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WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/karaoke host/jackass) goes to a comic book store called Comics Ink in Culver City, CA (Overland and Braddock — hey Steve, Jason, Vince and Sally) and grabs a whole lotta comics. These periodicals are quickly sorted into two piles — the “buy” pile (a small pile most weeks, comprised of planned purchases) and the “read” pile (often huge, often including comics that are really crappy but have some value to stay abreast of). Thursday afternoons (Diamond monopolistic practices willing, and yes, it used to be mornings, but management asked for it to slide back some), 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 NOVEMBER 5TH, 2008

NOTE: Yeah … having a better job with more money has made this column a bit more forgiving. But not by much.

Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel #1

Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel #1 (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. Why did this comic make it home when so many others didn’t? Here’s the top five reasons: 1) The Sentry has the power of a million exploding suns … and he’s totally getting his face handed to him on the opening pages. Nice. 2) “Just how powerful is he?” “He’s been in outer space. He helped us out with that meteor. The science boys say that rock was easily the size of Arkansas. No exaggeration.” 3) Yes, The Blue Marvel was rocking the biker pants in 1962. Bold choice, sir. 4) You have to admit you’re curious about what’s in all of Anti-Man’s belt pouches. You can go toe to toe with the Sentry and Ares … what are you carrying around? 5) “The world’s afraid of you, Mr. Brashear. They have visions of a vengeful, super powered negro taking over the world.” Perfect. It gets better the more you read it, and if art team Mat Broome, Sean Parson and Alvaro Lopez could get the level of detail they have on Anti-Man’s grimaces to proliferate out to the faces of less distinguishable supporting characters (that war room scene didn’t pop visually) this would be muy caliente. Sure, it’s weird for another crazily powerful character to pop up from Marvel’s past, but it’s done way better than the Sentry’s intro to fandom.

Gigantic #1

Gigantic #1 (Dark Horse Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. Smarter than your average giant robot comic, this posits Mojoverse sensibilities over Douglas Adams concepts and breaks most of San Francisco in the process. The plot is king here, as characterization happens, but solely to push the plot along — which is a good thing. The action scenes are a little hard to parse out in some places (perhaps some different coloring choices from Matthew Wilson) and didn’t convey the scale like the cover did. The writing is solid, though, and this is interesting especially to fans of the “giant everything” heydeys of yesteryear.

House of M: Civil War #3

House of M: Civil War #3 (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. Had the actual crossover been this interesting, it might have been a whole new world. Assassins are the MVPs as Magneto takes Genosha and starts playing the game of brinksmanship, which he considers all … too … slow. His relationship with Chuck Xavier takes some turns as body counts stack up and the Winter Soldier turned out about the same without any apparent Soviet influence. This issue works because of its relentless drive towards the events we know must happen, making meetings in Wakanda, Attillan and Atlantis all the more significant, and the surprise ending is just the sort of “ooh” moment that can be turning points for characters. Interesting to watch.

Top 10 Season Two #2

Top 10: Season Two #2 (America’s Best Comics/Wildstorm/DC Comics)

Extradimensional law enforcement professional Slipstream Phoenix keeps wowing the co-workers as Irma Geddon struggles with moving on, Shock Headed Pete keeps flying off the handle and another new rookie has everybody wondering how things are gonna work. More of the teensy in-jokes we’ve come to enjoy in the original series are beginning to creep their way in, an interesting hostage situation takes place and more happens at just the right pace. Fine work.

The Invincible Iron Man #7

The Invincible Iron Man #7 (Marvel Comics)

“Finally, some action! And a classic team-up that hearkens back to the good old days of yore, I might add!” Spider-Man tells this series’ title character, who ends up playing exasperated straight man to the more whimsical and free-wheeling web-slinger. Along the way, butt is kicked, rescues are made and Stark shares a fascinating ideological conversation with his former protege. It’s not entirely clear why Iron Man doesn’t just arrest Spider-Man, but he forges ahead and the results are a good time. Not “War and Peace” of course, but this is a good piece of entertainment with a powerful ending.

