The Buy Pile

Thu, February 24th, 2011 at 11:58am PST

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 FEBRUARY 23RD, 2011

NOTE: This week, the world lost a true luminary when Dwayne McDuffie passed away. More about that later. Work now. Let's do it.

The Invincible Iron Man #501
(Marvel Comics)
Tony Stark apparently made Otto Octavius pretty upset "what -- sixteen, seventeen years ago," and it's led to a vendetta that, frankly, Tony didn't even notice. "You want to know why you've been stuck all these years? Why you've been stuck working for the military, stuck with those stupid arms, stuck fighting a teenager like Spider-Man all these years instead of pinging my radar? You're not worth my time." That's right, Cytoclops and Hypnotia were worth Tony Stark's platinum-rated time, but not Otto Octavius. Go on, Google Cytoclops, who just barely showed up in a Wikipedia page of Iron Man enemies. There's tons of talk and some pretty involved flashbacks, but what this issue lacks in action (there is a fun bit with a missile) it makes up in tension as Otto holds the city of New York and one of Tony's new friends hostage. Interesting storytelling from Matt Fraction that keeps the reader's interest and, as always, the art of Salvador Larroca and Frank D'armata is stellar.

Who Is Jake Ellis #2
(Image Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. This issue takes a closer look into exactly why former CIA analyst Jon Moore has a voice inside his head in the guise of a suited, shadowy man. This also continues Jon's desperate attempt to evade capture by parties that have little interest in identifying themselves while not really understanding his relationship with the titular shadow man. "What do you think I do when you sleep? When you sleep around? When you're taking a shower or using the bathroom? I don't do any of those things. I just think. I have no memories, no real ideas -- but I do have thoughts. And I can't understand me any more than you can." This is thinking man's action storytelling from Nathan Edmondson and Tonci Zonjic.

Deadpool #33
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. There's a rogue element haunting the spaceways and destroying entire species in the process, and at the same time Deadpool has to deal with the consequences of murdering an intergalactic bounty hunter and repossession agent. A simple repo turns ... well, Deadpool's involved, so of course it turns relentlessly explosive, people get nervous and hilarity ensues in a slightly squeamish fashion. Cute storytelling, but if you weren't already vibing on Deadpool's kind of gonzo humor, this issue wouldn't stand out for you.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Not the biggest bangs for the bucks, but entertaining nonetheless.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Amazing Spider-Man" #655 has been widely lauded by many, and rightly so, because it is without a doubt the best pure Spider-Man issue possibly in years. The funeral of Marla Jameson is a huge, huge event for many people in the city of New York and it's an emotional roller coaster for Peter Parker as he struggles with the great tragedies of his life. However skillful and intense it is, it is not entertaining. This column has a Spider-Man policy: mopey, Tobey Maguire Spider-Man stories can have amazing craft and skill and literary merit while still not being entertaining. This column likes Spider-Man to be entertaining. That's why this issue's still at the store.

"Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Lost Command" #2 had the title character starting to develop the brutal cunning which made him such a compelling character, but in his private time he remains pretty emo, dreaming of Padme alive and running the Republic as Chancellor. The supporting characters remain pretty cardboard, but the chemistry between Vader and Palpatine is just right, and it's good to see Vader man up and kill some people, even cannon fodder.

"Deadpool Team-Up" #884 taught us that Uatu has an "assistant watcher," a bespectacled guy who hates his job and complains about his boss. Also weird was the idea of the two voices in his head (differentiated by different color captions and typefaces) "hired" him for a mission and, well, what they did from that point on was a little creepy. One side or the other could have done better alone, probably.

There's some slight retcons going on in "Justice League: Generation Lost" #20, as Max Lord's early life is fleshed out and he's given a central motivating element as well, one which makes his post-"52" behavior seem more logical. It's not bad, but that last page kind of made it seem like a lot of broken eggs to make a fairly small omelet.

"G.I. Joe" #27 stepped up the game with Cobra, establishing bases for them in all kinds of crazy places while the Joe teams looks at screens while Snake Eyes and Helix do all the "getting shot at" work. The issue seemed to take its wonders in a fashion that was just too matter of fact, and that took some of the focus away from this issue, leaving it at the store.

It's all warfare, all the time in "Thor" #620 as the Aesir did battle with the relentless warriors of a dying universe (not the Negative Zone this time) under an ectoplasmic blood rain falling on Broxton, Oklahoma. There wasn't much storytelling here, just bloodshed, and while it's told well enough, it's not engaging enough to bring home.

