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ONE MONTH (and a few days) LATER

The Buy Pile had been chugging along for just about two years at a high powered New York-based website, driven by the devil-may-care wit of its infamous writer’s poison pen (well, keyboard). But as so many fans have claimed, continuity was boring. So a few misunderstandings later and there was a Finite Crisis, which led to the column having an Identity Crisis. To avoid a Civil War, the whole shebang was moved into the House of CBR, which now has a special receiver to get signals from Planet Hannibal. As a special treat, in addition to this week’s batch of reviews you will receive very brief updates on as many weeks as the writer was able to stay sober enough to retain. Get ready to crack the internet in thirds and keep a slice for yourself — the Buy Pile is back!

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 MARCH 8TH, 2006

Fables #47 (Vertigo/DC Comics)

It’s hard to believe that Bill Willingham has been making magic come to life on a monthly schedule for almost four years now … but it’s true. This month brings the last part of a two-issue storyline (“The Ballad of Rodney and June”) from behind the front lines of the battle for the Fabled lands. In this issue, all hell was set to break loose when a “prince of the sacred wood and a decorated lieutenant of the Seventh Horde” finds himself in love and unable to do anything about it. The fairly delicate (but still spectacular, in scope and conception) solution to this makes for an insidious chapter, brushing against the stories of Fabletown (a community of exiles in New York City) that longtime readers will recognize with great apprehension. It’s hard to wonder which would be more impressive — that Willingham has plans within plans spreading back all this time and countless issues into the future … or that he’s making it up as he goes along, and really is this brilliant. Either way, it’s a joy to read, with guest art from Jim Fern and Jimmy Palmiotti telling this story in a baroque kind of detail that I don’t believe the regular art team could have managed. Great stuff all around.

Down #4 (Top Cow/Image Comics)

An intellectually challenging finale to a really, really well done mini series. Deanna Ransome was a disgraced cop given a chance to redeem herself by going deep cover within the mob and taking care of things that jurisprudence might let slip. Unfortunately for the police (and, some would say, public safety), Deanna “went native” and became what she was trying to stop. Using a combination of excellent marksmanship (markswomanship?), ruthless determination and fantastic melee combat abilities, she cuts a swath through this issue and becomes the bodyguard of the biggest mob boss in town. What happens from then on … well, it’s mean spirited, hateful and wickedly entertaining. Ellis reins in his normally chatty tendencies and just lets Cully Hamner go to town, painting the picture in brutal shades of gunfire and betrayal. A great issue capping off a really good miniseries — obviously Ellis has found a good length for the “little” ideas he sometimes gets (with the three-issue versions of “Red” or “Reload” not really getting it done).

Fell #4 (Image Comics)

Speaking of Warren Ellis, he’s got much less room to work here, as detective Richard Fell sets himself on solving just one murder, a body floating in the river, one of (apparently) one hundred and fifty unsolved and uncared-about murders a year. The methods he ultimately chooses to use might make an average ACLU lawyer blanch, but … well, the specifics of what happens are best left in the actual issue, but suffice it to say that Fell’s last line — “Every time you take one … I’m going to take one back” — sums up the issue’s intent. A neat little story (as all of the issues thus far have been) allowing just a smidge of time for characterizing Fell (whatever he did “across the bridge” must have been really bad) while keeping the plot moving along. At two bucks even, it’s the equivalent of a smart episode of “Law & Order” … and that’s a good thing. Fine work.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Spent less than ten bucks, and every purchase a winner. That’s all good.

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

Honorable Mentions:

Firestorm #23 is the first OYL title to come close to the mark, with only the lack of detail (probably in line with DC’s editorial mandates) keeping it from coming home. The appearance of The Bride in “Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein” #3 was just one of many fun aspects of the done-in-one story (including a riff on Ultimate SHIELD), but it missed the mark by a fingernail. “Transformers: Infiltration” #3 also just barely missed coming home, with not enough actual Transformer action, and the vagueness in what’s happening being a liability (especially three issues in). It would have been nice if “Invincible” #29 was combined with the events of last issue, just to make it feel more complete, because as it is this was less than half a story, with only intense (but not spectacular) fight footage to keep us involved. Art was most of the problem with the apparently half way done miniseries installment “Sentinel Squad One” #3 which had giant robots fighting dinosaurs … and looked at it all from the eye level of the robots, which took away all sense of scale and grandeur. At least Godzilla had smaller buildings and tanks to smash — trees getting swatted around just looked like dense foliage, and the thin characterization on most of the squad (like the surly Indian girl — what’s her problem?) didn’t help. The thickness of “Thunderbolts” #100 was good, but the plot was simply too convoluted (especially with “Captain Atom” #6 essentially having the same problem and dealing with it somewhat interestingly, despite the title character being so dull), even with the nice bonus origins materials as a backup.

No, just … no …

The series finale in “Tom Strong” #36 was humming along with some interesting ideas … until it gave up and went for maudlin sentimentality and sappiness at the end. The final issue of “The Pulse” (#14) was also needlessly sappy, slotting in Jessica and Luke’s meeting during the “grim” periods of Marvel History (aaah, retcons). “American Virgin” #1 was merely adequate, borrowing some energy from the evangelist issues of “Human Target” without any of the underlying wit. “Untold Tales of the New Universe: Nightmask” was a three time loser, combining being uninteresting (the central villain is someone barely interesting when the line was in full swing) with being unimportant (oooh, he rules the dreams of two people … so?) and ugly (the art would have been subpar years ago, so in today’s era of shinier and prettier, it stands out even more). Superboy almost literally could not stop whining in “Teen Titans” #33, which serves as almost a DVD extra, stepping inbetween panels of “Infinite Crisis” (and it really is starting to feel infinite … and why use the already craptacular framing device from “Superman/Batman” with double inner monologues? Argh …). Pietro’s decided to repower the mutants of Marvel (shocker) with his zany new powers over in “Son of M #4” and it just could not be less interesting, both visually and textually. We hope. Both “G.I. Joe” issues (“America’s Elite” #9 and the first issue of a new Transformers crossover) suffered — navel gazing in the former and ridiculously retread ideas like “Cobratron” in the latter. Oh, and what in the name of Jack Kirby happened in “Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle” #4? Perhaps different coloring on the chronological digressions would have helped.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Not too shabby … a weak week, but not an atrocity.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

If this week would have cost more money, it would have stank. As it is, the needle just barely edges over 50 percent, and in these challenged days, we have to call that a win.

HOLD UP — WHAT ABOUT THE MISSING WEEKS, YOU WANKER?

Several weeks were lost — probably something that Alexander Luthor did, shoulda never let him use the iBook. Anyway, purchases during the Lost Month include: “Legion of Super Heroes” #14, “Marvel Romance: Redux,” “Marvel Team Up” #17, “X-Factor” #3, “X-Factor” #4, “Godland” #8, “Fear Agent” #3, “Marvel Team-Up” #18, “Next Wave” #2, “Ultimates” #10 (made the jump, so much good crazy), “Spell Game” #3, “I Heart Marvel: Outlaw Love,” “Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: A-Z (Benny Beckley to Crazy Eight),” “Legion of Super Heroes” #15, “Black Panther” #13, “Lucifer” #71, “Supermarket” #1, “Noble Causes” #17, “She-Hulk” #1, “Planetary Brigade” #1, “Justice” #4, “Punisher/Bullseye” #4, and “Daredevil” #82. It’s safe to say everything else, to some degree, sucked — none of the rest are worth taking up more space reviewing … yet …

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