WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?
Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/winner of the 2012 Top Cow Talent Hunt/blogger/novelist/poet/jackass on Twitter/head honcho of Komplicated) grabs a whole lotta comics, sorting these periodicals (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 NOVEMBER 6, 2013
Mighty Avengers #3
Jump from the Read Pile.
Schmaltzy. Sentimental and speechy. Filled with feuding, fickle super powered beings and a walking (flying) deus ex machina. For all those things, it was still wonderfully entertaining. This issue perfectly balanced moments for each character, using the ridiculous elements of the "Infinity" crossover to perfectly craft an antagonist that was just enough to be a challenge but not enough to overshadow the character moments. Luke Cage's recent experience with the Thunderbolts and the old "New Avengers" showed as he emerged competently as a field marshal. The Superior Spider-Man actually deferred to somebody, which was an interesting switch even with his quotables ("Nunchuk Norris"), and the balance of powers and knowledge from multiple disciplines made for a very good battle woven into a comic book. The series could have started here ... you know what? It did.
The Horsemen: Mark of the Cloven #1
Jump from the Read Pile.
The first thing you should know about "Horsemen: Mark of the Cloven" #1 is that, despite its artwork, its packaging and its size, it's not a comic book. Like "Grendel: Past Prime" this is an illustrated novella, a primarily prose based piece set in a dystopian United States (how can you tell the difference? They don't bother making nice names for crazy laws) that features super powered beings based on Yoruba spirituality facing down twisted demigods, science gone wrong and the oppression of the innocent. With very clever usages of powers (Hydro-Man should take some notes) and some solidly written storytelling, this is just about five bucks worth of entertainment, with Jude Mire's prose allowing much more story and Jiba Molei Anderson's sometimes rough/sometimes stylized artwork provide a loose framework for the reader's imagination. A smartly packaged piece that benefits greatly from Jonathan Hickman's experimental work in "Pax Romana" that offers an interesting world of magic and possibility.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Very solid start to the week!
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Painkiller Jane The Price Of Freedom" #1 was very, very close to making the jump, a superbly crafted action story with a John McClane-esque protagonist and outstanding artwork (Joan Santacruz, Sam Lofti and Paul Mounts really threw down). A spoiled Saudi princess is happy to be let off the leash, but somebody with serious pull wants her extraordinarily ventilated. This leads to some great surprises and lots of stuff blowing up. As fun as an episode of "V.I.P." and perfectly crafted empty calorie entertainment.
"Trish Out Of Water" #2 is kind of crafty, looking at "normal lives" in a world with water-powered super beings emerging into public consciousness. Trish's Ally McBeal-esque vacillation makes her a believable teen protagonist regardless of gender -- self-focused, oblivious, emotional -- but every supporting character is from Central Casting and the plot, while clever, could pick up the pace. This is an interesting concept that's still finding its footing in terms of execution.
"Transformers: Dark Cybertron" #1 had an effective establishment of sturm und drang as seeds planted through both ongoing series begin to be revealed -- hidden titans, historical flashbacks, offhanded comments and more -- begin to take shape. However, the last page reveal was a bit of an anti-climax, doing more to undercut the relevance of the Autobot struggle and reinforce the case made in a recent "More Than Meets The Eye" issue about the fundamental nature of Cybertronians while also demoting two of the Decepticon's biggest guns to mere flunkies and long-sighted functionaries. From a craft standpoint this was a solid issue with great rewards for foreshadowing and outstanding art and coloring. For fans, however, it's a little bit hollow to have built to this big reveal and get the "womp womp" sound once it arrives.
"East Of West" #7 took a more circuitous route than previous issues, losing a step in pacing as it focused on one character, while the pale rider's quest continued as cryptically as an early "Dark Tower" book. Hickman's sense of atmosphere and setting remain superb, and the art is both intimate and grand, but this feels like it lost some of the impetus going back to explain something.
"Legends Of Red Sonja" #1 was solid sword and sorcery lore featuring stories told about the titular thief and barbarian, but without her own zest and personality, the stories sagged and lacked "oomph." If the new directions for the crimson coiffed sword swinger are your thing, this will likely whet your appetite while offering little to anyone not as enmeshed in the character.
