The Buy Pile: Robot Murder Mystery & What Afterlives May Come

Thu, July 10th, 2014 at 10:28am PDT | Updated: July 10th, 2014 at 10:39am

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 JULY 9, 2014

Transformers More Than Meets The Eye #31
(IDW Publishing)
Hold on to your circuit boards, as this wonderful closed door mystery is both a riveting character study (you will learn a LOT about these mechanoids) and a tense, engaging plot. Megatron remains a lightning rod for attention as Tailpipe does what's either the bravest or stupidest thing any Transformer has ever done while crew members begin to disappear mysteriously and Nightbeat tries to figure it out. There is a phenomenal moment between Megatron and the stoic Ultra Magnus, a brilliant new mode of communications (allowing for another great moment with a surprise guest) introduced and a quote you should be using: "If I sit next to you too long, am I going to die of smart*** poisoning?" Very witty, incredibly engaging, fascinatingly done.

Life After #1
(Oni Press)
Jump from the Read Pile.
Wow. This ... wow. Apparently, there is a purgatory for suicides, where souls go and experience a mundane, tedious existence that's just a little crappy but so safe and rote that they never question it. This means artist Gabo came up with so many ways to show repetition at fresh angles and in new ways, which is in and of itself an accomplishment. Then, writer Joshua Hale Fialkov comes up with such a delicate, ethereal plot -- part "Pushing Daisies," part "What Dreams May Come," part "Synchronicity 2" -- with throwaway wonders of dialogue ("Stop crying, woman, you're ruining it!") that stick the landing perfectly. This is intellectual, crafty, brilliant storytelling and everybody involved showed up at a high level. Nicely done.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

That's one heck of a solid start, yes.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Black Dynamite" #3 had a pretty interesting premise -- the titular character needs to protect an order of pacifist monks before "the man" can destroy the monastery and obtain a huge supply of silicon, to put "computers into the pocket of every man, woman and child" as a means of surveillance. (Hi, Edward Snowden!) Unfortunately, the plot hinges on developments that moved a little too quickly, the monks were a little more mutable than their principles implied and the whole thing felt too facile. Not bad, but it was within a mutated arm's reach of something better.

"Grayson" #1 was a rock solid take on the intelligence community in a superhuman world. Dick Grayson plays part Sydney Bristow (complete with wig) and part, well, Nightwing using some complex acrobatics and the Bat's training to square off with a Wildstorm all-star (inexplicably winning) with some eye catching artwork and setting-appropriate technology. A cute start that has the potential for more.

"Spider-Man 2099" #1 was quite close to making the mark, a snappy and whimsical take on the time trapped hero. Miguel O'Hara (or "Mike O'Mara" as he's now known) is not friendly or from your neighborhood, more like the Scarlet Spider in temperament and trying to preserve what he can of time as he knows it. When a chronological cop comes to take him down for being out of place in time, it makes a big mess and costs not a small number of lives. Not bad, but a bit shy of the mark.

"Red City" #2 was a slight drop in quality from the riveting debut issue. The plot needed a lot of stops and starts to get where it was going, bringing in a female criminal that was more narrative device than character with two-dimensional supporting characters drifting in and out. Solid sci-fi noir work, but not as breathtaking as it started last issue.

"Batman Eternal" #14 was moody and imperfect, with Jim Gordon struggling with a new paradigm, the gang war between Carmine Falcone and the Penguin coming to a head and the Bat mostly standing around in the background. Solid character stuff, but not enough to warrant the price.

"G.I. JOE A Real American Hero" #204 was very close to the mark, as four Joes led a rescue deep in hostile but allied territory. The military plotting was top notch and the use of modern battlefield technology was also intriguing, as team members in the US helped fight a battle across the planet. There was just enough "b" plot with Crimson Guardsmen weaving their way into sensitive positions of power that did great foreshadowing. However, the "insurgents" being called "goat herders" while executing complex and intricate military maneuvers seemed odd and the plot literally revisited ground that has been trod before with a MacGuffin of sorts that is overused and perhaps not politically correct. An interesting take on modern special operations.

