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 NOVEMBER 18, 2015
(Action Lab/Danger Zone)
Jump from the Read Pile.
And now for something completely different. This first issue has an amazing balance of plot elements with character development as a teenaged girl becomes an instrument of bloody justice, all without losing the strains of her favorite anime's theme song in her head. The elements -- powerful yet corrupt business person, plucky and pixie-like protagonist -- are all perfectly depicted, stepping away from the cliches they could have become in less skilled hands. Mia Goodwin, on script and artwork if you can freaking believe it, has delivered a virtually flawless project, with clever narrative trappings, resonating visuals and savvy exposition woven into the art and dialogue. In a word, wow.
Astro City #29
Virtually nobody is the villain of their own story, or so we're told, so if a "villain" ruled an entire population of people, how would they view your "heroes?" This thought-provoking, engaging issue ponders just that perspective from the eyes of a young being on the edge of adulthood in his community, dreaming of serving under the bloodthirsty aristocracy and villainizing the ideas of The Furst Family, well known "heroes" of Astro City. Kurt Busiek's intimate script closely examines the altered image of things, how "right" seems wrong and the means by which a nation receives (and sometimes doubts) propaganda. Shades of Earth's own totalitarian regimes? Perhaps. The story's not in throne rooms or council chambers, but at the dinner table of people who want a better life for their children, just like people here, and seeing that thrown into a kind of upside-down Bizarro relief is simply fascinating. As always, Brent Anderson (with John Roshell, Albert Deschesne and and Jimmy Betancourt) deliver an alien world that's both familiar and foreign, with great action and wonderful moments of introspection. How they continue to maintain this fantastic degree of workmanship is a question we may never know, but let's hope they keep doing it.
Phonogram The Immaterial Girl #4
The slight dip in quality for this issue -- and the dip is minuscule, to be certain -- has less to do with the return of the pompous "Mr. Logos" (more often called Lloyd) and more to do with the experimental nature of this very meta issue, a "Scott Pilgrim" homage and a metatextual look at rivalry. Music and angst are more central here than magic as Lloyd lives in an Ouruboros of mutual hatred with the titular Immaterial Girl, each one so intimately acquainted with the vulnerabilities of the other that they can do little but constantly snipe at each other. This sounds like it could easily be the root of a romantic comedy, by Gillen and McKelvie never even hint in that direction, making the loathing so comprehensive that it leaves no room for anything that would dilute its purity. Some great moments and a star turn by Lloyd that keeps the pace without stretching too far as the last couple of issues have.
Star Wars Vader Down #1
Jump from the Read Pile.
When the core of your story is Luke Skywalker crashing his X-Wing into Darth Vader's TIE fighter, you know you're starting with some fairly engaging stakes, despite the trip through Prequelandia. One Sith Lord against a gang of Rebels hell bent on bringing him down ... no, it's not DLC for "Star Wars: Battlefront" (yet) but a super entertaining book from the pen (keyboard?) of Jason Aaron with stunning visuals from Mike Deodato, Frank Martin Jr. and Joe Caramagna. Look for star turns from the delightful droid Triple-Zero, Vader himself (really showing up, managing the panel time like Martin Sheen on "West Wing") and Luke. If you love "Star Wars," this is pure catnip, and if you like science fiction adventure stories at all, there's a lot to love here.
Jump from the Read Pile
In a world of cynicism and dour faces on the heroes at the foundation of western society, Mark Millar apparently said, "enough." Yes, this is after the hateful "Wanted" and the nihilistic "Nemesis" did a good bit of heavy lifting in the other direction. Huck takes only the bare minimum from the Superman mythos -- orphan found in the heartland of America to be raised with the kindest, most altruistic of values -- to create a kind of heroic savant from simple cloth, using a set of cookie cutter super powers in unremarkable ways that, incrementally, push the world towards being a better place. Is there a political and cultural weirdness of the savior bit that serves as the issue's central complication? Sure, but this comic lives in the uncomplicated place of power fantasy wish fulfillment that wasn't about gain or posturing, but about wanting more for those who don't have as much and doing whatever can be done to help them get it. Naive, given Millar's body of work? Maybe, or maybe it's repentance -- we can never know. The organic imagery from Rafael Albequerque Dave McCraig and Nate Piekos ironically present an America more like the vision of modern political conservatives than their general legislative behavior shows. In a word, this comic is beautiful, a refreshing splash of water looking out for a brighter, new day.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Wow, three jumps, five great books, that awesome OGN "Andre The Giant: Closer To Heaven" from IDW? That all adds up to a remarkably good week of comic books!
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Captain America Sam Wilson" #3 has some cute modernist touches -- Dr. Karl Malus finding a backup lair on AirBNB for example -- but had a story that kind of meandered and had everybody being better at his job than the titular character. Maybe one day he'll be the hero of his own book, but that day ain't today.
"Cognetic" #2 had some compelling ideas but just a thread of characterization. If you read that Luna Brothers book "The Sword," you'll see some parallels in immortals at war for kicks. This will likely play better once adapted into a Showtime series or movie.
