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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 SEPTEMBER 6TH, 2007

Iron and the Maiden #2 (Aspen Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. Yes, you’ll have to get past the title to enjoy this — so be it. “Scarecrow and Mrs. King” was dumb too, and that rocked, and how many people grokked “Burn Notice” before taking in the wonder of it? That aside, “The City” (could it be a precursor of Spider Jerusalem’s haunt? Probably not) continues to grow in complexity with a tasty Italian dinner (but don’t order the sausage), more inside information on how the world got to be this way (love the newspaper bit in the back, a la “Rex Mundi”) and Angel Chase shows her naughty side. Really engaging writing by video game vet Jason Rubin, with great art by Francis Manapul and Joel Gomez (not to short Danimnation’s coloring). Imagine Mel Gibson’s “Payback” in the not-so-distant future, but with more cheesecake than just Lucy Liu. Fun stuff.

She-Hulk #21 (Marvel Comics)

Now this is a comic that you’re gonna want to refer back to. Writer Dan Slott creates his own “crisis” and in the space of 22 pages fixes virtually every continuity gaffe of the last few years (and settles down questions of Skrullpacalypse … and maybe even nudging Nextwave some) while giving a loophole for future ones in an entire issue that deserves a no-prize while being so gleefully meta that it almost winks at you. Oh, and there’s karaoke. Just fun and interesting and zany from cover to cover. Sure, Peter David’s awesome (he’s coming on board as writer next month), but we’ll miss the wacky good times from this creative team. Hell of a swan song, though.

Incredible Hulk #110 (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. Amadeus Cho is really, really smart and himself delivers a lot of answers to stuff about the Hulk that never made sense. One of the problems with writing a really smart character is that it’s hard to create someone smarter than yourself — you need the character to ideally go beyond what you can conceive. Amadeus Cho seems beyond brilliant, tossing out bon mots and abstract geometry with equal ease (to the new Scorpion: “Look, you might have a poison arm, an exposed belly button and a summer job at SHIELD, but you’re not the boss of me …”) and virtually unflappable aplomb. He steals every scene he’s in, and the title character’s almost a supporting player. Get this kid his own title, stat, he’s magic!

Super-Villain Team Up: MODOK’s 11 #3 (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. AIM plays its hand much more visibly this time as one member of the team loses everything, another betrays everybody and the heist doesn’t so much go wrong as falls down on itself. There’s a lot going on here, but all in a clear and sensible fashion, told with deft craftsmanship in Fred Van Lente’s script and the virtually flawless art of Francis Portela and Terry Pallot (with Guru Efx on colors). Delightfully destructive as a triple cross just isn’t betrayal enough.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

There’s not a bad note in the entire pile — fantastic!

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

“G.I. Joe Special Missions: The Enemy” was close with a diptych story looking at foot soldiers on both sides while a backup had the Commander take a page from the G.I. Joe playbook. Interesting but not really in-depth enough (both “foot soldiers” were pretty cliched in the final analysis) and the characterization on the back up was razor thin.

Almost like “Ally McBeal” or “Grey’s Anatomy” the background was much more interesting than the lead in “Ms. Marvel” #19, with Aaron Stack stealing the show on most panels he graces with his presence (idea: Aaron Stack and Amadeus Cho in a super vehicle, traveling the world and causing chaos and/or helping people — get on that), plus Tigra vs. Ms. Marvel is the stuff of fanboy dreams … but Carol Danvers is just so inexorably boring as a person, as to her motivations and her personality. Lots of other great stuff here, though.

“Midnighter” #11 checked in on some down-home totalitarianism courtesy of ultra-patriotic elements in his home town — imagine “Grosse Pointe Blank” with crazy patriots in place of Bobby Beamer — but took forever to get anywhere and lacked “oomph” despite some great jokes at the title character’s expense.

There’s some moments worth watching in “New Warriors” #3, including fun with Pym particles and some good team work in a field op, but it all moved a bit too fast for its own good, and brushed past the most interesting (and international) implication here.

“Painkiller Jane” #3 was pretty good, but the action was rote and even the effective moments of characterization were plagued with deluges of dialogue, effective or not.

“Doktor Sleepless” #2 also had some interesting moments — shrieky girls, fascinating — but felt like hearing Paul McCartney in Wings when you were used to hearing him in the Beatles (or reading “Transmetropolitan” in this case). If you’ve never done the Beatles/”Transmet,” you probably think this is some brilliant, groundbreaking stuff. Good luck with that.

“Wolverine” #57 overcame the cliche nature of its lead by making a new terrorist organization actually kind of impressive, delivering on emotional content. But with a key plot snafu (why didn’t Logan smell the target as a fake?) and the same old slash and bash with the Canucklehead, it just didn’t seem to be enough.

“Outsiders” #50 is getting there with wonderful Rakim-inspired cover copy (well, maybe it’s schoolyard inspiration, but still) and a fairly decent opening gambit for Batman’s new team to try the “heroes operating in shadows” routine (JL Elite, Stormwatch Black and most disastrously, The Monarchy). Emotion trumps following orders, though, and all hell almost breaks loose.

“Iron Man: Enter Mandarin” #1 was a fairly nostalgic feeling opening chapter for the storied villain (and an earlier look at Tony Stark as well) but seemed too slow by maybe a half measure.

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” #6 was a fairly good Brian Vaughan script centering on the outcast slayer Faith getting a shot at redemption by taking down somebody even more irredeemable than she is … but the road to that is boring, for her and for the reader.

Apparently the lead is something of a badass, and “Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus” assumes many facts not in evidence unless you’re really in the mood to go Google this guy. Outside of that, this is an okay procedural military takedown tale.

If the unbelievably easy antagonist had been a fifth as interesting as the dialogue between the characters (and loved the inner monologues), “White Tiger” #6 might have been something. Alas …

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

After all the hype, “Amazing Spider-Man” #544 is just whiny with an unbelievably hard-to-swallow fight with Iron Man as its centerpiece.

Despite the fact that Head is one of the best characters in comics now (“Tell my head wife I have love her head very much!” — classic), “All-New Atom” #15 was a non sequitur detour from “Countdown” which included images no one should ever see. Ew.

Speaking of things you should never see, for the love of pie don’t pick up “Boys” #10 unless you brace yourself, because the ending is just wrong, even though the horribly mean plot (which isn’t a bad thing itself) kind of felt anticlimactic.

“Metal Men” #2 suffered from fatal errors and a 404 when it tried to find the point — jumping to and fro throughout time periods, Will Magnus is supposed to be smart but ends up dumbfounded in a fashion that’s not only embarrassing but kind of predictable (anybody remember the Elements of Doom in “Thunderbolts?”).

The only words that can be used to describe “Captain America: Chosen” #1 are “what the hell?” Seriously, what the hell just happened there?

“Supergirl” #21 was yet another dumb detour from “Countdown” — it’s so obvious that nobody wants to be a part of that slow motion train wreck — and while we’re at it, “Countdown” #34 continues to do snippets of things happening without it ever amounting to anything other than making most of the characters in question look like they don’t know what they’re doing.

“Annihilation Conquest: Wraith” #1 got deeper into cliches as the title character got very Hamlet and the Phalanx have a transmitter that’s just gross.

“Infinity, Inc.” #1 is depressing, like touring the burn ward in a hospital, as John Henry Irons tries to deal with the fallout of the Everyman project and doesn’t do so well.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

If the punching was as interesting as the talking, it could have been all right.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Good dialogue made the reads tolerable, three jumps made the week win.

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