The Buy Pile: Teenaged Assassins and Giant Robots Win the Week

Thu, March 28th, 2013 at 10:58am PDT

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 MARCH 27, 2013

Transformers: Robots In Disguise #15
(IDW Publishing)
Cybertron is on fire, and that's just the way Megatron likes it. The fusion cannon-wielding lord of the Decepticons has enacted a plan that's extraordinarily dangerous and stacking up the bodies. "Millions of years have been spent perfecting the technology behind Devastator," he said proudly as the shooting and the running and the screaming ensued. Even though some pretty bloodthirsty reinforcements made their way back, this is a fight that takes it down to the wire as a captive Autobot struggles with just how thoroughly he failed his basic function. Intense character work woven into an action packed plot -- yes, perhaps the coloring from Josh Perez could have been a little brighter (it's night time! They all have enhanced optic sensors!) but the script from John Barber is great and the art from Andrew Griffith and Brian Shearer got the job done.

Five Weapons #2
(Image Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Sweet spirit singing, this comic book is entertaining. The "assassination school" student called Tyler Shainline has a number of big secrets -- that he's not who people think he is, that he cannot touch a weapon, et cetera -- but seems to be so much more clever than everyone around him that it's almost unfair the advantage he has. He befriends the weirdos and castoffs, he targets the school's Jamaican bully, investigates the strangely precognizant school nurse and generally mixes his own effortless charm with virtually bulletproof characterization, plotting and exposition. Engaging artwork? The fantastic script? All courtesy of the brilliant mind of Jimmie Robinson. A real accomplishment.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Affordable and super entertaining.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Deathmatch" #4 continued to take its Captain Ersatz characters and differentiate them from their source material while teasing the "big secret" as if the reader sat on the edge of a blade. Like the "will-they-or-won't-they" of "Moonlighting," it's almost agonizing but bittersweet to endure this waiting to find out exactly what is happening, but the art and the characters will sell a lot of readers.

"Batman Incorporated" #9 had some interesting philosophical thoughts and a novel approach for villains attacking vigilantism, but with the burial of one of their number, a city not only negotiating with terrorists but conceding to their demands and a lot of punching, the scattered plot meant that there was too much going on for this issue's good.

"Mark Waid's The Green Hornet" #1 was, to be crystal clear, a masterpiece of pulp writing craft, with the titular scripter deftly presenting all relevant plot elements and characters in a story that hit the ground running, all to perform a big take down that relied as much on his identity as Britt Reid as it did his costumed activities. Paced like an episode of "Law & Order," it stayed heavily focused on "what" and "how" without slowing down for "why" to get on board. Not a bad thing, but it'd take a little more to cross the line. Not much, but a little.

Speaking of great writers, Jonathan Hickman is back with "East of West" #1, an alternate history take on the Seven Nations of America which puts the president in The White Tower while the Horsemen of the Apocalypse suffer through working without one of their number. Hickman's normal sense of unifying visual design shines through (check for the stacks of bodies, and the two sidekicks look great) and while this has a lot of stuff to digest, maybe too much, it's a fascinating effort that looks like it's heading in a good direction.

Do you like poker? "A+X" #6 takes on two sets of Avengers and X-Men relating over card games, from Wolverine and Carol Danvers bantering to Gambit getting tied up with Ben Grimm and the Yancy Street gang. Not bad, but easily forgettable.

Machines glitch, fail and openly revolt in "Judge Dredd" #5, where a futuristic society struggles with how to cope. It's not easy for the titular justice-dispensing jurist when his "Lawgiver" gun laughs at him when mortally imperiled. Sure, maybe it's a big case of "first world problems," but it was good enough to take a look.

"Think Tank" #6 pushed the line on how far science can take making weapons, as the morally conflicted polymath Dr. David Loren develops technologies that contravene international law, common ethics and sometimes even the laws of biology. So close to making its way home, the sad myopia of the lead character made the ending of the issue a little naive, but from the personal relationships to the scientific ideas, you know this series has room to grow.

"Mister X: Hard Candy" was a likewise solid piece of supernaturally-infused science fiction noir but its protagonist is, at best, a cipher and most characters were stereotypes. The plot was good, the art was good, but there wasn't much to grab on to.

On a good side, "Guardians of the Galaxy" #1 had great artwork and some cute dialogue, but recasting Star-Lord as a runaway space prince and scoundrel didn't really connect, the redesigns on the team uniforms are abysmal and trying to make "krutack" a new curse word was cute but not necessary (nor was it backed up even in the pages of this issue).

The bloody intensity in "The Legend of Luther Strode" #4 brought in a legendary figure in criminal history (who happened to be super powered as well) and never let up on the action scenes, there's virtually no room for character and that means there's no resonance to the things that happen.

