The Buy Pile: Harlem Detectives, Criminal Minds & Heroes in Love

Thu, December 12th, 2013 at 10:28am PST

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 DECEMBER 11, 2013

Astro City #7
(Vertigo/DC Comics)
This issue stepped into the lives of some of its most powerful heroes -- not exactly analogues of Clark and Diana, but two supremely powerful heroes romantically linked -- and show what happens when she has a problem that can't be punched away. Frame this with a young teenaged boy running from a beat down and toss in some crooks willing to bend the truth, then this issue gets into the meat of how characters struggle with such complex lives. It may have felt a little more abbreviated than it needed to, but the sure hands of Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson and Alex Sinclair delivered an origin, a lot of great character moments and just enough plot to make it all stick. Consistently solid stuff.

Superior Foes Of Spider-Man #6
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
After months of farting around, this issue finally gets around to telling a pretty decent story. A heist on the Owl's domain went sideways for 3/5 of the current Sinister Six (the numbers don't match up, like Jurassic 5 or the Hitchhiker Trilogy) and that leads to some entertaining conversations as well as a nicely wielded recurring gag and some great Marvel universe apocrypha. The last page reveal is solid as well. A very pleasant surprise from Nick Spencer, Steve Lieber and Rachelle Rosenberg.

Watson And Holmes #6
(New Paradigm Studios)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Wow. With Harlem as an almost palpable character in this twisted narrative, writer Brandon Easton teams with N. Steven Harris and Jay David Ramos to tell a riveting, relevant mystery story that is clever and inventive. When the wife of a popular Harlem city councilmember turns up dead, the reasons why get into the Russian mafia, sex trafficking and so many other murky areas. The sole issue one might have would be the limited characterization of the police detective, who has a hard time fitting in between the wonderful character work happening for the two leads, differing on the reasons and possible outcomes why this happened. Fantastic work from a top notch creative team, all done in one issue.

FULL DISCLOSURE: The writer of this column is working on a future issue of "Watson & Holmes," but had no involvement with the creative development of this one.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Very solid haul of comics to start things off.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

In an almost Shakespearean turn, "The Darkness" #116 shows the final steps of Jackie Estacado giving up what passed for humanity with him and giving himself to what most would call "the dark side." Friends become corpses, children become something far more than children, and the end of all things seems just another day. Played just a touch too matter-of-factly for the supporting cast (especially the one character who should have known better) but Jackie's role was pretty solid here.

If "Captain America" #14 had a slightly more effective ending, it could have made the jump. Gripped by grief after spending more than a decade in a pocket dimension while only moments passed for everyone he knows, Cap struggles with controlling his anger as a later, less-effective version of himself committed atrocities in the name of god and county. Cap's dialogue and action scenes were an effective one-two punch, outlining the challenges of the "greatest generation" while accepting the cost of the imperial mantle they bore. Even the Falcon's moral struggle carried some weight. Brave writing by Rick Remender, solid art from Carlos Pacheco, Mariano Taibo and Dean White, but a momentum killing ending made this just barely miss the mark.

"Unity" #2 was a decent set of fights scenes as the omega level mental power Toyo Harada leads the immortal Eternal Warrior and a technopath called Livewire against the alien armor enhanced Visigoth X-O Manowar. The action's a little tight in the quarters of a spaceship, but the plot moves at an all right pace. It was a good issue, not a great one, moving the chains at a serviceable pace.

"Day Men" #2 wasn't bad, a murderous romp of criminal families who avoid sunlight and wooden stakes. The cipher of a lead character, equal parts Mack Bolan and Fox Mulder, cuts through the narrative with calm certainty. The vampire families are being fleshed out at a similar pace as the rich families in "Lazarus," but this time the plot develops a little faster than that book. It could be plotted a little more tightly, but it has some promise.

