The Buy Pile: Ladies Rule with Black Widow & Lazarus

Thu, February 6th, 2014 at 11:28am PST | Updated: February 7th, 2014 at 5:44am

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

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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 FEBRUARY 5, 2014

Black Widow #3
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Wow. Using all the skills he developed on the Image title "The Activity," Nathan Edmondson focuses everything into characterizing Natasha Romanov, giving her the Michael Westen treatment and weaving plot issues and development of the titular character together wonderfully. Phil Noto's sparse, clean art makes a south American jungle and the more urban climes of New York equally engaging. Here, Natasha springs a man from a prison where he served time for a crime he did not commit. The twists and turns of the plot allow almost two complete narrative experiences to happen sequentially, and that's a rock solid, rewarding entertainment experience. In that this is the third jump in a row, this series is now considered "buy on sight."

Lazarus #6
(Image Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Taking a closer look at the society beneath the fortune of the Carlyle family, lead character Forever investigates people desperate for a better life while in the hinterlands another family gambles it all for a shot in hell at saving their kids from generations of debt. Intense and moody, this was more plot than anything else, but the society itself became a kind of character: unblinking, cruel, bereft of sympathy and wholly uncompromising. Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Brian Level and Santi Arcas deliver a vision of a future you do not want but perhaps cannot avoid, managing to entertain and perhaps engage you in the struggle of this impossible woman caught in the middle of an equally impossible situation.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Two jumps? Hoo hah, that's pretty damned good!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Transformers More Than Meets The Eye" #26 followed a similar pattern. Posturing and yelling from the largely ineffective Transformers on Cybertron (especially Starscream, who's whined for two or three straight issues). Rodimus and the former Optimus Prime having some interesting moments in the ill-depicted dead universe. Fascinating plots crowding out characterization for the motley crew of the Lost Light, led by Ultra Magnus. Big set pieces were moved into place and even more female Autobots popped up (even the issue's text noted there was no time to explore what that meant) leading to an ending that hopefully won't re-establish the same status quo that existed before Starscream took over Iacon. Intriguing but disappointing.

"Action Comics" #28 wasn't half bad, as Lana Lang and her childhood friend find a mysterious civilization seven miles under the earth while being followed by Kitty Pryde's militant First American cousin. There's a lot of good stuff happening here, from the determination of the Ghost Soldier to the wonderful interplay between Clark and Lana, but the blah characterization of the arguable antagonists was a deficit. Very solid otherwise.

"Loki Agent Of Asgard" #1 manages to be both ridiculous and sublime, as the teenaged Loki -- all witty exposition and smarmy misdirection -- takes on a mission for Asgard that's never what it seems. The actual details of the plot and the characterization are all rock solid in Al Ewing's script, but the pacing sags in the middle and the first reveal lacks oomph being telegraphed as it is. An intriguing start, admittedly, especially given that last page.

"Avengers A.I." #9 had a cute visual moment that will have writer Brandon Thomas chuckling, but overall fell flat between its "users versus programs" narrative and its attempt at giving Monica Chang something to do. Not bad, but not good enough.

"Apocalypse Al" #1 is a TV-ready premise of a fairly cliched gumshoe cast as a female in a legacy role, taking on cases with ultimate stakes. The plot's entertaining even if the characters are a little "central casting"-ish and if this was on USA Network, it could run for five seasons. Still needs a few more minutes in the oven for the printed format.

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

"Batman Joker's Daughter" #1, "Twilight Zone" #2, "Batwing" #28, "Codename Action" #5, "Detective Comics" #28, "Revelations" #2, "Earth 2" #20, "Damsels "#12, "Fairest" #23, "Catalyst Comix" #8, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Oz" #6, "Forever Evil" #5, "Grimm The Warlock" #3, "Green Lantern Red Lanterns" #28, "Robocop Hominem Ex Machina" #1, "Movement" #9, "Mark Waid's The Green Hornet" #9, "Stormwatch" #28, "Juice Squeezers" #2, "Swamp Thing" #28, "Turok Dinosaur Hunter" #1, "Trinity Of Sin The Phantom Stranger" #16, "Robocop Last Stand" #7, "All-New Invaders" #2, "Warlord Of Mars Dejah Thoris" #35, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Ascension" #1, "Michael Avon Oeming's The Victories" #9, "G.I. JOE" #13, "X-Men" #10.NOW, "Shadowman" #15, "Wolverine" #1, "God Is Dead" #6, "Superior Foes Of Spider-Man" #8, "The Fox" #4, "Superior Carnage Annual" #1, "Suicide Risk" #10, "Punisher" #1, "Archer And Armstrong Archer" #0, "Painkiller Jane The Price Of Freedom" #4, "Sidekick" #5, "New Avengers" #14, "Illegitimates" #3, "Ms. Marvel" #1, "Secret" #5, "Minimum Wage" #2, "Mighty Avengers" #6, "Invincible Universe" #10, "Terminator Salvation The Final Battle" #3, "Marvel Knights Spider-Man" #5, "Five Ghosts" #9, "Iron Man" #21, "Sinister Dexter" #3, "Captain America" #16.NOW, "Drumhellar" #4, "Forever Evil Arkham War" #5, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Code Red" #3,

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

Normally, the bland characters and dull plot just kind of wash over you, but in "The Star Wars" #5, a contrived and wholly ham-fisted romantic angle got jammed in, and it's both badly conceived and poorly executed. You see some familiar sights (like, literal original trilogy stuff) but not in a way that helps the story, and R2 talking is not an improvement. At least the art is attractive.

"Green Arrow" #28 featured a retcon so mind boggling in its wrong-headedness that it'd be like Uncle Ben being the power behind the Kingpin. Add to that muddy, difficult-to-discern art (the onomatopoeic section did not work) and this issue is a complete catastrophe.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Just two stinkers? Comparatively, that's not bad.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two jumps beats the hell out of two terrible titles, especially with some of the ambitious attempts, so let's say the week wins in a big way.

THE BUSINESS

This gun's for hire, even if we're just dancing in the dark.

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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