WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?
Every week Hannibal Tabu (two-time Eisner-winning journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/jackass on Twitter) 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 2, 2013
With very few exceptions, the Buy Pile has published continuously since March 2003. Despite some people who believe this column exists simply to put forth, what was it, “dismissive and/or snarky” content, it has largely also been a love letter to a wide variety of amazing projects, from the new (“Saga,” “Double Jumpers”) to the adventurous (“Phonogram” and Gillen’s “Journey Into Mystery”) to the venerable and lauded (“Fables,” Christopher Priest’s “Black Panther,” the bwa-ha-ha “Justice League International,” Joe Kelly’s “Deadpool” and so on). The things that get purchased are done so because they’re really, genuinely loved. Each one is to be considered a cherished comic book that can’t help but be picked up and read again if stumbled across, story lines that can and should be recorded as the finest the art form can do, even in the realms of sheer confection (“Noble Causes”). So finding that — for the first time in this columns’ entire existence across four web sites — an unprecedented second week has passed with nothing good enough to buy … it’s disheartening. It can’t last, but we hold fast to the idea that this will not be a sign for 2013, but a momentary hiccup to forget like the passed gas after huge holiday meals, temporarily trapped in couch cushions. So, in order to respect the establishment, we instead picked up some back issues of “Bravest Warriors” for a nine-year-old and called it a day. Let’s look forward to doing better next week.
WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?
Two weeks in a row? Ow.
THIS WEEK’S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it’s not good enough to buy
Dark Horse’s literal psychodrama plays out in “Colder” #3, the first issue of the series to offer some answers to the rather esoteric events that have occurred. If you liked “Rex Mundi” then you’ll likely love the artwork from Juan Ferreyra, a true talent. The plot, however, needed to move forward a little more directly and the exposition was a little heavier handed than it needed to be.
The morally challenged character Dinosaurus reads from the good book of Ra’s Al Ghul in “Invincible” #99, an issue that focuses largely on yelling while punching and yelling while rescuing. Not a bad plot, but a thin one.
The Russians have their own version of the Joes’ off-the-books wetwork team and in “Cobra” #20, they prove to be extraordinarily determined, including one who infiltrated the legendary Arishikage clan to learn their secrets and then murdered a whole sect of them. There was a good dose of action, for all you could see of it with vague artwork and coloring, but the largely cursory storyline rushed to its punchline with undue haste. Not bad, but not quite good enough.
There’s a messy internecine core to “Manhattan Projects” #8, with the struggle between men who rule and men who think going to “hot” from “cold” on multiple continents. Again, very cursory and not as substantive as some of the previous issues.
“47 Ronin” #2 really deserves to be part of a larger, collected work, served poorly by the monthly format. A slowly developing tale of honor and betrayal balancing scores of lives in the process. As a prose novel, this would likely be gripping, but for four bucks, this sliver of the story is not quite enough value.
If you loved the old TV series, “Danger Girl/G.I. Joe” #5 will be familiar, all the way down to a catch phrase that implied the importance of red and blue lasers only being 50%. In terms of confection, it’s not quite filling enough for the price.
“My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” #2 likewise leans heavily on the elements of animated television shows as it traded in misdirection and deception to subvert the title. Whimsical all-ages fare that plays well for any audience with solid character interplay but a plot that was a little predictable.
“The Darkness” #109 took too long with one plot element, repeating itself while delaying the actual developments that moved the plot forward, including a fairly decent prose piece at the end that fleshed out a supporting character. The issue — which had a big confrontation that fizzled anti-climactically — needed more of an impetus to get it done right.
“Batman Incorporated” #6 was an act of theater more than a piece of entertainment, narrated and observed by the “family” of the Bat as he fought his way into a Sophie’s Choice, leaving everyone who loves him to wonder about his morality and their own standings. The plotting could have been clearer but the intensity of the struggle between Bruce Wayne and someone who feels he owes a debt was solid.
Vader got smarter and somehow less interesting in “Star Wars Purge: The Tyrant’s Fist” #2, which taught the Sith apprentice how to manipulate the minds of masses and not just individuals. The problem there was that Vader has two truly effective modes — the ghost that goes bump in the night or the force of nature that sweeps across nations and men of power like a scythe. Vader here follows the intimations of Hunter the White Wolf in the aforementioned “Black Panther,” to think like a politician and not like a super villain. From the long range perspective, it was a great move for the Empire, but from the standpoint of a comics reader trying to be entertained, not so much.
“Daredevil: End of Days” #4 was creepy. Slow, but creepy, positing an ending for one of Marvel’s most enduring villains that seemed both sad and disturbing. Not for the faint of heart, but not without its merits either.