It's hard to be a bro when your bro sleeps with the only girl you've ever wanted, and the fallout of that clinches the conclusion of "Archer & Armstrong" #16, a cross-chronological caper that means tracking down an ancient artifact enmeshed in betting, drinking and a lust for global conquest. There's punching and shooting and running and throwing up, a submarine and internecine strife and quips that keep doing it. What worked was Obadiah Archer's quiet certainty, the inexorability of his chosen path and character arc, all while Armstrong remains blissfully unaware. There was a bit of sound and fury, signifying nothing, around that central core, and that's why this issue didn't make the jump, but it would be disingenuous to imply that there's not fun within these pages.

"Chew" #38 had a really interesting if all-too-brief sequence in a prison and way too much of its lead character moping. The meta-story was serviced, but the issue needed better balance to work this issue.

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

"Lazarus" #5, "Wolverine And The X-Men" #39, "Nightwing" #26, "Star Wars" #12, "G.I. JOE" #11, "Star Trek Annual" 2013, "Death Sentence" #3, "Worlds' Finest" #18, "Krampus" #1, "Forever Evil Arkham War" #3, "Wraith Welcome To Christmasland" #2, "Superman Wonder Woman" #3, "Doc Savage" #1, "Cable And X-Force" #17, "Katana" #10, "Protectors Inc" #2, "Batman" #26, "Magic The Gathering: Theros" #2, "Superboy" #26, "Army of Dr. Moreau" #2, "Danger Girl: The Chase" #4, "3 Guns" #5, "Marvel Knights Hulk" #1, "Harbinger" #19, "Nova" #11, "Uber" #8, "Justice League Of America" #10, "Transformers Prime Beast Hunters" #8, "Wolverine" #12, "Pathfinder" #12, "Brain Boy" #0, "Mighty Avengers" #4.INH, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents No Tomorrow" #4, "Green Lantern Corps" #26, "Protocol: Orphans" #2, "Manifest Destiny" #2, "Constantine" #9, "Cataclysm The Ultimates" #2, "Sherlock Holmes: Moriarty Lives" #1, "Justice League 3000" #1, "Shaolin Cowboy" #3, "Battlestar Galactica Starbuck" #2, "Uncanny X-Men" 15.INH, "X" #8, "G.I. JOE Special Missions" #10, "Kings Watch" #3, "Suicide Squad" #26, "Maxx Maxximized" #2, "Three" #3, "Inhumanity The Awakening" #1, "Uncanny" #5, "Godland Finale," "Indestructible" #1, "Alex + Ada" #2, "Wolverine MAX" #14, "Rocketeer The Spirit Pulp Friction" #4, "Invincible" #107, "Batgirl" #26, "Avengers A.I." #7.INH, "Sixth Gun" #36.

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

If you work out all the uncomfortable ideas people have had about Batman, his anti-matter universe counterpart Thomas Wayne Jr. (d.b.a. Owlman) lives up to them in "Justice League" #25. In a twisted, almost sad gambit, he seeks to recruit the New 52 Nightwing as his partner to take the world from Ultraman and the rest of the evil doppelganger Justice League called the Crime Syndicate. Their first crossover isn't even over, and already on the verge of a civil war. Oh, along the way, Plastic Man gets created, if you care. Weird, disquieting stuff.

"Deathmatch" #12 is a let down, only because it doesn't close the door and tell the entirety of the story, content to leave its conclusion inconclusive. The final struggle between two "heroes" who know the truth is desperate and kinetic but never connects because its stakes are never realized. One of the biggest "who'd win" scenarios ever played in comics and it's dead on arrival. Shame.

Buried deep within the pornographic and nostalgic politics of a bygone era, "Satellite Sam" #5 has nuggets of a noirish murder mystery. If you're looking for it, however, you'll have quite a search ahead of you, one with fairly vapid plot digressions (the phone booth, the typing guy's break) and some running around. There are customers for this sort of work, but perhaps a napkin after shaking their hands ...

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

A lot of meh, and three bad books ...

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Let's call the week a wash, with even two jumps having a hard time breaking through the din of dull books that deluged this week.

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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