The Buy Pile: The Knights of the Clown Table

Thu, February 14th, 2013 at 11:28am 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 FEBRUARY 13, 2012

NOTE: Happy Black Love Day ... well, belated, by the time you read this it'll be St. Valentine's Day, which is a wholly different party. Anyway, there you have it ...

The Order of Dagonet #3
(Action Lab Entertainment)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Okay, again, you're gonna have to let the art go here. Jason Strutz is a very solid visual storyteller who has a great eye for layout and composition. However, the finishes and coloring are not what they need to be, and for some people that'll be distracting. Forget about all of that. Jeremy Whitley's writing wins the day: Merlin has summoned the best knights he could find -- Captain Ersatz versions of Elton John, Ozzy Osbourne, Ian McKellan and a Rule 63 J.K. Rowling to "save England" from a sudden manifestation of magical creatures all over the United Kingdom. Some of these magical creatures are cool with the knights -- a tribe of gay-friendly centaurs practically adopt the McKellen and John analogues. Others ... well, let's just say there are challenges here, and that's hilarious. The depiction of the people of the Welsh countryside alone is worth checking out, and there are lots of really entertaining elements here. Honestly, you can probably get used to the art after a while ...

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Already fun on multiple reads, so that's a good start.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
If you wanted to see a "Star Wars" comic, it would likely look like "Star Wars" #2. Beautifully depicting the low-rent nature of the Rebellion around the Battle of Yavin period, Leia is essentially recast as the lead, a combination of being an ace pilot and a super spy. That's not a bad thing, giving her a lot of weight to bear with character development, and she virtually crowds everybody else off of the panel. There's not a lot for the Empire to do, as some guy you've never heard of takes over a ship Vader used to run. This feels like the stuff that happens in between the stuff you wanna see.

Sweet spirit singing, "Charismagic The Death Princess" #2 is absolutely beautiful. Emilio Lopez (with coloring help from Jocelyn Dunn and Mirka Andolfo) is a simply stunning talent, and his work has elevated Vince Hernandez' writing -- look for the word "reveal" for a great bit of dialogue and writing married to the artwork. However, despite these great elements, the antagonist is not much more than a stereotype and that makes the stakes look a little skimpy. Amazing looking comic book, though.

"Pathfinder" #5 was the opposite -- the art was solid but unremarkable, while Jim Zub's writing made these fantasy elements (with a slightly similar gag for the antagonist) and some pretty cute goblin banter. The quickie characterization could have used a little more room to breathe, and sure, the coloring could have been more vivid, but it wasn't bad at all.

The world-weary narration in "Red Sonja Unchained" #1 was its best element, as a broken chain on her "armor" (and there's even a joke in there about that) doesn't stop her from the normal amounts of murder and treasure seeking. She seems bored of her existence, and that's a pleasant surprise. Playing against type works, but her activity being the same old thing did kind of spread the boredom around.

"America's Got Powers" #5 was a spectacle in fine form, with giant teenagers trashing San Francisco and lots of yelling and threatening and "are you sure ..." sort of tension. There wasn't any space for character in all the sturm und drang but it surely would get your attention if you were flipping through channels and found it.

"Creepy Comics" #11 was nostalgic fun in the tradition of the old EC Comics anthologies, short pieces of weirdness with a Crypt-Keeper styled narrator making cornball jokes and riffing between pieces. If you liked things like "The Outer Limits," well, this will do it for you.

"Bedlam" #4 was intense as cops slowly, painstakingly figured something out while illegally subjecting a suspect to enhanced interrogation by a super powered jerk. The so-called forces of good weren't exactly so "good" and the issue lacked its leads psychotic charm. Not bad, but not as good as previous issues.

The best line of "Manhattan Projects" #9? "Sure. Why not?" Positing an alternate history where one mysterious powerful cabal confronts another, there's a fun plot turn and some kooky lines, but the issue took a lot of things for granted that, if being read in a collected edition, might not have mattered. Here? Not quite strong enough for a single issue.

