The Buy Pile: Fantasy & Firearms, Science & Static

Thu, March 8th, 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 MARCH 7, 2012

NOTE: Apparently, this is the start of Year Seven of The Buy Pile, which began in March of 2006 and remains one of the biggest thorns in the side of many, many people. In that time, we've missed maybe four weeks total -- honeymoon...hard to remember the others, maybe sickness. In any case, it's a distinctive honor to still be here, bringing the madness to you, and ginormous thanks have to go out to executive producer Jonah Weiland for his many years of unwavering support and guidance. There, that's enough sentimentality, let's get down to business!

Static Shock #7
(DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
New writer Marc Bernardin steps on stage with some of the humor and charm that made Virgil Ovid Hawkins such a delight to deal with while also managing to work well with some pretty challenging thematic and plot-related issues at work. The mystery of the two sisters is (in part) explained and the issue even plays nice with Static's recent appearance in "Teen Titans." The mixture of high technology with off-the-cuff humor ("I think you blew up the cafeteria. They make the best creme brulee" "Why do I always sound like a Drake song when I talk to girls?") is not bwa-ha-ha funny but it's perfectly entertaining and artwork from Scott McDaniel, Andy Owens and Guy Major carries the kineticism of the action scenes with great gusto, with other great elements like a poster of Nikola Tesla on Virgil's bedroom wall. Yes, this is the next-to-last issue, but it's a good, solid done-in-one comic book that hits every mark and sticks the landing.

G.I. Joe #11
(IDW Publishing)
Jump from the Read Pile.
The dangerous new Cobra Commander continues his plan to change the face of southeast Asia, and the Joe team is still trying to play catch up. Chuck Dixon's an old hand at this, turning in a razor sharp plot that operates on tactical and strategic levels simultaneously, moving from luxurious backrooms to hastily held bridges in the fictional country of Nanzhao. Alex Cal and J. Brown's art performance depict this brutal new world with excellent emotion and detail, the rain accenting the images, not obscuring them. The issue's best performances came from Roadblock, Scarlett, Destro, Mainframe, Cobra Commander and Flint and for such a large cast to have so many great moments in a single issue...quite the accomplishment.

Fairest #1
(Vertigo/DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
First, the artwork? Wow. Phil Jiminez, Andy Lanning (yes, that Andy Lanning) and Andrew Dalhouse turn in one really amazing looking book, from the scarily detailed splash panel after your first turn of page to the immaculate delicacy of two lovingly rendered female characters (and not cheesecakey at all). So, first, "wow" to that. Second, Bill Willingham has turned out another winner set in his lush "Fables" universe, as Ali Baba, the "prince of thieves," plays a Jack of Fables-esque role as a scoundrel out to make a living in the crumbling shadow of the Adversary's fallen empire. The weight of the narrative falls on Jonah Panghammer, "a lowly little bottle imp" who has information as his power. This, of course, plays out in a wonderful and detailed way, and (without spoiling anything) the events here leave the reader hungry for more. A wonderful start to a new avenue in this narrative arena.

Manhattan Projects #1
(Image Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
It is greatly satisfying to report this: Jonathan Hickman is back. After his tepid sojourn with licensed properties, the brilliant writer has returned with an alternative history tale that adds a nasty twist to the legend of (as Sting sang) "Oppenheimer's little toy." There's gunplay and an enthusiastic secret general, the kinds of impossible ideas that almost fit the Future Foundation ("mining something called pan-dimensional space for the fringe materials we need to build our impossible machines of expansion") and an invasion so intense that you'll be shocked you're not reading "Shaolin Cowboy" or a Gene Ha-drawn issue of "Top 10." Great quotes ("Paper cuts are no way for a man to meet his maker"), quirky and evocative artwork from Nick Pitarra and Cris Peter and just a real vitality and zest for making something new. Simply outstanding.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Four jumps! All brilliant! Hot damn!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Action Comics" #7 steps up with explanations for the tyro Superman and for the reader, as Krypton is explained and one of his oldest (and newest, if one looks ahead a thousand years) enemies is revealed while the reader gets a taste of why Kal-El has been such and enduring icon for generations of fans. The story was interesting, but messy, unsteady in its footing and inconsistent in its pacing. You do get the Nehru collar introduced, properly, so that's interesting.

"Imperius sex?" "Uncanny X-Men" #8 reveals some wacky things about Namor's sexual experience and preferences, but stumbles around its core plot and leaves its characters flopping around (especially Peter and Illyana). Kieron Gillen's mastery of dialogue is fantastic but the story around it leaves some things to be desired.

It's no secret that dudes are suckers, and "Fatale" #3 has a lot of evidence in that direction. An issue that's not bad but is a little predictable in its execution.

