Pipeline: Pipeline, Issue #550

Wed, December 26th, 2007 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

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NEWS AND NOTES AND ANNIVERSARIES

Happy Boxing Day!

Belated Merry Christmas!

And a Happy New Year! May all your 2008 wishes come true. May we all find the successful formula which allows us to quit our day jobs and read comics for a living. If you're going to dream, dream BIG.

A couple more anniversaries to point out this week: This is the 550th edition of this column, which would normally be cause for celebration if I weren't already tired out from earlier celebrations this year of column #500 and The Tenth Anniversary, in general.

Last week's podcast was the sesquicentennial (150th) -- a fact I forgot about until after I had recorded it and started updating the RSS feed.

One more anniversary shows up in this week's podcast, which will go up on Thursday night, given the late Friday ship date for comics this holiday week. Stay tuned. . .

THE 60 [sic] COMICS OF CHRISTMAS WRAPS UP

What more fitting time than the day after Christmas to wrap up our month-long review-a-palooza? What started out as the 100 Comics of Christmas now ends with -- well, just over the 60 I predicted last week. Read through to see what number this all ends at.

And don't forget to keep your eye on the front page of CBR at the end of each week for The Commentary Track, the new weekly feature I've been slapping together in our news department. The most recent edition features Peter David discussing THE SCREAM #1, the new mini-series he's writing at Dark Horse Comics.

Now, on with the comics, in no particular order:

51. The Others #6 (Marvel): Heavy Metal is my new hero. Call me old-fashioned, but Matt Fraction's story is filled with respect for the ethics of a good soldier. It tells the story of a conflicted patriot without putting anyone down. And, in the end, it shows a man who sticks to his principles and performs the kind of heroics we want to see from our military men and comic book super heroes. There's a lot of other stuff going on in this issue, but Heavy Metal emerging from his suit to fight the bad guys wins the day.

I do have to wonder about the timing of this issue in relation to events in another book, which I won't name for fear of spoiling the end of the issue. If you've seen issue #7's cover, though, I suppose the point is moot. Still, I'll tread carefully for now.

52. Mighty Avengers #4-6 (Marvel): Very dramatic. Very much a conclusion. It has a happy ending, Bendis' trademark hero humor stylings, and a great pacing to it. I read issues #4-6 back to back last week and was impressed with how easily they flowed together. It helps that Bendis has created a unique feel to the book, with its oddball cast and thought balloon counterpoints to the dialogue. But I'm liking this book more and more with each month.

I'm going to miss Frank Cho, whose done his best Marvel work in these last two issues, partially breaking out of the mold of the comic strip artist he defined his style with. On the other hand, it'll be fun to see Mark Bagley drawing something other than Spider-Man for a little while before he heads over to DC.

53. Cable/Deadpool #48 (Marvel): Fabian Nicieza makes with the funny. Cable is nowhere to be seen anymore, but this is a nice lightweight tale of Deadpool's attempt to regain his soul. With Brother Voodoo and pages filled with zombies present, how can Nicieza lose?

54. She-Hulk #24 (Marvel): Peter David continues to tie things over from Dan Slott's run into his (notably, She-Hulk's libido), making sure to ease the character into her new role without completely forgetting the old. That's a good thing. One of the subplots from this issue is handled with a bit too much of a coincidence, but the plot is otherwise solid. This issue, we're introduced to She-Hulk's new home life as well as how her work life runs. It's not all beating up superpowered costumed folk. And, thankfully, we learn a little more about her Skrully friend and how she works in this world and why.

Shawn Moll's art still looks a little awkward to me, but then I never cared a whole lot for Doug Mahnke's work, who I know he assisted at one point. I imagine some similarities are inevitable, and that's what I'm reacting to.

