Pipeline: Pipeline, Issue #61

Sun, August 2nd, 1998 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

PLEASANT SURPRISE OF THE MONTH

Oni Press makes a lot of popular books. Having never actually seen any of Kevin Smith's films, I don't read any of them, really. (I do want to see them -- particularly CHASING AMY; I just never have.) This week I noticed an interesting-looking book from Oni Press completely unconnected to Bob and Jay. The book is entitled WHITEOUT and is drawn by Steve Lieber. Steve, besides being a really nice guy, is also a fantastic artist. I picked up the book based solely on the strength of his artwork. The write is Greg Rucka, who I had never heard of before this. Afterwards, I read the text page he wrote and found out he's some sort of prose novelist. I'd imagine he does his work in the science-fiction area. This comic book reads like a good science-fiction novel. It introduces the reader to an unfamiliar environment. In this case, it's Antarctica. But this isn't the Antarctica of the present day. This is one in the near future with something like 1200 workers on it. This entails a U.S. Marshall being based there as the law. This is her story as she tries to solve the first homocide on the ice cap.

There's a lot to take in here. Almost too much. A lot of names and people and situations. Rucka doesn't have the luxury he would in one of his novels of taking his time to explain it all. So you end up with some pages packed with a lot of lettering on them trying to catch up the reader quickly.

That minor quibble aside, this is an excellent story with a lot of through obviously put into it regarding what life would be like in the situation posited by the author.

The cover is by Matt Wagner and stands out nicely on the racks.

Another excellent book this week is TANGENT: WONDER WOMAN. I laughed from start to finish on this book. It is simply one of the funniest things Peter David has written in awhile. It also has the benefit of not being silliness for silliness sakes. You'd think that until it all starts coming together in the second half of the book. This is excellent writing and well worth the read.

The art is by someone named Angel Unzueta. I've never heard of him/her before, but it's obviously art influenced by Joe Quesada. The more I look at it the more amazed I am at how much an imitation this is of Quesada's style.

The only thing that throws me off about this book is the lettering. It's done by the same Comicraft person who did the Acclaim line of comics. So when you read it, you think you should be in the Valiant-2 Universe. It feels really weird. And it further poiints up my continuing claim of how important lettering is o the final product. It's not enough to merely legible or skilled at placing balloons. There is also a certain 'je ne sais quoi' involved here. Todd Klein is a chameleon. Tom Orzechowski screams super-hero. (And the letterer here is obviously Orz-trained.) John Workman has a wonderful open feeling to his lettering. I like it. Janice Chiangs' is just ugly.

OK, now that I've done my patented letterer rant for this quarter, I can move on with my life.

The new TANGENT: JOKER'S WILD almost makes me wish this were a regular series. With each new issue, some major revelation comes out. From the last page of the first Tangent issue we get a shock. And now with a clever wink and nod to that ending, we get the ending on this one this week, which just makes me want more. I find the storyline fascinating. At the same rate, though, the title wouldn't be as special if it came out monthly and there wouldn't be such a big surprise with every issue. So maybe it's better if it just comes out once or twice a year. It gives you something to look forward to. The art is excellent, the story is clever. I want more.

The final comic book in question this week is THE SAVAGE SHE-DRAGON #51. In wake of Dragon's apparent demise last issue, She-Dragon is the new star of the book. (One gets the feeling that if this were DC, this book would have come packaged with a black armband or maybe a special lenticular cover to show off this change. If it were Marvel, the title would be cancelled and restarted with a new number one. But this is Erik Larsen, the most stable creator in most of comics.) This is an excellent issue for people who want to start reading the book. I know issue 50 was billed as such, but it also cost $6.00, and the story was overrun with captions to make it painfully obvious who was who for new readers. This one is a lot simpler and more straight-forwards. Characters are defined by their actions and their words and not some omniscient narrator. It's also very light and entertaining and bridges the segments between Dragon's death and the next big storyline quite nicely.

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