The Buy Pile

Thu, October 15th, 2009 at 2:28pm PDT

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

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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 OCTOBER 14TH, 2009

"Fables" #89
Fables #89
(Vertigo/DC Comics)

Bufkin is a flying monkey, and widely considered something of a shmuck. Bufkin, unbeknownst even to himself, is completely badass. This begins to play out -- similarly to the emergence of Boy Blue as a swashbuckling hero and of Flycatcher as an unlikely monarch and power to be reckoned with -- slowly in this issue as he's forced to confront his fears and face down two deadly magical powers, all while Totenkinder tracks down some answers, and we learn that one Fable's never coming home again. This issue's great, but readers of this column shouldn't be surprised by this fact: at almost ninety issues in, every single one has been on the Buy Pile and the overwhelming number of those issues have been awesome.

A quick story as to this issue's quality. A store regular was debating his weekly purchases. The writer of these reviews said, "If you do not purchase that book after reading it, I'll give you one US dollar -- one third of the purchase price." He read it. He bought it. That dollar remains in its wallet of origin. As a very influential man once said, "'nuff said."

"Anna Mercury 2" #2
Anna Mercury 2 #2
(Avatar Press)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Can you say "visual storytelling?" Wow. Warren Ellis and Facundo Percio's interdimensional super powered secret agent kicks butt in a serious way, while picking up something wonderful. "I have my own personal and private ray gun now," she says with glee over the bodies of some unfortunates who stood in her way. "And you can't have it. It's mine." Taking a page from the Jim Kirk Book of Diplomacy, she's witty and funny and fascinating, as this issue provides answers and action in equal doses. There's almost eleven full pages of this issue with no dialogue, and it doesn't even matter. Percio's visuals (with wonderfully claustrophobic colors from Digikore Studios) stand up and demand to be recognized. Fascinating stuff, and yes, records indicate that this is the second issue in a row to make the jump. One more and the property gets a standing berth ... until it screws up. Fine work here.

"G0dland" #29
G0dland #29
(Image Comics)

Please don't call it a comeback: the mad mental machinations of Joe Casey and Tom Scioli (with Bill Crabtree on colors) once again hold Washington DC hostage with The Super-Villain Congress holding it down at 100 Constitution Avenue NE ("no one can seize a moment like Freidrich Nickelhead!"), a gargantuan alien death machine goes into dormancy on the lawn, and intergalactic nihilist R@d-Ur Rezz battles not just Adam Archer, but his cosmically powered sister and two similarly affected space heroes as well. Add to this the bombastic dialogue you've come to know and love from this series ("Welcome to the end of everything!" and "Let our thunder offer clarity!") and two cameo appearances that both amuse and shock, and you've got one hell of a mind-blowing experience for just three bucks.

"Secret Six" #14
Secret Six #14
(DC Comics)

Writer Gail Simone promised "blood. Lots of blood," and she delivered. The super island prison holding scores of Bana-Mighdall Amazons is still filled with screams in the night and open conflict between its jailers/slavers and the populace they've been tasked with suppressing, all spurred on from both directions by the members of the titular team. Backs get stabbed and restabbed (people just don't stay betrayed anymore), Scandal Savage has a weird family reunion, and, of course, rivers and endless streams of blood flow freely. The dim coloring makes sense as most of the action happens at night, but Jason Wright still manages to keep the tones vibrant and clear, perfectly matching the crisp and sometimes even intimate artwork of Nicola Scott, Carlos Rodriguez, Doug Hazelwood and Mark McKenna.

"Gravel" #14
Gravel #14
(Avatar Press)
Jump from the Read Pile.
In England, there were two groups of seven magicians who essentially ran the mystical elements of the country. Combat magician William Gravel killed his way through the Minor Seven, and has just found out the core of the murder mystery that drew him into the Major Seven. This leads to some pretty well depicted magical fighting (makers of "Doctor Voodoo" and "Strange" take note) and some very messed up but brilliantly done imagery from Mike Wolfer and Juanmar. As with this week's "Anna Mercury," writer Warren Ellis includes almost nine pages without dialogue, and it doesn't deter the storytelling one iota, delivering a satisfying and powerful experience while setting the stage for even more. The best part is the balance here -- the "Major Seven" storyline was done in seven issues, as was their predecessors. What's next? fascinated to find out.

"Incredible Hercules" #136
The Incredible Hercules #136
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Hercules has gotten himself maneuvered into quite a position, helming the Drow armies of Svartalfheim as they prepare to march on Asgard, stomping Earth flat on the way. However, Thor and the Warriors Three have come up with a clever way to save the day, and all it requires is lots of pages of punching and kicking and some other combat tactics that also take up lots of pages. Why did this work better than your average fight comic? Well, first of all is the very, very slick characterization and plot work done around the newly prepubescent Zeus, who gets quite a nice turn at the end. Second is the sly humor of it all, from some "down and dirty" fight moves to the beer-swilling mutterings of Hogun and Volstagg to some of the funniest onomatopoeia ever used in sound effects ("WHATAMANNNN," "SUKKKAPUNCH," "NURP" and "GODDATHUNDAAA"). Great stuff from Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente on story and the art team of Reilly Brown, Nelson DeCastro, Guillem Mari, Ulises Areola and Sotocolor's A. Street.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Can't lose from winning with these fantastic reads.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"JSA vs. Kobra: Engines of Faith" #5 was the comic closest to making the cut, and may have done so on a more charitable week. Mr. Terrific and Power Girl are leading the heroes in more proactive attempts to deal with Kobra's terrorism, but even they wonder if they're making progress or just working themselves deeper into Jason Burr's intricate plans. The action moved fast but ultimately inconclusively, sparring a bit too much, without either side landing a decisive blow.

