WE3 KINGS. . .
I’m not a pet lover. I’m not an animal person. I don’t hate them, but I’m not looking to adopt any, either. I had a pet rabbit when I was a wee lad, but that’s it. I know WE3 was a tear jerker for many, but it didn’t do that for me. I will say, though, that it’s a highly entertaining book that plays with its storytelling in interesting ways. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely must share credit for this book. I know there’s a large contingent of Morrison fans out there who follow his work from project to project. In those cases, the artist is often second fiddle. WE3 would not be the book it is without Quitely’s artistic contribution. This isn’t so much about the story being told as the way that it is told.
Let’s cover the story first: Government scientist trains animals in armor to fight wars. It’s better than humans killing humans, right? Perhaps this is where I lost all sympathy in the book, but I agree with that. While the scientists and military types might have been a touch mislead to believe they could control anything with altered intelligence (check out the upcoming movie STEALTH), I had a hard time feeling terribly bad for the rabbit, dog, and cat in this book. The book becomes one long fight scene for that, but it’s OK. Morrison does give the animals distinctive personalities, and I can see where cat people will go nuts for their champion. In fact, I think the most fervent plaudits for this book came from bloggers who post pictures of their cats on Friday. That’s no coincidence.
Quitely jumps through artistic hoops in this book. Some of it, no doubt, is borrowed from manga techniques. There are lots of small panels throughout the book to whip us through quick action at extreme closeup. But there’s also games played with the panels on a three dimensional level. Panels often pivot on an axis as action jumps into or out of them. It’s the most inventive use of panel arrangements I’ve seen since Todd McFarlane made a name for himself more than 15 years ago with splashy and imaginative layouts.
The book is digitally inked, but you’d have to have a really trained eye to spot it. The coloring from Jamie Grant is soft and sketchy at times. That might help blend some of the sketchier digitally inked lines into the work. Plus, you’re dealing with furry animals. A little sketchiness is called for. When it comes to trains and cars and the animal’s exoskeletons, though, everything is perfectly sharp. Perhaps technology is catching up, after all, or Quitely’s style is well suited for the technique.
WE3 didn’t hit me as strongly as it did with others, but it’s still an entertaining book and a worthy read. It’s available today for $13 from the Vertigo wing of DC Comics.
Two weeks ago, I took a look at the offerings from Marvel and DC in the latest PREVIEWS catalog. This week, I’m flipping through the rest.
We begin at Dark Horse, whose major new offering is REVELATIONS #1, the beginning of a six part series from writer Paul Jenkins and artist Humberto Ramos. This is a murder mystery set in the Vatican. The preview pages (shown on page 19) indicate that colorist Leonardo Olea is working right over Ramos’ pencils to create an almost painted look. The colors are soft, and the linework takes on a sketchier feel. I really like the look of the book, so now it’s a matter of seeing if Jenkins’ script can feed it something interesting. (Sample pages can be found on-line now.)
B.P.R.D.: THE DEAD is the new trade paperback collecting the mini-series from Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Guy Davis, and Dave Stewart. I waited on the trade to read this one, so I’m sorry to say I can’t give you a pithy review here. If you’re a HELLBOY fan already, though, you probably don’t need me to. If that fails you, it’s Guy Davis drawing the book. That sells it to me.
AEON FLUX returns with a new mini-series that promises to lead up to the movie. In other words, it’s a comic based on a movie based on an animated series. My head spins. Mike Kennedy writes it and Timothy Green II is on art.
CONAN: THE GOD IN THE BOWL AND OTHER STORIES is the second hardcover collection of Kurt Busiek’s stories in the reborn series. If nothing else, CONAN lends itself to some creative book titles. Cary Nord is featured on art here, collecting issues #7 and #9-14. Dave Stewart remains on colors.
From LONE WOLF AND CUB creator Kazuo Koike comes LADY SNOWBLOOD, a new manga series in the same small 300 page format for $10. This is a vengeance story promising “bloody, sexy action.” Koike has done a lot of that sexy action, actually, including books like CRYING FREEMAN. There’s not much preview art to go by, so I’m not sure what this one will look like. Nevertheless, Koike earns the chance to be read from his previous work.
