The Buy Pile

Thu, December 16th, 2010 at 11:28am PST

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 DECEMBER 15TH, 2010

Official Handbookof the Marvel Universe A-Z Update #5
(Marvel Comics)

Making a time-spanning legend out of Vance Astrovik and bringing Betty Ross to the gamma-powered table with something to offer, this issue may have four pages on the Maggia or the Quist while another Elder of the Universe gets a page because he doesn't have very much happening in his publication history (now they're just making stuff up with this Eradicator guy). Some updates have compelling surprises and there are a few entries worth reading (White Wolf, the Universal Church of Truth). Even Hiro-Kala's entry makes marginally more sense than the actual stories attached to it. Clear and concise, nothing wrong with that.

DMZ #60
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile How exactly did a movement fueled by "piece-of-sh** militia groups, gun clubs, private security companies, Second Amendment crazies" and others who wouldn't be out of place at a Tea Party rally raise up and take on the most powerful military force in the world? The journey from ideas through terrorism all the way to armed conflict starts here, an origin issue for the Free States told through the eyes of a disaffected weapons dealer, one who has no politics in mind but became a believer because, well, honestly, it's fairly easy for the "legitimate" government to make radicals out of moderates. Given how slowly this series has moved for months, this is an energetic installment that steps things up a great deal.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Not bad to start ...

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Dungeons and Dragons" #2 was almost as good as its debut issue, with the group of adventurers largely involved in running and melee combat, stopping for brief moments of reflection and revelation. The only real problem here is that everything happens in a rush whereas the pacing of the previous issue was smooth and seamless. Still interesting, though.

"Birds of Prey" #7 features double crosses and triple crosses as the Calculator seeks to bring his chess game with Oracle to a conclusion just as the Bat comes back, as emotional as he's likely to get, while a strip club plays host to Dove's birthday as Zinda, Helena and Dinah play along. The family dynamic may play well in terms of making the characters relatable, but it saps the narrative of any kind of forward momentum.

Darwin is a crucial factor in "X-Factor" #212 as the team takes on Hela's minions alongside the God of Thunder. Shatterstar throws himself into his work, Pip runs his mouth and there's enough punching for everybody. The climactic scene could have been a little more clear from an art perspective, even as it clearly set up some kind of future story elements, but this was solidly okay.

It just got real in "G.I. Joe Cobra 2" #11 as Chuckles thrives in his new role as a Cobra operative, creeping people out like Billy Batson did in "Kingdom Come." Cobra Commander's understated certainty is a delight, making him a magnificent bastard of the highest order. This was affable enough, but simply meandered about a little more than it needed to.

Peter Parker has a new lease on life in "Amazing Spider-Man" #650, with a new job (one that finally makes sense for him) and a solid balance between classical elements (complicated personal life, super heroics, keeping his identity secret). It's not bad, a cute story told with solid craft with a "meh" back up feature.

The junior Batman doesn't fare so well in "Titans" #30, where he fails to plan his way out of an encounter and has a challenge with an old friend who can't beat a bad situation. Deathstroke takes his challenges in stride, never taking his eye off of the ball and focusing on his mission without getting too distracted. With a little bit more focus, this issue could have done better.

"Proof: Endangered" #1 had a good sense of atmosphere as a monster hunter goes about his business, but the lackluster plot and supporting elements didn't help its case any.

"Chaos War" #4 had some impressive elements -- Amadeus Cho and Galactus working together while Athena and Hercules working on their sibling issues. This is not bad work, by any stretch (we'll get to that shortly) but it feels incomplete.

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

"Batman" #705, "Loki" #2, "Green Lantern" #60, "Next Men" #1, "Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors" #5, "Thunderbolts" #151, "Soldier Zero" #3, "Velocity" #3, "Green Lantern: Weapons of Mass Deception" #1, "Uncanny X-Force" #3, "Witchblade Annual 2010" #1, "Superman" #706, "Farscape" #14, "Brightest Day" #16, "Dr. Solar, Man of the Atom" #4 and "Star Wars Legacy War" #1.

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

"Black Panther: The Man Without Fear" #513 was among the worst comics of 2010. It's really terrible. Aside from the fact that T'Challa has acted against every element of his character (don't try to bring up that Luke Charles nonsense, that could be considered part of his espionage against the US, evaluating the country) in abandoning his legacy (which would have brought him great shame in the eyes of his father), his wife (who he won't even let come into Hell's Kitchen as it'd ruin him "testing" himself) and his country at the time when they could benefit from most from his multidisciplinary genius ... all because Matt Murdock met him on a rooftop and asked him to take over jumping off of roofs and kicking people in the face. Marvel finally got the "Coming to America" T'Challa -- was it mentioned that he's pretending to be from the DRC? -- that they asked for so many years ago. Would today's T'challa cobble together a high tech solution, as Peter Parker did? No, he'd get retail night vision goggles. He'd find himself struggling against the equivalent of Captain Romania. This is so awful it crushes your soul. Make it stop.

The retail clerks left a vote up, asking which was the worst book, the aforementioned "Man Without Employment" or "Batman and Robin" #18, which shares the origin of the new villainess Absence. Called "dull" by the shop's staff, it was in honestly just a slice under "meh" in mashing up the origins of other characters in creating something new and uninspiring. Let's move on.

There's so much wrong with "Chaos War: Thor" #2, from conception to execution, that it's hard to see exactly where the school bus went into the fire. Should we start with how Thor became Firestorm for a while? How about a running, sappy voiceover from a devotee? There's also the disturbing issue of prayer, which essentially makes a mockery of the entire Norse spiritual tradition. Really, really terrible material here.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Those weeks of not having any bad comics were just lulling us into a false sense of security -- "Dungeons and Dragons" was not good enough to overcome the tragedies that happened here.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

The drag of the atrocities brought down even the jump, which didn't jump so far. Not the best week.

THE BUSINESS

Have you checked out artist Afua Richardson singing "Winter Wonderland" as part of the promotions for Stranger Comics' "Ruining Christmas?" There will be photos from their event at Golden Apple Comics in the Commentary Track blog in the afternoon. More on that in a bit.

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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