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 JUNE 8, 2016
Jump from the Read Pile.
Matt Murdock is looking for something and he will do almost anything to get it. Taking some time off from his assistant district attorney job, he gets into the semifinals of an international poker tournament. Despite the fact that literally the entire story is a set up for something else, it is self contained and brilliantly told (he can't see the cards), establishing a credible antagonist, literally showing how high the stakes are and giving the reader no fewer than three "Ah!" moments. Mixing classic James Bond intrigue with Marvel-style superheroic flair, Charles Soule, Goran Sudzuka, Matt Milla and Clayton Cowles have turned in an eminently re-readable adventure that's intimate and harrowing. Superbly enjoyable work.
Many people often forget that the titular character has a younger "brother" -- another synthetic person created by Ultron for nefarious purposes who also resisted his "father's" programming to become a hero. Victor Mancha has been a Runaway and an Avenger, but in every incarnation, he has needed to betray something fundamental to his identity in order to try and do the right thing. The frighteningly brilliant Tom King has realized that awful dichotomy between altruism and betrayal as Victor gets an internship on Capitol Hill and comes to live with the Vision's family for the semester. If you just write down the general idea, it sounds staggeringly boring, but this intimate, (again) subversive book finds a way to make every panel riveting, even more so once you're reading it again. You will, likewise, be reading it again. The creepy and sterile nature of the visuals from Garbriel Hernandez Walta, Jordie Bellaire and the inimitable Clayton Cowles give this book its almost "Pushing Daisies"-esque charm with the steadiness of classic "X-Files" episodes or even some of "Top 10." This book is simply terrifying, like sitting in a church van while a drunk driver barrels your way, watching it in slow motion.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Daaaaaaaaaaang! That's a great start!
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Lumberjanes Gotham Academy" #1 was adorable, fast paced, well drawn, funny and maybe about a two-fifths of an actual story, resolving nothing, answering nothing and getting by on its cuteness. Fans of both books will love it, but if you're not 100% in for at least one of these properties, you might find this incomplete and unsatisfying for the price.
"Darth Vader" #21 had the requisite hilarious commentary from Triple-Zero and good times with the supporting cast. Vader, himself, has a hard time standing up, faced with more and more ridiculous delays and stalling tactics straight from the Acme Warehouse. Stunning art, good moments, for some reason still not finding a rhythm as a whole.
If you never saw the Benedict Cumberbatch vehicle on Netflix or the BBC, "Sherlock A Study In Pink" #1 gives you every bit of the thrill and engagement of the pilot episode ... from right to left and in black and white. If you aren't used to manga, that might throw you but it's a rock solid adaptation. If you've seen the source material, it's a little less than that but it's not bad at all.
"The Fix" #3 is a FUBAR situation of the highest degree as a cop tricks his way into a protection detail for a child star turned Hollywood skank. This turns into an all-world drug and booze fueled catastrophe north of Melrose that's like a comedy of errors, sniping at the soft targets of celebrity culture. It's not as ruthless as Jay Mohr's "Action" nor aspiring for the gravitas of "Crash," but if you like "Entourage" or the current season of "Archer," this might do it for you.
"Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D." #6 had some of the chemistry and flavor of the show, as Coulson is way more impressive here and the super-powered chocolate in the espionage peanut butter is delightful. However, the underlying derivative nature of this "Tower of Babel" rehash still rankles and the coloring is a little on the "blah" side, giving the whole book a washed out feeling.
"Detective Comics" #934, back with the original numbering, is pitch perfect in tone and has the rhythms of dialogue for Batman and Batwoman down pat, perfect counterpoints for each other. Winter has come to Gotham and in its snowy shadows the masked protectors of the city are being targeted. Batman has a plan -- of course -- to have Batwoman lead and train a squad of Gotham's finest and rawest to fight a new and unknown threat. That last part is what kept this issue from making it work, the lack of credibility that is part and parcel with vagueness. The art and coloring and lettering are working, the character stuff is largely on point, maybe this needed another page or two to connect the dots. Worth watching, though.
