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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 APRIL 25TH, 2007

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #29 (DC Comics)

First, a public service announcement: The solicitations (posted on this very web site) stated the following about this issue: “Written by Mark Waid. Art by Barry Kitson & Mick Gray.” However, when you crack open the issue, the credits show that Tony Bedard is the writer, with art by Kevin Sharpe, Mark McKenna and Jack Purcell. Got all that? Ready for a bigger surprise? It’s still good! Told largely from the perspective of a Dominator (and with a deliciously mischievous if wholly confusing “52” reference), this issue ably continues the W/KRP stylings of the 31st century (and while you may have some issue with facial shading on the likes of Cosmic Boy or what have you, the Dominators have rarely looked this good). Lots of things get blown up and punched, and all the while the reader gets a rare look into Dominator society, showing an alien mindset of some interest and distinction. The art lacks Kitson’s relentless consistency, but the writing holds up to muster (if lacking a just a teensy bit of Waid’s humor and zippiness), so it’s a well done fill in and a good issue all around. But seriously, what happened to Waid and Kitson?

Planetary Brigade: Origins #3 (Boom! Studios)

In many places (the opening page splash, most scenes with Earth Goddess) Julia Bax’s art is a bit too airy and insubstantial for this issue. In other spots (the Mister Master/Caliginous/Purring Pussycat splash page, the Third Eye splash page, and pretty much any panel with Mister Master in it) she nails it with unerring accuracy. Through it all, Giffen and DeMatteis keep a straight face as they tell the most ridiculous stories, with an interstellar threat along the lines of Mister Nebula (sometimes the old jokes are the best) and super villain hijinks that positively levitate with monologuing and hyperbole. Fantastically entertaining, and funny as heck.

Rex Mundi #5 (Dark Horse Comics)

NOTE: The final cover available at retail is considerably more polished than what you see here, this looks like just pencils. The Duke of Lorraine’s mad march to war has intense consequences in this ultimate chapter of the fourth act for Arvid Nelson’s alternative history epic. Things don’t go well for the title’s female characters here, as chickens come home to roost and very few answers can be found to mysteries older than most nations. The writing is epic even as it gets so up close and personal that the rampaging Duke sees to the former king and his wounded soldiers personally. The only possible complaint is that this issue seemed to go by too fast, with so many important developments restricted to just a page or two. Still, great and intellectual material.

Daily Bugle May ’07 (Marvel Comics)

Blind Jump from the Read Pile. It’s hard to be mad at anything you buy for a quarter, so at that price point, it was easier to toss this on the Buy Pile than plow through it at the store. But after Marvel has done so many interesting newsprint “extras” with original content, this purely adverstisement-minded pamphlet is appalling. Literally reading like solicitation copy, this steps outside of the 616 proper and looks at things from the perspective of a marketer. Yeah, keep it on the web site, pal.

Astro City: The Dark Age Book 2 #3 (Wildstorm/DC Comics)

Yes, this was originally solicited for December. Ignore all that. The brothers Williams continue strangely parallel paths with the great events of their day happening sometimes literally right around them. You’ll see a failed date, a broken friendship (i.e. “What they were trying to do with Nightwing when Blockbuster died but made to schmaltzy”) and ancient Aztec weaponry … oh, yes, and a murder. Well, all right, lots of murders, but one of real significance. Simply engrossing work that draws you in with its everyman modality and never lets go.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Despite that suckerpunch from Marvel, a rather thoughtful and enjoyable week of comic purchases.

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

An issue that could barely contain its sheer spectacle (one suspects Morrison had more to do with this one), “52” #51 had some great dialogue between Clark and Bruce, retcons the Emerald Eye into something much more mundane (while admittedly plausible) and shows exactly what’s up with Skeets. You got it — trying too hard, but only by a very thin margin, which made this close to making the jump.

“Fantastic Four” #545 was extremely close to making it home, with T’Challa making a chatty gambit to bargain with Norrin Radd and a lot of great dialogue (“Don’t make me embarrass you in front of your friends!”) There’s a panel that is similar in spirit to the Val Armorr/Clark Kent fight that started so many fan arguments for years after, and in this case makes it look like Norrin was pulling his cosmic-powered punches (to be fair, Superboy’s strength was being used against him, whereas Surfer can zap people with his fingers) but some iffy science (Ororo can herd hydrogen atoms? Johnny’s flame in space?) and a lack of clarity in the team dynamic made this just too wobbly to make the cut.

“Justice” #11 was a great Pretty Cheerleader Comic (pretty and sweeping but ultimately empty) but not so much as a story (what did Braniac mean? What was with that weird panel with him?).

The emotional content again was solid for “Civil War Fallen Son: New Avengers,” as everybody has a hard time dealing with their anger over Cap’s demise. Namor makes an interesting appearance that has implications beyond the issue, and the question is raised whether or not a mask can help your poker game. Good, but not crucial.

