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 JANUARY 11, 2012
Secret Avengers #21
It just got real for Steve Rogers' clandestine missions team, as they are tasked with taking down a threat -- inside of the offices of a US government agency. The Office of National Emergency once surrounded the X-Men's Westchester Campus with giant Sentinel robots and are charged with "gathering anti-terrorist intelligence and resources," but one of the people on their last line of defense is working for the Shadow Council who (apparently) work for extra-dimensional Big Bads who rank on the Cthulhu scale. A surprisingly conflicted Marine plays a huge role as the emotional core of this story, as most of Steve's team gets a moment to shine -- Hank behind the boards, Moon Knight playing the crazy card, War Machine "showing a little human compassion," Valkyrie bringing the pain and so on. Perfectly crafted done-in-one storytelling, action packed and adventurous. Yay!
Star Wars Agent of the Empire: Iron Eclipse #2
(Dark Horse Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Jahan Cross is dressed up and ready to party, checking out a soap opera-ready family at the heart of interstellar commerce. This leads to drinking, sex and of course gunfire and murder. Wait, what? It gets super crazy for the Empire's answer to James Bond, who also drops tantalizing character details about his past before all the yelling and accusations and betrayal. Fun stuff, a gripping story on its own and for a "Star Wars" fan, like manna from heaven.
Mister Terrific #5
Michael Holt leads an interspecies insurrection to escape a band of cosmic slavers, and in the process wrestles with some of his own issues. Eric Wallace's script is pitch perfect, and while you might have problems with the finer points of the artwork from Gianluca Gugliotta, Wayne Faucher and Mike Atiyeh (facial expressions and alien anatomy in particular), but the visual storytelling and action sequences were rock solid. Great work and one very consistent series.
Journey Into Mystery #633
The fallout from "Fear Itself" continues to settle as a collection of terror-based supernatural entities meet to discuss their feelings about Odin's long-lost brother while Loki introduces Hela's handmaiden to the wonder of milkshakes. Meanwhile, Daimon Hellstrom comes sniffing around as the issue comes very close to having too many elements working at one time, but just barely manages keeping the balance. Great artwork from Richard Elson and Jessica Kholinne and this series continues to delight as Kieron Gillen has the best possible grasp of the prepubescent God of Mischief.
The Last of The Greats #4
Whoa! This gets super crazy. The end of this issue -- which is not safe for work nor for underaged audiences -- is a shocker, as the Last finds out that his relationship with his six deceased "siblings" (all of whom live psychologically in his head) wasn't quite as open and candid as he might have liked. Whenever you think things have gotten as crazy as anything could, "Last of the Greats" pops into another gear and blows you away. So wrong and so right in so many ways, simultaneously.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Yes. Wow. Yes. More of this.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
A month before its cancellation, "Black Panther The Most Dangerous Man Alive" #528 would have made the jump in a thinner crowd. T'challa and his Wakandan countrymen started to show some of what Stan Lee created, partially thwarting the machinations of Wilson Fisk as he tries to pull a transcontinental hostile takeover. "I can't fight ninjas, talk to you and listen to Luke Cage be annoying at the same time," T'Challa said to his sister while kicking somebody in the face. His relationship with Shuri was well depicted and served as a nice axis for the issue, bringing back some of the relentlessly cool Guile Hero stylings Christopher Priest made part of the Wakandan lexicon. Why not buy this book? After so many moves, the Kingpin sat on his hands most of the issue, and the idea of a secret militia of non-African ninjas infiltrating a notoriously xenophobic homogenous country still seems a little fishy. Very close, though.
Who the heck is Krake? "Cobra Annual 2012: The Origin Of Cobra Commander" answers the question by looking back at his birth in the Golden Triangle, creating an almost Bizarro Snake-Eyes mythos for a relentlessly lethal force of nature formed by tragic circumstances and force of will. The biopic treatment was okay, but some of the middle lagged as it kept Worf Effecting bigger bads to establish credibility. Not bad, though.
"Demon Knights" #5 did some fantastic character work while revealing more about some of the characters (Exiled Amazon! Divinely inspired quester! Traitor!), offered devil's bargains with each core character and whipped out a widescreen, "holy crap" ending that made something from a previous issue seem fairly prophetic. A potboiler plot where nothing really happened, but it was a fairly entertaining nothing happening.
If you like CBS action dramas, "The Activity" #2 had all the right pacing in a tight plot with exotic locales. Sure, you likely won't remember much about the characters (or even some of the names) but if you saw this, flipping through channels, you'd probably sit and watch it.
