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The Man in the Machine

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
The Man in the Machine

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 MAY 11, 2016

Darth Vader #20 (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. This issue made it home based on two extraordinarily interesting conversations (apologies to Tyrion Lannister) where Vader said exactly as much as he needed to in order to prove the wonderfully complex, dangerous and compelling character he is. First, a chat with the Emperor was everything you could ever possibly want from the interaction between those two, reinforcing character and cementing who they are and would inevitably become. Second, Vader has a pointed chat with a man he believes is a danger and that is even more illuminating. Through it all, Kieron Gillen flawlessly wields dialogue with the elegance of a lightsaber while the visuals from Salvador Larroca, Edgar Delgado and Joe Caramagna framed the work so well you’d think you were on set in England or at Skywalker Ranch. Evil in the best of ways.

Vision #7 (Marvel Comics)

How does an artificial man fall in love? This amazing, subversive book (and yes, the adjective “subversive” is perfect for almost everything from this writer) charts the rise and fall of the Vision’s love life through two marriages, endless conflicts, children that may or may not have been real and emotions that are nothing but. We may never know how Tom King emerged, so wondrous and so intricate in his work, but the fact that he keeps churning this kind of “wonder” out is remarkable. Let’s not undersell the perfectly paced, deliberate, masterful visual storytelling from Michael Walsh, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles. If indeed tomorrow always comes, let’s hope it brings more comics this good.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Already re-reading these books? Hell of a start!

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

If you were interested in an earnest tale of a would-be do-gooder overwhelmed by the innate corruption and discontent of his sub-Saharan regime, “Black Panther” #2 might tickle your ivories. The artwork by Brian Stelfreeze, as outlined in a recent article, is steeped in futurist technology that fits in well with the modern Marvel universe while easily standing at the forefront. Visually this issue is perfect, but its conception, its intellectual underpinnings, seem stuck more in the grimmer elements of the RSS feed from All Africa than the science fiction utopia created near Marvel’s inception. With evidence that this T’challa turns a blind eye to child rape, economic disparity (which vibranium was supposed to fix) and a host of domestic challenges while being reminded of his failings at every step (called “fool” and “orphan” and “failure” at multiple points of this issue and the one before it), it’s as if the conception lacked the imagination to see a stable African nation and instead went all “Law & Order” and “ripped from the headlines” instead, reading more like news than entertainment. Wakanda in name and visuals only, this is not the fanciful futurist playground of Stan and Jack, not the smooth land of concepts and focused people developed by Priest or even Hickman. Hard to be mad at it, but impossible to love it either.

“Satellite Falling” #1 is an intriguing mash up of science fiction and noir as a cab driver and part time bounty hunter wrestles with survivor’s guilt and occupational hazards in an environment where humans are in short supply. The protagonist is quite well developed but the plot ends a second act without concluding in a third. Not bad and worth watching as it finds its footing.

Unlike many Valiant books, “A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong” #3 went hard in the paint for characterization, giving nuance to Archer’s complex relationship with his step-sister and having Armstrong actually try to develop as a character when his most enduring quality is not evolving. The plot wasn’t much to write home about, though, which is again the opposite of many Valiant titles, but this wasn’t bad.

After months of prevarication, “Earth 2: Society” #12 danced on the edge of some legitimate ideas envisioned by their Black Superman (apologies to rapper Cold 187um) but never connected with characters. Blah Amazons, blah “wonders,” it all plays like karaoke when you wanna hear the real song.

Despite a number of legitimate laughs (and the modern thunder goddess being a quote machine), “Gwenpool” #2 didn’t have far to go or much to do when it got there, gleefully trading in stereotypes as shorthand for characterization and breaking out a gigantic hand wave to distance itself from MODOK’s actual character development in “Secret Avengers.” Good artwork, funny moments, but not enough to justify its cost between the covers.

“Web Warriors” #7 likewise had some good laughs but ultimately didn’t tell a story as much as set up some punchlines and remain very insular in its approach. 

“Fix” #2 is like a bizarro version of “Brooklyn 99” where committing crimes is the idea, not solving them. Funny and well drawn but needs tighter plotting.

The “Meh” Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult
“Ninjak” #15, “Silk” #8, “Venom: Space Knight” #7, “Grizzly Shark” #2, “Starfire” #12, “Archie” #8, “Red Hood Arsenal” #12, “Faster Than Light” #6, “All-New, All-Different Avengers” #9, “Penny Dreadful” #1, “Harley Quinn and Her Gang of Harleys” #2, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” #5, “Jupiter’s Circle Volume 2” #6, “Action Comics” #52, “Back to the Future: Citizen Brown” #1, “Swamp Thing” #5, “Ultimates” #7, “Powers” #6, “Think Tank: Creative Destruction” #2, “Legends Of Tomorrow” #3, “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” #3, “Green Lantern Corps: Edge of Oblivion” #5, “Deadpool” #11, “4001 A.D.: X-O Manowar” #1, “Illuminati” #7, “Batman” #52, “Rocketeer At War” #3, Uncanny Inhumans” #8, “Actionverse” #5, “Constantine: The Hellblazer” #12, “Guardians of the Galaxy” #8, “Big Trouble in Little China” #24, “Awake” #5, “George Perez’s Sirens” #5, “Dejah Thoris” #4, “Star Trek” #57, “All-New X-Men” #9, “Gotham Academy” #18, “Kaijumax Season 2” #1, “Catwoman” #52, “Pacific Rim: Tales From The Drift” #4, “Guardians of Infinity” #6.

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

Hey! Nothing was terrible this week! Yay!

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Ambitious tries, everybody played hard, nobody stank up the joint!

WINNERS AND LOSERS

A jump beats a week of stuff that didn’t go badly at all, so this week wins with a landslide.

THE BUSINESS

The writer of this column will be hosting lots of panels at Cal State Los Angeles’ Eagle-Con this weekend — if you’re in Southern California, it’s gonna be one heck of a show!

The great people at All Comics Considered had the writer of this column on for super entertaining podcast interview and it was an enormous pleasure.

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. 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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