"The Mission" #1 played out in a fashion slightly familiar to fans of "100 Bullets," as a normal man received a decidedly unusual task that seems shocking and unacceptable. There wasn't enough to hook the reader, either in the characters or the elements of the plot, but the core concept has room to expand into something better.

Iron Man told his teammates, "My broke is not the same as your broke," in "Avengers" #10 as "mommy and daddy are arguing" over the Illuminati's secret activities and hiding of weapons of galactic destruction all over the place. The person collecting Infinity Gems is revealed to the heroes here, and as always, the chatter between characters is entertaining, but the scavenger hunt "story" wasn't all that.

It just got real in "Power Girl" #21 as she remembers a certain mind-controlling billionaire brought back by the White Lantern, and she's determined that Dick Grayson remembers it too. However, another guy dressed up like a flying rodent wasn't on Earth when Max Lord did his brain whamma jamma, and he's not well known for his forgiveness. Those elements are cute, but most of the book is one of those annoying conversations trying to remind somebody of something they forgot.

"Secret Avengers" #10 wasn't bad as Steve Rogers led a really "by the book" assault on the Shadow Council, with Moon Knight playing a crucial role in the work as the team operated like a smoothly oiled machine. It was kind of predictable, honestly, as the well-prepared Shadow Council just kind of stood around to get kicked in the face, which seemed a little out of character.

The creepiness of "Detective Comics" #874 was personified in Commissioner Jim Gordon's less-well-known offspring, who essentially talked through a cup of coffee, but did so in such a creepy way that it was fairly good at gripping the reader's attention, but in essence didn't really do anything but expand on the fact that the younger James Gordon is, basically, creepy.

Speaking of creepy, "Morning Glories" #7 introduced some murderous backstory as the character Zoe got the spotlight, trying out for the Stepford-esque cheerleading squad and snapping at the other lead characters. The storytelling didn't really do much other than make Zoe a non-powered Monet St. Croix knock off, though.

"Iron Man 2.0" #1 wasn't bad as Rhodey gets sent to fall under the command of a general that hates him, gets posted at a military base he'd previously blown up and then getting assigned a team of civilian military contractors who don't like him very much either. Why? All so the US Miltary can have an Iron Man (instead of, say, a Detroit Steel or something like that). He's given a weird bit of detective work to do, which is kind of a crappy assignment, and the pace here is a bit too slow.

There's a secret power behind the supervillains in "Justice Society of America" #48, revealing himself to the reader and having lots more property damage and heroes getting beaten up. The team generally just gets handled here, with Mr. Terrific having a really embarrassing moment, but the tension and atmosphere had a decent sense of drama.

"Fantastic Four" #588 had some interesting moments -- Reed in front of the portal was one, as was Ben's interaction with the late-arriving Avengers -- in a largely silent story that wasn't as good as its backup, borrowing some of the emotional energy that "Amazing Spider-Man" has. It really kind of plodded along, especially for a final issue, though.

Max Daring has to deal with his very strange relationship with Headcase in "Incorruptible" #15, as super-team the Paradigm decide to deal with Max while former super-girlfriend Alana Patel runs around a lot. Some action, but the most effective scenes were Max struggling with becoming a better person, and they were too few and too far in between.

"Power Man and Iron Fist" #2 had some cute moments of dialogue, ("Still embarrassing Spaniards worldwide with your third rate Zorro routine?") but had a fairly cliched mentor-student hero argument and a weird Lady Gaga reference at the end that just took you right out of the moment.

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

"Fallen Angel: Return of the Son" #2, "Captain America" #615, "Teen Titans" #92, "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #154, "Star Wars: Legacy War" #3, "Namor: The First Mutant" #7, "Action Comics" #898, "Star Trek: Infestation" #2, "Uncanny X-Men" #533, "G0dland" #34, "Incredible Hulks" #623, "Green Arrow" #9, "Astonishing X-Men" #36, "RPM" #3, "Ultimate Comics Doom" #3, "Kill Shakespeare" #9 and "Spike" #5.

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

Hh, there wasn't anything that bad. Cool!

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Nothing bad -- take that fact and run with it.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two jumps, no bad comics -- even in such a depressing week, that's good news.

THE BUSINESS

Wow. Well, Dwayne McDuffie is gone. He was ... well, he was outrageously important to not just comics, not just Black people, but to the culture as a whole. This column's writer didn't appreciate how much his example meant until, sadly, his passing, and that led to this memorial. On Thursday afternoon, Dwayne McDuffie's infamous Scotland story will be told on this Twitter feed, and we all should celebrate the life of this legend, much like so many comics professionals already have.

Back to our weekly business -- have you 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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