Pipeline: Pipeline, Issue #499

Tue, January 2nd, 2007 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

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LOOKING BACK, LOOKING FORWARD

Happy New Year!

Last week's column was a bit of a wakeup call for me. Only reviewing 27 collections in one year is sad. In previous years, that number was 80, 60, and 50. 2006 went a little off the track. I think the biggest problem was in too much PREVIEWS coverage and not enough actual reviewing. So that's my vow for this year -- I might not reach 80 again, but I definitely want to get past 30. And I'm going to work harder to do more reviewing and less previewing. I think the monthly Pipeline PREVIEWS Podcast will more than adequately fill that void.

On the bright side, I've still reviewed over 300 trade paperbacks and hardcovers in the last six years. That's a pretty nice body of work.

In 2006, I spent money on 382 individual comics. That's still down from the past couple of years, at 447 and 812. As I've mentioned before, it's a better number. I'm reading more of what I buy, even though the backlog of unread material continues to grow. That's mostly from trades and comped books that sometimes take a little more energy and determination to read.

I imagine that number might dwindle a bit more this year, once CIVIL WAR is over and I go back to waiting on the trades for many of those series. Plus, I'll be focusing more on just the books I think I'll enjoy. I'll always leave room for experimentation and new stuff, but time tightens up an awful lot as you get older. I'm only 30. By the time I'm 40, I'll be looking back on these days as the glory years and sitting back in my rocking chair to enjoy a month's particular trade paperback. What more do you need to read, right?

But that's my vow to you this year: As best I can, I want to write more reviews of collections, focus less on PREVIEWS, and raise a little hell in the meantime. Sure, WIZARD hasn't hired me yet, but there will be other windmills to tilt at in 2007. With Web 2.0 finally hitting the comics scene (see ComicSpace and the Comic News Tracker for two prominent examples), this could prove to be a very interesting year, indeed, for comics stuff on-line. Will this be the year that on-line comics sales finally break out? What will be the big breakout web comic for 2007? And can Marvel and DC can come off their massive crossovers to a slightly more simplified publishing schedule worthy of attention without confusion? Will Steven King and the growing tide of novelists and Hollywood script writers bring fresh blood to the medium, or just serve as fodder for the Internet Movie Database's hit counter?

Ask me again in a year and I'll let you know.

In the meantime, I promised you some PREVIEWS talk last week, and a review this week.

DAREDEVIL: FATHER

Hopefully, there will come a time when people can look at this book aside from the lateness that plagued its original release. It might take a generation of comics readers -- what's that, five years? -- but I hope we get there eventually. DAREDEVIL: FATHER is an entertaining and exciting outing from Joe Quesada. It's the work not of an assembly line superhero team, but of a team led by a driven artist. In reading this book, you get the feeling that it's being done by a guy who's used to producing comics for the superhero market, but that wants to do a little more in it somehow. The art is just a little different. The writing is a bit more thematic. The whole package is a step in a different direction from the rest of the Marvel Universe's output.

Let's start with the art, since it's what Joe Quesada is best known for. Those screaming that Kaare Andrews' SPIDER-MAN: REIGN is a Frank Miller knockoff might want to take a look at this book, first. I can see this as being a forerunner to that book, as Quesada plays with his style just a little bit to over-exaggerate the superhero figure in a way that Frank Miller does so deftly. It takes an issue to get used to, but it grows on you after awhile. As a counterpoint, all of Quesada's "normal human" figures look normal. He consciously shifts his style just a bit for dramatic emphasis in the superhero work. Daredevil may have a pin head over a large wine barrel of a chest, but Matt Murdock looks comfortable as a lawyer in his suit sitting behind a desk, his hair coiffed just so. Many people immediately leaped when the first issue came out to the conclusion that Quesada had forgotten how to draw. That's not so. He chose to draw differently in different contexts. If anything, that's a skill more artists should emulate.

And while the story is not decompressed, there are also pages that remind you of Tim Sale's work. The story is filled with bold visuals, large splashy panels that are left open for the colorist -- Richard Isanove -- to fill in with a gray tone look to it, quite often. Much of the art in this book is comprised of talking heads sitting in offices, but I didn't recognize that until I sat down to write this review. Quesada and Isanove do a good job in making those scenes look anything but boring. You can't help but admire the work put into those panels to add mood with shadows and texture. It's strong stuff.

