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Pipeline Previews #1

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Pipeline Previews #1

PIPELINE PREVIEWS FOR APRIL 2003

[Previews]

Welcome to “Pipeline Previews,” the alliterative title for a new monthly Pipeline column. In place of the on-hiatus-for-who-knows-how-long Pipeline2 column, this column is designed to do much the same thing as Pipeline2 ended up doing every month for the past year and a half. This column, updated every month the week after the new PREVIEWS is released, is the place to look at the latest PREVIEWS catalog for items scheduled to ship in just a couple of months. Unlike those Pipeline2 columns, I’ll be covering the entire catalog in one fell swoop here.

As always, this isn’t meant to be a complete look at all the good things scheduled for the month in question. It’ll focus more on the newer projects and the ones that I’m afraid might get otherwise overlooked. I would suggest picking up a copy of the nearly 500 page behemoth that PREVIEWS has grown into and flipping through it yourself. You might just find something you’ll love that I missed. (If you do, be sure to plug it on the Pipeline message board.)

With all of that future boilerplate language out of the way, let’s take a look at what Diamond Distributors should be shipping in April 2003.

DARK HORSE

…kicks things off with the return of FRAY, the longest 8 issue mini-series known to man. Not since CAMELOT 3000, perhaps, has a mini-series taken so long to complete. Not even Kevin Smith has managed the delays that this one, written by BUFFY scribe Joss Whedon and drawn by now-CrossGen penciller Karl Moline, has pulled of. How much do you want to bet that sales will tank on these last couple of issues, as people throw up their hands and wait for the trade? I know I can’t tell you a thing about what happened in the sixth issue anymore.

The first six issues are handily relisted, however, if you choose to go about this the hard way.

HELLBOY: WEIRD TALES marches on with its second issue and more work from John Cassaday, plus new art and story from Jason Pearson, an artist whose work we don’t see enough of these days. Mark Ricketts and Eric Wight (listed as the art director for the BUFFY animated series) round out the issue.

Dark Horse also has three interesting trades in store for May that they’re advance-soliciting in this catalog. The second volume of Mark Schulz’s XENOZOIC TALES completes that series’ retrospective. The sixth volume of the reprintings of Marvel’s STAR WARS series shows up in May. Finally, the first of a projected four volume reprinting of Frank Frazetta’s turn on AL CAPP’S LI’L ABNER is listed for $19. It appears to be a trade paperback, although the listing does indicate hard cover at one point. It’s in full color in a 9″ x 12″ format, and most all of Frazetta’s contributions are Sunday comics.

On pages 46 through 49, Dark Horse presents a list of its “Top 30 Must Read Titles.” These are all trade paperbacks in the STAR System, and it’s tough to argue with many of them. Dark Horse was smart in not focusing on all the licensed titles here. The list includes HARD BOILED, THE COMPLETE CONCRETE, VIOLENT CASES, THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG, WILL EISNER’S SHOP TALK, and other critically-praised books. There’s something in here for everyone, and not a single one of the books will leave you feeling like you wasted your time, even if the given book isn’t your usual cup of tea. I’m thinking of ordering up a couple for myself that I’ve missed over the years. (NEVERMAN and HARD BOILED are the first two on that list.)

DC

Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s “Hush” storyline in BATMAN has received mixed reaction from the fans and critics, but you can’t argue the sales numbers. They’ve been through the roof, for a DC title. In case you wanted to pick up the story but haven’t been buying the monthly comic, the first five issues of the storyline are reprinted in a new hardcover edition simply titled BATMAN: HUSH. It’s $20 for these 128 pages in the same format as the other Loeb-penned DC hardcovers. There are four new pages added to the mix for pagination, plus the two page story that originally saw the light of day on the DC web site a few months ago. It seems odd that the series will be collected in two uneven chunks (assuming the second volume would collect the last seven issues), but here you have it.

BATMAN: NEVERMORE #1 is the beginning of a five part Elseworlds mini-series wherein Batman “teams up” with Edgar Allen Poe. The real selling point to the series is the art of Guy Davis. I love the idea and the artist (Len Wein is the writer), but I think I’ll wait for a collected edition somewhere down the line.

