The Buy Pile

Thu, August 12th, 2010 at 12:28pm PDT

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/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, and here's some common definitions used in the column) about all of that...which goes something like this...

THE BUY PILE FOR AUGUST 11TH, 2010

"Steve Rogers, Super-Soldier" #2
Steve Rogers, Super-Soldier #2
(Marvel Comics)
Jump for the Read Pile. Closing in on some answers already, the secret antagonist is revealed and Steve deals with some complicated emotional issues from past and present, all while trying to make sure that human WMDs don't become commonplace. Not as good as the first issue, but you really have to check out the iconic way Dale Eaglesham and Andy Troy present Steve Rogers, giving him a recognizable profile and using the elements of his uniform to create a striking visual. The intimacy of their visual storytelling ("...if Smith's done it...if he...protect her...Anita doesn't deserve...") works well with Ed Brubaker's snappy, breakneck script. The sheer confidence he puts into Steve Rogers in his work while revealing his weaknesses about certain emotional elements is quite well done, enough to say that the character might not have been this interesting in years.

"Farscape: Scorpius" #4
Farscape: Scorpius #4
(BOOM! Studios)
Jump for the Read Pile. This wonderfully wicked character study has ratcheted up the stakes until it leaves the titular Scorpius in charge of a nearly unstoppable battle fleet poised to grant him the revenge he's so long sought against a galaxy he feels did him wrong. The development of the issue is a wonderful bit of storytelling by Rockne S. O'Bannon and David Mack, with visuals from Gordon Purcell and Nolan Woodard. A pleasant surprise with a twist ending that's simply gripping.

"Invincible Iron Man" #29
Invincible Iron Man #29
(Marvel Comics)

Tony Stark's not as smart as people believe, and the holes in his cover story are starting to show, ever so slightly. Still, Pepper Potts is ecstatic to have a new suit you can't find at the mall and Tony's managed to upgrade himself again as well. There's a lot of talk and a really rather smart plot work, but there's two slightly hard-to-parse moments at the end that leave Tony in some hard to handle situations that don't read as clearly as they should. Suffice it to say that the Hammer family has some interesting ideas (either genius or dangerously stupid, it's hard to tell) and the story is picking up momentum. Still not at the heights of the series, but still head and shoulders above most of what's on the shelves.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

"1 For $1 Sin City The Hard Goodbye"
Add two jumps to the fact that the super-entertaining "1 For $1 Sin City The Hard Goodbye" came out this week, and this is a pretty good week worth of purchases.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Morning Glories" #1 is an unusual little oddity with a kooky cast of misfits sequestered at a highly unusual boarding school. Sounds like a dull version of "Facts of Life" until you see the screaming and the blood and the ethereal figures. There's some fun dialogue that'd probably get a chuckle from Brian Michael Bendis, but it's long on set up and short on answers or action.

Wilson's back in "DMZ" #56, and it's not much of a spoiler to reveal that he spends the entire issue eating breakfast. Along the way, there's reminiscences of recent events and his perspective on what's happening in the DMZ, but still...it's a whole issue about a guy eating breakfast. Cute, but not necessary.

"Rawhide Kid" #3 had a lot of chatter as well, and yeah, it's funny and witty in short bursts. However, there's concerns about the slowness of the development of the story and the disturbing fact that there's a gunfighter in a bear suit. Really. Grizzly Johnson, a mountain of a man, with a gun belt and a literal bear suit. Really. Frankly, the idea of a grown man walking around in the hot old west wearing a full body fur coat in a group of people who need to rely on the speed of their reflexes. That's saddening. Still, lots of funny stuff, and hopefully a good action sequence next issue.

A little less talk and a little more action in "Justice League: Generation Lost" #7, which has the newly-minted team finding a way to invade Checkmate's crazy super spy castle...and it's a little bit ridiculous. A caper story with a taste of Giffen and DeMatteis' trademark humor along the way, it's not quite funny enough to make it home nor is it a good enough action piece (especially given what the "Checkmate" series said about their Castellan and the security measures in place) to sell itself as a serious piece of work. A weird pastiche, it's interesting but not completely ready.

Marvel's improved on the Trailer Park Theory in "Shadowland: Blood on the Streets" #1, which dropped in on a group of characters but used a murder that happened in the first two pages as a throughline to tie the mini-vignettes together as a more coherent narrative. Still, there was mostly hand wringing over Matt Murdock's murderous motives, but it was worth watching.

Speaking of intros, "Dungeons and Dragons" #0 set up two slightly predictable but still enjoyable premises, including a five man band that goes chasing goodies while a Spartacus-esque Captain Ersatz struggles against oppression and slavery. Yes, TV Tropes has wasted way too much of this week, shut up. In any case, this was about as good as an episode with Cavalier, Ranger, Acrobat and Barbarian, but with grown men and dwarfs instead of bratty kids thinking about going home to some milksop planet full of school days and playgrounds.

"Superman" #702 took his Feet Across America storyline into an interesting direction when visiting the Motor City, confronting the urban blight that's pushed down on that city's populace for decades. Along the way, he meets an interesting community of people calling the city home, interacts with an old black guy who shows up with a Whoopi Epiphany Speech. He finds his way at the end of the epi...er, issue, but he does manage to enact some change that (if it's remembered) could play out in interesting ways...if anybody remembers it in a few months. Nothing specifically wrong here, but it did play out much like an after school special.

