The Buy Pile

Thu, January 19th, 2012 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 JANUARY 18, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man #678
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Peter Parker was gonna have an ordinary, fun day -- working at his super science job, enjoying a bright sunny day in New York City -- when an unplanned interaction leads to a disturbing vision of the future and then a breakneck race against time. Dan Slott's script is virtually bulletproof, showing the breadth of Spidey's emotion, from humor to dedication. The artwork from Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba and Edgar Delgado may have leaned towards a rushed state in a panel or two, but never relented on the amazing visual storytelling and the kinetic pacing. A pleasant surprise that leaves the reader wanting more, with a wonderful Easter egg for eagle eyed fans. Also, there's a Black kid named "Uatu Jackson," which is so much it's hard to even absorb.

Fables #113
(Vertigo/DC Comics)
Speaking of wanting more, when Bill Willingham turns in a world-building clip show, it's something you can look back on with interest. "In Those Days" tells short, self-contained stories about the various mythlands that comprise the Fables' points of origin with moralistic, self-contained tales that deliver interesting stories about queens, magicians and talking porcupines, of rites of passage affected by curses and spells. Telling too much would spoil the surprises, but guest art from a host of luminaries provide a pleasant break for the hard-working regular team. Solid, effective entertainment.

Uncanny X-Men #5
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Dialogue won the day in this fun issue where Hope and Namor actually flirted with each other ("You're not just a pretty face, are you?" "No. A complete compilation of Namor's virtues would be a far lengthier list." "Would it include 'great abs?'" "Yes, they would be documented") while Storm and Cyclops joke around ("I didn't make you my second just so you could guilt trip me." "No. But I like to think of it as a perk") and Magneto tells Psylocke what's what ("Please, Betsy. You're on a secret assassination squad. You've long lost the right to judge me"). Even though not much actually happens, in the final analysis, it's so much fun getting there, and this adds such meaning to recent events in "Uncanny X-Force" as well.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Two jumps leading to three comics it's easy to read again, with that "Wolverine/Punisher/Ghost Rider" index thrown in for fun? Great start here.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Invincible Iron Man" #512 was very close to making the cut, but had so many plot elements jockeying for panel time. Tony's the subject of a congressional hearing, oh, now he's having coffee with Hank Hellrung, et cetera, and so on. The normal solid artwork is here, the cute banter between characters, but there was just too much going on to make it work.

"Voltron" #2 had the same problem, trying to fit in far more than it could fit. The key element that's really interesting -- the researcher working so hard to keep his family together -- really needs more room to shine. As well, the secrets held by Keith and the Voltron team (who handle action and team dynamic as well as "The Activity" or other great collaborative efforts) are getting short sheeted. Teasing, tantalizing tidbits of interest, all crowding each other out for sunlight and room to grow.

Grant Morrison was pleasantly linear in "Steed and Mrs. Peel" #1 as the original Avengers step up to investigate possible espionage in the British government, traveling from the heights of high fashion to the depths of Davey Jones' locker. Surprisingly sparse textually, this was a cute period piece that fans of the property will surely glom on to, and if people enjoy period espionage, they'll find this enjoyable as well.

Speaking of confectionery action, "Danger Girl: Revolver" #1 was like an episode of "V.I.P.," with an energetic heist to open the issue and smartly used exposition. If you're looking for a quick thrill, this will do it for you, with bombastic artwork and easy gags. Not exactly literature, but not a bad way to spend your time.

"Chew" #23 was funny, as many issues of this series have been, with cibopathic law enforcement professional Tony Chu struggles with being kidnapped while his former partner is now teamed up with some kind of cyborg lion. Which, of course, is weird, but in the way that this series is -- absurdity played straight. A solid issue that hits its marks, but doesn't step up to distinguish itself like, say, the issues where Tony's girlfriend Amelia was introduced.

"Memorial" #2 had an interesting, Vertigo-styled approach, introducing three distinctive kingdoms of being, explained by a talking cat named Schroedinger (again with the anthropomorphized felines). If you miss "Sandman," this may give you a hint of that kind of energy, but it could just as easily be seen as derivative, depending on your inclination.

"Charismagic" #4 got caught up developing a master magician when its real "magic" came from its lead characters. Their interactions and their quest for answers was more riveting than the dimly colored conquest of an arch mage the reader (effectively) just met (if he was alluded to earlier, it's not immediately referenced). Not bad, but still finding its footing.

"Cobra" #9 was very, very close as the new Cobra Commander continues to be two steps ahead of everyone else as the G.I. Joe team scrambles to catch up with what's going on. The issue was all momentum and little development, as even the bulk of the characters (on both sides) are playing catch up with Krake's master plan to make Cobra a household name in terror.

