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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 JULY 5TH, 2007

All-Star Superman #8 (DC Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. Normally, one checks in for this perennially tardy periodical to get one’s mind blown by the zany concepts and crazy ideas flying at you. No such luck this time. Ultimate, er, All Star Superman (twenty times more fun than your average DCU Superman) is stuck on Bizarro World and about to disappear forever into the Underverse (imagine the anti-matter universe of Qward on ecstasy). Moreover, it takes this guy almost half the comic to figure out how to Bizarro-speak (odd, given that his native guide Zibarro could have told him that, and that he ran into Le-Roj (work it through in your head). Even the Bizarro JLA was less than impressive, as Jamie Grant’s muted colors attempt to make Bizarro World look outre but end up making the pages just look drab. Bizarro Anthem? Yawn. Given the creative heights of the last seven issues, this is a clunker by comparison.

Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America — Iron Man (Marvel Comics)

It was a slow day. Nothing was making the jump. Buying one comic book is just plain rude. So today’s boobie prize goes to this issue, which didn’t actually do anything but did manage to be legitimately emotionally involving with the Falcon’s speech at Cap’s funeral (alluded to in other issues, and finally seen here). This feels like something important has occurred, and moving into the final phase of grieving (acceptance), Jeph Loeb has written an enthralling vignette about saying goodbye to the old ways. We don’t live in a world where Secret Wars can be whimsical and everybody goes home intact. The Marvel Universe is, for better or worse (and as long as it lasts) different, and this issue more than ever takes a good long look at that fact. The final fate of Steve Rogers is fitting and the last page is a stomach punch — in a good way.

Here’s the most indicative piece of information about this issue, and the one that should make you decide whether or not it’s for you. A judge — let’s call him Mister Wilson — comes into the shop regularly. He’s a huge fan of Steve Rogers, and was crestfallen and hurt at the concept of his assassination. He came into the shop, bought some comics (including this one) and left. He returned several hours later, visibly moved, and bought two more copies. To give to people. To share his experience. If you loved Captain America — and to be clear, the writer of these reviews adamantly did not — this comic is crucial for you. If not, and you still have the ability to be moved by inspirational rhetoric, it could work for you as well.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Not so hot so far … the best purchase was a charity case, a “gimme.”

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

“Black Diamond” #2 could remind some of George Foy’s novel “Contraband” (especially given the relationship to cars and roads) and elements of Warren Ellis’ “Transmetropolitan.” Talking is more important than doing here, as quirky personalities collide at obtuse angles and philosophical battles are waged in earnest. The art doesn’t come close to the quality of the writing, and the entire product suffers as a result, but it’s at least interesting.

“Danger Girl: Body Shots” #4 was a legitimate surprise — a clever twist and third act, red herrings following feints and what have you. Yes, it’s chock full of gratuitous cheesecake and action, and patently ridiculous in certain aspects … but so was the “Transformers” movie, and that was fun. However, this didn’t quite have enough surprises to make it home, but it was — again — at least interesting.

“G.I. Joe: America’s Elite” #25 ups the ante on every angle — Cobra is more dangerous than ever, the Joe team is more determined and combat ready than previously, and all hell is set to break loose in every other panel. There’s only one problem — it’s no fun. Even Cobra — who ostensibly should be enjoying their whimsical outfits and kooky grasps for world domination — seem to be sloughing their way through their work. Say what you want about even the most relentless parts of Hama’s run (remember Snake Eyes climbing up the Cobra Consulate and knocking the whole building down?), it was fun to read. Here? Not so much.

“Midnighter” #9 was a simple done-in-one with everybody’s favorite Batman upgrade outsmarting and out fighting everybody. Again. Kind of like a remix of a good song that just has a new verse added to it.

In “Ultimate Power” #6 the story’s about a stowaway, as Burbank and Reed settle just who’s smarter and Ultimates take on Supremes (?) with the kind of grandeur that only Greg Land can convey. Again. Like they did in earlier issues.

The plot of “Black Canary” #1 takes a number of turns but never does anything really new itself, with Dinah trying to keep her charge Sin from a life of violence and mostly not succeeding. Also, she has an ex-husband. Who knew?

The only lesson learned in “The Irredeemable Ant-Man” #10 is “heroism is for suckers,” as our hero decides to take on the Warbound Hulk. Right. Wanna guess how well that goes? An issue that spends most of its pages running in place.

