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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 JULY 16TH, 2008

Black Panther #40

Black Panther #33 (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. For all the power of his technologically advanced nation (all stymied by feedback on a weapon that disarmed the invading Skrull forces), the Black Panther is a man. A man who's stronger and faster and more agile and more coordinated than any Olympic athlete that ever lived, admittedly, but still just a guy. So when he's forced into single combat with a Super Skrull who combines the powers of Bullseye, Wolverine (sort of), Iron Fist and Luke Cage ... well, that's not exactly an easy row to hoe. So while the sons of his country fall around him (and that's very well handled by Jason Aaron's emotive script) T'Challa struggles for his life. His wife is off on a secret mission of his devising and the Skrulls press onwards, ever onwards, using every weapon at their disposal. The Danny Glover in "Lethal Weapon"-esque characterization from last issue is discarded in favor of concentrating on the title character, and that's a good move as Aaron's Panther combines the lethality and skill of Priest's depiction with the snark and panache of Hudlin's version. Well told, nicely done in a complete story arc and has an ending that leaves you wanting more.

Jack of Fables #25

Jack of Fables #25 (Vertigo/DC Comics)

Enough of all that grim-visaged western fare -- this title is back doing the things it does best. Ridiculous antics from the title character? Check. Sumptuous art? Thanks to Russ Braun, Jose Marzan and the Eisner-winning Steve Leialoha, that's all covered. HIlarity in flashbacks even while managing a genuine threat? Yup. This issue fires on all cylinders and has fantastic facial acting and visual storytelling. The actual events ... well, there'd be a spoiler if you knew what happened on page three, so suffice it to say that if you want fun, you're ready for this issue of "Jack of Fables."

Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge #2

Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge #2 (DC Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. The problem? The Rogues won't play ball with Libra's Secret Society of Super-Villains, and Libra needs "those who have spent their lives fighting the speedsters." The solution? Well, it sure as heck isn't a set of scab Rogues, given duplicates of the Rogues' powers by the Penguin of all people. This issue works on the strength of its characters. Captain Cold has an amazing sequence of scenes, Weather Wizard gets some great quotables, Mirror Master makes his presence known (loved the look in the Geordi La Forge visor and in the eyes) and Professor Zoom's just plain creepy. Well constructed and clear cut in what it's here to do, it's a bit of bad fun and one that holds up well on re-reading.

Legion of Super Heroes #45

Legion of Super-Heroes #45 (DC Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. This issue right here? This is what the Legion is about. Shooter hit this script out of the park (after some slack issues in the past) managing a huge cast and even huger stakes as "a planet with the mass of Saturn has appeared out of nowhere just beyond the orbit of Jupiter" and that's no good. Your high school physics may not have covered this, but the solar system is actually a pretty fragile balance of gravitational energies, and, oh, a new planet in the middle of the established order could cause ... well, everything to ... how did a thirty first century astronomer put it? The whole shebang could "be ejected into the void, collide, break up or plunge into the sun." While nihilists everywhere might perk up at such a concept, heroes tend to want to do something about this sort of thing, and just for fun, the whole thing is surrounded by "a quantum disruptor field at a distance of a million kilometers" that shredded recon drones "to quarks." There's no planet-pushing Kryptonians or Daxamites handy, so what do they do? The solution in this issue is great in terms of characterization and showing why the Legion matters in a future that sometimes doesn't play nicely with them. You'll find great looks at Ultra Boy, Braniac 5, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad and even Atom Girl. This is the way the future should be.

Blue Beetle #30

Blue Beetle #30 (DC Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. The parts are greater than the sum here, but it's still damned entertaining comics reading. Working hard at his hero shtick, Jaime tries to investigate some super-powered illegal immigrants while dealing with family and friend dramas. Watching him do battle with posthuman opponents ... and fitting in an educational lesson as well? That's good crazy. The ongoing concerns with his friend Brenda and her crime boss aunt keeps Jaime guessing while he even gets his own version of a running joke. Fun stuff even as two central elements -- the phone call and the last page -- don't really get resolved satisfactorily. Good stuff, though.

DMZ #34

DMZ #34 (Vertigo/DC Comics)

One thing happens in this issue. It's an important thing, admittedly, and one that will affect the series for years to come. But aside from that one thing (which some could argue almost happens off panel) there's just a lot of talking for the majority of this issue's pages. That's disappointing, a little, even though there's a gun-toting "West Wing" feeling to the talk. The end result's not bad, but it's not awesome either.

