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 23, 2011
Flashpoint: The Outsider #1
Jump from the Read Pile.
This was quite a pleasant surprise. A ridiculously powerful man was born in tragedy, his powers emerging from the second he was born. In the "modern day," he dresses like Elijah Snow and heads a multinational criminal empire. He brushes off some pretty extreme extrahuman attacks and has a sense of smug determination that could easily sit down for a bottle of pinot noir with Lex Luthor, Vril Dox, Victor von Doom or Thanos. Refreshingly entertaining stuff here.
Whoa. The North Wind confronts Duladan, Mister Dark, the boogeyman himself. It all ends here, tying together disparate storylines from months and months prior, ones that seemed as far apart as the polar regions, with such effortless grace and overwhelming delicacy that it's almost shocking. The resolution of the issue snaps into place with such brilliance that it almost takes one's breath away. This issue, this culmination, is a perfect example of why the Eisners have so often heard these names together: Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Lee Loughridge. In a word, wow. Really, just "wow."
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Those are some great, great comics this week. Wow. Fantastic start.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
Brace yourself for a shock: after months of lambasting this title, "Black Panther: The Man Without Fear" #520 almost worked on the strength of T'challa's interaction with his wife Ororo, on loan from the X-Men. Sadly, T'challa's mule-headed pride still seemed to make him kind of a doofus, and Kraven's seemingly capricious nature doesn't help.
It's time to shed some blood, and "Cobra" #2 satisfies as Serpentor sets himself up as a kind of guru of murder (while revealing some weird parts of the Cobra organization) and the Joes hunt down any lead they can find to try to challenge this shadowy enemy. When a guy named Croc Master shows up and isn't ridiculous, you know something went right, but the meandering plot didn't help that along much.
Sure, there were ridiculous elements in "Ultimate Comics Avengers vs. New Ultimates" #5. Hulk pills. Some surprises from a guy named Stark. A Spider-Man who's nothing like you'd expect. Still, for all that, the snarky attitude of the characters was entertaining, but this issue took more off the table than it left.
"Dark Horse Presents" #2 had a whole lot of good ideas, from the David Walker/Jeremy Love post apocalyptic chaos of "Number 13" to the intensity of "Concrete" on down. However, as an eight dollar anthology, few of them had long enough to establish the characters or plot as being important while, let alone carrying normal cover price.
If you like the TV show "House" and also love some magic in your life, you'll likely enjoy "Witch Doctor" #1, a whimsical take on science and magic that covers demon possession. However, like the aforementioned TV show, the even more scant supporting cast (mostly a tech whiz and general "Man Friday" in the mold of Microchip from early issues of "Punisher") don't do much more than stand around and give the lead character straight lines to riff on. As such, clearly "TV good," but not "buying" good.
The title character goes toe to toe with Norrin Radd in "Mighty Thor" #3 while Judaeo-Christian activists reject the Norse beliefs floating over their city. Quick but interesting.
"All Nighter" #1 was a dour, Daria-esque slice of life with an early 20s slacker who tries to figure out what to do with her life. Like "Lil Depressed Boy" it has its charm, but isn't innovative enough to work, even with the first page twist hovering over the story.
"Thunderbolts" #159 proved that villains will be villains as the "Fear Itself" crossover impacts the team (literally) in their tense rescue and recovery efforts from the shattered Raft prison. The turns of heroism lacked the inspirational qualities of altruism and the acts of villainy were, well, kind of expected. Nothing wrong, but nothing amazing either.
The parts with Jedi padawan Xanatos on his home world worked in "Star Wars Jedi: The Dark Side" #2, but Qui-Gon's attempts to convince another Jedi to do something while xenophobic partisans complain and protest fell flat. The politics of the old Republic were both ineffective and corrupt, and that often doesn't show the Jedi (or their perspective) in the best light.
"Incredible Hulks" #631 had a whole lot of spectacle as wishing well water splashed on a series of increasingly larger and more destructive individuals. That's not really storytelling, though, despite the glee the gamma-powered Dr. Banner took in smashing.
"Hack/Slash" #5 had a surprisingly effective story arc about a divinely empowered spirit seeking to stop ecological destruction. This didn't do much to make the lead character and her sidekick very interesting, and their combat scenes suffered from being too intimate, but this wasn't a bad comic book, per se.
"Secret Avengers" #14 gave us the secret origin of Valkyrie, who showed that Odin apparently loved bringing home people after killing people near them. This was interspersed with an almost-effective depiction of a working S.H.I.E.L.D. couple, but the story didn't gel all the way.
"The Mission" #5 was rough -- not in terms of the storytelling, which was precise and savvy -- but in terms of emotional response, doing something beyond the pale to people best left alone. Imagine a spiritually tinted "100 Bullets" and you'll have a sense of what's happening here, which is great for fans of thrillers and discussions of predestination.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Guild Bladezz," "Action Comics" #902, "Captain America" #619, "Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing" #1, "Iron Man 2.0" #6, "Flashpoint: Kid Flash Lost Starring Bart Allen" #1, "Mystery Men" #2, "Flashpoint: Lois Lane and The Resistance" #1, "Sigil" #4, "Flashpoint: The Reverse Flash" #1, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #160, "Green Arrow" #13, "Planet of the Apes" #3, "Justice League of America" #58, "Stan Lee's The Traveler" #8, "Vertigo Resurrected: The Sandman Presents Petrefax" #1
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Batman and the Outsiders" #40 was mostly a collection of pin ups with heavy handed narration pasted on the images. That's not good. At the end of the day (and this is no spoiler, as it's on the cover), Bruce Wayne packs up his toys. That's definitely not much of a story and -- right -- it's deathly dull. Argh.
"Transformers: Dark Of The Moon Movie Adaptation" #3 proves that Skids and Mudflap are in the new movie. Need we say more? Pass.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Comics Ink received no copies of "DMZ" #66 that weren't too damaged to sell (and therefore read). Thanks, Diamond!
Other than that, it went okay, with a comic making the jump and only two stinkers. Can't be mad about that.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Extensive entertainment from the buys and limited numbers of egregious offenses -- winning.
The "It's Komplicated" webcast comes back this Sunday at 9PM PST with the Third Best Panel in Pop Culture, featuring writer Marc Bernardin ("Highwaymen," "Entertainment Weekly," Blastr.com and working on a secret TV show for the SyFy network), comics retailer Vince Moore ("Total Recall" for Dynamite) and more. Tune in as we discuss why translating properties from one kind of media to another is often infuriating, plus our Blackwatch column pointing out where Black people are in popular media, our #musicmonday column for downloading free MP3s and so much more.
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!
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!