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 AUGUST 8, 2012
Jump from the Read Pile.
One of the major problems with much of DC's New 52 initiative is a lack of investment in creating characters. Antagonists, supporting bit players, all have been pretty limp. This issue, however, shows that Scott Snyder and James Tynion the Fourth surely know how to do it. With impoverished technophile Harper Row, they create an engaging female protagonist who lives in the shadows of Gotham and -- when she finally interacts with the Bat -- has a moment that's surely memorable. Likewise, it introduces elements of the Bat's work (and technology) that make a lot of sense, helping create a better sense of how he could work in the complex city. The artwork from Becky Cloonan, Andy Clarke, Sanou Florea and Fco Plascencia perfectly capture the claustrophobia and desolation of Gotham's Barrens, and make Harper's adventure superbly entertaining. A done-in-one issue that's just plain effective, from its first panel to its last.
Transformers: Robots In Disguise #8
The stuff that makes this series great -- the political intrigues of a Cybertron trying to piece itself back together after millions of years of war -- gets shoved to the back burner so Ironhide and a crew of Dinobots (unrepentantly still in their "Earth forms") can track through the irradiated and (now) largely unexplored wilds of the planet, looking for lost Aerialbots. It wasn't bad (especially if you hear the whole thing in Peter Cullen's voice ... what, he did Ironhide too) but it felt like a thematic digression given that it's "Dinobot month." Sure, the Swarm showed us the wilds of Cybertron can be wild indeed, but this depiction of them wasn't as gripping, this threat ("what was that?") didn't enrapture. Now, the idea of free elections on Cybertron, the actual plot, with the idea of Bumblebee campaigning against Starscream ... now that's interesting, especially with Shockwave getting syllogism'ed into the possibility of open revolt. Solid stuff there, and enough to keep things going.
Lumi the Snow Queen has been one of the most feared of dragons in recent comics history, and even as she spawned the bastard son of Jack of Fables, was known as a customer to not trifle with. Now she's in battle with a virtual goddess of destruction, and the way this battle turns out is completely unexpected. There's no fewer than two major plot twists, several bon mots and artwork from Phil Jiminez, Andy Lanning, Andrew Pepoy and Andrew Dalhouse that could literally evoke gasps of delight. There's no need to say how amazing Bill Willingham's script is -- if you don't know what he's capable of by now, really, you're not paying attention. No, this is simply high grade comic book making happening in a crisp and efficient fashion.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Great stuff going on here!
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"New Avengers" #29 was -- on one hand -- extraordinarily talky and emo. Once again, Captain America (the newest member) calls a meeting of the group called Marvel's "illuminati," after being framed by a World War 2 flashback in which Namor called Cap his "brother." Then, in turn, each member shows up -- Chuck Xavier wracked with guilt, Doctor Strange distracted by conflict, Tony Stark being needlessly flippant and so on -- to discuss the current state of affairs on Earth-616. If this was a web exclusive it would have set the internet on fire with its frank dialogue and tension. For four bucks? Not quite.
"Spider-Men" #4 was similar, in that it essentially presented the Earth-616 Peter Parker visiting the Aunt May and Gwen Stacy of the Ultimate universe with Miles Morales alongside. Again, not "storytelling" per se, especially not for four whole American dollars, but surely a diverting vignette for all its inconclusiveness.
"Anti" #1 had the pacing of a great action movie, all kineticism and exciting angles, with car chases and guns and demons and what not. However, it has razor thin characterization and a plot that didn't really connect at all, so it fell short of the mark. Still, there's a lot of potential here.
Using the trope of armchair psychology, "Bloodstrike" #29 frames its discussion with the team members dropping exposition while going through an average day at work. This issue did some work in differentiating itself from a lot of other team books on the market, even giving characters some depth, but it wasn't quite enough to get things done.
"Archer and Armstrong" #1 had an interesting hook -- what if an Amish-styled kid was trained in multiple martial arts and combat abilities, then goes out in the world to team up with an immortal drunkard? Its execution was merely adequate, though, and while its artwork was great, the coloring seemed washed out. Not bad, but let's see if it's gonna go anywhere.
First off, "Captain America" #16 had a fantastic cover. Like, one you'd give an Earl Nod to, with great text and visual drama going on. Second, there seems that some kind of robot duplicate Glenn Beck (the real one, apparently, offhandedly stuffed in a fridge) crowdsourcing beatdowns on super heroes while single serving super villains attack the nation's symbols and monuments. The plot and manipulation (if you ignore the fairly clear attack on a certain news network and their flexible relationship with reality) are pretty solid, but again not carrying it over the goal line.