Moving now to Image Comics, I like the look of FERRO CITY, the first issue of a new series or mini-series. It’s tough to tell which it is from the solicitation. It promises “science fiction robot pulp noir,” but it’s the art on the sample pages that sells the book to me. I’ll give it a chance based just on those four black and white samples. Jason Armstrong does both the art and writing on this book, and his gray toned art is beautiful. If I had to compare it to someone else’s, I might name Neil Vokes.
LIBERTY MEADOWS gathers up its fourth oversized hardcover collection of strips in the new COLD, COLD HEART volume. It’s $25 for issues #28-36 of the series.
An indie favorite moves to Image, as GUN FU’s trade paperback is due out on August 3rd. Howard Shum’s hip hop Hong Kong cop makes for an eclectic genre mix, but the book is lively and humorous throughout its five issue run. OPPOSITE FORCES’ Tom Bancroft draws up the cover. Interior art is from Joe Mason.
SAVAGE DRAGON, VOLUME 11: RESURRECTION features issues #53-58 of Erik Larsen’s long-running series. It’s a $15 trade paperback.
THE EXPATRIATE gets the quick trade treatment. B. Clay Moore and Jason Latour’s first five issues are slated for collection on August 24th. Issue #6 is solicited for the same day.
I reviewed it here last week, so it’s only fair to mention that NEGATIVE BURN has a summer issue coming out in August. The quarterly schedule is still a bit hopeful, but we’re getting there. The second installment of the new series will feature contributions from Brian Bolland (what else is new?), Amanda Conner, Dan Jurgens, Cully Hamner, Steven Grant, and many more. It’s $10 again for 96 pages.
If the hardcover was too pricey for you, Mark Millar and J.G. Jones’ WANTED gets a softcover treatment in August for just $20.
Aardvark Vanaheim continues to produce worthy material, even a year after Dave Sim’s CEREBUS ended. In cooperation with Win-Mill Productions comes FOLLOWING CEREBUS #5. The fourth issue just came out last week. The next issue covers editing, with interviews with Frank Miller, Will Eisner, Craig Thompson, Joe Matt, Andy Runton, and more.
AiT/PlanetLar returns ELECTRIC GIRL to comic shelves with the third volume of Mike Brennan’s catchy all-ages friendly series. This includes issues #9 and #10 of the series, plus “nearly 100 pages of new material.” For $14, I’m all over this one.
From the same publisher comes FULL MOON FEVER, written by Joe Casey with art from Caleb Gerard and Damien Couceiro. This is the story of a garbage man on the moon. In the course of his duties, of course, he finds himself hip deep in a serious situation clearly over his head – lunar werewolves. As the ad copy states, “It’s always a full moon. On the moon.” Cool. It’s an all new black and white 88 page graphic novel for $13.
Alias Enterprises picked a good addition to their stable of talents with Tom Bancroft’s OPPOSITE FORCES. The second issue of the series second volume is coming in August, and I couldn’t be happier. Track down the original issues if you get the chance. Some growing pains are evident in there, but it’s still a worthy read.
From Checker Book Publishing Group comes the oh-so-tempting THEODOR SEUSS GEISEL: EARLY WORKS, the first volume in a new series dedicated to reprinting all of the good doctor’s pre-Seuss work. The 200 page hardcover book will run you $23. I have a bad feeling that this is the kind of book that sounds really cool but winds up being a curiosity item of historical note. I’ll want to get it because it sounds cool, but the early artwork won’t shine like the more famous stuff did, and I’ll hate myself for blowing the money. Maybe I’ll give it the flip test if I see it on a store shelf somewhere this summer. I wonder if this book will get any traction in the book store market.
