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 MARCH 6, 2013
In a storyline finale that's perfectly balanced between action (gunfire! magic! shapeshifting! origami!) and character developments, this issue closes down the narrative of the Japanese Fables while settling every plot line and leaving room for more stories to come. Gorgeous artwork from Inaki Miranda and Eva De La Cruz while Lauren Belkes turns in another script that showcases lots of great moments for characters along the road. Very engaging work here.
Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye #14
Who would have expected a deep science fiction psychodrama from giant robots based on a toy line. However, this issue reveals a whole lot about how power is developed and divided amongst robots and (logically) how the Decepticons amassed so much of it. The art's a little busier than it should be in some spots (maybe coloring?) but the storytelling is top notch as "mnemosurgeon" Chromedome does the most dangerous surgery of his career, which leads to consequences that'll affect every well-developed character in the cast. James Roberts turns in another bulletproof script that engages and intrigues while developing the back story into more and more fascinating directions. Simply wonderful work.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Very solid start!
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
In "Bedlam" #5, the reformed super villain is shown in the present consulting the police (and leading to some fun scenes that wouldn't be out of place on an hourlong USA dramedy) and in the past, "overcoming" his "sickness" and find his way into the general population after ten years of "treatment." The plot meanders and drags in no fewer than three places, and the artwork is still an uphill climb, but there are interesting ideas here.
In "The Superior Spider-Man" #5, once again the new web swinger shows how much better he is at the job than his predecessor, enacting some serious crime fighting while getting a home cooked meal (he makes Spidey-time, which is very smart). If Hologram Tupac, er, Ghostly Obi-Wan, uh, Jiminy Parker weren't annoyingly jabbering through half the panels and admitting that he was never really that good at his work (a fundamental flaw) and just being a tepid loser.
There were some interesting plot developments in "Detective Comics" #18 as the newly crowned Emperor Penguin tries to grow up and be a real super villain, but has a terminal case of Parker Robbins Syndrome, where his "everyday guy" nature makes him boring and nondescript. Victor Zsasz is supposed to be a terrifying serial killer ... but in the same town with Killer Croc and the Joker he seems like the Mark Madsen of murderers. Sure, he's considered part of a championship team ... but he's still Mark Madsen. Dry elements that took away from the crisp plot and solid artwork.
"Lost Vegas" #1 is the latest from the mind of Jim McCann, working alongside "Dapper Men" collaborator Janet Lee in creating a science fiction reality of gamblers and rubes, indebted servitude and hungry have-nots. If this was a new series on SyFy, it'd be a hit as you follow the lead character, a lovable scoundrel named Roland. Not quite enough meat on the bones of this story just yet.
"All-New X-Men" #8 actually had some signs of being less awful, with one of the best bits of Iceman impersonating Captain America ("Don't talk to me with your double talking space science jibber-jabber! I'm from 1940! I don't understand how you people do it with your Model T Fords and your ladies that walk around with their arms uncovered!") and the "classic" original X-Men showing signs of being deeply and profoundly changed (i.e. "screwed up") by being in our more complex times. If editorial committed to this ... well, admittedly harsher direction, well, that could get interesting. We all know they won't, though.
"Legend Of The Shadow Clan" #2 is still way, way too slow for its own good, teasing out a mystery of a boring family drawn into corporate intrigues and the work of assassins. Like the TV show "No Ordinary Family," getting caught up in the administrivia of school and procedure has detracted from great artwork and an interesting underlying concept. Maybe this part will play better when collected.
Taking a turn away from the strictly fight-related story, "Joe Palooka" #4 puts its titular MMA battler in an international combat cartel, fighting exhibitions in Thailand. Meanwhile, his girlfriend and a professor back home do a decent, if odd, "Law & Order" impersonation. The divided focus took momentum away from Thailand, which was where the real story was happening, but the elements that needed more time got cut short. Improving though.
If "Fables" and "Once Upon A Time" had never existed, you'd be heaping praise and Eisners on "Fairy Quest" #2, which posits the stories you all know and love as daily productions, and Grimm is Mojo, programming and controlling it all. Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf are on the run, stopping in with Peter Pan and the witch from Hansel and Grete (wholly recast) as they seek a path to the real world we live in. Cute, sweetly told, maybe even a little saccharine, but a solid all ages take on character we know that can still get new dimensions here.
"Jinnrise" #3 had an interesting meeting between a warrior and essentially his opposite as an entire planet full of scholars was put to the sword. While the warrior's struggle and introduction was done well, the rationale for this slaughter or the relevance to the main characters (absent this entire time) wasn't made as clear. This series has some good ideas but hasn't yet found its footing.
Re: "Iron Man" #7. The character who pops up on the last page is the "fetch" of Marvel Comics. People need to stop trying to make it happen. It's not happening. As that was supposed to be the big reveal, the rest of the issue (with a credible bit of whimsy from a Rigellian recorder and Tony Stark getting his Russell Crowe-as-Maximus on) is good but seemed a little decompressed, the sort of thing Denny O'Neill or Larry Hama would have pounded out in twelve pages. Not bad, but not quite there yet either.
Sara Pezzini gets news she does not want in "Witchblade" #164, which has guest appearances from The Darkness (which looks like the white suited Doppelganger, not the beleaguered Jackie) and Tom Judge (who's basically just here to spout exposition) to its benefit. Great action scenes and a very big turning point for Sara as a character, but the pacing was uneven (too much fight, not enough for the character turn) and the = of the issue left almost every other thing unchanged. Not bad, and interesting to see where the titular character will take her new knowledge.
