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Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Buy Pile - Detectives, Superhero Dating & Doomed Transformers


via Comic Book Resources

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 MAY 23, 2016

Nighthawk #1
(Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
There's a lot to like about this Windy City treat, like getting two wings on Thursdays with mild sauce from Harold's, joe. A man from another world has a singular focus on a brutal brand of justice. This is done so with an effective supporting cast (the police detectives make an interesting counterpoint), setting up an interesting road for this to travel and establishing the character's bona fides as a hero in and out of costume. David F. Walker reign just won't let up with this script, and the visuals of Ramon Villalobos, Tamra Bonvillain and Joe Caramagna may skew towards the "Manhattan Projects" side for some, as their storytelling moves fluidly and with clarity. Good stuff. 

Transformers More Than Meets The Eye #53
(IDW Publishing)
The Latin term "morituri" is best known as part of a phrase quoted in "Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum," the biographies of the first twelve Roman emperors. Comics fans from the 1980s likely remember it for the Marvel Comics series that bore it in the title, but there is a fascination with "those who are about to die" that this issue drills down into for a series of fascinating character moments. The taciturn Cyclonus has a gasp inducing moment built on a series of them. Megatron makes good on a promise and disappoints everyone for being true to his word. A long lost mystery is solved in pyrrhic fashion. All while the spectre of death in the form of "five hundred Decepticons out there" looms ever closer. The fact that James Roberts continues to make these toys of yesteryear into vibrant, nuanced characters and moves them through plots that earn their resolutions over months and sometimes years continues to amaze. The work of Alex Milne, Hayato Sakamoto, Joana LaFuente and and Tom B. Long drew you into this potboiler.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #8
(Marvel Comics)
Squirrel Girl tries online dating. If that sentence alone doesn't make you stop reading this review and go get this deeply funny issue, it gets even better. At first, just making a profile is a hilarious ordeal, with help from a squirrel (typing squirrel = not right in the best way) and her friends. Then there are the dates themselves which cannot be undersold as a hot mess. Add to the fact that all of this works through an effective plot that includes crime fighting and the always witty text at the bottom of pages (nod to "Mad Magazine") there and Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Andy Hirsch, Chris Schweizer, Rico Renzi and Travis Lanham have done it again. Absolutely wonderful. 

Afterlife With Archie #9
(Archie Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile.
On its surface, this comic book should never have a shot at making the Buy Pile. It's about zombies, one of the three things that make the columnist's eyes glaze over (the other two: Nazis, vampires). It's regarding traditionally unidimensional characters. However, writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa delves into these characters (especially Reggie Mantle, the snake in the garden) with such deftness and fleshes out the plot with such nuance and delicacy that it's almost poetic. Francesco Francavilla and Jack Morelli bring visuals that are moody and suspenseful. On the level of craft alone, this is an amazing book that brings the reader along this tragic journey. 

Shaft: Imitation of Life #4
(Dynamite Entertainment)
This beautifully rendered issue focuses on the titular detective sighing heavily and slicing his way through trouble like so much melting butter. The issue never lets characterization slide as John Shaft makes himself crystal clear on his position on vulnerability, business and culture. Through all that, it has laughs, action and a plot that purrs like the engine of a classic Corvette. Writer David F. Walker oozes the aesthetic of this time period and the visuals from Dietrich Smith and Alex Guimaraes take the reader right back to the era of polyester and shag carpets. Wonderful work. 

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Sweet Kwanzaa, that's a big and entertaining stack of books. When's the last time one writer had two books in the Buy Pile? Wow!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Secret Six" #14 had some amazing moments -- a shocking turn, a fierce hand to hand conflict, shades of Paul Rudd at an airport -- but its treacly conclusion and saccharine sentiment didn't ring true. 

"Mighty Thor" #7 has the kind of artwork you'd expect to see in the sketchier parts of Artist Alley at less-than-reputable conventions. The story is a tedious digression filled with Loki aggrandizement that shows his planning but not his presence. This was rough going to get through.

"We Are Robin" #12 covered some interesting ground as the shadow of Bruce Wayne sometimes harms the people he aims to protect. Along the way, we get a glimpse of breakout star Duke and once again see why he's the most interesting of this motley crew. Unfortunately, the plot's execution doesn't make it work, spending too long in a standoff and ending unsatisfyingly.

