The Buy Pile: Of Batmen and Beauties

Thu, October 4th, 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 OCTOBER 3, 2012

Detective Comics #13
(DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
The Penguin has had just about enough of the crap people have been shoving at him. "People fear the Penguin. People respect the Penguin. People obey the Penguin. But is there anybody out there who loves the Penguin?" He's hell-bent on getting his mother's name on a community center, but unfortunately that foppish, spoiled brat Bruce Wayne's all set to donate and get his mother's name on the same community center. When you're a criminal, that's not a hard equation to solve -- Bruce Wayne has to die, and that means bringing in The Ghost Dragons, well-trained assassins from China, as well as keeping the Batman so busy that he couldn't possibly stop the murder. While all of this may sound like a basic day in Gotham City, writer John Layman depicts it with such balance and deftness that it seems like he's been living in Wayne Manor his whole life. From the engaging lead story to a plot-revealing backup (which succeeds at that "having crooks have a casual conversation" thing Bendis tries to do but rarely works), this issue is simply stellar at letting Batman be Batman. A fantastic surprise with great artwork by Jason Fabok, Jeromy Cox, Andy Clarke and Blond.

Fairest #8
(Vertigo/DC Comics)
Rapunzel takes center stage as elements of her past come back to haunt her through a magical attack (a wonderfully visual one, worth seeing), one originating in Japan. Just in case you needed more to draw you in, rakish scoundrel Jack of Fables starts off swindling a stylish group of criminals. Fans of "Fables" will see a lot of familiar faces and the issue smartly reintroduces everyone while delivering a plot that draws you in with a sheen of magical realism that's pitch perfect. Intriguing, slightly creepy work and fun stuff from Lauren Beukes, Inaki Miranda and Eva de la Cruz.

Legends of the Dark Knight #1
(DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
This issue's a trio of short, smart stories that again excel in focusing Batman on areas where he's able to excel. In the first of three, Batman loses an ideological argument. In the second, Batman fights Amazo by himself. In the last, he practices a bit of preventive therapy on Gotham's crime problem. In each one, a different creative team (some heavy hitters, including "Lost's" Damon Lindelof, art stars J.G. Jones and Nicola Scott) shows up big time, delivering self-enclosed, entertaining stories about the Bat. Solid stuff, well told and entertaining as heck.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Outstanding work all around.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Amazing Spider-Man" #695 was a little mixed up in terms of narrative, as the new Hobgoblin falls into the sights of the old Hobgoblin in a kind of villain-off. In the process, Peter's spidey sense goes bananas, Madame Web worries about her daughter and with a little better balance, this issue might have gotten it done. As is, it missed the mark.

"Doctor Who" #1 took a fairly interesting trip to London in 1851, where he whimsically tumbled into a rather interesting set of circumstances involving the voices of angels and impossible machinery. It was a cute issue, but it left too many plates spinning to fully engage the reader (unless they're hardcore Whovians).

"Action Comics" #13 told a surprisingly emotional tale about a boy and his dog, introducing the New 52 Phantom Zone and bringing out a little bit of Krypton from its horrible maw. It plodded a bit in its central plot and honestly the backup story worked more effectively than the lead, but it had its charms nonetheless.

In a similar fashion, "Bloodstrike" #31 played the "super soldier displaced in time" card as the team leader decided to get some time on the ground and a better understanding of the modern era. As with most understandings, this led to lots of punching and kicking people in the face. Not a bad little team book, but despite making the characters kind of stand up, it felt a little empty in its core.

Speaking of dysfunctional teams, "Stormwatch" #13 tried to send Midnighter and Apollo on a date, but instead led them to find a London neighborhood driven criminally insane by a sleeping demon underneath their streets. Needed some pep in its plotting, but if it was on TV, you'd likely let it play.

