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 17, 2011
Journey Into Mystery #626
Jump from the Read Pile.
Loki has never been as charming, or as effective, as he is as a pre-teen, building on a lot of the ground broken by Amadeus Cho but with a much deeper sense of pathos (Loki's struggle with what he is compared to what he's decided to do for the love of his brother). Hopping from one mystical corner of reality to another, he scampers and manipulates creatures far beyond his own power level with such affability ("Fare ye well! And similar Asgardian statements!") that it's fascinating. To see him take things to greater and greater extremes is also great fun, as he never hesitates nor does it seem to be any great intellectual challenge for him to develop even the most widely integrated improvisations. A simply delightful caper that consistently entertains.
Bigby Wolf and Snow White have a team of children who've played and enjoyed their childhood -- but now one of them has to ascend to the throne of the North Wind. While that's all in process, Bumpkin the (formerly) flying monkey has returned to his homeland with a relentless path towards whimsy while Jack Spratt's estranged wife is getting set to make a lot of people unhappy. This title could easily be called the best monthly comic on the stands, and this issue is another solid example of why with engaging events covering the events of this single installment while furthering the meta narrative.
Avengers Academy #18
Jump from the Read Pile.
Two super villains, pumped up by the latest crossover, are like foxes in the hen house while hunting down Academy students, blood lust in their eyes. They speak English far better than most of "The Worthy," and methodically try to kill the student body. "Wait a second," you might be thinking. "The hammer-wielding villains are ridiculously powerful, like Thor level, and Titania and Creel were already pretty intense! How did they not slaughter everybody from the first panel?" Well, the answer of course is monologuing, and if you relied on those knuckleheads, this wouldn't work at all. However, Striker, Hazmat and Finesse stop thinking like would-be heroes and started thinking like people who want to live through this nightmare. Working together, they make this issue so much fun, with nuclear detonations, holograms and betrayals. Great stuff that could have happened with or without this crossover, and that's just the sort of thing one likes.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Two jumps make for a great start.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
For the first time since Matt Fraction took over, "Invincible Iron Man" #507 did not make it home. Enmeshed in the "Fear Itself" crossover, it didn't have much for the central character to do, and Pepper Potts spent most of the issue running for her life. There were some interesting story elements, even with things getting needlessly complex in Asgard, but the whole didn't wrap it up as well as it needed to.
"Executive Assistant Orchid" #2 had a mild copy-editing problem ("meltowns") and featured a kind of conspiracy where the impossibly perfect executive assistants are pitted against each other, especially when one gets a sudden attack of conscience, but the spectacle outshines the story (a common malady these days) and that makes it hard to get a sense of where the plot is, let alone where it's going.
"Thunderbolts" #162 got in a comics-related joke that old time fans should enjoy as well as doing some good work presenting the "b-team" of villains in fighting a faceless invasion of monsters. There never seemed to be a real challenge for the characters, the threat never seemed so serious, so the plot lacked tension, so the decent dialogue elements were lost here.
If you'd like a solid western with a supernatural twist, "Deadlands: Death Was Silent" will be right up your alley. Even with the Awesome Andy riff, this was a cavalcade of gunfire and mayhem. Sure, there wasn't very much of an explanation for what's happening, but the vignette nature of it had a kind of simple charm. If you like westerns.
A new generation of very weird super villain kids stood at the center of "X-Men: Schism" #3, which also gave a relatively new character a deep emotional burden alongside a public relations nightmare. Nothing was overtly wrong here, but the way the issue kind of sleepwalked through its paces didn't do much to sell it,
The pacing was better in "Generation Hope" #10, which takes a "Roshomon" look at the events of the previous comic discussed, and has a really hard edged quote as its emotional climax. The potboiler approach was close, but it put too much of a burden on the Hope character for this to have really worked.
Speaking of comics that were close, "Flashpoint: The Outsider" #3 had a fight with a twisted mirror version of J'onn J'onnz, with some pretty scene-chewing dialogue. It seemed too much like a holding pattern the lead character had to maintain to get from point "A" to crossover requirement "B." Not worth the money, but not bad.
There's a great American Eagle story in the anthology-styled "Fear Itself: The Home Front" #5, and the Speedball story had some good elements, but the bulk of the issue was forgettable fluff and surely not the best usage of your cash.
"Gladstone's School for World Conquerors" #4 had a tender core as romance budded for two characters, and the fight scene to find a study session had solid kinetic activity, but the good parts didn't get enough focus and as cute as this was, it wasn't something you'll miss if you don't have it.
It's time for a baby in "X-Factor" #224, and all brands of Asgardian nutjobs want a piece of this pie. How does that factor in for the rest of the team? Well, Layla gets a super creepy moment and Jamie sends in the clones, but it's not really so much of a show piece for characters but one for furry monsters running and slashing through the night. That's cute, but it's not enough of a story.
"Samurai's Blood" #3 is a great piece of historical fiction ... ploddingly slow historical fiction, yes, but still with great nuance. Admittedly, the "5 Ronin: Psylocke" hit most of the same notes in way less space, but if you're into the History Channel, this laborious tone might work for you.
Flash Thompson's challenges in relating to his father was more interesting than his costumed activities in "Venom" #6, as his relationship with Betty Brant continues to deteriorate. The balance was off, which was a shame after last issue's tour de force performance.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Marvel Universe vs. Wolverine" #3, "All-Nighter" #3, "Avengers" #16, "Star Wars Knight Errant: Deluge" #1, "Captain America" #2, "Flashpoint: Abin Sur the Green Lantern" #3, "Captain America Corps" #3, "Flashpoint: Legion of Doom" #3, "Daredevil" #2, "Green Lantern Corps" #63, "Fear Itself: Deadpool" #3, "Legion of Super-Heroes" #16, "Fear Itself: Fearsome Four" #3, "Stan Lee's Soldier Zero" #11, "Hulk" 339, "Damaged" #1, "Wolverine and Black Cat: Claws 2" #2
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
It's hard to figure out if the right word for "Uncanny X-Men" #542 is "Collosonaut" or "Juggerlus." Stupid question: Juggerlus. Too deeply enmeshed in the crossover, wringing pointless melodrama from scenes unbefitting a great cosmic power, this was a beautifully depicted mess.
"Ka-Zar: The Burning Season" #3 is set in the Savage Land with lush scenery, exotically presented peoples and impossible animals -- yet it's completely visually boring. Yawn inducing, even. When you look at the voluminous blather that goes alongside this, and it feels like a very expensive waste of time.
Fair warning: there's no Miles Morales in "Ultimate Comics Fallout" #6, which has some scarily emo moments, a minor Ultimate retcon about Nick Fury and Peter Parker's parents, as well as a sweet French villa. Its crime? Being boring.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Mostly just people kind of showing up without trying very hard. Happens to the best of us.
Plus there were no copies of "Gold Digger" #131 available, sadly, so no chance to check that out. Sorry.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Taking the two jumps and running, this week wins nonetheless.
Oh, Komplicated, how many ways are you awesome? From the Geek Beauty of the Month to the weekly #whodwin Wednesday (featuring comments from Facebook discussions of which character can take which other character, from discovering that the Aunt Viv switch was the worst TV sitcom retcon ever to hyping "Blackjack" creator Alex Simmons appearing on the weekly webcast. Add weekly free music downloads and you've got a lotta great stuff happening there. Check it out, follow on Twitter and so on.
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!