In "Doctor Who" #7, it's hard to translate the charm of the television series to the print version, but the latest iteration of the Time Lord tried hard, popping into a 1960s Soviet space capsule to deal with a surprise that very scarily goes bump in the night. This might have made a good episode, but there's not enough of it in this issue to pay for.

Speaking of doctors, "Witch Doctor: Mal Practice" #5 needed more of its lead character doing his "Doctor House Meets Doctor Strange" shtick, but was still a cute supernatural medical procedural that presented some cute ideas but didn't really stick the landing on the first two acts.

Vertigo's "Time Warp" anthology had some very, very good short stories, including a Rip Hunter yarn that was a virtually perfect time travel tale. Of course there were two takes on time travel to murder Hitler (the first was far superior, but the second was more clear), but for eight bucks, this kind of intriguing idea was just too little bang for each buck.

David Heller had some ideas worth noting in "X-Men Legacy" #8, while introducing a mutant whose sole power is to get credit for good things he didn't do. The book aimed itself at a very interesting direction, but backed off at the last minute and that was a detriment to the work.

If you like "Once Upon A Time," you might enjoy "Grimm Fairy Tales" #83 which tonally matches the episodic method, mixing the mundane with the fantastic. Not bad, flipping through channels, but not really compelling.

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

"Journey Into Mystery" #650, "Injustice: Gods Among Us" #3, "Superior Spider-Man" #6AU, "Clone" #5, "Teen Titans" #18, "Bionic Man vs. The Bionic Woman" #3, "Vitriol The Hunter" #2, "Young Avengers" #3, "Savage Hawkman" #18, "Deadpool Killustrated" #3, "Peanuts" #7, "Planetoid" #5, "My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic" #5, "The Answer" #3, "Aquaman" #18, "Sixth Gun: Sons of the Gun" #2, "Dragon Age: Until We Sleep" #1, "Powers Bureau" #3, "The Massive" #10, "Thunderbolts" #7, "Justice League Dark"#18, "Astonishing X-Men" #60, "Star Wars Dawn of the Jedi: The Prisoner of Bogan" #4, "Superman" #18, "Criminal Macabre/30 Days of Night: Final Night" #4, "Batman: The Dark Knight" #18, "Transfusion" #3, "Dia De Los Muertas" #2, "Fury Of Firestorm The Nuclear Man" #18, "Gambit" #10, "All-Star Western" #18, "FF" #5,

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

Inexplicably, in "Uncanny Avengers" #5, escaped criminal and attempted murder suspect Simon Williams is hired by Cap and his "Unity Division" team to work as a PR consultant. Really. Also, Sunfire is a broken, compromised drunk wandering the streets. Lots of weird ideas here depicted by Olivier Coipel's brilliant visual skills, but the script is weird ... not in a good way.

Volthoom's trip down Elseworlds Lane continues in "Red Lanterns" #18, with Atrocitus getting new insights into his life and how his planet died (it's not a good thing), an ending that was patently ridiculous and overall this was just not an entertaining comic book.

There's a slight chance that "Fantastic Four" #5 AU retconned the entire origin of the team and, in many ways, diminished the "genius" of Reed Richards considerably. Also, interstellar child abandonment is an issue here, not that there was much better happening at home. Let's hope it turns out to be as elseworlds-y as the whole crossover.

Solid artwork can't save the wildly indecipherable "Morning Glories" #25, which makes "Lost" look like a staid, linear romp by comparison. There's lots and lots of characters, appearing in multiple time periods and they mostly dress alike (one carries a rifle on her back). Maybe it worked better in scripting because this execution is a mess.

Re: "Age of Ultron" #3. That ending? No. There's no need for that.

"Flash" #18 introduced a newly empowered speedster calling himself "Sprint." Really. He's a Black guy, too. He was teamed with another new guy called "T-Mobile," er, "Turbo Charger," and there was no word whether or not the Cliche Council was gonna call to induct these two into their hall of fame. The plot was dull too, but sheesh. "Sprint?" Did his powers not work in all areas, but they were super affordable? Oy. bad."

Speaking of Black guys leaning towards cliche, Bishop is a belligerent and tedious antagonist in "Uncanny X-Force" #3. There's no team dynamic at play, a throwaway hijacking and overall, this issue just slipped past the line into "awfulness."

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Ambitious attempts beat a number of cliched, terrible comics.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

We'll call this a win on the week of WonderCon.

THE BUSINESS

Speaking of WonderCon, this column's writer will be on hand Friday and Sunday. If asked nicely, you might get to see pages from "Menthu: The Anger of Angels," a three-part mini series he's working on with artist Robert Roach for later this year, or show you the "Steamfunk" anthology he was featured in alongside Geoffrey Thorne, Balogun Ojetade and other notables, or maybe just get an amusing anecote about entertainment journalism. Whee!

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!

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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