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Robot Love and Soldiers of Fortune

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Robot Love and Soldiers of Fortune

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 NOVEMBER 25, 2015

Transformers More Than Meets The Eye #47

(IDW Publishing)

Anyone old enough to remember the origins of the toy line that inspired this series likely remembers the cut-and-dried theme song that clarified what was what. “Autobots wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons,” paid singers intoned, and we went for it because we were kids and OMG, FREAKING GIANT ROBOTS THAT BECOME PLANES AND CARS AND STUFF. This very, very effective issue again calls all that into question, and not in some long lost historical era with characters like Nova Prime, lost to history or spacetime. Getaway has a mutinous plan, a plan that’s been bubbling for many issues, alongside Whirl and the former interior decorator Atomizer (really). The collateral damage would matter to few, and the core plot revolves around fleshing out one of the brilliantly developed societal tools of the Transformers called “conjunx ritus” (a bonding of two personalities not unlike marriage — yes, between giant, largely male, robots). There is so much wonderful stuff going on here — betrayal, devotion, subterfuge, history, character development — all underlined by some Decepticons not being at all evil and some Autobots who are so deep into the gray that it’s hard to see what side they’re on. Visuals from Brendan Cahill, Joana LaFuente and Tom B. Long wonderfully render the detail and emotion (especially that penultimate page) of another remarkable James Roberts script. Some of the most brilliant science fiction available, every month, based on ridiculous marketing conceits from the ’80s. Wow.

Saga #31 (Image Comics)

A slight dip in quality here as the story jumps around a bit in time, showing how the narrator’s next few years went, living in extraordinary danger. There are some truly fantastic character moments and one piece of apparently gratuitous visualization that didn’t advance the plot very far. Aside from mild foibles, this is still head and shoulders over 90% of the books on the stand and likely just a momentary blip.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #2 (Marvel Comics)

Odd that two Buy Pile regulars have a dip in quality, but a time travel trip for the title character was both less interesting and less conclusive than it needed to be. Luckily, the jokes in the margins stepped up in a huge way, providing both plot related impetus and rock solid laughs. The plot hit some solid marks — the alternate Squirrel Girl-less timeline had a fun scene with Koi Boi and Chipmunk Hunk, for example — but this was a very rare misstep.

BlackJack: There Came a Dark Hunter (Simmons and Company)

Jump from the Read Pile.

A hefty chunk of culture even with its hefty print price tag (a steal digitally, though), this anthology contains two comics pieces and a prose story about the soldier of fortune and adventures across the globe. The first story is simply okay, but the second — a mystery — is very engaging and has some really wonderful twists of action, suspense and emotion. The final prose story is really something, though, as the titular character takes on a mercenary job that’s far more than it seems. Thrilling and nostalgic, this sweeping set of stories balances characterization with spectacle while never taking its foot off the plot’s pedal. Great work by the legendary Alex Simmons with Tim Fielder and GottaDo Studios on the visuals.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

When you toss in the sweet Stranger Comics “The Untamed: Sinner’s Prayer” hard cover, even with the dodgy buys, this ain’t so bad.

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

“Omega Men” #6 had a clever narrative twist but took a long time to reveal it, and the interrogation scene lacked panache and zip. A bit of a slow moment. Not bad, but not as remarkable as previous issues.

“S.H.I.E.L.D.” #12 has a fantastic Phil Coulson speech that resonates with Clark Gregg’s energy. There were elements that didn’t work as well, action scenes that didn’t quite sell it, and some execution challenges from the visual side, which was beautiful but didn’t communicate clearly enough, stopped that speech from bringing it on home.

With time traveling symmetry, “Ivar Timewalker” #11 came close by both delivering on the goods from a meta-narrative standpoint and with its fantastic art. The character work seemed a little facile and the single-issue plot relied heavily on outside context information, but it wasn’t a bad little diversion.

“Silver Surfer” #15 was quirkier than a day with Zooey Deschanel and Michael Cera, rendered in Technicolor whimsy a la Mike Allred. The story had just a couple of genuine moments as the rest felt like crossover filler, which was its downfall.

“Grayson” #14 had a large number of dialogue gems, with a flashback framing device that was very clever, but had some challenges finding its footing with a pace, rushing here and dragging there as Dick Grayson dug into his employers and put an entire German city at risk. The shape of the antagonist in question became clearer, but it doesn’t connect viscerally. Not bad, and likely just a blip on the radar.

Oh, crossovers. At their best, they can bring impossible pairings and show us wonders that we couldn’t imagine. At their worst, they can force you to endure panel after panel of blah blah. “Darth Vader” #13 does a little bit of both, spending way more time with familiar Rebel faces than one would expect and delivering with Vader and his supporting cast a little less than need be. The Rebellion sends an entire battalion after Vader, and — as you might guess from his appearance in later movies, spoiler alert — they have some challenges trying to take him down. Vader, his ambitious assistant Aphra and the simply wonderful Triple-Zero and Bee-Tee sparkle when they’re on panel. Han and Leia? Less so. Good, but not great, as you barely get a chance to see the Sith Lord do what he does best.

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

“Superman Lois And Clark” #2, “Chew” #52, “He-Man The Eternity War” #12, “Fight Club 2” #7, “Wonder Woman” #46, “All-New Wolverine” #2, “Black Magick” #2, “Jacked” #1, “Cyrus Perkins And The Haunted Taxi Cab” #2, “Superman” #46, “Angela Queen Of Hel” #2, “Stringers” #4, “Guardians Of The Galaxy” #2, “Deathstroke” #12, “Transformers Sins Of The Wreckers” #1, “Justice League 3001” #6, “Witchblade” #185, “Sinestro” #17, “Justice Inc The Avenger” #6, “Dark Knight 3 The Master Race” #1, “Switch” #2, “We Are Robin” #6, “Ghostbusters Annual 2015,” “Ringside” #1, “Zombie Tramp” #17, “Hail Hydra” #4, “Postal” #8, “G.I. JOE A Real American Hero” #220, “Flash” #46, “Venom Space Knight” #1, “Kaptara” #5, “Empowered Special” #7, “Batman Arkham Knight Robin Special” #1, “Jupiter’s Circle Volume 2” #1, “Superman Wonder Woman” #23, “Danger Girl Renegade” #3, “Batman And Robin Eternal” #8, “Fuse” #16, “X-O Manowar” #42, “Art Ops” #2, “Robin Son Of Batman” #6, “Moon Girl And Devil Dinosaur” #1.

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

“Oh, whatever will I do? How will I balance the fate of worlds? Oh, woe is me …” That paraphrasing isn’t from an old “Silver Surfer” issue, but from “Aquaman” #46, where apparently he can fly now (really) and has Poseidon’s powers, but struggles against a team of Atlanteans led by King Shark, even with Diana fighting at his side. Wildly uneven, ill-conceived and dull to boot. Stop the madness.

“Justice League Of America” #5 had a lackluster antagonist, a paper thin plot, next to inconsequential stakes and an ending that fell flat. Blech.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Felt like slow going through there, for a bit.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Despite the enjoyable jump, two regular purchases that didn’t pull their weight, two stinkers and a disturbing amount of “meh” made it hard to be thankful for this week’s haul.

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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