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 MAY 2, 2012
The Amazing Spider-Man #685
Jump from the Read Pile.
The entire world is against him, but Spider-Man continues his campaign against Doctor Octopus with Black Widow and Silver Sable (who got surprisingly friendly) at his side. The odds get even higher as newer parties come to play, and there's time for moments of distinctive character as well as thrilling plot. Spider-Man takes to international action with every bit of his Queens-bred personality intact, while the two European spies act with complete calm and composure. To see Chameleon and Mysterio have their blue collar moment was enjoyable, and there was a lot to be happy about here. Dan Slott's script is virtually bulletproof, while the artwork from Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba ad Edgar Delgado makes great use of darkness and shadow (metaphorically speaking) in depicting the challenges presented to the heroes here. This being the third in a row, "Amazing Spider-Man" has become a "buy on sight" title as of now.
Jump from the Read Pile.
Using language reminiscent of the heights of Frank Miller in "Sin City," this issue posited a hard luck love story scented with magic and noir, putting corrupt police officers and impossible super powers in play. Especially interesting is how the "lead" character Mauricio Barrino can sometimes fade into the background to allow other characters a chance to shine, and while the prurience may not be for the family values crowd, but it follows in the two-fisted noir tradition of Miller while adding a refreshing, science fiction and fantasy twist. Enrique Carrion's language here is remarkable and evocative, with another star turn art performance by John "Rock" Upchurch.
Action Comics #9
Jump from the Read Pile.
One of the problems with the Superman mythos is the numerous areas where his power isn't enough and his deeds fall short. This Grant Morrison-penned issue posits an alternate universe Kal-El where there's no such shortcoming, where he's as effective in his "secret identity" as he is when wearing the cape. Hostage crisis in Libya? He can handle that while wrestling with extradimensional concepts. Nuclear threat from Qurac? Handling a conference call at the same time. Calvin Ellis (well played, even there) may never have managed a McDonalds, but he surely knows how to run his life, even called on his contradictions by his analogue of Wonder Woman. With the overwhelming talent of Gene Ha (and Art Lyon on colors) this is a simply gripping take on what Superman could be.
Marvel's The Avengers Prelude: Black Widow Strikes
Jump from the Read Pile.
Well here's a surprise. The Scarlett Johansson-inspired former Soviet spy turns in shades of Sydney Bristow, swapping identities and ending lives with casual ease. Fairly tasteful cheesecake and decent action sequences from Neil Edwards, Steve Kurth, Rick Magyar, Andrew Hennessy, Nick Filardi and Felix Serrano.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Three very enjoyable books that made it home on merit. That's a great start.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Dial H" #1 had some great ambitions, developing a moody reintroduction to the concept, making a pay phone and an out of shape unemployable the avenues for adventure. However, being far too moody for such a ridiculous concept didn't help and the artwork seems like it wanted to be John McCrea but never really got it right.
"Mind the Gap" #1 was beautifully drawn, a deeply well planned and obviously well thought out story about loss and extra-spiritual themes. However, its very verbose plot lagged quite a great deal. Still well worth watching, but not quite close enough just yet.
"Daredevil" #12 was a sexy and playful romp with Matt courting (and trying to defuse) an assistant district attorney, with Spider-Man watching over him as the organizations of Megacrime seek his end. This was a cute, entertaining issue which played around with the title character's powers, but didn't quite do enough to sell the actual story.
If you like the idea of covert operations in space, "The Activity" with aliens, "Voltron Year One" #2 gets that point across. Sven struggles with impossible orders and a Kobayashi Maru sort of situation while the team uses their skills and abilities to make impossible things happen. However, there's no giant robots and again the plot sags when Sven prevaricates.
Cute and perhaps not needed, "Avengers Academy" #29 dumps Logan's whole mutant school at Hank Pym's school, which could have turned into punching and bloodshed but instead turned into sports and being mutually weirded out by Hercules being naked. Nothing really wrong, but nothing especially right.
In "Ultimate Justice Society," er, "Earth 2" #1, Darkseid's forces stomp the hell out of an alternate earth which had only Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman ... and that wasn't enough to stop Uncle Steppenwolf. With latter day origins for Jay Garrick (a wastrel college graduate) and Alan Scott (a broadcasting magnate) as the erstwhile Supergirl and Robin work their way out of grieving. If you like Ultimate takes on things, perhaps this is for you.
"Venom" #17 had some great scenes and great moments -- Flash Thompson knows how to have struggles as a character without getting all whiny about it -- but a collection of moments does not a story make.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"G.I. Joe A Real American Hero" #178, "Superbia" #3, "Batwing" #9, "Kirby Genesis: Silver Star" #5, "Pigs" #7, "Detective Comics" #9, "Star Trek" #8, "Supreme" #64, "Invincible Iron Man" #516, "Avengelyne" #8, "Smallville Season 11" #1, "Blue Estate" #11, "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #10, "Epic Kill" #1, "Worlds' Finest" #1, "Dorothy of Oz Prequel" #2, "Hack Slash" #15.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
You can almost feel that "Teen Titans Annual" #1 was struggling to be a good comic book, trying to weave some interesting elements -- the power ascribed to Tyroc, Red Robin's growing leadership capabilities -- into its blah blah, pugilist prattle. It could never connect, with another cookie cutter antagonist who's as forgettable as the third last napkin you used.
In the center of "Avengers vs. X-Men" #3, Cap and Logan go to blows. Given that they were on the same side not six and a half minutes ago, this kind of sorority house backbiting is exactly why this fan fiction frippery is a waste of ink and paper.
The relentlessly insider humor of "Rich Johnston's The Avengefuls" #1 tied together all of the previous issues in Johnston's run -- perhaps. The tedious attempts at jokes and references fall flat more often than they connect, and the lackluster art does it no favors either. Wasteful.
"Stormwatch" #9 must have been infected with Red Lanterns, as it was soppy and emo with the Midnighter ... gah, the Midnighter reflecting on whether or not he should enjoy killing people. His relationship with Apollo had some elements of charm but was given very little room to breathe. Really rather disappointing.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Not so bad, after all.
Oh, and Diamond screwed the pooch, creating shortages on orders of "I.C.E." #4 and "Fanboys vs. Zombies" #2. Can't review what's not in the shop.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Three jumps makes the week a win no matter how you slice it ... well, if things were as bad as last week, it'd at least be a wash, but still.
Komplicated celebrated its one year anniversary by doing what it always does -- working hard to bring you great stories. Free MP3 downloads every Monday, syndicated web comics and fiction every weekday and so much more, it's updated at least three times a day, every day. Doing it for the block and the blogosphere, Komplicated aims at 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!