The Buy Pile: Once Upon A Time Called Now

Thu, April 19th, 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 18, 2012

Dominique Leveau, Voodoo Child #2
(Vertigo/DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
This comic book is steeped in atmosphere and ambiance, following up on the roller coaster ride the first issue provided (missed by this column but picked up after the fact) and providing a wonderful balance of exposition and action. Now, sure, the actual character work outside of the lead and the literal "magical negro" of Black Benny, is scant, true enough, but writer Selwyn Seyfu Hinds trowels on the backdrop of New Orleans as a virtual character in the story. Industry legend Denys Cowan's artwork hasn't lost a step, handling both the intimacies and the grandiose with equal deftness (not to sleep on the contributions of John Floyd and Dave McCaig). There's a lot to love from Hinds' lyrical, sweeping script, positing an uneasy balance of power in post-Katrina New Orleans (perhaps familiar to readers of "Epoch" and the uneasy detente between Marvel's Assassins' and Thieves' Guilds, or even Megacrime). Interesting work that has a lot of room to grow.

Amazing Spider-Man #684
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
It's worth noting that this columnist is not a fan of Spider-Man. The fact that this issue is so good that it not only overcame that, but did it easily is remarkable. In short, Doctor Octopus has the world at his mercy, offering either a fix for the ozone hole or brutal heat death, and has been using the rest of the Secret Six as his personal praetorian guard. The Avengers? Please. Mostly knocked out, save the Black Widow and a surprise non-powered friend with big connections. This all leads to international action on two continents, Spidey getting the entirety of Horizon Labs' genius farm on the line like an upgrade from Oracle, a wonderful new look at Sandman's powers (in the Sahara at that) and more, all seamlessly woven together into Dan Slott's virtually flawless script, depicted by Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba and Edgar Delgado. Using all the toys correctly, this is how you make things work in a shared universe.

Fables #116
(Vertigo/DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
One of the children of Snow White and Bigby Wolf has been abducted to become queen of a land of discarded toys. That's either whimsical and cute or horrifying and awful, largely depending on your perspective. Lord Mountebatten, a clockwork tiger in the valley of the "cubs," does something remarkable (too wonderful to spoil), something worth picking over every inch of the imagery with a fine toothed comb, because this series is well known for the numerous Easter eggs it leaves lying around for fans to discover. The scenes with adult characters -- just yelling and looking for the lost, magical little girl -- kind of stuck with treading water (save the odd, sweet tension between Pinocchio and Ozma), but the overall package still worked out well. A cute, brief back up covers a little of what's been happening with Bufkin the flying monkey as he foments revolution in Oz. Interesting work from the most consistent title on the stands.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Sweet spirit singing yes. That's what we need.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

The closest book to make it home was "Manhattan Projects" #2, which lost a lot of the manic personality that made the debut issue so strong, but still had lots of crazy ideas as it integrated Nazi science (always the Nazis) with the homegrown lunacy being developed. Still worth a look for whatever Jonathan Hickman's brain will show up with, unfettered, but not quite hitting the right mark yet.

"Venom" #16 was very, very close to the mark, and had a fun turn of events on a prison train as blackmail and murder tie together, leaving a bad guy on the hook with the Kingpin, and assassins on the way. Great humor, fun visuals, and on a less crowded week, this probably would have made the jump, especially if the antagonist had more meat to his narrative bones, his letter notwithstanding. Good to see this series getting back to what worked.

Sure there were ridiculous elements in "Wonder Woman" #8 -- Cupid's pistols, as prophesied by Andre 3000, being the primary ones -- in an issue that's weirder, more inconclusive and more Vertigo-ish than before as the family struggle between the Olympians continues all the way down in hell. Hades looks for a way to get what he wants, Hermes kicks some butt and Cliff Chiang gets a chance to show a look at the underworld that could knock your socks off. Interesting if flawed.

"Punisher" #10 revolves around a team up with Spider-Man, Daredevil and ... Girlisher? Lady Punisher? Whatever. The heroes are up against Megacrime, four organizations full of costumed evildoers, and somehow Frank and the erstwhile Marine Sergeant Cole (who makes a little bit of a distinction about what to call herself) have agreed not to kill anybody. The issue has some slow points (Daredevil literally stopped to deliver a baby) but a killer ending really helped it rise above mediocrity.

"Fathom: Kiani Volume 2" #1 was an improvement over some other issues from Aspen Comics, wandering around a bit but explaining who the core characters are and why their fates should matter in a story of revenge and sovereignty. Of course the art was gorgeous, and it had some better story development, even as it had some considerable points of lag in the plot's pace.

Speaking of lag, "Defenders" #5 drooped and sagged all around issues of Atlantean politics (yawn) and maybe too much happening without direction but worked well with the art (save the undersea combat, which needed some more distinctive colors).

