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 JULY 25, 2012
Manhattan Projects #5
Jump from the Read Pile.
“Crazy.” That’s the first word you should keep in mind when you open this collection of wild ideas and concepts. The makers of the atomic weapon are a menagerie of madness, borrowing shtick from Grodd and pulling back the veil on a more complex universe than many could imagine. Writer Jonathan Hickman is firing on all cylinders here, spouting paragraphs full of exposition while Oppenheimer enjoys his multiple personality disorder, an AI with the brain of FDR spouts platitudes and, oh, there’s a mild alien invasion. Like bathing in a tub full of whimsy, this issue is an experience and the artwork from Nick Pitarra and Jordie Bellaire makes it all the better. Wonderful.
Star Wars Darth Maul: Death Sentence #1
(Dark Horse Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
If you’ve been watching the animated “Clone Wars” series, you know a certain Dathomirian Zabrak has brought both blades of his lightsaber swinging stylings to an unsuspecting galaxy. At his side is an even bigger, meaner brother named Savage Oppress who somehow manages to be the voice of reason, as unrestrained as that is. Together, they cut a swath of bodies all over a number of planets, blades blazing and the brutality of the duo rendered with great kineticism by Bruno Redondo and Michael Heisler. Add in some two new Jedi masters and a padawan, a corporate raider the likes of which the Banking Clan and the Trade Federation. For fans of the franchise, this is meaty, fun stuff to read, and for people not as enmeshed in the property, there’s bad guys being bad in the most deliciously fun way possible. Can’t beat that, and good work to Tom Taylor for making the brothers such a credible and enjoyable threat.
Amazing Spider-Man #690
The Lizard wears the skin of Dr. Curt Connors, and he’s hell bent on getting scaly again no matter how many members of Horizons Labs he’ll have to horribly disfigure. Spider-Man would likely have something to say about that if he weren’t smashing Morbius the Living Vampire’s face through half of midtown Manhattan. There’s a coincidental bit with the Kingpin and the ginger Madame Web had some doomsaying to offer. Good balance of elements, lots of great supporting elements (star turn for Uatu Jackson, introducing the Lizard to video games after he learns about humor) and just enough Spider-Man to keep the title relevant. Dan Slott’s script is clever and the artwork from Giuseppe Camuncoli, Klaus Janson, Daniel Green and Frank D’Armata is top notch.
Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye #7
Wow. Just … wow. This is literally the best comic book on the stands this week. It’s amazing. Opening up with an investigation by the Decepticon equivalent of Internal Affairs with monologuing that’d make Gary Oldman or Alan Rickman shudder, this issue delves into character moments for no fewer than a half dozen characters (Red Alert, Misfire, Spinister, Fulcrum, Brainstorm, and most of all Tarn) that each shine with great wit and depth. Oh, and the quotes. “You know, there are some Decepticons who, upon finding themselves in a skin covered room surrounded by aborted protoforms and mechanoids made of bark, would rub their hands together, marvel at the universe’s infinite capacity for surprise and dive right in. I am not one of those Decepticons. I say we run away screaming.” “What? What is it? Should I be running away? Am I wasting precious running away time by talking to you?” “Go away. I’m busier than you’ve ever been and I’m doing more important things than you’ve ever done.” “But there’s always been a war! That’s like saying there’s no more blue, or — or the weather’s stopped!” James Roberts has written a Transformers comic book so good that he should be slapped, then hugged. Art by Alex Milne and Josh Burcham made each character pop with personality and — believe this — you have to see the D-Class Worldsweeper, the P-6 model. Awesome.
WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?
THIS WEEK’S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it’s not good enough to buy
“Grim Leaper” #3 was extraordinarily close to making the jump, a character study of two people in a wildly unusual set of circumstances, and has some surprising elements of vulnerability and genuine emotional connection. Why didn’t it make the jump? Two better jumps ahead of it, honestly. It was a horse race all the way down to the wire, though.
Another very close contender was “Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow” #15 which posited an interlaced web of trust and betrayal as a ninja clan barely knows who to believe, Cobra’s new Commander turns out to be even more wily than previously believed, and Snake Eyes wordlessly speaks with bloodshed and strategies. Again, great, but not as good as the jumps that made it home.
