The Buy Pile: Bringing Joker Back & A Telethon for Wakanda

Thu, October 11th, 2012 at 11:28am 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 OCTOBER 10, 2012

Dominique Leveau, Voodoo Child #7
(Vertigo/DC Comics)
The final installment of this literally magical series really does feel rushed, by comparison, to previous issues. The former languid, humid pacing has been replaced by a rush to conclusions, a flurry of action and some visual storytelling that made mastermind Denys Cowan seem like he needed to get a lot done in a small amount of space. The lyrical twists of language remain, the almost syrupy atmosphere from the pen of Selwyn Seyfu Hinds is intact, but the plot shows the problem of being cut off before the story is complete. Still interesting, but a tragic showing compared to what could have been.

Batman #13
(DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Ho. Lee. Crap. Finally, the Joker has returned to Gotham City, and wow, is he in rare form. Exhibiting the kind of criminal mastery that he's rarely shown since "Gotham Central," the Clown Prince of Crime is a veritable force of homicidal nature, slicing his way through Gotham's finest with a focus that's worth seeing. There are a few wonderful spoilers that could be revealed, but it's more horrifying to let this issue unfold on its own. The Joker himself ratchets up the suspense with quotes like this, screwing with Commissioner Gordon: "... yes, you do hide things. Like that last pack of smokes! The one you hide in your apartment ... in that final hiding spot where Barbara won't look ... where no one will. Under your bed,in the wire netting. Sometimes I lie under there at night and listen to you sleep. The sad things you say ...how I want to just reach my arms up and ..." With his maddening cackle, he's brought true fear back to Gotham, and it's good ... it's good ...

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

On the Joker alone, wow. Really, wow.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Archer And Armstrong" #3 was extraordinarily close to coming home with sparkling dialogue, fantastic fight scenes and a philosophical thesis that serves as an underpinning for the plot. The ending sucked a lot of the momentum from this globe-trotting adventure, but this series surely has something special going on.

"Fantastic Four" #611 is a great example of the hubris of Victor Von Doom. With his regular pomposity, he struggled with not just a world to himself but an entire universe, one where the Infinity Gems work together. "It was on the seventh day that Doom realized a mistake had been made. He had made a universe in his own image." However, despite the fact that this complicates Reed's relationship with his "brother" T'challa (who's still at war with Latveria), but the fizzling, anticlimactic ending and ponderous pacing stopped this one from being a winner.

Standing apart from the continuity-based stuff going on in some other "Executive Assistant" titles, "Executive Assistant Assassins" #4 introduces a new, swarthy femme fatale who serves a modern pirate captain in privateering through tropical waters. On the good side, the book is visually lush (Lori "Cross" Hanson takes a lot of credit there, but the coloring helps as well), has a good ability to create a new female protagonist and even has some good action. However, the pirate captain and his amorous first mate are bullet lists instead of characters (and brief ones at that), the actual situation needs to be fleshed out better and -- again -- why would a woman so lethal and so powerful sublimate her wishes and desires to anyone, much less someone she doesn't respect? Worth watching, though.

In "G.I. Joe" #18, there's a war going on all around the world ... and America's premiere counter terrorists are on the sidelines. Cobra's machinations have cut the strings on the Joes' budget, but they didn't count on the Arashikage ninja clan declaring war on the new regime, led by the re-ninja-fied Snake Eyes. The Joes are none too happy with their most dangerous operative going rogue, so they put a target on his head, too. Ignoring all that, Snake Eyes kills lots of people. Good action, fun, but not really popping in the plot or character arenas where it needed that "oomph."

There's nothing like a Megatron monologue, and "Transformers Regeneration One" #84 delivers in that regard. A different generation of Wreckers (a popular concept in multiple continuities) delivers solid strategic action but the plot meanders and stalls in spots, which keeps this car in the garage.

"Transformers Robots In Disguise" #10 was a big disappointment as Optimus P ... er, Orion Pax, running from his legacy and his job, stumbles into a centuries old time travel michegas in a plot so schizophrenic that it could qualify for haloperidol. The shady coloring and indistinct art didn't help, and if this is all the once and likely future Prime has to offer, perhaps he is ready to roll into retirement.

There was some pretty good teaming up in "Invincible Iron Man" #526 as Tony and a team of super villains take on the Mandarin and a whole lot more super villains and giant robots and what have you. Then two whole teams of Asian super heroes showed up (there's extremely sketchy documentation available about either one) and essentially were just fodder. A huge fight with no stakes, either visual nor personal, and the pivotal moments felt short. Ambitious, but fell short of what it needed to be.

Speaking of time travel, "Morning Glories" #22 gets downright biblical as it dovetailed into Judaeo-Christian myth, introducing an Old Testament location and pulling off a fun linguistic gag. More coherent than some previous issues, as "what's happening" finally starts to show through a little, but it will likely do considerably better collected than as a single.

"Creator Owned Heroes" #5 had some nice new surprises, including a wonderful new lead feature called "Killswitch," featuring a lethal and principled scoundrel playing the role of assassin who gets some surprises in the field. The creepy western short story, half of a two parter, was solid for fans of either genre, but the creator focused material seemed to cover familiar ground. Almost enough content to justify the price tag, but not quite.

Jay Faerber is back with "Point Of Impact" #1, a straightforward, solid crime procedural that has solid art, good action and an engrossing plot, but starvation thin characters that don't provide an emotional anchor for the reader.

