The Buy Pile: Image, Marvel & Vertigo in a Three-Way Tie

Thu, June 21st, 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 JUNE 20, 2012

Casanova Avaritia #4
(Icon/Marvel Comics)
Wow. Like the maddest moments of "Gødland" or the most mentally brilliant elements of "Flex Mentallo," this issue takes your fragile human conceptions and has its dirty way with them in the back alley behind a junior high school. This series is well known for its recaps, but in two panels, it goes so wildly meta that it almost refuses to keep being a comic book. "Hi, I'm Charles Dickens, because, why not? Seychelle's rambling about ..." It just gets deeper after that, with action scenes that play havoc with your brain stem, multidimensional assassinations, disguises and switcheroos, fantastically rendered sound effects and a pages long time-lapse sequence that's a wonder to behold. Matt Fraction's company owned work simply cannot hold a candle to the sheer creative whirlwind he's able to wield here, and Gabriel Ba (with Cris Peter) turns in an art performance that's elevated beyond the expected into virtual legend. In a word, "yes."

Dominique Laveau, Voodoo Child #4
(Vertigo/DC Comics)
Speaking of expansive, wild ideas, the prematurely cancelled Vertigo series steps up the game by making a big show of its Yoruba-influenced pantheon of divinities, all testing the titular character to see whether she's worthy of her magical inheritance. In the process, we see some of the aftermath of FEMA's incompetence in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the real human cost of what happened there. The storytelling here is layered and rich, the atmosphere and nuance comprehensive as Selwyn Seyfu Hinds turns in another great script for the sure hands of Denys Cowan, John Floyd and Dave McCaig to depict. Great stuff.

Saga #4
(Image Comics)
The Will is a galaxy-class assassin, a "Freelancer," known by his title and instantly recognized for a man with an extraordinary capacity for violence. He's a perfectly balanced secondary element in this story as the main characters continue to try and elude their respective armies, newborn baby and ectoplasmic babysitter in tow. Along the way, a bit of history gets settled, a planet devoted almost entirely to sex gets a very disturbing visit (some of the images are not for the weak of heart) and the intricate world being built by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples gets even more fleshed out. Surprisingly engaging stuff here.

Journey Into Mystery #640
(Marvel Comics)
Loki is wielding his own British invasion as he follows his mandate from the All-Mother to stand alongside the Celtic gods in fighting against the march of modernity, which gives them cause to bring back Daimon Hellstrom as a reluctant ally in Loki's chess-like manipulations. If you liked Warren Ellis' "Gravel," especially its treatises on British magic in places of power, this will seem familiar to you, and you even get to meet one of the gods of modern England. As always, Kieron Gillen's ability to coax charm and fascination from the character of Young Loki (with the perpetually grim aspect of Hela, Leah at his side -- "I'm not your secretary, Loki"), while the artwork from Richard Elson and Ifansyah Noor. The twist ending was a definitive mindbender, and there's quite a bit to enjoy here.

Fables #118
(Vertigo/DC Comics)
Two of the children of Snow White and Bigby Wolf are off in the broken land of Discardia, and they learn some rather unpleasant lessons about the castaway toys there. Really rather unpleasant. Again, this is surely not a comic for the faint of heart, as there are rather extreme challenges for the juveniles involved here, and while that's rough going, the craft and power of the work by the Eisner-winning team of Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Andrew Pepoy and Lee Loughridge really makes it work. Then, you toss in a backup feature about revolution in the land of Oz and it gets even better. It can't be said enough: consistently the best title on the stands.

The Darkness #104
(Top Cow/Image Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Whoa. Continuing a scary, slippery slope that follows the axiom, "Be careful what you wish for," Jackie Estacado is beset on all sides by the challenges of his "perfect" life, as his daughter has some unusual skin condition to grapple with, his wife struggles with his working life, the cops and rival crime families want to shut him down and the source of his power strains at its leash. This issue encapsulates that struggle with great intensity, leaving a last page reveal that's really twisted. Shocking, intense, enthralling. Wow.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Fantastic opening salvo.

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" #2 was very, very close to making its way home as Vader digs deep into Jedi history many might prefer stayed buried, a star turn from Grand Moff Trachta and a threat that almost topples the Empire entire. Had this issue had a little more Vader, it could have done it, but he still doesn't have much room to operate in his own series.

"Memorial" #6 answered some big questions, pulling back the veil on a lot of the questions this series has kept spinning for some time, revealing a much richer tapestry and making it very close to being worth purchasing. The influences of "Sandman" and even its offspring "Lucifer" were crystal clear in this instance, with very similar to elements of Vertigo comics from years past. Still not enough compelling elements to the central protagonist, and a messy action scene, but worth watching.

Diana's romantic struggle with Hades came to a head in "Wonder Woman" #10, steeped in myth and allegory with great artwork that holds up, but doesn't excel. Characters spout dialogue in a largely interchangeable fashion, save a wonderful assessment by Hephaestus. Still a lot of interesting elements, though.

