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 APRIL 6, 2016
The Fix #1
Jump from the Read Pile.
Imagine, if you would, a show like "Brooklyn Nine Nine." Engaging characters, police procedural, lots of humor. Then, imagine if every single one of them were as corrupt as Vic Mackey on "The Shield." Murders, shakedowns, illegal robot fighting, wild stuff. Got that picture? Great. Now, move the whole thing from New York to the Hollywood area of Los Angeles. Yes, okay, you've already got your credit card out, but wait, it gets better. The visuals by Steve Lieber, Ryan Hill and Nic J. Shaw add a level of clarity and visual storytelling that is guffaw-inducing (watch for the pauses), the protagonist is as smarmy as the fox from "Zootopia" with the disregard for public safety you'd get from Simon Phoenix in "Demolition Man." Does the Nick Spencer-penned plot kind of leave you hanging? Maybe -- but every page engages and entertains you so much that you probably won't care. Wonderfully wicked stuff.
At multiple points in the show "Arrested Development," characters repeat the same phrase: "I've made a huge mistake." Any number of people in this issue could easily say that as the Vision's quest for domestic tranquility has hit some disturbingly Walter White-esque speed bumps. And like the "Breaking Bad" lead, the Vision attempts to use 1950s-era tactics to address a growing strategic issue. The best adjective to describe writer Tom King's script is "subversive," as he goes deep into understanding the differentiation of values for machine minds and delivers a thought provoking script perfectly framed in an explanation of an inevitability. The visual work from Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles depicts a lethargic, terrifying reality methodically advancing on the reader like congestive heart failure -- and that's a wonderful thing. Truly literary, amazing work here.
Think Tank: Creative Destruction #1
(Top Cow/Image Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
In the same way almost every page of "The Fix" was a laugh, almost every page of this intriguing issue is thought provoking, with significantly tighter plotting and characterization than previous issues. Taking a page from "Mr. Robot" in terms of subversiveness, and the lamented "Alphas" or even "The Blacklist" in characterization, Dr. David Loren is the centerpiece of an elaborate and expensive drama that either saves or dooms the lives of thousands around the world. With know-it-all voice-overs and crisp, clear visuals from Troy Peteri, Shannon Lilly and triple threat Rahsan Ekedal, this issue doesn't dawdle but instead uses the kind of savvy pacing Jimmie Robinson did in the sublime "Five Weapons" to deliver just what the reader needs. Add to that an appendix that's like a research course in danger and science from writer Matt Hawkins, and this book has it all. Entertaining from start to finish ... if you can handle the fragility of the world around you.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Image really brought it with scoundrels this week! Matching that up with Tom King's subversive brilliance makes it a complex and very engaging start to things.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Black Panther" #1 is beautiful. In terms of its visuals and even its language, it has a sweeping, operatic atmosphere that speaks of great craft being applied to the work. Reading this issue is akin to diving into a grand, dramatic adventure. Unfortunately, what it does not have is a clear plot. Something's wrong in Wakanda (or near Wakanda, truth be told) and people are upset. The royal guard, the Dora Milaje, comprised of the finest women warriors, one representing each of Wakanda's diverse tribes (now from multiple tribes, when they began there were only two), are in chaos due to a bout of vigilantism. There's nothing but trouble in Denmark, or the Golden City, in this case, and that leads to the second of the issue's three problems: characterization. When it happens it's done in melodrama, and when it's not there, (as with the arguable antagonists) it's like the characters are reading lines with no ability to convey motivations. The third problem is more troubling: this is a Wakanda remade by the Panther's own hand with an Infinity Gauntlet ... is he that broken as to have allowed such problems? For hundreds of years, according to the lore, Wakanda stood inviolate ... but now, in a much more aggressive way than the work of Reverend Doctor Michael ibn Al-Hajj Achebe, Wakanda itself lacks the core elements that made it fascinate and a border that's apparently far too porous. This isn't the council squabbling of Don McGregor; this is the internecine conflicts of modern Sudan or Burundi. As amazing as the artwork is, as glorious as the language is, at its core this is not a comic book, and at its heart, this is Wakanda in name only. Both ambitious and frustrating to have so much possibility and still not reach the heights that Stan and Jack promised.
Nobody writes a military assault like Larry Hama, and in "Call Of Duty Black Ops III" #4, he gets the best in modern toys to play with for a challenging covert assault that would make Seal Team 6 appreciative. Sure, there's no time for characterization past the dossiers but you're probably not coming to a video game based comic for deep storytelling. A great show of violence and intensity, if you can handle sound and fury signifying nothing.