55 - 59. Cover Girl #1-5 (BOOM! Studios): This one will bug me; it's the kind of book I like so much that I notice the little problems with it. In writing a review, it inevitably looks like I hated the book, when in fact I enjoyed it a lot. So keep that in mind when reading the following:

COVER GIRL is well worth a read for some fun light entertainment, with the occasional pokes at Hollywood that go beyond merely changing some famous actor's name to something funnier. Writers Andrew Cosby and Kevin Church combine to tell the story of an actor who lucks into a bit of success that turns out to have a very dark black-SUV-gun-toting men-in-black side. That's when the movie studio orders up a bodyguard who pretends to be his girlfriend to help protect him (she's the titular "cover girl"), only for some sparks to fly, bullets to be let loose, and general havoc to ensue. The plot may, at times, seem like a collection of generic action movie and 24-esque leftovers, but the dialogue between the two leads and the little side jabs at the entertainment industry have a charm that can't be denied. The book blends neatly together the talking heads scenes and the more action-oriented bits, making sure to have a healthy dose of each per issue. And when it comes time for the expository info-dump in the penultimate issue, the dialogue comes with a punch line and an explanation, which is appreciated.

The artist is Mateus Santolouco (inks by R.M. Yankovicz and Andre Coelho), who has a simple and direct style that keeps things easy to read and open to color. There are some odd choices for splash pages and larger panels, though. There's a full page splash in the first issue, for example, of an agent sitting at his desk while his secretary walks in. In the fourth issue, there's a full page devoted to a man walking up to a parked helicopter. There's enough action in each issue that the full page splashes should have been saved for one of the more dramatic moments. It happens better in the last part, but there are too many mistakes earlier in the series to skip over it. There are also some poor storytelling choices, where panel-to-panel moments don't happen as smoothly as they should. Things jump up at you out of nowhere, or angles change so radically that it takes you a moment to reassert your place in the scene, as the reader. The characters are easy enough to tell apart, but they move around funny at times.

Colorists Pablo Quiligotti and Brian Miroglio do a fine job, though some of the repetitive coloring tricks start to stand out after a while. Every surface shines in circular gradients to the point where flat door panels are colored as if they were rounded. And some Photoshop filters look obvious, not natural. It doesn't often detract from the story, but it is noticeable in a very Early Comics Colorist kind of way.

These are all nit-picks from some creators who have room to grow in their crafts. Put them together and you still have a very entertaining book with a great sense of humor and a style that's generally easy on the eyes, if a little less polished than you might be used to.

The trade paperback -- due out next week -- is only $15 for the five issue series. Considering each originally cost $3.99, the trade represents a bargain. There is no new material here, though. Not a sketch page or an introduction. It's all about the comic.

60. Green Arrow and Black Canary #3 (DC): Weird ending to the issue that threatens to undermine the good nature of the series thus far, but Winick has pulled this before, so who are we to judge? Cliff Chiang's bold-line art is as impressive as always, and Winick weaves some nice character one-liners into a quick-moving plot. Not bad, but the cheap last minute heart string tug is a bit much.

61 - 62. Giant Monster #1-2 (Boom! Studios): You know you've already reviewed a book when you see a pull quote from an earlier review on the back cover of its trade paperback. I think that quote of mine -- "...gleeful in its mayhem and a treat to read" came from the first issue. I don't think I ever read the second, because that's where the whole thing ultimately falls apart in the last few pages.

I don't want to spoil it, but the ending doesn't make sense, exactly. It's a slight of hand trick -- the immediate problem is solved, but the initial one is still standing right here in front of you, and you're happy about it? I'm lost.

Other than that, this is Big Monster Fighting at its best - an alien lifeform growing ever-larger destroying a city and eating up people until a giant Nazi robot confronts it and the sparks really fly. Steve Niles and Nat Jones do an awesome job with the scale of this story, keeping things large and not shying away from the icky parts. People die, blood is splattered, property damage is maximized. That's what you're looking for in a book like this. It's unrestrained monster mayhem.

But the plot grinds to a halt at the end and the central plot point -- the threat that drives the 88 pages of story or so in this book -- goes unresolved. That's frustrating.

The trade paperback includes the story, plus the entire script to the first issue by Steve Niles. Process junkies will like this one. It is released to stores this week.

63. The Foundation #1 (Boom!): This new book from writer John Rozum is a cross between the Hollywood heist movie and a French crime album. I'm not sure which has a greater influence on it, but I enjoyed the opening installment.

