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ONE YEAR LATER …

It was just about one year ago that The Buy Pile made its debut on CBR after a lengthy run on a New York based web site and some time on the late lamented Spinner Rack as well (with origins going back to the second generation Next Planet Over). It is with great humility and gratitude that we continue to provide unsolicited opinions, unfettered vitriol and chance glances at wonder. Unlike a certain flag-themed dead man, there will be no surrender here, and this writer’s wearing high impact resistant kevlar. With no further ado, let’s get into CBR Buy Pile: Year Two …

WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/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 MARCH 7TH, 2007

Squadron Supreme: Hyperion vs. Nighthawk #3 (Marvel Comics)

This just gets better — Hyperion keeps getting his butt handed to him by the previously non-extrahuman Nighthawk and therefore agrees to help do something in the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur. Given the ridiculous level of power at his command, he figures this should be a few pointed threats, a few shows of power and he’ll be home in time to catch “Jeopardy.” Ah, but things are much more complicated in post-colonial sub-saharan Africa, and Nighthawk’s knowing grin mocks the much more powerful Mark Milton at every turn. Then, just for fun, it gets much, much worse as some of the only people to ever really thoroughly kick Hyperion’s butt (before) show up, and they’re not happy. Intricate, literate, fascinating — why does this mini have to be almost over? Marc Guggenheim’s razor sharp script is made so much more brutal by Paul Gulacy’s perfectly toned art (and solid coloring choices by John Rauch).

Dynamo 5 #1 (Image Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. Jay Faerber is the master of the last page plot twist, and this intro issue is no exception. A Martian Manhunter-level superhero happened to have a weakness for the ladies, and this led to five powerful scions running around with no idea of who they really are. But the hero himself bit the dust between the thighs of an assassin named Widowmaker over in the pages of Faerber’s “Noble Causes,” so it’s time for a spin off as those five love children take it to the streets, each apparently (it’s hard to tell) having one of the late hero’s powers (laser vision, super strength, flight, telepathy and shape shifting). The characters are not exactly fleshed out — code names are clear for just a few, and the actual team members seem like they could have shown up from central casting — but the deeply interesting surprise at the end casts the whole project in another light, one worth paying attention to.

Planetary Brigade: Origins #2 (Boom! Studios)

Nobody can mix dialogue and action like Giffen and DeMatteis, and here the entire issue is framed by bickering by a recently repentant super villainess and a sassy drunken alien (think Roger on “American Dad” with super-telepathy), debating the “truth” of an encounter from their past. There’s no fewer than four solid laughs here and probably a dozen chuckles, as well as some whimsical superhero action along the lines of the duo’s seminal “Justice League” run. The core of the argument is how bad “bad guys” really are, with fairly hilarious results. Great fun to read.

Shazam: Monster Society of Evil #2 (DC Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. You can immediately see the humor when you see that Dr. Sivana has been named Attorney General and rocks the pithy quote, “You have my personal assurance that the Department of Technology and Heartland Security will go through the credit accounts of every citizen until we find something suspicious!” Jeff Smith perfectly balances the threats at hand (they ate the Great Carlini! Oh, Osiris …) with the whimsical elements (best explanation of Tawky Tawny ever) and a surprisingly effective emotional content (“… sister …”) as the neophyte Captain struggles with power greater than his own and a surprise he can’t even begin to fathom. Fun stuff, well written and drawn, and worth even the hefty price tag to finally get this property done the right way.

Newuniversal #4 (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. Like a good episode of “Heroes,” this one has lots of answers. “This is a paradigm shift. The universe sends a Justice to maintain order. A Cipher, for the technological leap. A Nightmask, for the consciousness shift. And a Starbrand, for defense.” Okay. Lots of talk with a doofus like Ken Connell (which is useful story-wise, because it makes the expository dialogue seem much more logical) while the Nightmask in question learns some annoying things about the flyover states while mastering her powers. Ellis’ brilliant script is using the bare bones from the original New Universe project with great skill, but one wonders how the likes of DP7 or Psi-Force or *shudder* Kickers, Inc. will fit into this brave new world. Challenging, but fascinating, like a sexy physics professor.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Three jumps? Go Buy Pile, it’s your birthday, go Buy Pile, it’s your birthday …

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

“Mighty Avengers” #1 was actually pretty good, with a lot of fantastic banter as a new team is picked (i.e. doing what Metzler did recently in “Justice League of America” but making it interesting), some great characterization happens and the final page introduces a very fun surprise. The problem is that many of the characters — most notably Simon Williams back in his “I’d fight Mole Man but I’m late for martinis with Hef” outfit — just not being very compelling. Ares could grow up to be somebody, though, with a nice quote about the war that echoes the sentiments of the Eternals.

“Star Wars: Legacy” #9 was close to making the cut, with treacherous turns of plot from nearly everybody as the Skywalker bloodline once again vexes the great and mighty. However, the characters are so thin that no matter how insightful the plotting, it’s hard to care.

