WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?
Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/jackass on Twitter/head honcho of Komplicated.com) 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 JULY 28TH, 2011
Wow. There's so much good here, it's hard to pick a place to start. Let's talk about Frazer Irving's artwork, which has savvy usages of space as well as excellent emotion and lighting (those two especially prominent on page two) with the grandeur of mythical giants and magical strong holds in the sky. There's a lot of talk, but it's well paced, and Irving's muted colors and savvy spacing make it all work. However, we must be certain to praise the innovative, extravagant script from John Rozum, which brings in ideas of such wonder and intricacy that it's amazing to behold. The struggle against Roland Finch and his plans for celestial domination almost literally levitates off the page. Such great work, such a shame that it's apparently going to be a casualty of the rebo- ... er, "relaunch."
Criminal: The Last of the Innocent #2
Jump from the Read Pile.
The mix of styles here as this story takes a noirish look at the Archie mythos wasn't properly balanced in the first issue, but wow, it takes off like a jet airliner for this one. Brookview's Riley Richards stands in for Riverdale's Archie Andrews, and he's a man with a plan -- an ugly plan. His version of Jughead ("Freakout") is a recovering junkie, his Veronica is a philandering shrew and his Betty's the one who got away. This time, the mixture of art styles is presented in perfect harmony, using the haze of nostalgia to show a happier time that almost demands the events of this issue, showing a remarkable versatility from Sean Phillips. Ed Brubaker's script is a tragedy in the best possible way, drawing each character in their desperation and their desire. Surprising, wonderful comics.
First, don't panic -- guest artist Terry Moore is an excellent substitution for the normal team of Buckingham and Leialoha, drawing a tale of the "homelands," where the Fables' act of regime change left a power vacuum that turned brutal. Many issues back, as part of their plan, they sent in Sleeping Beauty (also known as Briar Rose) as a strategic maneuver, using the elements of her curse (if she bleeds, she falls into a deep sleep, also immobilizing virtually everyone around her) to knock out the center of their opposition's power. That same power base, of course, would be valuable to a would-be successor -- if they could be awakened. Only the true love's kiss of a prince will work, and that's not exactly easy to find. Add to this two warring warlords anxious to seize power, a savvy subordinate and nasty surprises that go bump in the night and you end up with one entertaining package that surely leaves you coming back for more. "Fables" remains the best title on the stands.
Jump from the Read Pile.
Eugene "Flash" Thompson has been the one dimensional stuff of nerd nightmares for decades, but in his modern incarnation he's been redeemed as a paraplegic war hero and misunderstood guy. This issue pulls off a truly heroic volume of character development while never sacrificing a single panel of plot. Flash is living a tenuous double life, as a costumed government operative and as a "normal" guy trying to keep his relationship stable, so when some unresolved family business pops up, it fleshes out past behavior (okay, maybe it's a retcon -- it's a smooth one if so) and really does a lot to lift the "performance" of Flash as a protagonist. Peter Parker makes an uncredited guest appearance that's spot on, and every time the phone rings, nobody wants to answer. A really deep surprise that engages more and more on subsequent reads.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Riveting work here, some of the most compelling stuff we've seen in a while.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Skullkickers" #9 was so very close to making it work, as it accomplishes almost everything that IDW's "Dungeons & Dragons" title does, with more character (thanks to its smaller cast). The end of the issue seemed a little abrupt and some elements seemed a little facile, but the lead characters are so darned charming that it managed to pull off some entertainment anyway.
"I.C.E." #1 is like watching The Rock star in "Law & Order SVU," switching "immigration" with "sex crimes." Literally -- look at the cover! They totally drew the lead agent (with his ambiguous ethnic status) to look a lot like Dwayne Johnson. On the low edge of "TV good," this would have been fine to flip through late at night on some of the high channels of your dial, but to spend specific money on it? That doesn't seem right.
"Mission" #6 had a nice, gritty twist at the end that tossed the entire series into question, with this issue feeling like a moodier episode of "24." The tension of the protagonist's struggle was very effectively depicted, and with tighter, more succinct plotting it could have really been something.
