Pipeline: Pipeline, Issue #442

Mon, November 28th, 2005 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

PIPELINE PODCAST

Just a reminder at the top of the column this week:

The Pipeline Comic Book Podcast still runs strongly. And if you haven't listened to it in the past couple of months, you've missed a format change. Each Tuesday night, you'll still be getting a list of highlights of the week's new comics, but I'm now ranking the Top 10 Most Interesting Releases of the Week. That helps to focus it a bit, as well as giving me new reasons to add opinions and commentary into the podcast. It's definitely a better podcast for it, and I hope you'll give it a second chance.

You can subscribe via the RSS feed or through iTunes' podcast subscription service.

Last week's show is up over here, if you can't wait for the new one.

Keep an eye out on the Pipeline Message Board for announcements of new podcasts, but your best bet to hear each and every one is one of the subscriptions mentioned above.

In other podcast news, Marvel has started up their own. Unlike so many other corporate podcasts, this one actually has an RSS feed you can subscribe to. As podcasts get more popular, you'd be amazed at the number of places offering podcasts that are just disconnected MP3 files with no subscription methodology to them. Remember this: Without a subscription option, it's not a podcast. In any cast, Marvel is podcasting their press conference with Damon Lindelof regarding his upcoming ULTIMATE WOLVERINE vs. HULK mini-series. All of the info you need on the podcast is at Marvel's website.

Artist Mike Norton is also part of a relatively new podcast called "Crankcast" that you can subscribe to. It covers a lot of comic book discussion, as well as all sorts of music and TV stuff. Check out the Crankcast homepage for all the show notes.

PIPELINE PERHAPANAUTS

I'm just running with the alliteration thing this week, so please forgive me these hellacious headers.

Whoops.

Dark Horse released the first issue of Todd Dezago and Craig Rousseau's THE PERHAPANAUTS last week. This is a new four issue mini-series that is good enough and far enough out there on the edge of popular comics today that it needs to be checked out today before it's too late. That's right -- I'm advocating buying single issues in this case, rather than waiting for a trade. I'll espouse the waiting-for-the-trade point of view at great length in a latter section of this column. But I know there are certain books I need to pick up from month to month to ensure that I get to read them. This is one such book. I don't want there to be any doubt as to a trade collection down the line. I'm sure Dark Horse already has one scheduled in their 2006 publishing calendar, but why risk it? Why not give Dark Horse an early reason to pick up a new fun series for a second go-around, rather than have it become a cult classic that everyone forgets in six months, under the weight of other publishers' universes-spanning crossover crap?

I'm already focusing on the politics of the situation and the industry surrounding it, rather than the comic. Sorry about that. Let's backtrack.

THE PERHAPANAUTS is a book about BEDLAM, the Bureau of Extra-Dimensional Liabilities and Management. Yes, think of this as a slightly more light-hearted B.P.R.D., if you're a HELLBOY fan. The title follows the adventures of one team of investigators working at BEDLAM, anchored by a psychic. She leads a team that includes a mystery man, a ghost, Bigfoot, and an adorable Chupacabra named "Choopie." In this issue, they run up against a giant monster with amazing abilities, and a fight ensues.

Todd Dezago spends the first issue making absolutely sure that you know what's going on. The issue is narrated by a janitor at BEDLAM, who makes it his duty to talk to you, the reader, about everything that's going on. Yes, it's a bit of a cheat to tell instead of show, but it does help tremendously to get the ball of the story rolling, while keeping things perfectly clear to the reader. I can appreciate that in a time when so many comics are so high concept that they get lost in their own mythologies right off the bat. There's obviously more going on at BEDLAM than meets the eye, but Dezago isn't hitting you over the head with that just yet. He's layering it in, with a folksie narration designed to keep things interesting.

The characters all have distinct personalities and roles to play in the series, so even when the first issue's plot is a little too easy, at least it's interesting and gives the reader something to hook into. Besides, it's all a feint for what's coming up in the next issue.

