The Buy Pile: Storybook Battlelines and Superhero Bros

Thu, July 17th, 2014 at 10:28am PDT | Updated: July 17th, 2014 at 10:28am

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

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WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (winner of the 2012 Top Cow Talent Hunt/blogger/novelist/poet/jackass on Twitter/podcaster/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 JULY 16, 2014

Fables #142
(Vertigo/DC Comics)
Back to the plot, as Snow White and her sister are cast in roles as opposite numbers while something like the Big Bad Wolf is back and out of control. More interesting, however, is the daughter of Bigby and Snow, the new North Wind, gathering terrors to her banner like Robb Snow demanding loyalty of the northern lords (with some sign it'll be a better ending). Add to that a really interesting imperialistic story with Sinbad at the end and this issue finally got back to "really good" range, even as it did so in pieces, not as a whole experience.

Avengers World #9
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile
This issue was a pleasant surprise, with Sam Guthrie and Bobby DaCosta as Hero Bros, time traveling and cracking pop culture jokes and generally enjoying the hell out of their lifestyle. They discover the secret of AIM Island, check out some of the new James Gunn movie (well played) and drop references in ways Abed would approve. This issue is geek catnip, well drawn by Stefano Caseli and Andres Mossa while Nick Spencer's script is a joy to read. Nice, solid modern superhero stuff all around.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Solid start here.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"The Wicked + The Divine" #2 is fun and moody and brilliant and ultimately empty, a quickie in an alley broadcast on "NBC Nightly News." The pantheon of modern gods gets expanded a bit and the POV character Laura voiceovers a lot, but as far as plot goes, this barely takes a step. As frustratingly deliberate as it is entrancingly beautiful and enticing, this issue will definitely make a collection stand up, but as a single installment is not a story.

"Star Wars: Darth Maul, Son Of Dathomir" #3 was a teensy dip in quality, just enough to miss the mark as a little less plotting and adding more Jedi threw the narrative balance off. Familiar faces fight as Maul and the Nightmother of Dathomir seek to expand their plot against Palpatine. Great art, the Jedi are predictably without a clue and Palpatine waits to pivot on the possibilities. Not bad, but not holding up to the twists & turns of the previous two.

"Princess Ugg" #2 has a certain charm to it, but its glacial pacing does it a disservice. The other "princesses" are stock characters and stereotypes, only the roommate of the titular character acting like a medieval extra from "Mean Girls." This doesn't feel like an issue, it feels like a slice of a TPB -- not bad, but not in the right format.

While some could find cruel comfort in watching the moneyed areas of Los Angeles burn, "Wildfire" #2 is very strong on plot and science while doing very little with characterization to make you care. On a big screen with a pulse-pounding Hans Zimmer score and actors you already know, some of these things could be glossed over in a summer haze of blockbuster momentum. On the page, the flat characters and their cliched motivations don't sing, which bogs down the otherwise brilliant work.

"Black Market" #1 was an interesting start. Using clever plotting and developing a pretty sympathetic protagonist, this story is part "Breaking Bad" and part Mark Waid's "Empire" (the really creepy spoiler part) as super powers mean a market for the unscrupulous and horrible consequences for people not used to having any problems. With a vibe that will strike a chord with fans of "Powers," this is an easy sell for movie development but leaned a little too much on tropes to get where it was going. A clever idea wrapped in solid, but not remarkable, execution.

"Cap'n Dinosaur" somehow manages to be ridiculous and sublime, a wholly kitsch take on comics from the age when they were the most ridiculous. The protagonist is a Joe Friday-styled gumshoe with the power to sense danger or turn off the thinking parts of his brain. His plucky sidekick is lunar powered in a domino mask and a bodysuit. The villains they face would make "Nextwave" stand up and applaud. Trashy in the best possible way, this comic book seems proud to make no sense as it strives for entertainment. If "gonzo" is your cup of tea, pull out your wallet right now.

