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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 30TH, 2008

True Believers #1

True Believers #1 (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile.  Using undercover tactics, a subversive group of extrahumans exacts retribution on those who would use power wrongly.  Sounds cool, but not exactly new, right?  Well, when you add lines like the following, that changes: "But who expects a reach-around from a dwarf with a chloroform rag?" Toss in a big surprise in the guise of heroism, a non-functional URL and a kind of Smoking Gun for the powerful and dangerous, and another surprise in law enforcement and you've got a snarky, sneaky little tale that draws you in and keeps you close.  Despite the facial similarities, it's always a pleasure to see Mister Paul Gulacy's art and Cary Bates intricate script gives Gulacy plenty of room to shine.  Watch out, New Warriors, there's a new discreet super team in town!

Joker's Asylum: Two-Face #1

Joker's Asylum: Two Face #1 (DC Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile.  Again we delve deep into the fractured psyche of one of the Bat's adversaries and come up with a disturbing look in his mirror.  Through an elaborate means, Harvey comes face to face (to face to face) with what he could have been, a disfigured man seeking redemption instead of chaos.  This meeting, of course, ends up ... well, that would be telling.  Structured brilliantly by David Hine's mean spirited script (many of the "Asylum"s have been mean, and rightfully so) and drawn with great care by Andy Clarke, this is not as dastardly as the "Penguin" book last week, and has a much better literary device.  

newuniversal: 1959

Newuniversal: 1959 One-Shot (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile.  In taking a page from the Lex Luthor handbook, superhumans are bad news and a whole government apparatus has been established to make sure they never take over as the dominant species. Getting past the injection of a new Tony Stark into a new continuity, a lot of hard decisions are made, depicted by suitably period-themed art by Greg Scott and Cody Chamberlain.  While a reader new to the Newuniversal concept may not get jazzed about this, seeing a proto Justice at work is exceptional, as is figuring out who's who in other regards.  

Pilot Season: The Core #1

The Core #1 (Top Cow/Image Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile.  This book jumped based on two words alone: Jonathan Hickman.  With Kenneth Rocafort at his side, the new comics wunderkind is back with a sprawling tale of intergalactic intrigues and brutal combat reminiscent of the "Battletech" background material.  Using a young human as his perspective piece, humanity steps into the larger galaxy with intentions all over the moral map.  The catchphrase doesn't exactly roll off the tongue ("Failure is forever. So do not.") but in addition to a standard "Jonathan Hickman splash page (like a Spike Lee shot, a signature piece of his work, where tons of info get dumped in a smart and succinct fashion over two pages) and plus there's a mostly naked alien girl at one point, and she looks friendly.  The fans love that.  In the "Pilot Season" competition, this has got nothing on "Genius," but it's pretty good.

Black Panther #39

Black Panther #39 (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile.  You'd think somebody would learn.  Invasion force comes to Wakanda.  That never goes well.  The Skrulls want vibranium and T'Challa's got a plan (and a few surprises, including still wielding the Black Knight's sword and having his wife as an ace-in-the-hole).  A soon-to-be-retiring Skrull general has one last mission -- Wakanda -- before he can get out of the game for good.  Jason Aaron knows what he's doing in this well managed script, which never focuses too long on anything nor shorts any subject it's appropriate time. Admittedly, Jefte Palo's artwork could be a little less rough in the details department, but his composition and visual storytelling are solid.  This issue will suck you into the war if you give it even half a chance.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Nothing was guaranteed a ride home and five books made the cut?  That's fantastic!

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

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

"Blue Beetle" #29 was very close, a cute and funny story linking immigration and Intergang, giving Peacemaker a politically charged part time job and not showing a date between two supporting characters.  Not bad, but not really stepping it up to be very good either, just "okay."

"Thor" #10 was a good, if devious, book as a retcon of Norse myth was done in a way that wasn't so annoying (more on how it can be done badly with "Fathers" later), giving Loki a new trick to go along with her new gender and altering the structure of power in Asgard.  A little soap opera-ish, but not bad.  

Blue Beetle and Kid Devil were very Ben and Johnny in "Teen Titans" #61, with a big surprise from an old criminal organization and a fairly predictable rivalry going in a not-so-unexpected direction.  Like a CBS sitcom, it'll get you there reliably, even if not with much panache.

