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 OCTOBER 9, 2013
Astro City #5
This issue is not for every reader. If you're not 100 percent sold on the world of Astro City, the purposefully disjointed storytelling here might dislodge less-than-committed fans. Here, a character spotlighted in the first issue -- The Broken Man -- has a tableau of "Thumbtacks and Yarn" connecting memorabilia from scores of instances in Astro City history -- from the obituary of "Fiestaware dealer" Caleb Tarrant, who secretly helmed a government agency akin to the Men in Black, or the dog tags of Sergeant Benjamin Naparski, who borrowed a page from the books of Jason and Jeffrey Burr (but that's supposed to be a big secret, according to the Broken Man's narration). Finally, the steampunk heroine Dame Progress gets sidetracked chasing a Cab Calloway-themed "nuisance" and discovers much more than she expected. A lot going on in one issue, and without clear connective tissue, this might be a bit much for some. However, to dyed-in-the-wool Astro City fans, this issue will be pored over, its details debated online, in the kind of detail that calls to mind the Zapruder film. Intriguing stuff, but challenging as well.
Transformers Robots In Disguise #21
Soundwave is, at his heart, a believer. He's a loyalist to the ideals Megatron put forth millions of years ago despite the clear differences that exist with the realities of Decepticon behavior. That truth, at the core of his character, has put him at odds against many other Decepticons, and here that struggle leads to Shockwave, literally driven mad by the unwanted modifications to his body, now pursuing a path that even doctors Mengele and Mindbender might consider too extreme. A bit more exposition than the issue needed, as its plot dragged a bit (especially around the part recounting Megatron's fight against Galvatron), but still pretty engaging science fiction.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Add these two and the fact that the brilliant "Watson & Holmes" #4 from Karl Bollers and Rick Leonardi came out (no review due to a grandiose conflict of interest for the reviewer) and you have a good sign for this week's comics.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"I sent my best negotiator." There's an extended plot line in "Infinity" #4 that is, frankly, kind of awesome. Thor goes down to the Kree home world to sue for surrender with the enemy that's kicked butt all over the galaxy, and ... well, he's Thor, so the idea of him "talking" and "surrendering" is kind of funny already, and it only gets better. However, aside from Thor's very, very patient performance, only Black Bolt vs. Thanos even came close to mattering otherwise. Not bad.
It's not easy making digital warfare interesting in sequential art, but veteran writer Chuck Dixon gives it a heck of a shot in "G.I. JOE Special Missions" #8, where a European diplomat falls into Cobra's crosshairs and an undercover squad of keyboard-savvy Joes has to keep him alive. The art lets this one slide as the thrilling script ends up in visuals that are humdrum (the aerial sequences in particular) and an introduction of a French counterpart could have easily been skipped. If this was on CBS, it'd be a hit.
"3 Guns" #3 is a solidly quippy piece of crime drama that, like its now-cinematic predecessor, will likely benefit from being collected. There are double and triple crosses as a big shipment of guns goes missing at the same time a lot of money loses its way. Russian mobsters and American wiseguys meet undercover operatives in way too deep for their own good. If you like character work and loved the movie, this surely would be your cup of tea.
"Chew" #37 was a good issue. That, of course, isn't a bad thing, except when you compare it to some issues where it was truly great -- the last issue, the introduction of Amelia, some of the Chog stuff. This digressive issue covering -- ugh -- food porn is just cute, almost confectionary. Sure, sometimes watching Mulder and Scully take down some weirdo was fine, but sometimes you needed some black oil and Cigarette Smoking Man. To have a detour after all the big events of the last two issues feels like a let down.
"Red Sonja" #4 was solid entertainment as the title character struggled through fever to recover the warrior she was, while her apparently mad sister holds an entire city prisoner. The plot drags just a bit and most characters are paper thin, but Sonja's character shines through in both art and writing. Still trying to recapture the magic of the first issue.
"Think Tank" #10 slipped and slid around a bit plot wise but maintained some great character moments (especially the kicker final page) as Dr. David Loren gets disappeared into places no one would ever want to go. The supporting cast gets little room to operate even as international intrigues lead to invasion forces and open combat. Smart stuff here, but somehow still finding its balance.
"Shaolin Cowboy" #1 shares a bit with the movie "Pacific Rim," in that certain elements fall apart if examined too closely. However, on a level of sheer visual spectacle, it's amazing, especially focusing on one scene that cannot be described, it has to be experienced. Plot? Character development? Geoff Darrow eschews such things as he pumps up the badassery instead. Many will consider it ridiculous fun.
"Three" #1 is mean, bitter historical fiction set after the "heroism" depicted in the book/film "300." The remnants of Sparta hold sway through terror and mayhem, but even that leaves room for rebellious thought as their slave populace (indistinguishable in many ways) dreams of freedom. Not bad, but not easy to stomach either.
"Deathmatch" #10 raises the stakes all the way up to what could be quadruple-crosses as the detective Sable finally discovers the real reason for this murderous competition (sort of) and arguable star Dragonfly spends most of the issue recuperating. Heavy monologuing accompanies "Tron"-styled combat as this issue keeps pace for a big finish, but with so many characters forbidden to interact due to narrative fiat, it limits how well this issue can do. Not bad, and when all is said and done, maybe something special.
