Pipeline: Pipeline, Issue #505

Tue, February 13th, 2007 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

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A LITTLE OEL MANGA FOR EVERYONE

Since today is the thirteenth of the month, let's discuss something a little spooky. And funny. And romantic.

MY DEAD GIRLFRIEND is the new series by Eric Wight, available today through TokyoPop. It's the story of a boy whose family has a history of dying in spectacularly bizarre and hilarious ways. He goes to a school filled with a cast of characters straight from Universal Monster Central Casting, where he looks like the normal one.

Finney Bleak is his name. He has the misfortune of attending Mephisto High, where the Frankenstein Monster is the abusive jock, the sniveling werewolf his sycophantic friend, and the over-the-top beaker-carrying scientists are the school geeks. Bleak looks positively normal next to all of them, just a slight bit gothy, or maybe skateboarder punkish. But his family's notorious death wish has had an impact on him, and their ghosts are always hanging around to cause him grief. It's no wonder his outlook on life is a little negative.

That sounds all so dramatic and the stuff of your typical high school dramedy movie. But it's not. Wight's sense of humor is strong throughout the book. It's a dark comedy vein that shows up in the strangest places. The opening chapter's look into the history of the Bleak family had me laughing out loud in spots. This is the kind of family that would handily win a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Darwin Awards people.

There's also a most curiously interesting romantic streak through the book. If you've read BONEYARD, maybe that's not a big surprise to you. But this one seems a little more tender, and slightly more demented. By the end of the book, Finney has himself a little love triangle going, complicated only by the fact that, as the title of the book suggests, one corner of the triangle is a ghost.

You likely know artist Eric Wight best as the ghost artist on THE O.C., or perhaps for his character designs for the animated BUFFY series that never made it to air. His work here is a delightful mix of Mike Allred (who's credited for "additional inks") and many of the comics you've seen from professional animators lately. His characters are strongly designed in ways like you'd expect to see limited animation series on The Cartoon Network these days. Without those budget limitations, though, his characters are much more expressive and alive. They move across the page fluidly and show more emotion than your typical Flash animation on basic cable.

He uses a thick black line in the book, with moments of pure Jack Kirby inspiration. You'll see familiar square fingers and strong action moments with characters hurtling towards the reader, as speed lines add impact. He also makes judicious use of gray tones to add interest to the art and depth to the scenes. With the smaller page size, you will get fewer panels per page, but they're all chosen carefully to add beats to the story, whether for emotional impact, humorous effect, or dramatic punch.

It's genuinely hard to believe that this is Wight's debut comic. (He's done short bits here and there, but this is his major debut, in my opinion.) His storytelling and his art style are so strong out of the gate, you'd almost think he's been doing this for years. I suppose he has, though, given his lengthy PDF resume.

Credit also goes to Comicraft, whose fonts are strongly in evidence throughout the book, which is lettered by Mark Lewis and Lucas Rivera.

Volume One of MY DEAD GIRLFRIEND is available in stores today and well worth picking up. If you like BONEYARD, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, or any other fantasy book with a sense of humor, I think you'll enjoy this one. It's only $10 for the 160 story pages, with an extra twenty pages of pin-ups and sketchbook material in the back. Look for contributions back there by J. Bone, Sean Phillips (a really nice DuoTone look to that one), Dean Haspiel, Dan Brereton, and more.

LOOKING TWO MONTHS FORWARD

Jamie and I recorded the latest edition of the Pipeline Previews Podcast over the weekend. I hope to have it all edited up and ready to go by the end of the week, so stay tuned. The total podcast ran about an hour. I'm not going to attempt to cover everything from that podcast in this column. That would be redundant and self indulgent. I'm still working on giving up those two things as my new year's resolution. Instead, I'll highlight a few of the books that jumped out at me from the latest catalogue.

Starting with Marvel, ETERNALS BY NEIL GAIMAN becomes a hardcover book in April. This is a book I read and enjoyed the first issue of, but then decided to wait for the collection on. I'm glad I did, as $30 will buy all seven issues and 256 pages of the book as an oversized hardcover. I have to believe that this is the best format to showcase John Romita Jr.'s amazing artwork with. From what I saw of the series, this is some of his boldest and most Kirby-like artwork ever. Oversized pages should be a perfect fit for this book. It's a shame that it got lost in the flood of CIVIL WAR stories.

Jeff Parker's AGENTS OF ATLAS gets a special kind of hardcover collection. Not only does it include the six-issue mini-series, but is also has selected short stories from Marvel's Golden Age that tie into the book. The final product runs 256 pages for only $25. The only drawback to that is that the book is a Premiere Edition HC book, not oversized. The price point is nice, but I would have paid an extra five bucks to see Leonard Kirk's beautiful art slightly larger. Shame.

Dark Horse adds to its art books backlist with THE ART OF BONE. As the title suggest, this one includes lots of Jeff Smith's work for his glorious independent title. It's a full 200 pages for $40, at a supersized 9" x 12" hardcover format. The only drawback is that you'll have to wait until June 20th to pick it up for yourself.

Image Comics has a few hits on their hands in April, starting with Jason Armstrong's FERRO CITY. This overlooked gem from last year is a black and white detective/robot mini-series. Or, to quote the solicitation text: "Robot detectives, gorilla thugs, French gangsters and Russian mobsters. . ." Sounds like the kind of comic that comic fans would kill for. The full four issue series can be yours in one trade paperback for $16 come April.

