The Buy Pile: Marvel's Heroes & Scoundrels

Thu, April 3rd, 2014 at 11:28am PDT

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 APRIL 2, 2014

Loki Agent Of Asgard #3
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Wow. Just ... wow. In lesser hands, a plot this complex could have easily flown off the rails and been a muddled mess of internal contradictions. Here? Writer Al Ewing shows a deftness with the Norse trickster that rivals the brilliance of Gillen's "Journey Into Mystery," a Loki so deep into being a chessmaster that his nonchalance is the height of hilarity. He's more dangerous when he's still than when in motion ("Seems fair"), and in a project with static images, that's not easy to pull off, so kudos as well go to Lee Garbett and Nolan Woodard. As Loki's current deal to "rewrite history" with (arguably) good deeds replacing (unequivocally) bad ones, that unfortunately leaves a lot of room for the story to get remixed, with Loki using the idea of a retcon as a plot device. So meta, so brilliant, so wonderful with at least three "holy crap" moments. The second you're done reading it, you should read it again.

Moon Knight #2
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
This is a beautiful exercise in craft, a love letter to the action genre. Another discarded soldier brings high velocity hollow tipped chickens home to roost, and Moon Knight is on the scene to take him down. The set up is almost like poetry, the chase and fight after that like a rich dessert, the punchline an indictment of the western world. However, for all of that, there's not much story there, just thrill, just adrenaline, just GO! Take out Moon Knight and plug in Nighthawk or the Midnighter or many other tortured Captain Ersatz Batman and it could have played out exactly the same way. Not bad for a quickie, though, and since it's a slow week, let's give it a jump.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Inexpensive, entertaining and fun to read more than once.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

“Quantum And Woody” #9 was solid if slow, a set up for a bigger gag in the following issue. The action was both dynamic and engaging, and the character interaction was solid if intentionally ridiculous. Wallowing in the humor meant dragging in the "stuff happening" sense, and that's a pity. This series is still looking for a more certain footing.

“Revelations” #4 had some rock solid moments of characterization and hilarious dialogue, but a plot that dragged along way too slowly. This would have made a very compelling mystery novel, but its pacing is -- pardon the pun -- murdering it monthly.

“Green Lantern” #30 showed Hal Jordan displaying far more wisdom and composure since, well, almost any time since "Emerald Twilight," using a strength greater than physical force or even will power to try and reach a Khund warlord. Despite that good bit, the plot was both unbelievable and predictable, so it wasn't enough to see some growth from Hal Jordan.

“Red Sonja” #8 had a very entertaining opening with the titular character on the road and ... hungry for something the cook traveling with her doesn't have on the menu. The second half of the book, however, was fantasy trope down to the last character introduced, and that could have used more imagination and pep.

“Archer And Armstrong” #19 is frustrating because there are so many moments -- false blinds, sudden plot twists, even character moments -- that are very enjoyable. However, if you put together a set of foods that individually taste good, you don't always have a meal, and here the cohesiveness -- from Palmer getting punched to the slapstick nature of the action scenes -- doesn't stand on its own. Will it when the whole story is told and collected? Maybe. We'll see. A truly "valiant" effort.

“Bad Blood” #4 is really quite clever with a surprise that's effective and poking some holes in the tropes of vampires. If you're a fan of that brand of gothic storytelling (your Buffy fans for example), you'll likely find this issue delectable.

“Starlight” #2 was fun in a nostalgic, aw-shucks kind of way, but all too quick, with its central struggle taking place in one man's mind and its moments of spectacle brief and lacking grandeur.

“Apocalypse Al” #3 has a number of cute one liners and a wicked send up of all things Disney, but its by the numbers funhouse horror plot doesn't do a lot. If you like JMS' sense of whimsy, this might be a buy for you.

Using the mechanisms of villainy to accomplish the goals of good is a slippery slope, and in "Mark Waid's The Green Hornet" #11 the alleged criminal learns this the hard way. More old timey storytelling with the snap and crispness of the modern day, Mark Waid surely knows how to tell a story. The source material, however, has limits and there are only so many ways they can go, few of which are really gripping.

“Dead Letters” #1 is supernatural noir in the vein of "Ten Grand," with a bad man shoved into an impossible situation, complete with Roger Rabbit-esque resiliency. It's not standing out in any way, a safe and fairly normal spate of violence and nihilism, but it's surely not bad.

“Invincible Universe” #12 proved that if superheroes had a point guard, they'd be like Best Tiger, by far the most compelling character in the issue, even while transformed into some strange lizard man. Bringing out the best in everyone while dishing the assists, he takes over when global extinction pops up like the gopher from "Caddyshack." The antagonist was cliche and forgettable, the original crisis tedious and ill-considered, but there were some great moments and, as always, Todd Nauck's pitch perfect artwork.

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

"She-Hulk" #3, "Action Comics" #30, "Punisher" #4, "Artifacts" #36, "New Warriors" #3, "Fairest" #25, "Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy Prelude" #1, "Magneto" #2, "Turok: Dinosaur Hunter" #3, "Inhuman" #1, "Aquaman And The Others" #1, "Deadpool Vs Carnage" #1, "Field" #1, "Captain America" #19, "Skyward" #6, "Black Widow" #5, "Gate Way" #4, "Trinity Of Sin: The Phantom Stranger" #18, "Veil" #2, "Swamp Thing" #30, "Red Sonja And Cub," "Stormwatch" #30, "Secret" #7, "Shadow Year One" #8, "Movement" #11, "G.I. JOE Special Missions" #13, "Earth 2" #22, "Black Science" #5, "What If Age Of Ultron" #1, "Detective Comics" #30, "God Is Dead" #10, "Sidekick" #6, "Green Arrow" #30, "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #200, "Grimm Fairy Tales" #96.

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

“Pretty Deadly” #5 is a mess, a tone poem to being tone deaf, the fluttering of attempts at metaphor dressed up like a story. Arguably, it could be said to parallel the quest nature of "East of West," but in fact it's more like "The Monarchy" in its vain attempt at melodrama. From concept to execution, there's nothing here that worked.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Ah, it wasn't that bad.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

The Mouse House of Ideas stepped up their game this week, even with a lot of "meh" along the way, so let's call this week a winner.

THE BUSINESS

Don't forget you can also get "Artifacts" #35 and "Waso: Will To Power - Chapter 1" on Amazon. There's another "Waso" chapter coming in a few weeks or so ...

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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