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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 OCTOBER 4TH, 2006

Beyond #4 (Marvel Comics)

What’s funniest about this is how deluded the “heroes” are about what’s actually happening. You can easily clown Kraven Jr. or The Hood in this regard — they’re not exactly rocket scientists. But Hank Pym? Seriously? This crew of castaways, powers notwithstanding, is far more “Gilligan’s Island” than “Lost.” The characters, all emotion and chemistry, are so caught up in the events that they’re not realizing they haven’t met their enemies yet, at least not en masse. Which, of course, was the first thing people grabbed on to in the original “Secret Wars.” No this, this is much more nuanced, much more crafty. As they’re hounded by the likes of (in earlier issues) Dragon Man and (here) Space Phantom (seriously), you get to see Gravity come to hard maturity, you get Hank Pym trying too hard (and getting it right still), you get Medusa in all her regal bearing and even more chaotic behavior from the new Venom. Just really engrossing reading all around.

Savage Brothers #2 (Boom! Studios)

Jump From The Read Pile (and a new “buy on sight” title). Otis and Dale are back, and they’re shooting things and kicking butt and there’s zombies everywhere, led by a disembodied yet very verbose head (no idea how it speaks so loudly without lungs). Even better, they’re out to rescue the “22-year-old stripper from rural Georgia” named Candy, and she’s a sassy one. Their chase and string of mishaps getting to relative safety (alongside their zombie hostage and potential payday Diller) moves at a zippy clip, keeping reader interest at a high level with snappy interplay and stylized action. Good dumb entertainment that’s got a core of brains (not the ones the zombies eat) as its engine.

Criminal #1 (Icon/Marvel Comics)

Jump From The Read Pile If you read Sleeper, you know how effective Ed Brubaker can be in creating a seamy world of characters who live in the morally gray areas of life if not downright heading into depravity. This time, he’s stripped away all the trappings of large organizations and huge casts to center on one character, Leo Patterson, who’s one of the best pickpockets and strategic planners in what looks like either Chicago or New York (it’s called simply “the city,” in that kind of vague patter of Mel Gibson’s “Payback,” where the specifics don’t matter). Leo’s character is viewed through the eyes and words of everybody, as he’s cornered into coming on board for a job yanking five million bucks worth of diamonds from a police van during a transfer. Brubaker (with Sean Phillips on art) are back at doing what they do best here, depicting the hard lives of hard people scrambling to make things work. An enthralling read for any fan of great, literate storytelling and noirish crime fiction (without trying to get all Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and meld the genre with people shooting ray beams out of their butt or anything else).

Agents of Atlas #3 (Marvel Comics)

SHIELD agent Derek Khanata (of the Wakandan Khanatas) is essentially adopted into the group as we find out the horrible truth about Marvel Boy’s idyllic home on Uranus, while the Yellow Claw returns (and liberally borrows from the Otto Octavius playbook) with taunting and the robotic teammate developing an intriguing subplot. Bob Hale’s grumpiness (from a gorilla’s body, wearing a thin brimmed fedora at one point to boot) is fun to watch, as is a “transmission” from Khanata to Dum Dum Dugan back at headquarters, cursing at the lunacy of it all. This issue gets deeper into the characters and their raisons d’etre, broadening the story and drawing the reader in. Leonard Kirk and Kris Justice are on point with everything from cosmic imagery to the details of a coffee shop (even the gross scene with Marvel Boy eating) in a book that barely spares a panel in jamming in the goodness.

Doctor Strange: The Oath #1 (Marvel Comics)

Jump From The Read Pile Something’s wrong with Wong, and the good Doctor does everything in his power (and some things beyond it) to fix it … which draws attention (and a bullet) he certainly didn’t want. Stephen Strange’s charm (as he banters and advises the Night Nurse from his astral form) and genuine concern for his longtime friend is what carries this issue, shown as Wong lays the smackdown on would-be robbers while Strange doesn’t even notice, doing a spell in Latin (“… if there’s one thing I hate, it’s incanting in Latin!”) or in the shock when he learns Wong’s secret. The McGuffin behind the issue is big, big crazy stuff (and the sort of thing you wonder why it doesn’t pop up more often) and this has big promise to be the sort of thing that’d send the web’s biggest Doctor Strange fans into a tizzy. Solid stuff.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Not bad at all, with three jumps. That’s a good start …

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

Honorable Mentions:

Despite the actual events that happen, which border on the “oh hell no,” the emotional gravitas of JMS’ “Fantastic Four” #540 are effective. Even with it’s repetitive attempt at Joss Whedon-ism at the end, “Outsiders” #41 had some good elements, with Doctor Sivana making quite a nice showing for himself and a scene with Grace and Thunder that will end up on many desktops as a background picture. The most interesting part of “The Irredeemable Ant-Man” #1 was getting inside of the helicarrier and getting a look at what it’s really like for SHIELD’s faceless legions. But the ridiculous premise (doesn’t anybody use LoJack?) of the new micro-sized protagonist falls flat, and it takes place just after “Wolverine: Enemy of the State” (not to be confused with “Iron Man: Enemy of the State” or “Black Panther: Enemy of the State” — yeah, that shtick probably needs a break) to throw continuity nuts into a tailspin. The small man gimmick works a bit better in “Atom” #4, where Ray Palmer’s physics-bending lifestyle has given the whole college town a case of the weirds, which almost echoes the days of Julian September but in a much ickier-looking fashion (cancer god, yuck). “Giant-Sized Wolverine” #1 has a David Lapham lead story that worked well as a thriller but fell apart in its final pages (and the reprints, eh, who cares). “Detective Comics” #824 had some solid elements — Riddler and Penguin making money off their bad boy reps, but legally — and again only falls down on some of the details (the sleeper’s gag was less than nouveau, showing Oswald needs to hire better IT types). Dick Grayson’s quest for justice chases but never really gets anywhere in “Nightwing #125” (he’s clearly not as smart as his mentor or even the current Boy Wonder), and the “story” in “Fear Agent” #8 was too short and had too little data in it. What small amounts of data you could get in “Elephantmen” #3 was brutal and emotive, but far too little for the price of admission (how about a full length story, just once?).

No, just … no …

Seriously, is anybody at all interested in Doc Magnus (who seemingly was attacked by a Sentinel on loan from Marvel near the end) being “robot hunted” in “52” #22, while the much more interesting Lex Luthor is flipping out over Supernova? All of the build up for “Marvel Team-Up” #25 was really much ado about nothing as Crusader (not Bob’s counterpart from “Agents of Atlas”) got lost in the shuffle and SHIELD got a dangerous new toy, all with little reason for all those heroes to stand together except as a photo op. “The Boys” #3 could have been interesting if it explored what Butcher meant about Mother’s Milk, or explored the depravity of the Seven’s initiation ritual or outlandish social interaction, instead of yammering on, making homages and going for crass humor. Bruce Jones keeps showing his love for Bill Bixby with “OMAC” #4, so much so that one can almost hear Joe Harnell playing piano in the background.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Even the good stuff was dragged down by the fact it wasn’t good enough.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

A dead heat, only buoyed by the titles that made the jump, saving the week from being a loss.

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