The Buy Pile: From Russia With A Bang & Bickering Brothers

Thu, January 9th, 2014 at 12:28pm PST | Updated: January 10th, 2014 at 1:47pm

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) 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 JANUARY 8, 2014

Quantum And Woody #
(Valiant Publishing)
Jump from the Read Pile.
The twists and turns of this fiendishly clever plot by James Asmus are matched only by the hilarious quips (no fewer than three literal laugh out loud moments here), making this issue an easy choice. The stodgy Quantum stays exasperated and befuddled much of the issue as things go from ridiculous to more ridiculous, while his brother Woody nails the one-liners (the Duck Dynasty line was perfectly timed) and carries on in the best possible manner unbefitting a hero. Guns, sexting, white supremacy, paranoia, murder plots, military policy ... never have these subjects worked together so well to make a humorous, entertaining product. The second issue in a row to make the jump, this creative team seems to have found their groove and one more issue with this level of quality means "buy on sight."

Black Widow #1
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Just say "da." With a fun, action movie-styled opening, Natasha Romanov has a monkey on her back, a crippling guilt that keeps her moving fast and breaking rules. To quiet that monkey, she's taking down bad guys for a price, policing a criminal community that can't be policed, funneling the money into something better via a bow tie-wearing attorney who handles the paperwork. If this were on the USA Network, it'd blow down ratings records, and with the stark, refreshing artwork of Phil Noto in hand, Nathan Edmondson (the guy who does "The Activity") makes this smaller cast float gracefully through the cordite and chatter. Fun stuff, well balanced with a nice character moment with the cat, and perfectly crafted.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Hot damn, that's a good start to the week.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Sex Criminals" #4 is twisted and fun as the two coital cohorts get caught in their overarching plot to save a library by robbing banks while time is on pause. What they didn't know was that others could do the same thing and secretly regulated this kind of activity. A good chunk of answers and a good chunk of plot, but it meandered quite a bit (including a collegiate digression which did a little bit of character development but hindered the plot). Very close to making the mark on sheer inventiveness, but off due to rhythm, ironically enough.

If you like Vertigo fare and you loved "Dominique Leveau, Voodoo Queen," then "Shadowman" #14 should be right up your alley. A troubled man struggles with a power older than history that he can barely control (*cough*jasonblood*cough*) as mystically trained overseers debate his ability to handle the power (*cough*gilesandthewatchers*cough*) as savage beatings are handed out and moody flashbacks work on character issues. It's not bad, but with David Baron's coloring bordering on the blindfold spectrum, it's a murky, hard-to-discern journey, like many recent issues of "Spawn."

"All-New Marvel NOW Point One" #1 is a bit of a conundrum, a mix between the "trailer park storytelling" of late (where a story snippet serves as an ad to get you to buy more product) and an actual story (Cannonball and Sunspot on AIM Island as frat boy super powered spies, framed by a conversation between Maria Hill and Captain America) that makes the SHIELD/Avengers relationship a lot more like it was when the name "Gyrich" was said more often. Dancing on the edges of it all with a close approximation of Hiddleston-esque flair, newly teenaged Loki sets up his new series somewhere between the two. It's kind of interesting to see how the new, er, "now" status quo gets set up, but places like Scans Daily will have all the really relevant details (as will certain "imperial" entanglements, if one was so inclined) online and searchable for as long as cache stands. This is okay, bit it'd have been a better gesture released on the web for the fans.

"Three" #4 is a brutal, martial historical fiction showing two sides of Sparta's legend: the power and the glory matched by the decadence and the cruel corruption. Characters fall to never rise again and an army chases a trio, all for perceived honor. Not bad if you like the genre, or even fantasy works like "Game of Thrones."

Following in the footsteps of Joe Casey's "Wildcats 3.0," "All-New X-Factor" #1 posits a corporation called Serval that "just wants to help people" spending a good piece of money to hire a freshly sobered-up Lorna Dane to create a "corporate super hero team" with resources and a headquarter and a kind of loose mandate. She, for some reason, wants Gambit (who may be on the outs with the Jean Grey School for thieving, bar brawling and other scoundrel-ish activities). When Quicksilver wants to tag along, it gets even murkier but charming weaponsmaker and CEO Harrison Snow says its fine, sending them out to bust an AIM cell chopping into mutants. This has the pacing and balance of a finely tuned television series, with the swagger of the latest episode of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and the sheen of the best episodes of "Human Target." Writer Peter David has something here, but it's "good enough to add to your Hulu queue" good, but not quite "Hulu Plus" good. Yet. Worth watching.

What, exactly, did Vader do on a day to day basis, for the Empire? In the time after the Battle of Yavin, "Star Wars" #13 takes a look at that as a young ensign from Naboo serves as the POV character following Vader and an elite squad of stormtroopers, hunting down leads on the Rebels who blew up the first Death Star and brought down Vader's personal reputation. The former Jedi is much of what you loved from the original trilogy -- forceful (no pun intended), commanding, certain ... in all bit his most private moments, literally haunted by his past. Had Vader himself done more than stand around and talk to people, this issue might have been a contender, but his presence -- while an improvement -- isn't quite there yet.

