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Boy Wonders and Camouflaged Giant Robots

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Boy Wonders and Camouflaged Giant Robots

WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (winner of the 2012 Top Cow Talent Hunt/blogger/novelist/poet/jackass on Twitter/head honcho of Komplicated) 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 30, 2015

Transformers More Than Meets The Eye #45

(IDW Publishing)

This series was already one of the strangest (and most wonderful) things on the stands, focused on a mismatched crew of giant robots (some of who were bitter enemies not too long ago) who turn into vehicles and what not, flying a space ship on a quest through the universe. How could it be even stranger? Focus on another crew of giant transforming robots who are even more motley — the Scavengers are a … “team” isn’t the right word, perhaps “group?” They’re a group of retired Decepticons flying around in a half-working battle cruiser shaped like one of their badges, trying to make a living (not very successfully), watching television (there is a “post-war Decepticon comedian” who became rich being Seinfeldian), trying to rehabilitate a brain-damaged Dinobot they found along the way, “vandalizing Autopedia” and “trolling The Big Conversation” (a Decepticon social media site created by a mechanoid built just for the war — really!). In essence, they’re shmucks, and hilariously so. Part “Scrubs,” part “Reality Bites,” part surrealist commentary, this issue gets so weird and it’s so fun. Yes, the idea that giant robots would essentially mimic our own digital foibles seems a little facile but the results are a hoot, courtesy of James Roberts, Alex Milne, Brian Shearer and Joana LaFuente.

Postal #7

(Top Cow/Image Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile.

This issue got clever because it got personal. Stakes were established because two men really wanted something, and those desires drove the narrative towards an ending that was surprising, rewarding and inevitable. The flat color palette used by Betsy Gonia changes up during the key action sequences, perfectly capturing the intensity of the physicality depicted by Isaac Goodhart and framed by Troy Peteri. Kudos to the self-enclosed story from Bryan Hill and Matt Hawkins.

Grayson Annual #2

(DC Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile.

This issue was an excellent bridge for fans who might feel the “grittier” DCU has lost its way, a bridge between post-Silver Age storytelling and the modern takes on the characters at the root of American mythology. Teaming up the titular erstwhile boy wonder and the Last Son of Krypton in two historical eras, facing the same enemy in two very different stages of life. The best part is a phone call from Lex Luthor, which is literally quotable from its first word to its last, but there are moments of genuine drama and emotion between two characters who even wonder to themselves if they’ve lost their way. Tim Seeley and Tom King (who this column lauded recently for both his contributions to “Grayson” and “Omega Men”) have developed a clever, effective narrative and the visual tableau presented by Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez, Jeremy Cox and Carlos M. Mangual is visually compelling and dynamic. A great little surprise of a self-contained comic.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Another week with rewarding jumps, like visiting a trampoline salesman? Niiiiiiiice!

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it’s not good enough to buy

“Transformers” #45 has an interesting premise and big scale action, but the plotting is uneven and its storytelling conceits lack clarity. Execution issues submarine a credible contender here with ideas that don’t quite connect.

“Doctor Who The Eleventh Doctor Year Two” #1 is very focused on “old business,” leaping into a new story that has a lot of baggage from the Time War spilling into the Boy Doctor’s ineffable life. Lots of running, some chilling flashbacks (that War Doctor was a rough customer!) and a couple of kooky ideas brought this close to the mark. However, it felt like half an episode, and that’s not enough to pay for and get a satisfying feeling at the end. Surely ready for a collection, though.

“Justice League” #44 was big … and empty. Beautiful … but cursory. Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor (who has a Kirby-inspired secret identity, oooh) go toe-to-toe on planet Earth … and it’s just empty fisticuffs. Much like the plans for DC’s cinematic universe, the haste to create grandeur skips the work of making it matter — the grudges and griefs that made previous issues sparkle lie forgotten and stepped over on the battlefield. The one arguable big moment is as empty as any impossible fate for a licensed character. The Superman bit was way too contrived. Nice try, but jamming three issues of worth into 20 pages won’t get you there.

“Archie” #3 is a rock solid comical take on the high school milieu, introducing Veronica Lodge as a former reality TV star gone to seed at 16, forced into public school and struggling to maintain. The titular character becomes her valet, partially due to extortion and partially due to infatuation. The results are chuckle-inducing and the more modernist art and affectations (texting in class) are effective. If you’re looking for a cute, fun, all-ages book, this is it.

“Batman Annual” #4 was quite close to the mark as Bruce Wayne stood poised to reclaim Wayne Manor after a disturbing bout of bankruptcy, running into three problems along the way. There are cliches, true, as a version of Bruce Wayne that never experienced the key trauma in his life struggles with decidedly Batman-esque problems. The issue strains against its cyclical restraints and has some moments where Bruce Wayne shines through. Not bad, but easily forgettable.

The “Meh” Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title

“Inferno” #5, “From Under Mountains” #1, “Batman Arkham Knight Annual” #1, “Swords Of Sorrow Red Sonja Jungle Girl” #3, “Ghost Racers” #4, “Mantle” #5, “Zodiac Starforce” #2, “S.H.I.E.L.D.” #10, “Green Lantern Annual” #4, “Infinite Loop” #6, “Hail Hydra” #3, “Book Of Death The Fall Of Harbinger” #1, “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” #4, “Savage Dragon” #207, “Aquaman” #44, “King Prince Valiant” #4, “New Suicide Squad Annual” #1, “Sons Of The Devil” #5, “Vampirella Annual 2015,” “Drifter” #8, “Superman” #44, “Jem And The Holograms Outrageous Annual” #1, “Spread” #10, “E Is For Extinction” #4, “Doctor Who The Twelfth Doctor” #12, “Sex” #24, “Cavalry S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary” #1.

No, just … no … These comics? Not so much …

“Captain America White” #2 is mostly jingoistic “meh” bait, but has one moment when a group of men is faced with a challenge. A surprising story element pops up near the final third that could have essentially ended the entire issue, but for some reason it just wanders off. That element makes the rest of the book dazzlingly stupid, especially the last page which didn’t even need to happen. Given the writer’s deep knowledge of the Marvel universe, this felt like that lady in the Geico commercial who tried to do “facebook” with pictures on her wall. “That’s not how any of this works …”

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Things could have been worse.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Those jumps made this a hell of a week. What a time to be alive …

THE BUSINESS

Did you know the writer of this column has a new book in comic book stores on his birthday in January? Did you know he’s hosting a panel at Comikaze? Check the technique.

As of right now, you can spend ten bucks and get about 175,000 words worth 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, or spend a few more dollars and get “New Money” #1 from Canon Comics, the rambunctious tale of four multimillionaires running wild in Los Angeles, or “Fathom Sourcebook” #1 and “Soulfire Sourcebook” #1, the official guide to the Aspen Comics franchises. Too rich for your blood? Download the free PDF of “Cruel Summer: The Visual Mixtape.” 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. There’s also a bunch of great stuff — fantasy, superhero stuff, magical realism and more — available from this writer on Amazon. 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!

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