The Buy Pile: Weird Science In Time Travel and Deep Space

Thu, June 13th, 2013 at 11:28am 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 JUNE 12, 2013

Manhattan Projects #12
(Image Comics)
Jump from Read Pile.
Someone in this super-clandestine science enclave has a secret, one that has worked underneath the events of many previous issues, and it comes scarily out into the open this time with bloody, homicidal grittiness. With none of the tedious restrictions of his work-for-hire, writer Jonathan Hickman crafts a tale of friendship gone wrong and plans within plans that strikes all the right chords. The artwork by Nick Pitarra and Jordie Bellaire deftly handles the surprising action scenes while imbuing some of the flashbacks (maybe a little obscure for new readers, but manna from heaven for fans of the series) with real trepidation. Wonderful work.

Ghost Town #1
(Action Lab Entertainment)
Jump from Read Pile.
A wholly unexpected surprise, with elements so close to being plausible that it'll almost have you looking over your shoulder. A research firm finds a way to send an item forward in time, only to have that technology stoled by a multi-ethnic group of homegrown militia-styled terrorists who take their message and impossible demands to the airwaves and the people. Yes, the art work looks hurried and incomplete, but the script from Dave Dwonch has the ability to grab you by the throat and never let go, using narrative methods of characterization and plot development that would be at home on shows like "The Following" or "24." Another winner from Action Lab Entertainment.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Two killer surprises that made their way home based on sheer merit. Can't beat that!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"BubbleGun" #1 was a solid bit of pop science fiction with a futuristic heist gang parties and hacks their way through a fast paced, hedonistic lifestyle while corporate intrigues abound. The characterization on most of the players was thinner than a micro-SD card, but its fast paced plot was engaging enough for some kicks. If the characters can ever really become anybody and the stakes can be made more real, this could be something.

"Harbinger Wars" #3 fell just shy of the mark in balancing action with character and plot, leaning more on the first two as a widely disparate group of dangerous, mentally enhanced people converge on Las Vegas with murder in mind. Two groups have a tragic misunderstanding (one that seems like a phone call could clear up), a new set of players are worried about even getting in the game and a third hangs out on the periphery, possibly most dangerous of all. The HARD Corps are introduced well enough, the previously well-depicted Peter Stanchek gets the short end of the stick and the plot takes a moment to get going. Not bad, though.

"Green Lantern Corps" #21 wasn't bad, as the new Guardians of Oa have a less isolated perspective on how they should "guard" the universe, but find their intergalactic space police force widely reviled and hated. A much maligned extraterrestrial species is stealing stuff for spirit knows what reason, and that's a sign of the problems here as the plot couldn't focus on one thing, bringing in four new would-be Lanterns and dealing with the struggles inside the Corps and so on. An interesting new start.

"Walking Dead" #111 had solid character work as the new "big bad" showed his hand and more of why he's such an effective antagonist, all while swords and sniper rifles bear down on him from directions he might not anticipate. Treading water, but in a fairly entertaining way that'll reward long time fans.

"Transformers Regeneration One" #92 was a solid comic book that took a very cursory look at the idea of war on Cybertron and devastation on worlds the mechanoids visited. The art was very much like that of the original Marvel series (not bad, not remarkable), many elements (dialogue, plot) were serviceable ... the issue's probably "TV good" on its own (you'd watch if you caught it for free) but with the staggeringly good "Robots in Disguise" and "More Than Meets The Eye" on the stands, the cardboard characterization and sluggish pacing really stand out.

"Aphrodite IX" #2 was a mild improvement as the warring parties -- a genetically enhanced population taking on a group with technological implants -- have a complication in the title character, losing twenty minute patches of bloodshed and mayhem thanks to another relic from the modern day. Again, the lead is an empty cipher, a woman used by everyone around her, but at least the future world's struggle is brought into focus and its characters made a bit more real.

"Great Pacific" #7 again approached the precipice of innovation without jumping off the edge. Content to wallow in the smarmy charm of its lead, a good opening scene about secretive sabotage was lost in random characters spouting on interchangeably. There's a big, subversive idea here that would make Aaron Sorkin proud, but it can't find any room to spread out and get things done.

The threat of Mysterion (that's not a typo) does more to annoy Otto than anything else in "Avenging Spider-Man" #22, as the Punisher finds ol' Web Head pretty superior and escalating the erstwhile villain's stakes seems to be just part of the day. Not bad, but not great, either.

The traitor to the Rebellion revealed (easy enough to figure with the Law of Conservation of Characters and a key panel)! Luke rejoins the effort and Leia's a damsel in distress! Han's in it deep back on Coruscant! Yes, "Star Wars" #6 hits some solid notes but it still feels like its treading water, leaving the Empire at the periphery and playing like a late issue of the old "Rogue Squadron" series. Not bad, but not super compelling either.

