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Murder, Ragnarok & The Dreams of Supermen

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Murder, Ragnarok & The Dreams of Supermen

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 AUGUST 19, 2015

Astro City #26

(Vertigo/DC Comics)

When the world’s most powerful man is plagued with bad dreams, the struggle to hold the line against chaos becomes harder to maintain for everyone. Samaritan has found love, has purpose and gets things done, but there are cracks in the armor of his image, and people are in danger. This spartan, efficient narrative shows the virtually incessant attacks on the world, fended off with almost casual regularity by amateurs and volunteers working under extraordinary stresses.

Loki Agent Of Asgard” #17

(Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile.

…yes, that is better, isn’t it? Where were we? Anyhoo, there’s going to be a whole new universe, a post-“Secret Wars” Marvel that’s not Ultimate or “normal,” that has room for two Spider-Men of different races and a female Thor. Doesn’t that mean things should change for Loki, too? After Kieron Gillen’s masterful development of a Laufeyson desperate to escape the infernal cycle of Ragnarok, wouldn’t that then mean Loki could again look at the expected roads and carve a path for himself? With the visual development of Lee Garbett, Antonio Fabela and VC’s Clayton Cowles, this book is an achievement of literary proportions, turning commercial requirements into artistic merit like alchemy, accomplishing what Doop failed to do (dancing between the panels), what Deadpool dreamed of (busting out of the confines of the art form) and best of all, what Loki never could — really, significantly changing things. Simply brilliant. Oh … and sorry for making you head so far down to get started.

Oxymoron: The Loveliest Nightmare #1

(ComixTribe)

Wow. That’s how you do a debut issue. With the panache “Bedlam” tried and failed to put forth, a masked serial killer with the same tailor as Moon Knight pulls together a grand plan of mayhem and bloodshed. Along for the ride is a disgraced police detective with a debilitating concern that’s just stopped being a secret who is at the center of the killer’s crosshairs. The ruthless story from Tyler James and John Lees gives the visual team of Alex Cormack and Jules Rivera wonderful material to depict as they make the fictional city of Swanstown a character in its own right. Engaging and unwilling to let the reader’s attention go from the first page to the last, this is a satisfying chunk of culture, a significant story in a good number of pages that still makes you want more. Fantastic.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Hot diggety, that’s an entertaining batch of comics!

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

“Secret Six” #5 was kinda good, finally offering some answers (but not many) to what the heck has been going on with this series, all discussed over a warm grill and hot dogs. First, remember, this is a world where “Identity Crisis” didn’t happen. That’s important, and will stop you from side-eyeing the whole thing. Second, the “Usual Suspects” charade gets dropped, which is a lot like honesty. There are great character moments and a nice ending, but far too many forced coincidences and far too much brushing past the plot points. Not bad, but still finding its rhythm.

“Princeless Raven The Pirate Princess” #2 had a lot of good things about it — great parallels about fathers and daughters, a legendary line of female pirates, a nerdy Brienne of Tarth knock off that actually worked in the narrative and some kick ass action scenes. The momentum-killing ending was the only problem, but it was big enough to send this ship listing like a cannonball through the hull. This will probably work well in a collection, but it was unsatisfying as a single issue.

“Justice League” #43 looked beautiful and was comprised of the stuff of legends. Unfortunately, it squandered numerous golden opportunities, like Luthor and Superman stuck on Apokolips and Batman (Bruce Wayne, somehow that works despite what Gordon has going on the Bat books) with Metron’s powers, skimming past them to favor set pieces that are the foreplay for disaster porn without even a money shot. It has the ambition of Morrison’s “JLA” without the focus, foolishly following the cinematic example of “grimming” up its brightest lights A mistake, as Superman is the light we want to follow, and that Batman’s passion is not to embrace the darkness but banish it from within. Shame.

“Guardians Team-Up” #10 had one clever bit, two or three decent laughs (not guffaws) and good looking artwork. For Deadpool fans, Rocket Raccoon fans, or dyed-in-the-wool FOOMs and MMMS members, this will be like catnip. For the rest, maybe not the right value for the cost.

“Ivar Timewalker” #8 had one heck of a climax (extra nerd cred for the quote), impressive art (that fight montage, though!) some solid moments of humor and character development and used problems from previous issues as solutions for this one. The ending didn’t so much resolve the issues raised, and that made the issue feel like it didn’t end, just stopped. Surely this will make more sense down the line, but it doesn’t now.

Leaning closer to the political backstabbing of Starscream’s ascension, “Transformers Windblade” #6 incorporates more elements of the disparate Transformers universe, showing “Beastformers” — robots who change into animal forms, furred and feathered, following the gospel of the deceased Onyx Prime — living on the planet Eukaris. However, the new cast members were sketches in stereotypes — plausible in animation, less effective in print — and the central conflicts were resolved too quickly. Not bad, and an improvement, but not there yet.

