Pipeline: Pipeline, Issue #200

Tue, April 3rd, 2001 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

WHAT YOU'RE ABOUT TO READ

There are three reviews at the top of the column. They all share one trait in common – they are first issues of new series. After that, you get a sneak preview at this week's TELLOS: MAIDEN VOYAGE and a look at PREVIEWS for June 2001, including some items that popped out at me. Finally, it's a bit of housekeeping with corrections and updates, and a quick thanks to all those who made this column possible for the past 200 weeks.

JUST A PILGRIM

[Just A Pilgrim #1]I'm not a huge Garth Ennis fan. By that, I mean I don't follow him religiously from book to book. When he happens to cross into something that interests me, though, I'll give him a shot. I've only read a couple of HITMAN issues and it doesn't really annoy me all that much that I haven't read more. I've written before about my distaste for PREACHER. I grew to enjoy his PUNISHER.

So I thought I'd give JUST A PILGRIM a shot. It's the latest title from Black Bull, with art by Carlos Ezquerra. It's a post-apocalyptic America, on a planet that was dried out by the slowly dying sun. Water is a hot commodity, if you can find it. And there are all sorts of Mad Max-type stuff going on, including heavily armed raiders with flying machines and Army surplus vehicles. Pilgrim happens into the middle of a raid by one such gang of savages upon some local folk, who are migrating to a place with drinkable water. Pilgrim knows this land better than anyone, and is most capable of defending himself, while spouting Biblical platitudes. So you can imagine the carnage that ensues when he takes the migrating people' side. Once again, the draw of the book seems to be some outrageously violent acts. The ad line for the second issue quotes Ennis as saying, "Possibly the most dreadful thing I've ever inflicted on a character happens in issue two."

Bongotone's Paul Mounts and Ken Wolak are credited with the color. As usual, they do an excellent job. The colors here are muted, dull tan and brown earth tones predominating over the dried up landscape.

Chris Eliopoulos letters and Ennis handles the letters column, himself, promising a rousing and exciting read on the back pages. As usual for the Black Bull comics, two pin-ups are featured in the back, drawn by Amanda Conner and John McCrea.

If you're not offended by Ennis' apparent issues with religion, and are looking for some more fun in the tone of the violent comics Ennis wallows in, this thing should be right up your alley.

AMERICAN CENTURY

[American Century #1]Howard Chaykin writes this book. That much is obvious because Page One is a sex scene.

OK, that's not entirely accurate. Chaykin's frequent writing partner, David Tischman is back again, too. The two write a perfect set-up issue here. Harry Block is, to put it mildly, restless in his role as an airline pilot and husband to an unhappy wife in a mediocre suburban neighborhood. So he does something about it.

Chaykin and Tischman have developed an extraordinary script for this first issue. While there are a dozen characters in this issue, it's not terribly difficult to keep them separated in your mind. And the truly attentive readers will see all the cross-conversations and meaning in the scene early in the issue at the neighbor's party. There's a lot to keep track of, but it's worth paying careful attention to. In the end, the first issue tells a complete story, sets up the plight of the lead characters, and leaves us wanting more. What more could you ask for?

Marc Laming (with inks by John Stokes) does a remarkable job on art here, keeping the "average everyday" people set in 1949 looking both attired properly and acting naturally. There's no confusion between characters. They all look and act differently. Laming sticks to a grid-like format, without any distracting overlapping panels or action bursting out of panels. "Camera angles" are chosen carefully, without dramatic changes with little purpose.

Ken Bruzenak is back to letter this title. He doesn't have all the lettering gymnastics to do here that he had in AMERICAN FLAGG. This book is very much more about subtlety that being in your face.

If you've never read one of Howard Chaykin's books, this one wouldn't be a bad one to start. It's easily accessible. It's just getting started. And it contains all the classic Chaykin story elements.

If you're already a Chaykin fan, I think you'll slip into this comic fairly easily.

QUEEN AND COUNTRY

[Queen and Country #1]The first issue of Oni Press' latest series is what a first issue should be. It's complete in one book. It introduces us to the main character and shows us what she does. It explains enough to get us interested. While there's no obvious cliffhanger ending, you'll still be wanting to read the second issue right away, and be somewhat annoyed that there's a two month wait for the next issue.

