The Buy Pile: The World is Very Different Now

Thu, September 8th, 2011 at 11:28am PDT

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

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 SEPTEMBER 7, 2011

Static Shock #1
(DC Comics)

Virgil Hawkins has come to New York on a mission, assigned by another Milestone hero to cover scientific shenanigans in the Big Apple. The charm of the lead character is intact under the guidance of Milestone alumnus John Rozum with artist Scott McDaniel along for the ride as co-writer and on pencils. There's a great mix of science and action while doing some fun work in developing the character and giving a lot to the core audience. There's only one thing wrong here -- the story seems cut short, and the reason could be because there are 20 pages. Where this goes wrong is in the development of the antagonists, which plays far too quickly to make them have any relevance. Still, pretty darned entertaining and the other Milestone character -- you'd know who it is if you've seen the trailer McDaniels posted -- makes for an entertainingly gruff mentor and teacher. A good start, though, and worth having.

Casanova: Avaritia #1
(Marvel Comics)

In "Planetary," Elijah Snow's team practice "the archaeology of the impossible," discovering and protecting oddities and evidence of different realities than we normally experience. In this return to creator-owned work, writer Matt Fraction turns that idea on its head, instead destroying entire universes at a time, ending virtually countless lives in the process ("eighty-one octodecillion. Give or take a couple nonillion") and finding himself, in a word, "trapped." There are so many wonderful stylistic elements in this issue, little slivers of brilliance that convey so much, from the conversation behind the conversation between the title character and his father to the sudden stops for explanations ("Sasi Lisi was from the future once") and so many simple moments ("Don't ... just don't") that this issue is like a wonderful crystal, each page and each panel another fascinating facet to discover. Simply put, this is a wonder, and it's a breath of fresh air to hold it in your hands.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Wow. Yes. This, please, thank you.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Action Comics" #1 did one thing -- it lived up to its name and provided a virtually non-stop thrills from its first page to its last. However, in doing so it seemed to forget to tell an actual story. Lex Luthor comes off well, in a Kevin Spacey sort of way, and it is rather invigorating to see Superman closer to his grass roots origins, sticking it to corruption instead of just costumed wackadoos. This was a considerably more linear story than you might expect from Grant Morrison, but it needed a little more time to show why these characters matter, aside from their apparent cultural cache.

"Cobra" #4 was very, very close to making the mark as Major Bludd struggles with his fears about chasing the Cobra Commander job. The big plot twists were spoiler-tastic and very surprising, but the continually indistinct artwork makes character differentiation (amongst the Joes especially) a challenge. Would this work out better as prose? Hard to say, but it does work better when it sticks to the bad guys.

"Insurrection V3.6" #4 would have worked better as a cinematic epic, with its endless legions of robotic warriors clashing on alien terrain. The plot worked better than the characterization, which was sadly shallow for many characters (especially the somewhat cliched corporate overlords), but the ending was nicely presented.

"Fracture" #1 told an interesting story of one man living three lives. On one hand he's a boring, normal guy who likes video games and goofing off. On another hand, he's a super villain who specialized in murder and mayhem. Finally, he's a high flying super hero named Virtue who (coincidentally) has a wife and two kids. Yeah, it's deep. There are three journals, each one from one personality, and two sets of super powers. However, the issue flies by in such a haze you might feel like you're one of the personalities, losing your bearings and waking up in different circumstances, confused. Interesting ideas, but the execution could use some work.

If you're looking for a nuanced horror story with super powers and deep character development, "Animal Man" #1 might be just the surprise you're looking for. The lead character has some challenges, drifting in terms of what he's doing with his life, and this issue had more in common with Vertigo's "Human Target" than anything else in DC's lineup, but it's not exactly what every fan is looking for.

"Drums" #4 was an intense thriller about power and control, set in the shadow of a hurricane, deftly incorporating elements of Afro-Caribbean spiritual systems. It meandered a bit too much in its second act, took too long for its reveal and the monologuing could have been more charismatic.

"Executive Assistant Iris, Volume 2" #3 had some very surprising plot twists, some of which seem ill advised considering the appeal (or lack thereof) of the characters in question. To say much more would spoil the plot, but the pacing on this issue went by far too quickly for the very complex story that's being told here. Ambitious, but not exactly successful.

