The Buy Pile: Fabled Scoundrels, Hi-Tech Soldiers & Lonely Heroes

Thu, October 3rd, 2013 at 10:58am PDT

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

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 OCTOBER 2, 2013

G.I. JOE The Cobra Files #7
(IDW Publishing)
Jump from the Read Pile.
It's funny when people get the same idea at the same time, unless that idea means lots and lots of people dying. Tomax's manipulation of Clockspring comes to a head while Chameleon freaks out over the closure of the program. There are great speeches and great character moments, most of which are a red herring to hide the plot developments happening underneath the surface. Wicked and wonderful, if this is how it's going to end, what a way to go go. Good stuff.

Fairest #20
(Vertigo/DC Comics)
Charming finds a conclusion to his time in the land of Indian Fables fitting for his name in an issue strong on story and soft on spectacle. The good part is the characterization, despite exposition that might seem heavyhanded, everyone here gets a moment worth noting and there are some that really win over the reader. On the other hand, there's a battle scene that lacks visual dynamics, and it is the core of the drama, much like the climactic scene in "Hamlet." Sure, you can just enjoy the interplay, but the drama seems muted. Sean E. William's script is engaging and the emotional and narrative abilities of the art team (Stephen Sadowski, Meghan Ketrick, Phil Jiminez, Jose Marzan and Andrew Dalhouse) can't be denied, but one can clearly miss Willingham's masterful hand at the wheel.

Lazarus #4
(Image Comics)
It's high drama and high explosives as Michael Lark and Greg Rucka expose an attempted coup with bloodshed and bad tidings. The super-informative timeline of the fall of the United States continues alongside the lettercol and overall the depth of the storytelling is matched by Lark's involving, savvy visuals. There are no "good guys" here, just people trying to make the best decisions they can in a rough situation. Also? Now a "buy on sight" title.

Molly Danger #1
(Action Lab Entertainment)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Also, the publisher swears this is available this week.
If you have any claim to liking superhero fiction, this comic book will be manna from heaven for you. Brilliantly combining multiple familiar influences into something wholly new, Molly Danger is a thirty year old in the indestructible body of a ten year old, a lost refugee from a million worlds away whose worst defeat is never fighting mechanically enhanced super wackos alone in a crowded room. The brainchild of Jamal Igle (with help from Juan Castro and Romulo Fajardo Jr.), this is both accessible for all ages and riveting for jaded fans of the form. Wonderful, endearing work from one of the finest talents in the field. Wow.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Hot damn, that's one solid batch of comics!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Absolution Rubicon" #4 was very close to making the jump as it had a new, clever answer to the old comic shop question, "How do you beat Nemesis Kid?" It was a very big fight scene but it managed to be clever along the road, but with the scant amount of plot points here, this will work better in the collection.

There's a simply beautiful moment in "Mighty Avengers" #2 that so crystallizes the popular perception of the citizens of New York City, an instance of everyday heroism and clarity that would be award winning in almost any film or TV show. That wonderful moment, however, featured exactly zero of the cast members of this series, and the actual rationale that dragged the insanely powerful Blue Marvel out of his self-imposed exile wasn't even as bad as half the things that went down in the last few years. Ambitious but bewildering.

The book that "G.I. Joe Special Missions" used to aim at being, "Activity" #15 tracks two covert operations -- in the snows of Siberia and the deserts of Afghanistan -- all aiming at a big joint mission down the line. Also, there's a breakdown in trust with the team as a "disavowed" member went off book in a previous issue (you'd have to really be reading the series to know that story). A book that brushes past characterization to go all in on plot, this would be a great hour long series like "Strike Back," but is a little too pricy for the content available.

"Quantum And Woody" #4 has top notch chemistry between its titular leads, but the Doctor Who leftover villain (think the Eccleston year) and the literally cookie cutter cannon fodder they faced were nothing to remember in another spot where character outweighed plot to the detriment of the work.

If you recited the plot elements of "He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe" #6, it'd sound freakin' awesome. Hordak's forces besiege Eternia. Randor leading a rag-tag group of freedom fighters. The lost princess Adora reclaiming her legacy and turning against the only father she ever knew. However, with the drab coloring and uninspired artwork it was a case of failing to execute good ideas. A lost opportunity.

"Elephantmen" #51 is a pretty engaging science fiction noirish detective story, with a hallucinating investigator paired with transgenic gumshoe Hip Flask (half man, half hippo, all detective) trying to wrap their heads around the deaths of married scientists. The relationship between the leads buried the details of the mystery, which made the side orders more appetizing than the main course, but Starkings' story piqued reader interest and might have made the jump in a thinner week.

"Detective Comics" #24 had the climactic battle between the Bat and his dark reflection, weaponmaking billionaire Wrath, revealing the real motivations behind the war on the Gotham City Police Department. The Bat was in fine form, adapting to tactical realities and generally being the relentless force for justice you'd expect. There's also a moment with a beat cop that's wonderful. However, the visual depiction of the big fight was nowhere near as spectacular as it needed to be and Wrath's tactical decisions (especially for someone who's made his fortune in the field of war) are embarrassing. Not quite there.

If the artwork on "Bedlam" #9 was as engaging and inventive as its plot, it'd be raking in the awards. With a twist on mind control, the villain-turned-police consultant helps a Dana Scully-styled skeptical police detective look for a murderer beyond comprehension. If this was a fall series on Fox, you'd be glued to the screen. Still, even hampered by its artwork, it's very engaging crime writing.

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

"Forever Evil" #2, "Todd The Ugliest Kid On Earth" #6, "All-New X-Men" #17, "Occultist" #1, "Shadowman" #11, "Fantomex MAX" #1, "Mind The Gap" #15, "Mocking Dead" #2, "Hit" #2, "Mara" #6, "Pathfinder Goblins" #3, "God Is Dead" #2, "Morning Glories" #32, "Hunger" #3, "The Star Wars" #2, "Shadow Now" #1, "Green Lantern" #24, "Robocop Last Stand" #3, "Doctor Who Prisoners Of Time" #9, "Black Bat" #6, "G.I. JOE A Real American Hero" "Infinity The Hunt" #2, #194, "Spawn" #236, "Suicide Risk" #6, "Jinnrise" #7, "Ehmm Theory" #3, "Codename Action" #2, "Catalyst Comix" #4, "Mark Waid's The Green Hornet" #6, "Iron Man" #16, "Uber" #6, "Movement" #5, "Grindhouse Doors Open At Midnight" #1, "Miss Fury Digital" #2, "Hinterkind" #1, "Bushido" #1, "Invincible Universe" #7, "Action Comics" #24, "Thunderbolts" #16.

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

In an all-time low, "Batwing" #24 showcased the pampered millionaire's son being so bad at his job that he leaves pieces of Bat-tech scattered across several Gotham City blocks, showcases him stealing and then buying clothes off of a hobo and (most fun) yelling "Christmas" as an exclamation (perhaps "Sweet" was too far gone. Either Bruce Wayne has a catastrophic blind spot in picking people to carry this mantle, or there aren't any competent Black guys in the DC continuity. As a story, it's terrible and tedious. As an idea, it's condescending and tedious. Basically, it's all bad.

In "Marvel Knights Spider-Man" #1, there was a valiant attempt to mirror the avant garde visual storytelling styles of David Mack, but it doesn't adequately convey the idea of Peter Parker (no, not Otto) going against a gauntlet of 99 super villains, itself seeming like a mid-stream shift in plot. Poor story telling, poor conception, poor execution.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Just two stinkers. That's a small price to pay for some comics that really tried hard.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

The dazzling array of purchases makes this week have no other option but being a winner.

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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