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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 4TH, 2008

The Midnighter #15 (Wildstorm/DC Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. It should be stated that this comic book is, by the allegedly objective standards of this column, not actually good enough to be purchased. However, with a dangerously short shipping list and nothing to actually purchase, it seems rude to go to the comic book shop and not end up buying anything at all, so this is the Booby Prize purchase. So this issue is the least of all possible evils, an issue that has some entertainment value no matter how often you read it. To sum up: the title character has been captured by Anthem, the “security company” that lets people sign away insignificant things like civil liberties for a sense of peace of mind. He’s inside of a secured facility that’s deactivated the enhancements that make him so dangerous. Oh, and for fun, gun wielding goons and two teams of extrahumans are chasing him down. Apparently, he’s poised to kick some butt. Where does it go wrong? After moving full throttle with bodies dropping at every turn, the issue just sort of fizzles out at the end in a way that’s at best unsatisfying, almost like writer Keith Giffen just got bored and said “let’s just get this over with.” Admittedly, there’s a bittersweet aftertaste if you grok the Midnighter’s ennui, but that’s so subtle that it’s like the taste of cilantro in a big burrito. If you just re-read the first two thirds, you’re good though.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

That didn’t go well.

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” #10 was okay in the way that it balanced storylines dealing with relatively old business and betrayal. Filled with told stories and magic and talk, it’s manna from heaven for Whedonites buy only “okay” under other circumstances.

“Ultimate Human” #1 is mostly old notes strained into a new arrangement as Ultimate Bruce Banner and Ultimate Tony Stark discuss their mutual conditions and science in general. There’s a very Warren Ellis turn in the identity of the Ultimate Leader (it’s not anywhere near the 616) and Stark plays around too much. Not bad.

Speaking of Ellis, “Gravel” #0 takes another fairly Ellis-esque turn with a mean-spirited spy turned combat magician who will seem familiar to anyone whose ever read much of his work. If you’re an Ellis junkie there’s no way you can resist this, but if you’re not, you can probably do without.

In a way, the events of “Thunderbolts” #118 could be said to be inevitable, as one character turns his back on redemption (one could say it’s in his blood), another goes berserk (one could say the clothes make the man) and Norman Osborn beckons to the call of his past (one could say that’s predictable). When Songbird and Radioactive Man are the voices of reason and sanity, there’s room for tons of good crazy, but it’s taking a little too long to get there this month.

Let’s just clear out all of the Warren Ellis books at once — “Doktor Sleepless” #4 is still a lot like “Transmetropolitan” but with half the (pardon the phrase) lust for life. Apparently the lead character was a member of a blog-based Authority/Justice League of sorts which manages to lose their Batman stupidly. Which has a certain interest to it, if that’s your sort of thing.

It’s shocking to admit that Frank Tieri’s writing on “Countdown Lord Havok and the Extremists” #3 is actually not bad, a slice of alternative history creating Tracer as an analogue of a certain weapon program based on the twenty-fourth letter of the alphabet. It tries to keep the main storyline going — Monarch’s super army is coming, and they’re not happy — while providing the character’s background. The issue is done well enough, but it’s also wildly retrograde at its core and has art just a notch below serviceable. This column is not too proud to admit that with better art, this could almost be purchase-worthy. Which means it could be the end of days …

“Ms. Marvel” #23 again has one key element that’s wonderful — Machine Man — as the lead character again Meredith Grey’s all over the place with whininess and a partial reboot. Can we just get “Nextwave” back, please?

It would be easy to poke fun at “Shark-Man” #1, a comic book that could conceivably jump a certain blood thirsty undersea denizen every time it hits the stands, but with rather good painted style art and a pulpish science fiction take on a Batman mythos (or maybe “Batman Beyond” in this case), it’s actually not bad.

“Annihilation Conquest” #3 just sort of happened as the big bad borrows a page from the modern-day Cylons, Ronan borrows a page from Odysseus, the High Evolutionary tries to bring the heat and Heather Douglas has a bad day.

Some of the things said about today’s sole purchase could be said about “Black Diamond” #6, an issue that is reminiscent of the ambitious but failed “Contraband” by George Foy, if you’ve read it (a work that’s often referred to in these sorts of cases by this column). The romance of the open road, the allure of freedom and fumes, all of that is waxed upon rhapsodically … but between the inconsistent artwork and the wildly unacceptable ending, this column cannot endorse the final result of this work, but it sure was one hell of a ride getting there.

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

“Supergirl” #25 is inexplicably bad, featuring a dumb fight which even in the text notes its inanity and more of Kara whining about her place — or lack thereof — in the DCU. Blah.

Note to “Moon Knight” re: #14 — please stop the reign of terror. We’re willing to negotiate. Put the gun down and let the little girl go!

The winner of this week’s WTH? Award goes to “Teen Titans Year One” #1. Seriously, WTH?

The jury is out on whether or not chuds are zombies or vice versa, but if “All New Atom” #19 wants to make Amish chuds … well, there’s just no supporting that. It takes a carefully regulated and dangerously rare biochemistry to write like Grant Morrison, and even he can’t do it all the time. This? Not making it work.

“End League” #1 had just the teensiest spark of something interesting amidst its dull artwork, flat coloring and tedious dialoguing. But not enough, not at all.

The Monitors’ secret is out in “Countdown to Final Crisis” #17, which has a few cute quotables (the slingshot line was cute) but ultimately fizzles.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Even the good was barely adequate.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

The year starts off with the worst week in comics from recent memory. Scary.

Oh, and while we’re at it, many, many people emailed in to ask why the “One More Day” storyline had not been examined here. To start, this column’s writer doesn’t really like Spider-Man as a character, so in order to avoid bashing something based on prejudice, those titles are not often reviewed here (unless something extraordinary happens that’s worth looking at, like much of the “Tangled Web” books).

Second, every single person at Comics Ink who even tangentially looked at the book reacted with phrases like “vomit with rage” and “intensive hatred.” The argument was raised that a model who has a high school education probably shouldn’t be able to outwit the Lord of Lies and give this outlandishly stupid story line a possible out.

So the issue in question was finally read this week under the weigh of peer pressure. To whit, this outrageous retcon is possibly the most insipid, the dumbest and the most insulting thing that big company comics has defecated forth since … well, since the end of “52” probably. No. There’s not another way to say it. No. Sorry we can’t offer more than that.

Happy new year.

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