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 APRIL 25, 2012
Merciless: The Rise of Ming #1
Jump from the Read Pile.
This is a very, very pleasant surprise. One of the only ways to cover new ground in terms of the planet Mongo and this franchise is literally covering new ground. These days, that means prequel, baby. Now, don't worry about Jar Jar popping up -- this prequel sticks to the racial balances of Flash Gordon lore. Lion Men, Frost People and Hawkmen, all holding a tenuous detente under the aging rule of Emperor Krang, the father of a certain Prince Ming, who's "one to watch." Using tools from the Darth Vader Management Handbook, Ming inspires results, enjoys the fruits of his position and enters into aggressive negotiations. On panel, Ming -- even in his setbacks or chastisements -- is riveting, courtesy of a razor sharp script from Scott Beatty and wonderfully evocative artwork from Ron Adrian and Roni Setiawan.
Jump from the Read Pile.
Step away from cosmic conflagrations and time travel tribulations for a moment. Let's look at something simple: Johnny Storm and Peter Parker as roommates -- a public hero hanging out with perhaps the Marvel Universe's most repressed altruist. Framed by Peter Parker's to-do list, this issue follows the ridiculous shenanigans of Johnny's irrepressible immaturity combined with Peter trying to play it straight, a younger Oscar Madison and Felix Unger dynamic for a new century. Done in one, entertaining from start to finish with enough "fantastic" flourishes to make the everyday instances interesting. Great stuff from Jonathan Hickman, Michael Hyun-Min Choi, Nick Dragotta and Guru EFX.
Transformers: Robots in Disguise #4
Jump from the Read Pile.
A complex, internecine political drama ... starring fifty foot tall robots that change into space ships and what not. Yes. Here, the eternal schemer Starscream has wheedled himself into a position of power, the tyro leader Bumblebee is in way over his head, and 'Bee's right hand 'bot Prowl has a Machiavellian modus operandi while struggling with the slippery slope of moral compromise for a perceived greater good. Murder, mind control, double crosses and brinksmanship, all in the broken ruins of a war torn world.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Add to those three "Avengers Roll Call" and you've got one entertaining week worth of purchases, especially given that nothing was guaranteed a ride home.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
Set in the Force-free world of scoundrels and scum, "Star Wars Blood Ties: Boba Fett Is Dead" #1 follows the fallout of the galaxy's most dangerous bounty hunter getting assassinated. The issue wasn't bad, as the plot moved quickly and the art was great, but none of the characters was fleshed out enough and unless you're a Wookiepedia regular, many names here would not register in the average mind.
The fascinating Megacrime story gasps and rolls over to expose its underbelly in "Daredevil" #11, an inconclusive conclusion that was nonetheless beautifully rendered. Frank Castle's character was great, as was Peter Parker, but Matt Murdock's tedious and sanctimonious monologuing combined with the weak ending to make it "not quite good enough."
"The Activity" #5 was very, very close to making it home with a clever twist conclusion. Unfortunately, the road to get there was overly lengthy involving interrogation scenes that made "24" look like it was written by Shakespeare. Not bad though.
If you liked "The Italian Job" or "Ocean's 11," "Supercrooks" #2 will feel amiably familiar. With quick dashes of characterization and witty banter (the attempt at rekindling a romance is the best, but the brothers are great too), you can tell how well this would play on the silver screen. However, on the printed page, this issue needed a little more meat on its narrative bones.
The tension and suspense in "Road Rage Duel" #3 was very well developed, as an everyday joe struggles with an impossible situation. Normally, such an anonymous antagonist might not work, but the almost Jason Voorhies-esque menace of this truck managed to make sense. If this were on TV, it'd be great, but it wasn't quite enough to get bought.
"Bloodstrike" #27 was a surprise, cloaked in tones of the 90s' excesses, it still managed to layer on some nuance. Some of the gags are familiar to modern sci fi fans -- a pinch of "Battlestar Galactica" here, a dash of Whedon-styled snark there, a smidgen of the X-Men over there -- but it ended up some interesting notes being played in a plodding song.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Angel and Faith" #9, "Batman: The Dark Knight" #8, "Star Wars Crimson Empire 3: Empire Lost" #6, "Aquaman" #8, "Netherworld" #5, "Blackhawks: #8, "Astonishing X-Men" #49, "Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men" #8, "Lil Depressed Boy" #10, "Captain America" #10, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" #9, "Green Lantern: New Guardians" #8, "The Darkness" #102, "The Mighty Thor" #13, "New Deadwardians" #2, "Moon Knight" #12, "Rebel Blood" #2, "Savage Hawkman" #8, "Danger Girl: Revolver" #4, "Teen Titans" #8, "Popeye" #1, "Voodoo" #8, "Snake Eyes" #12.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
Wow. "Battle Scars" #6 ... just ... wow. If you're in a mind for [SPOILERS], to put it succinctly, Marvel did something really stupid trying to get all of their properties to line up, dragging in movie (and Ultimate) ideas to the "regular" playbox, ignoring things like "lines of succession" and "logic" (aside from shuffling off a storied character into obscurity). It's frustrating because it's such a forced conclusion, and one that was "developed" (and that word is being used generously) in a "story" of such tepid, overwrought mess. Really insulting to the intelligence of the long time fan and offering very few elements to hang on to for neophytes.
May as well cover "Rich Johnston's ScienTHORlogy" #1 and "Rich Johnston's Captain American Idol" #1 at the same time, as they're both the same long in-joke, riffing on the plots of the two hit summer films of last year, reminding you of their good elements while being terrible at the same time. Especially the bit with Natalie Portman.
"AvX: Vs" #1 was terrible. Imagine the worst fan fiction ideas you can consider, and they'll look a lot like this. There are two fights, and neither make a lick of sense, with Magneto channelling Alec Guinness from 1976 and Namor ... oh, Namor. Wow.
"Flash" #8 has a bad time for a Tuskegee Airman (why did so many bad things happen to people from Tuskegee?) as Turbine talks and talks and talks and talks about Barry's powers and his function in the universe, which is crazy and adds so much extra to the character that's not of value.
Retcon, party of one. In order to make the crossover seem even more important, "New Avengers" #25 jams one old X-Men concept deep into the history of another Marvel hero, somehow robbing each of significance and doing more to slander gingers everywhere. Make it stop.
"Legion Lost" #8 features a team of super powered people from a thousand years in the future. So, the idea of them fighting anybody in this century is the equivalent of, say, modern SWAT policemen fighting knights in armor. Doesn't seem like it'd be very fair for the sword swingers. So, how is it that these futuristic, spacefaring, super powered teens -- who regularly take on the likes of the Persuader and the Khunds -- have more than five seconds worth of combat? What happened here is ridiculous. In a bad way.
"We will try!" Thor's all about speeches and boozing in "Secret Avengers" #26, which is so embarrassing a failure that it had War Machine as a crucial element of trying to stop the Phoenix Force. Not even Tony Stark, but regular old "guy in a suit" War Machine. Terrible, ill-conceived stuff.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Seven stinkers outweigh six okay books, especially with that mound of "meh" in between.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Three jumps just barely win the week with so many really, really terrible comic books in play.
The new headgear from Google, Left Eye's tour plans from beyond the grave, Grimlock smashing in a new "Transformers" video game trailer, a "Carlton Dance" flash mob, free MP3 downloads, birthday love for Hamp and Luther and the lost song from one-hit wonder Rockwell -- that's just some of the stories that hit last week on Komplicated.com, including a special appearance on the popular web radio show Sunday Morning Live discussing the anniversary of the Los Angeles Uprising. 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!