NOTHING BUT CLEAR SKIES, DO I SEE. . .
I'm glad I don't pick an official Pipeline Book of the Week. This would have been a very difficult week, indeed. So let's just look at the cream of the crop for this week and see what we have.
100 BULLETS #5 concludes the series' second story arc. Brian Azzarello writes and Eduardo Risso draws. For those of us too white to comprehend half the language from the first story arc, this one works better. Here we have yuppie bar crawls, Internet child pornography, high-stakes computer identity crises, and corporate intrigue. Oh, sure, there're some strippers in there, too. But the point is that the language isn't laced with hip sayings and Spanglish. It's easier to make out. The ending to this issue I saw coming a couple of pages ahead of time, but I thought it otherwise a nice touch.
For those of you coming in late, the set-up to the series is that there's a guy, Agent Graves, who gives people their chance at vengeance. He gives them conclusive proof of who wronged them as well as a gun with 100 untraceable bullets. It's up to them to do with that what they will. As such, the book becomes a morality play, completely devoid of superheroes or, even, heroes of the non-spandex variety.
The danger is in the potential for repetition. Good guy gets the gun. In the end, he decides not to use it, since doing so would be stooping to their level, or some such hoary clich. We don't get that here. There is no pattern yet.
The other big controversy surrounding the title would be Agent Graves. People seem to be crying out for more information and background on him. How does he do what he does? What's his story? Personally, I don't care. I didn't necessarily want some story arc above and beyond these individual stories. Do we need to know how Rod Serling knew about all those alternate universes from the Twilight Zone? But with the end of this issue, it appears that that's where we're headed.
If nothing else, just buy the series for the Dave Johnson covers. He doesn't draw much anymore.
PUTTING THE "WILD" IN WILDSTORM
The book I came closest to giving "Book of the Week" honors to is MR. MAJESTIC #3. This book is most definitely improving from its disappointing first issue. The second issue was interesting, and the third issue gives me reason to stick with this book regularly. This is a self-contained story of Mr. Majestic going out on the town with the ex-WildC.A.T. LadyTron, a.k.a. Maxine. It starts off in the bar formerly known as "Clark's," whose owner had a striking resemblance to an existing superhero character many claim Majestic is a rip-off of. Well, writers Brian Holguin and Joe Casey have sold the bar off. Now it's called "Mars Bar." Cute, I suppose. It's still the hangout of the super-powered set, but I liked the idea of "Clark's" more.
That isn't where the Alan Moore creations end in this issue, however. Holguin and Casey do a great job furthering the high concept behind Maxine. That is, she's a nun in a church that regards technology as sacred life. Maxine actually provides the focus for the issue, as we delve into her respect for technology in all walks of life, from the bar to the movie theater and everything in between. Majestic, in comparison, comes off as a stiff, humorless, geek. But it's kind of sweet, I suppose. And there's even a reference to what I think is one of the best-written shows on television today, Dawson's Creek.
Fan-fave Ed McGuinness supplies the art in this one and I think it's his best work on this series yet. It combines some Dave Johnson wizardry with some manga cartooning style. Yes, he even draws backgrounds.
This book is a perfect one to throw in the hands of someone who's never read a WildStorm comic before. The premise is simple enough. The story isn't "To Be Continued." The fun of the issue is in the high concepts and laughably absurd situations, but not nearly as absurd as that first issue.
THE COPYBOOK BATMAN
BATMAN: GOTHAM ADVENTURES #19 continues Scott Peterson's winning streak as writer on this title. He had large shoes to fill from Paul Dini and Ty Templeton, but he's doing a wonderful job. Yes, he seems to be following the Chuck Dixon school of writing. Each issue starts with slam-bang action: a splash page and a two-page spread. The pacing is really fast with minimal captions and word balloons. It makes for the quickest read since Jeff Smith irked thousands with that one mostly-silent issue of BONE. But this one is cute, has a neat twist or two, and will bring a smile to your face. He's also got a few elements of Paul Dini's sillier Batman change-of-pace scripts thrown in here, in the guise of the hapless villains.
