The Buy Pile: No Day with "Mostly Fire" Ever Ends Well

Thu, February 9th, 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 FEBRUARY 8, 2012

Mister Terrific #6
(DC Comics)
A neat done-in-one, the first and most important thing to say is that the art is a humongous improvement. As Valentine's Day looms, Michael Holt takes a trip to Iceland, overseeing the construction of an ecologically sound high speed train (which he of course helped design) and checking in on an old flame at the same time. That's all smiles and media photos until a Frenchman called The Tomorrow Thief pops up with some innovative powers, a flair for the dramatic and an axe to grind against US citizens. The in-battle dialogue here has even stepped it up a notch, with trash talk between the two costumed combatants, and what's really cool here is the arc the title character takes in his development, as the story uses both the action scenes and the personal side stories (especially the corporate intrigues) to give Michael Holt an emotional journey. Very good comics here -- and a shame there's not many issues left.

Journey Into Mystery #634
(Marvel Comics)
While charming and relentlessly manipulative, Loki discovers he doesn't have many capabilities in the way of actual melee combat. This unfortunate lesson is delivered by Daimon Hellstrom, The Son of Satan, who's tracking down a magical mystery involving leftovers from the "Fear Itself" crossover. His complex relationship with Hela's handmaiden continues ("I'm so tired." "Me too." "I meant of you, Loki") while a disgruntled party from the same crossover tries to pick up some of the lethal scraps left behind. Wonderfully crafted, delightfully dialogued and put together perfectly by Kieron Gillen, Richard Elson and Jessica Kholinne -- another excellent gem in this line of stories from this series.

Star Wars Agent of the Empire: Iron Eclipse #3 (Dark Horse Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Jahan Cross is in trouble and on the run, and that means exciting chase scenes (not just one), tense intrigues (some wonderful scenes and visual storytelling) and trouble at every end. Toss in a wonderful, wonderful original trilogy cameo by two favorites, an interesting bit revealing some of Cross' unresolved demons and you've got one thrilling issue that's complete yet leaves the reader wanting more. This is the way to do a freaking "Star Wars" comic book! Wonderful stuff from John Ostrander's wicked script and the pitch perfect artwork from Stephane Crety, Julien Hugonnard-Bert and Wes Dzioba.

Dungeons & Dragons #15
(IDW Publishing)
Jump from the Read Pile.
John Rogers' wonderful, wonderful dialogue sells this comic, as the members of a group of adventurers, who really kind of don't like each other, is in full swing as they journey through underground caverns and fight monsters and run a lot. What kind of dialogue helps sell this fun, fun comic book? "No day with 'mostly fire' ever ends well." "I've known fear all my life, ugly. That's what the sword is for!" "Teleport. Fly. All things on my 'magic to learn' list." The two best back and forths? First: "Tell me your plan for getting past that thing!" "Escape in the shadows while it tortures you to death!" "I don't like that plan!" Second: "This is a very bad rescue --" "They usually are!" There's another one that's a spoiler and some great throwaways, but all around this book's fun from cover to cover, as well as being quite easy on the eyes, thanks to Andrea Di Vito, Aburtov and Graphicslava.

New Mutants #37 (Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
The biggest surprise of the week. Brazilian mutant Amara has agreed to go on a date -- with Mephisto. The lives and immortal souls of her teammates was on the line, so she went with it -- and what a revealing experience it is. If you're looking for flashy displays of power or costumed shenanigans or the standard fisticuffs, you're in the wrong place. None of that matters -- the smart, smart script from Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning develops the character of Mephisto in ways that have not been seen since -- heck, maybe since Christopher Priest had him give Everett Ross the Devil's Pants. Keep re-reading, you'll find more and more to discover (the band alone is a hoot). So many great lines, so many great moments -- and of course he showed up driving a Lamborghini Diablo. "Hey, this is restrained." Mephisto said to her, "I have a phaeton made of adulterer's [sic] hearts pulled by horses from the abattoir of all pestilence. Trust me, you did not want me pulling up here in that baby -- what would the neighbors think?" Fantastic, memorable work.

The Last of The Greats #5
(Image Comics)
This issue was a little too fast for its own good, as it was mostly spent with lots of punching and falling down. However, The Greats, sitting forever in their extradimensional energy garden, learned some things that some might not have wanted them to know, and that -- while it may take a second read to really grasp -- is interesting. If you've been following along, this issue will have key revelations that you don't want to have missed, but as an individual issue, it could have been stronger.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Three jumps? Heck yeah, what a great start!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

Cancelled just in time for Black History Month, "Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive" #529 finally brought back a little bit of the brilliance of T'Challa, who did everything possible to pin Wilson Fisk into a corner. Watching a Xanatos Gambit play out with such delicacy was a delight. Luke Cage and Sam Wilson were good counterbalances to Typhoid Mary and Lady Bullseye, there's a somewhat predictable reveal here and the artwork was nothing special, but finally there was a T'challa worth reading again. Until there's not. You're welcome!

Vandal Savage has switched sides and all hell was breaking loose in "Demon Knights" #6, which didn't have much of a plot (FIGHT!) but made the character moments work out for the exiled Amazon, the Horsewoman and Etrigan. Still a slow boil, but not bad.

