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) 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 OCTOBER 16, 2013
Some months this series takes you on a thrill ride with acts of derring do and things that go “bump” in the night. Other times, you’ll find quaint but amusing side trips, enriching your perception of this character or that. Once in a while, however, this series will step up and blow your freaking socks off, and this issue is one of those times. With nothing more than two conversations, “Deeper Into The Woods” should be discussed in the same hushed, hallowed tones as Alan Moore’s “Mr. Majestic” story “The Big Chill.” The fate of the slain Big Bad Wolf is finally discovered, and he has a chance to chat with someone looking for him and someone he looked for, and it’s a punch in the gut for the reader in the best possible way. The usual Eisner-winning suspects — Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Andrew Pepoy and Lee Loughridge — put together something really special, an issue that fits in the longer story but stands, by itself, as something that you can show people and say, “This! This is why I read comics.” Simply sublime.
Transformers More Than Meets The Eye #22
When Rodimus Prime collected a whimsical and bored group of Autobots to search the galaxy for their ancestral forebears, one of their members named Rewind set about filming the entire affair — and his production finally comes to light in an issue that’s a masterpiece of characterization that works as a retrospective of plot while showcasing an interesting side of the “quest” that was previously not covered. The interplay between the tight-lipped (Ultra Magnus, Cyclonus), the exhausted (Ratchet, Drift) and the insane (almost everyone else) is hilarious, as is the “introduction” of another “legend,” Thunderclash, who’s everything Rodimus can’t focus enough to be. Savvy, smart and funny — another great issue showing some of the best science fiction on the market.
WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?
Two great purchases, that’s a good start.
THIS WEEK’S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it’s not good enough to buy
On one side, holy crap, “The Book of Oya” #1 is simply gorgeous, with artwork from from Juan Arevalo, Pascal Saint-Clair and Mshindo Kuumba on the cover. Second, the story from Ritch Hall 2 is mythic in scope and conception, positing insurrection in a pantheon of divine presences, with magic meeting high technology in ways even Liam Hemsworth would nod appreciatively at. Fast moving storytelling, great action sequences, fantastic visual design, accurate and respectful reflections of actual Ifa worship and practice … and not a whit of characterization to be found, to ground you in anyone or make you care about who’s involved. An almost Marvel-like showcase of spectacle over story, which is very popular these days, but even with a wonderfully shown Black lead heroine kicking butt and taking names, she won’t let you get close enough to care. Not yet. Very interesting to see how this one develops.
“Knight Rider” #1 (available on Comics Plus) is an interesting take on the old 1980s action series, with an organization (with code names reminiscent of Greg Rucka’s “Checkmate”) serving as freelance protection specialists and what seems to be KITT as more a tool than a partner. A fair action yarn from Geoffrey Thorne’s script that doesn’t have much time for character but has great art from Jason Johnson, Milen Parvanov and Sai.
“Trish Out Of Water” #1 is actually rather clever, taking a look at an average teenager who lives in the world of the Aspen characters. Well, maybe not so “average,” but the dialogue and vapidity of this suburban teen lifestyle closely matches anything you’d see in Fircrest, WA or Los Angeles’ Pacific Palisades. It slowly ramps down the Rookie-styled discussions and introduces some basic superhero tropes. Worth a look? If you’re interested in teen protagonist comics, then, heck yeah.
Speaking of teens, “In Crowd” #3 was very, very close to making the mark. Deftly weaving a pretty involved internal continuity (with something like three or four other comics, well referenced for reader interest) and never presuming when it can be clear, a teenaged group of heroes get into “one of those cliche’d misunderstanding things” in a way that seems fresh as it hangs a lampshade on its own ridiculousness. The only thing that stopped this from being a purchase was that it only did two of the things a story should — it introduced the characters and it set up the situation, but it has no resolution. The creative team — Eric Esquivel, C.B. Zane and Fred Marinho — are people to watch.