"Reed Gunther" #4 is a cute book which essentially focuses heavily on running and heightened states of adrenaline. It'd make a very cute half-hour TV show, but doesn't quite do enough (this issue) to push it over the line.

"Men of War" #1, however, was a refreshing surprise as it tracked the workings of Frank Rock's grandchild, a figure who'd likely be comfortable hanging out with Ultimate Captain America. This story was okay fleshing out his character, with a backup story about Navy SEALs fighting insurgents on another continent, but the stories were just a little too plain jane to actually sell themselves as something special. The latter-day Rock's a cookie cutter all-American hero, taciturn and square jawed, and that lack of nuance kept this issue from being a winner.

"Morning Glories" #12 had some of the wicked teenaged charm of a show like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" as a sassy guidance counselor returns to the school from the outside world (which is much farther than people anticipate) with a profane mouth, short shorts, family secrets and an agenda that's a little bit off the beaten path. She is, however, the only character worth watching ("not yet" was a beautifully tense scene, even though it didn't explain itself). Another one either suffering from glacial pacing or intended for another medium.

"Stormwatch" #1 was unusual in that it referred to events in a Superman comic book that won't be on stands until September 28th. That notwithstanding, everybody's chasing Apollo and Martian Manhunter's been moonlighting with "professionals," who wrestle with the moon threatening the earth and concerns of a rather large scale. There are a number of big, creative ideas here but chasing Apollo takes up far more time than its worth.

Prowl sets about doing some police work in "Transformers" #25, investigating and going undercover while the Autobots struggle for relevance. Not bad, but a distraction from the gripping drama with Megatron and Galvatron across the galaxy.

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

"Spawn" #211, "I.C.E." #2, "Star Wars Dark Times: Out of The Wilderness" #2, "Detective Comics" #1, "Irredeemable" #29, "Hack/Slash" #7, "Green Arrow" #1, "Hawk and Dove" #1, "Justice League International" #1, "Elric: The Balance Lost" #3, "The Big Lie" #1

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

To say "Batgirl" #1 was a disappointment would be unfair, as our dear friends Eobard Thawne and Barry Allen have changed everything "in a flash." As well, with gorgeous artwork and clear visual storytelling, there certainly couldn't be anything negative said about the look of this work. No, the problems in this issue relies in believability -- despite Batman, Inc. clearly existing, Barbara Gordon is an outcast, not having access to the Wayne billions. That's weird, since Bruce doesn't seem so comfortable with independent contractors diluting the brand. Also, a "miracle" got her out of the wheelchair after three years, after "The Killing Joke," and -- well, it's not impossible in a world with wishing rings and Amazon princesses running around with retractable pants, but it surely strains credibility a great deal. The plot itself here was just a hair under the "meh" line, but with so many "what the what?" moments, it reached and just barely made its way to being considered "bad."

Speaking of problematic concerns, "Batwing" #1 essentially had David Zavimbi being extraordinarily grateful for Massa Wayne's largess in helping him be a better Batman. David Zavimbi's a cipher of a character (his manipulation of his partner was tedious), his antagonist is equally obtuse, the panels needed a lot more backgrounds drawn in ... it was a little bit tragic, honestly.

Here's a short story about "O.M.A.C." #1: "spectacle is not storytelling." At one point, after mindlessly rampaging through page after page, someone thought that a telepathic origin montage would stop the title character from his berserker onslaught. Really. That was an actual plot point. As a matter of fact, a plot point is all this issue was: "OMAC f***s s*** up!" That's not a story.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

The three worst comics weren't that bad, and there were a lot of interesting ideas out there.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two very enjoyable comic books, fairly interesting ideas, easy on the wallet -- that's a week that wins.

THE BUSINESS

This week Komplicated.com launched a bold content initiative called The New Black, which has seen the syndicated debut of "Southside Nefertiti" by Michael Sales "Freedman" by Peter Quach, "Force Galaxia" by Andre Owens and (by the time this hits CBR, in theory), the legendary "Blackjack" by Alex Simmons, all alongside "World of Hurt" by Jay Potts. All that was on top of the regular weekly enjoyment of free MP3 downloads, weekly fan decided character battles for #whodwin Wednesday, musical gems discovered in A. Daryl Moton's The Perfect Chord and a guide to finding Black people in media and of course fun like Great Moments in Greatness. At least three updates per day, every day.

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!

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