WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?
Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/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 books that are too good to not own) and the "read" pile (often huge, often including comics that are really crappy but have some value to stay abreast of). Thursdays (Diamond monopolistic practices willing), 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 22ND, 2007
The Immortal Iron Fist #8 (Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Despite that he's the flawless mix of a pirate and a ninja, Iron Fist has toiled in some pretty ... well, ghetto situations, even as a billionaire corporate raider. This issue showcases him in a purely martial arts scenario, with all the pageantry and pomp of a good kung fu movie. He's returned "home" to the mystical city of K'un Lun to fulfill one of the roles he has as the city's super powered champion. See, K'un Lun is just one of seven extradimensional cities and once every eighty eight years, they all converge and have a tournament between their "immortal weapons," a fight to the death to get their slot in the inter dimensional round table. Win big and you can connect to earth once every few years. Lose big and it could be generations before you see the green, green grass of yadda yadda yadda. Danny Rand has to toss aside all the dramas of his life, from extrahuman civil wars, Hydra trying to take over his company and so on. He has to fight. The people he has to battle all have cool names and mean reputations and it feels like you've stepped into a well-conceived Marvel-ized sequel of "Enter The Dragon." Fascinating, even though it has very limited action sequences.
Tony Bedard continues telling of the trip to Winath, where matter-eating lawyer Tenzil Kem, Star Boy, Sun Boy and the antagonistic Mekt Ranzz get into trouble that addresses that whole Dominator genocide business and changes the makeup of the main legion team while giving Mekt some surprises he surely didn't like. Plus, the seeds are planted for two bits of Legion history to return in much better explained fashions. Maybe not as thorough a vision of the new 31st century as Waid does, but pretty interesting.
World War Hulk: Gamma Files (Marvel Comics)
According to the files here, a lot of stuff that the Hulk was involved with before Tony, Reed, Bolt and Stephen shipped him off world were pretty dumb in a funny, nostalgic way. Take for example the Tribbitites from 1962's "Incredible Hulk" #2: "Using Kree designs, they created the artificial planet Tribbit (Toadworld) where their population grew to slightly over 5 billion. From there, the Tribbitites -- or Toad Men, as they came to call themselves (despite their reptilian rather than amphibious nature) -- built a minor empire by utilizing slaves from conquered worlds as labor to power the planet." Not only was somebody paid to write that sequence, but somebody was paid to come up with the craziness in the first place. Or try Kate Waynesboro, otherwise known as Ms. MODOK. How about the thirteen foot tall killer cockroach? Spinach, who made an ingestible spray from She-Hulk's blood? When you take this objective a look at the Hulk's past, going to war suddenly makes a whole lot more sense. Hulk smash, indeed.
Black Summer #2 (Avatar Press)
Jump from the Read Pile. You get another taste of exactly what the Seven Guns can do, and why (the black and white flashbacks work well) in a story that shows the evacuation of Tom Noir while the army moves in. This story blows things up like Michael Bay wishes he had the nerve to do, with Juan Jose Ryp showing such intricate carnage that it's only marginally legal in many states (Mark Sweeney's colors deserve some credit as well). Tense, claustrophobic stuff for the most part, with Warren Ellis at his misanthropic best, free to maim and kill and mutilate while tossing around the futurist concepts that make him so compelling to watch as a writer.
Jump from the Read Pile. It's never made clear who's captured Wolverine, or how it happened. What is clear is that a well-organized, clearly criminal organization has our boy in a pit with a 50 caliber machine gun aimed at him, which shifts of people fire often enough to keep his healing factor from allowing him to do what he does so well. But Logan has many weapons at his disposal, including an animal cunning that can sense vulnerability, and the careful application of that deadly tool made this well-crafted issue impossible to leave alone. A wonderful exercise in storytelling with the magnificent art of Mister Howard Chaykin to make it work, writer Jason Aaron leaves it all on the field in a done-in-one that really does make a case for Wolverine being the best there is at what he does. The epilogue doesn't add or detract anything from a wonderful standalone tale.