THE FOUNDATION is about a team of people working hard to keep the future as it was predicted to occur no matter what the cost, even when it's potentially devastating. In the first issue, an agent of The Foundation is sent in to Newark Liberty International Airport to prevent a man from boarding a doomed plane, effectively killing everyone else getting on board. A little like Archaia Studio Press' THE KILLER, the protagonist of this book has some reservations about his career, and the entire thing is told through his point of view. It's a heady book, filled with the lead character's narration that helps explain the moral quandary behind the series.

It's the perfect pitch piece for a weekly television series, really, but that's OK. It works as a good comic book read, also. Not a single punch is thrown, though a gun is brandished. It's about maintaining the tension of a relatively simple mission while giving the reader a hook to grab onto. THE FOUNDATION does both.

The art is from Chee, who once so famously replaced Milx on a Silver Surfer mini-series. Along with the Malaka Studio handling colors, he creates a well-paced story that's clear and easy to understand. Even in the talking heads scenes, he varies his angles to maintain interest. And given the surprisingly large cast of characters in the book, there's never a problem in keeping them all straight. Some of the surprises are handled very well.

Heck, I even like the logo design on the front cover, which I presume was handled by interior letterer Marshall Dillon.

This first issue of five is due in stores on January 16th.

64. Wolverine Origins #20 (Marvel): I loved the last couple of pages. Actually, once the issue got going, I started to enjoy it. It's a superhero fight with a one-on-one fight scene between two popular heroes. How can you go wrong?

As a bonus, the colorist dared to use bright colors. In a war book taking place in a desert, he didn't decide to go grim and gritty with the coloring, making for a very legible book.

I can't wait for the next issue, though, if only for the guest star. The second-to-last page's silhouettes might have been unnecessary. Any fan of this particular character already knows the common lettering style for him. So why hide it? Or am I just too big a lettering geek?

65. Wolverine Special: Firebreak One-Shot (Marvel): This is a manly comic. Picture a blind Wolverine outrunning a giant forest fire, saving a family with a small daughter, fighting Hydra, and blowing the oxygen out of the air while cliff diving into shallow water. I've probably said too much already, but it's a manly comic and you need to know that. If it's your thing, you'll enjoy it. I did. Sure, I could have done without the tacked-on marital troubles trying desperately to add some emotional resonance to what should just be an action set piece, but I'll forgive Mike Carey the troubles.

Scott Kolins provides the art, and it's wonderful stuff. I'm reading this as a PDF, so I fear the dead wood version will be too dark. Moose Baumann handles the coloring duties and uses a relatively dark palette. He's coloring straight from the pencils, but does a really great job in darkening up the lines. I thought the book was inked when I started reading it. It's only going back for this review that I noticed no inker credited. It looks great.

There's a shorter back-up story, too, that's not as successful. It's a drug story, so of course it's about the Drug Czar having a son who's a drug user, and Wolverine has to make the "difficult" decision he's made in so many stories by now that it's become a clich. Eh. Interesting art from PIRATES OF CONEY ISLAND artist, Vasilis Lolos, but not anything you'd expect to see outside of a one shot like this at Marvel.

And that is it. The initial "100 [sic] Comics of Christmas" ends up a month later at a count of 65. Not bad. We'll have to do something again like this in the new year.

"The 100 Comics of Arbor Day?" Nah.

I have no idea what 2008 will bring just yet. In previous years, I've vowed to review more trade paperbacks, but I know that failed miserably this year. So I'll try to come up with something different for 2008. We'll talk about that next week.

The Various and Sundry blog still updates every day of the year. It updated on Christmas, for goodness' sake! I'm addicted to this whole blogging thing, which I hope to increase in 2008, while I'm thinking of resolutions. In the meantime, check in for my thoughts on NBC's CHOIR show last week, lots of quick thoughts and Twitterisms, new DVD releases, people at work and their garbage habits, why DHL stinks, and more.

Everything else: Twitter, Tumblr Blog, The Pipeline Podcast, ComicSpace, and Google Reader Shared Items.

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 800 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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