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 16, 2012
Jump from the Read Pile.
The secret of the dark woods on the planet Cleave is revealed and it leads our protagonists into even more mysterious circumstances. The deftness with which writer Brian K. Vaughan fleshes out this heretofore unknown fictional world, with its warring factions and politics, all rooted in the simple struggles of an impossible couple and their baby. With another last page twist, amazing artwork from Fiona Staples and a story that keeps bringing you in. Wonderful work and -- as of his issue -- a "buy on sight" title until it messes up three issues in a row.
Manhattan Projects #3
Jump from the Read Pile.
Wow. The crazy ideas get even wilder as a president gets sucked into a bottle, another indulges in cosplay, blood is shed, Hiroshima hits and seven out of nine members of the cast have IQs that could crack open a planet. This is what makes Jonathan Hickman a true American treasure, creativity unfettered by baggage, and the twisted artwork of Nick Pitarra and Jordie Bellaire may remind some of the nuances of Geof Darrow, but it has a cinematic quality all its own that's hard to match. Great work, and -- like Gail Simone was born to write Secret Six -- the sort of thing that makes Jonathan Hickman deliver the "amazing."
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Two brilliant, wildly entertaining, superbly re-readable and -- on top of everything else -- creator owned comics? Yes, sweet spirit, yes, this is fantastic!
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Marvel's The Avengers: Black Widow Strikes" #2 was a simple spy story that suffered as it ran on idle instead of kicking it into higher gears. Natasha keeps doing her thing, changing identities and struggling with who she is (Christopher Chance, anyone?) but it plays like a slow episode of ABC's "Alias." Nothing wrong there, but TV good doesn't make the cut.
You could say much the same about "Winter Soldier" #5, which put a super powered sheen on fairly normal cloak and dagger material. Doom even kept his bombasticity to a bare minimum as Lucia von Bardas continued to be a less-than-compelling antagonist.
Speaking of cloak and dagger, "Dancer" #1 and "The Activity" 6 also shared the same problem. Put them on USA or on CBS as an hour long procedural, and you'd have a ratings smash. The first looks at a retired assassin whose past catches up with him, the second sets a prequel for one of the team members, showcasing the often complex politics of sub Saharan Africa. TV Good ain't bad, but it's not quite worth the price.
Most of "Avengers vs. X-Men" #4 was just "whatever," but there's one piece worth noting" Ben Grimm said to Namor, "I don't even care what's goin' on ... I just like punchin' you in your stupid fish face." While some may have concerns about this clear slur against pesco-Americans, some others would just consider it built up enmity over Namor trying to give his best friend's wife the business. Had Grimm not used another pesco-American slur in another "AvX" title this week ("Hey Fishpaste!") it might have been easy to write off, but certainly the Anti-De-fishmation League will have something to say about this!
"Wonder Woman" #9 had some improvements, a clearer narrative that was thick with metaphor and symbolism. It was, however, a little on the talky side with fewer of the innovative ideas that made this family based soap opera (note the new job of the "former wife") stand above melodrama.
"Avengers" #26 focuses on the erstwhile Marvel Boy, now boringly called Protector, who's tried to find a slice of normalcy on Earth. His never-before-seen self-interested girlfriend has a mild arc of character development, he reflects on the challenges of their ill-considered plan to capture the Phoenix (and deliver an alternative). The last line, delivered with coldness and certainty, almost sold the book, but the slumping plot didn't quite cut it.
"Hardcore" #1 had a good sci fi start with some plot elements similar to the young adult novel "Starters," with remote control of somebody else's body, laced with assassination and big government budgets. The lead character is nondescript, though, and that makes it hard to get into the story as a whole.
"Valen the Outcast" #6 examines a female warrior culture called the Skulk, and one of the lead characters here is "sisterless," an exile from one of their tribes. This wasn't a bad sword-swinging story with ritual combat and threats of doom, but it needed maybe four or six more pages to really make the character impact really settle.
The "Meh" Pile
Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Conan the Barbarian" #4, "Invincible Iron Man" #517, "Glory" #26, "Justice League" #9, "Voltron" #5, "New Mutants" #42, "Mondo" #2, "Legion of Super-Heroes" #9, "Amazing Spider-Man: Ends of the Earth" #1, "Thief of Thieves" #4, "Red Hood and The Outlaws" #9, "Avengers Academy" #30, "Shade" #8, "Daredevil" #13, "Uncanny X-Men" #12, "Planet of the Apes" #14, "X-Factor" #236, "Steed and Mrs. Peel" #5, "Incredible Hulk" #7.1.
No, just ... no ...
These comics? Not so much ...
"Blue Beetle" #9 was hampered by having too many pieces of other titles and stories jammed into it, with Kyle Rayner being hunted by a corrupt regime and Red Lantern business dripping into the story as well, none of which matters a whit to Jaime Reyes, nor should it to the reader.
Cliched and bloody, rife with the kinds of spurious ideas about spies that books like "Queen & Country" and shows like "Covert Affairs" worked to dispel, "Secret Service" #2 is tepid, featuring another protagonist more loathsome than engaging, in a bad way.
Speaking of cliche-ridden works, "Ninjettes" #4 added a degree of crassness and misogyny that worked hard trying to be camp but steered directly into awfulness.
Time travel recursion stories are hard to manage, and "Thunderbolts" #174 didn't do so well. Fixer ... oh Fixer ... with many of the cast members just standing around and the threat to all time and space seeming relatively mundane, the fact that this series is heading for a big transition into being "Dark Avengers" was forced and not satisfying story wise.
"Green Lantern Corps" #9 had John Stewart get arrested and tried for murder, accepting the idea that now he has the tag of "murderer" around his neck and stuck you with tons of great images of a Black guy in chains and under prosecution. He also waived his right to counsel. Argh.
"Fantastic Four" #605.1? Nazi Reed Richards from an alternate world. Let's just move on.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Rough going, but still less bad than good.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Let's call it a win, as we got out of it relatively easily.
Komplicated.com has been busy, including looking at the debut of commercial space travel in conjunction with NASA, the new level creator for "Portal 2," noting the passing of "Godfather of Go-Go" Chuck Brown, the big "Skyrim" expansion pack on the horizon, a breakdown of CISPA, why credit card numbers are the way they are, free MP3 downloads and so much more. 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!