THE INTRODUCTION TO THIS WEEK'S COLUMN
I did some research for this week's column. With the deadline on this column mere hours away, I spent an hour playing Team Fortress Classic on-line, blowing up several bad guys and having myself a ball. I now know what it's like to be a hot artist in today's market.
Except I still got this column in ahead of time.
Damn. Better luck next time, I suppose.
MORE SUGGESTIONS FOR MARVEL
Marvel happily announced this past Friday that Chris Claremont will be returning to scripting duties on both X-MEN and UNCANNY X-MEN as of March 2000. Rumor also has it that Rob Liefeld is set to become something akin to an "ideas man" for the "second tier" of X-titles.
If Marvel announces the return of MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS or John Byrne's sudden dismissal from all things Spider-related in the next week, I may have to sue for creative consultancy fees.
Yes, this timing is most likely coincidence. But in case it isn't, here are some more suggestions for Marvel:
Return to the day and age of the editor/writer. Chris Claremont would benefit from this type of system, I think. At the very least, it would stave off the inevitable fight with Bob Harras that would lead to his leaving the books once more.
Some more X-related suggestions: Get Tom Orzechowski back to letter Claremont's books. If he's too busy with SPAWN, get L. Lois Buhalis. Their distinct looks contributed just as much to those glory days of the X books as much as Byrne's art, or Lee's, or Silvestri's. If Alan Davis would stay to draw one of the titles, I'd love that. Suggested artists for these books: Carlos Pacheco, Steve Rude, Adam Kubert. (There are many other artists I'd love to see drawing these books, but wouldn't dare ask them to leave their current terrific books: Darick Robertson, John Cassaday, Erik Larsen, Bryan Hitch, George Perez, Stuart Immonen. And then there are those I'd know could never meet the deadlines: Dale Keown and Travis Charest, for two.)
Give PAD THE INCREDIBLE HULK back. Let him be writer/editor. PAD is just as associated with Hulk these days as Claremont is with the X-Men. And this is rightfully so. We already know where PAD would be going with the book. Now let's give him a shot at getting us there.
Let's get to work on approving that JLA/AVENGERS crossover, please?
I'd keep the current cover layout designs. I like them. The issue number is easy to find, the price is unobstrusive. The character and the coliphon fit nicely.
Jonah might not like it if I left CBR to take a new job, but I'd be more than happy to submit my resume for editor-in-chief at Marvel. =)
YES, MORE X-MEN STUFF
X-MEN #94 is a double-sized extravaganza, thus proving that your issue number doesn't have to be evenly divisible by 5 to call for a super-sized issue! Why does this book need to be so thick?
I haven't a clue.
The main story, as plotted by Alan Davis, scripted by Terry Kavanagh, and drawn by Davis with Mark Farmer, is one of those typically confusing crossover-prone things that the X books are infamous for. They're setting up the next big crossover at the expense of anything resembling good storytelling. Aside from a couple of nice character beats, the villains are unexplained, their plot is inexplicable, and the reader is left scratching his head.
I guess the whole purpose of the extra pages was so that we could have a 10-page story by John Byrne of his upcoming X-MEN series, THE HIDDEN YEARS. I have news for Marvel, though: this preview is not selling me on the series. Byrne's art is tempered slightly by Tom Palmer's finishes. But Palmer also serves to take some of the energy out of Byrne's pencils. The art looks a little stiff in spots. Maybe that's in homage to the time period the story is set in, but I'm not liking this too much. Also, I'm now officially sick of Byrne's lettering. The balloons are too big for some sections; the balloons are too tall when they would be more easily read as drawn a bit wider. And, most of all, they're just oddly shaped. It just looks incongruous when the lettering is done by computer and the balloons by hand. I think I'll still give it a couple of issues when it's released in October.
My reaction to Byrne's artwork might be in reaction to the gorgeous Davis/Farmer artwork seen in the front half of this issue. It's the best stuff in comics today, bar none. I've said it before and I just said it again.
In the interests of balance, though, I'll admit two things. First, I'm not sure Kitty Pryde would wear a dress quite that short. I'm currently re-reading EXCALIBUR. I've made it through the first year and a half or so, and it seems to be Kitty always dressed more conservatively, even on a night on the town. She played off of Phoenix that way. Phoenix was the more daring, more sexual character. Kitty was always taken aback by this, perhaps slightly jealously so. But when she once tried on one of Phoenix's costumes in an early issue, it repulsed her by how tight it was and how high the heels were. She looked uncomfortable.
Maybe things changed over the following 100 issues of the series, plus various specials and side mini-series. (I left EXCALIBUR after Alan Davis did, so I've still got a bit of fresh reading ahead of me.)
Secondly, I thought the cover was boring. It's just two people floating in the air, one firing at the other. Even worse is the monologue and title added to the art. Liquid! takes care of the background by adding in some fanciful coloring, but it's not enough to mask the weakness of the overall cover design.
Finally, how much longer do we have to endure that 8-page Spider-Man story insert? It's horribly annoying to have two stories going on at the same time like that. The way the insert is laid out, you don't even get an ad break before and after it. That's my biggest problem. The story isn't set off from the main story. It's just suddenly switching from the X-Men to this 8 page insert and then back to the main story again without any real mark to separate it. It's not confusing - the art styles are different enough and there is a "Bonus Insert" banner running across the top of the first page - but it does interrupt the flow of the story you're reading.
DEADPOOL: X-BOOK OR EX-X-BOOK?!?
Ah, let's not start that debate again. . .
Last, but not least, on our X-themed trilogy today, DEADPOOL #34 is writer Christopher Priest's first issue on the title. It's also the first issue not written by Joe Kelly, who made his name on this book by giving us the single best long-form character study I've ever seen Marvel publish.
Priest makes it clear from the start that this is not Kelly's title anymore. Heck, the book begins with Deadpool tossing out the trash, labeled as being "every good idea Kelly ever had" and "everything that made this book work." Form there, we see Deadpool in limbo, along with a bunch of comics characters Priest has written to their series cancellation, including DC's STEEL, Valiant's SOLAR, and Marvel's MOON KNIGHT. The only question I have is who those two are dressed in red, with orange shoulder pads and "TF" labels where their belt buckles would be.
From there we segue into some more classical Deadpool action with the Kingpin and some light hilarity and a question mark over what exactly it is that is happening to Wade Wilson right now. There are some wonderful questions there to be answered. I hope the book lasts long enough to give us some of those answers.
Also, Paco Diaz is now drawing the book. Let's hope he lasts longer than most of the rest of this book's artists. His style fits Priest's story here rather nicely.
Well, I'm afraid that the overtime I'm projected to run up this week will mean Friday's PIPELINE2 will most likely be some letters in reaction to the X-Men column from two weeks prior. After that, I promise to lay off the Marvel mutants for a while.
Also, I'd just like to apologize on behalf of Team Pipeline for any trouble you may have had accessing Friday's PIPELINE2 column. Due to a slight SNAFU on one bit of coding, the link to the column from the main page's left column was pointing at the previous issue. So if you missed it or couldn't get through to it, you can find that column here. Go ahead and read it. Larry Young will be glad you did. So will Mike Kunkel.