Dynamic Force’s publishing arm, Dynamic Enterprises, is offering up Eduardo Risso’s BORDERLINE in four volumes. If you’ve read BOY VAMPIRE or CAIN, you have an idea of what strong work Risso can create in this format. The final story (written by Chris Trillo) is 600 pages, with this first book clocking in at 160 pages for $20. The solicitation copy warns that hardcover editions of the material will be made available at a later date. I’d wait for those if I thought for a second that they wouldn’t be overpriced signed-and-numbered editions.
If you have a copy of PREVIEWS, flip over to pages 258-260 to get a glimpse of the book.
Fantagraphics is beginning their next archive project with HANK KETCHAM’S COMPLETE DENNIS THE MENACE. The first $25 hardcover will collect all the strips from 1951-1952. It’s 624 black and white pages in an even smaller format than the PEANUTS collections. This one is 5.5 x 6 inches small. You can’t beat the value for the money, though. That’s an awful lot of reading for the price.
I’m just not sure there is the audience for this material that there is for the Peanuts stuff. While some have worried about the longevity of the PEANUTS project and its sales, I think the drop-off for a strip like DENNIS THE MENACE will be even greater.
It’s interesting that gag panels and humor strips are getting the recognition they deserve now. While there have always been trade collections of various popular strips, it seems like the time is ripe now for these archival collections. It might just be an economical thing, but I love the idea that I can have the complete FAR SIDE and CALVIN AND HOBBES on my bookshelf in one gorgeous set each. Fantagraphics is doing a great job with PEANUTS so far. DENNIS THE MENACE will no doubt carry on that tradition. But what’s next? Will there be a complete BLOOM COUNTY strip next? It only seems logical.
Which of today’s strips are likely to carry this banner into the next generation? I think that’s the big question. And please don’t answer GET FUZZY. Not only is that strip not my cup of tea, but the art is not anywhere near as pleasing to the eye as Watterson’s or Berkeley Breathed’s. Even Gary Larson’s art, as stiff as it may have been at times, has a certain quirky charm to it that will stand the test of time. I don’t see any of that in GET FUZZY. Let the hate e-mail commence.
But I digress mightily. . .
Gemstone reprints Carl Barks’ final Western UNCLE SCROOGE story, “King Scrooge the First” in August’s UNCLE SCROOGE #345. This, they say, is its first reprint since then. While Barks’ art was in severe decline by then, it still has to be an interesting historical artifact. Plus, it’s one I’ve no doubt never read. It should be $6.95 well spent.
IDW brings back MARS, filling the ever-shrinking void of long-thought-lost 80s independent properties. Mark Hempel and Mark Wheatley’s science-fiction tale is collected in its entirety in the aptly named THE COMPLETE MARS. The good news is that it’s been completely recolored with a new cover and 32 new pages of bonus materials. The bad news is that the 288-page trade paperback will run you $40. I may give it the flip test on the stands to see if it piques my interest that much.
Jeff Mariotte’s latest western-fantasy DESPERADOES mini-series, “Banners of Gold,” is collected for $20. It covers 120 pages and features art by Jeremy Haun. Original DESPERADOES artist John Cassaday provides the cover.
Imagine if Cassaday returned to this title in some sort of original graphic novel under Marvel’s Icon imprint? It would be huge.
Moonstone has KOLCHAK TALES: BLACK & WHITE & RED ALL OVER, a new 48 page black and white one shot filled with new stories of Chris Carter’s favorite 70s television series. The book features a story from Peter David with art by Kirk Jarvinen. Aquaman fans should be happy to see this team reunite.
Oni Press has a new graphic novel from J. Torres’ perpetual motion machine of a keyboard. This time it’s LOLA. Drawn by R’John Berlaes, it’s the story of a boy with supernatural abilities, his Filipino grandmother and her similar abilities, and demons and more. I think. The description leaves much to the imagination, which I actually prefer. I’m always happy when a book surprises me by having more in it than what Diamond originally told me. In any case, this one is 72 pages for $6.
A “Certified Cool” pick of the month is ALISON DARE: LITTLE MISS ADVENTURES Volume 2. Now this is a book that the comics market needs to see return quickly. Featuring more art from J. Bone, this volume will run you $12 for 120 pages at 7 x 10 size.
