The Buy Pile: "Saga," "Standard" and "Princeless" Win The Day

Thu, April 11th, 2013 at 10:45am PDT

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 APRIL 10, 2013

The Standard #2
(ComixTribe)
Jump from the Read Pile.
John Lees has created a superb story showing what happens not just behind, but after the mask. The retired hero formerly known as the Standard grapples with the loss of a man he raised as a son, unresolved business doomed to never be settled, all while children are going missing and the needs of heroism don't change. Between six shades of emotional turmoil, the struggle with things left unsaid, oh and lots of flying and punching and wonderful wordplay, this issue's remarkably well crafted. Able artwork from Jonathan Rector, vibrant colors from Gulliver Vianei and Mike Gagnon, all around wonderful work and a pleasant indie surprise.

Saga #12
(Image Comics)
Many people have spoken about the ... not-safe-for-work imagery that begins this issue. Forget about it. It's irrelevant, a quick indicator that Prince Robot the Fourth is on the fritz after taking battle damage. The scene, frankly, is a throwaway as the main bit of the plot takes place from a phone call and a personal interview, with a last page that's eyebrow raising and surely would encourage people to return. Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples have delivered another wonderful chapter in this sprawling, riveting tale.

Princeless Volume 2 #1
(Action Lab Entertainment)
Jump from the Read Pile.
The award-winning title is back with a continuation of its story of a princess who strains against the limitations of what her title means, running off with her dragon protector and seeking adventure. Her mother seems aloof (but secretive) while her father blusters, hiring a set of sellswords who'd fit in at Medieval Times or on the deck of the ISD Avenger. Founded in all-ages charm and not the murderous glee of works like "Game of Thrones" (while the lead might find Arya a kindred spirit), this engages adult readers while enthralling younger ones as well. A treat and a treasure.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Three stellar tales from creative teams outside the mainstream? How about that?

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Hawkeye" #9 was pretty good, very focused on the personal relationships in Clint Barton's life and some perhaps stupid decisions he's made. It's more history than story, with a weird aside (if you were a Russian mobster who left two guys with guns outside a brownstone, then had those guys get beaten up by a girl, why would you just send two more guys to get beaten up by a different girl?) and limited panel time for the main attraction. Snappy writing, stylish artwork, but a little more sizzle than steak.

Likewise, there are a lot of really good things about "The Shadow" #11, which featured a diptych scene between two different physical locations with conversations that interlock deftly. It's a riveting sequence, and both advances the plot while being wonderful characterization. Unfortunately, it is preceded by a fairly rote battle scene that eats up a good number of pages and doesn't reinforce the storyline. Interesting, stylish effort, though.

"Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates" #23 had Ultimate Cap stuck in the tedium of actually running a country, which distracts him when somebody borrows a page from the Book of Hunter in performing a Kansas City Shuffle flavored with murder. Not bad, but the antagonist really needed more distinctive characteristics to sell this.

Sophomoric, verbose humor is the name of the game in "Aliens Vs. Parker" #2, with simple characters and lots of banter (Bendis would be proud) set in a sci-fi setting themed like Ridley Scott was involved. Nowhere near enough actually happening, and some of the characters are largely interchangeable, but it wasn't bad.

Speaking of juvenile minds (and bodies this time), "Shrugged Volume 2" #2 couldn't pick a story to tell. On one side, it had a fairly normal teen dramedy with the supernatural overlay of Ange and Dev whispering in the protagonist's ear. On the other side, a civil war in the land of shoulder angels and devils brews over a misunderstanding. Both had the possibility of being interesting, but neither had the room.

"Avengers Assemble" #14AU was an all-in character piece for the Black Widow, Natasha Romanov, approached like some of the "Front Line" series seen previously. As an endless and unexplained wave of golden Ultrons takes down New York City like holiday lights in March, she reels at her sense of helplessness and guilt, watching innocent bystanders and friends alike die. If you miss this issue, you won't lose anything related to the crossover's plot, but this fairly throwaway issue did have some relatable character moments with the Widow.

"Archer and Armstrong" #9 again centered itself around really great character development, especially between the Eternal Warrior and his drunken, hedonistic brother. The plot, however, was a bit on the scattered side, even with its decent number of entertaining moments. If nothing else had been happening, or if these were much more forgiving economic times, this would have made the cut.

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9" #20 will appeal to Whedon fans with its talky, overwrought descent into going rogue for Scooby gang member Xander, while another cast mate returns to try to save a life. Deep in the high grass, this will be manna from heaven for fans of the franchise but anyone outside of the faithful may not be so engaged.

