Pipeline: Pipeline 2, Issue #176

Fri, November 15th, 2002 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

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PREVIEWS FOR JANUARY 2003, PART 2

[Previews]This week, we look at the second half of the PREVIEWS catalog, filled with all the unearthed independent treasures, and some of the worst-looking crap in the world. For my own sanity as well as yours, I'll stick to mostly the good stuff. Last week's column can be found here, and covers solicitations from Dark Horse to Marvel.

Academy of Heroes is the new publishing banner for Jason Lethcoe's ZOOM'S ACADEMY. It's shifting formats to a storybook with pictures on the opposing pages, and a flip book in the corner. The new 200 page book will run you $25. After the disappointing last issue of the series under Mike Kunkel's Astonish Comics banner, I'm very hesitant towards giving this one another chance. I'll give it the flip test (no pun intended) on the racks, if there are any copies when I get there.

AiT/PlanetLar unveils its second annual Brian Wood Month with two big new releases. CHANNEL ZERO: JENNIE ONE is the prequel to the insanely crazy CHANNEL ZERO book. It's got art by Becky Cloonan, which is enough to make me read it. I'm not a big fan of the first book, although I could enjoy aspects of the graphics and presentation. That's why I raved about the design book, PUBLIC DOMAIN, earlier this year.

The other Wood-penned title is COURIERS, set in the same "universe" as last year's COUSCOUS EXPRESS. This one is drawn by TEENAGER FROM MARS' Rob G. The preview art on it has been impressive, and I enjoyed the first book in this series.

Being AiT/PlanetLar, of course, also means that all of the books mentioned above from the company are still available to purchase if you haven't read them yet.

Slave Labor Graphics releases HSU AND CHAN, a new comic book featuring the characters from a comic strip in Electronic Gaming Monthly magazine. I've never read it before, but the sample art looks inviting, and the material different enough to give a shot. It's funny that the modern home for alternative comic strips seems to be comic books and the web. Who needs the newspapers? All they do is promote the same old established hacked-out crap. (For the most part. There are exceptions. Sadly, they're few and far between.)

There's also a new issue of MY MONKEY'S NAME IS JENNIFER from Ken Knudtsen, for those of you keeping track at home.

From the aforementioned Astonish Comics comes Scott Sava's THE LAB #2. I don't think I ever got to review the first issue. It's the story of two lab hands told with computer-generated art, like you might have recently seen Sava do for SPIDER-MAN: QUALITY OF LIFE. The first issue showed great promise, although I wasn't completely taken with it. It was, however, good enough to warrant a second chance.

CrossGen's recently expanded section starts off strong with the CODE 6 title, THE CROSSOVERS. Written by Rob Rodi and drawn by TELLOS' Mauricet and Ernie Colan, the six part mini-series tells the tale of a group of genre archetypes living together in the same house and the lives they lead. It sounds like the set-up for a Peter David novel, quite honestly, and I'm really looking forward to it. It should have great comedic potential.

Over in the CrossGen Universe Proper is the debut of Chuck Dixon's new series, BRATH, with a special prequel issue. It's 48 pages long with art by Andrea Di Vito and inker Brad Vancata. BRATH stars a barbarian and is inspired by events in history involving Britain and Rome. Dixon has written CONAN in the past, so this isn't too much of a stretch for him. I'm looking forward to seeing how he merges the historical reference in with his own open-ended universe.

Comicstories.com is publishing an 80 page digest called WEST OF THE DAKOTAS. It has two all new western stories drawn by Sam Glanzman. Some preview art available on their web site. Written by James MacCormick, it's only $5 and printed in full color. It looks exciting, both in format and content. I've been looking for something in a western story lately, and aside from episodes of FIREFLY, there's nothing on TV. Chuck Dixon manages to sneak one in here and there, but DESPERADOES is the closest in modern comics to a successful western series. I don't think this one will quite rise to that level -- it's tough to beat John Cassaday and John Severin -- but I'm willing to give it a shot.