For fans of the Lewis Carroll classic, "The Wonderland Alphabet: Alice’s Adventures Through the ABC's and What She Found There" will be a wonderful companion that will enhance their enjoyment of what they find, especially for children. However, if you're not largely enamored of the book, this might not do much for you.

"Avenging Spider-Man" #8 was a love letter to Silver Sable after the drama involved in ending Doctor Octopus' mad scheme. It posited a magical struggle against a certain Latverian doctor, and Sable had all the coolness and calm nature of Giancarlo Esposito on "Breaking Bad." Its ending was a little flat, but it's not bad, if a little schmaltzy.

The relentless confidence of Toni Chu in "Chew" #27 was hilarious as she used it alongside her womanly wiles to perform all kinds of shenanigans. It's easy to see how this series will translate well to television, and it's a solid done-in-one story that ties up some loose ends of previous stories, and will surely satisfy longtime fans of the series.

Speaking of "done in one" stories, "Elephantmen" #40 has another battered human being seeking revenge against the genetically engineered creatures, this time foiled not by force of arms (directly) but by guile and the appeal of a woman. Surely "TV good," but not "must see TV good."

"Near Death" #9 was also TV good, a done-in-one issue that would have played well as a script on the belated "Human Target" TV show. It was largely scenes of gunplay with easily forgettable supporting characters, but if it was on and you were flipping through channels, you'd enjoy it.

Splinter's front and center in two time periods for "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Micro-Series" #5, showcasing his history in feudal Japan and calling his "sons" the reincarnation of his previous family. If you like the property, this would likely entice you, but otherwise this might be a little dry.

The impossible love story at the center of "Grim Leaper" #2 got an interesting complication when the serial deaths lead the male character to land in the body of a married man. That makes his relationship with the other "serial dead" woman a little less carefree, and that element is interesting. However, with such a small amount of space to work with, it definitely will benefit from being collected.

Sam Humphries' script for "Higher Earth" #2 is like a roller coaster, never letting up for a split second as it takes two people illegally hopping from parallel Earth to increasingly different environments. However, if you wanna get to know those characters, or why they're doing any of this, or even what larger story elements might be at play, you might be outta luck.

"Rebel Blood" #4 was disturbing, frankly, like that "Batman" annual with Mister Freeze a few weeks ago. Its zombie storyline took a decidedly more macabre turn which will surely impress fans of suspense and horror. Wild stuff.

"Before Watchmen: Comedian" #1 dipped and dodged through the history of the early 60s, positing the character as a close associate of the Kennedy family and getting deep in many screwed up things that went down. A passable work of alternative history fan fiction, if you're into that sort of thing.

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

"Astonishing X-Men" #51, "Reed Gunther" #10, "Blue Beetle" 10, "Winter Soldier" #7, "Planet of the Apes" #15, "True Blood" #2, "Daredevil" #14, "Eternal Descent Volume 2" #5, "Ghostbusters" #10, "Dark Avengers" #176, "Red Hood and the Outlaws" #10, "Soulfire Primer" #1, "Godzilla" #2, "John Byrne's Next Men Aftermath" #44, "Invincible Iron Man" #519, "Nightwing" #10,, "Roger Langridge's Snarked" #9, "Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow" #14, "X-Factor" #238, "Nancy In Hell On Earth" #3," "Legion of Super-Heroes" #10, "Uncanny X-Men" #14, "Glory" #27, "Supergirl" #10.

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

"Avengers vs. X-Men" #6 was terrible. Really. Scott's new "band" Phoenix Five borrows several pages from "Superman: Peace on Earth," working towards solutions they cannot sustain with no kind of plan towards making it stick. Then, Scarlet Witch gets involved, which is like throwing a Molotov cocktail into a nuclear meltdown. Then Captain America barges in with the same stupid plan that got him punched in the face on the shores of Alcatraz, and Hank McCoy leaps up to the heights of hypocrisy, before Scott says something that'd be the equivalent of Barbra Streisand quoting Joseph Goebbels. Literally the only thing that works is T'challa, repeating his history with Marvel's Illuminati and deciding to stay out of the foolishness. Troubling.

"Green Lantern Corps" #10 was a hand-wringing mess of a comic gazing at its own navel over some philosophical point that threatens a virtual civil war between the servitors of Oa, so messed up even the Guardians are like, "not cool." John Stewart -- a chained Black character -- is a pawn of opposing parties, barely able to do anything for himself, forever staining the character. Tedious.

If you missed the news, Emma Frost has 1/5 of the power of Phoenix. "Avengers Academy" #32 posits the idea that she could be dialed back from destroying a Sentinel, even a lovable, cuddly one. Hank Pym ... he's supposed to be smart, right? Right? Not so much here.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

The bad was really bad, but there wasn't much of it, so that gets a "yay!"

WINNERS AND LOSERS

The jump, an amazing set of purchases and this week wins big.

THE BUSINESS

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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