The Buy Pile: Bad Guy Batman, Aliens, a Geomancer and a Hulk

Thu, January 17th, 2013 at 10:28am PST

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 JANUARY 16, 2013

Archer and Armstrong #6
(Valiant Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
In a wonderfully balanced issue, the two title characters continue running from the bloodthirsty Eternal Warrior while a new character is introduced. It's not easy introducing someone new and getting the reader to feel something about their fate in such a short space, but mission accomplished here. The beautiful artwork from Emanuela Lupacchino, Guillermo Ortego and Mat Milla wonderfully depicts a wide variety of environments, from corporate offices to ocean front battle scenes, all courtesy of an engaging and entertaining script from Fred Van Lente.

The Indestructible Hulk #2
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
In addition to providing the week's best quote ("How has this profession become so debased? What you call espionage we used to call failure."), a crop of scientific prodigies are chomping at the bit for a chance to work with Bruce Banner on his non-green days and AIM's been reading the work of Brandon Thomas. Another brilliantly balanced script barely even needs to bring the Strongest One There Is, and when he shows up, it's simply perfect. Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan and Sunny Gho make a solid art showing here while another masterful script from master of craft Mark Waid covers all the bases. A great look at the new direction for Marvel's most enduring monster.

Extermination #8
(Boom! Studios)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Whoa! The Captain Ersatz version of Batman is not a nice person, and all his chickens come home to roost as he frees the Captain Ersatz Superman from alien imprisonment ... and it's not exactly the triumphant reunion some might expect. Plot twists and fantastic turns of phrase on almost every page, (when "Hi" hits, it's a-maz-ing, as a part of a lot of simply delicious monologuing) turned a fairly basic alternate character story into a deconstruction of the value of superheroics. A huge surprise with great, great dialogue.

Saga #9
(Image Comics)
The ex-fiancee of one of the series' protagonists teams up with "freelancer" (mercenary/bounty hunter) The Will for a series of misadventures and murders on exotic worlds. With each issue, "Saga" expands the fictional universe a little more, while developing character and moving the plot towards catching up with the narrator (shades of How I Met Your Mother) in some of the most fun and intriguing ways possible. Kudos to Brian K. Vaughan's script and artwork from Fiona Staples for another wonderful visit to a new, wondrous place.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Yes! This is why we read freaking comics, people, way to go!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

There were a lot of interesting ideas in "Dark Horse Presents" #19, including a great start to "Journeymen" by Geoffrey Thorne and Tony Harris, a great Carla Speed McNeil installment of "Finder," what looks like a noirish superhero bit from Duane Swierczynski, Eric Nguyen and Michelle Madsen and a quirky alien piece from Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse and more. However, each one was like a movie trailer -- enough to entice but not quite enough to satisfy. Even with so many good ideas, eight dollars is a hard slope to climb in this economy.

"G.I. Joe" #21 was very, very close, as General Hawk wasn't quite as "retired" as some might believe, standing up to a Cobra covert extraction team determined to crack into all the juicy military secrets inside his head. This means lots of shooting and running and shenanigans. However, the story -- while cute -- was peripheral, as it did nothing to advance any plot. Diverting, but not quite crucial.

If you like the game "Arkham City," you'll likely find "Batman" #16 interesting as the Bat goes by himself (ignoring the fact that he's a billionaire who could have blanketed the whole asylum with knock out gas and calmly walked in to arrest or punch anybody he feels like) into the maw of the Joker's deadly machinations. A touch too predictable to get the job done.

"Captain Marvel" #9 was an interesting dichotomy. On one hand, this was the finest issue of the entire run from a writing perspective, adding great action concepts (including a fight with two dinosaurs) alongside great character work with a number of characters. On the other hand, the artwork in this issue was, in a word, ugly. Alarmingly, scarily, insultingly ugly, so much so that it detracted from the quality of the book. How could such a situation have happened? Who can say?

