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Secret Wars, Star Wars & A Gorilla on Drums

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Secret Wars, Star Wars & A Gorilla on Drums

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 16, 2015

Astro City #23

(Vertigo/DC Comics)

Many of us are familiar with the story of somebody from a small, secluded area who dreams of stardom and freedom in the big city. This very, very effective issue of “Astro City” mixes and matches some comics cliches (Gorilla City, the Savage Land) to introduce a talking gorilla whose only dream is to be a rock and roll drummer. Sure, he’s a military veteran who has super strength and agility, and his dreams took him to a city chock full of capes and masks and unitards, but the purity of his desire make this issue compelling. Another round of brilliance from Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, John Roshell and Jimmy Betancourt should come as no surprise, as even the most throwaway elements of this fantastic fictional playground are handled with deftness and nuance. This book is so damned good, y’all.

Secret Wars #2

(Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile.

Wow. Statistically, this column has fallen pretty solidly outside of the fandom for huge scale summer crossovers. The throwaway stakes and cardboard characterization most of them are known for make for tedious crossover comics to slog through. Here? This … this is something different. Setting aside Marvel’s threat that this is the new normal, that the things we knew are gone, this issue is a simply amazing case of world establishment that also tells an effective story and manages to make some characters really work. A religion based on Doom. Kingdoms run by rival barons including Mister Sinister, the Braddock brothers and more. Stephen Strange (looking like the 1602 version) and Valeria Richards as the right and left hands of Doom’s will. This mad pastiche of influences and ideas is somehow wonderfully woven together by what could be Jonathan Hickman’s strongest big label script yet, and the visuals presented by Esad Ribic, Ive Svorcina and Chris Eliopoulos were very effective. If this is the shape of things to come, bring on Battleworld.

Saga #28

(Image Comics)

Hm. The drama surrounding a set of races caught in the middle of the war between Landfall and Wreath is interesting, showing how desperate people can be when their backs are pressed against the wall. This part showed the title’s narrator and her mother stuck in truly dire straits and the elements of that story were strong. Unfortunately, the fathers in this story floundered and faltered, their storyline considerably less compelling. Still entertaining, but a few more issues of this and the exalted “buy on sight” nature of this book may be in danger.

Darth Vader #5

(Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile.

Working well between the strength of engaging supporting characters (the Bizarro R2 and Threepio are the BEST), whip smart plotting and several “gotcha” moments that entertain. Writer Kieron Gillen has settled into a very nice groove with his writing on this series and the pitch perfect visuals from Salvador Larocca, Edgar Delgado and Joe Caramagna elevate what could be stale set pieces into poetry of mayhem. Now with two issues in a row making the jump, one more would make this a “buy on sight” title. Let’s see how that goes next month!

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Even with a “Saga” stumble, that’s one entertaining batch of comics!

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

“Black Science” #14 had a rock solid emotional core of a father trying to make up for past mistakes. That element drove the plot forward at a fever pitch, but with so many supporting characters standing around with little to do, it was like one of those losing Lakers teams where a bunch of people stood around and waited for Kobe to be amazing.

“Angela Asgard’s Assassin” #6 was extremely close to the mark, finally making every issue prior much more logical in retrospect with a reveal near the final third of the issue. All the best laid plans of the titular character finally bear fruit and it makes perfect sense. Sure, it took six issues worth of misdirection to get there, but once this is all gathered, it will make a very effective collection. As it is, it’s a savvy chapter of a larger whole.

“East Of West” #19 is a set of harsh lessons on the world, taught at the end of a weapon, bracketed in blood. This issue focused on the lost son of the Horseman of Death, lost in the woods and trying to find his way. As fascinating as the individual moments were, it didn’t have enough of an engaging plot on its own and didn’t do enough to connect into larger plot elements that would have given this more context. Not bad, but not up to standard.

Hold on, wait. “Legendary Star-Lord” #12 showed that the titular character has a biracial half-sister who’s a Spartax military careerist. She’s also kind of a bad-ass. However, while she pulled a clever bit off with an Elder of the Universe, there wasn’t enough plot-related storymeat to make this issue a winner.

The “Meh” Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title

“Captain America And The Mighty Avengers” #8, “Star Trek” #45, “Five Ghosts Special” #1, “Captain Marvel” #15, “Convergence Superman The Man Of Steel” #2, “Project Superpowers Blackcross” #3, “Howard The Duck” #3, “Convergence Supergirl Matrix” #2, “Injection” #1, “Imperium” #4, “Convergence Superboy” #2, “D4VE” #4, “Mantle” #1, “Convergence Suicide Squad” #2, “Uncanny Avengers” #4, “Bill And Ted’s Most Triumphant Return” #3, “Reyn” #5, “Magneto” #18, “Convergence Justice League International” #2, “Lady Killer” #5, “Thor” #8, “RunLoveKill” #2, “Convergence Green Lantern Parallax” #2, “Battlestar Galactica Death Of Apollo” #6, “Ms Marvel” #15, “Savior” #2, “Spider-Man 2099” #12, “Convergence Green Arrow” #2, “G.I. JOE Snake Eyes Agent Of Cobra” #5, “Convergence Catwoman” #2, “Convergence Batman Shadow Of The Bat” #2, “Solar Man Of The Atom” #12, “Convergence Aquaman” #2, “Silk” #4, “Unity” #18, “Convergence” #6, “Bucky Barnes The Winter Soldier” #8.

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

“Guardians 3000” #8 feels like it may have had a plan but ran into the big crossover in the process. The ending literally just sputtered out like a broken down 1974 Dodge Dart. Nothing happened here worth seeing.

“Storm” #11 is terrible. It’s really bad. The climax is nonsensical, the battle is illogical, the usage of Storm’s powers is ridiculous and the villain is retrograde. New ideas here, please!

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Aw, that wasn’t so bad … this “Convergence” thing, though, sheesh …

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two jumps? Only two bad books? Yeah, let’s call this week a winner!

THE BUSINESS

Thursday and Friday join this columnist at Cal State University Los Angeles for Eagle-Con 2015, an indie-friendly scene that will feature “Versus,” with Comics on Comics host Vito Lapiccola and real-life attorney James Thompson will face off in the best #whodwin fight ever, Versus (3:15 PM on Thursday at the University Student Union).

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!

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