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 JANUARY 9, 2012
Order of Dagonet #2
(Action Lab Entertainment)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Let's ignore the artwork first of all. Yes, its composition does an able job of telling the story, but if the devil is in the details, the rough hewn, fuzzy artwork will be a let down. Once you get past that, though, you'll see the writing of the Eisner-nominated Jeremy Whitley, and you'll see that he's crafted something both hilarious and enthralling. A mistaken bit of excavation has freed the faeries of myth from centuries away from earth, and they're infusing England with their magical kindred. Titania the faerie queen ruling in London, Robin Goodfellow the Puck holed up in the Globe theater with Queen Elizabeth, et cetera. All that stands in their way is Merlin, summoning an order of knights to stop them ... except knights aren't what they used to be. Craftily using a Captain Ersatz approach we don't see often -- aping an entire crew of real personalities while giving their characters real traits and motivations, he's taken Ozzy Osborne, Ian McKellen and Elton John, then remixed J.K. Rowling into a surly young male author, all members of an organization of knights that's ... well, let's just say no one but a wildly out of touch Merlin would presume these guys could be anybody's heroes. So many quotable lines, an absolutely perfect perspective character and just plain fun all along, making every character stand up, even through rough hewn art. Those guys at Action Lab are cooking up some serious stories!
Transformers: Robots In Disguise #13
The war is over, but history has not taught the mechanoid inhabitants of Cybertron much as again oppressive Autobot law enforcement infringes on the rights of a disenfranchised minority claiming a purple badge and a dream of freedom. The streets of Iacon run with spilled lubricant as history almost literally repeats itself, right down to the charismatic Decepticon leader coming in from the cold. What's most poignant about John Barber's script is the wonderful journey it has for Starscream -- finally invested in the system, wholly taken with the possibility of a legitimate victory all on his own terms. When he gets to the last page, the chilling, irrevocable last page, it's as much a surprise to him as it is to the reader. Andrew Griffith and Josh Perez valiantly strive to make sense of the internecine chaos and get it largely right, and again Barber's script is an emotional roller coaster illustrating that even when fifty feet tall, holding computerized brains with the processing power of cities, characters remain as fragile and fallible as ... well, any of us. A wonderful pinnacle to a huge, sweeping story.
The reader finds out Rapunzel's story from the days of the Adversary's occupation, when she was hiding out in feudal Japan, and its a beautiful tragedy involving dragons and stacks of corpses, unholy alliances and going insane. The intimate, evocative artwork from Inaki Miranda and Eva de la Cruz perfectly fits Lauren Beukes' emotional, entangled script. To say a great deal more would spoil the many wonderful surprises here, but this is shaping up to be at least as good as "Jack of Fables" was during its heyday, even if not reaching the heights of the "Cinderella" minis or the core series "Fables" itself.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Bravest Warriors" #4 was very close to coming home, a funny and quite cute story that may have been a little rough to be called "all ages" (i.e. "multiple decapitations") but which managed tough narrative topics like time travel and murder with such deftness that there was room for a back up story. This one really probably should have made the jump, in retrospect.
"Shadowman" #3 had one great moment where the character of the protagonist was defined, where the stakes were made plain and a decision was made that really illustrated who he was. That's great. Everything else was fairly basic smoke and mirrors and costumed pugilism. Not bad, but not up to the standard of its own finest moment, let alone its cover price.
If you've been looking for post-rapture intentional slacker blasphemy, "End Times of Bram and Ben" #1 has you covered. Cute in the same manner of "Fanboys vs. Zombies," this gives you two Harold and Kumar-esque protagonists getting into all kinds of shenanigans after millions of Christians got sucked out of their clothes. Not for everybody, but not bad.
"Grace Randolph's Supurbia" #3 is an improvement, injecting a dose of action into the staid suburban melodrama. Too many plates were spinning at once, plot lines crowding each other out as sexual orientation became public record, extortion was discussed and so on. Getting better.
"G.I. Joe A Real American Hero" #186 had some similar problems with a nuclear arms race in the middle east while the Joes are trying to run a rescue in the middle of it all. The ticking clock plot was rock solid and had great set pieces but it again was too busy for its own good.
"Infinite Vacation" #5 was an impossible technicolor love story cast in corporate speak and non sequitur, feeling better than its actual plot points would prove it to be, objectively. Kind of like a thrill ride, and if that's worth the money to you, maybe take the ride inside emails through multiple dimensions and a brand of alternate universe theory that'd make Grant Morrison raise an eyebrow.
