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 24, 2013
G.I. JOE The Cobra Files #4
Jump from the Read Pile.
Despite the muddled artwork, Mike Costa's gripping script about the extra covert side of a covert ops team satisfies. The bad guys have infiltration specialists called the Night Creepers (imagine a ninja clan had a baby with a ruthless corporation) who pose as security contractors. The Joes tried to feel them out by having them pitch their services for a Joe installation at the Pentagon, and to mix it up, said ninjas decided actually breached the facility for a daring raid. This leaves commanding officer Flint off the board and the mission primarily in the hands of three female operatives -- the sword-swinging Ronin, tough girl Lady Jaye and the reluctant Chameleon, using nothing but bladed weapons, small arms and grit. Chameleon narrates, and using her as a framing device perfectly encapsulates the ridiculous and sublime elements of the story while delivering a well told tale. Intriguing black ops storytelling centered in making the characters feel real.
Superior Spider-Man #14
Jump from the Read Pile.
New York's criminal element is simply not ready for this. Blackmailing the mayor ("Cahoots!"), attacking the Kingpin's ninja den Shadowland with an army of "arachnauts" and hired "spider-lings" -- all in a day's work for the Superior Spider-Man, who combines genius with ruthlessness for effective (and often hilarious) results. Dan Slott borrows a page from the "Astro City" handbook in taking a look at Otto Parker's vigilantism, bringing an almost Vader-esque sense of safety to the common man (and, honestly, creating jobs too). A delightful and perfectly balanced subplot showcases some of Otto's weakness, as well. Bombastic, relentless and Shakespearean in how high this ratchets up the insanity, presented with verve and vivacity by Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba and Edgar Delgado, this book is wickedly fun and wholly wrong in all the best ways.
Jump from the Read Pile.
A close shave as the new series gets a little soapier, with the Carlyle family, one of the world's rulers, debating war with a rival faction over a breach of protocol. The main character is well defined by omission -- the way people talk about her, the way the act around her -- which is quite a crafty trick by writer Greg Rucka. A little slower than the first issue, but still gripping stuff.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Everybody showed up for the game, and that's a hell of a start.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Uncanny" #2 had half the charm and wit of the brilliant first issue and twice as much running as a psi-enabled card shark tries to stay one step ahead of inevitable consequence. Not bad, and Singapore's murky night time streets play as much of a role as any character, but in that same sense there's little sense of character motivations or connection with the audience. Not bad, but missing the mark this time.
"Hawkeye Annual" #1, like the recent "pizza dog" issue, was masterfully rendered but boringly conceived. Kate Bishop packs up and heads west, just to end up rooming with Madame Masque (still peeved over getting hornswaggled on a deal in Madripoor some issues ago) in a comedy of errors that made every character look pretty much like a shmuck. Fantastic artwork, clever ideas in execution from the script, but the foundation was flawed.
"All New Fathom #1" was less indecipherable than many previous (not so "all-new?") issues, staying focused plot wise and explaining itself as it went along, with the normal gorgeous art you expect from the team at Aspen, plus there was a spunky scene in a restaurant that had some potential. However, the lead character remains a cipher and the heavy handed captioning in the first third of the book made it a dry read. If the anonymous looking antagonists develop into something, maybe it'll pick up.
"Witchblade" #168 had some cute banter and a character moment or two worth noting, but its plot was all over the map. The central conflict -- around a murderous magical midget -- was submerged in snappy banter and side plots, plus a brush against old business that newer readers would have little interest in. Not bad, but not really getting it together.
"Superior Spider-Man Team-Up" #1 has a wonderful ending that took a little too long to reach as Otto Parker spends many pages punching heroes in the face, forcing Cap to bring in the Avengers to take him down. Despite many hilarious lines ("Were you serious about that? Adorable.") the plot had some logic issues (the whole thing could have been over in two pages with an email, a phone call, or even a pithy text message) that kept it from making the jump. Still, Otto's boldness and focus make him a compelling protagonist and interesting to read.
"Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction" #1 will be the cat's pajamas for fans of nostalgic storytelling, with all the standard tropes and cliches one would expect (needless fight before teaming up, swooning female supporting characters being alternatively spunky and helpless, crotchety old guys the lead can lean on for support) while barely remembering to involve any antagonists at all for a murder mystery brushing against the politics of the day. Not bad, but if you don't really yearn for the era before integration and interstates, it might not raise your flag.
Post-apocalyptic bonhomie and hard choices frame "Wild Blue Yonder" #2, a strong character study with a plodding plot. The twist at the end was effective, the slow development of the arguable protagonist wasn't bad, but the whole book needs more "oomph" to make it home.
"Mass Effect Foundation" #1 has a surprisingly cute twist at the end, but it's not enough to make this garden variety unexplained case of badassery any more logical or ground the events in anything the reader can relate to. Probably makes more sense if you've played the game.
If the events discussed in "New Avengers" #8 ever actually were depicted, they probably would have made some pretty good reading. Wakanda invades Atlantis! The Living Tribunal gets knocked the **** out! A strange alien force shows up looking grim! However, instead of getting a good look at that stuff, this issue instead gives SportsCenter commercial styled clips -- not even full SportsCenter clips -- so cursory that the tedious conversations (Reed and Tony, T'Challa and Namor, et cetera) and great artwork are supposed to make up for it. Not quite.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Star Wars Legacy Volume 2" #5, "Batman Superman" #2, "Vitriol The Hunter" #6, "Hunger" #1, "Doctor Who" #11, "Army Of Darkness Vs Hack Slash" #1, "Superman" #22, "Arrow" #9, "Talon" #10, "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #25, "Doomsday.1" #3, "Dark Horse Presents" #26, "Ultimate Comics X-Men" #29, "Ghostbusters" #6, "Bloodshot" #13, "Damsels Mermaids" #3, "Wolverine And The X-Men" #33, "Judge Dredd" #9, "Red Hood And The Outlaws" #22, "Scarlet Spider" #19, "Harbinger" #14, "Uncanny Avengers" #10, "Mind MGMT" #13, "Young Avengers" #8, "Mark Waid's The Green Hornet" #4, "Gamma," "Massive" #14, "Dream Merchant" #3, "Warlord Of Mars" #27, "Green Team Teen Trillionaires" #3, "Clone" #9, "Flash" #22, "Crow Curare" #2, "Constantine" #5, "Bounce" #3, "Aquaman" #22, "Journey Into Mystery" #654, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Robyn Hood Wanted" #3.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Catwoman" #22 got weird. After her gang war dust up, she's suddenly chasing a missing gang member into underground communities (Batman never noticed all this?) with feudal conflicts and all kinds of other foolishness that, frankly, fit Catwoman about as well as the script Halle Berry got. Terrible.
Did we really have to see the Black Panther die again in "What If AvX" #3? Is his middle name Kenny? A tedious element that dragged this just below the "meh" level.
"Justice League Dark" #22 had arguing, shouting and punching for pretty much no reason as the un-civil war between DC's mightiest heroes blunders on, treading water in a tedious installment of a derivative crossover. Also, Constantine tricked Billy Batson into leaving for events that wandered off to the scoundrel's solo title (for much more boring results) and the whole thing felt inconclusive.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Three to one ratio of okay books to stinkers, so that's a good thing.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Three jumps and a small number of bad books means this week wins in a major way.
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 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!