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Pipeline #113

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FORGET MARVEL X — NOW THIS LOOKS INTERESTING!

I’ve not read anything Jim Krueger has ever written. Not even FOOT
SOLDIERS. It’s never really interested me, nor has MARVEL X. But
recent announcements from him have piqued my interesting. He’s
publishing a couple of very interesting titles.

The first is “Alphabet Supes.” Picture the Legion of Super-Heroes where
each character is named after a letter of the alphabet and takes his/her
personality from that letter. ‘I’ and ‘E’ get into fights over who goes first.
‘T’ is cross. Etc. etc. This could turn out either incredibly cool or too
gimmicky for its own sake.

The artist isn’t named, but the preview pages look like John Byrne’s art
(including a Byrne-like signature on the cover), which leads me to guess
Anthony Castrillo, who was last seen pencilling some FLASH issues
back in 1996. My first impression was Vic Bridges, who last did
FREAK FORCE. He did some great work there, but has since left the
comics field altogether for religious reasons.

I also like the uniform look they all have. Simple, sleek, with a splash of
color and their names on a badge near their shoulders.

The other project is called “Fly Boys.” I don’t care what the storyline
behind it is. Krueger is doing this series sideways — in widescreen — in
Cinemascope — whatever you’d like to call it. I’ve written about the
widescreen format a bunch of times before this so I won’t bore you all
with it again. When this comes out, though, I’ll be sure to mention it here.

SNAP THE PIPELINE

We here at Pipeline Commentary and Review, i.e. me, would like to
wish Randy Lander well as he prepares to take on his new job. In the
absence of Snap Judgment reviews this week, here are as many as I
can spit out. These are all books I’ve read in the past week, and may
not necessarily be ones that just came out this past week. As I don’t
have the patience to do highly detailed reviews and generally prefer to
keep spoilers out of this column, they will be much briefer than Randy’s.
You’ve been warned.

FLASH #152: Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn bring up the interesting
mystery of who the new Flash is. Along the way, they remember the
whole subplot concerning Linda Park, whose absence a bunch of issues
ago lead me to believe that all of the stories since the wedding were
Hypertime-enabled. Some people might consider that a blessing if the
ridiculous Cobalt Blue Evil Twin story were eliminated from “our” DC
Universe proper. Paul Pelletier has some wonderful talent, but doesn’t
show as much here as he could. He’s a wonderful artist when allowed
to draw in a more “cartoony” style. He’s working for classic super-hero
detail here, and it doesn’t work all that often. Or maybe it’s just the
inker’s fault. Yeah, that’s it. Besides, pencillers love to blame their
inkers for everything, right?

So I’m recommending this book, in the hopes that it straightens out a lot
of what has come before. It’s got plenty of classical elements of mystery
and intrigue, to boot.

Brandon Peterson, whose artwork inside ranges from spiffy to
excellent, draws THE ASTONISHING X-MEN. (Just look at page 3
for an example of the latter. It’s also excellently-colored by the guys
from Liquid!.) The story is probably meant for longer-term readers of
the X-books than I. If you remember, in detail, the history of Bastion
and Onslaught and Cable and all the rest, this book would probably
make perfect sense. Writer Howard Mackie does his best to fill in the
gaps as we go, but if I need that much explanation, it means the story is
going to suffer from being too reliant on too much other stuff. It also
seems as if the team is picked out of thin air, but I’m sure the team was
picked for some specific story purpose, which will come up a little later.
The plot was pretty simplistic — team gets together, goes to rescue
small children. Big whoop.

I’m giving this one a pass, unless you’re an ardent X follower or just
really like Brando’s art.

PLANETARY #5 is an interesting period piece, in much the same way
as that issue of STORMWATCH in which we look at several different
periods of Jenny Sparks’ life told in their respective storytelling styles.
However, this one doesn’t fit as well, for me. Warren Ellis evokes some
wonderful moods and interesting bits of character, but there is no plot,
and the point of the story seems to vary widely. (Or maybe I’m just
being a crabby columnist who needs a nap.) John Cassaday hands in
some more amazing pencils, done in a variety of styles. Heck,
technically speaking, this might be his best effort to date. Special
commendation must go to Laura Depuy and Ali Fuchs for their efforts
in keeping the color schemes simple when they need to be, and
authentic to the period when Ellis calls for a flashback to pulp and dime
novel days.

I’d recommend this one if you’re a PLANETARY fan. I’m sure it’ll fit in
with the overall arc of things when all is said and done. I’m willing to
give the leash a little slack on this one.

SAVAGE DRAGON #63 was a little uncomfortable. Erik Larsen
basically redrew an old Dragon story from earlier in his career and
inserted it into present continuity. While the story may have been fine,
the telling of it suffered some from some awkward panels. You can
compare the two stories and see where Erik cleaned things up, but it
just wasn’t enough for me. The final page’s revelation as to Overlord’s
identity was a bit of a mystery to many who read it, leaving the issue on
a bit of an awkward (there’s that word again) note.

SAVAGE DRAGON #64, however, is terrific. Erik is back to
full-fledged 1999 art and storytelling styles. The mystery about
Overlord gets a page of needed cleanup right at the beginning. The rest
of the issue is just hilarious. This issue is packed with pages originally
done for the serial that ran in Comic Shop News some time ago. As
such, you get a gag-a-page feel to much of the issue. Taken as a whole,
however, those gags show you how Dragon is adjusting to his new
lifestyle. It’s an interesting take on things. We also get two pages of
laugh-out-loud funny development on the shrunken-villain subplot.

