The Buy Pile

Thu, May 26th, 2011 at 11:28am PDT

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 MAY 25TH, 2011

Xombi #3
(DC Comics)

This issue very deftly introduced Roland Finch, a man who would make Lex Luthor blanch, whose ruthlessness makes Dr. Emil Burbank look like a candy striper. For no reason greater than covering his tracks, Finch released a literally biblical level threat that'd been contained for centuries. This led to one intense fight scene that pushed the limits of the nanomachines keeping Dr. David Kim alive, and while a little too much of this issue was spent keeping supporting players in transit, the introduction of a villain of Roland Finch's magnitude made up for it, even in his scant time on panel.

Deadpool #37
(Marvel Comics)

It's not much of a spoiler to say that Deadpool has decided "enough's enough" with this life stuff. However, when you've got a healing factor that can bring you back from almost anything, it leads to making some extreme decisions, as the issue's cover shows, and that can get...messy. Like, Season Two Jack Bauer messy. That means lots of property damage, even while it doesn't deliver as many laughs as some other issues. Consistent chuckles, however, and that's worth the price of admission.

Kirby Genesis #0
(Dynamite Entertainment)
Jump from the Read Pile.
It's important to know that this comic book was a dollar. Using the real life facts of Jack Kirby's artwork adorning the side of the Pioneer 10 probe, this issue posits a series of incredible events following Pioneer 10's exodus from the solar system, spotlighting ideas Kirby had germinating and never had time to develop, including the all-female combatants Galaxy Green, some spandex-clad guys who'd give Ikaris and his cohorts a run for their money and more. For a dollar, this issue captured the spirit of possibility that Kirby's work encapsulated and spending a dollar on a dose of hope is more than fair. Here's hoping things continue to go well.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Less than ten bucks, two solid comics and one great one ... that's a good deal.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Cobra" #1 was the closest to making it home, as the Baroness wrestled with a competition she felt she could not win, murdering and blowing stuff up in South America while Serpentor made secretive plans, the Joe team struggled with internecine class warfare and a last page twist almost brought this bad boy home. However, the rough hewn facial work takes away a lot of the emotional resonance -- the Baroness' resignation and anger, Breaker's shame at being rebuffed and so on -- and the plot could have been a little tighter. Still, very interesting stuff.

Also close to making the mark was the emotional resonance between Bruce and Betty Banner in "Incredible Hulks" #629, but Tyrannus' former deftness degenerated into cliché-pontificating villainy while the forced nonchalance of two Hulks on panel felt like it was trying too hard. As always, Amadeus Cho was a delight and the action was solid, but Tyrannus dropping the ball (no pun intended) made this miss.

There was a lot to like about "Star Wars: Vader and the Lost Command" #5, which still had the nascent Vader doing a lot of whining, but also showcased the power and rage that made him such an icon in the first place. The biggest problem here is that the makers of this comic have a disturbing misunderstanding of how his armor works, assuming that his helmet is merely cosmetic and not life-extending, having Vader walk around bare headed the entire issue. Shrinking the cast helped the story's balance a great deal and let Vader do what he does best -- wide-scale murder and destruction.

The first two-thirds of "Secret Avengers" #13 bordered on brilliance, as Henry McCoy wrestled with a surprise on the floor of Congress, but the quote-happy ending didn't resolve the core concern nor did it answer how something really ridiculously awesome happened and nobody else saw a thing about it. It's hard to say more without spoiling some great surprises, but to say that the inconclusive ending was a let down only spotlights how interesting the first parts of the book were.

"Dungeons and Dragons" #7 introduced the team of adventurers for the first time in a flashback, which did a good job at depicting the Adric Fell character (ranger? warrior?) but other than the dwarf, the rest of the characters kind of faded into the background. The larger cast here (why did that dragonborn take so long to shine?) didn't help, but the key elements that have worked in this series remained intact.

"Skullkickers" #7 was like a better version of "Dungeons and Dragons," as its much tighter focus on the two lead characters was a huge improvement. Creating a fish out of water scenario and trying to jam the extensive violence of these two into more gentile surroundings is both amusing and fits the storyline, so the presentation was cute. Why not buy it? It was good but not great, and in these economic times, that's a line that grows wider.

"Mighty Thor" #2 set up the Galactus vs. Odin, Thor vs. Norrin Radd tag team match but does so mostly by chatterboxing. Odin's conversation with Heimdall held a nice sense of threat and magnitude, but it definitely took the scenic route getting there.

"Detective Comics" #877 was solid, noirish detective storytelling, no frills and no fuss as Dick Grayson settles into the grimness of the cowl, emotionally investing himself into an investigation. Losing the "dazzling" factor of his work kind of dulled the story, but there was nothing wrong here.

"Kill Shakespeare" #11 was the closest to making the mark this series has ever been, with the titular character stepping up to speak, with a reunion that's been a long time coming, a fairly expectable turn of events and the brutality of Richard the 3rd and Lady MacBeth coming to a head. The reunion needed a few more panels to really sink in, the turn came out of nowhere but this will all likely play better in a collected edition.

