The Buy Pile: The Corruption of Loki Laufeyson & City-Sized Robots

Thu, September 13th, 2012 at 10:29am PDT | Updated: September 13th, 2012 at 10:39am

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 SEPTEMBER 12, 2012

Transformers More Than Meets The Eye Annual 2012
(IDW Publishing)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Wow. in a flurry of exposition and gunfire, this tour de force issue delivers on so many levels. The Cybertronian creation story? In there. A giant robot who could be a city-sized contemporary of Metroplex and Trypticon? Got it. Quips aplenty ("Whirl -- do you ever internalize any of your thoughts?" "You can do that?")? Gotcha covered. Deep philosophical analysis of the nature of existence, the struggle of soldiers in peace time and the meaning of it all? Strung through most of the issue. Almost too jam packed for its own good, sure you lose some points of clarity when a robot speaks and the art's not really clear (you'd need to pay some attention to recognize Ratchet as an almost-killed cynic), but the betting on Rodimus Prime's speech, the fascinating arc for Ultra Magnus ... this is surely not your dad's giant robot comic book. A wonderful, sweeping adventure that keeps escalating the scales from another brilliant James Roberts script.

Journey Into Mystery #643
(Marvel Comics)

One of the most impressive things that can happen for a character is to actually develop, to go through an arc of events that transforms that character from one state to another. If done deftly, the transformation itself can take on a state like wonder, and the sure hand of Kieron Gillen takes Young Loki -- mischievous, sad in his own way, hopeful in his own way and utterly relentless -- and turns the character arc that has developed since the end of Siege, where the original Loki was written out of the books of Hel and freed from the tedious cycle of Ragnarok and reincarnation. What happens when he meets the secret power behind Surtur's newfound subtlety ... it's a wondrous speech and a truly great moment for plot and character. Literally stunning work all around.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Pricy stuff, with that $8 "Transformers" book, but solidly entertaining.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Winter Soldier #10" reinforces the idea that all that can happen with broken super soldiers is that, sooner or later, someone will tape over them like putting tissue paper in the square on the front of a VHS tape (gotta use these similes while somebody might still remember them), as the titular boy soldier turned Soviet asset turned super hero has to (again) chase his decades-lost love the Black Widow, once again reverted to a Cold War state. Not bad, but lots of hand wringing and kind of repetitive in that so many heroes have gone down this road of "Oh, sorry for those acts of terrorism I committed when some wackadoo had me under mind control."

"Batman And Robin" #0 wasn't bad, providing a canonical origin for Damian, even though it screws up the DC timeline something crazy (if Damian is ten, and the Bat has been operating for something like ten years, then he knocked up Talia in Year One, and ... oh, never mind.). However, like the "Batman, Incorporated" story that told Talia's tale, it's just slightly better than reading it on Wikipedia.

In "Chew" #28, John Layman and Rob Guillory turn in another cute episodic installment that barely engages its proposed protagonist. With ideas as wild as a Pop Tart miniskirt and genetic engineering for weapons, the USDA and FDA have territorial tiffs in a plot that is more ridiculous than risky. When this makes the jump to television, this will be one with special effects that'll be memorable.

"Fantastic Four" #610 followed in the footsteps of the Sultan Magus in creating yet another (essentially) super villain led sovereign nation. Now AIM took the Johnny Depp route and bought themselves a whole island country, which means Reed has to fly in and talk while Ben punches stuff and Johnny flies around making quips. There were some smart elements to this issue, and even some creepy ones with the Wizard, but too few, too scattered and too much not worth watching in between.

Jackie Estacado's perfect world continues to deteriorate in "The Darkness" #106 as the source of his powers finds a challenge that can't be easily murdered and walked past. However, crucial scenes with Jackie's wife didn't get much room to breathe despite some very big shocks, and that left this issue without an emotional center. In the spirit of noir stories like "Breaking Bad" or "The Sopranos," you are almost reading to see how bad things will get. However, the characters really need more substance to make those bad situations matter.

