The Buy Pile: War Child & The History of Giant Robots

Thu, June 20th, 2013 at 11:29am 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 19, 2013

Fables #130
(Vertigo/DC Comics)
Once upon a time, Gepetto was an evil emperor who sent two of his magical wooden children to spy on his enemies. They "went native," changed sides and came to live with all the characters from fairy tales. They had a child, and ended up living in the magical community, and this issue follows that child as she discovers her new home. A story that serves as a springboard, this issue sets up a new threat while setting up a new tableau for future stories. Not one of the most stunning issues of the best series on the stands, but solidly entertaining.

Transformers More Than Meets The Eye #18
(IDW Publishing)
This issue turns up the obscure-o-meter to "ten" as a strange band of Decepticons ("Deluxe Insecticons," if you remember your toy packaging properly) and "Mad Doctor Pharma" all find themselves working for a name considered more legend than fact while a Transformer that was almost never seen stateside makes a very forceful point, all on a lost moon drifting millions of light years from Cybertron. A little busier than it needed to be, there were still great character moments from Hot Rod (look for his comment about flames), Rung, Whirl, Cyclonus, Tailgate and an old friend in an older form. Funny, fun stuff that's steeped in science fiction bona fides.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Not bad, not expensive ... not blowing anybody's socks off, either ...

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Star Wars: Darth Vader And The Ninth Assassin" #3 was very close to making the mark as Vader shows off some of the badassery people expect from a Dark Lord of the Sith, calmly hunting down answers in a plot against the Emperor, all while being stalked by somebody who looks like Carnor Jax's cousin by way of Tony Stark. Vader's forceful strategy gets him quickly through the issue, but none of the rage and fury -- especially for a Vader so close to the Clone War period, freshly bereaved and adrift -- show through here, instead giving him an almost methodical approach. Likewise, there are three scenes -- two murders and a crash site -- that should be huge visuals that are presented in a manner so matter-of-fact as to rob them of their impressiveness. Also, Imperial Guardsmen? Not so impressive. Interesting, but still somehow not reaching far enough.

Digging into the history of Cybertron, "Transformers Monstrosity" #1 shows a much more fractured mechanoid race as a multiplicity of factions try to rebuild a society under Optimus Prime after a number of brutal, corrupt leaders have eroded confidence in Autobot leadership. Megatron has been exiled to a very un-whimsical junk planet, Grimlock's a desperate character and historical figure Dai Atlas has yet to take his non-aligned robots out of the civil war, so this provides a lot of background but can't settle down to tell a story. Interesting stuff, still.

What if Captain America woke up in the future mad as Hell & determined to finish his last mission? "Captain Midnight" #0 makes some tweaks to the concept and posits that question in a very just-the-facts kind of way with some WW2-era flashbacks thrown in for fun. Not bad, and a good looking book, but not breaking any interesting new ground.

Creepy in many of the right ways, "X-Files Season 10" #1 finds Mulder & Scully living a quiet, boring life until a data breach at the FBI draws them back into weirdness. This issue -- penned by show runner Chris Carter alongside Joe Harris, with art by Michael Walsh and Jordie Bellaire -- captures the feel and sensibilities of the show deftly, and should give fans of the current "Kolchak" book, "Perhapsnauts" or even "Locke & Key" a lot to chew on. Not quite enough story to justify four bucks, as this would barely have gotten you to the twenty minute mark on the series, but not bad and a must for the show's die-hard fans.

Most of "Mara" #5 is spent with the title character flying around as others try to figure out what to do about a functional extrahuman in a world of normalcy. Wood's mastery of setting the scene overcomes the need for plot development, as two fairly big moments are played far too quickly, but this "coming of rage" story is coming to a simmer, slowly but surely.

People mad about the collateral damage of a certain recent blockbuster will clutch their pearls over "G.I. Joe" #5, which faces a small, public team faced off against an entire town gone Cobra. The art's a little dry and (aside from the Baroness) characterization's a little thin, but if you like "The Activity," then this slightly cartoonier version will do it for you.

In "Witchblade" #167 Sara Pezzini has accepted the rebooted universe and the fact that she's not a mother anymore, cozying up with her magician boyfriend and taking his quest as her own. The problem lies with black market magic, as dealt by a powerful crime lord as a scurrilous scoundrel plays the angles. Too much was going on at once in Tim Seeley's script, but it all looked gorgeous courtesy of Diego Bernard, Fred Benes, Allison Rodrigues and Arif Prianto.

