The Buy Pile

Thu, February 17th, 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 FEBRUARY 16TH, 2011

G.I. Joe Cobra 2 #13
(IDW Publishing)
Jump from the Read Pile. In a word, "whoa." The Joe team's best intelligence asset is Chuckles, and he's gone stark raving snakesh** with a plan that's just crazy enough to work. With just a handgun, determination and a plan that's taken extraordinary patience, he rides a roller coaster of dramatic twists towards an ending that's huge. Like, "international incident, change the face of geopolitics" huge. Along the way, Xamot does more to reveal his inner crazy and Chuckles -- man, he's amazing. The artwork by Chee, Antonio Fuso and Peter Dawes may be rough around the edges, but they have the visual storytelling chops to bring Mike Costa and Christos Gage's script to noirish, brutal life. Definitely not playing by the old rules of a licensed property!

Legion of Super-Heroes #10
(DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. The mystery of the Durlan assassins comes to light just as new leadership takes control of the Legion. How? Through a spot of bad weather (a futuristic oddity), a lot of property damage, Dawnstar in a bikini and many mysteries failing to be resolved. The idea of a tactical unit like the Legion run by a chessmaster is strangely appealing especially as the blurbs announce the return of the Legion of Super-Villains -- a group that can go toe to toe and power for power. Fun stuff, with just the right balance of plot versus character -- one more line either way would have ruined it.

Avengers Academy #9
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Finesse is turning out to be almost the only character worth watching in this series, this time determined to have her showdown with her would-be father Taskmaster while the rest of the students struggle with the brutal beating of the Hood and the prospect of expulsion from the school. Tigra's moral struggle alongside the rest of the faculty is played out a bit ponderously, but Pietro Maximoff makes a wonderfully sardonic foil to Finesse's matter-of-fact delivery, while Hank Pym seems to be getting in a little bit over his head. Complicated character dynamics and a done-in-one plot that's savvy. Good stuff.

Fables #102
(Vertigo/DC Comics)

Mister Dark has taken over New York and has his eye on Haven next, wearing down the defenses of the Flycatcher King. In response, Ozma takes charge of creating a new tactical strike force, but she's taken Pinocchio's comics fanboy ideas as her guide, with either hilarious or sad results, depending on your point of view. Meanwhile, Bigby's father is sworn to murder any zephyrs, but that number unfortunately includes his secret grandchild and Beauty tells her husband Beast quite a bit about the community's shortcomings. Again, a great balance of elements that carefully ratchets up the suspense with the turn of every page.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Three jumps and all very re-readable -- a great start!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Booster Gold" #41 had great dialogue -- no surprise considering the experienced team at the helm here, the "bwa-ha-ha" greats Giffen and DeMatteis. However, the fight scenes were simply "okay," the mockery of the villains of yesteryear was cute and the sum of the parts wasn't as good as individual elements.

"Loki" #3 was very close to making the mark, going in depth on Loki's treachery involving Balder's mistletoe murder of myth. The story is familiar but briefly brushes on a new element or two -- Thor getting more involved and being smarter than the original story probably implied, Loki's smirking enjoyment of his mischief -- but ultimately just remains pretty predictable if you know the original lore. More introspection on the part of Loki or Thor might have sold this one.

"Jericho" #4 was a big reveal for all the key elements of the story, answering questions left and right and raising the stakes for the entire property. With information like this, the show might still be on the air. Things went from "going too slowly" to "pay attention now" with this issue, which was very close to being good enough by itself.

Unlike many issues in this run, "Doom Patrol" #19 was close to the mark thanks to the inclusion of the Secret Six. The party that hired them didn't get a sense of development here -- literally no progress as a character since last issue, and barely even a reminder of motivations -- and the actual plot was less than inspired. Still, it was cute even while it didn't do much but give the titular team a hard time.

