The Buy Pile: Oktober's Very Own Once and Future Loki

Thu, October 25th, 2012 at 11:29am 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 24, 2012

Fables #122
(Vertigo/DC Comics)
Once upon a time, Bigby Wolf was more monster than man, with "lofty goals" left unaccomplished. "Standard stuff, really. Hunt and kill my father. Maybe devour him too, but I wasn't quite decided on that. Eating your own dad could get weird." When he meets a magical creature who tells him his fate (from a certain point of view) things get interesting. There's a macabre back up tale set in Oz and a preview of Bigby in a historical setting. A solid chunk of entertainment that satisfies in its main course and brings it with dessert, all courtesy of the Eisner-winning Bill Willingham, who has the brilliant Gene Ha and colorist Art Lyon stepping in on art.

Cobra #18
(IDW Publishing)
Jump from the Read Pile.
This issue introduces Russia's answer to the G.I. Joe team, the relentlessly violent Oktober Guard. A female sniper called Daina, a gatling gun wielding bruiser named Horrorshow, a knife wielding masked man going by Gorky and an old school nationalist colonel with memories and dreams of empire. That's great ... until there's a lengthy biographical interlude explaining Ronin's origins, which was kind of a weird tonal shift, before it ties back into Flint's little covert operation and a very entertaining conversation at his conference table. The Ronin connection ties in later on, but it was a digression that took away from the 2/3 of the comic that were awesome. Not bad, but the narrative needed a shade more editing. Still worth the jump, as it was more entertaining to re-educate through superior firepower than virtually anything else on the Read Pile this week.

Journey Into Mystery #645
(Marvel Comics)
Oh ... oh my. Oh Loki. The prepubescent trickster comes face to face with his ancient forebear, the adopted god who sewed the seeds of Asgard's fall, and they match wits in a struggle that spans worlds. Along the way it's heartbreaking, it's contracted and it ties up literally every last loose end of Kieron Gillen's masterpiece run with this series. Simply magnificent, dealing with Mephisto and Hela and the Disir and Leah and everything -- and while it's an overwhelming tragedy to see it go, wow, what a fitting (HUGE SPOILER ALERT) send off to this title. Some of the most remarkable, emotional, effective work in comics today, and gratitude would be apropos for such a run.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Even the slight misstep is engaging. Wonderful, wonderful week of comics already.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

Increasing the number of super powered people in a world by 100% can be a little complex when it means there's only two guys, and "Hero Worship" #4 cover s a lot of ground, from disillusionment with heroism to politics and media manipulation. However, none of the characters are well developed enough or compelling enough to engage the reader despite some effective plotting.

The Black Ant settles into decisions to be immortal and immoral in "Secret Avengers" #33, which also features "Emperor Doombot!" (best to move on from that) and a plan worthy of The Borg or Skynet. Not bad, but it kind of muddled along plot wise.

Speaking of the Borg, everybody's favorite imperialist cybernetic collective comes hat in hand to the erstwhile Locutus in "Star Trek The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation2" #6, proving they could benefit from sensitivity training and finding OS incompatibilities with the Cybermen. There was a lot of exposition and good character moments for the Doctor and Picard, but lots of the rest of the people just stood around, and they dragged down what was happening.

Despite the name on the cover of "Batman Incorporated" #4, the newest member of "Batman's front line" isn't here to help you get laid, but they will put a foot in the faces of thirty deadly assassins and a flight of mutant assassin Man-Bats (Men-Bat? What's the syntax on that?). However, the lip-quivering conclusion was a very limp conclusion and that took away from the badassery and feet in faces.

"Extermination" #5 had a few surprises up its sleeve as it detailed numerous romantic challenges with the mask and spandex set, leaving its Batman analogue flummoxed. Not bad but this issue felt like it happened way too quickly, needing more story meat.

"FF" #23 was an emotional whirlwind as future versions of Valeria and Franklin Richards have to leave the present behind. Drinks with Johnny and Ben, insane adventures in a closet that might not be there (no "Wilfred" references, please), teaching classes and having the kinds of conversations that, really, we should all be having more frequently. Would it kill you to call your parents? Anyway, the attempted Nextwave collage didn't work as well as it could have (a hard trick to pull) and that ate up a lotta panel space, while things dragged on when it needed to be zippy. Interesting though.

