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 18, 2012
This series is, consistently, the best monthly comic on the stands. It is the least good issue this week, which really shows how comics stepped up in a major, major way. Two of the Bigby Wolf and Snow White's kids, Therese and Dare, are lost in a land of broken (and apparently bloodthirsty) toys, as the forces of heaven and earth move to find them. What little happens here is very deep in character development (and foreshadowed by prophecy, to boot) so if you're in this story, you definitely want this issue, even as creepy as parts of it are. Admittedly, if you're not already at least knee deep in stories that have been developing for some time, you might feel a bit left out, but it's worth catching up.
Jump from the Read Pile.
This very, very effective done in one (which is very much in the same vein as the brilliant Warbird issue last week) in spotlighting the enigmatic Layla Miller. Her "power," such as it is, gives her information on what's going to happen. Unfortunately, it only works as long as all the threads of the "tapestry" remain intact, so when she saved the life of her teammate Strong Guy, it set her powers in a tailspin, showing her multiple "possible" futures (rendered with great care and skill by the art team of Neil Edwards, Craig Yeung, Rick Ketcham and Rachelle Rosenberg) while dealing with stakes both personal and of larger import. What's even better is the ambiguity around which they left the Guido/Monet issue, so deliciously Schroedinger-esque, and altogether Peter David's script balances all elements of action and plot brilliantly. Wonderful.
You can't really undersell the job done by the art of Fiona Staples, a character on this series all by itself, richly depicting the conflict between "wings" and "horns" (without any of the ideological baggage such distinctions might normally draw) while Brian K. Vaughan's script balances the disparate scenes and characters with such fluidity that it seems like magic. The compassion of a "Freelancer" (bounty hunter), the ambition of a prince, and the laughter of a newborn. A pleasant surprise that keeps on getting better.
Fantastic Four #608
Jump from the Read Pile.
The Black Panther has had, to be honest, a few rough years. He was the first Wakandan king to ever be conquered by a foreign power. He lost the country their greatest asset and main export. Wakandan history would be hard pressed to apply a suffix to him that would be different than "the Failure." Still, here, he shows some of the regal qualities that made him the impressive foil of Christopher Priest's epic run. On one hand (the cover overplays it) Shuri (who thankfully has ditched all elements of her "African Paris Hilton" personality and become quite queenlike herself), Ororo and Sue Storm take an herb-powered journey into the spirit world to do battle (delivering the right mix of violence) while the hidden, ancient Egyptian history of Stan & Jack's African superpower is shown in the power of Bast, as her fellow Kemetic divinity Anubis is on the warpath against them all. Fighting like dogs (or jackals) and cats? Well played -- the cleverness and research of Jonathan Hickman's script is top notch and gives everything about Wakanda depth. Sure, Shuri acts a lot like T'challa now -- that's both a good thing and a homogenizing thing, so it's a mixed bag. Still ... this issue is a world building one, one that builds and creates with wit and nuance. Even odder? It ties in to the current Phoenix-powered crossover as well, and does so in less than a page that makes great sense while giving T'challa maybe more than he had. A revelation.
Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison #3
(Dark Horse Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
The Dark Lord of the Sith steps up and finally shows his hand, reviewing secret archival footage of the Jedi Council (of course bolstering his case for the Empire), crisp and inviting artwork from Agustin Alessio and a savvy script embedded in continuity (in a good way, using it to bolster the characters). Both "disfigured" Imperial loyalists tell their tale of how much Count Dooku's "rebellion" cost them while positing a perfect secret hiding place from which the Emperor can repel the traitorous headmaster Gentis. Tarkin shows up (via holo, still), Vader reinforces Ben Kenobi's version of galactic history and there's a ruthless swath of murder that feels like what you want from Vader in the period between the prequels and the classic trilogy. The right approach in focusing on the Empire.
Journey Into Mystery #641
Watching Young Loki move through the avenues of power (and explosions) is just plain fun, especially poking fun at politics modern (the Occupy movement) and historical (explosions and Guy Fawkes). The battle between the "classical" gods of England and the newer "Manchester Gods" (with their "industrial revolution" -- so brilliantly used at the end of the issue) -- stands as a wonderful backdrop for great character developments for Loki and Hela's handmaiden Leah, even making friends with the Son of Satan (who's a little on the surly side). The cliffhanger ending ratchets up thing to a whole new fun level of madness, and this series stays so consistent and enjoyable. Kieron Gillen's wielding of the lead character is a roller coaster of emotional wonder. Great stuff here, and one surely needs to heap praise upon the artwork of Richard Elson, Igansyah Noor and Sotocolor.
Dominique Leveau, Voodoo Child #5
The title character takes her final test to claim her birthright as the voodoo queen of New Orleans as two orphaned charges try to escape while getting a smart application of exposition. Nothing comes without a price, and the sole complaint one could issue with Selwyn Seyfu Hinds' charismatic, magical script is that when the bill comes due, Dominique's reaction gets little time to sink in. Again balance and plot development work together as a wonderful symphony of storytelling with the sure hands of Denys Cowan, John Floyd and Dave McCaig making this vision of bayou magic live.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Seven comics? Three jumps? Hot damn, that's an amazing week of comics!
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"The Darkness" #105 was very, very, very close as Jackie Estacado grapples with a struggle he can barely understand, let alone defeat. The shocker ending from last issue is nothing compared to how real it gets up in this piece, as literally everything in his life is corrupted by decisions he made. Why not bring this bad boy home? Honestly, in a thinner week, it'd have made the cut. It wasn't quite as outstanding as the other three kick ass comics that demanded to come home, but it was damned close.
"Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre" #2 was a surprise in that it wasn't completely awful. Admittedly, its conspiracy-minded take on alternative history cast aspersions on ... well, pretty much everybody. The mob's in bed with the music industry, who's in bed with the drug runners, who are in bed with the department stores ... and then the end of the issue got real rohypnol-esque ... its ambition (which, sadly, does step away from Moore's original distinctively as his world was all too dangerously close to ours and this is a paranoid's vision of the same) is its benefit (along side great looking art), but it was more a curiosity than a keeper.
"Skullkickers" #16 -- a normal regular on the Buy Pile -- fell off with an issue that (again) was just not quite great enough to make the cut this week. Its action scenes, natch, were great. However ... the issue was almost all action scenes, save the wonderful meta argument between narrative voices (that actually ended up in a kind of violence itself). Fun but not enough story to carry the weight.
"Captain Marvel" #1 wanted to be a lot more than it was, trying to use indie-styled artwork and emo waffling to humanize a character that, essentially, was an empty shirt. It wasn't so much "bad" as being "dull" (outside of a great opening scene fighting Crusher Creel alongside Captain America). Ambitious but flawed.
"Wonder Woman" #11 was plagued by typos ("nippper"), factual weirdness (Diana is 23?) and a solar-lunar team up that nobody could see coming. Given that Diana is supposed to be this great warrior, her tactical decisions seem to be ... well, stupid. There's fantastic artwork here, great visual design but a plot that falls short on making sense.
"Cobra" #15 has as its star a rogue operative called Ronin, who starts fires, steals ambulances and is generally Bart Simpson with a katana and a curvy figure. This brings in the former Cobra Commander's son, features a face off with an out-of-costume Firefly (which might miss if you hadn't read "Hearts & Minds") and does field ops with some wit and panache. The chunky artwork does a strong disservice to the work, there's not much "Cobra" in this book (but its hangers on and outcasts) but isn't bad, though.
Matt Murdock's in a bad space for "Daredevil" #15, which posits him trapped in Latveria with a drug pumped into his system that shut down his hyper senses. Sort of. This issue showed the real mettle behind the man, giving a real look at how far a man will go for freedom. However, it also made Victor Von Doom look like an incompetent manager of men, a poor judge of resources and kind of an all-around screw up. Pretty as heck, though.
"Danger Girl/G.I. Joe" #1 was all a build up for its last page (which is kind of spoiled from word go, but whatever) in an issue that pretty much played like a good, 1980s "G.I. Joe" story. If you love "G.I. Joe" in its most television-friendly format, this is likely what you've been looking for.
"Invincible Iron Man" #521 casts the formerly smug, formerly relentless Ezekiel Stane as a hobbled simpleton, looks at Tony Stark six months after he stepped down from being a corporate titan and being Iron Man. There's a new Iron Man on the streets ... er, skies .. (really not hard to guess, even with the preposterous faked death of Rhodey) while the Hammer family loses some accounts. The issue had a lot of good pieces that requires too much to put together, a set of spinning plates that's just a little too big.
"Mars Attacks" #2 plays it straight, with a secret invasion of green-skinned aliens intent on complete domination of Earth. That's about it. It's solidly done, it's well drawn ... it's TV good. If you wanted a 50s style nostalgic invasion comic, well, here ya go. If one were so inclined.
"Night of 1,000 Wolves" #3 is creepy, a story of sacrifice and satisfaction, borrowing a riff from the show "Reaper" and deals with devils. Horror and suspense fans would likely find this quite enjoyable. If it was late and this was on TV, you'd be watching it.
"Star Trek The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation2" #3 plays a neat little trick, using the regenerative and time travel shticks to show the "Star Trek" crew and Doctor that most of the world identifies in a nostalgic bit that was sheer fanservice. Machine men and Borg, Picard and Kirk, Tom Baker and Matt Smith ... deep satisfaction and rewards for fans and those initiated to the properties.
Ororo makes her own decisions in "X-Men" #32 as proto-mutants are revealed and her "first responder" team argues a lot. The plot plodded a lot, but the character moments were pretty good.
"Extermination" #2 expands the gray areas of morality as it posits a Batman analogue next to a slightly bombastic Dr. Doom analogue, struggling to survive and making some disturbing discoveries. There's stuff here you can't unsee, but the tension between the two leads is good even while the threats they face are largely anonymous and a literal "white savior" looms in the periphery. Worth a look, but not quite making its case yet.
"Dark Horse Presents" #14 had a few good moments, but not eight dollars worth. Come on, now.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Secret Service" #3, "Legion of Super-Heroes" #11, "Star Trek" #11, "Batman Beyond Unlimited" #6, "The Activity" #7, "Nightwing" #11, "Glory" #28, "Red Hood and the Outlaws" #11, "Wolverine" #309, "Prophecy" #2, "Avengers vs. X-Men" #8, "KISS" #2
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
Everything you liked about "Nextwave" goes horribly wrong in "Uncanny X-Men" #16 as Mister Sinister thinks throwing the kitchen sink sure as heck isn't enough and gene mixes enough crazy for a drug fueled night with Grant Morrison. However, none of those ideas stick, the ones that aren't sad (Gambit bombs) are easily forgettable. Tedious.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Just one stinker and some books that would have made it in a lighter week? That's a good thing.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
The words to describe this week would be "hell yeah." Yay! Comics!
If you missed the news last week it's three fold. Komplicated is allying itself with The Good Men Project, has been pushing out stuff at that site for a little while now, and will be publishing two science fiction novels by the writer of this column in 2012. It's happening. Brace yourself. All the years of other people getting cursed out, now the world will have a chance to rip this guy a new one. You're welcome.
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!