WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?
Every week Hannibal Tabu (two-time Eisner-winning journalist/winner of the 2012 Top Cow Talent Hunt/blogger/novelist/poet/jackass on Twitter/head honcho of Komplicated) 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 JULY 10, 2013
Astro City #2
In another masterful work, Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson turn in another nearly perfect comic book. This issue looks at some of the mechanism behind the planet's premiere super team, the Honor Guard, and introduces one of the people charged with screening the information that Samaritan and his superheroic friends ultimately deal with. Humanizing the extraordinary elements is a neat trick, but melding the two so effortlessly, from Anderson's sweeping action scenes to the wonderful details that Busiek wields like a scalpel, it's simply a wonder to behold. Every page has a moment to marvel at. Such a delightful comic.
Jump from the Read Pile.
Playing with Silver Age tropes and contrasting the more brutal, harsh realities of today, this very engaging issue made a very disturbing (yet compelling) antagonist in a very small amount of space, gave readers a hero worthy of the word and had no fewer than five amazing character moments. The last six pages are simply amazing, and everything here has Fox Mulder rubbed all over it. A comic book to satisfy the conservative elements that love the stories of yesteryear while satisfying the jaded observers of today, this work by John Lees, Jonathan Rector and Mike Gagnon may be a little rough around the edges, but it's got it where it counts.
Superior Spider-Man #13
Jump from the Read Pile.
You might as well call this a Bizarro wet dream as the Otto Octavious version of Parker (if you don't know, think "Freaky Friday" gone out of control) brings things to a head with Alistair Smythe in one of the smartest -- and admittedly superior -- ways possible, all while wrestling with the homicidal intentions of Boomerang, Vulture and Scorpion too (the latter hell-bent on murdering Mayor J. Jonah Jameson) and a plot twist for another character that takes you further beyond the looking glass. If one day this will all be pulled back, it's surely gonna take a lot of pulling as Spider-man has never been this effective, this smart, this good at what he does. Wonderful, bold work here that hits all the right notes.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Hell of a good set of comics purchases this week.
Also, forgot to pick up "Fairest" last week, which was pretty good.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
Almost a work of tone poetry, "East of West" #4 tells its story in a metatextual fashion, narrating events inside the work as the artwork of Nick Dragotta and Frank Martin sing a song of bloodshed and intensity, all with a love story at its core. Solid work that comes so very close to making the mark, but doesn't quite get there because it is so sweeping in its language and artistry that it neglects some fundamentals of plotting. Just barely missing, though.
If "In Crowd" #1 had maybe one or two more actually original ideas, it could have made the jump. With surprisingly effective storytelling (excellent use of captions, clever humor) and some quirky characters just odd enough to work as legacy heroes and still be interesting (including a testy Kaldur knock off that worked well as a straight man), the only problems were the Emmerich Godzilla-styled antagonist driving the plot into Been There Land and the pedestrian artwork.
"Pathfinder" #8 is solid if unremarkable fantasy writing with cute dialogue and plotting even with its insubstantial and cliched characterization. The wry elf, the belligerent dwarf with an axe, an elven archer, the female as a spell caster -- none of them stand out nor do any of the antagonists. Not bad, though.
"X" #3 was an improvement as the lead took some cues from another single consonant vigilante who worked against a corrupt establishment, developing labyrinthine plots and using an innocent ingenue as bait. The main antagonist got some more development too, but the plot's pacing was irregular for the issue to make it. Encouraging direction.
"Secret Avengers" #6 could have been good if it had focused on anything. From a political struggle to Jim Rhodes and Coulson dealing with sentient Iron Patriot suits to Taskmaster and Mockingbird on AIM Island. The ideas came fast and furious, but they weren't put together well enough.
Speaking of ideas, the skewed future vision of Darick Robertson is back in "Ballistic" #1 which had an unfortunately unfocused plot that kept it from being better. The characters -- including a repair man who fixes living systems that somehow agree to do air conditioning and heating -- were at best uninteresting and in some cases unlikeable. Eyegasms everywhere to look at, though.
The energy of Chicago has changed things in "Nightwing" #22, with a community predisposed against masks and capes meaning that Dick Grayson has a very different set of challenges in store than he'd have ever seen in Gotham or even Bludhaven. Unfortunately it became a case of Aquaman Syndrome, where the brightest-colored element showcases how weak many other elements are, even when the title character is actually in over his head. Not bad, but not quite there yet.
