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 1ST, 2007
Jump from the Read Pile. After the non-stop deluge of destruction from last issue (to be fair, there was plenty of it in issue #1) "Thunderbolt" Ross has a few million adamantium rounds of ammunition and a few thousand of his closest pals to shoot at the Hulk. However, even as you're reading that sentence, you're doing the math in your head. The Hulk stomped the Avengers' faces in, including Ares who has more power in one arm than every armed force in the world. The Hulk also beat down the Fantastic Four, including the insanely powerful Sue Storm and the Thing, who'd at least slowed Dr. Banner down in the past. So the idea of normal guys with guns, no matter what they're loaded with, is kind of funny (in the same way the dumb kid in your class pushing against a door marked "pull" is funny). All of that's just a sideshow for Stephen Strange showing up and making one heck of an appearance (or so it seems -- only Neilalien knows for certain) despite the weird tone of the ending, which actually involves a very old (circa 1967) bit of arcana and could hold up over time. Just mean and quotable and fun.
Okay, if you're going to read this comic, please be sitting down -- a lot goes on in these pages (perhaps even too much, but it's hard to tell). Almost every dangling plot line in these pages, from Awesome Andy to that Hawkeye business to the title character's failed marriage and of course all summed up by addressing the mystery of Artie Zix. All answers all the time, funny and informative, with a taste of action and some suspense and some surprises too. Really good, even if some of the "segments" seem rather abbreviated.
Jump from the Read Pile. The first four pages of this issue alone are worth paying for, but things get kooky when the Illuminati decides to do something about Noh-Varr (apparently before he was sent to take on the Young Avengers and the Runaways). Great character work, Namor hands out some beat down, and this surely will affect the way you look at these characters, who are all clearly not working through some issues, but certainly should be. Strange's dialogue in particular is great, although Namor says some pretty illuminating (no pun intended) things as well. There was a worry that there would be regrets with this purchase later, but all it takes is reading this line to make it worthwhile: "Black Bolt is laughing at you in his mind." Deceptively simple, and funny to boot.
Iron and the Maiden #1 (Aspen Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. This one actually made the jump during Comic-con (which is why the late update -- sleep deprivation didn't put it in the bag with everything else). This surprisingly well done issue did a lot of world building and character development in a very short space, creating a religion/corporate/government dominated world where open violence between the three is both possible and likely. Yes, the title is awful and yes the actual mechanism for creating the team up wasn't some really new idea. The reason why this project is so intriguing is that the set of toys left here to play with -- synthetic super powers, a corrupt theocracy hypocritically preaching virtue, an unapologetic criminal structure and so on -- draws the reader in, along with the fantastic work of artist Joel Gomez making it shine. A real pleasant surprise.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Make Mine Marvel indeed (Aspen works with Marvel a lot too!). Great week of books.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
The book that took it down to the wire was "New Warriors" #3, which was great in a lot of ways. Jubilee has some really interesting developments, including a nice chat with Logan. The dialogue works pretty well in most cases. The action pieces are good, if not great. But this issue jumped around like the nightly news (the actual stuff that comes on TV, not the Image series), and it made the stuff that did work kind of wobble.
"Outsiders Five of a Kind Week: Nightwing & Boomerang" was an interesting experiment for the Bat to break some eggs in his quest for a better omelette. Boomerang and Nightwing bicker more than work together in handling a Chemo crisis in orbit.
"Fantastic Four" #548 was better, with Panther helping Reed stay smart and more interesting team dynamics. But the last page surprise was kind of "aw, him again?" (especially after this character's last magnificent defeat at T'Challa's hands) and the Wizard was much more compelling when Waid was writing it. Eh.
"Justice Society of America" #8 was kind of good,a very personal story about the artist formerly known as Jesse Quick (now Liberty Belle), but tried a bit too hard to tug at heartstrings while -- oh yeah -- totally contravening the law. Fun ... and by "fun" I mean "vexing."
"Red Star: Sword of Lies" #2 was a very hefty issue, feeling substantial in your hand. If only the narrative held up -- you kind of get some history of the war and the countries involved, but this story seemed considerably less focused than "New Warriors" #3, so if that didn't make it, ergo ...
if simple thrills are your thing, "Shanna She Devil: Survival of the Fittest" #1 will probably do it for you, with boobtastic action, piracy, giant lizardsand possibly even some white knuckled adventure.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
Comics Ink ordered exactly zero copies of "Legend of Isis" #1 -- 'nuff said.
"All-New Atom" #14 essentially reviewed itself with this line: "Well. Jetpack Hitler. Reality has finally jumped the shark." 'Nuff said, again.
Matter of fact ... too much whining from the title character in "Nightwing?" #135. "Thor" #2 had some interesting turns based on myth, but it just didn't seem to try hard enough to do something with an empty Asgard. "Countdown" #39 had the same problem it's had for weeks -- too "in other news, Karate Kid came to visit Oracle today, and it's safe to say much hilarity ensued." "Midnighter" #10 seemed poised to fascinate, with Midnighter returning to his pre-Bendix origins. But instead of a fascinating and intimate character study. we get a nut job with a bad mask and a pistol. Seriously? Speaking of not being taken seriously, "Supergirl" #20 has the title character angsting her way around in the aftermath of the attack on Air Force One, feeling sorry for herself. Online fan personality Deceptifocus shops at Comics Ink, and wanted to make sure readers of these reviews knew he hated the art. Finally, "unternet?" Kryptonite powered monkey? Rhodomagnetic spectrum? No, "Action Comics" #853, no.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Not bad, even the dumb stuff had the decency to stay limited in scope and volume.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
A winner week that showed some of why Marvel is takin' over like DJ Khaled.