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 JULY 4, 2012
The Amazing Spider-Man #689
This issue spent a little too much time in the ranting, reptilian brain of a newly humanized Dr. Curt Connors, who gained every part of his humanity except his brain. Spider-Man, when he was here, oscillated between righteous anger (at two doctors involved) and the ancient forms of fisticism. Slott's fairly consistent balance between all relevant elements took a brief hiatus here, but that didn't make it bad. No, this issue merely dipped down to "just good" whereas previous issues have been "great" or better. Disappointing? Maybe. One can't be too angry at the beautiful art from Guiseppe Camuncoli, Klaus Janson and Frank D'armata. Not bad, but holding out hope for better stuff next issue.
Jump from the Read Pile.
Rest assured, the single stupidest elements of the previous issue remain in play here as Nightwing joins Batwing on a two-fisted (four winged?) cross-continental campaign of interrogation and intel gathering. That part led back (almost predictably) to Gotham. Forget about all that. As a matter of fact, if you cut Batwing himself out of this issue, it'd be fine, a Nightwing and Batman story that tracks down international corruption (and forget about the dragon on the front cover, he's a red herring). Instead, they introduced the African nation of Tundi, a kind of bizarro Wakanda led by the barefoot brawler Lord Battle and his "honor guard" called Blood Storm. Tough looking characters, if barely described. However, the idea that an isolationist police state exporting diamonds, metals and ... something surprising. Not "oh crap we're all gonna die" surprising, but economically complex. A lot of intriguing ideas that overcame some elements of execution that were less than robust, even with pitch perfect artwork from Marcus To, Ryan Winn, Le Beau Underwood and Brian Reber.
Transformers: Robots In Disguise # 7
If you took "The West Wing" and mixed it with "The Shield," but cast all the roles as giant robots, it'd look something like this fun, fun comic. A Decepticon has come home, and virtually nobody is happy about that as Wheeljack serves as a craftily-depicted framing device to reveal some messy but fascinating concepts. A mystery steeped in technology and characterization via slander, even a pacifist uttered these words: "Kill him where he stands." There are more shades of gray here than E.L. James could ever dream up as the Autobot leadership gets called into question, the well known malcontent Starscream seems like a voice of reason and there's a poetry reading by a floating, transforming shark. Wonderful and crazy all at the same time.
Ali Baba's trying to make his way through a battlefield as Lumi the Ice Queen, former chief intimidator for a pan-dimensional empire, goes head to head with the fearsome Hadeon the Destroyer, who happens to be the source of the troubles of Briar Rose, and a Layla Miller-esque "bottle imp" continues to manipulate players considerably above his pay grade. The central fight that's the axis for this issue is crafty and brilliantly played out, Bill Willingham's script has all the cleverness and savvy you expect from the Eisner winner and there's great artwork from Phil Jiminez, Steve Sadowski, Andy Lanning, Andrew Pepoy and Andrew Dalhouse.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
A mixed bag with some real highs and lows that were pretty good anyway.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Before Watchmen: Ozymandias" #1 read like a fan fiction Wikipedia entry. Len Wein's script hits all the marks, and he was the editor of the original series so he probably knows what he's talking about. It's just lifeless and doesn't have any of the ruthless charm that made Adrian Veidt fascinating.
If you can get past some of the worrisome issues around gender roles and what seems like child slavery, "Executive Assistant: Assassins" #1 has an interesting take on a Jason Bourne scenario, a broken super soldier and the system that created her. It's an Aspen book, so you know it's gonna look great, but the paper thin antagonist and the drifting protagonist don't give you much to root for or against. Morally challenging but worth watching.
There was an interesting Kansas City Shuffle in "Thief of Thieves" #6, where a high powered heist goes toes up and the badges try to put the screws to everybody. There wasn't enough of the actual story here to justify the purchase, but when the collection comes out, this'll read like a fun part of a bigger whole.
A tip from Destro sends the team to San Diego's Comic-Con in a well-timed issue of "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero" #180. There's a nuke in the building and Cobra Commander gets frustrated, but for all the cute (and largely accurate) depictions of the con's foibles and charms, it was more artifice than art, cute but not really compelling.
"Green Arrow" #11 was an ambitious comic that took on the language of the Occupation movement while trying to balance plots about vigilantes called Dark Arrows, another about China, more about Oliver Queen's tech company ... there were some good ideas but there were way, way too many of them vying for space at the same time. Probably room for three okay comics here, not this one which reaches high and falls hard.
