The Buy Pile: Spidey, Transformers Make the Trip Home

Thu, May 24th, 2012 at 10:30am PDT | Updated: May 24th, 2012 at 12:44pm

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 MAY 23, 2012

Amazing Spider-Man #686
(Marvel Comics)
Spider-Man, Silver Sable and Black Widow are all awe stricken at seeing Symkaria burn under the focus of Dr. Octopus' satellite weapons. Chameleon and Mysterio -- some of the last of Ock's minions/partners left -- enjoy working together, there's so much great dialogue it'd be hard to quote it all and chess pieces move around in ways that are pretty entertaining. Sure, the action scenes are de rigueur, but the artwork from Stefano Caselli and Frank Martin Jr. continues to "wow" and Dan Slott's script really knows how to make the stakes matter. Fine work.

Dominique Leveau, Voodoo Child #3
(Vertigo/DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Once again, it's much more ambiance than activity that draws the reader into this looping, lyrical bit of prose, characterizing the city of New Orleans almost more than the actual people herein. The intrigues of the Voodoo Court may not be considerably different from, say, the dramas apparent in Image's "Epoch," but again the sheer charm of Selwyn Seyfu Hinds' script combined with the sure hands of Denys Cowan, John FLoyd and Dave McCaig make it a presentation worth seeing, dynamic even in montages. Enjoyable stuff.

Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye #5
(IDW Publishing)
Jump from the Read Pile.
While the other title, "Robots In Disguise," has become a tense political thriller, this series has somehow transformed itself (no pun intended) into an eccentric character study combining the jargonistic urgency of a medical drama and the stoic determination of a police procedural. There's a mystery that's both criminal and medical in nature, which showcases a lot of white and red robots while keeping the tension and action brisk and riveting. James Roberts' witty, fast moving script keeps pace with artwork from Alex Milne and Josh Burcham, who do a great job of making each robot a distinguishable individual with personality and idiosyncracies ("Look at me. Look at my face. It's an Autobot face. A big, friendly Autobot face"). A wonderful surprise.

Journey Into Mystery #638
(Marvel Comics)
Okay, first of all, proto-Norse hero Sigurd? Totally a dreadlocked brother. This is pre-Idris-Elba-as-Heimdall. Brace yourself for that one, as it may throw some. Second? He ties into the story of Odin's dad and the oath-breaking undead valkyries the Disir in a way that's reminiscent of Poseidon's drama with the Gorgons, and having that kind of mythical underpinning is very effective, especially bracketed by the whimsical mischief of Loki -- aware and not so much -- while the aforementioned Disir start eating the citizens of San Francisco. Great stuff with Thor underplaying his role, the New Mutants deputized by Hel and all kinds of great stuff happening, including wonderful dialogue ("Thank the heavens for Hela's overactive sense of duty. Sorry Leah." "Hate forever, Loki"). This series just keeps getting better.

Fables #117
(DC Comics)
One of the children of Snow White and Bigby Wolf has been spirited away to the disjointed land of Discardia to rule as queen and hopefully repair the endless legions of broken, forgotten toys. Another has mounted an impossibly brave quest to save her with the unexpected help of an old friend and their father is on the trail, anxious to protect his cubs. There's a battle scene that Pixar would drool over and some well-crafted surprises, while subplots brew and everything is again kept in perfect balance on what is likely the best and most consistent title on the stands. Bill Willingham on script, art from Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Andrew Pepoy and Lee Loughridge. Yes.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Great, great, great start.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison" #1 was very, very close to making the mark because it did something very smart -- virtually make Vader a guest star in the book. When he showed up, either he was Billy Batson in the meeting scene of "Kingdom Come" or he's a force of nature, sweeping across the field of battle like a machine comprised solely of murder. Told from the perspective of a top ranking graduate of the first class from the Imperial Academy, it makes Vader less of the whiny farm boy from Tattooine, mooning about his dead senator wife and more a myth, a legend of frightening proportions ... as he should be. If the plot had been a little tighter, or even had more remarkable artwork, this would have made it home.

