The Buy Pile: "Super," "Saga," Ghosts & G.I. Joe

Thu, October 31st, 2013 at 10:28am PDT | Updated: October 31st, 2013 at 3:12pm

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/winner of the 2012 Top Cow Talent Hunt/blogger/novelist/poet/jackass on Twitter/head honcho of Komplicated) grabs a whole lotta comics sorting these periodicals (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 30, 2013

Super #2
(Unlikely Heroes Studios)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Holy crap, this is entertaining. With the complexity of a series like "Astro City" or "Top 10," the humor of early Daniel Way "Deadpool" or even some Giffen/DeMatteis "Justice League" books (maybe JLE) and silver age whimsicality and monologuing that'd even get Julius Schwartz to pay attention, this comic book is a cornucopia of entertainment, from its ridiculous super villains (ask Baron Blizzard about his helmet, go on), the pomposity of Professor Max Archer (imagine if Doc Noble had the same whimsical nature as Jonas Venture) and -- you've got to see this -- artwork so superb, from its mugging and facial expressions to the edge-of-your-seat fight sequences, that you'll wonder why Zachary Dolan, Everardo Orozco, Laurie Foster and Tara Kappel haven't gotten priced out of the indies and into the big leagues. Probably something to do with delinquent taxes, or mob connections. In any case, again, holy crap. Fantastic quotes all through it ("We need you at full Mel Gibson meltdown levels!"), fantastic humor, fantastic characters (the drunken guy is the best), fantastic artwork (the detail on the Lloyd Brown Award sequence is fantastic, especially all the Doctors, the Johnny Quest gag, the "Black Hole robot" … wow, like a mix of Gene Ha and Bryan Hitch), fantastic plot. This is the kind of comic you want to be reading. So much fun.

Five Ghosts #6
(Image Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
This issue is like Tim Duncan -- by mastering the fundamentals, it hits every benchmark perfectly. Mystically empowered fortune hunter Fabian Gray returns to Japan to close down some old business but ends up uncovering more than he expected. Hitting all those pulp chestnuts (romance, action, mystery, suspense) this was an engaging done-in-one issue that was simply entertaining.

G.I. Joe #9
(IDW Publishing)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Things get very interesting for everybody engaged in terrorism and counterterrorism as a dirty bomb heading into the New York subway system is literally one of the smallest problems this issue develops (also, just reading that sentence got you put on the no-fly list -- thanks, Obama). Michael "Mad" Monk is playing every side of the table and nobody sees it coming, which leads to lots of shooting, recriminations and all brands of madness. Fred Van Lente's script balances all its spinning plates with aplomb and delivers with high caliber impact.

Saga #15
(Image Comics)
Funny, emotional, violent, sexy, smart ... once again, the latest from Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan does it all in a story that leans heavily on the star-crossed lovers while brushing against character development (and involving more shooting) and revealing something about bounty hunter The Will's situation that was a wonderful shocker. This is a remarkably good comic that perfectly balances every element of its story.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Sweet spirit singing, that's an entertaining stack of comics!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Blood Brothers" #3 was a solid ending to a fairly entertaining miniseries, giving resolution for each character and a decent action sequence as a climax. It was, however, solidly in the "good" range, as entertaining as a night watching solid network television but not as remarkable as its debut issue. If you have the disposable income, this is a book you might enjoy.

"Infinity" #5 was competent if undistinguished space opera as the previously undefeatable threat of the Builders and Engineers suddenly struggled against spear-wielding horse-beings and fin-headed archers on Centauri Prime, all rallying to the jingoistic call of becoming "an Avengers world." All eyes returned to Earth, where Thanos was having his way with Wakanda like it was a new inmate in maximum security and the Illuminati again sowed the seeds of their own destruction, like Rumsfeld shaking hands and passing out M-16s in 1980s Baghdad. Thanos mugs and monologues well, and his obsequious (and largely interchangeable) servitors are sufficiently wicked, but the whole thing still feels predictable. Well, except for Wakanda getting its butt handed to it for the third time in less than five years. Not bad, though.

"Transformers Robots In Disguise" #22 is starting to show some cracks in its armor, as the quality of its backstory (a multi-era rivalry between Shockwave and Soundwave) has some good parts, the jumps in time (and artistic style) are a little too jittery for their own good, with monologuing not being a thorough enough through line for the narrative. Ambitious, and the story of each mechanoid is fascinating on its own, but together the result is like playing System of a Down and Jean Grae at the same time. Both are good, but maybe not so good simultaneously.

"Criminal Macabre: The Eyes of Frankenstein" #2 is a grimly humorous tale about two friends helping a third. Sure, the third is Frankenstein's Monster, whose eyesight is going bad, and the other two may engage in gunfire through a normal conversation, but you know how it is with friends. Steve Niles' character work here is superb, and the rustic artwork of Christopher Mitten and Michelle Madsen fits the tone and subject matter. Had the plot moved a little more quickly (took too long to get to Mulholland), it could have been a purchase.

