The Buy Pile

Thu, January 6th, 2011 at 11:58am PST | Updated: January 6th, 2011 at 1:16pm

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 JANUARY 5TH, 2011

"Ant-Man and the Wasp" #3
Ant-Man and the Wasp #3
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Starting off with a not so different speech mixed in with a we can rule together that then dovetails into a Batman gambit, let's just say the entire part of the issue surrounding Hank Pym is freaking brilliant. Eric O'Grady stays true to his scoundrel-esque character (he's no Han Solo, but he's clearly studied from that master) and provides an entertaining counterpoint so their heroism can work together even as they learn to trust each other a little. Fun super hero storytelling and though the conclusion is almost an after thought, it still takes nothing from the issue. Great stuff.

"Who is Jake Ellis" #1
Who is Jake Ellis? #1
(Image Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Jon Moore is involved in some shady dealings, but he has an advantage that no one else in the book can recognize. You see, Jake Ellis is a man who isn't a man. He's an ethereal presence who has limited clairvoyance and wants to help Jon Moore stay alive. Why? Never really mentioned here, nor is it made clear what the nature of his existence is, not even to Jon Moore. Jake knows things like Layla Miller, suggesting tactics while admitting his limitations ("I don't work like that. I can't read minds. I can't predict the future"), boredly standing guard while his charge is otherwise occupied. The atmosphere and energy work great, and even if the plot is a little thin, it's so jam packed with tension and action that it works regardless. Tonci Zonjic's subtle, nuanced art work is not far removed from Javier Pulido's work on "Human Target" (and that's quite a compliment). A crook with a guardian angel, this project is working.

"Official Index of the Marvel Universe: The Avengers, Thor & Captain America" #9
Official Index of the Marvel Universe: The Avengers, Thor & Captain America #9
(Marvel Comics)

This will be the last guidebook, index or handbook reviewed in this column. Why? Because it doesn't matter what's in them. They're not stories -- they're a license to be right in arguments that feature questions about Kubik's last appearance or center on how long John Walker served as Captain America. If you don't believe that they're a treasure trove of information or Cliffs Notes for decades of comics you may not have time to read, nothing written here will change your mind. If you share that opinion, you'll go buy one any way. Suffice it to say that this column's support of the projects will continue under the "what's the prognosis" section. Short of "Fables," nothing here is "the best thing on the stands," and it's time for this column to enact some changes as we approach the eighth year of service.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Two jumps and an index means an affordable, intense dose of entertainment.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Thanos Imperative: Devastation" #1 exists largely as a set up for The Annihilators, which have been called the "cosmic Avengers" based on their line up of heavy cosmic hitters. "King" Blastaar and his forces are trotted out for a Worf Effect and bringing back a 1980s mainstay for a new, big storyline. Not bad, but largely establishing shots and predictable turns of events.

Street level vigilantism in "Bring the Thunder" #2 as a man made from solid sound is forced to confront ugly realities. He stumbles his way along, making mistakes as he goes and resorting to techniques that -- at best -- could be described as amateurish. Also, the art work doesn't stand as well as the storytelling. However, there's an authenticity to the work's tone that appeals, a kind of genuine emotion that resounds in scenes with the protagonist's wife, in the surprise of his son. It just takes a little to see the shine through the challenges.

"Ultimate Comics Captain America" #1 reinforces the fact that getting into the business of making super soldiers never ends the way you'd want. Despite his bluster and determined abilities, his failure is epic. However, his intensive bluster ("I spent 50 years frozen in ice, pal. I'm done hiding.") and his relentless and unapologetic nature again make the character compelling, just not enough to watch him fail.

"Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Sun" #1 wasn't bad, a kind of buddy movie showcasing a talky bard and a grumpy barbarian desperate to return to his love. The plot plodded along too slowly to work, and the artwork was too rough hewn, but the overall presentation had its merits in terms of the writing.

"Adventure Comics" #522 showcased the newly Oan-empowered Mon-El in action against a solar-powered bad guy (yes, you can see some vulnerabilities there) and learning the extent of his new powers in concert with the ones he knows already. It went by too quickly, but it was not a bad issue at all.

Tony Stark goes up against the Pride (before their fall) in "Iron Man Legacy," which opened up the city of Los Angeles for Henry Hellrung's Order to operate (sort of). Not the most relevant of looks back, given what ultimately happened to the Pride (which sort of spoils the whole conflict) nor the most compelling of narratives, but it didn't fail in the process.

Had "Earp: Saints for Sinners" #1 not cost six dollars, it would have been a Buy Pile purchase. Taking a kind of Ultimate approach to the famous lawmen, the action moves to Las Vegas and making the Pinkerton gang into a private security firm reinforcing law enforcement while becoming a law unto themselves. The story -- familiar if you've seen "Tombstone" -- was solidly told and artfully depicted...but six dollars? Not for a story that's essentially already told.

There was some odd subtext between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers in "Avengers Prime" #5, which also posited the Twilight Sword as a kind of wieldable Wanda Maximoff. Uh...okay. The plot's ridiculous but the Lifetime Network bonding between three brothers-in-arms feels genuine enough.

"Irredeemable" #21 was weird until it hit a "it just got real" moment, as the "heroes" left behind struggle with their own imperfections and the mess of a world they have inherited. It was two books done half-way instead of either single story getting room to stand on its own, but it the story elements are interesting if not really ready for prime time.

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

"Avengers: The Children's Crusade" #4, "Transformers: Prime" #1 and #2, "Batman Beyond" #1, "27" #2, "Brightest Day" #17, "Marineman" #2, "Doom Patrol" #18, "Spike" #4, "Captain America: Hail Hydra" #1, "Freedom Fighters" #5, "Generation Hope" #3, "JSA All-Stars" #14, "Iron Man/Thor" #3, "Superboy" #3, "She-Hulks" #3 (uh ... isn't Klaw busy trying to become a god in "Klaws of the Panther?"), "Fallen Angel: Return of the Son" #1, "X-Factor" #213 (great art work though), "Next Men" #2.

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

"Starman/Congorilla" #1, aside from being wholly unnecessary, was sinfully boring and very determined to reach out to a populace traditionally underserved by comics, but did so in such a hamfisted and cliched manner that it was less inclusion and more condescension.

Lowering the bar for failure from the work of Ultimate Cap, "Steel" #1 spent the entire issue failing. Literally almost every panel is one depicting a subsequent failure, and not even in a "Well, he's gonna Jerry Lawler it and come back more impressively" way. It just falls down on the job. The character's gone a long time without a series, and this is surely not the way to try and bring him back.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Just two actual stinkers. That's almost a present in and of itself.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two jumps, only two real problems, that's a week that's solid and worth enjoying.

THE BUSINESS

Look for the year-in-review commentary track review by midnight on Thursday. It requires research, so it'll take time.

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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