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WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/novelist/poet/jackass) goes to a comic book store ... but this week it was a store in the city of his birth. Thanks to the warm hospitality of owner Neil Robertson, this week's reviews are brought to you courtesy of Clyde's Comics and Fantasy Shop located at 1528 Broadway in Rockford, IL.

Anyway, the process involves Hannibal strolling in and grabbing 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). This week, that work was punctuated with knowledgeable conversations with Robertson and some of his customers, such as Marcus and Paul. Anyway, Thursdays (Diamond monopolistic practices willing), you'll be able to get thoughts about all of that ... something like this ...

THE BUY PILE FOR AUGUST 2ND, 2006

Jump from the Read Pile. There was a significant advantage to doing this week's reviews at Clyde's Comics -- owner Neil Robertson filled in the gaps on this story's history. Apparently, this concept is a re-introduction to old concepts from Marvel history, back when they were Atlas Comics. That's now factored in here as secret plans within SHIELD involving legacy characters -- Venus, Marvel Boy, Gorilla Man, M-11 the Human Robot and Agent Jimmy Woo -- involved in some very interesting and complicated concerns that play half like "The Blues Brothers" (putting the band back together) and and half like classic spy adventures. Leonard Kirk and Kris Justice deliver the goods on the art with the right angle of nostalgia mixed with modern whimsy. Agent Jimmy Woo is all of the things that people like with "Gun-Fu" without the moronic attempts at hipsterism, Gorilla Man has the nuance of the simian manservant in "Tom Strong" with the added fun of lots of shooting, and who can't like a man from Neptune and a love goddess in combat? Interesting stuff.

Jump from the Read Pile. Paul Dini knows some Batman. In this very clever issue, the madness about the Riddler in the last year is wiped away in one caption (argh, nothing you can do about that, given the playing field) as Edward Nigma tries to turn his skills towards being a detective, working to solve the murder of a wealthy socialite. The Bat tolerates his presence, even teaming up with him ("Nice car," Riddler comments as he's driving along with the Bat. "First time I've been inside it conscious." "Don't touch anything" Bats replies tersely). Things -- of course -- aren't what they seem, and while the ultimate confrontation took a moment to pick up speed, the results are very satisfying.

Frost versus Rusty? That's right -- but all the secrets don't come out (Doc especially ain't right, and anybody with eyes can see that), as Frost knows how to play everyone against each other. The fight showed some real inventiveness and actually was more exciting than the ultimate conclusion, which just goes to show why Frost is the most compelling character in this series. A solid issue, but not a stunner.

The idea of an evil Tony Stark is very compelling -- all of the brains, none of the pesky moral compunctions -- but in this issue all he does is beat the hell out of Spidey and Logan. No, the best moments in this issue have nothing to do with action and everything to do with character interaction. May Parker, Wolverine and Jarvis in the kitchen. Freedom Ring having an interesting conversation with his neighbor. That's where this issue is interesting ... although using Spider-Man's mechanical arms to swing him around and beat on Wolverine with is pretty funny. Not bad, but kind of treading water.

Jump from the Read Pile. If this were television or movies, everybody would be talking about the performance of Ralph Dibny. His interaction with the Cult of Conner leaves him shaken and stirred, and even though Zauriel was probably whacked in that Spectre crossover (Superboy punch!), his appearance with Metamorpho, Hal Jordan and Ollie Queen makes for a tragic team up that did little good and plenty of harm. It's also a delight to see Todd Nauck's artistic styles at work, since he's always a solid and interesting presence. Black Adam has an inspirational cameo as he and his newly-divine gal pal do the dirty work that everybody else arguably should be doing. Surprisingly nuanced and entertaining.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

Not bad ... not great, but not bad, and you have to give credit for three jumps.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

Honorable Mentions:

"Fantastic Four" #539 was very close to making the jump, as Ben Grimm makes a decision that was very well played and smartly done, all while the Thinker (he's not "mad" anymore) and Puppet Master discuss their psychoses in a manner that is like what Bendis does, but in a way that adds to the story and isn't just non sequitur. "Atom" #2 has fantastic story structure and science fun, but the ending simply fell down on the job, making this issue a letdown that had to stay at the store. "Invincible" #34 was an average issue for the run -- great moments, incomplete story, solid characterization. Perhaps this is a "made for trades" thing, since Kirkman had the same sort of energy happening in "Marvel Team-Up" this week. "Ex Machina" #22 had the same problem, of lots of talking that never really connects, despite having some solid moments. Monsieur Mallah's ideological underpinings and the high-powered fight scenes in "Outsiders" #39 were good, but the cliffhanger didn't quite get the job done.

No, just ... no ...

"Moon Knight" #4 was a vague mess until one skull-faced guy shows up and almost salvages things. Despite the trashing of much of Vegas in "OMAC" #2 and Firestorm and Cyborg, there's no good reason to be invested in the milquetoast main character.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Light week, and nothing special happened. No need to be mad about it. Kind of forgettable, in the end analysis.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Let's call it a tie, because despite the jumps, the rest of it was just "eh."

Crisis: Why Did The Flash Have to Die to Save Infinite Earths?

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