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The Hard Streets of New York & Astro City

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The Hard Streets of New York & Astro City

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 MARCH 16, 2016



Astro City #33

(Vertigo/DC Comics)

This issue is rock solid noir, cast in the clothes of superpowers. The protagonist, Steeljack, continues working a case to clear the name of someone who loved and betrayed him, using a world-worn experience with the worst parts of human nature as his guiding star. Unwavering and dour, Steeljack never really has many causes for optimism as he trades upon his history and begrudgingly follows the leads in an entertaining if grim tale. Fine work by the creative team of Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, John Roshell, Jimmy Betancourt and Peter Pantazis. 



Power Man And Iron Fist #2

(Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile.

Though not as good as the debut issue, in some strange ways it manages to be better. Luke Cage spends most of the issue struggling with something that literally everyone else, including the reader, takes as a foregone conclusion and that’s entertaining every step of the way. Danny Rand is kind of a spaced out child of privilege, too oblivious to recognize how annoying he is, but too endearing for people to hate him. On the other side of it, every supporting character and antagonist gets a perfect moment to shine, all with context and clarity. The creative team of David Walker, Sanford Greene, Lee Loughridge and Clayton Cowles deliver a book that engages and entertains on every page, an immersive experience that feels right. Great stuff. 

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

All this plus “Dusu: Path of the Ancient” #2 (which can’t be properly reviewed due to conflict of interest)? Entertaining reading so far …

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

“Transformers Deviations” #1 is a bit of a conundrum as it posits a significant Elseworlds-styled change in plot of the 1986 motion picture and spins a very different story. Instead of Hot Rod inadvertently causing the death of Optimus Prime, Prime finishes his arch enemy Megatron once and for all and the entire nature of the story changes. This gives us a chance to look at a war-hardened, very confident Optimus Prime at the height of his prowess, striding across planets like a god of war. That’s fantastic. On the other hand, it elevates a significantly lesser Cybertronian to serve the world-eating Unicron, himself marginalized into a small-scale special effect, which is not so great. Feeling a lot like it was pinched for space, the issue only gets to shine light on the ascendant Prime, sending most other characters into Luke Walton mode, assisting where they can but not distinguishing themselves. An ambitious idea that could have benefitted from bigger panels, more pages and more oomph.

“A&A The Adventures Of Archer And Armstrong” #1 is a goofy little romp that mostly takes place inside of a Bag of Infinite Holding. It has some seriously funny moments but a plot that leans too heavily on humor without helping the reader get engaged with what’s happening. Imagine those first two episodes of Capaldi as Doctor Who, where it didn’t even seem like he knew what he was doing. This was kind of like that. Cute, funny in spots, but finding its legs.

“Superman American Alien” #5 was close as it takes a look at the motives and methods behind the cape in a kind of clever examination of the idea of the character. Told as a story, it gives you some great Lex scenes but ultimately answers no more questions than the average comic shop argument, even with some cleverness and enjoyable moments. Not bad at all, but unless you’re really digging into the archetypical underpinnings, maybe not something you need.

“Huck” #5 was a step up as the titular character finds out everything in a super efficient exposition dump that likewise gives the main antagonist room to have his kick the dog moment. The last third of the issue is the only part where something happens, and it is magnificently rendered by the visuals from the team of Rafel Albequerque, Dave McCaig and Nate Piekos. The first two-thirds could have used a little more story meat, but that’s the only knock against this otherwise fun issue. 

“Doctor Who The Eighth Doctor” #5 had an interesting tie between multiple generations, a fun time travel trick, that invoked the Shadow Proclamation and had lots of fun details for long time fans. It was alright on its own but was far from a crucial comic to own. 

“Symmetry” #4 again has breathtaking visual design and huge ideas struggling to connect through characterization. If this were an action movie, the motion and charisma of the actors could see it through, like “Logan’s Run,” but the intentionally vague personalities of the characters make it challenging to engage with their fates.

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

“Superman The Coming Of The Supermen” #2, “Injection” #8, “James Bond” #5, “Legacy Of Luther Strode” #5, “Web Warriors” #5, “Transformers” #51, “Low” #12, “Uncanny Inhumans” #6, “Superman Wonder Woman” #27, “Matty’s Rocket” #2, “Star-Lord” #5, “13th Artifact” #1, “Starbrand And Nightmask” #4, “Monstress” #4, “Squadron Supreme” #5, “Imperium” #14, “Looking For Group” #12, “Spider-Woman” #5, “Dragon Age Magekiller” #4, “Sinestro” #21, “Lords Of The Jungle” #1, “Princeless Raven The Pirate Princess” #6, “Silk” #6, “Robin Son Of Batman” #10, “Wrath Of The Eternal Warrior” #5, “Scarlet Witch” #4, “Cops For Criminals” #5, “Red Sonja Volume 3” #3, “Kanan” #12, “Martian Manhunter” #10, “International Iron Man” #1, “Paknadel And Trakhanov’s Turncoat” #1, “Extraordinary X-Men” #8, “Lucifer” #4, “3 Devils” #1, “Legends Of Tomorrow” #1, “Deadpool And The Mercs For Money” #2, “Second Sight” #2, “Green Arrow” #50, “Captain Marvel” #3, “Mystery Girl” #4, “Doctor Fate” #10, “Astonishing Ant-Man” #6, “Star Trek Starfleet Academy” #4, “Black Canary” #9, “All-New X-Men” #6, “Famous Monsters Presents Project Nemesis” #4, “Batman And Robin Eternal” #24, “All-New Inhumans” #5.

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

Whereas the Transformers version swung and missed slightly, “Ghostbusters Deviations” #1 is terrible. Imagining a world where the guys never crossed the streams, they end up not doing much else either, trying to lawyer Gozer out of existence after a month of fighting some things you do not want to even remotely discuss.  A few good jokes, a lot of slow points and a climax even the characters call anticlimactic. Not a good idea at all.

“Superman” #50 is alarmingly, overwhelmingly, scarily bad. Vandal Savage and Superman are angling towards this huge fight that has been building for months … and what actually develops is some overwrought holodeck foolishness. Dumb, dumb storytelling, despite amazing artwork and visuals.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Guh. Kind of slow going out there …

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two good reads get cancelled out by two very bad books so that leaves the night on Meh Mountain to just call the week a wash out.

THE BUSINESS

Every week, another page of the webcomic “Project Wildfire: Enter Project Torrent” from The Operative Network. You should check that out, it’s awesome.

Another big anniversary for this column next week, by the way.

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!