The Buy Pile: Kicking Skulls & Casting Spells with Adventurers, a Voodoo Queen & Loki

Thu, August 30th, 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 AUGUST 29, 2012

Journey Into Mystery #642
(Marvel Comics)
For months now, young Loki has skirted ethical issues and caused all brands of chaos in his pursuit of the greater good. This issue, all those complicated deals come home to roost as Surtur -- who never even appears in the issue -- begins his plan to topple Asgardia in the homeland of Odin's wife. Surtur's a fire demon, but his plan involves several things rarely seen from the villain, including forethought and most of all, subtlety. Seeds of discord and mistrust have been wielded by Surtur with the kind of efficiency and excellence that one would normally expect from ... well, Loki. There's a laundry list of creative people who brought this one home: Alan Davis, Matt Fraction, Carmine di Giandomenico, Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, Barry Kitson and Chris Sotomayor. So many great moments are here -- Thor's spirited conversation with his brother, Volstagg's speechifying and considerations, the contrition of the Manchester Gods. Great stuff here, despite the fact it's soon to undergo a huge creative transition.

Dominique Leveau, Voodoo Queen #6
(Vertigo/DC Comics)
Two college kids get the bright idea to perform a ritual they likely Googled in order to have a conversation with Baron Samedi. He turns out to be somewhat chatty, and tells them the story of how Black Benny came to serve the office of the Voodoo Queen, a tale set at the turn of the last century involving sports, marital strife, jazz music and bloodshed. This done in one is steeped in the kind of atmospheric, mood setting prose that has made writer Selwyn Seyfu Hinds such a revelation while the sure visual storytelling of Denys Cowan, John Floyd and Clem Robbins make the mystical feel real, the supernatural seem simple. Another great book that has an expiration date coming up sooner than it should.

Skull Kickers #17
(Image Comics)
Despite being entertaining and having the maternal instincts of a kraken to deal with, this issue felt like one long fight. Not in a bad way, for certain, but the sea voyage has dragged on a bit, and all the wit that writer Jim Zub can jam in, plus all the charming visuals from Edwin Huang, Kevin Raganit, Misty Coats, Mike Luckas and Ross Campbell, can't change that. Cute, but not quite standing up for its $3.50. However, that happened a few months ago and the next issue came roaring back like gangbusters, which is part of why there are rules, and it takes three bad issues in a row to get kicked out of the Buy Pile.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Despite the Skull Kickers' stumble, pretty entertaining stuff.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

There's an interesting part with a somewhat recursive conversation at the heart of "Higher Earth" #4 which was pretty good. If you saw the recent remake of "Total Recall" (itself: meh) it's kind of similar to the bit at the piano. Despite a nice Jonathan Hickman-style multidimensional map, the rest of the plot was pure "meh," and the political intrigues of the planetary court were not so compelling either.

"Star Wars Darth Maul: Death Sentence" #2 lost half of its impetus in the middle of a pretty decent fight scene and it's a shame, because its sibling Sith symmetry was what was driving this series. Still, Maul makes with the murder and that has its entertainment value, and the artwork here is solid without stunning.

To say "Grim Leaper" #4 was something of a let down was an understatement, as the very sudden conclusion felt disconnected from the rest of the issue, the key questions the series raised don't get the proper amount of attention and that all adds up to a finale that falls flat.

The title character in "X-O Manowar" #4 finds his way back to earth, but he's been gone a lot longer than he'd expected. That part was interesting, the whole "fish out of water" where the fish is a weapon of mass destruction. The repetitive talking about his situation and what to do about it? Not so much.

"Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow" #16 was ninjatastic as the forces of Cobra close in on the Arashikage clan, the new Commander closing down old business with iron clad finality. The extended chase scene had more chances for Snake Eyes to emote and effect moments without a word than literally every other character in the book, and that's a little bit of a detriment.

"Locke and Key: Grindhouse" was a cute crime-meets-horror tale set in the first half of the 20th century that gives a set of robbers some surprises they surely could not have expected while revealing some of the surprises the Lockhouse has in store. This would have fit in well with the EC Comics era, and if that sort of thing does it for you, this might be good for you as well.

