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 15, 2012
Amazing Spider-Man #691
Peter Parker works at Horizon Labs, which could charitably be called a weirdness factory, a place that makes the stuff Reed Richards does at home seem vaguely safe and almost quaint. How so? Well, Curt Connors has released an unstable metamorphic pathogen there that has turned the head honcho and many members of the staff into weirdo lizard people. So when he swings through in costume with the punching and the what not, and Curt Connors steps up with a much more savage reptilian form -- things get messy. Dan Slott's got this title humming along like a carefully tuned machine, and the artwork from Guiseppe Camuncoli, Mario del Pennino, Klaus Janson, Daniel Green and Frank D'armata is smooth in the right places and rough at the right times.
Jump from the Read Pile.
On the second and third pages of this issue, a gigantic samurai version of Lion Voltron, wielding two katanas the size of a yacht. Yeah, that was almost enough to sell this comic, by itself. Then, add to the mix that King Zarkon's not in charge anymore and Lotor has come to the people of the galaxy, apologetic and ready to rehabilitate his people in the eyes of the galaxy. There's one piece of information you might need from other issues, as the reason why there's a samurai Lion Voltron might not be clear otherwise -- but to be perfectly honest with you, it's almost the coolest damned thing you've ever seen in your life, and while the action scenes from N. Steven Harris and Marcelo Pinto may not be exactly the most energetic, they sure as heck known how to make that samurai Lion Voltron look amazing. The emotional turmoil between Keith and Allura also works pretty well, the Lotor confrontation is solid gold -- Brandon Thomas' script is challenging but very, very engaging. Nice surprise.
Speaking of things that can't help but impress, the Rocketship Forest is not quite what the characters herein expected but is awesome nonetheless. The suddenly moralistic "freelancer" The Will has sworn to murder the aristocrat Prince Robot the Fourth, there's two plot twists that are wonderful at the end and this issue continues this series wholly improbable run of blowing your freaking socks off with almost every individual panel. Spirit this book is good. Wow.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Solid stuff here.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
Things got morally murky in "Extermination" #3, whereas the two characters -- a much more charismatic Dr. Doom analogue and a very repressed Captain Ersatz Batman has a secret history with that continuity's resident Superman that's -- messy, honestly. A cute set of gallows humor when you look at the fact that it's camp side stories told over the virtual end of humanity, and leaving the tribe of survivors without a plan or a way to compensate for the end of their main survival mechanism wasn't cool.
"Legion of Super-Heroes" #12 had some good parts, with a rescue that showcased the real spectacle you can get from a Daxamite, but it had an escape that was kind of color-by-numbers and the Dominators as an adversary seem about as threatening as a hat rack. Good looking book, though.
In a kind of inverse example, "G.I. Joe" #16 had an escape that had some effective elements while the rescue portion was just "meh." Cobra broke out the hat rack defense, hardened killers outwitted by ideas so tepid and predictable, with mustache-twirling villainy that even Dick Dastardly would gape at, incredulous. The Mainframe/Scarlet thing is actually working, though.
"Avengers Academy" #35 was s-l-o-w, but what happened between Hazmat and Mettle felt real, with an effective emotional arc for many characters, but wow was this a talky bit of blah blah with Scooby Doo settings. Not bad, though.
"Bloodshot" #2 was action packed, incorporating hungry nanotechnology (like "Xombi"), an amnesiac super competent lead (like the TV show "John Doe") and pages that fly by so fast you can almost forget that there are no real stakes for anybody.
"Red Hood and the Outlaws" #12 executes its story points with great skill and deftness, but the underlying ideas and foundation of cliche saps it of its ability to work. Misdirection, an important moment for Starfire and Blackfire, an essay into the sort of spaceborn adventure that brought Jack Flag out of obscurity -- that's all fine. The idea that Koriand'r has been playing stupid to hide from some tedious shame and frustration over her past, and the underlying (and frankly ham fisted) attempt at poaching on Lucasfilm grounds -- we could have done without that.
Stuff finally started to get real in "Pigs" #8, where the interrogation of the drunken Soviet sleeper finally yielded results, wanted and unwanted, with a vodka-loving KGB sleeper agent involving a drinking game and some interconnected history lessons. If this was a screenplay directed by Mamet, or even Bryan Singer in "Usual Suspects" mode, it would likely fly with great actors and brilliant editing. As sequential art, it's just aight.
"Shade" #11 tried to play on the same field as this week's "Voltron" issue, with the title character using gigantic magical manipulations against unfettered immortal space pharaohs. However, about half the issue is pretty pointless yammering, the conclusion had the air sucked out of it in a very anticlimactic fashion. Still, space pharaohs.
"The Revival" #2 would likely be a fun AMC series, with a great bit of family tension and a very odd supernatural crisis that interjects just when the plot needs it and stays nicely out of the way otherwise. Slow, though.
"Wonder Woman" #12 -- which still looks gorgeous -- ends so inconclusively, dredging up yet another pantheon's business, weird promises and beating up a god. The cover's a red herring, but there are a number of good moments worth noting, but overall this issue just can't get it together.
Did you like the comic/movie "Push?" "Harbinger" #3 played that with a corporate activist angle that Jack Marlowe and the Halo Corporation might have agreed with before Captain Atom came along and rebooted his entire universe. Toss in a kind of Darth Vader analogue, "Hunger Games" styled rivalry amongst young people and you've got a comic that's not bad, but is all over the map.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Dark Avengers" #179, "Homecoming" #12, "Deadpool" #59, "Battle Beasts" #2, "Sensational Spider-Man" #33.2, "Before Watchmen: Rorschach" #1, "Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe" #3, "The Crow" #2, "Blue Beetle" #12, "Jericho Season 4" #1, "Green Lantern" #12, "68 Scars" #2, "X-Factor" #242, "Nightwing" #12, "Elephantmen" #42, "Witchblade: The Demon Reborn" #1, "Fatale" #7, "Walking Dead" #101, "Daredevil" #17
No, just -- no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Hulk" #56 puts forth the idea that the gods of the Mayans were invented by a secret stash of terrigen crystals. Really. It also implies that these pseudo-Inhumans can't see when a robot is wandering by them, because, apparently, they're stupid. Tons of exposition and the lead character lies still for most of the issue. No.
Re: "Supergirl" #12. "Meh, then weird hentai stuff, then meh." No.
Scott Summers spends another issue talking and then getting surprised when something a lot like punching works in "Avengers vs. X-Men" #10. Hope does some unexpected things, Emma Frost goes off the rails and annoys Magneto, and this isn't so much entertainment as just being something that's happening.
"Avengers" #29 spent the whole issue holding back a reveal to make someone really whiny and ultimately willing to accept bloodshed and suffering over a philosophical point. That's awful.
So the problem with Carol Danvers was that she kept getting dull situations, right? What better approach for "Captain Marvel" #2 than to toss her back in time to 1943 alongside a platoon of female go-getters in taking on Hirohito's empire. Oh, and the coloring's dull as hell. Urgh.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
In the immortal words of Rasheed Wallace, "Both teams played hard."
WINNERS AND LOSERS
The jump and a relatively smaller number of sucky books means that we can call it a good week, one would assume.
A friend of this column's writer died this week. He was awesome and will be missed.
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!