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 JUNE 11, 2012
Wolverine and the X-Men #13
Jump from the Read Pile. If you'd like to see Wolverine, or even most of the campus staff or students from his team of X-Men, check out. This issue covers just one person: "Ava'dara Aganandini. Soldier of the Shi'ar Imperium. Royal Warbird, Deathbringer Class." This surprisingly intricate done-in-one fleshes out the character of a personage previously having very little backstory. Now? When you see her bloodthirsty machinations, when you take in her severe attitudes, you'll find new dimensions to her behavior. Sometimes -- "Batman Incorporated" #2 for example -- fleshing out a character can come off as stiff as a Wikipedia entry. Here? None of that. Warbird lives, her sense of duty is practically tangible, and the struggle within her will stand in the background like a character itself. To say that Jason Aaron threw down on this script would be an understatement, and the artwork from Nick Bradshaw, Walden Wong, Cam Smith, and Guru EFX was simply heartbreaking. A wonder.
Avenging Spider-Man #9
Jump from the Read Pile. The awkward attraction between Peter Parker and Carol Danvers is a third wheel in this interesting issue that has lots of good elements even as it lacks a properly satisfying conclusion. Aunt May lives in Boston now, and Peter wants to go visit. His Avenger pal Carol Danvers just bought a single engine prop plan and she's interested in a shakedown. Should be fine, right? Then a jetpack-wearing "cameralistic liberator" and the effects of a metropolitan budget crisis make things considerably more interesting. Again, the closing pages needed a little more than ratcheting up the stakes, but the journey getting there was beautifully rendered by the Dodsons and Edgar Delgado ... and it was a light week. Nothing wrong here.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Inexpensive and entertaining -- can't beat that.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Batman and Robin" #11 showcased all new ways to make Bruce Wayne very, very upset as he and his equally psychotic scion followed a trail of mutilated victims all over Gotham. There's a really great scene that shows the scale of the campaign against the Bat, but the plot was very paint-by-numbers and the extraordinarily dull (and almost Hitman-esque) antagonists have just enough characterization to fill a thimble.
"Xenoglyphs" #1 (available on the Comics Plus app*) is an interesting book, a buddy book that brings up some of the chemistry from the "Human Target" TV series while positing an alternative history take that's not hard to swallow. For four bucks, the issue spends way, way too much of its time with heavy handed exposition. Worth following for its big ideas.
Normally the fights in this series can make one wanna throw the comic book across the room, but "AvX" #4 finally had some fights that didn't embarrass. Daredevil vs. Ele ... uh Psylocke was just as noirish and ninja-tastic as it should have been, while a full-powered Thor squared off against a Phoenix-powered Emma Frost ... and it delivered. However, do you wanna pay four bucks for two fights? Mmm ...
"Shade" #10 had some imagery that was really evocative, as his tedious family crisis somehow involves ancient Egyptian divinities. Trying to hold gods captive works about as well as it sounds like it would, but all that pretty art took a long way to do anything interesting.
"G.I. Joe" #15 was a tense potboiler as a team struggled against some Cobra named Orso (so obscure you can't even Google him), Doctor Mindbender and Destro's former lab assistant underneath South America. The team dynamic is pitch perfect, reminiscent of the old "Special Missions" series from Marvel, but the plot didn't go very far.
"Dark Avengers" #177 revisits a new criminal-minded nation stolen from parts of Libya and Egypt which had some really interesting elements. Unfortunately, it was saddled with the baggage of old business from the Centurius-led "B-team" of work release Thunderbolts and Dr. Doom cast through time. Leaving Latveria would have done better stuff for this issue.
It's hard for old business to stay buried in "Sunset First Look" #1 as a former pistolier tries to enjoy his retirement until -- almost predictably -- the shadow of his past returns with a bloody (yet strangely incompetent) vengeance. The first section of a larger work, this episodic installment wasn't bad, but aside from its slick stylings and tight plot, didn't do much to step away from cliche.
Remember when Doc Brass was a member of a proto-superhero team back in "Planetary?" "Defenders" #8 puts John Aman the Prince of Orphans in that role as protectors of something that holds the universe together. Probably. However, for all the power and intimidation factor he has (he apparently whacked several of the hugely popular Immortal Weapons off panel for reasons that remain unknown) he missed a key tactical element and kind of embarrassed himself. Cute elements that didn't quite come together.
