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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 ...

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THE BUY PILE FOR AUGUST 13TH, 2008

Secret Invasion: Thor #1

Secret Invasion: Thor #1 (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile.  Matt Fraction is one talented guy.  Here, the balance of plot elements is absolutely perfect, the characterization is spot on (Loki was only on one page and was a star and supporting character Marie was really well realized for someone we've never seen before) and Doug Braithwaite's rough hewn artwork (with moody and effective coloring by Paul Mounts) manages both intimate moments and epic scale with seeming effortlessness.  The Skrulls may keep telling humans "He loves you," but their message for Asgard is considerably less friendly, with Beta Ray Bill making an appearance and the regulars of Asgard stumbling all over themselves like extras in a Jeff Foxworthy sitcom.  Thor's certain and smart, Balder's struggling and determined ... this is such a good comic, all the way around.  

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Transhuman #3

Transhuman #3 (Image Comics)

In the "Okay, that's just wrong" column, this issue spends a lot of time building up ... well, what it builds up ... wow.  Everybody loves a comic with monkeys in it, right?  Maybe not this time.  The monkeys who were subject to ChimeraCorp's genetic experience ... well, they're amok.  Really, extremely disturbingly so.  There's a one page splash panel that's really gonna haunt you.  It's ... yeah, that's not right.  Hilarious, but wrong in every possible way. Anyhoo, the "Spinal Tap" styled documentary is still mostly talking heads, but what they say is either intriguing or kooky, and that's entertaining.  Deeply weird but fun nonetheless ... just not for the meek of heart.  

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Chuck #3

Chuck #3 (Wildstorm/DC Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. Also, the cover seen here is not what was available at retail.  A third issue, a third continent to visit as Chuck and his cohorts chase down enemy agent Blaine and have something of a challenging time with it.  This leads to a walk down memory lane looking at Chuck's vexing college friend Bryce along with lots of shooting and punching and running, and even a cute Asian girl in a short skirt with a sword.  It feels like a page is missing after supporting player Paola says "I'll get that for you, Mister ... Carmichael" but the story as a whole is okay, buoyed by Chuck's charm (much like the show) and a fun backup story with a noir theme.  Not bad, and it was a light week, so maybe it got a leg up.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Pretty good for a start ...

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

It may surprise you to hear this, but "Secret Invasion" #5 almost made it home on the strength of its character work.  Clint Barton had a really defining experience, Agent Brand of SWORD really showed up for the job and the Skrulls broadcast world wide using a wide variety of familiar, if disturbing, faces (including Barack Obama, John McCain, Tony Stark, Kim Jong-Il and more).  Still, the actual events that happened here are just kind of pointless punching that doesn't do either side much good.  Agent Brand is most of what really happened here, and she needs some kind of visual remix so she's more distinctive.  

"Final Crisis: Revelations" #1 had some surprises for the reluctant Spectre, who goes after a number of familiar faces to give them the business.  An old surprise pops up thanks to the Religion of Crime and Doctor Light (the bad guy, not the Asian female) has his own disturbing Tiny Titans moment (ew).  It was atmospheric and moody, but didn't really seem to connect anywhere, as the Spectre had this big weird moment and just kind of moved on from it. Coincidentally, thanks to astute research done by third parties, it has been pointed out that "Final Crisis" shares elements of "JLA: Rock of Ages" that are disturbingly similar.  Three time traveling heroes overshoot their mark and land in a disturbing dystopia where Darkseid has control of the Anti-Life Equation and has taken over everything, making a world where evil won, then the heroes have to return to the present to fight against the inevitability of his rule.  Sound familiar?  There were some cool action figures from that "JLA" story, though ...

If you like shows like "Reaper" or "Saving Grace," you might find "Golly" #1 enjoyable, with a Larry the Cable Guy-styled sideshow mechanic getting picked by an agent of divine balance just because he happened to be standing in the right (or wrong) place.  The indifference of his nameless liaison has some comedy potential, and the craziness of his regular life has some possibilities.  It's a somewhat interesting start.

