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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 SEPTEMBER 7TH, 2006

NOTE: First of all, an apology for these reviews taking so long. The life of this reviewer is often scheduled down to the picosecond, so when Diamond decides to delay books a day because they were at home swilling beer and sucking down barbecue ribs, it throws off a delicate set of time management machinery. Sometimes this can be compensated for. This week? Not so much. So you get reviews on, essentially, Monday when you deserved them over the weekend. “Forgive me, Numsi! I should be purged!” Anyway, here goes …

Marvel Team-Up #24 (Marvel Comics)

This title has lost so much steam. The attempt at making something new with Freedom Ring fell flat, as his Skrull sidekick lacks … well, virtually everything, and his supporting cast is all gnashed teeth and weepiness. The potential fun of Iron Maniac gets caught up in really pretty pointless fisticuffs (an evil Tony Stark could be really dangerous, if you think about it, and it makes one kind of sad that Doom hasn’t done more with himself). Both the main and secondary plots have plodded along so drudgingly that they’ve lost their “oomph.” This series has one more issue (as it talks big for the next issue) to retain its Buy Pile status.

Detective Comics #823 (DC Comics)

Not greater than the sum of its parts, Poison Ivy’s weird science comes back to bite her on her shapely and homicidal butt, leaving the Bat with a twitchy moral quandary tied up in a security problem (do that fight in the cave? Seriously? Urf). The dialogue is dazzling, the art (save for the aforementioned weird science — that stuff never looks right, as we find out later on in “Creeper” and “Atom”) rocks your body, but it just never gelled into a compelling whole.

Agents of Atlas #2 (Marvel Comics)

Gorilla Man! Derek Khanata! That’s all you need really. You could ditch everybody else and be fine. But when you add Jimmy Woo, doing what is tried in “Gun Fu” but getting it right, X-11 doing a solid Lurch impersonation, and the Golden Age Marvel Boy riffing off of the Spaceman from “Top 10,” it’s a championship team. The funniest part is how everybody talks to Khanata as if the fact that everything Wakandan is cooler and smarter than everybody else — like the whole nation was analogous to Apple Computers. Fantastic. Fun, wacky stuff that gives zero clues where it’s going and makes you enjoy the ride anyway.

Noble Causes #23 (Image Comics)

So many characters have implied that Rusty’s temper would be a problem one day, and when “one day” is “today,” that means that it’s an opportunity for the Blackthornes to shine. Meanwhile Doc gazes at his navel for a much different reason that some might have expected, and the issue opens with such a “whoa!” moment that it could have fit in well on the season opener for “Nip/Tuck.” Soap operas are not everybody’s thing, but this superpowered one has provided consistent and unwavering entertainment for years. Good crazy, and filled with twists and surprises to keep you smirking.

Beyond #3 (Marvel Comics)

Clearly the Beyonder did some kind of memory tweak, because the most obvious story element here — the idea of “an opposing team” — never crosses the minds of any of the rocket scientists (including the actual scientist) in this cast of crazies. That makes things all the more hilarious as elements of what has to be an opposing party start openly and notoriously trying to kill our young heroes (well, not so young in some cases, but whatever). McDuffie balances the emotional baggage of characters (The Hood’s snarkiness, Pym’s guilt and inability to let the past go, et cetera) with keeping the plot moving along snappily. This ain’t your father’s Secret Wars — or even yours. The elements bubbling beneath the surface make the proceedings happening on panel all the more tense and fascinating.

Hero Squared #3 (Boom! Studios)

Now, if you have a problem with streams of dialogue, well, you’re not gonna like this issue. Like a classic episode of “The West Wing” or the rapid fire chatter of a Mamet project, Milo and “Eustace” go back and forth with alarming speed, revealing vistas of characterization in the process. Next issue is allegedly much more violence, but the quiet moments — Sephie reading Milo’s comics before she “returns” his stuff, in particular — make this issue shine. The fact that they quoted this reviews column on the cover is none too shabby either.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Two less-than-shining accomplishments, but not bad all around.

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

Honorable Mentions:

DC tried some of Marvel’s tactics this week with mixed results. Raymond Chandler-styled noir in zero gravity brought us “Mystery In Space” #1, which had some charm and could clearly be a favorite for some, but failed to impress this reviewer enough to justify a purchase, despite a great showing by The Weird. The same goes for Bruce Jones on “Nightwing” #124, which is noir in spandex but not exactly the right fit for Dick Grayson and doesn’t compare to the “Crutches” period. The crossover with “Wanted” in “Savage Dragon” #128 was all combat (which, admittedly, was pretty good combat) and none of the introspection that made the former so compelling. “Marvel 1602: Fantastik Four” #1 was a kind of Ultimatized scenic route to get somewhere ultimately familiar, and while the cutesy bits with the Bard and some of the tropes of history make good soundbites, they’re not worth owning unless you’re already soaking in this stuff. “52” #18 was weird in that “no, you’ll be fine not buying this” way, with a morbidly commercialized funeral for a friend and an old DC hero taking up the mantle of a different one. “Outsiders” #40 showed Metamorpho pulling a retarded Madrox trick and sending in the clones in a story that veers so far from the original ideas in the “OYL” launch into a treatment so clothed in cliches that Mr. Blackwell would faint at the sight of it. “Rush City” #2 almost made it home, with a much more effective take on noir closer in tone to the finale of “Daughters of the Dragon” as it fills in the cracks of the DCU.

No, just … no …

“OMAC” #3 tries to sell the “broken super soldier” story in a set of Bill Bixby clothes, but it should file for unemployment, because it’s just not working. In the “ew” file, DC submits the literally gross anatomy of “Creeper” #2 in a disjointed attempt to shove Steve Niles into the superhero genre, with “Atom” #3 falling under the pomposity of the quotes used fighting in a very unclear fashion a self-styled god of cancer. Oh, and “Next” #3 keeps trying to do what Mike Carey handled so brilliantly in the most recent issue of “Ultimate Fantastic Four” by dipping the reader in Ea de Grant Morrison and hosing you down with sheer word count. Retailer Jason called it “Hutt poo doo,” and we could find no better description.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Didn’t there used to be other companies that published comic books? It sure seems like it … anyway, that notwithstanding, there was more good than bad.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Not much of a win, like getting a “D” on a test but admitting that you passed.

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