The Buy Pile: The Spy from Alderaan & The Purple Avenger

Thu, October 18th, 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 17, 2012

Hawkeye #3
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you a virtually flawless comic book. Really. This is the goods, kids. Using a similar narrative device as he used in an early issue of "Invincible Iron Man," writer Matt Fraction delivers a done-in-one issue that shows how badly things can go when the title character gets the idea to do some spring cleaning. This issue has it all -- whirlwind romance, high speed action, humorous banter and great artwork from David Aja and Matt Hollingsworth. Delightful, entrancing work.

Star Wars Agent of the Empire: Hard Targets #1
(Dark Horse Comics)
Oh, yes -- the Empire's version of James Bond is back in action, and this time he's bringing his act to his home world of Alderaan. That means some fun, fun guest stars for fans of the franchise, including Bail Organa, Princess Leia and even a quick visit from Boba Fett. There's bloodshed, deception and a new guy assuming the title of Count Dooku. As with many overarching power structures in popular fiction, the Empire is rife with corruption (the same kind of corruption that ultimately drove people to want to end the Republic) and Jahan Cross begins to question the rightness of his work for the first time. Not quite the tour de force of the previous series, but a solid start.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Damned solid entertainment at a fantastic price.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

If you liked Robert Heinlein's original "Starship Troopers," "After Earth" might be right up your alley. Humanity has found a refuge from a toxic homeworld in a new colony where adherents of science and religion have squared off once again, until a much more dangerous foe appears. The only problem comes when that dangerous foe is bland and nondescript, when the inspiring figure isn't old enough to drive (in a Wesley Crusher way) and the actual narrative doesn't do anything more interesting than you could have predicted. Not bad, but it needs an influx of innovation.

"Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow" #18 played like an excerpt from a game of chess played with bodies and billions of dollars. Cobra's determined to buy their way into legitimacy, and Storm Shadow's Arashikage ninja clan wants to swipe the treasure out from underneath the murderous new Cobra Commander's ambitions. Snake Eyes is a walking body count, slicing through Cobra's finest while being hunted by his G.I. Joe teammates. Add in two very duplicitous ninja masters plying plans within plans. Too slow paced to have hit all the right marks, but an interesting attempt.

Speaking of chess, "Catwoman" #13 posits a game with life-sized pieces placed all over Gotham, and the title character is contracted to swipe one in order to gain an advantage. She learns an unpleasant surprise about the game that she does not like, all while mourning. Interesting but didn't have enough of a hook outside of the charisma of the lead.

Done as a kind of triptych, "Green Hornet" #29 does its best to tell three stories at once -- one of the lead and Kato, a second with his son and the son of a criminal rival settling into a new school together, a third with a new mayor struggling to overcome a legacy of corruption. Writer Jai Nitz turns in a skillful performance, and the story of the children of would-be enemies finding common ground struck a lot of solid chords. However, the lead element had too many weird, awkward moments and the mayoral struggle just wasn't strong enough to stand with the others.

The solitary bright point in the trailer park storytelling of "Marvel Now Point One" #1 was seeing Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie work together on a "Young Avengers" story. Kid Loki is once again in rare form, while working on reinterpreting the acts of his older form. The rest? Meh. That "Young Avengers" stuff, however, that stuff looks good.

"Chew" #29 introduced all kinds of fun new "freak of the week" (month?) elements including a new take on being a cibopath, and this will one day be another hilarious episode of the Showtime series the option promises, but while being rather good, it's not great. Cute multi-agency team up.

If you liked the old Saturday morning cartoon, you'll likely enjoy "Dungeons and Dragons: Forgotten Realms" #4, which had a hapless pair of adventurers struggling under a curse with a prickly princess along for the ride. Magical creatures, whimsical concepts and death lurking around every corner. If the characters were a little better fleshed out, this would be a winner.

Sticking with the fantasy genre for a moment, there's a new Amethyst princess in "Sword of Sorcery" #1, snatched from earth at her most petulant teenaged point. The plot (and especially the vibrant artwork and coloring) is charming but the cursory characterization and lackluster action sequences submarined its chances. The back up story, focusing on a version of the Danish legend Beowulf, likewise had limp characterization and added to dull coloring. However, it had some continuity-minded elements that gave the story an extra level which made it stand out just a bit. Worth watching, but not ready for prime time just yet.

Despite a silly bit with the hammer, "Mighty Thor" #21 had Kid Loki once again use his gift of gab to trick much more powerful people into doing very interesting things that have no choice but to go wrong later on. Leah's moments with the young mischief god were the best moments as the "climax" with the villain Surtur was barely worth noticing.

"X-O Manowar" #6 had its title character facing off with the coldly competent Ninjak, screwing up an airplane and breaking out some innovative tech ideas while expanding the overall storyline about the armor's original owners. Makes for a slow paced but solid team up in a series that's worth watching, just not much more than that yet.

Papa was a rolling god in "Wonder Woman" #13 as other children of Zeus are discussed, and Diana needs one to help find her newborn half-brother. Meanwhile, Apollo holds a meeting of his own to discuss prophecy and look like a super powered version of a rich Fox night time soap opera. A little more meat on the bones of this story and it could have been a contender.

There are moments between siblings Illyana and Piotr Rasputin in "Uncanny X-Men" #20 that are worth seeing, delivering important changes for both characters. However, they were obscured by tedious gloating at Cyclops' cell that didn't even bother to work hard enough that you'd say it was treading water.

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

"Birds of Prey" #13, "Lone Ranger: Snake of Iron" #3, "Blue Beetle" #13, "Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt" #2, "DC Universe Presents" #13, "Prophecy" #4, "Green Lantern: New Guardians" #13, "Thun'da" #3, "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" #3, "Witchblade: Demon Reborn" #3, "Legion of Super-Heroes" #13, "The Cape: 1969" #4, "Nightwing" #13, "G.I. Joe A Real American Hero" #183, "Red Hood and the Outlaws" #13, "Godzilla: The Half-Century War" #3, "AvX Consequences" #2, "Womanthology: Space" #2, "Captain Marvel" #5, "The Activity" #9, "Dark Avengers" #182, "It Girl and the Atomics" #3, "New Avengers" #31, "Savage Dragon" #182, "Ultimate Comics Iron Man" #1, "Shinku" #5, "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #16, "The Walking Dead" #103, "X-Factor" #245, "Wulf" #6, "Michael Avon Oeming's The Victories" #3, "Before Watchmen: Minutemen" #4.

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

"Zaucer of Zilk" #1 was a "WTH?" winner, with a ... "storyline" seems charitable, but whatever happened here was a cloud of hallucinogenic hooey.

In "Justice League" #13, things got awkward after Wonder Woman and Superman's kiss, and then the Flash got a touch of Ryan Reynolds syndrome (where any character he was ever rumored to play starts cracking wise in his style). Oh, and the whole focus was hunting down the Cheetah, who looked like Tigra on a bender. These are not good things.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

The bad wasn't so bad, and even when things went wrong, they were mostly trying hard, so that's worth regarding.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Calling it a good week in that it was inexpensive and what actually came home was very entertaining.

Oh, last week we forgot to mention that "Evil Ernie" #1 should have gone in the "meh" pile. Sorry. Blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-al-co-hol.

THE BUSINESS

Hey! Listen up! 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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