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Tue, October 7th, 2008 at 2:28pm PDT | Updated: October 7th, 2008 at 2:41pm

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

BUT FIRST, A VIDEO!

Once again, the iFanboy guys were nice enough to have me on their video podcast, if only for my voice.

If you missed Jim Mroczkowski's great "Secret Wars II" poem on their site a few months back, you now have a second chance. I did a "somewhat dramatic reading" of the piece, and iFanboy put together a hilarious video with appropriate imagery to go along with it. It came out great, so give it a look.

In the meantime, I'll be waiting by my phone, waiting for Audible's call to read a book for them next. . .

TWO QUICK CORRECTIONS

Response to last week's column was much nicer than I had expected. Thanks for all the responses. Two quick corrections I need to make, out of intellectual honesty:

The person McCain debated against in Arizona was Richard Kimball, not "Campbell."

Second, Senator Obama would be the "Democratic candidate." It was a small grammar slip on my part, but I bet not an uncommon one, to use "Democrat" as the adjective there.

The books are out this week, I think, so check them out if you're so interested.

BACK TO THE LONGBOW

When I didn't quite "get" the ending of "Green Arrow/Black Canary" #11 last month, Mike Norton pointed me (via Twitter) to Mike Grell's "Longbow Hunters." I had almost forgotten that the trade paperback was in my collection, but I cracked it open and read through it in one afternoon. Grell's art is the big selling point of the book. It's beautifully rendered material. Obviously, there's a lot of photoreferencing going on here, but it's done through Grell's artistic prism with an added layer of cartooning quirkiness. Grell's scratchy, thin lines help to define a look that goes above and beyond the fumetti that makes so much of today's photoreferenced art look like mere tracings.

The story is a little too precious for its own good, with too much going on. The book has that feeling that wasn't uncommon in the late 80s, where competing with the legacy of "Dark Knight Returns" meant adding in overlapping stories, confusing character interactions, and plots that never head in a straight line. There's a lot to keep track of in this book, but I found that just pushing through worked well for me. Grell wrote enough expository dialogue to explain things as they happened. That kept my attention.

The good news is that I was never lost in the basics of the story. I glommed on pretty quickly to who Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance were, where the threat is coming from, and what the status quo was. Sure, it's caught up in a particular bit of continuity when Dinah was a florist, but it was completely accessible to someone not engrossed in the characters' situations at the time.

The coloring by Julia Lacquement is a beautiful watercoloring style that was popular at the time for higher end books. You don't see it anymore, which is a shame. She doesn't fight the changes in art style through the book, and the "standard" coloring scheme is very light-handed. Compared to what we have today, the pages look pale, but I like that.

The book is, in many ways, very much a product of its time, complete with references to crack cocaine and Iran/Contra. I'm sure the "Women in Refrigerators" crowd weren't happy with Dinah's portrayal, either. But Grell's art is undeniably beautiful, and the story introduces a new character who's showing up in "Green Arrow/Black Canary" now that I find really interesting. Surely, she's shown up somewhere else in the nearly-20 year interim, but this will be her first time back for me. I hope she sticks around past issue #12, but it doesn't look likely.

PREVIEWS FOR DECEMBER 2008 - PART ONE OF TWO

Since there won't be any time to put together a PIPELINE PREVIEWS PODCAST this month, I'll write up some of my thoughts and picks for the month.

First, I have to scratch an earlier prediction. The "Previews" catalog for comics shipping in December came out a couple of weeks ago, and neither Marvel nor DC raised their regular monthly cover prices up to $2.99.

Note that Marvel is putting out so many $3.99 comics that there might be a wee bit of market confusion there, but the "standard format" monthly comics are still under $3. We'll get back to this topic in a little bit. I'm not giving up on it.

Dark Horse:

"Aliens Omnibus" Volume 6 features the work of Chuck Dixon, Gene Colan, and Eduardo Risso, among others. Those names are enough to make me interested in the book. I'm not a big "Aliens" fan, so I read selections based strictly on the creators doing the stories. As with so much of Dark Horse's catalog, this is an advance solicitation for February 4th shipment.

"MySpace Dark Horse Presents" gets a second print collection on February 18th. It, too, has an impressive lineup of talents, including Guy Davis, Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, Eric Canete, Evan Dorkin, and more. It'll be $20 for 176 pages. I just started reading the first collection of the web comics and have been impressed so far. Joss Whedon's story was a little too frenetic for me, but I eventually glommed onto it. And just when I had the tone and feel of the story figured out, it ended. ::sigh::

DC:

The Vigilante returns in a new series. His last series was a late 80s run, as I recall, including a two-parter written by Alan Moore. This time around, Marv Wolfman is penning the tales, and he's accompanied by the sadly overlooked Rick Leonardi. How Leonardi doesn't have a regular gig on a big name title right now is beyond me. But I'll take anything I can get from his art board. I'm giving this one a shot just for that.