"Dark Matter" #2 has a wonderful last page reveal, making an already interesting issue, getting to know an innocent planet full of miners, even better. Unfortunately, the entire first issue could have been summed up in a one page recap as this would have made a better introduction than a second installment. Not bad, though, with some of the tension of "50 Girls 50."

Getting back to the chess motif, "Deadpool" #50 shows an amazing capacity for manipulation as he has a goal and somehow moves all kinds of dangerous and powerful people in the direction of getting him what he wants. Lots of plates spinning at the same time, and maybe it was too much.

"Thief of Thieves" #1 played like the first twenty minutes of a big budget heist movie, something like an "Ocean's 11," as it establishes the world-weary master thief and some of his wily compatriots. The problem is, it's just that -- an opening, not a complete story, because only the lead really gets developed into being anybody. The rest are set pieces and straight lines. Still, stylish and fun, and easily "TV good."

The last Imperial Guardsman, Kir Kanos has a change of heart in "Star Wars Crimson Empire 3: Empire Lost" #4 as he travels to Coruscant to try and save the Galactic Alliance he's so wanted to destroy. That transformation is central to the story, as it brings back many familiar faces. However, there's none of the sense of urgency that you get in "Agent of the Empire," and this plodded along a little too slowly, despite its big action sequences and Paul Gulacy on pencils.

"Green Lantern" #6 had a number of really good moments, with Sinestro enforcing justice his own way while taunting a hero he shattered while still a yellow ring wielding supervillain. The elements there are all solid but there's not enough story to go around.

"Memorial" #3 carried on the Vertigo-esque storytelling about the tyranny of "now" seeking to extinguish possible futures and dominate history. Grounded in the legend of the Tower of Babel and some fascinating kung fu action, but it suffered from the same problem as "Green Lantern" -- these will likely read far better in collected editions.

The core plot of "Secret Avengers" #22 -- continuing the struggle against the many tentacled plans of the Secret Empire -- was fine, but an ill-considered rivalry between Hawkeye and Captain Britain over leadership sandbagged the effort, complete with the sneering of female teammates not impressed by the antics. This sort of thing didn't work with Guy Gardner and Booster Gold in "Justice League International" and it's not working here either.

Tyroc takes the lead in "Legion Lost" #6 as Gates reveals a hatred for authority and Martian Manhunter moves what plot there is along. Gates, Dawnstar, Wildfire and the aforementioned Tyroc all have great character moments, but as for the plot? Meh.

"Snake Eyes" #10 was rather close to making the mark as Cobra's plan is revealed in full and ninjas go down like chopped grass. The Joes are still way behind the curve as Krake seems to have nobody anywhere close to his league. The action scenes were choice, but it -- again -- needed more meat on these bones.

The title character has to deal with a major life issue in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9" #6, which also shows Spike still mooning over her. Whedon fans will need this, as it gives them everything they'd look for, but the uninitiated might find it a little moody.

Did you like gross out cartoons on Nickelodeon in the 90s? "Adventure Time" #1 will be right up your alley, an all-ages whimsy fest that might be a little scary for younger kids, but should provide some chuckles for fifth graders on up. If you're older and have a young perspective, this might work for you as well.

"Severed" #7 was intense, creepy finale that fans of horror would really have to stand up for. It's wrong and mean and bloody in all the ways that a horrifying tale should be. It's not for the faint of heart or for the casual reader, but for the real hard core, it'd be a bit much.

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

"Conan the Barbarian" #1, "Batgirl" #6, "Captain America" #8, "Batman and Robin" #6, "Daken Dark Wolverine" #21, "Batwoman" #6, "Incredible Hulk" #5, "Deathstroke" #6, "Scarlet Spider" #2, "Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E." #6, "Venom" #13.1, "Grifter" #6, "Wolverine and the X-Men" #5, "Huntress" #6, "Elric: The Balance Lost" #8, "Resurrection Man" #6, "Artifacts" #14, "Suicide Squad" #6, "Kirby Genesis: Silver Star" #3, "Superboy" #6, "Blue Estate" #9

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

"Battle Scars" #4 -- wow. Okay. Well, there's a huge spoiler at the end that's both embarrassing for everybody involved and condescending in a way that piggybacks on the fall of Wakanda. Without revealing the spoiler (beyond being able to Google it), there's too much to get into outside of the commentary track (should be online at Komplicated.com by Friday) but when you toss in the meaningless fighting (led nowhere storywise) and the dull lead character -- it's all just very, very sad.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Can't complain too much about a batch of books that tried this hard.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Three jumps, only one major annoyance -- this is a big, big win for the week. Yay!

THE BUSINESS

This week on Komplicated, we showed a cool "Skyrim" mod to make dragons into Randy Savage, showing respect for>Bob Marley and Lawrence Taylor's birthday, covering how optical lasers could soon reprogram your brain, mourning the passing of "Soul Train" creator Don Cornelius> as well as our weekly guide to finding Black people in popular culture, music commentary from DJ Jedi, Brutha Gimel and Rox Fontaine, and of course the commentary track for this column. 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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