The Buy Pile

Thu, October 28th, 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 OCTOBER 27TH, 2010

"Secret Avengers" #6
Secret Avengers #6
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Steve Rogers knows when to call in reinforcements, as the dastardly plan involving Roxxon, the Shadow Council (and their dragon, Max Fury) and a villain whose name alone could get the Mouse House of Ideas in legal trouble (hint: it rhymes with "who can too") which brings on the martial arts stylings of two guest stars and gives Hank McCoy a chance to do his best Marshall Flinkman impersonation. This makes a great bit of spycraft, starting off a new storyline and spanning the globe (Shanghai, Hong Kong, the Altai mountain range) in a way that was rather compelling. Steve Rogers makes an unusually effective black ops director, Black Widow is clearly in her element and the idea that this could now be a rotating ensemble cast is simply brilliant. Great stuff here.

"Gravel" #21
Gravel #21
(Avatar Press)

Without the help of his massive collection of magical knowledge and memorabilia nor the newly recruited assistance of his team of magicians, the title character has to confront a murderous magical assailant. The battle royale that happens here is wonderfully presented by the artwork of Mike Wolfer and Juanmar, and despite the fact that it's mostly mayhem and stuff getting blown to holy hell, the details of how the conflict came to happen and what's at stake are presented clearly and succinctly. Given the ending presented here, it's hard to imagine that there's any story left after this, and if it is an ending, it's a grim one. Challenging, perhaps, but still largely satisfying.

"Incognito: Bad Influences" #1
Incognito: Bad Influences #1
(Icon/Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Zack Overkill is back, making bad decisions and getting caught up in situations better left undiscovered. From his ill-considered love life to his unanswered past, he blithely stumbles around from fiasco to disaster without any thought about the question, "Why?" The gallows humor of it all, from old grudges to ridiculous adversaries who rate as "heavy hitters," is fine entertainment...for one who is so inclined. Just as consistent as the previous mini, with the wonderful synergy of Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips and Val Staples, back together again.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Add to that the freebie "Spider-Man Saga," which explains in brief all of the crazy happenings in Peter Parker's tangled life and you have an effective week of comics to keep your attention.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

There were some interesting ideas in "Justice Society of America" #44, which gave Jay Garrick some new responsibilities and took something important away from Michael Holt. Then there was a hugely destructive fight (think Stamford) with somebody who seemed brand new (maybe there's a hidden history) and a lot of toys shaken up and not left in their original condition. An interesting start in a new direction, but not quite there yet.

"Black Widow" #7 had some promising elements as well, being close to making the mark with more of the espionage that worked so well in "Secret Warriors," so much so that you could almost hear Michael Westen saying something like, "When you're a spy..." The little compelling elements that made "Secret Avengers" work were absent here, but there were still things to enjoy. A promising direction.

There was a great twist at the end of "Incorruptible" #11 that was kind of clever, but the plot kind of dragged until it got near to it. Max Damage is developing as an interesting character and the idea of his new fat cat antagonist was fairly crafty as well. A little peppier pace could have done it, because the despairing cops dragged down the plot.

"Supergirl Annual" #2 wasn't bad, with an interesting attempt at reseeding the relationship between Brainiac 5 and Supergirl, using some fairly predictable plot elements but still managing to develop some genuine moments of emotion and poignancy. It was cute, but not cute enough.

"G.I. Joe Cobra 2" #9 was creepy, delving into some of the secrets behind Cobra's vast wealth and power in this newborn continuity, showing a kind of zealotry that'd impress Koresh and Manson. With the kind of determination that could be seen in The Dark Circle, all of Cobra's recruits don't need assault rifles or uniforms. Ideas outshine execution, alas, but it's good stuff to know.

"Fantastic Four" #584 was the least terrible issue in many, many moons. Ben Grimm takes the wacky formula concocted by Reed's new students and gets a week of normalcy, which leads to him enjoying one heck of a day (and night) out, kind of like "25th Hour," but with less of a grim finish line. Again, cute, but...

Sibling challenges were center stage in "Zatanna" #6 as the spell cast on her brother fumes and pouts while she's almost sold into spiritual slavery. Using a little of the loophole-navigating logic that made Thor's visit to Mephisto's realm so entertaining, but despite good looking art and some believable action sequences, it just didn't have enough meat on its narrative bones to make it all work.

Instead of leaping forward, "Kill Shakespeare" #6 decided to tread water instead, speechifying and rabble rousing even as Iago becomes the most compelling character here. Hamlet whines, Juliet cajoles, Othello struggles to contain his rage. Okay, but not really all the way to amazing you yet.

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

"Captain America" #611 (the JFK thing was hilarious, though), "Bruce Wayne, The Road Home: Oracle," "Avengers" #6, "Bruce Wayne, The Road Home: Ra's Al Ghul," "Incredible Hulks" #615, "Jack of Fables" #48, "Secret Warriors" #21, "JLA: The 99" #1, "Thunderbolts" #149, "Justice League: Generation Lost" #12, "Wonder Woman" #604

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

Vampengers were front and center in "Ultimate Comics Avengers 3" #3 as...you know what, "vampire Avengers," nothing about that could possibly be good. They're Avengers. The chance that they're gonna stay vampires is unlikely, and even Neil Gaiman has said enough with the vampires. This is an abysmal, horrifically terribly bad comic book. Let's move on.

Speaking of Gaiman, Lex Luthor and Death talk most of the way through "Action Comics" #894. Literally. Blah blah blah. What's distressing is that writer Paul Cornell actually has a really good grasp on what makes Lex work, but this story...wait, sorry, that's not right, that's insulting to actual stories. What's happening here, well, it just shouldn't.

Speaking of insulting, "Klaws of the Panther" #2 showcases the fact that Shuri is essentially dangerously unqualified for her job, tactically incompetent and needs other (non-Wakandan) people to save her from her own lack of control. She whines and complains and considers. Sheesh, who is she, Kara Zor-El? Oy.

"Superman" #704 spent most of its time focused on Lois, who also considered what would have happened if she'd stayed in some godless one horse town and shacked up with a probably drunken frat boy to squirt out some sub-par kids trapped in a crappy educational system. Or something like that. If you want to see domestic tedium, you can look in on your average suburban household. This is a freaking Superman comic book. Argh.

The villain has been revealed in "Ultimate Comics Mystery" #4, and it's, well, frankly, pretty unbelievable despite some lackluster attempts to justify this kind of a...well, that'd be a spoiler to say what it was, but what happened doesn't add up for the character in question, and if it did, there's no chance in hell that anyone would have a chance against...this character. Really needlessly drawn out and ineffective.

"Teen Titans" #88 couldn't even handle basic grammatical things ("docter," "make do") let alone make its goofy genetic bad guy a credible threat (even Vibe and Gypsy could have handled this inside of twelve pages). Bringing Damian in is probably the best thing they could do, as he's the most interesting teenager in DC's stable right now, given that, oh, right, they depowered Static and shipped him off like Pete Ross on "Smallville."

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Eight okay reads, six terrible ones, a fairly thick pile of meh in between...let's call that "all right."

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two jumps, reads were less terrible and more tolerable...that counts as a win for this column. Yay!

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, Wednesdays have two sneak peeks at what's going to be in the column (one Wednesday afternoon, the second hopefully by midnight) from the Operative Network Mobile Edition. Enjoy, you bastards.

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