The Buy Pile: All We Hear Is Radio Gaga

Thu, December 29th, 2011 at 10:58am 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 28, 2011

Secret Avengers #20
(Marvel Comics)

If there is ever a competition to crown a perfect single issue comic book, or at least a perfect Natasha Romanov comic book, this one will surely be in the running. Weaving in time travel like a beautiful Rube Goldberg machine, Natasha has to save the mission without breaking the universe in the process. The spandex tight plot from Warren Ellis is bracketed by such fun dialogue ("Oh, I do like talking about time travel" "I know") as Alex Maleev runs the gamut here, even doing a comic strip style in mid-issue. The complex social issues at work ("What do you want with my husband and I, woman?") combined with the Ellis-esque charm of the Widow's world weariness makes this perfect for reading and re-reading -- there's a point where Natasha says "thank you" that's really, truly remarkable. Look for it. Wonderful work here.

Haunt #20
(Image Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
A big surprise as Joe Casey steps in on writing and delivers a very different experience with a kinetic script that never lets up. A cult-like church has the title character at their mercy and they give Marvel's Universal Church a run for its money on creepiness. Nathan Fox's edgy artwork gives this just enough polish for visual clarity and just enough roughness to maintain the frantic nature of the protagonist's plight. This week was slow enough to give this one a chance, and it's a welcome addition.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Pretty affordable, pretty re-readable -- that's a great value!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

The last Imperial Guardsman Kir Kanos is back doing what he does best in "Star Wars Crimson Empire 3: Empire Lost" #3, a slight improvement over the previous two issues as it posits a Pellaeon-led Empire fragmented and internecine, the familiar faces of the New Republic looking worn from their lengthy struggle. Kanos' foil needs a little more flavor to distinguish him from other saber-scarred overcompensating tough guys, but the feeling was there and for dyed-in-the-wool Lucas acolytes, this will get the job done.

"Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive" #527 showcased T'Challa getting back to wielding Batman Gambits like a pro, which was good ... but then it essentially made Wakanda's vaunted impenetrability as porous as the Playstation Networks security protocols. That seemed a little hinkey, for Asian assassins to effortlessly infiltrate a notoriously xenophobic, homogenous and technologically savvy African country, but it was good to see T'Challa using his brains again.

"Aquaman" #4 again showed Arthur Curry stepping up -- lifting massive weights, fighting against impossible odds. However, it did become clear that part of why he's looking so cool and unflappable is that every other element in the book -- the cops, the bad guys, even Mera -- are so milquetoast as to make him stand out in contrast. A neat trick, but one with a limited shelf life as even here it didn't go far enough, as the protagonist's performance couldn't lift up the yawn-inducing antagonists.

There's one visually amazing scene in "Joe Hill's The Cape" #3 that just rocked. It was just a lot of mean spirited fun and depicted really well, as well as being well conceived. The rest of the issue was a little dull, even as it tried to build suspense. So there's that.

The finale of "Kick-Ass 2" #6 was pretty good, a wonderful moment that had the right build up and was enjoyable to see developing. The rest of the book maintained the kind of profanity laced violence and brutality you've come to expect from the series, which is fine if you're a fan of that (and, of course, of John Romita Jr.'s artwork).

The cute plot of "Blackhawks" #4 went way too fast as its characters all remain two-dimensional cardboard cutouts. The idea of compromising a clandestine secret base was smart and handled well, there just didn't seem to be anyone for the reader to latch on to as an emotional focal point.

Sinister had a lot to say in "Uncanny X-Men" #3, which also featured -- you could call it a cameo by the Celestials (more on them in the commentary track, which will be online at Komplicated by Friday morning) with some very solid artwork, even though the plot kind of drifted here and there while Sinister liked to hear himself talk and borrow a shtick from a Resurrection Ship.

"Mice Templar 3" #6 was an intense, murderous affair as two rodent forces came to meet violently in snow as one of the titular characters protected a friend. The artwork didn't do this comic any favors, but this well-developed character work and ruthless action would likely work well in a collected format.

