The Buy Pile: Giant Robots & Bickering Brothers

Thu, December 5th, 2013 at 11:28am PST

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

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 DECEMBER 4, 2013

Transformers More Than Meets The Eye #24
(IDW Publishing)
There is so much going on here, it hard to keep track. On one side, Shockwave has a crew of strange bedfellows involved in his plan to re-establish Cybertron's lost royalty, and that's kind of interesting in a monologue-y way. Starscream and his rodent-themed assistant struggle to maintain control over a Cybertronian populace shaken by prophecy, which has some Richard the Third styled energies to it. Optimus Pr... er Orion Pax and Rodimus Prime are shmucking around in the Dead Universe, and that's not as good but has some moments. Ultra Magnus and the wackos on the Lost Light are trapped in an underwater battle for their lives, and that's entertaining. Oh, and Soundwave and Bumblebee are still having a standoff at gunpoint next to a "necrotitan." Any one of these could have been a compelling story, but all at once ... it's a lot. The crossover needs to either merge some storylines or spend more time on individual ones, but this series has been so consistent, it's likely to bring back the detailed characterization and plotting that ... well, about 2/3 of this issue has.

Quantum And Woody #6
(Valiant Entertainment)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Finally, this series has all its ducks in a row as the costumed half of this superheroic odd couple gets a job to take down a militia compound but it's not quite what he expects, and when his feckless brother comes up with the secret to the whole thing, it's even more hilarious. Toss in a great subplot about the clone who came to dinner and this book by James Asmus, Ming Doyle and Jordie Bellaire is perfectly balanced, superbly entertaining and solidly depicted. Fun, funny and action packed.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

None too shabby.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

Do you like giant robot mechs blasting the hell out of each other? You might like "Hawken: Melee" #1, which has less stylish looking giant robots than some more popular franchises but delivers on the "kaboom." If you like characterization or engaging storytelling, well, you may come up short here, but this covers balls-to-the-wall action with no real problems.

"Absolution Happy Kitty Special" #1 is an intense origin story, everything "Epic Kill" tried to be condensed into one creepy, bloody issue. With a mysterious origin and a bloodthirsty focus, she maimed and sliced her way up under Asian crime lords to become a relentless, intentionally one-note murder machine, Lady Shiva with better marketing, a Quentin Tarantino wet dream. Interesting, and for certain niche audiences this will be like manna from heaven.

Cinderella's back in the spy game, courtesy of "Fairest" #21, where she borrows a page from Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow Playbook as the central action piece for a mystery of assassins against the Fables community. Marc Andreyko's plot is engaging and the art from Shawn McManus and Lee Loughridge hit their marks, but this felt like it cut itself off right before it got to being a whole story, but it was engaging and had some real moments worth noting.

In "G.I. JOE A Real American Hero" #197, Cobra's plan is kind of ingenious -- foment chaos in an unstable south American regime while secretly sneaking in to pilfer the Joe team's goodies. However, the terrorists big secret is a little quippier than they need to be, the local military is sadly indifferent and the Joes don't seem to be very good at what they're doing. A mixed bag, better conceived than executed.

"Battlestar Galactica" #6 took a "day in the life" approach to tell a pretty good story about how things go on the "classic" Galactica, from equipment failures to recon flights, all told from the POV of one single officer at the center of it all. Not bad, but like a far less gripping "33" as the stakes never seemed very big.

Borrowing a page from the Grant Morrison playbook, "Action Comics" #26 mixes the mundane with the fantastic as a chance encounter with Lana Lang turns into fighting a giant "monster" with military forces at both of their heels. This cute story just missed making it home with a clever script and fun art, but its plot missed an opportunity with this "ghost soldier" or offering answers to its astonishing ideas. Very close, though.

"Painkiller Jane The Price Of Freedom" #2 was a solid action thriller as the titular impervious heroine drinks and wears skimpy clothes and discusses cultural differences with a pampered Saudi princess, all while killers and wackjobs hunt them in a seaside town. Not bad, but nowhere near as many surprises as the first issue, and kind of tame in and of itself.

"Grindhouse Doors Open At Midnight" #3 was twisted, weird stuff as a prison ship in space carried degenerates and murderers to colonize a new world, throwing away what lives they had for cramped quarters and an uncertain future. Oh, they're all women, as well, held in by a religious fanatic warden who believes fire burns away sin. For fans of the weird stuff, this will be an easy favorite.

