The Buy Pile: Ultra Magnus, Mass Murder & A New Friend for Batman

Thu, August 1st, 2013 at 10:58am PDT | Updated: August 2nd, 2013 at 5:51am

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 JULY 31, 2013

Detective Comics Annual #2
(DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Wow. This issue does it all -- introducing a terrifying new psychopath for Batman's gallery of rogues (a twisted female mimic, Zarana without the sass), dives deep in developing supporting characters (one new one and Bullock, who really goes through it) and makes the Bat a focused, brilliant detective and noirish narrator to boot ... all while successfully keeping a larger meta plot running. With one main story and two intense, richly nuanced backups, writers John Layman and Joshua Williamson deliver on every level, and at five bucks, this comic book is a complete and satisfying entertainment experience. A big surprise, and quite a pleasant one too.

Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye #19
(IDW Publishing)
Wow. The secret of Ultra Magnus is finally revealed, showcasing how quirky and insane the robot we've all poked fun at actually is. His "boss" Chief Justice Tyrest is also a few lug nuts short of a tune up, and that makes some interesting developments, bringing up names of Cybertronian lore that have been built into the story and will have die-hard toy fans slathering over them (yes, that Star Saber), presented in ways that draw in the neophyte or uninitiated. James Roberts is a monstrous talent, delivering on every level with this script (no, Pharma, no!) even while some of the art and coloring choices get a little busy, requiring extra study (which is not necessarily a bad thing). Again, this title is among the best science fiction being published today.

Bedlam #8
(Image Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
You'll have to get past the rough-hewn artwork, that's fair. It depicts the story admirably enough, with solid pacing and arrangement of visual elements (especially the ending), but yes, the composition leaves a lot to be desired. That's true. The writing, however, both in the delightfully twisted flashbacks and the procedural material in the present day, are simply wonderful. This issue a mystery unfolds regarding IEDs in an American city, which drags in a spotless local politician trying to make things better. Every character gets a moment to shine, every plot element moves the story forward, and when this issue says "hello" in terms of suspense, wow. A great story by Nick Spencer that overcomes its visual issues.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Hell of a good start!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Daredevil #29" was the closest to making the mark as it worked the plot quite effectively, having both the title character and his litigative alter ego battle corruption in the New York legal system ... gun wielding, terrorist, white supremacist corruption. Really! There's a couple of very clever plot points with a Black paramedic and an ending that makes you give an Earl Hickey nod, but it wasn't quite cute enough to make it home.

In "3 Guns" #1, nobody is who they seem to be, everybody's ready to betray everybody else and nobody's involved without working some kind of angle. No, it's not a reality series about Washington politics. Much like the original series, now adapted into a huge movie, this issue's plot charms and guiles its way into your mind in a manner that's fairly entertaining. Problem is, it has no room for character -- explaining the thrill seeker, or the mercenary or the girl with a heart of ... something, maybe tungsten or molybednum. A cute story that'll likely adapt well, but it's not burning up the world with excitement just yet.

Is that all it took? Atrocitus is out and Guy Gardner is in for "Red Lanterns" #22, and they finally followed the organizational creed to bring brutal justice to the boneheads of the universe. Sure, there was a lot of blather and prevarication, but it's direction, at least.

Old fashioned thrills are the name of the game in "Captain Midnight" #1, where a time-displaced Steve Ro ... er, Captain Midnight is on the run from the feds, and only his aging former teenaged sidekick believes in him. Cue a crackerjack military grand daughter named Sharon Ca ... uh, Major Charlotte Ryan, plus some red sk ... uh, green skulled henchmen ostensibly tied to the daughter of a Nazi super villain and ... well, you've got a slight twist on the Lee/Simon myth that's entertaining in a nostalgic kind of way.

Nobody monologues like Cobra Commander, and in "G.I. JOE A Real American Hero" #192, he's a freaking quote machine while taking a page from the Cobra Commander Playbook used in the "main" title where Krake is behind the mask. "It isn't pageantry unless it's excessive!" he yells at the Village People-esque Dr. Mindbender. However, with a plot that hops around to ninja inheritances, mobsters, maintenance and vacations for spies, this issue couldn't focus enough to decide what it was gonna be, Kirkman-esque in activity without impetus. Not bad, though.

