The Buy Pile: Four Of A Kind

Thu, February 23rd, 2012 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 FEBRUARY 22, 2012

Transformers: Robots In Disguise #2
(IDW Publishing)
Jump from the Read Pile.
On the TV series "Battlestar Galactica," everything went to hell in a hot wing when the characters all squatted on a squalid, resource-starved planetoid, trapped together. In this series, at the end of the Autobot-Decepticon war, on a planet with thousands of unaligned mechanoids who don't care and don't want the violence that came to be the hallmark of Cybertronians, this has turned into something more akin to the TV series "Alien Nation," with John Barber's script delivering tense political plots tied together and disparate personalities clashing, all at fifty and sixty feet tall with weapons of mass destruction strapped to their arms. Starscream has all the gravitas of Iago (from Othello, not the Disney movie), chewing scenery and having a rich internal dialogue. Bumblebee makes a complex and challenged leader, while Prowl's intense paranoia makes him quite the interesting town sheriff. Arcee, Ratbat, Skywarp and new character Metalhawk are all well-depicted supporting characters. Surprisingly effective, with action and drama and suspense and wonderfully clear visual storytelling from Andrew Griffith and Josh Perez.

Aquaman #6
(DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
The same trick that's been so effective in earlier issues continues here -- the only really interesting characters are Arthur and Mera, and he's just barely even here. Borrowing several pages from the Big Barda handbook, bruising and threatening her way through an average day in a seaside town -- trying to buy dog food, taking on a basic police call and giving a lecherous grocery manager a day he won't soon forget. Mera's front and center and is able to show multiple layers of character, from compassionate to murderous, outlining her complex history with her husband and the goofy perception the world has of her, all while proving the worth of her power. Another very pleasant surprise with a flawless script from Geoff Johns and great artwork from Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis.

Secret Avengers #23
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
As he did in the "S.W.O.R.D." mini a while back, Hank McCoy steals every scene he graces while Hawkeye struggles with leadership and the newest Ant-Man strives for heroism. Sure, the "skinjob" adaptoids and their father, a stiff who's probably a Boris Karloff fan, are all pretty much paint by numbers characters, and half of the Secret Avengers barely get any panel time (Captain Britain's suit is a tricorder too?), but there's clearly enough great stuff -- check the great scene with Hank Pym -- to make this worth the purchase. Nice work from Rick Remender, Gabriel Hardman and Bettie Breitweiser.

Infestation 2: Dungeons and Dragons Eberron #2
(IDW Publishing)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Here's the biggest surprise of the week. The "Infestation" titles have been somewhere between "abysmal" and "tepid," but this is a wholly different thing. After establishing a reason why one of the elder gods would emerge on this magical world, the detective lead breaks all the rules to take on the threat. The two leads are compelling, the art's crystal clear and the plot's spandex tight. Paul Crilley's script is so much fun, and Valerio Schiti and Scarletgothica turned in an art package that's simply splendid.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Four jumps? Holy crap, that's amazing! Toss in "The Official Index To The Marvel Universe: Wolverine & Punisher" #7 as a reference work and you have quite a week already!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

There were some good elements to "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #7, where Miles Morales tries to learn more about the powers he's gained and his uncle -- the villain The Prowler -- has some interesting moments, learning about just what he's started. The plot kind of meanders in a Kirkman-esque fashion which submarined its chances, but when you're reading this in an OHOTMU-styled entry down the line, it'll all seem compelling.

"Cobra" #10 was so, so close to making the mark as the labyrinthine and internecine plots and schemes of the members of Cobra Command clash and intersect in a delightful dance of high caliber bullets and explosions aplenty. Krake's got enemies within and without, but he's showing nothing but success, with an unexpected (and sometimes naked) ally helping shore up his power base. Bloody and almost Shakespearean, but too broad without being deep enough.

The quote of the week comes from "Wolverine and the X-Men" #6: "Your mind smells like beer farts." On one hand, Logan and Quentin Quire find their way to an intergalactic casino to use Quire's disturbing and extreme brain powers as a fundraising tool for the school. On the other hand, an invasion of Brood is coming from within (specifically within Kitty Pryde's bloodstream) and without (as in "stomping their way across the lawn"). The first of these two stories could have been interesting, giving Quire some character moments and not leaving him as the unidimensional mutant bad boy while letting Wolverine make more of a case for his educational mission (while not covering his murderous night job). The second story was "meh" city. Trying to jam both of them in one comic was ambitious, but ultimately ineffective.

