Pipeline: Pipeline2, Issue #152

Fri, May 24th, 2002 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

IN THE MOOD FOR DOOM?

[Doom]The trade paperback of DOOM collects the two recent three-issue mini-series by writer Chuck Dixon and artist Leonardo Manco. It starts off strong, but unfortunately peters out by the end. The one thing that holds it all together, though, is Dixon's expert use of a single-minded character. You can't help but root for the otherwise despicable Latverian dictator.

The story takes place in the recent Marvel Universe past, with Doctor Doom sent hurtling towards "Planet Doom." It's a copy of earth created by the oh-so-powerful Franklin Richards and orbiting directly opposite our earth on the other side of the sun. It's an easy way to have your cake and eat it, too, with a Marvel Elseworlds tale. You get to make up your own version of Earth Marvel, while still having it count towards mainstream continuity. In the first mini-series, Doom is stuck in Africa, trying to make his way back to New York City and the Baxter Building, in an attempt to get home to his normal earth. Of course he'll make it. He is, after all, Doom.

Dixon makes Doom a powerful and arrogant son of a gun, filled with the confidence and self-determination that he can fulfill any goal he sets out for himself. Dixon makes that apparent by having Doom narrate the tale in the kind of caption boxes that lesser writers would have dragged a story down with. You'll find some measure of maniacal glee at the beginning of the second issue. "Enslaved" in a mining camp, Doom is plotting his escape route. "I am in the mines for three days," he muses to himself. "They trust me with an impact hammer. Fools." You know then and there that he's got it all worked out. While it doesn't go with perfect precision, Doom is unstoppable.

Leonardo Manco's art shines in the first storyline. He inks himself, and his work has a dirty and gritty look to it similar to Jae Lee's or Bill Sienkiewicz. It's grimy art for a grimy world. Not only does it fit the story being told, but it's also interesting in and of itself. If there's any weak spot, it's in the colors by Mariana Sanzone and lettering by Jonathan Babcock. The colors are garish, with a wide range of colors used for little purpose. Purples clash with greens and blues in a sometimes-dizzying array. A more singular color scheme would have added a lot to this book. Pick a dominant color for each scene and use it. The lettering by Babcock looks like the first try at a computer for a new letterer. The words are spaced oddly, sometimes even changing font size to fit into the allotted space.

The second story falls apart after the first issue on a number of levels. For one, Manco only inks himself on the first story, trying his hardest to channel Sienkiewicz. The last couple of issues use inks from (predominantly) Klaus Janson. Janson's thick lines completely wipe out the delicate and often insanely scribbled linework that makes Manco's art so much fun to look at. Characters start looking stiff and cartoonish.

Dixon's story is not as interesting the second time around, either. While Doom's single-minded narration stays, the situation he's caught in is just not as interesting. Doom struggling against nature and a band of angry Atlanteans in the first book is much more interesting that Doom's fight against the Negative Zone and some high concept Franklin Richards ploys. (Truly, though, the early interplay between Richards and Doom is worth the price of admission. Richards gives Doom control of the planet in exchange for ponies. It's one of those absurd moments that fit in well with the characters being shown to us.)

Unfortunately, with a $16 price tag, I can't full-heartedly recommend the book to the casual reader. Dixon completists will probably want it, although I wonder if there's anyone out there with enough money to pick up one of everything that Dixon writes. Manco junkies will find much to like in the first half of the book, but would be better saved in using their money for the forthcoming BLAZE OF GLORY trade. You're better off picking out the original issues of the first mini-series in a dollar bin somewhere.

AiT/PLANETLAR PRESENTS...

[True Facts]Larry Young is alternative comics' Doctor Doom. He's single-minded. He's sure of himself. He'll preach it to whoever's listening and convince them that he's right just by show of force. Now, you can have the guidebook from Young's own pen to show you the way. TRUE FACTS is a collection of columns Young wrote for the Savant web site. In short bursts, it gives you all the secrets to the creation and successful marketing of a comic that you'd ever need to be a success in this industry. Some of it is commonsense. Some of it is insider information. Some comes from outside sources. All of it is worth reading.

The book is pocket-sized and runs 120 pages. It's a quick read, but an enjoyable one. Each column only takes two or three minutes to read. Having worked in the comics industries from all sides (fan, creator, retailer, publisher), Young has a unique viewpoint into the world of comics and how they work. He puts that all on display in this book for the budding self-publisher or interested process junkie.