"Hunter S. Thompson's Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas" #1 is not a very good comic book. It is, however, dangerously entertaining and deeply funny, mostly because it is likely wholly true. The plot is simple -- a possibly racist journalist and his lawyer drive from Hollywood to Las Vegas while completely high on a laundry list of drugs. This is filled with delusions and ranting of a degree rarely seen in this era of synthetic drugs and rampant eclecticism. Deeply funny, largely entertaining but really set for the collected edition when you can absorb all the madness in a rush.

"Mockingbird" #3 was very close to the mark on the strength of characterization for its titular lead. Shown through flashbacks and action, she is developed as a fully-rendered person. The plot, however, doesn't connect as well as the nature of the conflict and its arguable media-driven antagonists don't seem as well rendered (writing wise, the art was fine). Interesting in a rich man's Jessica Jones kind of way.

"DC Universe Rebirth" #1 had a wonderful, emotional moment with Barry Allen and of course high production values, but otherwise was a slice of "meh" with a conceptual weakness that creates ennui in the haggard soul of Alan Moore.

The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult,

"Flash" #52, "Divinity II" #2, "Totally Awesome Hulk" #6, "Rachel Rising" #42, "Spider-Man Deadpool" #5, "Omega Men" #12, "Another Castle" #3, "Transformers" #53, "Superman" #52, "East Of West" #26, "Joyride" #2, "Cyborg" #11, "Red Wolf" #6, "Letter 44" #25, "Ms. Marvel" #7, "Doctor Who The Twelfth Doctor Year 2" #6, "Star Wars" #19, "Legacy Of Luther Strode" #6, "Deadpool" #12, "Imperium" #16, "Captain Marvel" #5, "Tomboy" #5, "Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Robyn Hood Annual" #1, "Monstress" #6, "Moon Girl And Devil Dinosaur" #7, "Batgirl" #52, "Jem And The Holograms" #15, "Amazing Spider-Man" #1.5, "Sex" #28, "Hyperion" #3, "Obi-Wan And Anakin" #5, "Doctor Who The Tenth Doctor Year 2" #10, "Suicide Squad Most Wanted Deadshot And Katana" #5, "Uncanny Inhumans" #9, "Famous Monsters Presents Monster World" #4, "Justice League" #50, "Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat" #6, "Drax" #7, "Ultracat" #1, "Dream Police" #10, "Street Fighter X G.I. JOE" #4, "Justice League 3001" #12, "Daredevil" #7, "Tokyo Ghost" #7, "Doctor Who The Ninth Doctor" #2, "Teen Titans" #20, "Starbrand And Nightmask" #6, "Bloodshot Reborn" #13, "Doctor Strange" #8, "Self Storage" #5, "Deathstroke" #18, "Weirdworld" #6.

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

"Captain America Steve Rogers" #1 builds itself up to be a plain Jane, jingoistic regular Cap comic until it gets to the ending, which is undoubtably the worst Captain America idea in the history of Captain America. Worse than CapWolf, worse than The Captain, this digs a hole in the core of the character and poops in it. After the extraordinary success of Chris Evans' cinematic version, this undercuts that ideal and muddies the water in a way that wouldn't even be entertaining if it was US Agent, let alone (as of today) possibly the biggest super hero in the entire world. Fantastic artwork, some cute pop culture and continuity references, but an idea that will shock and disgust long time fans and leave neophytes befuddled. Kirby and Simon would not have wanted this. Awful, terrible, monstrously bad. 

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

One truly bad book would have a hard time bringing down this vibe.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two jumps, five amazing purchases, just one literal problem publication -- this is a fantastic week to love comic books! Woo hoo!

THE BUSINESS

The writer of this column isn't just a jerk who spews his opinions -- he writes stuff too. A lot. Like what? You can get "The Crown: Ascension" and "Faraway," five bucks a piece, or spend a few more dollars and get "New Money" #1 from Canon Comics, the rambunctious tale of four multimillionaires running wild in Los Angeles, a story in "Watson and Holmes Volume 2" co-plotted by "2 Guns" creator Steven Grant, two books from Stranger Comics -- "Waso: Will To Power" and the sequel "Waso: Gathering Wind" (the tale of a young man who had leadership thrust upon him after a tragedy), or "Fathom Sourcebook" #1, "Soulfire Sourcebook" #1 and "Executive Assistant Iris Sourcebook" #1, the official guides to those Aspen Comics franchises. 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 -- fantasy, superhero stuff, magical realism and more -- 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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