"Darkness Hope" #1 is a twisted take on how the whole "artifacts" thing plays out, with a touch of "The Matrix" and a hint of "The Truman Show" played out for very twisted reasons. Self contained and not bad, but if you aren't dyed in the wool on the Darkness already, this might be too "inside baseball" for you.
"Gold Key Alliance" #1 was in the middle of accomplishing a Herculean feat -- matching up wildly disparate characters from different eras into a coherent modern narrative -- when it simply ran out of pages. Modernizing some, trimming others down, the script was just about warmed up when it came to a full stop. Maybe it'll be something, but it's a tease and not an actual complete story for now.
"Detective Comics" #51 is the start of a good investigative yarn with Gotham concepts overlaid on Afghanistan as Marines go missing and Jim Gordon wants answers. The sole problem, given the dense storytelling, flawless visuals and high production values, is that this isn't exactly a story at all -- it's the start of one. It has a beginning and a kind of middle, but it just stops instead of ending. Not bad, but not complete enough for the cost.
"New Avengers" #9 proved that a sentence many believed impossible is actually true: Roberto DaCosta is a genius -- conceptually speaking, if not in terms of visual design. Unfortunately, a weakly defined and barely delivered antagonist almost swamps the fact that Sunspot is reading from the old T'Challa playbook and there's way more "try" than "succeed" here. If this were on TV after "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," it's be awesome for its audacity alone, but for your actual money, it's not quite good enough.
"Doctor Who The Twelfth Doctor Year 2" #4 had a couple of engaging moments and lots of the speed and freneticism of the TV show, but the set up (which dragged) needed more of an explanation in this half of the story, as the antagonists fell flat. Not bad, but not "rush to pull out your money" good unless you're all in for all things Gallifreyan.
In "Spider-Man" #3, Miles Morales' grandmother is a hoot, but the rest of the beautifully depicted issue isn't exactly a story and the blah blah blah didn't engage. Grandma is the truth though.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Contest Of Champions" #7, "Dark Corridor" #7, "Uncanny Avengers" #8, "Green Arrow" #51, "Deadpool" #9, "Predator Life And Death" #2, "Superman The Coming Of The Supermen" #3, "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" #2, "Star Wars Poe Dameron" #1, "Empress" #1, "Swamp Thing" #4, "Army Of Darkness Furious Road" #2, "Unfollow" #6, "Invincible Iron Man" #8, "Doctor Who The Tenth Doctor Year 2" #8, "Midnighter" #11, "Vampirella Volume 3" #2, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Steampunk Dream" #2, "Green Lantern" #51, "Mighty Zodiac" #1, "Spider-Man 2099" #9, "New Suicide Squad" #19, "Escape From New York" #16, "Exodus The Life After" #5, "Last Sons Of America" #4, "Sheriff Of Babylon" #5, "Wicked + The Divine" #18, "Spider-Women Alpha" #1, "G.I. JOE A Real American Hero" #227, "Uncanny X-Men" #6, "Walking Dead" #153, "Harley Quinn And The Suicide Squad April Fool's Special" #1, "Angel And Faith Season 10" #25, "Prophet Earth War" #3, "Scarlet Witch" #5, "Justice League Darkseid War Special" #1, "Lone Wolf 2100" #4, "Bloodlines" #1, "Grizzly Shark" #1, "Batman Beyond" #11, "Star Trek" #56, "Batgirl" #50, "Discipline" #2, "Rough Riders" #1, "Black Widow" #2.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
Imagine if you took the central conceit of the critical darling "All-Star Superman" and made it much more boring. "Superman" #51 accepts that challenge, and despite having top grade visuals, it fails on an execution level by plodding its way through what it considers a plot and conceptually by being unimaginative, especially with a bearded Kryptonian from another universe waiting in the wings. Guh, no es bueno.
Nothing like covering stuff from a story that concluded months ago, only with less of an actual point. "Old Man Logan" #4 didn't even try as his maniac quest to stop his future before it can happen hit a road bump even he couldn't slash his way out of, and that is the definition of an anti-climax. Exhausting.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Super tired comics tried mightily to submarine things but a lot of ambitious attempts made it through the wilderness.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Those three purchases stack up against anything the weaker books had on tap, so this week's a winner.
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!