"Transformers Regeneration One" #81 picked up where the Marvel series left off with writer Simon Furman following up on what happened when Optimus Prime was reborn (Powermaster style!) and returned triumphantly to Cybertron. "Hang on," some might ask, "didn't that happen in the current IDW series too?" Well ... yes, but this is old school style! A must have for the nostalgic die hards but this issue was short on story.
"Enormous" #1 had postapocalyptic prettiness (it was really rather beautifully drawn, kudos to Mehdi Cheggour for really showing up on that) but in all of the really, really gorgeous work is a plot that was completely cliche.
"New Avengers" #28 seemed like a fairly simple tale of captive Avengers trying to escape the oppressive Summers regime ... but the ending, the cruel, cruel ending was like a gut punch, was like Tom Brady and the Tuck Rule, was like the Blazers faces in the 2000 western conference playoffs. Unexpected, mean, brutal and the most clever part of the issue, whereas much of the rest of it -- admittedly crucial for the gag, but still -- dragged along.
"Revival" #1 was the high end of "TV good," with a set up that was so skillfully presented, presenting an unusual section of Wisconsin where the dead got up and started walking around. This issue was really, really slow, though, and this will likely play better for the "wait for the trade" crowd, even understanding that economics make that harder to happen without the sales of single issues.
The main character got an offer he couldn't refuse in "Harbinger" #2 and things got morally flexible while the same Weapon X, er, Project Rising something guys from "Bloodshot" show up with tactics that even Reverend Stryker would call retrograde. Not great, but not bad.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Walking Dead" #100, "Batgirl" #11, "Battle Beasts" #1, "Scarlet Spider" #7, "Demon Knights" #11, "Crow" #1, "Legion Lost" #11, "Smoke and Mirrors" #4, "Punk Rock Jesus" #1, "Venom" #20, "Chew: Secret Agent Poyo" #1, "Hoax Hunters" #1, "Bloodshot" #1, "Lil Depressed Boy" #12, "Peter Panzerfaust" #5, "Soulfire: Faith" #1, "Star Wars Knight Errant: Escape" #2, "Spider-Men" #3, "Planetoid" #2.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Space Punisher" #1 tried really, really hard. Throwing virtually everything but the kitchen sink into this issue, including Frank Castle with a lightsaber, using tons of familiar names to follow Frank Castle and his robotic buddy (what?) jetpacking, teleporting and shooting up anonymous bad guys in space, instead of it being anonymous bad guys in, say, New Jersey. Frank Tieri's script worked hard at this Sisyphean task, as did Mark Texeira's always eye-catching artwork, but this ship couldn't be kept from the cold embrace of the ocean's floor.
"Before Watchmen: Minutemen" #2 was toddling along as affable fan fiction, moving easily through mediocrity until its last third got weird and fetishist and kind of creepy, punching you in the gut like "New Avengers" did but worse. Nobody wanted that. Walk away. Walk away quickly.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Oh, and "Charismagic" #6 was sold out before it could be reviewed. We'll try to wheedle PDF review copies out of the fine people at Aspen in the future, sorry.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Two jumps beats even two stinkers, so this week wins.
May as well get this stuff out of the way: the Black geek site Komplicated is relocating to become part of The Good Men Project. An official announcement, with far, far more goodies, goes live Saturday for Bastille Day. Call it a habit, and call what you can see now a sneak preview.
Also, by Sunday, there's a seventy five percent chance that as few as three creative projects and maybe as many as four will be announced from the writer of this column as being available for your purchase within the next nine months. Keep your eye on the Insights to Indie Publishing panel from The Antidote Trust Friday at 6PM, if you happen to be at Nerd Spring Break. No promises, but everything that can be said will be said by Saturday night, with an appearance on web radio show Sunday Morning Live at 10AM on the last day of the 'con. Here we go ...
* Oh, and in regards to the addition of "Xenoglyphs" #1 -- Diamond is not the only way. If a comic is available nationally to all possible customers, even in the limited means of a free app on a major platform, and the publishers are willing to send a review PDF, this column will review those books. This is the future -- time to accept that.
Back to this body of work, have you 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!