The Buy Pile

Thu, October 7th, 2010 at 11:28am 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 OCTOBER 6TH, 2010

Secret Six #26
(DC Comics)

Bane's team of "scabs" has been sent to Skartaris to take over. Members of the original team have been sent in to stop Bane's team. Got that? This leads to a considerable amount of localized collateral damage, a fight with a giant aquatic monster, settling old business and Bane and Scandal finally reaching a climax in their very, very weird relationship. J. Calafiore and Jason Wright deliver another masterful artistic performance with intimacy and kinetic violence, and while the issue might feel a little abrupt at its ending, it's still very entertaining.

"Official Index of the Marvel Universe: The Avengers, Thor & Captain America" #6
Official Index to the Marvel Universe: The Avengers, Thor & Captain America #6
(Marvel Comics)

The early 1980s Avengers issues had some high points - defending against Red Ronin attacking the city or even tackling corruption in Pittsburgh - as well as some embarrassments. What kind? Well, their "affirmative action hire" ended up captured a whole lot, which doesn't look good. They even fought "The Yellow Claw" (before that racially charged moniker was retired) as late as 1981. Of course, Captain America's 1940s adventures were steeped in the jingoistic simplicity and xenophobia of their day, while his early eighties time was filled with interrupted dates, emo mechanical beings and even a purported run for the presidency (even more ironic now that he's the country's top cop). The aforementioned "affirmative action" hire experienced some rough times with family members passing away and the bored rich become supervillains just to have something to do. Then there's Thor - poor, simple Thor - tricked by his father in an attempt to avoid Ragnarok, used as a cork in a spacetime rift (really) and forced to listen to a storytelling eyeball for what seemed like four or five issues. Seriously. The value of this collection is more as a cautionary tale than its few sensible moments.

"G.I. Joe" #23
G.I. Joe #23
(IDW Publishing)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Once upon a time, we all learned that "knowing is half the battle." Not so much anymore - given Cobra's newly effective teleportational capacity, "knowing" is no longer enough. Knowing what's next is the goal." Which makes knowing, what, a third of the battle? Two fifths? Does that make Scarlett jealous? In any case, borrowing a page from the Midnighter to try and spice the team up for the twenty first century, Cobra Commander has to keep two feuding subordinates from engaging in fisticuffs (or is that foreplay?) before the team engages in some international extralegal activity that'd make Dennis Haysbert reminisce about his days on "The Unit," keeping an eye on complicated geopolitical concerns while being ready to pop a cap at a moment's notice. The balance of elements - character banter, action, disparate locales, impending threat - worked out just about right in a solid script from seasoned vet Chuck Dixon with Robert Atkins, Clayton Brown and Andrew Crossley turning in precise and engaging artwork. Well played, all.

"R.E.B.E.L.S." #21
R.E.B.E.L.S. # 21
(DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
It seems that the 1.0 version was weighing them down, as Vril Dox manages to blunt the efforts of two Green Lanterns, and using Lobo is only part of his scheme. The title finally gets a raison d'etre in terms of an explanation ("regular everyday bastiches endin' Lantern supremacy!") and the hero so many people love to hate just keeps smiling. To say much more would be to spoil some of the wonderful surprises here, but there's a lot to like about this issue, and the series has always hovered between "great" and "almost good enough."

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Red Ronin makes even the weaker stuff seem all right, so when you toss in two jumps and good times in Skartaris, that's a great way to start.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

The comic that was closest to coming home that didn't make it is "Chaos War" #1, which reintroduced Hercules to the Marvel universe with more power than he can imagine and a mandate for saving the universe. Had this been less of a "he can't be right" sort of pointless hero dispute (kind of like let's you and him fight), it would have done better for itself. Still, Herc delivered a rousing speech to bring the house down and the Chaos King's plan seems to have a certain nihilistic charm, but this isn't quite working yet (why didn't the council of godheads see this coming, for example?).