"Supurbia" #8 can't seem to get the balance right between its action scenes (which were pretty good, save some indistinct "dark magic" ones) and its much more effective soap opera ones, like an ending that's like a punch in the guts long after the actual punches had been thrown. Still, not bad for what it's worth.

In another chapter of a storyline that's dragged on too long, "Deadpool" #11 has a dinner cooked under extreme duress, negotiations amidst brimstone and no sympathy for any devils. Not enough story to call it "good enough" nor enough jokes to make it a keeper on quotes.

On the good side, "Superman Unchained" #1 had a great look at the "behind the glasses" life of the Last Son of Krypton, with a look at his changed relationship with Jimmy and Lois (who has the "Minority Report" display in her office, and that's awesome). However, when you get to the end of it and realize that the limp last page reveal didn't get you anywhere, it's a real let down.

If you likes the old "Vertigo" books, chances are you might enjoy "Dream Merchant" #2, an exposition-heavy bit of atmospheric reading plopping two escaped mental patients in the middle of a chase, caught between forces corporeal and ethereal. The protagonist is a cipher, his leading lady a carry-on bag and the threat as well-defined as a fog bank, but the book had its moody charms nonetheless.

"Guardians of the Galaxy" #3 played like a typical scene from any spaceborne adventure movie with gun-wielding good guys running and shooting and trying to escape the faceless, homogenous empire (the Spartax, trying to behave like they're somebody). Rocket Raccoon's banter was great, Groot studied at the Hodor School of Eloquence (in a pretty fun way) and the almost Whedon-esque charm of the characters almost carried the day. Almost.

"Crow Curare" #1 is a creepy, haunted tale where crime meets the supernatural. One police detective can't let go of a child's murder that ended his marriage and cost him everything, even the job that participated in his downfall. Somber, dour stuff drawn like it was a penalty handed down in a capital trial. If that's your sort of thing, this will be just what you're looking for.

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

"Demon Knights" #21, "Venom" #36, "Dungeons And Dragons Cutter" #3, "Threshold" #6, "Ehmm Theory" #1, "Superboy" #21, "Uncanny X-Force" #6, "Thumbprint By Joe Hill" #1, "Worlds' Finest" #13, "Bravest Warriors" #9, "Batman" #21, "Transformers Prime Beast Hunters" #2, "Black Beetle No Way Out" #4, "Suicide Squad" #21, "Damsels: Mermaids" #2, "A1" #1, "X" #2, "Grimm" #2, "Doomsday.1" #2, "Ultimate Comics X-Men" #27, "Nightwing" #21, "Savage Wolverine" #6, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Hunters The Shadowlands" #2.

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

"Astonishing X-Men" #63 only astonished in its seeming tacit admission that the Mouse House of Ideas has complete inability to credibly create an antagonist, instead dragging its once heroic icons down into villainy. Joining Reed Richards and Tony Stark (illegally incarcerated hundreds of US citizens in an extradimensional, extralegal facility) Scott Summers, Namor and Piotr Rasputin (killed tens of thousands of people as Phoenixes, including Chuck Xavier) and of course Wanda Maximoff (mutant genocide), one of Westchester's Finest decides he'd rather take than give, and in a way that's so lifeless and cold (not in a believable fashion, but in an undefined, barely explained fashion) that it greatly strains credulity. Awful.

The ending of "Artifacts" #28 is, in a word, stupid. Every character here has one singular goal, and when push comes to shove, they all act as if that goal does not matter for no reason that gets explained. Despite some cute lines and some decent action, that ending tanks the entire issue and makes zero sense, turning a pleasant diversion into an annoyance.

Like its previous four issues, "Alpha: Big Time" #5 was terrible. Its lunkheaded protagonist can't even serve as a straight man for Pittsburgh's low-rent poor-man's Wilson Fisk, he manages to almost get everybody around him killed through his lunk headed grandstanding and Otto, short sightedly, just lets this madness continue. Simply un-entertaining.

Dipped in cliches and half-realized ideas, "Masters Of The Universe: The Origin Of Hordak" #1 posits a corps of Cosmic Protectors or something with Zodac as Hordak's brother (okay), some unresolved sibling rivalry for the affection of a father that's not really mentioned, a weird possible bit of foreshadowing for the upcoming crossover and generally kind of blathered on without much actual explanation of the origins. Sad.

Just when "Thor God Of Thunder" #9 was almost going well ("Am I not the way and the wrath and the wonder?"), its ending makes so little sense after the events of just a few pages prior, ruining the work and making a hugely built up battle happen way too fast. A disappointing miss.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Three to one advantage for the "okay" versus the "stinky," so let's say it's working.

There was no order for "Serusis" #1, so, you know, sorry.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two fantastic purchases, some ambition even amidst huge failures ... let's call the week a win.

THE BUSINESS

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), the work will probably 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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