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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 AUGUST 6TH, 2008

Jack of Fables #24

Jack of Fables #24 (Vertigo/DC Comics)

The criminal career of Jack comes to an interesting apex as Bigby Wolf tracks him into the wild west in the year 1883. The cover's something of a spoiler, but the story's solid and the violence is entertaining in an issue that takes itself seriously but finally starts to get some of the sardonic wit that made the series such a delight. There's no point in once again harping on the enjoyable artwork and coloring of Tony Akins, Jose Marzan Jr, Russ Braun and Daniel Vozzo -- the high water mark this visual team has established will long be remembered. It's almost something people take for granted, as it shows up reliably, issue in and issue out. It'll be good to return to the present day and the ongoing storyline next issue.

Criminal Volume 2 #4

Criminal Volume 2 #4 (Icon/Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. You can almost hear the strains of Colin Hay singing "Overkill" -- "I can't get to sleep/I think about the implications ..." Jacob's a night owl in the worst way, and he goes out late at night, looking for nothing and getting a very interesting surprise. To say much more would spoil a great deal, but this well constructed noirish tale is enjoyable and goes in just deep enough to give a thrill without making you wallow in the horror of the human condition. Good stuff.

Special Forces #3

Special Forces #3 (Image Comics)

You're not hallucinating, and there isn't a sign of that lost issue of "Battle Chasers" coming soon, but Kyle Baker's sneaky anti-war series delivers the cheesecake (in major servings), while mixing a healthy serving of the atrocities of the modern battlefield as well (there are some seriously messed up things in this issue). There are also some elements that will have you going, "wow, that guy's freakin' crazy!" Very entertaining ... if only the next issue could happen in less time than a presidential campaign.

The Invincible Iron Man #4

The Invincible Iron Man #4 (Marvel Comics)

This is a good issue. Tony and Pepper struggle with the technology keeping her alive while Tony and Maria Hill bicker like a weird brother-sister combo. Meanwhile, Zeke Stane is intent on arming half the kooks and wackjobs in the world with repurposed Stark tech ... but a set of chess games with Reed Richards turns out to be revelatory and moves things along quite well. While not as pulse pounding as some of the previous issues, it's damned good.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Pretty damned good.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

Speaking of Tony Stark, "Iron Man: Viva Las Vegas" #2 was entertaining but -- again -- paced far too speedily as Elsa Bloodstone (showing none of the wackiness she evinced in "Nextwave: Agents of HATE") shows up to provide expository dialogue while an old villain gets a visual upgrade (nice work, Adi Granov). Not bad, but still too much of a quickie.

"The Sword" #10 had a couple of nice twists (especially the ending) but with its chase scene essentially dominating the issue didn't leave much room for character work. That last splash was effective, though.

"Fathom" #1 was -- aside from having a touching tribute to Michael Turner -- refreshingly direct, avoiding ominous voiceovers via caption boxes for dialogue between characters (which was admittedly expository in spots, but not in a bad way) and doing a fairly good job of establishing who was who and what was happening. With some plot twists and some snappier patter between characters, this could go somewhere.

"NYX: No Way Home" #1 was very good at establishing mood and ambiance and less so in actually making most of the characters resonate. A slightly intriguing parenthetical tale set in the side streets of Marvel's New York City, it wasn't bad.

At least the depiction of ancient Egyptians was accurate in "Hawkman Special" #1, and the idea of "The Aberrant Six" as noted by Count Abyss, er, The Nameless (sorry, very similar shtick) but his identity-go-round didn't ring true, whining like he was Power Girl.

If you like Skrulls, watching them kill normal humans in "Secret Invasion: Front Line" #1 might be your thing. A note here at the Buy Pile offices claims that this column always loves to see Skrulls winning, no idea what that's about ...

"Nightwing" #147 played much like a level on a video game as the title character gets a mission from an unexpected source and works to fulfill it. Which ain't bad, but it's far from "ooh, gotta see what happens here" as the McGuffin here is a cipher and the outcome less than important.

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

Re: Final Crisis #3 -- seriously, WTH? Snippets and vignettes with something all-too-unclear happening in Bludhaven, a draft for capes and masks and Mary Marvel looking like a fetish fantasy ... at least you find out something about Libra, and there's a bit about a delivery system that's not all bad.

Speaking of WTH, "Hulk" #5 ... what? First of all, that's not in any remote way how Mjolnir works, so unless you've got Superboy punching continuity or Red Hulk's got some serious and heretofore unseen magic floating around him, the central "outsmarting" is kind of dumb. Moreover, that team-up at the end? How in the name of pie could that assemblage of headcases get along well enough to go into the field with dumb green Hulk anyway?

The teaser at the back of "Rest" #0 was better than the content inside the book, which needed to pick up the pace by a factor of two. At least.

Finally, a flirting female gorilla in a metal bodice? No, "Trinity" #10 ... just ... no.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

More good than bad, and even with the real screwy moments, nothing that leaves that bad a taste in your eyes.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

How about "yay!" for a week that wins by a nose?

THE HUNDRED AND FOUR

... was updated this week with a hard hitting new opinion-editorial, along with the daily Twitter posts and blogs you've come to know and love. Updated at least every Wednesday.

Tags: invincible iron man, jack of fables, criminal comic, special forces

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