The Buy Pile

Thu, May 12th, 2011 at 11:28am PDT | Updated: May 12th, 2011 at 12:01pm

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 MAY 11TH, 2011

Cinderella: Fables are Forever #4
(Vertigo/DC Comics)

Dorothy Gale as Martin Blank? With the help of Anansi the Spider, she captured the title character way back in 1985 as part of an escalating campaign of espionage between the two warring communities of Fables, refugee characters from lore and stories stuck in our "mundane" world. In the modern day, Cinderella is intentionally retracing those steps, delivering herself to Anansi in hopes of tracking down the Oz-travelling witch killer. She keeps working her spy mojo as she smirks behind her subtleties, letting the reader enjoy it with her. Great character moments, interesting suspense and solid entertainment.

Incredible Hulks #628
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
The irony of Christian religious fanatics invoking the names of Graeco-Roman divinities is just one of the highly entertaining elements of this issue, which has such wonderful chemistry between the Banners in both gamma powered and human incarnations. Tyrannus steps in to become even more compelling ("Can't a scoundrel play hero once in a while?") as Amadeus Cho continues following in the paths of Barbara Gordon and Chloe Sullivan. A solid chapter of an ongoing story that was complete in and of itself while pushing you towards the next issue -- virtually perfect superhero comic storytelling. Kudos to Pak, Grummett, Hamscher and Delgado on a finely organized issue.

Batman, Incorporated #6
(DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Also, this cover is not what was available at retail.
The promise of Batman's international imperative finally comes true as this issue doesn't skimp on action or exotic locales. "Batman is everywhere," Bruce Wayne tells the press, "and if he didn't exist, well ... I guess we'd just have to invent him." Bruce sets up some other mechanisms to enact his new campaign against crime, all framed by a conversation with a criminal cartel moving into Gotham. The story is surprisingly coherent, encapsulating all the scattered storylines from this series (and some others) thus far. Very engaging, tightly scripted writing from Grant Morrison and the visuals from Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn perfectly depict the challenging elements of this tale.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Two jumps and great re-readability? Nothing wrong with that.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"G.I. Joe Cobra Civil War" #1 was really, really close to making it home. Not hesitating a moment, it leapt into the competition for leadership, which is decided by the candidate who kills the most G.I. Joes. This gives the Baroness time to step up, as she's had first hand experience with more Joes than anyone else, and land first blood. The issue went by really quickly, with great action sequences and solid character work, but most of the Cobras in contention for the job didn't get a chance to be seen. Interesting storytelling that's developing into an all-new thriller.

Full disclosure: the writer of "Total Recall" #1 is a close, personal friend of the writer of this column, who's shared meals and is a collaborator at Komplicated. That said, this issue was good ... but not good enough. There are two whole pages literally covered in dialogue bubbles, taking a lot of time to chattily try and exposition their way through things and a plot that roars and then simmers. Clearly solid work, but not exactly "ooh, ooh, you must be mine" levels of compelling. No playing favorites, kids.

Young Loki is extremely effective in "Journey Into Mystery" #623, following a complete emotional arc and really kind of shining in the hands of writer Kieron Gillen. Why didn't it come home? Nobody else in this issue stepped up, even Volstagg who just kind of plodded through his paces. Good, but not great.

"Red Robin" #23 had a similar issue, with Tim Drake going rogue against the central considerations of his compatriots while using a close friend as bait in a dangerous assassination game. Dull antagonists dragged this down as Drake's internal monologue can only carry the plot so far.

"Wolfskin: Hundredth Dream" #6 could easily have been subtitled, "f*** s*** up!" The havoc and destruction here, on even the pre-industrial levels here, is really impressive. No time for character, and the ideological struggle between science and magic is kind of brushed against. This would be the great last reel of an action movie though.

"Titans" #35 was too busy for its own good, having a struggle between Vixen and the Tattooed Man, Slade and this Drago guy, Arsenal and his own limitations and so on. Drago, for all his bluster, is a lot like the flag-faced guy Ultimate Captain America faced recently and the talkiness and monologuing here dragged down the kineticism of the issue.

"Stan Lee's Starborn" #6 has a nice twist at the end as the lead character finds out some things about himself, but while his "gee willickers" sense of wonder at discovering a world he felt fictional is effective, the plot's pacing is not, nor is the archaeological detour.

"Daken Dark Wolverine" #9 is doing the same thing Loki is -- captivating attention every second he's on panel and thus eclipsing the other, less charismatic characters in the process. We could almost call that the Vril Dox rule: more of the main person we want to see.

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

"X-Men" #11, "Farscape" #19, "Amazing Spider-Man" #660, "Batgirl" #21, "Astonishing X-Men" #37, "Flash" #12, "Fear Itself: Youth In Revolt" #1, "R.E.B.E.L.S." #28, "FF" #3, "Superman" #711, "New Avengers" #25, "Fallen Angel: Return of the Son" #4, "Flashpoint" #1.

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

"Daredevil Reborn" #4 was pretty "meh" until the last "business as usual" pages. The last two or three pages were, in a word, infuriating. More on that in a bit.

In "Black Panther: The Man Without Fear" #518, T'challa is again outsmarted at least twice by a man who, if statistics hold, is not one of the eight smartest people in the world ... and that's kind of embarrassing. That's bad. The interplay with Luke Cage also falls flat, the dim coloring doesn't help and essentially, T'Challa doesn't get much of anything right. Disturbing levels of fail, which are then completely invalidated by the last page of "Daredevil Reborn." Saddening.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Only two stinkers, that's almost a victory.

THE BUSINESS

Wow ... if you're not keeping up with Komplicated, you're missing out on a whole lot. Free music downloads, the cancellation of "Human Target" by Fox, the top 10 greatest songs in hip hop history, a delicious slave Leia, casting news for the "Powers" TV show, the fall of Sony, rapper/actor Common at the White House and so much more. Coming up on the weekend webcast are interviews with animation expert Geoffrey Thorne, actress Tracie Thoms (Etta Candy herself from the "Wonder Woman" show) and possibly a cast member from that "Green Lantern" movie. Doin' it for the block and the blogosphere, y'all!

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, blogs: thanks to Suuru Designs you'll find blogs at the Soapbox. That's where you'll see 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!

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