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 FEBRUARY 1, 2012
NOTE: What the heck? Why are these reviews so freaking late? The writer of the column had something to do with his kid on new comics day. Deal with it. Off we go.
Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi #0
(Dark Horse Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Apparently, Dark Horse Comics is stepping back 36,000 years in time to tell stories of the Je'daii long before the Jedi had been formed. Honestly, except for the fact that they didn't have hyperspace travel, they sound like they're a lot smarter and more together than the modern Jedi or Sith we've come to know and deal with. They use the Force in balance, both light and dark, and have an elaborate system of training to learn a multiplicity of skills. Sure, they don't have lightsabers (and right there, tons of fans tuned out) and sure, they have fairly internecine struggles with enemies based just a planet or two away (like, say, rival gangs in the same neighborhood) but on a good side, the cover image looks like it might be related to that cool Frank Quietly piece (even though there's no evidence of Tuskens or gadderafi in this system, and he said he just did whatever he wanted). This rather cursory guidebook ("this space ship is fast and well armed -- and so is this one -- and so is this other one ...") is interesting more about the seeds it plants in the imagination than its actual, factual content.
Amazing Spider-Man #679
Jump from the Read Pile.
Spidey works at a company called Horizon Labs, where all kinds of ridiculous scientific foolishness happens. His co-worker invented a door which shows a day into the future, and it has the web-swinger quipping his way through the city, desperate to stop a catastrophe that only he can prevent. This means a surprise run in with Silver Sable (and her unusual means of honoring heroes) and a wonderful surprise from Mary Jane Watson that ties things together brilliantly. Dan Slott has crafted an entertaining, action packed and intelligent story that has wonderful pacing, nuanced characterization and witty dialogue. The always solid artwork from Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba and Edgar Delgado conveys fantastic moments of intimacy back to back with fast paced action. Great stuff here.
Magic: The Gathering #1
Jump from the Read Pile.
This is quite a surprise. Dack Fayden is a scoundrel in the classic Indiana Jones style who happens to have the innate ability to traverse dimensions. As he rushes from mishap to shenanigan, his character is developed subtly -- womanizer here, master thief there, mercenary elsewhere -- and then there's a surprise that gives this much more depth and a greater sense of importance, both for the protagonist and the reader. Matt Forbeck's script is savvy, and the artwork from Marton Coccolo and J. Edwin Stevens never lets you get bored. A very pleasant surprise, especially from a licensed property.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
In a week where nothing was guaranteed a trip home, that's a pretty good start!
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
Unlike many previous issues, "Fathom Volume 4" #4 made sure you understood everything that was happening on every single page. Alongside the always stunning artwork, that's a plus. Unfortunately, what was happening was a waterfall of monologue-ing with enough exposition to make Stan Lee blanch. Not a bad issue, but not what it could be.
The parts between Reptil and Finesse -- no matter where in time and space -- were good, but "Avengers Academy" #25 was mostly a mess of melee madness, bashing away at a largely cliched antagonist and getting Hank Pym emotional for no good reason.
"Action Comics" #6 was ambitious but flawed as the Legion (an older version) visited in the lead story, which used tesseracts and crazy future science to try and walk an "All-Star Superman" path but with everyday Superman execution. The sentimental back up story about the end of Clark Kent's time in Smallville was better written, giving answers about Jonathan Kent and fleshing out his story a little. Not bad, but some execution problems in the lead's plot kept this on the shelf.
"Valen the Outcast" #3 has a really interesting dynamic between characters that, essentially, kind of hate each other, on a road trip. This issue, that means that only one is trying to kill the others, with some interesting fantasy elements playing out like Sawyer (scoundrel) and an early version of Kate (bad ass female) with a grimmer Locke (mysterious taciturn guy with a plan). The pivot upon which this issue's plot turned was a bit too facile, taking a lot of the issue's impact away, but otherwise this was pretty good.
"Defenders" #3 followed the "bring the mickey fickey ruckus" plan of "Avengers Academy," which may have fit as Nul the Breaker of Worlds decides to disassemble Wundagore Mountain. The ending was much more interesting than the somewhat predictable punchfest, along with its deus ex machina themed conclusion, and the Surfer's idea seemed like it was ill considered if only historically speaking.
"Batwing" #6 improved a little despite a predictable reveal on Massacre and the trail leading back to Gotham by rote. The actual combat scenes were much better and the dialogue was less stiff. Unfortunately, the coloring made it look like you were watching "The X-Files" while wearing sunglasses, and that detracted from some of the visual storytelling.
Krake's continued offensive in "G.I. Joe" #10 really (again) spotlighted the deficiencies in traditional military forces. One of the old toys gets introduced as a heavy weapon, ninjas discuss their vendettas and a lot is happening at once. Not in a bad way, but not in a way that's a clear, linear narrative either.