You won't read "Betty smash!" in "Red She-Hulk" #58, but apparently she has a major beef with the idea of super soldiers. Bomb proof, flying, gravity altering super soldiers, who get their powers from somewhere you won't like either. The artwork from Carlo Pagulayan, Wellington Alves and Val Stapes is top notch, from action to close ups, but the story? Passable, at best.

Starting to step away from blather and rehashing the movie "Real Genius," "Think Tank" #3 puts several layers of science on the classic Kansas City Shuffle model, rushing through nuances like "chemistry between characters" or "developing motivations." Plot points are supreme, which isn't bad, as this "TV good" issue would be an easy choice if you were flipping channels.

Keeping your enemies closer in "Bloodshot" #4, this would be a textbook case of "balls-to-the-wall" action which builds up a new supporting character but doesn't do as much to advance a storyline. Just a hair skimpy on story meat.

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

"Star Wars Knight Errant Escape" #5, "Adventure Time Marceline And The Scream Queens" #4, "Batman And Robin" #13, "Fanboys Vs Zombies" #7, "Deathstroke" #13, "Damsels" #2, "Demon Knights" #13, "Dark Shadows" #8, "Suicide Squad" #13, "Dark Shadows/Vampirella" #3, "Team 7" #1, "Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files: Fool Moon" #8, "Captain America" #18, "Voltron Year One" #5, "Deadpool" #62, "Transfusion" #1, "Secret Avengers" #32, "Halloween Eve," "Secret Service" #4, "Hoax Hunters" #4, "Space Punisher" #4 ("Space Punisher wants VFW benefits!"), "MacGyver Fugitive Gauntlet" #1, "Wolverine And The X-Men" #18, "Anti" #2

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

"Green Lantern Corps" #13 introduced a brand new rank to the Corps (because, you know, why not?) while there's a chance a very important Lantern could come back from the dead, and ... hm, what else? Oh, right. The Guardians completely lose their isht. Like, in a way that's on some "Federation in 'Star Trek: Insurrection'" level stuff. It's bad. Like "Palpatine reading along and nodding appreciatively" bad. Then you bring in the Third Army, who look like they got kicked out of a Roger Corman film for being too ridiculous looking, and you get a comic that's just plain bad.

In "Avengers" #31, it's noted that there's gonna be a telethon for Wakanda after Namor's Phoenix-powered act of war. Oh, did you hear that? That was the sound of thousands of tables being flipped over by fans of African descent. Anyhoo, Wonder Man shows up and is strangely emo, like he's Gollum trying not to let the ringlust take over, too. This talky, weird issue kicked its legs and desperately tread water, but it's just plain lame.

For years we've been building up the legend of Apollo -- a Superman class extrahuman and singular-person weapon of mass destruction -- and Midnighter, a virtual god of melee combat. In "Grifter" #13, they both get Worf Effected in such an embarrassing, tedious way that it strains credulity. The less said about this, the better.

Speaking of overwhelming embarrassments (while getting back to Marvel's wonderful track record in regards to Black people -- going on thirty eight months free of Black writers!), "Avenging Spider-Man" #13 unleashed the Hypno-Hustler on an unsuspecting 616 universe, hyped up with tech from the Tinkerer and pulling Deadpool's strings. Okay, look ... this guy was created in 1978, when all kinds of normal people took all kinds of drugs to write all kinds of Black characters without knowing any actual Black people. The idea that this guy is still carrying on like a seventies caricature ... oy. A mark of shame on all of us that this was even published.

"Beyond Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan" #2 tries to play with the concept of Schroedinger's Cat in running parallel storylines, playing with American history and positing alternate ways things could have gone. Which is fine and dandy, except for the fact that Dr. Manhattan's own words from the original source material, every moment in time is essentially frozen and set, so this entire Elseworlds exercise is, in a word, stupid. No.

Speaking of "no," let's do these together. "AvX Consequences" #1 had so many wondrously awful elements, from Storm being a criminal in Wakanda to Captain America being dressed like he's in "Kickers, Inc." Cyclops does his best Anthony Hopkins impersonation, unrepentant and probably ready to be busted out or sent into a stupid crossover. Then when Wanda has the unmitigated gall to try to lay flowers at Chuck Xavier's grave when literally everything that happened is her fault ... did we mention she stood alongside Captain America and totally smokescreened Hope (imagine, if you would, Osama bin Laden fondling Taylor Swift on national television while telling a seven year old his daddy's at the store, moments after seeing the couple shoot him in the head)? Did we mention Thor prefers lattes? If you see the last page of "Uncanny" you'll know, for a fact, that the Mouse House of Ideas may be empty, at least some days. Abysmal, awful, terrible comics here.

Just when you thought it was safe, "Phantom Stranger" #1 has an ending that could again cause table flippers, especially for the Judaeo-Christian set who believes in things working out. Anyhoo, Stranger also does some pretty messed up stuff, betraying trust, lying and generally being a jackhole. The narrative is the opposite of satisfying, the artwork is dull ... there was no need for this to happen.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

It was really ugly out there, but there were fewer awful books than okay ones ...

WINNERS AND LOSERS

The sheer weight of awfulness dragged this week into being a tie, despite the jump and some okay reads.

THE BUSINESS

Hey! You over there! Reading this column! Go buy my novel! It's only five bucks, has 110,000 words and features a guy who gets super powers because a girl fell in love with him. Yeah, it's like that. Kindle, Nook, et cetera, et cetera.

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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