The Buy Pile: Murder - In The Name Of Science

Thu, March 15th, 2012 at 11:28am PDT

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 14TH, 2012

Journey Into Mystery #635
(Marvel Comics)
The characterization of Young Loki -- afraid, determined, mischievous, brilliant -- is the centerpiece of another deeply enjoyable issue from this creative team. The deluge of fear dreams he fights through alongside Hela's handmaiden and the Son of Satan followed the Letterman rule, of working, then going on too long, then starting to work because it kept going on. The interplay between Loki and the handmaiden Leah is one of the real treasures of this run, and the love/hate relationship there delivers an unexpected treasure every single issue. A very consistent issue from a very enjoyable series.

Mister Terrific #7
(DC Comics)
Michael Holt's an everyday superhero in the streets of Los Angeles as mysterious goings on hit San Pedro. This issue is a done-in-one that's virtually flawless in terms of its writing via Eric Wallace, and the art from Gianluca Gugliotta, Wayne Faucher and Mike Atiyeh was fantastic in terms of handling the action here (there's a great science fiction idea here with the antagonists) as a subplot that's been bubbling since the first issues has become a main plot in a major way. Wonderful work here, coming on strong like the last season of "Enterprise," too little...too late. The last issue hits next month.

Star Wars Agent of the Empire: Iron Eclipse #4
(Dark Horse Comics)
Jahan Cross reveals much more about himself as he races against time to foil a plot by a family steeped in interstellar treachery. The storyline's name is explained (wonderful) and the action scenes are gripping (so overflowing praise is due to the art team of Stephane Crety, Julien Hugonnard-Bert and Wez Dzioba. Still, you must recognize the sure, experienced hand of John Ostrander in his script, which operates with such crispness and skill that it's a testament to the writer's abilities, honed over years of toiling in the "Star Wars" universe. Han Solo is again used perfectly, the story is framed in the history of the Republic's fall and of course murder and shooting and what not. Great stuff here.

Saga #1
(Image Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Wow. The writing here from Brian K. Vaughan draws you in with magical realism that seamlessly mixes the grittiness of characters that feel real, even as they have horns and wings. The dialogue seems effortless, the artwork from Fiona Staples wonderfully conveys the emotional weight of the moments (a father's hope, a woman's frustration in labor), even with beings who have no faces. Then, there's a battle scene on a splash page that'll have you straining your eyes to enjoy all of its awesomeness. Star crossed love set against a tableau of interplanetary war, this...this is great stuff, science fiction mixed in...just a fantastic start here.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Holy crap, that's a great batch of freaking comic books.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Demon Knights" #7 had some interesting surprises as an impossible battle dragged on. The great character work was undercut by the fact that the most important pieces of action happened either peripherally or off panel. Not bad as the "team" name was explained, but disappointing.

If you cut out the cute Logan/Quire subplot (which had about enough material for a decent backup running in a regular comic) and focused on the young Brood at the school, "Wolverine and the X-Men" #7 could have been an interesting examination of nature versus nurture and the underlining elements of violence and destiny. Instead, you got a messy attempt at making three plots work at once and Kitty Pride mixing together some of her students with vomit (but not in a Red Lantern way). It did have the quote of the week, though: "Anyone not willing to murder in the name of science is no scientist at all."

"Saucer Country" #1 was "TV good," with the Jimmy Smits character from "The West Wing" getting Rule 63ed. Toss in some supernatural Fox Mulder-isms there and you've got a comic that ambitiously tries to work in many arenas (political, science fiction, gallows humor). Nice try, but not getting it done.

Hot Rod really kind of guesses his way through "Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye" #3, as a kind of mechanoid boogeyman popped up in the middle of nowhere. This led to following in the footsteps of "The Thing" (the original Carpenter film, not that modernist filth), with characters getting fleshed out enough to care about whether or not they fall in the line of narrative. Cute, but not exactly the sort of story you'll be talking about days later.

"Elric: The Balance Lost" #9 was an improvement, a more linear tale as the eternal heroes found their way down the multiversal ladder and rock music saved the day. This meant less character work, which was okay since there's like seven characters in the lead. Not bad, but again, not worth buying.

Cobra led the way to Cthulhu in "Infestation 2: G.I. Joe" #1, where a madhouse asylum full of broken operatives leads to some forbidden archaeology and of course, some tentacled trouble making its way in. Interrogator, Crystal Ball and Storm Shadow were all done with good effect, but the antagonists were generic and the Joe team finale was meager. Surprisingly not awful.

If you're interested in the comics of the 90s, "Superboy" #7 was all over it, with Fairchild from Gen 13, a Stormwatch member (classic, not current) and a Teen Titan on board. Lotsa pieces of a good story without enough coherency drawing them together.

