The Buy Pile: Black Leather, Batarangs & Ancient Conspiracies

Thu, January 23rd, 2014 at 11:28am 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 JANUARY 22, 2014

Black Widow #2
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Self contained. Episodic. Action packed. Intimate. All words that could be used to describe this intriguing, satisfying issue. Phil Noto and Nathan Edmondson were made to work together, creating a seemingly effortless reality of guns and old debts, of deceptions and discarding sabot rounds. Natasha is a haunted protagonist, desperate to make her past less horrible by doing relatively good things in the present, and this issue introduces an antagonist with a solid motivation and a grounded approach that makes him a good foil for the title character. Remarkable, enjoyable work all around.

Batman #27
(DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
This was an interesting character-driven piece set early in Batman's career that featured two very solid monologues from two of his closest allies before he truly trusted them. The Riddler is an actual menace, which is a nice twist, and Gotham itself is a character of hopelessness and degradation. The fact that this issue was so good with its titular character falling back to allow the ensemble to shine, that was an interesting choice and one that paid off for writer Scott Snyder, with crisp, narrative artwork from Greg Capullo, Danny Miki and Fco Plascencia.

One Nation: Old Druids #1
(133art)
Jump from the Read Pile.
A crafty bit of misdirection and vengeance played out with a historical bent, this issue may have had a typo or two and lettering that could have been better, but the core ideas in terms of both plot and character are rock solid. A centuries-old conspiracy, a biblical tie in, drinks and jolly old London town, this complex story has a lot going on, balanced perfectly in a script by Jason Reeves and Alverne Ball with art by Ari Syahrazad. Imagine the atmosphere of the series "Rex Mundi" and the relentlessness of the movie "Man on Fire" mashed up with a dash of the Hellfire Club. Super inventive and well worth watching.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

A promising indie, two big ticket items that satisfied -- good start!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Hawkeye" #16 flirted with greatness. No, that's not accurate. "Hawkeye" #16 pulled greatness into a bathroom stall and swapped spit before drunkenly staggering out when the fire alarm inadvertently went off. Kate Bishop is one entertaining protagonist, with quips and shenanigans that'd make Zooey Deschanel clap unironically. However, with a plot that was a little too "Magnolia" for its own good (not to mention being robbed of a soundtrack), this was again superbly ambitious but sadly flawed, flubbing its pacing with the disjointed ending and having a crescendo that would have fit on an episode of "Ally McBeal" ... in the last season, after Billy died. It's never boring, though.

Whether the plot is "skin tight" or "loosey goosey," Layman and Guillory's "Chew" is always wildly imaginative and always worth a look. This 39th issue is deep in a storyline involving the death of the lead character Tony Chu's twin sister and her Xanatos-esque plans involving him after her death. A bit far in the high grass for neophytes, but long time readers will appreciate the call backs and in jokes as Tony's "saboscrivener" girlfriend makes a big comeback. Built for its eventual episodic fate, this is gonna make one heck of a cable series one day even as it's not exactly enough for the cover price in this format.

"Green Lantern New Guardians" #27 was quite a surprise as Exeter the Keeper may be the new Kilowog. With the quote of the week ("Fewer words, more meaning") and some lines that simply delighted, his writing made him a breakaway star even though his dismal visual design didn't delight. Add that to Kyle Rayner and Carol Ferris as two ring-slinging will-they-or-won't-they types and this issue got pretty close to making the mark (and a lot of that credit goes to writer Justin Jordan). However, with less than clear action sequences (loved the head butt, though) and a barely developed antagonist that fell flat far too easily, this missed the mark by the thinnest of margins.

Imagine a gritty private investigator in a world like the one of "Powers" or perhaps "Top 10" and you'll have an idea what to expect in "Jack Hammer" #1, a no-nonsense mash up of superhero and detective genres paced like a procedural. If this was on cable, it'd be a critical darling, but it doesn't offer enough answers nor enough plot to justify the cover price. Worth keeping an eye on it, though.

"Hacktivist" #1 is intriguing, a concept by former child star Alyssa Milano brought to life by writers Collin Kelly, Jackson Lanzig and artists Marcus To and Ian Herring. With the pacing of an early-in-the-season episode of "24," it posits a world where the next Zuckerberg didn't freeze out his friend bit instead became the next Anonymous, with shades of Wikileaks and Edward Snowden thrown in for fun. The breakneck plot has riveting stakes and an actual panther walking around, but the characterization needs a little more substance. An intriguing start, though.

So much going on in "Transformers Robots In Disguise" #25 that it's hard to parse the good from the bad. Okay, again the crew of the Lost Light (main cast from "More Than Meets The Eye") shine with even Rodimus in the "dead universe" getting incrementally smarter. The battle of Minicons inside and around the maybe corpse of Metroplex is fantastic and Galvatron chews scenery like Megatron on speed. However, the all-too-brief moment of Scoop and Starscream's argument while the city of Iacon burns felt considerably too brief, Nova Prime needs monologuing lessons (Star Saber was better) and even with the last page reveal, there is just too much happening at one time for this to be cohesive. Brilliantly conceived and executed haphazardly, like the rest of the crossover, this is an ambitious attempt that falls short.