"Amazing Spider-Man" #662 followed the same theme of previous issues, a cute and fluffy story where Peter plays educator to the students from Avengers Academy, who in turn are getting played like violins by Psycho-Man. There was plenty of amusement but not exactly high enough stakes to warrant a purchase.

"Suicide Girls" #2 had guns and naked boobs and violence and pop culture references up to its eyeballs ... and really, that's quite a pedigree. Imagine "Danger Girl" mixed with "Best Week Ever" and TheCHIVE, and you might have an idea of what's happening here. Despite being racier, it was just as confectionary as "Amazing Spider-Man," and as such, just as easy to walk away from.

If "Justice Society of America" #51 had remained focused on Jay Garrick, doing a much more interesting job of mayoring than Mitchell Hundred, then it could have been something. The quest to save Lightning's soul, some interdimensional blah blah -- not so much.

"Captain America" #618 was not bad, scattered but okay as Bucky intentionally suffered through time in a gulag while Steve Rogers, essentially, is a bad spy. Really, he should know a lot of this stuff by now. Nevertheless, there's stuff that plays like a Soviet version of "Prison Break" that's okay, at least being TV Good.

"Stan Lee's The Traveler" #7 moved fast with a more cosmic take on the "escape from incarceration" angle and showcased a comfortably cliche mustache twirling villain at work, but never really settled into a rhythm with itself so the story could flow comfortably.

"Secret Warriors" #27 had two great moments with Baron von Strucker and Nick Fury, great instances of realization where the art and script were perfectly in sync. The rest of the story, however, was the kind of monologuing that just fills space.

"Strange Adventures" #1 was an okay anthology, but not eight dollars' worth. The lead story from Selwyn Seyfu Hinds and Denys Cowan was probably the best, a gritty case of futuristic urban noir, and a few other short tales were at least interesting but again -- eight dollars?

Galvatron has a mission in "Transformers: Heart of Darkness" #3 and is ignoring party affiliations in his quest to stop something far more dangerous than his struggle with the Autobots, or even the threat of Unicron. Maybe he's crazy, maybe not, but he sure does make everything seem important. At least to the characters on panel.

"FF" #4 finally started looking at the real weaknesses of Reed Richards' modus operandi, which was one of the most interesting parts about it as a round table of his most interesting enemies analyzed him -- while he was in the room. Sue got a bit of dialogue with Peter that really showcased the steel underneath her soft exterior, but again most of the issue did not carry the weight of those few solid moments.

"Super Dinosaur" #2 is solid all-ages fun that you can give to kids (if they're okay with cartoon violence). Nothing wrong, but it has a kind of "Problem Child," aw shucks feel to it -- which is great for that audience -- but won't do it for everybody.

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

"True Blood: Tainted Love" #4, "Venom" #3, "Hellraiser" #2, "Iron Man 2.0" #5, "Planet of the Apes" #2, "Ruse" #3, "Daomu" #4, "Magnus: Robot Fighter" #4, "Namor the First Mutant" #10, "Action Comics" #901, "Power Man and Iron Fist" #5, "Dr. Who" #5, "Incorruptible" #18, "Wolverine" #9, "The Mission" 34, "Star Wars: Legacy War" #6, "Green Arrow" #12, "Tattered Man," "Daken Dark Wolverine" #9.1, "Angel Yearbook," "Baker Butcher: The Righteous Maker" #3, "Uncanny X-Men" #537, "Godzilla: King of Monsters" #3, "Carbon Grey" #3

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

There's no real reason to review the next three issues separately, as they literally are interlinked parts of the same story. "Green Lantern" #66, "Green Lantern Corps" #60 and "Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors" #10 were, in essence, a mess. Despite the fact that John Stewart has a better success rate than the biggest project Palpatine's Empire ever put forth, the numerous lunatic elements here -- Krona borrowing a tactic from Mumm-Ra, John Stewart's knock-off G.I. Joe gear taking a turn in the Thriller direction, Ganthet's Skittle-based strategy -- it was amazing to watch so much go wrong in such a small space, especially given that the idea of ring wielders against the power of even one entity, even one Guardian, is so lopsided a competition that it's laughable.

To say "Onslaught Unleashed" #4 was bad shouldn't be a surprise. From its inconclusive ending to the laughable usage of science, from a hero making a rough decision to Steve Rogers simply standing around -- really, there was no need for this to exist. Not at all.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

There was no order for "Comeback Kings" #1 and "Minx" #1, and a printing error messed up every copy the store had of "X-Men: Earth's Mutant Heroes" #1, but as far as everything else went,

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Lots of ambitious work was done here, and not that many stinkers ... let's say that's a good thing and call the week a win.

THE BUSINESS

Big week on Komplicated, but reviews took a long time to write, so sorry there's not more time to go back. However, on this Sunday's webcast (noon PST on The Geekweek Network actress Tracie Thoms will be discussing the "Wonder Woman" pilot, "Death Proof," "Human Target" and so much more. One week later, actor Nick Jones Jr. (who plays John Stewart in the "Green Lantern" movie) wil be the subject of The 3rd Degree, so it's gonna be big.

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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