Secret Six #3

Secret Six #3 (DC Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. The dialogue here is superb, from Junior’s admonitions (hammocks?) to the Tarantula playing like Balveda in “Consider Phlebas.” The backstory is balanced nicely, as is Catman’s recurrring dream, and the ultimate McGuffin everybody wants is really something worth having. Funny, mean where it needed to be, smart and well plotted — fine work from the whole team.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Four jumps? Not a single clunker in the batch? That’s great!

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

“Final Crisis: Resist” #1 was close, a claustrophobic tale of Checkmate’s last line of defense, fighting guerilla style under Mister Terrific like he was Saul Tigh. Snapper Carr, agent of Checkmate was a weird surprise, but if we can turn Bucky into the Winter Soldier, why not? Lots of deaths here, a serious fighting force fielded, but it all seemed like the part of a pilot episode before the first C-break. Let’s see something soon.

“Avengers Inititiative Special” was best with its lead story, a complicated tale of love and betrayal in the City of Sin, well told but ultimately involving characters that didn’t leap off the page at you. Trauma’s backup story answered some questions but didn’t do anything for him.

“Transformers Spotlight: Blurr” did well to establish the celebrity culture on Cyberton and show some of the lives of the mechanoids before it was all about gunfire. The problem came when it was time for the title character to have a moment of clarity and change his mind, which played too … well, fast (no pun intended), so it fell flat and sapped resonance from the more interesting interplay.

“El Diablo” #3 was another improvement showing that power shared isn’t all these men to the table, as DC’s organized crime gets a major makeover and vengeance is served piping hot. Tighter plotting this time, more characterization … at this rate, this comic could be somebody!

The “Meh” Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title

“Ultimatum” #1 (great disaster coverage, but the issue has many similarities with the far better “House of M: Civil War” but goes too … damned … slowly …), “Odd Squad” #3, “Trinity” #23 (you meant “news team” instead of “new steam,” and the backup space’s just not working), “Dynamo 5” #18, “Terra” #1, “Kull” #1, “Adventure Comics Special featuring The Guardian” #1 (not so good for the Jango-ing), “Cable” #8, “Dragonlance: Legends — Time of the Twins” #3, “Vixen: Return of the Lion” #2 (not as good as the debut issue with too much on the flashbacks), “Gemini” #3, “Terror Titans” #2, “Daredevil/Captain America: Dead On Arrival,” “Supergirl: Maelstrom” #1.

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

Uh … what the heck happened in “Youngblood” #6? Care to find a point and stick to it, maybe?

“Authority” #4 is almost like what it’d be like to follow the crew of one of those ships from “The Matrix” sequels when there was no threat to them and they had nothing to do. Getting in fights that are dumb, getting played, and still having old business to deal with. Yawn city.

According to “Justice Society of America” #20, the universe expands and contracts every 38 billion years, and the multiverse uses the same schedule, but just shows up late. Yeah, so what? All this Infinite Crisis-inflected legacy blah blah and a powerful elder god is back on earth, twiddling his thumbs. Great idea. Not.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Mostly “meh,” but not bad.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

A solid win for the week with not so much awful material to drag it down.

THE BUSINESS

Got a comic you think should be reviewed in The Buy Pile? If we get a PDF of a fairly normal length comic (i.e. “less than 64 pages”) by no later than 24 hours before the actual issue arrives in stores (and sorry, we can only review comics people can go to stores and buy), we guarantee the work will get reviewed. Physical comics? Geddouttahere. Too much drama to store with diminishing resources.

Furthermore, as if this reviewer here wasn’t obnoxious enough with his opinions, he’s part of an effort to teach writers about how to do the work at The Hundred and Four, where this week has both a new movie review and a scintillating debate between two unexpected perspectives on this week’s election. New content is posted every Wednesday.

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