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WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/karaoke host/jackass) goes to a comic book store called Comics Ink in Culver City, CA (Overland and Braddock — hey Steve and Jason) and grabs a whole lotta comics. These periodicals are quickly sorted 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). Thursdays (Diamond monopolistic practices willing), you’ll be able to get his thoughts (and they’re just the opinions of one guy, so calm down) about all of that … which goes something like this …

THE BUY PILE FOR JANUARY 9TH, 2008

Salvation Run #3 (DC Comics)

NOTE: The image seen here is not the cover that was available at retail. First of all, of course things are going badly. “Internecine” would be a forgiving way of describing what’s happening, as cliques start to form and people start choosing sides. On one side, Luthor has a brain trust of Ivo, Immortus and Sivana working on a way to escape the world they’ve all been shipped to. On the other side, The Joker (with Two-Face, Kid Karnevil, Gorilla Grodd, Chemo and assorted other nutjobs) with the populist message of “I just doesn’t wanna play along.” However, there’s surprises aplenty as somebody’s not who they say they are, somebody’s got more plans than they let on and the good crazy is brimming over the top. The issue takes a few pages to take off, but once it gets going it’s naughty fun of the highest caliber. The worst part is that the original Flash rogues got marginalized — only Captain Cold gets an actual line, while Weather Wizard gets some voiceover captions. Sneakily smart and indulging the part of you that wants to be bad.

The Infinite Horizon #2 (Image Comics)

It’s easier to follow the linear events of the “oddessy” to get home than the dramas on the home front, but violence is the order of the day no matter where people are. At home it’s as simple as extortion and a single murder, whereas on the high seas its a case of piracy and naval combat, going from the frying pan into a bigger frying pan. Intentionally deliberate, the artwork sparse but effective as one man is forced to make more and more hard decisions in order to do the most important thing of all — make it home. Interesting.

Scalped #13 (Vertigo/DC Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. Okay, the first thing you need to know is that R.M. Guera’s art — while very good at layout and visual storytelling — is still sinfully ugly. Giulia Brusco’s muddy, moody coloring doesn’t help. Oh well. Jason Aaron’s scripting is a force to be reckoned with, as this issue (the start of a new storyline called “Dead Mothers”) does an interesting balancing act and makes a police procedural more brutal and hard edged than anything else you’ll find, even with the likes of “The Shield” out there. The best part is an … interesting interrogation and three panels about a twelve-year-old named Shelton, which is incredibly effective in characterization with a very small amount of space. Shelton barely gets a line, but his emotional arc in the story is compelling. Maybe the ugliness of the art is intentional, because the ugliness of the conditions depicted in the story seem all the more horrible when looking at them this way, instead of with the crisp lines of an Edvin Biukovic or a James Calafiore. This series is an accomplishment that can’t be denied, and this issue demanded to be taken home.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Pretty enjoyable.

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

Despite the fact that it was a guide book and was close, “Star Wars Legacy” #0 1/2 needed to be more informative and more detailed. Darth Krayt’s Sith assistants got short sheeted, there was no technical data on the new class of Star Destroyer or any of the other vehicles … a “Secret Files and Origins” by another name, it’s not bad, but not good enough.

If you don’t know some certain rather important facts about the Shaggy Man, “Suicide Squad: Raise The Flag” #5 (and honestly the entire mini series) could be considered almost brilliant. There’s a simple smash-and-grab mission with factions working against other factions within the team, secret plans and business handled via cell phone, all while a man who could be a hero struggles with being tasked by the manipulative and the morally bankrupt. Oh, and that Twister character is just plain creepy. Sounds good, right? Until you remember that the brain of General Eiling is inside of Shaggy Man. Remember when this guy pounded his way through the entire JLA singlehandedly and was so powerful that the only solution they could dream up was to put him on an asteroid somewhere around Mars? But now he can be shot (he used to be more than bullet proof, considered indestructible by Superman), he can be restrained by chains … and then you remember that there’s 52 earths and hyper flies and nothing means anything and you’ll end up a heap, shuddering and weeping openly until you drink yourself to sleep. So it’s a “feel good” sort of thing. Right. Let’s just move on.

“Foundation” #1 was also close, based on secret prophecies and secret organizations and sneaking around in an airport with guns and radios. The issue lacked visual pop — a sad concern with Boom! Studios is visual quality, whereas the writing and other production values are so high — for a pretty static potboiler. Talky and broody in a not-so-bad way, but it lacked “oomph” that would make it crucial enough to buy.

