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Pipeline, Issue #523

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Pipeline, Issue #523

PRELUDE TO A COLUMN, BY TOUTATIS!

Here’s the problem: I’ve spent most of the last week reading and re-reading ASTERIX books. I picked up a couple new (to me) volumes from the series last month, and reading them inspired me to go back and reread the other scattered ten volumes I have in my collection.

It’s been great fun, and something I’d recommend to everyone, particularly the earlier volumes when Goscinny was still alive to write the scripts, and not just Uderzo. The latter can carry off most of the feel of the book, but there’s a sharpness to the wit and the pacing that’s missing with Goscinny’s passing

As I was saying, this brings up a problem: I’ve seen the hits on previous columns in which I talked about ASTERIX. You people just don’t care. So I need to find something else.

CARS AND COMICS

You know how THE GILMORE GIRLS has a tendency to meander? How characters talk an awful lot to each other about relatively little? How little pop culture references find their ways of sneaking in there?

You know how Quentin Tarantino made it cool to go off on wild digressions about tangential things in the middle of action scenes?

Larry Young and Jon Proctor’s new BLACK DIAMOND series begins like that. There’s a lot of cool talk. There’s some pop culture references. There’s some loving for classic muscle cars that I don’t get because I was born a few years later. (Or are those “pony cars?” I don’t get it.) And, near the end of the issue, there’s a plot set in motion.

I’m not one to judge, perhaps. I loved me some KNIGHT RIDER as a kid, and even enjoyed the antic styles of NBC-turned-syndicated-series, VIPER. There’s a fine tradition for car stories out there that nobody in comics is exploiting these days. Leave it to Larry Young to pick up that bag of cash sitting on the side of the round, unattended.

THE BLACK DIAMOND is the high concept roadway that stretches from sea to shining sea, providing a Route 80 In The Air for long travellers. Sadly, the road has become a sociological experiment of its own, not necessarily attracting the best elements. And as the president vows to clean it up, there’s some natural rebellion.

That’s just the background story. Pay it no nevermind. BLACK DIAMOND #1 is about the husband of the daughter of the man who created the road and is on a mission to — well, I don’t want to give it all away. It’s just a crazy book set in a crazy world that perfectly boils down a high concept to make it the background for an interpersonal story, and a love story, at that.

Jon Proctor’s art will take some getting used to. I like his subdued green-yellow-brown color scheme, but it intrudes into the art a little too much, as linework gets blocked out with colors. (That’s an old bugaboo of mine with comic and animation art, though.) Mouths and cheekbones aren’t drawn in. They’re colored in. It clashes hard with the ink line around the nose and eyes, though. Some stiff faces and awkward layout choices serve to distract from the dialogue, too, but maybe that’s just the style I need to get used to? I’m not sure just yet.

The main story is 21 pages long, and it’s followed by a backup story, “Tales From The Black Diamond.” This issue’s eight-page outing is written and drawn by Dennis Culver, concerning a mechanic and his samurai assistant who work the sky-high road. It’s more crazy high-concept fun and, in some ways, easier on the eyes than the main story.

THE BLACK DIAMOND #1 came out last week from venerable publisher, AiT/PlanetLar, for just less than three smackaroos. I think it’s worth a look.

OK, so that didn’t drive the hits to this column yet, either. While I think of something more exciting, let’s resurrect a feature I completely forgot about in recent months:

FIVE YEARS AGO, IN PIPELINE

A Ten Year Anniversary isn’t the kind of thing you mention one week and forget. It’s the kind of thing you milk for as much attention as possible for as long as you can stretch it out.

Plus, it’s fun to see where we’ve come from in comics in as few as five years.

Pipeline #262 came out on June 18, 2002:

Loeb and Sale have been working together long enough now to know each other’s strengths. Loeb can create snappy dialogue and a story with heart. Sale can inject it with the right amount of mood and a strong sense of realism or surrealism, depending on what’s needed. In the case of DD: YELLOW, it’s definitely a realistically-drawn story. You will believe every brick is on that building and that every ceiling tile belongs on the ceiling. You believe that because Sale isn’t afraid to draw it and, even more remarkably, the pages don’t clutter up with it. Indeed, the larger format to this hardcover only helps to bring out the detail. The larger format is a big aid to the storytelling. On some of the full-page splashes, you’ll think you’re looking at an art book.

