The Buy Pile

Mon, September 13th, 2010 at 6:58am PDT

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

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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 SEPTEMBER 9TH, 2010

"The Thanos Imperative" #4
The Thanos Imperative #4
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. There's a teaser image that was floating around the web that, in essence, gave you all the reasons you need for buying this comic. "Surfer just did deadpan trash talk," Quasar wondered. "I know. Can you believe it?" Nova responded. This while blowing the hell out of "Cancerverse" villains, and the hard-core nature of Quasar, Beta Ray Bill, Gladiator, Nova Prime, Silver Surfer and Ronan the Accuser practically leaps off the page. What's even funnier is - well, that'd be telling, but Abnett and Lanning have jammed every page of this comic with inherent coolness and the artwork from Miguel Sepulveda, Jay David Ramos and Wil Quintana is almost up to the task (there's a pivotal moment "Oh, I forgot - one last thing" - which should have been way bigger than the 2/3 page it took, but most of the issue worked well). Fine work that took everything that was good and made it even better.

"Invincible Iron Man" #30
Invincible Iron Man #30
(Marvel Comics)

Speaking of taking what's good and making it better, Tony Stark shows some "steel" (if you'll pardon the pun) as the Hammer family makes a mess and Pepper finds the perfect way to get through a boring party. This issue has great tension and a solid action scene (plus a high speed joyride with a girl sitting on the steering wheel). There's really only one problem with this issue, and it in no way hinders the enjoyability of the rest. The last scene seems to need a touch more clarity, as what actually happened on the last page is hard to parse, but the gist is clear and the rest of the book is a complete winner.

"Red Robin" #16
Red Robin #16
(DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. This series has been very close to the mark on many recent issues, but this time writer Fabien Nicieza simply put all of the pieces together in perfect order and in perfect proportions. Locked in a race against time with his self-proclaimed nemesis, Tim Drake has a lot to handle in twenty-two pages. How much? He's managing the international launch of a service organization, keeping tabs on a cross-temporal search for his mentor, managing a former assassin on an investigation that takes place on another continent, doing a last-second life-threatening rescue, wrestling with the recent arrest of the man who killed his father, understanding a "will-they-or-won't-they" situation with a woman who knows his secret - oh, and trying to stop a tactical genius from murdering every young man in town who's close to Drake's age and physique in a twisted attempt to murder him off the map. It seems like that'd be way, way too much to fit into one comic book, but Fabian Nicieza - an experienced talent - really hits all his marks and turns in an amazing piece of work, all while artwork from Marcus To, Ray McCarthy and Guy Major sets every mood and moment perfectly. A great superhero comic in every way.

"Thor" #614
Thor #614
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Great finish, wow. The gods of Asgard have eleven shades haunting them, and Thor has called for his own demise at their hands as of the end of last issue. However, these fearsome "bloody-mouthed ones" are a force that all powers are wary of, and between Mephisto's wonderfully sarcastic tone and the amazing artwork from Doug Braithwaite, Andy Troy, John Rauch and June Chung (the facial expressions showing the Disir's savagery and Tyr's gamut of emotion during the climax of his involvement) is simply divine. There are so many wonderful quiet moments, and it's amazing to see the comfort at which writer Kieron Gillen wields them like this story's central Macguffin, itself wonderfully tying in elements of earlier stories. Simply wonderful work.

"1 Month 2 Live" #2
1 Month 2 Live #2
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Dennis Sykes is looking at the clock, and he's turned to Marvel's most irreverent voice for assistance. This turns into a great guest appearance while Mister Negative makes a subtle, Wilson Fisk-esque turn in tasking his lead enforcer to bring down the morale of a community. The everyman lead is realistic in learning about his powers and his struggle with what's happening to him, and the tapestry of the Marvel Universe plays out alongside this wonderfully.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Top notch writing all around makes for five great comics.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Farscape: Scorpius" #5 was the closest to making it all the way home as the titular character makes a stand against his most hated enemy with nothing more than his wits as a weapon. Had the issue not been, essentially, a lead in to something else and a conclusion in and of itself, this would have been a purchase, especially in a week with fewer jumps.

Also very close was "Kill Shakespeare" #5, which finally started to get its cast of characters to gel together and start to drive things in a direction that seems more purposeful. In particular, Othello, Hamlet and Falstaff shined, and this could finally be starting to live up to the promise of its premise.

"Adventure Comics" #518 would have been better served if its B-plot with Superboy would have been excised or beefed up somehow. As it was, it took way too much space from the lead story, a crime and punishment adventure involving an antagonist who didn't get enough room to be villainous. There was a back up story with the Atom which, well, it's too abrupt to carry the weight.

"Daken Dark Wolverine" #1 was as talky and murderous as a season of "Dexter" as the firstborn of Logan tries to find his own path, outside of everyone who wanted to chart it for him. As a means of setting the status quo, it was good enough but didn't give you much more than you would have had when he was traipsing around with Norman Osborn and pushing Bullseye's buttons.

"G.I. Joe" #22 wasn't bad, an action packed issue that had another climax that could have used a second or third look while introducing a story element familiar to fans of the property. It was a little too fast paced for its own good.

"Justice League Generation Lost" #9 was an improvement as Maxwell Lord took the kids gloves off and goes into direct conflict with the heroes hunting him, and that means lots of property damage (while fitting in between the panels of the issue of "Booster Gold" - more about that in a little while) and calling in some professional help. Booster and his team (and yes, Booster Gold is in charge with Captain Atom as a kind of moral compass) are caught in the crossfire and challenged with their own internal struggles as well as, you know, the blasting and punching and what not. Closer to the mark, surprisingly, and that's a good thing.

