The Buy Pile

Thu, January 28th, 2010 at 12:58pm PST | Updated: January 28th, 2010 at 1:49pm

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/karaoke host/jackass on Twitter) goes to a comic book store called Comics Ink in Culver City, CA (Overland and Braddock -- hey Steve, Jason, Vince and Quislet) 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 JANUARY 27TH, 2010

"Astro City: The Dark Age Book Four" #1
Astro City The Dark Age: Book Four #1
(Wildstorm/DC Comics)

The final quartet of issues following the brothers Royal and Charles Williams sets off with a technology-powered quest for vengeance, hounding a former high ranking member of the Pyramid organized crime organization with murder in their eyes. This issue, as so many before it, seems to effortlessly set the scene and base the story in a period of time while not sacrificing the extraordinary circumstances of this continuity. Introducing characters and scenarios with ease and weaving the story in between the new ideas, Busiek and Anderson work as hard at world building as they do at telling the story. In this one instance, that balance leans a little more towards the "world building" aspect, in that nothing really new happens for the two lead characters, but it's still darned entertaining stuff here.

"Official Index of the Marvel Universe" #13
The Official Index of the Marvel Universe #13
(Marvel Comics)

Catching up to the last few years, this chronicles much of the fall out of the Civil War, from Peter Parker's struggle with the law (and how the law won), Iron Man's disassembly and how Scott Summers found some beachfront property. Toss in some 1990s recaps of "War Machine" and the fact that some of Matt Fraction's best work (from "Invincible Iron Man") is encapsulated here (and, honestly, kind of eviscerated in that the sheer volume of its brilliance doesn't convey in the quiet moments as well: "Soon after, they have sex" doesn't convey the complications of what went on with Tony Stark at the time) and you've got an interesting set of comics covered here...and for the first time, some that were better experienced as the real thing.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Not expensive, not bad, no problems here.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

Wilson Fisk's in charge in "Daredevil" #504, leading Matt Murdock's clan of ruthless ninja businessmen to draw swords on Norman Osborn's legal corruption while the fat man watches and laughs. This is a perfect recipe for bloodshed and misplaced righteousness and when everybody else is playing dominoes, it makes a game of chess seem almost too easy. The closest to making the mark in coming home, honestly, but Matt Murdock's moral waffling is...tedious.

"Chew" #8 was pretty entertaining, a set up issue taking the special FDA agent (long story if you're not on board already) into "international waters" for complicated reasons that once again involve chickens. Solid stuff, but not amazing.

Dick Grayson was in fine form in "Batman and Robin" #7, performing parkour in a way that'd make Screwball proud and grimming it up in an effective manner, plus the League of Assassins' HMO plan was on display (was that a bacta tank?), but while it succeeded in moments (a common theme this week) it didn't hold together as "a significant chunk of culture."

Taskmaster also decided to step up his game in "Avengers: The Initiative" #32, shoving a sword into the sternum of an Asgardian or six as Norman Osborn leads a charge against the equivalent of heaven itself. More of Taskmaster's struggle in the present day would have made this work better, but recounting his resume as an "also-ran" and "coulda been" took up valuable panel space that'd been better served in other ways.

Prometheus is back in a major way as of "Justice League: Cry for Justice" #6, where he holds his own against no fewer than four top level extrahuman powers while generally grinning his way through events. Not as snarky nor as fluid as his original Morrison appearances, he's still impressive. However, the art here clouds and deludes, looking pretty in panels but not telling a story in a way that's cogent enough to work.

There was a sense of spectacle and camaraderie in "Guardians of the Galaxy" #22 that worked well, but the shell game ending and the art not really standing up (one scene that got two thirds of the page really deserved a two page splash) kept this from crossing over like John Edwards. Hey, while we're here, "Secret Warriors" #12 had similar concerns.

"Teen Titans" #79 was another case of good elements and bad execution, as Wonder Girl tries to step up as a leader while Virgil Hawkins makes his way back to his home town of Dakota. The problem is, Dakota's a town that's as much of a character as anybody with super powers, and here it's absolutely blank. It has no personality and no spirit. Does that mean that Felicia Henderson doesn't have the same comfort and ability with these settings (especially that last page reveal, which meant nothing unless you already knew Dakota inside and out) as, say, Dwayne McDuffie? Hard facts to accept, sadly.

"Dark Reign: Hawkeye" #5 has the title character dealing with some familial issues in a way that was a little too facile and artistically done serviceably but unremarkably. Nice action, thin on plot though.

After a great and moody issue last month, this issue simply didn't pace this part of the mystery well enough for "Unknown Soldier" #16 to work out. The murder and the tension between refugees just kind of stewed without simmering. Pace this faster by a third and it could have been all right.

The wild ideas came fast and furious in "Fantastic Four" #575 but again they didn't exactly coalesce into a narrative. Shame, since there's ample evidence of writer Jonathan Hickman's talent, but it's stifled here somehow.

The first half of "The Unknown: The Devil Made Flesh" #4 was good, but the ending just kind of rushed up at you in a hurry. Really, another case of "made for the trade" where the story stands best as a whole.

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

"Irredeemable" #10, "Blackest Night: JSA" #2, "Robocop" #1, "Detective Comics" #861, "Amazing Spider-Man" #619, "Gotham City Sirens" #8, "Kick-Ass" #8, "Jack of Fables" #42, "Ms. Marvel" #49, "Supergirl" #49, "New Avengers" #61, "Superman" #696, "Thor" #606, "Superman: Secret Origin" #4, "Ultimate Comics Enemy" #1, "The Web" #5, "The Sword" #21, "Wonder Woman" #40, "Die Hard: Year One" #5 and "Pilot Season: Demonic" #1.

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

"Green Lantern" #50 played (again) like fan fiction, pulling characters like a fantasy league team from places characters need not be pulled from. This terrible issue again threw fight after fight for...well, this has been going on so long that the real rationales are hard to guess, especially with the "brightest day" already getting publicized. It's...it's bad in a way that's more sad than anything else.

You already know what happened in "Captain America: Reborn" #6. You've known for weeks if you've been reading comics, since, oh, right, the characters who are to live prosper on in issues that already have hit the stands. So there's that. On top of that, however, the means by which one character succeeds over another is so arbitrary, so insipid...it's tedious, really, for all this to even need to happen.

For months, a big invasion has been brewing, and it finally happens in "Wildcats" #19...and it's a horrendous waste of time. Seriously, you could strike this issue from the run and it would make zero difference. All that pomp and circumstance, and it comes down to "where were we?"

Finally, "Fall of the Hulks: Red Hulk #1" posits that Galactus and Ganthet have a lot in common. That's not a good thing. This "Deep Impact"/"Armageddon" narrative parallel makes things just seem like there aren't many new ideas around anymore. Tragic, really.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Twelve adequate, four awful and a mountain of "meh" to the tune of eighteen issues. That's...well, unfortunately that's kind of average.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Spending that little money doesn't help when the week feels like an onslaught, and due to time constraints a number of titles weren't able to be covered at all.

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, where I also post (mostly) weekly commentary tracks about these reviews.

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