“The Twelve” #1 was close, updating the Captain America problem twelve ways and unleashing old school mentalities on the modern Marvel universe in a post-registration society. This could be the next “Rising Stars” (well, maybe with a less anti-climactic ending) or this could be as off-target as “1602.” No telling yet, but this issue was interesting enough for a look if not a buy.

Fans of silver age storytelling will enjoy “JLA Classified” #50, which has the modern setting of the Watchtower and a rock-man styled villain showing up, claiming a history with the League and beating the hell out of people.

“Punisher War Journal” #15 was close, except for some fairly glaring problems. First of all, why can the new Kraven teleport? Second, why is his teleporting pink? Third, some of the visual storytelling in the middle part got a bit hard to follow. However, Frank’s solid gold with his determined voiceovers, the Rhino makes a star turn that’s a big surprise and there’s untold mayhem. Gotta love that, at least.

The atmosphere of “Nightwing” #140 was good enough, showing the closeness of the Bat-family, but … hang on, the Batcave is still using Crays? In 2008? Could somebody send an email to DC editorial about what’s considered a super computer these days? Bruce could have swung by the Gotham Apple store and picked up a bunch of Macs to do better. Moreover, Dick gets the idea to understand the entirety of New York geography. So he goes to a library and looks at old books? Even with Brother Eye down, doesn’t the Bat have a bunch more satellites that could do thermal imaging and get a more detailed look at the underground caverns Dick mentioned in passing? A little behind technologically, but not bad otherwise.

“Mercenaries” #2 wasn’t as good as last issue, being much talkier (in a bad way) dealing with betrayal and confusion, but it wasn’t horrible.

Due to popular demand, this column took a look at “Amazing Spider-Man” #546, and the best review of it came from retailer Steve LeClaire, who said, “it’s not a bad story … it’s just a story that was done thirty years ago.” Sure, there’s some modern touches, like Harry Osborn (yes, he’s alive, retcon-tastic!) dating a Black girl (whose dad apparently is both the DA and Sidney Poitier), and the idea that Peter’s 30, broke and living at home (“Marvel sure knows how to relate to their fan base!” one guy in the shop said), the new heroine Jackpot (no) and JJJ stealing a move from Bradford Meade. Let alone the fact that Peter has no idea how to make money off of the probably seventy patentable ideas he’s had (spidey-tracers alone, sheesh). It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t anything special.

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

The lame ending of “52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen” #6 was only one part of the problem here, as the “big fights” were not very visually interesting (dull coloring didn’t help), the big bads went for fairly easy targets that they couldn’t have expected to work and the whole thing ends with hugs? Gah. No.

“Hulk” #1? Ooh. First of all, as was noted by Kevin Church, Len Samson’s no forensics expert (seriously, no), a gun-wielding Hulk of any stripe is dumb (where would he buy ammo?) and according to some analysis, that now makes him a Republican (big, red, gun wielding? Never mind … we joked in the shop that a blue Hulk would be a Democrat but angry because he’d have — wait for it — blue balls, ba dum bum. Sorry, that’s the level of discourse on a Wednesday night). Which isn’t actually interesting, and neither is Len Samson’s “America’s Most Wanted” recreation, nor the “Alias” (the TV show, not the comic) styled prison visitation.

Memo to “Youngblood” #1 — please see “American Way,” “Wildguard” and “New Warriors” (pre-Stamford), which all did what you’re trying here in much more effective ways. Thanks.

The “WTH?” Award for the week goes to “Superman” #672. An alien insect queen. Chris Kent sick. Lois whining and forgetting, oh, right, she could call anybody in the League. Seriously, WTH?

Speaking of whiny, why can’t the title character and Gamora get a room and sort things out instead of all the melodrama of “Nova” #10? Ignore the fact that they almost get eaten by transdimensional space babies (you don’t wanna know) and Nova having a harder time than Cable in not getting turned all techno-organic … gah, let’s just move on.

Also on the “whiny” train is “Green Arrow/Black Canary” #4, which has Ollie knowing how to ask for help (for real, Lois didn’t think Kara would listen?) leading to lots of yelling and worrying and pacing and standing in a hospital like it was an episode of “Smallville.” Yeah, that’s worth three bucks. Not.

If you’re looking for X-Factor, you’ll find very little of them in “X-Factor” #27, which is so cross-over-y that the titular team seems like guest stars in their own title. If you like this title, this issue is still not what you want. Not in any remote way. Moving on …

Okay, it’s funny when Ares said Tony Stark made a hot female, but when the banter’s the best part of “Mighty Avengers” #7, and the inexplicable plague of Venom-styled symbiotes hits Manhattan … really, despite the very high production values, this could be a webcomic at this point. Not in a good way.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Pretty much a wash, really.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Tolerably good over tie still equals good, so we call this week a win despite being really thin in numbers and not exciting.