"Wolverine" #67 wasn't bad, with an alterna-future Hawkeye making a better show of himself than Logan (and the former is blind). It's more interesting to see what crazy future idea will be next -- ghost riders? Moloids eating San Francisco?  Spider-Man's granddaughter?  Hammer Falls? -- than for the actual road trip storyline.  

Bringing hope to people who've suffered and known oppression, a charismatic leader from a less-than-powerful area rises from relative obscurity to shake the power structure of the corrupt and incompetent ... what?  No, it's not time for a debate of the presidential politics of today, this is about "Reign in Hell" #1!  Satanus has remixed himself into an infernal Obama and Neron has a staff of susceptible sycophants.  Hell is stuck in a civil war and there's worry about it spilling over into the mortal world.  Not bad for a start, but the stakes seem very ethereal and not real, especially with the indistinct artwork showing for the demonic realm. 

The Heather Graham of comics (okay to look at, deathly dull in most active applications) may have finally found her niche, as "Ms. Marvel" #29 showcases her as little more than power, taking on Skrull hordes singlehandedly for the most part.  Weird to see Carol Danvers exhibiting something resembling "being interesting," but there it is.

Good quotes -- "A sultry-ghost-sorceress teleported me by reciting a 'De La' lyric ... I lost track of normal -- beat out unclear artwork (what's Union doing here, again?) in an okay issue of "New Dynamix" #5, with the last page clearly outshining the entire rest of the series.  

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

There was no order for "Contract" #1.  Sorry.

"Superman/Batman" #50 was a major accomplishment -- for a title to have been this continually crappy from almost its inception was one thing, but to top it all with a retcon so embarrassingly stupid that it even makes "Superboy Punch!" look like high literature ... that takes a special something.  What do they call the inspiration to commit crimes against humanity?  That's it, whatever that is.  Some would call this story a "Mopey," if you kick it old school that way.  One of the worst reads in months.

"Narcopolis" #4 stunk up the place, borrowing heavily from the Orwell handbook and tossing in drugs and sex for kicks.  The deflated conclusion to the mini could be said to set things up for a sequel, or could just be said to have petered out.  The art's pretty good, if pretty freaky at times, but it just doesn't get the job done with a story so tepid.

"Fantastic Four: True Story" #1 was a solid dose of "meh," because when the FF gets all meta textual (i.e. meeting "god" -- no) it never goes good.  Here, delving into the collective narrative consciousness ("the skein," for all you bleed fans worried that you'd get poached) they seek to stop Sue's depression.  Really, that's a lot of what the story's about.  The team interaction's okay, but this is a bad idea getting worse with every turn of the page.

The "Welcome home" line worked in "JSA Annual" #1, but some other things didn't, especially a late surprise (no) and the memory loss (very cliche).  Nice art and a good idea if the idea of the 52 earths negating the sacrifices of the first Crisis doesn't make your sphincter hurt.  

Dear "Project Superpowers" #5, when you said "sited in Amsterdam," what you meant was "sighted in Amsterdam," as they didn't erect a location there.  Please hire copy editors.  Oh, and please be less boring. K, thx, bye.

If you liked Dark Horse's "The End League," you might like "Wildcats" #1, which has a similar shtick (actually, so does the new "Spike" comic, and it shares a city with this title).  OTOH, the weird development of the ultimate "big bad" (which doesn't make any sense given that his final story, at the end of the universe ... oh never mind) turns on a dime (not in a good way) and many characters are peripheral -- Jeremy, you never get much of a chance to shine.  

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

A close contest, but even with the stuff too mediocre to get into ("Dynamo 5" #15, "Green Lantern" #33, "Skaar: Son of Hulk"  #2, et cetera) it went well.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Five jumps plus a decision in favor of the reads going well? That makes this a great week, and one that happened after the best San Diego Comic-Con ever!

NUMERICAL

There will be weekly updates on The Hundred and Four for the foreseeable future (read: "at least two months") with this week featuring a powerful new opinion-editorial by brilliant young talent Chinedum Richard Ofoegbu, while last week featured the calm wit of Rumond Taylor in "The Vanishing" with more to come next week and always a chance to get The Last Word from the team of writers, updated all the time.

Tags: black panther, true believers comic, newuniversal comic

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