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 SEPTEMBER 25, 2013
Transformers More Than Meets The Eye #21
The struggle against a number of names that loom large in Cybertronian history comes to a galaxy-spanning climax that literally changes things for almost everybody. Chief Justice Tyrest has every mechanoid alive in his crosshairs as he strives for some impossible digital nirvana. This means Cyclonus has to battle the "legendary" zealot Star Saber (that fight needed lots more room), Rodimus had to make a huge sacrifice and Tailgate grappled with mortality. Tailgate's mini-narrative came through in a huge way, with his part in this drama being superbly important, with a moment that's very engaging near the end and an improbable action scene that satisfies completely. You might find concerns with wanting more of the amazing visuals, but the storytelling connects quite well. Kudos to James Roberts, Alex Milne, Josh Burcham and Joana LaFuente for making this such a big show.
On two sides of the galaxy, there are two sets of people who seem destined to meet with almost inevitably tragic consequences. On one hand, "freelancer" (e.g. bounty hunter) The Will and Marko's ex-fiancee wait for a hint, any clue, as to how they can find a family the whole galaxy wants to end (and they're not the only ones). On the other hand, Alana and Marko are meeting the author who enabled their love. Every personality on panel is vibrant and fully fleshed out in Brian K. Vaughan's script while Fiona Staples' artwork once again draws you into this colorful tableau.
Sex Criminals #1
Jump from the Read Pile.
Wow. A wonderful, crafty surprise. This issue opens up the story of Suzie, a little girl whose father died when she was a child and who came to let that define her. Suzie, however, has a big, big secret and that secret keeps her on the periphery of life for years. Her whimsical, almost "Wonderfalls"-esque narration provides this book with a lot of charm, but its last few pages are, simply put, a triumph. A narrative twist the likes of which you really have to see should leave pretty much every reader with one wicked grin. Matt Fraction has a dash of Chynna Clugston-Major and a pinch of, well, himself writing "Casanova" in this script, while the art of Chip Zdarsky perfectly captures the charm and impossibility of this tale. Yes, much, much more of this.
East Of West #6
Things get extraordinarily real when the powers that be ruling the disunited states of America discover a traitor in their midst, and the thrilling action sequence here is not even the real matter of this story. "Texas justice" is the core concept here, with rulings and revolvers that'd get an approving nod even from Dredd. Revealing a big secret means tipping over dominoes, and more bad men emerge from the periphery. Yes, "East of West" is part tone poem and part legend, but all those parts add up to deeply enjoyable reading, in either this single issue or going through them all in a run (recommended). This sort of thing is why the universe made Jonathan Hickman, and with the artwork of Nick Dragotta and Frank Martin at his side, let's hope he keeps doing it for a long time. Coincidentally? This is now a "buy on sight" title.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Hell yeah! Publishers starting their name with "I" kind of hauled ass this week, huh?
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Radio Free Amerika" #2 is a claustrophobic, tense look at a country under occupation and the frustrated personalities behind the scenes trying to take it back from communist invaders. Sure, the idea that the Russians and the Chinese got their little Maoist/Trotskyist disagreement settled and went back to a common idea of socialism seems a little hokey in the modern world of Chinese economic expansionism and Vladimir Putin's kleptocracy, but this hip hop take on the "Red Dawn" era (Swayze, not Hemsworth) has an authentic feel of grit, and if it were on AMC, you'd be watching every week. Not bad, but the characters need much more definition.
The currency of the modern world is secrets as much as it is solvency, and "Captain Midnight" #3 plays with that concept, even from its straight-laced, anachronistic title character ... once it can get past Republic Serial-styled action scenes. Call off the SPCA, because no murderous polar bears were actually harmed in the making of this comic, but a bombastic taste of villainy practically broke out the brie as cheesy as it was. Not bad, and surely manna from heaven for fans of nostalgic swashbuckling and "gee whiz" heroism.
The swords are swinging in "King Conan: The Hour Of The Dragon" #5, a tale of high adventure that's both dipped in cliche (the stereotypical damsel in distress) and rife with high adventure (the daring assault on a dangerous tower). For the price, a must buy only for fans of the pulpy adventure stuff.
"Punisher The Trial Of The Punisher" #1 was half of a good Punisher story, as Frank has a plan and it involves confessing to murdering a district attorney. Wait, what? Yep, and Frank does fairly predictable (yet entertaining) things while being sent to jail, but his relationship with a cagey public defender is the most compelling element. If this was an actual whole story and not just half of one (go on, make it super sized, this is the United States!) it could have made the jump.
The titular lawman reads from the Gospel of Luke Skywalker in "Lone Ranger Annual" as his example inspires a much more lethal copycat with a similar set of skills. Unfortunately, between coloring that's too dark and paper thin characterization, the Ranger's certainty seems unfounded and the book as a whole falls short. A valiant essay into humanizing people who murder on the open plains.
"Empowered Special" #5 was, underneath its cheesecake and empty hedonism, an involved character piece dissecting the "badass" Ninjette, whose personal narrative is as marked with tragedy as it is with humor. Fans of "Empowered" will be all over this, and if you're open to some new lightweight entertainment that plays at being a bit more naughty than it is, this might do it for you as well.
It's time for a change in "Jupiter's Legacy" #3, as the world's greatest heroes get sick and tired of their leadership. We've seen wars that weren't so civil and crises that seemed infinite or final, but here Frank Quietly displays the fall of a superman with ruthless efficiency at Mark Millar's behest. The story really begins here, as all else has been preamble before stepping into Mark Gruenwald's shoes in trying to forge a finer world ... albeit with absolute power already pretty corrupted. Not bad for an updated derivative, and fans of Quietly's artwork will delight at the devastation.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Artifacts" #31, "Tom Strong And The Planet Of Peril" #3, "Dungeons And Dragons Cutter" #5, "Star Wars Legacy 2" #7, "G.I. JOE" #8, "Batman" #23.4, "Miss Fury" #6, "Wonder Woman" #23.2, "Fatale" #17, "G.I. JOE Special Missions" #7, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents No Tomorrow" #2, "Young Avengers" #10, "Justice League" #23.4, "Fanboys Vs Zombies" #18, "Batman And Robin" #23.4, "Gambit" #17, "Godzilla Rulers Of Earth" #4, "Nova" #8, "Battlestar Galactica" #4, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Wonderland" #15, "Uncanny Avengers" #12, "My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic" #11, "Green Lantern" #23.4, "Criminal Macabre The Eyes Of Frankenstein" #1, "Superman" #23.4, "Revival" #14, "Other Dead" #1, "Batman The Dark Knight" #23.4, "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #27, "Green Hornet Legacy" #41, "Aquaman" #23.2, "Star Trek" #25, "Planet Of The Apes Giant" #1, "Avengers" #20, "Mass Effect Foundation" #3, "Kevin Smith's The Bionic Man" #24, "Dinosaurs Attack" #3, "Justice League Of America" #7.4, "Transformers Prime Beast Hunters" #5, "Rat Queens" #1, "Scarlet Spider" #22, "Action Comics" #23.4, "Guardians Of The Galaxy" #6.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
If you liked "MODOK's 11," you probably won't like the poor man's version of it, "Infinity Heist" #1. Tony Stark's off world? Time to rob him! What? Could have robbed him while he was on TV debuting that repulsor powered racing car? Huh? He's been off planet for months? Hang it up.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Only one stinker? That's cool!
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Fantastic purchases, nothing irked too badly -- hell of a week!
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!