If "Executive Assistant Assassins" #2 didn't spend so much time dealing with the battle against heroin addiction (how '60s jazz man) it would have had more time to deal with the idea of the Executive Assistant system (essentially, a chattel slavery ring complicity in multiple acts of prostitution, murder, extortion and a host of other crimes) falling under the attack of a ruthless corporate raider. Still, close to the mark, as many of these issues have been.
"Gambit" #1 approached the issues of theft and consequences as the title character re-enacts a heist film using a smart phone and what looks like clear plastic. Slick and breezy, it had some of the charm of "White Collar" without actually having the story substance (the tech was barely cutting edge when Pierce Brosnan was James Bond) to really be anything. Cute, though.
Speaking of, "Idolized" #1 put a dark edge on a very expository issue, sitting down for the "early judging" stage of a super powered reality talent show (very similar to the work of Fremantle Media) and using genre savvy to hang a lampshade on the cliches many of us come to accept as normal. Too slow for its own good, and maudlin at that, but still worth watching if not buying (yet).
"It Girl and the Atomics" #1 was a hip, swinging farce that featured Mike Allred's ideas without his direct involvement, showcasing some rather bored extrahumans doing ... well, not much, really. It has a charm, as Jamie Rich's script surely scores cute points like Michael Cera reading lines from the "Scott Pilgrim" screenplay, but you won't be kicking yourself for not dropping three bucks on it.
"Vampirella" #20 tried hard to get away from the very stupid underlying ideas it's saddled with -- a protagonist who simply could not fight effectively wearing a stripper's uniform, monsters that looked like a corruption of Douglas Adams' much maligned cosmic cutie and -- frankly -- a stuffed shirt that made Dominic Purcell's flat depiction of a vampire king look vibrant by comparison. However, the scantily clad ... superheroine? Sure, let's go with that. Vampirella gets played like Uno, and the goofiness of what's in panel sandbags the attempted seriousness of the story.
Spies in space for "Voltron Year One" #4, the fact that stakes finally got raised were slowed down by a tedious romantic drama and a whole other team of space explorers who got about as much screen time as Walt did in that last season of "Lost." If the tension caused by operating missions against counter missions had taken a note or two from Sydney Bristowe, this might have done the trick.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Batgirl" #12, "Scarlet Spider" #8, "Fanboys vs. Zombies" #5, "Venom" #22, "Batman and Robin" #12, "Sensational Spider-Man" #33.1, "Artifacts" #20, "Resurrection Man" #12, "Blue Estate" #12, "Suicide Squad" #12, "Fantastic Four" #609, "Dancer" #4, "Incredible Hulk" #12, "Demon Knights" #12, "Hoax Hunter" #2, "G.I. Joe A Real American Hero" #181, "Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E." #12, "Godzilla: The Half Century War" #1, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9" #12, "X-Men Legacy" #271, "Grifter" #12, "Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe" #2, "Conan the Barbarian" #7, "Creep" #0, "Legion Lost" #12, "Massive" #3, "Mighty Thor" #18, "Star Wars Knight Errant: Escape" #3, "Punk Rock Jesus" #2, "Star Wars Lost Tribe of the Sith: Spiral" #1, "Strain" #7, "Ravagers" #4, "Captain America and Iron Man" #635
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Before Watchmen: Ozymandias" #2 was another sad piece of fan fiction, from its fetishist cover (with activity reflected nowhere in the pages of the issue) to its EL James-esque take on Adrian's journaling. Really, an ongoing tragedy.
Speaking of tedious and annoying tragedies, "Wolverine" #311 added yet another precursor to Wolverine's troublingly dramatic history and -- just for fun -- brought Sabretooth back from a death that they specifically said he could not be brought back from. You know what? Screw this noise.
Why bother with Tarzan when you could check out "Th'unda" #1, an amnesiac special forces knock off with characterization so cardboard that it could be used to pack up pots and pans during your next move. Boring.
The idea of Slade Wilson, as impressive as he is, going up against Lobo in "Deathstroke" #12 was absurd enough, but the involvement of Zealot really didn't help ("they're not the characters you knew! New 52! Hyperflies!") and the last page reveal ... well, it just made it all really tiresome.
Go on, recast half the Marvel universe in goofy celestial roles for "Space Punisher" #2 as the "big bad" reveal was straight out of the most stereotypical of comic book shop "what if" conversations, and overall, this seems like a chapter that we'll all wanna forget, like when Frank was an angel or something.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Sure, the bad was really bad, there are some interesting elements as well.
Oh, and the entire order of "Daredevil Annual" #1 came to Comics Ink damaged and was therefore not available for review. Sorry.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
The wins were strong, the losses were outweighed by ambitious attempts ... let's say it went well, shall we?
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!