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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 books that are 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 DECEMBER 5TH, 2007

Black Summer #4 (Avatar Press)

Jump from the Read Pile. When you’re insanely powerful but don’t have much of an agenda, it’s rough to see your just-as-powerful pals blown to smithereens, working for the feds or run amok. Four or the Seven Guns enter open combat with the US military after one of their own was apparently blown up while trying to turn himself in. The military also sends a squadron of fighters after John Horus, who started all this craziness by turning the Oval Office into an abattoir. The frightening level of detail that Juan Jose Ryp puts into the artwork — you can actually see bolts from the destroyed Humvees, as well as details of decapitations and viscera literally everywhere (the toppled cartoon cat effigy in the aftermath is a wonderful touch) — is almost too much to visually absorb when he really gets going, almost like watching “Transformers” in IMAX. Admittedly, outside of the interesting but not plot-developing carnage, little actually happens here, but what does go on — Frank Blacksmith’s ominous phone call, the effectively done news reports to frame the violence, the plan settled upon by the Guns themselves — is all wonderfully cinematic and gripping content wise.

Dominion #3 (Boom! Studios)

Jump from the Read Pile. Speaking of gripping, Michael Alan Nelson’s script is so riveting that it soars over Tim Hamilton’s sometimes unfinished-looking artwork (best on big splashes and action sequences, not so good for intimate, close up moments). Suffice it to say things are bad in Chicago, with military forces enforcing a quarantine, there’s rioting in the streets as people panic, and ordinary people are belching fire or electricity, or even taking to the skies. Grim police detective Dick Urbanski is fighting his way through it with will power and ingenuity, keeping a talented but sassy research biologist safe and along for the ride. The basic surprise — that an alien virus from the skies is amok, granting super powers to a populace incapable of handling them to soften the planet up for an invasion — remains behind the curtain (unless you saw the original Image iteration of this series). Nobody on panel has the slightest idea what’s happening and the plot hurls them along at such a zippy pace that they can’t stop long enough to figure it out (even with one nine-panel grid of Urbanski coping with it all). Fascinating to watch the world fall down around the ears of people who could easily be us.

The Infinite Horizon #1 (Image Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. Also, NOTE: This is not the cover available at retail. Homer’s “The Odyssey” is one of the pillars of western literature, and the very concept of reimagining it smacks of hubris. However, Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto are off to a good start, showing a man stuck half way around the world and the woman he loves, tending the home fires, doing whatever they can to be together again. The crisp matter of factness of the military action, combined with the easily internecine energies of domestic peoples driven to extremes by deprivation and crisis, together form an interesting tapestry of character and tension, in that the first few pages reveal that it’s all done in flashback. Even knowing that, the suspense remains palpable, and the stark, almost “Losers”/”Nightly News”-esque art (more detailed than that, though) is a good fit for this unflinching journey.

Iron and the Maiden #0 (Aspen Comics)

Stepping back a bit, this issue tells a story of Michael Iron’s first day as a dangerously enhanced extrahuman and the sort of destruction he can wreak. Normally the whole video game/comic book mix never works out, but despite the fact you can clearly see writer Jason Rubin’s console roots as his protagonists makes his way through “levels” to deal with “bosses,” along the way he gives such room for characters to develop — the guilt of Dr. Lubicus, the arrogance of Big Daddy, the simple violence of Michael Iron — that every step of the road has something interesting for the reader. Which, of course, is not to short sheet the always interesting art of Francis Manapul and Joel Gomez, whose range from action to comedy to still moments of moon is a wonder to behold. Another gem from this creative team.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Three jumps, all very entertaining, that’s a good start. Sorry only one comic had a bigger image to show, that was the only one where CBR had advance solicit data posted.

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

Again close but just barely missing the mark was the skillful “Justice League of America” #11, with Firestorm handing Batman a pen, Luthor having a plan depending on stuff you can get at Home Depot and the “Injustice League” not realizing that they’re too stupid to fight in close quarters (Giganta, seriously? You let them get a Seanbaby joke in on you? After dumping the Atom, you’re having a rough few weeks).

“The Sword” #3 is an improvement, as the female protagonist starts to get a clue, even as she’s pursued by shadowy forces and lays a loved one to rest. Not quite enough of an improvement yet, but worth noting.

The biggest improvement of the week was “All-New Atom” #18 which was very close to coming home. Wonder Woman was made cool and impressive all at once, Head spoke a sentence of actual clear English and Ryan Choi revealed all his horny little spandex fantasies (not as creepy as one might expect). Unfortunately the story’s antagonist had next to nothing going on to recommend him and the fact that he was (like our next comic) working for somebody else made him all the lamer. There was the reveal of the Ted Grant Grease Grabbin’ Grill, which is just plain funny on any number of levels.