Marvel: Your Universe Saga

Marvel: Your Universe Saga (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. If a free comic book can't make the jump, well, that's just a problem. But this, alongside the multiple Twitter streams from its creators (who often name check one another -- continuity without if not always within, and yes, we're looking at you, Ajak, that's no "explanation"), shows part of why Marvel's winning the battle for mindshare (as evidenced by sales many months) as they go a long way to make the events of the last few years make sense in a simple form (as narrated by Uatu) and provide some useful OHOTMU entries (although the still-inexplicable landlocked nature of Wakanda, given that Deathloks marched in from the sea a couple of years ago and there's been tons of talk about the Wakandan Navy and coastline) that give some insight into the likes of Groot and the "true" history of James Buchanan Barnes. For the price, it's worth three times as much. 

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Five jumps? Sweet Georgia Brown, that's a good start!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

How exactly did the Skrulls outwit the likes of Reed Richards, Tony Stark and so on? You'll find out if you check out Hippie Avengers, er, "New Avengers" #44, which (fun fact) does not feature a single actual Avenger anywhere in its pages. Not a single one! Crafty in a way while still managing to make you go, "really? Is that what it took? Aw ..." A solid "not bad."

So you're Gog, walking around subequatorial Africa and spreading prosperity and healing and that's all well and swell until you run into one of the legacies of colonialism, the band of gun toting militiamen. After an issue or two of hand wringing over what would actually happen if this guy got mad, his actual response to it ... well, was almost mythical. When push comes to shove, though, a real change happens and ... well, let's say more people are worried about it than ecstatic. Slower than it needed to be, but interesting.

"Guerillas" #1 was an engrossing Vietnam war story ... that went completely wrong at the end. So if you'd like 95% of a really good war story, it's worth the money. Just don't read the last page or so.

The surviving members of the Skrull Kill Crew make a good impression (lethal and polite, who knew?) in "Avengers: The Initiative" #16, going old school with Triathalon. But for all the fun they have, there's not enough story to back up the exposition.

"Trinity" #13 was the best issue of this series yet, with Superman showing some real chops in single combat with the CSA while Ryan Choi plays in the big leagues (literally) and John Stewart plays it close to the vest, er, logo. Hawkman's characterization was okay in the backup story, but again, not enough going on there.

"Star Wars: Legacy" #27 was a nice bit of Sith trickery in a done-in-one that explores rarely seen corners of the "Star Wars" universe. But if you never saw this issue, you wouldn't really be missing anything.

"Reign in Hell" #2 needed to be a painted book. There, it's said. The series itself is not bad, with the struggle for power over the infernal realm bringing in lots of unusual allies for both sides, but the washed out coloring and everyday line work just don't service a struggle of these proportions. The hard choices here are effective even if the overall battle is hard to see and Neron seems ready to break out a fiddle while his battlements burn. 

The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to dis

Every week, lots of comics just happen. They may have merits, they may have problems, but overall they lack enough importance to merit either honorable mention or derision. Any interest in just seeing those listed? Let us know.

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

Re: "She-Hulk" #32. Wow, getting over your paralyzing whininess and navel-gazing angst by rediscovering yourself in combat against the Skrulls? That's a lackluster bit of characterization ... or at least it was in "Ms. Marvel" #29, which had a really similar plot in many ways without having Jazinda's wackiness along for the ride. De -- wait for it -- ... nied.

"DC Universe: Last Will and Testament" is dull. Nothing bad -- Geo-Force gets some nice moments, as do some other characters -- but it's still dull overall. Really, really dull.

"Immortal Iron Fist" #18 was too zippy in its pacing and its central antagonist is, frankly, a bad idea. Especially that head thing, what the heck is that? Ew ...

"Secret History of the Authority: Hawksmoor" #6 went completely, irrevocably off track, jamming in tons of disparate story elements, never even showing the female character who's become so important to the story, and then having some hard to decipher fight scenes to boot. A great disappointment given some of the miniseries' earlier issues.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

More good than bad ... that's good.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Any week with five jumps ought to get automatically called a winner ... and while that may always not be true, this week wins nonetheless! Yay, it's always great to have a great week loving comics!

THE HUNDRED AND FOUR

New mind-twisting science fiction this week from Chinedum Richard Ofoegbu, and on every single Wednesday you'll find some of the most innovative writing on the web. So go'on and get some!

Tags: black panther, jack of fables, final crisis comic

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