In that neither Daimon Hellstrom or Merlin appear to be antichrists as sons of Satan, that gives the latter free reign to help quell a rebellion in hell as the hook on "Demon Knights" #0, showing how Jason Blood (an Anakin-esque apprentice to Merlin) and Etrigan (an ambitious but disrespected demon in the surprisingly literate land of damnation). A cut above "meh," but still not more worthy than reading the details on Wikipedia, and likely as exciting.

"Bionic Woman" #4 was not bad, moving fast as the titular character stays on the run from a consortium that wants to use her for spa parts, even while running into someone from her "history." If you're over the moon for the property, sure, you'll love this, but for a less specific reader, this issue could use more meat on its narrative bones.

"Manhattan Projects" #6 kind of drags its feet, introducing another expatriate Nazi rocket scientist, this time serving Soviet masters (that's popular these days). Bouncing between the lines of the story's previous issues and historical record, it'll likely read well in the collection but lacks oomph standing alone.

"Captain America And Black Widow" #636 had the runner up for quote of the week ("Hawkeye, right? Didn't anyone tell you that the color of your uniform was out-of-date when 'Purple Rain' hit the bargain CD bin?") but otherwise was fairly meh despite solid and compelling visuals.

The quote of the week goes to "Incredible Hulk" #13, where Victor Von Doom said to his old Empire State University classmate Bruce Banner, "You've obviously never cut into another man's cranium with a chainsaw before. And you call yourself a doctor?" The issue was "meh" otherwise, but Jason Aaron has a good grasp on the character of Dr. Doom.

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

"Scarlet Spider" #9, "Batgirl" #0, "Fanboys vs. Zombies" #6, "Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E." #0, "Doctor Who Annual 2012," "Shade" #12, "New Avengers" #30, "Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom" #2, "Green Lantern Corps" #0, "X-Treme X-Men" #3, "The Activity" #8, "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" #2, "Haunt" #26, "Legion Lost" #0, "Hoax Hunters" #3, "Suicide Squad" #0, "It Girl and the Atomics" #2, "Team 7" #0, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9" #13.

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

Re: "Avengers Vs X-Men" #11: no. Tediously told, tiredly depicted, the "death" here has as much chance of being permanent as Marvel has of hiring a Black writer (now celebrating three years free of Black writing) and overall this overwrought crossover has worn out its less-than-warm welcome. Oh, and if you read "Uncanny X-Men" #18, you'll see how twisted, messed up and not cool events in this issue really are. And if Hope really did draw the Phoenix Force back to Earth (notice how everybody forgot her, and the devastation of K'un-Lun and Wakanda?), you do know that means Bishop was right, right?

In "Resurrection Man" #0, the secret origin of Mitch Shelley is revealed, and sweet spirit singing, is it stupid. The Body Doubles also get their origin revealed -- yay? -- and there's a new evil corporate styled entity doing dirt in New 52's fan fiction dreamland. Make it stop.

What the heck happened to "Avenging Spider-Man" #12? Putting Deadpool in a cheerleader outfit was probably the first sign that something had gone horribly, horribly wrong, but the mid game and involvement of the "best left forgotten" character on the last page made this one an exercise in futility.

This issue of "Memoir" #6 tried to encapsulate the efforts of previous issues in a bloody, monologue-filled mess. With shades of "The Sixth Sense," the supernatural elements try hard to establish atmosphere, but with characters that are tedious at best and visual storytelling that's pretty but sometimes not so clear, there was more confusion than clarity, and that ain't good.

In "Before Watchmen Comedian" #3, the "hero" gets dressed down by Bobby Kennedy for either exacerbating or quelling the 1965 riots in Watts and very seriously disrespecting the police chief the city eventually named police headquarters after. A bitter pill, this alternate fiction take on the world Moore and Gibbons made doesn't satisfy.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Less bad than good, so that's all right.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Despite two books costing eleven plus bucks, the week wins despite some really bad comics inflicting themselves upon us. Also, sorry about not saying more about Afro-Shazam last time, we'll try to get a blog going about that shortly.

THE BUSINESS

No time for much outside of DJing at the LA County Fair.

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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