The Buy Pile: Introducing Loki & Ali Baba's Scoundrel Society

Thu, June 7th, 2012 at 10:58am 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 JUNE 6, 2012

Journey into Mystery #639
(Marvel Comics)
Loki, Loki, Loki, you adorable scamp. The wondrous interplay he has with Daria-like handmaiden to the afterworld, Leah, is worth seeing all on its own, but to see the British city of Manchester rise up as an angry divinity to square off against the Otherworld forces led by a completely unflappable Captain Britain. The Celtic gods call upon their Norse brethren for assistance ... only to be rebuffed, both under the terms of a centuries-old non-interference pact and because when the Serpent threatened the earth and the Aesir, the Celts stood silent. However, the All-Mother operates in mysterious ways, and that means secretly sending Loki over for a look-see. "Er ... what about the pact of non-interference?" Loki asked "I'm interfere-y. Famously so." Everybody knows that Loki's a loose cannon, a rule breaking iconoclast, so who'd expect him to be on official business, right? This leads to great exchanges and a huge battle and all kinds of posturing for centuries old spiritual entities (the escort from the airport is classic). Wonderful stuff.

Fairest #4
(Vertigo/DC Comics)
Jonah the information imp has a plan. He sees a day when he'll have freedom, when everything works out for everybody he's subtly manipulated into doing his bidding and everybody will be happy about it. Unfortunately, honesty isn't exactly the best policy as it leads to some unpleasantness, but between the elegant charm of this Bill Willingham plot and the stunning artwork from Phil Jimenez with Steve Sadowski, Andy Lanning, Andrew Pepoy and Andrew Dalhouse, you'll be able to delve into the conflicts for Ali Baba's character and the subtle effects happening to the Snow Queen. Great stuff.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Very solid start.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Extermination" #1 was very, very close to making the trip home, a book that essentially posits analogues of Doctor Doom and Batman teaming up to take on an alien invasion that's ended human society as we know it. That sounds cool, and the banter between the two characters Nox and the Red Reaper (the latter of whom is quite witty, actually, even making a "Star Wars" joke) is pretty good. However, the anonymous, amorphous-looking enemies didn't do much to sell themselves as a credible threat and just the two drably-dressed personalities against an equally drab post apocalyptic landscape didn't thrill the senses. Worth watching.

"Harbinger" #1 suggested a secret order of telepaths and shadowy organizations aiming to wipe them out. If that sounds like "Push," you're not far off, but with a smaller cast and less of the G-Man feel, it's a more intimate presentation. It wasn't the most distinctive of presentations, and the characters were brushed past far too quickly. An interesting start.

"Stormwatch" #10 borrowed a number of pages from "Planetary" in digging up a secret history of extrahuman weaponry and conspiracies that'd make Fox Mulder wet himself with excitement. There's a balance of personal stuff going on with Apollo and Midnighter that takes a good amount of panel time away from the central plot, and that balance doesn't work so well. Another interesting start, though.

Miles Morales is in way, way over his head when his uncle leads him to take on a whole lot in "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #11. This leads to some great action scenes and more news coverage than Miles probably needed, because it leads to an interesting phone call. This will play far better in a collected edition, because as a single comic it seems a little insubstantial.

"Creator-Owned Comics" #1 is very like some European magazines -- it aims at being a sizable chunk of culture, with some short pieces of comics fiction, interviews and more. The individual comic stories, as in many anthology presentations, didn't deliver enough narrative meat to hook or satisfy, while the coverage had some interesting elements, but not enough to justify the cover price. This is likely to become a serious collection of reference material for the industry, but it's not quite there yet.

Using a heavily cosmic backdrop, "The Mighty Thor Annual" #1 brought in Galactus and the Silver Surfer to wrangle with a threat to reality itself. However, you could sub out Thor and swap in Nova, Quasar or maybe even Beta Ray Bill and the story wouldn't have read that much differently. Not bad, but not great.

"Thief of Thieves" #5 played like the middle of a heist movie, where the conflicted protagonist works his way through some really problematic issues with law enforcement while the criminal underworld winds its way through the machinations of another big score. Too many of the characters were either two dimensional or lacked room to be explored. Again, this is something that'll likely benefit from collection.

"Garfield" #2 and "Popeye" #2 may as well be considered together, as they had pretty much the same effect. If you have any familiarity with either property, you'll recognize what happens here. Garfield and Popeye do Garfield and Popeye things. If you like that, or if you know young readers who might come into such an experience with the right mindset, this would be great. Otherwise, this might just be something "okay" that doesn't thrill you.

"Secret" #2 had a solid noirish crime atmosphere, but with a paper thin plot and very little character development, it didn't get much of a chance to shine.

