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 NOVEMBER 28, 2012
Double Jumpers #3
(Action Lab Entertainment)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Sweet spirit singing, this is one entertaining freaking series. The premise: on the eve of their biggest release, a group of video game programmers and testers got trapped in the holoband-esque fantasy game they're poised to release (think the immersive worlds on "Caprica" with a dash of 80s gaming tossed in, like pixelated text like "LEVEL UP!" appearing over someone's head when they do something dope), forced to fight for their lives in the challenging digital world they helped create. If that was all that was going on, this would just be good. However, the characters these five play have all been magically transferred into the real life bodies of the players, and they're freaking crazy. Toss into the mix that one of each has been Rule 63'ed (with some very hilarious results, including some nausea-inducing nudity as awkward as most episodes of "The Office"). There's so much good about this issue, and a lot of it is spoilerific, but suffice it to say that this is what indie comics are supposed to be like. High production values, sharp writing (from Dave Dwonch), engaging artwork (from Bill Blankenship) and most importantly fun! What a wonderful, wonderful surprise.
Jump from the Read Pile.
Wow. Writer John Layman has peppered this series with tons of his cutesy and sometimes wild ideas -- look for indie darling Jim Mahfood as a kind of wedding DJ you've never seen before -- but what happens here comes above and beyond. It's hard to pull off a dream sequence but the opening of this runs just long enough to establish the emotional point it has to make (so great when you read it again -- you will), and when the actual real story kicks in, it never lets up, even tying together some plot elements from many, many issues back. All of this is managed by the sure, confident hands and visual storytelling of Rob Guillory and -- again -- John Layman is on fire with this script. Issues like this are why Showtime came sniffing.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
This is why we love comics. Yes.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
Had "Masks" #1 had literally one panel more of panache or distinction, it would have made the jump. It was that close. The idea of jamming together Dynamite's pulp heroes -- The Shadow, The Spider, Zorro, The Green Hornet and Kato, all in 1938 New York City -- could be seen as ridiculous (especially since Zorro rode a horse, right)? However, it really works, which you have to credit to the solid script from Chris Roberson. Many fans will be turned on by the fact that Alex Ross has returned to fully painted interiors (it does look good) and the plot has some pretty interesting elements to it (including an honest look at race relations at the time), but the developments with Zorro left a tactical concern the book couldn't resolve and the Green Hornet was a little more cavalier than even his reputation would warrant. Very interesting to see where this one will go, though.
"Nowhere Men" #1 has a dash of the Beatles, a dash of the Fantastic Four and the crisp, mod artwork from Nate Bellegarde and Jordie Bellaire is very enjoyable. The comic itself, however, centers on the deterioration of a relationship between passionate scientists who each believe in their own perspective. However, the basis of their connection isn't properly established, the grandeur of their successes never properly examined, so the Lennon/McCartney styled schism falls flat emotionally. Interesting ideas that could be going somewhere, but didn't make the journey just yet.
"Aquaman" #14 continues its gag of making the main characters look impressive by standing them next to normal humans as Black Manta has a messy job interview with Amanda Waller, Arthur has a very creepy meeting with his brother and a dash of DC history inserted within a few pages. A good try, but only compelling if you're already on board with this approach.
"A+X" #2 had the week's best quote that's unfortunately a spoiler (look for Tony Stark to say something about snot) but was best something done on, say, a web extra, not for money you'd actually have to spend. Black Widow's day off interrupted by Rogue fighting a Sentinel? Kitty Pride getting a job offer? Pretty, lots of cute moments, a great treat for the die hards, but not compelling beyond that.
"Hero Worship" #5 had some messy reveals, some real answers given (maybe) and maybe four really good emotional connections. The menace, however, didn't feel menacing enough and the hapless hero never really had any drive or impetus of his own. Nice try, though.
The Russians love their children too in "Cobra" #19, as great characterization was done on the new Oktober Guard, inserting themselves into the global struggle between nationalist powers and mercenary terrorist organizations. The G.I. Joe team sends in an expert at infiltration (it's not Snake Eyes for a change) and Major Bludd has some hygiene issues. It felt like it needed a few more pages, but it was interesting.