Speaking of ambitious, "Creator Owned Heroes" #2 had a number of elements worth noticing -- two anthology comics that had some good points to them, words directly from the likes of Steve Niles and Jimmy Palmiotti, a real magazine and chunk of culture ... but at the price point, and given the quality of columns you can find on sites like, oh, this one, it seems to be a little less than the financial requirement.
"Popeye" #3 was a very, very cute all ages story that uses every strength in the characters (managing to leave out Olive Oyl completely) centering on boxing and hamburgers. If you're a fan or you have young readers to keep busy, this is a very solid choice to while away some time in a fairly substantial chunk of reading.
"Stormwatch" #11 was like this week's "Green Arrow," throwing out lots of interesting stuff -- driving by the Eminence of Blades and his traitorous plot, a genetic war with virtually immortal super villain Neanderthals (literal Neanderthals) and relationship drama to boot.
The red-haired Marine sergeant out for vengeance is a big distraction in "Punisher" #13, as much a problem as she was for Daredevil, and as the foil during a tuxedo-and-formal-wear undercover mission that's almost spoiled by emotion, Walt White style. Seeing Frank Castle in a heist story was a surprise and it almost worked. Almost.
The realistic line work of "Danger Club" #3 made the sidekicks-on-their-own story a little less ridiculous as the heroes and villains of this super powered society are long gone and the only ones left to fight an invasion aren't old enough to vote. A quick, messy, well-depicted, bloody jumbled issue.
"Hack/Slash" #17 had good bloody monster action with some serious monologuing, but the two main combatants look too similar for the fight scenes to really "pop," and the cheesecake was too obvious.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Deadpool" #57, "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" #1, "Clive Barker's Hellraiser" #15, "Dial H" #3, "The Cape: 1969" #1, "G.I. Combat" #3, "Fanboys vs. Zombies" #4, "Justice League International" #11, "Warlords of Mars" #19, "Wolverine" #310, "Dorothy of Oz Prequel" #3, "Night Force" #5, "Hulk" #55, "Rocketeer Adventures" #2, "Red Lanterns" #11, "Epic Kill" #3, "Smallville Season 11" #3, "Hero Worship" #1, "X-Factor" #239, "Worlds' Finest" #3, "Haunt" #24, "Invincible" #93, "Lil Depressed Boy" #12, "Morning Glories" #20, "Spawn" #221, "Orchid" #8, "Animal Man" #11, "Invincible Iron Man" #520, "Green Hornet" #26, "Age of Apocalypse" #5, "Dan the Unharmable" #3.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
The best part of "Avengers vs. X-Men" #7 was where T'challa slapped Tony Stark and, essentially, told him to stop being such a freaking pansy. Otherwise, the idea of any of the Avengers lasting longer than half a second in a fight against even a fifth of the Phoenix Force, especially with such a clear mad on, even during a "rescue mission" is ridiculous. Shockingly, this issue is slightly less annoying than its predecessors, but didn't improve enough to not be, say, bad.
Clark Kent is dead in "Action Comics" #11, and the ways around that are a little labyrinthine ("Johnny Clark"). Then a "nutant" (not a typo … we think) pops up and that's not derivative and/or stupid at all. If you believe Superman is the mask and Clark Kent is who he really is, this issue will likely leave you apoplectic, but even if you don't, the issue drifted without reason and stunk up the place.
"Ninjettes" #5 was terrible. Soaking in cliche, misogynistic in the least possibly entertaining ways, incoherent in its attempt at plotting and introducing the ironic musical stylings of Banjo McScrillex. Imagine, if you will, Resurrection Man adversaries the Body Doubles but much, much stupider. Inexcusable.
"Earth 2" #3 had so much dialogue that if they charged you per word, this book would cost more than a really fancy dinner for two. In all of that, it borrowed the Animal Man/Swamp Thing color scheme and applied it to the "new" continuity, deciding that (newly gay) Alan Scott is the premiere hero of that world. It didn't, however, make him any more interesting than the older, heterosexual version, so at least fans can count on him still being more boring than a night translating C-SPAN into Albanian. Then turning a silver age super villain into "an avatar of the Gray" (or "rot" as noted in "Animal Man") ... it really wanted to make things map to the editorial dictates.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Ah, it wasn't that bad.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Diamond Comics, apparently, delivered a lot of damaged books to Comics Ink, so if you were looking for a review that isn't here, that might be why.
Otherwise, it was pretty much okay this week.
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!