"DMZ" #46 had a similar problem, as Matty Roth has his own team of guns and money to throw around, but nobody -- including Matty -- seems to know exactly what he's doing. The Radio Free DMZ seems like it should be Matty's work, but the story's unclear about what's really happening there.

"The Anchor" #1 was a pleasant surprise, telling the story of a being whose split existence protects the world on planes both physical and spiritual. An insurmountable guardian, his soul stands at the border of hell and earth, forever holding back the relentless hordes clamoring for escape. However, his physical form has boiling skin and shows every wound his immortal soul never shows, healing quickly but feeling every pain. In this cool set-up issue, the plot's reminiscent of Boom! Studios' "Jeremiah Harm," but lacks the grimness and world weary indifference. Not bad, but not quite getting the job done either.

After the surprising ending to the first issue, "Galactica 1980" #2 steps up the meeting of the Colonials with their Earthborne brothers, going to explain some of the common roots between the two groups of humans and have a lot of shooting. It shocks more by not being terrible than anything else, but it has little room for characterization and goes straight for action.

Connor Kent is weird. In "Adventure Comics" #3, he catches up with his old best friend Tim Drake (who some might say has also gone pretty much cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs) and goes through some very, very weird moments. Weirdest of all, Connor reveals his very, very dark secret to Tim, who may not be considered the most reliable of witnesses considering his obsessions. The awkwardness here is almost offset by the brilliance of the backup story with the Legion of Super-Heroes, with Polar Boy and Sun Boy on the super-hot planet of Tharr. Five more pages of that would have gotten this home.

Speaking of Tim Drake, "Red Robin" #5 has him standing in as a proxy for the Demon's Head. Wait, what? Yeah, you read that right -- the League of Assassins are under attack from the Council of Spiders (who? Never mind, doesn't matter) and Lucius Fox's innocent daughter is caught in the middle of an identity-revealing affair that almost can't end well. It was okay, but given what Daredevil's already doing inside a killer mystic cult of ninjas and what Angel already tried with Wolfram and Hart, it doesn't break any new grounds, nor even make things look different. Not bad, but not good enough by any measure.

Keeping it Batty, Dick Grayson makes an appearance in "Booster Gold" #25 which ends up rather sappy. Once again, the backup feature with Jaime Reyes battling some ghosts of villains future worked better, testing the limits of where the hero ends and the human begins. There's a lot of that going around, huh? Better back ups than main features. Hh.

Finally, "REBELS" #9 was okay in spots, generating some team spirit and creating a "caste of one" while building up the idea of the fight before much of the fighting actually happens. Again, this was just not strong enough, given that Vril Dox barely got a chance to speak.

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

"Soulfire Volume 2" #1 (but spirit is it pretty), "Batgirl" #3, "Transformers: All Hail Megatron" #16, "Detective Comics Annual" #11, "Deadpool" #900, "Green Arrow/Black Canary" #25, "Iron Man: iron Protocols," "Green Lantern Corps" #41 (despite some shows of life from Gardner and Kilowog), "Shield" #2 (almost bad, but mostly mediocre) and "Farscape: D'argo's Trial" #3.

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

"Blackest Night Batman" #3 was, in a word, bad. Okay. The Black Lanterns dig up dead people to get everybody worked up enough to emotionally charge their something or other. Fine. But this issue drags it out with such tedium and overwhelming melodrama that it didn't even get the impetus that happened in "Green Lantern Corps."

"Nomad: Girl Without A World" #2 was terrible. Really. The art's fine, the coloring's fine, and sure, Sean McKeever is doing his best to add some of the "Runaways" styled teen angst to the story. But it just didn't work -- Rikki Barnes doesn't really have any reason to dress up and carry on like a vigilante. It's not like she lives in Albequerque -- she's in New York, which is lousy with masks putting their foot in the butt of crime, as well as the repressive Osborn legacy of H.A.M.M.E.R.. Her actions seem contrived and her pathos overwrought. No.

An all-Raven issue? "Titans" #18 had no choice but to be as relentlessly emo as her limited series, featuring a less inspired family squabble than what we saw in "Secret Six." Raven's clearly the queen of navel-gazing, and she lives up to that here. Or, conversely, you could chew off your own foot. Either would be equally entertaining. Moving on ...

Remember Magneto lost his powers? Well, they're back in "Uncanny X-Men" #516. This is hardly a spoiler, nor is the wildly surprising means by which he gets them. See, he took a trip with the High Evolutionary, who took him much more seriously than the entreaties of Henry McCoy, and dragged him into space. To gaffle a Celestial. Then dip Mags in the Celestial's brain. Which powered him back up. Really? As shocking as it is to see a comic written by Matt Fraction numbered amongst the worst of the worst, this crazy idea is -- at best -- the only thing marginally interesting, and it's completely crazy. Not even good crazy, like the two voices in Deadpool's head. No, this is bad crazy, like waking up naked underneath Carrot Top. Chuck Xavier yelling like a nutbag. Scalphunter in some very weird situations. Just ... wow, this just did not work.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Mostly not bad, just swinging and missig, despite Rikki Barnes and Raven and what not. Plus, uh, Marvel, did you guys not really feel like putting out many comics this week?

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Three jumps. Being unable to turn away from Connor Kent or The Anchor or Professor Zee or Jason Burr ... that's pretty good stuff!

THE BUSINESS

First of all, today's the birthday of this columnist's wife, and we wish her the most joyous of solar return anniversaries. You're an angel, Myshell, happy birthday!

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, and the PDFs never get sent out to file sharing sites.  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, secret six, incredible hercules, anna mercury, godland

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