CHRISTMAS IS COMING
It may only be the second week of October, but you can start to see stores displaying their Christmas wares. It's disgusting, I tell you. It's also time to consider pre-ordering comics for December. That's right -- Pipeline Previews is back and we're looking at (mostly) December releases this time around. As always, I heartily endorse the notion of picking up a copy of PREVIEWS for yourself and pre-ordering what you find interesting. It's the only way to guarantee you'll get what you're looking for. This, of course, assumes you shop at a competent comics shop, but let's just run with that assumption for a bit, OK? Good.
PENNY ARCADE #1 is a special 25-cent comic celebrating the first collection of the popular web comic strips in print form. Dark Horse plans to do a lot more with them -- a trade paperback is due in January -- but this should serve to whet your appetite. PA is a long-lasting and funny geeky web strip, centering on two buddies who play far too many video games and dabble in the world of comics. While the occasional strip might be too outlandish for some, and many are going to be over all but the most determined gamer's head, it's a generally entertaining comic with moments of brilliance.
SERENITY TPB collects the three-issue mini-series spanning the gap between the FIREFLY television series and the big screen SERENITY outing. It's $13 for 104 pages. I have no idea how they plan to fill up that many pages with a story that only lasted about 60 or 70 to begin with, but we can all find out together when the book hits the stands in January.
BILLY THE KID'S OLD TIMEY ODDITIES TPB collects the recently concluded mini-series written by THE GOON's Eric Powell. The art is from Kelley Jones, which means it's worth a look, but I have to admit that this one flew almost completely under my radar. I did catch the last issue, though, and had to scan in a page for the column. This might spoil the entire mini-series; I don't know. So bewarned. Next time you complain about a writer using too much exposition or dumping too much info on a page, though, I want you to think of this page and realize it could always be worse. This is painful.
(Update: Speaking of painful, I have to admit an error here. It's Kyle Hotz doing art duties in this book, not Jones. Hotz has a unique art style for comics these days that's worth watching for, also.)
WILL EISNER: A SPIRITED LIFE is a biography of the comics legend written by Bob Andelman. The book is based off of three years' worth of interviews with Eisner, and a host of discussions with a veritable Who's Who of comic-dom. It's $15 for 352 pages. Due out - well, now. It's being solicited this month, but it's already available. Go figure. Can't remember the last time I saw that kind of listing in PREVIEWS.
ALL STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN, THE BOY WONDER #1 SPECIAL EDITION is now 48 pages, featuring Miller's script for the issue and all the art in pencil form, complete with lettering. This could be handy for any aspiring writer, artist, or letterer. Instead, I marvel at DC's double dipping and look forward to the eventual ABSOLUTE edition of the book. I should just skip over the series completely to wait for the hardcover, but it's far too interesting a book from month to month to skip. I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine what's so "interesting" about the book to me. I'm not taking sides on that fight just yet.
BATMAN ILLUSTRATED BY NEAL ADAMS Volume 3 is resolicited. Still $50, still lots of Adams' art.
LEX LUTHOR: MAN OF STEEL is the new trade paperback for the five-issue mini-series from Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo. I was hoping they'd do a hardcover of this to feature Bermejo's art, but I'll take what I can get at this point. I just want to see the work I've been waiting for from the past year. $12.99 gets you the 144-page collection on the last shipping date of the year.
Art Thibert does the pencils and inks for the cover of THE FLASH #229. His art has improved wildly since his earlier days at Image doing things like BLACK AND WHITE. Let's face it, those latter issues of X-MEN that he inked over Jim Lee's "pencils" felt more like Thibert and less like Lee. They were still good, but the Lee influence was greatly minimized.
Kyle Baker's PLASTIC MAN gets a second collection, titled RUBBER BANDITS. It's $15 for issues #8-11 and #13-14. I don't know why #12 got skipped over, but there you have it. There's no indication in the solicitation for whether it'll have the same kind of cover as the first volume. I don't think the first book noted that, either.
THE BEST OF THE SPIRIT trade paperback is one of the best ideas DC's had in years. For those of us who'd like to sample Will Eisner's trademark work but don't want to spend $50 per volume for dozens of books, this is the perfect solution. 22 stories will be reprinted in the book for a total of 192 pages. Done up in full color, it'll run you $15. Great price for great comics.
Chuck Dixon returns to TEAM ZERO for a new six-issue mini-series at WildStorm, with art by Doug Mahnke and Sandra Hope. This would seem to be a prime candidate for a Fall 2006 trade paperback, but I wouldn't feel comfortable betting on that.
