The Buy Pile: New Year's Wins

Thu, January 5th, 2012 at 10:28am 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 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 JANUARY 4, 2012

The Defenders #2
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
The quintet of super-powered comrades are faced with the ani-men of Wundagore Mountain and a time-traveling warrior. The problem is, the last thing Dr. Strange, Silver Surfer, Namor, Red She-Hulk and Iron Fist wanna do is engage in pointless fisticuffs with some band of weirdos while one of the murderous legacies of "Fear Itself" bears down on them with a rage that could literally break worlds. The fight action from Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson and Sonia Oback is top notch, as Silver Surfer reluctantly brings the pain, Red She-Hulk enjoys her work and Dr. Strange even gets a little physical. There's great dialogue here ("I don't like you one damn bit. Stay away from me from now on" "Don't judge me with those sad, soulful eyes of yours, star angel") with interesting plot developments that tell enough of a story to make it all work. Great to see Matt Fraction back on top of his game.

Stormwatch #5
(DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
As one leader passes, another is chosen while Midnighter and Apollo just want out of this crazy thing. This issue has just the right amount of exposition to balance out the kinetic running and violence presented by Miguel Sepulveda and Allen Passalaqua (even their talking head sequences vibrate with vibrancy). Likewise, Paul Cornell's script has a wonderful turn and great moments, fleshing out the banter between Midnighter and Apollo that are, for long time fans, a great treat. A pleasant surprise from a title that's been going in the right direction for a while.

Villains for Hire #2
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Nobody wants to believe Misty Knight has gone too far as the Purple Man's criminal ambitions stall with the "mysterious" rival crew snatching greatness from his grasp. This means lots of punching, lots of shooting and lots of hurt feelings while large sums get bandied about ("You're happy to work for me?" "Your money is money, right?") and this issue keeps turning and twisting around deliciously. Murkier than "Heroes for Hire" and just as action packed -- wonderful.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Three jumps to start? That's a great sign.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Irredeemable" #33 was very close to making the mark as the interplay between the histories of The Plutonian and Max Damage continued to get more fleshed out, revealing details of their origins. It was just shy of the mark with a plot that dragged in its transition from second to third act, but when this storyline is collected, it'll all work out much more smoothly.

Bruce is on scene in "Batwing" #5 with his checkbook and his savior complex, and that's not so good. David Zavimbe grappling with his horrible past as a child soldier and gritting out both extreme injuries and workplace politics, that worked. The art seemed a little more robust -- a background here, some interesting work on people behind the protagonist there -- which helped a little too.

Simon Williams reads directly from the current Norman Osborn playbook in "Avengers Annual" #1, where he launched a two-pronged attack on the Avengers legacy that's rather hard to argue against. Have the Avengers caused endless bloodshed and hurt? Of course. Do they deserve to be beaten senseless because of it? Let's take that discussion to the commentary track -- here, we'll say that while it was nice to see Wonder Man speaking truth to television cameras and see Atlas scaling Avengers Tower like he was King Kong, this was pretty much the "Avengers" issue we just saw with Osborn returning from captivity, with no acknowledgement of the parallels.

Do you like westerns? Do you like platitudes and the kind of speechifying suitable for a swelling score behind it? "Lone Ranger" #1 has all of that, including the title character steering a horse with his teeth while shooting a rifle and blessed little for Tonto to embarrass himself with. If you're not super devoted to the genre, this might seem a little dry for you.

"Fatale" #1 was damned close, a noirish story that layers on elements of ritual magic and gunfire. Sean Phillips' artwork remains a true wonder to behold, with engaging coloring by Dave Stewart. If the lead Nicolas Lash was less of a cipher, maybe this would have been compelling enough to make the jump, as it was close anyway.

Virgil Hawkins came on strong in "Static Shock" #5 with Khary Randolph's artwork really doing a lot to step up the game. However, once you get past the action scenes, the lengthy dream sequence flashback was considerably more tedious than it needed to be and the emotional punch lacked oomph. There's a new writer coming in the person of Marc Bernardin, but it's not clear how a proposed guest appearance from Hardware next month will change things.

Doctor Nemesis was on fire in "X-Club" #2, which posited a mystery and murders and environmental crisis all on the shoulders of the twitchiest of arguable X-Men. Unfortunately, the amorphous threat and the muddy artwork robbed the issue of all of Nemesis' wonderful momentum.

"G.I. Joe" #9 has the new Cobra Commander making big moves while the Joes continue to not be very good at their jobs. The continued limp status of the anti-terrorist force in terms of character development and plot relevancy mutes even the effectiveness of Cobra's distinctive charisma.

"Men of War" #5 got weird, with immortal soldiers capturing some modern men at arms, but the grit of the largely anonymous American troops helped save this from mediocrity.

The interplay between teams in "Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes" #4 was way better, with in jokes for each side. The last page reveal tying the two properties together was a smart move, but describing the idea works better than the actual execution of the work.

Great character work and art was dragged down by tedious and even gratuitous plot elements in "Vescell" #5, which is a shame, because there's room for this series to really do something.

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

"Action Comics" #5, "Fear Itself: The Fearless" #6, "Elric: The Balance Lost" #7, "Fear Itself: The Fearless" #6, "Detective Comics" #5, "Scourge" #6, "Witchblade" #151, "Green Arrow" #5, "Thunderbolts" #168, "Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes" #3, "Huntress" #4, "Soulfire Volume 3" #6, "Justice League International" #5, "Clive Barker's Hellraiser" #9, "Shinku" #4, "OMAC" #5, "Peanuts" #1, "Cold War" #4, "Valen the Outcast" #2, "Animal Man" #5, "Robocop: Road Trip" #1, "Mudman" #2, "Avengers: X-Sanction" #2, "Hawk & Dove" #5, "Godzilla Legends" #3.

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

"Artifacts" #13 pretty much just gave up and hit the borrowed reset button used so often at DC Comics. To call this climax limp would be an insult to the flaccid. Less of an ending and more of just stopping. Bah.

"Uncanny X-Force" #19.1 had the citrus-shaded Solar Hulk. That's a sign of either sadness or desperation, it's hard to say. Also, stepping back into an Elseworlds-style continuity that can do no more than drop confusing guest stars into your regular stories (Dark Beast is still around, everybody) ... ugh.

"Heil Ming." Oy. "Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist" #2 posits the idea that Dr. Zarkov can beat advanced alien technology for the same reason that Flash can defeat armies of Ming's troops -- their home grown spunk and determination are enough to do miraculous things.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Not so bad, after all.

Oh, there was also a complete "line item shortage" on "Avengers Academy" #24 -- the entire order slated for Comics Ink went missing, thanks to shenanigans from your pals at Diamond Comics Distributors. Nothing anybody can do about that now.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Three jumps to lead off make it all tie together, so let's say it went well.

THE BUSINESS

Cool stuff from Komplicated.com, lessee here ...

NASA planning landings on moons of Jupiter and Saturn, a real game controller for iOS devices, actor Levar Burton planning a "Reading Rainbow" app, news about how Dothraki was born, new fantasy writing from Stranger Comics, song recommendations from popular DJ Brutha Gimel and a year-end musical retrospective from DJ Jedifree MP3 downloads, the weekly guide to where you can find Black people in popular culture, music writing from A. Darryl Moton, and of course the commentary track for these reviews and check out the site later this afternoon for a link to a free eBook from TV and fiction writer Geoffrey Thorne. 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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