"Think Tank" #11 succeeds most effectively in its Michael Westen moments -- explaining a bit of cleverness, or manipulating a tricky situation, all accompanied by a sly, smirking voiceover that never loses its cool. This fast paced issue is built for television, with a subplot that most comics and shows would consider a main event. China and the US stand poised on the precipice of war, and the only one with a clue is the comic's lead, Dr. David Loren, professional jerk and accidentally genocidal genius. This issue's shock value was solid (the last two pages especially) but it falls just shy of finding its way home because things were a little too easy for the roguish scientist.

Changing from a young man in control to a lost, Banner-esque figure, "Shadowman" #13 brings a new creative team, a new status quo and a more Vertigo-inspired story with lost snatches of time and backwoods magic. Dexter Morgan would be more comfortable with this interpretation than the previous, which is less "superhero" comic and more American horror story. Well crafted, but a very different approach.

A cornball ending and disposable stakes made "Dinosaurs Attack" #5 simply tedious. The maudlin sentimentality that stalled the scientists, the "gee willickers" wholesomeness of the man with the bazooka (and the physics-defying kids) … it's all too saccharine sweet, too simperingly sappy to be acceptable. Send it back.

"Young Avengers" #13 was, in turns, baffling, engaging, cheesy, gorgeous, annoying, confusing, wonderful and then baffling again. All the sturm und drang of a hundred evil dimensions as sound and fury, signifying nothing. Like waking up naked, sticky and alone with a killer hangover, we may never know what the hell really happened here, or if it was even good, but it surely left some indelible images in the mind. Yay?

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

"Secret Avengers" #12, "Occultist" #3, "Avengers Annual 2013" #1, "Prophet" #41, "Triple Helix" #3, "Superior Spider-Man" #23, "Pirate Eye Iron Bars Wretched Tales," "Fearless Defenders" #12, "Earth 2" #18, "Star Trek: Khan" #3, "Marvel Knights X-Men" #2, "Hit List" #3, "Green Lantern" #26, "Inhumanity" #1, "Lords Of Mars" #5, "Batwing" #26, "Invincible Universe" #8, "Hinterkind" #3, "The Star Wars" #4, "Six-Gun Gorilla" #6, "Indestructible Hulk Annual" #1, "Trinity Of Sin The Phantom Stranger" #14, "Black Bat" #7, "Marvel Knights Spider-Man" #3, "Swamp Thing" #26, "Burn The Orphanage Born To Lose" #2, "Guardians Of The Galaxy" #9, "Terminator Salvation The Final Battle" #1, "Amazing Spider-Man" #700.1, "Batman Superman" #6, "God Is Dead" #4, "Carbon Grey Volume 3" #1, "Movement" #7, "Ehmm Theory" #4, "Iron Man" #19, "Green Arrow" #26, "Amazing X-Men" #2, "The Bionic Man" #26, "Suicide Risk" #8, "Noir" #2, "Catalyst Comix" #6, "Legends Of Red Sonja" #2, "Stormwatch" #26, "Velvet" #2, "Doctor Who" #16, "Detective Comics" #26, "Longshot Saves The Marvel Universe" #3, "Great Pacific" #12, "Batwing" #26, "Fantomex MAX" #3, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Realm Knights" #4.

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

"Spawn" #238? An extremely tedious alternate history of mankind, positing the Morningstar as an equal, making Hitler and FDR co-workers and all other kinds of swappy shenanigans. A picture show and overbearing narration with about as much dramatic tension as the drunk guy ranting about conspiracy theories at the end of the bar.

There are people who will consider the last page of "DC Universe Vs The Masters Of The Universe" #3 some kind of master stroke, a brilliant twist and generally a good thing. Those people are wrong. Dick Cheney, shoot-people-in-the-face wrong. The pointless "hero fighting" sequences seemed needlessly cliched, Skeletor literally hid somewhere he could get wi-fi, and the idea that he's a "minion" to this "big bad" is embarrassing. Also? The Superman thing is such a big red herring it's got fins. Disappointing.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Two bad books means it wasn't so bad.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Entertaining purchases, stuff didn't stink too badly in the reads ... that's a winning week!

THE BUSINESS

For real, you should pre-order a copy of Hannibal's debut comic book. Seriously.

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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