Fantastic ideas in "Fantastic Four" #3 presented in a dull, almost retrograde fashion that might have you looking around for Will Robinson. Never a shortage of concepts, just stilted execution.
"Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files: Ghoul Goblin" #1 was a solid mix of detective and supernatural procedural elements that would be considered "TV good" and likely to keep your attention if you found it flipping through channels. The crotchety lead was well contrasted by wholesome supporting characters and a bad guy straight from a "Scooby Doo" episode.
"Reposessed" #1 was kind of the same, worth seeing if it didn't have such a high sticker price, with an agency for exorcisms and "repossessing" the bodies of victims from demons. Nice art, decent characters, predictable plot.
"Punisher: War Zone" #3 had Frank go against Thor in the only way that was logical, which was spectacular in its first third and anticlimactic in its finale. If you need to see that, sure, buy it, but it seemed far from satisfying.
"Stormwatch" #16 had a number of twists and turns as the Eminence of Blades tried to cut through the team's connection to Midnighter. There was a solid couple of moments with the Engineer and an okay fight between Apollo and the aforementioned man in black, but the story meat holding it together was merely "okay."
"Cable and X-Force" #3 had a pretty good plot that was slowed down by a number of ridiculous elements and the best laid plans of Nathan Dayspring Summers don't exactly survive contact with a billionaire antagonist refreshingly free of cliche. Good, but ended feeling incomplete.
"Clone" #3 was a step down from its introspective last issue, trying to pump up the volume on the action while not really making the stakes as clear. Politics collided with fatherhood in a sequence that felt like it was in another title entirely. The combination didn't balance so much, but there were solid elements.
"Detective Comics" #16 has as its main detriment its many derivative elements. Joker copycats, copying the Penguin ... but its individual moments were stronger than the material they relied upon. Really, the limitations of Gotham's structure make this a thankless job, and it's done with solid craft by the entire creative team, but there's nothing really new worth seeing here.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Animal Man" #16, "Marvel Universe vs. The Avengers" #4, "The Walking Dead" #106, "Ghost" #3, "Adventure Time" #11, "Spawn" #226, "Punisher: Nightmare" #2, "Army of Darkness" #8, "Scarlet Spider" #13, "Hack/Slash" #22, "Doctor Who" #4, "Godzilla" #8, "Batwing" #16, "Non-Humans" #2, "Hollows" #2, "Jinnrise" #1, "Joe Palooka" #2, "World's Finest" #8, "Thunderbolts" #3, "Love & Capes: What To Expect" #6, "Legend of Luther Strode" #2, "Mars Attacks KISS," "Secret Avengers" #36, "Earth 2" #8, "Savage Dragon" #184, "Thor, God of Thunder" #4, "Popeye" #9, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Secret History of the Foot Clan" #1, "Mind the Gap" #7, "Avengers Arena" #3, "Transformers Regeneration One" #87, "Supreme" #68 "True Blood" #8, "Womanthology Space" #4, "Artifacts" #24, "New Crusaders: Rise of the Heroes" #5, "Star Wars" #1, "Human Bomb" #2, "Guarding the Globe" #5, "Smallville Season 11" #9, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9" #17, "Action Comics" #16, "Wolverine and the X-Men" #23
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Superior Spider-Man" #1 ... well, the key elements got the spoiler treatment pretty early, and the almost Disney-minded Jiminy Cricket motif (with shades of Martin Stein) is, in a word, exhausting. The editorial team didn't seem willing to fully commit themselves to the "new" direction and it's ... well, it's like they're begging people to just avoid this until the inevitable reversion to the regular character.
What in the wide world of sports happened in "Change" #2? Almost completely incomprehensible, like a stream of consciousness threw up.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Not so bad, despite a whole lot of "meh" happening.
Also, there was no order for Moonstone's "Kolchak and Honey West" -- sorry.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
One solid jump from an unexpected indie beats out even your not-so-friendly neighborhood Octo-Man. Call it a win!
As of right now, you can spend ten bucks and get about 175,000 of fiction from the writer of this column. The links that follow tell you where you can get "The Crown: Ascension" and "Faraway," five bucks a piece. Love these reviews? It'd be great if you picked up a copy. Hate these reviews? Find out what this guy thinks is so freakin' great. There's free sample chapters too, and all proceeds to towards the care and maintenance of his kids ... oh, and to buy comic books, of course. What are you waiting for? Go buy a freakin' book already!
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!