(I just delved deeper into Glanzman's web site. I'd highly recommend flipping through the page that lists all of his U.S.S. Stevens stories. There is a sample page to accompany many of the stories from the series (click on the blurry scan to get a cleaner version), and they all show an amazing amount of energy and detail. They're deceptive at first glance. The pages look stiff with large panels that show little. When you follow the storytelling, though, you see an amazing sense of graphic design and a lot of energy blasted across the page as planes fly by on bombing runs, boats glide through the water, and bombs explode.)

New from Dork Storm Press is SNAPDRAGONS #3, featuring Gilly the Perky Goth from the pages of DORK TOWER. (She also appeared in the recently released SNAPDRAGONS #2.) This is a fun new series that's fit for children of all ages, including those over the age of 18. It's good clean fun that presents all the awe and wonder that little kids have in their time of innocence.

Dreamwave Productions goes to press with the DARKMINDS: MACROPOLIS trade, collecting the initial four issues of that mini-series as drawn by Jo Chen (with Christina Chen). She's since moved on and another artist will finish the series when it starts up again. But her issues looked great, and I'd recommend giving this trade a look based solely on the art.

TV Show adaptations are tough sellers these days. Aside from the recent 80s retro series, not too many have become popular in the past decade. Dark Horse still marches on with BUFFY, but I can't think of another one that's lasted anywhere near 50 issues in that time span. Comic companies that try to put out adaptations of series based on their own characters seem to have a tough time. Witness what happened with MUTANT X at Marvel and it's on again/off again schedule. DC's been able to put out one SMALLVILLE special in a year, and is working on a single BIRDS OF PREY special now.

Enter IDW Publishing, who are putting out a comic based on, of all shows, C.S.I. It's rare that a non-genre show gets adapted to comics, but this is a different comics world, and perhaps a book like this could serve as a good outreach for new readers.

Perhaps. The catch is that it's $3.99 for a single 32 pages color comic. People are shocked when they discover a comic costs more than a dollar these days. (They don't have the same problem with bread or eggs costing more than a nickel, mind you, but comics are supposed to be stuck at least ten years in the past, if not 30 or 50.) It has a strong writer with Max Allan Collins, but Ashley Wood is listed as the artist. Let's hope he changes his style for this book, because the style he has right now is just going to confuse a lot of people from outside the industry who might think to take a peek in. Finally, the book is the first part of a five part series. If this initial story doesn't conclude in this issue, it's going to lose even more people. $4 for a thin book without a full story? Here's a good argument for going directly to the trade.

(I see now that the art duties for the book are split between Wood and Gabriel Rodriguez. The latter is drawing the characters, while Wood handles the forensics material and the more "expressionistic" style of the reconstructions of the events of a crime scene. There's a chance this could work.)

And speaking of bad price points: IDW is also releasing a 30 DAYS OF NIGHT trade paperback. While it does feature additional story pages above and beyond what the original three issues had to offer, the $17.99 price point is obscene. If it's true and not a PREVIEWS mix-up, sales are going to suffer for it.

Oni Press has a QUEEN AND COUNTRY Month going in January. Greg Rucka's series marches on to its 13th issue, drawn by Jason Alexander. The third collection, CRYSTAL BALL, is released in both hard and softcover. If you'd like, you can have all those arguments over Tara Chase's breast sizes all over again. Finally, the conclusion of Q&C: DECLASSIFIED hits shelves with Brian Hurtt finishing up the art duties. If you're really getting into it, Graphitti Designs offers a Q&C t-shirt on page 381.

VariousAndSundry.com has been updated all week with lots of bits and pieces. The arrival of STAR WARS EPISODE II and LORD OF THE RINGS brought about a lot of DVD discussion. A curious label on a new CD, an article on spam from the Wall Street Journal, and some thoughts on Star Wars' score round out the 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 that's soon going away.

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