"Bravest Warriors" #1 was very, very cute, an all-ages book that has a great balance of characters, a simply endearing dynamic between them and a narrative structure that guides you along with whimsy and fun. If you're looking for something for kids that's fun and largely harmless while having a great application of craft, this would be it.

There were some very interesting elements of "Dark Horse Presents" #17 -- the last installment of "Concrete Park" for example, is very compelling ... for what you get of it. The cost to enjoyment ratio here is simply too off, with eight bucks being far too high for the number of enjoyable pages and panels you get. Is the digital version the same cost? Someone should check that out ... [Ed: The latest issue is always cover price, but a month later it drops to $3.99]

If there's one lesson you can get from "Ultimate Comics The Ultimates" #17, it's that Asgard is the source of far too many horrors. Thor's son has found a wonderful little surprise from Project Pegasus and is shlepping his way through the Disunited States recruiting cannon fodder and planning to take over. Cap chafes at his presidential prerogatives and things could easily go better, but again the plotting here drags its feet.

"Adventure Time" #9 was much more coherent than previous issues even with a time travel plot thrown in, changing bodies and all kinds of hilarity. The writing was snappier and brought this fan favorite property some much-needed coherence. Another fantastic all-ages comic for kids to enjoy.

The best bit of dialogue from "Incredible Hulk" #15 is "It appears my hunchback assistant has found love with a floating robot killer brain." "I've seen stranger things these last few weeks." The action scenes were weak, the plot less than compelling, but that bit was funny.

"Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity" #1 had some good lines too ("I love the taste of drama, and its oaky nutty bouquet"), a fantasy-themed tale set in a world of bovine shopkeepers and a quest for an "impossible city" through a delightfully whimsical landscape. Interesting work that's got some of the innovations of "Shaolin Cowboy" while using some of the aesthetics of "King City." A good start that's worth watching to see how crazy they can get.

The great Robot/Monster Girl story comes to a big crescendo in "Invincible" #96, which -- in Kirkmanesque fashion -- shows a sequence of events that aren't exactly a plot. Cute moments, especially the arguable title character's frustration and reactions, but that doesn't make it a story.

The Avengers have had it up to here with Frank Castle in "Punisher War Zone" #1, on the run after his failed protege caused much more collateral damage than he normally allows. This leads to some awkward conversations and some moralizing, but not much really happening. An interesting start, as the struggle between his mission and the challenges of being hunted will make for interesting story grist ... in some future issue.

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

"Flash" #13, "Amazing Spider-Man" #696, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike" #3, "AvX Consequences" #3, "Clive Barker's Hellraiser" #19, "Captain America" #19, "Ghost" #1, "Deadpool" #63, "Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man" #13, "Lord of the Jungle" #8, "Gambit" #4, "Marcus Nispel's Chosen" #1, "Justice League Dark" #13, "Red Sonja" #70, "Red Lanterns" #13, "Warriors of Mars" #5, "Savage Hawkman" #13, "Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time" #30, "Talon" #1, "Alan Robert's Killology" #1, "Teen Titans" #13, "Battle Beasts" #4, "Artifacts" #22, "KISS" #5, "Let's Play God" #1, "Hack Slash" #19, "Batman The Dark Knight" #13, "Prophet" #30, "Revival" #4, "Ghostbusters 100-Page Spooktacular."

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

"Debris" #4 was just barely bad, as its anticlimactic conclusion and non-answer answers sort of skidded to a stop without ever actually settling anything.

"Superman" #13 showed many, many bad decisions, primary among them being the highly publicized career change (somebody's been watching "The Newsroom") and an ending that's similar to elements before the Earth/New Krypton War, it also compressed the time line a lot by positing a whole lotta stuff in between now and whenever he first appeared ("the talking sun of Alktos Prime," "the cosmic archipelago" and so on), so, even despite some silver age flourishes, it kind of didn't make any sense.

"Invincible Iron Man" #527 was a big disappointment after so much development and so many high points, as Tony kind of punked out. It was weird to see that the artist hasn't switched visual reference from Terence Howard to Don Cheadle, and he implied that there was a Stark-powered human centipede possible. Things fell down on the job here, and it was not effective.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Not so bad.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

The strength of Loki's intensity, the skill shown in every panel of "Fables" and things in the read pile not being so bad make for a winning week of comics.

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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