LOOKING AHEAD TO OCTOBER
Since it looks like we'll be having an abbreviated Pipeline PREVIEWS show this month, I thought I'd do a brief write-up to go along with it. This is for the PREVIEWS catalog of items shipping in October.
Dark Horse leads with a zombie book written by its publisher, proving once again that long-standing companies can jump on bandwagons too late for their own good. At least it's a comedy, so it might stand out a little bit.
Their second book is a western about a dead man.
Let's move on.
TALES OF THE FEAR AGENT: TWELVE STEPS IN ONE is a special one shot from Rick Remender, drawn by Eric Nguyen. The series deserves a full write-up of its own, but I stand by what I said when it debuted a year and a half ago: It's one of the brightest new books of its time. I just read both of the original trade paperback collections as well as the first issue of the new mini-series, and it's holding up. There's a slow spot about halfway through the original series, where Remender has to take the time to get lost in the grand plot and spell out some things, but aside from that it's a fun book with a dark streak of humor in it that's addictive.
THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN is a pretty good buy. It's only $18 for a 7 x 10 inch omnibus book collecting 542 pages of Conan stories from the black and white magazine of the 70s. With art from Barry Windsor-Smith, Alfredo Alcala, Pablo Marcos, Walter Simonson, and more, this looks like one to flip through, at the very least. And did I mention it's over 500 pages of glorious black and white art for under $20? The only trick is that it's not due out until December 19th.
DC Comics leads off with Countdown, Countdown, more Countdown, and some books that might tie into Countdown. That includes CAPTAIN CARROT AND THE FINAL ARK #1, the start of a new three issue mini-series from Bill Morrison and Scott Shaw!. It's the one Countdown spin-off that interests me.
Man, they even found a way to tie Paul Dini's DETECTIVE COMICS into Countdown. I guess it can't be helped since he's behind both books.
It's not all Countdown, though, to be fair. The other half of DC's output in October is too busy tying itself into "The Sinestro Corps War" to bother with Countdown.
But ROBIN ANNUAL #7 features art from Jason Pearson, though it does tie into the upcoming "Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul." Eh, close enough.
TALES OF THE BATMAN: TIM SALE is a new hardcover collecting the random Batman stories Sale has done that weren't 6 to 13 part epics with Jeph Loeb. That means, well, the rest of his earlier stuff will show up in this volume, though DC isn't explicitly stating what that entails. I remember he did a three-parter for BATMAN: SHADOW OF THE BAT, and the well-remembered "Blades" story with James Robinson in LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT. Throw in a couple of Halloween specials, and you probably get the idea. The book won't be out until December, and will sport a $30 price tag for 240 pages.
THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, Volume 1: LORDS OF LUCK gives us the first story arc from Mark Waid and George Perez in hardcover form for $25. That's also due out in December, as DC learns from Dark Horse and jumps the gun on all the good stuff, hoping I'll forget I mentioned it this month and give them double publicity in next month's column. (Nah, it probably has something to do with the bookstore market.)
One last December hardcover: WONDER WOMAN: AMAZONS ATTACK. 160 pages of Pete Woods art for $25 makes this one almost interesting.
And, of course, SHOWCASE PRESENTS: SUICIDE SQUAD Volume 1 is your Must Purchase Book of the Month. It's only $17 for the first 18 issues and three associated tie-in books in black and white. That's a great value for an insanely great series.
Image Comics gives us the YOUNGBLOOD Volume 1 hardcover. It collects the first five issues of Rob Liefeld's original series, but re-dialogued by Joe Casey to make a more coherent story, along with some new colors. Liefeld was selling the first issue's worth of this new work around the convention circuit in the last couple of years, and it does make for a fascinating read on a couple of levels. First, it's fun to see Casey try to put all the pieces of the storyline together into one thing. Second, he takes a couple of gentle nudges to Liefeld's art in the process. Third, it's just a far better read than the originals. Here's a case where going the George Lucas route actually results in a better product.
There's also a promised new ending from Casey and Liefeld in this one.
It's $35 for 168 pages. At that price, I hope the pages are still oversized, as they were in Liefeld's convention book.
Kyle Baker gets a special prize for his cover of SPECIAL FORCES #3, showing Mickey Mouse getting his face and head blown off. There's something charming about that image, but I'm not sure what. It has to do with juxtaposition or something, I'm sure.
And C.B. Cebulski returns to his autobiographical stories with WONDERLOST: BOOK TWO. This new volume features 64 pages of stories illustrated by the likes of Michael Avon Oeming, Skottie Young, and more. Steve McNiven draws the cover.
Marvel Comics offers up its usual slew of interesting hardcovers:
FALLEN SON: THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN AMERICA is in premiere edition format for $20.