Craig Rousseau's art is simple, elegant, and wide open. He leaves as much of the page open for colors as he can. His character designs for Choopie and Bigfoot are terrific. Choopie looks like a punk version of all those annoying sidekick characters in every Disney movie of the past two decades. Bigfoot carries a certain nobility and intellect along with him, as befits his super intelligence. The halls of BEDLAM fit together well, with a design sense that matches across rooms, vehicles, and even supporting characters. It is, simply put, a good looking book.

The second issue is due out in December, but Dezago and Rousseau were kind enough to pass along a preview copy to me. The second issue is broken up into two neat halves. The first half is the talky one, focusing on following up on the events of the first issue while layering in a lot more of the characters and the mythology behind the series. It's nothing angsty or melodramatic. It's good clean comics fun. It's creative and imaginative. I'm most impressed at the way Dezago and Rousseau explain the final image of the first issue in the course of the second issue. The story feels complete after each of these first two issues, but they leave things open enough to carry on with new stories right away. Each read is thus satisfying, while still leading naturally to the next.

The point to all of this is that THE PERHAPANAUTS is the kind of offbeat book that's open to a wide enough swath of the comics reading population that it would be a shame to see it get lost in the flood of new titles arriving on shelves these days. If you like quirky comedic adventures, genre fiction, and accessible art, this book should work for you. Heck, it'll work if you only fit into two or those three categories.

THE PERHAPANAUTS #1 is out now from Dark Horse Comics for $2.99. It's 22 pages of full color story with a page for the letters column. Yes, even the letters column continues the mirth and mayhem of the comic. Give it a looksee on the comics stands today.

PREVIOUS PIPELINE PUNDITRY

I had a couple of e-mails from people commenting on my choice of beginner's bandes dessinees in last week's column. I thought I would explain my reasons for those books that I ordered in case anyone out there is considering doing something similar anytime soon. I haven't received the books yet, so don't take my commentary as gospel. I might be completely wrong about these books once I have them in hand. Here's what I was thinking, though.

For starters, I ordered the books because I like the format, the content, and the art styles. You don't get this kind of comic book in America anymore, sadly, unless it's translated from overseas.

I was looking for a LES SCHTROUMPFS (The Smurfs) book, first and foremost, but there wasn't one immediately available from the place I ordered. I'll save that for another order, even if it means going to an Amazon place. Fine Belgian comics can never be denied, merely delayed.

LE PETIT SPIROU and MARSUPILAMI are aimed at younger readers. Generally, that means slightly simplified language. As one who struggles his way through translating French to English, they appeal to me for that reason. Easier words and more frequent repetition of the basic words will only help me.

All the previews I saw for LES FEMMES EN BLANC have been funny. It has an approachable cartooning style, and what I've been able to read, I've enjoyed.

MELUSINE fits both of the above categories, I think.

TIGRESSE BLANCHE just looked cool. I've described it in this column before as an adventure comic that Stan Sakai might have drawn. I don't know what the skill level will be required for reading this one, but it doesn't seem to have the large blocks of text that so many of the serious adult comics from France seem to have. I skipped over the mysteries and mature science fiction books for just that reason. I'm keeping it simple.

So there you have it. Once, you thought I was a serious literary reader, seeking deeper meanings to the questions of life through another culture's literary entertainment. Now you know I'm just after foul-mouthed children, cheap hospital humor, anthropomorphic characters turned Disney licensees, and female ninja titles.

I have no shame.

PIPELINE PREVIEWS

Here we go again: One catalog. 494 pages. Plus a supplemental 104 page Marvel catalog. All of this has to be summed up in 3000 words or less. Many could do it by pointing out that 95% of the book is crap (and that's low-balling it). Me? I just stick to the trades, hardcovers, and original graphic novels of all varieties. That's what keeps me sane. That, and breaking it up over the course of two weeks. This week, I'll look at Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, and DC. Anything that might be left after that will be covered in next week's thrilling installment.

