The Buy Pile

Thu, April 22nd, 2010 at 12:28pm 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 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 APRIL 21ST, 2010

"Iron Manual Mark 3"
Iron Manual Mark 3
(Marvel Comics)

As reference works go, this one's a little dry. There are gems of information here, though - like the fact that Hydra's Dreadnoughts only have 330 MB for "personality simulation and motivation programming," which means your average $100 phone at the mall kiosk is more powerful than the brain in these things, that the Masters of Silence will always be with us, or the idea that the sentient plasma creature formerly known as Rick Dennison is wandering some other dimension, mad as hell and setting stuff on fire. Still, you can get caught up with developments covering centuries of technological advancements with the name "Stark" on them, including a whole alien race that deified Tony (not clear if their scriptures include the drinking and womanizing). This is another good piece of product on the stands ahead of the new movie coming out, and there's nothing (Maria Stark) actually (Marcy Pearson) wrong with it (Artemus Pithins...really?).

"Gravel" #18
Gravel #18
(Avatar Press)

The King of Magic in England has recruited his Minor Seven...sort of. He sits down with five of Great Britain's most promising and lethal young magicians and lays down the law for them, everybody enjoys a pint (they're British) and covers a decent amount of story distance while allowing the title character a chance to talk (he's a Warren Ellis lead) while doing some "Supergod" style background development. However, what's great is that this doesn't sacrifice actual storytelling as the villain of the piece gets another careful moment that fills its brevity with blood and exploding bodies, bringing in some of the procedural set ups Ellis developed in "Fell." Solid work, uses lots of Ellis' refined techniques and features Mike Wolfer and Juanmar getting as intimate as putting on make up and as grand as knocking down an elder god "right in the middle of bloody Manhattan." Solid work.

"Doomwar" #3
Doomwar #3
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Victor Von Doom has absconded with ten thousand tons of Wakandan vibranium, bloodying the streets of Wakanda in the process and getting the Fantastic Four and a handful of X-Men ready to take a swing. Stakes high enough? The good (or not so good) doctor has a confrontation with the Panther God, figures out something T'challa couldn't understand and has everybody trying to catch up. His chessmanship is superb, the depth of Doom's planning is immaculate and it only makes the determination of the heroes aligned against him all the more impressive. Much like the previous issue, storytelling is done in exposition cloaking action with moments of tension and excitement jammed in between. Great stuff here.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

A license to be right and two masterful shows of craft? That's a good start.

Oh, it seems that "Secret Six" #20 slipped off the radar last week (totally purchased). Let's discuss that more down in "The Business"...

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

Thanos is back, and he's naked! Shouting and trying to kill people like he just climbed out of a Lazarus Pit (not the first DC-related Bat-image Marvel evoked this week) "Guardians of the Galaxy" #25 is almost wall to wall combat with the Mad Titan as the team bracketed by teams talking in two completely different centuries. Sure, Thanos killed an entire planet just by waking up, ripped from the eternal embrace of his one true love, Death herself. That can make a guy mad, and when the Guardians of the 31st century take a good hard look at things, they realize he's the guy who's endangering the future while Peter Quill realizes that he could use somebody who can fly. Not bad, even if it was kind of all over the place (and we'll get back to that as well).

Have you ever flipped through the channels and found something weird and creepy and maybe even a little sad...but you didn't change the channel? "The Guild" #2 is like that - which would be fine if it were on TV and you didn't have anything else to do. For actual money, well, wait just one second now...the hard luck story of a sad sack classical violinist who discovers life and friendship in an MMORPG is weird and dances with alternate lifestyles and the kind of Mr. Logos- styled pretention that is easy to mock but hard to humanize. Not quite there yet...

"Azreal" #7 wasn't a bad done-in-one suspense story which had some good action hero moments and cute "CSI: Miami" styled dialogue, but had an antagonist who was pretty lean and a conclusion that kind of coasted to a stop, clearly out of gas.

"A-Team: Shotgun Wedding" #4 was a cutesy ending to a story that never took itself too seriously. If not for the rough-hewn artwork (the boat part should have been bigger, the action scenes fell flat) it might have been on the high side of average, but it falls squarely in the middle here.

Despero a galactic hero while Vril Dox is reviled? "R.E.B.E.L.S." #15 doesn't take place in Bizarro World, and it's more weighed down by Starfire's incessant whining (what's with that generation of Titans?) than buoyed by its smirking team dynamic and Dox's lunatic angles on heroism. Not bad, but still not relying on its strengths.

One book that relies heavily on what it can get right is "Ultimate Comics Avengers" #6, which had Ultimate Captain America tell Hawkeye, "you never miss and I never lose!" Lines like that are great, alongside delightfully detailed artwork from Carlos Pacheco, but elements of emo are really take the wind from its sails despite Nick Fury's ruthless ambition.