"Red Hood & The Outlaws" #8 had one, and exactly one, thing to recommend it. There's a fascinating scene between Jason Todd and Tim Drake that's simple, effective and fascinating in developing character. It's, in a word, wonderful. However, fighting a morbidly fat woman and a gang of gun toting morons with a body of force that easily handled a small militia in the opening issue of the series, before getting dragged into the big Bat crossover? Yawn.

If you like harmless, all-ages friendly fare, "Rocketeer Adventures 2" #2 and "Super Dinosaur" #10 both have enough cartoonish violence (and a little raciness in the former) to keep everybody engaged without doing undue damage to young minds. Likewise, both do okay jobs with storytelling -- not getting to deep while also not delving down into "Dora the Explorer" levels of pandering.

Continuing to flesh out its large ensemble cast, "Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye" #4 focuses on its medical practitioners, First Aid in particular, as the mechanoid crew lands on a hostile planet and deals with challenges within and without. Ultra Magnus seems ready to kick some butt, and while the art here does little to convey the scale of these robots, it does what it gets right well, even while it still had some pacing concerns.

"Thunderbolts" #173 had one intriguing idea that ended up getting stretched out too far. The fighting and internecine dramas needed -- pardon the pun -- punching up.

There were a number of interesting twists in "Irredeemable" #36, which was warped and weird, but in a good way. This perversion of superhero mechanics might not be for everybody, but it had an appeal. Unfortunately, the unpredictability of the Plutonian made it hard to get into his behavior, and therefore some of the plot elements fell flat. Body switching doesn't help.

"Bomb Queen 7: Queen's World" #3 was a big surprise as the boobular villain squares off against Shadowhawk in a digital battle that's refreshingly smart. If not for the clinging cliche elements and the bombastic delivery, this could have been a contender.

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

"Star Wars Dawn of the Jedi: Force Storm" #3, "Batman" #8, "Avengers" #25, "Steed and Mrs. Peel" #4, "Batman Beyond Unlimited" #3, "Incredible Hulk" #7, "Doctor Who" #16, "Birds of Prey" #8, "New Mutants" #41 (here's some of why), "G.I. Joe A Real American Hero" #177, "Blue Beetle" #8, "X-Factor" #27, "Ghostbusters" #8, "Catwoman" #8, "X-Men" #27, "Near Death" #7, "Legion of Super-Heroes" #8, "Secret History of DB Cooper" #2, "No Place Like Home" #3, "Nightwing" #8, "Planet of the Apes" #13, "Prophet" #24, "Invincible Iron Man" #515.

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

The frat house atmosphere continues in "Justice League" #8, which takes their super-powered cliquishness to a new level as Green Arrow desperately stans his way through trying to join with embarrassing results. The only good part of this is it recasts the Martian Manhunter as someone much more interesting, a somewhat antagonistic outsider who helped make the team standoffish. Not bad but kind of casts the heroes as jerks, while the Shazam-minded backup likewise makes Billy Batson an arrogant teenaged annoyance. Apparently, the new DC philosophy is, "with great power comes great jerkishness." Less than appealing.

Speaking of less than appealing, "Avengers vs. X-Men" #2 ... oy, the problems it had. The fight that didn't even need to happen -- teleportation, magic, espionage ... there's a hundred easier ways to do this than engaging in the art of fisticism. The tedious Wakandan interlude, which simply wasn't necessary. More on that ... well, how about next?

"Wolverine and the X-Men" #9 should have had the Avengers walking around with T-shirts saying, "Bishop Was Right." The best idea -- gambling on what planet would die next -- got maybe four or five panels, while a whole lot of talking and hand wringing and blah blah blah dominated the rest of the book, all working towards ... well, the issue we just saw. Needless Roshomon-ing.

WTH happened in "Eternal Descent Volume 2" #4? A twisted tale of magical blasts and guitars and ... wow. What the heck?

Finally, nothing sums up these politically charged times like the last page of "Green Lantern Corps" #8, which followed a bar fight no one will remember in a month, Guy Gardner being so right and then things getting really weird with him and the Guardians ... just feels like a rudderless boat. Ship. Whatever.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Not so bad, honestly, big company stinkers notwithstanding.

Oh, and the retailer ordered zero copies of "Mixtape" #1. Sorry.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two jumps, several very close contenders including a lot of surprise? That's a week that wins.

THE BUSINESS

Quantum computers on a quantum internet. The fight for "Def Jam Rapstar." A flowchart that answers whether or not you are Rob Base. A wrestling profile of Flash Funk. The word on the Coachella holograms. Looking at the last episodes of "Eureka." How much cell phone companies make unethically selling your data to law enforcement. Suffice it to say Komplicated.com has it going on. Updated at least three times a day, every day, Komplicated is doing it for the block and the blogosphere, capturing the Black geek aesthetic.

Also doing National Poetry Writing Month, with some comics-themed pieces, just for kicks.

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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