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Pipeline, Issue #135

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Pipeline, Issue #135

LOTS OF REVIEWS

I’ve been neglecting the reviews these past couple of weeks for various reasons. And so today I present to you as many short reviews of books from the past couple of weeks as I can muster.

Savage Dragon #69

We start with SAVAGE DRAGON #69 by Erik Larsen, because it’s my column and I can do what I jolly well want to do. This issue is actually a departure from the usual Dragon fare. Whereas other issues work as individual stories in the grand scope of the on-going Dragon soap opera, this one focuses more on one singular story, pitting Dragon against the SOS and his buddies therein. Every page of this issue concerns the main story of the displaced gods trying to raise Atlantis to claim it for their new homeland. Dragon doesn’t want to see the admittedly warlike Atlantians killed for so little reason, while the SOS sees this as a great way to kill two birds with one stone. The tension jacks up a notch, a colorful brawl ensues, and Mighty Man makes a startling declaration. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry. It’s more superhero shenanigans in the most grand of traditions. And, yes, it’s self-contained so a new reader could jump in here and figure out most of what’s going on, Dragon’s tortured love life not withstanding.

DIVINE RIGHT #12 is out! Jim Lee’s swansong issue. 12 issues, 2 years, and three months later the epic is ended. Momentum having been lost about 7 issues, 1 year, and 7 months ago, it’s fairly anti-climactic. Heck, I’m not even all that sure what happened in this last issue. ::sigh:: The good news is that Jim Lee has since admitted that he can’t do a monthly book anymore, and we can look forward to the occasional special project from him.

THE FLASH #157 is the penultimate issue of the current storyline. It’s like Mark Waid has rounded up all the old villains he’s worked with since Day One on the title and is throwing them at poor Wally West all at once. This issue introduces yet another twist on top of everything else, putting Wally at the lowest possible point. You know what that means by now, don’t you? Wally makes his grand comeback next issue! Yes, that’s right, once the hero reaches his nadir, there’s only one possible answer – triumph! I’m looking forward to it. Oh, Brian Augustyn co-writes, Paul Pelletier pencils, and Jose Marzan Jr. ink under a Steve Lightle cover.

“Yes, that’s right, once the hero reaches his nadir, there’s only one possible answer – triumph!” Flash #157

I just caught up on SUPERBOY #69-#71 this week. #69 is a return visit the Superboy’s previous home in Hawaii. It’s light on plot, but heavy on characterization and “Where are they now — ?” kind of stuff. As such, it’s a nice breather between epic storylines and angst. Oh, yes, and Krypto returns! Whoo-hoo! The next two issues begin “The Evil Factory” storyline. Not sure what to make of this yet, but it does seem to be bringing some closure to a couple of character points that Kesel has been hinting at since returning to the series, such as Dr. Roquette’s feelings towards the Guardian. Tom Grummett and Ray Kryssing do their usual excellent jobs in the art department. Grummett is really one of the most underrated artists currently working in the business. He seems to be most linked to teenaged titles – ROBIN and SUPERBOY – but has also done excellent art for NEW TITANS and SUPERMAN, where his art first shone for me. I’m really looking forward to what he and Kesel come up with for Gorilla.

MONSTER FIGHTERS INC. came out from Image last week, just in time for Christmas. (Of course, you have another three weeks before SAVAGE DRAGON’s Christmas-themed issue comes out, so I suppose I shouldn’t be too harsh on MFI.) I reviewed this book from black and white previews, but it holds up just as well with the color added in. Even with a slightly expensive $4 price, I think this one is worth it.

If you liked THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, then you’re delusional. Or somehow you managed to fall for the silly hype about it being actual footage. In either case, Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier do an amazing job at explaining the true story behind the movie in Dark Horse’s BLAIR WHICH? one shot, which came out just a couple of weeks ago. This isn’t a spoof or a parody; it’s more of a companion volume to the movie. You really need to have seen the movie to understand the gist of this, but if you haven’t you could probably find some amusing bits to this.

DEADPOOL #37 is a riot. The story is vague and kind of thin, and sort of predictable given that you’re dealing with Loki. There’s a nice twist, however, on the last page to set up future issues. The most interesting feature of the issue, though, is reading Deadpool’s god awful Norse dialect. We’ve all made fun of THOR’s speech pattern before at one point or another. But Christopher Priest does a hilarious bang-up job on putting the words into Deadpool’s mouth and letting him have fun with them. Jim Calafiore does a nice job with the guest pencils in this issue. His thin line reminds me a bit of Fransesco’s work, which I’ve only ever really seen in pin-ups. Mark McKenna inks it and stays true to Calafiore’s pencils. (I say this because I’ve seen other books Calafiore’s drawn, and you can see which parts of the art carry over through different inkers.)