There's something poetic about one page containing solicitations for "All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder" #12 and Kevin Smith's "Batman: Cacophony" #2. DC invites the easy jokes sometimes. At least "ASBAR" is labeled as a "RESOLICIT."

"Justice League of America" #28 brings back the Milestone characters. I'm excited about this just because it means one more character named "August" is back in comics!

The "All-Star Superman" Volume 2 hardcover is coming out on February 11th. The rest of us are biding our time for an "Absolute All-Star Superman" solicitation. At this point, I'd guess spring or summer of 2009 for that.

Speaking of books we've all been waiting for: "The Starman Omnibus" Volume 2 is due on February 25th. What took them so long? I don't know, but I want the book now!

Award for Oddest Solicitation of the Month goes to Wildstorm's "James Robinson's Complete WildC.A.T.s" trade paperback. I guess DC is hoping to capitalize on Robinson's return to comics? These are the stories between Brandon Choi and Alan Moore. They were a great start to a new direction for the title before the plugged got pulled and Moore created a run of Image legend.

Travis Charest pulls some of the art duties in the tome, which collects 224 pages (including WildC.A.T.s #15-20 and the first Annual) for $19.99.

The happiest surprise of the month, though, is "Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book One." This hardcover will include Alan Moore's very first "Swamp Thing" issue -- i.e. the one just before "The Anatomy Lesson" -- that's never been reprinted before. It was written to tie off the storylines of the previous creative team before Moore put his own direction to the series.

Issues #20 - 27, in total, are here in full color for just $24.99.

Image:

Rob Liefeld is back with a new painted style, courtesy of digital painter Mike Capprotti. "Armageddon Now: World War III" is an original graphic novel in hardcover format for $25. It's 120 full color pages covering the tale of an apocalyptic future in which an ancient prophesy was fulfilled and all hell broke loose. The sample art pages shown next to the solicitation would indicate that either the book is either laid out sideways, or told in two page spreads. Either way, I'm interested.

The amazingly beautiful (and insanely large) "Comic Book Tattoo" is getting a special hardcover edition, now complete with slipcase. That's a $75 purchase for die-hard Tori Amos or anthology fans.

There's a new "American Flagg! Volume 1" trade paperback collecting just the first seven issues of the Chaykin masterpiece, for $20. So if spending the money to buy all those issues at once was too much for you, it looks like you'll eventually be able to buy them as two smaller trades.

"The Walking Dead" #56 is a clips show. I kid you not. I may have cracked that joke before, though, as this is a resolicitation. Kirkman is going for guaranteed shipping in 2009. We'll see if this helps him buy the time necessary to pull that off.

Marvel:

That "Marvel Noir" line is due out in December. Eh. X-Men Noir is listed at $3.99, by the way. So are all of the novel licensed comics. And the Marvel Illustrated lineup. And "Big Hero 6" #4. And "Ultimatum" #3. And "Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch" #3. And "Marvels: Eye of the Camera" #1 and #2. And "Marvel/Spider-Man" #2. And "Marvel Zombies 3" #3. And "Punisher: War Zone" #1-4.

Look, Marvel might not be raising their prices on the standard monthly serial comics, but everything else starts at $3.99. I may be off a little with my December 2008 time frame estimate, but the next big price rise at Marvel and DC will most assuredly be to $3.99. Nobody there is field testing the $3.25 or $3.50 or $3.75 price points. (There are some comics at Image at $3.50, though.)

On the other hand, the price hike from $1.00 to $1.25 represented a 25% jump. A 25% jump from $2.99 would take us to $3.74. The jump from 75 cents to a dollar was 33%. That takes us from $2.99 to $3.99 in today's dollars.

It's a big real money jump, but not as a percentage.

Back to the comics, then:

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' latest concoction, "Incognito" launches in December. This one is a crime/supervillain tale. I bet they get 5,000 extra copies sold over "Criminal" just for announcing a superpowered take on a crime story. It's enough to make me groan -- at readers, not the creators. Given how good "Sleeper" was and "Criminal" has been, I am looking forward to this one.