Also remarkably close to making it home was "Batman Incorporated" #1 framed by a working class assassin trying to cash in on a bounty for a hero's head. However, it started slowly and could have lost part of its opening to get into the meat of the story more quickly. In a leaner week, this would have made the jump.

"Smoke and Mirrors" #3 answered a lot of questions, positing a sleight of hand magician from our world somehow dropped into a world where magic really exists. Maybe a little too expositional than it should be, and there's lots not to spoil, but this was interesting and shows the series is heading in the right direction.

Covert operations make for strange bedfellows in "Cobra" #13, which has driven some of the world's worst criminals into the arms of the G.I. Joe team. There's a number of twists and turns that make sense for a black ops team struggling against forces beyond their control, but the issue was a lot of good fragments that didn't come together as an effective whole.

Do you like westerns? "All-Star Western" #9 is a great example of the genre, complete with period appropriate politics, solid action and a well done plot. If you like westerns, this is a must-have.

"Magic: The Gathering" #4 had some good character moments but essentially drew out one moment far too long, using cliches and prevarication. Not bad, but inconclusive.

"Chew" #26 was an entertaining done-in-one that's a good example of how this series can work as a television show. Ditching its normal lead, Tony Chu's barely even in the issue as his sister Toni and his rich, chef brother take a little side mission that relies on both the specific talents of cibopathy while introducing a new crazy idea in "sabopictors." John Layman's imagination seems limitless in dreaming up more wackiness to blow your mind, while Rob Guillory's artwork is death-and-taxes reliable. Why not buy? There are three great moments in the issue, but that's just "TV good," not enough for the purchase price.

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

"Aquaman" #9, "Vampirella" #17, "Batman the Dark Knight" #9, "Astonishing X-Men" #50, "Flash" #9, "Captain America and Hawkeye" #631, "Youngblood" #71, "Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men" #9, "Deadpool" #55, "Rebel Blood" #3, "Justice League Dark" #9, "Hulk Smash Avengers" #4, "No Place Like Home" #4, "Savage Hawkman" #9, "Mighty Thor" #14, "True Blood" #1, "Superman" #9, "Secret Avengers" #27, "Godzilla" #1, "Teen Titans" #9, "Ultimate Comics X-Men" #12, "Elric: The Balance Lost" #10, "Voodoo" #9, "Clive Barker's Hellraiser" #14.

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

Wow ... "AvX" #4 posited so many ridiculous ideas. Captain America is supposed to be the preeminent hand-to-hand combatant in the Marvel universe, a guy who's taken on super powered guys and giant robots and whatever else. The idea that it'd take him half an issue to fight Gambit, who's best known for ducking trouble ... it's bananas. Then Spider-Man -- by himself -- facing Colossus with the power of the Juggernaut (Juggulus!) ... also went on way too long and had such an inconclusive ending as to not ever have mattered at all. Terrible.

"Fantastic Four" #606 was a thesis on the benefits of privilege, as the family took on a rescue mission that minimized the struggles of tens of thousands of people. The entire issue was of great personal value but showcased the inequity of their efforts, picking and choosing who will live and who will die.

"Hulk" #52 had good ol' Mustache-Into-Muscles being haunted by ... look, no good spoiling it, but it's plain awful. The involvement of the Living Mummy, Morbius and all those other wackadoos was almost parenthetical. To say more would give away too much of what passed for a plot, but to state this issue's tedium is much less challenging.

It's the end of the road with "Irredeemable" #37, which has an ending that's both corny and endearing, but as conclusions go, it all seemed a little facile. If this was always the plan, it doesn't exactly bowl the reader over.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Not so bad.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Five great purchases beat three true stinkers and everything in between.

THE BUSINESS

This week, Komplicated.com discussed the dearth of Black super villains, increasing the speed of wi-fi by a factor of 20 (yeah), examined the first Black woman racing NASCAR, doing a speed run through "Diablo 3" and 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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