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 30, 2011
Batman, Incorporated #7
Jump from the Read Pile.
"It doesn't have to take millions, does it?" Batman asks in a pivotal moment here. "The idea works. Batman on a budget." Man-of-Bats is a First American who left San Francisco after the death of his wife, returning to the reservation of his youth with a young, sidekick-trained son in tow to dispense frontier justice for an area "with fewer than twenty officers to patrol an area bigger than Rhode Island." The elegant characterization and skillful plotting of this done-in-one issue, which hits hard on a series of dramatic moments ("I'll put the first five of you in full body casts for eighteen months. Even wounded. So who wants to take the first shot?" "Welcome to the front line, Raven" "I never left it, Batman. Don't think I ever will") and generally just kicked ass in a concise, coherent way that -- frankly -- seems unlike most of Grant Morrison's recent output. Truly enjoyable work.
The Incredible Hulks Annual #1
Jump from the Read Pile.
This is the third part of a series of annuals crossing over with one another, bringing Peter Parker, Wade Wilson and Bruce Banner into a parallel dimension to confront challenging doppelgangers of themselves. This last installment, however, in some ways makes the previous two annuals superfluous, taking the story from the depths of hell to different dimensions. The jade giant was elated to land in the infernal depths, while his duplicate seeks to murder the Banner he was torn from, all with two Peter Parker struggling to do the right thing and two Deadpools working their way through some challenges. There are some narrative twists that are unexpected here and some great moments for the players involved, a twist at redemption and once the toys are where they belong, it feels right.
The most beautiful thing about this series is the seemingly endless array of fascinating new ideas writer John Rozum brings forth. This time, a series of secret cities in the sky holding endless magical treasures and populated by immortals is endangered by the nutjob from the last issue, and we get a series of expository pages discussing the threat he presents. To have a personal narrative told in such a gripping fashion is such a wonderful experience, and Frazer Irving's neat line work and brilliant visual storytelling make it all the more inspiring. In a word, wow. Great stuff here.
Jump from the Read Pile.
This series has been hovering on the line of "good enough to buy" for much of its run, and this issue all the elements gelled perfectly, from humor to action, from plotting to characterization. The stylized artistic elements deftly delivered the key story moments, as the two largely unnamed protagonists try to figure out a way out of their legal predicament and an unexpected antagonistic force aligns giddily against them. A wonderful adventure romp full of great dialogue and action.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Three amazing books to start, deeply re-readable and fun to boot.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors" #11 was a cute done-in-one story showing Guy Gardner just trying to get to some vacation time, getting distracted by a curvy space physique and ending up part of all kinds of shenanigans. This "TV good" issue would be a must-have for Guy Gardner fans, showcasing his skill and humor but not in a way that's really unique or fresh.
"Amazing Spider-Man" #664 brought an interesting crescendo to the villainy of Mister Negative as the titular hero became embroiled in an unwanted team up with the "new" Wraith and Eddie Brock's Anti-Venom. He's also, somehow, added voice activated web slingers (sure, why not?) and has a challenging talk with his girlfriend Carlie, borrowing a page from Bruce Wayne. Not bad, but took a while to really come together.
"Drums" #2 is an involved look at the culture of Santeria framed in a police procedural, but its laborious pacing robs the interesting elements of their momentum.
"Flashpoint: Green Arrow Industries" #1 makes Ollie out to be a lot like Howard Stark -- a relentless industrialist content to profit from the weapons of war. Roy Harper plays an ineffectual Jiminy Cricket, suggesting that there's a better man inside the ruthless corporate raider. The plot wasn't anything special but there were a number of defining moments for Ollie himself that were enjoyable.
"Fear Itself: Black Widow" #1 was a pretty good done-in-one spy tale that -- surprisingly -- made Le Peregrine kind of cool. Natasha's more hiding from the events of "Fear Itself" than participating, but there's nothing wrong about a Sydney Bristow-styled takedown of some bad guys.
"Last Mortal" #2 was messy, both in terms of the actual stuff happening and in terms of the protagonist's choices. The supernatural elements of immortality and the deeper motivations behind the conspiracy aganst the lead are brushed past, but this is worth a look if not actual spending yet.
If the story stuck with Jay finding a secret door and calling in some slightly hilarious guest stars, "Justice Society of America" #52 would have been better. Mister Terrific's ongoing struggle with his faculties seemed both capricious and tacked on.
Max Daring is still dealing with the fallout from his Max Damage days in "Incorruptible" #19 where the best hope for Coalville hates him too much to accept the responsibility. This issue felt brief but it wasn't bad by any stretch of the imagination.
The US government created a man it couldn't understand in "Flashpoint: Project Superman" #1, which again leaned heavily on the challenges of constructing a super soldier, especially using science you don't really comprehend. Eagle-eyed fans will recognize some elements from Hyperion's struggle in "Supreme Power," less as a swipe and more as a common theme. Not bad, but not breaking new ground at all.
The fight scenes in "Transformers: Heart of Darkness" #4 should have been epic where they ended up claustrophobic. In that they dominated the first half of the issue, it was hard to build any momentum for Galvatron's possibly-not-crazy quest to save the universe.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Detective Comics" #878, "Iron Age" #1, "Daomu" #5, "Flashpoint: Hal Jordan" #1, "Marvel Universe vs. Wolverine" #1, "Magdelena" #7, "Flashpoint: The Canterbury Cricket" #1, "Ultimate Comics X" #5, "Gotham City Sirens" #24, "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents" #8, "Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters" #4, "Artifacts" #8 (though the Witchblade/Darkness interaction was okay).
No, just... no... These comics? Not so much...
A post on Scans Daily expresses why the hug-heavy events of "Avengers: The Children's Crusade" #6 seem a little disingenuous. Seriously? The maudlin sentimentality did little to cover up the rivers of blood that remain unanswered. The emotional build with the montage was inadequate, the scene with Rictor was kind of facile and the overall effect was overwrought.
Bring on the evil Reeds! "FF" #5 does some large scale destruction while there's relationship moments for Reed and Sue as well as Ben and Alicia. The "wait, what?" ending likewise can throw you for a loop, and this issue was literally all over the map. In a bad way.
Sitting around and talking for the entire issue as Logan reminisces about his life -- that's what you get from "X-Men: Prelude to Schism" #4. There's a huge threat with some allegedly Atlantean origin, but this issue never even describes it in vague terms. Hopelessly emo, not what we need.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Ah, that wasn't so bad.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Not a bad week at all, given those sterling purchases.
The "It's Komplicated" webcast returned with an amazing panel discussion featuring Marc Bernardin announcing what new SyFy Network series he will be working on, David Walker bringing the knowledge and the Third Best Panel in Pop Culture breaking down just why it's so hard to translate a beloved property across different media types. Likewise, we did a fascinating piece on Turntable.fm, a hard look at HP's new TouchPad, our look at where to find Black people in the media, free MP3 downloads and more. Check out this spunky new site, why don't 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, 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!