In a slower week, “Near Death” #10 would have also made it home as a federal agent experiences a traumatic change in circumstances, leading the redemption-seeking protagonist in some serious straits. A little tighter pacing would have helped, and the visuals on the characters was a little plain jane, but if this was on TV networks, it’d surely be worth watching.
The banter between the leads in “Captain America and Iron Man” #634 was fun along the same lines as Cap’s time with Hawkeye in “Secret Avengers,” where the tension between friends plays out (gags about Civil War were particularly … awkward) but the fact that Batroc the Leaper (“ze leapair!”) actually manages to (essentially) win twice in the issue … over these two … it seems kind of suspect. Cute direction, some flaws in plot and pacing.
“Debris” #1 was a solid first look at a post apocalyptic band of humans desperate to survive against metal monsters and an impossible atmosphere. The art was solid even with its flat color palette and even the lead character is pretty drab, let alone the background ones who fade into the periphery. Not bad.
“Elephantmen” #41 was kind of eerie, a bedside confessional from one of the minds behind Mappo, one of the men who made the Elephantmen. It got weird at the end, sure, and it had some parts that were more psychedelic than others, but it had a real macabre twist that worked well from a narrative standpoint. A mean, but instructive, done-in-one issue.
“Secret Avengers” #29 turns one idea on its ear, introduces an area that even criminals consider “ghetto” and has great art. Unfortunately, only Venom gets any real characterization in a spinning wheels plot, there were some pacing issues too and the Father character is still deathly dull.
Getting back to being psychedelic, “Prophet” #27 brushed against issues of Image history and took the reader through hundreds of years of space madness, but did so with another flat color palette (which makes the art look washed out) and a narrative that may not work for every reader. Not bad, but maybe too weird for your average reader.
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 Blood Ties: Boba Fett Is Dead” #4, “Avengers” #28, “Trio” #3, “Godzilla” #3, “Fury of Firestorm The Nuclear Men” #11, “Clive Barker’s Hellraiser” #16, “Green Lantern” #11, “Deadpool” #58, “Hawken” #5, “Voodoo” #11, “X-Treme X-Men” #1, “Exiles on The Planet of The Apes” #4, “Witchblade” #158, “True Blood” #3, “FF” #20, “Ghostbusters” #3, “Planet of The Apes” #16, “Wolverine and the X-Men” #14, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” #12, “Angel and Faith” #12, “Hit-Girl” #2, “Ghostbusters” #11, “Green Lantern New Guardians” #11, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Micro Series: Casey Jones” #6, “Mighty Thor” #17, “Teen Titans” #11, “Ultimate Comics The Ultimates” #13, “Graveyard of Empires” #4, “Aquaman” #11, “Soulfire: Grace” #1, “Winter Soldier” #8, “Flash” #11, “Dark Avengers” #178, “Superman” #11.
No, just … no … These comics? Not so much …
If “Captain America” #15 seems familiar, it should — media parties (here, a thinly veiled Glenn Beck analogue) call Captain America antiquated and suggest he should retire (of course as a front for super villains) because he’s not fixing the economy or addressing the country’s moral decay or some other foolishness. Of course this gets under Cap’s skin — it did years ago when he has a similar crisis of faith, cried into an American flag and asked why there wasn’t just something he could go punch. It was as bad as when Glorious Godfrey pretended to be a television personality in “Legends” and asked if DC’s heroes were right for their job. All of this ignoring stuff they’d done in that calendar year to save the world from, oh, pretty much everything. It’s a cheap, stupid argument that either serves as a satire for the low state of political discourse (in which case it’s ham fisted) or a retread attempt at making an essentially impotent symbol relevant for a much more cynical time (like “Superman” #775 where the Elite was introduced, which would make this ineffectual and retrograde). In short: stop.
In “Batman the Dark Knight” #11, the Scarecrow — who, at best, looks like he weighs maybe a hundred pounds soaking wet — manages to leap on top of Batman and jab a syringe through what looks like the material of his cowl. Hh. That’s … what’s the word? It’s a technical term … ah, yes, ridiculous. The Scarecrow’s scariest as a kidnapper and weird torturer of innocent children (so not cool) but as a threat to the Bat himself? In the immortal words of Ed Lover, “Come on, son.”
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Just two stinkers, that’s not bad.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Two jumps, three comics that were very close to that mark, just two stinkers … that’s a win pretty much any way you look at it.
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!