The Buy Pile: Thinking Different(ly)

Thu, October 6th, 2011 at 10:28am PDT

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (two-time Eisner-winning journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/jackass on Twitter/head honcho of Komplicated.com) 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 OCTOBER 5, 2011

The Last of The Greats
(Image Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
This column has long been a fan of certain things many might consider "wrong," so when you see the AICN quote on the cover, you'd be right to consider this right up our alley. The title character would make Vril Dox, Thanos and Spider Jerusalem stand up and do a serious slow clap (and not a sarcastic one), the final member of a group of powerful extraterrestrials who told Earth's populace that they were here to help. Of course, they were brutally murdered by a fearful and sadly typical human race, they were left to turn to the one member of the aliens who never stood with his siblings, asking for help when the skies became filled with hostile invaders. Well, sort of. There's a few twists in the plot here that simply delight, and a simple, wicked undertone that's so thorough and so unrelenting ... this is a triumph. Wonderful.

Skullkickers #11
(Image Comics)

The last three pages are the only real problem this very enjoyable issue had, where it posited the problem of a giant plant hell bent on eating a town for some kind of vengeance about urban development. As always, the simple cameraderie of the two leads -- the trademark pistol in a time of swords and sorcery, the relentless drinking -- really makes the work sing, even when the antagonist has a crisis of conscience and another becomes an unwitting ally. The kookiness of the expository sound effects also works very well. This is a fun book and all went well.

Casanova: Avaritia #2
(Icon/Marvel Comics)

Newman Xeno is, apparently, a bad guy. He heads an international cabal of evil intelligence operatives. He's killed, he's stolen, he's no good for the good guys ... so what do they decide to do? Kill him. Again and again and again, in parallel dimension after parallel dimension. A waterfall of viscera and bloodshed, all orchestrated by the pistols and blades and bare hands of the title character. Of course, he's the quintessential loose cannon (pun intended) and that means that what everybody expects almost cannot happen. An interesting trip down a psychedelic road, Matt Fraction's writing is a symphony of wonder, and the artwork from Gabriel Ba is so perfectly matched that they should be picking items off a bridal registry.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Yes! More, please!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Action Comics" #2 showcased the dynamic between two avowed enemies as Superman and Lex Luthor meet for the first time, pushing the limits of the former's invincibility and the latter's ego. Those moments were solid gold, but when John Corben comes moping on the scene, and other tepid supporting characters meandered around, and it all fell apart. Those Superman/Lex moments were fantastic, though.

"Spider Island: Heroes for Hire" #1 had the exact opposite problem -- the ending was phenomenal and the first two thirds of the comic book were just "meh." Misty Knight and Paladin have a big problem with the Spider-Man virus and some long-time Marvel background players get an unpleasant surprise. If most of the book stayed focused on Misty and Paladin rather than on pointless action, it would have been better off.

The weird thing about "G.I. Joe" #6 showcased a possibly disturbing fact: the Joes don't seem to be very good at their jobs. Cobra, on the other hand, has spent a lot of time and a lot of money posterizing the anti-terrorists and talking about their moms. The Joes stole a submarine from Cobra, and that turned out to be a bad idea, while a team at an ultra-top secret facility somehow manage to capture the Baroness for the second time before doing something really, really ill-advised. The balance of things is a bit off, but there are a number of great elements.

"Static Shock" #2 throws two or three curve balls near the end of the issue that sent it going off into a less-than-satisfying conclusion (two Sharons?). The high school scenes were great, the voice of Virgil was rock solid, but so many other elements never came together.

"Caligula" #4 was disturbing. Like an installment of "sex, murder and Orwell," the vengeful protagonist goes through such an arc of horror and dehumanization that is ... kind of fascinating, in a way, but really, really hard to watch, like a sleeper car full of puppies going off a cliff into a fire. Even by the standards of this column, it was cruel and unusual, but gripping. If you can take the heat, this is for you.

"Animal Man" #2 delved deep into the mythos of "The Red," the counterpart of "The Green" from "Swamp Thing." Whereas "the Green" represents all plant life (or something), "the Red" stands in for, what, mammals? Maybe insects? Something. Anyhoo, Buddy Baker's daughter is more powerful than he is, and she's got some kind of secret knowledge and it had a very Vertigo feel ... but for your average fan, this is like trying to order a cheeseburger at the opera.

Gary Phillip's crime stylings return in "The Rinse" #2, with a strong plot and not a lot of character work. The scoundrel lead gets a chance to Michael Westen narrate the events well enough, but everybody else is not well developed. Perhaps the cast is too large, perhaps the art needs more polish, but either way, the ambition is here, the execution could improve a bit.

