The Buy Pile

Thu, May 6th, 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 MAY 5TH, 2010

The Great Ten #7
(DC Comics)

This issue is a lot more plot than characterization, but you do get all of the details about how the Seven Deadly Brothers came to join the Great Ten and the nature of their powers. There was some tragic news from The Beat claiming that the ten issue miniseries was going to be cancelled as of issue nine...one short of its completion. Grrr...anyway, back to this comic at hand. Yang Kei-Ying's multiple man-ism trafficks in a different fashion than your Jamie Madroxes, Replays or Multiplexes, and when you add the nature of his origin, he does have some interesting elements. As well, the plot adds some interesting developments in terms of political leanings while the "gods" of ancient China get some surprises of their own. There's enough good stuff in this issue to be worth the money even while it's not as strong as some previous issues. Shame it'll all end prematurely.

Secret Six #21
(DC Comics)

Catman's...unhappy. Taking a glimpse back into his troubled childhood (apparently he had some weight problems way back) and showcasing some serious skills at bloodletting while being tracked by some of his former teammates, all on a collision course with a brutal extra-human mercenary called Loki. Meanwhile, Bane is a businessman and has calmly replaced four of the six with a fresh roster of kooks and psychopaths. All the pieces are balanced perfectly and every mean-spirited line of dialogue fits perfectly with the grim visaged and delightfully detailed artwork of J. Calafiore and Jason Wright.

Astro City: The Dark Age Book Four #4
(Wildstorm/DC Comics)

Interwoven storylines dovetail into one another and all roads converge in a finale that's got sturm und drang and all the mayhem you could ever want. The brothers Royal and Charles resolve their story in a way that brings it all full circle as only a writer of Kurt Busiek's skill could fulfill. As always, Brent Anderson's artwork is a standard for excellence. This is literary work that's worthy of praise and recognition that pulls the Astro City mythos through the disillusionment of the original "Wall Street" era into the start of their own "Heroic Age" with the Samaritan's first appearance.

Official Index to the Marvel Universe: The Avengers, Thor and Captain America #1
(Marvel Comics)

When you read back on old stories from the classical names of comics, they actually hold up pretty well...once you get past the casual sexism and racist thought. "Captain America and the Ageless Orientals Who Wouldn't Die?" Damsel in distress incidents that would make Lois Lane embarrassed. Even Thor going up against mobsters...well, sure, it sounds ridiculous but it was the sixties, dude. You can get a good look at the seeds of the modern Marvel universe in manufacturing a reason for disparate heroes to band together, lots of people getting killed around Steve Rogers (who had a hard time getting a job, which is interesting) and both Hank Pym and Don Blake using the same gag to get out of traps more than once. Sure, there may be cornball elements and the aforementioned dated concerns, but this is cheaper than the original issues and gives you a glimpse at the sheer volume of creativity flying under names like Simon or Kirby or Lee at a time when the whole world was waiting. Fascinating stuff.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Pretty good so far.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Killer: Modus Vivendi" #1 was very Warren Ellis-esque in the sheer volume of its talkiness, with a voiceover that makes Michael Westen seem taciturn by comparison. The transnational locales and the Jean Reno-esque determination of the protagonist had their charms, but it was ultimately too much talk and not enough actual action, with artwork that was didn't exactly jump off of the page at you. Worth watching, though.

"Nemesis: The Impostors" #3 was close to the mark as Thomas Tresser copes with the DCU while Dick Grayson and Princess Diana try to come to grips with what the spy is capable of. Meanwhile, Tresser tracks down organized criminals and beats his way towards a real figure worth taking down like he was related to Mario and Luigi. The issue couldn't focus on one thing that worked, trying to dabble in a little of everything, sadly.

"Buck Rogers" #11 was a nice improvement with no science-modified mammals on the attack and a better bit of plotting with complicated future politics in time of struggle as a backdrop. Sure, nobody but Buck Rogers got any space for characterization, but this was an improvement over previous issues.

