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Initiate The Coulson Protocols

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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 JANUARY 13, 2016


Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1

(Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile.

Take a dash of the television series, boost the special effects budget for action scenes, throw in some James Bond shtick, send in a befuddled Tony Stark and a very different modus operandi for Fitz, and you have one heck of an entertaining comic book written by Marc Guggenheim. Admittedly, this is not the television version of the team (as noted by Fitz’s actions and a few more details) but the shorthand of the knowledge of the show covers the limited characterization offered for the big cast here. A neophyte can figure out the general roles — Fitz does tech, Simmons does bioscience, May and Deathlok hit things and make them fall down — and like the show, it rewards those who drink more Marvel Kool-Aid. German Peralta, Rachelle Rosenberg and Joe Caramagna depict a serviceable visual tableau with rock solid visual storytelling. This issue is fun, and that seems just about right… as long as Coulson doesn’t turn into the Batman of this plot.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Entertaining enough start…

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

“Superman American Alien” #3 was kind of funny in a cutesy Elseworlds kind of way as a freshly 21-year-old Clark Kent accidentally stumbles into Bruce Wayne’s 21st birthday party — a drunken yachtside fete with Ollie Queen, the future Sue Dibny, Victor Zsasz and enough booze to pickle Kazhakhstan. The problem is that Bruce isn’t there — no one has seen him since he was twelve. So when a tall, black haired guy about the same age drags himself and a waterlogged pilot on to the boat in the middle of the ocean … everyone assumes he is Bruce Wayne. What’s better is that he plays along. Poignant, sweet and ultimately throwaway, it had some fun moments, including a very funny drunken action scene. If you love these characters, this will be a good one to keep, but otherwise is just a fun “could have been” exercise.

“Citizen Jack” #3 was memorable like “Evil Empire” and following the example of “Transmetropolitan” in showing presidential politics in a manner so extreme that it makes “Scandal” look tame by comparison. However, as a story it’s too small a fragment for the cost, especially with its fairly gigantic cliched conceit.

“Red Wolf” #2 had fantastic art and action sequences, and played the “fish out of water” card well, but the plot is way too slow for a book with a character this far out on the periphery of continuity.

“Batman Superman” #28 is enormously frustrating because it has some almost-new ideas. A giant alien astronaut is hurled through space, ricocheting against a space station and ending up dead on the moon, having just enough time to scratch the combined logos of the titular characters into the crater. Cool, huh? The artwork, likewise, is wonderful, as Superman opens up with a moment so cool that it could only inspire from him (whereas, say, Majestic or Supreme in the same space might terrify). What went wrong? An inconclusive ending that was about three pages shy of where it needed to stop, Clayface exposing a major flaw in the Bat’s whole life, another surprise from a source that really should be dry by now and a kind of begrudging teamwork between the two heroes that’s more Affleck vs. Cavill than even normal, let alone best friends. Maybe the big ideas will carry through.

“Huck” #3 was a step up from the last issue, but not quite the triumph of the debut as the titular character resists the trappings of fame, content to just do good because he likes it. A complication at the end of the issue would have been better for its own story and the “big plans” seemed too small and too common. Still worth checking back to see where this is going, though.

High adventure with low amounts of characterization, “Bigfoot: Sword Of The Earthman” #2 was all escalating suspense and high stakes. Plot driven and virtually explanation free, don’t think too hard and you just might enjoy yourself.

If “Phonogram” went cyberpunk, it might end up a lot like “Limbo” #3, which had a private investigator working his way through the seamy underbelly of a town powered by magic and music. The plot’s a little zippier than it needs to be but the art is engaging and the threat felt real despite its fantastic premise. Worth checking back into to see if it pulls it together.

“Squadron Supreme” #3 is an enormous and pointless distraction from a more mature discussion of the role of superheroes in a modern context. A long fight scene without relevant consequence.

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

“Violent” #2, “New Romancer” #2, “Silk” #3, “I Mage” #0, “True Believers: Detective Deadpool” #1, “Lantern City” #9, “New Suicide Squad” #16, “Birthright” #13, “Assassin’s Creed” #4, “True Believers: Uncanny Deadpool” #1, “Red Hood Arsenal” #8, “Groo Friends And Foes” #12, “Earth 2 Society” #8, “Ninjak” #11, “Uncanny Avengers” #4, “Black Jack Ketchum” #2, “Scarlet Witch” #2, “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” #0, “Starfire” #8, “Web Warriors” #3, “Star Trek” #53, “Doctor Who The Eighth Doctor” #3, “Mighty Thor” #3, “Green Lantern Corps Edge Of Oblivion” #1, “Marvel Universe Guardians Of The Galaxy” #4, “Leaving Megalopolis Surviving Megalopolis” #1, “Illuminati” #3, “Gold Digger” #228, “Injection” #6, “Catwoman” #48, “Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Inferno Resurrection” #1, “Onyx” #4, “Guardians Of The Galaxy” #4, “Snow Blind” #2, “Extraordinary X-Men” #5, “Gutter Magic” #1, “Faster Than Light” #5, “Red Sonja Volume 3” #1, “Slash And Burn” #3, “Troop” #2, “Black Knight” #3, “Egos” #9, “Back To The Future” #4, “All-New Wolverine” #4, “Codename Baboushka The Conclave Of Death” #4, “Batman Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” #2, “All-New Hawkeye” #3, “Death-Defying Doctor Mirage Second Lives” #2, “Batman And Robin Eternal” #15, “All-New All-Different Avengers” #3.

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

“Secret Wars” #9 is, as a story, terribly unimaginative and relentlessly predictable. Two beings with every reason to hate each other, stratospheric IQs and wholly godlike powers devolve into punching. The climactic conflict scene is visually rendered as a wacky portrait. The “Bobby Ewing Stepping Out Of The Shower” climax was a gross miscalculation unworthy of one of the eight smartest people in the world. So, as a story, this is a mess and wholly unworthy of your money. As a wiki entry, setting up an all new, largely not-so-different Marvel Universe, it’s fantastic, especially for what happens with Reed and Sue, explaining their absence from the modern Marvel continuity in a denouement that’s poignant and kind of beautiful in its symmetry and simplicity. So … a beautifully depicted mixed bag, all around.

“Robin War” #2 had a rug-yanking ending that was as stupid as it was pointless, an insensate shuffling of licensed properties unworthy of the talents of the writer Tom King. For his part, he throws every craft-based tool in the box at this michegas of an idea, generating no fewer than three genuine moments on some well-structured narrative twists. All for naught — the idea that this conclusion will stick any better than the current direction of that character seems implausible, even in the story. Sad.

Everything about “Captain America Sam Wilson” #5 is summed up in a faux tweet by Misty Knight, who posted, “For those keeping score at home, yes, I have to rescue @CAPTAINAMERICASW AGAIN. They should just give me the shield already …” When the titular character spends the entire issue tied to a chair and the supporting character gets the best moment (aside from some mildly engaging pop culture references, the “Through The Wire” gag was cute) … bro, do you even hero? Exhausting.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Urgh. Rough week.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

The single jump didn’t stand a chance against that avalanche of awfulness, especially at such a high profile. Yikes.

THE BUSINESS

If you’re in San Francisco this Monday, check out this columnist appearing as a featured guest at the Black Comix Arts Festival. If you’re in New York, check out CBR columnist Joe Illidge at the Black Comic Book Festival. If you find yourself in Atlanta, artist Markus Prime is teaching a class called What R Those? with “all skill levels welcomed.”

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 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!