"Nightwing Annual" #1 was sweet and kind of clever (if predictable), paralleling the former boy wonder's relationship challenges with a mystery involving the life of a movie star, haunted by fire and mayhem. Batgirl (without her signature costume) makes a big guest star appearance as they try to work together on crime fighting and their relationship, having mixed results either way. Nice twist on the antagonist, but the issue did seem to take its own sweet time getting there.

Vader bringing the weight of the Empire to hunt down errant Jedi? A desperate MacGyver-styled rush to prepare a response? "Star Wars Dark Times: A Spark Remains: #4 has more of what many fans have been clamoring for, even as it seems far too short and cuts off just as things are about to get interesting. The attempts at character development via montage was a mixed bag, the large cast didn't give anybody much time to be distinguished. Better in conception than execution, but not bad.

"Swamp Thing Annual" #2 was a much more coherent Swamp Thing story than many, taking the good doctor through a series of almost parable-like tests worthy of a messiah or a kung fu master. The 36 Chambers of the Green, perhaps -- in it, we get a much better sense of the powers of the Green's avatar while learning that politics and petty rivalries are not absent from the world of plants, all the way down to Jason Woodrue making a run for the title. Not bad, but not very conclusive in its storytelling.

"Astounding Villain House" was an interesting look at the cyclical futility of the capes and masks crowd. Captain Ersatz versions of some of your favorites struggle and strain against the tedium of their eternal battle against each other, each one kind of miserable in their own way. Well crafted, if you're looking for a kind of a downer.

In "Superior Spider-Man" #20, the occupant of Peter Parker's body has painted himself into quite a corner with unintentionally hilarious results. Meanwhile, his ex has a fairly damning paper trail and his romantic life couldn't be better. The plot here wasn't quite as cohesive as it needed to be, which is more mishap than misstep, but this felt like it's on the way to some kind of ending, a bittersweet possibility.

"Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven And The Red Death" was a creepy, speedy adaptation of the classic tale, right in time for Halloween. Richard Corben's pacing and artwork rush zippily along, not really allowing the menace of the raven itself to emerge, but it was a fine Cliffs Notes version without losing too much of the taste of the original.

The titular character in "Superior Spider-Man Team-Up Special" #1 was on fire, hitting all the right marks from his ranting ("Hell's bells! You children live in a school") to his scientific knowledge to his actual heroism, getting everything right. However, in pulling off a 2005 Kobe Bryant performance, it left Jean Grey as a reluctant Lamar Odom, Scott as a troubled Andrew Bynum and Bobby as Kwame Brown, while a teenaged Hank McCoy tried to coach from the sidelines and the Hulk was almost an afterthought. Entertaining and very close to the mark, but with way too many moving parts to connect.

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

"Sex" #8, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" #27, "Prophet" #40, "True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys" #5, "Forever Evil A.R.G.U.S." #1, "Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters" #6, "Guardians Of The Galaxy" #8, "Dinosaurs Attack" #4, "Kevin Smith's The Bionic Man" #25, "Skyward" #4, "Avengers A.I." #5, "Damian: Son Of Batman" #1, "Shadow Year One" #6, "Powerpuff Girls" #2, "King Conan: Hour of the Dragon" #6, "Godzilla Rulers Of Earth" #5, "X-Men: Battle Of The Atom" #2, "All New Fathom" #3, "Danger Girl: The Chase" #2, "Captain Midnight" #4, "Captain America: Living Legend" #2, "Aquaman Annual" #1, "TMNT Villain Microseries: Micro Bebop & Rocksteady," "George R.R. Martin's A Game Of Thrones" #17, "My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic" #12, "Action Comics Annual" #2, "Bushido" #5, "Wild Blue Yonder" #3, "Uncanny X-Force" #13, "Witchblade" #170, "Sandman: Overture" #1, "Avengers" #22,

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

Time travel-based frippery, soul selves, teleporting into other equally uninteresting stories (see "Action Comics Annual" #2), sabotaging innocent heroes to save yourself, cryptic clues that never get resolved … there's a lot wrong with "Teen Titans Annual" #2, which at least had the often aimless Kryptonian clone do a good job in combat instead of being a punching bag for a change, but had a lot of people standing around and accomplishing little. Not good.

Barely any backgrounds drawn into any panel. Boring plot. Characterization as skimpy as the outfit the protagonist eventually put on. Come on, "Zombie Tramp Volume 2" #1. We're better than this. Aren't we?

The conclusion to the battle with Light Galactu ... er, Relic happens in "Green Lantern Annual" #2, and it solves a Lantern problem with a Lantern solution, Lanterning its way all through the process. Lantern. If there could be any grandiose nature expected other than "beams shot through space" and "wrapped up simply" then it might be a let down, but as it is it's just much ado about very little.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

A number of ambitious surprises, from a "Star Wars" book that swung for it, a good Marvel crossover look, "Nightwing" improving and that Steve Niles book.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

When you find a book as good as "Super," it's already a fantastic start, but for the reads to be less annoying too? This week's a huge 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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