"Avenging Spider-Man" #11 was an emo, talky visit to Uncle Ben's grave with Aunt May. That's really it. There were flashbacks and snapshots of things that happened before, but it was a purely character based issue that was solid without trying much harder than that.

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

"Aquaman" #12, "Wolverine and the X-Men" #15, "Prophecy" #3, "Steed and Mrs. Peel" #0, "Before Watchmen: Minutemen" #3, "Valen the Outcast" #0, "Detective Comics Annual" #1, "Dungeons and Dragons: Forgotten Realms" #3, "National Comics: Looker" #1, "Ghostbusters" #12, "Phantom Lady and Doll Man" #1, "Godzilla" #4, "Superman Annual" #1, "Smoke and Mirrors" #5, "New Mutants" #48, "Star Trek The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation 2" #4, "Powers" #11, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Micro Series" #7, "Uncanny X-Force" #30, "Trio" #4, "Ultimate Comics X-Men" #15, "Debris" #2, "Uncanny X-Force" #30, "Mudman" #5, "Web of Spider-Man" #129.2, "Bionic Woman" #3, "Winter Soldier" #9, "Flash Annual" #1.

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

"Green Lantern Annual" #1 ... wow. Okay, first of all, there is a whole separate splinter group of Guardians who dress like some kind of Keebler elves or something. That's almost the least stupid thing in the issue. When you figure out what they're up to, the rationale behind their Third Army (and the frankly idiotic choice they make to lead their new effort), all while Sinestro and Hal keep up their weird "48 Hours"-from-space shtick. Tis comic book is not just bad, it's insulting, it's like it bludgeons you over the head with a club marked "HERP DERP!" Terrible.

Where "Avenging Spider-Man" did emo tolerably, "FF" #21 spent a whole issue to address a relationship problem while looking on as the Inhumans show what kind of overwhelming quitters they are. Also, the Supreme Intelligence? Not so intelligent. The short lived Inhuman/Kree war gets -- maybe "settled" isn't the right word. Let's say it "stopped." Awful.

There's been a whole lot of chatter about "Justice League" #12, which was like watching a telenovela while washing your clothes in a laundromat at 2PM on a Tuesday afternoon. Tedious and whiny.

Skip past Hawkeye vs. Angel in "AvX: Vs." #5. Doesn't matter. You wanna skip to the part where the Black guy takes a swing at his wife and she tells him he was always a "terrible husband" and she just noticed. Yeah, that's where you wanna go ... if by "go" you mean "drop this comic book and run as rapidly as you can away from it." For all the high profile work done to make the Black Panther/Storm relationship, from hiring a high profile romance novelist to make their "love story" work for the civilians to the honeymoon tour around the 616, this issue instead decides to piss on all of that based on an argument that neither one of these people will actually be affected in any remote way whatsoever. Should we mention that Marvel has not had a Black writer on staff in ... what's August 2009? Three years without an incident of Black writers! Yay! Let's just move on…

By comparison, "Prophet" #28 was just mildly terrible, as a centuries-old John Prophet wanders through space in some kind of protracted ideological struggle against ... is it an Earth Empire? They're almost never seen. Oy.

"Captain Marvel" #3 featured a half French, half Japanese American female soldier fighting in the south Pacific named Bijoux Kawasaki. Oh, and the Japanese are flying Kree ships into combat. Also, the art's boring. Can we make this stop, or make it better somehow? Oy.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Seven "not so terrible" barely beats six "no, really, that's terrible." Barely.

There's no review of "Critter" #3 because, in the words of the store owner, "the first two didn't sell, so I didn't order the third." There was also no order of "Galaxy Man" #1. Sorry.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Uh ... the stuff that was always planned for purchase wasn't bad, so ... you know what, screw it, we can't put lipstick on this pig, it was rough out there.

THE BUSINESS

Komplicated is back, teaching you how to be your own Batman in an informative article with new content partners The Good Men Project. Doing it for the block and the blogosphere, capturing the Black geek aesthetic, Komplicated may not be every day, but they're showing up.

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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