Everything's relative in "Danger Girl: Revolver" #2, which was cute and fast moving, but didn't have enough plot points happening between the cheesecake shots to make this a whole story. If you're open to popcorn fluff comics, this is right up your alley.

"Deadpool" #51 wasn't bad as vials of a healing factor-killing serum start finding their way through the criminal underworld as the title character has maniacally maneuvered many extremely dangerous people (Kingpin, Tombstone, Daken, X-Force) into clashing with each other, all so he can find his way into the bony arms of his true love. Not bad, but a little more scattered than it should have been.

"The Ray" #3 had a run at quote of the week ("The difference between an indie and a blockbuster film...props") and another installment of great Jamal Igle artwork, but watching the title character get outclassed and overpowered at every single instance was less a story and more a felonious assault. Gorgeously depicted, though, gotta love that Jamal Igle composition and line work.

"Chew" #24 had a good gag with the daughter of the lead character (who's barely in this issue) and continued its regularly level of solid, "TV Good"-level entertainment. Nothing wrong at all, but not stepping up to the level of the Amelia introduction issue (a real classic).

"Teen Titans" #6 placed Static at Star Labs and (unofficially) got him on the team as it turns out he's the Tinkerer for DC's juvenile extrahumans -- building Red Robin's wings and developing another technological solution for a young hero in trouble. However, this doesn't stop the problems with the police as DC's heroes have a major public perception problem and are seen as much of a threat as a benefit for society.

"New Mutants" #38 is infected and entangled as the "90210"-styled romantic longing as Doug Ramsey flies around the world to address something that happened in his dream. The issue's not as dumb as that sounds, but it does kind of have an almost frat house vibe that's less plot and more ambiance.

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

"Lil Depressed Boy" #9, "Batman the Dark Knight" #6, "Broken Pieces" #2, "Uncanny X-Force" #22, "No Place Like Home" #1, "Blackhawks" #6, "Soulfire Volume 3" #7, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" #7, "Venom" #13.3, "Flash" #6, "X-Men" #25, "Justice League Dark" #6, "Godzilla Legends" #4, "Green Lantern: New Guardians" #6, "Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred" #2.

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

"Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men" #6 did not need any of its fight scenes. Literally none of them had any reason for happening. Also, most of this issue is taken up by fight scenes. Pointlessly emo and tiresome.

On the other end of the spectrum, "Avengers Academy" #26 was literally deluged with didactic speechifying as a billionaire extrahuman tried to come talk the students into joining his rival program. Really. That's the plot. Oh, this all happened while Hank Pym rebuilt a gentle giant killer robot to analyze another robot, patterned on the personality of his ex wife and that he was romantically involved with. This is stuff that actually happened. Oy.

Ignoring the fact that it looks like Major Force is now "Black Jack," "Voodoo" #6 sent in the clones and elements of the Blackhawks (poor bastards) doing an impersonation of SHIELD. This shapeshifting silliness was ill advises, messy and stupid.

The plot behind the boring element based antagonists is finally revealed in "Superman" #6 and somehow the mastermind behind the whole thing makes it even less interesting. Emo punching, throwing stuff into the sun...it's as disappointing as a punt that didn't have to happen.

"Magneto: Not A Hero" #4 had some cute lines ("A few of the children have gotten into Uno") but its fight scenes were dry, the conclusion was limp, the clone issue was essentially considered par for the course...it was kind of a mess.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Five sucky books can't tank the whole shebang, so we'll go with the numbers.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Four jumps makes for a winning hand.

THE BUSINESS

This week on Komplicated.com, check out stories about "Thundercats" writer Brandon Easton at a conference today, an interview with the Onion's digital director Baratunde Thurston, tons of free music (including a new album from "Better Off Ted" vet Malcolm Barrett), news about how the FBI may shut down the internet on March 8th, a look at how Bluetooth technology fuels the music sharing culture of west Africa, wrestling coverage in a new column called "The Thump" and much more. 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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