"Superman: War of the Supermen" #1 was also a pleasant surprise as it succeeded with Zod's determination and Alura's frayed emotions. There was a great scene between Kara and Kal-El in space that summed up everything, and the classical treatment of Reactron was an interesting twist, but the plot rushed by everything it needed to dwell on due to simply having too much to do in order to wage a war in one hundred minutes, like Jack Bauer on crystal meth. Should be interesting to see if it gets better.

The biggest surprise in "Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of Our Father's" #2 was that T'chaka is the kid here while Gabe Jones and a much younger Nick Fury try to figure their way through as the Nazis gather on the doorstep. Given that (until 2010) Wakanda's claim of never being conquered remained true, this prequel lacks some bite, but this issue does showcase some of the real impressiveness of the warrior nation with less of the forced perspective of an outsider. Captain America's idealism in particular makes a nice ideological counterpoint to the Black Panther's weary skepticism. Still a little rough, though, but getting there.

The last page of "Batman and Robin" #12 is its best feature, and the interplay between Damian and his mother was strong as well, but many elements ("... wearing me like a glove..." and "The Return of Bruce Wayne Begins Here" again) made this issue drag along.

There's some of the energy you'd like from the movies in "Iron Man: Public Identity" #2, complete with Justin Hammer honing in on military contracts and Tony Stark jet setting it with the finest in scantily clad ladies at his side, but as with many of the movie tie-ins, its not paced for the periodical and lacks a clear narrative arc as a single issue.

"Jonah Hex" #55 is a good book. Like "Monolith" before it, Gray and Palmiotti have created a well-crafted book that hits on every level in terms of artistic merit. It is, however, a western...and to buy it, one would have to like westerns, which this column does not, by and large. So, like "Monolith," this column will recognize that this work is a skillfully made work of art worthy of praise...and stop reviewing it. Since westerns are not within this column's aesthetic, it's a disservice to review it as a "didn't buy" since it would have a harder climb to be bought anyway due to nothing more than its own intrinsic nature, not factors of this individual collection of panels.

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

"Deadpool Corps" #2, "Brightest Day" #1 (Aquaman can shrug off getting shot in the face now?), "Uncanny X-Men" #524, "Shadowhawk" #1, "Realm of Kings: Son of Hulk" #4, "Red Robin" #12, "Amazing Spider-Man" #630, "Sparta USA" #3, "Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine" #1, "Hellboy in Mexico" (but thanks for doing this one in time for Cinco de Mayo) and "Vengeance of the Moon Knight" #8.

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

"JSA All-Stars" #6 was another disturbing example of trailerism (actually, "Brightest Day" was a huge collection of trailers pretending to be an actual story) which kind of brushed past the creepy circumstances here (Courtney's recovery was way too facile) and had a climax that was not only less satisfying than the mini-series version of Stephen King's "It" but also had very similar narrative elements. Troubling, and the "trailer trash" parading around in plot's clothes has to stop.

"Ultimate Comics New Ultimates" #2 did a number of things wrong. Mute and tossing a thumbs up like Cuba Gooding in "Radio," Ultimate Black Panther is a prop to be wielded and not a character. Ultimate Amora borrows a page from Loki and accomplishes a very predictable rift between the team members all too easily...all this issue had going for it was its artwork, which was very, very pretty.

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" #35 was, in a word, sad. In doing so much to jab at the "Twilight" popularity and ideas (and not being anywhere near as clever or metatextual as it probably wanted to be) and manages to replay the start of season six but giving Buffy an opposite direction, as well as featuring virtually everybody who could show up. Seemed kind of desperate.

"Doom Patrol" #10...dude, WTH? Seriously! Really, WTH?

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

A number of surprises as several issues sucked considerably less than many might have expected.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Rock solid purchases, fairly interesting reads, a small number of stinkers -- that's a good thing!

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.

That blog stuff? Let's talk about that next week. Play nice.

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