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WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/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 too good to not own) 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 OCTOBER 10TH, 2007

Punisher War Journal #12 (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. Ooh, it’s good to have this title back. In the shadow of World War Hulk, Frank Castle’s just doing what he does — shooting bad people trying to do bad things to good people. However, this time there’s another War Journal to read along with, as the super strong “Mung the Inconceivable, Legendary Pillager and Most Celebrated Rampage Artist of the Saakar,” breaks ranks with the Warbound and decides to spread a lot of pain and hate upon the inhabitants of Earth. For kicks. Don’t worry about the cover image, as Frank never actually runs into the good Doctor Banner, but there’s fun new kinds of weaponry (“It’s a gun, Frank. A gun that shoots swords”), some hilarity about what kind of tastes She-Hulk might have, saving a cat twice and leading refugees out of danger like his name was Bill Adama. Using the crossover as a creative outlet instead of getting jammed into it, Matt Fraction’s script is virtually perfect here, and every single panel of Ariel Olivetti’s art is riveting to look at. Apparently we’re back to form after that tedious Hate Monger business.

Black Summer #3 (Avatar Press)

Jump from the Read Pile. The internecine struggle between this world’s most powerful people is more engaging than the action and destruction in this issue. However, given that the action and destruction in this issue are both legen — wait for it — dary, that makes the compelling personal dramas all the better. How does Juan Jose Ryp jam so much detail into his artwork? How does Mark Sweeney keep up with it and manage to make the colors so vibrant? It’s a bit fast, but reading it again is just as enjoyable.

X-Factor #24 (Marvel Comics)

The secrets of Josef Huber, the Isolationist, come to light in an issue that includes a great segment with a penny (Layla Miller is the business), Rictor defying the odds, and a close call with a frozen Jamie, Rahne and Guido. To say much more would be to spoil things, but the art from Pablo Raimondi, Valentinne de Landro and Drew Hennessy (with Brian Reber on colors) is intimate while still delivering the goods on the big showy stuff. Peter David once again crafts a delightful script that only slightly left things up in the air at the end.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Rock solid stuff, with two jumps … sounds good so far.

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

The hunt for the man who destroyed the precinct in “Stormwatch PHD” #12 was close to the mark, a solid if unremarkable procedural with a nice twist, but the personal dramas were sublimated due to so little time left (this is the last issue, it appears).

“New Warriors” #5 had some interesting twists and turns, using news coverage well and showing some solid chops in the combat department, but the actual fight scene was a little hard to decipher, and the title’s core mystery remained unexamined for another whole issue. The Wakandan guest star was a smart touch, however.

Every panel with the title character was fascinating in “Black Adam: The Dark Age” #3, but the sad attempts to include the JLA and the absolutely laughable fight with Hawkman (how exactly did that last longer than two seconds? Hawkman’s not that impressive …) submarined this effort. Adam’s quest is well worth watching, though …

if you just judged by the dialogue, “Wolverine” #58 would have been a winner, with a fun appearance by the Sorceror Supreme, his great chat with the director of SHIELD and a Mos Eisley reference that was just choice. But the framing device and “Punishangel”-worthy plot elements were too goofy to consider, and Logan seemingly sleepwalked through the whole thing, almost a guest star in his own title.

Despite the dull antagonist looming, the chemistry between Robin and Christopher Kent was fun to read in “Superman” #668, with the Bat — as always — being the grim loon in the background. As he should be.

T’challa and Reed worked together well in “Fantastic Four” #550, which had some good guest appearances (another one from Dr. Strange, plus the Silver Surfer and a newer character who appears to be a McDuffie favorite) and an interesting metaphor writ large, but the shortcutting of the actual “we’re gonna do what?” part felt wrong.

“Booster Gold” #3 was a cute bit of Quantum Leaping (and the first of two drunken comics this week) with a lot of fun from the lead character, but it shone no new light on the DC historical moments it flittered through and wasn’t even substantial enough to be a buy-worthy confection.

“World War Hulk Frontline” #5 is still good at showing the everyday lives of people in the Marvel universe, with a great tense moment involving J. Jonah Jameson, but the first half plodded along and the second half’s “Star Trek” based conundrum just fell flat.

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

The worst comic of the week, and possibly one of the top ten worst comics of the year, has to be “Captain Carrot and the Final Ark” #1, a wholly tedious collection of warmed over jokes and toothless satire. Ooh, animalizing San Diego Comic-Con and making fun of it, that’s so interesting! (By interesting, of course, that means “not” for the sarcasm impaired). “Panda Dio,” ha ha, that’s funny like nut cancer. Looking at the world through fur-covered glasses may seem interesting, but it’s not, and since Captain Carrot and his goofy crew were once actually kind of interesting, this issue urinating on what little legacy they had (the murder was especially uncalled for) is just not right at all.

Imagine you went to school with a kid who wasn’t all that smart. Never tested well, wasn’t very clever, and his folks were happy when he could string together an entire paragraph that wasn’t largely incoherent. Maybe he walked around the halls with snot wiped on his sleeves. Maybe he limped, or had sustained a head injury at some point. Whatever. Now imagine, out of nowhere and with no explanation, you see that same kid — dressed the same, looking the same, as well — running a press conference as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. You’d look at the screen and say “that doesn’t make any sense.” Liberal Avengers, er, “New Avengers” #35 creates the same mental confusion, as a minor character who’s been widely laughed at (even as recently as that last Dwayne McDuffie mini Marvel put out) and couldn’t even qualify for the D-list all of a sudden wants to run New York, has enough money to give a room full of villains (including the much more impressive Purple Man, who — fun fact — recently took over most of New York by himself, in “Thunderbolts,” and maybe more than that) $25k each as “seed money” to show he’s serious … it doesn’t add up. All of a sudden the kid even the students in special ed called slow is doing calculus and getting hired as a biomedical engineer. Just … no.

Speaking of ideas that don’t make sense, who thought that Gotham City needed a homeless, homicidal protector who stole Dominick Purcell’s shtick from “John Doe” to boot? “Simon Dark” #1 is all ambiance and vanity without having a whit of substance to it.

The winner of this week’s “WTH?” award goes to “Brawl” #1. Seriously … WTH?

“Wonder Girl” #2 — Hercules as a “clever” stalker? Why, really? Did this need to be printed?

The battle with Parallax was so dumb that it tainted the rest of “Green Lantern” #24, which had what could have been a powerful moment with Hal’s family minimized in a panel that was way too small, a “rescue” that bordered on the cockamamie, and the heroes of the DCU being routed by a force that was barely a big deal back when they menaced the Earth in “Legends,” all with the biggest names (such as a power-ring enhanced Superboy Prime) held in reserve (which may be why that Daxamite Lantern got such a push in the recent “Green Lantern Corps” issue). To see the issue’s closing moments, where the Lanterns regroup and hope to win the day with gumption and elbow grease … really, people go for this stuff? Seriously? Wow — that makes less sense than KRS-One coming out in support of 50 Cent. Preposterous.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

More good than dumb, even though the dumb was really bad … but the Jokester got Monitored (if you read it, you know what that means, and you’ll be using that term by next week). Let’s call it “passable, if not good.”

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Two jumps plus tolerable reading equals a week that worked out well.

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