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 26, 2014
This issue is good. Let's not say that it's not. However, when a literal band of Fables -- Peter Piper, Puss 'n Boots, Sleeping Beauty and ... well, that's just the thing. The others have stories and perspectives, but they're not exactly memorable and they take valuable panel time from characters that are easier to relate. Building characters like that can be done -- look at Snow White's "cubs," for example -- but it didn't happen here. Nothing is wrong, per se, but ... well, if this storyline's going to be as momentous as the title claimed, it'll need to pick up the pace.
Jump from the Read Pile.
Guest writer Sholly Fisch showed up in a big way in this issue, a comic that gives you everything you need when you're reading a "Catwoman" book. Humor, glamor, action, surprises and sexiness. Selina's crashing the send off party for a major biochemical company and getting her corporate raid on, but a simple job hits two snags she doesn't expect, forcing her to improvise in a very entertaining way. The art from Pat Olliffe, Tom Nguyen, Walden Wong and Sonia Oback is kinetic and alluring. A very pleasant surprise from a relatively fresh name.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Great jump, but come on "Fables," this is your show ...
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"All-New Ghost Rider" #1 had some genuine moments in its cliches as it introduced one hell of an origin for the newest Spirit of Vengeance. Robbie Reyes (wonder if he has a cousin in El Paso named Jaime) is young and (mostly) principled, working a hard job to care for his disabled brother, looking for a way out of mean streets. What happens during a fairly average street race changes everything forever, and Felipe Smith's sparse but zippy script, combined with vibrant art from Tradd Moore, Nelson Daniel and Val Staples, make this one to watch. Let's see if it can downplay (or justify) the cliches in future issues while letting this sterling character work shine.
"Empowered Special #6 (Internal Medicine)" was a little cheese-cakey, but actually was kind of clever as its two lead superheroines dived into some deeply impossible stuff to try and save the whole west coast from something that would make Warren Ellis nod appreciatively. Cute, but not quite cute enough for that price tag.
"Silver Surfer" #1 has a spin of whimsy and a flair for the fantastic as it introduces a girl from New England who never wants to go anywhere and showcases Norrin Radd as he goes, well, almost everywhere. As two bookends, they frame a threat to the most impossible vacation spot in the universe, a locale that would have had Douglas Adams clapping appreciatively, perfectly framed by Mike Allred's larger than life art stylings. The story is precious like your little cousin doing a song and dance for the family at a gathering, but the shadow of its threat is as flat and toothless as a threatening Skype message from a homeless man on another continent. Worth seeing if it can escape its cuteness and cliche to become something.
The grand finale for the "Dark Cybertron" comes to pass in "Transformers Dark Cybertron Finale" #1 and … well … it's something. There are some good plot points, a very big symbolic shift, a critical examination of the entire civil war between Cybertronian life forms … heady, but interesting stuff. However … there's a weirdly emo bit, the final conclusion to the storyline requires so many things to suddenly work wholly differently than they have for (in story) millions upon millions of years and there's just way, way too much going on here. This was a hugely ambitious effort that never really connected. This isn't a bad comic book, but dyed-in-the-wool fans will find it befuddling and more casual fans will not get a lot of what's happening.
"All-New X-Factor" #5 was an interesting issue as the cybernetic persona Danger changes the dynamics between the X-Factor team members (and their employers at Serval Industries) on a day that seemed normal but erupts into a much more interesting fashion. The shift in dynamics was a nice change, and the reveal on the antagonist was well done, but the possibly-too-large cast took too many shortcuts on characterization and relied too heavily on knowledge not in the issue. Not bad at all, but still finding its footing.
"Dead Body Road" #4 is a gripping, visceral chase scene as a man interrogates a bruiser in the back of a van while pursued by a murderous biker gang. There are only two characters who have any real shine, the rest as set dressing, and this might have been a fantastic video game or movie sequence, but as a single comic it's just a jolt of out-of-context adrenaline, a quickie in a dive bar bathroom stall, that doesn't allow you to connect with anything else. A bit pricy for that experience, but for students of craft, it's a great lesson in how to make a chase work in sequential art.
"Superior Spider-Man Team-Up" #11 fits a flashback issue between current Goblin-related events to show it's not even easy being friends with green. Otto Octavius and Norman Osborn spent lost months together in Europe as friends and colleagues, working towards their common goal, only to find a philosophical difference could drive them apart. Weird stuff for fans deep in the high geek grass, but maybe too weird for anybody who doesn't face front.
