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 SEPTEMBER 14, 2011
Journey Into Mystery #627
Jump from the Read Pile.
Sympathy for the Devil, indeed, as Mephisto takes over the whole shebang. “This is not Loki’s book. It’s mine.” That sets off a wonderfully told, brilliantly wicked, done-in-one comic book that’s meta and masterful all at once. “This invasion by Odin’s brother The Serpent? My idea. One day, I was taking a stroll in the Marianas Trench and as I passed the Serpent’s eternal prison, I said, ‘You know what might be a nice change of pace? You could break out, summon the hammers of your Worthy to terrorize the world in your name and take over everything.’ How was I to know he’d take my advice?” This is all still on page one. In a performance almost as good as when he offered pants to Everett K. Ross, Mephisto explains a lot of very interesting things while showing battles between skyfathers, multi-pantheon politics (“the infinite embassy” = awesome) while dropping killer quips (“I have the most luxuriant sideburns in all creation”), mentoring a “demon tyrant of dream” (“you will fight alone, because — and again, apologies for my bluntness — no one particularly likes you”). So much good stuff here (“Ink is how words are chained to paper”), and between writer Kieron Gillen’s masterful script and the deft visual storytelling of Richard Elson and Rachelle Rosenberg make this a pleasure.
Jump from the Read Pile.
With a crafty tribute variant cover riffing off the classic “Uncanny X-Men” #141 image, this issue goes deeper into how many Cobra infiltrators the Joe team is dealing with while bringing back a Cobra defector that would like to gain the Joes’ trust. Framed by the “I’ll never be…” language that so many Cobra Civil War issues have used as a starting point, this has elements of a tense procedural while Tomax and Major Bludd wrestle with different philosophies of managing international terrorism and the Joe team works on adapting to these new challenges. Writer Mike Costa perfectly balances the huge cast and disparate elements to put together a cohesive story, and the rough hewn, almost Sean Phillips-esque artwork of Werther Dell’edera and Arianna Florean did a great job depicting the mean-edged life of this world of intelligence and covert actions.
Mister Terrific #1
“Some people call me the third smartest man in the world,” Michael Holt tells London residents as he saves them from certain doom (“Actually, a simple ‘Thanks Black guy, for saving us from a homicidal lunatic wearing weaponized body armor’ will do”). That sets the tone for this mature, complex story which could or could not imply that Mister Terrific is giving the business to Power Girl (whoa, and she’s worth around $340 million?), which puts forth a wide variety of nuanced considerations and injects a realistic and poignant sense of emotion into the character’s existence. The action sequences are fantastic even as the more dialogue based scenes could have used better definition in the depiction of faces (the titular lead barely looks the same in any two unmasked presentations) and this is a smart, savvy, well told story that — with slightly better art — could really step up and be somebody as a series.
Criminal: The Last of the Innocent #4
Sometimes you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, apparently, and Riley Richards is ready to have some breakfast. First up, his dead heiress wife left him a ton of cash. Sweet. Second, he’s giving all of the business to the high school sweetheart he left behind while enjoying the high life of gambling and floozies. Very retired NBA player. His friend Freakout has some ugly secrets, his former father-in-law plays with fire and his former rival rots while heading to what surely will be a lethal injection. Writer Ed Brubaker deftly manages the details and plot points here as his longtime collaborator Sean Phillips successfully juggles both the gritty, noirish style he’s known for and the Archie Comics look that provides the crafty undercurrent of this tale. If you’re a horrible person, this conclusion will warm the sub-cockles of your heart. Good times for bad people, if that’s your thing (and by now, you should know that’s the way this column leans).
Jump from the Read Pile.
Speaking of bad people, Deathstroke kills, maims and eviscerates around the world, not just when it’s easy. No, that would be beneath the enhanced metahuman mercenary. Deathstroke “goes after the toughest targets — takes the impossible jobs — because he can do the impossible.” Like, say, performing brain surgery after downing a quart of tequila while wearing mittens. Crazy stuff. So a client teams him up with a trio of youthful up-and-coming criminals to pull a daring mid-air assassination, and the results are — well, they’re impressive. With art presented by Joe Bennett and Art Thibert, you know this is gonna be a blockbuster. Slade Wilson makes leaping out of a plane look amazing (and not that goofy, cheek-flapping, baggy clothes crap that really happens) and his stoic close ups made his menace as clear as his deadpan dialogue in the face of danger. Entertaining stuff for people who enjoy morally conflicted stories.
G.I. Joe A Real American Hero #170
Jump from the Read Pile.
In the “classic” continuity (carrying on from the story from the Marvel line that started in the early 1980s), flipping back and forth between Firefly and Crystal Ball trying to escape the Joes’ facility in the Chrysler Building, the secret history of Russian ninjas is revealed and Sneak Peek continues his debriefing about infiltrating Darklonia. But the real action is in the tense moments for a covert insertion team headed by Flint, Roadblock and Lady Jaye as they prep for a big mission and head into hostile territory. If you enjoyed the show The Unit then you’d find this solid entertainment, and it’s worth having.
Fear Itself: The Monkey King #1
Jump from the Read Pile.
This is a surprise. One of the Worthy’s hammers shattered the wall of the dreaded Eighth City of Heaven and released a former crime lord who’s spent two decades in hellish conditions but now has a new chance to redeem himself, armed with the memories, powers and rod (heh, rod) of the Chinese mythological figure The Monkey King. This means a new, ethnic hero for Marvel’s pantheon who’s surprisingly funny (“I’ve been given a gift. Two gifts. First, I’m me, and I’m awesome”), has a host of powers that thrill visually (shapeshifting, extra-agile martial arts) and a grounding in folklore that gives this such a wonderful nuance. This is a great surprise from writer Joshua Hale Fialkov and the art team of Juan Doe and Wil Quintana.
WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?
In a word? Wow. Great start to the week.
THIS WEEK’S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it’s not good enough to buy
“Demon Knights” #1 was very close to making the mark, as a simple attempt to get a flagon of ale turns into a conflict with medieval Mordru and an evil army for a disparate and frankly wacky group of adventurers (including Madame Xanadu and Etrigan), some of whom were well introduced and some of whom barely got a second to shine (a Muslim in the middle ages, for example, who barely got to finish his lines). An interesting start that — as many New 52 books do — seemed like it was missing the traditional two more pages that a comic normally has.
“Executive Assistant Orchid” #3 showcased a bloody and murderous ending to one the ongoing storylines here, and did so with beautiful art and great visual storytelling. What it didn’t do, however, was make any of the characters worth knowing, sticking so close to story beats that it never made any of it matter with rationales for its actors.
The lead character is higher than Afro Man hanging out with Keith Richards in “Daken Dark Wolverine” #14, as the craziness of Marc Spector throws him for a loop and highlights many of his unresolved father issues. The art got a little mixed up near the end when it involved the female police detective, but perhaps that would have played better in prose.
“Stan Lee’s Starborn” #10 stepped up the game by crossing over with the other two Stan Lee-inspired BOOM! Studios titles — sort of. The lead character, scion of a galaxy-spanning dynasty of ruthless tyrants, is challenged by an invasion by the races that his father once oppressed. Saving his new home planet and bringing piece — how can he do that, armed only with a ridiculously powerful weapon he barely understands and allies who don’t really agree with him but are duty bound to obey. The plot points were thin but they really ramped up the fist clenching, Bill-Pullman-in-“Independence-Day” sheen of heroism on this guy.
“27: The Second Set” #1 has the opposite effect, delivering interesting story elements — a formerly famous musician crippled and suffering with an infernal machine fused to his body — without a whit of interesting or enjoyable characters.
Everybody got time to introduce themselves and what they do in “Legion Lost” #1, but despite its cute approach to a Legion team stuck with malfunctioning gear on a mission to clean up the past, it felt like it needed more room to breathe, especially with this barely explained antagonist.
The truth about the multiple personality model Alpha finally comes out in “Dollhouse Epitaphs” #3 as multiple copies of the scientist Ivy struggle with, well, if it’s in different bodies, it’s not really masturbation, but it’s awkward as heck nonetheless. Anyhoo, their struggle against the madness unleashed by the Rossum Corporation continues but doesn’t seem to get anywhere, which is a limitation on the issue despite some interesting character moments.
“Clive Barker’s Hellraiser” #5 was an intense, dimly-colored, bloody thriller with a heroine and the iconic antagonist desperately trying to outmaneuver each other while bodies fall all around them. If you like horror, you’ll likely love this.
“Super Dinosaur” #4 had action packed all-ages fun as things get bigger and more bombastic, delivering an issue that would have fit in well with animated fare like “The Jackie Chan Adventures.” Cute storytelling if you’ve got this kind of almost silver age sensibility.
“Dungeons and Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt” #2 was an improvement over the previous issue, delivering a more coherent tale of two adventurers and a fallen soldier wrestling with a challenge right out of Sting’s “Moon Over Bourbon Street.” Not bad sword and sorcery storytelling.
“Pigs” #1 is another procedural with police detectives yelling at a suspect, but it has the higher stakes of a KGB sleeper cell hidden in Cuba for decades. Intriguing political fiction, but paced slowly and perhaps too dry for many readers.
The “Meh” Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
“Ultimate Spider-Man” #1, “Green Lantern” #1, “Farscape” #23, “Herc” #7, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9” #1, “Supreme Power” #4, “Batwoman” #1, “Amazing Spider-Man” #669, “Resurrection Man” #1, “Severed” #2, “Black Panther: The Man Without Fear”#523, “The Infinite” #2, “Suicide Squad” #1, “Daredevil” #3, “Superboy” #1, “Fear Itself” #6, “Jurassic Park: Dangerous Games” #1
No, just… no… These comics? Not so much…
“Grifter” #1 was awful. Regretfully so, as the lead character is framed into being considered a terrorist while jet setting around the world and talking into a cell phone and — look, even the retail clerks were pooh poohing this. Playing like a deranged Deadpool, voices in his head drive him towards — something. This was too bad to even be considered a disappointment.
“Red Lanterns” #1 had a dearth of rage and an overabundance of emo pondering from Atrocitus. Really. The book had one thing to do — be about vengeful people puking up rage plasma. Instead it whined. Not cool.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
These books tried hard. That can be admired.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Dude. There were LIKE A JILLION JUMPS THIS WEEK! That’s an awesome way to love comics this week.
Oh, Komplicated, how many ways can you be awesome? From the wildness of #whodwin Wednesday (Black Adam vs. Thor! Cassandra Cain vs. Snake-Eyes! Bullseye vs. Deadshot! Solomon Grundy vs. Juggernaut!), news about the new Turntable.fm app, an awesome interview with crime writer Gary Phillips, a fantastic opinion piece showing why “Static Shock” matters more than Miles Morales, not just our weekly MP3 downloads but now a commentary track looking at those downloads, our weekly guide to finding Black people in the media and of course syndicated original stories as part of #thenewblack (including Freedman, Southside Nefertiti, Force Galaxia, World of Hurt and Blackjack by Alex Simmons). Whew! 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!
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