I realized that perhaps I am the ultimate lettering nerd when I smiled at the preview pages for "Marvels: Eye of the Camera." Comicraft is back and using their "Hedge Backwards" font, based on the hand lettering style of Richard Starkings, who lettered the original "Marvels" mini-series. I love that font. As I recall, Kurt Busiek is a fan of the font as well, having requested it for "Shockrockets."

To go along with the "Secret Wars Omnibus," Marvel is letting loose with the "Secret Wars II Omnibus." Collecting one of the most reviled crossover events in modern times, this one will give you the nine issue mini-series and every book that crossed over with it. If you want to learn more about the grandeur of this event, see that video I mentioned at the top of the column.

And Marvel isn't done going to the "Runaways" well, as they're releasing a new premiere edition hardcover version of the original six issues. In case that manga-sized reprint and the oversized hardcover weren't enough for you, now you can get it at a standard comic size with a hard cover for $20.

A new printing of "Spider-Man: Blue" by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale comes in two versions: Full color and black and white. Oddly enough, both are the same price. I'm guessing they don't expect many people to jump at the black and white version, so the higher cost (relative to the cheaper black and white printing process) is necessary to recoup their investment.

And if you listened to Word Balloon's "Loeb Report," then you know that there's talk of something more with these books. A "Color Omnibus" seems to be the most likely thing, but we'll have to wait a few months to see.

"Daredevil: The Man Without Fear" gets a premiere edition hardcover for $25. This is the five issue mini-series scripted by Frank Miller and drawn by John Romita Jr. It's beautiful. It's a great Daredevil story, and it's some of Romita's best art. I think I'll be picking this one up.

If that's not enough for you, "Daredevil by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson Volume 2" reprints "Daredevil" #173-184. That's roughly but not exactly the run of stories seen last in "Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller Volume 2," if you're keeping track at home.

Soleil's "Universal War One Volume 1" is a premiere edition hardcover collecting the three part series Marvel recently published.

Finally for Marvel, with "The Infinity Crusade" getting a new trade paperback, does that mean we're only one step away from the long-lusted-after "Infinity Gauntlet Trilogy Omnibus"? Dare I dream for that one, too?

Let's take a break here. We'll return next week to look at the back half of the "Previews" catalog to see what glories await us there.

PIPELINE PODCAST FOR 01 OCTOBER 2008

I snuck this podcast in late at night, forcing a softer voice. I refer to this as my "NPR Podcast." It wasn't a terribly busy week, so the top ten list was a bit of a roll of the dice. Still, I think there are some interesting picks in here, so take a listen:

  • 10. Ultimate Iron Man II Premiere HC
  • 9. Fire & Brimstone #2 (of 3)
  • 8. No Hero #1 (of 7)
  • 7. Star Trek New Frontier TP
  • 6. Dark Tower Long Road Home HC
  • 5. Four Eyes #1
  • 4. Savage Sword Of Conan TP Vol 4
  • 3. Invincible #53
  • 2. Essex County TP Vol 3 Country Nurse
  • 1. Top Ten Season 2 #1 (of 4)

I need to do a review of the first two volumes of the "Essex County" trilogy someday. They're unbelievably great books, with dramatic narratives of life in small town Canada. Each book is set in a different time period, but they all link together in ways you might not figure out right away. Jeff Lemire's career is off to a fantastic start.

"Top Ten" as the #1 pick was a no-brainer, though.

AND, FINALLY, A PIPELINE PRE-ANNOUNCEMENT

Thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, I know that I'll become a father this week. I'll be back next week with pictures, I'm sure. Hopefully, you won't be able to read my yawns between paragraphs. It's not you; it's me.

This column will not skip a beat, though. New installments are planned every Tuesday, as usual.

The weekly PIPELINE PODCAST is likely to take a week or two off. We'll see how my new schedule adjusts.

Thanks, as always, for reading. I'll see you on the other side.

Next week: More from "Previews," a proposal for a new book series for someone else to do because I'm lazy and don't have the time to do it, and some blog-friendly lists.

If you're looking for me in the meantime, I'll be changing a diaper or attempting to catch up on sleep that's forever lost.

The Various and Sundry blog will update throughout this week, but might be a little slower in the weeks ahead.

My Twitter stream flows briskly, carrying random thoughts through the ether with the force of white rapids. Very Zen.

The daily news bits that grab my attention in the worlds of tech and comics and more can be found at my Google Reader Shared Items. Several items are added to that page every day. I'm an RSS feed junkie.

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

TAGS:  green arrow, preview, shado, black canary

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