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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 NOVEMBER 1ST, 2006

The Nightly News #1 (Image Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. Many years ago, there was an issue of “Legion of Super Heroes” which ended with a recruitment poster for a group called The Dark Circle. In it, the spaceborne criminal organization advocated a kind of casting off of reason, relying instead on emotion and intuition. The Dark Circle was a big problem for the Legion for years and years, and the manifesto placed in the back of this single issue (and at this advanced day and age, it’s hard to remember which one it was, and that issue is missing from the current version of the Buy Pile archives) could just as easily have been used as inspiration for antiestablishment activities in the modern day.

First time comics creator Jonathan Hickman may not have been directly influenced by that story, but there are similarities between both that and modern day cults of violence and personality, from “Fight Club” to Waco, that are eerie and riveting. Get past the art — at best, it’s serviceable. Get past the slickness of the visual design — this takes the mediagenic design elements of “DMZ” and cranks ’em up so far that they almost could act as characters themselves. Sure, you might recognize echoes of other works — for example “the hand” and “the voice” being reminiscent of both “V For Vendetta” (the awesome graphic novel, not that crappy movie version) and the expanded “Star Wars” universe, and surely Jock is noticing some of the tricks he pioneered on “The Losers” at work here — but that’s not a bad thing. A vengeful mash-up of wonderfully mean-spirited ideas, this follows in the path of Michael Douglas’ “Falling Down” and Chuck Palahniuk — even pulling off the very hard “bouncing around in time” shtick — revealing that the decision to become a “terrorist” is often as close as Timothy McVeigh, Tex Kaczynski, or that guy getting perp walked in front of cameras who finds none around when he’s eventually exonerated. Nursing a grudge, cleaning a firearm and lusting for retribution. The fact that the target happens to be the professional media is almost an after thought. Dark, grim but strangely satisfying material.

Criminal #2 (Icon/Marvel Comics)

Jump from the Read Pile. Staying on the morally flexible side of the street, Leo’s big heist starts to encounter some surprises as gunfire and movie quotes get tossed around a little too easily and nobody really gets what they want. There’s not much more that one can say without spoiling the intricately crafted turns of plot, but Brubaker and Phillips work together like fine European clockworks, flawlessly creating this world of crime and consequence with “nods” to pop entertainment and realistic-feeling characters and situations. Solidly entertaining for fans of zippy crime fiction.

Agents of Atlas #4 (Marvel Comics)

No, no, don’t do it. Don’t call it a comeback — a historical figure makes a triumphant (and butt kicking) return as the old-school minded team (including the ostensible “everyman” character of Agent Derek Khanata, tagging along) going Nextwave-style through the many atrocities that the Atlas Foundation has dreamed up (Gorilla Man has a fun break down of what we missed in the back, including a tongue in cheek chance to nibble on the hand that feeds them). An ancient Marvel villain makes some very funny gags about Marvel’s race-baiting history (in an abstract way) and overall this is a great comic. There’s something ineffable hanging between the panels, however, that makes one wonder if the mini series can really stay as strong as it started. That’s a problem for Future Reader — let that jackass worry about it. In the present day, this is good crazy.

Beyond #4 (Marvel Comics)

Along side some crafty character development (watch Hank and Janet go!) and some smartly done plotting (oh, that wacky Space Phantom), the developments of the last page plant the smallest seed of doubt — more tangible than the worries of the previous review — that this won’t end well (and by “well” that means “entertainingly”). To justify this behavior from the character in question … especially given that Space Phantom, Dragon Man and spirit knows who else are still running amok … it’s a bit worrisome. But still fascinating, and therefore still well worth reading, History alone will tell if this was a brilliant ruse or the tipping point for things going wrong.

She-Hulk #13 (Marvel Comics)

The question of Starfox’s guilt or innocence is finally settled with an examination of the evidence that’s unorthodox at best, and Slott manages to wave in modern continuity notes while navigating the intricacies of Titanian justice. There’s all the requisite punching you’d need, and a fair bit of legal maneuvering as well, and the crisp, clear art of Rick Burchett and Cliff Rathburn goes a long way to communicate this pivotal story and put it through its paces. Another worthy purchase.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Two jumps, and all excellent on reread? Fantastic!

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

Honorable Mentions:

The much hyped “Midnighter” #1 went a long way by actually including the members of the Authority (even briefly) and had a decent if kind of “been there, done that” premise, and completely lost it on the last page by invoking the boogeyman of the twentieth century (seriously — let that go). “Freshmen Vol. 2” #1 was kind of fun and had good internal banter and cohesiveness, like an average issue of “Runaways,” but nothing really happens. The back up story in “Hulk #100” was better than the sparse lead item, with a precocious young genius intellectually pantsing Reed Richards and revealing the “off course” nature of old Jade Jaws to the Marvel community at large. “Superman Confidential” #1 was okay, with a very George Reeves-styled take on the Man of Steel, more intrepid newsman than otherworldly adventurer. Kind of like the down-to-earth opposite of “All-Star Superman.” “Star Wars: Legacy” #5 was almost enjoyable, with an passable impersonation of a Frank Herbert vibe dipped in scoundrels and lightsabers. The “Black Marvel Family” continues to grow as a virtual dark mirror of Tawky Tawny comes to town in “52” #26. The big reveal in “Shrugged” #3 was worth seeing, but there’s not enough story to justify buying this bafflingly entertaining title. Katana gets an afterskirt (y’know, like Vader or snow troopers) and Sivana throws another city on the barbie in “Outsiders” #42 which flirted with being good enough to take home. No such worries for the “eh”-worthy “Nightwing” #126 which had as its best moment a phone call to Alfred. “Blue Beetle” #8 was informative with a heroic scion giving up the goods even as the neophyte hero took on one seriously ugly antagonist. On a reader recommendation, “Exterminators” #11 was creepy but actually very well crafted, in the way that “Nip/Tuck” can sometimes make one squeamish but always does it in a way that won’t let you go. “Mystery In Space” #3 is about the same as previous issues — noirish in one half, Starlintastic in the other — but neither pushes hard enough to be worth the price of admission. Finally, the immediacy of “Ex Machina” #24, with its relaxed endings,

No, just … no …

Given the high hopes, nothing happened (and don’t point to that stupid clone fight, it didn’t matter) in “Justice League of America” #3. Getting back to Reed Richards, all his science and theories finally gets filtered down to the common man, and all it costs him is the cohesion of his family in a predictable set up of vulnerability and redemption … except they’re supposed to die, so how can that work? The huge war of conflicting and crazy (and sometimes naked) forces in “Atom” #5 is just a mess, and the wordy quote-laden mish mash could use a good pass of the “KISS” treatment. “What If? Avengers Disassembled” is a sham, with a character going wildly out of character due to either manipulation or sex, either way cheapening the character as a whole. “The Irredeemable Ant-Man” #2 was also a pretty stupid path to heroism in an attempt at redemption that could be actionable.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Passable.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

A slight win this week, as the jumps and the quotables (ex: “Air Black Marvel can’t be beat!”) got it crackin’ and made it happen.

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