“[I DIE AT MIDNIGHT is] madcap screwball frantic action comedy.” I Die At Midnight #1

Pipeline favorite Kyle Baker is back with his final DC work, I DIE AT MIDNIGHT. (In case you didn’t read it on the Comic Wire last month, Baker has said he’s done with DC, upset after the Superman ELSEWORLDS tale fiasco from last summer.) It’s a V2K Vertigo one shot. It’s madcap screwball frantic action comedy. I think that about sums it up. A man recants on his decision to commit suicide shortly after ingesting the pills. Then the chase is on to get the antidote. It’s really simple and straightforward stuff, perhaps even more so than anything Baker’s done prior to this. It’s action comedy, really, not the slow more deliberately paced comedy of YOU ARE HERE or WHY I HATE SATURN.

The book itself is square bound on glossy white paper with cardboard covers. Baker is using the computer coloring style he first did on YOU ARE HERE last year and it works rather well. (Speaking of which, look for the Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman YOU ARE HERE faux movie poster in the background at Times Square.) The only catch is that all of this will set you back $7, but it is for 63 solid pages of story.

I won’t go into a full review of it here since I’ve done so in the past already, but DC has collected John Ostrander’s 12 issue mini-series, THE KENTS, into one TPB now. There’s not much special in the collection. There’s a nice text piece from Ostrander, but there’s not even so much as a cover gallery. Tim Truman and Tom Mandrake did the art on the series, set in the later half of the1800s. It’s one of the best mini-series I’ve ever read, although I was an American History minor in college, so I might be a bit biased towards it. If you missed it the first time around, this would be $20 well spent.

SUPERMAN Y2K is the biggest disappointment of the revamped Superman books so far. It goes a long way to explain the origin of a new villain, who will debut in full with next week’s SUPERMAN issue. (I’ve gotten a preview of that, BTW. Be very afraid of the last page. ::sigh::) Joe Kelly writes Y2K and Butch Guice draws most of it, and it just comes off as a meandering boring mess. If told in 22 pages, it probably would have been OK, but there’s a lot of meaningless New Year’s history brought into the story for little effect, and nothing seems to happen for quite a ways into the issue. Of course, I will admit that New Year’s never struck me as an important holiday, and Kelly goes a long way towards establishing it as just that for the purposes of the book. Maybe that’s what lost me.

Pulp Fantastic #1

It’s not too great a leap to believe Howard Chaykin is the writer behind Vertigo’s PULP FANTASTIC #1, ably abetted by his current writing partner, David Tischman. I can remember watching the syndicated VIPER show in the first season and knowing that it was he who wrote the episode that started with the female lead going undercover in a strip joint. He somehow held back on THE FLASH, but when he penned an episode of VIPER, you knew someone’s underwear would be showing. PF’s Vector Pope is a private investigator, living off world in an offbeat techno-religious planet. Chaykin has a field day with religious references and satire along the way. He also includes as many sexual acts as he can. Females in the book, it seems, want a piece of Pope, and he’s more than happy to give it to them.

Rick Burchett does an excellent job in drawing this, away from his usual animated Batman styling, although you can still see it come through here and there.

This is a four-issue mini-series, and this issue seems to be setting it all up, although it does so in an annoying way. The issue starts with Pope getting beaten up, and then we flashback to the very beginning. However, we never return to that scene by the end of the first issue. I’m sure we’ll meet back up with it eventually, but for now it feels like a big sloppy loose end. This is looking to be one of those books best read after completion.

There’s enough snappy dialogue and mischief and intrigue – and, yes, sexual content – to keep this book interesting enough to give the second issue a chance, though. This one is recommended only for mature readers.

Warren Ellis’ latest is PLANETARY #8. It’s more of a historical set piece than anything else. This one isn’t big on plot. There isn’t any action in it at all, really, except for one bit that takes three pages to tell about five seconds’ worth of fighting. It’s really just a scary paranoid piece about the military industrial complex and lots of things usually reserved for 50s B-movie science fiction. But it’s twisted in a new way. When you’re done reading it, you’ll probably just shrug your shoulders and say, “Yeah, so?” But then a slight chill will run up your spine. That’s all you need to get out of the story.

Brian Michael Bendis is going to get a full column dedicated to him one day, so I’m holding back on reviewing JINX or GOLDFISH or FIRE here. Suffice it to say, the first two are brilliant novels, and the third is an interesting tale in and of itself. But I come here to praise Bendis, instead, for FORTUNE AND GLORY #1, published by Oni Press for $5. It’s the autobiographical account of Bendis’s dealings with Hollywood. It’s hilarious. If you’ve never read a single one of his books, don’t worry. He brings you up to date on all you need to know along the way. It’s a funny book, albeit a bit sad that Hollywood operates like that.

THIS WEEK

Don’t forget that due to the holiday, new comics won’t be available in your local shop until Thursday instead of Wednesday. Your local mileage, of course, may vary.

The new issue of WOLVERINE debuting that day features the talents of inker Derek Fridolfs. On Friday, Pipeline presents an exclusive interview with this new comics talent.

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