"Amazing Spider-Man" #666 borrowed a page from the "Invincible" manual, flitting from scene to scene and checking in on a huge cast, trying to string together a set of scenes and call it a story. Interesting? Sure -- so are random conversations you hear walking along the food court at a mall. That doesn't make a story, nor would you pay for it. Love the art and Spidey's general vibe, though.
Speaking of the son of Omni-Man, "Invincible" #81 was a bit of an improvement as it had an actual beginning, middle and end to itself as a narrative, also tying up a storyline from the previous issue. In that so many of the issues are open ended (and open starting) that's fine, but things weren't exactly riveting.
"Executive Assistant Violet" #1 had another great, smart, powerful female lead character in a plot that did nothing for her, from the stereotypical vapid client (down to his extreme close up on the phrase "clothing optional" -- oh, and that stereotype was done much better in "Cover Girl") to the fairly tepid action scenes. The overall ideas are solid, but the execution failed to thrill.
"Last Mortal" #3 had some flashbacks to flesh out the lead character, introducing a new character and creating a good back and forth, but the artwork robbed the story of some of its impact (a supposedly beautiful girl blends in with the rest of the artwork, as she never even got a close up or a remarkable head shot to establish her aesthetic superiority).
Wolverine's journey towards discontent continues in "X-Men: Schism" #2, which was paced a little too quickly (a character pops up in a moment that could have been big but felt rushed) while a new Hellfire Club membership walks similar territory as the "Doom Patrol" in finding antagonists. The difference between Logan's perspective and Scott's is starting to drift farther apart, showing the WWE style possibilities for different franchises. Okay.
"Bomb Queen Presents: All-Girl Special" #1 was a surprise, developing the story on two continents while displaying a really savvy style of planning from a character many consider kind of goofy. Sure, there's a character with razor sharp breasts, another one who's powered by train tracks and a presidential regime that -- well, honestly, it's scarily possible. Not the right thing for everybody, but not as prurient or as unidimensional as many would expect.
"The Vault" #1 was a little too slow paced for its own good, looking like it thought it was the first forty minutes of the movie "Sphere." Still, with interesting technology and a supernatural twist, there are ideas here worth at least looking at.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Uncanny X-Force" #12, "Intrepids" #5, "Action Comics" #903, "Kirby Genesis" #2, "Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing" #2, "Captain America and Bucky" #620, "Flashpoint: Hal Jordan" #2, "Incredible Hulks" #633, "Fear Itself: The Deep" #2, "Mighty Thor" #4, "Flashpoint: Kid Flash Lost Starring Bart Allen" #2, "Secret Avengers" #15, "Flashpoint: Lois Lane and the Resistance" #2, "Secret Warriors" #28, "Undying Love" #4, "Green Lantern Corps" #62, "Ultimate Comics Fallout" #3, "Incorruptible" #20, "Butcher Baker the Righteous Maker" #5,
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors" #12 introduced the idea that Green Lantern-powered fragments of Mogo have been flung out into the universe like some kind of Lantern-ite, or something. Then Guy Gardner and some red shirt Lanterns go fight a gross monster.
"FF" #7 proved that Black Bolt has become the Rick Jones of space, not explaining his return nor hesitating when presented with four extra wives, one of whom is a space horse. He also ditched the Kree like they were a Barney Stinson one night stand, abandoned everything the Inhumans have worked for in the last year or two and completely left the actual normal cast of this series out of the issue. In a word, no.
"Teen Titans" #98 had a last page spoiler that compounded every awful element of it, one so drenched in the excesses and awfulness of the 90s that it almost begged to be poly bagged and chrome covered. Relaunching can't come soon enough.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Some pleasant surprises made it a pretty feel-good week.
FYI, Comics Ink's order for "Cobra" #3 was shorted by Diamond because ... well, when you're a monopoly, who's gonna freaking stop you?
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Two jumps, not that many stinkers, how could you not like that?
Hiatus for the webcast this weekend, but there was lots of SDCC coverage (including a huge image gallery of Black faces in San Diego, news of the live action "Afro Samurai" adaptation, two stories discussing Milestone Comics' challenging relationship with DC) and of course the regular weekly free MP3 downloads and a story noting the killjoy scientists who claim to have proven that time travel is impossible. Quitters.
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!