With great character work and some snappy, interesting bits (the Nina Simone part, the social media styled montage, some of the other Loki scenes), "Young Avengers" #7 was true to the "style over substance" battle cry of its initial issue, Kirkman-esque in its refusal to feel like one actual story, instead feeling like the middle reel of a larger one (in a bad way) ... but oh so rivetingly depicted by the art team. Maybe better collected?
Mix a heist film like "Ocean's 11" with an idea like "Hoax Hunters" and you'll land somewhere near "Ghosted" #1, where a nefarious criminal is extorted into pulling a job unlike most others, assembling a kooky crew of wackjobs and ne'er-do-wells and making their move to check out the job. It's a decent start but nothing that stands up and makes you take notice.
There were some interesting moments in "Darkness" #114, as the treacherous Doppleganger has his first moment of doubt. Jackie Estacado has become a peripheral element in a title arguably built around him and is the least interesting element here as his newly powerful daughter Hope steps up, like the inverse of Will and Jaden in "After Earth" (that kid's boring, but even sitting still, Will can act). Too slow by a half measure, but trying to develop stakes for its characters.
According to "Daredevil" #28, before he was blinded, young Matt Murdock was a bit of a braggart and, by all indications, kind of a douche commander. This is "revealed" to frame his latest client, a childhood tormentor who never figured out how to go the right way in. story that is kind of dumb until its twist ending, at which point it shook off the many problematic elements and became riveting. Too little too late, but perhaps boding well for next month.
"Dead Man's Run" #6 had a cute twist at the end, the story of a man literally going to hell and back to save the soul of his sister. The characters are all still too flat and the action could be clearer, but this is "TV good" for certain.
"Chew" #35 was solid in an episodic way as Tony Chu does more badassery and there's an awkward scene in bed that's best not discussed and a twist ending that's pretty surprising. However, the arguable "antagonists" are barely even a factor and the driving plot elements play a back seat to, essentially filler. At its worst, this series is "good," but it needs to be "great" to make the jump.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Hawkeye" #12, "X-O Manowar" #15, "Superman Unchained" #2, "Shadow Green Hornet Dark Nights" #1, "America's Got Powers" #6, "Quantum And Woody" #1, "Indestructible Hulk" #10, "Batman" #22, "Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 9" #23, "Miss Fury" #4, "Uncanny X-Men" #8, "Planet Of The Apes Cataclysm" #11, "Warlord Of Mars Dejah Thoris" #27, "Threshold" #7, "Storm Dogs" #6, "Suicide Squad" #22, "Fathom The Elite Saga" #4, "Ultimate Comics The Ultimates" #27, "Star Wars" #7, "Princeless Tales Of The Family Ashe," "Demon Knights" #22, "Bubblegun" #2, "Kevin Smith's The Bionic Man" #21, "Sheltered" #1, "Peter Cannon Thunderbolt" #10, "Marvel's Thor The Dark World Prelude" #2, "Green Lantern Corps" #22, "True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys" #2, "Grace Randolph's Supurbia" #9, "Breath Of Bones A Tale Of The Golem" #2, "Savage Dragon" #189, "Black Bat" #3, "Worlds' Finest" #14, "My Little Pony Micro-Series" #6, "Great Pacific" #8, "George RR Martin's Skin Trade" #1, "Batgirl #22, "Fearless Defenders" #6
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
After that trailer explaining the clearly derivative story, "Justice League" #22 showed how stupid the most powerful heroes on earth could be, including J'onn J'onzz (whose earlier stated objectives make this an oddly public place for him to be), Batman (who, really, should know better) and Billy Batson, who must have misplaced the Wisdom of Solomon somewhere in his sparkling hoodie. Even before you get to the issue with the doctor (which makes zero sense) this is one of the stupidest excuses for a story that's been on the stands since ... well, sadly since last week. Even with a fun (if easy to pick apart) Wonder Woman quote, this needs Bill Walton to call it, because it's "terrible!"
In "Astonishing X-Men" #64, Bobby Drake goes into conflict against Thor. Full stop. Let's just halt all the madness here, before we get into the trouble with Dr. McCoy, before we talk about how tedious Mystique is and so on. Thor. Against Bobby Drake. Come on, son. Stop the madness.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Hey, the week won even by getting past some really, really dumb elements.
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!
Being told ... there might be preview pages of the issue of Watson & Holmes written by this columnist and CBR veteran/"2 Guns" creator Steven Grant, and drawn by Dennis Calero within a week or two. Maybe. Watch this space.
However, this columnist will (probably) not be in San Diego. Sorry.
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 will do our best to make sure 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!