WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?
Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/jackass on Twitter) goes to a comic book store called Comics Ink in Culver City, CA (Overland and Braddock -- hey Steve, Jason, Vince and Quislet) and 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 JUNE 1ST, 2011
Heroes for Hire #8
Jump from the Read Pile.
Spider-Man and Paladin are hip deep in bad guys wielding demon-flavored guns while Misty Knight is on her way. This leads to another guest star popping in (and out) and two villains participating in gladiatorial games from different perspectives. Spidey claims his quips are running on fumes and both heroes are very complimentary of Misty Knight's visual appeal. Packed with action, this issue further develops Paladin as something more than a man looking for a paycheck (his visual resemblance to her last boyfriend is not lost in the work) and uses Spider-Man as a kinetic foil that keeps the plot moving. Solid entertainment with witty dialogue and sterling artwork, delivered by writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning alongside art team Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy, John Livesay and Jay David Ramos.
Secret Six #34
There are so many powerful emotional moments in this issue that it's almost shocking how effective the tense action scenes are ("Ten feet, Mr. Randall. Maybe twelve"). The stripper Liana's kidnapping sees a conclusion, Scandal Savage has some big realizations about who this group really is and Bane goes on a date to the carnival. So many great moments, so much mastery and fine control from the hands of writer Gail Simone and art team J. Calafiore and John Kalisz. If this series is rebooted in the hands of a less talented writer, it will truly be a tragedy.
Avengers Academy #14.1
Jump from the Read Pile.
In a wonderfully crafted done-in-one story, the team gets a look at other "alums of Osborn U" who've gone on to live very different lives than Hank Pym's charges. There's a twist in the last act of the plot that Finesse sees coming a long way off but might sneak up on the reader. This creates a sense of struggle for the characters who are frustrated with their education but lacking alternate ideas. The character work with Mettle, Striker and Finesse in particular is very strong, and the new potential antagonist is a fascinating combination of charisma and menace. Refreshing and riveting.
Who Is Jake Ellis? #4
The action leads to Morocco as Jake and Jon close in on some answers about why they're together. The tautness of the plot elements, teasing one another as more and more criminal acts are committed and Jake reveals that there's more to him than even he anticipated. Running and dodging around corners, grabbing key cards and files and giving good espionage, all to have a final scene that's just riveting. Outstanding work, even if it felt just a hair too brief.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Add in "The Official Index to the Marvel Universe: The Avengers, Thor & Captain America" #8 and this was one sweet week of comics.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Static Shock Special" #1 was the hardest book to leave at the store, because it really, really was genuine in its love for both the character and the extended subject matter, dearly departed writer and creator Dwayne McDuffie. From a heartfelt letter, written by former business partner Michael Davis to an allegorical narrative penned by Felicia Henderson, this comic book really showed its affection for all things Milestone. However, as a story the allegory was both muddled and heavy handed by trying too hard to overlay the Dwayne McDuffie experience on Virgil Hawkins' uncle. McDuffie himself probably wouldn't have accepted that as "good enough," so neither could this columnist, despite having a great deal of affection for the ideas behind the project.
"Fear Itself" #3 was the poster child for this week's catchphrase, "spectacle is not storytelling," as hammer-wielding extra-human beings were everywhere, wreaking havoc and serving some sinister agenda. The only part that really worked was the crystal clear element of fear in Odin, as the last page "surprise" was teased in artwork and almost foretold in solicitation copy. Odin and the non-stop intensity of the action can keep a little of your attention, but there's not enough story here to do more than that.
"Batman Beyond" #6 was not bad, bringing back a villain from the series and an element from the movie (a fun visual reveal) all over issues of corporate brinkmanship and the ambition of old men. A must have for fans of the property, with the titular character's struggle over his double life percolating alongside his "work" as a hero, but for more casual readers this just kind of treads water.
On one hand, there's parts of "Criminal: The Last of the Innocent" #1 that would satisfy the fans of the series -- noir, bad people doing bad things and so on. On the other hand, there's a series of flashbacks depicted in an almost Archie Comics style that's, frankly, jarring and ill-suited for the subject matter. The idea, it seems, was to show the discordance between the characters in their youth and their much more rough hewn adulthoods, but it didn't quite connect.
"Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint" #1 answered some questions about "what happened" in the Age of Apoc ... er, House of ... uh ... Ultimat ... er, "Flashpoint" continuity, explaining how the would-be marriage of Aquaman and Wonder Woman led to cross-continental conflicts, mapping out the rest of the world (and never even noticing how an ape controlling Africa could be seen as offensive, apparently) and having Ra's Al Ghul at about Damian's age (intentional, given the disposition of the Bat?) and Traci 13 being a kind of framing device, teleporting around to story points. Expository, but not so entertaining.
If there wasn't so much Eddie Brock, "Amazing Spider-Man" #663 would have been a cut above "not bad," as Peter Parker's busy "Big Time" life is actually kind of worth watching. Peter's moment of triumph was engaging, Mister Negative is always a fascinating study in dichotomy, but Eddie Brock seemed like an afterthought that took up more panel time than needed.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Thunderbolts" #158, "Adventure Comics" #527, "Fear Itself: The Deep" #1, "Flashpoint: Abin Sur, the Green Lantern" #1, "Uncanny X-Force" #11, "Flashpoint: Batman, Knight of Vengeance" #1, "X-Factor" #220, "Flashpoint: Secret Seven" #1, "Herc" #4, "Superboy" #8, "Moon Knight" #2, "Wonder Woman" #611, "S.H.I.E.L.D." #1.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Hulk" #34 was a disturbing exhibition of creative bankruptcy, admitting in the comic book that it was directly copying a previous story. Literally. Good old mustache-into-muscle has his own chance to rise from gladiator to ruler while-- well, no idea why this could be needed, but it's happening, and that's what it is.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
One stinker, nothing really wrong here ... that's pretty good!
Also, sorry, Ardden Entertainment, there was no order for "Comeback Kings" #1, "Grim Ghost" #2 nor "Minx" #1.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Two jumps, just one really bad comic ... even with all the "meh," that's a week that wins in a major way!
If you missed the interview with Tracie Thoms that was done on Komplicated last Sunday, you missed detailed discussions of her work on the "Wonder Woman" pilot, "Wonderfalls," "Rent" and so much more. It was an outstanding episode, and this week the actor who plays John Stewart in the "Green Lantern" movie, Nick Jones Jr. will be on the show, talking about his amazing experience. There's tons of other stuff, but wow, that's the stuff that really gets to you.
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, blogs: thanks to Suuru Designs you'll find blogs at the Soapbox. That's where you'll see Commentary Track blogs on these reviews, normally within a day or two of their publication. Also, Wednesdays have two sneak peeks at what's going to be in the column (one Wednesday afternoon, the second hopefully by midnight) from the Operative Network Mobile Edition. Enjoy!