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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 3RD, 2007

JLA/Hitman #2 (DC Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile … oh, and that’s not the cover. Many years ago, an advanced strain of virulent extraterrestrial parasites landed on the moon and shut down the JLA. Okay. they’re so dangerous that the US government is ready to launch a battery of nuclear missiles to wipe out everything — JLA included — to contain the threat. Right. The only person on hand to take them on is Tommy Monaghan, who mocks Batman, ogles Wonder Woman, thinks Flash and Kyle Rayner are feebs and shoots at almost anything he doesn’t like. Plus, he’s awed by Superman. This surprisingly intimate story does have some familiar elements (John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” “Aliens” et cetera) but with overcomes cliche with Monaghan’s powerful personality. John McCrea’s artwork is surprisingly effective on the JLA, giving Wonder Woman a sultry stare, Superman a crisp majesty, and so on. An excellent end for an excellent miniseries.

Iron and the Maiden #3 (Aspen Comics)

There’s a chase sequence to start this issue’s second third that’s just fantastic, with coloring that pops and art work that’s kinetic. It’s followed by a look at a whole new section of The City, and the subsequent fight scenes are great as well. Each new character Michael Iron has to fight has instant charisma of the kooky antagonists in the movie “Running Man” or a new boss to fight on a high quality video game. This issue continues the mini’s very engaging pattern of drawing the reader in with nuanced characterizations and fantastic artwork. Not quite as much unabashed fun as “Highwaymen,” but awfully close.

Super-Villain Team-Up: MODOK’s 11 (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. Speaking of fun, now that all the players have been introduced (or so it seems) the Hypernova has gone from impossible-to-steal artifact to simply challenging-to-retrieve hot potato, with The Mandarin ready to perform a feat of martial arts that shocks a member of the team, Rocket Racer has an interesting phone conversation with “Ma,” and there’s a flying dragon space ship that looks like it escaped from a Japanese rubber suit movie. Fun fun stuff here as the heist motif keeps escalating into more levels of intricacy and whimsy, a perfect balance of spinning plates in Fred Van Lente’s script, with great work on pencils/inks/colors from Francis Portela, Terry Pallot and Guru-EFX respectively.

Game Keeper #5 (Virgin Comics)

A little bit talky for a finale, but the Andy Diggle-scripted closing chapter to this thrilling mini still satisfies, as the lethal title character finds his way to his goal, has a final flashback (which ties the story together deftly) with a perfect little circle, great monologues from each key character and brutal, bloody justice. Very enjoyable.

Jack of Fables #15 (Vertigo/DC Comics)

NOTE: The image shown is a part of the Brian Bolland cover, probably sent out this way to save the surprise … probably … Well, that’s an unusual way to end things — the sword, the “who’s a copy of who?” and what’s up with the guy shlepping down to the rescue, all of that gets resolved this issue, as well as a fascinating look at the real identities of Revise, The Pathetic Fallacy and Kevin Thorne. There’s a whole lot answered here, and Jack’s method of working his way through it makes little sense to even the people in the issue. But it’s still a lot of fun in that “Austin Powers time travel” sense, and Babe the Blue Ox has another hilarious flight of fancy interlude (although someone should point out that NASCAR does not use formula one racers). This issue steers the series into unknown waters, and it couldn’t be more fun from Willingham and Sturges’ script and death-and-taxes reliable artwork from Tony Akins and Andrew Pepoy.

Transformers: Devastation #1 (IDW Publishing)

Jump from the Read Pile. No more Mister Nice Mechanoid — Megatron inspires terror, Prime gets mad, Ravage gets tamed, Nightbeat shows off his detective skills and Sixshot gives a safety warning before he’s fired. Meanwhile the humans stay marginalized (as they should be) and there’s massive and unmistakable destruction over a human city. How about them apples? The seeds planted throughout earlier miniseries start to bear dangerous fruit as the Robots in Disguise are getting less and less subtle with a delicious sense of impending chaos. EJ Su’s art is still very up-close and personal with the giant robots, but his level of detail and ability to show characterization visually can’t be beaten.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Three jumps and lots of fun is a good way to start.

