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Pipeline #297

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Pipeline #297

THIS WEEK’S BOOKS

[Powers #28[

POWERS #28 is a highlight of the series for me, despite not featuring Pilgrim and Walker. Detective Kutter takes the spotlight for the issue, and his dialogue with “The Butler” fills up half of the issue. While dazzling us with stylistic speech, Bendis slips in plot, detail, and character. The reason why the dialogue can be so good, in the end, is that Bendis isn’t using it to hide anything else. It’s not like an artist using excessive crosshatching to hide weak anatomy. This is the icing on the cake.

I just read through all the parts of this storyline this past weekend to refresh myself on all the details of the story. It holds up well and should make a great trade paperback when it’s done and collected.

Yes, Oeming’s art and Pantazis’ colors work together as well as ever, while Workman’s lettering guides the reader’s eye through a labyrinth of dialogue with amazing ease. This is the kind of book that might give an inexperienced letterer heart attacks.

The inside back cover features an ad for March’s PARLIAMENT OF JUSTICE, a one shot book by Michael Avon Oeming and Neil Vokes. I’ve read it already. It’s really good. Vokes’ art is at a level higher than anything I’ve ever seen him draw, with intricate gray toning used to convey not just shadow and mood, but also a sense of authenticity and an historical feel. It’s a strong character piece that has a fantastic ending. Wait till you see where Oeming and Vokes go with this one. It surprised me. PARLIAMENT OF JUSTICE is poised to be a surprise hit for Image, and the kind of book that could propel Vokes to new fame.

[Astro City: Local Heroes #1]

ASTRO CITY: LOCAL HEROES #1 is fairly plotless, but that’s part of the charm of the series. It isn’t so much about the events of the issue, as the reactions to those events. This issue, in particular, is an excellent introduction to Astro City (both the fictional geographic location and the comic series), as Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson take the reader on a whirlwind tour of the city with cameo appearances by a large number of characters, both heroic and villainous. Others get referenced as casually as someone in the real world would refer to a big name politician or movie star.

The point of view for the issue is a veteran door man at an upscale Astro City hotel. He’s been there long enough to pick out the various types of people who visit the city he’s chosen to make his home in. We get to see the city through his eyes, while Busiek sneaks in a heartwarming side story at the end that makes the issue feel complete.

Brent Anderson is back to inking himself, but he hasn’t missed a step. For better or worse, there’s nothing about this issue that would indicate that he hasn’t drawn one for the better part of two years. It fits right in.

RAIJIN COMICS #10 proved me wrong on one count: Just because the plane has landed, that doesn’t mean “Revenge of the Mouflon” is near an end. It’s the end of that style of action-packed story, for sure, but just the beginning of a longer political nightmare. I’ll stick around to see where it goes from here, but I miss the speed lines already.

NIGHTWING #78 features Rick Leonardi art, which is as wonderful as always. Picture an artist with bits of Art Adams and Walter Simonson in his work, and you get an idea of what Leonardi is capable of. He’s one of my favorite artists that we never see enough of. Hopefully, this will be a long run on NIGHTWING, a book his art is perfect for. (I liked his art on BIRDS OF PREY, too, but I think DC was looking for someone whose art is a little slicker and a little more, dare I say it, “good girl.”)

Grayson’s story is solidly crafted. The pacing is even. The foreshadowing is there. The gun is placed clearly on the wall in the first act to be fired in the third. All of the good technical points are there. I like the focus on the relationship between Dick and Babs, but I’d like to see a greater focus on Tarantula soon, just so we can get to the bottom of her storyline and not have it drag out for a year or more.

DAYDREAMING. . .

It’s a time in the not-so-far future. You’re at the local mall. You stop into the book store and walk up to the Marvel/DC kiosk. There’s a computer there with a database listing every comic the two companies ever produced (both before and after their merger) that they still own the rights to. Every single issue. Every graphic novel. Every promotional comic.

You pick SLAPSTICK #1-#4, remembering a few cheap laughs in a time before DEADPOOL became AGENT X, or X-FORCE became X-STATIX. It’s Len Kaminski and James Fry, with Terry Austin on inks. They’re comics tucked in the back of a long box in storage somewhere that you can’t be bothered sorting through to get to. You select those four issues, instead, out of a little walk-up booth somewhere at the local mall.

You choose between paperback and hardcover format. You choose which of the four issues’ covers you’d like to be the cover of your new made-to-print book. The rest will appear on the inside as pin-ups in the back section of the book at the check of a box.

If you’re on a budget, you can even choose between black and white (line art or shades of grey reproduction), or full color.

You swipe your credit card through the machine, push a button to indicate you have no further orders despite the list of other similar titles that might interest you (the aforementioned titles, plus FRED HEMBECK and/or SERGIO ARAGONES DESTROYS THE MARVEL UNIVERSE, a whole run of WHAT THE–?!? Issues, or THE FANTASTIC FOUR ROAST), grab your receipt with your order number, and head down to Best Buy to scan the shelves for the recently-released STAR WARS and INDIANA JONES DVDs to kill some time.

Nah, I’m just kidding on those DVDs. They’re still not out, despite what the rumor mills say. George Lucas’ myocardial infarction prevented that from ever happening. On the bright side, it also prevented STAR WARS, EPISODE III from ever defiling the name of that once great movie series any further.

A couple of hours later, your book is waiting for you at the local mass market book store. $10 brings you a few good laughs.

Then you wake up.

It’s still February, 2003. You realize that CrossGen is the only company equipped to come up with such a scheme, but they don’t need to. Most every combination of reprints you could want from their titles is already available.

Except the hardcovers.

Dare to dream.

