The Buy Pile: Superior Webs, Video Games and Shockwaves

Thu, May 23rd, 2013 at 12:28pm PDT

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (two-time Eisner-winning journalist/winner of the 2012 Top Cow Talent Hunt/blogger/novelist/poet/jackass on Twitter/head honcho of Komplicated) 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 MAY 22, 2013

Transformers Robots In Disguise #17
(IDW Publishing)
There aren't many mad scientists who couldn't take notes from Shockwave, who's given motive and a plan spanning millions of years, one indifferent to the victories or defeats of Cybertronian factions. Another victim of the corrupt Cybertronian senate and Primes more focused on power than the noble ideas modern eras attribute to the title, Shockwave goes from optimistic idealist to ruthless machine with such grace and finality that it makes cold, logical sense. Another great work from John Barber, even as Libid Ramonelli's stark, emotional art might benefit from less muddled coloring. Still, very effective work.

Double Jumpers #4
(Action Lab Entertainment)
A hilarious and thrilling conclusion, this issue deftly manages eight lead characters and two supporting ones, all getting time to shine while pushing forward a plot that both sticks to its internal logic and entertains. Four game designers are stuck in their own work while their debauched characters run amok in Las Vegas, and everything falls perfectly into place, leading to changes for almost all of them. Greatly entertaining stuff from Dave Dwonch and Bill Blankenship.

Superior Spider-Man #10
(Marvel Comics)
Ah, can you smell the freshness of new ideas? Finally free from the spectral voice of Jiminy Parker as Otto continues to do better with the life of the titular hero than its original owner did. There are some things fraying at the edge as a new green-faced guy on a goblin glider blinds the Spider-bot watching MJ, almost leading to her fiery demise, while Otto finds an unlikely date, is beloved by JJJ and fakes his way past not having Peter's memories anymore. Finally, this series is living up to its promise, and the indeed Superior Spider-Man is as fascinating in his triumphs (shutting down a gang war between the Owl and the White Dragon) as his failures (how many people are sniffing around and finding him suspicious).

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

In a word? "Wow." Great stuff!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
The problem with "Nowhere Men" #5 is that it's probably four or five really good books all jammed into the space of one. A spot of creative captioning could make the character interaction much more clear, and the sprawling locations as well don't give the reader much time to get oriented. Still, the seeds of brilliance, in writing and art, clearly live here even as obscured as they are by crowding.

"Jirni" #2 is solid fantasy fiction with a relatable female protagonist, the daughter of a djinni who'd become a queen, only to be captured by another. A quest, a buddy book, a mixing of ancient fables, this prettily depicted piece is very close to making the mark, save its thinly developed villain and its likewise barely depicted supporting character.

"Justice League" #20 was very close to the mark with the newest Atom (who should have been more apparent to the Bat) and a secretive guest appearance from a character flexing new muscles. Add to that a great Superman/Batman scene and this is the best issue yet. However, a less-than-inspired Shazam back up and too many characters underused (Firestorm trying hard, Element Woman doing her Luke Walton impersonation, Cyborg may as well have worn a short red dress, Uhura-ing it as he did) and Despero barely getting room to impress made it miss the mark, if only by a little.

The true identity of Matt Murdock's mystery antagonist is revealed in "Daredevil" #26 as the defrocked litigator runs himself ragged trying to elude the dangerous Ikari, who has all of his powers but can see as well. If you landed on this flipping through channels it'd be a treasure, just shy of being worth the cover price.

Pulp-styled adventure awaits in "Deep Sea" as science goes awry, sending four adventurers to an apparently watery grave, but bringing monsters from the deep decades later. The plot is finely crafted, making a lot of information fit in a fairly small space, but that left no room for characterization nor a framing device to ground the narrative. Ambitious, but flawed.

"G.I. Joe The Cobra Files" #2 wasn't bad, taking a look at the son of the former Cobra Commander and his pets, the Night Creepers. Using a distinctly Christopher Nolan-styled realism, the drab coloring of Arianna Florean is one of the few deficits here, washing things out in a Jae Lee-esque fashion that doesn't serve the narrative.

"Akaneiro" #1 mixes a hint of Little Red Riding Hood with lore of the Ainu, the aboriginal populace of Japan, fighting demons and internecine island pressures. Not bad, but only the iconoclastic lead has even a hint of characterization.

"Half Past Danger" #1 had fantastic artwork, fast-paced, pulp-friendly pacing and some genuine thrills. However, it also had cardboard characters straight out of Central Casting (almost literally) and cliches everywhere, including the somehow still acceptable racism against the Irish. An excellent example of form over function where sizzle supersedes steak.

If we ruled on chuckles alone, "Deadpool" #10 would be a jump with some great spoofs and pokes at Otto Octavius and lampooned villains (another great use of Batroc "ze Leapair!" here). However, when facing the same plotting issues of the Zombie Presidents storyline, this moved at a pace that was too busy cracking wise to get things done. A frustrating but still somewhat engaging romp.