“Youngblood” #75 stood as a kind of “state of the union” address, updating both the past of one of Image’s first properties and setting it as a mix of modern celebrity culture and the “Avengers”/”Justice League” scale of superheroics. If it hooked you, this is your wheelhouse, but its brightly colored concepts might be a little facile for the big concept fans and a touch too cosmic for the fans of, say, “Supurbia.”
If you took a Captain Ersatz version of the biggest heroes in comics and made them fight each other, it’d be “Deathmatch.” If you locked them in for a murder mystery, however, you’d have “The Red Ten” #1, an issue that strained mightily to exceed the limitations of its familiarity but, for all that ambition, only achieved them (and having a character named “Justice America” didn’t do much to help). The derivative nature of the work was its largest liability, as trying to consider a post-heroic life for Robi-, er, the Crimson Kid, was one of the better points, along with the mystery structure itself, but it again was hamstrung by its commonplace concepts.
“Superman” #15 will intrigue many with its “Silence of the Lambs” style meeting between the title character and his clean-pated nemesis, and while there were a number of fascinating ideas presented by that beautiful mind, this was less a story and more of a character sketch.
“New Avengers” #1 again tried to insert some kind of seriousness into the fallen kingdom of Wakanda, positing them as the planet’s finest space program and showing off an educational process that beats the heck out of grad school. Still, the idea of Namor — who, at last count, was considered Wakanda’s public enemy number one — rolling in for a meet-and-greet was beyond comprehension, and the issue’s antagonists may as well have been made out of cardboard for all the dimensionality they had.
“Glory” #31 followed months of bloody battle with waffles. Not failing to decide on one thing or another, literal breakfast food. Despite that and some rather interesting individual elements — a plane blown up for kicks, et cetera — the issue was played straight without any wide-eyed wonder, just gritty determination, which landed flat.
“Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Grimm Universe” #2 may not have intended to borrow from the series “Once Upon A Time,” and that show may not have intended to borrow from “Fables,” but the cultural zeitgeist being what it is, there’s only so much room to run on concepts that live in a common consciousness. The hunt for a magic-infused serial killer relied on a narrative mechanism not clearly depicted by the artwork and the arguable protagonist took some time to actually appear, but the catspaw was developed pretty well as a character.
The “Meh” Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
“Star Trek” #16, “Batman Beyond Unlimited” #11, “Fathom Volume 4” #8, “Red Lanterns” #15, “Hero Worship” #6, “Venom” #29, “Adventure Time with Fionna and Cake” #1, “Marvel’s Iron Man 3 Prelude” #1, “Justice League Dark” #15, “Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm” #5, “Transformers Prime: Rage of the Dinobots” #2, “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” #19, “Great Pacific” #3, “Damsels” #4, “Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men” #15, “Hellboy in Hell” #2, “Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist” #8, “Harvest” #5, “Flash” #15, “Red She-Hulk” #61, “Thun’da” #5, “Vampirella Strikes” #1, “Godzilla: The Half-Century War” #4, “Savage Hawkman” #15, “I Love Trouble” #2, “Mars Attacks Popeye,” “Talon” #3, “Blackacre” #2, “Teen Titans” #15, “Anti” #3, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow Wonderland” #3, “Morbius the Living Vampire” #1, “Arrow” #2, “Punisher: Nightmare” #1, “Fatale” #11.
No, just … no … These comics? Not so much …
“Iron Man” #5 was less a comic book and more of an existential mid-life crisis as Tony Stark asks some of the same questions Bruce Banner asked of himself before becoming an agent of SHIELD. Tony’s direction is a little less administrative and — sadly — more along the lines of trying to replicate Wakanda’s post-graduate work. A throwaway antagonist was shoe-horned into a minor retcon of Tony’s past, who tried a weak Not So Different speech before resorting to methods so predictable that those Little Ponies could have seen it coming. A slow, plodding means to reach for the stars.
The Scarecrow is propped up as a threat in “Batman the Dark Knight” #15, which relied on a metaphorical plot device so hackneyed and ham-fisted for its resolution that the Cliche Council may nominate it for deification. We can do better.
In “All-Old X-Men,” er, “All-New X-Men” #5 Jean Gray again injects the one thing that she’s good for — awful plot elements — as a young Hank McCoy is better at math than his older version, the old one essentially says, “screw the fabric of spacetime” with nobody willing to gainsay him and even Doctor Who couldn’t sort out this wibbly wobbly timey wimey foolishness. A stain on the marketplace.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Some legitimate stinkers and a whole lot of trying and failing is not a good sign.
There was no order for “CrossStar” #6 and “Xenoglyphs” #1, so take that as you will. Can’t review what’s not there, can ya?
WINNERS AND LOSERS
A tragedy. Had SEO not been an issue, this week would have been titled “Fired on Meh Mountain.”
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!