In “G.I. JOE A Real American Hero” #195, it’s once again proven why hired guns are often left hanging out to dry by suits as back room shenanigans lead to depleted uranium slugs flying at high velocities in a manner that may not be so good for the “good guys.” The action largely takes place in the Latin American country Sierra Gordo, where the Joes are trying to rescue a retired team member and American assets captured by “rebels,” when the food chain gets a lot bigger and the Joes end up out of their depth, even with minds like Psych-Out looking at the intel. Not bad, but a hard way to go that doesn’t have much room for character development.
Most comics fans will recognize the place “Stamford, CT,” a city where, in one superhero universe, something bad happened and it meant consequences (of a sort) for many people. In “Bloodhound: Crowbar Medicine” #1, the same sort of idea is posited except handing the keys to metahumanity to virtually anyone. This was only half the issue, as the rest showed the title character trying to be normal and having middling results. Not bad, but lacking the relentless kineticism and vitality of the “Dark Horse Presents” story that spawned it.
A fairly pat “Last Samurai” styled story takes a strange and unwarranted turn for the supernatural in “Bushido” #3, which continues to drag out the love triangle between two brothers and the daughter of a shogun while never really looking at the raw facts. Not as smart as its preceding issues, and twice as steeped in cliche.
There are at least a half dozen remarkable moments in “Nowhere Men” #6, a forceful, fascinating examination of dissolving friendships mixed with super science. However, unless you have the previous issues either handy or fresh in your memory, you’ll either have to look a lot of things up or find this single experience rather disjointing. Intellectually challenging work that will likely levitate in the collected format that suffers from the shortcomings of the periodical.
“Bloodshot And H.A.R.D. Corps” #15 was a pretty good pivot from a previous status quo to a new one as Bloodshot returns to the employ of Project Rising Spirit (which seems odd but makes a kind of sense in context) and renewing the open conflict against mind powered Toyo Harada and his legions of X-Me … er, students. As always, the artwork is top notch. Not bad, even as it made some questionable character decisions to force the point.
Speaking of action, “Airwolf” #1 (available on Comics Plus) is another fun action yarn inspired by the modernist pulp of the 1980s. However, again, there’s less personality than the kooky things nostalgic fans might want, and for new readers the gunfire only covers up the fact that there’s barely a hint of development for the characters. Gorgeous looking book from Koi Turnbull and Sai, and Dave Gorden’s script is thrilling enough, it just needs more stakes to connect with readers.
“Spider Annual 2013” was non-stop, wall-to-wall action that brought bullets to bad guys as one man campaigns against street crime. On one side, this is a gripping, largely self-contained story with some decent quips and solid artwork. On the other hand, it showcases a well-resourced white guy shooting lots and lots of people of color to death without the benefit of due process or more than suspicion, and in doing so introduces a very interesting technological element without any fanfare or distinction, almost treating it as an afterthought where it could have been, well, the reveal on the Tumbler in a Batman movie. Not bad as a modern take on pulp entertainment, but some concerns apply.
“Morning Glories” #33 was the most coherent issue in months, an almost linear examination of two twins who swap places with each other all too often. Sure, it Lindelof time jumps around in trying to share its narrative and yes, lots of the characters have a Frank Quietly-styled visual similarity (with none of his flair for costuming or help from coloring to make people more distinguished from each other), so yes, it’s still “Morning Glories,” but it’s not head-bashingly befuddling, which counts as an improvement here.
With the intrigue of the world of espionage, throwing in telekinesis and telepathy is an interesting twist. “Brain Boy” #2 introduces a high caliber catalyst of a character named Faraday who refuses to be categorized as “good” or “bad,” plus being manipulated by the people closest to him. Mild tonal oddities and thin characterization are the biggest issues here, quibbles with a book that’s very close to making the mark.
“Zero” #2 is a creepy examination on the creation of spies, from childhood. Set in a freakishly familiar Great Britain, poised at the knife’s edge of sectarian violence, could fit well next to Jean Reno and Natalie Portman. Hard and unrepentant looks at the kind of dehumanizing things it takes to make professional killers, but not exactly entertainment in its Orwellian grimness.
