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 DECEMBER 8, 2011
Villains for Hire #1
Jump from the Read Pile.
Very nice! The Purple Man wants to use the structure of Misty Knight (or the Calculator, depending on your mood) to become the next big thing in east coast crime. Running operations by Bluetooth phone headsets, he organizes a heist -- only to get a surprise that almost drives him into hysterics. There are two good moments of surprise in this issue that give the plot a real sense of impetus, but even the moments of dialogue are engaging ("Okay, Control, right off the bat -- 'Villain?' Perjorative term, much?") in a comic book that hits all the right notes. The script by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning? Virtually perfect. The artwork from Renato Arlem and Jay David Ramos? Outstanding. A wonderful piece of comics culture, balanced and perfect in almost every way.
The Last of the Greats #3
Jump from the Read Pile.
The fact that this column is quoted across the top of the issue is not the reason why it got purchased, but it remains true. "This is one fun read with some real meat on its bones," indeed. There's a gag involving Oprah that's both hilarious and irrepressibly insulting, but it is a virtually perfect way to show so much about the title character that it's hard to get mad. There's a nice reveal here, a couple of interesting plot twists and this series continues to prove that it will not take a predictable path (which means reviews have to steer clear of the numerous spoiler possibilities). So wicked that it makes "Irredeemable" look like it starred a girl scout. Fantastic work from Joshua Hale Fialkov and Brent Peeples.
The Defenders #1
Jump from the Read Pile.
Matt Fraction is back, and it's a wonderful thing. Imagine if he took some of the outlandish ideas from his creator-owned "Casanova" series and tied it in together with heroes behaving badly and some solid interpersonal character work. That's what we have here as a mismatched team of old friends comes together "one last time" to face down a leftover threat from "Fear Itself." Also interesting? Many of the pages have kooky little messages, almost "MAD Magazine" style ("Shut the engines down" "Everyone you love dies" "The universe will break" "Fight to save everything") and the narration worked well as captions are differently colored to outline who's speaking, as well as nice logo treatments that introduce each character to new readers as we go. Also: Iron Fist loves comics in general, and Marvelman in specific, while sharing a bad habit with the good doctor. This is a very, very well put together comic book that delivers solid action, great character interaction and dialogue ("What's got two thumbs and didn't boot in front of millions of people while inventing zero-g kung fu?") and traipsing through a travelogue that thrills. Add in eye-catching artwork from Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson and Sonia Oback and this issue has a serious "wow" factor (despite one teensy issue brought up by DJ Jedi that we can discuss in a less structured forum (like, say, a commentary track).
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Three great comics, none of which were expected the day before. That's fantastic!
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Moriarity" #7 was very, very close to making it home, as the not-so-good professor flashed back to one of his criminal exploits on the still-colonized island of Jamaica. His deviousness and determination were quite fun to watch, as was his pet sniper, but the story could have happened in Charleston or Rome or Sydney and it wouldn't have made a difference, because there wasn't a lick of local flavor to set the scene.
"Total Recall" #4 was an improvement in that it was a lot less talking (punching up what was there, like Quaid's joking around with the female lead) and a lot more action. Story wise, it kind of picked up every thread from the last three issues and succinctly showcased them, making the previous issues almost superfluous. The action scenes really hummed and if the characters had just a little more substance to them, this could have really been something.
"Hack/Slash" #10 was interesting when Bomb Queen was around and watching Cassie step up as a lead protagonist, but the plot as a whole drifted too much for it to work.
"Hellblazer Annual" #1 was an effective horror tale, taking John Constantine back into his home town to look for an old friend, gone missing. The turns the story takes are intriguing -- if you're a fan of horror storytelling, this should delight you quite a bit.
Speaking of creepy, "Penguin: Pain and Prejudice" #3 may be following a similar plot as the one-shot from a few years ago, with romance somewhat softening Oswald Cobblepot's brutal business model, but the nuance and moments are pretty good, despite some dull coloring and slightly slow pacing.
"Voltron" #1 is much closer than you think, set just twelve years in the future with the Voltron team never once inside the lions (despite the fact Voltron goes to town upside a Robeast's head in New York City). The Princess as a cold, efficient sniper? Keith as a mysterious idea man? Sure, why not? Likewise, there's a revelation about Zarkon that's also -- well, if you know the property, it's weird, but neophytes would likely just roll with it. There were good elements here, but they needed a bit more cohesion in the central act.
If you were a fan of what people call "Vertigo" books, "Animal Man" #4 was likely very exciting for you. With distorted body issues and esoteric struggles in the Red (it's like the Green, but for animals instead of plants and -- you know what? It doesn't matter, let's move on), this had all the art house sensibilities you'd love if that demographic is your neck of the woods.
