The Buy Pile: Unexpected Heroes & Ruthless Ambition

Thu, March 13th, 2014 at 10:28am PDT

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

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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 MARCH 12, 2014

Captain Marvel #1
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Finally! Everything you could possibly want from Carol Danvers, everything that was missing from the previous series, is right here, passing the Bechdel Test and getting it right on every page. Kelly Sue DeConnick has a script that takes the titular heroine and gives her everything -- awesome home base, solid supporting characters (there will be Lt. Trouble t-shirts everywhere if the Mouse House of Ideas gets their licensing together), an emotional core that's breathtaking (almost a Douglas Adams riff) and wonderful character interactions. Toss in crisp, effective artwork from David Lopez and Lee Loughridge and this is a great comic book.

Astro City #10
(Vertigo/DC Comics)
After some slower issues, this installment encapsulates everything you need from the Winged Victory storyline, firing on all cylinders. The heroine reclaims her power and her position, staring down every threat leveled against her and showing so many sides of her character: vulnerability, raw power, finesse, intelligence, worry, confidence -- never in a scattered fashion, but with certain, deliberate plotting as character development. Then, there's a bunch of punching and beating people up, and that makes sense too, with a meta-textual statement on the escalation of villainy and the responsibility the "protectors" have to the "protected." Savvy, insightful, entertaining stuff from Busiek and Anderson.

East Of West #10
(Image Comics)
Yes. This. Wow. The tale, to whit, is that Death (of "four horsemen of the Apocalypse" fame) has broken with his kind and had a child with the scion of a kingdom in an alternate history Dis-United States. Got it? Hang on. This child was kidnapped by the powers that be of said Dis-United States as the fulfillment of a prophecy they have in trust with the rest of the horsemen, who just wanna do their job and end everything. Still there? Cool. With Eastwood-esque determination, Death is a literal pale horseman, a lanky figure of gunpowder and fury dressed like a country-themed Elijah Snow, complete with two shapeshifting indigenous sidekicks who are their own show outside of the main story. Death's quest to reunite his family is epic in theme and entrancing, and here he has to confront a hugely powerful shaman for answers. The shocker ending, the endless quotables ("Most humans transform slowly, Conquest. Very few are actually born monsters"), the mythic take with a sci-fi twist ... Jonanthan Hickman, Nick Dragotta and Frank Martin slam dunk this issue like they were trying to be on a year end "Best Of" Sportscenter episode. This series is always at least good, but this month, it's spectacular.

Transformers More Than Meets The Eye #27
(IDW Publishing)
In a big, big way, this issue brings this series roaring back to its heights, showing so many wonderful character moments while weaving a million year old plot together, tying in story elements from years ago and making one huge, gorgeous tapestry mostly told around a bar. Megatron has one of the most defining character moments in his history, an epiphany of such depth and intensity that it should be quoted by political scientists. Shockwave, the mastermind, reveals a plan that would make Thanos and Galactus high five each other. The way Galvatron and the "female Autobots" and so many disparate continuities are sewn together in an almost Jack Mckinney-styled elegance ... it's a huge triumph for big creative team: James Roberts and John Barber on script: Alex Milne, Brendan Cahill, Livid Ramondelli, Brian Shearer and Josh Perez on art. This "Dark Cybertron" crossover may have spun its wheels in recent issues, but it's full speed ahead here.

X-Men Legacy #300
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
This ... is a surprise. On one hand, this could be cynically seen as a weird retcon, introducing a character named Forgetmenot whose entire mutant life is inside of an intense version of a Somebody Else's Problem field, dancing between the lines of multiple continuities. However, with a literal army of creatives on hand (Simon Spurrier, Christos Gage, Mike Carey, Tan Eng Huat, Steve Kurth, Rafa Sandoval, Craig Yeung, Allen Martinez, Jordie Tarragona, Jose Villarubia, Rachelle Rosenberg, and Ulises Arreola), this issue turns out as a tale of uncommon heroism, of touching sentiment and of crafty delivery. It's a surprise in the best possible way and you will likely never see it coming.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Two jumps, five total comics ... this is a great week already!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

Like an amped-up episode of "Burn Notice" with a way bigger budget, "Black Widow" #4 is a fun "be careful what you wish for" issue as a boring intelligence gathering exercise for SHIELD turns into explosions and thousands of rounds of discarding sabot ammunition scattered through a Cape Town street. Sure, the antagonist is a little unidimensional, but Natasha's engaging voiceover provides writer Nathan Edmondson room to be playful and lighten the mood from all the murder and mayhem. Very close to making the mark on its charm alone.

