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 NOVEMBER 30, 2011
Jump from the Read Pile.
As noted in the commentary track from two weeks ago, any chance to see Logan, Ken Hale and Fat Cobra (yay!) in action together has a chance of being something special. This issue delivered on that promise, as the trio of wildly different heroes battle their way through a somewhat thin plot (fighting, mostly) that is literally dripping with engaging dialogue. "I must be honest," Logan said early on, "that wasn't anywhere near the grossest thing I have ever been inside. And surprisingly enough, I'm now hungrier than ever." "I shall have their tongues and lips sewn into sandals for you forthwith." "If there aren't super villains trying to kill you, you simply aren't doing your job." Line after line are smile inducing and showcase fellow CBR columnist Jason Aaron's fantastic gift for taking Bendis-styled banter and fitting it into a narrative that moves. A pleasant surprise that somehow let Logan host his own party, never overshadowing any other "guest" but still feeling like he held it down in his own book.
It's almost boring to keep telling you the truth -- month in, month out, "Fables" is the best comics periodical on the stands -- but it remains true. There's always a plot. It never meanders. "Fables" is always going somewhere interesting, and as it takes you along that path, characters are revealed and a certain sense of panache and wit is never missing. This time, the replacement for the North Wind is finally discovered while Bufkin struggles with the legal system in his Pan Ozian homeland. The frustration of Snow and Bigby dealing with a family crisis, the sarcasm of Bufkin as he kept getting bad news and a long-dangling plot thread was tied up. Wonderful storytelling by an team that's won more Eisners than CBR (no easy task).
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Not too expensive and pretty doggone entertaining. That's a good start, especially getting to bring Fat Cobra into the mix.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Cobra" #7 was pretty good. Singular in its focus, the snake in the midst of the G.I. Joe team finally sheds his subterfuge and the results are dynamic. Honestly, if the artwork from Antonio Fuso and Arianna Florean had a little more polish, it would have taken the "Hearts & Minds" style struggle of Firewall and elevated it into something more striking. So close, though.
"Bomb Queen 7: Queen's World" #1 was surprisingly savvy for the normally pretty bombastic title. Casting the titular character into the role of Simon Phoenix, set to sow chaos into an all-too vulnerable futuristic utopia. Shadowhawk also found his way into this future as the hero of the people, a virtual presence who borrows a shtick from Agent Smith. The interplay between these two plays well, and the "which one of us is it?" kind of subplot was okay, but the overall comic spins its wheels a little. Worth following, though.
"George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones" #3 was an improvement as the characters started to get fleshed out a little more. There's some palace intriques and threats for a future unseen, but the plot, such as it is, manages to tread water. On an upswing, at least.
"Skullkickers" #12 presented four little stories instead of one whole one, with two of them being good -- a musical interlude and a story about a competitor in their line of work -- with the rest simply being there. Not quite a passing score, but not a major problem.
The first half of the titular duo had some great character moments in "Angel and Faith" #4, but Angel's latest 180 degree switch in direction falls flat and the action does the same. The stakes aren't very high and despite the number of antagonists, there's never any belief that things could go significantly badly.
"Daredevil" #6 was a fun story that introduced a McGuffin as well as an interesting development in Marvel's criminal underworld while making a brand new villain stand out and be distinctive in a kind of Bizarro Booster Gold kind of way. This was a cute issue with solid fisticuffs, but it was just "cute" and not much more. Still, the new direction is going the right way.
Speaking of "cute," "Near Death" #3 ran like a police procedural that you'd see on ABC or Fox, with a killer trying to turn over a new leaf and the police detective who shared romantic tension with him. Remember Ilsa and Chance on "Human Target?" It's that kind of thing. Not in a bad way, but not quite in a way that said, "buy me!"
Speaking of stories fit for TV, "Pilot Season: Theory of Everything" #1 would also fit as an hour-long drama, with a sci-fi tint to it and a cipher in the lead role that could be played by anybody. The last part of that sentence is part of what didn't work, and the supporting cast could just as well have been furniture, but the spectacle of it and the elements borrowed from, oh, let's say "Fringe," those weren't bad.
