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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 thoughts about all of that … something like this …

THE BUY PILE FOR MAY 9TH, 2007

Noble Causes #29 (Image Comics)

Less soap and histrionics and more angst this time as one of the rival families loses a member and grief turns to fisticuffs as misunderstandings rule the day.  The art by Yildiray Cinar was a bit iffy in places — Hunter Blackthorne had a close up that should have been filled with gravitas but looked unfinished, but on the contrary the Dusk vs. Krennick panel looked great, as does every panel with Slate — and Faerber’s script is reliable and entertaining.  Another solid issue.

DMZ #19 (Vertigo/DC Comics)

The last truly independent voice in a decidedly un-civil war, Matty Roth hears both sides of the Day 204 Massacre story, finishing his interview with the whistle blowing, constantly beaten Private Stevens before hearing from his rage filled superior, Sergeant Nunez.  The facts are the same — a mob of silent war protesters was gunned down by a squad of US troops — but the nuance changes ever so slightly when seen through the gun sights Nunez calls eyes.  Matty’s trying to get the whole truth while the powers that be are hell bent on a kangaroo court to settle the matter, and while this issue feels a bit too abrupt, it maintains the tension of an impossible situation filled with desperate people.

Black Panther #27 (Marvel Comics)

This title doesn’t read like a stand-alone anymore, serving as “part two” to what’s going on in the “Fantastic Four” book. This issue — which is dominated by combat — has a smidgen of character work for T’Challa and Storm, but largely has to do with hitting and things getting broken.  T’Challa’s sister replays virtually the exact same scene she did last issue, SHIELD’S Commander Hill makes a brief and unimportant appearance, and the wildly goofy King Solomon’s Frog makes a reappearance without rhyme or reason (which may have made more sense if read after the “part two” of the FF storyline … which hasn’t been published yet).  The ending had a sufficient cliff hanger without tacking on a gratuitous and continuity-bending surprise, so this issue was all over the place.  Only the soothing artistic styles of Francis Portela, Victor Olazaba and Val Staples made this workable at all (especially after two guest stars stood in one panel and disappeared without anyone ever saying “bye” or noting their passage).  

Jack of Fables #10 (Vertigo/DC Comics)

NOTE: The cover shown here is not what was available at retail.  Oh, moral turpitude … Jack’s roguish charm is intact and two interesting plays involving Gary the Pathetic Fallacy were kind of entertaining, but there’s another bug transition in a string of them so long that they don’t even seem to matter anymore.  The ultimate disposition of the lucky horseshoe — which was never explained, by the way, had a wry, ironic twist to it, but again kind of just danced fairly predictable steps in a manner that lacked any real oomph.  The Jack Frost story finally concludes next month, maybe that’ll have some pizazz.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Half disappointing, half okay.

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

Sleep deprivation and a neighbor that tried to burn down the apartment building and everyone in it (what’s with the fire starting recently) combine to mean that you get abbreviated reviews this week — sorry.  So for just this week, you’ll get the “what” was “not bad, but not good enough to buy,” but not as much of the “why.”  Apologies and what not, back to normal next week.

“Cover Girl” #1 (a touch too slow, but had some nice work in supporting characters), “Thunderbolts” #114 (not so bad dialogue, what could be seen amidst all the pugilism), “Star Wars: Legacy” #11 (slow pacing and busy art hurt this effort), “Annihilation Saga” (store owner Steve called it the “Reader’s Digest” version), “Stormwatch PHD” #7 (the “Assault on Precinct 13” shtick is played well), “Ultimate Power” #5 (which is essentially the same thing as “Thunderbolts” #114), “Nightwing” #132 (if the supporting characters weren’t such under-developed scrubs, this could have been something), “Immortal Iron Fist” #5 (save the retcon to Danny’s history, this has the same thing as “Ultimate Power” and “Thundebrbolts” — it’s possible to wedge plot and characterization amidst non-stop violence … but admittedly it’s hard since none of these three managed it), “Phonogram” #6 (an ambitious failure which was far too self-referential and insular to communicate but still had great style and panache), “Outsiders” #47 (which could have been done in three pages in “Checkmate” and is skippable if somewhat interesting), The always entertaining banter of “New Avengers” #30 (but really — stalling ninja?  That never works), “Red Sonja: Vacant Shell” (barbarian-tastic, like the early double digits issues of Busiek’s “Conan) and the home town smallness of “Nova” #2.

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

The forced team-up in “Grifter/Midnighter” #3 was lame and strained even its less-than-lofty narrative standards.  

Seriously, what happened in “Salvador” #1?  There’s not a single word in the issue (at least the ones on stands at Comics Ink) and the artwork is less than communicative. Moreover, if it’s a five issue mini, does’t that mean they spent 20% of the story not being clear?  Grrr.

Taking that long to have sex didn’t seem to make much sense in “Green Arrow” #74, and being so seriously outgunned would have seemed to make a smarter hero more cautious.  Good ol’ Ollie … moron …

Alas, poor “Punisher War Journal” … jumping around chronologically didn’t help this very dull story in issue #7 (replace the Nazis with regular criminals and this is very similar to when Ennis sent Punisher to Texas) with such rote central-casting-styled dialogue for the antagonist that it just couldn’t work.  

“Countdown” #51 was too mysterious for its own good, with what felt like MTV-styled quick cuts that never let the reader latch on to any facts.  

The abrupt stop at the end of “Blade” #9 also belied a deception (despite the cover, Blade fights no Cossacks in this issue).  

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Eh.  

WINNERS AND LOSERS

A loss this week as the purchases fall down on the job and the read pile never really does anything to intrigue or entertain.  

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