"Dream Thief" #2 was a solid follow up to the stylish, forceful first issue, borrowing a page from shows like "John Doe" and "Quantum Leap" as the protagonist gets comfortable in the life he woke up with, settling scores and delivering bloody justice and closure. Compared to the last issue, this was pop music after hearing classical, not bad but not the brave, adventurous storytelling we'd seen before.

Like a relentless wave of murder and jokes, a small commando-styled team slices through a huge number of soldiers and mercenaries in "G.I. JOE A Real American Hero" #191. Chuckles (the spy), Jinx (a ninja) and Low-Light (a sniper) all make their way to save Lady Jaye (a general purpose murderer) from a bombastic dictator who misapplies the skills of Major Bludd. The Joes are again allowed to be good at what they do, but against less than stellar competition. Not bad, but with a video game's predictability all the way down to power ups.

Khal Drogo, the death of a king, Ned Stark making a hard decision -- "George R.R. Martin's A Game Of Thrones" #15 follows the television continuity closely, sticking to the story at a pace that's not quite episodic. If you love the show and have to have the comic, this will be for you, but for most people, it's not enough bang for the four bucks.

All bloodshed, all the time in "Harbinger" #13, showing the main antagonist Toyo Harada and his team of trained psionically charged killers hacking through enemies in two different time periods. If you're following, this is a big part of the battle scene, but it's not very conclusive.

An exercise in counter intelligence takes a turn for the terrifying in "G.I. JOE The Cobra Files" #3 as Flint tries a desperate gambit and nobody could expect how it would end up. The under-resourced Joes again have their back against the wall and Cobra's Night Creepers prove themselves twenty times more dangerous than any previous incarnation. If the "public" team's book borrowed heavily from "The Activity" (it feeling a lot like operational elements of the former CBS show "The Unit"), this issue is almost a direct homage in ways good (technology, intensity) and bad (drab artwork).

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

"Batman and Batgirl" #21, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Villain Microseries" #3, "Supergirl" #21, "Revival" #11, "Green Hornet Legacy" #38, "It Girl And The Atomics" #11, "Uncanny Avengers" #9, "Liberator" #1, "Fanboys Vs Zombies" #15, "Legion Of Super-Heroes" #21, "Vampirella Strikes" #6, "House Of Gold And Bones" #3, "100 Bullets Brother Lono" #1, "Mind The Gap" #11, "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #24, "Warlord Of Mars Dejah Thoris" #26, "Danger Girl Trinity" #3, "Bloodshot" #12, "Evil Ernie" #6, "Justice League Of America's Vibe" #5, "Thunderbolts" #11, "Judge Dredd Year One" #3, "Wild Blue Yonder" #1, "Invincible" #103, "Batman Beyond Unlimited" #17, "Indestructible Hulk" #9, "Sixth Gun" #32.

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

Re: "Ultimate Comics The Ultimates" #26. "Stormwatch: Change or Die" called, it wants its plot back. Terribly derivative.

"Green Lantern New Guardians" #21 cracks open a big can of "been there, done that" as the new "Blue Man Group" discover their reputation amongst the galaxy's denizens (rightly deserved, it seems) and generally become nuisances while Kyle Rayner goodballs around.

"Age Of Ultron" #10 was, however, completely terrible. The last page splash was, it seems, the entire point of this exercise in Elseworlds-ism as we have the new "Superboy Punch" thanks to this crossover (gah) despite fantastic artwork. Terrible, good looking comic book.

"Red Hood And The Outlaws" #21 borrowed some from Daredevil's "Shadowland" and a touch of K'un-L'un as Hugo Strange is not a villain these days, somehow (so much for Batman's continuity being untouched), Starfire being wholly wasted in this issue and Arsenal whining the entire time. Blech.

After a long, long time, the enmity between Atlantis and Wakanda from the "AvX" crossover bubbles to a head in "New Avengers" #7 as T'challa somehow does what no Wakandan monarch ever did in sitting and listening to people who had no business advising the throne. Wakanda -- a nation that has never been conquered before "Doomwar" -- suddenly had its special forces whacked due to bad intel, its UN delegation murdered in public and overall getting even more of a public black eye (no pun intended). Illogical, chatty, tedious work.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Four stinkers is not a small number, especially introducing such awful ideas, but the week still tried hard.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Cheap purchases and a preponderance of ambition defeat even the idiocy that stunk up the joint.

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), we will do our best to make sure 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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