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Pipeline, Issue #209

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Pipeline, Issue #209

IN THE PIPELINE FOR THIS WEEK


The big release of the week is the new mutant title from Marvel called EXILES. Judd Winick is writing it and the ace artistry of Mike McKone and Mark McKenna adorn the pages. While the art is, indeed, superb, the storyline leaves a little to be desired. It could turn out to be a fun romp through some new and unexplored aspects of the Marvel mythos, or it could turn into an episodic bore. After the first issue, it’s too soon to tell. I’m willing to give the book a chance. If nothing else, the art buys it three issues.

Winick begins the story where the largely forgettable BLINK mini-series concluded. Blink has fallen out of the sky and landed in some unnamed desert in front of the daughter of Nightcrawler, T.J. Wagner. The rest of the team drops out of the sky unexpectedly afterwards. I can say this much – I don’t recognize a one of them. Some of these characters might have come from the Joe Mad era of the X-Men that I didn’t read; some of them might just be obscure; or they might even be new. I don’t know. Two of them intrigue me, including one light-hearted character seemingly ripped straight from the pages of PLASTIC MAN. The other has an amalgam of X-Men powers, and comes from a world of a little less mutant hysteria.

Right after dropping out of the sky and stepping on each others’ toes along the way, a mysterious man comes calling to them and explains the situation. The set-up for the series is that each team member’s future has been screwed with and it’s up to them to put it right. Along with a tool attached to Blink’s arm and the promise from the stranger that they’ll meet again, the team goes off in search of its first lead. The issue ends in a cliffhanger.

“Winick’s strengths lie in his characterization and the quiet moments between the characters.”

Winick’s strengths lie in his characterization and the quiet moments between the characters. To that end, he gets a large chance in this issue to show it off. As the team falls from the sky and gets introduced to one another, the sparks fly. The high science fiction concept is explained clearly. It’s a time travel theory that Winick easily explains with some helpful visuals and useful analogies.

As you can imagine, though, it’s a big chunk of exposition. When Winick spends three or four pages going over brief character histories for all the team members, you start to do the comic book reading equivalent of checking your watch while watching a movie. In fully the first half of the book, nothing happens. In the second half, you get a pretty simple fight scene, with a bit of a twist and a cliffhanger.

McKone and McKenna shine throughout this issue. Everyone looks great. The storytelling is as clear as it’s going to get. I get the feeling that the layout of the building in which the fighting occurs in the second half of the book was made up as McKone went along, but since it’s not really integral to the plot, it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. The characters stay on model throughout the issue and look great.

The concept behind the book is a good one. I just can’t decide yet — because it’s too soon to call — if it will lead the way to episodic madness, or become the stepping-stone to a focused story arc that leads to real and meaningful change for the characters involved. I’m hoping for the latter, no matter how slow the pace may be on the arc. There’s enough material to be mined from this group in their interactions.

I’d recommend this one a bit cautiously. It has potential, but I’m not sure it’s there yet.

The other big release of the week is also from Marvel. DAREDEVIL: YELLOW is the Year One treatment for Marvel’s veteran horn head, by the prolific team of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. The art is the draw to this book, as Loeb has done all of his usual great work, plus given it the gray wash treatment. Matt Hollingsworth handles the colors on top and keeps it even throughout. The book has a real noir feeling. The atmosphere of the book reminds me of New York City at the end of an immigration wave. It’s not 1963. It feels older than that. You get some poor New York City neighborhoods, some posh restaurants, and some retro college dorms.

Loeb and Sale use a framing sequence of the Matt Murdock of today writing a letter to Karen Page, his now deceased girlfriend. He decides to start at the very beginning and flashes back to the last days of his father’s boxing career. This is the story that leads up to Murdock putting on the first DD costume. Loeb very carefully plants all the clues of what would lead Matt to put on the suit. He does a nice job of keeping the suit real – that is, it’s not some magical spandex that Matt had hidden in the closet.

“Sale lavishes attention on all the backgrounds, settings, and architecture. Nothing goes unnoticed.”

Sale, for his part, manages the neat trick of having Daredevil look like a retro 60s creation while keeping everything else in a more classical era. Sale lavishes attention on all the backgrounds, settings, and architecture. Nothing goes unnoticed. The simple courtroom is a lushly detailed real world setting with a slightly art deco feel to it. The restaurant Battlin’ Jack Murdoch takes his son out to is a sprawling place with lots of noise. The dorm room Matt and Foggy Nelson share is a cramped, cluttered mess.