In "Punisher" #8, you probably don't wanna spend too much time wondering why Frank has a folder on his desktop labeled "Superheroine Upskirts" or another one for "Call of Battle 3" (why wouldn't he be a FPS player?) but when an inadvertent copycat steps into his playing field, it both helps and hinders things while stacking up the bodies of bad guys. Nothing wrong, but less interesting than when a similar story happened in the "Painkiller Jane" crossover.
"Detective Comics" #6 wasn't a bad caper story as two sisters on opposite sides of the law, a shapeshifter and the Bat all dance around the Penguin's new casino. However, it needed some of that thrilling atmosphere of that first "Steve Rogers, Super Soldier" book, or even the current issue of "Secret Avengers" where Steve and Hawkeye suit up (in the Barney Stinson way) to infiltrate a kleptocracy.
The dialogue and interplay in "Uncanny X-Men" #6 was top notch ("I had to study you. I was not sure you were sentient. Frankly, I am still not convinced") and the weird flirting between Hope and Namor continued ("Your incredulity shows your inexperience. To be king of Atlantis takes more than perfect aesthetics") but the plot just kind of "meh"-ed its way around another undiscovered extraterrestrial race that's been around for millennia without leaving a trace.
Booster Gold puts on his big boy pants in "Justice League International" #6, standing up to everybody who doubted him and stepping up his game. His character arc was okay, with the August General in Iron playing a good second banana, but the two of them weren't enough to bring the collaborative effort to victory, kind of like Lob City struggling against the Lakers.
To not like "X-Club" #3 is really hard, as Dr. Nemesis alone is simply amazing, but Jeffries' weird technophilia threw the plot all sideways while the largely anonymous antagonist didn't give much to work with. Too many X-Men showed up with nothing to do, but this book has some really endearing qualities -- that just weren't enough.
Another bloody interlude in "The Strange Talent of Luther Strode" #5, which played way faster than its actual page count without developing its plot beyond the punching and bleeding and what not. Not bad, but not distinctive.
"Fatale" #2, however, was very, very close, a supernatural noirish pulp thriller which was way more interested in plot than characterization, brushing past its players but still delivering some interesting pages. On a TV series, the actors could carry the charisma of their performance to make up the difference, but here they all end up at about the same level, which doesn't work as well.
"Stormwatch" #6 gave its extradimensional headquarters some personality while Midnighter & Apollo officially join up and J'onn J'onnz makes his allegiances crystal clear. Unfortunately, the team decides that a scavenger hunt with shades of "Planetary" is the way to go (it's not) as an enemy within has kidnapped one of their number. If you wanna Scooby approach, that's fine, but it's not quite what was advertised in the team's mission statement.
"Clive Barker's Hellraiser" #10 had the former victim Kristy Swanson embracing the power of the Cenobites (like a bawse). However, the former Pinhead is now a normal human who gets an interesting surprise, one which could upset the whole system. Not bad, but kind of insular, even though Swanson's character work was interesting, in a "those who were the farthest out have gone the other way" fashion.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"The Twelve" #9, "Alpha Girl" #1, "Animal Man" #6, "X-Factor" #231, "Kirby Genesis: Captain Victory" #3, "Thor: The Deviants Saga" #4, "Green Arrow" #6, "Warlord of Mars Annual" #1, "Hawk & Dove" #6, "Warriors of Mars" #1, "Men of War" #6, "Hulk" #48, "OMAC" #6, "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero" #175, "Fear Itself: The Fearless" #8, "Savage Dragon" #178, "Red Lanterns" #6, "Servant of the Bones" #6, "Avengers X-Sanction" #3, "Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes" #4, "Venom" #13.
No, just -- no ... These comics? Not so much ...
It's deeply disappointing that "Static Shock" #6 delivered the rationale between the cloned sisters and another weird element (that's a bit of a spoiler) at this time, and that the almost Dr. Evil-esque showdown brought in Hardware and Technique with little explanation of why or who they are. This issue was massively disappointing, not just because it had some Ben Reilly-styled plot holes but it also lets down the legacy of the great, great Dwayne McDuffie, who instilled Virgil Ovid Hawkins with such wit and vibrancy. Dang.
"Infestation 2: Transformers" #1 was just terrible for trying to put too many disparate elements together. Steampunk Autobots, Lovecraft possessions, dry dialogue, Nikola Tesla -- all for an easily forgotten Elseworlds. Sad, really.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Not bad, actually.
The shop didn't have any copies of "Uncanny X-Force" #21 due to damages from Diamond. Sorry.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Three jumps and only the stain on Milestone Media to stand as a problem? The week wins, y'all.
This week on Komplicated, we said goodbye to "Soul Train" creator Don Cornelius, noted that millions of Android devices could be affected with malware, celebrated the first Black woman to win best director honors at Sundance, bemoan the tyranny of ACTA (which follows SOPA and PIPA's horrible example), celebrated Data Privacy Day, checked out Lego Batman 2 and bulletproof polo shirts, noted which starship captain really drives the ladies wild, examined optical lasers to reprogram your brain, weekly free MP3 downloads (with recommended downloads) and of course the commentary track for these reviews. 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!