MARVEL: It's been almost a year now since my first purge of titles in favor of trades. I think that means I only missed buying one single issue of SECRET WAR, but it still feels worth it. That's doubly true now because Marvel is releasing the hardcover compilation of Brian Bendis and Gabrielle Dell'Otto's interminably late mini-series in February. It's 256 pages and oversized, which will hopefully show off the painted art that much better. A book like this is bound to be best read in one sitting, and with the better production values of the hardcover, I'm pleased with my patience for this one. After I read this, I can also consider picking up THE PULSE, which I stopped reading after it crossed over with this series.

MARVEL MONSTERS was the surprise hit of the year for Marvel. This is a fun-loving look at the monsters of Kirby's fevered imagination. The creators involved in this book treated the characters respectfully and irreverently, all at the same time. Now, Marvel is putting all the books from October into on hardcover. It's 216 pages for just $20.99 and, yes, it's oversized. This is not a Marvel Premiere Edition. Steve Niles, Eric Powell, Tom Sniegoski, Roger Langridge, Mick Gray, Peter David, Jeff Parker, and Keith Giffen all lent their writing pens to these books, and the results were tons of fun. This hardcover also collects the classic Kirby monster tales that were featured as backups in each issue. If you missed this on the stands last month, don't hesitate to pick it up in February.

PUNISHER MAX Volume 2 is a quick oversized hardcover follow-up to the first batch of Garth Ennis' series, that feels like it was just collected a couple of months ago. Dougie Braithwaite and Leandro Fernandez provide the art. This is another book I decided to wait for the trade on, so my patience is paid off in the winter, but only if I ever find time to sit down and read the thing. We'll see. It's only $29.99 for issues #13-24.

If you couldn't make heads or tails of HOUSE OF M this year, I can't help you. Maybe reading it all at once will help? The trade paperback collecting the mini-series and the special THE PULSE SPECIAL EDITION faux newspaper is due out February 1st for $25. All of the spin-off HOUSE OF M mini-series get their own trades, as well. If you're a BIG fan of the event, then I pity your wallet in February.

NIGHTCRAWLER: THE WINDING WAY is a new trade paperback collecting the back half of the series from Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Darick Robertson. That's $14.99.

ESSENTIAL MOON KNIGHT and ESSENTIAL PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN continue to mine the Marvel back catalog for new reprint material.

AVENGERS: GALACTIC STORM gets a first volume collection, with 12 issues collected, including two from QUASAR. And MARVEL ROMANCE collects some of those Marvel love stories of yesteryear by the likes of Dick Giordano, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Gray Morrow, and more. That all ties in with the promising five issue mini-series, MARVEL ROMANCE REDUX: BUT HE SAID HE LOVED ME, which gives Keith Giffen and John Lustig free reign to rewrite Marvel's romance comics to comedic effect. Giffen's WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? did for war comics what Lustig's LAST KISS does for romance comics. It's nice to see Marvel giving Lustig the chance to ply his trade on its own voluminous back catalog.

DARK HORSE continues its love affair with Kazuo Koike by reprinting CRYING FREEMAN, Volume 1. I own a copy of this that was probably printed a decade ago by another publisher. It's somewhere in storage, so don't ask me to dredge up all the details. Like all the works Koike did with artist Ryoichi Ikegami, there's a fair amount of sex and violence in this series that works to varying degrees. Some people are just not going to like this. It's definitely for mature readers, and will now see print in its original right-to-left format. It's $15 for the 408 page volume, at 5 x 7 inch size.

Koike appears again in the listings with artist Kazuo Kamimura for more of LADY SNOWBLOOD, now up to her third volume.

Dark Horse devotes two pages of its space in PREVIEWS to reminding you that they have lots of Koike's work available to order right this very minute. Of course, that includes nearly a page devoted to LONE WOLF 2100, which Koike receives no credit for, though I seem to recall he approved of the concept. The other page is taken up reminding you of the 28 volumes of LONE WOLF AND CUB, which is always worth a read.

