The Buy Pile: Dreams, Transformers & Disappointments in Space

Thu, June 26th, 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

Dream Police #3
(Image Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
This issue surprisingly wields cliches against the cleverly considered rules of its own environment to follow Sarah Maclachlin in "building a mystery" and engaging the audience in the process. Lieutenant Detective Joe Thursday is haunted by something that cannot be -- dreams he is not physiologically able to have and a partner that, according to everything he knows, never existed. These facts cling to him as he struggles to do his job, investigating a fellow Dream Police accused of breaking their most sacred law, striking against the human consciousnesses that give their world its anima and raison d'etre.. The investigation twists and turns, and throwaway things have secret depth and nuance. A craftily tricky high concept work by a master of the form, J. Michael Straczynski's script walks hand in hand with the detailed, moody artwork of Sid Kotian and HiFi. The eventual hourlong cable version of this will rock!

Transformers More Than Meets The Eye #30
(IDW Publishing)
This issue was both a triumph and baffling. Megatron's on-panel presence is electrifying as he ideologically revisits the considerations that led him to put his planet to the sword, and the reactions of everyone around him are just as fascinating. The flamboyant Rodimus as a reluctant second banana, the quirky crewmates (Chromedome, Swerve, Whirl doing digital cosplay, Ratchet's cranky physician routine), Optimus Prime as an "activist] judge -- there are so many fantastic character moments that it's hard to pick a few to laud. However, the current-timeline plot (not the "six months ago" story of Megatron's riveting trial, a series unto itself that is superb) gets a little lost with a time tossed corpse and secrets that endanger everyone's lives. By the time you slow down from having so much fun, it'll be hard to remember how the big things that happened fit together inside a shuttle shaped like Rodimus' head ("RodPod"). Funny, intriguing, engaging science fiction.

Dream Thief Escape #1
(Dark Horse Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
While it may be impossible to recapture the wildly imaginative debut issue of this intellectual property from last summer, this is like tuning into the second season premiere of a really good show and instantly being pulled in. John Lincoln has accepted the scattershot life his power gives him, being possessed by vengeful ghosts to kill the people that murdered them using the skills of all the previous ghosts in the process. His supporting cast -- who could easily sub in for the supporting cast of the TV version of "The Human Target" -- help him adjust and stay sane as he unravels the mystery of his life while carrying out missions from beyond the grave. Jai Nitz crafts a elegant, entrancing script while Greg Smallwood does literally everything else right, from art to colors to lettering. Engaging stuff.

Saga #20
(Image Comics)
This issue is sad but effective as it relates facts about lives trapped in sadness and frustration, even on worlds so unlike our own. Alana struggles with her thankless job and her frustrations with the war and finds an escape whatever she can. Her husband Marko also has issues of tedium and his life as primary caregiver for their child has him in a vulnerable place. Meanwhile, the royals of the Robot dynasty are in trouble too, but in ways wildly disparate. The storytelling from Brian K. Vaughan is intimate and cautious, while Fiona Staples makes you believe this world exists literally a panel at a time. Troubling stuff, but so involving.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Two solid jumps mean one heck of a good start.

Oh, and also "Thaniel" #4 came out, which was awesome but can't be properly reviewed due to a conflict of interest.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Tomb Raider" #5 was a serviceable action adventure yarn that had decent character beats and an ordered, logical plot. However, despite crisp, clean art from Nicolas Daniel Selma, Juan Gedeon and Michael Atiyeh, Lara Croft remained a cipher without clarity past repeatedly voiceovering about being rich, spoiled and British. You could sub in any action heroine and not much would change. Likewise, the religious fanatics tie into Croft's past, but in a manner that likewise doesn't enthrall. Solid work, but not distinguishing itself.

"24" #3 is a basic Jack Bauer hour. Ruthless gunmen, incompetent supporting characters, ticking clocks, multiple factions circling each other -- a pretty normal Jack day. That de rigueur nature of this, combined with this issue not having a clear beginning, middle and end but rather being connective tissue for a story, this seems like it will reward trade paperback readers when all is done.

"Letter 44" #7 was a very beautifully drawn and colored look back at how some of the spaceborne characters came to find themselves on the edge of forever. This prequel is effective in showing more about the characters, but as a story it felt a little flat. Not bad at all, but easily readable in online summaries.

"All-New Ghost Rider" #4 was a surprising drop in quality, going from "stellar" to merely "pretty good." The plot bounced around in a less focused manner than previous issues and the titular hero didn't get a lot to do (although choosing to not do something at one point was actually very heroic), the work of the antagonist primarily consisted of monologuing to himself. Surely not bad, but not as good as it had been previously.

"Flash Gordon" #3 is dipped in derring-do and buckles its swash with the best of them as the titular character effortlessly inspires and borrows from the greatest of all time to save himself from a horde of beastly biped. Ming's most merciless when he monologues and yes, the tropes are all here from central casting, but there's an "aw shucks" kind of fun that will hook fans of nostalgia easily while proving engaging for younger readers as well.

"Transformers Windblade" #3 was an improvement as the simple dynamics got muddled and a hugely dangerous development thought lost pops up on the last page. With characters from other continuities being woven into the story (Tankor, for example) this issue was a candy treat for multi-franchise Transfans. However, the overly earnest voiceover took some of the urgency away and the flat coloring sapped the art of vibrancy, leaving the end result off by half a step. Getting there ...

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

"He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" #14, "Amazing Spider-Man" #3, "Deadly Class" #6, "Ms. Marvel" #5, "Star Wars Legacy 2" #16, "C.O.W.L." #2, "Original Sins" #2, "Super Secret Crisis War" #1, "Uncanny Avengers" #21, "Red Ten" #6, "Savage Hulk" #1, "Batman" #32, "Stray Bullets Killers" #4, "All-New Doop" #3, "God Is Dead" #15, "Sovereign" #4, "Flash" #32, "Captain Midnight" #12, "New 52 Futures End" #8, "All New Executive Assistant Iris" #5, "Superman" #32, "X-O Manowar" #26, "Fuse" #5, "Ghost" #5, "New Avengers" #20, "Aquaman" #32, "Avengers Undercover" #6, "Midas Flesh" #7, "Original Sin" #3.1, "Pariah" #5, "Sinestro" #3, "Fathom Kiani Volume 3" #4, "Justice League Dark" #32, "Trees" #2, "Star Wars Rebel Heist" #3, "Clive Barker's Nightbreed" #2, "Justice League" #31, "Emily And The Strangers Breaking The Record" #1, "Serenity Leaves On The Wind" #6, "Fantastic Four" #6, "7th Sword" #3, "Solar Man Of The Atom" #3, "Sex" #14, "Vandroid" #5, "New Warriors" #6, "Red Lanterns" #32, "Chew" #42, "Shadowman End Times" #3, "Batman Eternal" #12, "Guardians Of The Galaxy" #16,

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

"New Avengers Annual" #1 was an unfortunate attempt at mimicking the style of David Mack to less than impressive effect. Dr. Strange battles a demon. Why here? He doesn't have his own comic, that's why. Bothersome bit of failed creativity here.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

One actually bad comic and an ocean of "meh" in front of it, that's not so bad.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two jumps beat one bad comic every day of the week, so "winning!"

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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