The Buy Pile

Thu, September 23rd, 2010 at 11:58am 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 SEPTEMBER 22ND, 2010

"Thor" #615
Thor #615
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
This issue uses an interesting framing device, showing a quantum cosmologist have a discussion with "Asgard's greatest man of science" in a way that provides both excellent exposition for what this storyline is about while providing perspective for the very poignant and bloody events that happen in these pages. A moment in Alfheim, home of the ice elves, is framed in wonder and murder while Thor broods and yells (the jury's still out on the Firestorm/Rick Jones-esque nature of his relationship with Don Blake), Balder mopes and considers and there's a literal perfect balance of all things here. This issue is a god-sized story, fitting in wonderfully with the last few months and establishing a tone that's grand and intimate all at the same time. Special attention must be paid to the evocative coloring of Matt Hollingsworth, who makes Alfheim so vivid, while you can see some of the tones Pascual Ferry brought to the struggle with Ultimate Thanos in his awe-inspiring perspectives and imagery (although the two page spread with "THOR!" may have been overkill). Fantastic entertainment.

"Fables" #98
Fables #98
(Vertigo/DC Comics)

Rose Red is out of bed and back in business, laying down the law with no equivocation, and just in time as Frau Totenkinder has a new handle and a new plan, threats are levied and accounts are settled. There's nothing but talk here, true enough, but the tension between characters is almost like action, and that's not easy to pull off. However, when you've got the Eisner-winning team of Willingham, Leialoha and Buckingham at the wheel (with Dan Green helping out on inks and Lee Loughridge on colors) it might be par for the course. You'll likely read the same words every month, so here they are again: "Fables" is the best monthly comic on the stands. Bank on it.

"Nemesis" #3
Nemesis #3
(Icon/Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
previous issues were good but seemed to miss some density in plot developments. Nothing is missing here, as this world's most dangerous criminal has been captured and arrested - exactly as he planned. Using the perversion of the theoretical source material, Nemesis does as much with the sheer reputation he has as he does with fists, feet, explosives, planning, money and bullets. There's a powerfully depicted fight scene where he takes on ninety-seven riot cops singlehandedly, covering himself in blood and viscera in a way that'd likely even have the soon-to-be extinct Midnighter's applause. Then there's a wonderful kidnapping and phone conversation is perfectly tense while revealing a lot about all characters, a scientific feat that'd make Dr. Mindbender and the Dark Beast whistle with appreciation and the threat (however unlikely) of comeuppance. Everything you could want from a counterculture fantasy is here, and it's done with such glee and unrestrained hate that it's a wonder to behold.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Two jumps, three deeply re-readable comics - that's all good.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Elephantmen" #27 was the closest to coming home, as lots and lots of story elements tied together in an issue that had some solid action scenes and pushed forward a meta-plot effectively. Characterization? Well, not as much. Honestly, this seems like it's just hampered by the periodical format and would do better as a continuously streamed web comic along the lines of Freak Angels.

The Last (or most recent) Temptation of Norman Osborn played an interesting role in "Avengers Academy" #4, which took a closer look at the easygoing Hawaiian beachcomber Mettle. Unfortunately, there's not much to look at, as the character's decisions and motivations remain almost as inscrutable as the expression on his metallic face. Cage and Pym had a chance to have some pointless histrionics, though.

"Legion of Super-Heroes" #5 wasn't bad as it did some work in making Earth Man less stereotypical and more nuanced, tossing a space ship at a Titanian refugee camp in the process. As well, it's both sad and encouraging to see that the xenophobes he once called allies are a diverse bunch, and there was a lot of chance for individual Legionnaires to showcase their melee combat abilities heroically while Brainiac 5 did repair work. Nothing particularly wrong, but nothing particularly stood out as being excellent either.

"Heroic Age: 1 Month 2 Live" #4 had the unlikely hero fighting more forces of evil and struggling to save his life alongside Wolverine, who makes an unlikely shoulder to lean on for the petulant niece character (who's an exposition magnet). The plot points were kind of rote and the miracle element here was a little too convenient but the execution strained heavily to do its best against such pedestrian elements.

"Mindfield" #3 was an improvement for the super-powered procedural, having some of the tense combat action of the "Push" comic before its awful ending. However, the end of this issue was nothing to write home about, sucking some of the momentum from the great scene with the ambush.

"Black Widow" #6 was also "not bad," failing in developing a civilian role but making several spycraft moments (including a nice reveal on a disguise) work. The art's solid if nondescript, the plot elements are good without really inspiring anything that'd raise your eyebrow. Treading water, one might say.

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" #528, "Green Lantern Corps" #52, "Ultimate Comics Mystery" #3, "Kato Origins" #4, "Justice League of America" #49, "Dynamo 5: Sins of the Father" #4, "Power Girl" #16, "Hulk" #25, "Supergirl" #56 (although the Bizarro "dialect" explanation was "super" weak), "Secret Avengers" #5, "Titans" #27, "Shadowland: Daughters of the Shadow" #2, "Garrison" #6 and "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #14.

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

"Avengers" #5 was, in a word, terrible. Two eras worth of Tony Stark arguing about time travel and blathering on, looking at the map of Marvel's future (look for the scene from "Avengers" #5), lots of yelling at Kang - the notes say "completely incomprehensible." Not the way to do a time travel adventure, kids.

"Flash" #5 was almost as bad in its chronological determinism, acting in the present and not the future (and if these "renegades" are from the 25th Century, why did nobody think to call Booster Gold who's actually from the 25th Century?) and trying to reason around things that might happen.

The only good thing about "Fantastic Four" #583 was Valeria Richards, who could be even better at the snarky kid role than Layla Miller ever was, using Shawn Spencer-style tactics to discern weakness and challenging her father's intellectual superiority. To be honest, for somebody so smart, Reed's done a lotta dumb things in the past few years. Anyway, the action scenes here don't move the story and any panel without Valeria or Doom is not worth watching.

"Hit-Monkey" #3 was, as predicted, abysmal. Its centerpiece is a close-quarters one-on-one battle with Bullseye. Really. In attempting to make a supporting character humanized, they not only failed but made her ultimate fate misogynistic as well. There was a mail-order element that was almost as over-convenient as the plot device at the center of "1 Month 2 Live." So good that this is over.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Four terrible, six okay, heapin' hunk of "whatever" in between. That's good enough.

Oh, and "Skullkickers" #1 was the victim of an error at Diamond, where they misread the order and sent way more "Transformers" comics than the shop wanted while not delivering any of this Image title. Sorry. No telling how it could have altered the numbers.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Great purchases, tolerable reads and deeply highbrow conversation in the shop (although it's hard to argue the value of "Hulk have talk") made this a good week to read - and love - comics.

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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