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Fire In The Skies, Murder In The Streets

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Fire In The Skies, Murder In The Streets

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 MARCH 30, 2016

Transformers More Than Meets The Eye #51

(IDW Publishing)

There might not be another character anywhere in comics like Megatron, who has lived long enough to seriously struggle with the consequences of changing his mind in a way that led to deaths on multiple worlds. He’s forced to deal with the greatest pinnacle of his Decepticon ideal, the final arbiters of his brutal justice in the person of the Decepticon Justice Division, who have him pinned down with innocents in the line of fire. The character work done here is striking, and the simplicity of Megatron’s phrasing, bereft of the bombast and pomposity of past incarnations and references saying much more than the longest speeches. High quality science fiction storytelling rooted in character development pushing the plot from James Roberts, Alex Milne, Joana LaFuente and Tom B. Long.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #6

(Marvel Comics)

This issue is super, super entertaining. Starting an all-new, all-different crossover called “Animal House” featuring Chip Zdarsky as co-writer, a simple night at home turns into a madcap adventure as Howard the Duck could benefit from even a rudimentary smartphone. There are a lot of animal-themed guest stars and more laughs per page than you could ever anticipate. What makes this issue all the more hilarious is the ongoing back and forth discussion between the two co-writers in the bottom of most pages, which is a hoot. The visuals from Erica Henderson, Zdarsky, Joe Quinones, Rico Renzi and Travis Lanham are kinetic and enjoyable (Kra-Van? Yes!), and this issue was satisfying in every way. 

Postal #11

(Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile.

This issue stays keenly on target as its Asperger-suffering protagonist uses clarity and simplicity to work his way between dangerous people in a town full of criminals. The simple questions and declaratives in his dialogue are strikingly different from the other characters, all hiding behind words, and that makes him a buzzsaw of characterization slicing through the narrative. The muted color palette from Betsy Gonia is especially perfect for showing this striking dichotomy, and the placid visuals from the rest of the team (Isaac Goodhart and Troy Peteri) do a great deal to compliment Bryan Hill’s unflinching script. Like a murderous, almost self-contained episode of “Wonderfalls,” this issue connected where others have reached for greatness but just barely missed. 

Omega Men #10

(DC Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile.

Many glamorize the idea of war, imagining it as heroic or glorious. In this brutal onslaught of a comic book, Kyle Rayner and the Omega Men stop the forces of the Citadel from taking a living planet and turning it into a graveyard in order to save other worlds. There are a lot of fantastic moments here, including a simply riveting phone conversation framing some action sequences (smart) and the rigors of war wearing down even Kyle Rayner’s seemingly indefatigable reserves of Lantern power. Tom King is a monster for turning in a script so deliciously wicked and the visuals from Barnaby Bagenda, Hi-Fi and Pat Brousseau deliver on the inch-by-inch nature of war in a way that might remind some of that first issue of “The Life After.” Fantastic stuff. 

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Two jumps, super interesting purchases … that’s one heck of a start to the week.

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

In the words of one of the characters here, “This really is such a lovely war!” “Darth Vader” #18 has a number of entertaining moments as Vader uses his traditional diplomatic methods to suppress an armed rebellion against the puppet government the Empire has installed on a mining world. While both Vader and his droid minions Bee-Tee and Triple-Zero are super entertaining every second they’re on the page, two problems kept this beautiful comic from coming home. First, the plot falls into a cycle: Vader comes up with tactically remarkable plan, some external party sabotages an element that would make it an easy victory. Vader pivots and goes around them, cutting them down with his lightsaber as he passes. Second, the plot was just warming up to actually do something when it came to an abrupt ending. Engaging but disappointing, not exactly knowing where — pardon the phrase — the balance is to be found.

“Power Lines” #1 has a super interesting premise with several speed bumps in its execution. Its lead characters are largely caricatures — indistinct stereotypes that fit what you might see on television. There is a set of supporting characters, indigenous Americans with more data than they show, that fascinate and hold the key to this being more than a paean to racial strife. Can this become more than it is? Maybe. Today it’s not passing the sniff test, with slanguage that rings as false as Donald Glover trying on racial slurs for his rap career. A great discussion to have with great art, coloring and lettering, but it’s still trying to get out of first gear to get somewhere.

“Batman And Robin Eternal” #26 has some genuine feel-good moments and some great speeches, all done with great visual storytelling. Unfortunately, its plot is very by-the-numbers, down to its climax, and its antagonist’s clicheed presentation lacked heft. Not bad, but for the length of this storyline, it seems to be a bit of a weak conclusion. 

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

“Justice League Of America” #8, “Street Fighter X G.I. JOE” #2, “All-New X-Men” #7, “Black Science” #21, “Amazing Spider-Man” #1.4, “Ghostbusters International” #3, “X-Men ’92” #1, “Elephantmen” #69, “Judge Dredd” #4, “Nutmeg” #7, “Jughead” #5, “Back To The Future” #6, “Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Satan’s Hollow” #1, “Suiciders Kings Of Hell.A.” #1, “Drax” #5, “Godzilla Oblivion” #1, “Ninjas Vs Aliens” #1, “Ragnarok” #8, “Hercules” #5, “Four Eyes Hearts Of Fire” #3, “Wayward” #15, “Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Red Agent” #3, “Moon Girl And Devil Dinosaur” #5, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Deviations” #1, “Saga” #35, “Aquaman” #50, “Daredevil” #5.

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

“Jem And The Holograms” #13 has as its central conceit a means by which the “dark” influences of the band are unleashed, and they then propagate that effect via their music to listeners. What causes this psychological shift, somewhere deep in Synergy? How does it work? How does a kiss break its spell? These are all fantastic questions that this narrative does zip to answer, short sheeting the complex story of a new lead singer for the Misfits and the character developments therein, while using Rio like a prop to be passed around. As good as this looks, it should be better.

As much as people decry DC Comics’ tendency to lean heavily on the reset button, “Captain America Sam Wilson” #7 shows that when licensing and cinematic call, you’d better have the toys in a condition they recognize. A tedious exercise in needless and stake-less pugilism that didn’t significantly move the plot along and didn’t help clarify any point while positing three heavy hitter characters getting treated like wrestling jobbers in a way that was nonsensical. Oh, on top of that, Sam Wilson barely even shows up in his own book. Super tedious.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

The bad stuff was in relatively small numbers, so let’s give some credit to the ambition of the honorable mentions.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two jumps, ambitious honorable mentions … we can call the week a win.

THE BUSINESS

The writer of this column isn’t just a jerk who spews his opinions — he writes stuff too. A lot. Like what? 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, a story in “Watson and Holmes Volume 2” co-plotted by “2 Guns” creator Steven Grant, two books from Stranger Comics — “Waso: Will To Power” and the sequel “Waso: Gathering Wind” (the tale of a young man who had leadership thrust upon him after a tragedy), or “Fathom Sourcebook” #1, “Soulfire Sourcebook” #1 and “Executive Assistant Iris Sourcebook” #1, the official guides to those Aspen Comics franchises. 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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