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 JUNE 5, 2013
Astro City #1
Much more from the perspective of the feet on the ground than the capes in the sky, this wonderful, wonderful meta-textual issue encompasses everything great about "Astro City" and uses it to propel new, fascinating storytelling. Take tons of huge, big concept ideas (an alien manifestation, the heroes of Earth united, a conspiracy underlying everything you know) and tie in a wonderfully personal character narrative (an empty nest as a widower remarks on how his two daughters have grown), all with effortlessly smooth dialogue and artwork that engrosses and enraptures. Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson (with pitch perfect coloring from Alex Sinclair) are masters of craft doing it all here and doing it well. The absolute best in superhero fiction.
Transformers Robots In Disguise #18
The world of Cybertron has turned on its metallic ear as the opportunistic Starscream has been chosen to lead the last city standing and as his first act cast out every Transformer who refused to renounce an allegiance, Autobot or Decepticon. Sent out into an unknown wasteland, this led to an Autobot camp with some strange bedfellows -- murderers and calculating assassins alongside pacifists and heroes, all questioning what's next for their life, all framed by the narration of the new standard in bot kicking, Arcee. After the hugely intense events of the previous issue, this feels like a bit of a denouement, but it's still solid work despite being mostly talking heads (and a mild, movie related redesign for Bumblebee) from John Barber, Atilio Rojo and Pricsilla Tramotano.
East Of West #3
Jump from the Read Pile.
In a masterpiece of poetic dialogue and furious intensity, this is the best issue yet, combining just enough explanation with a decent bit of character and plot to showcase the story. The central theme, described as a wolf chasing a crow, is wonderfully told while the forces of a divided earth's great empires and spiritual powers align to deny one well-designed man the only thing he wants. Jonathan Hickman's creator-owned work always inspires and captures the imagination, and this issue is a stunning return to form, one that will have you re-reading it as time goes on and marveling at the evocative artwork of Nick Dragotta and Frank Martin.
Cloaked as the original scoundrel, Prince Charming is a maharaja ruling over a kingdom beset by roaming dangers. Being the scamp he is, such trivial concerns don't keep him from plowing into every attractive female form he can get his hands on, all while keeping a secret from the original Fabletown and showcasing his ability with every kind of sword he wields. Sean E. Williams" script is a little quick but still quite entertaining, while the art of Stephen Sadowski, Phil Jimenez, Dan Green and Andrew Dalhouse "charmingly" depict this "exotic" locale. Fun stuff.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Holy crap, that was a great set of comic books.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
With the kind of teenaged flavor found in the Ultimate version of Spider-Man or "Super Dinosaur", "Rocket Queen and the Wrench" #1 had crisp clear artwork and a decent storyline about a family with a history of superheroics and a young boy struggling to stay on the straight and narrow. A little too slow by a factor of maybe 50 percent, the character interactions felt solid nonetheless and the artwork from Ramanda Kamarga and Rainer Petter showed some promise.
"Locke And Key Omega" #5 had a heck of an emotional ending that was simply spectacular, but most of the issue kind of dragged along. Solid art, good character work, but a plot that needed to be a little tighter.
There were some simply fantastic moments between a modern Alex Summers and a much younger, much more innocent version of his brother Scott in "All-New X-Men" #12, which also had the time-traveling Jean Grey asking hard questions about the genocidal Wanda Maximoff (fun fact -- Wanda has probably killed more people than Wolverine) that, honestly never get answered. The sibling stuff is great, the rest of the issue, not so much.
More a series of pin ups than an actual visually told story, "Outworld: Return of the Master Teachers" #0.1 had the seed of a lot of good ideas, with an interstellar struggle between iconic rebels and a star-spanning imperialist force. However, with the exact same image used on the cover, page nine and page twelve (literally the exact same, that of a character called Ayira), it gets lost in captioning. Interesting start, but let's see where it goes in improving the execution.
If you like shows like "The Booth At The End" but wish there was a little more action, "Ten Grand" #2 will be right up your alley. Deftly mixing noir with the supernatural, fans of Warren Ellis' "Fell" might find this filling. Straczynski's skill as an episodic writer shines in an issue that has just enough plot to make this a decent slice of culture, especially with the brilliance of its concept. Only the fairly pedestrian subject matter -- Judaeo-Christian concepts of heaven and hell, angels and demons, with nothing new to distinguish them from popular tropes -- kept this from finding its way home.
Despite a simply amazing cover, "Fearless Defenders" #5 was terrible, positing Norse evangelists spreading their religion to Brazil (huh?) and movie night in the Roman version of hell (that's weird, but kind of interesting). A real mixed bag.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Darkness" #113, "Cable And X-Force" #9, "Detective Comics" #21, "Mister X Eviction" #2, "Invincible Universe" #3, "Suicide Risk" #2, "Perhapsnauts Danger Down Under" #5, "X-Factor" #25, "Star Wars Dark Times Fire Carrier" #5, "Avengers Arena" #10, "Savage Dragon" #188, "Charismagic Volume 2" #2, "Son Of Merlin" #5, "Black Bat" #2, "Spawn" #232, "Action Comics" #21, "Hypernaturals" #12, "Uber" #2, "Lone Ranger" #15, "Macabre" #1, "Shrugged Volume 2" #3, "Miss Fury" #3, "Polarity" #3, "Spider" #12, "Shadowman" #7, "Trinity Of Sin The Phantom Stranger" #9, "Winter Soldier" #19, "Michael Avon Oeming's The Victories" #2, "Bedlam" #7, "Stormwatch" #21, "Archer And Armstrong" #10, "Movement" #2, "Superior Spider-Man" #11.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Green Lantern" #21 was tedious. The new (old) Guardians have named Hal leader of the entire Corps, a move which even he finds ill-considered. Shortly, of course, every possible thing goes screwy (only some of which are Hal's fault -- he's responsible for all kinds of chaos) and another Skittles Lantern-styled crisis comes calling. The good news? This might be the least awful of this week's bad books.
"Ultimate Comics The Ultimates" #25 was kind of tedious too. There are eight Infinity gems on Earth-1610 and five of them end up on the hands of two of Marvel's most dangerous people, two former heroes with chips on their shoulders. There's not enough room for legitimate bad guys anymore, just sullying the heroes will get it done.
"Batwing" #21 proved that the new Black guy in the suit is, at best, a moron. Berated by his family, dissed by his girlfriend, mocked by the Bat, overall the son of Lucius Fox is kind of embarrassing. Reading all that doesn't quite qualify as "entertainment."
"Age of Dultron," er "Age of Ultron" #9 featured a bloodless cover of Wolverine stabbing himself and an interior where complex issues of artificial intelligence and temporal mechanics are discussed by two sleep-deprived iterations of an immortal who more than likely never finished high school. Lots of discussions. Dumb discussions. Terrible work.
"Thanos Rising" #3 was scarily, exhaustively bad. Signing its awful fan-fic with the "Starlin system" getting name checked, this terrible exercise posits the idea that Thanos spent years doing menial labor with a crew of space pirates while becoming a serial deadbeat dad. Okay, sure, the goal was to make Thanos seem horrible in a way that's comprehensible for tedious mortal intellects. This, however, takes a lot away from the "mad god" in terms of scope, essentially giving TV's Dexter super powers and no moral compass. Make it stop.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
The sheer weight of awfulness beat down even the valiant attempts of the Honorable Mentions, which weren't that strong themselves.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
It'll have to be called a tie game as even the great comics that came out were weighed down by the stinkers.
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!