Pipeline: Pipeline #113

Wed, August 4th, 1999 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

FORGET MARVEL X -- NOW THIS LOOKS INTERESTING!

I've not read anything Jim Krueger has ever written. Not even FOOT

SOLDIERS. It's never really interested me, nor has MARVEL X. But

recent announcements from him have piqued my interesting. He's

publishing a couple of very interesting titles.

The first is "Alphabet Supes." Picture the Legion of Super-Heroes where

each character is named after a letter of the alphabet and takes his/her

personality from that letter. 'I' and 'E' get into fights over who goes first.

'T' is cross. Etc. etc. This could turn out either incredibly cool or too

gimmicky for its own sake.

The artist isn't named, but the preview pages look like John Byrne's art

(including a Byrne-like signature on the cover), which leads me to guess

Anthony Castrillo, who was last seen pencilling some FLASH issues

back in 1996. My first impression was Vic Bridges, who last did

FREAK FORCE. He did some great work there, but has since left the

comics field altogether for religious reasons.

I also like the uniform look they all have. Simple, sleek, with a splash of

color and their names on a badge near their shoulders.

The other project is called "Fly Boys." I don't care what the storyline

behind it is. Krueger is doing this series sideways -- in widescreen -- in

Cinemascope -- whatever you'd like to call it. I've written about the

widescreen format a bunch of times before this so I won't bore you all

with it again. When this comes out, though, I'll be sure to mention it here.

SNAP THE PIPELINE

We here at Pipeline Commentary and Review, i.e. me, would like to

wish Randy Lander well as he prepares to take on his new job. In the

absence of Snap Judgment reviews this week, here are as many as I

can spit out. These are all books I've read in the past week, and may

not necessarily be ones that just came out this past week. As I don't

have the patience to do highly detailed reviews and generally prefer to

keep spoilers out of this column, they will be much briefer than Randy's.

You've been warned.

FLASH #152: Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn bring up the interesting

mystery of who the new Flash is. Along the way, they remember the

whole subplot concerning Linda Park, whose absence a bunch of issues

ago lead me to believe that all of the stories since the wedding were

Hypertime-enabled. Some people might consider that a blessing if the

ridiculous Cobalt Blue Evil Twin story were eliminated from "our" DC

Universe proper. Paul Pelletier has some wonderful talent, but doesn't

show as much here as he could. He's a wonderful artist when allowed

to draw in a more "cartoony" style. He's working for classic super-hero

detail here, and it doesn't work all that often. Or maybe it's just the

inker's fault. Yeah, that's it. Besides, pencillers love to blame their

inkers for everything, right?

So I'm recommending this book, in the hopes that it straightens out a lot

of what has come before. It's got plenty of classical elements of mystery

and intrigue, to boot.

Brandon Peterson, whose artwork inside ranges from spiffy to

excellent, draws THE ASTONISHING X-MEN. (Just look at page 3

for an example of the latter. It's also excellently-colored by the guys

from Liquid!.) The story is probably meant for longer-term readers of

the X-books than I. If you remember, in detail, the history of Bastion

and Onslaught and Cable and all the rest, this book would probably

make perfect sense. Writer Howard Mackie does his best to fill in the

gaps as we go, but if I need that much explanation, it means the story is

going to suffer from being too reliant on too much other stuff. It also

seems as if the team is picked out of thin air, but I'm sure the team was

picked for some specific story purpose, which will come up a little later.

The plot was pretty simplistic -- team gets together, goes to rescue

small children. Big whoop.

I'm giving this one a pass, unless you're an ardent X follower or just

really like Brando's art.

PLANETARY #5 is an interesting period piece, in much the same way

as that issue of STORMWATCH in which we look at several different

periods of Jenny Sparks' life told in their respective storytelling styles.

However, this one doesn't fit as well, for me. Warren Ellis evokes some

wonderful moods and interesting bits of character, but there is no plot,

and the point of the story seems to vary widely. (Or maybe I'm just

being a crabby columnist who needs a nap.) John Cassaday hands in

some more amazing pencils, done in a variety of styles. Heck,

technically speaking, this might be his best effort to date. Special

commendation must go to Laura Depuy and Ali Fuchs for their efforts

in keeping the color schemes simple when they need to be, and

authentic to the period when Ellis calls for a flashback to pulp and dime

novel days.

I'd recommend this one if you're a PLANETARY fan. I'm sure it'll fit in

with the overall arc of things when all is said and done. I'm willing to

give the leash a little slack on this one.

SAVAGE DRAGON #63 was a little uncomfortable. Erik Larsen

basically redrew an old Dragon story from earlier in his career and

inserted it into present continuity. While the story may have been fine,

the telling of it suffered some from some awkward panels. You can

compare the two stories and see where Erik cleaned things up, but it

just wasn't enough for me. The final page's revelation as to Overlord's

identity was a bit of a mystery to many who read it, leaving the issue on

a bit of an awkward (there's that word again) note.

SAVAGE DRAGON #64, however, is terrific. Erik is back to

full-fledged 1999 art and storytelling styles. The mystery about

Overlord gets a page of needed cleanup right at the beginning. The rest

of the issue is just hilarious. This issue is packed with pages originally

done for the serial that ran in Comic Shop News some time ago. As

such, you get a gag-a-page feel to much of the issue. Taken as a whole,

however, those gags show you how Dragon is adjusting to his new

lifestyle. It's an interesting take on things. We also get two pages of

laugh-out-loud funny development on the shrunken-villain subplot.

