The Buy Pile: A Tale of Two Science Cities

Thu, June 12th, 2014 at 10:28am PDT

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (winner of the 2012 Top Cow Talent Hunt/blogger/novelist/poet/jackass on Twitter/head honcho of Komplicated) 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 JUNE 11, 2014

Astro City #13
(Vertigo/DC Comics)
This is a challenging issue, but worth while. A long missing god reappears and brings with him an aerosolized version of Cupid's arrows, giving a whole section of Astro City a case of "How YOU doin'?" fever. This means bouncing around in the chronology of a day in a fashion that may take a time or two reading through to get. Still, this self-contained issue has a crafty piece of characterization for a "villain" called Gundog (really) and for two or three relatively key supporting characters as well. Surely not a leisure read, but entertaining nonetheless.

Red City #1
(Image Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
With an intriguing high concept (the solar system is one "nation," with each planet as a sometimes-warring "state"), cursory but engaging characterization on the rakish anti-hero themed protagonist and a political backdrop that seems well developed. Borrowing some of the not-so-distant-future feel of "Elephantmen" or even "Defiance" (a holographic stripper, less-than-affable non-humans) the artwork of Mark Dos Santos and Chris Fenoglio breathe a believable life into the noirish sci fi script of Daniel Corey and its rock solid plotting, moving crisply like Swiss clockworks. Interesting stuff here.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Nice surprise from Dangerkatt, a brain teaser from Busiek & Anderson ... solid start here.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Batgirl" #32 is a great character study, not letting Barbara Gordon wallow in self-pity for too long and showing some chutzpah. However, most of the supporting characters are flat and dull while the plot meandered and stalled. Solid art, playful writing, just needed a little more urgency.

"Wildfire" #1 is the opening sequence of a really good science fiction graphic novel. Using high concept ideas tied together with real world science, it throws a near-possibility into the ideasphere with chilling consequences. If the characters had been better developed, or the plot structure had a more satisfying sequence, it might have worked. With a collection, this will likely be something to remember. Worth watching.

"Lumberjanes" #3 was whimsical and endearing while throwing around pop culture references like they were going out of style. Again, not much going on in terms of characterizations save one moment of doubt, but it was a cute, all-ages, female-friendly adventure.

"Mighty Avengers" #11 was a conundrum. On one hand, now we have a 1970s Blaxploitation version of the Horsemen, er, the fairly ethnic Avengers that's as sad and derivative as Nick Fury's 1950s version. On the other hand, Luke Cage's dad is cool and the art is fun and Blade has an afro and a fly collar shirt, which is hilarious. There's also a very fun two-page splash fight scene and Kaluu has a stretch limo in New York. Strange, uneven, but strangely fascinating, like a tragedy you can't turn away from watching.

"Captain Marvel" #4 was so close, as Carol Danvers used raw power, moxie and a little bit of wisdom to walk a fine line for an impossible situation. The Spartax emperor J'son, building himself up as a big name before his son takes the silver screen, is a shadow hanging over a refugee crisis as marauders and pirates and more exacerbate the situation. A nice supporting cast -- a cranky bruiser, a charmingly determined female engineer, a cute mechanically influenced guy -- get some great scene time, but the plotting suffers in the process. This series has been hovering around the sweet spot of being worth purchasing for a while, here's hoping it can find it and stay there.

"That's Because You're A Robot" had some surprising plot twists but a single note gag that never delivered and a number of cliches from half the procedurals you've ever seen.

"Transformers Robots In Disguise" #30 was pretty good, as seconds-in-command led more than their arguable bosses, having the bloodthirsty Galvatron (who makes Megatron look like an erudite thinker by comparison) and the altruistic Optimus Prime (who literally doesn't know what is going on) get led around by their noses, respectively, by the newly zealous Soundwave and the Frank Underhill-esque Prowl. Deception within deception on both sides of the ideological badge means some cute moments ("This is the best job ever!") that are a distinctive improvement. The historical digressions pulled focus without adding things now (perhaps in the future it might seem relevant) but it's good to see this title finding its way back towards some relevance with strong characters and an interesting role reversal of Soundwave trying to work for "freedom" and Prowl leading the Constructicons.

"Starlight" #4 had a last page twist that's like a punch in the guts. The art and swashbuckling vibe are top notch, even if Millar's plot runs a little slow (and, honestly, with an octogenarian Flash Gordon, they'd be better served taking notes from "Southern Bastards" on how to make an old guy engagingly badass). Not bad at all, but aside from the last page, not enough.

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

"Birds Of Prey" #32, "Archer And Armstrong" #21, "Wolverine" #8, "God Is Dead" #14, "Dexter's Laboratory" #3, "Constantine" #15, "Real Heroes" #3, "Figment" #1, "Worlds' Finest" #24, "Hulk" #4, "Star Mage" #3, "Nightcrawler" #3, "Bloodshot And H.A.R.D. Corps" #23, "Green Lantern Corps" #32, "Uncanny X-Men Special" #1, "The Walking Dead" #128, "Deadpool" #30, "Bee And Puppycat" #2, "All-New X-Men" #28, "Superman Wonder Woman" #9, "Crow Pestilence" #4, "Royals Masters Of War" #5, "New Avengers" #19, "Returning" #4, "Uncanny X-Men Special" #1, "Uber" #14, "Revenge" #4, "Amazing Spider-Man" #1.2, "New 52 Futures End" #6, "Star Trek" #34, "Original Sins" #1, "Infinity Man And The Forever People" #1, "Angry Birds Comics" #1, "Sons Of Anarchy" #10, "Armor Hunters" #1, "Rocky And Bullwinkle" #4, "Superboy" #32, "Manifest Destiny" #7, "Shutter #3," "All-New Invaders" #6, "Detective Comics" #32, "Wasteland" #55, "Secret Avengers" #4, "Sinister Dexter" #7, "Justice League United" #2, "Tales Of Honor" #3, "Batman Eternal" #10, "Avengers Undercover" #5, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Warlord Of Oz" #2.

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

Hey ... nothing awful! YEAH!!!

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Some ambitious ideas and nothing to really stink up the place.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

No truly bad books? A pleasant surprise jumps to the promised land? This week wins and it feels so good!

THE BUSINESS

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. There’s also a bunch of great stuff available from this writer on Amazon. 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 guarantee 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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