"Dungeons and Dragons" #4 had great team dynamic and if you're a fan of following an adventure through the murky depths of a dismal labyrinth, you'll likely enjoy this fun little trip through the traps. There's even some time for some character development, looking at the story behind the magic user and giving the thief character some real chances to showcase her skills. However, it did just vary some of the elements of the last issue in terms of plot, so non "D&D" fans might find it a little repetitive.

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

"Wonder Woman" #607, "Magdalena" #5, "Supergirl" #61, "Daredevil Reborn" #2, "Brightest Day" #20, "Magnus, Robot Fighter" #3, "Soldier Zero" #5, "DMZ" #62, "Mighty Samson" #2, "Green Lantern" #62, "Wolverine" #5, "Star Wars: Knight Errant" #5, "Transformers: Infestation" #2, "Batman" #707, "Generation Hope" #4, "Angel" #42, "Green Lantern Corps" #57, "Hulk" #30, "Memoir" #2, "Outsiders" #36, "Iron Man: Rapture" #4, "Superman/Batman" #81, "Thunderbolts" #153 and "Spawn" #202.

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

"Silver Surfer" #1 had a number of problems, all the way from the High Evolutionary making what seems like mischief, to taking a billion years off the life of the solar system (what?), to Norrin Radd learning a harsh lesson about Rule of Acquisition #285. The implausibility elements were tied with the, "Wow, let's make Surfer boring and hope that passes for ineffable" moments. No, that's not quite it at all.

"Twilight Guardian" #2 was so bad it almost looped back around to being good, like "Road House" with Patrick Swayze, but instead ended up more like "Road House 2: Last Call" with, uh, it looks like Jake Busey was the biggest name in that cast. Oy. It kind of tries to be as terrible as your really bad books of the past -- the first six issues of "Superman/Batman" or maybe even the crown jewel of awful comic books, "The Monarchy" -- but it's just too boring and plodding to step up to the terribleness, settling for just being kind of like sequential art herpes.

"S.H.I.E.L.D." #6 tries to create "real" science heroes and villains from names like Tesla and Michelangelo, but name dropping is not shorthand for character development, and no matter how many times you say the names "Stark" and "Richards," it doesn't make Howard or Nathaniel any more interesting.

In an extraordinarily talky issue aiming at corralling every bit of darkness in the DC Universe, "Justice League of America" #54 brought back Eclipso after his interlude with Jean Loring by going back to failed Jason Blood wannabe Bruce Gordon. What's that you say? Anybody with enough money to buy an ultraviolet flashlight can beat this guy? Well, yes, that's technically true, but you see he makes sure to stand in shadow and ... look, there's no excusing this guy. During his big crossover nineteen years ago he spent all night beating up people only to run from sunlight like a spandex-clad cockroach. He's hard to take seriously despite his rage-based infection modus operandi. So the fact that he's reaching back to nigh-forgotten international heroes and simply limiting the scope of his possessions to people who can manipulate darkness by themselves, it's not any more interesting, and again, any Eclipso anywhere can be beaten senseless by this guy. Hard to feel a serious menace here.

Remember Jean Grey's childhood friend whose traumatic experience so shaped Jean's life? Of course you don't, but "Marvel Girl" #1 is intent on covering this in navel-gazing, disturbing detail as the young heroine (she's a teenager in this story) mopes and whines and struggles with her feelings over whatever pointless and largely unknown thing happened. Right.

Speaking of whining, "Uncanny X-Force" #5 featured Deadpool struggling with the concept of murder. Really. For, like, a few pages. Then there's a very military minded assault where Deathlok reads from the Amazo manual. Tedious second hand ideas and pointless moralistic posturing. Bah.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

It was kind of terrible out there, y'all.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Three jumps would tie with the torrent of terribleness, so we'll call it a wash.

THE BUSINESS

The writer of this column been doing some fantasy writing for Stranger Comics, creating adventures for a murderous dark elf named Fichiki Siri. The second installment of those adventure hit the web on Wednesday, and the first chapter is still available too, for all the people who wanna see what kind of writing might come from this critical mind, if given the tools of a shared fantasy universe.

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 (probably). 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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