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 NOVEMBER 16, 2011
Avengers Academy #22
Jump from the Read Pile.
When something has become so well used that it’s a sub-name of a TV Trope, it’s easy to see it as a shabby cliche. There’s a classic “Marvel Misunderstanding” when Hank Pym invites some of Cyclops’ X-Men in to investigate the surprise attack on Jocasta. Magneto on campus with Pietro, leveling some spoilery and snarky accusations while the hot-headed, will-they-or-won’t-they-turn-bad students keep making less-than-savvy decisions. So there’s a dumb Avengers/X-Men fight here, but that doesn’t matter. What makes it tolerable is that said fight keeps just enough action in the issue to balance some really great character moments that are actually good enough to outshine the plot. For example, there’s struggles along racial lines — the two Asian heroes and the two Latino ones are at odds with each other in a snappish, almost flirty manner while Magneto and Pietro both showcase a sardonic wit that’s caustic and enjoyable … when you’re not the one they’re cutting down. Toss in Hazmat’s sarcasm aimed at Lightspeed, Hawkeye’s paranoia, some bon mots from Scott and Emma (“Put a stop to this.” “But I think I could get them a show on Bravo”) and you’ve got a comic book that entertains despite its hokey undercurrent, helped massively by wonderful artwork from Sean Chen, Scott Hanna, Rebecca Buchman and Jeromy Cox.
WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?
Add in an informative Marvel index covering old stories from Wolverine, Punisher and Ghost Rider and you’ve got an informative and cost-effective week worth of Marvel comics.
THIS WEEK’S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it’s not good enough to buy
“Justice League” #3 wasn’t bad, as incomplete as it was, as the Justice League — new to the world and not trusted by the public — break a whole lot of stuff (literally billions in property damage) and have that kind of awkward male bonding chatter where they kind of brag and make fun of each other as a way of trying to make friends. Then Wonder Woman shows up, and everybody’s like “whoa” in that juvenile kind of way boys have. It’s a well drawn book that has a simple, straightforward script. It’s just a way off from being a “story.”
Despite flat characters and a kind of scattered plot, “Kirby Genesis: Captain Victory” #1 had an “Externals meet the Justice League” plot mixed in with some clone stuff, and there wasn’t anything out and out wrong with it, it also didn’t do anything that’d make you say, “oh, I’ve gotta spend my money on that!’
“Legion of Super-Heroes” #3 shared the “thin on plot” problem, working well with interactions between characters (Braniac 5, Mon-El and Phantom Girl in particular) but its plot wasn’t exactly … well, it was abrupt in its “conclusion” and it needed time to develop the stakes of what was happening.
Ignore the cover on “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” #172, because Darklon’s far from ambulatory, as two storylines competed for space. On one hand, a team of Joes extracted a wounded terrorist and a maimed teammate from a hostile, foreign country. On the other hand, ninjas tried to kill other ninjas. The first story was really good, but needed more room to operate. The second, it needed lots more room to be developed as well.
“Avengers” #19 had a simply amazingly well written ending for Norman Osborn that was both underplayed by the art and undersold by the amount of build up it got. Most of the very chatty issue had people talking to Captain America or in front of news cameras. It’s like it was intended to be 20 minutes of an hour long TV show and not a complete comic book experience.
For fans of suspense and period works, “Severed” #4 was a gritty, hard hearted story of a gullible young man in the depression era who’s in a lot of trouble. It has many spoilery elements, but for fans of that sort of story, it’s a keeper. Others might find it grim and kind of plodding.
Zeus shows up, naked and armed in “Wonder Woman” #3, with one thing on his mind. Events that could have been played like an episode of “Maury” got a mythological sheen that revealed cute elements of Diana’s (relaunched) history, but it didn’t really congeal into a complete story that closed the deal.
Why Layla Miller and Monet became so outspokenly booby is not really clear, but “X-Factor” #227 likewise had a plot that couldn’t find its rhythm and ended abruptly. Kind of a common problem with the reads this week. Anyhoo, yeah, not bad but the element with Guido wasn’t clearly explained and didn’t translate until later, remembering exactly what happened to him months and months ago.
“Epoch” #3 was an improvement but still relied heavily on cliches, expecting the cultural shorthand of “troll” and “angel” and “demon” to do the heavy lifting of actually developing characters. The plot was fast moving and the art was interesting, though.
“Starborn” #12 ended the story with less of a climax and more of a denouement as multiple empires settled their ideas. Nothing wrong, but it’s like coasting to a stop instead of, say, making a triumphant Dukes of Hazzard-style leap into awesomeness.
Despite still having lots of problems with the treatment of Starfire “Red Hood and the Outlaws” #3 actually had one really nice moment at the end, which we won’t spoil but which was a striking surprise given the pretty tedious nature of the rest of the issue (and the subject involved), but maybe it was because things had gone so low that even a slight improvement seems remarkable.