Archaia Studio Press rips asunder the eBay market for MOUSE GUARD by collecting the first six issue mini-series in one 8" x 8" hardcover volume. It'll cost you $25, but it's well worth it for David Peterson's fine line work.

Oni Press goes back to the well with WHITEOUT: DEFINITIVE EDITION. If you're a recent fan of Greg Rucka's writing, do yourself the favor of catching this, his debut comics work. It's an impressive piece of work for a first-timer. No doubt Steve Lieber's glorious black and white artwork helped smooth things out, but Rucka hit the comics scene with a blast. If you haven't seen it, this is the story of a U.S. Marshall investigating a murder at the South Pole. Unfortunately, the book is only 6" x 9", but smaller WHITEOUT is better than none.

This is only a highlight reel. For more information on lots of other interesting releases, look out for this month's edition of The Pipeline PREVIEWS Podcast, due out later this week. Jamie and I talk about NIGHTWING ANNUAL #2, ANNIHILATION Volume 2 HC, ALPHA FLIGHT in trades, THE PLAIN JANES, HARVEY COMICS, Eric Powell's dirty little comic, ALAN MOORE'S WILD WORLDS, LITTLE NEMO, THE COMICS JOURNAL, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES, and a little something for most everyone.

LOOKING FIVE AND SEVEN YEARS BACK

There are parallels to be had between Pipeline2 #138 of February 15, 2002, and the comics of today.

The first review of the column was of the trade paperback collecting Greg Rucka's BATMAN/HUNTRESS: CRY FOR BLOOD mini-series. Rick Burchett drew that one, and he's currently working on SHE-HULK monthly. Greg Rucka was not that far off of WHITEOUT at that point, and continues today to work in the DC Universe as one of its major architects.

The second review was for VIDEO NOIRE, a graphic novel from Dark Horse's sadly short-lived "Venture" imprint. It's another book from Argentinean creators Carlos Trillo and Eduardo Risso:

The lure of the book for me was Risso's art. Happily, that part of things did not disappoint. What you get in this book is prime black and white Risso material, complete with architectural detail, nicely weighted black areas, believable human figures with expressive faces, and an overall commitment to detail. The storytelling doesn't veer far from the three-tier grid approach. Risso shows some level of mastery here of visually telling a story. His "camera" zooms in and out at will when it makes sense, and he isn't afraid to pull back and show backgrounds and buildings and odd angles when appropriate. You'll never get lost in the detail, and the camera movements aren't so jerky that you'll get whiplash.

Dynamite Entertainment just published another of their collaborations, BORDERLINE Volume One, last week. I've also discussed their BOY VAMPIRE series in Pipelines past.

Up next in that column was SKY APE: WAITING FOR CRIME, which I can parallel to today's review of a comedic comic book, or just tie into my other recent reviews of material by the same publisher, AiT/PlanetLar. It's a bit of a stretch, but I can make it.

I actually like my opening paragraph for that review:

It's a new 45-page story from the same creative team of (deep breath now) Philip Amara, Tim McCarney, Richard Jenkins, and Michael Russo. In this surreal adventure, Sky Ape travels back in time to determine why evil roofers are installing modern home furnishings in ancient Egypt. As this capsule description might suggest, the book is a hodge podge of pop culture references, obscure trivia, banalities up the whazoo, and non-sequiters. It's all designed to make your head spin while making your mouth laugh. Not an easy feat. It's as if the Zucker Brothers had a love child with Mel Brooks while Leslie Nielsen ran lines and Cary Elwes looked on. It's insane. It's lunatic. It's not something you'd use to explain the sheer joys of the sequential art form and its unique ability to convey a story. Truth be told, the plot is secondary, and a good knowledge of the first SKY APE volume is almost mandatory for full enjoyment.

Zany!

The column wraps up with a long review of Michele Gagne's excellent, though sporadic, series, ZED. There's a trade available now of the first batch of issues from the series, and it makes for a beautiful art book.

If you wanted to go back seven years, check out Pipeline Commentary and Review #141. It starts with a note about the death of Charles Schulz. Can you believe Snoopy's father has been gone for seven years already?

That's also a column I got into a lot of trouble for. I raved over the preview of Tony Daniel's F5 comic, I liked the concept of the book and thought I could enjoy the art, if I didn't think too hard about it. Others found it ridiculous that I'd jump on a bandwagon before the first issue officially hit, and some found Daniels' art too ridiculous to even consider. I guess all my notes about how the book was something I was looking forward to flew right over their heads.

When the series did finally start, it was a massive disappointment.

After that, I reviewed THE PUNISHER #1, the first issue of the Garth Ennis/Steve Dillon run on the Marvel Knights title. I loved the issue, but I wasn't a fan of Dillon's art. Hoo boy, did the PREACHER faithful jump all over me for that.

Dillon's art, as inked by Jimmy Palmiotti, just seems a bit amateurish to me, too. The lines are too thick. The characters all look bored. The body language isn't all that exciting, save a couple of examples. How many cheats does Dillon use to get around drawing hands and feet? (How many arms disappear off-panel? How many hands are blocked by a gun firing?)

I've since warmed to Dillon's art, but it still looks a little stiff to me at times. I just don't think he's as great as many others do. Hey, different strokes. . .

Keep an eye out on the podcast feed for the big monthly analysis of PREVIEWS, and stop back here next Tuesday for more reviews and general merriment.

It's comics; this is supposed to be fun, right?

I'm still available on MySpace and ComicSpace.

My blog, Various and Sundry looks like a lot of Reality TV show reviews with sporadic tech/geeky things thrown in.

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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