If villains fight villains who look like the heroes you’d expect, are they really that bad? “Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion offers up that question as Grodd demolishes Central City while Captain Cold and his blue collar costumed criminal cronies make the commute back from the Crime Syndicate’s super villain seminar. Much like some of the wackjobs in Gotham or Black Manta, this puts the Rogues at odds with the new world order, which means “the normal fights, but with any regard for anybody’s life thrown out the window.” Some digiterati call this “Injustice: Gods Among Us.” Not bad, but frustratingly like the old status quo.
The “Meh” Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
“Hawkeye” #13, “Imagine Agents” #1, “Justice League Of America” #8, “Invincible” #106, “Avengers” #21, “Red Hood And The Outlaws” #24, “Fantastic Four” #13, “Buzzkill” #2, “Guardians Of The Galaxy” #7, “Trinity Of Sin: Pandora” #4, “S.H.O.O.T. First” #1, “Indestructible Hulk Special” #1, “Shadow Green Hornet Dark Nights” #4, “Wonder Woman” #24, “Liberator” #4, “Dejah Thoris And The Green Men Of Mars” #7, “Whispers” #6, “Kings Watch” #2, “Sheltered” #4, “X-O Manowar” #18, “A+X” #13, “Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Robyn Hood Wanted” #5.
No, just … no … These comics? Not so much …
“Superior Spider-Man” #19 was, in the best possible case scenario, a catastrophe. In the worst case scenario, it’s the end of the party, and that’s somehow even worse. Spider-Men of every era seek to win while many plot elements get settled for once and for all. A silhouette either means nothing or the end of some really new ideas, a piece of paper doesn’t mean anything good, there’s a cheesy attempt at a “Doctor Who” joke and lots and lots of things went wrong. A wrong step in every direction.
“Star Trek: Khan” #1 attempts to dock in an exposition station as “John Harrison” goes on “trial” and Kirk asks, “So … you’re totally not swarthy, WTH?” Then it’s the start of a possibly Keyser SÃ¶ze-styled retelling of how a young Indian cripple went on to become an athletic, super-powered white man. Wait, what? Making even less sense than the wholly ridiculous sequel, this comic doesn’t even complete its “thought” (and the term is being used loosely). Urgh.
“Uncanny X-Men” #13 kept the stupid train chugging along with a big plot element settled upon while X-Men from three different chronological eras went to blows for — well, the reasons are less than clear. Dull, tedious storytelling with conclusions that border on the inane.
Getting past the tedium and extraordinary racism (see the queen of an African nation literally chuck a spear!), “New Avengers” #11 is simply boring. Talky and posturing, it approaches the destruction of entire worlds with all the spectacle of C-SPAN while Shuri puts another nail in the coffin of this generation of Black Panthers, failures at almost everything in the last few years and enders of Wakanda’s unbeaten streak. With all the “smart” people here, the events end up pretty dumb, and that’s, well, sad.
Something horrible happened to “He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe” #7, which had some of the shabbiest, most rough-hewn art you’ve ever seen, as rough as storyboards or graffiti. If you can get past that, Eternia’s been completely conquered by Hordak and Burger Ki, er, King Randor’s leading an insurrection to regain the throne. He-Man doesn’t even bother showing up until the half way point, and Hordak’s got plans to minimize such powerful advantages. If this issue weren’t so godawfully ugly, nor the ending so “meh,” it might have been all right.
“Cable And X-Force” #15 was, by comparison, just lightly stupid, with Doctor Nemesis playing around with Boom Boom (not like that) while Forge runs support on two field operations. People forget how important the guy in the van is, but this shows that relevance completely. After all these times, you’d think Cable would know better.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
A surprising number of stinky comics this week, even with some really ambitious tries.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Great comics to start, but with no jumps and an increased number of bad comics, that seems like a step down for the week. Let’s call it a wash and be charitable.
Special happy birthday shout to one of the best designers in the world, Myshell Tabu!
As of right now, you can spend ten bucks and get about 175,000 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. 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. 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 will do our best to make sure 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!