STORY STRUCTURE

I’ve been thinking a bit about story structure lately. The mini-series is a tricky thing, and I’ve seen different reasons why that’s so. As one who pre-orders most everything, four issue mini-series are a problem. If I don’t like the first issue, it’s too late. The next two issues are already pre-ordered, and I might as well buy the fourth at that point.

And if it hits at a particularly bad time, I end up saving issues up until I can read them all at once. Why am I doing that instead of waiting for the trade paperback collection that so often seems inevitable?

After the first issue, the chances of making a sale to a new reader for the retailer on a short run mini-series is pretty low. Who wants to start in the middle? Who wants to buy an incomplete story? With a possible trade paperback following it up, it’s doubly silly.

How do you solve the problem of keeping each individual issue of a mini-series accessible to new readers, while maintaining the long-term perspective of trade paperback readability?

Also, is there a way to please both people who enjoy reading 22 page stories and those who would prefer a longer form?

The solution is simple: Every issue of a mini-series has to be a complete story with a satisfying beginning, middle, and end. We have to end the practice of taking one story and just stretching it out over 88 pages and breaking it up at the end of each 22 page section. If your story will take 88 pages to tell, and the end goal for the publisher is a healthy and viable backlist item, then release it as a graphic novel. The monthly serves no purpose at that point, aside from cash flow issues.

[HERO #1]

It’s something I first learned from watching BABYLON 5. Each episode is self-contained, save the two or three two-parters in the series. Each has a beginning, a middle, and an end. You can watch one episode at random and understand it. When viewed all together, or daily instead of weekly over five years, you get a new experience and see more of the subtleties. It’s a new experience, but you’re not missing out on anything. Nor is the monthly reader — whether by reading preferences or financial constraint — robbed of anything. For the retailer, there’s a chance now of selling issue #3 of that mini-series to someone who didn’t read the first two and for whom you can’t bother stocking back issues for.

Too many on-going series start off like they’re mini-series. The latest example is DIAL H FOR HERO. The first issue doesn’t have much to it. It feels like the first issue of a mini-series. But it also trots out every cliché in the book, beginning with the origin story, telling it in flashback, using a disinterested third party counselor to narrate the story to, etc. It’s not bursting out of the gates to start now, is it? How many people will want to come back to this series for a second issue after reading the first? If it were a mini-series, a certain segment would shrug its shoulders, suck it up and deal, and buy the last three issues to see the whole story. But as a series? I think the problem might just be that readers will not see enough in this first issue to keep them interested, and they’ll move on. We do see the dial at work, and we do see what kind of trouble making assumptions can get you into, but there’s no immediacy or hook for the reader to return to. (We know the kid comes out OK. He’s narrating the story!)

It’s one of those problems that will never get solved. For some, it’s a matter of personal taste. For others, it’s just a hard economic reality. Mini-series will sell better at $3 a month for 4 months than an original graphic novel will at $9 or $10. Maybe that’s changing, but we’re not quite there yet. Having stories that don’t end inside of one issue is not necessarily a bad thing. Certain writers can make it work. (Check out any of Bendis’ books.) But you need to be able to grab the reader even harder if you’re going to pull it off.

DAREDEVIL

Matt Murdock had his share of detractors for Valentine’s Day weekend, as the reviews came in fairly negative for DAREDEVIL. However, it seems there were enough people who felt the need to judge the movie for itself to make it popular. Initial estimates put the movie at $43.5 million dollars in ticket sales for its initial three days of sales. Next week’s take will indicate whether word of mouth was any good, though.

I wonder how much more the movie might have made on Sunday (and Monday) if the blizzard hadn’t shut down so much of the east coast from Washington D.C. through Boston.

While I did see SPIDER-MAN and X-MEN on opening day, I was otherwise preoccupied and didn’t get that chance to see DAREDEVIL. I do plan on seeing it this week, though, assuming the snow ever stops falling around here. Look for a review next Tuesday.

RANDOM THOUGHT

This coming week’s issue of TOM STRONG features a story drawn by Howard Chaykin. It’s no big surprise that Tom Strong bears a strong resemblance to every other leading man Chaykin has ever drawn.

PIPELINE IS STILL POLITICS FREE

It’s gotten a little ridiculous around the web in the past few weeks. Like popcorn kernels, blogs have exploded with political discussion in places where politics were once a foreign word. People whose day-to-day recorded activities were limited to the manner in which their cat pounced on their bed in the morning and how Domino’s delivered their pizza in 31 minutes (it was free!) now expound at great length on how the sky is falling and how evil the games that politicians play are. These pronouncements so often come from people who haven’t picked up a newspaper in years but are now armchairs pundits and foreign policy experts.

I briefly considered giving a differing opinion to the near-monolithic rantings I’ve seen across the web, but I’m not going to. It’s not that I’m not inclined to. It’s just not the purpose of this column. You’re here for comics, and I’m more than happy to go there. If you want politics, there are already dozens of fine sites dedicated to that. In the meantime, I’ll keep skipping down the pages of those other sites.

CORRECTIONS

From last week’s TRIPWIRE X 10 review: Greg Rucka made his comics debut with WHITEOUT, not “Greg White.”

If you’ve wondered what I’ve been doing with the free time that Pipeline2’s hiatus has given me, I can tell you. I’ve been working on some computer stuff, learning new technologies, getting back into the programming mindset. That kind of thing. To that end, I’ve already added a new feature over at VariousAndSundry.com for those who may spot a link they think might fit into the web site. Click over there to see it now.

Various and Sundry as also been updated in the past week with thoughts on SURVIVOR’s premiere episode, the bountiful programming of Tuesday night television, a new collection of movie trailers, Opera vs. Microsoft, the weekly DVD release list commentary, and much more.

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 400 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They’re sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns or so are still available at the Original Pipeline page.

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