Tim ("Siren", "The Copybook Tales") Levins, with the help of Terry Beatty on inks, is doing wonderful stuff. I can't rave enough. In the letters column, they compare his work to Mike Parobeck's. I don't think it's quite there. In part, the line is much thinner and the layouts a little more sparse. This might have to do with not having Rick Burchett's inks. It's not necessarily an inferior style. It's just a different look.
SUPERMAN RETURNS TO GLORY
I haven't read the Superman family of titles regularly since just after ZERO HOUR. I thought ACTION #700 was a terrific book. Then it all fell apart. In the aftermath of the destruction of Metropolis, stories became redundant, boring, and just plain silly. With the oncoming storylines involving Clark's death, Superman Blue, Superman Red and Blue, and who knows what other nonsense they had coming, I had enough. The Death of Superman was done well. Lightning never strikes twice. The Superman creators didn't realize that.
So for most promising new start, SUPERMAN #151 takes the cake. Written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by the much-undervalued Mark McKone, it's a wonderful return to all that is great about Superman. All the classic situations are back in place. The Daily Planet is back. Lois and Clark are reporters therein, with Jimmy behind the camera. Not everything has been ignored from the past few years, mind you. Lois and Clark are still married and now we have the added layer of Lois covering for Clark in emergency situations, but Loeb adds an extra twist to even that relationship in this issue. I don't want to give away the ending, but it will take your breath away in anticipation. Phil Jimenez draws the cover. The Comicraft crew - perhaps Richard Starkings himself? - have a lettering style here which reminds me a little of the kind of typeface you got with the lettering done in the earliest days of comics. The letters all look square and all the balloons are perfect circles or ovals. It's an interesting look. It's a bit off-putting at first, but I think I might get used to it. The only problem with this issue is that two or three pages came out slightly off-register. Look closely at pages 8 and 9.
I also have the black and white previews here for ACTION COMICS #760, which is due out on October 27th. This is the series from Joe Kelly's typewriter and German Garcia's draft table. It's a completely different take on the character and the situations. It's funny, it's completely over-the-top, it's sexy, and it's different from most any Superman story I've ever seen. German Garcia's pencils look much better than they did in his fill-in UNCANNY X-MEN issues. It's not nearly as polished looking as McKone's, but it does the job rather well.
INSERT SILLY OVERUSED AND TRITE X PUN HERE
UNCANNY X-MEN #375 gets the award for worst kept secret since the Hal Jordan/Spectre "revelation." OK, so that amounts to all of about two weeks, right? Unlike seemingly everyone else on the Internet, I'm not going to give away the big revelation of this issue, not even under heavy spoiler warning. Suffice it to say, everything else leading up to that made for a pretty good comic. Alan Davis writes, Terry Kavanagh overscripts - although this time he has the excuse of necessary exposition - and Adam Kubert pencils with Batt and Tim Townsend inking. The art is remarkable. Not as good as some of Kubert's previous issues, but this is still pretty good stuff. The story is, well, imagined. That much is obvious to all but the first-time X reader after about the dozenth page. But it's still strong work. It's all standard X fare. Nothing that hasn't been done before. But for some reason I thought they pulled it off well here. If nothing else, it's pretty to flip through.
The only real big qualm I have with this issue is the letters column. Why did they feel the need to insert it just before the last page of the issue? Why can't they have the two pages of the letters column not be on facing pages? I don't think it's that difficult to figure out that the letter at the end of page one would continue on to the second page. Instead, the flow of the story is interrupted and the last splash page seems to exist in a world all its own, blocked in by advertisements and previews in the back of the double-sized issue.
Don't forget to stop by again this Friday for PIPELINE2. This week's column is devoted to the fight scene in the super-hero comics. Why is it there? What makes it work? What makes for a good one? This is a think piece of sorts, backed by some solid fiction-writing techniques, as well as an understanding for what this medium is. So comeback on Friday morning and let me know what you think.
In the meantime, do yourself a favor and visit CBR's newest feature, "You'll All Be Sorry!" Gail has outdone herself this week with not only a scathing parody of PCR favorite Your Man @ Marvel, but also a wonderfully satiric faux interview between Wizard and John Byrne. Great stuff.