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

It should be noted up front that even retailer Steve Leclaire noted that Marvel barely put out any comics this week, so apologies to all Marvel Zombies (spirit, that’s almost literal these days) for the dearth of reviews therein. Moving on …

The war continues in “Green Lantern Corps” #16 and “Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Cyborg Superman” #1, the former of which makes the Daxamite Lantern into the start of an compelling character (“we will watch your career with great interest”) as the Mogo battle gets really messy (really, could we not get a crisper art team here?) and the latter which features the title character whining about his sappy life for way too many pages before showing some of the new battlefront effectively (and so soon after Amazons Attacked — rough year for the DCU). Not bad, but really, brighter coloring and cleaner lines would make this a must-have.

Speaking of “close,” “Ms. Marvel” #20 showed Carol Danvers taking some actual direction with her heroism in a battle against the Puppet Master and his army of super-babes. Mmm, that sounds dumber when typed than when read, but still the first third was very strong, the conclusion to the second act was a bit hard to read art wise but still enjoyable, and the battle’s ending would have worked better without that tacked on and empty conclusion.

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” #7 was fairly fun, with a steely Dawn and Faith struggling through nicotine addiction and a recruitment pitch that could sound appealing to her. Still too insular for the casual reader, but serving its core audience like nobody’s business.

There was a mild appeal to “Velvet Underground” #1, which read like “Scooby Doo” meets “Phonogram” with its procedural story spine and tabloid mock ups standing in for characterization.

“The Weapon” #4 was cute in its ending, with an honest emotional turn at the final surprise and as always great action, but it still felt like a ramped-up script from the people who made the show “VIP.” Good ambition, but it needed more meat to its storytelling.

Despite the still-annoying artwork, the done-in-one story in “Scalped” #10 was a masterful show of characterization and plot, developing Dino Poor Bear and marking the Lakota’s plight in subtle terms instead of heavy handed preaching. Worth checking back in on.

UPDATED: There’s precious little words in “Black Diamond” #4 but what’s there has a certain grim determination that’s appealing. As with previous issues, this falls just short due to its brevity, which could work better in a collected edition than in this format.

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

After making a surprise jump to the Buy Pile with its first issue, “Bomb Queen: Suicide Bomber” #2 sucked all the good stuff out of that by taking the real planning and control out of its charismatic lead character’s hands and sliding into Mulder and Scully territory in a way that’s both gross (that first page was uncalled for) and needless. That one element dirtied the entire comic, despite a brilliant plan, cool guest stars and a level of carnage familiar only to those who watch war coverage on the news. Disappointing.

Do you like Elseworlds? There’s a sequence on Earth 15 that has some amusement value, but it’s not enough to make “Countdown” #30 any less boring than, say, the last few months of this title have been.

Re: “Howard the Duck” #1 — retailer Steve LeClaire called this one of the worst comics of the year, and it’s … well, not good. But it’s mostly just boring in attempting humor (the Twin Barrels? Whacking people with mannequins they couldn’t tell weren’t real girls?) as its curmudgeonly lead complains like he was trying out for a sequel to “Grumpier Old Men.” That’s not entertaining.

Did we really have to have that much of the title character staring into the window and pontificating in caption-over monologuing from “Nightwing” #137?

In our “WTH?” file, we have “Omega the Unknown” #1. Seriously, WTH?

Memo to “Midnighter” #12: the Anthem stuff is interesting, this weird monster attack digression, not so much. Please get back to what was working next issue. Thanks. P.S. there are donuts in the carrier’s canteen, enjoy.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Fair to middling.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

The jumps have it, with the re-readability of the purchases overcoming silliness like the Orb of Ra undressing Rex Mason and putting a monogrammed belt and panties on him (seriously: “Metamorpho: Year One” #1).

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