"G.I. Joe" #8 revealed the new Cobra Commander, and -- well, to say much would spoil it, but the contest is not what some believed and again the G.I. Joe team is proved to be very, very bad at their job. Some characters had great moments -- Major Bludd, Baroness even Serpentor -- but other crucial characters had to make due with bland dialogue and empty appearances.
"Static Shock" #4 was a slight improvement, as the Pale Man stepped into the limelight (and seemed to be doing two completely different roles at one point, a confusing element in the narrative) and Virgil got a little of his groove back for his motor mouth. The two Sharons thing almost got an explanation, but this still lacks the kind of momentum or information density it'd need to get purchased.
In "pieces not plot" news, "Deadpool" #47 had some good elements in Wade's fight with Cap and in some of the activities of his doppelganger. The magic moments stood fine, but they didn't congeal into a proper story.
Some answers came out in "Irredeemable" #32 as the Plutonian seems to have some Dexter Morgan issues going on, with his lunacy showing up pretty early in his childhood. Sure, he's got some bad wiring. Don't we all? Not bad for a retconned clip show.
"X-Club" #1 had plenty of snark and tech-minded chatter, developing characters well with each one getting a moment to define themselves (Jeffries' sweating, Cyclops' political angling, et cetera) and tons of great quotes. The plot seemed to be struggling from how hard the comic was trying to be smart, diminishing the events and the character work.
"The Rinse" #4 cleaned up after itself, a slick, old-fashioned ending that would have been comfortable for Easy Rawlins. It could have been easier to follow visually, as the faces don't have a lot to distinguish them from each other.
"Stormwatch" #4 had good ideas -- the start of the bond between Apollo and Midnighter ("Do you trust me?"), showing the power of the former and clearing up that "shadow cabinet" reference (it ain't Milestone). The antagonist (again) was vague, and the good ideas could have been tightened up in terms of execution to handle a better distribution.
"X-Factor" #228 tied up a plot thread from years and years ago as the team struggles physically and morally with how to handle a demonic presence similar to Azazel in the movie "Fallen."
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Action Comics" #4, "Chew" #22, "Amazing Spider-Man" #675, "Heart" #2, "Batwing" #4 (expect a prediction about this in the commentary track, by the way), "Avenging Spider-Man" #2 (it was polybagged, no idea what was in there), "Breed Volume 3" #7, "Detective Comics" #4, "True Blood: The French Quarter" #4, "Fear Itself: The Fearless" #4, "Green Arrow" #4, "Valen the Outcast" #1, "Hulk" #45, "Hawk & Dove" #4, "Moon Knight" #8, "Huntress" #3, "Punisher" #6, "Men of War" #3, "Thor: The Deviants Saga" #2, "Red Lanterns" #4, "Cold War" #3, "Venom" #10, "Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes" #2, "Strange Talent of Luther Strode" #3.
No, just -- no ... These comics? Not so much ...
Actual piece of dialogue from "O.M.A.C." #4: "Omactivate!" That is not something made up by this column. Toss in a "Smallville"-esque freak-of-the-week concept and property damage, and you get property damage and lameness.
"Elric: The Balance Lost" #6 remained an "everything including the kitchen sink" sort of situation, seeming hell bent on getting every character, no matter how peripheral, that Moorcock devised on the page. It seemed desperate and sad, as the "plot" has developed far too slowly and with far too little characterization to be acceptable.
"Eternal Descent Volume 2" #2 wasn't all the way to being indecipherable, but you could see it from here. Some kind of weird attempt at mixing demons and angels and rock and roll with allegedly universe-shaking stakes that mean nothing to the reader.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Three stinkers, a mess of "meh" and solid reading. Coulda gone worse.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Three jumps would almost always make it a good day, and today's no exception. Yay!
If you haven't gotten into the #whodwin Wednesday playoffs yet, it's getting down to the wire as this week featured the Final Four. What does that mean? The Incredible Hulk vs. Dr. Strange (in results that are thus far ignoring what happened in "World War Hulk") and Krona vs. the Blue Marvel. Voting will stay open until Tuesday night and every vote counts (ask Batman, who got knocked out last week). In other Komplicated.com news, our pals at Stranger Comics signed a big deal with a Hollywood producer, we respected deceased funnymen Patrice O'Neal and Richard Pryor, saw Jimi Hendrix named the greatest guitarist of all time, noted that an internet lie detector is in the works, laughed at Saturday Morning "Skyrim" while appreciating a mountain of fixes for "Battlefield" (plus the game got banned in Iran), saw the opening of the powerful new indie movie "Kinyarwanda" from AFFRM, the start of new fantasy fiction from the aforementioned Stranger Comics, enhanced music writing from DJ Jedi, free weekly MP3 downloads (with recommended downloads from Rox Fontaine) and of course our weekly guide to finding Black people in pop culture by "Total Recall" writer and comics retailer Vince Moore. Updated at least three times a day, Komplicated.com is doing it for the block and the blogosphere and covering areas of music, technology, escapism and culture.
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!