The morally murky plot of "Batwing" #7 made a cameo appearance for the titular character as the Bat and his normal supporting cast revealed the history of a super team that's, frankly, more interesting than anything you've seen happen in these pages up to now. The Kingdom was a team with distinctive powers and deep character struggles that drive their actions, but the sidekicks act as pawns. Not bad, but not exactly a solid showcase of anybody outside of being a plot device.

Stepping behind the scenes of super family life, "Suburbia" #1 would seem familiar to fans of "The Unit," where a community has been built around a super team and their families. It's much more "Desperate Housewives" than "Army Wives," though, with salacious sexual behavior, blackmail, feelings of inadequacy and dinner. If it was on TV, it'd be riveting for the reaction shots alone, but as a comic book, it underwhelms.

"Villains For Hire" #4 rushes to finish up its storyline as The Purple Man and Puppet Master go head to head with a room full of murderous criminals between them. Oh, and Misty Knight. There are three pretty good surprises along the way, but things seem to be so rushed to close down this body of work, it feels like it could have used more room to deal with the character fallout of everything that happened.

If you're older than students at Gladstones, "Hell Yeah" #1 is a likely look at where you'll end up. A super powered slacker college student in a world where powers are common wants to fight for justice...or maybe just fight. With a dash of alternative history and an interesting start for the story, the lead character is a stuffed shirt as charisma-less as that guy who played Flynn's son in "Tron: Legacy" (the rest of the movie was great, and even digital Jeff Bridges was more interesting) and the rest of the characters were tabula rasa, but this is an interesting start.

"Stormwatch" #7 promises "gravity thieves," whereas it's a bit misleading, but J'onn J'onnz talks about a threat thousands of years old and instructs Jenny Quantum on transdimensional math as the Engineer gets twitchy over protocol. Nothing wrong, but the plot was all over the map and that made it less interesting to follow along.

Some similar pacing problems in "Valen the Outcast" #4, which nonetheless maintained the "buddy road trip with people who hate each other" shtick into some nice character moments. The twist ending was great, but the preponderance of the issue was just "good," not "great."

Oh, Latveria -- in "Winter Soldier" #3, there's lots of fun with Doombots and the continues stealth operations of Bucky and Natasha, but things went by too quickly and despite Lucia Von Bardas becoming an interesting character (sort of), it didn't quite get it done.

"Magdalena" #11 was a beautiful, beautiful comic book, featuring a pleasantly clothed (mostly) guest appearance from Sara Pezzini (the Witchblade) on a trip to China with a big, big challenge ahead. Not bad at all, but a long way from being distinctive or memorable.

Things got so zany in "X-Club" #4 as Jeffries revealed his secret passion, an artificial intelligence got pregnant and Dr. Nemesis kept shouting and ranting in a way that'd make Spider Jerusalem proud. Of course, it all goes off the rails when you see a swastika, and the fun dialogue can't overcome the "meh" artwork and messy plot.

"Irredeemable" #35 was "Our Love Is Real" level creepy. If that's fine with you, this will be a must-have. Lots of breaking stuff, some okay villain monologuing, but it doesn't really feel like it's going anywhere fast.

"Defenders" #4 seems to be casting Stephen Strange in the role of a 1981 Harrison Ford by way of "Hellblazer," a scoundrel and a scholar who can ruin an innocent girl all while indulging his basest instincts with a power that could end everything. Moodiness and the deeply derivative qualities made this a little plodding, but it was still a good looking book, and those captions at the bottom of the page are interesting.

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

"Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #8, "Detective Comics" #7, "Star Wars Crimson Empire 3: Empire Lost" #5, "John Byrne's Next Men Aftermath" #41, "Green Arrow" #7, "Amazing Spider-Man" #681, "Huntress" #6, "Avengers Academy" #27, "Night Force" #1, "Avengelyne" #7, "Hulk" #49, "Red Lanterns" #7, "Marvel's The Avengers Prelude Fury's Big Week" #1, "Infestation 2: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" #1, "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero" #176, "Avengelyne" #7, "Justice League International" #7.

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

"How many hearts will you break before you stop to heal your own?" This is an actual line of dialogue from "Hawk & Dove" #7, spoken by a brawling, belligerent jackass. Then let's toss in a knock off version of Kraven the Hunter (if you're gonna copy somebody, maybe not a disco wackadoo), inconsistent uses of power and just deathly dull writing. This was...what's the word? Oh, right...terrible.

Wanna know what was worse? "Avengers: The Children's Crusade" #9. Scott Summers and Captain America gave such stupid, meaningless speeches, speeches that led to...well, we don't want to "spoil" the events here, but bad things happen, things that are dumb and inexcusable and embarrassing and insult your experience in every possible way. This comic book hates you, and, worse than that, it seems to hate itself.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Ambition beats out the travesties at the end there.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Four jumps. That's a win, dude.

THE BUSINESS

Komplicated does cool stuff, no secret there. This week, there were looks at Anonymous' hacking, Megaupload's challenges, building an app, new trailers, nuclear material driving down your street...look, it's crazy out there. 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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