TOM STRONG #36 appears to wrap up the ABC Universe. It's the series' last issue, complete with script from Alan Moore and art by Chris Sprouse. Bob Wayne has already said that the majority of the output from the ABC Universe in 2006 will be in those ABC: A-Z guides. What a sad ending to a noble effort. They're just milking it for all it's worth now.
On the bright side, December also brings TOMORROW STORIES SPECIAL #2, a new assortment of shorts from Alan and Steve Moore. This 64 page special is $7.
Andrew Robinson and Joe Pruett's DUSTY STAR #1 is resolicited as a $3.50 book. The preview pages reveal that the book is being done in the "widescreen" format that I can't get enough of. Suddenly, this is a must-read.
THE LOOKING GLASS WARS: HATTER M. continues the increasingly annoying love affair comics creators have with THE WIZARD OF OZ. When can we get back to pirates, monkeys, and zombies? Oh, here we go:
(Update: Whoops. The Mad Hatter is ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Well, we don't need any more of those stories, either. Sorry about that.)
THE WALKING DEAD, VOLUME 1 DELUXE HARDCOVER is everything the title says it is. It collects the first 24 issues of the series in an oversized and slipcased hardcover book. This is ABSOLUTE WALKING DEAD, minus the companion volume of scripts and sketch pages. It's an impressive package for a deserving series, but I think the $100 price point will prove too rich for my blood. Since they're printing to initial orders, that means I'm out.
Dan Brereton's fun series, GIANT KILLER, is returning at Image Comics. Originally a DC mini-series, the book is filled with the kind of monsters Brereton was born to paint. This trade paperback includes all six original issues, plus the FIELD GUIDE TO MONSTERS one shot that accompanied it. At only $15, this is a steal. I briefly reviewed the book back in November 1999. (Why, yes, I am feeling old today.)
IMAGE COMICS HOLIDAY SPECIAL 2005 is a 100 page book with brand new stories from a bunch of favorite Image creators, like Joe Casey, Erik Larsen, Robert Kirkman, Jim Valentino, Jay Faerber, and more. I miss the old DC and Marvel holiday specials, so let's hope this fills that gap. It's full color, so the $10 price tag is pretty nice.
STRANGE GIRL has its first collection in GIRL AFRAID, due out on December 14th. That will have the first four issues of the series back in print for $13. SEA OF RED has its second collection, NO QUARTER, collecting issues #5-8 for $12. And with BURGLAR BILL #6 at last hitting stands in December, expect a trade paperback to go along with that Paul Grist series in the coming months.
And who doesn't want a Skull plush? It was a big seller at the conventions this summer. Now's your chance to own a blue stuffed animal of everyone's favorite PVP troll.
This month, the "The Other" storyline spreads across the Spider-Man titles, making them just as easy to drop as any CRISIS book over at DC. My DC/Marvel reading list is withering on the vine, now. It's unfortunate, but life's too short. I ain't complaining. I'm just making snarky comments, filling column inches, and moving on with my life.
As much as I try to avoid the HOUSE OF M spin-offs, GENERATION M #2 has a spotlight on Jubilee. Literally, she's pictured on the cover in a spotlight. I love it when a turn of phrase becomes a literal truth. But this might be of interest to Jubilee fans, even if it is the second part of a four part series. Paul Jenkins writes with Ramon Bachs slinging the lead.
The most curious and interesting Marvel comic of the month is MARVEL SPOTLIGHT: JOHN CASSADAY/SEAN McKEEVER. This is a new $2.99 32-page comic featuring interviews, sketches, scripts, etc. from the two Marvel creators. It could be a really nice insight into their creative processes, or a giant self-promotional piece of pap that we're being asked to pay for. Since it won't have ads, the price is a good one. I will keep an eye on this one. Any kind of comics magazine is of interest for me. We'll find out in December what Marvel has up its sleeve.
The biggest question mark in the Marvel catalog is FANTASTIC FOUR PREMIERE EDITION, Volume 1. This collects the first six issues of the series from J. Michael Straczynski and Mike McKone. My problem with this is that I've been collecting the series in the regular oversized Marvel hardcover editions. Does this Premiere Edition collection mean that the series is moving to this format from here on out, or will this replace the larger hardcover format? It's a $20 question right now.
If you're into the digest sized Marvel reprints, I'd recommend Sean McKeever and Mike Norton's GRAVITY mini-series collection, arriving in shops December 14th. This might also be a good Christmas present for a younger reader who might like to enter superhero comics. It's only $8 and full color.