"Thor, God Of Thunder" #7 had a surprisingly effective interaction between the titular Odinson and a version of himself from far in the future (mocking the younger one, teasing story elements that haven't happened yet). The God Butcher storyline didn't actually conclude, but has spilled over into a "new" storyline which introduced a god whose powers could threaten them all. Mostly talk with one tense moment at the end, but not bad.

Positing more between-the-movies administrivia (Vader's yelling at people to hurry up with the new Death Star, Leia's looking for a new Rebel base, Han and Chewie do scoundrel-ish things), "Star Wars"#4 may not tread familiar ground but it doesn't dazzle either. Luke's barely a factor, Leia's a pilot and a spy and this doesn't do anything but take a slower route than existing expanded universe offerings. It looks great, though, and that sense of looking so incredible will delight many fans.

Jai Nitz' script for "Green Hornet" #34 has some solid ideas as the "legacy" Hornet is forced into a confrontation with his armored modern counterpart. However, the stakes directly involve the latter so the gentleman in the verdant fedora felt jammed in. Good pacing, good ideas, some execution issues.

In "Secret Avengers" #3, there was a stylish, top flight event for spies and weapons dealers. Yes, that could have been an entire issue, but no, as well, the US is planning to make combat drones out of old suits of Norman Osborn's Iron Patriot armor while AIM's building up with their own version of Cobra Island with a super villain team up. There were a lot of elements that could have worked out, but they kept crowding each other out.

The sheer madness of "Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt" #8 draws you in with the charisma of its lead and its action movie stakes and "camera" angles. However, having such a tight focus on Cannon's perspective, doesn't let the reader get answers to any of the pressing questions that make the plot so baffling. The story feels like it's trying hard not to tell you something, and that secret is its downfall.

"Uncanny Avengers" #6 had a very nice twist at the end, and along the road Apocalypse serves as a henchman and even Odin's enchantments in Asgard play a role in the plans of others. A long con game involving time travel with Cassaday on art, this is a distinctive improvement, and if the series can keep this up, it might find its way.

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

"Age Of Ultron" #5, "G.I. JOE The Cobra Files" #1, "Fearless Defenders" #3, "Dead Man's Run" #4, "KISS Solo" #1, "Ravagers" #11, "Adventure Time With Fionna And Cake" #4, "Star Trek Countdown To Darkness" #4, "Warlord Of Mars Dejah Thoris" #24, "Suicide Squad" #19, "Avengers" #9, "Dungeons And Dragons Forgotten Realms Cutter" #1, "Transformers Regeneration One" #90, "Green Lantern Corps" #19, "Bravest Warriors" #7, "Garfield" #12, "Harbinger" #11, "Mars Attacks" #9, "Grace Randolph's Supurbia" #6, "Walking Dead" #109, "Colonized" #1, "Rocketeer Hollywood Horror" #3, "Sex" #2, "True Blood" #11, "Saucer Country" #14, "Invincible Universe" #1, "Deathstroke" #19, "Avenging Spider-Man" #19

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

"Superboy" #19 revealed the actual parentage of the teen of ... if he's not steel, is he, what, kovar? Anyway, this also reveals the secret history of Harvest (which is, actually, super uninteresting) and the role he played in making Superboy (which involves so many dumb and contrived story elements that it boggles the mind) and, overall, it's hugely disappointing even by the lowered expectations of this series.

But that comic was "War and Peace" compared to "Avengers Arena" #7, which had Arcade go through some weird mid-life crisis before finally getting half a clue, even though he still can't kill anybody worth noticing. Arcade's still bush league, no matter how he tries to upgrade himself (which he can't even manage on his own).

"Team 7" #7 shows you the origin of Majestic (who's an empty shell compared to the full-fledged character from before Captain Atom landed in the Wildstorm universe) facing off against a version of super villain Kaizen Gamorra with more power but less style. There's also some trailer park storytelling with flashes of what might be planned and the origin of Black Canary tossed in. Such ambition, flying so high, and falling so far like a comic book Icarus.

But the worst issue of the week is "Fantastic Four" #6, which shows Reed Richards doing something so scarily stupid and unsafe for his family (especially in the middle of nowhere, chasing big ideas as he is) that if he is Marvel's biggest brain, there must be some wildly dumb people walking around. This issue endangered their ability to get home and the survival chances of everyone there, and not in one of the normal accidental ways, but in a wholly avoidable and stupid way. Gah.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Not bad.

Also there were no orders for "Critter" #10. Sorry.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two brilliant jumps full of new ideas? Way fewer stinkers than "okay" books? This week wins, y'all.

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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