Destro plays "Hogan's Heroes" and Snake-Eyes gets his Mr. Miyagi on in "G.I. Joe" #17, which again can't stay focused on one thing as Destro learns more about Cobra than he wanted to know and Snake-Eyes works on balancing his brutal occupation with the peace he wants within. Either could have been a compelling story on its own - Destro's steely focus on freedom and creating a Michael Weston-styled environment around himself or Snake's silent struggle with the blood he's shed and lives he's shattered.

Brace yourself: "Supergirl" #52 was almost good. Using the bittersweet, doomed romance of Braniac 5 and Kara as its spine, the tedious slogging through Braniac 1's ship is made almost palatable with Braniac's memories of tomorrows unborn. Unfortunately, even with the threat of Coluan "visper phages" (two of 'em allegedly killed an entire species in a day) there's never really much to make this seem like there are stakes that matter.

So...is this Peter Parker/Carol Danvers thing really happening? "Siege: Spider-Man" #1 seems to add more fuel to that fire, with a slugfest involving Mac Gargan simply serving as a backdrop for the two heroes to banter and...flirt? Oh, yeah, "Siege" is going on too, but it seems to be a background consideration in this issue. Still...Peter and Carol...interesting...

The stylistic methods that went so well for "Gravel" and "Doomwar" are tried in "Elephantmen" #25, but with a much larger cast (which means less time to work with any in particular - Sahara got a moment to shine, but without enough context) - and that spreads things thin, even with the all-star cast of guest artists taking a look at the legacy of Mappo. Not bad, and a full set of pages even if the story kind of just "Supergod"-ed it.

"Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers" #4 was back on track and closing on really doing it, as it was better able to distinguish the characters (through both improved coloring and better dialogue), showed Ironfist as a kind of moral center to the group, made Kup out as quite a badass and gave a little more info on the whole "What's up with Springer and Impactor?" bit. Why wasn't that enough? The plotting was literally all over the place, leaping from scene to scene - too much needed to happen in this issue, and it didn't all logically fit.

Speaking of all over the place, "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #9 had some of that between its bathroom shenanigans, teen superhero small talk and somebody making out with a clone. Yep. Cute in moments, not so strong 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

"Dark Wolverine" #85, "Green Lantern" #53, "Fall of the Hulks: Savage She-Hulks" #2, "Soulfire Volume 2" #4, "Nova" #36, "Air" #20, "Hercules: Fall of an Avenger" #2 (with shades of Red Robin), "Kato Origins: Way of the Ninja" #1, "Sif" #1, "Power Girl" #11, "Amazing Spider-Man" #628, "Spirit" #1, 'Avengers vs. Atlas" #4 and "X-Factor" #204

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

Remember back when Batman allegedly died twice in the space of, what, a month? "Justice League of America" #44 must have liked that trick, as they use a bit here to resurrect a character for the second time in the space of a month. One that's already french kissed somebody, one that's already had an emotional moment with said dude's new girlfriend...and now here said character is, popping out of an egg that looks like it was too small for Thanos. Really? *Seth Meyers face* Really? Also, apparently, Germany's superheroes are completely wack and there was a very thin attempt at making team building a story.

It's not as bad as "Blackest Night" #8, but "Captain America: Who Won't Wield The Shield" is very, very close. Too close. First of all, you're in trouble when the very first page has the following written on it: "you can't be serious about publishing this book." Then, you find that Forbush Man is the star, a character so lame he makes Impossible Man look hard core. Then, as if this wasn't insular and inbred enough, you have actual comics creators (Ed Brubaker, Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron) as characters in the actual comic. Brubaker with a gun! It's just not right. Here's a hint for any book that's trying to be funny (i.e. "Any Deadpool book not written by Daniel Way right now"): don't try to preach to the choir. That's not where funny is. You've been to a convention. We get it. Let's move on.

You might remember "Transformers Spotlight: Prowl" back when it was almost every comic book starring Bumblebee. The perennially repressed strategist gets sent undercover and borrows a little from Jazz, a little from the aforementioned VW Bug and a little from...what's it called? Oh, right, "being insanely boring."

Marvel, apparently, wants female readers. That's fine. However, making something as whiny, self-indulgent and bland as "Firestar" #1 is probably not gonna make hordes of estrogen-powered new fans ring up the Comic Shop Locator and rush to wherever this kind of tedium can be found. The action here was tacked on, the navel gazing was so intense that it could be felt without opening the comic, the worksmanship was serviceable at best. No, this is not what we do.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Naked Thanos (never get your butt kicked by a guy who's not wearing pants), "Supergirl" almost being good...despite that Forbush-idiocy, those are all good signs.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Fairly inexpensive week, good purchases, tolerable reads...let's slot that into the "win" column.

THE BUSINESS

Apparently, last week the sleep-deprivation of a newborn made this columnist completely forget that "Secret Six" #20 was purchased (duh) and clearly should have been in last week's reviews. Rather than irk everybody by going back to edit the actual column, look for that review in this week's Commentary Track on The Hundred and Four.

Back to new business: have you 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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