PIPELINE PREVIEWS FOR NOVEMBER 2005
We interrupt the on-going Short Box Chronicles this week to take a look at the future. This is the ever-so-popular Pipeline Previews column. This month, I'm going to list the 27 most interesting books with spines I can find scattered throughout the catalog. No pamphlets. No dead weight. No staples. I still managed to find 28 of these books. If I were able to read them all inside of one month, my eyes would likely begin bleeding.
CONAN AND THE JEWELS OF GWAHLER (Dark Horse, $13.95) is a new hardcover collecting the recent three-issue mini-series. I recommend it so highly here for one reason: P. Craig Russell did both the writing (an adaptation of an original Conan story by Robert E. Howard) and the art. 88 pages of PCR art is nothing to sneeze at. The book is solicited for a December 28th release.
I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S NOT THE JUSTICE LEAGUE (DC, $12.99) gets a quick trade by DC standards. This is the second recent mini-series from the BWAH HA HA team of Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire. It was originally serialized across six issues of JLA CLASSIFIED. At this point, I don't think there's anything left to say to convince you to buy this one. You either like this style of superheroics, or you don't. I'm a big fan.
LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: TEENAGE REVOLUTION (DC, $14.99) is the latest collection of a series that I've tried to get into a couple of times without any success. Since this is a reboot with a new slate written by Mark Waid, I'm willing to give it a try again. Barry Kitson handles the art, with help from Leonard Kirk, Dave Gibbons, and more. It has the first six issues of the new series, plus the lead-in, TEEN TITANS/LEGION SPECIAL #1. The regular series is up to issue #12 in the same month, so it's not the kind of trade that will lead you directly to the regular series. That's fine by me, though.
OCEAN TPB (DC/WildStorm, $14.99) is the relatively recently concluded six issue mini-series from Warren Ellis and Chris Sprouse It's a book that would normally show up in the next installment of the Short Box Chronicles, but I'll review it here, instead. The book features a typical sarcastic Ellis straight man. He's a rep for the United Nations sent to the moon of Europa, where a frozen sea hides a swarm of dead bodies and potential weapon of mass destruction. Some international politics and government/private enterprise struggles cause a cold war to go hot, some science fiction gets mixed in, and you wind up with a mostly satisfying piece where the attitudes of characters keep your interest up, even during the infodump portions of the story. The only real weakness comes in the double-sized sixth part, in which all heck breaks loose before the story is concluded. I'm not entirely sure what happened. I read all six issues in a row, so I can't say that I forgot a detail anywhere. Just plow through the hand waving, enjoy the magic, and read through to the end.
Sprouse's art is beautiful, even when things are going all explodey. I know his speed won't allow him to do a regular monthly series, but he should be earning some higher profile projects by now. On the other hand, his last two major projects were with Warren Ellis and Alan Moore (TOM STRONG). That's not a bad career.
So, while I do have a bit of a nit to pick with the ending, the rest of the book is entertaining, crisply dialogued, and beautifully rendered. By today's standards, that's a home run.
SMAX TP (DC/ABC, $12.99) collects Alan Moore's follow-up to TOP TEN, with art from Zander Cannon and Andrew Currie. It's a beautiful book, using the Top Ten formula in something more of a fantasy world. You get characters to care about mixed in with an interesting plot and enough stuff going on in the backgrounds of panels to keep you pointing and laughing throughout the five issues the book collects. I even picked up a couple of pages of original art from the series at the conventions this year. If you need a better recommendation, I'd recommend my full review of the series from 2004.
Not at all a trade, but it must be noted: The new Looney Tunes figures are presented on pages 119 - 123, featuring characters from "The Scarlet Pumpernickel" and "What's Opera, Doc?" Most troubling, though, is that there are no prices listed, and the figures aren't due out until April. Items advance-solicited by six months without explicit prices are often the ones you can't afford.
