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 FEBRUARY 6, 2013
Transformers Spotlight: Megatron
Jump from the Read Pile.
Whatever you do, for the sake of all things shiny and wielding a weapon, don't call it a comeback! In a character study that plays like a masterpiece performance, Megatron goes down his laundry list of building an army, uses prison tactics to re-establish his dominance and generally does all the things he should do to make someone go for him as a galaxy-class antagonist. However, the wonderful, bittersweet ending that both reinforces Megatron's almost Sisyphean struggle (which, in many ways, is just even while being prosecuted in a murderous, imperialistic manner), that showcases why he is everything he is and why he can't see it is an amazing feat of writing. Nick Roche did the writing and the art on this tour de force comic book, with Len O'Grady's deft, flawless colors as the only embellishment, and this issue sums up the sturm und drang of the Cybertronian War, all in such a beautiful fashion that it rewards rereading.
Rapunzel is caught between warring factions of characters from Japanese lore, all of whom feel she's part of the problem, and she's had just about enough of it. Meanwhile, her old pals Bigby Wolf and the powerful witch Frau Tottenkinder show up as reinforcements while everybody around makes plans for an endgame. Lauren Beukes' script surges with momentum, and the crisp, evocative artwork from Inaki Miranda and Eva de la Cruz draws in the reader and engages on every possible level. This series is shaping up to be one of Vertigo's brightest spots.
Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye #13
Robot spring break? The well-armed crew of the Lost Light are wound pretty tightly after the ship's shrink got his head blown off, they chased a city-sized robot across the galaxy and have gotten tied up in armed conflicts on multiple worlds. When they chance upon the vacation world of Hedonia, they take a trip down that allows many characters a chance to indulge their true natures, and that leads to lots of hilarious situations (nobody as uptight as Ultra Magnus has ever gotten drunk in such a fashion), the truth is revealed about many characters and there's singing in the language of old Cybertron. Again, James Roberts imbues the characters with so much depth and nuance that it's easy to forget these are fifty foot tall robots that change into cars and planes (especially Cyclonus, who's becoming something really wonderful) and the artwork from Guido Giudi, John Wycough, Juan Castro and Marc Deering deliver crystal clear depictions even when the characters look ... a little different than they sometimes do. A great book.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Rock solid start.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Fairy Quest" #1 was another take on the characters found in "Fables," with Red Riding Hood befriending the Big Bad Wolf, this time trapped by a brother Grimm, retelling the same stories over and over and forced into a life of tedium. Not bad, but when we already have "Fables," not really reaching for any new ground.
In "Voltron" #10, we get to see the new Samurai Lion Voltron in action, and in doing so, finding out more about where (if not why) it exists. The answer isn't exactly satisfying (especially given the revelations of the prequel "Voltron" book), the action scenes were well choreographed but shown in panels so small that they were hard to read at some points and the personal life of Lunk was a distraction that didn't help. Still, the ideas here had some merit and a big mystery was somewhat solved, redefining the antagonist and framing the story. Not bad, far better than what aired, but not quite good enough to justify the cover price.
"Shadowman" #4 had one of the best depicted magical fights in recent memory that was pulled down by a "meh" secret cabal pulling the strings, The big bad also didn't do much but yell "NOOOOOO!!!!!" but the supporting cast worked well together. This title is still finding its groove, so this issue is a step in the right direction, even if it's not really there yet.
"Snapshot" #1 was a quick, simple crime story with a twist as a comic store clerk gets caught up in a situation of guns, lost cell phones, skeptical police detectives and murder. The last page just gets you to the twenty minute mark of an hour long drama, but you'd be disinclined to change the channel.
"Joe Palooka" #3 was a slightly racist, more cartoonish version of the MMA comic "Heart," as a fair-haired American brings the pain to an Asian fight circuit. The vibe here was pretty good but again, the material certainly didn't break new ground.
"Dia De Los Muertas" #1 had a very solid sense of its own atmosphere, delivering slightly creepy vibe in three short, self-contained anthology style stories. The brevity of each doesn't connect like, say, something from the old EC Comics days, but there was nothing glaringly wrong here.
Vader mostly cameoed in "Star Wars Dark Times: Fire Carrier" #1 as Jedi on the run from Order 66 hide in the chaotic post-Republic society of a war-torn world. The narrative, however, plodded along a little too slowly but showed some good Jedi interaction and instruction and had a good bit with Vader being used as a propaganda tool for the newborn Empire.
"Colder" #4 was very close to making the mark as its madness-themed antagonist (imagine the Joker with Freddy Krueger's modus operandi) really stood up and made himself threatening and effective. Great art too, but the damsel in distress thing was kind of played out and there wasn't much for the lead to do aside from run and kind of freak out.
