WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?
Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/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 26, 2014
Transformers More Than Meets The Eye #35
Whoa. Okay, first of all, you might need two or three reads through for this one. It has some slight impediments to comprehension: First, an elaborate and exposition-heavy time travel element. Sit down with that for a moment. Next, there is a lot of internal continuity with huge surprises from long term characters and a love story that has a lot of nuance. Yes, we're still talking about giant transforming robots. Once you make it through all of that, there is a simply brilliant science fiction story underneath it happening in two vastly different time periods. Fun, engaging stuff.
Shadow Show #1
Jump from the Read Pile.
When you subtitle your work "stories in celebration of Ray Bradbury," the bar is already set pretty high. This poignant, effective done-in-one dose of speculative fiction gets everything right as a long-suffering first born daughter strives for something more creative than watching her hellion sisters. She makes a discovery with a sweet, dumb boy and her life is forever altered. This story gets better the more time you spend with it, and the creative team of Jason Ciaramella, Charles Paul Wilson 3rd and Jeremy Mohler take Joe Hill's short story and bring it to vivid, heartbreaking life. Such a pleasant surprise.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Despite the fact that financial conflicts of interest prohibit this column from reviewing the fun "Separators" #1, the stuff we can discuss was very engaging. Very smart purchases this week.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Lazarus" #13 examined some interesting ideas, especially the unique challenges faced by the Lazari themselves: rarified creatures who can confide in no one, who live a very isolated experience. There are a few simply magnificent moments ("May I be your third?") that, honestly, move faster than the plot does. This issue feels like it needed five more pages to do justice to the overarching plot of rival families, but it was solid.
The problem with coming up with a truly new, truly brilliant idea is developing a framework around it as fresh and interesting. After the core idea develops with one new wrinkle here, "Memetic" #2 is just excerpts from "Outbreak" and "The Walking Dead." That's not bad, per se, as you'd be on the edge of your seat watching this as a movie. As a single issue of a comic, it doesn't quite carry enough weight -- the sacrifice rang hollow, the scene in the high rise was rushed ... the stakes are too predictable. Still interesting, but not certain if it's heading anywhere worth going.
Re: "Gotham By Midnight" #1. A horror comic based in the wild borders of the city? The creepy corners where shadows talk, and not for the normal masked reasons. An Internal Affairs sergeant comes to check out what he thinks is a budget scam and finds evidence of the supernatural. Not bad, but nothing special.
"Sidekick" #9 was a solid silent issue that covered two vengeful super powered people tracking down a third who spent years not being found. A good craft exercise, but the story lacked "oomph."
"Catwoman" #36 shows the turn into a half decent Dynamite-styled crime noir book, with Selena Kyle as a mobster with morals, controlling the firearms trade in Gotham but steering clear of messier vices like drugs. An impostor in the patent leather seeks to redeem the cowl, but that's a red herring. Tolerable, if not compelling.
In "Superior Iron Man" #2, rogue futurist Tony Stark is dangerous, manipulative, crafty, borderline illegal ... or, as he called it during the Civil War, "Tuesday." Through a mirror darkly, the shiny flying man is every fascistic fear his critics ever held, extorting a city at whim, playing chess with people's lives. If it wasn't such an easily reversible stunt, it'd be convincing, but as it stands it's a watered down episode of "The Blacklist" with super powers. Not bad so much as not sticking the landing.
Everybody's favorite sword slinging sedan is making heroism cool in "Transformers Drift Empire Of Stone" #1. The Cybertronian formerly known as Deadlock is engaging in a one robot campaign to rid a galactic sector of mechanical terrorism in the form of well armed Decepticons set adrift by the end of the war. When Ratchet shows up to bring Drift back, all things forgiven, it turns into a kind of violent buddy comedy. The art from Guido Guidi, Stephen Baskerville and John-Paul Bove does an adequate job capturing Drift's fluid fighting style, working better on the tense interpersonal moments. Not naming any of the antagonists is a deficit, leaving them nameless faces and random guns, but this could eventually go somewhere.
In "Cyclops" #7, the titular teen out of time takes on a new role, undercover as a space pirate while trying to save his father and the Starjammers. There are a number of effective moments as the clever, savvy character Slim Summers would become start to shine through. Unfortunately, many of the characters were flat and their activity was somewhat predictable, but this title does seem to be moving in a more interesting direction.