"Those who walk the left hand path will kneel before the beast." "Daredevil" #510 brings in more of what could be a very limp "out" for Matt Murdock (complete with a talking heads session where Luke Cage does his angry crossed arms stance), which is unfortunately the least interesting part of this. Matt Murdock's making decisions, and that's worth seeing as Black Tarantula and White Tiger walk into a shade of gray that's not a surprise but still had relevant shock value in terms of the story.

"5 Days to Die" #2 had a taste of "Memento's" energy while trying on the time limit from "88 Minutes." That's not a bad thing at all, and with greater artistic detail or possibly color, this could have been - well, as good as "1 Month 2 Live."

Dick Grayson actually made you believe he belonged in the cowl in "Batman" #703 alongside an impudent Damian with an assist from Red Robin. Vicki Vale's vendetta seemed an odd element, however, even given what the reader likely knows about "Bruce Wayne" and the emotional turn that changed the antagonist from punchline to real character was almost too little too late. Still fairly interesting.

"New Avengers" #4 was going well until Danny Rand showed up in white pajamas, as Spider-Man again shows why he works well in a book full of characters (less room for his self-indulgent whining), the Son of Satan makes a strong case for clarity, Ms. Marvel almost goes too far and Doctor Strange has some questions to answer. The issue's ending seemed a little too abrupt for the stakes that were introduced, but there were still some moments to enjoy here.

The ending of "Irredeemable" #17 was another gift of Max Daring's troubled legacy and the road to get there was a troubling expository road for the newly minted Jailbait, but the tone of this was solid and the presentation was similar, a "good" book in a week where it would have needed to be "great."

"Booster Gold" #36 walked into the neighborhood of "bwa-ha-ha" even if it never went into the actual house, going through some more of Booster's past with challenging results and even bringing in Vril Dox for an unannouced guest appearance while bracketing the events of "Generation Lost," but there's so many elements left unanswered - Booster's actual work, the orphan from the future he has lingering with his equally time-displaced sister - that it's almost distracting.

"Punisher Max: Hot Rods of Death" #1 was a straight-forward Frank Castle tale of "roll into town and kill a lot of people," with a taste of "inspire the locals to erupt into violence for the pursuit of justice." Just add a lot of profanity. Nothing wrong with that, in theory. Nothing to write home about either.

"Lucid" #1 featured a US intelligence agency staffed by, essentially, combat magicians. The other side of the pond from "Gravel?" Maybe. Still, the characters lacked definition and the magical combat scenes could have been better, but the ideas at the heart of it had some merit.

Operating in the periphery of the main story, "Shadowland: Blood on the Streets" #2 showed what happened when anarchy rules and capes and masks still prowl rooftops. Again, there's nothing wrong with that, but it's not exactly the sort of thing that would make you run to grab this off the shelves.

"Transformers: Drift" #1 was interesting, looking at the character's origins as the ambitious Decepticon Deadlock and discovered a secret group of runaway mechanoids who believe in clothes, oddly enough. A good start, but not quite good enough to demand a trip home.

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

"X-Men" #3, "Batman and Robin" #14, "Doctor Solar Man of the Atom" #2, "Spawn" #199, "Green Lantern" #57, "Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box" #3, "Green Hornet Strikes" #3, "Amazing Spider-Man" #642, "Mighty Crusaders" #3, "Star Trek Captain's Log: Pike" #1, "Deadpool Corps" #6, "Weird War Tales" #1, "Invaders Now" #1, "Darkness" #86, "Welcome to Tranquility: One Foot in the Grave" #3, "Pantheon" #5 and "X-Force: Sex and Violence" #3.

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

"Batgirl" #14 was a fluffy waste of time as Kara comes to hang out and the two spandex-clad heroines pine about their boredom with their "regular" lives. Oh, and then they somehow fall into one of those "the safety protocols don't work on the holodeck" things. There was just no need for that.

"Amazing Spider-Man" #641 was a saccharine, sappy mess of maudlin muttering. Really. Peter and MJ blather on and try to make sense of "One New Moment In Blah Blah Blah" and it's just a catastrophe. To say exactly how would seem to be a "spoiler," but - gah.

On the opening page of "Doom Patrol" #14, Ambush Bug kind of sings a recap and bothers to complain about what's called "Byrne-stealing" (without which this column would not exist and Tax Hitler would not have begun his legend), saying, "if you are reading this while in the store - Thanks for the support cheapskate." Well, here's the thing about that: a story where Niles Caulder gets the powers of a Kryptonian. That's what you'd like support for? Really? Weak sauce, y'all. Send it back.

Then again, it wasn't as bad as "Ultimate Comics Avengers 3" #2, which featured vampires being tricky and hiding out in sewers. Also, it included a bit that completely contradicted a sometimes-quoted mandate from the Mouse House of Ideas saying, "We don't make comics about comics" in such a self-indulgent and needlessly meta way that it was pretty annoying. Terrible stuff here. Just terrible.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Despite some really disturbing stinkers, it was mostly all right.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Buncha jumps, great reads there - let's say this is a good week to love comics.

THE BUSINESS

Sorry about the delays in getting this column online - there's talk about that, Christos Gage and Mark Waid (who's right by the way) over here. Reckon there'll be a Commentary Track online by - maybe by Monday afternoon, hard to say.

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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