"Resident Alien: Suicide Blonde" #2 had more quirky detective action and, were it on USA network in the old slot "Monk" occupied, would likely be quite the ratings hit. The doctor's quiet dignity is engaging as is Sharona, er, his intrepid nurse who handles the big action scenes, such as they are. Not bad, but slow moving for a procedural in comic books.
Moody and murderous, "Sons of Anarchy" #2 has a set of flashbacks to establish the setting for a set of betrayals and surprises. Engaging storytelling perhaps not told in a manner that comics are best suited to convey, the slow pace and grim approach would be amazing drama on television and here will satisfy fans of the property, but perhaps might not bowl over every reader.
"Death Sentence" #1 had a brilliantly new idea hampered by lackluster execution. There's an STD that kills within six months, but before it does, the victim gets super powers. If any character in these pages were at all worth noting, that could have been pretty interesting. Oh well ...
If you get past the contradictions of the prequels (a guy from Alderaan designed the laser on the Death Star ... before Dooku was on Geonosis, apparenyly) and the fan fictiony elements, "Star Wars" #10 continued its interesting interplay with a moment for Luke and Wedge that was surprisingly genuine, two friends afraid and lost in the shadow of events far grander than anything they'd imagined. Talky, slow, desperately needing more Vader, but still possessing the charm of the property.
One thing saved "Superboy" #24 from being a "meh" book, and it was a mean, mean quote. In describing the New 52 Doctor Psycho, Psycho Pirate said, "at first he was weak and he could only affect small minds, like animals and Mets fans." That's just WRONG. Funny, admittedly, but WRONG! The rest of the book was pretty forgettable, though.
Spiral made a surprisingly effective protagonist in "Uncanny X-Force" #12 as she sought a lost little girl in the unforgiving streets of Hollywood. Not bad, but even on the antagonist's reveal, not gripping.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Manhattan Projects" #15, "Judge Dredd" #11, "Forever Evil: Arkham War" #1, "Rocket Girl" #1, "Jirni" #5, "Worlds' Finest" #16, "Walking Dead" #115, "Magic The Gathering: Theros" #1, "Katana" #8, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Wonderland Through The Looking Glass" #1, "Walking Dead Tyreese Special," "Nightwing" #24, "Ultimate Comics X-Men" #32, "Abe Sapien" #6, "Stormwatch" #24, "Fearless Defenders" #10, "Archer And Armstrong" #14, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Oz" #3, "Superior Spider-Man Team-Up" #4, "Trinity Of Sin: The Phantom Stranger" #12, "Mars Attacks Judge Dredd" #2, "Eternal Warrior" #2, "Superman/Wonder Woman" #1, "Adventure Time Candy Capers" #4, "Memory Collectors" #1, "Bushido" #2, "Constantine" #7, "Halo: Initiation" #3, "Triple Helix" #1, "Warlord Of Mars" #28, "Catwoman" #23, "America's Got Powers" #7, "X-Men" #6, "Suicide Squad" #24, "Deadpool" #18, "George R.R. Martin's Skin Trade" #3, "Grimm Fairy Tales Hunters Presents The Shadowlands" #5, "Avengers A.I. #4, "A1" #5.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
If you like iconic heroes sobbing like broken hearted girls on the curb during prom night, "Captain America" #12 has you covered with an extended "bro-ment" between Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers, who has a good, hearty rooftop cry about the other dimensional son killed by the half naked psychopath sleeping in his apartment (true story). Oh, and an angry derivative Captain America knock off runs amok with a huge gun, spouting jingoistic ... hang on, that's the phone, one sec. Yello? Yes. Yes, it is. All right. Let's see ... hey, everybody, there's a story by Christopher Priest called "The Two Americas" on the line, it seems pretty upset about something ...
Gibberish. "Cryptozoic Man" #1 is sheer gibberish. A pig faced exposition machine. A bereaved father inexplicably helped by aliens and transformed into some impossible chimera. Energy blasts and yelling and ... it's just a mess.
"Astonishing X-Men" #68 was not, in any remote way, astonishing. An "After School Special" styled yammer-fest that showed the galaxy's most emo Shi'ar, Bobby Drake essentially getting a pass for all the murder and mayhem he did a few months ago (worked for Wanda and Matt Murdock, why not let him off for having a kid lose his feet from freezing?) and lots, lots of talking. Urf.
When history books look back on the name "T'challa," they will be forced to view him as the grandest failure that Wakanda ever had, falling to foreign conquerors twice (first Doom, then a Phoenix-powered Namor). In the same manner, the history of the Oan legacy will point a finger at Hal Jordan for the sheer incompetence shown in "Green Lantern Corps" #24, which showed Jordan's leadership resulting in even more damage to the organization than the Guardians going nuts and becoming villains, only because that lacked the scale of this foolishness. Literally everything that could go wrong did, and not in a way that either showcased a triumph of character nor that provided a plot to entertain. In a word, "boo."
A reveal at the end of "Avengers Arena" #16 takes away one of the most relevant events of the series and makes the whole thing kind of a sham. No. Really. No.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Despite a good number of literally awful comic books, lots more stepped up and tried very hard. Can't deny that kind of effort.
Oh, and Diamond shorted the entire order of "Thor: God of Thunder" #14, so that couldn't be reviewed. Sorry.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Three great comics came home just barely edges out five distinctively bad comics because of the great number of interesting and memorable things that happened (like that wholly mean but wholly quotable Mets line) in between. The week wins, but just barely.
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!