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 APRIL 24, 2013
Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye #16
When a historian dies, it changes the perceptions of the stories that remain, changing therefore the lives involved. With the shocking events of last issue, this month the madcap crew of the Lost Light sit shiva with a kind of pain only fifty foot tall robots could experience, each in their wholly idiosyncratic way. Self doubt, blocking out the pain with science, silent rage, all while another one of their number slips away with the inexorability of tomorrow. Believe this: James Roberts is writing some of the finest science fiction in the industry, focused on character so when plot elements come up, the reader's intense knowledge of the players makes every moment significant. There is a scene of "supercut" "footage" that's simply heartbreaking, illustrating just that point. This is so, so good. Wow.
Five Weapons #3
Jump from the Read Pile.
Wholly riveting, Jimmie Robinson virtually flawless script effortlessly fits in a perfect balance of character development for five major players and two supporting ones, pushes a crafty plot arc and delivering visual storytelling reminiscent of a solid mystery reveal from shows like "Psych." Little could be said about what happens that's not a spoiler, but this comic book is simply amazing.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
In the immortal words of one of this countries finest doctors, Andre Young, "Hell, yeah!"
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Manhattan Projects" #11 is almost a self-contained story, relating the tragedy and troubles of Dr. Harry Daghlian, one of the cadre of oddball scientists trapped in a prison of science gone wrong and troubling circumstance. It also pushes forward the arguable protagonist Oppenheimer's plans, public and private. A thinking piece, the emotional core of Daghlian's story had almost enough room to make this issue a keeper, but the more meta elements of the narrative instead spun their wheels while not getting much traction. Still interesting, as much of Hickman's independent work is, but not quite there. Perhaps better in the collected form.
With shades of Scott Pilgrim, "Roboy" #1, from Thundercats veteran Brandon Easton and Sendol Arts, had some compelling action scenes and a rocket fast pace. However, its brevity was its enemy as characterization had next to no room to develop amidst the Sturm und Drang of meta-powered conflict. Fun for fans of video games and manga, and at the price point it's a better value than the average comics purchase, but not quite the appointment reading one might hope for just yet.
Jamie McKelvie's artwork may never have been better than it is in "Young Avengers" #4, which features Noh-Varr in a sequence so thrilling it had to be numbered. It's really great. Unfortunately, the undead parents shtick remains dull in terms of antagonists (the emotional effect of seeing ones parents resurrected and hungry for your soul) isn't even shown. More McKelvie than Gillen, this series is still trying to find its balance.
"Princeless Volume 2" #2 had some fun elements as its humorous leads find their way to her sister. However, a threat to her mother the queen led the story off on a tangent that felt like a distraction (why not "Kingless" as well?) and a momentary lapse in ambiance and vanity seemed to slow things down as well. Still great, still entertaining, just not quite as good as the last issue.
"East Of West" #2 is like nihilist poetry, a paean to the idea of ending the world. The Four Horsemen walk the Earth and are served by the heads of the Seven Nations of America, an alt-history fractured world battered by an internecine history that makes the American Civil War (not the squabble between Steve and Tony) look like a coffee break by comparison. Bloody and lyrical, swooping and vague, one can only imagine the linear story hiding in writer Jonathan Hickman's beautiful, complex mind. Alas, little of it is here, but this feels better than it is, and that counts for something.
Episodic and sweeping, melodramatic and nuanced, "Kill Shakespeare: The Tide Of Blood" #3 again relies heavily on the cultural cache of names like "Romeo" and "Hamlet" to do the characterization in lieu of the script itself, but the introduction of a creepy new antagonist makes a good impact. Solid, but not enthralling, save for the deep lit crowd.
"Deadpool" #8 had many of the basics -- cute banter, interesting murder, a tie in with previous issues, et cetera. It's all kind of de rigueur at this point, and to make things more pedestrian, a married mother is locked in Deadpool's head and running way more of the shots than she should. If you're flush with cash, you'll enjoy the gags, but if not, you can wait for things to be taken much less seriously.
Younger, faster, meaner -- the problem for the protagonist of "Clone" #6 is that the new models never work the same way. His wife and infant child are in the hands if bad people, his secret's out of the bag and everybody's pointing weapons at him. Fast paced with fantastically detailed Juan Jose Ryp artwork, this issue had a better balance than the last but somehow made its characters less defined. Not bad, though.
Despite the non-stop action in "The Answer" #4, it ironically had no answers to its many, many questions in this final issue. The art? Kinetic and riveting. The visual storytelling? Great. The plot? Baffling.
"End Times of Bram & Ben" #4 could be a lost, reworked pitch for "Bill & Ted's Ambivalent Afterlife," bringing the forces of heaven and hell into a conflict that'd send your average philosophy major or gun nut running for cover. Great gags, solid banter, meh art, Penn & Teller recast as antichrists ... kind of like a lost reel of "Dogma" as well. Not bad, but ending up kind of like how most pharmaceutical-enhanced conversations go.
