The Buy Pile: Detectives, The Wonder of Saga & Everyday Heroism

Thu, August 15th, 2013 at 10:58am PDT | Updated: August 20th, 2013 at 9:36am

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

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WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (two-time Eisner-winning journalist/winner of the 2012 Top Cow Talent Hunt/blogger/novelist/poet/jackass on Twitter/head honcho of Komplicated) 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 AUGUST 14, 2013

Astro City #3 (Vertigo/DC Comics)

Wow. You can almost see the wonderful, wonderful ending coming and it still gets you. Marella Cowper answers the phones for the world's greatest super team, The Honor Guard, and she realizes that a call she considered beneath her notice actually had more clues than expected, hiding a criminal conspiracy in the mountains of Ecuador. This leads to a series of events that are unexpected and gripping, culminating in another huge fight and unexpected heroism and ... well, in a word? "Wow." Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson are making comics that are worth four times their weight in gold, and this issue connected on every level, delivering action, character development and plot advancement. Absolutely, brilliantly, wonderful.


Saga #13 (Image Comics)

This issue is deep in the high grass for all but fairly well-initiated readers. Star-crossed lovers Marko and Alana are troubled by the loss of his father (while being berated by his mother) on the road towards their quest, while ruthless bounty hunter The Will is crashed on a "paradise" planet with Marko's former fiancee and a rescued slave. A new set of characters on Alana's homeworld get a brief introduction, Prince Robot keeps reading and pieces move incrementally from one place to the next with almost nothing actually arriving. Damned entertaining, but perhaps only for people already four or five cups on on this flavor of Kool-Aid.


Watson And Holmes #2 (New Paradigm Studios)

The writer of this column is involved in not just the making of an issue of this series (due out in January, he's told, but we'll see) but also its marketing, so actually reviewing it would be a hugely crass conflict of interest. However, he did actually purchase it with his own money, regardless, and believes you should too.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Since this column is all in on "Saga," this was one hell of a week for comics.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Red Sonja" #2 was almost as good as the dazzling debut, as the busty barbarian has a fairly well done battle against forces hell bent on slaughter. Gail Simone's plot throws a wicked curve your way (read it twice to let it sink in), but the pacing's off by just a bit and the non-Sonja battle artwork could be a little more dynamic. Super effective flashback, though.

"One Nation #1" is a grim faced pastiche, mixing elements of the Superman mythos on the realties of modern servicemen serving in the Middle East. It's told straight with a nice bit of framing in its omnipresent voice over narration and has rock solid visual storytelling, but doesn't introduce any characters beyond its lead worth remembering. The ending has an interesting twist, so perhaps it'll lead to more down the line. From this point, it's more potential than product.

When presented with a concept like the Gorn, words like "negotiation" and "smart" are not normally used. "Star Trek" #24 tried to change that with a reimagined Gorn species (way scarier than the "Land of the Lost" extras from the original series) squaring off against a human mining colony. There's an interesting plot development relying on technology familiar in this century, and this issue (a remarkable improvement over the wiki-entry-styled one-offs of recent months) was much closer to the mark in its effort to make the modern Kirk a more nuanced character. Not bad, and hopefully an indication of more interesting developments to come.

Okay, hang on. Death, of "four horsemen of the apocalypse" fame, fell in love with a YA Chinese warlord ... warlady? Woman warrior. Anyhoo, they had a kid, which sent him way off the reservation looking like the love child of Moon Knight and the Saint of Killers. Still on board? Now the rest of the horsemen want him back or buried, an alt-future fractured North America is run by opportunists and religious zealots (not the kind you normally expect) and the whole of it is wrapped in prophecy and delicate language. "East of West" #5, like some previous issues, is less a comic book and more a tone poem to nihilism, now locked in as a science fiction revenge story. Intriguing.

There is a lot better action in "Star Wars" #8 than the previously moody issues, as Luke's sneaking on to a Star Destroyer with Wedge, Leia's exploring space by herself, Vader's served by less-than-competent subordinates and Han's dodging bounty hunters in the skies of Coruscant. However, everything's still kind of running around without a connection, and its interesting in a kind of Kirkman-esque way that spins wheels without achieving any distance. Maybe it'll play better in a collected format.

Some people will see the ending of "Harbinger" #15 as a betrayal, both for the characters involved and for the reader. Some will see it as an interesting development for characters. However you might perceive it, it means one big shift for the "Renegades" that's impossible to ignore that was developed as a really slow boil. If you're okay with that kind of laborious pace for a jarring change, you'll likely be on board for this issue. It doesn't leave much room for a middle of the road reaction, though.

