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Tue, June 17th, 2008 at 5:25pm PDT | Updated: June 17th, 2008 at 5:26pm

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

WOLVERINE OF THE FUTURE

"Wolverine" #66 is the first issue of the new Mark Millar/Steve McNiven reunion storyline. A year after the two completed "Civil War," they're jumping ahead a few decades and telling a post-apocalyptic sort of Wolverine tale. It's part Mad Max and part frontier western. The supervillains have won, and Wolverine (rumor has it) slinked away, tired of the fighting. Now an older man, he's trying to raise a family and keep them protected from the villains who rule the land -- and to whom he owes some rent money.

I liked it. I liked the feel of the whole thing. Yeah, there are some cutesie Marvel Universe references which never feel as clever as I'm sure some people find them to be. But I like the western aspect of it all. I like the dry lands hosting a family in the middle of nowhere, just trying to survive. I like, most of all, that this is a very personal Wolverine story. He's not like we've seen him before. He's more subdued. He's a pacifist. He's just trying to do right for his family.

There are obviously a ton of questions yet to be answered by this story -- How did the villains win? Why did Wolverine disappear? -- but I'm intrigued by the whole set up, which promises to be a road tour of the Marvel Universe.

McNiven's art style has shifted for this book. Instead of being the super slick line from "Civil War," he's doing a lot with many little lines. I'm not sure what the technical term for this is. There is some feathering, but it's more than that. It evokes a bit of the old-time art styles and patterns being used to simulate textures that you wouldn't normally see today, in a day and age where Photoshop can fake just about anything. Forgive me for saying it again, but it's very European. There might not be a large number of panels per page for this story, but they're all densely packed. McNiven might not have to worry about drawing two dozen superheroes on each page anymore, but he's taking that time now to add details and texture to the page. I like that.

So it's a thumbs-up for me. It's going to be a long year getting through the whole story. I want it all now. I'm growing impatient in my old age.

CHUCK DIXON - GONE AGAIN

Chuck Dixon is gone from DC again. The first time this happened, he left to join CrossGen. This time, the cause is not so clear. We can make some educated guesses, though, based on Dixon's history and the current mood over at DC. All I'm certain of is that there's some editorial reason for his departure. And that's a shame.

We know this: Chuck Dixon takes pride in never walking away from a title. He lasted 100 issues with ROBIN and had extended runs on BIRDS OF PREY and NIGHTWING. Both only ended because he signed an exclusive with another company. He prides himself on not walking away from an assignment. He's not a man who gets bored easily or lacks ideas. He's not a man who misses deadlines or is a slow writer. If you think Brian Bendis is an amazing writer for how far ahead he can work on certain titles, then you've never read an interview with Dixon during his Batman heyday a few years back. DC had to ask him to slow it down because he was too far ahead.

So I doubt he'd just walk away from these titles. Looking at the Dixonverse message boards, he makes clear that, "I would never willingly hand over a title to another writer just because I ‘preferred’ to work on something else."

In his posts since the "announcement" last week, he's made it clear that something happened behind the scenes that he's not terribly pleased with. He's comparing Dan DiDio negatively to Jim Shooter, for goodness sakes. For any working writer who came up during Shooter's term at Marvel, that's saying an awful lot.

Let's hope they use the scripts they have in house from Dixon so we can savor a few more good stories. If history is any judge, though, that won't happen. Instead, let's hope his six part World War II mini-series through WildStorm makes it to store shelves in one piece. With art by Butch Guice, that's one title I'm very much looking forward to, but fear will fly under the radar.

DRAWING ANALOGIES?

Just thinking out loud here. . .

Yahoo! had a failed attempt under CEO Terry Semel to turn themselves into a Hollywood content producing company. DC has a troubled ex-Hollywood Editor In Chief, Dan DiDio, having severe editorial issues at the moment.

Yahoo's current CEO, founder Gerry Yang, is in deep trouble right now for failing to accept a large buyout offer from Microsoft and for failing "that vision thing." It almost sounds like Yang and Didio should join forces to create a new content-producing website. Their respective jobs are both the targets of internet Dead Pools (not the Marvel character) at the moment.

DC is Yahoo and Yahoo is DC. The big exception is that Time Warner already bought DC a long time ago. It's not like DiDio is pushing back big money offers by Microsoft.

Not that long ago, a journalist stumped Gerry Yang by asking him what Yahoo was. I don't think you'd stump Dan DiDio with that question today. I think he's certain he knows what DC is doing. The problem is, that certainty is likely to change in five minutes. Reading between the lines of what Dixon has written in past days, I think that's a sure bet.

I'll be happy to be proven wrong when "Final Crisis" is over. I'm a tad pessimistic that I will be.

HAPPY TRADE NEWS

Kris Simon from Shadowline stopped by the Pipeline message board to respond to last week's column. In it, I reviewed two Shadowline books: "Parade (with fireworks)" and "Cemetery Blues." I was concerned that neither mini-series was long enough to justify a trade paperback collection.

Whoops. I was wrong. Very, very wrong. But happily wrong. Let me quote Simon for you:

I just want to say that both will be coming out in trade paperback collections this year. "Cemetery Blues" hits July 9th and not only includes the 3 issues reviewed ("The Haunting of Hernesburg"), but the original 3 issues that Thomas and Ryan self-published ("The Curse of Wallace Manor") prior. It also includes two short stories called "Let's All Die in the Lobby" and "The Inconvenience Store". There is a ton of never-before-seen material, so consider your wish granted. Also, Thomas and Ryan will be releasing a new oversized 1-shot in January of '09.