Normally, a "holodeck" episode -- filled with imaginary instances set to push the protagonist through hoops -- is a filler, a waste of time. Here, "G.I. Joe" #3 makes it into a treacherous psychodrama as Cobra needs one piece of data from Duke and dredges through his memories to try and get it. The Baroness is a fetish dream, like Lucy Liu in "Payback," Dr. "Mindbender" (riffing alternatively off your garden variety absent-minded scientist and Christopher Lloyd as John Bigboote) keeps his eyes on the screens and the heretofore whimsically presented history of the property becomes a brilliant plot point. Way too slow to get where it was going, but not bad when it (finally) got there.
When you get to the trick in "Guardians of the Galaxy" #2, you'll likely give an Earl Hickey nod to the clever nature of interstellar politics, but getting there is a fairly lengthy road with some cute banter as a Badoon invasion is repelled over the skies of London (while taking a pretty unfair shot at Captain Britain). Great art, great action, taking quite a while to get where it was going.
The spectacle of "Injustice Gods Among Us" #4 was all about shows of power, with Aquaman (don't laugh) borrowing a page from Christopher Priest's T'challa in confronting Superman (seriously, stop laughing) about the Kryptonian's dictate for world peace. Spectacle may be great fodder for comics shop and Facebook group discussions, but it's not exactly a story.
Apparently, "A Distant Soil" #39 is a continuation of a story left undone six years ago. Beautifully rendered in black and white by Colleen Doran, its page after page of exhortations without characterization, without plot, without reason. The stakes, which seem to matter a great deal to everyone here, don't ever get communicated out to the reader. Maybe more relevant to people who were on board during the last Bush presidency.
"Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #22 should have been two issues. Between the compacted action scenes and the very, very important story elements that happened here, this was overly compressed storytelling (shocking, huh?) that could have benefitted from more splash pages and more room for the story to breathe. Not bad, though.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Batman The Dark Knight" #19, "Lost Vegas" #2, "Avengers" #10, "Fury Of Firestorm The Nuclear Man" #19, "High Ways" #4, "Invincible" #102, "Angel And Faith" #21, "Bionic Woman" #9, "Uncanny Avengers" #7, "KISS Solo" #2, "Katana" #3, "Mind MGMT" #10, "Deathmatch" #5, "My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic" #6, "Amala's Blade" #1, "Judge Dredd Year One" #2, "Journey Into Mystery" #651, "Jupiter's Legacy" #1, "Masks" #6, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" #21, "Dark Horse Presents" #23, "Mighty Skullkickers" #1, "True Blood" #12, "Queen Sonja" #35, "Dragon Age Until We Sleep" #2, "Morning Glories" #26, "Shadow" #12, "Massive" #11, "Alan Robert's Killogy #4," "My Little Pony Micro-Series" #3, "Star Wars Legacy Volume 2 Prisoner Of The Floating World" #2, "Jinnrise" #4, "Darkness" #112, "Batman Incorporated" #10, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Unleashed" #1.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Red Lanterns" #19 not only worked against what was implied by its cover, it copped out on the concept of "rage" from Red Lanterns and ended the issue with next to nothing happening save emotional maturity for a character whose entire purpose is to avoid emotional maturity. Tedious.
"Freelancers" #5 was Hollywood in the most stereotypical and tedious of ways, "Californication" with melee weaponry. The stitches of characterization are skimmed off in bribery and betrayal, the affable artwork was more poses than plot, and the implausible antagonist's conceit was especially contrived. Disappointing.
Somehow "Fantastic Four" #7 tied in a host of fascinating ideas -- a Douglas Adams homage at the end of the universe, an impossible jailbreak where Reed matched wits with advanced immortal intelligences and so on -- while still managing to be hideously boring. Quite a feat.
"Before Watchmen: Comedian" #6 is mean-spirited, alternative history bit that makes the betrayals in "Freelancers" look forgivable by comparison. Really unenjoyable ending after pages and pages of yammering chatter.
"New Avengers" #5 tried so hard. It really did. But between a lack of editing ("you're going get however much rope we choose to give you") and the incessant rambling (for a group of geniuses ... genii ... crap, no it is geniuses, who knew? Anyhoo, they really should have a better method of intelligence gathering) had perceptions of a threat without actually looking at the threat itself.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Some real problems, but not so many they could tank the week.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Two real winner came home, some real ambition reaching for excellence -- let's call this week a winner!
Next Wednesday at 3:15 PM PST, a panel called Color Inside The Lines: Superheroes of a Different Hue featuring "Underworld" creator Kevin Grevioux, "G.I. Joe" legend Larry Hama and Aspen Comics EIC Vince Hernandez will be live streamed from Cal State University Los Angeles, all moderated by this columnist. Pretty much amazing, yeah.
Also, yesterday four new comics were published written by Black writers (of course not from DC or Marvel, they don't really hire Black writers, but whatever) and that's pretty cool.
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!