On the good side, "FF" #16 had one of the best battles against Dr. Doom ever, with great combat matched by great science and great monologuing. That alone could have made this issue epic. However, when tied with lame jokes and maudlin sentimentality, it lacked the impact it could have had. Check for the Sportcenter version of this one and realize that Hank Pym never figured out Pym particles, Scott Lang did.

If you like long term connections, "Aphrodite IX: The Hidden Files" #1 reveals some interesting things about the Artifacts that litter the Top Cow universe, but with an unfortunate switch into first person about half way through that had no difference in formatting, the tone was a little jarring from futuristic briefing to commentary track.

"Captain America" #15 had some good character moments as Cap and a few other relevant names talked down the failed super soldier Nuke, but ultimately had too much focus on a cliched guy in a bad shirt and SHIELD being bad at what they do. More of the real emotional toll on Steve Rogers, however, could touch on some really important storytelling if we could get away from the jingoistic attack on yesterday's dragon.

"Conan the Barbarian #24" was almost a literal song, written in the style of the old lute-carrying storytellers who wandered from town to town. Conan's bloody saga, escaping the end of his love, was well told, but lacked consequence as the threats against him were less than imposing and even the best action scene, with the arrows, lacked a dynamic quality. Not bad at all, though.

On one side, "Eternal Warrior" #5 posited the lead character in a solid post-apocalyptic tale, looking at a world beyond nations and the illuminated rectangles that dominate our lives. On the other side, it developed one character outside of the lead Gilad, left an ambiguous antagonist without definition. The ideas have some promise, but there's not enough here just yet.

With internecine politics, struggles between military and civilian parties and the trademarked swagger of Dirk Benedict, "Battlestar Galactica: Starbuck" #3 hits all the right early '80s notes in a murder mystery tied to more trouble than the Colonial fleet could ever want. Nostalgia fans will consider this a classic, and it wouldn't be bad broadcast over your antenna, but for the cover price it's not quite strong enough.

In terms of execution, "Avengers" #25 is masterful, with deft dialogue and a set up that'd have the kids at "Agents of SHIELD" taking notes. However, in conception, especially after the Cancerverse and Squadron Supreme and so many other Captain Ersatz interpretations, the underlying concept, the original idea is horribly retrograde. No one can question the craft of Hickman, Larocca and Martin, but in terms of going somewhere new ... well, it's not so interesting, even knowing how this likely ties into "New Avengers."

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

"Doc Savage" #2, "Zero" #5, "Bad Dog" #6, "Indestructible Hulk" #18.INH, "Midas Flesh" #2, "X-O Manowar" #21, "Legends Of Red Sonja" #3, "Star Wars: Legacy 2" #11, "Supergirl" #27, "Lone Ranger" #21, "Fracture" #2, "Wonder Woman" #27, "Lone Ranger" #21, "Cable And X-Force" #19, "Mind MGMT" #18, "All-New X-Men" #22.NOW, "Walking Dead" #120, "Mocking Dead" #5, "X-Men" #9, "Sex" #10, "Bubblegun" #4, "Warlord Of Mars Dejah Thoris" #34, "Mighty Avengers" #5.INH, "Umbral" #3, "Red Hood And The Outlaws" #27, "Mass Effect: Foundation" #7, "The Horsemen: Mark of the Cloven (Two of Nine)," "Wolverine And The X-Men" #40, "Skyward" #5, "Animal Man" #27, "Iron Man" #20.INH, "Jinnrise" #9, "Elfquest The Final Quest" #1, "Cataclysm Ultimate X-Men" #3, "Judge Dredd" #15, "All-New Invaders" #1, "Deceivers" #2, "Trinity Of Sin Pandora" #7, "Avengers World" #2, "Magic The Gathering Theros" #4, "Captain Midnight" #7, "Bedlam" #11, "Krampus" #2, "Batman And Two-Face" #27, "Samurai Jack" #4, "Justice League" #27, "Battlestar Galactica" #7, "All-New X-Factor" #2, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Utrom Empire" #1, "Deadly Class" #1, "X-Files Conspiracy: Ghostbusters" #1, "Dead Body Road" #2, "Birds Of Prey" #27, "Superior Spider-Man Team-Up" #9, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Wonderland Asylum" #1.

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

"Bad Ass" #1 is a complete work of cliche. Its nerd-turned-tough-guy protagonist (such as he is) is a modern portrait of needless nihilism, the indifference of the incompetent honed into a melee combat machine without a driver. The issue had less plot than dream sequence for picked upon dorks, but at least the art by Bruno Bessadi and Gaetan Georges was good.

"Pretty Deadly #4" is still meandering, still vague when it strives for poetic, still dropping the ball on basic visual storytelling techniques.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Ambition trumps the failures here, so let's say it went well.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Three jumps! Only two bad books! This week's a winner.

THE BUSINESS

Did you see the Bleeding Cool preview of "Artifacts" #35 featuring artwork from Michael Avon Oeming? In stores February 26th, so you'd better ask your retailer to set a copy aside for you while you still can!

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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