Wasn't this guy a nebbish just last issue? "Jack Avarice is The Courier" #5 has turned its titular Chuck stand in into a credible intelligence agent, chasing down artifacts and doing a passing Indiana Jones imitation. Imagine "Danger Girl" without cheesecake, and that's the tone here, which is fine if one were so inclined.
"Savage Dragon" #176 introduced Malcolm Dragon's own personal Flash Thompson, a cornrowed braggart with more attitude than brains. It also showed Overlord still has some problems, it (of course) has big scale destruction and some of that teen drama that the kids love so much. Nothing wrong here.
There's one page of "Infinite Horizon" #6 that almost made the jump all by itself, a moment of great emotional poignancy and truth. Not to spoil it, but it's really wonderful, especially if you've followed this from the beginning. However, it's been a long road to get here, and unless you have been on board for this entire production, even the "Gamekeeper" styled action here (which is good) won't get you there.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates" #4, "Legion Secret Origins" #2, "Star Wars Crimson Empire 3: Empire Lost" #2, "Avengers Origin: Thor" #1, "Spaceman" #2, "Star Wars Dark Times: Out Of The Wilderness" #3, "Shinku" #3, "FF" #12, "Green Lantern: The Animated Series" #3, "Haunt" #19, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" #4, "Queen Sonja" #25, "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents" #1, "Ghost Rider" #6, "Warlord of Mars: Fall of Barsoom" #4, "Herc" #10, "Uncharted" #1, "Red Skull" #5, "Super Dinosaur" #6, "Thunderbolts" #166, "Star Trek" #3, "The Darkness" #95,
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
You know those commercials that say "two great tastes that taste great together?" How about two bland tastes that make each other weaker? "Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist" #1 did so, bringing Ming the Merciless and his band of cyborg concubines to the late 1930s and literally has so little of the title character involved that he almost did a cameo. The last pages just made it so sad, like even putting together this comic book took something away from us as human beings.
"Avengelyne" #5 could be said to have as its advantage that its only crimes were being "lame" and "cliche." In this day and age, that's almost enough to reach mediocrity. Almost.
Oh, but then there's "Uncanny X-Men" #2. Mister Sinister borrows a page from Arcade, blathering while courting planetary extinction and Scott rolls in with less than a dozen mutants. Really? In the words of Shawn Carter, "we don't believe you, you need more people." When you see what happened to Juggulus (and yes, we're using that instead of "Collosonaut" because the latter could be something cool), you'll likely screw up your face like, "what?" How could this have been written by Kieron Gillen? Weird.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Not so bad. No Fat Cobra in there, though.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
A very, very light week of comics that wasn't expensive and wasn't really egregiously bad. Fat Cobra. It's just fun saying that, honestly. Fat Cobra.
Here's the deal: The Hulk is fighting Batman, y'all. Wonder Woman is battling the Blue Marvel. Thor versus Krona? That's happening too. Wildest of all? Dr. Strange versus Neil Gaiman's Death. If you don't know about #whodwin Wednesday, you're really missing out on fan-decided character battles. The updated bracket shows the lengthy road these characters took to win their spot. Voting will be open until Tuesday night, so check that out and make your voice heard before next week's Final Four. Also covered by Komplicated was a look at the latest automotive sex machine from Lotus and a mountain of new fixes for "Battlefield 3, discovering how Occupy Flash wants to liberate your computer, introducing new fantasy fiction from Stranger Comics, an interview with real-life super hero Phoenix Jones, checking out how LED contact lenses could bring computer interfaces to your eyeballs, giving it up for Jimi Hendrix' birthday plus weekly features like free MP3 downloads, outstanding music recommendations from amazing DJs DJ Jedi and Brutha Gimel and of course the commentary track for this review column. Updated no less than three times per day, every day, even holidays, Komplicated is capturing the Black geek aesthetic, doing it for the block and the blogosphere.
Back to this site, have 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!