DC COMICS: BIRDS OF PREY: BETWEEN DARK AND DAWN TPB collects issues #69-75 of the title, written by Gail Simone and drawn by a flurry of pencil-slingers: Ed Benes, Jim Fern, and Eduardo Barreto, amongst others. This is at about the same point I dropped the book. Maybe I'll give it a second chance in the trade. Mostly, though, I'll just be disappointed that they didn't collect Chuck Dixon's seminal run on this series as quickly as this. Now that INFINITE CRISIS is threatening to nullify the validity of those stories, I'm imagining that it's not worth my time to bother asking DC for those trades anymore, eh? I know lots of people who'd love to read BIRDS OF PREY #8. That one's very difficult to track down. It's some of Greg Land's best work, followed by some of Butch Guice's best work. The only part of it after the initial issues that has been collected so far is under the NIGHTWING: HUNT FOR ORACLE banner.

SHOWCASE PRESENTS: HOUSE OF MYSTERY is one of those books that I really would like to read, but I get the feeling that I'll buy and never crack open past the first story or two. This is the $17 black and white phone book collecting 22 issues of DC's classic horror series, by creators like Neal Adams, Gerry Conway, Alex Toth, Len Wein, and Bernie Wrightson. It's 552 pages for less than a bill with Andrew Jackson's face on it.

I bet you didn't realize there was more MAXX to read. THE MAXX's sixth book of stories collects Sam Kieth's "Friends of Maxx" stories. It's 160 full color pages for $20, and will complete your collection of stories featuring big-toothed purple-and-yellow creatures.

CITY OF TOMORROW is another mini-series I skipped the monthlies on, in favor of the trades. Howard Chaykin's utopia turns into robotic police state in this one. I think. I try not to spoil myself too closely on these things, so I'm going in mostly blind. Chaykin writes and draws all six issues that make up the book, available in February in one fell swoop for $20.

DC's action figure line adds two new Looney Tunes sets. One stems from "Baseball Bugs," including Bugs and Gashouse Gorilla. The other has Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote re-enacting a scene from "Scrambled Aches."

DC Direct's wing offers up a THE NEW FRONTIER poster by Darwyn Cooke, but there's still no word on an ABSOLUTE edition of Cooke's terrific mini-series. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

IMAGE COMICS starts up its solicitations without Erik Larsen's usual note from the publisher. Instead, why don't you check out his column here at Comic Book Resources, "One Fan's Opinion"? We CBR columnists must stick together, after all.

SAM & TWITCH: THE BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS COLLECTION serves two masters. First, it capitalizes on Bendis' name to sell books. Second, it reprints his original "Udaku" storyline in the full color it was always meant to be in. The previous attempt at reprinting it in black and white was disastrous, as the black and white printing was taken from the color comics, not the original black and white art. This is labeled as "Volume One," collecting issues #1-9. Bendis did a few more past that, including a three-parter featuring Jinx Alameda, from the GOLDFISH/JINX series, that appeared in issues #15-17. I expect we'll see Volume Two in a few short months to finish off the series, and I think they'll be relatively big sellers. They're some of the few issues of Bendis' work that's never seen a trade paperback reprinting.

I mentioned this in a podcast not too long ago, but here now is the solicitation: ROCKETO: THE JOURNEY TO THE HIDDEN SEA is a trade collecting the first six issues (plus the Zero issue) of Frank Espinosa's buzz-worthy series. The title's departure from another publisher to Image and the subsequent plans to print up a collection before new issues started at Image helped save me a few bucks. I can be patient and wait for this trade, rather than pick up the last few single issues from the other publisher. It's all good. And this book is $25 for 204 pages.

And the SOCOM: SEAL TEAM SEVEN original graphic novel finally sees the light of day through Image in February, long after being announced as a July release through AiT/PlanetLar. You can read about the book in a CBR interview with its creators back in May.

Stop back here next week for more of Pipeline Previews, plus new reviews.

Check the Pipeline message board for updates on the Pipeline Comic Book Podcast. You can subscribe to the podcast through iTunes now, too! This week's podcast will show up over here this week. It should be up before midnight on 29 November 2005.

Don't forget about the VandS DVD podcast, while you're at it.

Various and Sundry continues its link dumps, DVD talk, and more. V&S Politics returned just a couple of weeks ago, also, for all the political chat that isn't on-topic at the main V&S site.

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 600 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically.

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