The fight ran a bit long in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” #9, but the establishment of a new faction is interesting in the same way Buffy’s militaristic boyfriend in college was. Plus, Faith’s badass, so this issue had that going for it. Shame that warlock character was such a straw man, and the dude behind him even more so.

“Overman” #1 was a promising start, showing a kind of futuristic “Prison Break” with super powers and a healthy serving of good crazy, but it’s not quite there yet. Well worth watching, though.

“House of M: Avengers” #2 wasn’t bad, with its seventies-tastic “Uptown Saturday Night” feel and the overwhelming involvement of Tigra’s boobs, but even bringing in a “Payback”-themed Punisher, Thunderbird working for the feds, and whatever else happened, really, did Diamond forget to ship these issues back during the actual crossover and say “screw it, let’s just ship ’em now, nobody will notice …” or something?

Some interesting answers in “Suburban Glamour” #2, especially if you’re well versed on certain mythologies, or even a fan of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” But for the tidbits of interest, the “facts” are a shortcut and the actual characters still spun their wheels quite a bit.

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

The wait is over … for this? “Ultimates Volume 3” #1 didn’t do much to return Joe Mad to “legend” status with muddy artwork that was made less clear by Christian Lichtner’s coloring. Add to that Jeph Loeb trying to jam in a TMZ styled joke, Ultimate Thor getting a girlfriend off panel (wasn’t she dating Ultimate Pym? Wotta hoochie …), Ultimate Hawkeye “borrowing” Deadshot’s shtick from a few years ago, Ultimate Panther showing up to swing a punch and have no actual dialogue, Ultimate Wanda and Pietro apparently hailing from the Ozarks and not Wundagore and Ultimate Venom going on about a girl. Oh, and Ultimate Cap’s all surly. Blah. At least the last page seemed to head off a possible Ultimate House of M from ever happening …

To the creative staff behind “Robin” #169: There’s a representative from Lucasfilm on the line, he’s got some complaining about your title character “going all Anakin” … he seems pretty upset …

The horror continues — with lots of “Oh crap stuff is breaking!” stuff in the “World War Hulk: Aftersmash” one-shot, you know you’re in trouble when the most interesting stuff is banter between Amadeus Cho and Hercules and the comical backup feature at the end of the issue (which made more sense than a lot of the actual crossover). Plus, you’re pretty forgiving there, aren’t ya, Mister Foster? You sap!

By a show of hands, how many Supergirl fans are there? Can you really be enjoying this whiny stuff, like what’s seen in “Supergirl” #24 (such an “homage” to “Smallville” developments one expects Chloe to come mugging across a panel) with a whiny flashback and retelling uninteresting stuff that everybody already knows. Annoying.

The artwork on “Silver Surfer: In Thy Name” #2 is like artist Tan Eng Huat pulled your eyeballs out and urinated in the sockets. From anatomy to perspective to composition … wow, just no. The story’s there, but it’s hard to find behind all of that.

Like fan fiction? If so, you’ll like “Countdown: Arena” #1, where Monarch collects parallel Supermen, Batmen and so on to make them fight for a chance to serve in his super-army … or else he’ll wipe out their respective worlds. Three Nightshades go to blows, as do three Batmen (Vampire, the one in the funny coat and a normal one) but … well, really, who cares? Doesn’t Monarch already have the Crime Syndicate and the newly-revamped Extremists and a whole bunch of other badasses already? Plus, Scott McDaniel’s art has looked better than this, so that’s a let down as well. Kind of a wank-fest.

“What If? X-Men: Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire” — this review column hereby issues a firm no-Gabriel Summers policy. Seriously, Corsair never thought to mention this? Grrr!

There was a big argument in the shop over whether or not the events of “Countdown to Final Crisis” #21 prove that something actually happened last issue. The final analysis was that in a normal comic, this would have been a throwaway event, but with the bar set so low, it looks like something relevant occurred. Oh, but nothing really important happened this issue.

After the months of improvement, the current storyline played out in “Ms. Marvel” #33 is a disappointment. We get it — she doesn’t know who to be, she’s confused, wah wah wah. Call Len Samson and get over it already.

Re: “Justice Society of America” #15. DC sez, “We’re just gonna shove the ‘Kingdom Come’ Superman in here, just because we can, and he’s old, and people will love it!” Mark Waid’s probably spinning in his grave. Admittedly, he probably had to dig it first, or since he’s an editor now, probably had an assistant dig it, but suffice it to say it probably wasn’t the most pleasant afternoon! Stupid hyperflies … at least there were no Nazis in this issue. Stupid Nazis …

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Given that a number of books weren’t even worth discussing — “Annihilation: Conquest” #2, “Northlanders” #1, “Avengers Initiative Secret Origins,” er, “Avengers Initiative Annual” #1 and so on — it was kind of rough getting through it all this week.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Tie game, given three jumps and a heavy concentration of stupitron particles radiating from the Read Pile.

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