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 17, 2015
“Astro City” #24
After a virtually flawless introduction, this issue takes a roundabout method to get to a somewhat predictable conclusion. The craft deployed by Busiek, Anderson, Roschell and Deschene is top notch but the gripping character development from last issue got short shrift here. Nothing terrible but it feels like a mulligan for one of the industry’s best titles.
WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?
That could have gone better…
THIS WEEK’S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it’s not good enough to buy
“Fiction” #1 posits some very interesting ideas in a magical land hidden behind the pages of mysterious books, a place where a quartet of kids could escape something troubling their parents. However, it falls into tepid tropes and does about a quarter inch of characterization so the stakes feel low. It could be the next Narnia or the next “naw, y’all,” but we don’t have enough information to know yet.
“God Hates Astronauts” #9 has a number of deeply funny one-liners and hilarious moments. Do those things weave together into a coherent and enjoyable narrative? Of course not — this book makes James Joyce look clear headed and intelligible. Beautiful, hilarious moments, but not much of a story.
“Aquila” #3 is a gripping historical drama that grabs you in the first few pages and keeps going. Set in Nero’s Rome, at the height of imperial power as an upstart new religion called Christianity draws mockery from citizens, this puts a classical stoic tough guy at the center of a struggle between divine powers, all with a ranting drunk at his side. The archetypes presented here are done well for all their familiarity and the art style is intimate and cinematic. Lots going on, but this is intriguing enough to be interesting, if not yet purchasing just yet.
“Armor Wars” #2 is part noir and part cyberpunk, a tale of two brothers locked at each other’s throats and the people, good and bad, trapped in the middle. Jim Rhodes is a lawman trying to solve a murder that hits close to home, Spyder-Man is dead but holds the answers to many mysteries and Tony Stark is… well, kind of dull. Relying too heavily on the reader’s purported familiarity with names gone Elseworlds, it’s for the initiated, not civilians.
“Secret Six” #3 has a simply delicious ending that makes many elements of this issue downright subversive. However, the cast is thinly defined and the effective macabre humor comes too sporadically. The key to the success of the previous title was how effective the characters were, making their situations all the more important. Here, those connections have yet to be built. That Eaglesham, Wright and Lanham art, though…
“Doctor Who The Ninth Doctor” #2 was very close to the mark as Captain Jack Harkness helps the Doctor find a time-lost Rose Tyler in a flea market for time travel memorabilia. This leads to an angry outburst or two and Captain Jack being dashing, and writer Cavan Scott has the Eccleston Doctor’s voice down pat, but there’s not enough story to go all in. Not bad, though.
For a book predominated by copies of more popular characters, “Squadron Sinister” #1 was surprisingly close to the mark. Taking the core narrative DNA of Grant Morrison’s “Earth 2,” this posits essentially an imperialist Justice League… in a world under Doom’s law, according to Marvel’s new “Battleworld” rules. Why would an arguable Superman and Batman and Flash and Wonder Woman and Green Lantern seek domination when they have power? That’s never made clear. The art looks good, the plot is zippy but the characters are too shorthand to mean anything, even with the twist.
“Justice League Of America” #1 has as its key issue an uneven tone, being a kind of tedious Superman book at first (complete with the new “jerk” Kal-El, quick to anger and slow to tactical planning) that brings in Cyborg as an employee, has Hal and Barry essentially be very stupid and has arguable antagonists who are vague at best and obfuscated at worst. On the other hand, spirit, it’s good to see Bryan Hitch’s super enjoyable artwork again, even looking rushed as it is here. That alone elevates it above its less than inspired plotting and dialogue, but it’s an Honorable Mention by the skin of its teeth.
What would “Top 10” have looked like if every cop was a Marvel-minded stormbringer? “Thors” #1 seems to answer that question with a fairly predictable procedural murder mystery that casts hammer-wielding Marvel characters from many continuities — ooh, look, there’s the Ultimate Thor and his matter-of-factness! Ororo-as-Thor with the mohawk! Groot is a Thor! — trying to solve a murder case. If you know Thor incarnations like the back of your hand (including the unworthy metal-armed Odinson) this might be a fun game of “find the Easter egg,” but as a plot it’s nothing special unless you’re drenched in mead.
The “Meh” Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
“Secret Identities” #5, “Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars” #2, “Kaijumax” #3, “Magneto” #19, “Southern Bastards” #9, “Moon Knight” #16, “EI8HT” #5, “Ms Marvel” #16, “Princeless Be Yourself” #1, “Wonder Woman” #41, “Old Man Logan” #2, “Doctor Who The Eleventh Doctor” #13, “Superman Wonder Woman” #18, “Archie Vs Predator” #3, “Sinestro” #12, “Oh Killstrike” #2, “Tech Jacket” #10, “Robin Son Of Batman” #1, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 10” #16, “Prez” #1, “Joe Frankenstein” #4, “Martian Manhunter” #1, “Mad Max Fury Road Furiosa” #1, “Project Superpowers Blackcross” #4, “Harley Quinn And Power Girl” #1, “Infinite Loop” #3, “Dr Fate” #1, “Shaper” #4, “Doomed” #1, “Ghostbusters Get Real” #1, “Tales Of Honor Bred To Kill” #1, “Black Canary” #1, “Letter 44” #17
No, just… no… These comics? Not so much…
In one of those awful Michael Bay movies, at one point the script had the venerable Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime say something like, “We’ll kill them all” or “I’ll kill you!” “Transformers” #42 also makes that same mistake, using the “heroic” character’s frustration as a foil for wholly pointless action, lashing out with violence in a way that doesn’t accomplish anything as a character or in the plot. Then, there are some very lengthy and tedious exposition scenes, which given that they happen between giant robots who can manage data faster than any supercomputer on earth, seems… really out of place. Also, the so called “Combiner Wars” (which is an ill-conceived crossover that’s only slightly less tedious than Dark Cybertron) Then, add to that the murky art choices during the fight scenes and… this book is bad. It really is. When it was a political drama starring Starscream, it was becoming something innovative and interesting. Now, it’s just disappointing.
“Bucky Barnes The Winter Soldier” #9 is absolute gibberish. An older, more wicked version of Norse trickster god Loki has caught Etrigan Fever for some unknown reason, yet can be held by a threat from Captain America’s former kid sidekick. The plot is barely worthy of the name, the antagonist is barely there and the art is more suited for galleries than panels. Ick.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Ow, two bad comics? That hurts.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
The sole purchase underperformed and two comics were legitimately unacceptable. That means the whole week went down like the career of Cpl. Eric Casebolt. Vexing.
The writer of this column is hosting karaoke Saturday night in Santa Monica, California. Should be a hoot.
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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