Mark Millar’s fabled mini-series will finally see the light of day. SUPERMAN: RED SON crashes baby Kal-El’s ship into communist Russia, and explores the impact such a thing would have across the globe. The art is primarily by Dave Johnson, which is why the book has been delayed for so long. Judging by the text in PREVIEWS, it looks like he completed the three covers for the prestige format mini-series, as well as the first two issues. The third will be drawn by Killian Plunkett. The final 3-issue series will cost you three nickels short of $18. It’s up to you if you want to take the risk to wait for a trade.

DC is reprinting the ADAM STRANGE: THE MAN OF TWO WORLDS trade paperback from 1990. This is the three part prestige format series written by Richard Brunning but best remembered for the art by a younger Andy and Adam Kubert. I can remember seeing this trade in stores when I first started collecting comics and thinking that it looked cool, but never having the money for it. Now, I’m ready to jump on it.

Charlie Adlard, AiT/PlanetLar whipping boy, draws up two issues each of GREEN ARROW and GREEN LANTERN as those two series crossover, as written by Ben Raab.

THE POWER COMPANY #15 warps back in time to use a cover that should have been done for DC’s month wherein the title was an integral part of the cover art.

PLANETARY returns with its 16th issue on April 30. Place your bets now: At the end of the year, will PLANETARY or ASTRO CITY have had more issues printed in calendar year 2003? (Yes, I ask this question knowing full well that ASTRO CITY is only a five issue series. Its second issue also comes out in April.)

Vertigo’s STAR of the month item is SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATER: THE TARANTULA, collecting the first four issues of that series by Matt Wagner and Guy Davis. I’d love to read it, but just don’t have the time or energy to start searching through back issue bins for all the issues after #4. It doesn’t seem that DC wants to keep the rest of the series in print, despite all the critical acclaim it garnered, along with the devoted fan base.

The long-awaited Warren Ellis/Colleen Doran collaboration, ORBITER, hits stands in one handsome hardcover package on April 23. DC announced on Tuesday that the book will not be delayed due to the Columbia tragedy. There are, however, still two long months to go. Cross your fingers.

IMAGE

April is proclaimed to be manga month by the creative collective known as Image Comics. The solicitations start off with AGENTS, a new six-issue mini-series written by Kevin Gunstone and drawn by NINJA HIGH SCHOOL legend, Ben Dunn. There’s a five page preview for the series available on-line, which I think is key to helping sell this book in advance. I like Dunn’s style, but his stories have never done much for me. This book looks like it has a chance on both counts.

ROTOGIN: JUNKBOTZ #1 is the beginning of an 8 issue story in full color, bi-monthly at $2.95 a pop. It’s another full-color overproduced looking piece of manga storytelling. Remember when that whole coloring style was popularized by the likes of UDON and DREAMWAVE and it seemed fresh and new? Now we see it everywhere, spurred on by manga’s popularity. It only acts as a shine on top of the comic, though. The best manga I’ve read to this day has all been black and white. I also have to admit that the big robot style of manga and anime has never appealed to me, either. That’s another strike against this title.

Also in the Manga Month category is SOUL OF A SAMURAI, a four issue black and white mini-series that’s 48 pages a shot for $3.95 on a bi-monthly schedule. The schedule threatens to kill it before it begins, but it might earn a slight reprieve for its chunky size. If the story breaks down into four nice smaller stories, I think you might see people willing to wait for it. If this is just the first part of a 200 page storyline, then I think it’ll sink like a stone. Nevertheless, you have to give creator Will Dixon credit for trying. His cover is beautiful. The interior artwork looks beautiful, but the computer font on top of the meticulously penciled artwork clashes awfully. At the very least, Dixon should have gone for a Blambot or Comicraft font instead of something you’d use on your term paper.

FIREBREATHER concludes with its fourth issue. I hope we’ll see more of it, though. It’s a terrific series from Phil Hester and Andy Kuhn, as superpowered teenaged angst takes on a different and more fantastic form. Your teenager here isn’t super powered; he’s just the spawn of a human and dragon mating. Let’s not ask about the biological feasibility of such a thing, OK? The book has a great sense of humor, as well as a clever way of looking at the kind of prejudicial attitudes that books like this inevitably take on.

Everything else from Image in April is the continuation of a series or mini-series, or just fails to light my interest. SAVAGE DRAGON, INVINCIBLE, POWERS, and TECHJACKET are all still hanging around.

MARVEL

The big release here is Marvel’s comic book ode to Michael Jackson, NAMOR. The first issue cover appears to include two naked children, covered up only by the wisps of water that convenient churn from the ocean floor. And it’s only a quarter! Quick tip to retailers in Oklahoma: Just say no to stocking this one. The police are already on their way to take your copies of PREVIEWS away.