IMAGE COMICS HC (Image, $24.99) is the long-thought-lost 10th anniversary book, with new stories and editorials from the remaining Image Founding Fathers: Erik Larsen, Jim Valentino, Todd McFarlane, and Marc Silvestri. They've all gone in different creative and business directions over the past dozen-plus years, but they're returning to their first characters from the company with new stories. This includes Larsen doing Dragon's origin, at last, and McFarlane returning to pencil a new SPAWN story.
BATTLE POPE, VOLUME 1: GENESIS TP (Image, $12.99) collects the first issues of the new full color version of the series. I discussed the title just a couple of weeks ago. If you missed the reissues, this is a good chance to start the series from Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore.
THE WALKING DEAD, VOLUME 4: THE HEART'S DESIRE (Image, $12.99) further proves that it's good to be Robert Kirkman these days. The man stays busy writing, and always winds up with more product out every month than most would think of writing. By now, his creator-owned series have multiple volumes of trades in the backstock. His Marvel work is slowly getting there. And he's busy writing a movie. Not bad work.
FIVE FISTS OF SCIENCE GN (AiT/PlanetLar, $17.95) is the new 120 page full color story of Industrial Age hijinks, as Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla have a difficult time selling World Peace to a world including the likes of Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan. It's an insane premise that holds much potential. Matt Fraction writes. Steven Sanders draws.
YOUNGBLOOD MAXIMUM COLLCTION, VOLUME 1 (Arcade Comics, $24.99) should be out on time without a problem. They were selling copies of this in Chicago and San Diego over the summer. You can read my review of the book in last week's column. There's also a hardcover edition that runs $35.
WARREN ELLIS' APPARAT VOLUME 1 TP (Avatar, $12.99) tells you about all you need to know before deciding if you want to buy it. Either you enjoy Ellis' style, or you don't. This book compiles four one shots Ellis wrote last year. It's an interesting and entertaining assortment of genres and stories, with art from Carla Speed McNeil, Juan Jose Ryp, Jacen Burrows, and Lauren McCubbin. It's black and white, chiming in at 112 pages.
10 ONE-SHOT (Boom!, $6.99) stretches the definition of "trade paperback," but it looks so cool that I had to mention it here. It's 48 pages in full color from the mind of Keith Giffen and the pen of Andy Kuhn. It's right up my alley. It sounds a bit like BATTLE ROYALE, which is in fact name-checked in the solicitation. At least they realize they can't hide the influence of the book. The premise holds that 10 people get a gun and 10 bullets each, with 10 days to kill or be killed. It's an easy recipe for high drama.
NOTHING BETTER #1 (Dementian Comics, $2.95) is not a trade paperback. It's just the first issue of a new series from the creator of STYLISH VITTLES. I just reviewed it last week, but thought I'd remind you all of it now. It's a promising new series following college freshmen as they learn about each other and the world around them. There's comedy, religion, and emotion all wrapped up in one book.
GEORGE PEREZ, STORYTELLER: THE FIRST 30 YEARS (Dynamic Forces, $30) is a new oversized book with a "career-spanning" interview and illustrations from across his entire career. It looks like a beautiful book, with 200 pages in full color. My only concern is that it might repeat a lot of what was already covered in TwoMorrow's MODERN MASTERS: GEORGE PEREZ.
THE MAZE AGENCY, Volume 1 (IDW, $24.99) just about has to wrap up the return of 80s properties to the realm of the living in the world of publishing, right? Who's left? Besides Captain Carrot, of course. . . This 156-page tome collects the original stories from writer Mike W. Barr, with early art from Adam Hughes and Rick Magyar. As IDW is wont to do, there's also a new mini-series starting at the same time, with Barr back behind the word processor and Ariell Padilla handling art.
SMOKE TPB (IDW, $25) collects the well-received but highly expensive three-part mini-series from Alex de Campi and Igor Kordey. I flipped through the issues on the stands and they looked beautiful. The spare reviews I read indicated a worthy read, so I'm likely to sign up.
EASY WAY TPB (IDW, $17.99) collects the recently concluded four part crime mini-series from Christopher Long and Pipeline favorite, Andy Kuhn. If this were a professional column written by a guy who was paid to stay at home all day to read comics, this is where you'd read a full review of the series to whet your appetite. Sorry, this is the best I can do. I liked the first issue, though. That's a start. Hopefully, I'll get you a full review before the collection hits stands.