Another fun book to look out for is GLA: MISASSEMBLED. That trade collects Dan Slott's funny four-issue mini-series, along with the team's original appearance in WEST COAST AVENGERS #46 (by John Byrne) and Squirrel Girl's appearance in MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #8. This one is skewed a little older than GRAVITY, but it's a fun romp through the Marvel universe, and only $15.
If you're still collecting them, FANTASTIC FOUR VISIONARIES: JOHN BYRNE hits its sixth volume in December for $25. That collects issues #268-275, plus THING #18 and the ANNUAL #18.
MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS WOLVERINE VOLUME 2 continues collecting Wolverine stories from MCP. This time around, you get a story from John Byrne and one from Erik Larsen, from MCP #39-50, plus a short story from MARVEL AGE ANNUAL #4. It's only $12.99. I hope the book reprints Larsen's wraparound cover from the fiftieth issue. You'll also see a villain in that story with a vague resemblance to The Savage Dragon. The final page of that story requires a certain comic awareness that I didn't have when the book was first published. The joke was lost on me.
BACK OF THE BOOK
AiT/PlanetLar chips in with the DEMO trade paperback in December. It will collect all the stories from Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan at the digest size. That keeps the price point down to $20 for 12 issues' worth of material.
Alias Comics is giving us the Eurocomic, XIII, in its original European format. Volume 1 of the series is solicited with both hardcover and softcover editions of the 144-page tome at 7 x 10 inch size. Hardcover is $35. Softcover is $20.
Seriously, someone needs to do a running count of the WIZARD OF OZ riffs in the PREVIEWS catalog. This is getting ridiculous. You can't turn a page without being hit with another image of "Dorothy."
I appreciate AP Comics' honesty in its ad copy for DUEL. "100% PURE ACTION PORN!" it exclaims. Really, I'm not making that exclamation point up. It's there.
They also have OZ: THE MANGA, though. You take the good with the cliche, I suppose.
Dementian Comics solicits NOTHING BETTER #2, which I reviewed last month. Please give it a shot.
Dr. Masters Publications promises us IRON WOK JAN #16. The last two issues came out one on top of the other, so let's hope things are getting back on schedule.
IDW gives us THE COMPLETE JON SABLE, FREELANCE, Volume 4. We must be working our way up to the issue with Sergio Aragones in it, right? I need to check the Pipeline World Headquarters Long Box Archive to find out which issue that was in.
Kyle Baker Publishing really wants to complete Kyle Baker's NAT TURNER mini-series, as the third and fourth issues appear in the same edition of PREVIEWS. I expect we'll see a trade paperback of this in relatively short order. Oh, the third issue promises to be an "all-action issue!" Who says history can't be exciting?
Oni Press promises SCOTT PILGRIM, VOLUME 3: SCOTT PILGRIM & THE INFINITE SADNESS. You likely already knew that since every blogger known to man has been crowing about it. I really need to read the second volume soon. It's been sitting on my desk here for a month.
Watson Guptill Publications jumps on the "graphic novel" bandwagon with THE MAKING OF A GRAPHIC NOVEL FEATURING THE RESONATOR. They have a fairly solid history with their texts, so I probably shouldn't be too snarky. Still, the cynic inside of me can't help but feel like this book got sold because it had the phrase "graphic novel" in it. It does sound interesting, though. Here's the solicitation:
"Graphic novels are changing the face of media. Now The Making of a Graphic Novel is here to explain the creation of a graphic novel in a way that springs organically from the very concept: it includes an entire new 86-page graphic novel by master of the genre Prentis Rollins. The novel is preceded by Rollins' own clear, straightforward text explaining how to conceive, write, and finally draw, ink, and letter a graphic novel. Tasks are broken down into manageable pieces that can be understood even by beginners. The unique process allows readers to look over the shoulder of an artist as he creates -- and then to read the final masterwork. The Making of a Graphic Novel is sure to make a sensation among the many admirers of graphic novels, as well as everyone one who appreciates fine storytelling and fine art."
Nothing against Prentis Rollins, but is he known for anything past inking Ethan Van Sciver's work? Isn't it a bit of a stretch to refer to him as "master of the genre?" The poor guy has a lot to live up to now. His publisher's marketing folks didn't do him any favors here.
It sounds like they're aiming this book at a market that hasn't done much research on-line yet about the process. Maybe the book will be helpful to them. If nothing else, the graphic novel included in the book might be worth the price of admission ($20).
Next week: Another two or three thousand words, reviewing and/or commenting on things I've read in the previous week. I also had a terrific response to last week's column, so we might have to talk more about Belgium and Asterix, too.
Don't forget about the VandS DVD podcast, while you're at it.
More than 600 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically.