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 NOVEMBER 11, 2015
Last Sons Of America #1
Jump from the Buy Pile.
With a science fiction question as its central conceit, this very savvy issue focuses on two brothers who do dirty deeds for a somewhat altruistic reason. After a chemical weapon was released that stole fertility from the families of the United States, adoption became a bigger business than precious metals. But there’s a thin line between offering an impoverished family a chance to improve their situation and kidnapping. Standing astride that line are two brothers who try to walk on the side of the arguable angels while devils demand their due. When push comes inevitably to shove, a decision is made that starts the two brothers on a dangerous path. The tense, intimate visuals from Matthew Dow Smith, Doug Garbark and Jim Campbell excellently depict Philip Kennedy Johnson’s claustrophobic script, and when the meetings to option this start happening, it will lead to an electrifying screenplay. Thought provoking, compelling work all around.
Darth Vader #12
Jump from the Read Pile.
By stringing together some classic Vader moments and giving the supporting cast just enough room to operate, this issue shines. Vader’s carefully constructed secret is close to being unraveled, and his apparent “replacements” are slicing their way recklessly through the galaxy. Vader has to use a combination of guile (surprising for the character, but effective, given his suit-given poker face) and ruthless action (not surprising at all and even more effective) to satisfy all parties involved and continue his historic march towards the classic trilogy films. Kieron Gillen’s script finds the right balance and as always the artwork from Salvador Larocca, Edgar Delgado and VC’s Joe Caramagna is magnificent. A superb set of circumstances and really entertaining to boot.
WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?
Solid start, here …
THIS WEEK’S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it’s not good enough to buy
“Justice League Darkseid War Shazam” #1 was close to the mark as Billy Batson — not the nice, sweet kid from days of yore, but the snappish, petulant teenaged jerk of the “DCYou” nehru collar era — has six New Gods empowering him, with one of them both relentlessly evil and determined to “cut his violent gash across reality.” Billy has to take a lightning-quick tour of his new pantheon’s powers and personalities before facing the threat himself. This retcons the idea of the Shazam cycle a bit and literally rushes past the supporting cast, but had some charm to it.
“G.I. JOE A Real American Hero” #219 had a great, imaginative business meeting in a bathroom but kind of just hit its marks otherwise, hopping from plot point to plot point with unremarkable efficiency. A familiar tune that did one slightly different chord progression.
“Ultimates” #1 is kind of fascinating, with Al Ewing playing into the desires of many Black Panther fans, as he’s the head of a problem-solving collective that’s more of a super science adventure collective than the Fantastic Four has been in years, using brains before fists. The plot’s a little too thin and the art’s still a little stiff and posed, but there’s a seed of something impressive here. Let’s check in next time to see if this goes somewhere.
From a character standpoint, “Slash And Burn” #1 is fascinating — a pyromaniac firewoman in North Dakota. The problem is that, despite its sweeping, lyrical language (which is wonderful) and the artwork (crisp and clear), it doesn’t do much by way of a plot. Engrossing, but unsatisfying at the end.
“All-New All-Different Avengers” #1 was worth it for the back up feature, with Ms. Marvel and Nova having some genuine Dave and Maddie on “Moonlighting” energy (made perfect with the inner monologues), and FalCap addressing the differences he has doing the job also showed some relatively interesting nuances. The plot, however, doesn’t convince with a cookie cutter antagonist and a mysterious Big Bad with a bank account. Good pieces that don’t come together, but it’s at least an interesting direction if not a destination.
“Superman: American Alien” #1 wasn’t bad at all, as it took a microscopic look at Clark Kent discovering that gravity is optional for him. It’s personal and intimate and emotional and genuine, delivering heartfelt moments from the Kent family that play to the Norman Rockwell image, not the modern cinematic nihilist who “maybe” should let a bus full of kids die and owes this world nothing. It is also a story that even a cursory fan of American pop culture knows, so this kind of painstaking look at this vignette is intentionally the opposite of breaking new ground, a statement for the nostalgic.
“Birthright” #11 continued to turn the dance of secrets between brothers whose relationship could save or doom two worlds. The issue is mostly a flashback — unreliable narration at best — telling a tale of adventure and commitment to values in a desolate land of magic. This was very good, with the balance of two voices whispering in two sets of ears changing the dynamic in an engaging way. The episodic feel lacked context, which honestly could have been solved with a few captions if this series had a style that allowed omniscient narration, but when you’re flying through the trade paperback this will be a part that will sing to you.
“Justice League Darkseid War Green Lantern” #1 is bewildering because it’s almost a really interesting character study of Hal Jordan — the struggle for certainty, the discovery of will power. However, the plot is a messy set of “what if” and “what the?” That takes away the emotional resonance of the narrative, dragging it to a spot just above “meh.”
The “Meh” Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
“Squadron Sinister” #4, “Batman And Robin Eternal” #6, “Letter 44” #21, “Infinity Gauntlet” #5, “Faster Than Light” #3, “Justice League United” #15, “Chewbacca” #3, “Assassin’s Creed” #2, “Pathfinder Hollow Mountain” #1, “Constantine The Hellblazer” #6, “Captain America White” #4, “Batman Beyond” #6, “Imperium” #10, “Goddamned” #1, “Unity” #24, “Spider-Man 2099” #3, “Starfire” #6, “Thors” #4, “Americatown” #4, “All-New Wolverine” #1, “Red Hood Arsenal” #6, “Limbo” #1, “Red Sonja Conan” #4, “Batman Superman” #26, “Mythic” #5, “Twilight Children” #2, “Spider-Gwen” #2, “Lantern City” #7, “All-New Hawkeye” #1, “Catwoman” #46, “Postal FBI Dossier” #1, “Transformers Robots In Disguise Animated” #4, “Web Warriors” #1, “Wicked + The Divine” #16, “Uncanny Avengers” #2, “D4Ve2” #3, “Last Fall” #5, “Batman” #46, “Illuminati” #1.
No, just … no … These comics? Not so much …
“Airboy” #4 is terrible. Navel-gazing, incoherent, self-indulgent, poorly plotted, messily characterized … the solitary saving grace is that the dullness of the plot is at least illustrated well. Awful, awful stuff.
Given that the crossover is already over in some titles, “Secret Wars” #7 may seem like belaboring the point. It does so in so many ways that border on the ridiculous in the spirit of ten thousand HeroClix arguments in comics shops and back rooms. Over the top, insane stuff with just the hint of an actual story. So bad it almost loops around to good. Tiresome, but almost too ridiculous to avert your gaze.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Kind of a long road to get through all of this.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Let’s call the week a wash while two jumps can’t beat a lotta meh and two bad books. Bah.
This week’s column may be a little less robust than some because the columnist’s father-in-law passed away this week.
Also, in the hectic nature of things, last week we forgot to mention the release of “Niobe: She Is Life” from Stranger Comics, written by “Hunger Games” actress Amandla Stenberg and Sebastian A. Jones with artwork from Ashley A. Woods, set in the same fictional world as the prose novellas written by this columnist and available now. There was a huge launch party at Santa Monica’s Hi De Ho Comics, too.
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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