The Buy Pile: "Saga's" Intersteller Capulets & The Joker's Revenge

Thu, November 15th, 2012 at 11:31am PST

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 NOVEMBER 14, 2012

Saga #7
(Image Comics)
This intricately developed, well-conceived world gets another set of surprises as his father Marko's parents show up, magic wielding horn headed in laws who don't exactly approve of love between species that have been at war for decades. There are narrative twists, a visual you won't soon be able to forget and lots of people yelling at each other, and it's all simply entrancing in being entertaining. Every panel builds another fantastic world, and it's all rich and engaging and fun, and Brian K. Vaughan's script is perfectly matched by the artwork of Fiona Staples. One of the best new series of 2012 keeps it up.

Batman #14
(DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Whoa. The Joker is back, which comes as no surprise to any regular comics reader, but his current work is so shocking, so ... intense! Literally every character is gripped with a terror that's practically tangible. Moreover, pulling a page from the Ozymandias handbook, he plays the role of chessmaster with alarming clarity, breaking down his problem with the Bat through some effective monologuing while roping the Penguin into his plans as part of a back up story. A very satisfying chunk of culture here, with Batman unprepared to deal with a Joker as well prepared as ... well, as Batman himself. Scott Snyder's grasp on the clown prince of crime's character is simply riveting, enjoying the influences of other works without becoming derivative, while the artwork from Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion and FCO Plascencia gives distinctiveness to the darkness that is Gotham City, from bloody surprises to the intimacy of a "talk." Fascinating redefinition of the character.

Think Tank #4
(Top Cow/Image Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
After running in place for a while, this series finally decided to show its genius credentials and really step up, allowing both the character of the main protagonist shine but also giving some really interesting plot points (again, chessmaster style). There's a plot twist that's simply delicious, several good chuckles and a charm that's impossible to resist. Writer Matt Hawkins delivers a charismatic, interesting script while Rahsan Ekedal's script perfectly captures the whimsicality of Dr. David Loren. Fun, fun stuff here and so fascinated to see what's next.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

In two words, "hell yeah."

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Great Pacific" #1 had the beginnings of a big idea, as a wastrel billionaire heir seems to be running the playboy act, but secretly has interests in biochemistry and environmental sciences. Playing its cards too close to the vest made the plot read a little dry, but like "Think Tank," this could be going somewhere.

"Archer and Armstrong" #4 had some fun moments (mostly around Armstrong, a quote generator along the lines of Greg Pak's Hercules -- "You said there was gonna be a big battle! I had to bulk up on carbs!") and good development of the Archer character but its plot was thinner than it needed to be and had a conclusion that fell flat. Still an interesting series, just not doing it this time around.

One could say similar things about "Extinction" #6, which felt like a lot of interesting ships passing in the night. The flashbacks didn't have clear transitions and left a lot of characters kind of just floating in the plot without grounded explanations. Red Reaper is a hoot whenever he talks, like a bad guy Dr. Nemesis.

In "Executive Assistant Assassins" #5, the newest lethal lady Sephora has some problems with labor relations and -- uncharacteristically for these femme fatales -- considers a life outside of the job. Why more of them don't go rogue is not clearly explained, but this good looking book follows a somewhat predictable path, which kept it from being better.

"Where Is Jake Ellis?" #1 has all the thrilling atmosphere and adrenaline pounding action of the first miniseries, and that's exactly part of the problem. After four outrageously enjoyable issues, the last mini series disappointed on such a grand scale that it's suspicious to get on a ride that seems so similar. Fun art (much like the last "Human Target" series) and suspenseful, but ... well, we'll see.

Cobra and their former allies shined in the field of international weapons dealing in "G.I. Joe A Real American Hero" #184, but the Joe team are not even players in the game, sitting on the bench and looking for a chance to get on the field. Like a pair of pants that don't fit right, it may have been the right color and the right style, but it just wasn't right.

There was no face to the threat in "Thor the God of Thunder" #1, which cast the Odinson as a drunken adventurous frat boy enjoying the spoils of heroism on a galactic scale. That lack of a clear threat made the stakes less than engaging, which took this issue out of contention, but Jason Aaron has an interesting take on the title character.