"New Suicide Squad" #1 had good character interaction and interesting chemistry through the members of this dysfunctional team but there's a failure of intelligence gathering at the end that smacks of incompetence and an anonymous smarminess from Vic Sage that's like writing a check that won't clear. Let's see if it gets anywhere.

Take a twist of "Sons of Anarchy" and add a dash of "Scalped" while liberally lifting some of the best known elements of a classic of western literature. Voila, you have "Sherwood, TX" #1, a decent if derivative story that falls somewhere between AMC and the CW in tone. Not bad, but its pastiche of influences isn't enough to stand above the crowd.

"Rai" #3 puts some intriguing spins on service and even the Duncan Idaho paradigm as the title character is part of a struggle between two different visions for Japan, now an autonomous satellite orbiting the now-condemned earth. Rai is a ballet dancer of bloodshed, with Clayton Crain's painted visuals showing some real fluidity and vibrancy. The plot could push harder in terms if developing itself and its characters, but there's good science fiction happening here.

In "Star Trek" #35, Q is back and he's just as much of a hoot as before, visiting Picard in the TNG timeline we all know before popping off to the Abrams-verse to vex Chris Pine and Jeremy Sisto for a while. All of this falls under some predictably vague Q prattle about threats to a timeline, but it's all played for fun so far. Not much plot, an unusual surprise guest at the end and fun with dimension bending immortals.

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

"New 52 Futures End" #10, "Avengers" #32, "Death Vigil" #1, "Avengers Undercover" #7, "Walking Dead" #129, "Captain Marvel" #5, "Magnus Robot Fighter" #5, "Worlds' Finest" #25, "Terminator Salvation The Final Battle" #7, "Justice League United" #3, "Daredevil" #5, "Robotech Voltron" #4, "Amazing Spider-Man" #1.3, "Pathfinder: City Of Secrets" #3, "Amazing X-Men" #9, "Spread" #1, "Infinity Man And The Forever People" #2, "Fantastic Four" #7, "Turok Dinosaur Hunter" #6, "Shutter" #4, "Nightcrawler" #4, "Wasteland" #56, "Empty Man" #2, "X" #15, "Blood Queen" #2, "Star Wars" #19, "Lumberjanes" #4, "Superior Foes Of Spider-Man" #13, "Terminator Enemy Of My Enemy" #4, "Armor Hunters" #2, "Rise Of The Magi" #2, "All-New X-Men" #29, "Royals Masters Of War" #6, "Chastity" #1, "Angry Birds Comics" #2, "X-Force" #7, "Superman Wonder Woman" #10, "Great Pacific" #16, "Deadpool" #31, "Birds Of Prey" #33, "All-New Invaders" #7,

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

Many years ago, Peter David had Doc Samson straighten out Hulk's many personalities -- Joe Fixit to Savage to Banner -- in a storyline that led to some of the character's best moments. Hopes aren't so high here for "Superboy" #33, a sloppy, messy multiple personality michegas with Kon and Jon and somebody from a tube and ... gah. Happening partially in Superboy's head and partially in what looks like a field of Superboys (really) ... this is a train wreck.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Not so bad, truth be told.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

That jump wins well enough, as Superboy wasn't bad enough to tank the whole thing.

THE BUSINESS

Big news: check out the writer of this column streaming live worldwide (via I Heart Radio) on The Mr. Mo'Kelly Show on KFI 640 AM as part of a roundtable of Black writers in science and speculative fiction. Who? "Eraser" writer Tony Puryear, "Living Single" vet Erika Alexander, "Leverage"/"The Librarians" writer/producer Geoffrey Thorne and more, led by Eisner-nominated, Glyph Award winning writer and documentarian Brandon Easton. 7PM PST Saturday July 12th.

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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