Gamekeeper #4 (Virgin Comics)
The hunter Brock keeps showing off his badass card as he gets closer and closer to the people who destroyed the carefully constructed retirement he was enjoying, dragging him back into the world of screams and bloodshed. Half flashback and half told in the present day, the character is fleshed out with great care by Andy Diggle's script, and Mukesh Singh's minimalist artwork is very effective.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
No complaints, solid across the board.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
If "Thunderbolts" #116 could have picked any two of the fascinating things happening to focus on -- Penance as Osborn's "personal Hulk," the problems with the Negative Zone prison, Mindwave's big show, the Steel Spider fallout -- it could have done a better job. As it was, too much was going on and there wasn't enough focus on any of it, teasing with great ideas and never following through.
Pacing was the problem for "Batman" #668, which is far too reverential and nostalgic for characters -- The Knight, for example -- who simply don't have enough cultural cache to be held in such regard. There's not enough data about who they are as characters to get that invested in them, and that weakness drags down the whole story -- one which still managed to be pretty darned entertaining on the strength of the Bat and the mysterious antagonist (who's rendered in a properly subtle manner).
A good framing device could have helped "Ultimate Fantastic Four" #45, which distractedly departs from reality in a far too fanciful fashion before making things work, showing that Ultimate Norrin Radd has a lot more in the cojones department than his 616 counterpart and presents Ultimate Psycho Man as a telepathic Caesar looking for a flock.
The unclear visual storytelling is taking advantage of some decent writing on "Green Lantern Corps" #15, which doesn't deal with the "City Vs. Planet" question addressed on the cover at all (why isn't Mogo involved in the stragegy and/or fighting -- all of a sudden did the staff remember "Mogo doesn't socialize" or what?) and sees the Lanterns taking it on the chin due to actual military strategy and overwhelming force.
The Frank Tieri-penned "World War Hulk: Gamma Corps" #2 was the biggest surprise of the week, with five characters depicted fairly well, doing a tolerably good job of looking at the consequences in living in a world with the Hulk. It's not distinctive enough to have bought, but it wasn't a bad read.
The new Aquaman in the desert was also a surprise in this week's "Outsiders Five of a Kind" issue. Chasing down corporate malfeasance by Simon Stagg in a Middle Eastern sandspot, he and Metamorpho (got Stagg? Gotta have Metamorpho) the much-maligned character decently accounts for himself.
The commando action of "Annihilation Conquest: Star Lord" #2 seemed sufficiently gritty, but even the deaths you can see here happened to less-than-riveting characters.
Quickly, Barda playing Pokemon is the best part of "Birds of Prey" #109, "Cable/Deadpool" #44 is a backdoor "Deadpool" series with an obvious joke played on almost everybody here, "Blue Beetle" #18 was cute and kooky with a Titans guest appearance (that doesn't make it a keeper) and "The Order" #2 had a derivative version of the problem from "Thunderbolts" #116 (neither the action, the antagonists or the character development were strong enough to say Marvel deserves money for this comic).
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
If Mister Terrific is really the third smartest man in the DCU, this week's "JSA Classified" #29 makes that look kind of unimpressive, given the grandiose fact that he learned here which will surely not make him look good. Made the whole rest of the issue seem wonky.
Speaking of smart guys acting dumb, Tony Stark seemed awfully easy to fool in "The Irredeemable Ant-Man" #11 in a way that was too spoilerish to reveal. However, in "Iron Man" #21, Stark also gets played like his name was Atari and even the relentlessly powerful Graviton is used as a pawn. Dumb.
"Superman" #666 was disappointing, an essentially throwaway issue introducing a character into Kal-El's life whose role is already adequately filled by any number of demonic Merlinspawn or what have you.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Quality beats indifference, so the week's a win.