ODDS AND ENDS

Two things before we sign off …

First, we got an email from Christopher Teresi regarding last week’s “Moon Knight” #14, which we’ll move over to the MySpace blog. If you didn’t like the “Boys” bit, you probably won’t like this either — sorry.

Second, the results are in for the First Annual CI Awards, in which owner Steve LeClaire handed out twenty eight ballots to customers of Comics Ink (twenty came back) in order to settle on the best consensus products for 2007 (starting with stuff released in December 2006). The results? Well, they’re not what this column would have picked, so you’ll get the popular results as well as the actual votes from this column. Here goes …

Oh, wait — first, the methodology, developed by Steve’s accountant wife (the real brains behind the operation). In all but the final category, first place votes got five points, second place votes got four points and third place votes got three points. Winners are categorized by highest vote getters then highest point totals, and in case of ties highest seller at Comics Ink wins. For the “All Time” category, first place votes were five points, second and third were four points, fourth and fifth were three each. Whew!

Also, awards are only given as positives, not “worst” of anything because — at his heart — Mssr. LeClaire is a retailer and wants to sell this stuff. So you’ve got that going for you. Apologies in advance for any possible mistakes in transcription, this stuff was hand written and handed to this columnist. Now, on with it …

BEST NEW ONGOING SERIES

Most votes (in order): “Scalped” (35), “The Spirit” (24), “Booster Gold” (24)

Most points (in order): “Booster Gold,” “The Spirit,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight”

BEST NEW LIMITED SERIES

Most votes (in order): “Special Forces” (23), “World War Hulk” (19), “Umbrella Academy” (18)

Most points (in order): “World War Hulk,” “Game Keeper,” “Umbrella Academy”

BEST NEW SINGLE ISSUE

Most votes (in order): “Special Forces” #1 (17), “Captain America” #25 (13), “Green Lantern” #25 (9)

Most points (in order): “Green Lantern” #25 (best seller), “Green Lantern Sinestro Corps Special,” “Special Forces” #1

BEST NEW GRAPHIC NOVEL AND/OR COLLECTED VOLUME

Most votes (in order): “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier” HC (16), “All Star Superman Volume 1” HC (13), “Dark Tower” HC (12)

Most points (in order): “Planet Hulk” HC (best seller), “Ultimates 2” HC, “All Star Superman Volume 1” HC

BEST CURRENT ONGOING SERIES OUT FOR MORE THAN ONE YEAR

Most votes (in order): “Fables” (42), “All Star Superman” (35), “Captain America” (15)

Most points (in order): “Captain America” (best seller), “All Star Superman,” “Fables”

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL AND/OR COLLECTED VOLUME OF ALL TIME

Most votes (in order): “Watchmen/Absolute Watchmen” (“Same stuff inside,” Steve said) (80), “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” (40), “Kingdom Come/Absolute Kingdom Come” (21)

Most points (in order): “Kingdom Come/Absolute Kingdom Come,” “Fantastic Four Omnibus Volume 2” HC, “Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus Volume 1” HC

Now, how did this column vote?

BEST NEW ONGOING SERIES

– “Iron and the Maiden”

– “Iron and the Maiden”

– “Iron and the Maiden”

(seriously, nobody else even competed at this level)

BEST NEW LIMITED SERIES

– “Highwaymen”

– “Game Keeper”

– “JLA/Hitman”

(“Special Forces” missed this by a hair, mostly because Steve had pimped it so hard in ’07 and it’d get lots of love on other ballots)

BEST NEW SINGLE ISSUE

– “Nextwave Agents of HATE” #12

– “Birds of Prey” #111

– “Black Summer” #0

BEST NEW GRAPHIC NOVEL AND/OR COLLECTED VOLUME

– “Shazam: Monster Society of Evil”

– “Criminal Vol. 1: Coward”

– “Dr. Strange: The Oath”

BEST CURRENT ONGOING SERIES OUT FOR MORE THAN ONE YEAR

– “Fables”

– “X-Factor”

– “Casanova”

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL AND/OR COLLECTED VOLUME OF ALL TIME

– “V for Vendetta”

– “Black Panther: The Client”

– “Transmetropolitan: I Hate It Here”

– “Black Panther: Enemy of the State”

– “Watchmen”

So there you have it.

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