Without spoiling the big conclusion to many stories that happens here, "KISS" #8 was a big let down, taking what little significance the battles of previous issues had and leaving us with another cardboard antagonist, a moment like when Agamemnon was revealed to the Pantheon and, basically, the end of the "Dark Tower" books. Hugely frustrating.
"47 Ronin" #3 started to warm up the plot with Oisho, right hand man to the disgraced samurai lord, doing his best to follow the rules of honor while being prepared to unsheathe the steel. This will really work well as a collected edition, with this being one of the strongest parts, determined men with swords making blood oaths for the sake of honor. Just shy of making the mark.
"Snapshot" #2 is a fast moving crime yarn that grabs you by the throat with action and barely pauses to breathe for half the issue. However, even with the scant plot details it's still a little sketchy, and the frantic geek protagonist is not much to hang on to, from a narrative standpoint.
It's hard to do supernatural storytelling right, and "Colder" #5 has a good balance between Paul Tobin's well paced script and always-solid artwork from Juan Ferreyra (his "Rex Mundi" experience showing through here), Laura Binaghi and Eduardo Ferreyra. The main antagonist Nimble Jack feels a little too familiar, though -- a dash of Fred Krueger here, a smidge of Joker there -- and while the lead's emotional commitment and the stakes were well depicted, it did feel like another "woman in a refrigerator" situation. A good showcase of skills from the creative team on an idea that maybe needed a little more development, but showed what everybody was capable of. Don't be surprised to see these guys on one of the Doctors (Strange? Fate?) in the future.
Chas Worthington is both staggeringly lucky and scarily stupid in "Great Pacific" #5, which has a nuclear hot potato change hands many times and attention focused on the first rule of organizing something in genre fiction: "you need more people." Interesting work that shoots itself in the foot with foibles of its characters denying the suspension of disbelief.
Ooh, new bad guys! "G.I. JOE: A Real American Hero" #188 has a politically motivated group of pirates called the Red Shadows, led by the brisk and trigger happy Black Major, with a snappy sense of visual design and vests full of explosives, ready to sacrifice themselves. The Joes make a fairly standard assault on a freighter overrun with both the new characters and the normal kinds of privateers one would find east of the Horn of Africa. Next to no characterization here, despite a somewhat "shrill" appearance from Dr. Adele Burkhart, a name fans of the original Marvel series might remember, but this issue is more "Special Missions" than a standard story, all flash and bang with limited consequences just to show what US special forces can do. It'd be great on CBS on a Tuesday night in prime time.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Age Of Ultron #1," "Sex" #1, "Phantom Stranger" #6, "Age Of Apocalypse" #13, "My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic" #4, "Venom" #32, "Epic Kill" #9, "Stitched" #12, "Mara" #3, "Adventure Time With Fionna And Cake" #3, "Powers Bureau" #2, "Glory" #33, "Helheim" #1, "Transformers Spotlight Bumblebee" #1, "Smallville Season 11" #11, "Hypernaturals" #9, "True Blood" #10, "Planet Of The Apes Cataclysm" #7, "A+X" #5, "Buffy The Vampire Slayer Willow Wonderland" #5, "Savage Dragon" #185, "Dial H" #10, "Hellboy In Hell" #4, "Winter Soldier" #16, "Star Wars Dark Times Fire Carrier" #2, "Dark Shadows" #14, "Red She-Hulk" #63, "Animal Man" #18, "Son of Merlin" #2, "The Bionic Man" #17, "Cable & X-Force" #5, "Youngblood" #77, "Vampirella Strikes" #3, "Earth 2" #10, "Warlord Of Mars Dejah Thoris" #23, "Batwing" #18, "Daredevil: End of Days" #6, "Swamp Thing" #18, "Blackacre" #4, "I Love Trouble" #4, "Repossessed" #3, "Lot 13" #5, "Shadowman" #5, "Worlds' Finest" #10, "Fashion Beast" #7, "Before Watchmen Rorschach" #4, "Avengers" #7, "Green Arrow" #18, "Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates" #22, "Captain Midnight Special."
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Dan the Unharmable" #11 was wholly off the rails, barely coherent as a narrative with some weird consortium of monsters, child protective services getting involved and way, way more nudity and sex and money than was probably necessary.
"Superman" #17 was a huge let down after the months and months of a rogue Kryptonian threatening to snuff out Earth's sun. A terrible retcon gets introduced, a lot of sturm und drang leads nowhere worth being. Sad.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Oh, there was no order for "Cavewoman Oasis" #1, "Kolchak and Dr. Moreau," "Fly Volume 2" #5 and "Best of Zenescope Special Edition" #1.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
An inexpensive week of great comics, a mountain of "meh" between 'em ... let's call it a win.
Some quick notes. Ten years ago this week, the very first Buy Pile column was posted. That's ... well, it's kind of something. A lot of wonderful people read and have helped this column exist, and the writer is very grateful, but (and this isn't said often enough) none of it would have happened without Eric Stephenson's prodding and urging, so thanks.
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!
The writer of this column is very proud to have been a participant in the "Steamfunk" anthology from MV Media Publishing along Geoffrey Thorne, Balogun Ojetade, Valjeanne Jeffers and more brilliant writers. Another book that's ... holy crap, it's only five bucks too, on Amazon and Nook? Cool. Cool cool cool.
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!