The Buy Pile: Bad Means Good for Cybertron, Asgardia and the Old Republic

Thu, September 27th, 2012 at 11:28am PDT | Updated: September 27th, 2012 at 11:44am

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (two-time Eisner-winning journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/jackass on Twitter/head honcho of Komplicated.com) goes to a comic book store called Comics Ink in Culver City, CA (Overland and Braddock -- hey Steve, Jason, Vince and Quislet) and 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 26, 2012

Skullkickers #18
(Image Comics)
Sure, this is kind of a "filler" issue, with six short stories starring the title's protagonists, humorous tales that are breezy and easy to fly through. Punching and laughing and blades swinging, this is a cute collection that could be a good jumping on point, even if it's a little light on substance -- which even the writer admitted on the inside cover. You won't be mad if you come home with this one ... but if you're not a dyed-in-the-wool fan, you could probably skip it.

Journey Into Mystery #644
(Marvel Comics)
This! The ending here is so sneaky, so relentlessly clever, it again shows exactly why this title has made Young Loki such a staggeringly entertaining character. Always hanging on by the edges of his fingernails, the trickster godling careens from plot point to story element with an almost slapstick whimsicality, while around him the dour divinities of Asgardia struggle to keep up. Thor dies horribly in this issue, there's a love story and Surtur gets really mad, and best of all, every part of that is according to plan. The team on board for this -- Alan Davis, Matt Fraction, Carmine di Giandomenico, Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, Barry Kitson and Chris Sotomayor -- managed to, as they say in the vernacular, put their foot off in this. Wonderful, subtle and a delight.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Enjoyable stuff.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy

"Transformers: Robots In Disguise Annual 2012" was the closest to making the mark with a wildly ambitious tale told in two eras. When you open up the issue to see the vintage Marvel-era art, complete with brand new storytelling (showing a very surprising and motley crew of adventurers including Nova Prime (leader three slots before Optimus), Galvatron (yowza), Cyclonus (still yowza), Jhaixus (the wackadoo who invented female Transformers and combiners), and Dai Atlas (leader of the Crystal City contingent of Transformers, the digital Switzerland of space). Then, in the present, in a way that ties into all of that, the megatitan (a giant robot that can transform into a city, remember him from the "More Than Meets The Eye" annual?) has appeared in underneath the surface of the planet, Omega Supreme makes pivotal appearances in both eras and there are great moments for Metalhawk, Wheeljack, Blurr, Starscream, Sideswipe and Prowl. Takeaways include: the Autobots have suffered under a lot of really corrupt, pretty vile leaders and ... well, the Decepticons kind of had a point, before their goals for pan galactic domination. Why not make the jump? The ambitious story didn't draw it all together as well as it needed to with Omega Supreme's musings, and the whole megatitan thing ended in a less-than-satisfactory fashion. Also, wow, kind of a downer, and not in a good "Breaking Bad" way.

"Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates" #16 was also extremely close to making it happen, as Ultimate Cap became President Cap, delivering inspirational speeches, telling Senate oversight to sit on it, flying a personalized fighter plane with his shield drawn on the tail, and delivering hilarious lines like, "Sorry to run. But it's time to get to work. America is my White House." It was goofy and fun and had you going until the simply uninteresting ending introduced elements to the story that were superfluous and took away the importance of the very important issues and intriguing plot elements that were at play.

"Invincible" #95 continues to look at the relationship between Monster Girl (who does some very surprising things in another dimension) and Robot (who seems to need a branding consultant) and the role they played in another massive invasion of the earth by hostile forces. Great sturm und drang in terms of a relationship that became complicated over centuries, but the title character's nowhere to be seen and this is just the latest of a lot of really quick and almost indistinguishable invasions.

"Batman Incorporated" #0 wasn't a bad introduction to the idea of superhero franchising, reintroducing many of the cast members (screw you, Batwing, you've got your own book) and the idea of taking Gotham style boots-in-crime's-face-styled vigilantism (or "private security" as it is called here) international. Way too jumbled for its own good, but not bad overall.

After months of prevarication, "Invincible Iron Man" #525 finally had some stuff happening, but did so in such a frantic flurry of action, depicted in such a cursory fashion, that it didn't connect. When the Mandarin's secret plan was revealed, it seemed like he was gonna break out with the robes of an old republic Ming the Merciless-styled baddie and cackle while twirling his mustache. Trying way too hard to do things that used to be simple, but still beautiful in its way.

Stiff upper lip and all that in "Steed and Mrs. Peel" #1 as Britain becomes a post nuclear hellish wasteland. Somehow the plot points rang empty even as the personal interaction was a good approximation of facing the end of all things.