“Midnighter” #5 was almost able to overcome the three issues that preceded it, with an interesting theory of 96th century sexuality, a surgery you surely won’t see on prime time television and an amazingly mean (and entertaining) conclusion. Almost.

“Phonogram” #5 made some significant improvements by not making its internal vocabulary more accessible but by actually making it even harder to discern for the lay person, finding itself wholly comfortable in talking about musical groups like Oasis and Blur as if they were divinity manifested on earth. Under the surface there’s some fairly smart cultural criticism and even if you don’t understand what’s happening, there’s some nice moments you can feel.

“Scalped” #3 would have been a Buy Pile issue with less muted coloring and less muddy art work, as the shoot out that opened the issue was virtually impenetrable … and that was the interesting part of the issue.

“Criminal” #5 came to a grim, bloody and fitting ending, but it had no surprises, no moments of revelation and no ultimate raison d’etre beyond showing that bad things often happen to virtually everybody. Which could be discovered just as easily by watching the news. An accurate but not enticing crime story finished with skill, though.

Last week, the complaint that nothing was really resolved, and this week “52” #44 brings the pain as the Black Marvel Family is put on notice by “the stare of Azraeuz the Silent King” (which just sounds cool) as a new Monster Society of Evil appears by way of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse (not the Marvel ones, though). Mean and surprising as it brings Black Adam back to his roots and shows that redemption is not for everybody — sometimes you’ve gotta be the villain of the story. Close but weakened by three lackluster characters and a goofy interlude with Renee Montoya.

“Authority” #2 got all earth prime as the team is stuck on a powerless world and running on fumes. Not bad, but didn’t really go anywhere either.

Average art kept the potentially heavenly “Helmet of Fate: Zauriel” one shot from (pardon the pun) taking off, as the alien environments looked about as realistic as if Captain Christopher Pike were walking around. It was good to see the angel not only doing the work of his old employers but being such an interesting piece to the DCU puzzle, though.

“Civil War: The Initiative” #1 was at least one third “trailers” for other comics and features one of the dumbest ideas ever at the core of the new “Omega Flight” (a dumb idea with an American-named hero at the center of a Canadian team — why even pretend 616 Canada has a government, it’s just Minnesota: The Sequel). But to its credit, it’s very pretty and it had a very fun and very mean Thunderbolts interlude as well as a huge possible spoiler for the news story everybody’s talking about.

The love story at the end of “Outsiders” #46 was far more interesting than the prison drama at the core of the issue, but it really hit all the right notes and has as its strength fairly new and intimate take on things for mainstream comics.

The Voodoo-centric story at the start of the wildly late “Worldstorm” #2 was very good, but the Savant/Jet team up didn’t seem to connect.

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

Much has been made in the news media (and even on the front page of this web site) about the events in “Captain America” #25, and the actual issue was sold out by 2PM at Comics Ink, as “civilians” came in and bought ten copies at a time, believing foolishly that it was suddenly 1993 again. The actual issue in question is a sappy, overwrought and melodramatic slow burn with a less-than-compelling fight scene and one dramatic turn at the end that could be considered mildly interesting at best. By the way, could we get a forensics report on the gun that penetrated chainmail that shrugged off assault rifle rounds for decades?

Keeping things in the same vein, the mediacentric ending of “Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters” #8 was an interesting gambit, but to have taken eight issues to get there seems a bit circuitous.

“Public Enemy” #3 is starting to tread water, with fantastic elements being introduced without explanation, weakened further by the muted colors and indistinct art. This one should be better.

The annoying fact that “Fantastic Four: The End” #6 featured nothing of the sort is enough to toss it away, but the climactic fight — iteration 12,308,293,490 of the same — was so retrograde as to have the comic seem like it should have been priced 60 cents.

“Strongarm” #1 … don’t we already have “Witchblade?” How can you be less interesting and less clear than that? Or is that the gauntlet from “She-Hulk?”

Gah Lak Tus rebooted in “Ultimate Vision” #3 generated some genuine narrative tension, but the … are they AIM or Hydra? Doesn’t matter. Anyway, they mad science types are boringly corporate and what was up with those “monsters” that appeared? Eh.

Alien pride … with the Batman as one of its advocates? No, “Superman/Batman” #32, no!

They sure took their own sweet time getting anywhere on “Fantastic Four” #543. Sure, it’s the team’s 45th anniversary, but this was a limp celebration of it, with the actual narrative reveal not even surprising given the proliferation of preview images.

When the quotes are more interesting than the actual current story (flashbacks weren’t bad), you know “Atom” #9, the little title that should, is in trouble.

As with the debut issue, “Dark Tower: Gunslinger Born” #2 would work in an Absolute edition with the original text, because the artwork just isn’t conveying the urgency and dread from the original text as well as King’s narrative. The Maerlyn’s Rainbow supplement was interesting, however.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Kind of painful, but just a stinging sensation, not anything serious.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

The first anniversary of the Buy Pile on CBR ends up as a wash — Even Stevens, as it were — and all accounts are clear as we head into Year Two.

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