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

"Batman" #5, "Kirby Genesis: Dragonsbane" #1, "Blue Beetle" #5, "Hack/Slash" #12, "Daredevil" #8, "Catwoman" #5, "Superior" #7, "Star Trek" #5, "Avengers" #21, "Green Lantern Corps" #5, "Thunderbolts" #169, "Legion of Super Heroes" #5, "Venom" #12, "Planet of the Apes" #10, "Uncanny X-Force" #20.

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

In "Moon Knight" #9, it posits Marc Spector and Echo going up against Count Nefaria. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about the good Count (now that they're back from protesting SOPA): he has "the combined powers of the villains the Living Laser (energy projection), Power Man (strength), and Whirlwind (speed), amplified a hundredfold," and "is one of the physically strongest known humans in the Marvel Universe. He has toppled a 40-story building with little effort, withstood a blow from Wonder Man without flinching, fought an enraged Thor to a standstill with no apparent damage from strikes of his hammer, even stopping it with his bare hand, and has withstood simultaneous attacks by multiple teams of Avengers at once and laughed it off." Plus flight and enough ionic energy (including eye beams) "that it would take three weeks of constant combat - without even giving Nefaria time to pause for breath - for even the combined forces of the Avengers and the Thunderbolts to deplete Nefaria's ionic energy reserves completely in that manner." So ... he's evil Superman, basically. Okay. So, how's Moon Knight match up against that? Olympic level athelete, can lift several hundred pounds under a full moon ... not exactly a heavyweight ... and Echo has a kind of Taskmaster shtick ... neither of those two seem like they could stand up to Count Nefaria for twenty pages. Okay, get past that ... and you'll see Moon Knight's bought himself a version of Cap's energy shield, Spidey's web shooters and a knockoff version of Wolverine's claws ... which, again doesn't make any doggone sense. Let's ... let's never speak of this again.

"Caligula" #6 was a huge disappointment. Given all the build up and the sturm und drang, to hang so much importance on such a limp McGuffin, calmly retconning itself out of Roman history ... very sad to see it go out like that.

While this series has never been good, "Red Hood & The Outlaws" #5 was especially irksome as Arsenal becomes the most compelling, realistic character (like winning a foot race against paraplegics) as Jason Todd is cast as a carefully developed avenging scion of a centuries old warrior legacy (instead of being the fanwanked half-written walking retcon he's widely recognized to be) while some weird, misbegotten son of Man-Bat steals Starfire's powers. What in the name of Julius Schwartz happened here?

What could possibly go wrong here? In "Generation Hope" #15, a brainwashed Sebastian Shaw shows up at the X-Men's island resort/refugee camp, looking for asylum, ushered in by "mutant messiah" Hope Summers. Lots of people who remember how he helped invent Sentinels and has murdered enough mutants with his bare hands that he gets honorary membership in the Marauders and justifiably freak out. Apparently, nobody remembers when a younger, amnesiac Magneto showed up, befriended everybody, made googly eyes at Rogue and ultimately went bad, and not just because, oh, right it's happening right now. What could possibly go wrong here? What's that? Something about those who fail to learn from history? Sorry, can't hear you over the mutants fighting each other.

"Supergirl" #5 had Kara flying to a blue sun planet and seeing her powers diminish because there's no evidence that a blue sun would make a Kryptonian actually more powerful, brushing up against Argo City and her father's legacies. Whether you go with how boring the fight was or how inaccurate the science turns out to be (red suns are older than yellow suns, which give Kryptonians super powers, so an even younger sun ... oh, never mind) ... it's not working.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

It was kind of rough, but we made it through the wilderness.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two jumps beat even the overbearing challenges, so let's call it a winner.

THE BUSINESS

The writer of this column turns 39 on Friday. Feel free to offer cash gifts via the personal website. Thanks.

What a week on Komplicated! We got a huge influx of attention by noting that DC Comics fired every Black writer in mainstream comics last Thursday (Marvel had zero Black writers to start with, so there was nobody Black to fire), which got re ... re-Tumbld? Anyway, Gail Simone discussed it as did many, many people online ... often with profanity. Good times. Anyhoo, the Black geek website also discussed the web's resistance to SOPA, the new hundred dollar tablet for kids, an Android-based watch that ties into your phone, a discussion of the music that made "Streets of Rage" so effective, the geek beauty of the month, the return of Spike Lee's Mookie in a new movie called "Red Hook Summer," A. Darryl Moton discussing the details of The Hard Corps, and a slew of birthdays on the 17th including the First Lady, James Earl Jones, Eartha Kitt, Muhammad Ali and X Clan lead vocalist Brother J. All of that comes alongside musical recommendations from Brutha Gimel, , our weekly guide to where Black people can be found in pop culture, and free MP3 downloads. 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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