Imagine, if you will, that Mike from "Breaking Bad" suddenly had a delusional break and started seeing his granddaughter's imaginary friend. Voila, "Happy" #1. It had some linear elements, but had some stuff that would make you wonder if you accidentally took the brown tabs, as well. Not bad but ... kind of out there.

"Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye" #9 had an interesting tactic, with a group of the ship's crew members recounting a story of Cybertron's pre-war era in order to revitalize the recovery of brain dead psychiatrist Rung, accidentally shot in the face some issues back. An interesting look at how corrupt Cybertronian society had become and -- honestly -- how the Decepticons kind of had a point, but the story just gets going before it stops, and the Rodimus subplot at the oil reservoir needed much more room to be relevant.

"Star Wars Darth Maul: Death Sentence" #3 needed more Sith savagery, as Darth Maul made a less-than-compelling instructor for an insurrection, especially when (for a change) he was totally in the right and the Jedi were completely on the wrong side of things. Still, with Savage Oppress hanging up in carbonite and Darth Maul training villagers like he was a bad guy Shaolin monk, this one dragged its heels a bit.

"Mind The Gap" #5 had one cute reveal but has a set of characters that are not very engaging. Beautiful art, wonderful craft, but too soapy without investing in making its large cast really stand up on their own.

"Idolized" #2 was well framed in its craft, telling the story of the reality competition and the struggles of its contestants to matter, doing so with great artwork and a plot that kept moving. It was, however, hampered by its monotone protagonist and the fact that it's still very, very reminiscent of "Wildguard," in a derivative way, not an innovative way like, say, "America's Got Powers."

The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title

"Clive Barker's Hellraiser" #18, "Goon" #42, "Higher Earth" #5, "Aquaman" #0, "A Fine and Private Place" #1, "Beyond Watchmen: Ozymandias" #3, "G.I. Joe A Real American Hero" #182, "Fury of Firestorm The Nuclear Men" #0, "Hawken" #6, "Superman" #0, "Mars Attacks" #4, "Talon" #0, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" #14, "Amazing Spider-Man" #694, "Dancer" #5, "Astonishing X-Men" #54, "Debris" #3, "FF" #22, "Prophet" #29, "Hit-Girl" #3, "Witchblade" #160, "Incredible Hulk" #14, "Youngblood" #74, "Secret Avengers" #31, "National Comics Rose and Thorn" #1.

No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...

It's not like the phrase "Space Hitler" is a term no one has used in the past, but "Space: Punisher" #3 -- determined to stretch the boundaries of awfulness, it seems -- literally gave a Red Skull in space an entire phalanx of mustachioed Nazi boogeymen. Look. Hitler has been dead since 1945. In the interim, we've seen more from Stalin, had Pol Pot, Idi Amin, David Koresh, Osama bin Laden ... can we please put the bad guy of the 20th century to rest already? Are we that creatively bankrupt that excoriating a guy who's been dead for sixty-seven years with a spaceborne effigy? Really?

In "Red Lanterns" #0, we're introduced to a force that seeks to rival the Guardians, creating an alternate power and taking down Oa. What's that? You've never heard of such a thing? That's because it likely didn't exist before this issue hit. Hm? Why should you care about them, especially since Atrocitus didn't end up working for them, but hung out a crimson shingle of his own? Well ... that's a good question. One that has no answers you might not consider "lame."

The ginger pseudo-apprentice Frank has been working with brings this storyline to a close in "Punisher" #16, a sadly emo and weak swan song that disappoints even as its artwork and coloring shine so powerfully. The definition of going nowhere.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Just three really terrible ones? Well, that's not so bad ...

Oh, and there was no order for Pinwheel Press' "Man of God" #3 or Revolution Comics' "Night Stalker." Sorry, or something.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Didn't spend too much, didn't hate too much ... that's a good thing, right?

THE BUSINESS

Hm? Shorter column this week? Sorry, the columnist herein was busy finishing the release of a special edition of his debut novel "The Crown: Ascension" with five bonus chapters, turning a 70,000 word novel into a 110,000 word opus. Here's the kicker ... for you ... just for you, for one week, the price of this is two dollars on Gumroad (Amazon and Barnes & Noble approval are expected later Thursday, with iBooks pulling up the rear maybe next week). You can keep up with all the latest at the novel's web page, so if you wanna chance to see what the opinionated jackass thinks a story should be like for less money than an average comic book, you can do so for one week before the regular price kicks in.

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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