The Buy Pile: Crime & Punishment on Earth & Cybertron

Thu, August 11th, 2011 at 11:28am PDT

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

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WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (two-time Eisner-winning 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 AUGUST 10, 2011

Criminal: The Last of the Innocent #3
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
"This whole thing ... this plan ... it's going even smoother than I expected." Why would anybody ever think something like that? Riley Richards, the twisted mirror image of Archie Andrews, has done the unthinkable and he's very happy with the results as the police find some interesting things and every relationship in his life starts to change. The texture of this group of friends -- including discovering some fascinating facts about "the only Black girl in Brookview" and looking back at things in the past that may not have gone the way one might want them to have happened. So much story was packed into this issue, but it was all balanced with such delicacy and grace by Ed Brubaker's almost diaphanous scripting and Sean Phillips' transcendent visual storytelling. This is why we read comics, kids. This is great stuff.

Transformers #23
(IDW Publishing)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Optimus Prime and Megatron confront their shared, twisted history in the pre-war days of Cybertron in this amazing issue. Speaking truth to power, Optimus -- then just a cop named Orion Pax -- is moved by the eloquence of Megatron, a hard labor mine worker who strains against the restrictive caste system of their society. Wait, what? This is actually superbly even more awesome than it sounds, as some of the normal problems with depicting Cybertron (coloring that melts everything together and artwork that makes mechanoids hard to distinguish from the backgrounds) are not in evidence at all, plus the character work on Optimus and Megatron is simply riveting. Such a surprisingly complex piece of culture, especially given that it's a comic book about toys.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Two great and surprising reads plus the first installment of the "Official Index of to Marvel Universe: Wolverine, Punisher & Ghost Rider" came out, and that's great to have.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Amazing Spider-Man" #667 was a cute start to the possibly exciting idea as the super criminal The Jackal has given almost everybody in Manhattan the powers of Spider-Man -- including his personal gang of street toughs and hoodlums. Toss in some relationship challenges, his ex almost getting crushed by street debris and Peter Parker ending up in a briar patch he might not really like. Not bad, but not really compelling enough in either the Jackal's motives or the predictable pugilistic response from the heroic community.

"Executive Assistant Iris Volume 2" #3 had a hard sale for recruiting one of the assistants for an off-book assignment, with gorgeous artwork and lush living arrangements alongside the normal action movie tropes that have made this series interesting, but the ending was inconclusive and the last two thirds of the issue had some mild pacing concerns. Not bad at all, but not quite there.

The title character in "Daken: Dark Wolverine" #12 spent the entire issue hopped-up on drugs while trying to make crime history. The former part was a little weird and distracting as Daken tries to find limits for himself, but the latter made for an almost-compelling heist drama. It also included one of the week's best tweets from Taskmaster, talking about how much he gets paid for "babysitting." "Think getting Babs Streisand to rap an NWA medley at your wedding. Then triple it." That was funny.

"The Red Wing" #2 showcased a return to Jonathan Hickman's brilliant sense of ambiance and ambitious visual presentations but lacked the information density that made his wild ideas work while delivering some plot vagueness. Still interesting, but not quite sticking the landing yet.

"Red Robin" #26 featured a morality play that wasn't badly done, with Tim Drake wrestling with one of the biggest spectres of his young life while showcasing every chessmaster-style skill he's gained while working under the tutelage of the Bat. However, even with the double Bat appearance at the end, it just kind of coasted to a stop instead of really -- well, sticking the landing, again.

The best part of "Reed Gunther" #3 involves the bear, who's much smarter and much funnier than anyone could anticipate, more Chewbacca than Trigger. The title character's pseudo-romantic interlude with the female lead wasn't bad, but didn't really sell things, and for a chase the pacing was pretty glacial, even noting that it was the 1800s.

"Black Panther: The Man Without Fear" #522 was almost back to being good as T'Challa admits that he's essentially gone about things in a very stupid way (for him), underestimating the challenge of stopping crime in Hell's Kitchen and changing his tactics to be a little less lame. It wasn't the forceful, savvy T'Challa we'd seen for years prior to "Doomwar," but there was a glimpse of that character, and it was nice to see -- even if the stupid American Panther got way too much panel time (the ineffective character background montage wasn't working, and the muted coloring was a bad choice).

The character Ike is well characterized as a foppish, possibly dangerous antagonist in "Morning Glories" #11 as the root of his wealth and the enormous childishness of his behavior is given some raison d'etre. Again there are pacing concerns, as the languid and luxurious pacing don't serve the 22 (or so) page format. Still, pretty artwork and never timid.

The kids are not all right in "Spider Island: Cloak and Dagger" #1 as there's a striking dichotomy between the two leads. One feels put upon even as he embraces the superheroic lifestyle (getting asked to teleport Avengers two blocks) and his partner seeks to run from it in any way she can. Being homeless (willfully, as a community of heroes would be happy to help them) adds a less-than-savory edge despite a nice Mr. Negative appearance. Not quite there, kids.

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

"Fear Itself" #5, "Red Spike" #4, "Teen Titans" #99, "X-Men" #15.1, "Critter" #1, "Breed 3" #4, "Ghost Rider" #2, "Birds of Prey" #15, "War Goddess" #0, "Incredible Hulks" #634, "Artifacts" #9, "Booster Gold" #47, "Dollhouse: Epitaphs" #2, "New Avengers" #15, "Flashpoint: Citizen Cold" #3, "Star Wars Invasion: Revelations" #2, "Supreme Power" #3, "Blue Estate" #5, "Flashpoint: Emperor Aquaman" #3, "Spawn" #210, "Deadpool" #41, "Godzilla: Gangsters and Goliaths" #3, "War of the Green Lanterns: Aftermath" #2, "Spider Island: Deadly Foes" #1, "Farscape" #22.

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

Really, "Batman and Robin" #26? Even Damian notes the retrograde, copycat nature of what happened here. Is it a spoiler? Really, given that this is the last issue, what difference does it make? Moving on.

"Alpha Flight" #3 again did not understand that spectacle is not storytelling as the "team" (and the term is used loosely) fights against the government that spawned them, running and yelling and Puck's there. Argh.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Only two stinkers. That's a good thing off the bat.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two jumps, only two bad comics ... that's a good thing!

THE BUSINESS

This weekend "Mr. Terrific" writer Eric Wallace was supposed to be on the It's Komplicated webcast, but work-related dramas made that time unavailable, so we'll reschedule him for later on this month. In the mean time, there was brisk competition in the weekly #whodwin Wednesday competitions, where geeks go head up to settle who comes out on top in a battle between, say, an Imperial Star Destroyer and the modern Battlestar Pegasus. There's also Lando Calrissian still insisting it's not his fault, free MP3 downloads, artificial intelligence created with out of human DNA, a birthday greeting for Kurtis Blow, and the entire "Black Dynamite" pilot online. Every week, it's a Black geek perspective trying to hit you from every side of the map.

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!

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