The Buy Pile

Thu, February 25th, 2010 at 12:28pm PST

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 FEBRUARY 24TH, 2010

"Gravel" #17
Gravel #17
(Avatar Press)

The good thing about being the king of all magic in England is that, according to this issue, there's an abundance of spell casters suitable for some training and ramping up into being your new acolytes. First, you take a look at some doses of vigilante justice and a kind of magic that could be "the daftest ****ing thing I've ever heard of," toss in a bit of a mission (although it's odd to see someone who lived in the era of the IRA to have written, "You've got to admit, this country could use a bit of terrifying") and the start of a new nemesis. There's juuuuust enough plot to make this worthwhile, and ambiance and characterization to go around. Writer Warren Ellis makes his new additions Kayleigh Greene and Pranav Bapat almost hover off the page with very short but very effective brush strokes while the title character's barely even involved. Solid work here.

"Deadpool" #20
Deadpool #20
(Marvel Comics)

Let's clear out the important stuff here: Hit-Monkey's not funny. Hit-Monkey is also not interesting nor compelling. Hit-Monkey is to comics what Heather Graham ("Boogie Nights" notwithstanding) is to movies: sucking the life out of anything on screen. Luckily, there's much better stuff going on in this issue based on the interaction of Wade Wilson and Peter Parker, who joust back and forth verbally as the Spider (who wants nothing to do with Deadpool) tries to figure out just how to keep the gunfire off the streets. When you add in the title character's...interesting choice of wardrobe, Peter Parker's "a-ha" moment and a fascinating set of delusional tourist photos keeps this one rolling along. This story might not have needed a third installment, but as always, Daniel Way has a talent for making funny Deadpool stories that comes close to the brilliance of Joe Kelly. Still well worth the cost.

"X-Factor" #202
X-Factor #202
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
The mystery of what happened to Sue Richards in Latveria is not at all what most would expect, the Richards kids get some hilarious dialogue ("It's true. That's just how she rolls")...you know what, Reed gets some nice (and in some ways surprising) lines as well while Doctor Doom reveals a partnership that makes a whole lot of things look...unusual (and reveals he's quite the portrait painter). The visual storytelling from Bing Cansino and Jeromy Cox is a bit unclear at the apex of the story, leaving the sequence of events a bit lacking, but Peter David's story itself is excellent, and that saw this issue home.

"Scalped" #35
Scalped #35
(Vertigo/DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
If you read this series for its bleak outlook on humanity in general, well, you may as well take a month off. This issue looks like it's going one way and almost impossibly takes a turn that's absolutely wonderful. Almost life affirming. Yes, you're still reading a review of "Scalped." The level of detail and nuance that writer Jason Aaron and art team Danijel Zezelj and Giulia Brusco layer on here, telling a story that covers decades, is simply amazing. Like, "award-winning" stuff. Early contender for the best single issue of the year.

"Official Index of the Marvel Universe" #14 and "Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z Update #1"
Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z Update #1 and Official Index to the Marvel Universe #14
(Marvel Comics)

Two reference works? Of course they made it home. A detailed handbook - with quantifiable reference to how powers compare - is like a license to be right. The warlord Krang is almost as strong as Lyra the Second She-Hulk. That's a fact. Adam Warren wrote four issues of Iron Man starring his digitized personality. Yup. No arguing that, pal. Added bonuses here include a detailed breakdown of the Luminals from "Guardians of the Galaxy" (that helps) and breakdowns of many 1960s issues of "Amazing Fantasy" and/or "Adventures" that show Stan Lee (alongside the incomparable Steve Ditko) test driving concepts that we'd be enjoying in comics for decades to come (the Ancient One's first appearance, a number of variants on inanimate objects fighting for justice, shapeshifting alien invasions, et cetera). Pricy but informative.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Darned enjoyable material here.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Fall of the Hulks: Red Hulk" #2 was - brace yourself - not bad. A fairly simple action story gets surprising character development and emotional resonance from two characters who normally are all punch and yell. The shock of it was its appeal, because its prequel-osity fit some pieces together decently, but it didn't so much step forward in a new direction.

Given the quality of "Gravel," it's sad that "Captain Swing" #1 is more of a research paper on steampunk crimefighting concepts than, say, a story. There's surely some entertainment value here, but it's not enough.

"Secret Warriors" #13 had - again - a great display of characterization and atmosphere. It also, however, had a lot of talking heads, even as they spoke reverently about what dreams may come and what horrors surely will. Writer Jonathan Hickman sets the table like nobody's business, but it could do with some more food there.

The seeds of change appeared in "Irredeemable" #11 as the Plutonian showed his cards with both his twisted childhood and an Achilles' heel that is a well-kept secret. Great plot influences but it's a skeleton that (again) could use more meat.

In "Thunderbolts" #141, Norman Osborn's wetworks team finally whacks somebody on purpose, sent behind enemy lines in the Siege to bring back...well, that'd be telling, but they still screw up a lot and bicker like Charlie Sheen and a spouse over bladed weapons (no, it's not too soon, he's vile and deserves twenty times the heat of a philandering golfer or even a singer on Grammy night). Their ineffectiveness and essential lack of direction is what stops them from being a more entertaining read.

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

"Image United" #0, "Black Lantern Green Arrow" #30, "G.I. Joe: Operation HISS" #1, "Blackest Night JSA" #3, "Amazing Spider-Man" #622, "Superman" #697, "Dark Wolverine" #83, "Teen Titans" #80 (pretty sure this exact same plot played out in the original "Static" comic and on the "Static Shock" TV show), "Fantastic Four" #576, "Unknown Soldier" #17, "Ms. Marvel" #62 (the part with Spider-Man wasn't bad), "Web" #6, "New Avengers" #62 (weird for Bendis to have someone who controls with pheromones...controlled by someone using pheromones), "Wildcats" #20, "Thor" #607 (oh, Clor ...), "Wonder Woman" #41, "Ultimate Comics Enemy" #2 and "Batman and Robin" #9.

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

Oh "Blackest Night" #7...somewhere, in America, someone is hugging their knees and crying, and it's due to you. The bad part is that the last, tragic page isn't even the worst of it. Lex Luthor's overwhelming stupidity (and don't you dare try to blame it on the ring, he's better than that), the disturbing retcon that disavows not only DC's own established scientific canon but discounts the entirety of Jack Kirby's work...it's not the sort of thing to inspire the kind of vitriol this column once threw around willy nilly. No, this is an indicator of the Great Sadness, a spiritual ennui that saps a little of the reader's strength, a little of their vitality, with every turning page. Let's...let's just move on.

When your lead element is "The all new, all-emo Thundercracker," you should have an idea that "Transformers" #4 isn't gonna work. Then, to have Swindle coin the phrase "Rodimus Prime" and have it answered not with a hail of weapons fire but a nod...to close it down, when Ultra Magnus gets completely dissed...that's tedious. Also sad. Deeply, deeply sad, like listening to "Everyday Is Like Sunday" in the rain while staring mournfully out of a window. A window facing a brick wall. Argh.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

The bad was really bad, the mediocre was overwhelming and the tolerable just kind of jogged in place. Oof.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two jumps and some great purchases just barely loses against a powerful wave of "meh"-ness and tragedy. Sinestro, Thundercracker...you guys just did too much to damage things, sorry.

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. Well, maybe not this week, this writer's pooped.

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