If you're a parent, "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" #1 will likely do something for you. Peppered with savvy pop culture references that don't detract from the sugary sweet G-rated story, this worked on delivering something for all audiences while being wholesome and cutesy at the same time. Character development? Please. Plot? Simplistic for those over the age of ten. It is what it is, and there's nothing wrong with that.
"Batman Incorporated" #5 had some of the wild elements you've come to expect as a would-be futurescape posits Damian as the last Batman holding on to shreds of sanity by his fingernails against the threat of Joker zombies. However, its plot is a mess, its actual action could fill one of those old Hostess ads (why did they stop making them?) and that doesn't get it done.
There's a lot of dead gods in "Thor, God of Thunder" #2, which takes place in three different time periods as a "Butcher of Gods" struggles with the Odinson and -- along the way -- shows why Perun from the People's Protectorate has been a fraud lo these many years. However, trying to work in such sporadic chronological and spatial circumstances wasn't easy and didn't exactly work. Also, the antagonist was supposed to be chilling but instead came off as dull.
"Bedlam" #2 had a far messier plot than the original issue, with the protagonist coming off much less impressively. Less story to tell, but still the idea of what happened to this Joker analogue (and that's a messy bit you almost needed someone like Steve Niles for) and the ideas here have some merit. Let's hope it'll pick up.
If you love the idea of supernatural noir, "Fatale" #10 will surely do it for you, closing down its second storyline and giving the reader answers about its female lead while spending male supporting characters like singles at a strip club. This is exactly what fans of the genre would love.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Astonishing X-Men Annual" #1, "Ghostbusters" #15, "FF" #1, "Arrow" #1, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" #16, "Before Watchmen: Ozymandias" #4, "Gambit" #6, "Transformers Prime: Rage Of The Dinobots" #1, "Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre" #4, "68 Scars" #3, "Flash" #14, "MacGyver" #10, "Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men" #14, "Venom" #27.1, "Morning Glories" #23, "Justice League Dark" #14, "Planetoid" #4, "Red Lanterns" #14, "Prophet" #31, "Superman" #14, "War Goddess" #11, "Ultimate Comics: Iron Man" #2
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"New Avengers" #34 ... oh boy. Well, it gave Luke Cage his out as an Avenger (and after retiring from the Thunderbolts program, apparently from the public eye), and brought a certain licensed character back to the "expected" state while giving another Black character a less-than-pleasant fate. Oy. It did a really big job of doing really next to nothing.
"Multiple Warheads: From Alphabet to Infinity" #2 is nearly indecipherable. It has very busy artwork filled with interesting things to watch. Story wise? It's literally a disaster.
Still, it couldn't have been as insane as "All-New X-Men" #2, which had the original five X-Men time traveling to the modern day to marvel (sort of) at our flat, shiny televisions and boggle at the events of the many years in between. Wow. Just ... this was an idea? Even with Hank McCoy's health issues, even with the fact that Scott Summers and Wanda Maximoff have, in essence, become the mutant threat that humanity always feared ... it's mind boggling to run these ideas as a set of talking heads, only more insane with the idea that young, unskilled Scott is on his way to try to talk down "murder? Sure, some murder is okay" fugitive Scott. Let's say it as the interwebs would: "Mutants. Wut R U Doin? Mutants. Stahp."
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Wow, those last ones were awful, huh? Lots of other books tried hard, though.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
When the only books that make it home do it on sheer merit, you have to reward that, and this week wins hard on that basis despite the horrors Marvel tossed out at us.
Hey! Listen up! Reading this column! Go buy my novel! It's only five bucks, has 110,000 words and features a guy who gets super powers because a girl fell in love with him. Yeah, it's like that. Kindle, Nook, et cetera, et cetera.
Also on Komplicated, this columnist responded to "Skullkickers" writer Jim Zub talking about the economics of indie comics. Interesting stuff.
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!