The story is a murder mystery, set in modern times when Daredevil ruled over Hell's Kitchen. Not surprisingly, surrounding sections of the city didn't like it when the Kitchen criminals moved into their neighborhoods. A new Hispanic superhero team is introduced into the mix, while the rich son of a dead Hispanic civil rights crusader broods menacingly from his high office perch. (What, you think those two MIGHT be connected? Noooo. . .) Matt Murdock has a new client who wants to sue a power company for her cancer case. Oh, and there's someone plucking out eyeballs in a murder spree during a heat wave. No, the heat wave doesn't have much purpose in the book, but it keeps coming back over and over again.

There's a lot going on this book. It's a mystery book, though, so you need to fill it with red herrings and plot twists and the clever reveal at the end. For that, Quesada wins. Even when I thought I had it figured out for the "who," I still couldn't get the "how" or "why." Thankfully, there were enough clues laid down along the way that it didn't feel like a cheat. I had just been fooled with some nifty misdirection.

There is some level of retconning going on here, depending on your definition. Quesada answers a couple of questions I bet you never knew you had. For me, it's the kind of thing that can be frustrating and annoying; too many creators try too hard to make everything fit together in a way they weren't meant to be connected. Sometimes, coincidence can rear its head in a story and make sense on its own. Too many creators try too hard to piece it all together. Quesada brushes against that a little bit, but stays away from wholesale changes to Daredevil's history. This is an addition to the history, not a change. Some people won't be quite so forgiving.

Still, I thought it was a nice little twist for the book.

Overall, DAREDEVIL: FATHER is an interesting piece of Marvel work, set aside from the rest of the Marvel Universe in both tone and style. It's an experimental work, as well as an obviously personal one. (Quesada dedicates the book to his father, and uses himself and his daugher as photo reference in one spot.) If you can get over the lateness of the original schedule and a minor bit of continuity insertion, I think there's something here worth looking at for most.

DAREDEVIL: FATHER is out now in an oversized hardcover edition for $25. It includes a new introduction and some nice sketchbook material from Quesada's layouts and character designs.

SOME PREVIEWS FOR MARCH

As usual: The new PREVIEWS is out. Get a copy. Flip through it. Pre-order what you like.

I'm running out of time this week, so I'm just looking at collections from Marvel and Dark Horse this week. I'll speed through the rest in next week's column.

The most curious entry for March 2007 is Marvel's ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN line. For seven volumes strong now, Marvel has released one new hardcover for (roughly) every 12 issues. In March, they're releasing the eighth such collection for issues #86-96, along with the two annuals thus far.

But they're ALSO releasing ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN: CLONE SAGA Premiere Edition HC for $30. This collects the eight-part story along with the MARVEL SPOTLIGHT issue focused on Mark Bagley and Brian Bendis. It's a whopping $30, making it the most expensive premiere edition hardcover yet. Is this a typo? Did they mean to make this a regular full-sized book? I haven't seen any correction yet. Is this the start of a new format for the hardcover books? If so, count me out. I like the oversized books.

SPIDER-MAN LOVES MARY JANE is getting an oversized hardcover collection, though. For $25, you'll get 13 full issues of Sean McKeever and Takeshi Miyazawa's romantic tale in the Marvel Universe, originally comprised of three mini-series.

There's also a load of CIVIL WAR trade paperbacks tentatively due out in March. We'll see how the deadlines land on those. It's curious, though, that they're not going to hardcovers with those first.

Over at Dark Horse, the rekindled CONAN series gets another collection in both hard- and softcover with CONAN: THE HALL OF THE DEAD AND OTHER STORIES. This finishes out Kurt Busiek's run on the title, and includes other stories from Mike Mignola and Tim Truman. Cary Nord remains for the art. The hardcover is $25 on sale May 9th, while the cheaper trade paperback is out on June 20th. Yes, start planning your summer purchasing today!

FEAR AGENT gets a second trade paperback collecting issues five through ten of Rick Remender's fun pulpy science fiction adventure series. It's due out on May 30th for $15.

PERHAPANAUTS, likewise, gets a second trade with SECOND CHANCES. That will run you $16 on May 23rd.

I'll be back with DC, Image, and all the rest of the catalog next week.

More previews, reviews, and lettering looks next week in our special Five Hundredth week of existence.

The Pipeline Podcast also continues past its 100th outing last week. We should be recording this month's PREVIEWS podcast soon, so expect it next week. I hope to turn that podcast into the bulk of my statement for PREVIEWS each month.

I'm a social guy, so check me out at MySpace and ComicSpace.

My blog, Various and Sundry is looking all new and is still updating daily without fail. I can't be stopped!

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 700 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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