Looking at the shades of moral flexibility in a postapocalyptic world, "Massive" #6 finds the crew looking at a possibly deserted British tanker full of supplies they could use. Getting these goods makes for some ... perhaps morally dubious decisions that lead to some good character moments. If you flipped through channels and found this, you'd watch, but for the price, it's not quite effective enough.

Plans within plans within plans for "Demon Knights" #14, as many, many parties decide to match wits with the Prince of Lies in a cross dimensional caper that confounds even those involved in its inception. Not bad, again, but needing more focus on character to get the balance right.

One could almost speak of "Locke and Key: Omega" #1 & "Star Trek The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation 2" #7 in the same breath. Again, a few moments of eyebrow raising interest in each muddled along in plots that meandered. The first title had a "WB Big Sunday" feel to it while the latter tried to capture Matt Smith's charm on paper with mixed results.

If you like the idea of Tarzan as an exasperated adventurer fighting crime in 19th century Paris, "Lord of the Jungle" #9 would be right up your alley. What? There's not many people trafficking that alley? Well, in any case, the alleged lord of the jungle plays the scoundrel card while using enhanced senses and brute force to enforce a more brutish brand of justice. A slice above "meh."

While not keeping up with the rest of the Joker-related stuff, "Batgirl" #14 mixed the streams with Barbara's family challenges playing things for sheer creepiness instead of thrilling plot elements like Snyder. If you like creepiness, go for that, then.

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

"Batman and Robin" #14, "Amazing Spider-Man" #697, "Fanboys vs. Zombies" #8, "Damsels" #3, "Deathstroke" #14, "Evil Ernie" #2, "Red Sonja" #71, "Vampirella: The Red Room" #4, "New Avengers" #33, "Witchblade: Demon Reborn" #4, "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" #4, "Fantastic Four" #1, "Borderlands Origins" #1,"Team 7" #2, "Star Wars Lost Tribe of the Sith: Spiral" #4, "Red She-Hulk" #59, "Thief of Thieves" #10, "Chasing The Dead" #1, "Ravagers" #6, "Elephantmen" #44, "Hack Slash" #20, "X-Treme Legacy" #1, "Hoax Hunters #5, "Legion Lost" #14, "Point of Impact" #2, "Bloodshot" #5, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9" #15, "Green Lantern Corps" #14, "Gambit" #5, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Wonderland" #5.

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

In "The Continuing Adventures of Judas Iscariot" ... er, "Phantom Stranger" #2, the title character watches his son's baseball game and has a nice day with his family. Seriously. That's most of what happens. Sure, he gets yelled at by Pandora on the spectral plane and has a weird chat with Raven's brother while his family is none the wiser, but basically the biggest betrayer of biblical lore is living a happy suburban life ... where are the religious fundamentalists when you need 'em, eh? Abysmally boring, ham-handedly handled, overall irksome.

Henry McCoy does something so stupid in "All-New X-Men" #1 that you might have to boggle at the sheer desperation of it. Everybody's wringing their hands over Scott Summers, mutant vigilante, murder fugitive and pal to Magneto (suddenly the Scottie Pippen of the team). Really. In a day and age where the Guardians of the Universe can order a hit, you know, why not? Oh, and Scott's recruiting. Make this stop!

"Suicide Squad" #14 is the least awful of the bad comics, patched together from pieces of other comics. There's maybe 1/3 of an actual Suicide Squad comic here, the rest being a piece of a previous "Batman" issue and the latter from, oh, probably an issue of "Detective." It may be possible to make a comic from pieces, but it doesn't seem possible to make a good one.

Perhaps buoyed by the "success" of the 1950s Avengers, "First X-Men" #4 posits Wolverine (who wasn't in enough comics) running a team with Sabertooth as a nascent hero (no) and generally doing a lot of talking and blah blah. Really, no.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Less awful than tolerable. That's not bad.

Also, there was no order for "Joan of Arc: From The Ashes" #1, so, take that as you will.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two amazing, amazing reads and things didn't go that badly ... let's say that things went well.

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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