The Buy Pile

Thu, June 10th, 2010 at 11:58am 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 JUNE 9TH, 2010

"Prince of Power" #2
Prince of Power #2
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Oh, Amadeus Cho...you're one entertaining guy. The problem is that the immortal teenager formerly known as Agamemnon (now going by his original name of "Vali Halfling") is a smart and entertaining guy himself, and he's had tie to come up with a plan that's Cho-specific. Now, two mischievous minds are striving to achieve true divinity and it's a race that sets the members of many other pantheons on edge and in trouble. Meanwhile, Amadeus gets into a somewhat emotional conflict with the God of Thunder and again shows some of why his character is so compelling. The script from Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente delivers a solid story in and of itself, tells you everything you need to know, sends you happily towards the next issue, all with great artwork from Reilly Brown, Terry Pallot and Val Staples. Great comics entertainment, here.

"Secret Six" #22
Secret Six #22
(DC Comics)

Black Alice is a relentlessly powerful and arguably unstable teenager. Scandal Savage is a maybe immortal blade-wielding villainess who's been trained for combat since childhood by an immortal warlord. When these two scantily clad ladies go to blows, it's hard for their teammates to get involved, especially because it does nothing to help their wayward teammate Catman, who's tracking down his kidnapped son and some murderous thugs who stand in the way, examining his disturbing childhood in the process. The fact that even Ragdoll gets a great moment makes you forget that Bane and his murderous new team are nowhere to be seen. Gripping, intense material.

"Gravel" #19
Gravel #19
(Avatar Press)

The King of all of England's magic has managed to make a major enemy very early in his tenure, and this leads to secret places being found and blood sullying the streets of London. This goes pretty quickly, which doesn't serve the exposition-heavy story so well (especially the quickie page with the current Minor Seven). The many kooky and delightful elements that have made previous issues such a pleasure are less relevant here, but it's not bad.

"Booster Gold" #33
Booster Gold #33
(DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Great balance here between comedic and serious elements (despite the fact that "Brigadoom" was really not needed) with even Cyborg of the Tita...er, Justice League, making an appearance and the hunt for Maxwell Lord going back to the "bwa-ha-ha" era, looking for some kind of hard evidence to prove Lord's existence...despite the fact that showing people video of his murder looked like a blank screen. Great amusement from the Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis script and really effective artwork from Chris Batista, Rich Perrotta, Prentis Rollins and Hi-Fi (loved the intricacy of Booster's expression when collared by Martian Manhunter). It was a road to nowhere, but the scenery was great along the way.

"Invincible Iron Man" #27
The Invincible Iron Man #27
(Marvel Comics)

This wasn't the strongest issue of this series, as Tony Stark talks a lot and Justin Hammer's progeny are slinging armaments on a scale that'd make Destro jealous. There's an action scene where the bastard child of ED-209 takes on some anonymous gun-wielding poozers in Tokyo, Pepper gets argumentative and Jim Rhodes gets surprisingly introspective. This was a good effort in terms of characters, but outside of Japan and the scene next to the Prius it didn't really push any story points, and there only abstractly.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Three big winners and two okay purchases...that's an okay start.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Nemesis" #2 was a remarkable improvement over the very superficial debut issue, revealing the character's twisted origin and doing some actual plot as well. The ending was way, way too abrupt, however, and the mechanism that led to it was not very clearly explained. Great art, though.

"Batman" #700 tried to be coherent. Using a time travel framing device, this issue attempted to touch on many degrees of the Batman mythos (double McGinnis!) but ended up stumbling around inconclusively. There were some great moments -- the discovery of the mystery, the chemistry between Grayson and Damian -- but the whole did not amount to more than the sum of its parts.

Tony Chu and Amelia Mintz finally get their first date in "Chew" #11 and -- predictably -- it involves guns and crime and nefarious people trying to evade the clammy grasp of justice. That makes for a cute (if slightly creepy) story that easily makes the mark for "TV good," but doesn't quite hit the mark for spending the money.