How would Waco or Ruby Ridge have gone if there were a bunch of armed survivalist teenagers behind the line? "Sheltered" #13 shows us that the answer is "maybe even worse," as a tense standoff escalated more quickly than Ron Burgundy could appreciate and federal agents get pretty testy. Very little character development and the major action here happens in a rush, but this is not bad and less slow than previous issues.
"He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe" #19 was ... interesting. Showing a prepubescent Prince Adam as a rakish scamp with a Scar-like uncle (pre-skully Skeletor is almost quoting the Disney movie), the development of the character was well done in a prequel-y way, and the framing device was very clever. However, there were more cliches than you could shake Ram-Man at. A surprise to be above the range of mediocrity.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" #40, "Superior Foes Of Spider-Man" #17, "Stumptown Volume 3" #3, "Aquaman" #36, "New Warriors" #12, "Sundowners" #4, "F1rst Hero" #3, "Scarlet Spiders" #1, "Dead Letters" #6, "New 52 Futures End" #30, "Manhattan Projects" #25, "Superman" #36, "Red Sonja The Black Tower" #3, "Amazing X-Men" #13, "Roche Limit" #3, "Nova" #24, "Midnight Tiger" #2, "Flash" #36, "Sex" #18, "Aliens Fire And Stone" #3, "Deathlok" #2, "Steampunk Battlestar Galactica 1880" #4, "All-New Invaders" #12, "Rasputin" #2, "Spider-Man 2099" #6, "Planet Gigantic" #1, "Wayward" #4, "Turok Dinosaur Hunter" #10, "Star-Spangled War Stories Starring G.I. Zombie" #4, "Captain Midnight" #17, "Umbral" #11, "Batman Eternal" #34, "Shinobi Ninja Princess" #3, "Secret Avengers" #10, "G.I. JOE" #3, "Prophet Strikefile" #2, "Delinquents" #4, "Elfquest The Final Quest" #6, "Deathstroke" #2, "Purgatori" #3, "Red Lanterns" #36, "Wolverine And The X-Men" #12, "Tomb Raider" #10, "Doctor Spektor Master Of The Occult" #4, "Justice League Dark" #36, "Angry Birds Transformers" #1, "C.O.W.L." #6, "Ody-C" #1, "Letter 44" #12, "All-New Ghost Rider" #9, "Trees" #7, "Arkham Manor" #2, "Death Of Wolverine The Logan Legacy" #5.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"New Avengers" #27 is utter gibberish. Posturing and pretension masquerading as plot, this plays with characters like they were Heroclix, moving them into increasingly ridiculous situations that make less sense than the previous one. A barely characterized "big bad" turns out to be just a stepping stone to more unexplained "big bads," and the weight of the frippery falls on itself. Beautifully drawn, oddly conceived, poorly executed.
"Transformers Vs G.I. JOE" #4 has some of the bare bones elements of a story, yes, but isn't exactly that. With a through line of song titles and artwork that doesn't flatter either the military task force or the mechanical creatures, this is a frustrating experience for fans of either property, seeing their favorites do just plain weird stuff. Disappointing.
This just in, via "Captain America And The Mighty Avengers" #2: FalCap is now a fascist leading a press gang of "heroes" that are less than heroic. Luke Cage is a Saville Row suit-wearing corporate raider. The team is now even more low rent than before, despite the Blue Marvel having crazy intellect and cash and secret bases and what not. The main battle is against bank robbers in mecha suits equipped with roller skates. Also, in case you missed it, "Sixis" or "Axis" or whatever this crossover is called, has the power to turn anything to stupid. Terrible ideas all around.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
The Avengers are stuck in a tailspin this winter, oy. Still, to see He-man and the "Sheltered" shut-ins try harder was encouraging, while some others tried new things. Not discouraging.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
There were more bad books than purchases, which technically means the week stunk up the joint.
On December 17, you can head to your local retailer or to ComiXology to buy "Fathom Sourcebook" #1, a license to be right when asked any question about all the characters in Aspen's aquatic archives. It's also written by the creator of this column with artwork by Michael Turner and other Aspen all-stars. Check it out!
As of right now, you can spend ten bucks and get about 175,000 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. 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. All proceeds to towards the care and maintenance of this columnist's kids ... oh, and to buy comic books, of course. 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!