The Buy Pile: Big Bucks, No Whammies

Thu, October 13th, 2011 at 11:28am 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 12, 2011

Mister Terrific #2
(DC Comics)
Despite being drawn looking down in most panels, Mister Terrific's prospects are looking up as he rebooted his own brain, threw down with some very complex science ("flooding the room with Bose-Einstein condensates") while Karen Starr fills out an evening gown without the slightest sign of a cape or super strength. Most of Terrific's super heroics happen in a suit -- no problems there -- and he commutes to another part of Los Angeles through the ninth dimension (which seems like it's way past the Age of Aquarius). The villain's a new guy (down to his smurfy appearance) with an old name and his megalomania is one of the few weak elements to this issue. Another solid effort from writer Eric Wallace and while the facial expressions and fine details from the art team Gianluca Gugliotta, Wayne Faucher and Mike Atiyeh could have a little more polish, the composition and visual storytelling is solid. Enjoyable work.

Demon Knights #2
(DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile
When you can cast Vandal Savage as a whimsical, dinosaur-eating berserker, you're already on a good path. There's a great balance of characters, from the learned Islamic nomad to the reluctant Etrigan, uninterested in heroics, to a Shining Knight who plays similarly to the spaceknight in The Annihilators. Mordru makes an interesting dragon instead of being the big bad as he's often cast, and the conflict had just enough time to showcase some of the characters who didn't get panel time last issue and still put the plot through its paces. Learning from everything done right in books like "Skullkickers" and "Dungeons and Dragons," Paul Cornell's script delivers like FedEx and the art from Diogenes Neves, Oclam Albert and Marcelo Maiolo could easily have let this been messy and hard to read, but every character pops out from the background, every piece of action and facial acting came through. Great stuff.

The Shade #2
(DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile
This is quite a surprise. It starts off like it's going to be another talking heads comic, with the titular character sitting with the blue-skinned Starman over tea, discussing relationships and depression. However, whoever made the very smart decision to intersperse elements of a chase scene -- whether it was writer James Robinson or the brilliant, wonderful Cully Hamner -- made the pace and dramatic tension work perfectly, and when Robinson's script tied it all together at the end was simply poetic, even amidst the extreme action. Balancing friendship, romance and action in one issue with a shocker finale? That's good comics right there!

Who is Jake Ellis #5
(Image Comics)
Well ... on the good side, you get some answers about the unusual partnership between Jake Ellis and Jon Moore. On the bad side, the pretty but wholly inconclusive ending ... wow. This series has been a white knuckle ride all the way, but here it just kind of sputtered to a stop. The previous four issues were purchased, so this one was a "gimme," but in retrospect, it wouldn't have made the cut on its own merits, kind of chasing the pigeon in retrospect (all allusions intended). Still one damned good-looking book, though.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Three out of four ain't bad, given that there were two jumps.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

When you think of the public's perception of comics, they'd probably see something like "Super Dinosaur" #5 and say, "Yeah, that's what it's supposed to be." All-ages fun that pits giant talking dinosaurs in huge suits of space aged, missile-firing armor -- yeah, that's the sort of stuff that gets the kid in you fired up. However, with a very typically mustache-twirling villain (with no actual mustache) and some sappy elements between the juvenile characters it really was more confectionery than it needed to be. Fine if you're not yet ten, but not for everybody.

Norman Osborn's back in "New Avengers" #17, and he's able to manipulate Tony Stark and Luke Cage's team of Avengers, whose inner-team bickering remained as entertaining as Bendis has ever made it, but with a battle that happened on multiple levels, that complexity made this better than a normal Avengers chatterbox. However, bringing in Osborn a little earlier would have made the tension of the story much more effective while also giving Osborn's new team effort more room to shine (and chew scenery).

"Blue Estate" #6 broke into its crime-laced storytelling with Tarantino-esque sharpness. The connections between characters was a little facile, the art and coloring a little blasé, but there were no outstanding problems ... and also no outstanding selling points either.

"Deathstroke" #2 was very, very close to making it home. However, when it broke out with a super villain so ridiculous he made Mammomax look like Magneto, it was hard to justify bringing it home. Slade's calm demeanor, slicing through fields full of murderers like he was shopping for paper towels, was very compelling, but when all he does is knock down straw men, it's like a world championship wrestler fighting guys who look like they just walked out of a supermarket.

"Irredeemable" #30 had some pacing problems in terms of balancing between Tony's psychotic band of world killers and Survivor's family struggles. When you get to the weird emotional moment, it's all wobbly, but either story element could have worked out as an issue on its own.

"Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #3 was solidly good, following the leisurely pacing of the original "Ultimate Spider-Man" series in telling Miles Morales' origin around the time of Peter's passing. If you're fine with a slow paced story, this takes its time and balances a little information with a little action and so on, this might be fine for you.

To be a second-generation sleeper agent is a heavy load to bear, and "Pigs" #2 shows you "The White Russian," a spy who went native and wants to reject his duty, enjoying a family and a life in the USA. How do you think that went for him? This would play really well as a Showtime series but at the installment speed and price here, it's not quite enough return on investment.

In a prelude to ... something, "Starborn" #11 spent more time building up an inexperienced heir to the throne as a would-be hero. Soldier Zero and The Traveler got a splash page apiece as a multi-species coalition put the planet Earth to the sword. A bit too busy for its own good given how little actually happened.

This column is a huge supporter of bad people doing bad things, so "Joe Hill's The Cape" #2 seems like it'd be a shoe-in for a jump. However, it didn't have enough plot as the main character's not very good at what he does, despite having the right temperament for it (the distancing language near the end was noted, nice touch). Toss in coloring that was way too muddy and you have a book that had great ambiance and not much more.

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

"Amazing Spider-Man" #671, "Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E." #2, "X-Men Regenesis" #1, "Haunted City" #1, "Green Lantern" #2, "Clive Barker's Hellraiser" #6, "Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive" #524, "Dollhouse: Epitaphs" #4, "Batgirl" #2, "Morning Glories" #13, "Grifter" #2, "Jurassic Park: Dangerous Games" #2, "Daken: Dark Wolverine" #15, "Elric: The Balance Lost" #4, "Legion Lost" #2, "Ultimate Comics X-Men" #2, "Pilot Season: City of Refuge" #1, "Resurrection Man" #2, "FF" #10, "Suicide Squad" #2, "Punisher" #4, "Ghostbusters" #2, "Superboy" #2, "Alpha Flight" #5.

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

Hh -- how about that? Nothing really stinky! Cool!

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

No overwhelming problems, a lot of ambitious essays ... can't be mad at that.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Add in the jumps and take note of nothing really stinking up the joint, well, if you can't call that a win, you just don't like winning, pal.

THE BUSINESS

This week on Komplicated.com: Saying "good bye and thank you" to Steve Jobs, finding sixteen earth-like planets around distant stars, checking out the

new Photoshop version for tablets,

dissecting iOS 5 and the new offerings from Apple Computer on our webcast

and music writing including DJ Jedi's Spin City,

free MP3 downloads with #musicmonday and recommendations on what to download from the aforementioned by music writer

Rox Fontaine, even stopping to say happy birthday to MC Lyte. Updated at least three times a day, every single day, the webcast is on hiatus this Sunday night but will be back October 23rd with Felicia "The Poetess" Morris, and you'll see a Commentary Track blog for this set of reviews online by 6:30 PM PST (but probably earlier).

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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