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comix: the buy pile
august 17, 2005

Every week I go to the comic book store (Comics Ink at Overland and Braddock 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.

Top 10: Beyond the Farthest Precinct #1:
You can tell from the lack of relative density of concepts that this ain't Alan Moore and Gene Ha, but it's a close approximation as Paul Di Fillipo and Jerry Ordway take us back to the precinct five years after Commissioner Ultima's mad rampage through the cafeteria. I liked the core story -- a Hill Street Blues procedural with "rookies" added in, following a precinct-wide summer cookout. Ordway's command of facial detail seems to outstrip Ha's by a smidgeon, and he makes a much more crammed, more intimate Neopolis than Ha's sprawling cityscapes, but I didn't mind. I also liked di Fillipo's command of the different character voices. A solid follow up to the classic run, and despite the surprise on the last page going way, way too fast, I'm excited to see where the story leads.

Small Gods #10:
Jump from the Read Pile. Speaking of fun -- after the drabness of the last story arc, a superhumanly determined telepathic killer is used by the government to get messy, until she decides she's had enough. Her handler, a telepath who can shield himself from her amazingly dangerous visions (imagine if Max Lord and Dani Moonstar had a kid), and who warns of the danger she presents. Really riveting storytelling in the same tense, intimate way of the last few issues of Bullseye's Greatest Hits and a great deal of fun for me. This title works best when brushing against the organizations of power in its slightly different world.

Defenders #2:
Dormammu (and Umar!) are a wacky, incestuous Odd Couple by way of Kevin Spacey and Joan Severance in Wiseguys. Namor is more brawn than brain, and the Hulk is more flippant growling than even his considerable brawn. All while the good Doctor muddles through and the Surfer is overcome with simplicity. Really brilliant storytelling while keeping a whole lot of plates spinning at the same time. Of course Maguire's detailed art goes a step farther, expanding Dormammu's range of facial expressions (but why exactly was Umar showering in a bikini? Or why was she wearing the Viper's lipstick?) and the zingers fly faster and more furious than Paul Walker. Just really entertaining from cover to cover.

The Atheist #2:
Doing a better Warren Ellis impersonation than Ellis himself might be able to pull off, Hester's straight laced protagonist and his Agent Scully-esque Canadian sidekick follow, well, a somewhat similar path as Punchy and Destra did in a recent issue of The Intimates in search of answers with a rogue mad scientist who's still making time for his friends. The struggle against reincarnated souls taking over the bodies of teenagers continues, with some fascinating scientific tidbits thrown in (I wonder how the Comics Debunker Blog would look at things), mad ideas are thrown around willy nilly, and it's like some of the more fun moments of Transmetropolitan without the misantropy being so intense. Good stuff, with John McCrea toning down some of his more extreme artistic tendencies to make this black-and-white tale sing.

Lucifer #65:
The Lightbringer makes a decision about the war in heaven (heck, everybody does), and things escalate from their already fevered pitch. Secrets that are thousands of centuries old start coming to life -- about Fenris and more -- and the involved story keeps spinning and spinning. I saw that this was only part three of a six-part story, which makes me wonder how much punishment the Silver City can withstand. But war in heaven is certainly enough to keep my attention.

Soulfire: Dying of the Light #1:
Jump from the Read Pile. I got a chance to visit Aspen Studios recently, and this title caught my attention. The idea -- which mixes magic and futuristic technology -- interested me because it trod similar paths as my recently released novel (available at Amazon.com). Balancing the old ways and the new ways is a personal mission of mine, so I glommed on to this. The story here is set at the time when Magic has peaked and starts its descent from being dominant as a world force, with considerably more optimistic and wide-eyed characters than the ones that have appeared previously (this is a prequel). However, with J.T. Krul's non-stop monologues as a means of storytelling (my teachers always said, "show, don't tell"), talented newcomer Micah Gunnell's intricate artwork is mostly backdrop for nigh-omniscient narration. Still, the core story (which is probably Michael Turner's ideas translated through the work) comes through, with a betrayal as the final cliffhanger, and I'm watching this with some interest.

Godland #2:
Jump from the Read Pile. Speaking of wacky ideas, the Kirby-tastic tale (by way of Mignola) introduces yet another wacky potential villain, tosses the hero to the bottom of the Marianas Trench (look it up), and generally goes nutty in a way that I was sure people forgot how to do. Basil Cronus' off-the-cuff dialogue simply floored me, Adam Archer's cipher-esque personality renubded ne if Dr. Manhattan in a way, and Tom Scioli's art keeps it all moving along with nostalgic beauty. Too fun to leave on the shelf.

Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #1:
Huge jump from the Read Pile. Maybe it's my current dry spell, maybe it's my closet optimism, but this very sweet tale (fitting in between the cracks of both Ultimate X-Men and events in Ultimate Spider-Men) sends Ultimste Peter on a date (of sorts) with Ultimate Kitty Pryde, and it's just a charming, wonderful story. Wholly self-contained, light and entertaining, shows Ultimate Shocker to be as much of a loser as the real thing (maybe more), and with some really cute instances of romantic tension. Some of the facial features seemed rushed, but overall this is a really damned entertaining comic book. Who knew?

Rocketo #1:
Everybody and their mom is talking about the man who could be the next Darwyn Cooke, and for good reason. With a lyrical twist to the narration and artwork that would have fit in well for a Jules Verne tale, this story is retro and futuristic all at once, in ways that Sky Captain completely missed. Think about those Sinbad movies that used to come on Saturday afternoons, or the Flash Gordon serials, and you'll get a sense of the fun here. Great work, and well worth watching what Frank Espinosa will come up with next.