So this one is easily recommended to all. I'm pretty sure you could

jump on right here. Would have been difficult with the previous issue,

but #64 is a good spot.

MR. MAJESTIC #1 is pure fantasy, along the same lines as Hercules

towing Manhattan out to see with a steel chain. It's the kind of stuff you

dreamed up when you were a five-year-old kid, eyes wide with the

feeling that anything's possible. This isn't a bad thing. It's rather

entertaining, but I had some problems with the storytelling. In short: We

saw the solution in the first 23 pages, and then found out what the

problem was in the last 5. While this can sometimes lead to one of

those stories where the ending makes the whole thing seem brilliant (see

THE USUAL SUSPECTS), here it doesn't. It leads to a lot of

confusion. And the ending doesn't make me want to go back and

reread it again to see what I missed out on. Joe Casey and Brian

Holguin write, and Ed McGuinness and Jason Martin draw.

This one is mildly recommended for some nice art and good idea.

Execution keeps it from a full recommendation.

J. Michael Straczynski's RISING STARS #1, with art by Keu Cha,

came out this week. I'll keep this one simple: HIGHLY

RECOMMENDED. Go out and get it. It sets things up real well, giving

you the background on the situation and the state of many of the

characters. Get in on this while you still can. Be there from the

beginning. Go.

Jim Lee has stopped doing the sideways formatting on DIVINE

RIGHT with issue #10, referring to it as a 'crazy whim' in the letters

column. UGH. I hope Jim Krueger's series mentioned above is a big hit.

Richard Bennett, not Scott Williams, inks this issue. I think this is as

good as his inks have ever looked over Lee's pencils, but Lee is really

best served with Williams inking over him. Lee draws some pretty

pictures, and he and co-writer Scott Lobdell fashion together a sedate

story leading up to the grand conclusion of this series in the next couple

of months.

If you've been reading DIVINE RIGHT, this one is recommended. If

you've never picked up an issue before, it's pointless to pick up, unless

you just want to see some fancy art.

WIZARD #97 features a J. Scott Campbell

Batgirl/Spider-Girl cover. Cheap shot alert:

Wouldn't it be cool if he could draw an issue

of DANGER GIRL, too? The inside of the

magazine is a pathetic waste. It's really sad.

I've tried to defend WIZARD a lot here.

They do some neat stuff. I disagree with

many editorial decisions, but all-in-all, it's not

too bad. These past couple of issues have

been less-than-good. This issue is atrocious,

devoting 8 pages to wrestling. It may not

sound like much, but when you realize the

feature interview with Harlan friggin' Ellison was 6 pages (the first page

of which is just a photo of the man), their movie casting section is

another 3, some pointless comparison of heroes fighting wastes two

pages with Jim Balent drawing women with fully inflated balloons for

chests, 6 pages to some sort of attempt to be funny picture comic set at

Marvel's Island of Adventure, and a one-page gag ad of a stupid

Monkey Guy recurring character. . . I'm sorry, I just lost the point. The

point is that Wizard devotes way too much stuff to stupid crap and not

enough to comic books. There is a nice 3 page Usagi Yojimbo comic in

there, and the Harlan Ellison interview is worth the read. The First Look

at Machina Rex is nice. There's not much else in there for $5, except

the BATMAN: DARK VICTORY #0 comic. It's a big loser.

The bottom line for Wizard is this: Stop pandering to an audience which

doesn't exist. How many 12 year olds read comics anymore? Maybe

you should pander to the college-aged crowd. It might make the

magazine readable, at least. Sales of the magazine right now are best on

the good distribution it gets and momentum. People read it because

they think they have to. They buy it because it's the only full-color

glossy monthly comics magazine. Not because it's good. Because,

increasingly, it isn't.

SUPERGIRL #36 features nice art by Leonard Kirk, as usual. But the

problem with it is Peter David's growing mythology. That is, there's so

much stuff to keep track of with this title, it's getting difficult to pick up

an issue at random and enjoy it. This issue will be particularly disastrous

for that reason, with an influx of YOUNG JUSTICE fans reading it for

the crossover. I've been reading this title and enjoying it since the first

issue, but I'm going to have to reread it, it seems, to refresh my memory

on everything.

So if you're a regular reader with a long memory, pick it up. If you're

not a regular reader or YJ completist, pass.

One last thing before I leave this portion of the column: I feel the need

to brag. I've been a letterhack for a bunch of years, but my output has

diminished greatly in the past year or two as I've been able to let out my

steam through this column. This week was like a return to the good old

days as I had three letters printed in the pages of WOLVERINE,

DIVINE RIGHT, and SAVAGE DRAGON.

It's enough to get me re-energized to write more again. Look for a

Pipeline2 column on letterhacking sometime in the future, too!

CBR BITS OF BUSINESS

Welcome back to Beau Yarbrough, CBR's newsman in residence, and

the first of us to tie the knot.

Finally, a big welcome to the latest CBR columnist, Steven Grant. Trust

me; I'm looking forward to reading his column just as much as you all

are. I just hope he doesn't take it personally if I occasionally feel the

need to blast wrestling, since he's writing one of those comics. =)

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