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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 DECEMBER 13TH, 2006

DMZ #14 (Vertigo/DC Comics)

Matty Roth is deep undercover as elements of “V For Vendetta” (the awesome comic series, not the insulting movie) play out in his life, bringing him into an understanding of exactly why a sane, normal man can turn to terrorism. The dangers of “going native” are explored as Wood and Burchielli show the title’s lead wrestling with his own identity and where his loyalties really lie. This issue is thick with nuance and mood, and doesn’t fumble the work of the previous thirteen issues at all. Compelling storytelling.

X-Factor #14 (Marvel Comics)

Through spit takes and shopping trips, everybody’s gotta deal with the truth this issue, and for Jamie at least that goes predictably wrong, including a visit from a ghost of X-Factor past. This has some pretty entertaining effects, as each character approaches things from their individual perspective, and writer Peter David strikes their chords with virtuoso skill. That’s good crazy.

The Trials of Shazam #4 (DC Comics)

Somehow skipping over Hercules and moving on to the modern avatar of Achilles, Freddy Freeman ends up in DC’s middle eastern battleground Qurac, with the forces of the sexily dressed Sabina and her Merlinspawn minions, on hand to fight against Achilles’ goals. Gunfire, demons and political pressures all drawn in with Howard Porter’s evocative style. This series is really showing up for the job.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Three for three, and not a clunker in the pile. Fantastic.

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

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

“Wonder Man” #1 was very close to making the cut, with a future Simon getting painted in to a corner in a cute fashion.

“Spirit” #1 never slowed down, serving up some old school fun without even making Ebony look … well, let’s just say nobody would have a lot of cause to be mad now. Action packed, brisk, well written and drawn … if you’re a fan of this sort of story, you’ll be all in.

“Blade” #4 was limited only by its schmaltz of its antagonist (a seasonal choice), but Guggenheim’s writing is completely right for this project, and Chaykin’s art makes it fly. Cut back on the cultural hegemony and this one would have made it home.

Several titles were good but not that good, including …

– “Ex Machina” #25 (a great solo story for Bradbury, despite some confusing elements jumping around in time — would have worked much better on TV)

– “52” #32 (“Sobek” as Adam’s Tawky Tawny along with a Chinese Dr. Strange and Hulk)

– Special forces in “Green Lantern Corps” #7 (marred by a poor choice of name)

– A new take on a classic villain in “Justice League of America” #4

– Improvement in “Ghost Rider” #6

– Too little happening in “JLA CLassified” #30 and “Green Arrow” #6 (but an interesting trip getting nowhere, and I think the Bruce/Clark dichotomy is backwards here)

– “Wolverine” #49 was a lot like “Blade” but not as good

– “Stormwatch PHD” #2 has some of the pacing elements of what made “Sleeper” work, and is ready to franchise “CSI” style
– “Ultimate X-Men” #77 was acceptable but still somewhat uncomfortable, with Ultimate Cable and his Ultimate Six Pack kicking some ultimate butt (way to ramp up, Ultimate Hammer)

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

“DC Infinite Christmas Special?” Seriously? Was this at all necessary?

“Fear Agent” #9 continues this series’ slide into tedium, with grim determination and joylessness. What happened there, anyway?

“Firestorm” #32 was a bit whiny as Jason still wrestles with being dazzlingly powerful.

“Martian Manhunter” #5 still has interchangeable characters in the limp supporting staff with all of the jumbled storytelling that made “Millennium” never really catch on.

First of all, why “Exiles Annual” #1 now? Second of all, why all the fuss to essentially end up where we started?

Hey, “Gen 13” #3 — “Defex” called, they want their character interaction back.

Here’s a short story about “Fantastic Four: The End” #3 — no.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

The needle leans towards the good side.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Great buys, solid reads with improvement, that’s all good stuff.

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