Apparently, space war is hell in "Thanos Imperative" #3 as Something Big Happens and Thanos hides in an alternate version of his homeworld. There's some ridiculously complicated means by which both Thanos and his evil doppelganger need to accomplish something, and there's a funny red herring ending here that follows the rules Grant Morrison set up in "Earth 2," but the character interplay was good and the Marvel-teased (sorry, TV Tropes is ruining this week's reviews) power walk delivered the appropriate shiver when it showed what it was made from. A touch too scattered and babbling on with Quill instead of focusing on what was working with Nova, but showing some of its cards.

"G.I. Joe" #21 was ridiculous in a good way, with a claustrophobic combat scene aboard a ginormous Cobra submarine and wrestling with an undersea nuclear bomb aimed at creating a tsunami. The action was good, but the characters were (in many cases) interchangeable both visually and in terms of what they did (one was unconscious for half of the issue, and it made little difference), while the Cobras had good looking uniforms but little differentiation.

A teen-ish Legion of Super-Heroes led off "Adventure Comics" #517, which combined the confusions of youthful indiscretions (drinking and what not) with Saturn Girl trying to make a name for herself in the Legion's earliest days in contrast to the more showily powerful boys she worked with. Ray Palmer's pseudo-scientific explanations, however, couldn't help the irresponsible decisions he made in the back up story, trying to shake down the Calculator in a plot that had far too many facile elements.

Would you believe that Logan is surprisingly hairless? In "X-Force: Sex and Violence" #2, he exhibits a Chris Jericho-esque physique while ignoring what he's supposed to do while he instead did something...well, let's just say the title's literal. If the idea of Logan in flagrante delicto makes you wanna toss your Canadian bacon, well, you should probably keep moving. Also, if you're looking for, say, plot or characterization (Domino in particular doesn't act like herself), yeah, well...the art's pretty.

Teenish like "Adventure," "Batgirl" #13 concentrated on some superficial character work while confronting Clayface for very little practical reason. Really, you could miss this issue and never notice it nor really find what happened here enhancing the players, and that's cause enough to not buy. It wasn't bad, though, keeping itself moving briskly and using art to carry a story that's not so strong.

The ending of "Transformers" #10 was the only surprising element as the Autobots head to North Korea to fight Combaticons. Sort of. In any case, between the "okay" action scenes (why Vortex never took over this fight is never really clear from the visuals) and the notch down from the bigger ideas of last issue, it's at least TV Good.

"Witchblade" #137 was a cute done-in-one using a diary entry as a framing device for a necromancer guest star to befriend the title character, also covering a largely pointless fight breaking out at a fight scene. The painted artwork is great to look at, but not so much so that you'd wanna shell out cash for it.

Ted Kord seems much smarter than people believed in the time traveling "Booster Gold" #35. The characters in the throne room seem a little unidimensional, with a planetary monarch who borrows a lot from Maxima, a "villain" that's like a reversal of Sloat from "Hero Squared" and a tool that'd seem like a perfect fit for Grand Moff Tarkin's holiday stocking.

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

"Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors" #1, "Kato: Way of the Ninja" #3, "Titans" #26, "Zatanna" #4 and "Birds of Prey" #4.

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

"Incredible Hulk" #611 shows us Skaar and the legendary Green Hulk finally having the monster-to-monster battle royale that has been building for months. To say that the emo resolution to this conflict was a disappointment would be like saying that Jim Lee makes a lot of money or that Greg Land likes photo reference. See: "duh." Simply awful.

"Daredevil" #509 was actually just a notch below "meh," with a weird Gandalf moment ("You...shall not...pass!") and some unexplained magical hoo hah involving Matt Murdock's corruption and more hand wringing and posing for Misty Knight, Danny Rand and so on. It could have been worse.

Things we learned in "Ultimate Comics Avengers 3" #1: Ultimate Blade is horny. There's a new Ultimate Daredevil, who rocked a training montage and got up to speed inside of six or seven pages. Finally, there's vampires. Yes. Vampires. Please make it stop.

What's that? More vampires in "X-Men" #2? Oh. You've reconfigured Cerebro to read "vampire DNA," have you? No, no, that's not completely stupid. Oh, right, I guess it is. What's that? Oh, Scott has a plan to deal with that worrisome vampire map image that the Mouse House of Ideas teased? Great, let's hear...he wants to what? That's...that's relentlessly not smart. No, no, that's not just crazy enough to work, it's stupid. Wow. Is there a reset button on this idiocy? No? It'll be a forgotten crossover in a few years? All right, well...I guess we'll just wait it out.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Mostly okay, despite some really bad vampire and ninja related ideas, like this was the nineties or something.

Also, there was no order for GG Studios' "The One" #1, so no chance to check that out, sorry.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two jumps, great Frank Miller reprint, a light week in general -- let's call it a win, no matter how thin the margin.

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. Also, if you're so impatient that you can't wait on Wednesday nights (hopefully by 9PM), you can get an "Early Forecast" of what's going into the column on the Operative Network Mobile Edition. Enjoy, you bastards.

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