The Buy Pile: Make Mine Marvel

Thu, February 13th, 2014 at 11:28am PST

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 12, 2014

She-Hulk #1
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Finally. This issue could, in fact, be the definitive She-Hulk comic book -- quite an accomplishment given some very entertaining ones that have preceded it. Charles Soule's script encapsulates everything about the character -- her intelligence, her strength, her romantic appeal, her legal acumen and her determination. The widow of a super villain has a case she wants levied against Tony Stark, and the Stark legal machinery is as adversarial as taking on the entire Wrecking Crew. Soule's script makes a legal procedure as gripping as a knock down, drag out brawl while still fitting in a fight with killer robots and generally making a melee of things. The art from Javier Pulido and Munsta Vicente may be a little cartoonish, but it's still very effective in terms of visual storytelling and bringing Soule's wonderful work to life. A very, very pleasant surprise.

Astro City #9
(Vertigo/DC Comics)
This issue was good, particularly in an exchange between Winged Victory and one of her patrons. However, it wasn't great, as this series normally is. The clear frame up (from the reader's perspective) is dragging along a little, with no end in sight, and that throws off the pacing. Perhaps Astro City's "trinity" are better in the background, as this story only connects characters on an emotional level twice, a far cry from a normal issue. Not bad enough to consider dropping, but let's hope this concludes soon.

All-New X-Factor #3
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
First of all, the dialogue and character interaction here is superb. Not just relying on old information (although long time fans will be greatly rewarded by these interchanges), Peter David's spandex-tight script balances each character's personality against the others with deftness and skill. Second, the plot moves briskly, spending the first half of the issue on building team tension and then expending it with a nice trip to an island full of untrustworthy scoundrels. Toss in some not-so-surprising twists from the meta-story and you've got some fun stuff, well done and enjoyable. Could X-Factor be back? Let's see ...

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

The two jumps make up for an underperforming regular in this arena.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Star Wars" #14 was a pretty good Vader-centric story (finally) hunting down the identity of a rebel spy and fighting visions of his haunted past. However, again the focal point should have been a fierce battle with blasters firing and a red lightsaber blade mowing down opposition was too pedestrian in composition, too static in execution. There was no "holy crap" element to the sequence, or the work as a whole, and while the framing device if the ensign's narration was interesting, it wasn't compelling. This is, however, the closest this series has come to finding solid footing.

Spider versus Goblin in "Superior Spider-Man" #27.NOW as Otto's deepest secrets come out to the worst possible person while he walks past an opportunity to change his life, ignores his new start-up company and, right, has his secret identity become a suspect in a cop's disappearance. The big dance number drops off just when it really gets real, and this issue was very close but got hamstrung by lacking focus and having the most ridiculous memory subplot linger.

Modern paranoia gets the lonely geek treatment in "City: The Mind In The Machine" #1, where a disaffected coder is this close to the next big tech breakthrough, but a stillborn office romance and a sudden accident changes all of the stakes. A slightly less cerebral sci-fi take on the 1997 Wim Wenders film "The End of Violence," perhaps, but not bad.

"Think Tank" #12 was ratcheting up the intensity on a high stakes plot when, pfffft. It didn't even fade to black, it blacked out and allowed a "conclusion" that was all sunshine and rose petals, yet made very, very little sense. Given how this looked so good, the final third of this issue is a big let down, kind of like "Battlestar Galactica" from the second they set down on New Caprica.

The idea of the Thunder God embroiled in an ecological struggle with Roxxon has some interesting possibilities and "Thor God Of Thunder" #19.NOW takes some time to get jnto it, with smarmy CEO Dario Agger always "keeping a chopper full of scotch nearby" and considering Thor an equal. Meanwhile, a plucky tyro SHIELD agent has attracted the Odinson's attention with some Lois Lane-esque implications. Not bad, but the needless future digressions took valuable page time that could have been better spent developing character.