"Aphrodite IX" #7 started to connect the dots, placing this in a larger context of continuity with the rest of the Top Cow universe. The origins of the war between the genetically and cybernetically enhanced, the religious underpinnings therein, all suddenly start to click together. For the uninitiated reader, this is all just blather, random elements. For fans of the properties, it just got real and writer Matt Hawkins has been slick to hide it so well in throwaway panels and offhanded remarks. Still, the plot moves a little too slowly, but this is far less of a digression than it once seemed.

"Action Comics" #27 has the seed of some interesting science fiction as Lana Lang pluckily resists the "damsel in distress" stereotypes with a technology-enhanced shotgun and Clark gets all exasperated ("You have any idea how hard it is to actually throw something into the sun?") while punching. There's a surprisingly sweet opening ("Where would I be if no one ever anthropomorphized me?"), but the ending cuts off right when it should forge ahead, a pacing issue, and the mysterious suits are cliched window dressing. Not bad, and a considerable improvement.

"Avengers World" #1 wasn't bad, a multi-location team effort that did well showcasing different personalities (Star Brand is much more whimsical, this time around) as task forces of Avengers went to respond to crises at different points of the globe while Captain America and Maria hill trade quips back in a huge control room. A little too facile, a little too procedural, and the matter-of-fact approach to even three of the most powerful Avengers showing up made even the ominous framing device lack impact and grandeur. Not bad, but not where it seems it should be.

"Invincible Universe" #9 would, like many of its predecessors, be better if it was a Best Tiger solo story, as he's got the skills of Snake Eyes and the swagger of Jason Statham. His final struggle to topple the works of a corrupt Latin American super villain was poetic, but was hamstrung by a saccharine story of a kid hanging out with a sap called Wolfman while a telepath existed for exposition and another guy just stood around. There was a brief bloody coda, but it must have connected to something from another issue, as it wasn't really explained here. Ah well, so much promise ...

"Young Avengers" #15 was a purely character driven piece, like an issue of "Phonogram" that fell off the shelf and on top of Earth-616. Loki angsts up the place about himself (and sends a thousand fangirl hearts afluttering), Prodigy tries to figure it out, love is lost, love is won, and a girl named America hits the buzzer beater of one-liners. Not bad, but not actually a story, so not actually a purchase.

"Batwing" #27 was an improvement, as the title character didn't do anything embarrassing or get beaten up horribly for an entire issue. The Scarecrow has flooded the streets with a powerful hallucinogen ... or so it seems, he's off panel, we never see him, but the toxicology reports bear out that idea. The Bat is also notoriously absent. Anyway, a rodent-loving rival wants to see the city burn (for a fee, of course) and hates it when someone's successful. The plot meanders a bit but Batwing has better confidence and skills in his approach, even dodging a tough in-costume chat with his dad. Not great, but finally not sad.

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

"Painkiller Jane The Price Of Freedom" #3, "Stormwatch" #27, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Wonderland Through The Looking Glass" #5, "Marvel Knights Spider-Man" #4, "Suicide Risk" #9, "Avengers A.I." #8.NOW, "Batman Superman" #7, "Morning Glories" #36, "Swamp Thing" #27, "Shaolin Cowboy" #4, "Fantomex MAX" #4, "Protocol Orphans" #3, "Wolverine" #13,"B.A.R. Maid" #1, "Green Arrow" #27, "Infinity Heist" #4, "Manifest Destiny" #3, "Iron Man" #20, "Robocop: Last Stand" #6, "Savage Wolverine" #14.NOW, "Walking Dead" #119, "Movement" #8, "Halo Escalation" #2, "Forever Evil Arkham War" #4, "Cataclysm Ultimate Spider-Man" #3, "Manifest Destiny" #3, "Revolutionary War Alpha" #1, "Green Lantern" #27, "Sons Of Anarchy" #5, "Inhumanity The Awakening" #2, "Trinity Of Sin The Phantom Stranger" #15, "Cataclysm The Ultimates' Last Stand" #3, "Bloodshot And H.A.R.D. Corps" #18, "Earth 2" #19, "Lords Of Mars" #6, "FBP Federal Bureau Of Physics" #7, "Fatale" #19, "Detective Comics" #27, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Wonderland" #19, "A+X #16," "Letter 44" #3.

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

"Star Trek: Khan" #4 proves that, without a doubt, Admiral Marcus is the worst thing to happen to "Star Trek" since red matter, as he wakes up the rampaging genetically engineered warlord after extensive skin bleaching and plastic surgery. Really. That happened. Off panel. Then (and you'll love this) he tried to outsmart him. Really, just stop. This is embarrassing. It's like when the dumb kid in class struggles with a math problem at the chalkboard for too long. Everybody suffers here.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Only one truly bad book is a blessing for the new year.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two jumps easily beat out the Laugh of Khan, so let's say this week's a winner!

THE BUSINESS

Okay, for real, did you see that "Rap Viper" video by Wordburglar? That joint's crazy.

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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