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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 AUGUST 29TH, 2007

Avengers: The Initiative #5 (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. When Warren Ellis introduced the comic book world to Stormwatch Black, he really inspired a lot of people. The idea of a shadow team of high powered extrahumans took the subtle beginnings of both the Legion Espionage Squad and the Suicide Squad and went all the way through the tragedy of The Monarchy. So of course if you give legendary sourpuss Henry Peter Gyrich access to his own personal set of capes and masks, it’s not hard to figure out what he’s gonna end up doing, and this issue called “Shadow Initiative: Secret Weapons” gets into that with the backdrop of World War Hulk as a framing device. Gauntlet gets a great verbal jab in at the aforementioned Gyrich, Trauma shows up for the job but Dr. Banner is the best player (appearing only at the end) in this wonderful ensemble piece. Stefano Caselli makes some ambitious art choices (including two pages that had a Bart Sears feel) that worked well and the tightly paced script of Dan Slott’s done-in-one script hums smartly along.

Bomb Queen: Suicide Bomber #1 (Shadowline/Image Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. The cover and the cheesecake hide a dirty little secret — this is the book that “Thunderbolts” is trying to be, but with a sense of humor attached. Unifying Klansmen, Jihadists and gang members all under the concept of “criminal rights,” the ridiculously-clad Bomb Queen owns an entire metropolis and has kicked the butts of everybody who tried to say otherwise, losing only her pet cat in the process. It could be said to be the government’s fault, trying to repeat the Australia experiment on US soil. Sure this comic is rife with insulting stereotypes — rednecks, ethnic thugs, sex offenders and so on, including two usages of the most offensive word in the English language — but it does so with such equal disdain and sarcasm that it can’t be said to favor any one over another, all while being gleefully meta in its nihilism. Jim Robinson — on story and art — is just not well … and in the same was as the David Duchovny series “Californication” is good viewing, it’s hard to say this doesn’t entertain.

Fantastic Four #549 (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. It’s supposed to be four, but the sextet of Reed, Sue, T’Challa, Ororo, Ben and Johnny take on the Wizard’s latest Frightful Four (which turned out to be five for a very brief amount of time). Sue’s speech alone is why this comic made it home, but there’s a lot of great stuff here to latch on to — why Wizard was on BitTorrent, Sue’s television habits and of course a literal phalanx of Watchers — with every page having the characters stand out with great detail. This storyline has been up and down, but this issue really stands up and gets things done.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

From zero planned purchases to three issues that are already still good on multiple reads? That’s an amazingly good sign.

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

Despite pedestrian artwork, “52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen” #1 worked with quotes from the Crime Bible, accusations of the “western powers” and a good look at post-Black Adam Bialya. However, ineffectual appearances by DC’s “big three” and overly deliberate pacing lost what effectiveness the issue had.

If you ever got a look behind the invulnerability, “Brit” #1 would have made it home, with fantastic action, great storytelling and funny banter. But its core issue of “why?” involving Brit’s divorce simply robbed the story of any emotional credibility.

“Outsiders Five Of A Kind: Grace/Wonder Woman” was close despite the lingering stench of the embarrassing crossover (more on that in a moment) with some great character development on Grace and showcasing her as a character who gets things done despite her own possible ignorance.

Had the fight been more epic, “Transformers Spotlight: Optimus Prime” would have made the jump, with the Autobot leader’s shaken faith conveyed well (if its causes seemed a bit contrived) and an interesting bit of Cybertronian history getting told. The limp action from the big guest star (who really should only be seen from a position of grandeur, seen from below like many depictions of Galactus) and Prime’s waffling and vacillation didn’t help.

The “Ex Machina Masquerade Special” also centered on a leader’s doubts, flashing back to before the Great Machine took to the skies and showed some of the complicated ideas going into the man’s thoughts. It did seem to march in place with an anticlimactic framing device, though.

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

What’s up with literally “sampling” pages from the latest (much better) issue of “Blue Beetle” in “Teen Titans” #50? The letter to Barry segment was good, but the rest of the issue was a mess, making Cassie and Rose out to be a little slutty and generally standing around for the rest of the time.

“Mice Templar” #1 should have been more interesting, given its pedigree, but Mike Oeming’s art was the completely wrong choice for this tedious, plodding story, making it doubly disappointing.

Between “Amazons Attack” #6 and “Wonder Woman” #12, every possible thing that could be done to make the concept of DC’s Amazons stupid happened, from a plot element cribbed from Mark Waid’s Hyperclan (it wasn’t that long ago, kids), a lame lecture for the aforementioned “western powers” (does DC even like its heroes anymore?) and some truly dumb bits of masquerade from Olympus to the DEO (how can anybody take Everyman seriously as an antagonist?). Atrociously bad.

“World War Hulk: X-Men” #3 could be listed in the dictionary under “anticlimax” as one of the dumbest plot developments to confront the good Doctor ever pops up just for the sake of narrative convenience.

Was “Countdown to Adventure” #1 a DC Comic or a Disney product? Between the wacky fish-out-of-water dumbness with Adam Strange and Starfire, Adam Strange being replaced by a psycho gloryhog and the “secret origin” of Forerunner (it involves Earth 48 — seriously) … ugh.

Stan Lee and John Romita, Jr. couldn’t recapture magic in “The Last Fantastic Four Story,” a corny and wildly unsatisfying post script that not only completely invalidates the recent “Fantastic Four: The End” mini (itself an atrocity) but ratchets up the consequences to planetary extinction only to dial itself down by borrowing strategy from Scipio Africanus (that bastard).

[sarcasm] “Action Comics” #855 am brilliant! Bizarro never made so much sense, syntax was so not inaccurate! Artwork so clear and easy to decipher! Buy Pile include many, many copies! [/sarcasm]

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Slightly more dumb than good.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

The strength of three comics demanding their way to the promised land overcomes even the crimes of this week’s worst issues.

FYI: Due to Diamond being able to do whatever the heck they want as an unchallenged monopoly, comics ship a day late next week, which means reviews will be a day late too. Sorry.

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