Writer Arvid Nelson takes readers on a trip down history's meaner corridors in "Lord of the Jungle" #11 as Belgian traders murderously chop their way through African jungles in search of rubber trees, with mostly the erstwhile Lord Graystoke standing in their way. A solid adventure yarn that doesn't flinch from historical facts even as its core plot reads as being a little dry.

"Creator Owned Comics" #8 had two great features on the Hernandez brothers and Scott Lee O'Malley, plus a weird and wonderful finale for the "Killswitch" story and an end to the detective story that took a turn for the odd. However -- as with Dark Horse's anthology -- each piece didn't make the whole stronger, and the sum wasn't quite enough to justify the sticker price.

"Transformers Spotlight: Thundercracker" had some nice appearances by a number of fan favorites -- Bumblebee, Bludgeon, Jetfire and a rarely seen quartet of Insecticons and one very significant guest star. However, its core struggle -- that of its titular Seeker not fully believing in his mission -- never really gets explained properly. That flaw lets the entire issue down.

If "Chasing The Dead" #3 was playing late at night, out in the old "high number" channels of analog TV days, it'd be a nice horror movie styled thrill with its witches and possession and bloodshed. Actually paying for it ... that might be a stretch. Not bad, though.

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

"All-New X-Men" #6, "Batman and Robin" #16, "Elephantmen" #45, "X-Factor" #250, "Executive Assistant Assassins" #7, "Savage Wolverine" #1, "Freelancers" #3, "Superboy" #16, "Hoax Hunters" #6, "Bionic Man vs. The Bionic Woman" #1, "Green Hornet: Year One Special" #1, "Deathstroke" #16, "Li'l Depressed Boy" #15,"Kevin Smith's The Bionic Man" #15, "Pathfinder" #4, "Demon Knights" #16, "Todd The Ugliest Kid On Earth" #1, "Punisher: Nightmare" #3, "Legion Lost" #16, "Bloodshot" #7, "Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt" #5, "Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris" #21, "Grifter" #16, "The Crow: Skinning The Wolves" #2, "Insurgent" #1, "High Ways" #1, "Ultimate Comics Iron Man" #4, "Magic The Gathering: Path of Vengeance" #2, "Team 7" #4, "Mars Attacks The Real Ghostbusters," "Dark Avengers" #185, "Comeback" #3, "Batgirl" #16, "Venom" #30

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

"New Avengers" #2 seems to have never read entries at Marvel.com as Captain America posits what he feels is a simple solution to a problem so big that it seems like Harbinger and the Monitor are gonna pop up and ask where Alexander Luthor and Pariah are. The tension between T'challa and Namor was both forced and illogical (despite being kind of funny), the entire issue was an exercise in chatterbox comics and all-around this issue was not what it needed to be.

"Caligula: Heart of Rome" #2 took the weird, unusual elements that the first miniseries wielded with deftness and made them clumsy and incoherent. Sad.

The pitch meeting must have been so wild. "Imagine, if you will, Schwartzenegger's movie 'The Running Man' ... in space! But with a Green Lantern in the Arnold role!" That's basically "Threshold Presents: The Hunted" #1, which was so derivative it even used an actual quote from another Schwartzenegger movie. Also, the GL in question is not exactly a marquis name. Why, exactly, did this have to happen?

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

More "meh" than anything else, and two of the stinkers were more baffling than insulting, so let's say "not bad" at the end of it.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

A big number of jumps, nothing so bad that it leaves a bad taste in the mouth ... that's a week worth appreciating.

THE BUSINESS

As of right now, you can spend ten bucks and get about 175,000 of fiction from the writer of this column. The links that follow tell you where you can get "The Crown: Ascension" and "Faraway," five bucks a piece. Love these reviews? It'd be great if you picked up a copy. Hate these reviews? Find out what this guy thinks is so freakin' great. There's free sample chapters too, and all proceeds to towards the care and maintenance of his kids ... oh, and to buy comic books, of course. What are you waiting for? Go buy a freakin' book already!

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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