The Buy Pile

Thu, March 24th, 2011 at 11:28am PDT

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 MARCH 23RD, 2011

NOTE: This week marks the beginning of Year Six of the Buy Pile's tenure here at Comic Book Resources. We're extraordinarily grateful to Jonah Weiland, the head honcho, and the entirety of the staff who do some amazing work on a site that's ascended to really being something amazing.

Fables #103
(Vertigo/DC Comics)

While not the strongest issue of the series, this does some very effective things in terms of both characterization and plot. The community of storybook characters remains under siege from a malevolent force beyond any of their powers. This has inspired the wizard Ozma and the lunatic Pinocchio to create a team of operatives to engage and hopefully defeat this antagonist, this Mister Dark. Sure, some of what that means happened last issue, and that makes the volunteers -- however admirable -- a bit repetitive. Yes, it's always nice to see the work of Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha and Lee Loughridge and Bill Willingham's treatment of Gepetto, Snow, Bigby and Ozma hit pretty solid notes, but this won't be an issue you'll tell people about later.

Captain America and Batroc the Leaper #1
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Literally!
The idea that Georges Batroc could headline a comic book that'd grace this column would have been seen as ridiculous a few weeks ago, but writer Kieron Gillen developed a reason behind the mercenary's motives and existence that is actually kind of interesting. Sure, he traffics in whores and works for "bad" guys, but he discovers some interesting things about himself and actually does a lot of thinking between bits of inane and possibly intentionally stereotyped dialogue. There's a good number of fun lines here ("You're wearing the flag of the country who's spent the last decade calling us cheese-eating surrender monkeys") and a surprising amount of introspection, giving depth and nuance to a character long considered ridiculous and peripheral. A pleasant surprise.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Not bad, under ten bucks, all right then! Let's go!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Legion of Super-Heroes" #11 had Tyroc show up for the job (making up for years of misuse?) but there were so many characters trying to get some panel space as Braniac keeps things moving, Mon-El divides his attention and Star Boy's back from the present, except unconscious. The Legion of Super-Villains is on the hunt, flirting with the periphery of fascination.

"Daken Dark Wolverine" #7 was close to making the mark as Logan's little boy makes his move on Madripoor, manipulating pretty much everybody as he runs a Xanatos Gambit, apparently using "Grand Theft Auto" ethics in ascending towards becoming a crime boss.

The chemistry between the title character and the two guest stars was the best part of "Supergirl" #62, as she tries to be less whiny and actually get some things done. The plot could have used a little more cohesion and reflected the crisp, clean artwork.

"Osborn" #4 had the title character playing Norma Rae and Machiavelli's Prince, looking to manipulate the press and use the motives of maniacs and murderers for ... well, maybe just for kicks, honestly. First of all, the art on this comic book still does a great disservice to the story, which is kind of interesting. Second of all, the supporting characters have faded a great deal, especially the priest. A good mean streak, but not enough working to be a purchase.

"Hellraiser" #1 was a solid horror book, even as the lead character known as "Pinhead" sounded more emo than a horror icon should be, borrowing a page from Nicolas Cage in "City of Angels." If you already like horror, this should be up your alley, but if you're not an adherent, the script could have used some polish.

"Thor" #620.1 worked a little like a clip show as Thor is ... what's the opposite of a roast? Lauded? Sure, why not. Thor gets lauded by the peoples of Asgard with tons of pizzas and beer, which only gets spoiled by an antagonist that's more Keystone Cops than world-spanning threat (and also, Heimdall is totally sleeping on the job) making it kind of "aw shucks." Not bad, though.

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

"Invincible" #78, "Deadpool" #34, "Batman Incorporated" #4 (very insular, loved by some online pundits), "FF" #1, "Green Hornet" #14, "Hulk" #31, "Witchblade" #143"Green Lantern Corps" #58, "5 Ronin" #4, "Angel" #43, "Ultimate Comics Doom" #4, "Meta 4" #5, "Justice League of America" #55, "Captain America" #615.1, "Justice League: Generation Lost" #22, "Daredevil: Reborn" #3, "G.I. Joe A Real American Hero" #164, "Power Man and Iron Fist" #3 ("Horse feathers" you say?), "Ghostbusters Infestation" #2, "Uncanny X-Men" #534, "Transformers: Heart of Darkness" #1, "Superman/Batman" #82 and "Marineman" #4 (although it's improving).

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

"Wolverine and Jubilee" #3 was bad for a variety of reasons, but here's one of the easy notes. Jubilee name checks "Space 1999." Okay, let's go to the tape here. "Space 1999" went off the air in 1977. Given that she apparently lived in Los Angeles as an actress and high school student, so let's even arguably say that she's 19. That'd put her at being born in, oh, the 1990s somewhere. "Ah, she was a teenager in the '90s, dude, come on!" Okay, fine. Say she was born in, oh, 1980 even. That's still kind of a stretch. She's not a geek, she's never shown a proclivity towards obscure science fiction stuff despite being exposed to lots of advanced technology and what not. This possibly minor point is indicative of how many things went wrong, with "Blade" style vampires and ill-considered zombies and cliches everywhere you look.

Speaking of vampires, "Green Lantern" #64 introduced "the story vampire Lyssa Drak," a former Sinestro Corps member guarding a book full of the Guardians' secrets. No explanation of what a "story vampire" is and whether or not they can drink all kinds of ... what, ink? Anyhoo, Krona's back as a big bad enemy and Hal gets called on the carpet again and there might not be anything new under the sun, but this one doesn't even seem to try.

Speaking of old ideas, "X-Men" #9 brings back the ghost of crossovers past (somebody should really straighten that out) with coloring that makes Chris Bachalo's artwork muddy and indistinct. Also, Spider-Man's all over this for some reason. You know, why not? Oh, that's why -- this is boring.

"Silver Surfer" #2 should be marked for false advertising, as Norrin Radd is neither silver nor surfing through most of this issue. Depowered by the High Evolutionary (and that leads to some pretty far fetched things going down) he's tagging along with some girl for ... what is he doing, exactly? Whatever. Anyhoo, he also goes even more emo than he normally does, whining about losing Shalla Bal in early pages. Kind of a meandering mess.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Mostly meh.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

You can't beat spending less than $10, so mountain of "meh" or not, let's say it's a win.

THE BUSINESS

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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