Sale’s art hasn’t looked this impressive since SUPERMAN FOR ALL SEASONS.

And, I dare say, nothing’s looked as good since. I still enjoy Sale’s work, but I don’t think his SUPERMAN CONFIDENTIAL stuff, nor his CATWOMAN stuff, is as visually arresting as DAREDEVIL: YELLOW was. I’m a sucker for that gray wash technique, though.

Later that week, in Pipeline2 #155, I reviewed the original graphic novel, HUMAN TARGET: FINAL CUT. Looking back at the review now makes me want to go dig the book up out of the Pipeline World Headquarters Archives to reread. Javier Pulido is an amazing artist.

BRING ON THE READERS

I bought three books at the comic shop last week: WORLD WAR HULK #1, NEW AVENGERS #31, and FRANKLIN RICHARDS, SON OF A GENIUS. One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong. . .

That would be NEW AVENGERS #31, which fails to have Hulk on its cover. You could argue that it possesses green skin on the inside, but let’s not spoil anything. There isn’t a way to discuss the issue without delving into spoilers. Suffice it to say, there’s a little twist at the end that opens a large can of worms, and the feeding frenzy has already begun. I started in the camp of people who thought, “Big whoop.” Now I’m thinking it could be something cool, but we’ll have to wait and see. I’m not automatically assuming this is Marvel’s cure-all for anything that ails them, which puts me in the minority of active internet commentators.

I haven’t read all of FRANKLIN RICHARDS yet, just the first couple of stories. If you enjoyed the previous all-ages outings for this title, though, this one will hold your interest, as Franklin gets into more trouble and finds his way out of it in some remarkable short stories from Chris Eliopoulos and Marc Sumerak.

Finally, WORLD WAR HULK #1 was cool. It’s large-scale mayhem, as Hulk returns to earth and New York City becomes one large fighting arena. It’s the kind of crazy over-the-top thing that you’d only get in comics today, but it lets loose John Romita Jr. to do more of the powerful and detailed work that he’s best known for today. The man doesn’t know how to draw a fight scene that doesn’t take your breath away. Forget Brian Hitch’s ULTIMATES. Give me this book!

Reading this book inspired me to finally order THE ETERNALS hardcover this week, so we’ll see how that compares in a little while.

I wonder, though, if the attempt to make this a big event with lasting ramifications won’t drag the book under at some point. The idea of Hulk battling the rest of the Marvel Universe throughout the empty city is an exciting one. It’s the kind of thing you wish the creators could let themselves loose on and have a good time with. But the story comes as the end of a long story arc which saw Hulk blasted into space by some of Marvel’s heroes before returning ticked off and willing to share his pain with the rest of the world. The ramifications of this event will be strong, but would we just be better off with some fun punch-and-pound comics?

I’m overthinking it already, right?

In the meantime, I just read MARVEL ADVENTURES: THE AVENGERS #12. This is the one starring “Ego, The Loving Planet.” (That is not a typo.) It’s just as hilarious as the much-beloved MARVEL ADVENTURES SPIDER-MAN #4, in which Goom returns as a monster speaking in the vernacular of a mad rapper. If you missed that in its original printing, check it out in the new hardcover collection of those first eight issues in the series, creatively titled MARVEL ADVENTURES: SPIDER-MAN, Volume One. It features lots of cartoony and energetic art from CBR Idol’s own, Patrick Scherberger.

Both of those single issues I mentioned were written by Jeff Parker, who is fated to take over the reigns of Marvel alongside Dan Slott, just as soon as Joe Quesada retires into the Marvel Universe on Earth Augie.

So let’s put a wrap on things for this week. Pipeline will return next week, and the podcast will return tonight. Sorry I missed it last week, but I got really sick just when it was due and was in no shape to record and upload one. I’ll try to include both weeks’ top ten lists into one show for you.

The VandS Tumblr has the quickest blog entries a boy could make.

The regular blog, Various and Sundry, updates my progress in the search for a great HDTV to put in the living room.

The Pipeline Podcast page will give you links to subscribe to the podcast in a variety of places.

I still have a MySpace page and a ComicSpace page, though I don’t hang out much on either of them at the moment. I check my messages at both places, so you won’t be ignored.

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 700 columns — maybe even 800 — are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They’re sorted chronologically.

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