Pipeline: Pipeline, Issue #563

Tue, March 25th, 2008 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

AN OVERLOOKED GEM

Dwayne McDuffie doesn't get the credit he deserves, I fear. Take, for example, his recent FANTASTIC FOUR story arc that came between J. Michael Straczynski's run and the current Mark Millar/Brian Hitch run. Despite spectacular art from Paul Pelletier and some deft plot work, I think it was overlooked as a filler arc between "big name" creative teams. That's a shame.

Now, his WORLD WAR HULK AFTERSMASH: DAMAGE CONTROL mini-series is winding up, and I fear nobody knew it started. Even spinning out of a fairly popular event, I don't think anyone paid attention to this one, and it turned out to be a very funny short-run series with characters that deserve more time in the spotlight and more development. I think that, as a regular series, McDuffie could turn these characters into memorable people that you'd come to enjoy each and every month. McDuffie's sense of comedic timing shines in this book, as the jokes flew so fast in several spots that I found myself jumping at how quickly the punchlines came. It's all in the timing, and he has that nailed down.

In this week's third and final issue, the Damage Control team has just about completed its repair of Manhattan in the wake of the World War Hulk rampage. Reference is even made to the Hulk's ability to go on massive tears without killing anyone. But there's one last problem for the assembled Damage Control to fix: The Chrysler Building -- the third largest building in the city -- is alive. And it wants to stretch its legs. It's a ludicrous scenario that reminds us all that, in the end, these are just comics. But it's wonderful grist for a comedic mind, and McDuffie goes to town on it, as Damage Control attempts to talk down the building while the assembled super-powered helpers stand ready to go to war with the edifice.

I don't know where artist Salva Espin comes from, but he does a great job in drawing people in ludicrous situations attempting to act naturally. They're expressive. They all look different. It's inviting work that draws you into the story.

GuruEfx keeps the colors bright, though they do take care to color the book like a standard superhero comic, even adding in the five o'clock shadow to every male character in site. (You may remember that technique from CIVIL WAR.)

Nate Piekos adds a wonderful touch with the lettering of the sentient building. It's the same color as the building, but it's also really really big, with a small word balloon behind it.

Don't forget to read the "Build-A-Recap" page the beginning, in which editor Nate Cosby gives you a Mad Libs-like recap page fitting for so many comics from Marvel and DC today. This comes hot on the heels of last week's recap page making light of the steady stream of "major events" in the Marvel Universe from the last twenty years.

If you like those one-off funny stories in the Marvel Adventures line that Jeff Parker has pulled off, I think you'll like this one, too. If you enjoy the humorous works of Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, I think you'll find something to like in here, too.

Sadly, three issues is probably too short for a trade paperback. If there could be a second mini-series, then maybe we'd see a six issue trade. I live in a dreamworld, I know, but it's a rather nice place to be.

ORIGINAL ART: CARLO BARBERI

Barberi got his break in the comic book business thanks to a "Wizard" Draw a Cover contest. Please don't hold that against him.

His style is reminiscent of Humberto Ramos' and Carlos Meglia's, obviously, but it's evolved over the years into something of its own. More interestingly, you can spot a parallel to Todd Nauck's art and career: Barberi's first regular role was on "Impulse," and he followed that up with "Justice League Unlimited" and "Gen13," most prominently. Nauck started at Extreme Studios with "NewMen" and moved onto prominence with "Young Justice" and then "Teen Titans Go" at DC. These are gross simplifications, but I think you can see the resemblance.

The one thing he's always been good at, though, is landing books that suit his style. It wouldn't blend in with a stereotypically grim and gritty superhero comic, and it probably wouldn't work for a straight-on crime fiction title. But for kid-friendly titles, or titles starring younger characters, his big foot style is a perfect choice.

There's a nice video of some of his work up on YouTube (before it turns into nearly unwatchable shaky-cam interview footage), and you can check out his work through his DeviantArt page, as well.

His next project is called "Casey Blue," and you can read a little more about it from writer B. Clay Moore in this CBR News article.

I was lucky enough to meet Barberi and pick up a few pages of his original art at the 2004 WizardWorld: Chicago convention. You can read a little about that in Pipeline #375. Let's take a look at those pages now:

I loved Barberi's "Impulse" work. It came at a strong time for the title, which languished a bit after Mark Waid's departure. With Todd Dezago sitting in the writer's chair, the book took on a very personal and charming tone of growing up superheroic, and learning to be a "normal boy." Sadly, persistent cancellation rumors plagued the book and it died before its time, albeit with a very healthy run for a modern day superhero comic, at 89 issues.

This is one of those pages that work on such a sentimental level. Comic books are as much about the character and the personal moments as they are about the bombastic fights and science fiction universes. When Helen left Bart, it was a very powerful scene, and I was thrilled to be able to pick up this page with a half page splash of the good-bye.

