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 JANUARY 6, 2016
G.I. JOE A Real American Hero #223
Jump from the Read Pile.
This is one sneaky, sneaky story. Months of what seemed like pretty mundane build up came together in a three-dimensional chess game for two-dimensional soldiers and bureaucrats. On one hand, Cobra has coordinated the biggest terrorist strike on the United States in history: a nuclear plant melt down, a dam flooding multiple communities, and an air traffic disaster, all committed by Cobra's identical deep cover troops the Crimson Guardsmen. The Joes -- working with nearly every branch of the military to quietly move into position to save the day -- got all this from a rogue Crimson Guardsman working for the team's senate oversight representative ... who happens to be under Cobra mind control. It's a Xanatos Gambit for the ages and Larry Hama's script plays it out so well you almost don't even need the last seven or eight issues -- a more robust recap could have covered it. The visuals from S.L. Gallant, Derek Fridolfs, J. Brown and Neil Uyetake perfectly delivered the urgency and precision of this adventure. Fun reading, like the last half of "The Thomas Crown Affair" (either version).
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Such sneaky stuff. Fun start.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Vision" #3 is perplexing. It has a "main story" focusing on the lead character's family, struggling with normalcy and the kind of intolerance that a large number of American citizens deal with as regularly as rain or wind. That story is framed by a snippet of pre-cognizance and bloodshed that confuses things. Writer Tom King has done amazing things by defying convention, but his experimentation falls short here. Still, ambitious work.
"Doctor Strange" #4 had another fantastic framing device as the titular magical physician struggles to find the cause of magic going missing while sorcerer supremes from other dimensions are dropping like Ben Carson's poll numbers (when people in the future look back at this column in the archives, they'll say, "who?"). The character work was solid but with so many anonymous, indistinct casualties and the missed opportunity of the bar scene even the framing device couldn't carry the weight. Not bad, though.
In that the first two issues didn't develop characters very memorably, "Unfollow" #3 could almost have been the first issue, establishing the real, horribly true premise of this series, much more William Golding than Ed McMahon. A horror approach instead of some utopian vision, the tension developed here almost made up for the quickie premise. Now? Now this is something to follow.
"Star Wars" #14 and "Darth Vader" #15 may as well be reviewed together since neither of them tells a single story and both of them had the same things to recommend it. Much like the tedious film in theatres, these last two parts of the "Vader Down" crossover exist to set up other things as Vader and his murderous minions seek Luke Skywalker, a splinter Imperial force seeks to take Vader's glory for themselves, the Rebels seek to kill everybody and in the end, there's failure enough to go around. Fantastic art, some genuinely wonderful character moments (Leia's struggle with a pistol in her hand, Vader's rock solid dialogue, Han at his scoundrel-ish best) but a plot that exists to go nowhere in "stories" that don't begin and don't end, middling around in an entertaining fashion.
"Archie" #5 is incredibly well-crafted. Using a piece of characterization as a framing device (clever), it showcases an attempt by Jughead and Betty to get Archie over his fixation on Veronica, who treats him like a minion more than her man. To accomplish this, they call on Riverdale's most dangerous teenager, Reggie Mantle, who has a series of kick the dog moments to clarify exactly who he is. In the process, the plot takes some brilliant turns (the fashion subplot is extremely well done) and each character gets a genuine chance to shine. If the adventures of a relentlessly homogenous group of cis-gendered, fairly well-off teenagers is what you like, it simply cannot be done better than this.
In the first dozen or so issues of "Fantastic Four," Stan and Jack developed so many new, fascinating ideas that it spawned an entire continuity. Al Ewing doesn't fire quite as effectively in "Ultimates" #3 but the first half reads like a field manual for possibility. The characters are fleshed out, the ideas are fascinating ... and the anticlimactic ending yanks the rug right from under the reader, not finishing the story. A missed opportunity.
"Midnighter" #8 has a similar panache and verve as "Grayson" as its lead is unapologetic in his glee at working with his hands. His struggle with recent events (heartbreak at the end of hostile fists) gets glossed over a bit and the plot's not quite snug enough to fit the character work but it was a decent issue nonetheless.
"Spider-Man Deadpool" #1 had great artwork (even when it was gross), some legitimate laughs ("His name was Carl!") but had an empty plot that felt like it was trying too hard. Not bad, but not great.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Uncanny X-Men" #1, "Sheriff Of Babylon" #2, "Guardians Of Infinity" #2, "Lone Wolf 2100" #1, "Action Comics" #48, "Doctor Who The Tenth Doctor Year Two" #4, "Invincible Iron Man" #5, "Batman And Robin Eternal" #14, "Saints" #4, "Obi-Wan And Anakin" #1, "Batman Beyond" #8, "Last Contract" #1, "Contest Of Champions" #4, "Detective Comics" #48, "Weirdworld" #2, "Four Eyes Hearts Of Fire" #1, "Spider-Gwen" #4, "Telos" #4, "Pacific Rim Tales From The Drift" #3, "Green Arrow" #48, "Heroes Vengeance" #4, "Barb Wire" #7, "A-Force" #1, "Elephantmen" #68, "Mystery Girl" #2, "B**** Planet" #6, "Totally Awesome Hulk" #2, "This Damned Band" #6, "Swamp Thing" #1, "Doctor Who The Twelfth Doctor Year Two" #1, "Deadpool" #5, "Letter 44" #22, "X-O Manowar" #43, "Amazing Spider-Man" #6.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Green Lantern" #48 has a weird alternate reality threat showing up for kicks and Hal realizing how ineffective glowing green energy is against true believers and real life problems of global magnitude. To see Hal flounder so intensively isn't exactly entertaining. A slice below "meh."
"Amazing Spider-Man" #1.2 has a dangerous number of things going on, from inverting the colors on a nation's flag (that's the Puerto Rican flag not the Cuban one) and a script that makes Peter Parker come off as embarrassingly racist in an attempt to throw the story's cultural education elements into sharp relief. It was a good goal with a less-than-helpful execution and far more exposition than this needed. It was a failure, but one with the best of intentions behind it.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
It was kind of rough going out there, truth be told ...
WINNERS AND LOSERS
One jump doesn't beat two bad books messing up the program. This week? Not so good.
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 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!