If you like Lois Lane, you'll love "Superman Annual" #2, because it's a wholly Lois-centric story. Mixing science fiction elements with the mundane, it makes the Last Son of Krypton a supporting character in this issue with a hard boiled narration of her sadly dry investigation of missing people connected through a super villainous

"Absolution Rubicon" #2 stepped up the collateral damage quotient as the murderous love child of Darwin and Nemesis Kid is on hand to stack corpses and draw out the renegade hero John Dusk, who now has a sidekick who's part Misfit (personality) and part Cassandra Cain (lethality). However, it was a lot of mayhem and not a lot of story, and getting the balance right would have gone a long way.

The time travel chickens come home to roost in "Indestructible Hulk" #11, when a guy shows up (after twenty years in solitary) who is probably not your father's Zarrko the Tomorrow Man. This means there's only one guy strong enough to take this challenge on, and that guy has to team up with the one brain capable of handling the gamma-fueled monster, all while pointing a finger at the time travel foolishness of "Age of Dull-tron" and the insane all-old "All-New X-Men." Pulpy fun, but unless you're all in for Hulk, this long retcon will become an interesting wiki interest.

"Injustice Gods Among Us" #7 had some pretty effective scenes with a long missing character (it'd be a spoiler to say) but generally relies too heavily on Gruenwald's "Squadron Supreme" and the more recent "Civil War" for its plot beats. Too derivative for four bucks.

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

"Youngblood" #78, "Amala's Blade" #4, "Uber" #4, "Jirni" #4, "It Girl And The Atomics" #12, "Angel And Faith" #24, "Liberator" #2, "Ultimate Comics The Ultimates" #28, "Last Of Us American Dreams" #4, "Trinity Of Sin Pandora" #2, "Skyward" #1, "Morning Glories" #29, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Grimm Universe" #5, "King Conan The Hour Of The Dragon" #3, "Executive Assistant Assassins" #13, "Sex #5," "Akaneiro" #3, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" #24, "Uncanny X-Force" #9, "Batman Annual" #2, "Five Ghosts The Haunting Of Fabian Gray" #5, "Flash Annual" #2, "Guardians Of The Galaxy" #5.

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

The worst book of the week? "What If? AvX" #4 -- by somehow managing to be even worse than the original, an ending so abrupt and illogical that it made even the nonsensical forward assault of most of the issue look like it wasn't dazzlingly stupid. Really, really terrible.

"X-Men" #9 had as one of its focal points The Teen With Golden Balls. Really. His mutant power is manifesting non-precious golden spheres. Somewhere, Mammomax and Maggott are feeling like their spots on the Worst Mutants Ever list might not be so secure. Then, it offers the idea that people could be -- really -- the "Uncle Tom of Mutants" and the "Sirhan Sirhan of mutants." Boring plot for a tedious taste of titillation. No.

A comic book with The Hulk, Spider-Woman, Abigail Brand, Captain America, Thor, Dakota North, Kree sentries and Carol Danvers ... and still not making it work? Yep, that's "Captain Marvel" #14, which is submarined by both terribly inadequate artwork, mediocre action scenes and too much chattiness. Sadly, the character work on Carol was better and the plot was okay. An ambitious failure.

"Fearless Defenders" #7 has a very derivative ending that borrows from Marvel history (double entendre there) and a good bit of moping. That's not a good idea. Sad, because this is a good looking book with solid dialogue ... just a noweheresville plot.

"Venom" #38 doesn't make any sense. The dangerous symbiote that the government said nobody could use more than 20 times is now being wielded by a school teacher acting independently, now building his own paramilitary operation in Philadelphia. Really. The ending? Wow. So bad and needless.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

What the hell, Marvel? Sheesh, there were some bad books over there. Still, nine "okay" books beats five bad ones, right?

Oh, there was no order for "Ehmm Theory" #2 or "Ghost Town" #2. Sorry!

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two jumps and one hell of a giant robot book can overcome even the idiocy of Goldenballs, the insults of racial privilege and endless derivative rehashings. Just barely.

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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