Buy Pile Breakdown: Pricy as hell, but wow, what a week of great reading.

I also bought the hardcover Top Ten: The Forty-Niners but I haven't opened it yet.

Oh, and from the "lost week" two weeks ago I bought House of M: Fantastic Four #2 (a huge jump from the Read Pile), Marvel Team-Up #11 (a Buy Pile standard now), The Intimates #10 (a great issue with a simply delightful trick with the info scrolls), and Y: The Last Man #36 (which has really started to lose its way).

Then there's the stuff on the "read pile" that I don't bring home ...

House of M: Spider-Man #3:
The House of M stunt isn't three months old, and already this issue shatters its fragile new continuity. The events here make the events in the main House of M title wholly impossible, because the Peter Parker here could not have gone on to do those things (as he wouldn't have been in a position to do so) and the Peter Parker there could never carry on this way with the knowledge he has of his "real" life. When you toss in the wholly ridiculous reveal of the mystery Goblin at the end (if somebody says "clone of an existing character" I'll hit them over the head with a chair). Relentlessly stupid.

Green Lantern #3:
Which leads us to Hal's comeback tour. Now, the fact that the mewling H.E.A.T. types would accept this tepid reboot is sad enough, but for the writers to expect readers to believe Hal can deck an Air Force general, be handed an F-22, trash it and never have to deal with the consequences ... gah. Then, if you saw the scene with the head of one of the antagonists here, which is not only stupid but contradicts at least two comics I've personally read in the past about said antagonist ... really, what is Johns smoking up there? Outlandishly stupid.

Marvel Knights 4 #21:
From messing up the present to messing up the past -- in a fit of Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes-esque nostalgia, the creative team here (and I use the term loosely) shoehorns a stillborn affair between Sue and T'Challa into the FF's first meeting with the Wakandan monarch. Gah! The core story could have been okay, with Sue taking a girl's night out (She-Hulk, She-Thing, Emma Frost -- wow) as Reed screws up their anniversary again (and makes a last minute Hail Mary play that was telegraphed so far that Western Union delivered it by hand) if somewhat saccharine. But with this ludicrous story jammed in to what we laughingly refer to as continuity ... it sickens me. Appallingly stupid.

Birds of Prey #85:
What is this, an organized campaign to proliferate Stupitron particles? Everybody and their mom shows up to help Babs get medical help, while Dinah calls out some help to beat down some of Asia's deadliest martial artists. The second part was okay, if the art lacked pep and dynamism. But the main story was such a stupid anticlimax, such a chatty tease, that it made me wish I'd have read the book wearing globes and protective goggles. Not just sadly stupid, but dull as well.

Mutopia X #2:
Izzy Ortega's marital woes are even more extreme in the House of M world, as his daughter is slated for a kind of quickening and it makes him question everything. Things go bad in a really public way, and that's just a mess. Nice tension, nice story development, but not quite good enough. But not being stupid, this week, is a major accomplishment.

Manhunter #13:
If you thought Hawkman's history was mixed up, when you read this, good luck knowing what the heck happened to the mantle of Manhunter (and was there a special on split personalities this week, with the House of M Spider-Man title getting a share?). The scared kid scene was the only good one here, as the rest was blah expository filler and less-than-compelling fight scenes.

Ultimate X-Men #62:
Remember that dumb idea they had to make the Abomination work for the feds? Well, even stupider is locking Lorna Dane in the same cell with the seductively convincing Erik Magnus Lenscherr (and with Ultimate Forge involved in a switcheroo that you'll either love or find really dumb, and I waver between both). Even dumber than that is Ultimate Havok and Ultimate Sunspot leading a charge to invade Ultimates HQ and bust Lorna out. It would be stupid if it wasn't so pathetic (see Ultimate Emma whining to Chuck).

Snake Eyes: Declassified #1:
Hey, I liked this story when it was told in G.I. Joe issues #93-96. With the added weirdness of Snake Eyes talking before he got all blown up, this does another Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes (or should we call it M: True Marvel Story?) between-the-panels look at stuff most G.I. Joe fans already knew, sucking the Hama source material dry. Yeah, I don't care. But again, not being stupid is an accomplishment, even if you have to retell a decades old story to manage it.

Seven Soldiers: Klarion the Witch Boy #3:
I liked the bit with the orphan gang, but this issue seemed a digression from what else was going on. Interesting somewhat, but not worth keeping.

Thunderbolts #11:
I can't believe I actually almost believed they would not build in a reset button -- Genis-Vell starts looking a lot like an M'Kraan crystal as his cosmic awareness pops up (sort of) and the human's resistance almost chooses too many enemies with the Kree around. So stupid that I almost can't even mention it.

Lex Luthor: Man of Steel #5:
Wow, what a let down. Trying to make the old Toyman a major threat was sad, screwing a cyborg is sadder, and Lex tilts at windmills for reasons that are stupid and allowed Azzarello to dip into his Cliche Bucket for some tepid attempts at emotional manipulation. After that stunning first issue, this one just never found its footing again. Just like Mnemovore.

Cable/Deadpool #11:
I think the series is over, because it cleaned up that last storyline faster than Keith Giffen on the end of Captain Marvel (and not so entertainingly) with a goofy trip back to the status quo.

Read Pile Roundup: Overwhelmingly crappy, as a whole, with some slight glimmers of mediocrity as a saving grace.

So, How Was It This Week? Only the sheer volume of the purchases, despite their high price, made the week a winnner. But it was an ugly victory, I tell ya ...

The Buy Pile is a weekly collection of comic reviews done by Hannibal Tabu (www.operative.net), originally published at UGO.com.

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