So this one is easily recommended to all. I’m pretty sure you could
jump on right here. Would have been difficult with the previous issue,
but #64 is a good spot.

MR. MAJESTIC #1 is pure fantasy, along the same lines as Hercules
towing Manhattan out to see with a steel chain. It’s the kind of stuff you
dreamed up when you were a five-year-old kid, eyes wide with the
feeling that anything’s possible. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s rather
entertaining, but I had some problems with the storytelling. In short: We
saw the solution in the first 23 pages, and then found out what the
problem was in the last 5. While this can sometimes lead to one of
those stories where the ending makes the whole thing seem brilliant (see
THE USUAL SUSPECTS), here it doesn’t. It leads to a lot of
confusion. And the ending doesn’t make me want to go back and
reread it again to see what I missed out on. Joe Casey and Brian
Holguin write, and Ed McGuinness and Jason Martin draw.

This one is mildly recommended for some nice art and good idea.
Execution keeps it from a full recommendation.

J. Michael Straczynski’s RISING STARS #1, with art by Keu Cha,
came out this week. I’ll keep this one simple: HIGHLY
RECOMMENDED. Go out and get it. It sets things up real well, giving
you the background on the situation and the state of many of the
characters. Get in on this while you still can. Be there from the
beginning. Go.

Jim Lee has stopped doing the sideways formatting on DIVINE
RIGHT with issue #10, referring to it as a ‘crazy whim’ in the letters
column. UGH. I hope Jim Krueger’s series mentioned above is a big hit.
Richard Bennett, not Scott Williams, inks this issue. I think this is as
good as his inks have ever looked over Lee’s pencils, but Lee is really
best served with Williams inking over him. Lee draws some pretty
pictures, and he and co-writer Scott Lobdell fashion together a sedate
story leading up to the grand conclusion of this series in the next couple
of months.

If you’ve been reading DIVINE RIGHT, this one is recommended. If
you’ve never picked up an issue before, it’s pointless to pick up, unless
you just want to see some fancy art.

WIZARD #97 features a J. Scott Campbell
Batgirl/Spider-Girl cover. Cheap shot alert:
Wouldn’t it be cool if he could draw an issue
of DANGER GIRL, too? The inside of the
magazine is a pathetic waste. It’s really sad.
I’ve tried to defend WIZARD a lot here.
They do some neat stuff. I disagree with
many editorial decisions, but all-in-all, it’s not
too bad. These past couple of issues have
been less-than-good. This issue is atrocious,
devoting 8 pages to wrestling. It may not
sound like much, but when you realize the
feature interview with Harlan friggin’ Ellison was 6 pages (the first page
of which is just a photo of the man), their movie casting section is
another 3, some pointless comparison of heroes fighting wastes two
pages with Jim Balent drawing women with fully inflated balloons for
chests, 6 pages to some sort of attempt to be funny picture comic set at
Marvel’s Island of Adventure, and a one-page gag ad of a stupid
Monkey Guy recurring character. . . I’m sorry, I just lost the point. The
point is that Wizard devotes way too much stuff to stupid crap and not
enough to comic books. There is a nice 3 page Usagi Yojimbo comic in
there, and the Harlan Ellison interview is worth the read. The First Look
at Machina Rex is nice. There’s not much else in there for $5, except
the BATMAN: DARK VICTORY #0 comic. It’s a big loser.

The bottom line for Wizard is this: Stop pandering to an audience which
doesn’t exist. How many 12 year olds read comics anymore? Maybe
you should pander to the college-aged crowd. It might make the
magazine readable, at least. Sales of the magazine right now are best on
the good distribution it gets and momentum. People read it because
they think they have to. They buy it because it’s the only full-color
glossy monthly comics magazine. Not because it’s good. Because,
increasingly, it isn’t.

SUPERGIRL #36 features nice art by Leonard Kirk, as usual. But the
problem with it is Peter David’s growing mythology. That is, there’s so
much stuff to keep track of with this title, it’s getting difficult to pick up
an issue at random and enjoy it. This issue will be particularly disastrous
for that reason, with an influx of YOUNG JUSTICE fans reading it for
the crossover. I’ve been reading this title and enjoying it since the first
issue, but I’m going to have to reread it, it seems, to refresh my memory
on everything.

So if you’re a regular reader with a long memory, pick it up. If you’re
not a regular reader or YJ completist, pass.

One last thing before I leave this portion of the column: I feel the need
to brag. I’ve been a letterhack for a bunch of years, but my output has
diminished greatly in the past year or two as I’ve been able to let out my
steam through this column. This week was like a return to the good old
days as I had three letters printed in the pages of WOLVERINE,
DIVINE RIGHT, and SAVAGE DRAGON.

It’s enough to get me re-energized to write more again. Look for a
Pipeline2 column on letterhacking sometime in the future, too!

CBR BITS OF BUSINESS

Welcome back to Beau Yarbrough, CBR’s newsman in residence, and
the first of us to tie the knot.

Finally, a big welcome to the latest CBR columnist, Steven Grant. Trust
me; I’m looking forward to reading his column just as much as you all
are. I just hope he doesn’t take it personally if I occasionally feel the
need to blast wrestling, since he’s writing one of those comics. =)