Continuing a terrible retcon idea, "Original Sin: Hulk vs. Iron Man" #2 continues to "Rashomon" the night before the gamma bomb explosion and take a lot away from Tony Stark while adding nothing new or useful to Banner. A beautifully executed bad idea.

"Harbinger" #25 was a long denouement from last issue's big battle with some fantastic moments of fanservice (basically anything with Faith in it) as the main story set up the next move of disgraced billionaire industrialist & psi-powered villain Toyo Harada. Not bad, and surely manna for dyed in the wool fans, but not much more than that.

"Ms. Marvel" #6 was adorable in its fanservice moments (Wolverine, like Wu-Tang, is for the kids) as it did a half decent team up, with a start, a finish, a cliff hanger, some character development and decent art. It was a touch too cutesy for this column, but certain fans will find that outstanding. An improvement that bodes well.

Another example of a comic that's less story than plot notes, most of "Aphrodite IX Cyber Force" #1 is the flashbacks of immortals, with huge character developments brushed by and clever means of tying old continuity to the new done as throwaway comments, not jaw dropping reveals. Pretty art, fantastic ideas, grade "B" execution.

"Rat Queens" #7 had as its centerpiece one heck of a fight scene and is bracketed by lost love heralding unchecked powers. Vengeance, heartbreak, betrayal, the maiming of innocents -- lots going on here. Sadly, most of the female leads could have their speech bubbles switched and you'd barely know the difference, only the former "cult" member and a wounded woman have anything distinctive about them. Interesting for fantasy fans who don't take things too seriously, but swinging for more than it can hit.

With a Heinlein-ian fatalism mixed with an almost Starlin-esque space religion, "The Last Fall" is a tale cast in Frank Castle's clothes about a man who returned to the field of battle to avenge his fallen family again and again. Cursing, interesting visual design, a suitably anonymous antagonist, crisp Hemingway-esque writing ... not bad, but not so different from a number of spaceborne hard luck stories, despite two moments of legitimate emotional connection.

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

"Original Sin" #6, “Squidder" #1, "Green Lantern New Guardians" #33, "Secret Avengers" #5, "Lady Zorro" #1, "Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con International San Diego" #1, "Grimm Fairy Tales" #100, "Atomic Robo: Knights Of Golden Circle" #3, "Brain Boy The Men From G.E.S.T.A.L.T." #3, "X-Men" #16, “New 52 Futures End" #11, “Shadow" #0, "Red Hood And The Outlaws" #33, “God Is Dead" #16, "Uncanny X-Men" #23, "Robin Rises Omega" #1, “Clive Barker's Next Testament" #11, "Supergirl" #33, “Doberman" #1, "Teen Titans" #1, "Borderlands The Fall Of Fyrestone" #1, "100th Anniversary Special X-Men" #1, “Eye Of Newt" #2, "All-New X-Factor" #11, Last Broadcast” #3, "Magneto" #7, “Witchfinder The Mysteries Of Unland" #2, "24" #4, "Star Trek: Flesh and Stone," "Batwoman" #33, "X-Files Year Zero" #1, "Dark Engine" #1, "Silver Surfer" #4, "Unity" #9, "Batman Eternal" #15, "Nova" #19.

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

"She-Hulk" #6 took a step down. Ron Wimberly's art seemed more rushed and unfocused than before, with an action scene that was just a mess. Then, the few issues being discussed ended up so frustratingly inconclusive that it was like the door closing on you after you thought a half hour of making out would pay off. A very disappointing drop in quality.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Only one stinker, that's not bad.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

One jump beats one bad book, things went really well!

THE BUSINESS

The writer of this column has started a podcast, focusing on a lot of fun stuff happening at San Diego and lots of pop culture madness (yes, still, #wewantlando). Oh, and if you will be in San Diego, you might want to be in Room 32AB at 4PM, because some pretty interesting things will be announced. Just saying. Keep your schedule open for Friday at 11AM. Can’t say why, but might be worth your time.

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. There’s also a bunch of great stuff available from this writer on Amazon. 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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