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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 and Jason) 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 (except this week, because a Hawaii incident with Continental Airlines being very dumb) … which goes something like this …

THE BUY PILE FOR MAY 14TH, 2008

Other Realms Comics in Honolulu

NOTE: This week’s reviews are late. Sorry. This is because the writer was in Hawaii, and had a major travel snafu. That part’s not important.

What’s important is the amazing amount of help delivered by Honolulu’s Other Realms Comics located on Ala Moana Road (actually inside the Ward Warehouse shopping center), which allowed this column to come and hog up some floor space and read comics. As well, they have one of the biggest gaming nights anywhere, with forty to sixty people showing up every Monday to dominate two conference rooms and play every sort of game you’d expect to get from a comics shop (Warhammer, Heroclix, et cetera). The staff is very friendly and very helpful, and the store is gorgeously appointed. So thanks to everybody at Other Realms, who made this column possible.

All-New Iron Manual

The All-New Iron Manual (Marvel Comics)

The most surprising thing about this new handbook is knowing exactly how many people Tony Stark has personally killed. Even for a billionaire industrialist, who are a breed of human likely to have broken a good number of eggs in making omelets. The body count is inexact — “tore Wong-Chu’s camp apart” isn’t very specific, so maybe nobody died from that, but Kevin O’Brien, Sergei Kotznin, the Kree Supreme Intelligence, Rita DeMara, Mallen … wow. Sure, some were “accidents” or “external control,” but the sheer number of dead people with a monogrammed Stark demise is staggering. Also fun is how many times his genius has led to things going awry, from the car crash where he met Happy Hogan to the LMD that usurped his identity to taking so long to find a way to not have a piece of metal in his chest. Of course there’s the long string of romantic entanglements, but that’s common to any life. The best sentence of all, however, is this one: “He befriended a pregnant woman named Gretl Anders, a regular drinking partner.” You can’t beat that kind of comedy. Sure, there’s other entries, but the Iron Man one alone is just plain awesome. This is a great informational resource that — in some small way — explains that Tony Stark’s only actually smart in very specific ways and kind of doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing most of the time.

It should be also noted that this seems like it was put together in quite a rush. The Maya Hansen entry, for example, talks about her starting with Genetech twice. There’s typos and several entries retell the same events but it’s still darned entertaining and informative.

Casanova #14

Casanova #14 (Image Comics)

The big reveal here is nothing you’d have expected. It’s so … there’s no way to even talk about it without potential spoilers. But this issue is the culmination of so much in this storyline, so many things that seemed like throwaway moments come back and leave you “a-ha”-ing. The emotional complication at the end with Kubark is riveting … it’s like an episode of a really good TV show that really takes off. You know, like when “Battlestar Galactica” made sense. A fantastic conclusion to this story arc.

DMZ #31

DMZ #31 (Vertigo/DC Comics)

Matty’s mom is coming to town … and she’s a kingmaker. You learn a lot about who Matty is through his relationship with his parents, and Momma Roth’s on the side of political wunderkind Parco Delgado. Everybody and their mom is worried about Parco, and nobody can say specifically why. This issue has a fascinating bit of journalism, an argument with a girlfriend and the ever present threat that makes the DMZ as fascinating as it is. A good issue in a storyline that’s taking off.

Transhuman #2

Transhuman #2 (Image Comics)

It’s all about the money where the killer monkeys are back (hilarious) and really smart people make desperate deals for a stake in the future. In this alterna-future tale, two companies are at the forefront of human possibility, and this issue talks about taking the big step and how much cash it’ll take to get there. Super powers for all … with just a few casualties along the road (and as Tony Stark showed us a few reviews ago, sometimes in business people have to die). It would have been better if the text on the page for Humonics Can-Hand was a little bigger (hard to read even if you hold the page very close to your face) but this is fascinating work.

Thunderbolts #120

Thunderbolts #120 (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. There’s a simple reason why this issue was purchased: Norman Osborn. “There’s a space monster and a mad swordsman loose in the base — shall we trust the huge security complement and the team of superhumans to deal with it? Oh, no. Let’s make a complete dog’s breakfast of the whole operation. So Norman has to clean things up. I’m a fricking martyr to my own innate heroism. Norman Osborn, America’s last hero. That’s what I am. One day I’m going to run this country. And do you think anyone will appreciate me then? Of course they won’t. Of course they won’t. It’ll be ‘Mister President Osborn sir, I don’t have the strength to take out my garbage. Could you do it for me?’ That’s what it’ll be like.” He literally goes on like this for pages before doing something really fun and crazy (which is no surprise if you read the “Reason in Madness” one shot). There’s so much amok hilarity here that this issue had to come home. It’s delightful in all the wrong ways, and that’s fantastic.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Great week of comics.

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

“Batman” #676 was interesting with Bruce’s secret in the hands of his latest lady love as Robin worries about the details and a conspiracy looms. A little more meat on the bones of this story would have been a winner.

“New Universal Shockfront” #1 was also interesting, with a clear delineation of what everybody’s doing in this … well, “story” isn’t quite right, but “continuity” seems too big … ah well. In any case, the regular big ideas and big talk go by in a rush without very much happening, which is fun but not fun enough to spend money on.

Speaking of convoluted, “Booster Gold” #9 was but still managed to be pretty good while perfectly showing the desperation of once fun people (the Giffen-DeMatteis League in an alternate timeline where Max Lord never got whacked and can hang with J’onn as a telepath). But there’s so much going on in this whirlwind of characters and locations that it could use a little calming down.

Captain Britain manages a moment of being inspirational in “Captain Britain and MI-13” #1, with a newly taciturn Pete Wisdom dealing with a lot of Skrull combat in the UK. The Black Knight’s become pretty funny, Spitfire’s gone a bit Naomi Campbell and all hell’s breaking loose … which ain’t bad, but ain’t quite “ooh, I’ll be rereading this six times” good like, say, that “Thunderbolts” issue.

“Gamekeeper Series 2” #3 had one of the most thrilling chases you can format for the printed page but got a little too “Empire Strikes Back” with one story element and keeps making the Soccer Club get more and more nondescript.

“Secret Invasion Fantastic Four” #1 was actually pretty good … except that it makes humans seem really dumb, even Marvel’s first family. Ben comes off as the most capable character here, as Johnny deals with old business, Sue gets a surprise and Reed’s nowhere to be seen. The Skrulls are taking a page from the Cylons of a few years ago — they have a plan, and the hints of it are fascinating, more so than some of what’s happening with the plot.

The moments of “Green Arrow Black Canary” #8 are better than the actual story itself (again) with great art and a nice scoundrel along for the ride. The reveal at the end was just weird — where’s that guy been? — and none of this is getting where the story claims it wants to be.

You could say similar things about “Guardians of the Galaxy” #1, which again manages to make Rocket Raccoon work (alongside that darned Russian telepathic space dog) with a very “made for television” feel to it and a good rush of action to start. Like “New Universe Shockfront,” this isn’t quite $3 worth of good, but it’s good.

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

There was nothing bad enough to really say “ick” … which hasn’t happened in so long it’s hard to even fathom it.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Wait, really? Nothing bad enough to hate? That’s a shocker.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

No comics in the “No, just … no …” category is a victory in and of itself, but paired with some rather good comics to buy and read? That’s wonderful.

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