"Captain Canuck" #5 focuses mainly on a Francophone supporting character who's part Natasha Romanov, part John McClane and part "American Sniper" ... but Canadian. Even if you don't parlez-vous her captions shouldn't be that hard to follow as she makes her way past a major injury to try and save her team. Not bad, but not really making the connection as the lead character spent most of the issue tied up and had everybody trying to do things for him like a chillier Sam Wilson.
"Uncanny Inhumans" #2 had some very clever science fiction bona fides, as Kang the Conqueror strikes at the Attilan monarchy before they were ever born and an interesting last page twist. It did, however, short sheet characterization on some points and had some ham-fisted exposition at the start of the issue, which slowed things down, and with both Karnak and Maximus gone, it had to rely on a non-Inhuman source for big brains, which was a let down. Still, good looking artwork and an intriguing idea that hit some execution issues.
"Wrath Of The Eternal Warrior" #1 was a rock solid character piece, both showcasing the intensity of Gilad Anni-Padda's virtually endless campaign of righteous bloodshed and the life that eludes him, with its secrets and sacrifices. Plot wise, it could come up stronger, but its very close to the mark on emotional resonance alone.
"Star Wars" #12 had the advantage of really feeling like "Star Wars" at some points, with Luke's friends coming to save him from the smuggler's moon. This leads to all kinds of shenanigans, and the conclusion of the "Han's wife" debacle. This issue was very close to the mark on behalf of a couple of enjoyable moments, but it was a little too predictable in its plot -- partially the curse of interstitial stories, because you already know where everybody is going to end up.
"Reyn" #10 closed off all the answers to the series that the first seven or so issues raised, and honestly was more like inside cover copy, but there was a moment or two of effective character development that worked well. The whole story, such as it is, is prologue and the next volume can start with the stage properly set. Then, maybe, it will be ready for prime time.
"Mighty Thor" #1 focuses its strengths most closely with developing the tragedy of the titular character as she struggles within (against cancer) and without (against a possible war between the nine realms) as the king of the dark elves has created a rival legislative body to stand against Odin's power structure, with the big man himself gone mad and his son missing in action. There are a number of influences at play here, including significant prequel-minded shades of a galaxy far, far away in the storyline with an impotent congress impotent to stop malicious forces from spilling blood and some of the classic Peter Parker luck of a "hero" unwanted at home. The pieces don't come together, despite many of them working individually, but perhaps future issues can balance this better.
"Tokyo Ghost" #3 had a number of promising character moments, but pacing issues sandbagged the plot as "inconclusive." That's not bad, but it's not enough to connect.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Wayward" #11, "Astonishing Ant-Man" #2, "Star Trek Green Lantern" #5, "Black Knight" #1, "Bloodshot Reborn" #8, "Deadpool" #2, "Masks 2" #8, "Extraordinary X-Men" #2, "Transformers" #47, "Kanan" #8, "Jughead" #2, "Escape From New York" #12, "Titans Hunt" #2, "Voltron From The Ashes" #3, "Telos" #2, "Holy F*cked" #3, "Secret Six" #8, "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" #5, "Red Thorn" #1, "Hacktivist Volume 2" #5, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Wonderland" #41, "New Suicide Squad" #14, "Ms. Marvel" #1, "Jem And The Holograms" #9, "Martian Manhunter" #6, "Star-Lord" #1, "Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 10" #21, "Harley Quinn" #22, "Onyx" #3, "New Avengers" #3, "Green Lantern The Lost Army" #6, "Welcome Back" #3, "Earth 2 Society" #6, "Rat Queens" #13, "Doomed" #6, "Orphan Black Helsinki" #1, "Uncanny Avengers Annual" #1, "Doctor Fate" #6, "Pretty Deadly" #6, "Clean Room" #2, "Bizarro" #6, "Rook" #2, "Batman Europa" #1, "Secret Wars Too" #1, "Invincible" #125, "Batman Arkham Knight Genesis" #4, "Star Trek" #51, "Batman And Robin Eternal" #7, "Spider-Woman" #1, "I Hate Fairyland" #2, "Action Comics" #46, "Gold Digger" #226.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Looking For Group" #8 had both a Bill Withers homage and a recitation of a "Return of the Jedi" musical number. Neither of these were good ideas, wholly shattering the suspension of disbelief and not advancing the plot a whit. A disturbingly bad set of decisions.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
It could have easily been worse.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
With three jumps, this week wins on its merit alone. Can't beat that with a bat!
On the heels of the release of "Niobe: She Is Life" from "Hunger Games" actress Amandla Stenberg, Sebastian A. Jones and Ashley Woods, last week, Stranger Comics announced "Waso: Gathering Wind" -- the new fantasy novel from the writer of this column. Available December 8th on all digital platforms, it's a blood soaked heist story that lives in Stranger Comics' fictional world of Asunda. Check it out!
As well, this week started the 10 Seconds of Shakespeare challenge for charity from the Los Angeles Drama Club, and this column's writer did a selection from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" to kick things off.
As of right now, you can spend ten bucks and get about 175,000 words worth 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, 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!