The Buy Pile: King Starscream, Maharaja Charming & Otto Über Alles

Thu, August 8th, 2013 at 10:58am PDT

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

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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 AUGUST 7, 2013

Superior Spider-Man #15
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
The Hobgoblin is caught between a rock and a death sentence when "being a bad guy [became] a job," all while "Peter Parker" leaves many areas of his life untended so he can focus on his heroism. Dan Slott's script has a great balance of action (delightfully and gleefully rendered by Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba and Edgar Delgado), character development (the part with Anna Maria is great) and plot (the element with Ty Young was quite clever, as was the ongoing Carlie investigation). Wicked fun, so much so here's hoping Otto stays in place forever.

Fairest #18
(Vertigo/DC Comics)
Prince Charming is going to pieces as this story line drifts along a little too slowly for its own good, relying on the strength of previous issues to keep its relevance. There's nothing wrong, per se, with plot elements that are solidly effective if paced too slowly. The artwork from Stephen Sadowski, Andrew Pepoy and Andrew Dalhouse was pitch perfect, portraying each character and scene wonderfully, but Sean E. Williams could pick up the pace a little. Still, interesting in revealing unknown parts of the continuity and fleshing out these characters.

Transformers Robots In Disguise #20
(IDW Publishing)
In an almost Shakespearean fashion, Starscream has "Three Monologues" at different points of his first night as undisputed leader of peacetime Cybertron. The best possible place for the duplicitous schemer is politics, and that canvas has been writ large with sixty foot tall robots. Starscream's part Macbeth and part comic figure, wrestling with what to do once all your dreams come true. The spotlight of a news cycle that never sleeps follows him, but a new lieutenant worthy of the Seeker's legacy steps forth and three prone figures are as well characterized in silence behind the monologues as they could be by speaking. Crafty, sneaky work from John Barber, Andrew Griffith and Priscilla Tramantano.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Even with "Fairest" stumbling, pretty doggone good.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"G.I. JOE: The Cobra Files" #5 was very close to the mark as a wonderful character piece on the covert team's logistical specialist, a hacker named Clockspring. However, in the fashion of many geeks, he can figure out most problems as long as they're not too close to home. The cliches about chasing impossible romantic liasons and servicing the needs of people who respect only confidence and power leads him down a path that will forever dominate his destiny. With less muddy, more dynamic artwork this surely could have made it home because Mike Costa is writing the hell out of this book.

If you find network television sitcoms or the movie "The Other Guys" funny, "Quantum and Woody" #2 will likely tickle your funny bone in all the right places as the two brothers discover their powers, yell at each other a lot, have a genuine moment and run a modern version of the Odd Couple with explosions. Cute, but predictable in plot and while there's one big surprise (totally ignoring the law of conservation of mass) and some solid chuckles, this issue falls juuuuuuust short of the mark.

You finally get a little look at the characters behind the action in "The Movement" #4, even as they're just snapshots. The visual storytelling is a little muddy, which is a big surprise given the top notch creative team.

"Robocop: Last Stand" #1 is a grim continuation of the cinematic universe, where Omni Consumer Products continues its rapacious corporate greed even in the face of theft, assault and murder. Alex Murphy's still the man inside the machine, trying to keep the citizens of Detroit safe from the many, many forces aligned against them (and as we now know, they surely need it). Not bad work, with Steven Grant adapting a Frank Miller story, but unless you were already enmeshed in the story, it might not do much for you.

What if somebody took all the basic elements of an old game like "Violence Fight" or "Final Fight" (down to the Mike Haggar body slam), ran through it really fast and printed it? You'd get something very close to "Burn The Orphanage" #1, a gritty, emotionless simple story of revenge and mayhem in the mean city. Characters? Yeah right. Plot? Ancient forms of fist-icism. If you're fine plugging in your quarters and unplugging your brain, you might enjoy this simplistic romp.

"Daredevil: Dark Nights" #2 was a fairly good ticking clock story as the Man Without Fear races against time to bring a young girl a transplant heart while the brutal elements of New York's criminal world seek to stand in his way for their own reasons. With the flow of it, a collected version will likely play more evenly, but this was an all right installment.

"Detective Comics #23" wasn't bad, as the Wrath steps out into the limelight and Bruce Wayne tries to engage in corporate espionage. Cops are dropping in the streets of Gotham and everybody's touchy. Okay action (the plane was a nice touch), cute plot, just a little slower than it needed to be.

Reincarnation, super powers, religious fanaticism, kidnapping and one scared policeman in way over his head. "Suicide Risk" #4 has a lot of interesting things going on, and even without a recap age, writer Mike Carey gets you invested in the plot. The characters are all ciphers, but this isn't bad for the pacing and space it had to play with.

There's a kind of charm in "Trillium" #1, a flip book of space time confusion and idiosyncratic personality quirks. However, it's a little too quirky and indie in its sensibilities, leaving clarity and plotting to chance. Not bad, but not all the way there.

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

"Artifacts" #30, "Warlord Of Mars Dejah Thoris" #28, "Invincible Universe" #5, "Blackacre" #9, "Iron Man" #14, "Earth 2" #15, "Legend Of Luther Strode" #6, "Dungeons And Dragons Cutter" #4, "Manhattan Projects" #13, "Black Bat" #4, "Kick-Ass 3" #2, "Satellite Sam" #2, "Cable And X-Force" #12, "Planet Of The Apes Cataclysm" #12, "Knightingail: Shadow Divisions" #1, "Green Lantern" #23, "Sidekick" #1, "Damsels" #9, "Ten Grand" #4, "Hunger" #2, "Abe Sapien" #5, "Avengers A.I." #2, "Catalyst Comix" #2, "Lords Of Mars" #1, "Transformers Monstrosity" #3, "Activity" #14, "Fatale" #16, "Shadowman" #9, "Action Comics" #23, "X-Factor" #260.

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

A confusing conclusion through resurrections and time dilation, dreamscapes and diversions. "Higher Earth" #9 may have jut gotten cut short, as its climactic scenes felt like they were on fast forward and its narrative seemed schizophrenic. No, thank you.

"All-New X-Men" #15 is terrible, like the comic shop fantasies of horny fanboys dreaming up heterosexual slash fiction you'd never want. Yes, young Hank McCoy and young Jean Grey swapping spit! Because you demanded it! What's that? You never demanded that? Maybe there was a paperwork mix up. Also, young Bobby and young Scott flirt with teenaged girls (because possible mass murder and terrorism is so hawt!) This will not do.

If there's one lesson you should take away from "Batwing" #23 it's that Lucas Fox -- and by extension the Batwing franchise -- sucks. First of all, he gets beaten down by an assassin that's considered a laughingstock by real criminals. Second of all, he can't get credit for his heroism because doing that left his family home open to plunder like his name was Carl. Batman berates him. Lucius Fox and his whole family berates him. A hired assassin named Lady Vic berates him. At no point does it seem like he's at all good at what he's supposed to be doing. If you like seeing people be terrible at his job, couldn't you just watch C-SPAN?

"Superior Foes Of Spider-Man" #2 is boring. Super villains having meetings. Jokes about Obamacare. This attempt at a "Seinfeld"-esque tone is uneven and unentertaining.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Okay ... it was a little rough out there, but it could have been worse ... even though it did seem like Superman was about to fight a luxury car for a few minutes.

Oh, there was no order for "Critter" #13, "Serusis" #2 and "Ursa Minor" #6. Sorry.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

A jump, the stinkers didn't outnumber the okay stuff ... let's call it 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), 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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