On a similar wavelength "Battle Scars" #3 had some great action against Deadpool and Taskmaster. You still don't know much about the mysterious lead character (save one tantalizing tidbit about his heritage), but it was at least "TV good." Great action scenes, not much in terms of actual things happening or character development.
The art on "Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye" #1 was a little "Neon Genesis Evangelion" but the storyline -- Rodimus leading an expedition of hundreds of mechanoids in search of a mythical history from Cybertron's past -- that goes all Gilligan and the Skipper pretty fast using a good cast of characters (Chromedome as the Professor, Ultra Magnus as a cranky Skipper, et cetera). It's a start, but it doesn't have its groove just yet.
The professor meets an old friend in a wonderful moment from "Moriarity" #8, where he borrows a page from the Krake handbook, chessmastering his way through a riot and picking up stooges and henchmen like so many wildflowers. The drab coloring didn't help, and without that one moment the tension of the issue was lacking, but those good bits really shone.
"Never fear." With a simple declaration, Sinestro showed why he used to be the best in the biz during the pages of "Green Lantern" #5. Without ever losing his composure, he fights against the force of terrorists he personally created, all while manipulating a planetary populace that hates him. Never showing signs of the megalomania that would have been the easy choice, Sinestro's performance here is outstanding. Hal Jordan? Whiny and dull witted, which didn't play so well as the Guardians got all "creepy uncle" on you.
Boom! "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero" #174 had the Oktober Guard and the Joes going H.A.M. in their biggest armored vehicles, blasting different generations of Cobra HISSes (poor form not standardizing the attack force, Cobra) while competing for political position. The anti-climactic ending was a let down, though.
For harmless, all-ages fun you could likely show your kids, "Snarked" #4 and "Reed Gunther" #7 were solid choices (although some more timid kids might be scared by the monsters in the latter), stories that hit their marks with the predictability of Jim Belushi in a timeless fashion. If that's what you need, these will take care of you.
"Heart" #3 further illustrates how this would run so much better as a prose novel or, better yet, a series on FX. It likewise hits its marks well enough but hasn't invested enough in its fairly charmless protagonist (who, at first, had shades of "8 Mile" and "Wanted") to make the narrative have stakes worth worrying about.
"Severed" #6 had great period horror, with two good "aaaaaagh!" moments and great suspense. If you like horror, suspense and period works, this will totally be up your alley.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Brilliant" #2, "Avengelyne" #6, "Batwoman" #5, "The Darkness" #97, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9" #5, "Amazing Spider-Man" #677, "Doctor Who" #13, "The Ray" #2, "Invincible" #87, "Deathstroke" #5, "Whispers" #1, "Incredible Hulk" #4, "Snake Eyes" #9, "Dark Matter" #1, "Pigs" #5, "Scarlet Spider" #1, "Strange Talent of Luther Strode" #4, "Grifter" #5, "Wolverine and the X-Men" #4, "Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic: War" #1, "Batman and Robin" #5, "Captain America" #7, "Legion Lost" #5, "Deadpool" #49, "7 Warriors" #3.
No, just -- no ... These comics? Not so much ...
The plot in "New Avengers" #20 was, at its core, kind of stupid. However, every second of it was entertaining with Bendis' trademarked dialogue. It's better to watch it happen than to pay attention to what actually was going on.
"Batgirl" #5. Oy. They had the cure to Babs' paralysis revealed, taking the meaner approach to a DC-slanted "Occupy" movement and hitting several really wrong notes. For this, we're not getting freaking "Secret Six?" Sigh.
Flipping "occupy" to "vacate," "Magneto: Not A Hero" #3 was like reading copies of copies of copies, as there was hardly an original idea anywhere between its covers. Why is this happening?
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Some solidly ambitious attempts really could have made it, so we'll call that positive.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Jumps, close calls, this is a good week to love comic books, y'all!
This week, Komplicated.com took a look at the sci-fi themed brothel opening up in Nevada, looked at seven minutes of footage from the new George Lucas-fueled "Red Tails" movie, a great examination of the Black geek legacy on prime time TV, original fantasy fiction from Stranger Comics, noticed how Apple's Siri software can hike up your phone bill, dreaded the check showing up for Spotify, saw Snoop Dogg on "The Price is Right" (really), downloaded Geoffrey Thorne's free eBook, wondered at Microsoft trying to invent holodecks, , offered more of our weekly musical recommendations from turntablists DJ Jedi and Brutha Gimel, recommended selections from our weekly MP3 downloads and of course had the commentary track for this review column. Updated at least three times a day, every day, Komplicated is doing it for the block and the blogosphere, capturing the Black geek aesthetic.
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!