"The Activity" #4 was as good as an average episode of "The Unit" in CBS...but not one you'd go out of your way to watch.

"Godzilla Legends" #5 was told with a different perspective, that of an aging adventurer, and it takes a look at the giant monster mythos in a very different light. Very close to making the mark, with a modern spin on a vintage property.

Speaking of things that were big in the '80s, if you liked Barry Bostwick in "Megaforce" then you'll probably enjoy "Marksmen" #6, which had good action scenes updated with modern technology, but which could have easily had a soundtrack by Whitesnake. Not bad, but probably best late night flipping through cable, not being sought out for whatever this costs.

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

"Legion Lost" #7, "Doctor Who" #15, "Ultimate Comics X-Men" #9, "William Shatner's Man O War" #1, "Blue Estate" #10, "Resurrection Man" #7, "X-Men: Legacy" #263, "Dead Man's Run" #1, "Avengers Assemble" #1, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9" #7, "Glory" #24, "Carnage USA" #4, "Thief of Thieves" #2, "Fathom: Kiani, Volume 2" #0, "Fantastic Four" #604, "Conan the Barbarian" #2, "Batwoman" #7, "Incredible Hulk" #6, "Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic: War" #3, "Artifacts" #15, "Scarlet Spider" #3, "Green Lantern" #7, "Nowhere Man" #2, "Captain America" #9, "Exile on the Planet of the Apes" #1, "Locke and Key Clockworks" #5.

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

"The Ray" #4 was bad. Using hypnotherapy to retcon things in the pages of the book, this dose of literal handwavium made very little of the series matter, invalidating itself in a feat of narrative suicide that would have been unbearable to watch without Jamal Igle's wonderful artwork.

"Avengers" #24 was far worse, taking the "let's do the important stuff off panel" ideas of "Demon Knights" way, way too far. Quick, let's explain Norman's new powers! Quick, let's figure how to deal with them! Quick, let's just kind of hurry up and finish this story so we can get back to the next fan fiction-esque crossover! Disappointing.

"Buckaroo Banzai" #1 had small ideas and crass presentation as this sad, uninteresting comic book had none of the spirit or lust for life of the Peter Weller original (or even some of the recent comic approaches). Stiff, uninspired and tepid.

After reading "Batgirl" #7, it's hard to imagine that this is from the same woman who wrote the endlessly brilliant "Secret Six." Emo, whining and downtrodden as a tedious uncovered ground resurfaced for Barbara to whine about and gaze meaningfully at the audience. So disappointing.

There's no getting past the family history of Marcus Johnson in "Battle Scars" #5, as the first page tells the tale and a heretofore unknown Russian super villain wants to milk the Army Ranger like he was an jam packed alpaca. To say much more would spoil the...calling it a "story" seems generous, but whatever. In any case, with a flash of a knife, this managed to get even worse, and fall into every boring prediction the blogosphere has delivered.

It felt like Grant Morrison threw up on "Secret History of DB Cooper" #1, a story dipped in drugs and dreamtime as the famed hijacker is cast as a secret agent and worked so hard to try and be something different but ultimately fell flat.

It's easy to look at "Batman and Robin" #7 and "Deathstroke" #7 at the same time, as Grant Wilson's awkward line, "You don't know how to love" could easily have been applied to the Bat or the Demon's Head. Fratricidal father issues abound with punching and cutting, but each punch is accompanied by line after line of meaningless melodrama and emo navel gazing. Just...no.

Dear "Punisher" #9: please review "Punisher/Painkiller Jane" which did this same kind of story in a much more succinct fashion.

"Grifter" #7 had the title character outwitting The Midnighter in a fight. Stop. Just stop it.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

It was pretty much a wash when you look at how many really bad comics came out this week.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

The great purchases outdo the evening out of things with the books that didn't make the cut.

THE BUSINESS

First of all, the writer of this column will be moderating the panel Insight into Indy Publishing at Wondercon, Friday at 12:30 PM PST. Featuring The Antidote Trust, this will be an experience not to be missed, with fast paced banter and the distinctive possibility that somebody will take a swing at the moderator. Good times, good times...

Likewise, the little website that could, Komplicated.com has been staying busy. Busy with what? Looking at the new "Walking Dead" video game, getting geeked out about the return of "Community" tonight, paying respects to the passing of Nate Dogg, finding out how the internet got knocked out for all of east Africa, checking out how a new science fiction weapon has been invented in Japan that can stop people from talking, looking at an exhibit at Geppi's Entertainment Museum focused on Black presence in comics, asking about nuclear material riding down normal streets, examining what happened to MegaUpload and of course the commentary track for these reviews, plus so 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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