The Eisner-nominated "Parade (with fireworks)" will be a smaller sized 72-page book, with expanded layouts, extra story pages and sketch section and a look at some unused covers. That's scheduled to come out in November.

Both are happy bits of news, indeed. Keep an eye out for that "Cemetery Blues" trade in a few short weeks. I'm very much looking forward to seeing the previously published stories that are new to me.

VALIANT MARKETING MISSTEP

The current owners of the Valiant properties made a big deal this week of announcing a hardcover edition of "Archer and Armstrong." The book will collect the first seven issues of the series. The press release goes on to excitedly tell us that Jim Shooter wrote it and is also writing a new story to be included in the volume. In a smart move, they got Sal Velluto and Bob Almond to handle art on the new story.

Here's the mind-blowing part: Series artist Barry Windsor-Smith's name is never mentioned in the press release at all. If I were a marketer, I'd make sure his name was in bold copy in the first paragraph, because he's going to sell an awful lot of books. For whatever reason, he's not deemed important enough for the press release. Go figure.

Imagine Marvel doing a hardcover presentation of "Amazing Spider-Man" #300-318 and labelling it "David Michelinie's Amazing Spider-Man." It's mind-boggling.

WHAT'S GOING ON WITH TOKYOPOP?

It just gets uglier over at TokyoPop, where they're now going straight-to-web with some of their non-licensed books, and ditching others.

Something else I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere, yet, is their upcoming "Boys of Summer" hardcover. Does that name sound familiar to you? It should. It was Chuck Austen's manga project, circa 2006. While I'm certain I reviewed the first volume, I can't find it in the archives at the moment.

Only the first volume ever saw print. Now, they're printing up all three volumes in one thick collection in August. While prepping for the PIPELINE PREVIEWS PODCAST, I saw the listing for it on page 353 for products shipping in August 2008. "Boys of Summer: The Complete Season" is a new hardcover book running 600 pages in black and white. It includes the previously-published first volume from the series, "as well as two additional volumes of never before-seen-content. [sic]"

It's a $30 book, but it does feature "10 pages of bonus art from Chuck Austen." Besides being a hardcover book, it's also slightly larger than the usual manga format. It's 6.625" x 9.7", rather than 5" x 7.4375". That's some very particular formatting right there, down to the eighths and sixteenths of inches.

It's an interesting item to see TokyoPop publish in a new format for them. I find it odd that they paid for all this material and never published it before now.

Also out in August is "I Luv Halloween -- Ultimate Twisted Edition." This one collects the original three volume series in full color for the first time. The cover glows in the dark and there's some new pin-up and bonus material. It's $25 for 504 pages. This one is also oversized, but not to the same degree. It's only 6" x 8.925".

Curious.

In the department of three-part OEL whose second volumes never saw print, whatever happened to Eric Wight's "My Dead Girlfriend"? The first volume for that came out 'round about the beginning of 2007. I ran into Wight at the New York Comic Con that year, and he told me work was underway on part two. That volume never saw print. Might we see a hardcover similar to "Boys of Summer" for that project? I hope so. Wight's art was beautiful.

I reviewed the lone volume of the series in February of 2007.

QUICK CUTS

  • Dark Horse is looking to do better product photography. Check out last week's episode of the This Week In Photography podcast, where "David at DarkHorse.com" asks a pertinent question to reducing specularity in his pictures.

    Fast forward to the 37:50 mark if you want to skip straight to it.

  • Favored tech publisher, O'Reilly Media Inc., is publishing a graphic novel for teens about modern tech issues. Read a review.
  • Lots of Marvel and Spider-Man video games are coming up. The "Agile Warrior" game takes advantage of the Wii Fit board. Interesting. . . Other games touch on Civil War and Marvel Zombies.

CBR AND ME: PERFECT TOGETHER

Jamie and I recorded the PIPELINE PREVIEWS PODCAST over the weekend. It'll be released a little later this week. For the first time, we've decided to run it as a two-parter. We just ran out of time to talk about everything. Rather than rush through the back of the catalog or skip large sections of it, I made a game time decision to come back in the next week to record another 20 minute segment to finish it all out. We'll post that after it happens, likely early next week. So stay tuned.

If you're into the COMMENTARY TRACK feature that I also put together here at CBR, you'll be happy to have seen one over the weekend. We featured the creative team of "Pray for Death," the second Zuda winner. It was an international affair, too, as the artist came to us from Italy.

We'll have another Track this week from the creative team of THE AMAZING JOY BUZZARDS, who are stopping by to talk about their just-released new graphic novel.

And, as always, the CBR Reviews staff keeps chugging out the reviews. Check them out on the front page to see what's worth reading these days.

LAST WEEK'S RELEASES

If you didn't catch last week's podcast, here's the Top Ten you missed.

10. Penny Arcade TP Vol 05 The Case Of The Mummys Gold
9. Green Arrow Black Canary #9
8. Complete Little Orphan Annie HC Vol 01
7. Sky Doll #2 (of 3)
6. Chuck #1 (of 6)
5. Hero Squared TP Vol 02 Another Fine Mess
4. Question The Five Books Of Blood HC
3. Wolverine TP Enemy Of State Ultimate Collection
2. Captain Britain And MI 13 #2 and Clandestine #5
1. Invincible #50

Don't miss this week's, which should be available when you wake up tomorrow morning!

Pipeline returns next week, because it just refuses to go away.

The Various and Sundry blog carries on, with a return to link dumps. No, seriously, I had lots of link dumps last week. I'm planning a DVD review this week, though. That might be fun.

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

TAGS:  wolverine, mark millar, chuck dixon, dc comics, valiant entertainment

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