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Hard Lessons in American and Cybertronian Life

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment

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 FEBRUARY 10, 2016


Shaft Imitation Of Life #1

(Dynamite Entertainment)

Jump from the Read Pile.

First of all, this book is beautiful. The visual presentation from Dietrich Smith and Alex Guimares is an amazing recreation of the seediness and simplicity of 1970s New York City. You can feel the heat of those old neon lights, smell the spilled cheap booze on these streets. David Walker (on script and lettering) perfectly presents the world-weary private detective, reluctantly accepting the burden of fame after a successful case got much more attention than he wants. While hitting on the tropes and stereotypes of the character — violence, misogyny, et cetera — this issue imbues John Shaft with a humanity, showing more openmindedness than most people in his era and a self-awareness that’s gripping. Surprising, effective work here.


Transformers More Than Meets The Eye #49

(IDW Publishing)

For many months, the “outlier” Skids has been working towards remembering something from his past, something hidden in his memory. This issue, that horrible secret comes to light as two old threats emerge from the past. This leads to a major step in the development of a key character, a whole new set of surprises from a surprising star of this series and a wonderful narrative structure that delivered on every level. Much has been said in this column about the brilliance of James Roberts, and his script doesn’t disappoint here. The visuals from Hayato Sakamoto, Joana LaFuente and Tom B. Long are solid and the narrative keeps up its momentum. Enjoyable, challenging stuff.


Last Sons Of America #3

(BOOM! Studios)

Jump from the Read Pile.

Wow. The legacy of a biological challenge leads to the protagonists here finding very unpleasant answers to questions they never wanted to ask. So much went wrong here in an almost “King Lear” kind of way, and this script has tension and action and genuine emotion courtesy of Phillip Kennedy Johnson. The hectic, effective visuals from Matthew Dow Smith, Doug Gabark and Jim Campbell will remind some of Jock’s work on The Losers, which is a good thing. Hard to read, but so effective in its storytelling.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Very smart, very powerful stuff this week.

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

“Ultimates” #4 spent most of its time re-establishing the link between the Blue Marvel and his arguable arch enemy Anti-Man (who is NOT a militant feminist). However, this whole thing was a road bump on the way to the actual plot, so this “story” didn’t really story very much.

Take a dash of “Birthright” and add some “Talisman” by King and Straub or “Lost In Space” down to the original Dr. Smith and you’ll have something like “King’s Road” #1, a magically infused tale of war and magic and lost legacies. It has a healthy dose of cliche but it has some good elements as well. Too early to see whether or not it will transcend its tropes, but it’s got room to soar or crash.

“Old Man Logan” #2 falls down where its previous issue stood up, as Logan decides to kill all the people who made his life in an alternate future possible. He ignores the fact that theres no Logan in this timeline to benefit from his largesse, or that the wild variances from his timeline mean that this is a different place altogether, and in this issue can’t even pick the right target. Senior moment? Perhaps, but it’s a whole issue driving in the wrong direction.

“Doctor Who The Twelfth Doctor Year 2” #2 had some great elements very much evoking the feel of the show as Clara intrepidly examines a mystery at a boarding school and the Doctor dashes about madly. In fact, if you remember “Aliens of London,” this takes a lot of the same plot points and supplants them at an exclusive school. Not bad, but as the middle part of an episode, it doesn’t deliver enough story meat to bring it home.

“Ms. Marvel” #4 had some interesting ideas, as its titular character has a host of teenaged challenges to overcome while fighting off a criminal invasion of her city. Unfortunately, there were too many stories going on at once, from the hilarious 3D printer bit to the marriage subplot to the main story of struggling with becoming an Avenger. Just a bit too much happening for any of the individual plots to shine enough in this format.

“Batman” #49 had at its core a very effective, very emotional story between Alfred fighting to save the boy he knew, the boy that essentially died in Crime Alley and came back as an amnesiac adult. That story has truly wonderful moments (“I will”) but gets lost in a haze of simulated Elseworlds positing other universes, other Batmen, other ideas that half-formed do nothing but heavily detract from the power of the central narrative. Coulda been a contender …

“Spider-Gwen” #5 has an exceptionally charismatic and effective Kingpin that is NOT Wilson Fisk but otherwise drifts as a narrative and barely connects with its lead or most of the supporting cast.

“G.I. JOE A Real American Hero” #225 brings up an old idea from this series — always run background checks on the people who run background checks. With a shortage of double checking, the second Cobra Civil War (although it’s not being called that) hit some interesting snags in an issue that barely had a single G.I. Joe in it. A bit too much going on at once, but an interesting piece of character work, especially if you’re familiar with the playthings in this toybox.

“New Avengers” #6 had some interesting moments of true resonance for its characters but it was framed in a shorthand time travel plot, had a cookie cutter antagonist and rushed its way through its points. Great ideas, rushed execution.

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

“Red Wolf” #3, “Troop” #3, “Batman Superman” #29, “No Mercy” #7, “All-New Hawkeye” #4, “Constantine The Hellblazer” #9, “Jem And The Holograms Valentine’s Day Special 2016” #1, “Ninjak” #12, “Injection” #7, “Darth Vader” #16, “Lantern City” #10, “Spider-Man 2099” #6, “Precinct” #3, “Black Science” #20, “Silk” #4, “Telos” #5, “Leaving Megalopolis Surviving Megalopolis” #2, “Starfire” #9, “All-New X-Men” #4, “Star Trek Starfleet Academy” #3, “Totally Awesome Hulk” #3, “Black Canary” #8, “James Bond” #4, “Illuminati” #4, “Red Hood Arsenal” #9, “Last Contract” #2, “Deadpool” #7, “New Suicide Squad” #17, “Doctor Who The Tenth Doctor Year 2” #6, “Harley’s Little Black Book” #2, “Insufferable On The Road” #1, “Spider-Man Deadpool” #2, “Green Lantern Corps Edge Of Oblivion” #2, “Bloodthirsty One Nation Under Water” #5, “All-New Wolverine” #5, “Flash” #48, “Zodiac Starforce” #4, “Guardians Of The Galaxy” #5, “Assassin’s Creed” #5, “Earth 2 Society” #9, “Gutter Magic” #2, “Black Knight” #4, “Catwoman” #49, “Letter 44” #23, “All-New All-Different Avengers” #5, “Batman And Robin Eternal” #19, “Gold Digger” #229, “Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” #2.

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

… nope, nothing that bad this week.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Despite the fact that the “meh” books were like cutting through thick foliage with a machete, not so bad.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

The jumps beat “meh” books any day of the week, so let’s rate this week of comics a “win.”

THE BUSINESS

Are you reading that new weekly web comic written by the writer of this column? You should!

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. 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!