"Quantum And Woody" #5 finally has a better grasp on the dynamic between the two leads, the combination of sibling affection and open loathing. However, the plot wandered all over the road like a driver who's had too many Newcastles, and the half-naked clone of a former antagonist seemed to be there for nothing more than titillation value. Not bad, but not quite ready yet.
"Longshot Saves The Marvel Universe" #1 was humming along well enough until the start of its third act, where it needed to have direct interaction with its antagonist (that didn't connect, despite good visual design) and a run in with Reed and Tony (Science Bros!) that was much less effective than it needed to be. Also, Longshot's new haircut is not working. Good art, an interesting start, but it didn't stick the landing.
"Detective Comics" #25 was a well crafted background development issue for Jim Gordon, who's shown as a young lieutenant on a wholly corrupt police force, giving him an interesting origin for a key part of Gotham City lore. Great from a "background information" standpoint, and a good fit for the "Zero Year" crossover, but not something that'll get your motor running.
"Absolution Rubicon" #5 goes down Gruenwald's "Squadron Supreme" path, as John Dusk continues to establish himself as the law in a downtrodden New York neighborhood against all comers. What's that? You've seen similar ideas in "The Authority," "Daredevil," and many other books? Sure you have, but rarely with that Avatar splash of gore and viscera. Not a bad book at all, but nothing new and with supporting characters who fail to distinguish themselves.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Action Comics" #25, "Cataclysm The Ultimates' Last Stand" #1, "The Star Wars" #3, "Alex + Ada" #1, "Batman Superman" #5, "Fantomex MAX" #2, "Suicide Risk" #7, "Cyber Force" #7, "Batwing" #25, "Iron Man" #18, "Occultist" #2, "Pathfinder: Goblins" #4, "Earth 2" #17, "Charismagic Volume 2" #6, "G.I. JOE The Cobra Files" #8, "Forever Evil" #3, "Hit" #3, "Shadowman" #12, "Green Arrow" #25, "Ballistic" #3, "Doctor Who: Prisoners Of Time" #10, "Green Lantern" #25, "Michael Avon Oeming's The Victories" #6, "Uber" #7, "Movement" #6, "Mark Waid's The Green Hornet" #7, "Ten Grand" #5, "Tyler Kirkham's Screwed" #6, "Stormwatch" #25, "Executive Assistant Assassins" #16, "Reality Check" #3, "Superman Unchained" #4, "Lords Of Mars" #4, "God Is Dead" #3, "Swamp Thing" #25, "Protectors Inc." #1, "Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight" #2, "Trinity Of Sin: The Phantom Stranger" #13, "Morning Glories" #34, "Robocop: Last Stand" #4, "Amazing X-Men" #1, "Lone Ranger" #19, "Ghosted" #5, "Captain America" #13, "Catalyst Comix" #5, "Army Of Darkness Vs. Hack Slash" #3, "Captain Marvel" #17, "Fatale" #18, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Wonderland Through The Looking Glass" #2.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"Drumhellar" #1 drops you in the middle of drug-fueled randomness and never really does much more than meander with "Big Lebowski"-worthy riffs and non sequiturs, borrowing shtick from "Happy" along the way. Uninteresting, unclear, unacceptable.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Just one really bad book? That's a victory in and of itself!
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Two jumps, just one actual stinker, this is a fantastic week for comics!
The most important thing in mind this week is that the writer of this column has his debut comic book in Previews. Co-written by CBR alumni and "2 Guns" creator Steven Grant and featuring art from "X-Factor" and "Supergirl & The Legion of Super Heroes" vet Dennis Calero, "Watson & Holmes" #7 hits retail January 15, but pre-orders start now. If you're interested in a self-contained solid story from a seasoned vet and the biggest jackass in comics journalism (narrowly beating a certain Englishman, who reports actual news a decent percent of the time), please use the Comic Shop Locator to find the shop nearest you and have them hold a copy for you ... even if you just wanna rip it up.
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!