The funny part about "Superman" #4 is that it's only interesting when the costume is far from sight. Clark Kent's workplace challenges are playing out interestingly as a man struggles to hide his secret life from people he cares about. However, the now telepathic elemental enemies plaguing the city remain uninteresting.

"Unwritten" #32.5 was an interesting, self-contained Babylonian myth, examining Gilgamesh's latter-day struggles fighting monsters -- ones he expects and ones that surprise him. Sure, Marduk's a lieutenant under Gilgamesh's command instead of a god -- maybe it's a common name. Whatever. This is a fun piece of historical fiction that was just a little too glacial to make it home.

"Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles: Michaelangelo" cleverly had the nunchuk-wielding reptile get embroiled in a museum heist on New Year's Eve, cleverly trying to minimize casualties while applying things he learned from everyone around him. A cute story that would benefit fans of the property but didn't demand fealty from much of anyone else.

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

"Guild: Zaboo" #1, "All-Star Western" #4, "Alpha Flight" #7, "Artifacts" #12, "Batman: The Dark Knight" #4, "Astonishing X-Men" #45, "Green Wake" #8 "Flash" #4, "Captain America" #6, "Hack Slash" #11, "Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men" #4, "Deadpool" #48, "Witch Doctor: The Resuscitation," "Green Lantern: New Guardians" #4, "FF" #13 (which did have the quote of the week: "because I am Doom. Destroyer of worlds ... what gods dare stand against me?"), "Justice League Dark" #4, "Iron Man 2.0" #12, "Legion Secret Origin" #3, "Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates" #5, "Teen Titans" #4, "Incorruptible" #25, "Star Trek" #4.

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

"Captain America" #5 once again challenged the ideals Steve Rogers stands upon and found him lacking as Hydra-powered terrorism brought back another of his old friends as an enemy. Cap'd almost be safer just shooting anybody who's known him longer than 10 years. Anyhoo, waking up with night terrors doesn't make him look like he won much at all.

"DMZ" #72 -- what happened to you? A fifteen year flash forward? A full voiceover? Man ... what a let down. This series has been coasting on fumes ever since Parco lost control of the nuke, and it's sad to see it end this way.

Speaking of drifting all over the road, "G0dland" #35 was especially painful as this column has been quoted on a previous TPB, lauding the series' quality. Those days are gone as Friedrich Nickelhead becomes a prop, every female needs saving and the resolutions to problems are full of handwavium.

Either Doctor Doom is essentially a moron, or "Avengers: The Children's Crusade" #8 needs some major writing help as -- again -- the good doctor gains godlike powers and -- well, it'd be a spoiler to say what happened, but it's Doctor Doom, so there can be some fairly well-reasoned guessing as to how that works out. Embarrassing.

"Mighty Thor" #9 posits the idea that Karnilla has enough game to pull the wool over the eyes of an elder god, Gaea. Huh? Whatever -- getting past that, dead Thor navel gazes half of the issue while Tanarus plans dastardly (if seemingly impossible for his pay grade) deeds. What happened here, everybody? Yowza.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Every single copy of "Annihilators: Earthfall" #4 was shorted by Diamond, so there were none at retail. Sorry.

There were some real embarrassments here, but not enough in number to weigh the week down.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Call it a win on the strength of inexpensive purchases and ambitious, if flawed, reads.

THE BUSINESS

Okay, on Komplicated we had crazy stuff like JD & Turk from "Scrubs" doing a new duet, a look at solar-powered paint, note some of IBM's predictions for the future, looking into that new Doctor Who game for your browser, problems with Sony's new PSP Vita, , said "happy birthday" to Jean-Michel Basquiat and of course had the normal weekly madness like music columns from DJ Jedi and Brutha Gimel plus free MP3 downloads (with recommended downloads from Rox Fontaine) and of course the commentary track for these reviews. Updated at least three times a day, every day, Komplicated is doing it for the block and the blogosphere, capturing the Black geek aesthetic.

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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