Greg Rucka's spun off Tara Chace from WHITEOUT into her own series, with a flavor of international espionage and intrigue. Picture a more realistic, down and dirty, James Bond.

It's a testament to Rucka's storytelling ability that I thought the issue was done way too soon. When I went back to check, I counted 25 full pages of non-interrupted story. It's longer than your average comic book, but the tension and action was enough to carry you through it so quickly that you didn't realize how much you were reading. Rucka also does a good job in explaining some basic spy parlance and behavior in unobtrusive ways. There are no long narrative explanations for why Chace does the things she does. She just does them, sometimes muttering to herself about them.

Steve Rolston's art is functional. It's a little awkward at times in that the characters have a tendency to look a little stuff and their heads don't always sit right on their shoulders, but the anatomy is just fine, his storytelling is easy to follow, and his art works well in black and white.

If only Sean Konot would stop using that annoying cursive font for individual thoughts. It was distracting and hard to read in the recent ROBIN: YEAR ONE mini-series, and it's even worse here, since the lettering is somewhat smaller. The rest of his lettering is just fine, though.

Tim Sale is drawing the covers for the first three issues, and the first one looks pretty spiffy.

The book is bi-monthly, which will be a bit of a drag, but I'll just keep myself occupied with some other stuff. It is worth reading, though, I think.

PREVIEW: TELLOS: MAIDEN VOYAGE

[Tellos: Maiden Voyage]
Tellos: Maiden Voyage #1 Preview
Appearing in comic shops tomorrow is TELLOS: MAIDEN VOYAGE. It's a 48 page one shot from the series writer Todd Dezago. He's got three separate stories in this book. A French artist named Crisse draws the main story. It tells the tale of Serra's first trip on the Sheva Nova. The cover that he drew for the book as well as the first page of his story is presented here.

Thor Badendyck draws the second story, "Clothes Call." If you're wondering about his art style, keep in mind that Thor is paralyzed. This story is drawn using a pen in his mouth. It's remarkable in its own right, from a stylistic point of view. But you add that in, and it takes your breath away. The first two pages from that story are included here.

The final story is "Last Wishes" and is drawn by Mike Wieringo. It acts as an epilogue to the first series. Sorry. No art available for this one. You'll just have to pick up the book tomorrow.

TELLOS: MAIDEN VOYAGE, of the late Gorilla imprint, is published in prestige format by Image Comics, and will set you back six bucks.

PREVIEWS FOR JUNE 2001

[Previews]The new magalog (as they used to call it at one point) is out on shelves now. You've got less than two weeks to pre-order what you want.

As always, this stuff is just the tip of the iceberg that is PREVIEWS. It's weighing in at over 470 pages these days. It would be impossible to summarize all of the interesting stuff in the magalog, and I'm not attempting to. These are just some things that stuck out to me for various reasons. I would suggest doing some research for yourself and seeing what you might like to pre-order today.

In completely random order:

The book I'm looking most forward to in June 2001 is solicited on page 328. Written by Dennis O'Neil, DC COMICS GUIDE TO WRITING COMICS weighs in at 128 pages for $20. It's exactly what you'd expect from a book with that title – O'Neil's tips on writing comics, including story structure, sub-plots, character creation, and more.

Image Comics is putting a push behind the CHASING DOGMA trade paperback, written by Kevin Smith, that bridges the gap between "Chasing Amy" and "Dogma." Duncan Fegredo does the art. For $13, you get 120 color pages.

It might be very very entertaining. I don't know. I haven't read it. But the thing that surprises me about the solicitation are the pages that are previewed on page 112. Jay's dialogue is too dirty for me to reprint here. While I don't have a problem reading books with such dialogue, I just always thought it was against Diamond's policy to turn PREVIEWS into an R-rated book.

Dork Storm Press is collecting the second six issues of DORK TOWER into one trade entitled DORK SHADOWS: THE COLLECTED DORK TOWER VOLUME 2. For $16, you'll get 160 pages of funny gaming-related comic strips, with some stories centering on comics and science fiction, to boot. It's the book for the geek within you.

DC solicits STEAMPUNK: MANIMATRON trade paperback. Now you can sit down and read all five indecipherable issues of Joe Kelly and Chris Bachalo's series in one sitting. And if you do, you have my sympathy.

