The Buy Pile

Thu, June 9th, 2011 at 11:58am 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 JUNE 8TH, 2011

Journey Into Mystery #624 (Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Writer Kieron Gillen has a really wonderful grasp on the character of Loki, even in his prepubescent form.  Locked in to his course of doing something bad to prevent something worse, Loki musters some very lawyer-esque ideas when he heads to face down Mephisto ("Oh, Loki, I've missed you so"), wields his stolen hell hound ("Have fun! Don't get killed! I'll be back soon!") and generally moves around almost everybody as if they were stuck in slow motion.  A savvy scoundrel even in his now less-experienced form, even he is impressed with his previous incarnation ("So, I let the dead die forever just to forward my own schemes... gosh, I really was terribly naughty") and you get a glimpse at the representatives of the crossover's mastermind.  Very smart, well drawn by Dough Braithwaite and Ulises Arreola and entertaining from front to back.

Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravager #1 (DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Honestly, this book was a fairly good Honorable Mention title.  It had a cool button and it was a relatively slow week, so it got purchased.  Look, it was a solid piece of work, with Slade Wilson using the crisis of Atlantis and the Amazons' destruction of western Europe as a means to make a living, all while pursuing a personal quest.  Against him you see Travis Morgan as a rival pirate and the harshness of an expanded, angry Atlantic ocean.  The establishment of Slade's character was well done, showing him as a ruthless but ultimately honorable freebooter, but the naval battles weren't really visually gripping and the supporting cast needed a little more room to shine.  Great looking button, though.

Deadpool #38 (Marvel Comics)

Deadpool spends the issue making the Hulk really mad.  That's pretty much all you'll see here, large scale destruction and Deadpool's trademarked lunatic inner world, which is super entertaining as depicted by Bong Dazo, Joe Pimentel and Andres Mossa.  However, what's happening on page one -- no real spoiler here -- is still happening on the next to last page.  There is an extraordinary plot twist at the end that can catch the breath in your throat, so you shouldn't worry about not spending money wisely.  However, despite the fun, this story may be an issue longer than it needed to be.

Love and Capes: Ever After #5 (IDW Publishing)
Jump from the Read Pile. This issue is quite a surprise.  The mini-series has been consistently "almost good enough," drifting along with the kind of confectionary charm that you'd have gotten from most issues of "Noble Causes" or "Wildguard."  However, when things get real surrounding the death of a (previously unmentioned) team member, the details delivered about the deceased hero's life and personality were unexpectedly nuanced, the reactions of the other characters genuine and affecting.  Like a "very special episode" of "MASH," there was a lot of meat on the bones, and that's a good thing.  

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Three jumps and nothing wrong with "Deadpool?"  Very good start!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Caligula" #2 was disturbing but engrossing, like watching an execution or a baby with a chainsaw.  To watch the mad (and possibly immortal) emperor corrupt and bespoil everyone around him, even the young man who came seeking justice, it's... horrifying.  Also, titillating.  Also kind of hard to turn away from.  If that kind of uncomfortable horror is your thing, you should rush to get this.  Artistically valid, but not for the squeamish at all.

The hero of Central City is a jerk in "Flashpoint: Citizen Cold" #1, hiding a secret about who he really is but enjoying the good life.  It's not a bad story, but it does everything it really means to in the first four or five pages.

If you like shows on the CW, you'd probably enjoy "Witch" #1, an origin issue establishing the status quo of two young magic users and their familiars on the run from a rapacious organization seeking their deaths.  It's well suited in this post-"Twilight" entertainment era, which isn't a knock on it at all, but it does have a tweenish feel to it.

Tyrannus has a plan in "Incredible Hulks" #630 as Betty's gone wild with a surprise visit by another scientist of some repute.  This was close to making the mark, as Amadeus Cho's charm worked alongside Bruce Banner's shows of frustration, but the actual plot was a little thin amidst the interesting banter and dialogue.

The professor acts much like his nemesis in "Moriarity" #2, a "TV good" comic book that brought in historical elements while letting others think time had addled his well renowned intellect.  This will play better in a collected edition, as it doesn't really complete a thought from a single-issue perspective.

"Red Robin" #24 was moving along at a normal pace, being the target of assassination attempts and doing his normal swashbuckling when the last page presented a very different kind of challenge for Tim Drake Wayne.  The plot twist was interesting, but not enough to shore up the rest of the issue.

The lead character in "Stan Lee's Starborn" #7 spent a lot of the issue trying to come to grips with his legacy.  A secret hidden on earth finally got explained to the readers, as did the shapeshifter's role, but the plot dragged along a bit.  Never a god sign.