SPIDER-MAN: BACK IN BLACK is in the oversized format for $35, but collects all the Spider-Man titles that made up the event, 336 pages in all.
MARVEL ZOMBIES: THE COVERS presents all of Arthur Suydam's Zombie-themed covers in one art book. That's $20 for 96 oversized pages. Is it too late for this one? Has the zombie crazed passed already?
AVENGERS ASSEMBLE Volume 5 takes us through Kurt Busiek's AVENGERS #41-56 with the 2001 Annual. It's a big fat 432 page book for $40, approaching omnibus size, really. But it does, at last, finish off Busiek's run on the title, with art from Alan Davis, Kieron Dwyer, Ivan Reis, and Yanick Paquette, and more. They had some troubles keeping a regular artist on the book there for a while. Dwyer eventually got the gig, though I don't think he lasted that long, as I remember.
LEGION OF MONSTERS collects those four issues under a hard cover, with lots of backup reprint material for $30.
Dwayne MacDuffie's first six issues of FANTASTIC FOUR gets a premiere edition hardcover, as does Loeb and Bianchi's WOLVERINE: EVOLLUION. Yes, you have the option to buy the latter in either black and white or color.
If that's not enough, perhaps you'd like the second batch of MS. MARVEL issues in the smaller hardcover size?
Thankfully, that's it for the hardcovers. I'm tired out already.
The recently-concluded SPIDER-MAN AND THE FANTASTIC FOUR mini-series from Jeff Parker and Mike Wieringo gets a trade paperback for $11. I have the issues, but haven't read the ending yet.
And so, like the majority of comics retailers out there -- no, not you -- I'll just skip over the back half of the catalog.
OK, I'll mention that TwoMorrows is doing a MODERN MASTERS: FRANK CHO book with a Robert Palmer-esque cover. But that's it. Onto the reviews!
ANOTHER UPCOMING MARVEL BOOK
This one is due out this week, so it's too late to pre-order, but it's definitely not too late to flip through it on the stands. One of the worst kept secrets at Marvel right now is their Marvel Adventures line. The books are done-in-one stories meant for younger readers. When a parent walks into a comic shop with their child (I'm an optimist), it's the book a retailer can be safe to point to for the kid's Marvel heroes fix. They've built up a library of fun titles this way, and there's no sign of it slowing down. In fact, the line has been quietly expanding, what with the upcoming Hulk and Iron Man movies.
While I've been reading the Spider-Man title fairly regularly throughout the course of its run, I've only sampled the others. This week's issue of MARVEL ADVENTURES: AVENGERS #15, though, is a real treat. Jeff Parker's script brings the Avengers up to meet Thor and save Asgard, as part of a larger storyline that starts with some possessed trees and ominous black birds. What sounds almost silly is a clever read, as the dialogue coming out of the characters' mouths is witty, snappy, and hilarious. This is a Bendis comic without the affectations.
But there's more to it than just a comedic comic. Parker writes an Avengers team that gets along. They use team work. They're friendly. It's an old school romp. Nobody acts stupid. Nobody hurts each other. Spider-Man uses his smarts to save the day. It's wonderfully clean and entertaining. The story doesn't drag out past this issue, either, promising another crazy adventure in thirty days unlike this one. It's not just a great book for the kids, but also a great example of what more of the main Marvel Universe (and DC Universe) titles should aspire to.
It's all a pretty cool recipe for success in this line, I think. It's not going to satisfy those looking for deeper gray areas in their morality plays or hard violence or "edginess," but it's a great entry point for the kids coming to comics from an animated series or movie. It's a great way to show up and coming writers how to fashion entertaining stories with a limited number of pages and some strict editorial constraints. It can work, and this issue is an example of the fine results.
WHAT I'VE BEEN READING
I tried to write a review where THE FLASH #231 is another example of the storytelling of the maturing comics writer. When young and hungry, they write stories of superheroes doing crazy things. As the writer matures, they inevitably want to write stories about marriages and kids, along with things that would be more kid-friendly. The best example I can give of this is Erik Larsen's SAVAGE DRAGON. We went from Rapture sticking the power cord of her hair blower into her -- well, use your imagination -- to Dragon raising a cute daughter and having fantastic adventures on giant insects.
It's tough to peg Mark Waid into that hole, though. He's always had his toe dipped into the water of titles that could appeal to all ages, or that feature younger characters. Look at IMPULSE, LEGION, and FANTASTIC FOUR, for three major examples. CAPTAIN AMERICA didn't feature any younger characters, but it still appealed to all readers from a thematic and adventurous point of view. EMPIRE was such a diversion for his writing because it was so relentlessly dark and mature. Books like KINGDOM COME, though, still relied on the childlike wonder and power its decades-old characters, like Captain Marvel and Superman.
