The Buy Pile: A Hero Ain't Nothin' But A Sandwich

Thu, December 22nd, 2011 at 11:28am PST

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 DECEMBER 21, 2011

Fables #112
(Vertigo/DC Comics)

Released the day before writer Bill Willingham's birthday, the main (and meatiest) part of the story here is Rose Red considering getting a new job. Once, there were fourteen representatives of hope in the mythic world. Now? Three. "So there's your first lesson," Red's Jiminy Cricket-styled guide says. "From time to time, hopes get crushed." Her "three ghosts of Christmas" shtick is more entertaining than the side elements of the Fables returning from their exile in running from Mister Dark. The balance is just a hair off, but not enough to take away from the roller coaster of emotions Rose Red endures, considering what form of hope she could represent. The usual suspects are on board to make this a wonderful holiday gift, so thank you to Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Andrew Pepoy, Dan Green and Lee Loughridge.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Given that this week also saw two reference works -- "The Defenders: Strange Heroes" (Tapping Tommy????) and a Wolverine/Punisher/Ghost Rider "Official Index," there's plenty to refer to and keep reading throughout the end of the year.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Invincible Iron Man" #511 was almost back to its old form, with a great attack by the Living Laser as its central action piece and some good scenes with the Mandarin and Zeke Stane. However, the issue was weighed down by elements like the tedious argument between Pepper Potts and Bethany Cabe, an interminable staff meeting and an even less interesting board meeting.

"Batman, Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes" #1 featured Stephanie Brown infiltrating a super villain prep school that was equal parts "Executive Assistant Lotus" and "Morning Glories." The issue has already had its big surprise spoiled online, and that reveal took some of the steam out of the winds of this, alongside everybody calling for Oracle (did she not reply because she's Batgirl now?) and trying to figure out where this goes in continuity. With tighter editorial reining in Morrison's excesses, this could have worked.

If you miss "Queen and Country," "The Activity" #1 might be your cup of tea, as a team of cross-specialty American operatives (think CBS' "The Unit") takes on messes that even the CIA can't handle using bleeding edge technology. The characterization doesn't get to do a whole lot, despite using the well-worn story tactic of introducing a new team member to open up the plot a little. Nothing wrong here, and if you're a fan of procedurals or the sort of stuff you'd see from, say, "Covert Affairs" on USA, this will strike the right chord with you.

Once you get past the fact that the web-spinner is nowhere in "Amazing Spider-Man" #676, you'll see two cadres of super villains clashing over points or pride and priorities. There were some cute pop culture references (nice work from Mysterio, especially) but the plot got you where you're going, but didn't quite demand a purchase.

"Justice League" #4 spent most of its time having its "heroes" (callow and cranky as they are) bickering at each other. Their Big Bad finally showed up in all his redesigned glory, but it was essentially a cameo. A good looking book, at least.

If you're a fan of historical fiction, "The Last Battle" might pique your interest. Set in the era of Roman history when the republic was poised on the precipice of empire, the story examines themes of loyalty and betrayal while exploring tensions between the "civilized" world and the barbarians at the gate. The characters needed a little more room to breathe, but the plot was pretty solid.

There's a panel in "Avengers" #20 where Captain America is surrounded by the press, unable to speak. It sums up a theme that seems to run through many books this week -- heroes unable to grapple with the more complex ideological battlefields they have to traverse. Norman Osborn is back, and he's playing chess while the Avengers are trying to get some marbles together. It's as funny as it is embarrassing. Still, despite Norman's playful posturing and playing the press like a Stradivarius, the Avengers end up standing around like Luke Walton when Kobe has the ball.

"Legion of Super-Heroes" #4 had more going on than its little pages could handle, with even the heroics of Chemical Kid getting short sheeted. The Daxamite threat, for example, needs more room to be understood, let alone the rare element that enabled it.

The supernatural elements are gone in "Near Death" #4, leaving a story not unlike "The Equalizer" as a former killer seeks a path of redemption. Of course, that path isn't easy, but some of his scoundrel nature comes through, making him have a bit of an edge. Unfortunately, every other character is cardboard boring, so that slowed things down a little.

The shirt Matt Murdock wears to his holiday party was the best laugh in "Daredevil" #7, an issue that showed him in what certainly wasn't the best light. Nonetheless, a harsh lesson in Rule #285 almost turns lethal without any super villains or crime lords to blame. Good character work, even if it's kind of embarrassing.

Diana takes in a rock show in "Wonder Woman" #4, which picks up some of writer Brian Azzarello's vocal habits from "100 Bullets" ("split happens") while throwing out some intense magical stakes for some of the characters. Hera? Whew. Unfortunately, the shining slivers worked better than the package as a whole, but it had some elements worth watching.

The corpse of Osama Bin Laden gets irradiated by fallout from that Japanese nuclear reactor in "Savage Dragon" #177, running amok. That's not even the fourth most insane thing in the issue. Great silver agey fun in a done in one comic, but a little too ridiculous for some fans.

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

"Star Wars Knight Errant: Deluge" #5, "Batman" #4, "Cobra" #8, "Blue Beetle" #4, "Captain Atom" #4, "Dungeons and Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt" #4, "Catwoman" #4, "Xenoholics" #3, "Incredible Hulk" #3, "Invincible" #86, "Green Lantern Corps" #4, "New Mutants" #35, "Nightwing" #4, "Planet of the Apes" #9, "Supergirl" #4, "X-Factor" #229, "Darkness" #96.

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

"Fantastic Four" #601 brought things back to the status quo much, much too quickly as "Deus ex Johnny" makes a Kree invasion look like running out of toilet tissue. The logistics of the pieces shuffling around the board lacked gravitas and emotional currency. Really sad.

Now there are emo Autobots? "Transformers: The Death of Optimus Prime" featured the titular character talking and then copping out as tens of thousands of unaligned mechanoids returned to Cybertron, seeing the Decepticons and Autobots alike as anachronistic warmongering wackadoos while "Rodimus" wants to chase a myth. Really tragically bad after the big stakes of the "Chaos" storyline.

"Uncanny X-Force" #19 felt like it was written by Stefon. "It's got everything: accelerated age alternate universe junior super villains, amnesiac billionaires, former government super soldiers posing as your uncle ..." That's not a recommendation you want.

"Birds of Prey" #4 did some weird things, including using the same REALTOR that the Court of Owls uses while borrowing some anonymous armored goons from "Soldier Zero." A lot more derivative than it needed to be.

"Hulk" #46 was a solidly "meh" comic until its last few pages when it completely wrote itself into a corner and copped out with an abominable finale that had less closure than the Notorious B.I.G. murder investigation. It hit the brakes, stripped the gears and stalled the engine. Terrible work.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Some of the reads were okay.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Nothing to be mad at in what got spent, and there wasn't that much one could call "stinky," so we'll call it an undistinguished win.

THE BUSINESS

Busy week on Komplicated, as we finished up the #whodwin Wednesday playoffs, check for breast cancer with Storm, found technology that installs ideas into your brain, saw Prince and Ludacris check out a basketball game (seriously), noted 3G wi-fi sharing finally coming to Blackberries, presented the Geek Beauty of The Month and enjoyed free MP3 downloads and recommended downloads from senior hip hop correspondent Rox Fontaine and, of course, a commentary track for this review column. Updated three times a day, every day, even through the holidays, Komplicated.com is "doing it for the block and the blogosphere," capturing the Black geek aesthetic by covering areas of music, technology, culture and escapism.

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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