OFF ROAD (Oni, $11.95) is the original graphic novel from Sean Murphy that you most likely saw previewed to an extreme form -- 50 whole pages -- in a news story on this very website. I don't need to say anything more. Just check out that preview and judge for yourself.
SHANNA, THE SHE-DEVIL HC (Marvel, $24.99) collects Frank Cho's seven part mini-series into Marvel's Premiere Edition format. Reviews of the book were not terribly kind, but it's still seven issues of a semi-naked woman running through dinosaur-infested jungles. How can you go wrong? (That's rhetorical, people.)
WOLVERINE: ENEMY OF THE STATE Volume 2 HC (Marvel, $19.99) is also in the Premiere Edition format, as was the first volume. This one brings together WOLVERINE #26-32. Since this is a book I dropped for the collections, I'll be pre-ordering it.
Marvel still does their oversized hardcovers, and we have two in November to look forward to:
FANTASTIC FOUR Volume 2 (Marvel, $29.99) gives us issues #514-524 of the venerable series. This is the last of Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo's run, with additional work from Karl Kesel and Paco Medina. It's also the part of the run that I fell behind on the book. I can't wait to read the Galactus story.
MARVEL KNIGHTS SPIDER-MAN Volume 1 HC (Marvel, $29.99) slaps together the three trades that comprise the first year and the first storyline of the Mark Millar-created series. He didn't continue with it, but the first storyline threatened to break the internet in half before such a thing was a catch phrase. It's angsty, melodramatic, and desperate to tie together large swaths of continuity. It's not a completely satisfying read, but if you like your Spidey to be dark and angsty, here you have it. The all star cast of characters in the book are drawn up by Terry Dodson, with Frank Cho subbing in on a couple of issues.
On the other end of the scales, size-wise:
ORORO: BEFORE THE STORM (Marvel, $6.99) is, like LIVEWIRES, a series I was waiting on a trade for, only to be disappointed to find out it'll be in the digest format. Ah, well. Story is by Marc Sumerak. Art is by Carlo (IMPULSE) Barberi.
Marvel has a ton of interesting throwback trades in November. Let's break those down for you now:
EXCALIBUR CLASSIC Volume 1: THE SWORD IS DRAWN (Marvel, $19.99) collects the beginning of the classic run from Chris Claremont and Alan Davis. This is just before the book got nearly permanently sidetracked on the "Cross-Time Caper," an on-going storyline that threatened to never end. (Really, it became its own cover gag.) The book's real highlight issues came much later in the run, when Davis returned to write and draw it. Those issues in the 40s and early 50s are classic. It's some of the prettiest art I've ever seen in comics. This book, though, collects the first five issues of the series. Let's hope it sells well enough that it continues on, including the fill-in art issues from the now missing-in-action artist Chris Wozniak.
X-FACTOR VISIONARIES: PETER DAVID Volume 1 (Marvel, $15.99) has the first five issues of David's short but well-liked and well-remembered run with the mutant title. It's coming out now to tie into the new X-FACTOR series. Larry Stroman's art isn't for everyone, and the first couple of issues, as I recall, pride themselves on not having an action scene. It's still a ton of fun. If this sells well, we'll eventually get to issues drawn by current Marvel Eek Joe Quesada.
ESSENTIAL X-FACTOR Volume 1(Marvel, $16.99) is a bit of a looser tie-in. It collects the first sixteen issues of the series that brought the original X-Men together to live in Ship, but also crossed over at every available opportunity. This volume includes issues of POWER PACK, AVENGERS, THOR, and more. On the bright side, it's a Who's Who list of late 80s Marvel creators, including Bob Layton, Jackson Guice, Roger Stern, Marc Silvestri, Walter Simonson, John Byrne, and more.