Solid all-ages fun in "Super Dinosaur" #11 with non-stop action and open, kid-friendly artwork that's likely appropriate for the ten-and-up crowd. There's a pretty big explosion that could be a little much for younger readers -- this ain't "Watchmen" after all -- but its still good comics for kids and any fans of largely wholesome entertainment.

If you'd like the idea of Spartacus in space, "X-O Manowar" #2 will likely do it for you. Warriors from around the world during the Roman empire were kidnapped by largely anonymous alien invaders to farm largely weird plant stuff on a hot spaceship. If you let yourself go and get into the ambiance of it, you might like it.

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

"Morning Glories" #19, "Hulk" #53, "Dan the Unharmable" #2, "Invincible Iron Man" #518, "Spider" #2, "Marvel's The Avengers: Black Widow Strikes" #3, "Mudman" #4, "Detective Comics" #10, "Avengers Academy" #31, "Hack/Slash" #16, "Earth 2" #2, "Dark Avengers" #175, "Fanboys vs. Zombies" #3, "Artifacts" #18, "Justice League International" #10.

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

"Action Comics" #10 introduced Nimrod the Hunter ... no he's not a Sentinel, but he does borrow most of Kraven's shtick from Marvel, which is not a good idea. Then, Superman has one of the dumbest possible conversations with the rest of the Justice League, looking like an emo loser at one point before two very weird comments come out. First the Flash said, "I think it's important to stay within the law while we figure this out." He said this, by the way, in a room full of people dressed in fetish suits who illegally punch people they suspect, without due process of law, of wrongdoing. Then, Batman -- within easy earshot of a guy with super hearing -- says of Supes, ""One of these days, we'll all have to go after him." This doesn't spoil anything in the story, but the issue gets even sappier and turns this issue from bad to abysmal. Embarrassingly bad.

"Testing is for suckers," Tony Stark said in "Avengers vs. X-Men" #5. "We are men of science, Pym. Time to act like it. We're pioneers. We're pilots." That's the best thing about this awful issue, which starts out with what looks like Legion and Chuck Xavier sunning themselves on a beach in Ibiza and ends ... oy, that ending, one of the stupidest possible outcomes one could imagine, with a conflict of interest for Juggulus and ... gah, it's terrible, let's just move on.

"Batwing" #10 likewise flew in the face of logic. Upon seeing an ethernet port, Batwing says, and we quote, "I've got his internet outlet. I can track all of his traffic from this IP address. It will take a few moments to download." Then his snarky African version of Alfred notes that Zavimbi learned how to make stuff like this hacking discarded cell phones and reactivating the accounts. Here's the thing: none of that makes any freaking sense. Ignoring the fact that you can't find out how much water came out of a faucet by somehow studying the pipe, that's just not how data works. Add to that the sadly predictable plot and "big bad" lurking in not-hard-to-find shadows and the whole thing's just stupid. Chloe Sullivan would have even called shenanigans on this one.

Even though "Defenders" #7 posited a funny part about how the Silver Surfer can learn how to fly a plane by reading a book, there's a series of things that happen in Wakanda that are either completely insulting to the idea of the concept at all ("Hey outsiders, take some of our sacred tribal soul juice and meet with the ancestral spirits of all our past chieftains, even though one of you was the most powerful sorcerer on earth and capable of doing unspeakable things to them ... oh, and while we're here, let's have another Western invader storm into our most sacred space and treat us like suckers") but also drew in some of the weirder, less coherent elements of Black Panther's McGregor run and tried -- tangentially -- to tie it into the existing storyline. This all started off so well; how has it become so awful?

There's a guy in "World's Finest" #2 named Hakkou. He's super strong, throws off radiation and beats the hell out of Power Girl. So Huntress comes at him by wrapping her cape around his head and shooting him in the ear with a crossbolt. Really? Really? Please, just stop the madness.

What's funniest? "Trio" #2, by comparison, was just barely awful, a cliche-riddled compendium of yesterday's ideas in far shoddier packaging. Bad, but by comparison, a minor misdemeanor.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Oy, it was kind of rough out there.

By the way, there was no order for "Mecha-Nation Androidology" #2. Sorry.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Getting off easy with just two purchases beats even a really, really stupid set of books.

THE BUSINESS

You know what's awesome? Komplicated is awesome. Updated at least three times a day, every day, Komplicated is doing it for the block and the blogosphere, capturing the Black geek aesthetic, this week getting into getting Instapaper for free, Gwenyth Paltrow's unfortunate choice of words, a space-themed album from the Wu-Tang's GZA, the iPhone going prepaid, free MP3 downloads and much more. Cool. Cool cool cool.

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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