The Buy Pile

Thu, January 27th, 2011 at 11:58am 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 JANUARY 26TH, 2011

"Secret Avengers" #9
Secret Avengers #9
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Steve Rogers facepalms at the fact he's up against a former "brother in arms," and suddenly John Steele gets fleshed out with quite a backstory as a prettier analogue of the Unknown Soldier (with some of his history updated in "The Marvels Project" after appearing in some comics from the '40s). "We know he was in World War One, and it was speculated he'd seen combat in the Civil War too," Rogers lamented, "we know John Steele was a super-soldier long before I was wearing stars and stripes." Steele apparently was the root of Professor Erskine's work into making Steve Rogers, let alone the experiments that empowered Luke Cage. Did the story dig its roots deeply enough into you yet? Max Fury makes a limp play at recruiting Steve's main squeeze, there's a very crafty bit of violence and pretty solid dialogue. Ed Brubaker's script dances on the line between "too much going on" and "a wonderful mix of elements," ending up leaning towards the latter, while the artwork of Mike Deodato, Will Conrad and Rain Beredo is simply brilliant -- crisp, evocative, well balanced, intimate and striking. Nice to see this title step up and hit every mark.

"Deadpool" #32
Deadpool #32
(Marvel Comics)

Some of Deadpool's old business comes back to haunt him, which leads to a confrontation with another DC analogue (this time a take on a certain chalk white-skinned extraterrestrial who murdered the rest of his species to prove his toughness), yet with some kind of weird Latino twist in the character of Macho Gomez (seriously). The story may be an excuse to get Deadpool into another ridiculous situation, but the road there has a cute twist with a post-it note and some pretty good gags. The art of Sheldon Vella isn't as inspired as what we're used to, but it carries Daniel Way's script well enough.

"Fables" #101
Fables #101
(Vertigo/DC Comics)

Bufkin the flying monkey has conquered the threat of Baba Yaga and managed to jam a djinn back into it's prison...so what's left to do in the abandoned business office of Fabletown, magically cut off from everyone and everywhere they knew. The magic mirror of Snow White's past has some ideas about what should happen next that leads...well, where it leads would be telling, but suffice it to say the dialogue leads to some fairly interesting corners of western lore that have as of yet remained unexplored. A bit slow by "Fables" standards but still pretty entertaining. To be fair, after last month's extravaganza, anybody'd be spent.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

The jump was considerably better than the two regulars, which just kind of showed up but didn't put out any effort that'd be considered extraordinary.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Fantastic Four" #587 was extraordinarily close to making it home. If you've read any news coverage at all about comics, you know what was slated to happen in this issue and you probably know what happened. That part of the story -- an example of selfless heroism and impossible odds -- was pretty good. However, the elements involving Sue and Reed were, in a word, dull. They sucked the momentum out of what was happening because they were, in essence, so inconsequential, and once "punch punch punch" was said, this should have been a much less challenging issue. The core concern here, though? Great storytelling, down to the facial expressions.

"Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Lost Command" #1 added some interesting nuances to the Sith formerly known as Anakin Skywalker, who leads a mission to recover Tarkin's son from a hard-to-explore nebula alongside a competent and surprisingly un-intimidated Imperial officer. Vader's curt and ruthless because his thoughts are on the life he lost, and the action moves a little too fast for the story to really catch the reader. An interesting set of ideas, but maybe more delicacy in the approach.

"Shazam" #1 played a nice bit of misdirection with Blaze and Mary Ma...er, Batson, all arguing over the legacy of the old wizard. The interplay between Mary and Billy was cute, but it didn't really do much to sell the story and the fight, while depicted well enough, wasn't exactly the sort of event you'll remember months later.

"Echoes" #2 was creepy and tense as the lead tries to come to grips with the madness in his head and the legacy of horror he's inherited. Living on a slippery slope, the awkwardness and terror of his situation is -- for fans of thrillers -- riveting. If you enjoy potboilers -- "Pacific Heights," for example -- this would be right up your alley.

A lot happened in "Star Wars Legacy War" #2, maybe even too much. Yeah, it was too much, with Sith politics and a space battle and counterespionage and a broken heart and threats and a lot of characters jockeying for panel time. Sure, some of it was interesting -- the counterespionage in particular -- but none of it had enough room to actually be worth the cover price.

"Avengers" #9 had a lot of dialogue. Most of the issue involved Steve Rogers arguing with Tony Stark over that whole "secret proactive cabal of luminaries" thing getting revealed. On another side of the world, the secrets of Parker Robbins were revealed as to how his current situation took place, and the ending is way stronger than the previous 75% of the comic. Which is good to know, but not a good use of your money.

Lex Luthor tried to ride the crazy train alongside the Joker in "Action Comics" #897, and he did what he could to hang on. How well did it go? Well, there wasn't as much mayhem as could have happened, and honestly Luthor's quest has gotten a little stale, but the Joker is in fine form and his robust characterization almost carried the day. Almost.

The mysterious lead in "Traveler" #3 revealed a little more about himself, enjoying some weird banter ("matter mortar matter mortar matter mortar fun to say") and of course some innovative usages of his chronological power to smack people around, but the characters all still seem a little flat. The part with the agent, that's going somewhere, but the rest remains oblique.

"New York Five" #1 was a very solid comic book that's likely to be well received by fans of "Strangers in Paradise" or "Love and Rockets." It's a wholly personal character study of five college friends making their way in the big city. You could almost imagine it being shown on Showtime. Not normal comic book fare, but likely to do well in bookstores, this comic was exceedingly well drawn, solidly thought out and smartly told, developing its characters in a balanced way. It's just not the cup of tea for this column.

The issue of young Apocalypse was addressed in "Uncanny X-Force" #4, as restraining the murderlust became a central struggle for a number of the characters here. The book looks great, but boy did the characters whine a lot.

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

"Artifacts" #5, "Ultimate Comics Doom" #2, "Angel" #41, "Incredible Hulks" #621, "Teen Titans" #91, "Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box" #5, "Uncanny X-Men" #532, "Angel: Illyria" #3, "Age of X Alpha" #1, "Green Arrow" #8, "Chaos War: X-Men" #2, "Guarding the Globe" #3, "Magneto" #1, "Detective Comics" #873, "Captain America" #614, "G.I. Joe A Real American Hero" #162, "X-Men" #7, "Justice League Generation Lost" #18, "Astonishing Thor" #2 (pretty art, though), "Wonder Woman" #606, "Chaos War" #5, "Infestation" #1, "New Avengers" #8, "Transformers Prime" #4, "Incorruptible" #14 and "Darkness: Four Horsemen."

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

"Twilight Guardian" #1 is boring. Deathly, paint-dryingly boring. Seriously. An OCD woman off her antidepressants walks nine blocks and yammers on into her journal like a low-rent Rorschach. A boring low-rent Rorschach. Awful, awful stuff there.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Only one stinker? That's a positive. Really a lot of mediocrity, though...

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Ten bucks of comics, one stinker...it's an ugly way to win, but winning is done nonetheless.

Also, there was no order for APE Entertainment's "Freakshow" #1. Say what you will about that.

THE BUSINESS

Despite what CBR's front page said, this columnist's birthday was last Thursday, not Wednesday. Just FYI.

Being back on Twitter and Facebook and what not...it's weird.

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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