The “Meh” Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
“X-Men” #21, “Ghostbusters” #3, “Star Wars Knight Errant: Deluge” #4, “Venom” #9, “Godzilla: Legends” #1, “Blue Beetle” #3, “Pilot Season: Seraph” #1, “Deadpool” #46, “Snake-Eyes” #7, “Captain Atom” #3, “New Mutants” #34, “Transformers” #30, “Catwoman” #3, “Blue Estate” #7, “Punisher” #5, “Carbon Grey Origins” #1, “Nightwing” #3, “Thunderbolts” #165, “Mudman” #1, “Morning Glories” #14, “Supergirl” #3, “Haunt” #18, “Ultimate Comics X-Men” #3, “Green Lantern Corps” #3, “Key of Z” #2, “Xenoholics” #2.
No, just … no … These comics? Not so much …
“Avengers Origins: Luke Cage” #1 was insulting. A wholly cursory examination of the character, like a Wikipedia entry with art, it was so heavily drenched in tokenism that it practically spewed patronization all over the place. “To see a man of color standing here with the likes of the Defenders, the Fantastic Four, and the Avengers. Means a lot.” Actually, no it bloody well doesn’t since he’s normally broke, is the fourth best guy on a team he ostensibly leads and used slang like a firehose. Tepid, embarrassing and never, ever more clearly proved that no Black people write comics at Marvel. Yeah, zero. There’s two Black writers in major comics, and they’re both at DC, since Brandon Thomas’ “Voltron” is on a label outside of the Big Four. Argh.
“Fear Itself” #7.3 continued the abysmal pattern of the post scripts in saying, “and then it was all back to normal again!” Matt Fraction takes Tony Stark to check in on the Grey Gargoyle, and it was not good, what happened there. Basically, the whole crossover was irrelevant. That’s annoying, right down to the Tanarus.
Okay, “Batman” #3. It’s a “new DC,” and you can shoehorn a myth about a secret society with owl-themed conspiracists secretly running Gotham into your lexicon. Go for that. Why not? However, to imply that the relentlessly paranoid Bruce Wayne would miss a detail as large and as tactically dangerous as the spoilery one that is given here takes a lot out of the Bat in a way that’s illogical and doesn’t track. No. Unacceptable.
“Captain America” #4 was a holodeck episode. Those are annoying. Let’s move on.
“Incredible Hulk” #2 gave in to its own repetitiveness admitting that they’re sampling where Bruce does something really stupid involving Betty and breaks out an element reminiscent of the bad parts of Ang Lee’s vision. Really just bad decisions in every area except the artwork.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Sure, that “Luke Cage” book rockets to being one of the worst of the year, but even some egregiously challenging comics can’t pull down the weight of honorable mentions and meh. That’s just math.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
A win with an asterisk, like that first Spurs championship.
Komplicated? Wow. First of all, if you’re not up on #whodwin Wednesday (go on, check out the bracket and all the voting links), it’s two weeks into the playoffs and the match ups are getting crazy. How crazy? Here’s the match ups for round two: Taskmaster vs. Dr. Doom, Mr. Terrific vs. Batman, Incredible Hulk vs. Captain America, DC’s Hercules vs. Wonder Woman, Dick Grayson vs. Man-Thing, Deadpool vs. Shang-Chi, Blue Marvel vs. Darth Vader, Juggernaut vs. Lady Shiva, Teenaged Spider-Man vs. Krona, Thor vs. Thanos, KITT vs. Dormammu, Neil Gaiman’s Death vs. Roulette, Lex Luthor vs. Red Hulk, Wolverine vs. Dr. Strange and Buck Rogers vs. Iron Man. Whoa. Voting will be open until Tuesday night. So that’s going on. Plus there’s been lots of amazing coverage, like the new trailer for “The Hunger Games” and “Red Tails,” mind-controlled helicopters from Minnesota, a virtual listening party for two new musical releases from “Better Off Ted” actor and nerdcore rapper Malcolm Barrett, noting Erick Sermon’s heart attack, a look at shattering the Unintentional Comedy Scale, discovering the language of birds, looking at a wrist mounted crossbow, how Apple’s app store got cracked open like a pinata, a young woman’s first convention experience and sadly saying goodbye to Heavy D and Smokin’ Joe Frazier. Plus, there were free MP3 downloads for #musicmonday (plus the regular recommendations on what to download), popular DJs Brutha Gimel and Digable Planets vet DJ Jedi talking about the music they’re listening to, an interview with fictional character Southside Nefertiti, a weekly guide to where you can find Black people in popular culture, an in-depth examination of Digital Underground’s “The Body Hat Syndrome” and of course the commentary track for these reviews (which should be online either today by 6:30 PM … or tomorrow by that time. Komplicated is updated at least three times a day, every day.
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!