If you like noir and superheroes, you'll love "Daredevil: End of Days" #1, which posited the aftermath of Matt Murdock having a very public, in-costume death. Phil Urich is left to tell the story -- or not tell the story, as the case may be -- and struggle with the complexities of the very challenged double life in question. Its Rosebud element was a little underwritten, let alone looking at the communal response that Bullseye killing Daredevil in broad daylight on a Hell's Kitchen street would require, but it had some solid elements to consider.

The common theme of father issues gave "Hack Slash" #18 its narrative bite with many people going to extremes in order to gain something like the approval of a lost relative. The plot maybe swung around one or two times more than it needed to, and never closed the loop on some of its creepier elements, but was another case of being "TV good."

Sidekicks were the best part of "Love and Capes: What To Expect" #3, which had the Batman analogue Nightblade training "interns" to give him more time with his girlfriend Amazonia (sort of a Wonder Woman take off). The central storyline about the impending birth of a child for a Superman analogue and his bookstore owning wife ... less interesting, admittedly. Another one that'd work if you were channel flipping.

Now, "Non-Humans" #1 had an interesting premise. "Plastic Americans" are somehow given sentience by some kind of disease that mostly affects teenagers, allowing their imaginations to bring toys, mannequins and other inanimate human form creations to life. The execution, however, left paper thin characters (including the jerk cop protagonist) and art from Whilce Portacio that was ill-suited for this situation. Worth following, though.

"Thief of Thieves" #9 flipped the concept of the sins of the father as the George Clooney-esque lead has consequences from his son being a monumental screw up. The story was a little too slow and a little too predictable, the supporting characters a little too unidimensional, but the still retained the charm of its protagonist, at least.

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

"Batwing" #13, "Age of Apocalypse" #8, "Garfield" #6, "Before Watchmen: Rorschach" #2, "Avengers Academy" #38, "Hypernaturals" #4, "Earth 2" #5, "Defenders" #11, "Harvest" #3, "Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm" #2, "Minimum Carnage Alpha" #1, "G.I. Combat" #5, "The Crow" #4, "Uncanny X-Force" #32, "Green Arrow" #13, "Danger Club" #4, "Smallville Season 11" #6, "Fatale" #8, "World's Finest" #5, "Guarding The Globe" #2, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Bad Girls" #3, "Bionic Woman" #5.

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

Let's get this out of the way in one fell swoop. "Avengers vs. X-Men" #12, "AvX Vs" #6, "Uncanny X-Men" #19 ... all universally, remarkably, almost appallingly terrible. Its alleged conclusion was telegraphed from very early on in the first of these three issues, while walking into its solicited requirements tediously. Then, the "Versus" issue was pretty much mostly filler, which surely was not entertaining. Finally, looking at "Uncanny," which was a huge misstep as Scott Summers tried to play Dr. Manhattan with his Phoenix power, drifting between moments and playing fast and loose with time. Terrible, terrible work here.

"Green Lantern" #13 had the newly-minted ring bearer running from law enforcement and getting threatened by super powered people. The issue was limp, but of course compared with the "AvX" lunacy, it's almost like James Joyce wrote this piece.

"Black Kiss 2" #3 ... really? No. With the transvestites? The slurs? There was just no need for all of this.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Nothing too much to complain about, here.

Oh, and there was no order for "Order of Dagonet" #1, "White Clay," "Galaxy Man" or "CrossStar" #3. Take that as you will.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two jumps and only a handful of really terrible books (even being as terrible as those were) makes the week a winner.

THE BUSINESS

Last week, we announced the relaunch of this columnist's debut novel with an inaugural sale of all 110,000 words for just two dollars. Well, some logistical challenges kept the book from making it to Amazon and Barnes & Noble, so just for you we're extending the sale until Sunday! After that, the book will go to its regular price of five dollars, but for now, you can get a full length novel plus five never-before-seen bonus chapters for less than an average comic book. What are you waiting for? Go buy the book on Gumroad, Smashwords, Amazon or Barnes & Noble NOW!!!

In the mean time, have you 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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