“Star Wars” #8 had Han Solo’s stammering bit down pat, mastered Luke’s clumsy bravery and Leia’s frustrated take charge attitude, but misses the mark on making Sana Solo’s experience rewarding, partially because Luke’s parallel storyline flounders. Great art, great characterization, needs some work on the plot.

“Harley Quinn And Power Girl” #3 has a decent number of laughs but its plot needs some tuning up. If you’re comfortable with ridiculous — and if you’re buying a comic with Vartox in it, you must have some kind of a tolerance for shenanigans — the laughs will carry you through. However, this plays much more for laughs than clarity.

“Guardians Of Knowhere” #3 had some great moments between Angela and Gamora but was otherwise just well drawn posturing and fight scenes.

“Archie” #2 is sweet and simple, like a modernized “Saved By The Bell” moved to Riverdale. Archie’s breaking the fourth wall is a bold choice but it mostly works, and the same could be said for making Jughead the voice of reason. Very little actually happens in this issue, but it doesn’t happen in an engaging way, if that makes sense.

“Birthright” #10 had another gasp inducing conclusion but it again felt like it went all around the mulberry bush to get there. Amazing art, solid character stuff, a plot lacks urgency (let alone that bit with the mom, which needed room to breathe)

“Bizarro” #3 has genuine laughs — largely from Jimmy Olsen running a snarkier Arthur Dent routine (“That tracks”) — but was predictable. Likely enjoyable for younger readers.

“Welcome Back” #1 has an intriguing premise and meandering execution, trying to slowly introduce some big ideas but leaving half-considered characters along the wayside. Let’s keep an eye on this and see if it becomes anything.

Despite explosions and electrocutions, “Blacklist” #2 read kind of dry. Sure, the art mimics the show’s actors and the monologues aptly enough, but the plot seems like a reach and Ressler ended up mostly standing around like his name was Luke Walton. Surely intended for the TPB, this segment didn’t stand for itself.

“Postal” #6 would benefit greatly from a “previously in ‘Postal’ …” page, but borrows energy from some harder edged cable shows in its presentation of a small town mayor making hard choices to maintain a balance between secrets and her citizens’ right to have normal lives. Same story as “Birthright,” though — plot suffers at the altar of character.

It must be something in the summer air, because like many “close but no cigar” comics this week, “Doctor Who Event 2015 Four Doctors” #2 nails the dynamic between incarnations of everybody’s favorite Gallifreyan but takes literally until the last page (which was like skydiving on Wii Sports Resort) to get close to “why,” instead fretting about the admittedly lethal “weather.” If it all works out, it won’t be in single chunks like this.

“Loki Agent Of Asgard” #17 is one of the most metatextual comics ever written, with Al Ewing line dancing with the conventions of sequential art and in the process delivering a simply perfect narrative arc that both fits the Hiddleston-fueled popularity of the titular trickster and … hang on. This book is too good to be in the “Read Pile” … maybe we should continue this elsewhere …

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

“Martian Manhunter” #3, “1872” #2, “G.I. JOE A Real American Hero” #217, “Age Of Ultron Vs Marvel Zombies” #3, “Green Lantern The Lost Army” #3, “Mantle” #4, “Amazing Spider-Man Renew Your Vows” #4, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 10” #18, “New Vampirella” #13, “Armor Wars” #4, “Dr Fate” #3, “Manifest Destiny” #16, “Captain Britain And The Mighty Defenders” #2, “Book Of Death Legends Of Geomancer” #2, “House Of M” #1, “Robin Son Of Batman” #3, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” #49, “Howard The Human” #1, “Doomed” #3, “Wolf” #2, “Inferno” #4, “Groo Friends And Foes” #8, “Kanan” #5, “Wonder Woman” #43, “Weirdworld” #3, “Swords Of Sorrow Vampirella Jennifer Blood” #4, “Spider-Verse” #4, “Black Canary” #3, “God Is Dead” #41, “Silk” #6, “Infinite Loop” #5, “Secret Wars Secret Love” #1, “Book Of Death” #2, “Secret Wars Journal” #4, “Invincible” #122, “Runaways” #3,

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

“Superman Wonder Woman” #20 is anger-inducing as it takes a terribly conceived idea and executes it with virtually flawless skill and craft. Mr. Kent goes to Washington to have a chat with the President after everyone close to him got the Gitmo treatment by Argus. Argus and the president’s chief of staff react to this in the least logical fashion possible, leading to pointless property damage (your tax dollars at work) and a conclusion that was anticlimactic. This attempt at examining an “unmasked” Superman is not working, by and large.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

That “Superman/Wonder Woman” book is pretty infuriating, and DC just isn’t connecting with T-Shirt Superman … but those are (statistically) minor quibbles.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two jumps including one of the best exercises in cleverness this year and a stunning indie debut? This week’s a winner, no matter how you slice it.

THE BUSINESS

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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the buy pile
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