Yes, Bart's foot is the size of a Mack truck, though I believe Barberi once stated that he did it that way to keep artistic consistency with the series. Ramos started the book with that look, Craig Rousseau continued it, and Barberi maintained it.

Or, I'm just an easy mark for these soap opera stories. Either way, I love this page.

This page, on the other hand, I bought for the really cool anthropomorphic moment. In an interview with John Siuntres on the Word Balloon podcast recently, Richard Starkings had a good laugh at the notion that people can so easily accept a superhero universe, but frequently scoff at talking animals or anthropomorphism of any kind. As a long time Duck reader, I could only chuckle under my breath and nod my head in agreement.

Honestly, I don't remember what this story was about in any great detail anymore, but I remember sorting through the pages for sale looking for just the right one with a talking animal on it from this issue.

I've talked a lot in this series about how I buy original art featuring multiple panels and non-costumed characters for their lower prices as much as their displays of sequential storytelling. This page is one of the few (relatively speaking) in my collection that features costumed characters. I love that first panel for all the Barts fusing back into the main boy. There are a lot of characters on this page, but that first panel of the Other Barts returning to their creator sells the page for me.

Yes, Bart's got a lot of hair. An awful lot. It's tough to believe that he kept his chin up and his head perched on his shoulders with hair weighing down on him like that. That's a superhero power, right there.

And now for something completely different!

The SUPERBOY series of the late 90s/early 2000s had some interesting moments. My favorite run on the title was the 2001 series of issues written by Joe Kelly (with co-writer credit going to DC editor Eddie Berganza in the second half of the run). If you're familiar with his motormouth DEADPOOL style, then you can properly imagine what you'd run into with SUPERBOY #83-93. There were some seriously good single issues in there, and I'd recommend them if you run across the issues in a 50 cent bin at a convention sometime. Pascal Ferry was the regular artist at the time, but Barberi filled in on issue #89. I can't do the plot justice on this one. Check out the DC Database Wikia for details. It's a lead-in issue to "Our Worlds At War," if that helps you remember a time for this book.

I bought this page as much for the dialogue and the insane banter between the characters as I did for the art. But, hey, Superboy in costume! Before he punched the sky! Pretty cool.

Quoting some dialogue on the page: "I'm here to protect unwary travelers who step in gum on the parking lot of life. It's my super-power."

It's just a bizarrely fun series.

FIVE YEARS AGO

Pipeline #302 came out on March 25th, 2003, and give us all a moment of "If only they knew then what they know now" with this pull quote:

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #51 has Mary Jane and Peter happily back together again, a pair of lovebirds cooing in the nest. Writer J. Michael Straczynski doesn't gloss over the problems of their relationship to make it look like they've all made up. However, the elements of the fun younger couple that many of us grew up with are back. Mary Jane and Peter Parker are made for each other, and Straczynski shows that here. Even their hesitations and nervousness show the depth of their relationship.

Issue #50 got some mixed reviews. To be honest, even I don't know what to make of it completely. The imposition of a supervillain plotline into the middle of such a monumental moment in Peter Parker's life felt like the worst of Marvel Comics, where no character moment was too important that it couldn't be ruined by a random villainous occurrence. . .

Call me crazy, but I like it when characters get a chance to be happy every now and then. Too bad this change didn't last five whole years.

Jubilation at the availability of the Hedge Backwards font and reviews of Y: The Last Man #9, Batman #613, and Wildcats 3.0 are also included. Not that everyone else didn't see it coming, but the Oscars happened that week, leading to these comments:

LORD OF THE RINGS, once again, brought home the sound editing award, which is everyone's favorite award of the evening. All that's left is to see the third movie sweep the Oscars next year, to pick up the awards it so richly deserves. Peter Jackson deserves a special Oscar for his work in pulling this film together, at the very least.

Sure enough, the third movie did very well, though I don't think it swept everything. It did a good enough job, though.

We'll have more original art to look at next week, though I'm not sure which of two themes I want to go with on it. There's a lot more cool stuff to mine through. It's just a matter of time before we get to it all.

Also next week, I'll gush about Gemstone's upcoming publishing plans. . .

The Various and Sundry blog is still running, complete with a review of the Apple TV, tons of Twitters, lots of American Idol coverage, numerous links, and more.

If you're really interested in what daily news bits grab my attention in the worlds of tech and comics and more, the best way to track is it at the Google Reader Shared Items. Several items are added to that page every day. I'm an RSS feed junkie.

The only social network I regularly appear on is Twitter. It's a very fun place with low overhead and the least number of annoyances of any Web 2.0 site, aside from an unstable infrastructure.

Everything else: The Pipeline Podcast, ComicSpace, and a Tumblr Blog.

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 -- ten and a half years' worth -- are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically.

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