In "New Avengers" #13, Dr. Strange makes negotiations funny as the fate of Mockingbird is decided, based on what happened with Nick Fury's 1950s Avengers team (finally tying in that storyline).  Too many plot elements vied for panel time in an issue that -- as many in this series have -- had great elements that didn't gel together as a whole.

"Netherworld" #2 had some similar issues, with a thin plot stretched around charming plot elements, showing a detective in way over his head and the possibility of being in a place that no one wanted to be.  Not bad, but not crucial to own.

One could say the same for "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero" #167, which had everything from a moving headquarters to the imperiousness of Destro and all the way to the arctic, with modern technology being used creatively in combat intelligence.

Arthur is a much grimmer, more vengeful ruler in "Flashpoint: Emperor Aquaman" #1, which gives him the role of plotter and borrows a page from Mark Waid's "Empire" in making his weapon against the surface world.  He broods more than acts, and the surprise took a little too long to reveal in this "Age of Apocalypse"-esque approach.  Again, not bad, but not pushing far enough to be a must-have.

Taking a page from "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" "Screamland" #1 posits the idea of movie monsters as actual monsters, scraping a living out of serving as movie actors in horror films.  Advances in CGI and special effects are driving them out of business and even the convention circuit moneys are drying up.  Cute story, but again not "spend money on it" good.

"Samurai's Blood" #1 would play really well as a prose novel, a sweeping period piece that encompasses families, honor and a tyrant's naked lust for power.  However, in periodical form the plot languishes while not moving along effectively enough.  An interesting start, but not ready for prime time just yet.

"Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #159 echoed the last issues of "Fantastic Four" in Peter Parker's heroism, struggling on in the face of overwhelming opposition.  Given the text on the cover, though, what has to happen seems a foregone conclusion and the slow path to that happening is almost laborious in its delay.

There's a masked character in "Mystery Men" #1 named "The Operative" who wears a fedora. Okay. See what you did there. Set in the '20s and '30s, there's also a Black character, who was a former stage magician. Sure, why not? Nothing wrong here, but it does play a little like a prototype for "The Twelve."

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

"Batman and Robin" #24, "Birds of Prey" #13, "Booster Gold" #45, "Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown" #1, "Green Lantern Movie Prequel: Kilowog" #1, "Titans" #36 (with the September reboot coming, is there even a reason to keep reading these DC books?), "Savage Dragon" #171, "Total Recall" #2 (sorry Vince), "Black Panther: The Man Without Fear" #519, "Farscape" #20, "Fear Itself: Deadpool" #1, "Crysis" #1, "Fear Itself: Fearsome Four" #1 (creepy looking Howard the Duck, though), "Jericho Season 3" #6, "Fear Itself: Spider-Man" #2, "Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon Movie Adaptation" #1, "Ghost Rider" #0.1, "Blue Estate" #3, "Ka-Zar: The Burning Season" #1, "Breed 3" #2, "Dr. Who: A Fairytale Life" #3, "Supreme Power" #1, "Morning Glories" #10 

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

The only term that could work for the cross-dressing superheroics of "Empowered: Ten Questions for the Maidman" -- which changed art styles when it changed perspective and featured a very unusual television interview as a framing device -- is "what the hell?"  Baffling.

"Green Wake" #3 was largely incomprehensible.  A mess of blood and jumbled imagery, this issue had far too many wordless panels for its less-than-memorable artwork.

"15 Love" #1 was about tennis. Really.  It was... what's the word? Not good.  Other words that could apply would be "tepid," "boring," "whiny" and "unnecessary."

"Hulk-Sized Mini-Hulks" #1 did not have a single laugh in its pages. It's a humor book. That's not good.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Not so much bad, that's okay.

The store made no order for "Atomika" #12.  Why?  Here's a quote from store owner Steve LeClaire: "It's a twelve part series where they took three years to put the last part out. Why should I be left holding the bag when nobody's interested anymore?"  All righty, then!

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Call it a win on the strength of three jumps and fewer failures than adequate moments.  

THE BUSINESS

Whoa.  If you missed the Komplicated interview with actor Nick Jones Jr. then there's things about the new "Green Lantern" movie that you won't hear anywhere else.  This week, there's gonna be an expanded breakdown of the fallout from E3 and Apple's World Wide Developer Conference, with as much footage as can be swiped from the web.  The only place you can find this kind of stuff -- news and commentary on technology, culture, escapism and music from a Black geek perspective -- is Komplicated.com, and we welcome your visits.  With "Mystery Men" #1, it seems like the Commentary Tracks need to move to Komplicated too.  So be it.

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.

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