“Nightwing” #134 proves that Dick Grayson must have never seen the movie “He Got Game,” because he gets played like his name was Jesus Shuttlesworth. Literally, in the exact same way. The twist of a new Vigilante shooting up the place is cute in a Wild Dog sort of way, but eh.

Speaking of people reading off of other students, if you’ve read “Sinestro Corps” then you know what’s gonna happen at the end of “Transformers Spotlight: Galvatron,” where Unicron’s ill-tempered Silver Surfer (or is he a more efficient Terrax?) shoots up a bunch of ‘bots you’ve never heard of (consider any robot you never saw as a toy as a red-shirted Ensign Johnson beaming down with Bones and Spock) with characterization as thin as Megan Fox’s waistline.

“Loners” #4 was okay in a vignette sort of fashion as the support group is awfully internecine and Julie Power goes Hollywood and doesn’t like the seat she’s asked to take. It seems like super powered stunt persons would be de rigeur in a town that loves Simon Williams, but perhaps not. Not bad, though.

“Outsiders” #49 concludes (sort of) the Checkmate crossover with a somewhat Grant Morrison-esque take on things as only one man comes through looking impressive. Oh, and as a fun aside — the involvement of the Great 10 was never actually settled (despite Immortal Man in Darkness providing air support all through the issue) and there were more dangling plot threads than a beaded curtain. Ambitious, but flawed.

“New Warriors” kept walking around the same circles with less-than-effective rhetoric (why are these guys so much better than the Initiative? Why are they any different than the New Avengers?) and Tony Stark coming up with a “big idea” that you could fit in a thimble (some futurist he is …). It kept the same spirit as the effective first issue while losing momentum.

“Dynamo 5” #5 added another twist to the family history of Captain Dynamo, answered the question of his unexpected return and left the team to their own devices. If you really read it, a girl kissed another girl, so if you’re into that, it has that going for it. But otherwise it was kind of plain as an issue.

“Runaways” #27 was best in dialogue and individual moments, as the kids end up as time travel tourists getting caught up in historical conflicts and old family business. Not bad, but not great either.

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

Hang on — in “Countdown” #43, a long dead character now has a homeworld (who is this guy?) and an army? Sadly, the Funeral for a Flash couldn’t hold a candle in the wind to Steve’s send off this week, and took way too much time, especially given that Wally’s around, somewhere …

“Thor” #1 was described by Comics Ink owner Steve LeClaire as “twenty two pages of ‘hi, I’m back!'” That may have been too generous — a syllogism is somehow pressed into service as a framing device and the whole issue tries to hang on it. Unsuccessfully. Grr.

The antagonist in question stomps every meta in the DCU in the space of a couple of panels. Is there any more reason needed to dislike “Action Comics” #851? No, but there are more, from the artwork that makes you think your glasses need cleaning to the tired Phantom Zone antics. Didn’t “Superman 2” tell this story well enough? Heck, even “Smallville” did better, and that show barely made sense this season.

Two books with blonde female leads ended whinily and without conclusion. “Ms. Marvel” #17 (which was doing so well) and “Supergirl” #19 (which was never doing well) both got whiny and pondered themselves and just kind of muddled through their 22 pages. Gah.

“New Avengers/Transformers” #1 takes place before the Civil War, not like you should care. It’s not as bad as the time traveling “G.I. Joe/Transformers” crossover, but it’s close. It’s hilarious how Optimus Prime shows up and starts talking and nobody ever says, “Hang on, what about we hear both sides of the story — you could be lying!” Take a little of “Transformers: Infiltration” (down to the warfare) and a hint of the old Dr. Venom mind scrambler and voila, you’ve got a rehashed plot!

Are there pages that should be at the back of “Daredevil: Battlin’ Jack Murdock” #2? It just seemed to stop in mid thought … not that the maudlin drunken whining needed a reason to stop.

“Faker” #1 was a more malicious “Freaks and Geeks,” with a collegiate experience trying to communicate something but never actually getting the message across.

While the story itself wasn’t told badly, “All New Atom” #13 was a pointless diversionary trip that at least had a Seanbaby quote to recommend in its pages.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Man, it was rough in there …

WINNERS AND LOSERS

A huge loss this week, with the best book of the batch being an issue that barely made it home. We waited an extra day for this?

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