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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 I walk into the store planning to buy) 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 NOVEMBER 29TH, 2007

Marvel Atlas #1 (Marvel Comics)

You could literally spend weeks poring over the relentless deluge of details held in this handbook, Googling and back-issue tracking to find the amazing gems of stories encapsulated here in almost throwaway, matter-of-fact missives. Taken out of context, sentences like “Gort is a mutate who followed Brother Tode” or “The interdimensional firm Landau, Luckman & Lake maintained an office in Lowtown that was run by Mr. Chang until it was destroyed during a gang war” may seem strange, but each one represents a story fragment that helps build the patchwork quilt that is a socio-geographical map of Earth-616. Turns out much of the Pacific Ocean is filled with countries invaded by demons. Symkaria and the US almost went to war with the help of Sabretooth, The Red Skull and ULTIMATUM, apparently. Also fun to note, Department of State wonk Everett K. Ross has apparently retired, and now has a library named after him. You can’t find this kind of crazy in “Amazing Spider-Man” — an interesting look at the world behind the world we know, and an invaluable resource for when you wonder to yourself, “Where the heck is Rumekistan?”

The Trials of Shazam #10 (DC Comics)

Sabina the Morally Challenged Shazam Acolyte is on her own idiosyncratic path through the trials, and this time she’s more than one step ahead of Freddy Freeman as they try and follow the clues to find the god of magic Mercury in an attempt to get his mojo. Sabina gets some big surprises along the way from an old Shazam character who’s very different (thanks rewritten Books of Magic) while Freddy gets chastised for being so far behind in the game. Lots of blood and some nice property destruction, but this story could use a bit more meat on it.

Casanova #11 (Image Comics)

There’s a central plot conceit in this issue that’s a bit too easy to see as Matt Fraction’s self-described “Modesty Blaise” issue has fun with Kubark Benday and Zephyr Quinn, all with the title character still nowhere (or nowhen) to be seen and a big texty expository bit near the end that saps the main story of some playing time and the room to really accomplish a bit more. Still interesting, fun and quirky, but not the finest example of the series as a whole.

G.I. Joe: The Data Desk Handbook N-Z (Devil’s Due Publishing)

Some of the big names get time to shine, including some of the team’s ninjas, the Cobra twins and even a number of Devil’s Due-specific creations like Wraith and Vance Wingfield. The “one page per character” motif is a smidge limiting, as it kind of gives short shrift to characters like Scarlett (no mention of her scheming sister Siobhan and the dramas around her family dojo) and Zartan (not a single word on his study with the mystic swordsmith and the way he almost gave up his life of crime, which admittedly the “character” writing this might not know about), but goes a long way into making straw men like Scalpel and Scrap Iron a bit more significant. The only real problem is the appendix-styled list of “reserves” and “identified threat matrix” files, since the fact that every guy code-named Sneak Peek has ended up dead (there were two), as has both Croc Masters (one would think having one would be enough of a lesson, but noooo). Whatever killed Thunder and Flash and the Sneak Peeks … perhaps we’ll never know. Still, a largely entertaining look inside the current incarnation of the team (which includes two television stars, fun on a “covert” team).

Jack of Fables #17 (Vertigo/DC Comics)

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men indeed — the rogue librarian and Jack are hunting the same thing, and it rushes this issue through hitchhiking and large scale retail and wild magic and even cheating at chess and cards. Babe the Ox has another flight of fancy and this issue also seems to fly by a bit to quickly, allowing little time for Jack’s signature charm and still having no explanation for Raven’s sidekickery. Not bad, but not fantastic.

Sub-Mariner #6 (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. The 72 hours prior to the devastation of Atlantis are interesting times indeed, as Namor makes momentous decisions about the future of his people after having a chatty showdown with Tony Stark (how do they talk underwater that way?) and makes a friend that’s guaranteed to be trouble for somebody. There’s not much one can say about this issue without spoiling the smart Matt Cherniss/Peter Johnson script but this is the sort of “really?” twists that can really get your brain going. This is clearly not over, but it’s a compelling way to end the mini series.

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #36 (DC Comics)

The art is less than evocative and the story mainly serves to clear the stage for Jim Shooter’s return to the property next issue, because Tony Bedard’s dialogue works best when it’s inside Braniac 5’s head (that doesn’t last long) and a big change goes on for the team.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

This week was solidly “okay” with nothing really being amazing but nothing really being bad. Eh.

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

“Batman and the Outsiders” #2 had a tense team up battling a nascent OMAC, keeping some characters, losing some and getting an interesting last page reveal, but it lacked snap and urgency as the Bat himself didn’t help make things seem urgent.

Daxamite with Ion power versus pre-crisis Kryptonian with Sinestro ring. Sounds fun, huh? “Green Lantern Corps” #18 could do with some David Finch-level art work to depict a fight of this scale more interestingly, and the Daxamite was a bit heavy on the navel-gazing, but not bad.

Sixshot scares but doesn’t impress in “Transformers: Devastation” #3, which addresses what’s going on inside Sunstreaker’s head, has a guest appearance from the “Spotlight” issue with Sixshot, gives an interesting look at a bad guy from a possible future (that’s clear enough for many) and generally reaches for something better if not managing to grasp it.

A DnA issue, “Superman/Batman” #43 actually managed to not be bad, with a Supes/Bats science project getting hijacked by everybody’s favorite mindwiped rapist and the storyline balanced pretty well given the limited nature of the threat.

Lots of issues left an “eh” taste, such as “Crime Bible: The Five Lessons of Blood” #2, “Cable/Deadpool” #47 (quips good, “Exiles”/”Sliders” scattered nature not so much), “Authority Prime” #2 (which was only distinguished by Rose Tattoo’s innovative new method of … combat), “Daredevil” #102 (the fight looked good, but didn’t really accomplish much), “Countdown to Final Crisis” #22 (something almost happened with Trickster, but otherwise it’s still treading water), “Black Panther” #32 (the art is enjoyable and the dialogue is cute, but it’s time to ditch Johnny and Ben and do something different), “Mercenaries” #1 (for a game adaptation, the characterization wasn’t wholly cardboard and kind of worked)

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

In large letters at one point, an image in “JLA Classified” #47 read, “REPROT [sic] TO CITADEL.” Even for Qward, that’s not cool. DC, can you please beg AOL/Time Warner for some money to hire more editorial assistants? People are overworked here!

“World War Hulk: Front Line” #6 would have worked better without showing the storyline’s actual finale (the destructive parts were working, but the talky ending robbed it of resonance) and this issue should have shipped before that last “WWH.” Way to keep pounding in that Hurricane Katrina allegory, though.

This week’s “WTH” award goes to “Death of the New Gods” #3. Seriously, WTH?

“Bomb Queen” #3 continues to get further away from the ideological areas that made the debut issue interesting and sticks to demon possession and limited responsibility. Blah.

Swastika pasties, a Yakuza-influenced Joker, Hal as dumb … “All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder” #8 is not the most self-hating comic on the stands, but it’s in the running.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

It was kind of grueling to get through this week.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Add to the fact that comics shipping on Thursday can throw off the whole week and this lame collection of “whatever” issues and merely adequate purchases just doesn’t do it.

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