"Insufferable On The Road" #5 has a very clever moment of superhero teamwork and maybe the most nefarious thing a super villain has ever done in comics (and that's on the cover). It had, however, a generally weak plot with an antagonist trading in cliche and took too long to get where it needed to be. Not bad, but not quite there.
"Think Tank Creative Destruction" #3 had some very intriguing ideas as a Chinese hacker becomes a threat to US security and Dr. David Loren has to wrestle with the moral complications. Unfortunately, side agendas and childish decisions make him more like a petulant child than a protagonist to engage the reader. Add to that the inconclusiveness of the plot and this is a bit of a let down.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, "Saber Rider And The Star Sheriffs" #4, "Deadpool And The Mercs For Money" #5, "Birthright" #16, "Green Lantern Corps Edge Of Oblivion" #6, "Civil War II Gods Of War" #1, "Star Trek" #58, "Guardians Of The Galaxy" #9, "Norman" #1, "Venom Space Knight" #8, "Wicked + The Divine" #20, "Gold Key Alliance" #3, "Black Canary" #12, "Weavers" #2, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Bebop And Rocksteady Destroy Everything" #2, "Harley Quinn And Her Gang Of Harleys" #3, "Vampirella Volume 3" #4, "4001 A.D. Bloodshot" #1, "Flash Rebirth" #1 "Ghoul Scouts Night Of The Unliving Undead" #1, "Doctor Who The Eleventh Doctor Year 2" #10, "New Avengers" #12, "Wonder Woman Rebirth" #1, "Pink Panther" #1, "Aquaman Rebirth" #1, "Roche Limit Monadic" #3, "Civil War II Amazing Spider-Man" #1, "Earth 2 Society" #13, "G.I. JOE A Real American Hero" #229, "Empress" #3, "Renato Jones The One Percent" #2, "Kings Quest" #2, "Midnight Of The Soul" #1, "Goldie Vance" #3, "Red Hood Arsenal" #13, "Faster Than Light" #7, "Howard The Duck" #8, "Ninjak" #16, "Voracious" #4, "Island" #8, "Star Trek Manifest Destiny" #4, "Invisible Republic" #10, "Legends Of Tomorrow" #4, "Brutal Nature" #2, "Constantine The Hellblazer" #13, "Injection" #10, "Thunderbolts" #2, "Xena Warrior Princess" #3, "Grizzly Shark" #3, "Kaijumax Season 2" #2, "Sheriff Of Babylon" #7, "Marvel Universe Guardians Of The Galaxy" #9, "Merry Men" #1, "All-New X-Men" #10.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
In the almost predictably renumbered "Action Comics" #957, a Superman from a dead universe foolishly does everything he can to prove that Lex Luthor is right. No, it's not an imaginary story, it's not an Elseworlds tale, it's just a poor conception of both character and plot executed with the highest production values in the world. This issue makes Lex Luthor seem like (maybe) a beacon of heroism. That feels wrong, like putting your shirt on backwards.
What happens if you take the 1970s movie "Cannonball Run" and remix it by way of "Mad Max: Fury Road," and pour in a little corrupted taste of "Sugar Rush?" "Wacky Raceland" #1 hits all the wrong notes and maybe even uses the wrong instrument. All modernized and realistic looking, Dick Dastardly, Penelope Pittstop and other Saturday morning favorites look like a Michael Bay wet dream, and that's no compliment. The "story," such as it is, becomes repetitive and tedious before it even stops (which would be different from it actually "finishing") and the visuals are far too busy for their own good. In this race, there are no winners.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
A good number of those "meh" comics were on the border of being bad, so it was a little rough.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Tie game between two really bad books and two stellar ones, so despite the fact the middle ground was rough going, let's call the week a wash.
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!