is another real surprise, with a great foundation for the "we're so not Green Lanterns" Nova Corps, their "probationary" members in red and the "full fledged" Nova Guardsmen in blue. A little bit of history comes back, "Star Trek: Voyager" style and it means trouble. All right, there's some Roddenberry influence, and even a nice toss to Marvel's magical continuity with "neutron slaves" stepped up from their former position to be somebody. Lots of nice surprises here, great characterization in the Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning script, while the art team of Kevin Sharpe, Nelson Pereira and Bruno Hang make the expanses of space realistic and understandable for the reader. Good stuff.

"Incredible Hercules" #135

The Incredible Hercules #135 (Marvel Comics)
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Amadeus Cho is back, and he's completely screwing with your brain, even if it's hanging out the back of a body. Locked in a metaphysical struggle in ways that would make Alan Moore and Grant Morrison nod with approval. The difference here is that Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak's script makes it all wonderfully linear, using framing devices that help this story stand up and take care of business. Rodney Buchemi's art (and colors from Guillem Mari, Guru eFX and Emily Warren) captures facial expressions (Amadeus' sly knowing, Pythagoras Dupree's juvenile frustration) as well as he manages great scenes like a combination HALO drop and somersault (cool). Such great stuff, and between the next issue teaser ("Thorcules vs. Hercuthor") and the one-page teaser with Herc's crazy ex-wife, this issue is so good, it practically levitates. Great stuff.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

All-Jump Buy Pile? That's a meritocracy, baby! Get some, brother!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Vigilante" #10 was a skillful done-in-one that featured Dick Grayson trying to grow into the role of the Bat while facing off against DC's version of The Punisher. Seems that mafiosos are tired of getting shot up in New York and figure they'll have an easier time of things in Gotham, teaming up with the criminals there. Riiiight. That notwithstanding, Grayson made some rookie mistakes and Vigilante essentially ran this town like Jay-Z, Kanye and Rihanna. It was an interesting balance here, but the pieces were all placed back so seamlessly as to not leave the story mattering at all.

"Dark Reign: Made Men" was an interesting set of vignettes focusing on some of the peripheral aspects of Norman Osborn's administration of justice. Spymaster reluctantly works for Osborn, Attuma wrestles with a tough decision in Latveria, the Gamma Corps gets a job and so on. These pieces would have made excellent back ups in other stories -- toss the Gamma Corps story behind an issue of "Thunderbolts," put the Spymaster one in an issue of "Invincible Iron Man" and so on. As one issue, they're all good, but not good enough for this amount of money.

There's a few interesting developments in "G.I. Joe" #9, including an interesting mode of transportation for Cobra (something like the cool underwater flavors shown in Larry Hama's #8 back with Marvel Comics) and had some nice action with Mainframe and Snake Eyes, but couldn't stay focused enough to make either part really get it right.

"Guardians of the Galaxy" #18 was an ambitious failure, because on one side it had a lot of fun and spanned several centuries and alternate futures, but it ended up stuck between kooky new art (not bad, but takes some getting used to), a confused time travel shtick and breaking out a cliche so old that it gets stuck between Keanu Reeves and whiny farm boys from Tattoine. You wanna like it so badly, but it stumbles and keeps falling down, "Butt Kickers of the Fantastic" notwithstanding.

"Invincible" #66 was a surprise, in that it was maybe the most informative issue ever, and had a narrative strength that was amazing. When you analyze the issue, you can see the secret to its success: the title character is completely absent. His dad, Alvin the Alien, Alvin's horny alien girlfriend, sure. Even some surprises. But there's no actual Invincible himself (and that name's been proven inaccurate so many times), and that's hilariously ironic. The "secrets written in books" thing is shared here and in "The Sword," and in better economic times, this issue could have been a "buy."

"No Hero" #7 was the end to a nihilistic fairy tale, discussing how desperately fear and jealousy play out in a populace living under essentially superhuman rule. Like "Guardians of The Galaxy," this was another ambitious failure that really stood on shock and ended abruptly. That ending will stick with you, though.

"Dark Reign: The List - X-Men" wasn't bad, with Norman Osborn essentially taking a stand against Namor while letting everybody know what happened to a former member of Alpha Flight (it's not good) and teaching Namor what it means to accept the title "mutant." The problem lied in Namor putting on a Kobe Bryant jersey, leaving most of the team with nothing but a chance to stand around and wait for him to do something.

"Superman: Secret Origin" #1 was better when it was called "Superman: Birthright." Hold on, that's not right. It was better when it was called "The Man of Steel" back in 1986. Hang on. No, it was better ... look, there's nothing "secret" about the origin of Kal-El, unless you actually live in the DC universe. Making Jor-El into Kris Kristofferson was weird, and the old school styled rocket was unusual, too. This issue was a hair over "meh" based on the Lex Luthor bit and characterization on Jonathan Kent, Pete Ross and Lana Lang.

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

"Dark X-Men: The Confession," "Blackest Night: Superman" #2, "Incredible Hulk" #602, "Buck Rogers" #4, "New Avengers" #57, "Justice League of America" #37, "Uncanny X-Men" #515, "Underground" #1, "Avengers: The Initiative" #18

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

Was "Wolverine: Old Man Logan Giant Size" worth the wait? No. A thousand times no. Despite never really beating even the regular age Incredible Hulk, he goes head to head with an entire family of Hulks, spawned from ... look, you don't wanna know; it's gross. In the world of fan fiction, this might be a massive accomplishment. Here? It's just sad. Also, given how late this issue was and how long it took to actually complete this story, fans will be rewarded to know that there's an eight page preview in the back for the next issue of "Battle Chasers."

That was a joke. Like Canada, there is no such thing as another issue of Battle Chasers. However, that joke has remained funny for the last ten years, and shows no signs of stopping. Happy Birthday, "Battle Chasers" joke.

Almost as abysmally stupid was "Fantastic Four" #571, where Reed Richards would be expensive at a dime a dozen. There's literally fields full of multidimensional Reeds, smugly walking around with their frosted sideburns and gargantuan intellects. Their solution for Dr. Doom is ... well, maybe the only smart thing here, as even when they make entire planets full of food they still have grandiose issues slipping through their Infinity Gauntleted fingers. Oy.

"Ms. Marvel" #45 was slightly less stupid -- slightly -- explaining the reason why there's two blondes walking around New York and freaking everybody out, and there's a deus ex machina development so big and so pointless that it boggles comprehension. This series used to be good when Karla Sofen took over. How quickly they fall ...

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Eight good barely beats nine "meh" and three bad ... doesn't it?

WINNERS AND LOSERS

If five comics can beat back the threat of zero expectations, that's a winning week no matter how you slice it.

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, immortal weapons, spider-woman, nova, the incredible hercules

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