There was a good part of "Stormwatch" #2 where the moon decided to kill the earth. That was cool, if very, very abbreviated. The wooing of Apollo to try and get him to join the team took a lot longer, and the weird future history of Adam One didn't help a lot. The art was good looking, though, and you can't beat having the satellite of the world you live on trying to kill you.

"Marksmen" #3 played like a reel from "Megaforce," with stoic grimaces and rag tag combatants. However, the dry dialogue and bland coloring sapped some of the action movie credibility from this. This would play as a great movie, shot for about $50 million, something you'd enjoy on a Saturday afternoon, though.

"Fear Agent" #31 was, likewise, reliable science fiction that hit its marks and didn't ask too much of you, with a solid cliffhanger ending that tied together elements from the issue. It was solidly "okay." Nothing wrong with that, per se, but it won't light the world on fire either.

"Reed Gunther" #5 was a very cute tale of friendship and adventure, with comeuppance and a nice sweet "aww" moment and some whimsicality. If you're looking for some cute comics that can work with (pretty much) an all ages audience, that'd take care of you.

Definitely not all ages fare, "Chew" #21 was likewise reliable, solid work, with Tony Chu enjoying a new assignment like he was Mark Wahlberg in "The Other Guys." This should be absolutely note perfect on TV, with a tone like a procedural "Pushing Daisies," but as a comic it's a little too pricey for this amount of story.

"Men of War" #2 was actually two interesting stories in one book. On one side, Joe Rock's simplicity and the compatibility he had with his team was very effective. On the other side, there's a very strange metahuman element which had dialogue that was almost like poetry. Both of these concepts were interesting, but neither of them went well with the other. A lot of great ideas but they don't all go together.

"Walking Dead" #89 was very internecine, building on lots of work with the characters from previous points in the series, including a hard hitting ending that set a strong sense of tone. However, for new readers, this didn't give them much to hold on to, as a somewhat insular experience.

Prowl and Streetwise are a great cop team in "Transformers" #27, and it twisted around their murder investigation (yes, giant robots doing a murder investigation) with a nice twist at the end. However, much like "Fear Agent," it didn't quite have enough to sell it (what was that scene with Ultra Magnus and Bumblebee about?).

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: Schism" #5, "Justice League International" #2, "Moriarity" #5, "Avengers 1959" #1, "Severed" #3, "Swamp Thing" #2, "Spawn" #212, "Thunderbolts" #164, "Executive Assistant Iris Volume 2" #4, "Pilot Season: The Test" #1, "Detective Comics" #2, "War Goddess" #2, "Green Arrow" #2, "Mighty Samson" #4, "Huntress" #1, "Red Spike" #5, "Hulk" #42, "Penguin: Pain and Prejudice" #1, "The Strange Talent of Luther Strode" #1, "Moon Knight" #6, "Red Lanterns" #2, "Invincible" #83, "Mystic" #3, "Infinite" #3, "X-Men" #19, "68 Encore Edition."

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

"Batwing" #2 was not ready for prime time. It introduced a character right out of the Black Hero Origin Algorithm (from the Tony Isabella Corollary specifically) in a book that had lots of drab backgrounds, more sniveling sycophanty to his foreign patron and spectacle substituted for characterization on behalf of an escapee from a "Spawn" book in the '90s. This is sad and embarrassing.

"Deadpool" #44 was weird and, worse, not entertaining as his supposedly wackjob psychiatrist does some weird, crazy stuff that drags on for a long time. Deadpool spent longer talking to himself than normal, and it wasn't non-sequitur like Brittany on "Glee" nor was it twitchy like "Moon Knight." It was, well, dull.

"Hawk and Dove" #2 introduced Condor and The Swan. They're, like, bad guy avatars. Essentially, mirroring Hawk & Dove, but, like, evil. Drawn by Liefeld. Right. Let's never speak of this again.

"O.M.A.C." #2 had a guest star that literally got eaten in the middle of the comic book. Wow. It was a slice below "meh," but that's still technically bad.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Not so bad, after all.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

A jump, more "okay" than "awful," that's solid stuff! Call the week a win!

THE BUSINESS

Dude. What the what? Steve Jobs died? Not cool. Wow. Well, Komplicated had a big week regardless, with cool stuff like #whodwin Wednesday, the return of Voltron, the new announcements from Apple, free MP3 downloads and recommendations to download, a webcast looking at the digital identity crisis with an extra long mix at the end of the show, music recommendations from the world-famous DJ Jedi, our weekly guide on finding Black people in media and lots more. Komplicated is updated at least three times per day (sometimes more) and lots of cool stuff is going on.

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, you should use the contact form as the CBR email address hasn't been regularly checked since George W. Bush was in office. Sorry!

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