The Buy Pile: Secrets and Spells

Thu, April 12th, 2012 at 11:28am PDT

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 APRIL 11, 2012

Journey Into Mystery #636
(Marvel Comics)
Nightmare's got a plan to turn Teen Loki's fears into the power to rule all of terror. The only problem with that is there are six other cosmic powers in charge of fear who would become his vassals if he were to achieve his goal. That means its time for Loki to come up with another one of his wacky plans to...well, not exactly save the day, but ensure his own self-interests. The intricacy of Loki's plan hearkens to the best elements of the current "Daredevil" storyline (more about that later) and spins them off into a cosmic direction. Clever, entertaining and delightful in the details courtesy of a bulletproof script from Kieron Gillen (great recap page) and artwork from Richard Elson and IFS's Ifansya Noor.

Star Wars Agent of The Empire: Iron Eclipse #5
(Dark Horse Comics)
So it all comes down to this -- the villainous Stark family legacy (not the drunken billionaire, nor the gang from "Game of Thrones") has developed a droid-infecting virus that can bring the galaxy to its knees. The only thing between the end of galactic order and the citizens of the empire is the suave, relentless agent Jahan Cross and some kind of glowing wrench thing. When Han Solo comes sweeping in with blasters blazing, it's a great added element to this non-stop thrill ride that still has time to further develop Cross' character -- his unwavering dedication to duty, for example -- and blow up lots of stuff too. The best seven words in the issue however are: "Jahan Cross will return in 'Hard Targets.'" So good that it could almost never be enough. Wonderful, wonderful work from John Ostrander, Stephane Roux, Julien Hugonnard-Bert and Wes Dzioba.

Saga #2
(Image Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
With such delicacy, such subtlety, Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples continue to flesh out an entire cosmos of history and personality, with freelance assassins whose very names make an impact (The Will, The Import, The Fluke...The Stalk) with sci-fi certainty while magic is woven in with equal deftness ("because spells require ingredients, and this one needs a secret!"). The ending's a little weirder than it should have been, but this is still richly rewarding material that draws the reader in and keeps on giving. Great stuff.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Fantastic start!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Cobra" #12 is intense. Deftly retelling pretty much the entire ascent and descent of the Joe named Chuckles, including how he inadvertently helped Cobra change from a clandestine criminal organization to becoming a global terrorist army. It's a little talky, even finding some time for breaking down the Pit and giving some closure to some of the Joe team's intelligence analysts, but it wasn't bad.

"Demon Knights" #8 -- or "How I Met The Demon" -- was okay, as the heroes take a break from being under siege and almost murdered to find out how Madame Xanadu hooked up with Jason Blood/The Demon while learning that Camelot's not exactly what anybody believes. Not bad, but not a "must have" either.

"Avenging Spider-Man" #6 dragged in the middle but had some solid elements as Punisher (and his female apprentice) and Daredevil team up with everybody's favorite web head to finally settle Daredevil's problem with "Megacrime" (AIM, Hydra, the Secret Empire and...who the heck is Agence Byzantine? Whatever. In any case, their hash is about to be settled, one way or another, as Daredevil pressures everybody into playing by Spider-Man's "nobody dies" rule. This plays really well with all the "shared universe" toys and was very close to making the mark.

"Bionic Woman" #1 was surprisingly not boring, presenting the modern Jaime Sommers as a kind of mix between Zarana and Chuck (when he had the Intersect) plus a 4G wi-fi hot spot. Her set up and intro handled balancing exposition and action well enough.

Logan likes the repetition of things in "Wolverine" #304 as he tracks down Sabertooth ("newfound secret assassin lord of the entire eastern hemisphere") who, of course, is having a super villain party. You know, like you read about. Fat Cobra is in this book for one single panel (all too brief), a group of Wolverine's ex-girlfriends form a freelance intelligence business (really) and Logan's settled into the relentless groove of his multiple commitments. If you're a Wolvie fan -- or a fan of repetitiveness -- this might pique your interest.

The end of an era, as "Mister Terrific" #8 closed down with an issue that summed up the entire run. Ambitious, smart but ultimately forced to do too much with too little. The dreaded threat of Digitus -- built up for some time -- is over in less than five pages, there's a lengthy debate with the Blackhawks on national television (remember they're supposed to be a clandestine unit?), finds out he used to date "Karen Starr," figured out that his company got hacked...there's a lot going on, way too much for 20 pages. Taken all too soon.

Norse myths get retold as Sif and Volstagg share history in "Mighty Thor" #12.1 (even the one where Thor wore a dress and then killed hundreds of frost giants) while looking at the structure of their society and realizing it's all one big lie. Interesting conceptually but a bit slow in execution.

If you took a dash of "The Hunger Games" and mixed it with Todd Nauck's "Wildguard" (played at 66 percent of its normal speed) you'd likely get something like "America's Got Powers" #1, an atmospheric piece set in an alternate future America which takes a dangerous populace and makes them possible endorsement bait. The turn of events for the end could have been a little less telegraphed and the characters could have been a little less loathsome, but the plot introduced some intriguing ideas which could conceivably turn into something down the road.

"New Avengers" #24 sheathed a very emo Luke Cage story in the periphery of the upcoming mutant-minded crossover. That's not bad, but it's also the sort of thing you could have heard about offhandedly from your friend, and therefore much chattier than any comic that's absolutely needed.

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

"Alabaster Wolves" #1, "Batman and Robin" #8, "Deadpool" #53, "Batman Arkham: Unhinged" #1, "Scarlet Spider" #4, "Grifter" #8, "Secret Service" #1, "Resurrection Man" #8, "Winter Soldier" #4, "Saucer Country" #2, "Clive Barker's Hellraiser Annual" #1, "Shade" #7, "Rich Johnston's Iron Muslim" #1, "Suicide Squad" #8.

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

"Green Lantern" #8 has a moment between Hal Jordan and the Black Hand that made the Green Lantern power even more ridiculous and unimportant than it became with the proliferation of ring types. Also, there's a new Abin Sur...they're not calling them "retcons" anymore, let's just say that history is not as we might remember it. In a word? Ridiculous.

"Secret Avengers" #25 borrows many, many pages from the recent "Battlestar Galactica" (and maybe even the Skrull cows and the white Martians) as once again the detritus of the Super Soldier program leaves another mess of bodies and murder lying around. The issue's final surprise is kind of effective though, making up for all the flailing around and consequence-free pummeling.

Three words, "Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic: War" #4 -- "Jedi brain fever." No. Stop that. Really, no.

Slade Wilson has daddy issues, "Deathstroke" #8 revealed, in a way that was tedious and predictable, giving the super villain a death wish not too far from the ones held by Deadshot and Deadpool. Yeah. Smoke that one over. This is wrong.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Four stinkers ain't that bad.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

The great, great purchases make up for the tedium and mediocrity that fall below the line.

THE BUSINESS

Did you know how much phone companies make selling your data to law enforcement? Komplicated does. Also checking out how to "hack" Spain's version of SOPA, Google's augmented reality glasses (and the bootleg version that's already running), enjoying EA's dubious honor of being named the worst company in America, dropping the free MP3 downloads, how to get a lotta free science fiction classics, how to stop the Flashback trojan if it sneaks on your Mac and lots and lots 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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