www.cbr.com

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 MAY 11TH, 2006

Wolfskin #1 (Avatar Comics)

The right word would be "whoa." Driven by the sometimes over-detailed art of Juan Jose Ryp (really, dawg, some of the "detail" in that fight scene was a bit much, the art is super busy), Warren Ellis deftly creates a realistic barbarian world out of nothing in such brief strokes of characterization that it's breathtaking. In one issue he establishes the badass nature of a tribe of primitive warriors, talks some about the geographies and cultures of this world, establishes a story (even giving it an end of sorts), shows nuanced and interesting characters and still manages to deliver one of the most brutal sword fights this reviewer has ever seen in comics. The lord of looking ahead brings one of the most amazing barbarian comics since Busiek's poetic debut on "Conan." Who'da thunk it? Fascinating work combining Ellis' love for tough guy protagonists quick on quips with the framework of an ancient world.

Starfox fought the law and ... well, it gets complicated for the charming Avenger. Jen has a moment of doubt in open court that throws the whole story into a mad tailspin (and those panels were very "Ally McBeal" -- in a good way), and all kinds of madness happens that's both fascinating and funny. Fans of NBC's probably doomed "Conviction" will enjoy the legal/personal balance here, as Jen's self-doubt continues to slow her down as a super-heroine, while her legal career continues to astound. A fast and litigious issue, but a darned good one from Mister Dan Slott with Will Conrad's art perfectly showcasing Starfox's greasy charm.

Toyfare #107 (Wizard Entertainment)

How did "Toyfare" sneak up and become one of the best humor magazines around? Right, it has price guides and stories about new toys coming out, yadda yadda yadda. Screw all that -- with a gallon of gas costing about as much as an average comic book, who cares? No, we need stories about unemployed Stormtroopers after the fall of Palpatine. Horoscopes by whimsical G.I. Joe antagonist Crystal Ball (a guy, by the way ... sort of). Or this classified ad: "Need it to be there past? When it has to be there yesterday, it has to be Kang. Our patented undernight-delivery time-travels your package to its destination 10 minutes before it left. Don't ship it, Kang it!" That only gets us up to page fifteen. There's only two words to describe that, ladies and gentlemen: good crazy. The ending on Twisted Toyfare Theatre was a bit limp, but the overall gag was a scream. Plus, who doesn't love the feature on stupid powers Superman has had over the years (personal fave: "super sneezing" that (get this) "took out an entire solar system." Ya gotta love it.

Mowgli hits the end of the road, and it's not quite what he expected. The grown up Jungle Boy makes a first class intelligence operative and a very heartstring-tugging guest star has a very interesting moment with him. There's an interesting wind-related subplot that's quite intriguing without actually giving up any actual data. A brief but satisfying installment from Bill Willingham's passionate pen (or word processor), with faithful cohorts Buckingham and Leialoha drawing out the wilds of Alaska with the same delicacy and detail as they have for the Homelands or Fabletown in New York City.

X-Men/Runaways (Free Comic Book Day giveaway from Marvel Comics)

Apparently, last weekend was Free Comic Book Day. Great. Anyway, Comics Ink had some extra copies of the Marvel giveaway book, so they shoved a copy in every bag that walked out the door this week. In a just slightly contrived fashion he has the two teams meet (coincidentally, it looks like the Astonishing selection of X-Men) within the first three pages, all on the streets of Hollywood. Seems ol' Slim Summers wants runaway Molly to come and study at Westchester. This leads to a Typical Metahuman Misunderstanding (tm), which then leads to a Predictable Team Versus Team Melee (patent pending). Cliches notwithstanding, this story is actually kind of enjoyable in a wholly genre fashion, with Skottie Young's always zany art and a nice neat ending that doesn't really affect anything for either team. Good, wholesome fun. Also fun, is a kind of goofy "One To Grow On" style story about Franklin Richards (wholly swiping "Calvin and Hobbes" style, or is that an "homage?") about reading, a quickie "Marvel Adventures" style bit with a kind of Avengers team (but with Storm and the Hulk) and (most useful of all) a textual recap of virtually the entire run of "Ultimate Spider-Man." Not bad, for free.

WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?

A notch above "okay," and not too expensive, so that's all good.

THIS WEEK'S READ PILE

Honorable Mentions:

"52" #1 was worth seeing Booster Gold in action, but nothing really happens as the absence of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman gets its origin. Having "Domino's War Journal" take over "Cable & Deadpool" #28 was a misstep, but one Marvel annoyance seems dead in an issue that seemed to spin its wheels way too much in the middle third. A version of the "Civil War" argument is played out in "Battle for Bludhaven #3" but the actual story -- such as it is -- was a smidge too jumpy and schizophrenic to actually work. "Ex Machina" #20 seems to be working its way back to being all right, with a very emotional ending and the Mayor being forced to use his powers when all else fails (maybe Ollie Queen is inspiring Mayor Hundred). Not too sure what to think of "Firestorm" #25 which either greatly overestimates Killer Frost's powers or means that the new Nuclear Man is a lot more unstable than is probably safe.

No, just ... no ...

The "double your Nightwing" shtick really wears thin in "Nightwing #120," where yet another person finds out Dick's allegedly secret identity and the doppelganger gets more of a surprise than Bat-heroes are normally used to. Joystick suddenly being a schemer (and who isn't) in "Thunderbolts" #102 read less like character development and more like "huh?" Speaking of bad characterization, Midnighter surely has become single minded in "Captain Atom" #8 and gets beaten up in a kind of embarrassing fashion given the badass he's supposed to be (and the death here felt super gratuitous). Finally, given the zombie character in "G.I. Joe" #11 there's only one word for it: no.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

A notch over mediocre with Hundred and Booster showing up for work (like Sam Cassell and Cuttino Mobley waking up in Game 2 of the Suns/Clips series).

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Let's call it a win, given that nothing really bad happened and there were some genuine joys.

Ultron Agenda Merges Two Classic Avengers In A Twisted Fusion

More in CBR Exclusives