The Buy Pile: Best Friends, Lost Sons & A Pregnant Superhero

Thu, February 18th, 2016 at 10:28am PST

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (winner of the 2012 Top Cow Talent Hunt/blogger/novelist/poet/jackass on Twitter/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 FEBRUARY 17, 2016

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Power Man And Iron Fist #1
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
There's one word for this issue: perfect. It's literally perfect in every way -- conception, execution, intent. Every character rings true, every word moves the reader forward. The titular characters are determined to not be "back together" as they deal with a little bit of old business from their "Heroes for Hire" days. They both carry themselves as honorably and clearly as possible, which only hits problems because the world they live in is irredeemably #&@%ed up. Writer David Walker turns in a script that perfectly encapsulates the story, and the team of Sanford Greene, Lee Loughridge and Clayton Cowles gave this the perfect mix of gritty and enjoyable atmosphere in the visual storytelling. You could easily imagine seeing this as an entire episode (not just the first half or third of one) on Netflix. Wonderful, wonderful work, and enjoyable from the first page to the last.

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Huck #4
(Image Comics)
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With a few perfect moments, this issue captured so many wonderful emotions for the lead character, a perfectly conceived male ingenue whose innocence is his greatest strength and his greatest weakness. The plot rushes ahead as Huck finds out information about his missing mother and is compelled to find her. This leads to a wonderful final few pages, perfectly crafted and emotionally sound. Writer Mark Millar has his mojo back with this wholly un-cynical, delightful script, and the visuals from Rafael Albequerque, Dave McCaig and Nate Piekos are pitch perfect. Excellent work.

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Spider-Woman #4
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
If this issue doesn't cement Jessica Drew's credentials as one of the premiere bad@sses in the Marvel universe, if not all of popular fiction, far past getting shot in the side with a bowcaster, nothing will. With the help of one of the most interesting Skrulls ever, she fights off an invading group of ne'er-do-wells in a space obstetrics ward. The artwork by Javier Rodriguez, Alvaro Lopez, Rachelle Rosenberg and Travis Lanham is tense, and the Dennis Hopeless script allows them to shine, especially with an action sequence that is simply stunning. A great surprise.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Heck of a good start here! Three jumps? Add to this the books with conflicts of interest that can't be reviewed ("Dusu: Path of the Ancient" #1 and "Eternal Soulfire" #6) and that's an inspiring start!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Snowfall" #1 has an interesting sci-fi premise of a corporate-minded America hiding in climate controlled regions after an ecological disaster. It also had crystal clear coloring and effective artwork. Its character work was limp, however, and despite a great visual design on a central character, the plot failed to capture the potential excitement in the iconography. Maybe it'll pick up...

"Astro City" #32 was very, very close to making its return to the land of purchases with the return of former villain Steeljack, the subject of the "Tarnished Angel" graphic novel. The tale is told in flashback after Steeljack slips out of legality, backtracking how he fell from grace. It does a good job of establishing his character and current situation but lingers too long over the minutiae, not allowing the issue to have a satisfying conclusion. Like "The Dark Ages," this will likely work better collected. Very close, though.

"Uncanny Inhumans" #5 takes a page from "Secret Wars" and makes Black Bolt the most dangerous bar owner this side of Knowhere, as the Quiet Room exists in Grand Central Station. His power promises security for all -- villain, hero and otherwise -- as well as vice, negotiation and discretion. Sounds cool, huh? Add to that a long con with Medusa and this should have been as good as it looks, but the plot meandered and was a bit too self-congratulatory where it needed urgency. An interesting stage has been set, but engaging with the drama remains undone.

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"Tithe" #8 would have been an engaging final chapter of a novel with a proper mustache twirling villain and a tensely done action scene. The characters don't have enough room to showcase their distinction from each other, and the issue has to skim past the unacceptable vein of intolerance in American politics in service to the plot. Not bad, but surely made for the collected approach.

Damian Wayne is a violent, arrogant, impulsive, snotty jerk, and it's absolutely hilarious and endearing to see him so in "Robin Son Of Batman" #9. Unfortunately, with a mostly non-verbal supporting cast and super generic antagonists wielding the might of O.H.I.O. (don't ask), he's punching below his weight class, and it shows. A star in search of the right sky where he can shine.

"Symmetry" #3 was tantalizing, as we got our first glimpse of another community, the self-separated Latins who exist apart from the community of caucasians at the core of this sci-fi fable. It did, however, feel like it needed another four or five pages, as the romance felt rushed and the decision in the last pages lacked oomph. Great looking book, though.

