The Buy Pile: Immortals, Avengers and a Thief of Dreams

Thu, May 9th, 2013 at 10:58am 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 MAY 8, 2013

Archer and Armstrong #0
(Valiant Entertainment)
Jump from the Read Pile.
The of Gilgamesh has never been like this, as the immortal half of this fascinating buddy action comedy blows off a quintet of inebriated Vegas hotties to tell a tale of sibling rivalry and ancient adventures. Normally, a story about somebody telling a story wouldn't work, but the emotional breadth of Armstrong's role here brings it all home, while tying together elements in the series and leaving one interesting door open. Fred Van Lente's script is simply delightful, and art from Clayton Henry and David Baron makes multiple periods in history and disparate geographical environments just spring to life. Fantastic.

Avengers #11
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Shang-Chi is a spiritually inspired spy leading a squad of mostly unexpected Avengers on an undercover mission that literally covers every base. AIM is on hand (and Travis the beekeeper may give Bob, Agent of Hydra a run for "best supporting red shirt character"), Carol Danvers makes quite an effective femme fatale, leaving Bobby Dacosta and Sam Guthrie as the Rosencrans and Guildenstern of super hero espionage. Shang-Chi, though? A quote machine: "I am calm in a raging sea." Maybe this issue was an old idea left over from the original "Secret Avengers," maybe it's just writer Jonathan Hickman getting some of his mojo back, but in any case, it's wonderful. Don't count out artwork from Mike Deodato and Frank Martin, which perfectly captures the tension and "Casino Royale" vibe. Quite a pleasant surprise.

Dream Thief #1
(Dark Horse Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Speaking of noir, writer Jai Nitz has turned in quite a gripping, almost "Memento" inspired tale of irresponsibility leading to heroism. There's so much good stuff here -- the well-crafted diptytch framing device, the clever dialogue (look for the Facebook gag, it's priceless) and the wonderful, elegant visual storytelling and composition of Greg Smallwood. Well developed characters, covering some challenging story elements and blood splattered all over the second half of the issue, all set against the moneyed elements of Atlanta. A very nice surprise.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Everybody earned their way here. That's amazing.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Thor God Of Thunder" #8 was the closest to making the mark as Jason Aaron shortcut the problem of incomplete characterization by essentially having every relevant character in the book be Thor, a variation on a belligerent, drunken, psychotic Viking divinity. Old man as king, youth as callow warrior, man as an Avenger and introducing three granddaughters who are fairly entertaining and Thor-ish in their own right. Even the notoriously unidimensional Gorr the God Butcher almost had a nuance introduced with his son. If there was a single character that stood up and wasn't Thor, this issue could have made it home, but it's a good step for Aaron.

"Legend Of The Shadowclan" #4 felt like it was too short, bringing in two possibly stereotyped "cousins" in schoolgirl skirts as well as a lot more action. However, the cast is now really big and there's about a blade's width worth of characterization here, plus very little idea of the antagonist pushing events along. Still feels like it's warming up the engine.

"Batman" #20 has a nice gag with the Batman Beyond suit and Lucius Fox, but that's just a side trip as Clayface can now copy people down to their DNA, becoming Bruce Wayne to destroy the Bat. There's a lot of impressive Chessmaster moments from the Dark Knight Detective, and even when his cool cracks it's a good moment. However, it didn't carry through enough to really make its mark, but it wasn't bad.

In "Star Wars" #5, Leia is basically Luke (hot shot pilot, Rebel hero and inspiration) while Luke has become a supporting character, leaving Han and Chewie to have wacky adventures in the underbelly of Coruscant. While the atmosphere feels right, little has actually happened of consequence since the first issue, Luke hasn't been on panel long enough ti grasp the events around him and the Empire is almost an anonymous after thought, which relies too heavily on the source material to handle characterization. Not bad but definitely feeling like pro-Leia fan fiction.

In "Avenging Spider-Man" #20, Otto Parker (oy) has a nefarious plan to pull off the heist of the century, right under the noses of everybody who should be able to stop him. Unfortunately, the universe has more plans than even he can foresee, even as he gets to make a really good Nick Fury joke. However, the plot's rationales aren't exactly clear enough, despite all the fun banter.

"Witchblade" #166 brings back the "anti-Magdalena" for a slightly noirish take on politics and misdirection, but with Sara Pezzini's narration it came off as too self-referential to make it work. The antagonist, as of yet, is more bluster than substance and not quite strong enough in terms of her motivations.

There were two or three stories in "Harbinger" #12 that could have really come across strongly -- the runaway psionically charged children hiding out as "hostages" in a Vegas casino, and the struggle between the mentally powered Harbinger Foundation and the "We're Really Not Weapon X, Really" group Project Rising Spirit. Neither of them had enough room to really be developed, despite having some good moments. A better sense of balance and pacing could bring this series a long way.

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

"Green Lantern Corps" #20, "Uncanny X-Force" #4, "Walking Dead" #110, "Uber" #1, "Avengers Arena" #9, "Warlord Of Mars" #24, "Constantine" #3, "Prophet" #35, "Suicide Squad" #20, "Alpha Big Time" #4, "Rocketeer Hollywood Horror" #4, "Storm Dogs" #5, "Executive Assistant Assassins" #10, "X" #1, "Ravagers" #12, "Dark Shadows" #16, "Wolverine" #3, "Grace Randolph's Supurbia" #7, "Iron Man" #258.2, "Batman And Red Hood" #20, "Grimm" #1, "Fathom Volume 4" #9, "Superboy" #20, "Fearless Defenders" #4, "Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: Ghoul vs. Goblin" #4, "Ultimate Comics The Ultimates" #24, "Fever Ridge A Tale Of MacArthur's Jungle War" #3, "Bravest Warriors" #8, "Threshold" #5, "Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 9" #21, "Uncanny Avengers" #8, "Katana" #4, "Chin Music" #1, "Justice League Of America" #3, "Damsels Mermaids" #1, "Warlord Of Mars Dejah Thoris" #25, "Demon Knights" #20, "Star Trek" #20, "Ferals" #14, "Secret Avengers" #4, "Deathstroke" #20, "Avengers Assemble" #15AU.

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

Black Canary vs. Majestic in "Team 7" #8? No, not the "Jeopardy" question for "Lopsided super battle that could never, ever make sense." This wasn't all the way to being "terrible," but you could see it from this place. Kaizen Gamorra -- once a super villain that could shock and impress with just a panel or two -- was left to stand around and get shuffled off ignominiously.

"Astonishing X-Men" #62 decided to astonish you with the March of Bobby Drake's Ex Girlfriends as its centerpiece. What's that? You don't remember every detail of Bobby Drake's love life so you can parse out these fairly similar looking ladies? Whiny, slow and tedious.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

None too shabby.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Great week of accomplishments for some fun, fun comics working their way to being purchases.

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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