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 SEPTEMBER 28, 2016
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #12 (Marvel Comics) —
This issue has two big surprises. First of all, it makes the title seem inaccurate, which is super weird, because even when she was hunted for sport or trapped in the 1960s, she wasn’t beaten, just annoyed. Second, the star of the issue was actually Brain Drain, who is making an effective if philosophical transition from super villainy. There were still far more than enough entertaining moments per page (while admitting nut allergies are no laughing matter) to justify the cover price, thanks to Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Rico Renzi and Travis Lanham.
Transformers More Than Meets The Eye #57 (IDW Publishing) —
Okay, look … if you’ve never read this title before, or you lapsed some time back, this issue isn’t gonna be easy for you. It hurls around ideas formed in this series — shadowplay and mnemosurgery in particular — to solve a four million year old mystery and give one robot who’s been haunted like the Master some peace. Lovingly rendered by James Roberts, Priscilla Tramontano, Joana LaFuente and Chris Mowry, this season finale is a love letter to long time fans as the title concludes and restarts in November.
Astro City #39 (Vertigo/DC Comics) —
Jump from the Read Pile. Welcome back to a long time favorite. There’s a neighborhood of Astro City called Shadow Hill, where magic and mystery abounds. Marta Dobrescu is a lawyer and accountant who happens to have some other abilities, and she serves this community faithfully, as does the resident superhero The Hanged Man. The myriad strings of the area’s many influences — old world European, sorcerous and more — weave together in an interesting tale while fleshing out this character so effectively. It’s no secret that Kurt Busiek is an undisputed master of the art form, so him delivering a rich, seductive script is almost like an expectable miracle. The visual team of Carmen Carnero, John Roshell and Peter Pantazis make the cobblestones and old brick of this storied neighborhood come alive … and not in a horror movie way. Enjoyable material that rewards rereading.
M.A.S.K. Mobile Armored Strike Kommand Revolution #1 (IDW Publishing) —
Jump from the Read Pile. This very enjoyable issue had a good amount of plot and character development as Matt Trakker and Miles Mayhem start to lay out what will inevitably become battle lines in a quest to jury rig a means to battle giant robots on Earth. Wonderfully nuanced characters interplay with striking, effective artwork. There is literally one problem, and only one, with this entire issue and that’s that it simply comes to a stop at the last page instead of coming to a conclusion. Aside from that one concern, this was remarkably well done by television writer Brandon Easton with visuals from Tony Vargas, Jordi Esquin and Chris Mowry.
Deathstroke #3 (DC Comics) —
Jump from the Read Pile. Slade Wilson reconnects with his only daughter Rose, and it’s far from a pleasant reunion. Someone has issued a contract on her life, and he’s certain she can’t settle the affair on her own. There are some wonderfully tense action sequences here, showcasing Rose’s limited precognizance and simply brutal, elegant dialogue from another master of the form, Christopher Priest. There’s a stellar team of visual storytellers on board, too, with Joe Bennett, Belardino Brabo, Mark Morales, Jeremy Cox and Willie Shubert. Every page delivers with entertaining content, pushing the plot forward relentlessly while opening up more about each character. It’s good to be the bad guy!
WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?
Three jumps? What is it, Kwanzaa? Heck of a great start!
THIS WEEK’S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it’s not good enough to buy
One thing is for certain about “Nighthawk” #5: the world needs more Tilda Johnson. The tight-lipped billionaire bruiser works as a detective and a fighter as the city is on the edge of chaos between a racially-tinted crisis and a serial killer enacting street justice on a corrupt system. The character who gets the best lines and most shine is Tilda and the antagonists are a little bland, but this book isn’t bad, just perhaps stronger as a larger work than as a periodical.
“Frostbite” #1 is a crafty science fiction concept piece set in a frozen post-apocalypse. The close of the issue is a wonderful character development for its lead, a hard scrabble heroine in the Rey mold. If this lean, effective issue did more character development on everyone else in the cast, it would have made it home, and is surely one to watch.
“Doctor Who The Twelfth Doctor Year Two” #9 has a lot of fun as the titular Time Lord and a bassist from the 41st century stumble into a mystery. The crotchety nature of this incarnation is gone, replaced by the rock and roll whimsy evidenced in this most recent season. The companion is a cipher and the problem seemed obvious from the first third, which is a bit of a let down, but at least watching the Doctor wackily investigate had its benefits.