"Perhapanauts: Danger Down Under" #4 pulls off an interesting trick, juggling two simultaneous plots that wove their way together in an interesting way. Using fantastic technology like it was everyday stuff, dropping a jeep on a giant sea monster, the stakes seemed real and effective. Why not buy it? In a slower week, it'd have made it home. Literally just shy of the mark.
If you like the Doctor, "Doctor Who" #5 will feel like the early part of a fairly standard episode, before things get really crazy. The artwork is more "meh" than it should be and that takes away from any "wow" factor, but what looks like a heist set up has some elements worth noting.
In "you need more people" news, "Grand Pacific" #4 gets some more visitors to the newly sovereign Great Pacific Garbage Patch while its billionaire boy ruler follows his more hormonally driven impulses. Too slow and too predictable, but it had some charm.
Again the new guy in the driver's seat shows why he's really better at the job in "Superior Spider-Man" #3, but a lot of time was taken up with Jiminy Parker wandering around in Doctor Octopus' memories. The bouncing around in perspective was distracting as only the part in the physical world was more interesting. Commit already, the co-pilot route is a detraction.
Along the same lines, despite having the backing of Batman, Incorporated, "Batwing" #17 showed the title character getting outspent, outgunned and generally overmatched on the tech side. Is he on the UNICEF-level of Wayne funding? In any case, he's barely able to work as a cop in a wholly corrupt precinct and (again) getting manhandled by some weirdo. The character interactions are good, the art is solid but the plot ... there are some credibility issues there.
Speaking of, "Stormwatch" #17 had good character moments despite two antagonists anxious to out-villain each other, even bringing up more New 52 elements to make the stakes (which feel kind of empty partially because nobody knows what's happening with these guys and partially because they're all kind of spinning their wheels) but the struggle of Apollo and Midnighter to relate to one another felt genuine. This title just can't seem to find its footing.
The big bad shows his hand, early in his development as a global mogul in "Harbinger" #0, a tactical mission with a Mission Control element overlaying some corporate shenanigans. Played well but not in a way that distinguished itself, as the information could have been conveyed in a wiki entry and would have had as much charm.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" #3, "Young Romance" #1, "Avengers" #5, "Mudman" #6, "Legend of the Shadow Clan" #1, "Thunderbolts" #4, "Adventure Time with Fionna and Cake" #2, "Reposessed" #2, "Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow" #21, "Fearless Defenders" #1, "Hypernaturals" #8, "Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm" #6, "Star Trek" #17, "Fashion Beast" #6, "Marvel's Iron Man 3 Prelude" #2, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow Wonderland" #4, "Venom" #31, "Guarding The Globe" #6, "Hellboy In Hell" #3, "Insurgent" #2, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" #18, "Army of Darkness" #10, "Secret Avengers" #37, "Son of Merlin" #1, "World's Finest" #9 "Prophecy" #7, "Youngblood" #76, "Vampirella Strikes" #2, "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #20, "Crow: Skinning The Wolves" #3, "X-Factor" #251, "Epic Kill" #8, "Transformers Prime: Rage of the Dinobots" #3, "Blackacre" #3, "Caligula: Heart of Rome" #3, "All-New X-Men" #7.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
In "New Avengers" #3, the Infinity Gauntlet was reassembled ("That's impossible! The Living Tribunal ruled .... aaaagh!") to try and stop two universes from colliding as Hank McCoy picked up the Mind Gem custody formerly held by Chuck Xavier. Oh, and something happens to Captain America that was pretty solidly condemned as not cool by virtually everybody. This was not the work of heroes. This was not a story of Avengers. Worst of all, this was not entertaining.
In "The Continuing Adventures of Judas Iscariot," er ... "Phantom Stranger" #5 had so many weird, stupid and cliche elements to it that it was almost as if it had been vomited instead of written and drawn. Every bit of the fight scene made zero sense, and the conclusion involved a literal deus ex machina, somehow trying to redefine the Spectre as a balance for the Phantom Stranger, possibly apologizing for Judas' betrayal somehow? Abysmal.
"Multiple Warheads: From Alphabet To Infinity" #4 was wholly, wholly indecipherable. Moreover, it went as far as to say that whatever story it had was not going to be concluded in this, the last issue of its mini series, but in a subsequent one. Terrible stuff.
"Iron Man" #6 took one note and tried to play it the entire issue, ending with a development that, frankly, flew in the face of logic, jurisdiction and jurisprudence.
"Earth 2" #9 was mostly meh, but had a scene with a rocket launcher that flies in the face of weapon safety.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Let's call it a wash, because a couple of those stinkers were really bad.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
The jump and some rock solid purchases will win the day ... but just barely.
As of right now, you can spend ten bucks and get about 175,000 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. 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. What are you waiting for? Go buy a freakin' book already!
Also, this writer published two culture-relevant blogs: Michael Caesar > Uncle Ruckus: The Boondoggle About The Boondocks and Comics: @DCComics and @Marvel Will Not Hire Black Writers. You Know Why! -- just to get that out there, you know?
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!