The art isn't exactly professional grade, but the story involving futuristic ideas and comics culture references left and right made "Kill Godz" #1 fairly interesting. Created by the writer of the equally imaginative "Vescell," it weaves magical realism in with subtle political commentary, creating synthetic gods and reality television by way of Richard Bachman. Interesting ideas that lack polish, but has tons of room for improvement.

You have to hand it to "Bloodshot And H.A.R.D. Corps" #20 for making some entertaining doggoned action sequences, with the immortal Armstrong (of "Archer and ..." fame) bringing the ruckus and the laughs in a "Jackie Chan meets 1980s Schwarzenegger" kind of way. Aside from an introspective character moment near the end, however, most of the issue's actual protagonists were pretty cliched and unidimensional despite the quality of their plan. Interesting but falling slightly short of the mark.

"All-New X-Factor" #4 had fantastic dialogue and serviceable art, but a plot that tread water and a fairly goofy conclusion. Like "Young Avengers," more sizzle than steak, but if you have the cash lying around, it has its fun elements.

"My Little Pony Friends Forever" #3 was immediately snatched up by a four year old, who didn't care about backstories or how the plot riffed on Tolkien or any of that. She likes ponies and adventure. That's all you really need to say about that, isn't it?

"Minimum Wage" #3 was strange and funny and prurient and creepy and weird and sad all at once. If you like the work of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Crumb or even the racier stuff from "Cracked" or "Mad," this might tickle your funny bone.

"Secret Avengers" #1 has a very world worn, whimsical kind of atmosphere, with yelling in a friendly way and the standard shooting and what not. Had this been an episode of "Agents of SHIELD," it could have broken ratings records, but with action scenes that were kind of "blah" instead of blowing your wig back, the whole effect is muted. Not a bad book, but not world-shaking.

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

"All-New X-Men" #24, "Walking Dead" #123, "Avengers Undercover" #1, "Star Wars" #15, "Deadpool" #25.NOW, "Witchblade" #173, "Fantastic Four" #2, "Grimm: Warlock" #4, "Hawkeye" #17, "Robocop: Last Stand" #8, "Mighty Avengers" #8, "Magnus Robot Fighter" #1, "Revolutionary War Motormouth" #1, "The Star Wars" #6, "Superior Foes Of Spider-Man" #9, "Six Million Dollar Man Season 6" #1, "Superior Spider-Man" #29, "Fathom Kiani Volume 3" #1, "Wolverine" #3, "City: The Mind In The Machine" #2, "X-Force" #2, "Returning" #1, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Neverland Age Of Darkness" #1, "Crow Pestilence" #1, "Royals Masters Of War" #2, "Trish Out Of Water" #5, "Superman Wonder Woman" #6, "Indestructible" #4, "Superboy" #29, "Revelations" #3, "Nightwing" #29, "Mercenary Sea" #2, "Justice League #3000" #4, "Beasts of Burden: Hunters and Gatherers," "Justice League Of America" #13, "Manifest Destiny" #5, "X" #11, "Green Lantern Corps" #29, "FBP Federal Bureau Of Physics" #8, "Egos" #3, "Constantine" #12, "Sons Of Anarchy" #7, "Batman" #29, "X-Files Conspiracy The Crow" #1, "Batgirl" #29, "Ghost" #2, "Uber" #10, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" #32, "Unity" #5, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Ascension" #2.

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

Rebooting a beloved, decades old franchise can be hard, but "Star Trek" #31 can't even get through a few years without retconning itself. With some elements from throwaway frames used in "Star Trek: Into Darkness," a cyborg intelligence is introduced into the story before John Harrison's big dance number, one that (based on this description) either is wholly incompetent or didn't want to have any effect on the events of the movie, let alone numerous issues since then. This issue simply ... defies logic.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Aside from that "Star Trek" franchise being completely off the rails, it wasn't that bad.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Man, there were so many good comics this week, how could it be anything but a win?

THE BUSINESS

Oh, just for fun, the writer of this column was interviewed on The Huffington Post. Just FYI.

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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