[Public Domain]Also available now from AiT/PlanetLar is Brian Wood's PUBLIC DOMAIN. It's a design book companion to his ever-popular CHANNEL ZERO. I don't think I ever reviewed CZ in Pipeline. It just wasn't my thing. I don't even remember anymore whether it was because of the politics or the story. The only thing that stands out in my mind today is the art and the graphic design of the book. Even when the story wasn't grabbing me, Wood's stark black and white art grabbed my attention. That's why I was willing to give this book a shot. It's 144 pages long, and bound at the top. Basically, it's in Marvelscope, although I have the feeling that everyone who worked on the book would shudder at the comparison. It's a good choice for the book, since it gives Wood the chance to make notes in the margins to accompany the comics and designs the book reprints.

You'll find a variety of CHANNEL ZERO material in this book. Perhaps the most interesting is the printing of several short comic stories that Wood did while he was in college. The short stories would later inform CZ in a variety of ways. It helped shape his style and his voice in comics. Some of the panels were lifted for CZ. Some of the ideas found their way into the larger work. Now you can see them in all their original newborn glory. This book works to scratch that process junkie itch for me in a serious way.

There's a little something in here for everyone. The best news is that you didn't have to be a fan of CHANNEL ZERO to appreciate the designs used in it.

A NO GO ON GROO? SAY IT ISN'T SO!

[Groo]If you're looking for something on the opposite end of the comic book spectrum, though, I'll give you GROO: THE MOST INTELLIGENT MAN IN THE WORLD. It collects the four-part Dark Horse mini-series from 1998, by the usual team of Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier. Sergio draws and Mark does his best to keep up and translate the story into words. Generally speaking, it's a trick that works very well.

I'm a relatively latecomer to the Groo bandwagon. I only started reading the series regularly when it was in the late-90s. At this point, I've probably only managed to catch up with half the total stories. It's always a thrill, then, when Dark Horse issues a new trade, whether collecting a recently completed mini-series or a small pack of issues from the series' run at Marvel. It's a classic comic book that's easy to get into, fun to follow, and a riot to read.

I'm not terribly sure that it works so well in this book, though. I'm not entirely sure what it is that felt flat about this book to me, which is why I'm writing this review. I'm sure I'll hit on it in the course of typing this up.

The first thing that strikes me is that it feels drawn out. It takes four issues to tell a story that could have been done in one. One of the strengths to GROO is that each story contains a moral of some sort at the end. This book is no exception. It just feels like the point could have been made much more quickly.

Second, the book feels stretched out to accommodate the return of some fairly popular recurring characters: the Sage, the Minstrel, Pal and Drumm, and Arba and Dakarba. The first three issues repeat each other. The guest character comes in, finds it hard to believe that Groo is intelligent for reasons that seem frustratingly obvious in short measure to the reader, and then winds up imprisoned for it in one way or the other. While the characters attack the overall plot of drug berries from different angles, I just don't see the need for all of them.

It's a nice reunion special for long-time GROO readers, but it doesn't make for a satisfying read. If you're trying to hook a new fan into GROO, as I was hoping to do when I picked up this trade cheaply at a convention, you'd be better off with a couple of single issues from the quarter bins.

Third, it's not Groo. I know it might get repetitious after awhile, but I laugh at the inept barbarian mendicant who sinks ships, burns down villages, and causes havoc. It's such a simple formula, but it works. For three and a half issues here, however, Groo is smart. He doesn't have those silly moments we come to expect and thrill to in a Groo adventure. When one finally does happen -- I don't think I'm really spoiling anything by mentioning that here -- my reaction was as much a sigh of relief as a hearty laugh.

I think that sums up my problems with this particular GROO trade. On the bright side, the reproduction values in the book are excellent, with nice glossy stock paper that make the colors (by Tom Luth) jump off the page at you. Sergio Aragones' artwork is as remarkable as ever, and Stan Sakai's lettering glides the eye through the pages and makes the series easy to read. And that Evanier guy fills those balloons with plenty of gags and snappy dialogue.

Don't let the negative review of this volume stop you from trying GROO, however. It's still an enjoyable series, with one little rough spot now in its past. Pick up an issue or two in a cheap back issue bin, or check out one of the volumes reprinting the original Marvel Epic series. I'm looking at one of those to read next. I'll be sure to review one of them here in the future. GROO deserves a better Pipeline fate that this review.

I hereby swear not to apologize for any of my reviews next week.

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 400 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 or so are still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML.

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