If you analyze it, "Great Pacific" #9 has a savvy slice of statecraft in its conclusion, manipulating factors in front of and behind the scenes in order to create leverage. As a prose political thriller, this likely could have been gripping. Presented as sequential art, however, with an unclear diversion into prostitution and some tedious displays of attempted morality, it couldn't find its center. Such interesting ideas, still trying to find the right way to execute them.

There were a number of shocks and surprises in "Mind The Gap" #12, a virtual cornucopia of organ stab moments and reveals, one after the next. If you're not saying, "What the?" by the end, you might wanna read more closely, as a good number of secrets were laid bare and the plot -- "thickens" is the wrong word, but it congeals, surely enough. Not bad, but it's more like a series of scenes than a story, which will likely serve the collected version well, even if it doesn't help it as a periodical.

There will be people referring to the Easter Egg-laden "Archer and Armstrong" #12 for some time as a long-lost friend is back with some interesting revelations, Armstrong throws trees at flying saucers, there's a funny, profanity-laden Patton riff and the modern world clashes with the simple things. Fantastic interaction with interesting characters, but the plot is all over the place in a fairly entertaining but not quite good enough manner. Always interesting to watch, like four hot, drunken friends arguing at a bar.

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

"Secret Avengers" #7, "X-Files Season 10" #3, "Vampirella Southern Gothic" #1, "X" #4, "Scarlet Spider" #20, "Resident Alien The Suicide Blonde" #0, "Superboy" #23, "Six-Gun Gorilla" #3, "Doomsday.1" #4, "Superior Spider-Man Team Up" #2, "Spawn" #234, "Wolverine" #8, "Demon Knights" #23, "Halo Initiation" #1, "Lost Vegas" #4, "Charismagic The Death Princess" #3, "Fearless Defenders" #8, "Deathmatch" #8, "Batman" #23, "Uncanny X-Force" #10 , "G.I. JOE Special Missions" #6, "Green Lantern Corps" #23, "Nightwing" #23, "Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 9" #24, "Infinity" #1, "Worlds' Finest" #15, "True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys" #3, "Uncanny X-Men" #10, "Savage Dragon" #190, "Battlestar Galactica" #3, "Shadow/Green Hornet: Dark Nights" #2, "Doctor Who" #12, "Half Past Danger" #4, "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents" #1, "Justice League Of America" #7, "Ghosted" #2, "Batgirl" #23, "Deadpool" #14.

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

In "Avengers Arena" #13, Hank Pym was out smarted by Arcade. For weeks. Full stop.

Apparently, when you need something to be accurately racist, Howard Chaykin is your guy, as proven by "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" #1, which goes back to the source material from before the Gil Gerard-inspired, Three Dog Night accompanied television series. A Chinese-run world leaves gangs of US militias snipping at each others heels while slinging relentlessly domestic slurs and stereotypes in a boring setting. Nobody goes into space, because apparently that's all Gil Gerard stuff. Bleh.

In "Astonishing X-Men" #65, Bobby Drake ("He's controlled by the leftovers of another dimension's Apocalypse, for realsies!") covers the world with snow (no mention of the lives and livelihoods destroyed there, from the crops irrevocably lost to the disturbances in emergency services from areas not equipped for snow) before -- well, he's Bobby Drake living in a world with Wanda Maximoff and Daredevil walking around, so you know there's no consequence or comeuppance beyond moping and emo gibberish. Make it stop!

"Steampunk Corsairs" #1 was a boobsy, nonsensical multicultural farce that believes Spaniards are bad and the English are good (your colonialism by any other name ...) with enough bent over cleavage shots to make Benny Hill blush and a plot so razor thin that it could slip underneath your door. Kind of embarrassing.

Yes, "Thor: God of Thunder" #11 had a super anti-climactic ending, especially after all that Sturm und Drang, which makes very little sense and worked like a flash bang grenade -- lots of noise and flashiness but not much really happening. The ending, though? Gets you right in the feels. The plot didn't really keep up with it, though.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Eh, it was aight.

There was no order for "FUBAR By The Sword" #1. Sorry.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Three fantastic reads, very close attempts from "Red Sonja" and "East of West" ... this week made it work from ambition to actual successes.

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 will do our best to make sure 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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