There are two fantastic things about "Transformers Robots in Disguise" #26, another installment in the lengthy "Dark Cybertron" crossover. First, there is an Optimus Prime moment, inspired by a speech from Rodimus of all mechanoids, that is epic and worthy of fist pumps. Second, Shockwave reveals a secret which staggers far greater powers than his own. That's great. Unfortunately, there are some big artistic deficits as fight scenes that, by all rights, should echo down the corridors of history are simply difficult to decipher, a muddle of sharp angles and squinty images that convey neither kineticism nor relevance. As well, exactly what Megatron's role was is lost in a plot overpacked with things to get done. Not bad, especially with quips like Whirl manages, but a little more ambitious than the space would allow.

"Egos" #2 follows through on some of the wild promise of the first issue as the team goes into battle against a dangerous sentient galaxy (take THAT, Tyrant Sun!). The artistic execution hampers the grandeur of the storytelling, and the exposition got a little lengthy. Still interesting, just took a mild misstep.

Swinging sixties spy action is the calling card of "Winter Soldier The Bitter March" #1, which has so much fun with a rivalry between Nick Fury and an Asian SHIELD agent named Ran Shen that you almost forget Bucky's involvement until he shows up in a big way. Nice chase sequence, cliche if solidly depicted spy narrative, this will be a favorite of some Steranko fans and the Austin Powers crowd.

There was an interesting premise to "The Bunker" #1, where a group of friends discover letters from the future, outlining how they will ruin the entire freaking world and ruin their friendships along the way. However, the execution played out too dry and the artwork wasn't far from it. Intriguing ideas that just didn't bring it home.

The professor is a masterful, charismatic scoundrel in "Sherlock Holmes: Moriarty Lives" #2, slicing through a soft criminal organization as if it were an afterthought while mentoring a naive bereaved orphan. The character work is superb even if the plot is pedestrian.

From a perspective of craft, "Great Pacific" #13 had a nice narrative trick, using flashbacks in a cunning manner to deliver plot points and tie together the events here. However, the characters could have been cut outs and the actual plot had nothing outside of its trick, all hat and no cowboy. Still an interesting exercise in craft.

Time traveling mutant soldier Cable has a ... well, "brand new" would be disingenuous, but he's got a slightly different crew of deluded wackjobs as his minions for mutant covert ops in "X-Force" #1, a quick and dirty assault on the underbelly of Marvel's universe that even the Secret Avengers would consider "underground." The stakes are relevant, the action's like a heist story, the dialogue entertains (with Dr. Nemesis playing the Krieger role from "Archer" to boot). Marrow's love letter framing device doesn't get any clear resolution but she works well in the role Boom-Boom (Tabitha to her friends) once occupied, with the Pepe le Pew pursuit of Fantomex after Psylocke being fairly chuckle worthy. Lots of good pieces here, just playing a fairly familiar tune that will only get you dancing if you really, really wanna dance. If you're looking to get pushed to the dance floor, this won't do it for you.

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

"Uncanny" #6, "Cosmos" #1, "Vampirella Southern Gothic" #5, "Memory Collectors" #3, "Sons Of Anarchy" #6, "Eternal Warrior" #6, "Secret Avengers" #15, "Red Sonja Berserker," "Revolutionary War Death's Head 2" #1, "Manifest Destiny" #4, "Marvel Knights X-Men" #4, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Wonderland Clash Of Queens" #1, "Fatale" #20, "Deadpool" #23, "Hawken Melee" #5, "Avengers" #26, "Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure" #2, "Superman Wonder Woman" #5, "Clown Fatale" #4, "Superboy" #28, "Grimm" #10, "Royals: Masters Of War" #1, "Protocol Orphans" #4, "Nightwing" #28, "Battlestar Galactica" #8, "Justice League Of America" #12, "Harbinger" #21, "Justice League 3000" #3, "Robocop To Live And Die In Detroit" #1, "Green Lantern Corps" #28, "X" #10, "Forever Evil Rogues Rebellion" #5, "Fuse" #1, "Constantine" #11, "Mercenary Sea" #1, "Batgirl" #28, "Wolverine And The X-Men" #41, "Letter 44 #4.

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

Hey ... nothing was terrible! Cool!

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

First, let's just pause in gratitude for reading nothing terrible. This is a wonderful moment, let's all just soak it in.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Can we say again that nothing stank? Good news.

THE BUSINESS

Just a few weeks until "Artifacts" #35 hits stands, written by the writer of this column and drawn by Nelson Blake 2 and Michael Avon Oeming. Brace yourselves.

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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