I think it’s great that Marvel has Sam Kieth drawing the covers to VENOM. I can remember his covers from MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS, when every issue featured some combination of Venom, Cable, or Wolverine. (UGH) After awhile, even Kieth got burned out from that triumvirate, and some young punk fresh out of high school named Madureira took over the covers. I hear he’s doing video games now.

Just to sum it all up: All those Tsunami teasers from a couple of weeks ago were about series that will show up in April. They’re in this catalog. I think we’ve all heard enough about them by now. Let’s move on.

Whether or not the upcoming X2 movie is based on the seminal graphic novel, GOD LOVES, MAN KILLS, it’s still an excellent addition to any collection and a must-read for X-Men fans everywhere. Chris Claremont penned it, Brent Anderson drew it, Steve Oliff painted it, and Tom Orzechowski lettered it. It’s 72 pages of full color classic for a mere $4.99. At that price point, I’m going to assume that it won’t be the oversized format that the book originally saw print in, unfortunately.

Chris Giarrusso returns with SPIDEY AND THE MINI-MARVELS, a new 40 page special for only $3.50. These strips are a lot of fun for any Marvel fan. It’s almost a throwback to the days when the Marvel bullpen wasn’t as serious as it is today. Remember the profiles of Marvel creators and bullpen staffers accompanied by funny caricatures of them that ran inside the comic books? Remember MARVEL AGE? Remember Hembeck’s hilarities, or Ron Parker’s gag panels done at Tom DeFalco’s expense? It’s all gone, but Giarrusso’s Mini-Marvels at least prove that there is some fun going on inside the Marvel bullpen that isn’t all business, and shows some geeky love for the characters.

Quick notes: Evan Dorkin writes AGENT X #10. X-MEN UNLIMITED gets two issues in April, the first of which features a Phil Noto cover. CAPTAIN AMERICA hits its twelfth issue. Draw names from a hat and you’ll likely come up with its creative team. Tom Mandrake draws a special two-part PUNISHER storyline in April, written by Garth Ennis.

Finally, at the all-important end of the Marvel solicitations, we have the hardcovers and trade paperbacks. The long-awaited SPIDER-MAN: BLUE mini-series gets the definitive Loeb/Sale treatment, as a $21.99 hardcover. It’s a great price for the book, as compared to what other companies offer.

The MARVEL ENCYCLOPEDIA gets a second volume to focus on the X-Men characters. This is a great idea. With the movie just around the bend, relatives without a clue won’t have an idea what to give their X-MEN loving nephews and cousins for their birthdays. This is a great gift item idea, even at $30. Trust me — you should see some of the godawful tangentially-related-to-comics books I’ve received over the years as Christmas presents. This is just the kind of thing someone would have gotten me 10 years ago.

INCREDIBLE HULK gets a third trade of Bruce Jones’ issues, which means the next hardcover is only about six months away. Since this month also includes two issues of the on-going series, maybe we can knock that down to five months.

Peter David’s restart of CAPTAIN MARVEL gets a trade for $12.99 in the same month that Bill Jemas’ Hiroshima-style bomb, MARVILLE, gets the treatment. I’m really looking forward to the former and really ignoring the latter.

The final volume collecting Paul Jenkins and Mark Buckingham’s work on PETER PARKER: SPIDER-MAN is called “Volume 4: Trials and Tribulations.” It takes you right up to their final issue together, #50, as well as filling in the gaps of a couple issues that earlier collections missed, #35 and #37.

The first seven issues of Waid/Wieringo’s FANTASTIC FOUR get slapped together with a solo Thing tale from issue #56 for the “Imaginauts” TPB.

EVERYTHING ELSE

Antarctic Press wants to help all of you wannabe artists with the handy POSE FILE #1: BASIC POSES. This 192 page full color book is packed with pictures of people in various poses, perfect for your DIE HARD rip-off epic maxi-series, judging by the ad.

Over at Blue Line Pro Comics, Pat Quinn has put together a 48 page book called BASIC PERSPECTIVE FOR COMICS. It’s a full color soft covered book that retails for $12.95. With any luck, it’ll answer all your questions on horizon lines, three-point perspective and more.

Under the same banner comes the second COMICS EXPLORER magazine. The first had great interviews with Bendis and Oeming. This one — volume 2, issue 1 — features a Grant Morrison interview.