On sale June 13th is BLACK PANTHER: THE CLIENT, collecting the first five issues of Marvel's superhero/political thriller series. It's a good start. I'm really hoping Marvel gets busy producing more volumes of this series. It's definitely one that could stand the test of time and will stand up to repeated readings. It'll run you $15 for the 128-page volume. For a larger review of BLACK PANTHER, check out Pipeline2 from a couple weeks back.

My, but the CrossGen Universe is getting busy. In addition to the third issue of Mark Waid and Steve Epting's CRUX, CrossGen is soliciting for a prequel to SOJOURN, from Marz and Greg Land. SOJOURN PREQUEL will be $2.95 for a full 32 pages' worth of story. That should be a pretty good deal, given that it's 32 pages of Greg Land's art. It's being used to set the stage for the on-going series that begins the next month.

One of the higher-end deals, but also one of the oddest items up for solicitation that I've ever seen in PREVIEWS comes on page 212. It's entitled "Fred Perry's Original Artwork Gift Pack." For $105, you can get two pages of his original art at random, along with two Perry comics, a poster, and a certificate of authenticity. If you're an original art fan with a Fred Perry jonesing, this one might work for you.

From the bizarre to the ridiculous: Page 231 contains a solicitation for black panties emblazoned with "Bad Kitty" across the front. That's so wrong on so many levels…

CORRECTIONS AND UPDATES

BATMAN: GOTHAM NOIR, reviewed here last week, had an artist. His name is Sean Phillips, of WILDCATS fame. He did an excellent job, and I didn't mean to slight him in my rush to savor the noir tendencies of the book. He also did an amazing job with the art, consistent with the kind of stuff you've seen him do in WILDCATS and elsewhere. He perfectly captures the noir feel, which is a good thing since it was my mission to use the word "noir" a mind-numbingly large number of times in my review.

Barbara Kesel also did not go from ULTRAGIRL to Image Comics, as the column ready early last Tuesday. Well, actually she did. Anyone remember SAVANT GARDE, or am I the only fan of that title, too? In this age of AUTHORITY, it seems like such a quaint juvenile title, but to me it was a lot of fun.

Anyway, the original text of the column read that Barbara Kesel had joined up with "some upstart Florida comics company." Due to an unfortunate systems search-and-replace error, that got "fixed" to Image Comics.

SPECIAL THANKS

This is the "big" 200th Pipeline Commentary and Review. In addition to being the 200th week in a row that I've written this thing, it's also the 100th week I've written it for CBR. Doing a little math: Pipeline2 hit its 92nd column last week, and I've written an additional nine PCR Extra's. So this is column #201 for CBR. Time flies. I can't help but look back at those older columns and see how much better this column has gotten, and how much faster I type today for all that practice. =)

Big thanks go first and foremost to newsman supreme Beau Yarbrough and the boss man himself, Jonah Weiland. They plucked me up off USENET and an obscure self-made web site a couple of years ago. And it's been a heck of a ride ever since.

Thanks to all the professionals who have kindly pointed it out when I got something wrong, who fed me stuff for the column, or who just wrote in to comment on the column itself. Their collective patience in dealing with the ever-expanding on-line columnist community is to be commended.

But most of all, thanks to all of you who read Pipeline week in and week out, twice a week. It wouldn't be possible without you. And I think you for your e-mails, your corrections, your posts on the message board, your thoughts and opinions, and your word of mouth that has helped to greatly expand the audience reading Pipeline.

Don't quit now. I'll be back Friday with the first part of a look at licensed comics, starting with Bongo Comics' THE SIMPSONS, and more!

For what it's worth, I also read GIRL GENIUS #1 in preparation for this column. My reaction to it is a simple "eh." I'm not excited enough about it one way or the other to write anything up about it.

You can e-mail me your comments on this column, or post them for all the world to see and respond to over on the Pipeline Message Board.

More than 200 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns are still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML. Those columns are even migrating over here in drips and drabs. Eventually, they'll all be on CBR. I can't believe Pipeline is entering its fifth year in nine short weeks…

This year, I'll be at the Chicago Comicon (i.e. WizardWorld) the San Diego Comicon (i.e. the Comic Con International: San Diego), and the Pittsburgh Comicon, which requires no second name. Hope to meet some of you there.

Finally, I write DVD reviews (occasionally) for the gang over at DVD Channel News. If you're into DVD, check out my stuff there.

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