Serve Man Press self-publishes Sean Wang’s RUNNERS: BAD GOODS trade paperback. This one has been showing up at smaller press-friendly conventions for the past couple of years. I remember reading and enjoying the first issue at SPX nearly three years ago. Finally, five issues are out and now it’s all being packaged together. Hopefully, it’ll be easier to find a copy of this trade than it often was to find the single issues. It’s $15 for the 168 pages. I haven’t read enough of it to make a recommendation, but I know I’ll be on the lookout for it.
Speakeasy Comics offers way too many new comics, but the one I’m most looking forward to is ROCKETO #1. Frank Spinosa’s new series is set in an apocalyptic future where those who can map the new terrain are golden. Check out the Newsarama preview of its art to get an idea of why I’m looking for this one in August. It’s a stunning piece of work.
Top Shelf is promoting Alex Robinson’s second graphic novel (after BOX OFFICE POISON.) Titled TRICKED, it “follows the lives of six people — a reclusive rock legend, a heartbroken waitress, a counterfeiter, an obsessive crank, a lost daughter, and a backstabbing lover — whose lives are unconnected until an act of violence brings them spiraling in on each other.” Think of it as MAGNOLIA, but with more of a sense of humor. It’s $20 for 320 pages.
No new OWLY yet.
TwoMorrows always has a trick up its sleeve, and this month it’s MODERN MASTERS: IN THE STUDIO WITH GEORGE PEREZ. This is a DVD lasting nearly two hours, including an interview with Perez, footage of him on the convention trail, a look over his shoulder as he draws, and more. I’m a sucker for this kind of thing. The $30 price tag seems a bit high, but I’ll give it a shot.
I just hope they’re not seriously using a CrossGen cover for the DVD art. I can understand wanting to tie this into the book featuring Perez, but using the same art for the DVD is just bizarre at this point. Who did they go to to get rights for the characters’ appearance on this product, for starters?
Our condolences go out first to Jeph Loeb and his family on the loss of his 17-year-old son, Sam. My memory for the details is somewhat fuzzy, but Jeph and Sam were on stage together at a Wizard Fan Awards ceremony in Chicago a couple of years ago. They had just followed Michael Turner, as I remember, and it was mentioned that the two of them were cancer survivors. It was a shock to hear this weekend that his battle ended. This comes relatively shortly after it was announced that Turner, himself, is undergoing new treatments for a recurrence of his cancer.
Condolences this week (I’m starting to sound like Mark Evanier now) also have to go to the family and friends of Bruce Hamilton. While I had my disagreements with some of his takes on the Disney Duck market, there’s no doubt in my mind that he stoked the first that kept the legacy alive for the past 25 or 30 years. His Gladstone comics proved that Duck comics could be entertaining, literate, and appropriate for all ages. His never-flagging efforts to get more of Carl Barks’ work out there for an ever-appreciative audience should not be soon forgotten, either.
Finally, best wishes to my fellow diabetic, George Perez. He’s working through some health problems of his own these days. If you don’t want to know all of the niggling details in the link, suffice it to say he has a bad case of psoriasis.
Let’s hope next week brings some happier news.
There’s a new podcast in town. This one is an irregularly updated look at oddball news stories. Right now, it’s simply called The Various and Sundry Podcast, but the first two editions of it are available through the RSS feed or their show notes here and here.
You can still hear last week’s podcast through the MP3 file. (8 or 9 minutes, ~4.1 MB) This is the one that included poetry. I kid you not.
For a slight change of pace this week, Various and Sundry is doing link dumps. Those are daily posts filled with enough random links to keep you busy for a little while. Hopefully, you haven’t seen them all elsewhere by now. The DVD release preview will be updated as normal, though.
The Various and Sundry DVD Podcast continues to look at the week’s DVD releases, every Sunday or Monday. Those of you with a podcasting program can subscribe to the feed.
All political discussions have been pushed off to one neat side at VandS Politics.
More than 500 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 also still available at the Original Pipeline page.
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