"Avengers Academy" #1 had a cute twist at the end that telegraphed the dramatic tension that's likely to stand at the center of this series (in a good way) while introducing the character dynamic with some skill and deftness. However, with the exception of Finesse, most of the other characters were either boring rehashes of things we've seen before (Hazmat = Human Bomb, Striker = any hot headed wannabe), and even Finesse borrows a great deal of her shtick from Taskmaster. If it was on TV, you probably wouldn't flip the channel away from it, but it's not doing much more than that.

"Titans" #24 was surprisingly not awful, largely because it was dominated by Deathstroke and his murderous shenanigans. Normally, this series has Vic Stone or Donna Troy or somebody whining about their life for 22 pages. This time, there's some action. There's a weird bit with Lex Luthor (how can he be head of Lexcorp again? Are people really that gullible?) but it wasn't the real problem. The real concern was a misdirect that wasn't set up as well as it needed to be, kind of like the last third of "Nemesis."

"Farscape: Scorpius" #2 was very close to making the mark, as the title character uses brilliance and manipulation to leave a mountain of corpses in his wake as he works his way through power structure of a credulous race called the Grenjj. It's almost too easy for him and the set pieces he had to work with aren't exactly compelling either. In a Kobe-esque concern, the strength of one skillful character can't carry the whole thing.

Similar shtick in "Rawhide Kid" #1, where the lead character's wit and threatening physical abilities carry a lot of the narrative weight, but can't do it all like Robert Duvall couldn't carry "The Apostle" no matter how powerfully he acted. Fun art, interesting banter between characters, not exactly enough happening with everybody who's not the Rawhide Kid to make it work.

Some plot threads are tied up in "Star Trek: Leonard McCoy, Frontier Doctor" #3 and some more are opened up as the gruff medical practitioner vainly tries to keep his composure in a very messy galaxy. Also cute, also "TV good," also not good enough to pony up the cash for.

"G.I. Joe: Cobra 2" #5 turned into a noirish procedural cast in the modern mediagenic world, with a Cobra initiative playing the role of Scientology in generating high profile (and high profit) relationships with everyone from blue collar mechanics to Hollywood leading men. Enter a surly gumshoe and investigating the secretive Cobra organization from a new angle and you've got an okay issue that's a different direction for the series...but not one to jump on immediately.

Aunt May lays down the law while Mary Jane wrestles with ethics in "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #11, which (again) does better in spots than as a gestalt. The good included a long-haired Ultimate Ben Urich illustrating the realities of the fourth estate and the wonderful interplay between Johnny Storm, Bobby Drake and Peter Parker. The challenges here included a sucker punch from a character popping up at the end that seemed tacked on.

The shorthand available for characterization in using Greek deities in "Pantheon" #3 could have left room for greater expansion of plot...but it didn't. Heracles (who hates the Roman version of his name) is an arrogant muscleman, Aprhodite keeps sexual partners of every persuasion on hand, Dionysus is an unbridled hedonist...yadda yadda yadda. It might work better as a live action piece with stunt casting (Russell Brand as Dionysus?) but here, it was just a hair above mediocrity.

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

"Uncanny X-Men" #525, "Doom Patrol" #11, "Expendables" #2, "Captain America" #606, "Justice League: Generation Lost" #3, "Kato" #2, "Outsiders" #30, "Ultimate Comics Avengers 2" #3, "Gen 13" #36, "Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom" #1, "Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis" #2 and "Transformers" #8.

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

The worst book of the week was mitigated by being less horrible than its predecessor. "S.H.I.E.L.D." #2 simply looked like Jonathan Hickman's creativity on Grant Morrison's drugs, all the way down to the traditional Hickman all-text page (a trademark like Spike Lee's dolly shot) which just kind of popped up out of nowhere instead of being the normal post script to the narrative. If this is the worst of the week, that's almost a cause for optimism.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Just one "no" book? Let's hear it: yay!

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two jumps, one really negative review...you may as well break out in one of those big Bollywood dance numbers.

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.

Oh, and there's blogging too: I'm back with a newly unified blogging platform thanks to (yes, I'm eating crow for even saying this) WordPress and the theme-adapting styles of Suuru Designs at the Soapbox. That's where you'll find Commentary Track blogs on these reviews, normally within a day or two of their publication. Enjoy, you bastards.

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