There's an upgraded Man-Bat in town, and his fight against the titular character in "Batman: The Dark Knight" #29 is not just anticlimactic, it's like an indictment of the Bat's entire existence, an insult to his effectiveness and a thumbed nose at law, order and the common man. Batman's less hero than victim, and that's disappointing.
"Hawkeye" #18 is a pastiche of Hollywood cliches and quirky storytelling as Kate Bishop's Los Angeles experience rubs the wrong person the wrong way as she finds out who moved in after the Pride got taken out in Runaways. Aside from the fact that she could easily fix most of her problems with a text message (much like Clint Barton, the series' other eponymous archer), the quirky noir has a kind of charm even as it leaves many supporting characters standing around like Mark Madsen or Luke Walton did for the Lakers. Likely a gem once collected, but faltering in the monthly format.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Sex" #12, "Flash" #29, "Avengers" #27, "Furious" #3, "Teen Titans" #29, "Manhattan Projects" #19, "Deadpool" #26, "Suicide Squad Amanda Waller" #1, "Doc Savage" #4, "Talon" #17, "Skullkickers" #25, "Iron Patriot" #1, "Blackout" #1, "Krampus" #4, "Tomb Raider" #2, "G.I. JOE A Real American Hero" #200, "Pariah" #2, "Bubblegun" #5, "Red Lanterns" #29, "New Avengers" #16.NOW, "Captain Midnight" #9, "Ghostbusters" #14, "Uncanny Avengers" #18.NOW, "Serenity Leaves On The Wind" #3, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Quest" #5, "Superman" #29, "Godzilla Rulers Of Earth" #10, "Revolutionary War Omega" #1, "Worlds' Finest" #21, "Mass Effect Foundation" #9, "Hacktivist" #3, "Larfleeze" #9, "Bloodhound Crowbar Medicine" #5, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Wonderland Clash Of Queens" #2, "Revenge" #2, "Midas Flesh" #4, "A+X" #18, "Deadly Class" #3, "Vandroid" #2, "Survive" #1, "Protectors Inc" #5, "Justice League Dark" #29, "Halo Escalation" #4, "Walking Dead" #124, "Origin 2" #4, "Captain Midnight" #9, "Bounce" #11, "Marvel Knights X-Men" #5, "Elfquest The Final Quest" #2, "He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe" #11, "Alex + Ada" #5, "Indestructible Hulk" #20, "King Conan the Conqueror" #2, "X-Files Conspiracy" #2, "One-Hit Wonder" #2, "Guardians Of The Galaxy" #13, "Star Wars Legacy 2" #13, "Forever Evil Rogues Rebellion" #6, "Satellite Sam" #7, "Avengers Assemble" #25, "Eternal Warrior" #7, "DC Universe Vs The Masters Of The Universe" #6, "Amazing X-Men" #5.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
"My Little Phoney A Brony Adventure" #1 is another sad attack on people passionate about their fandom. This comic seeks to make a mockery out of "bronies," grown men who like a certain property held over at IDW in an insecure version of geekshaming, as if the ridiculous made up thing one person likes is superior or inferior to the ridiculous made up thing another person likes. The heart wants what it wants, and this poorly told, half considered "narrative" (using that word lightly) spends its pages trying to push a certain group of people down the geek hierarchy. Tedious.
If "Forever Evil A.R.G.U.S." #6 was just boring, that would have been an accomplishment. Instead, we get the "secret history of A.R.G.U.S." (which never ran into the "secret history of Stormwatch" or the "secret history of the Court of Owls" or whatever other groundless modern day retcons we're going with) and their secret historical enemy (who, again, never seemed to pop up). That's dumb. Then we add a hallucinating Steve Trevor evolving into a buddy comedy with Killer Frost and flashing back on emo moments with Wonder Woman ... it all just seems like a sad tragedy. Thankfully, hopefully, our long national nightmare has ended.
"Superior Spider-Man" #30 is embarrassing. After "unalterable" circumstances are easily undone in one splash page, after endless struggle concludes in an unheard whisper, the entirety of Otto Octavius' legacy as Spider-Man is not just tainted, but easily forgotten. The original idea of this switch was bold and innovative, while this smacks of putting the genie back in the bottle with Peter's identity after "Civil War." In a word, "booo!"
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
There were some really good tries ...
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Despite the single jump, the less-than-inspiring "Fables" issue and three really bad books make this week a loser by a slight margin.
This column marks the beginning of the ninth year of the Buy Pile at CBR, and the eleventh year of the column as a whole. You're welcome.
Did you pick up the first installment of "Waso: Will To Power," the new fantasy novella written by the writer of this column? You should go check that out. You can still grab "Artifacts" #35 as well, if you were so inclined.
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!