I've finally figured out the genius behind Erik Larsen's take on WOLVERINE. Took me long enough, didn't it? Well, it took some searching, what can I say?
The first thing is that most people seemed disappointed by the Wolvie In Space saga that started Larsen's run on the title.
While Jeff Matsuda's pencils were often breathtakingly disappointing, the story itself was not that bad, and the ending was terrific. Since then, Leinel Francis Yu has returned to the title's art duties, and the art has become ten times better and more consistent. (Although maybe I shouldn't speak too soon. He's only been back for a couple of issues so far.)
The latest issue, WOLVERINE #140, seems at first blush to be a couple of meaningless fight scenes. Heck, some might even argue for that description with WOLVERINE #139 guest-starring Cable. It's not that, though. It's much more.
Erik Larsen has chosen to explore the psyche and character of Wolverine, rather than to construct strong individual plots. We're exploring Wolverine's fractured psyche. The Wolverine In Space saga serves to show Wolverine that he can't beat everyone every time. Taken in conjunction with recent exploits over in the X-MEN books, Wolvie's ego has taken quite a blow lately. Erik Larsen has chosen to deal with that aspect, rather than adding more meaningless layers upon the character's mysterious origins, a la X-FILES, as much as I hate to say it. Besides, that job is taken up quite nicely between X-MEN and UNCANNY X-MEN which put event after event up there and rarely deal with the fullness of their repercussions.
In the meantime, there are lots of little things to enjoy in this issue. Erik gets to write stories including Solo and Cardiac, two characters he had a hand in creating back in his days on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. Yu throws in a bunch of "Didja Notice?"s on the opening double-page spread, including the robot from Lost In Space and at least one Transformer. (Is that one of Dave Johnson's robots from the second SUPER-PATRIOT mini-series off on the left? If so, I'm really impressed.) The by-play between Nightcrawler and Wolverine is as fun as always. (Aside: I think that relationship was best handled in a serial Scott Lobdell wrote in MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS some years ago with Gene Colan on art.)
TELLOS ALL ABOUT IT
Todd De Zago and Mike Wieringo's TELLOS #1 came out this past week. I can't tell you how impressed I am by it. If they manage to keep this book on the anticipated schedule and keep up the quality seen in this first issue, it should be outselling BATTLE CHASERS and DANGER GIRLS by September, if there is any hope for this market.
It's parts BATTLE CHASERS and LEAVE IT TO CHANCE. It's a fantasy story complete with magical glowing gem and a young fair-haired boy, as well as gnomes and sword-wielding talking animals mixing in with humans and pirates and all the rest. The execution here is marvelous.
I'm not entirely sure who colored this, but the hues are bright and well shaded and blended. (Is Comicraft expanding into coloring, maybe?) The computer effects are not overused and fit in well with the rest of the coloring. Mike Wieringo draws what amounts to a 22-page action sequence with as much panache -- if not moreso -- as J. Scott Campbell does over on DANGER GIRLS.
This book appears to be the complete package. It looks incredibly good. It reads well. It's a whole lot of fun. And it's very imaginative. It's everything we keep asking our comics to be, isn't it?
THE NEW NEW WARRIORS
In case you haven't seen it yet, the new designs for the characters starring in the upcoming NEW WARRIORS revival have shown up in this week's WIZARD and in various comics news sites around the web. Folks, it's bad. Marvel dictated new costume designs for all the characters. Why? You got me. Nobody's seen the New Warriors in a few years. Brand recognition won't be too high. So Marvel has decided to throw out what little coinage they have in that department by 'updating' all the characters. Namorita is completely unrecognizable. Aside from her "blue period", she's always worn some sort of green swimsuit, basically, as her costume. Artists have played around with the costume for a long time. John Byrne changed it around a time or three during his tenure on NAMOR. But now it's this weird white/fishnet hybrid. Nova gets the worst treatment of the lot. Speedball's change is minor, but I liked the sleeker look over the more gadget-like look he's got now with a pair of goggles. Justice is just weird. Turbo may be getting the only semi-good deal out of this all. Her costume at the start was a bit hokey-looking, but it fit in with her character at the beginning. Now she's added a techo-look with wacky funky armor. Once again, I seem to prefer more sleek-looking costumes.
Jay Faerber is referring to the series as "like Dawson's Creek with superpowers." The timing on that is impeccable given last week's column entry about Dawson's Creek. =)
It's going to be tough to do. The reason why Dawson's Creek is so good is that the character growth proceeds naturally and from within. It's not just angst and hormones gone wild. It's not just good-looking people and pretty locations. The characters speak and express themselves well. Some call it unrealistic. I just call it enjoyable to watch people who can be so self-aware and can speak English well. I wish more comics had that.
ODDS AND ENDS
This is the 104th issue of Pipeline Commentary and Review. For those of you skilled in math, you must realize that this is the 2nd anniversary column. (52 weeks in a year times 2 years) On the other hand, the very first column debuted with a "cover date" of 08 June 1997, so it looks like we'll have to wait another week for a chronological anniversary. Weird, isn't it?
Yes, that mention last week about Alan Moore guest-writing an issue of FANBOY was a joke on my part. Guess I should have labeled it more obviously so.
My spell-checker asks me to call the aforementioned De Zago/Wieringo series 'TOELESS.'
I think THE FLASH's "Chain Lightning" storyline is like STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE. I believe STAR WARS: TPM will look a lot better once people see the next chapter or two and realize everything the first movie was setting up. Likewise, I think reading "Chain Lightning" complete in one sitting makes it pace out a lot better than reading it chapter by chapter over the course of 5 months. Granted, there's a lot of unnecessary verbosity when read this way, but you can see that it wasn't as drawn out as you thought it was the first time around.
Finally, with Kurt Busiek officially announcing he's leaving THUNDERBOLTS and looking at doing more creator-owned work, is there anyone left who can seriously call the BULLDOG rumor a fanciful lie of Rich Johnston's imagination? I've been meaning to write a full column explaining why I think the rumor makes sense, but I think we've gotten to the point where the story is so obviously coming true, that it would be redundant of me to fully outline the case anymore. I'm looking forward to the official announcement, whenever it comes. (I'm hoping for San Diego, so I can be there for it. =)