“New Avengers” #16 was very close to making the jump, and not just because Squirrel Girl is awesome (but, seriously, can we talk for a minute? An alternate universe Reed Richards is supposed to be smart and hires a super villain who’s never been in any hero’s top 50 arch enemies and commands rats? Anyhoo, back to the review…). There were fun twists and turns, but the plot seemed to not have enough direction as too many elements were in play (okay, hang on, let’s talk again — Bobby DaCosta, best known for being a playboy and manifesting a smarter, meaner version of himself, is outthinking an alternate universe Reed Richards? You know what, let’s just go back to the review) with fun art. Close, but no cigar.
“Micronauts Revolution” #1 had some fun dialogue, solid action scenes and an intriguing, continuity-hooking conclusion. The vagueness in resolving the immediate conflict was a little too facile for its own good, but this showed an interesting direction for a title that may have been losing some mojo.
“Star Wars” #23 was goofy and playful with the kind of eye-winking whimsy that evokes the smiles of the “Return of the Jedi” reunion. Everybody’s favorite Rebels managed to steal a star destroyer with all the zeal and zest of youth, all in order to break a blockade around an Alliance world. Of course that can’t go well, and if this issue had two more pages to go into the threat here, it would have been enough to make the jump.
“Doctor Who The Eleventh Doctor Year Two” #13 – has a surprise at its end that’s only effective if you’ve been reading for several months. If so, it’s a gut punch of such elegance that it alone almost made this book jump. However, even a clever bit with the Master couldn’t unravel the fixed points of time that needed to do things a certain way, leaving the story a foregone conclusion. Great twist at the end, though.
If you liked the banter between Tilda and the title character in “Nighthawk,” “Blue Beetle” #1 will tickle the same nerve as Ted Kord and Jaime Reyes do something that’s part team up and part open antagonism. That dynamic is entertaining, but the paint-by-numbers plot didn’t do much.
What if everything you knew about the current, stupid Civil War had a deeper, craftier element? “Captain America Steve Rogers” #5 looks at that possibility as it pushes an underlying narrative of Steve Rogers’ work for Hydra behind the scenes of the showy, distracting struggle between Carol Danvers and Tony Stark. That kind of subversiveness you’d expect from Tom King or Christopher Priest, but here, it’s refreshing. Had this story actually come together as a plot instead of a series of scenes where Steve’s true agenda had been revealed, it might have made it home. He’s a better super villain than his counterpart is at being a hero, but we’ll get to that soon enough …
The “Meh” Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, they just kind of happened …
“Nova” #11, “Doctor Who The Fourth Doctor” #5, “Ultimates” #11, “Star Trek Waypoint” #1, “Deadpool Annual” #1, “Wonder Woman” #7, “Totally Awesome Hulk” #10, “Dream Police” #12, “Thunderbolts” #5, “Wacky Raceland” #4, “Spider-Woman” #11, “Leaving Megalopolis Surviving Megalopolis” #6, “Spider-Man Deadpool” #9, “Titans” #3, “Spider-Gwen” #12, “Eden’s Fall” #2, “Rocket Raccoon And Groot” #10, “Teen Titans Rebirth” #1, “Doctor Strange Annual” #1, “Sombra” #3, “Captain Marvel” #9, “Suicide Squad” #3, “Lake Of Fire” #2, “Hellblazer” #2, “Tarzan On The Planet Of The Apes” #1, “Hal Jordan And The Green Lantern Corps” #5, “Postal” #15, “Flash” #7, “Tomboy” #8, “Detective Comics” #941, “Ms. Marvel” #11, “Saga” #38, “Moon Girl And Devil Dinosaur” #11, “Batman Beyond Rebirth” #1, “Cryptocracy” #4, “Web Warriors” #11, “Batgirl” #3, “Drax” #11, “Thief Of Thieves” #35, “Deadpool” #19, “Action Comics” #964, “Civil War II Kingpin” #3.
No, just … no … These comics? Not so much …
There’s barely any metric that can call “Captain America Sam Wilson” #13 anything but a failure. To the people he represents — people of color unjustly suffering under oppressive policing — he’s not doing enough, leaving them in the lurch and not being Black enough. For the entrenched power structure, he’s too divisive, too political, too Black. For the people taking a swing at him, they’re able to beat up on him about 70% of the time, like the opponents in a Jerry Lawler match. When you add to that the Hydra-flavored conclusion, which makes less sense the longer you think about it, this issue is a dumpster fire.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Really ambitious reads that can’t be derailed by Captain Samerica …
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Five rock solid buys beats a single bad book easily to make this week a winner!
That “Project: Wildfire” web comic is really lighting up the joint these days!
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, “Executive Assistant Iris Sourcebook” #1 and “Aspen Universe Sourcebook,” 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!
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