Over at CrossGen, RUSE #19 is a “Key Issue” with the regular creative team of Scott Beatty, Butch Guice, Mike Perkins, and Laura Martin (nee DePuy). The first SCION trade gets reprinted in the “Traveler” format for a mere $10. It’s a great way to turn someone new onto the series at a decent price point.

For those sticking with the trade collections for CrossGen’s books, listen up: THE PATH has its second trade, ROUTE 666 its first, and NEGATION its second in April.

Fantagraphics is reprising its THE COMICS JOURNAL LIBRARY format for a second glorious oversized volume dedicated to Frank Miller. The first edition featured Jack Kirby and sold out nearly overnight. This one promises to sell out just as fast, so pre-order today.

Future Comics attempts to spark interest by distributing through Diamond, and lowering its page count to 22 while shrinking the price to $2.99. I honestly don’t think it’s going to work, but good luck to them.

IDW Publishing has one of the most interesting titles for April in TILTING AT WINDMILLS, a paperback book collecting Brian Hibbs’ columns from COMICS & GAMES RETAILER. Agree with him or not, he presents persuasive arguments loaded with real numbers and scenarios. I’ll definitely be interested in what he has to say here.

Oni Press collects the Paul Dini/J. Bone four-parter, MUTANT, TEXAS: TALES OF SHERIFF IDA RED into one $12 package. J. Bone’s art alone makes it worth adding to your bookshelves. While I wasn’t wowed by the series, I did enjoy it as a welcome break from all the rest of the all-too-serious comics on my reading list, and Bone’s art is worth the price of admission to anything he might try next. (Could you picture him doing a QUEEN & COUNTRY arc? 😉

Next for Bone is MR. GUM ONE SHOT, written by Mike Allred. That one runs 24 pages for $2.99.

THREE DAYS IN EUROPE wraps up with its fifth issue. Hopefully, a trade paperback is just around the corner. I’m looking forward to reading the series, but am holding off for a collected edition.

One big bright spot in the solicitations this month is the return of John Lustig’s LAST KISS, with its fourth issue. In addition to all the usual rewritten romance comic retreads, a new story from Lustig is illustrated this time around by Ernie Colon. Shanda Fantasy Press publishes the $4.99 48 page package, with full color “Martha Stewart In Prison” paper doll.

TokyoPop’s big release in April is the first volume of BATTLE ROYALE, the first of five parts coinciding with the cult movie that’s not available on Region 1 DVD yet. The story has great buzz, and Keith Giffen is doing the dialogue job on the American edition of the series. Sign me up. $9.99 per volume. Here’s the solicitation text, too, if you’re unfamiliar with the concept:

“In the future, random Jr. High School classes are chosen to compete in a game called Battle Royale. The rules: only one student can survive after 3 days on an island or else they all perish. Weapons are handed out and each student is sent out into the field alone and unprepared for the horror that awaits them. The classmates turn upon themselves in a battle for survival, treaties are made and broken, and former friends become foes as the relentless countdown continues.”

More info and art can be found on the TokyoPop web page.

It’s a magazine bonanza in April. Besides the aforementioned COMICS EXPLORER MAGAZINE, new issues of WRITE! NOW (featuring Warren Ellis and Howard Chaykin), DRAW! (with Bill Wray and Stephen DeStefano), SKETCH (with JMS), TRIPWIRE, and COMICS SPOTLIGHT (featuring Batman) are showing up in stores in April.

The last one is special to me, because I can see by the description for the issue that I’m writing an article for it on the Top Ten Batman stories. If you’ve seen the third or fourth issue of COMICS SPOTLIGHT, you’ve seen my columns (dubbed “Pipeline Spotlight”) dealing with CrossGen and Ultimate Marvel title highlights.

Finally, my fellow Muppets fans will be excited to see four new busts scheduled for April. This time, Captain Link Hogthrob, Scooter, Janice, and The Swedish Chef (!) are featured. Excuse me while I go first place my order for the Waldorf and Statler busts that are due out soon…

Coming up Tuesday: A review of TRIPWIRE X 10, the reviews of RAIJIN COMICS material that didn’t make it into last Tuesday’s column, and more from around the web and the newsroom.

VariousAndSundry.com has been updated with a list of the week’s awful DVD releases, old videogames made new, The Matrix updates, the death of TV legend Nedra Volz, and 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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