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comix: the buy pile
March 5, 2003

Every week I go to the comic book store (Comics Ink in Culver City, CA, hey Steve and Jason!) and grab a lot of comics. I sort these into two piles -- the "buy" pile (things I intend to spend money on, most often a small pile) and the "read" pile (often huge, including lots of stuff I don't actually like but wanna stay well informed about). In no particular order, here's some thoughts about all that. While we're here, why is it that The Crew is the only Tsunami title without a preview on the website? Hateration? I don't know ...

Star Wars: Empire #6:
After a really impressive opening arc by Dark Horse's home-grown talent Scott Allie (and I'm not mad at all for him never responding to my messages), Randy Stradley delivers a limp tale that is most egregious because the Empire itself is a supporting character. In this story, Leia has some real emotional moments and confronts the dichotomy between her ideals and her realities, but we could go back to scores of Marvel Star Wars comics and see that. The promise of this title was a look inside the workings and time and glory of the Empire. If I wanted this kind of emotional Rebel hand-wringing, there's scores of novels on the market to quench that thirst. I didn't. I want Imperial Smackdown, glorious stories about phalanxes of AT-AT's bringing unrepentant worlds into sublime order. Blah. The fight scenes in most of the DH Star Wars books I've seen lack scale and grandeur, and here it's no different. Davide Fabbri and Christian Dalla Vecchia are fine with interpersonal conflict and talking heads, but they sure don't send the pulse racing. I'm kinda mad I paid for this, but luckily it was only a two part story, and hopefully Dark Horse will be back on the, uh, horse next month.

Captain Marvel #6:
The probable winner of the U-Decide challenge (did Ultimate Adventures #2 ever ship? why won't Marville die?) takes a slight misstep this month, which happens when a writer is led to believe he works in a vacuum. The entire universe is destroyed -- off panel, even -- and restarted with, seemingly, no one being any the wiser. Douglas Adams fans aside, this sort of thing just doesn't happen in a shared universe. Still, David has some fun twists of dialogue and activity here, Mar-Vell remains insane and entertaining, and the character Epiphany is beginning to take on dialogue-ish shadings of the immaterial ghost of the last volume. What's her deal? Inquiring minds still want to know, and despite a slight dip in the quality this issue, I'm not mad I shelled out the cash on this one. Weirdest of all is that this issue is mentioned nowhere on Marvel's web page for comics shipping this week. Mmm.

Promethea #25:
I was of the belief that Alan Moore admitted this title went a bit astray, wandering through the Tree of Life (long story) for what seemed like a billion years. Back in the futuristic New York and working solidly in ABC continuity, Promethea has, in my opinion, unjumped the shark as Moore manages two converging storylines masterfully on what I consider to be his only real "original" work these days (Tom Strong being a kind of rehash of old glories in a new, shiny package). Bad things happen, the FBI raids everybody's house, and a friendship ends. This is good stuff.

Firebreather #3:
This title feels right somehow. It's hard to quantify. The teen angst has probably been done better, but the overlay of the custody issue and the power at his command makes this a riveting read every issue. I'll be very sorry to see the end of this mini, but maybe it'll be back in some form.

Way of the Rat #11:
Urf. One fight scene in 22 very fast moving pages. The second they finish this multiple-cover storyline, I'm switching to trades on this title. Not enough happens in each issue to make it worth the trouble of a floppy. I read The First in the store and had a similar complaint (plus the actual action in that book was very convoluted, it took me two reads to really understand it). I keep expecting Way of the Rat to really get up off the mat and do something, but I have yet to be rewarded for my patience. I should stick to Negation.

The Sandman Presents: Bast #3:
Mmm. This one ... I don't know about this one. As a very small number of people know, I am a practictioner of ancient Egyptian spirituality, so presentations of the ancestral spirits I work with often ... pique my interest. I have now bought all three installments of this mini, and the ending ... well ... it was weird. Not bad, not really good. Just ... I dunno. The panther character was never, in the context of the series, explained properly to me (and I'm not as encyclopaedic in my knowledge of Gaiman's Sandman lore as I am of, say, Star Wars), so I'm not really sure I understand what exactly happened. I dunno about this one.

Then there's the stuff I didn't buy ...

Action Comics #801
I don't really know why I keep reading Superman comics. I haven't enjoyed an issue of any of the regular Superman titles in easily five years. Yet something still draws me to this icon, this first among licensed properties, the Man of Tomorrow. It's more galling since I really like Joe Kelly's work normally, but this ... somehow it just falls limp. It exposes Superman for the reactionary, aimless, not-so-bright boy scout he's been since a little bit after Legends. Anyhoo, in this issue, something starts sparking metahumans. Everywhere. Seemingly one in every thousand people. No rhyme nor reason to their mutation (argh, I hate using that word now, damn you Marvel!), just a crisis that Luthor and the DEO stare dumbly at. I can't pretend like it really interested me, I mean, so what? I know that these changes won't affect, say, the blue-collar fun in Flash or the really tedious stuff in Green Lantern (which I read in the store and bored me so badly I can barely finish this parenthetical phrase about it), let alone the books I actually buy like JLA and JSA. Superman would not be alone on a crisis like this, but the group editor insists on letting this kind of stuff forge ahead. I'm becoming one of the detractors of Eddie Berganza's dominion over the diamond, even though I hear he's a wonderful guy. Ah well.

Captain America: What Price Glory? #1
My passionate hatred for Captain America (and the modern Superman, and Luke Skywalker, among other characters) isn't really a secret. Still, I pride myself on being able to enjoy a well written story. This title really hit the ground running, and not in a good way. Steve Rude's Silver Age stylings works well here, but Bruce Jones' script makes too many assumptions to keep the book afloat. Cap's friendship with ... some guy, a veteran I suppose, is never clearly explained, and while the guy's tortuous relationship with his Gwen-Stacy-esque wife surely has grist for the dramatic mill, it's given the short shrift for lengthy exposition and goofy posturing. Zaniest of all, Cap goes off half cocked without, from what I see here, a whit of corroborating evidence or even backup research. It's a goofy story -- it may well have been a work of genius twenty years ago -- that didn't do much for me.

Savage Dragon #105:
Just when I started picking this book up, it takes a turn for the ... well, I don't know. In Write Now! magazine, Larsen talked about trying to do a syndicated Dragon comic strip and reformatting some of the comic to fit this mold. You can see the results in some of the stuff here, with the three-panel, setup-punchline gag working overtime. The stepdaughter Angel is ... eww. She'd be fine in her own comic strip (that killer "doll" of hers is a hoot in a Dogbert/Stewie Griffin kind of way), but here I think her chemistry with the Dragon is strained and irritating. Since there are no rules for this title, I'm kind of hoping she gets squashed to death by something large and goofy, soon.

Alias #20
Two pages from the end, this comic book completely jumped the shark. A character who ... well, he's so anti-Bendis that he should get a badge for it. Anyway, this jackass shows up, and I know that things are going to hell, quickly, in a stretch handbasket. The metahuman drug story was zipping happily along, with a lot of wonderful dialogue and even an emotional scene from J. Jonah Jameson, and I was this close to adding this to my "buy on sight" list, regardless of what I'd heard about the storyline. No more. Yowza. It was like it was 1996 all over again for a second. I'll peek in next month to see if Bendis can recover from that choice, which I have to attribute to bad booze or something. Urf.

Overall, a mixed bag week with some good points and some disappointments.

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