"Superman: The Last Family of Krypton" #3 ends the miniseries fairly well, with Jor-El being forced to confront his own limitations, a supporting character making an important decision and no one is left unchanged. The climactic resolution wasn't the most satisfying turn of events, there were some plot logic flaws that seemed myopic, but the emotional spin in the last couple of pages rang true.

"Hawkeye & Mockingbird" #5 wasn't bad, with tons of fighting and some interesting character moments woven in between, but the up-and-down of the story beats was a little jarring, the hard decision in the third act seemed rushed and the final pages didn't have enough room to allow the sentimental impact to reach the reader effectively. Art was great, though.

There are a number of answers in "Unknown Soldier" #24, which ties together lots of incarnations of the character (through DC and Vertigo takes) but tells the story in a somewhat ponderous fashion. Good stuff to know, though, even though it dangerously upends much of what the reader may have come to believe.

"Shadowland: Spider-Man" #1 was, in actuality, a Shang-Chi comic book where Spidey came along for the ride (getting in some pretty hilarious lines, in particular the one about going to the movies and a rejoinder about who's his greatest enemy) that mostly had lots of fighting and Mr. Negative getting an unpleasant surprise about the limits of his power. Not bad, in and of itself, but it didn't push anywhere near hard enough, dancing between pages of the main title, to demand purchase.

"Pilot Season: Crosshair" #1 was pretty good, positing a retired super spy (shades of "Undercovers" perhaps?) with a preprogrammed compulsion to assassinate the president, all engineered by the shadowy spymaster "Mother." There's a very clever twist at the end, and this comic was surely "TV good." Can it get better? Sure. It'd be a TiVo guarantee (or Hulu queued, these days) if it was available, but it's just shy of being worth the money.

If you liked the fast-pacing of the Jason Bourne films, "Taskmaster" #2 might suit you, dragging along the unsuspecting female lead as he reveals a lot about himself and explains why guns are aimed at him too. Close to the mark once again, but just shy in terms of putting a decent face on the antagonist.

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

"Transformers: Drift" #3, "Fantastic Four In Ataque Del M.O.D.O.K." #1 , "Red Hood: Lost Days" #5, "S.H.I.E.L.D." #4, "Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom" #5, "Amazing Spider-Man: Back in Quack," "Incorruptible" #10

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

"Brightest Day" #11 bounced back and forth between Deathstorm and Black Manta, monologuing the hell out of every panel like they took acting classes from John Lithgow and Bill Shatner. Then, inexplicably, there's a gang of Black Lanterns. There's a kind of explanation in the middle of all of Whiterstorm, er, Deathstorm's blather, but it's not much of one. If it tried a little harder, it could have gotten all the way to "meh."

"Klaws of the Panther" #1 features Shuri not knowing much about her illustrious brother (really, there's a line in the first two pages that could be corrected by reading almost any Panther series ever written) and shlepping around like a pauper. Then she gets mixed up with a ridiculous super villain and...what? Killer scientist monkeys? The hell? No. That won't work.

Niles Caulder is flying around and slipping into Kryptonian in "Doom Patrol" #15, and despite his allegedly prodigious intellect, a fight that could have been over in seconds (or, truthfully, ignored completely) took a number of pages. The maudlin sentimentality between his interactions with the team were sappy and not needed. Plus, what happened to that black hole guy? Bah.

To be fair, "Ultimate Comics Thor" #1 looked great, introducing Ultimate Dr. Donald Blake (a psychiatrist and linguist). However, its time-spanning, well, "plot," might not be the right word, but its script can't seem to focus on one moment in time, bouncing around like "Lost" on methamphetamines. Not cool.

"JSA All-Stars" #11 had a very limp method of dealing with a population of vengeful gods (the Great Ten did it way better) that was all Sturm und Drang and little actual meaning (except for wrecking some of the nicer sections of Los Angeles).

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

The bad stuff was in the minority, so let's call it a good week.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two jumps, reads that mostly managed not to offend too much ... that's a good thing, right?

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 (which encapsulate more of the experience at the shop, as well as random thoughts about the characters and books), 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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