With THE FLASH today, Waid seems to be ready to combine his experience of his original run on the title with his all-too-short time on IMPULSE, crafting superheroic fiction with a child's point of view. Wally West is a full-fledged Daddy now, more than just a mentor to a younger protégée. Linda Park is a mother who's gone back to her medical training. And a new threat to Flash's home twin towns brings father and son and daughter out to play together.
Waid's challenge in writing this book will be to get its readers to like the kids, not resent them as a tacked on and leftover part of a DC Universe crossover event. If he can do that, then the stories will ring true and the dangers they face will feel more real. If they're little more than plot devices instead of standalone heroes, they'll drag the book down like a DCU copy of Jar Jar Binks. So far, I like their spunk. We've seen their origin story now, basically, so let's get on with the story and see how it all plays out.
Daniel Acuna's art takes some getting used to. It's part of that new school of comic book art that dictates the artist does everything down to the colors on Photoshop. The colors are just as much a part of the art as the pencil lines here. It takes a little bit of getting used to, and occasionally the photo reference shows through a little too much for my taste, but I like the style and look forward to seeing where he goes with it.
I'm crossing my fingers.
THE IRREDEEMABLE ANT-MAN #11: Robert Kirkman knew this all along, right? He manages to hit a Big Giant Reset button at the end of this issue that's so wacky and over-the-top that it's almost unbelievable. Even the main character presses the button with a wink and a nod to the reader. He knows it's insane, but that's the tone of the book. It fits. You want to buy it and enjoy it when everyone else does. You know that thinking about it for thirty seconds would discredit it completely, but who cares? This book is fun, and this issue is a real roller coaster ride, as Kirkman throws his protagonist down a pretty dark hole before turning it around in a wild way.
There's one or two serious plot matters that must be hammered out in the last issue, but I have faith in Kirkman to make it work. I'll miss this book, but it'll make for a nice bargain bin find for someone down the road.
POWERS #25: Given the book's lackadaisical schedule in the last year, it's easy to understand why I wasn't so excited for it when it hit shelves last week. The last storyline seemed to go in circles, while the BIG ISSUE was danced around but never confronted. Finally, starting with this issue, we seem to be headed for a major collision of characters and situations. The expanded scope and size of the issue -- now 40 pages -- help to reinvigorate the title. If Bendis and Oeming can maintain a regular schedule now, the book has a serious chance of regaining its original momentum and popularity. I'm rooting for it.
NEW AVENGERS #33: The villain of this piece seems too small to be the focal point of an Avengers storyline, don't you think? Hopefully, it'll develop into something bigger. In the meantime, I hope Bendis finds as many ways as possible to put as many of the main characters from this book in a room to have verbal arguments. They're the best pages. That's not unlike his next title, which is co-written by Brian Reed:
AVENGERS: ILLUMINATI #4: The highlight of the issue was the front section, with all the main characters discussing their love lives. Again, Bendis excels at throwing characters in a room and letting them talk things out. Not every comic demands a feminist reading, so those arguments against the book don't hold any water for me. I just thought it was great fun. Was it out of character? With so many different writers handling so many 40 year old characters, how can we even judge which characterization is correct, anymore?
What did I think of the second half of the book, dealing with Marvel Boy? Eh. It had great art, but since I wasn't a big fan of the Grant Morrison book, I guess this follow-up doesn't impact on me so much. Or, I still can't get over that silly-looking shorts costume he wore.
ONE LAST THING
There's a bit I wanted to put in last week's Mike Wieringo tribute column that I missed.
Try this exercise at home: Grab a copy of the FANTASTIC FOUR, Volume 2 hardcover. Mark Waid wrote the whole thing, but Wieringo only drew the second half. The first half was done by Howard Porter. Turn the book on its side and look at the edges of the pages.
Mike Wieringo's portion of the story, as dark as it started out with the Thing's death, is still the lighter half of the book. The pages that look white? Those were Wieringo's pages. And when I think of all the comics that he drew, that's what I remember. They weren't brooding and dark. They were bright and hopeful and fun.
Now do yourself a favor and spend a half hour or an hour reading through the Newsarama tribute story to Wieringo. There are some beautiful art samples in there, between all the heartfelt stories.
Next week: A graphic novel review, I suspect. Or two.
Now, for a quick list of links to all my Web 2.0 content:
The Various and Sundry blog -- my personal home site. Check out this last week's abbreviated Game Show Week, and this week's Adobe Photoshop Lightroom review.
More than 700 columns -- maybe even 800 -- are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically.