The Buy Pile: Iron Eclipses and Dreamtime

Thu, December 15th, 2011 at 11:28am PST

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

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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 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 DECEMBER 14TH, 2011

Star Wars Agent of the Empire: Iron Eclipse #1
(Dark Horse Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Wow. Really? Wow. A "Star Wars" book that really, really hits all the right notes, with nary a lightsaber to be seen. Smartly done, well balanced plot? Check. Deft use of material from both the original and prequel trilogies? Handled. Terribly clever concept? No question. Jahan Cross is, in effect, the James Bond of the Empire. Roll that one around in your brain for a minute. The cover copy reads, "Stormtroopers are the Empire's hammer. This man is its scalpel." Seriously, how has nobody come up with an idea this awesome before? With clues to a less-than-rule-following past, a cipher of a sidekick, adding two stand ins for Bond's Q, a planet-hopping script that's spandex-tight from veteran John Ostrander (firing on all cylinders here) with wonderful, lush artwork from Stephane Roux, Julien Hugonnard-Bert and Wes Dzioba. Wonderful!

The Shade #3
(DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
The title character heads down under to Australia to visit a reclusive billionaire deep in the outback. Why this involved an Australian hero named The Argonaut, a battle with an ancient Aboriginal lizard god (which is SO cool) and some really snappy dialogue. The Shade is a wonderfully depicted gentleman scoundrel, a rakish rogue stepping away from his "dark" past and trying to do the right thing, while acknowledging his natural inclinations to do the opposite. A wonderfully nuanced depiction and fun as heck. Quite a present from James Robinson, the always brilliant Cully Hamner and Dave McCaig.

Mister Terrific #4
(DC Comics)

It would have been really easy for this to go wrong. Weirdo ninth dimensional aliens spiriting the protagonist away from a lot of complicated messes he left in Los Angeles. It could have been cheesy so easily. Instead, Eric Wallace's script digs deeply into Michael Holt's personal challenges, unearthing levels of characterization that made the fairly Silver Age-ish concepts in the plot much richer, especially with "the fifth law of infinite fractal mechanics" and similar high-minded science terms coming across very believably. When you toss in an artistic performance from Gianluca Gugliotta, Wayne Faucher and Mike Atiyeh that fully appreciates the term "spectacle" (in a good way, you have to love the detail on that title page spread). This series is really stepping up in a major way to deliver an interesting, multifaceted direction for largely unexplored corners of the DC universe.

Journey Into Mystery #632
(Marvel Comics)

The Yule holiday has special significance for the Norse, and the Aesir are the center of attention this season. Volstagg as Santa Claus! Seven pups from an unholy canine union, all looking for homes! The All-Mother calling the shots! Add to that the particular charm in verbal rejoinders that only young Loki can deliver ("Do you know how to fetch?" "Kill you." "I'll take that as a no") and even if your heart is full of coal, you'll likely find something to enjoy in this engaging issue. Great stuff from Kieron Gillen, Mitch Breitweiser and Bettie Breitweiser.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Three jumps? A great Star Wars comic? Totally re-readable books? Well worth it.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Avengers Academy" #23 proves that trying to write a Layla Miller-styled character isn't easy. Reptil isn't Reptil, he's Reptil from the future and he knows stuff. Plodding his way through the present seems to be a great burden on him, and that kind of navel gazing took up a lot of the issue. There was also a widely publicized element to this issue, but it wasn't really anything big for most of the audience and far less provocative than an average episode of "Glee" (for those who're easily offended).

"Deathstroke" #4 tied in with The Blackhawks (who, sadly, are still dull) in an issue that really shined in its first third (a wonderful assassination) but couldn't keep up the pace as Deathstroke dropped back into being emo. Also, Nth metal? Remember when Deathstroke could be impressive all on his own? Oh well.

If you're a fan of period works and suspense, you'll likely enjoy "Severed" #5. However, it was slow. The last page reveal was telegraphed more than a dozen page before. Still, the kind of "Road to Perdition" styled charm wasn't too derivative nor downbeat, but this wouldn't excite every reader.

"The Ray" #1 was solid, straightforward superhero comics done with a diverse, good looking cast (with Jamal Igle on art, that's a given) but its plot was simply serviceable. Nothing wrong, but nothing remarkable, despite a couple of cute lines of dialogue (especially from the lead's love interest).

How the heck did Norman Osborn get a ship that looks like a star destroyer? "New Avengers" #19 had Osborn reintroducing his "Dark" Avengers idea (again: no actual "dark" people) with significant upgrades and a plan -- well, to be honest, it's a snarky variant of Zemo's "Thunderbolts" plan from way back in the day, and having Osborn adopt the mannerisms and cadences of Tommy Lee Jones makes him super fun to read. However, the Avengers themselves simply talk and worry, and that's less engaging.

The teen from N.O.W.H.E.R.E. has narc intentions in "Superboy" #4, as a mischief-filled metahuman Rumspringa leads the mysterious clone to decide the kids are decidedly not all right. Oh, and also he gets to punch Caitlin from "Gen 13" (who has an immunity to tactile telekinesis, by the way, and who resembles an enthusiastic Jen Walters).

Do you like westerns? "Hawken" #2 is a western. It's a fairly good western, at that. However, westerns shortcut characterization, they have fairly common plot elements and they often drip with cliche. This is not an exceptional western -- it's a good one, and it hits all the notes, so if you like westerns, chances are this will be like catnip to you.

Speaking of things in a previous period, "Samurai's Blood" #6 delivers all the thrills and plot points you'd expect from something like "Hero" or something similar in scope.

If you are a Christmas celebrant, "Jingle Belle Gift-Wrapped Special" is a cute Santa-themed one-shot, playing on the mischievous nature of Paul Dini's creation and having fun with old myths like Peter Krampus. Not the thing for the Zoroastrian or Hindu or Buddhist in your life, but simple, all ages fun for kids who have the spirit.

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

"Locke and Key: Clockworks" #3, "Batman and Robin" #4, "Kirby Genesis: Silver Star" #2, "Batwoman" #4, "Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes" #3, "Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive" #526, "27 Second Set" #4, "Demon Knights" #4, "68 Jungle Jim," "Iron Man 2.0" #11, "Daomu" #8, "Green Lantern" #4, "Memoir" #5, "Magneto: Not A Hero" #2, "Pigs" #4, "Grifter" #4, "Ultimate Comics: X-Men" #4, "Legion Lost" #4, "Godzilla Legends" #2, "Suicide Squad" #4, "Witchblade" #150, "Snake Eyes" #8, "Magdalena" #10.

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

"Carnage U.S.A." #1 presented a host of bad ideas, from symbiote weaponization (what could go wrong there?) to the spirit of Cletus Kasady reincorporating. The issue borrows a page from Owen Reece, deciding the small town, Sarah Palin story is the one to go with. Which makes zero sense, but whatever. What makes this issue bad enough to denigrate is the usage of the Avengers, as Captain America seems especially easy to control by hostile forces these days.

Speaking of bad, old ideas, "Avengers: X-Sanction" #1 basically has Cable follow in the footsteps of Bishop, chasing through time on a mission of murder based on virtually zero corroboration. As a time traveler, even one coughing as the techno-organic virus ravages his body, it just seems like he'd have "time" to swing by libraries in eras just ahead of where he plans to operate to maybe check some RSS feeds or pick up some archived copies of "USA Today." In any case, him not recognizing the irony is only one of the abysmally tragic elements here. Oh, and the Black guy got shot. Fast.

There are a few terms that many fans universally recognize as "something went wrong." Jumping the shark ("Happy Days"). Chasing the pigeon ("Battlestar Galactica"). Unfortunately, CBR alum Gail Simone has an addition to that canon courtesy of "Batgirl #4." The phrase you'll be saying instead of "Britta'ed it?" "There's a clinic in South Africa." There's your Applied Phlebotinum right there, pal. Here's the official decree: America needs to get Gail Simone back on "bad" guys. This hero thing? Maybe not. Yes, "Suicide Squad" would be close enough.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Despite some seriously bad comics, there was more that was "okay" than awful, so that's not so bad.

Oh, Archaia's "Cyclops" #7 was sold out and "Uncanny X-Force" #18 was polybagged, so we couldn't review those. Sorry.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Three jumps, not enough bad stuff to submarine the week -- let's call it a good week!

THE BUSINESS

Man, the #whodwin Wednesday finals took an interesting turn. Just when Krona kicked Dr. Strange's butt it got so real when a challenger appeared, forcing Krona to face off with Superman. Voting on that stays open until Friday at noon, so if you have an opinion either way, you should go vote now. Senior media correspondent Vince Moore examined what would happen, in his words, If I Were A Wealthy White Superhero, we checked out the new "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" trailer, responded to "Body Bags" creator Jason Pearson flirting with suicide (seriously, y'all, if you don't own it, buy his book, it's well worth it), noted that Lenny Kravitz won the French Legion of Honor medal, were saddened to find that human brains have reached the pinnacle of their evolution, discovering ginormous black holes and earth-like exoplanets while scientists want to clone herds of resurrected woolly mammoths. We saw that Tony Isabella's not getting paid for Black Lightning joining Static and the Flash in DC Universe Online, checked out the new publishing imprint from "Watchmen" producer Lloyd Levin and Stranger Comics. All of that's in addition to some AMAZING music recommendation columns from DJ Jedi (covering holiday music) and Brutha Gimel, free MP3 downloads and of course Vince Moore's weekly guide on where to find Black people in pop culture. Updated three times a day, every day, all the way through the holidays, Komplicated covers music, technology, culture and escapism, doing it for the block and the blogosphere.

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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