There's nothing overwhelmingly wrong with "Astonishing X-Men" #26, which has lots of clipped dialogue consistent with people who've worked together for years and a hard edge to Scott Summers that makes sense given the loss he's experienced in the last few years.  The antagonist they fought, however, is forgettable save one throwaway line about rudeness that could have been said by virtually any Warren Ellis-penned character in any book he writes and worked about the same.  Likewise, the stakes of this lawless land (which, by rights, is much more in need of regulation than the likes of Squirrel Girl or Cloud 9) seemed to get lost in the background.  

When you kill your enemies families, chop out their eyes and send them down like a hard rainfall, you're really learning how to send a message.  This horrifying scene from "Green Lantern Corps" #27 makes for a strange end to the "just another day on Oa" story with the opening of another Guy Gardner bar and grill as well as Lantern training.  Not bad, but not very coherent in its transitions or cohesiveness.

"Firebreather: The Series" #2 had some cute moments, and the title character's teen aged angst is pitched just perfectly.  However, the title character's just a bit too oblivious to everything going on around him, the story never really starts nor stops, and only his father stands out as a supporting character worth the name.  

Horror fans will probably find the atmospheric, moody "Hellboy: The Crooked Man" #2 enjoyable.  

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

It's also been pointed out that under the directive of Grant Morrison that every possible Batman story is now in continuity that the 1950s-era story "Batman -- the Superman of Zurr-En-Ah" is heavily affecting "Batman" #679 and its predecessors ... but why?  Sure, old stories are cool, but first Morrison riffs on himself to satisfy some crush on Darkseid and now he's kicking it old school?  In any case, if you can understand the delusional rantings of a purple Batman taking his advice from both Bat-Mite (seriously?) and a broken transistor he calls a "Bat-Radia" while everyone looks at him like "holy crap, he's really flipped out" then you might enjoy this issue.  You might also enjoy some LSD, it's hard to tell.  Moving on ...

Even with another all-star turn by Captain Britain, the Wanda Maximoff-styled ending in "Captain Britain and the MI-13" #4 was simply insulting and going further to isolate the UK from the events in the rest of the Marvel universe.  Sure, Captain Britain has now transformed into a cult figure of some inspirational value, but his supporting cast is less than impressive.  

Romance and talking teenage telepath gorilla commandos, paranoid government agencies and fighting a demon in two worlds, stolen souls and power fluctuations ... really, "Wonder Woman" #23 ... you just couldn't get it together, huh?

Despite Maximus doing a fairly impressive Dr. Gaius Baltar impersonation, "Secret Invasion: Inhumans" #1 didn't get the job done at all, as these supposedly evolved, scientifically excellent people are more clueless than the Young Avengers or the Runaways (who shared a book this week, not great but not bad) ... and that's saying a lot.  

In "Action Comics" #868, we finally meet the real Braniac ... and he's a surprise, all right.  Amidst retcons aplenty (Superboy Punch! Hyperflies!) this Galactus meets the Borg amalgam also apparently eats his Wheaties and has a mad on for all things Kryptonian.  Supes is defiant but ineffective, Cat Grant is major cougar-osity and Supergirl plays dumb better than Anna Faris ... wait, Supergirl's not playing?  Ooh.

Re: "Last Defenders" #6 -- please see "Agents of Atlas" #6 for the proper way to establish a new status quo that can be picked up later on.  A message in a bottle via time travel?  The Nighthawk "mystery" (which is more like "New Warriors" than anything else)?  No, sir, not working.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Almost a tie ... which ain't great, but it'll do.  

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Just good enough.

THE HUNDRED AND FOUR

Check out the updates from yesterday with weekly updates and daily microblogging via Twitter and Yahoo Pipes.  

Tags: secret invasion comics, transhuman comics, chuck comics

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