"Archer & Armstrong" #7 had a kind of detente for the sibling rivalry between two immortals, the hedonist and the warrior. The new Geomancer finds her way towards being competent and a tie to the rest of the shared universe is introduced in a smart, clever way. The only thing that stopped it from making it home was some pacing issues and antagonists who were simply dull.

"Walking Dead: The Governor Special" showed some of the hard choices necessary in this post-apocalyptic world in a wholly character focused piece. If you're a fan of the series, this will be a must-have, but without some knowledge about the situation and players it might not have as much impact.

Okay, "Uncanny X-Men" #1. So Scott Summers, the most uptight man this side of Ben Stein, is now a symbol of a rebellious counterculture. Also, Magneto and Scott have super powers that are running on fumes. Plus, by now, shouldn't law enforcement be considerably better prepared for this kind of thing? This would have been a farce until the last two pages, which snatched this issue from awfulness and brought it into acceptability.

The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Popeye" #10, "Fatale" #12, "Bloodshot" #8, "Morning Glories" #24, "Executive Assistant Assassins" #8, "Hoax Hunters" #7, "Mars Attacks" #7, "Bravest Warriors" #5, "Popeye" #10, "Ex Sanguine" #5, "Transformers: Regeneration One" #88, "Garfield" #10, "True Blood" #9, "Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris" #22, "Scarlet Spider" #14, "To Hell You Ride" #3, "Powers Bureau" #1, "Grace Randolph's Supurbia" #4, "Cable and X-Force" #4, "Bionic Man vs. Bionic Woman" #2, "Avengers Arena" #4, "Ghostbusters" #1, "Age of Apocalypse" #12, "Elephantmen" #46, "Planet of the Apes Special" #1, "Team 7" #5, "Evil Ernie" #4, "Suicide Squad" #17, "Walking Dead" #107, "Katana" #1, "Red Sonja" #73, "Demon Knights" #17, "End Times of Bram and Ben" #2, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9" #18, "Deathstroke" #17, "Cyber Force" #3, "Before Watchmen: The Comedian" #5, "Kevin Smith's The Bionic Man" #16, "Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files: Ghoul Goblin" #2, "Batman and Robin" #17, "High Ways" #2, "Batgirl" #17, "Clone" #4.

No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
Reed's finally, totally gone off the deep end in "Fantastic Four" #4, where he upper decks the prime directive and reveals that his love for Sue is, frankly, pretty much psychotic. Also, Ben seems to be suffering from clinical depression. This ... this is not entertainment.

Wow ... "Batman" #17 concludes the big return of the Joker and ... without spoiling the story ... it's terrible. Imagine you're lying in bed, rubbing up on the sexiest person you can imagine at the height of their looks, and just as things are getting super intense, you're magically teleported back to being in health class in junior high on the most boring possible day. Not good.

"Secret Avengers" #1 was catastrophically stupid. If you ignore the Nick Fury-related spoiler and just stick to the idea that SHIELD is borrowing multiple pages from the Weapon X Program and heroes like Hawkeye and Black Widow are volunteering for it ... with unreliable narration on the side, it's all just a freaking tragedy.

"Change" #3 bordered on being incomprehensible. There was some kind of attempt at a narrative thread with the musician getting angry about ... something, but it's super unclear and the art's bland and doesn't offer up much. Pretty bad.

"X-Treme X-Men" #10 is on a quest to kill multiple evil Chuck Xaviers in alternate worlds ... why exactly? That's not really clear. Also, they feel safe enough on a world with said evil Chuck (in this case, a literal Nazi) to chill out, swim and tell stories. The symphony of bad ideas screeches and grinds on for reasons that are hard to grasp, but at least its been cancelled.

In "Superboy" #17, the lead character spent most of the issue getting horribly beaten. That was kind of sad, as it literally happened between panels of stories that actually matter to the plot.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

There were some pretty bad books, but not so many, so it's workable.

Oh, and "Standard" #1 was sold out, for what it's worth.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

A solid jump still beats even this amount of crap.

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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