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WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/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 thoughts about all of that … something like this …

THE BUY PILE FOR JANUARY 10TH, 2007

Squadron Supreme: Hyperion vs. Nighthawk #1 (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. The cover is what draws you in. Hyperion is the much-meaner SS-verse’s equivalent to Superman, and Nighthawk is their ethnic-minded analogue of Batman. But if the cover shows non-superpowered Nighthawk beating ridiculously superpowered Hyperion as if the latter man stole the last piece of pie out of the fridge … what gives? That is the root of this very clever issue as Hyperion relies upon his innate sense of superiority (he’s almost never met anybody who could seriously challenge him) … and so does Nighthawk. “I’ve got plans for you,” the masked avenger says to Hyperion, and like the plans of the Cylons (are they even still on plan? Sorry, digression …) it’s enough of a tease to make this work. Paul Gulacy’s art work serves the brutal and brisk storytelling well, and Marc Guggenheim’s script not only delivers a smart and action filled narrative but also addresses cogent and contemporary issues in a manner that’s not preachy. Really good comics at every level.

Thunderbolts #110 (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. Note: the image here is not the cover which was available at retail. Speaking of using the world to properly frame artwork, Norman Osborn’s new Thunderbolts (which, admittedly, share some conceptual roots with Tieri’s “Weapon X,” the CSA’s X-Factor and Freedom Force, as well as the Distinguished Competition’s Suicide Squad among others) forge a nasty and cynical spot in Marvel’s new world order, turning Bullseye into an action figure and demonizing Steve Rogers in the same breath. Warren Ellis uses every cold, sardonic trick in his playbook (leaning heavily on a mediagenic angle while using Osborn, Bullseye, Moonstone and fifth-string hero Jack Flag as characterization tentpoles) to show the enforcers of the Superhuman Registration Act to be as savvily marketed as X-Statix and as oppressive as the thought police. Mike Deodato, Jr. clearly likes his photo reference — Tommy Lee Jones as Osborne, Jack Flag is reminiscent of Grifter for a panel or two and that might be a take on Sharon Stone as Karla Sofen — and it works in some places and doesn’t in others. The overwhelmingly mean script makes it all come together, and this is a title that’s one to watch.

G0dland #15 (Image Comics)

An issue that feels brief, as Neela Archer finds an all-new fate somewhere beyond the stars, and back on earth her family deals with the emotional fallout of her absence, all while three cosmic ne’er-do-wells make short work of a crack commando squad, and a madman makes a friend. G0dland has made its mark by starting at “holy crap” and just accelerating from there, but this issue feels more intimate, more personal as the wildly powerful lead character is left without options. Interesting, but a bit of a departure for fans of the awe and wonder that this title normally traffics in.

Blade #5 (Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. SHIELD maneuvers the Daywalker into hunting down Wolverine, and it leads him to remember an interesting story about the good old days. This diptych tale is actually quite clever, and Howard Chaykin’s detailed artwork makes it all the more riveting. Well, except for Morbius the Living Vampire — he looks like hell, what happened to him? The banter between Blade and Logan is pitch perfect, much like the lunacy from when the Canucklehead joined Spider-Man and Daredevil in an ill-advised attempt to take down the Punisher. This issue dances on the edges of the madness of Civil War, but requires no special knowledge of the crossover to enjoy this self-contained, smart adventure.

Agents of Atlas #6 (Marvel Comics)

This mini-series doesn’t even end the way the characters involved would expect, as the secrets of the Atlas Foundation are finally revealed (as are those of the taciturn robot M-11), as Jimmy Woo’s final face off with the Golden Claw turns out much chattier than he was prepared for. Trading in history, economics and myth (plus having an un-credited guest appearance by the Black Panther), this is a wonderfully cagey conclusion to a very reverential work of fiction, honoring Marvel’s pulp roots (and in a way playing off of the sort of “Agents of …” ideas presented by Nextwave). Jeff Parker’s balance of dialogue between characters is a delight, and while the art team of Kirk, Justice and Madsen may leave a face undrawn here and there in a perspective shot, there’s no skimping on close ups and the visual storytelling is top notch. Now we know what it would be like if Jack Marlowe’s Halo Corporation had an opposite number, or if Hexus had ever achieved its goals. Fun stuff.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Three jumps, fantastic fun at almost every turn, there’s no beating that.

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

Despite art work that does nothing to help the story, “Green Lantern Corps” #8 continues an interesting look at a clandestine black ops unit within the ranks of the ringbearers.

“Star Wars: Legacy” #7 stays at its slightly-above-average mark with an issue that feels hurried, uniting former foes to fight against a more lethal red-bladed menace than either could handle alone.

“Tranquility” #2 loses a bit of focus as everybody gets emotional and yet nothing much happens. The art, switching styles and then staying close when some range might help, doesn’t further matters much, but still a fascinating concept, like “Top 10: The Golden Years.”

Wasn’t the Red Hood turned into some weird blob thing in “Nightwing?” “Green Arrow” #70 doesn’t care, and neither should you, as Ollie and Bruce end up dancing with Brick and the Red Hood, using a bipartite framing device for storytelling and a smidgen of Bendis-ized dialogue to tie things together.

“Irredeemable Ant-Man” #4 borrows from the same playbook, telling a tale in two time periods, with neither a clear beginning nor end to what’s happening, just the comic starting and then running out of pages, which is something of a Kirkman pattern. Not a bad thing, but worth knowing before you get there.

“52” #36 was just “okay,” as Osiris bemoans his bad press, Rip Hunter finds an interesting hiding place and the Question remains.

“Shrugged” #4 took a fairly funny plot point and played it out way too long, brushing across the Adam Warlock-esque aspects of expelling the “bad” ideas from a personality. The underlying concept is still okay — it could even work as a TV show — but the comic seems to take forever to come out, and it’s not as clear where it’s all going.

A Chris Sprouse or Joel Gomez-style art change could have helped “Stormwatch: PHD” #3, as Sin City turns up the regular boogeymen of the Wildstorm Universe (all new and shiny from their soft reboot) and the actual character work plays like it could be an hour long drama on CBS after 9PM (eastern and pacific time, 8PM central).

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

While the title may capture the imagination of some, the unfinished-looking art and paper-thin storyline for “Pirates vs. Ninjas” #1 left much to be desired.

The flashback in “Outsiders” #44 may play well in a trade, but here it’s just treading water and losing momentum just as the title was building some up.

“Justice Society of America” #2 lost a lot of credibility facing off against yet another cookie-cutter group of Nazis (seriously, can we retire them as cultural boogeymen? They’re so twentieth century) and whining about finding a corpse on their conference table. Sack up already. Slight tangent: if Mister Terrific is DC’s third smartest guy, who are numbers one and two?

Once anybody reads the last page of “Iron Man: Hypervelocity” #1, why would they in any way care about what’s gonna happen, as these things always end up the same way?

Speaking of “why is this even happening,” the last page of “Martian Manhunter” #6 makes an all-too-easy choice in using a dangling plot element that never lives up to the hype.

As for “Omac” #7, with this sort of development for Superman, the central conceit of the story is about as logical as lining up outside of your comic book store for a new issue of “Battle Chasers.”

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

More good than bad, so despite the real laziness in the bad stuff, we’ll call it good.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

The jumps saved the day, as the “one hand over mediocre” reads surely couldn’t have made this week a winner by themselves.

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