It’s definitely the choice of the litter in books that I’ve read so far this month. I know it’ll be available as a trade eventually. At the rate Marvel is going, you’ll probably be able to get the collection in time for Christmas. If you have the patience to wait that long for it, you’re a better man than I, but good for you. I’m not even going to attempt to convince you that if you don’t buy the single issues there isn’t a chance in heck of a trade being issued. (This is true unless, of course, you’re of the opinion that Marvel will be dead in six months or less. In that case, you have better just hope this series finishes in time for that. I’m not of that opinion.)

[Superman #171]

SUPERMAN #171 is Yet Another Issue Leading Into OUR WORLDS AT WAR, the big DC summer crossover. This one holds up on its own pretty well. It’s obvious that they’re treating this as the lead-in issue to the event, and making sure everyone knows what’s going on as the story moves along. This book is VERY new-reader friendly. Emil Hamilton narrates the issue and makes sure to drop in loads of background as he goes along. To Loeb’s credit, the exposition is never heavy handed and it comes out very conversationally. That’s a tougher trick that it might sound like.

Some plot threads that had otherwise been dangling in the Superman books for months start kicking into motion here, including the lack of a planet Pluto in the DC solar system and the repercussions of Lex Luthor’s sacrificed baby.

Ed McGuinness illustrates it, with Cam Smith on inks. If you like McGuinness’ balloon animal people, you’ll like this one. His style does work for me, so I enjoyed the issue. There was some particularly lovely mood coloring in the White House this issue from Richard and Tonya Horie, as Lex Luthor ponders universal domination.

I may not be a big fan of Yet Another Crossover, but for now I’m just relieved that all the stuff they’ve been setting up in the Superman titles for the past couple of years is finally coming to a head. If only to get that stuff out of the way, this is worth it. OUR WORLDS AT WAR starts in earnest next week, although the GREEN LANTERN special is out this week already, too.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #10 is very smooth. Brian Bendis delivers an emotional issue on a number of levels. Most impressively, he ends it in a way that will leave a bit of a thrill-packed smile on your face. Poor Peter Parker gets dragged through the wringer in this issue, from a confrontation with the Kingpin to one with Aunt May, and another with Mary Jane.

Bendis peppers the script with some smart pop culture references, from Carson Daly to Martha Stewart. It doesn’t stick out, it’s played for (and succeeds in getting) laughs, and it might possibly hold some appeal to the targeted teenage demographic of this book.

“To be electrocuted is to die from an electric charge. If you don’t die, you haven’t been electrocuted.”

That said, he does fall for one error that’s way too common for me. Electro is featured in the opening of this issue, and the word “electrocuted” is bandied about incorrectly. To be electrocuted is to die from an electric charge. If you don’t die, you haven’t been electrocuted.

There’s your nit-pick for the week.

Interesting thing to note about the cover: Spider-Man’s costume is starting to look like the movie costume. Take a look at the silver webbing he’s sporting on the cover. It hasn’t made its way into the comic yet, but I get the feeling that it’s only a matter of time before it does.

CORRECTION


The name of the comic strip that had the Douglas Adams tribute in it last week is “Get Fuzzy” and not “Get Buzzy.” I’ve been reading the strip for months now in my local paper and never even knew the name.

For what it’s worth, my favorite comic strips in the papers these days are ZITS and FOX TROT. It is also true that most of the funny pages are inane, gutless, and repetitive bores. But that’s a column for another day.

ASSORTED NOTES

On the off-chance that you missed it, Pipeline was a daily affair last week. Feel free to go to the archives or click on the links here to the columns for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

I’ll be back Friday, with some more reviews, a look at PREVIEWS, and my thoughts on this MIRACLEMAN situation.

Finally, I’m doing some housecleaning at Casa Pipeline, and have some DVDs I’m looking to part with. Shoot me an e-mail and I’ll shoot back the list. They’re all in great shape.

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 200 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 are still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML.

This year, you can still catch me at the Chicago Comicon (i.e. WizardWorld) and the San Diego Comicon (i.e. the Comic Con International: San Diego). I’m also tentatively scheduled for a day at the Small Press Expo in Maryland this September.

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