PUNISHER: RIVER OF BLOOD (Marvel, $15.99) is the trade paperback that I can't quite explain. I don't see anything for it tie into. I'm not complaining, as it's a book I never read and has some good creators behind it. This is Chuck Dixon writing and Joe Kubert drawing, direct from THE PUNISHER: WAR ZONE #31-36. By those issues, most of the market had collapsed, I have to think, and nobody cared about the fourth monthly Punisher title on the stands. (Consider that entire last sentence to be "ballpark figures," please. Thanks.)
TOXIN: THE DEVIL YOU KNOW (Marvel, $17.99) is a book I only want to read for Darick Robertson's art. This one follows a prisoner who was "released" in the big NEW AVENGERS opener. He's the next generation Venom/Carnage. Peter Milligan is going to have to pull a mighty big rabbit out of his hat to make an entertaining story here. I'm afraid my desperate efforts to catch up on my back list of reading while not unnecessarily adding to it may prevent me from picking this one up. I'll give it the flip test when it comes out, though, and we'll see how the art grabs me.
LET'S GO LOCAL
Oni was kind enough to drop a copy of LOCAL #1 in my lap in time for this column. This is the new maxi-series from Brian Wood that they'll be publishing beginning in November. (In other words: It's not too late to subscribe to it at your local shop now!) It's the spiritual successor to DEMO, but with a couple of differences. While it will be 12 self-contained issues, each story makes it a point to fit into a new location with each issue. The new artist is Ryan Kelly, who did some work on Vertigo's LUCIFER, which explains why I had never seen it before And there are no superpowers.
The first issue incorporates all of that into a plot that will seem semi-familiar to those who've seen cult favorite movie RUN LOLA RUN. It's time for one girl to make one choice that could affect the rest of her life. Actions have consequences, and we get to see what they would be in this issue. In the end, it's a story of self-empowerment and not being controlled by a boyfriend who's no good for you. It's Grrrrl Power for the first issue. Wood and Kelly handle the transitions back and forth very smoothly. You'd think they'd need some extra captions to explain what's going on, but the storytelling segues perfectly without it. You'll see what I mean when the book comes out, but you shouldn't have a problem following it all.
Warren Ellis has already described the book as something akin to a three-minute single from the world of music. He's right. It's a quick read with a strong hook. You'll remember it for some time to come. And it's not a chore to get through. That's a very accurate accounting of the issue. It doesn't get all artsy-fartsy, either. This is very down to earth and straightforward in its narrative, aside from the one plot trick I talked about earlier.
The only failing I think the issue may have is its attempt to force a Real World Location (Portland, Oregon) into the story. Yes, it leads to a nice panel with an accurate representation of a local landmark building. I think, though, that this story could have been set up in a dozen other cities with similar results. The city isn't a character in this book, although it is nice to see a story not set in one of the usual locations that comic book writers tend to go for.
Ryan Kelly is the star of this book, though. Even if the story were complete trash -- and it's far from that -- Kelly's art would be worth paying the cover price for. It has a very inky independent feel to it. There's hints of Paul Pope in there, and even a few bits of Becky Cloonan. The impressive thing to me, though, is just how unrelenting the art is. There are no shortcuts in this book. Everything is drawn in. Backgrounds are meticulous in their detail, and aren't unwelcome intrusions on the character work. Emotions look true on everyone's faces, and there are more than two emotions to depict throughout the book. Atmospherics are included - rain, shadows, bright lights. Gray tone work looks minimal while adding a lot, and there's also a nice and subtle inclusion of DuoTone-like shading. Most of that has been dumped in recent years in favor of computerized coloring, but I still like it. Thanks to Photoshop and a wide range of manga artist suppliers, it's very easy to include in art today.
LOCAL #1 is a real winner. The story is a quick punch to the gut, with a nice hook and fantastic art from someone who knows how to create shadows and depth on his art using multiple tools. I was a bit hesitant about this series going in, but this issue sold me. It's due out in November, so retailers should still be accepting your pre-orders on it for another week or so. I'd recommend giving at least this first issue a chance.
Next week: Back to the Short Box Chronicles for a third installment.
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