"Secret Six" #11 had a few laughs and a genuine moment or two, but Batgirl's appearance was somewhat out of character and wasted time that didn't make sense based on her goals. Good looking book, had some laughs, but not really connecting the way it needs to be.

"Mighty Thor" #4 had a few cute moments -- of course with the acidic wit of Loki at the heart of many of them -- but an incomplete plot with far too many questions and far too few answers. Malekith, Odin gone mad, riots amongst the Aesir ... to what end? Great looking book, though.

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

"Looking For Group" #11, "Star-Lord" #4, "Imperium" #13, "Starbrand And Nightmask" #3, "Bitch Planet" #7, "Star Wars" #16, "Zombie Tramp" #19, "Extraordinary X-Men" #7, "Bill And Ted Go To Hell" #1, "Carnage" #5, "Wrath Of The Eternal Warrior" #4, "Amazing Spider-Man" #8, "Wonder Woman" #49, "Citizen Jack" #4, "Sinestro" #20, "Kingdom Bum" #3, "Red Thorn" #4, "Birthright" #14, "Martian Manhunter" #9, "I Hate Fairyland" #5, "Lucifer" #3, "Rachel Rising" #40, "Batman And Robin Eternal" #20, "Web Warriors" #4.

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

In "bad ideas" news, "Silver Surfer" #2 presents a retcon to the Surfer's history and origins that turns things on their head far more than The Doctor facing down Rassilon, more like Peter Parker getting punched by Uncle Ben. Allred's art remains kooky and enjoyable, but this new wrinkle in space and romantic twist -- if you don't know the character, the surprise doesn't have enough of a set up, and if you do know the character, it borders on blasphemy. Badly conceived.

If you like the idea of a wildly self-referential, profane, weird little slice of comic book crazy, you might like "Sex Criminals" #14 (or certain issues of "Lil Depressed Boy" or that black and white one where the protagonist wears glasses and draws porn comic books), which -- no kidding -- has an entire scene with the artist and writer having a phone conversation about how to do a scene without actually doing the scene. This book is so gorgeously colored, so delightful in its clear line work and so wholly bereft of anything resembling a plot or standard storytelling. What happened? This title started out so well... sheesh.

"Squadron Supreme" #4 is completely off the rails. Remember when they were following the original Avengers World idea, except with the Authority's attitude? Yeah, no. Now, they're stuck in Weirdworld, having technical difficulties and fighting one of the least interesting people in the Marvel Universe, hopped up on delusions of grandeur. Literally all you can say is, "At least this looks good," because the team is failing at everything it's supposed to do and doing it in a way that's not compelling or makes you want to root for them. Guh.

The problem with "Avengers Standoff: Welcome To Pleasant Hill" #1 isn't that it's a bad idea, conceptually. It was a mildly workable idea... when it was originally presented in 1962. A perfect solution is created for a sticky problem, one that tramples on civil rights and allows motivated and dangerous people to all be put together in a place they can, essentially, organize. This concept was revised and updated in different places by Grant Morrison and Steven Moffat, but it didn't fix the "ticking time bomb" nature of the problem, instead compounding the irresponsible risks of this idea as a whole. The "solution" doesn't even last an entire issue before it starts going dangerously wrong. The problem here is not that it's a bad idea, it's that it's a derivatively bad idea, not fixing the problems left by the architects of modern myth and instead ratcheting up the potential for idiotic, preventable and catastrophic failure. Terrible conceptually, slow moving in execution, all around unacceptable.

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SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

... it was kind of rough out there ...

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Three jumps ... versus four really bad books? Tough call, but that means this week goes in the "lose" column.

THE BUSINESS

Weekly web comics from the writer of this column? "Project Wildfire: Enter Project Torrent" is happening.

The writer of this column isn't just a jerk who spews his opinions -- he writes stuff too. A lot. Like what? You can get "The Crown: Ascension" and "Faraway," five bucks a piece, or spend a few more dollars and get "New Money" #1 from Canon Comics, the rambunctious tale of four multimillionaires running wild in Los Angeles, a story in "Watson and Holmes Volume 2" co-plotted by "2 Guns" creator Steven Grant, two books from Stranger Comics -- "Waso: Will To Power" and the sequel "Waso: Gathering Wind" (the tale of a young man who had leadership thrust upon him after a tragedy), or "Fathom Sourcebook" #1, "Soulfire Sourcebook" #1 and "Executive Assistant Iris Sourcebook" #1, the official guides to those Aspen Comics franchises. Too rich for your blood? Download the free PDF of "Cruel Summer: The Visual Mixtape." 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 -- fantasy, superhero stuff, magical realism and more -- 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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