There are some visual elements of "Superman" #20 that amaze, such as a perfect panel where Orion is set to hit the Man of Steel with something impressive (regardless of the collateral damage that clearly got ignored). However, the overall plot was beyond pointless, the awkwardness between Wonder Woman and two costumed guys she's smooched did not help the narrative and spectacle outshone story.

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Villain Microseries" #2 came very close to making Baxter Stockman a character worth watching. Using chess as a framing device, it paralleled a decades-long struggle for respect with his father alongside a dangerous relationship he shared with interdimensional warlord Krang. Dull art and coloring dragged this down a notch, however, and while one chess game was concluded effectively, the other unfinished business (necessary for the licensed properties to end up where they needed to be) sapped some of the issue's effectiveness.

"Lobster Johnson: Satan Smells A Rat" was a noirish thrill ride period piece bereft of definition for its protagonist but going all in on suspense and gunfire. Great art, great creative tension, stock characters.

In "Scarlet Spider" #17, New Orleans' Assassins' Guild has the Spider-clone over a barrel, and to clear his debt, he has to kill Wolverine. Yes, that Wolverine. This means infiltrating the Jean Grey School at Westchester and all brands of shenanigans. Not a bad issue, but given the foregone conclusions (a fourth-stringer like Scarlet Spider can never seriously affect the story of a marquee licensed character) it seems like a waste of effort.

The opposite side of "The Movement," "Green Team Teen Trillionaires" #1 had the big ideas of "Super Young Team" but still lacked any real distinction for its characters. Super ambitious effort that was more about concepts than execution.

"Accelerators" #1 was all chase through time (no Bishop or Cable this time) with action and well done exposition involving a "Bill & Ted" era stowaway. However, it was only the opening sequence of an action movie, not enough story to justify itself as a standalone issue.

"Journey Into Mystery" #652 slides all over the Bechdel test in relation to a certain thunder god while having some serious holes in logic (Dr. Jane Foster is not the right medical consult for this case, and Tony Stark's solution is both illogical and laced with his own misogyny). However, the second Beta Ray Bill steps on panel, he outshines the rudderless Sif and electrifies the narrative. The guest star brings this from a low "meh" to actually being worth watching.

Oh, and Diamond says "Anti" #4 should be at retail this week, although we covered it last week -- sorry about that.

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

"Arrow" #7, "True Blood" #13, "Fury Of Firestorm The Nuclear Man" #20, "Mind MGMT" #11, "Batman The Dark Knight" #20, "Masks" #7, "Occupy Comics" #1, "Adventure Time" #16, "Talon" #8, "KISS Solo" #3, "Uncanny X-Men" #6, "All-Star Western" #20, "Dark Horse Presents," "Damsels" #7, "Red Sonja" #75, "Savage Hawkman" #20, "Star Wars Legacy Volume 2 Prisoner Of The Floating World" #3, "Uncanny Avengers" #8AU, "Bounce" #1, "Justice League Dark" #20, "Adventure Time With Fionna And Cake" #5, "Teen Titans" #20, "A+X" #8, "Sex" #3, "Batman Beyond Unlimited" #16, "X-Men Legacy" #11, "Clive Barker's Hellraiser The Dark Watch" #4, "Massive" #12, "Powers Bureau" #4, "Red Lanterns" #20, "Miniature Jesus" #2, "Flash" #20, "Judge Dredd" #7, "Young Avengers" #5, "Green Lantern New Guardians" #20, "Dark Shadows Year One" #2, "Star Wars Dawn Of The Jedi Prisoner Of Bogan" #5, "Ghostbusters" #4, "Ultimate Comics Wolverine" #4, "Aquaman" #20, "Activity" #13, "Batman Incorporated" #11, "Avengers" #12, "Sixth Gun" #31.

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

"Green Lantern" #20 showcased how every problem looks like a nail when all you have is a power ring, er, hammer. The plot was a slapdash catastrophe, the status quo was re-established in the dullest possible way as Geoff Johns' farewell to the Oan space drove around the block without ever shifting gears. Sad, overpriced and tedious.

Spending most of the issue in the drably-shaded environs of Yancy Street, "Fantastic Four" #8's side-trip for Ben Grimm's once-a-year day in human form was deathly dull, while taking the focus from the actual space-spanning events that are supposed to be driving the story. Come on now. We're all better than this filler material.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Even when it went awry, you could see people really trying.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

A jump, some great purchases, not too expensive, lots of real attempts at greatness ... this week has "win" written all over it.

THE BUSINESS

What a week. On a good side, this columnist was interviewed by pop culture pundit Nelo Maxwell and by Examiner.com. Then, fun, a mild cardiac mishap almost ended this column for good. We hope to continue publishing the Buy Pile on Thursdays, but as of now that's in negotiation.

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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