“Connor Hawke” #6 rushed to the end, leaving all kinds of things weird (Shado and the guy with the glasses, for example) with an almost cliched antagonist plan (heard it all before) and a moment that should have been an emotional climax as a blip in the story.

Another Dwayne McDuffie-penned issue almost made the leap, as “Firestorm” #35 showed some great improvisation from the title character in whomping some of the legions of Apokolips (did somebody redesign the Parademons since “Secret Six?”) until a literal deus ex machina ending throws a wet blanket over the whole thing. Gehenna showed some real skill and spirit, though, continuing her endearing run as a character.

“Heroes for Hire” #9 was not bad, a strange mix of sex and death in the Savage Land as SHIELD’s science division happily outsources its wetwork, unable to rely on internal resources (which seems the sort of thing Tony Stark would clean up with his relentless corporate bottom line watching, since these guys threw a mountain of cash at the problem). However, given the core McGuffin, one wonders “why now?’ and “Nextwave” fans are wondering how this adds up with what’s happening in State 51 …

Nostalgic fans will find a lot to gasp and coo about in “Justice Society of America” #5, which features appearances by characters gone from continuity like Jacques Foccart (not Jacques Foccart) and Wildfire (with an explanation that’s just dumb but you’re not supposed to care because … SUPERBOY PUNCH!). However, the actual story makes no sense, so it’s a less effective Pretty Cheerleader Comic in end analysis. It was nice seeing Dawnstar again, anyway.

If you like the work of Dick Wolf, you’ll like “Daredevil” #96, which shows the costumed persona in action almost as an afterthought, a diversion to let Matt Murdock think about what’s really going on, his pal Melvin the Gladiator essentially going nuts. The parts with Milla were intriguing, however, as her storyline seems to have some teeth to it, lingering in the periphery.

“Blue Beetle” #14 was all right, with a surprising team up with Guy Gardner (in his “lovable curmudgeon” role, not his “please kill this guy” mode … and really, didn’t he die, like, twice? Lanterns come back to life more than X-Men) and fighting the Ultra Humanite (who monologues an interesting explanation of some of his motivations), but the title character’s new Big Bad, Wolfram and Hart, er, The Reach are tricky. Nice nod to legacies at the end, though.

Finally, “Silent War” #4 gets positively Shakespearean as Black Bolt’s offensive against the US (and some of his own family) takes it up another notch after being rebuffed by a crazed Pietro Maximoff and a well-prepared Layla Miller. Very close … in retrospect, it should have gotten that “Daily Bugle” spot. Que sera sera …

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

You should really read “Wonder Woman” #8 before you read “Amazons Attack” #1 if you hope to have things make sense … but even then it’s an uphill climb. Wonder Woman is under arrest. Okay. Circe resurrects Hippolyta and tells her this. Interesting, but okay. Hippolyta somehow returns to the now extradimensional Themiscira and girds the she-warriors for war. Uh … okay. Astute fans will remember that DC wanted to have an “Amazons Attack” event as part of Infinite Crisis (alongside “Day of Vengeance” “Villains United” and so on, but couldn’t make it fit), and finally we have it. So Themiscira is at war with “Man’s World,” centering that war on the US. Okay. Sort of. Either you can go with it or you can cry “BS” … and these reviews would rather the latter. Plus, while we’re here, Diana doesn’t know how to pump gas or use a cell phone, but she knows that the Capitals are the hockey team in DC and that some players have bad teeth? Seriously? No.

Reading “Wolverine” #53 was like waking up naked next to Rue McLanahan — you know something happened to you, and that it wasn’t right, but you don’t exactly know what. Wolvie’s hallucinating, then he’s in Wakanda (which is suddenly awfully bad at security — riiiiight) and then … you know what? Let’s just move on.

“Action Comics” #848 had a lot more ambition than ability as it tangles with super powers and religion and international politics and murder and through all of that never really gets anywhere and makes Kal-El essentially ineffective in his own comic book. Can we cancel all of these and focus all resources on “All-Star Superman” (sorry you got that mixed up, Julian).

Speaking of the biggest fan of Cybertronians known by this column, “Transformers Spotlight: Kup” was intentionally ugly (really bad art) in a robot ghost story section that turned out to be a mistaken view of reality, as loyalty and peril come to odds with one another in an ultimately pyrrhic victory. Like getting a tooth pulled.

“New Avengers Illuminati Secret History” was a couple of reprints. If that’s your thing.

“JSA Classified” #25 was a done-in-one that tried mightily to make Alan Scott out to be this inspirational figure but ended up showing what an ineffectual waste he is. Johnny Mimic pops up from un-history and Father Time (he’s a Black guy now? How Ultimate Nick Fury — is this a different continuity than “Uncle Sam” or … SUPERBOY PUNCH!) pushes hard but despite the clever elements (Johnny Mimic would have been great for a running backup in “Detective”) fell apart as a whole.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

More “better” than “worse.”

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Let’s call it a clear win. Yay!

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