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 SEPTEMBER 5, 2012
Archer & Armstrong #2
Jump from the Read Pile.
This is a very pleasant surprise. All the solid elements of the first issue gelled together in a way that was just about perfect, in that old Greg Pak, Amadeus-Cho-and-Hercules way. Armstrong's a lovable scoundrel, a virtually indestructible engine of whimsy and history, while Archer's an exasperated Felix Unger with the lethal skills of the Taskmaster. Their cross continental struggle against a global conspiracy, all scrabbling after an all-powerful McGuffin, could have easily dipped into cliche. However, Fred Van Lente's outstandingly well balanced script maintains every element, every supporting character, every moment with deftness and delicacy. Please don't discount the spandex tight visual storytelling from Clayton Henry and Matt Milla, which works on both expository and action scenes. Great stuff.
Wow. This... this is one you'll remember. In the noirish days of Hollywood, Beast (of "Beauty and the" fame) is on a mission to track down one of the community gone rogue, a killer called The Lamia who periodically breaks out, hungry for murder. Along the way, throughout the years, Beast inspires the myths of Sherlock Holmes, Poirot and Sam Spade and trades barbs with the dragonslayer of legend, Saint George. These fascinating details aren't even a fifth of why this is one of the most amazing "Fables"-related stories ever written, with an ending that'll twist you into knots and mess your brain up, especially if you've been following "Fables" for years, but even if all you know is the basics about the characters named, this will affect you. The period-appropriate artwork from Shawn McManus makes Matthew Sturges' script play like a mission from "LA Noir" splashed in elements of fantasy. Just... wow.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Affordable and fantastic -- a great way to start!
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
The ending of "Action Comics" #0 is a wonderful display of why Superman is still an inspirational figure all these decades after his creation. However, the plot getting there -- including Jimmy Olsen turning out to be rich -- is considerably less effective. Good looking book, though.
"Hawkeye" #2 played a lot like an episode of "Human Target," with Clint teaming up and introducing another, less moral student of his teacher The Swordsman. However, this very "cute" issue wasn't even as confectionary as "Noble Causes," having some good elements but not enough to demand being purchased.
The original Ozymandias is back in "Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt" #1 which borrows elements of The Sentry's challenges but talks a lot... a lot and takes too long to do what it needs to. The art needed a little more polish in the coloring and inks, but at least it's heading towards an interesting direction.
"Stormwatch" #0 went a long way to tie together lots of elements of the New 52. The Demon Knights? Proto-Stormwatch? Merlin? That was actually former Stormwatch leader Adam One. This is full of in jokes and exposition which will likely please many fans, but it's a bit of a Wikipedia entry, for all that.
A surprisingly effective black ops-meets-superpowers story, "Bloodstrike" #30 pits one set of pawns with super powers against another set, while a group of indigenous people bleed all over the ground. It has good elements, but when you look at what's behind the story, it's kind of messy.
Bumblebee's struggle with leadership frames "Transformers: Robots In Disguise" #9, which wasn't as good as some issues but had some great elements. The mystery of the Cybertronian wastes wasn't exactly cogent enough, the issue could have used more Starscream and Arcee's Aurra Sing shtick likewise could have used more room to... robots don't breathe, do they? You get it.
If you like crime stories, "Harvest" #2 and "The Ride: Southern Gothic" #1 will do the trick, providing gritty plots and non-stop action. However, characterization is razor thin, and that makes the stories a little forgettable in the end equation.
Some logic loopholes plague "Mighty Thor" #19 (how does one imprison Gaea, exactly? What the heck was up with that twist ending?) but Thor hit all his standard marks while not really whacking people with his giant hammer. Not bad, though, as the subtlety of Surtur's plan against creation has some charm.
"G.I. Joe" #17 was okay, as Scarlett and Helix throw down, Cobra Commander is commanding and lots of pieces worked individually without coming together as a coherent whole.
"Executive Assistant Assassins" #3 would have been better with a big bad that stands up, as the interplay between the green-haired protagonist and her would-be savior had some solid elements (he made a very quick decision, though, which did seem abrupt). Still, always a good looking book that has great action scenes.
"X-Factor" #243 was intense, as a new retcon gave a team member a taste of Scott Summers-styled tragedy, and made Magneto a bit more of a sympathetic figure. The rough interaction between characters doesn't substitute for legitimate action, as many of the people on panel just stood around far too long.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Batwing" #0, "Guarding The Globe" #1, "Avengers Academy" #36, "Garfield" #1, "Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre" #3, "Hell Yeah" #5, "Hypernaturals" #3, "Mind The Gap" #4, "Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm" #1, "G.I. Combat" #0, "Think Tank" #2, "The Cape: 1969" #3, "Punisher" #15, "Dial H" #0, "The Crow" #3, "Defenders" #10, "Phantom Stranger" #0, "Savage Dragon" #181, "Deadpool" #60, "Love And Capes: What To Expect" #2, "Spawn" #223, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Micro Series" #8, "Transformers Regeneration One" #83, "Smallville Season 11" #5, "Bloodshot" #3, "Thief Of Thieves" #8, "True Blood" #4, "Creator Owned Heroes" #4, "Fashion Beast" #1, "Earth 2" #0
No, just... no... These comics? Not so much ...
"Green Lantern" #0 was, essentially, a negative mark on our beloved art form, a collection of cliches and half-hearted overtures that will forever be characterized as a clerical error. The creators seem to be oblivious to the fact that this paints an underrepresented people in a bad light, a community that doesn't have lots of chances to be on panel and when they do, their pull quote is "I'm a car thief, not a terrorist." We are all diminished by this.
The new "hero" Alpha -- a knock off of Ultra Boy with a fame fixation -- literally submarines "Amazing Spider-Man" #693 by being unlikable, uninteresting and just plain not fun to read. Also, a sign that editorial is overworked is the fact that this is one of Marvel's flagships and "neightborhood" didn't get caught on a run-of-the-mill spell check.
Do you like porn? Well, apparently so does Howard Chaykin, and if you buy "Black Kiss 2" #2, it'll be like getting Fifty Shades of Greyscale. If one were so inclined to read rude language and see Chaykin-styled sex without much of a plot.
The murder porn that was "Epic Kill" #5 had implausible scenarios, overwrought narration, action that strained credulity and a conclusion cribbed from Larry Hama scripts from the '80s. Oy.
"Dark Avengers" #180 was all over the map story wise... but it was the least terrible book of the bad ones. Yay?
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Twice as many "okay" books as "terrible" ones, so that's gotta count for something.
Oh, also, there was no order of "Cricket Agent Of U.N.I.C.O.R.N.," "Atlas Unified" #0 was sold out and Comics Ink only orders enough Zenescope titles ("Charmed" #23, "Grimm Fairy Tales" #77, "Grimm Fairy Tales: Myths and Legends" #20, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Wonderland" #2 and "Irresistible" #2) to fulfill pre-orders, so that stuff's not available to read. Sorry.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Can't be mad at an affordable week worth of comics that brings home a pleasant, new surprise.
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 e-mail address hasn't been regularly checked since George W. Bush was in office. Sorry!