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 AUGUST 26, 2015
Jump from the Read Pile.
There are freelance journalist who exist to capture images -- video and still -- of the surreal, the salacious, the spectacular. When they follow celebrities, they're called "paparazzi," but for the people who pay them, they are called the same thing you call the guy writing album or movie reviews for a big magazine. That appellation -- "stringers" -- is both the title of this intriguing buddy dramedy and the occupation of its casting-ready leads, all snark and bluster as they squabble like a married couple. "Arrow" exec Marc Guggenheim brings his A-game to this gripping, engaging script that literally zips from scene to scene but enmeshes the reader in the characters' lives at every step. The blue collar artwork from Justin Greenwood, Ryan Hill and Crank! perfectly fit the hectic, sketchy streets of Los Angeles without the muddled coloring many stories set at night have, instead invoking a Michael Mann-ish aesthetic without the linen suits and sports cars. If this isn't being optioned already, it will be heading for your cineplexes or prime time lineups sooner or later.
Star Wars: Lando #3
Jump from the Read Pile.
Despite having less to do in this very exciting issue, Lando's charm and modus operandi comes through as two Imperial Guardsmen go toe-to-toe with Lando's chosen twin killers and the Emperor's secret henchman gets Darth Maul's old ship, the Scimitar. This issue shows that Palpatine might fit in on an episode of "Hoarders," and what wonderful toys he has, like a married guy driving around town with his best and most precious toys in the trunk of his car. Chanath Cha makes a wonderful opposite number and the supporting cast stands up as effectively as Lando in the lead. The coloring from Paul Mounts might be a little moodier than it needs to be, even in the dank Imperial climes this issue finds itself but it doesn't overshadow the great work by Alex Maleev, Charles Soule and VC's Joe Caramagna. Fun stuff that fits perfectly in the Star Wars universe, and as of this issue, a "buy on sight" selection.
"Doctor Who Event 2015 Four Doctors" #3
Jump from the Read Pile.
First of all, if you don't know squat about "Doctor Who," that's perfectly fine. Literally everything you need to know is held in the pages of this singular, sensational comic book. Second, if you are prone to not paying attention, you'd better buckle up, buttercup, because this issue ain't for the low end of the Bell Curve. Third, this issue may even undersell its grandiose nature because it embodies Harvey Dent's worst worry (apologies to Aaron Eckhart), while taking several pages from Charles Dickens. The best part is that Paul Cornell's effective plotting takes just enough time out for wonderful character interactions as Doctors swap companions under the threat of death -- giving a pitch perfect moment for the Matt Smith version with Clara and a chance for the newest incarnation to explain himself. Great stuff from Cornell and the art team of Neal Edwards, Ivan Nunes, Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt.
"Hank Johnson Agent Of Hydra" #1
Jump from the Read Pile.
When Captain America or Nick Fury punches out one of the endless henchmen from your average criminal organization, you don't think injured party might have to watch the baby the next day, or that his wife might want him to make more money, or that his neighbor the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent might be a nice guy, sometimes. Pulling back the curtain on a workday drone in Hydra's machinery shows not an ideological zealot but a pudgy everyman, cashing checks and peeing blood for a week after encountering the She-Hulk. The humor in David Mandel's script builds and builds, compounding the absurd with the mundane into a delightful dance of lunacy, delivered by the matter-of-fact visuals of Michael Walsh, Matthew Wilson and VC's Clayton Cowles. M.O.D.O.K. goes to a school charity dinner. That's just freaking great.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Given nothing was guaranteed a ride home, this is a major accomplishment! Whoo!
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"We Can Never Go Home" #4 had too little story for its pages but sure looked good in the process, taking a page from Dynamite's "Uncanny" and putting it in the hands of average (read: "not so bright") teenaged runaways. Good ideas that could benefit from less decompressed storytelling (although the surprise in the car was a hoot).
"Cyborg" #2 is a distinctive improvement over the debut issue in that its titular character takes more control over his own life. It also introduces a realistic and logical extension of super powers in a world with, you know, humans. That's all good, the art work is gorgeous. Unfortunately, the entirety of the main action happens in two private homes and a lab under controlled conditions, while the central struggle of Victor Stone's tumultuous relationship with his father remains shallow and obscured from the latter's perspective and the looming threat on the horizon is taking way too long to show up, let alone clarify the rationale for its threat. This title is finding its footing, but it's not quite there yet.
"Low" #9 has two things to its benefit -- effective artwork and a credible science fiction premise, putting two orphaned sisters in complex compromises until their rage and frustration boils out to create quite a body count. A little bit needlessly gratuitous and a hair short on characterization, it's got the motion and kineticism of a summer blockbuster. Not enough to justify the single issue cost, but a collected take may provide greater depth.
"Zodiac Starforce" #1 is an intriguing start, offering a glimpse at a group of teenagers gifted (cursed) with great power and responsibility. The art is solid and the characters are decently developed, but the threat they face is not made real through the narrative and the source of their powers is made far too vague in its introduction. This could have benefitted from four more pages, but it's good enough for you to check back.
"Justice League Of America" #3 had the typical high production values you expect from a ridiculously expensive-to-make comic book and a moment between Batman and Superman that was very fitting for both of them, especially in light of the coming cinematic confrontation. However, the overall plot drove all over the road and left its protagonists standing around a lot more than they should have been.
"East Of West" #20 showcases science fiction spycraft as decades old plans emerge from their hiding places. The allegorical revenge of this continent's indigenous people upon their usurpers is not a subtle metaphor and almost hides the fact that the child on the cover, focus of so many plot points, isn't even in this issue. A killer twist at the end, a nice moment leading to it and a lot of beautiful bluster in between. Close, but not close enough.
"Book Of Death Fall Of Ninjak" #1 is a spoilerific look at the end of half of Valiant's characters and the beginnings of another, creating a seamless continuity over generations and millennia. Unfortunately, it's also peopled with faceless stock characters and has only two moments approaching emotional resonance. A great wiki entry, but not quite enough for the cash.
"S.H.I.E.L.D." #9 was a case of great execution of subpar ideas as Mark Waid ties together the maddening strings of Jonathan Hickman's historical fiction take on the intellectual property and brings back a familiar face (which opens up the possibility of a very interesting televised crossover, if people get determined) in charge of zombies and werewolves. It has some kitschy elements that echo both the better elements of Waid's run here and the television show, but it's burdened with vainglorious continuity, which makes this miss the mark for a purchase.
"Grayson" #11 is either setting up a huge trick or pulled the rug out from under one of the title character's greatest story lines. If the latter, this is another beautifully rendered bad idea, and if it's the former ... whither Spyral? Like a confusing one night stand, it's hard not to keep re-examining this, but it won't get any clearer.
"M.O.D.O.K. Assassin" #4 had two really solid laughs, but its "Sonic the Hedgehog" styled plot failed to enthrall and an inundation of Mindless Ones seemed like nothing worse than bad weather.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Old Man Logan" #4, "Rumble" #6, "Fight Club 2" #4, "Harley Quinn" #19, "Captain Marvel And The Carol Corps" #3, "Drive" #1, "Sinestro" #14, "Princeless Be Yourself" #3, "They're Not Like Us" #7, "Ragnarok" #6, "Deadpool's Secret Secret Wars" #4, "He-Man The Eternity War" #9, "Marvel Zombies" #3, "Rasputin" #8, "Ninjak" #6, "Halo Escalation" #21, "Justice League 3001" #3, "Swords Of Sorrow Red Sonja Jungle Girl" #2, "Where Monsters Dwell" #4, "Superman" #43, "Roche Limit Clandestiny" #4, "Ant-Man Last Days" #1, "Hacktivist Volume 2" #2, "Gotham By Midnight" #8, "Sons Of The Devil" #4, "PastAways" #6, "Batman Arkham Knight Genesis" #1, "E Is For Extinction" #3, "Transformers Robots In Disguise Animated" #2, "Thief Of Thieves" #30, "Flash" #43, "Civil War" #3, "Swords Of Sorrow Pantha Jane Porter Special" #1, "Deathstroke" #9, "Sherlock Holmes The Seven-Per-Cent Solution" #1, "Teen Titans" #11, "Dead Drop" #4, "Tomorrows" #2, "Spawn" #255, "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" #3, "Batgirl" #43, "Covenant" #3, "Magneto" #21
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Aquaman" #43 is so stupid it hurts. Using a rather pained interpretation of Greek mythology as a starting point for the titular character's all new super powers, it features one-note supporting characters doing little of consequence, a soap opera turn so hackneyed that it smells like yesterday's catch left in the sun, and action sequences so stilted they could perform in a circus sideshow. What the heck is this tomfoolery?
Norse-esque gods ponder and pontificate upon the nature of mortality and existence in the odd, wildly random "Valhalla Mad" #4. Not even bothering to make sense by its internal logic, this strange, messy book repeats itself like it was "Man of Steel" and has a word count that would stagger an editor of "The New Yorker." Bad ideas, bad execution, bad all around.
"We Are Robin" #3 is disturbing and likely child endangerment in revealing the mind behind the untrained child soldiers and having the new police-sanctioned Batman shoo them away like pests. Badly conceived, serviceably executed and disappointing all around.
When you're writing a series that has a very short shelf life -- huge crossover canceling you, more popular creators want the title so you've gotta go -- sometimes you just stop caring and start acting a doggone wackadoo. "Spider-Woman" #10 signed up for all of that, and when Porcupine turns out to be the smartest character around, you know things are out of control. Almost so bad that it circles back around to maybe being good, but still almost gleefully terrible despite crisp artwork, coloring and visuals. Wow.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Ten "not bad" books versus four really, really bad ones while staring across Meh Canyon ... that's a good thing, right?
WINNERS AND LOSERS
On one hand, four comics made the jump based on sheer merit. On the other hand, four books were openly terrible -- a lot, surprisingly. Due to the ambition of some of the Honorable Mentions, the week can be called a win by a razor thin margin.
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!