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Pipeline2, Issue #35

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Pipeline2, Issue #35

AMERICA’S SECOND BEST

OK, gang, we’ve got two major things to talk about this week. First, we’ll take you back a couple of weeks to Pipeline2 #33, in which I went on at length about Alan Moore’s America’s Best Comics line. In the end, I had to come to the conclusion that it was the most cohesive and consistent line of comics being published today. Nothing else comes close. Then I invited your suggestions as to who might be near it.

[Daredevil]

Both Paul Weissburg and Scot Mooney submitted the only other suggestion that came close: the Marvel Knights line. Putting aside certain publication deadline issues since they’ve plagued ABC as well, the books are darn spiffy. DAREDEVIL has been nothing short of brilliant. BLACK PANTHER was highly entertaining in its run as an MK title. (I’ve fallen a bit behind on reading it so I can’t tell you what I think of the post-MK issues.) THE BLACK WIDOW mini-series was done really well and introduced the world to J.G. Jones, who should have a promising future. Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee combined for the fascinating INHUMANS 12-parter, which deserves a bunch of awards.

The downside comes, however, from the misfire that was THE PUNISHER and the mixed reaction to the DOCTOR STRANGE mini-series. (I think if Tony Harris had drawn the four issue series it might have received a bit more attention.)

So the line might be bigger, but the consistency’s not there.

The other line Scot mentioned – and he wasn’t alone — is Vertigo. That line isn’t my cup of tea, though, so I’m probably biased against it. If the whole line were TRANSMETROPOLITAN and 100 BULLETS, I’d take it. While both are superlative titles, the rest of the line only serves to diminish it in dreary drabs. Vertigo’s best days seems behind it. Even PREACHER is wrapping up shortly. (I may not be a fan, but I know plenty of people are.) TRANSMET only has a couple of years left, and they seem to desperately be scrambling for a “Next Big Series.”

Isn’t it sad that there are only two real competitors to ABC, and neither stand up very well?

DREAM TEAM FINAL LIST

In discussions here recently of creator longevity and good writer and artist match ups, I asked for your input in putting together a list of dream creative teams from the past 10 years or so. This was basically so I could cover the “era” of comics which I actually had a chance of reading. I’m not denying that Gibbons and Moore were brilliant with WATCHMEN, but my restriction still stands. I also wanted to make it a longer run on an on-going series. There are some fine mini-series out there (such as MARVELS or KINGDOM COME) that would make this list if I chose to include those. But I’m interested in creative teams that did the monthly grind.

I also want to eliminate solid work from breath-taking work. If I included both, this column would need to be a three-parter.

These books just blew me away:

[Hulk #377]

Peter David and Dale Keown’s tenure on THE INCREDIBLE HULK won an Eisner for good reason. Aside from the David/Gary Frank run on the book, I don’t think it was ever better. I’ve read most of David’s HULK run by now, and a complete run from #350 until David’s departure. Remember the two-parter with the Punisher in Vegas? Or the struggles that culminated in #377’s climactic integration of the Banner and Hulk personas? These were well thought out books with snappy one-liners, great characterization, and real heart. Dale Keown never did better artwork, either, and he amazingly got it done on time. Mark Farmer did a great job inking Keown’s pencils. It’s a real shame that Keown has chosen to walk the path he has in the past 8 years. We lost a great artist to a great void. Maybe someday he’ll come to his senses and start drawing stuff again on a regular basis.

One true team effort that comes in just at the very beginning of my pre-ordained snapshot in time is the Giffen-era JUSTICE LEAGUE books. Look at what they had going there in addition to J.M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen. The art roster included Adam Hughes, Bart Sears, Kevin Maguire, Chris Wozniak, and Darick Robertson. The books were amongst the funniest super-hero stuff ever published. And they still hold up well to this day. (I should know; I read most of them for the first time over the course of the past two years as I filled in the gaps.)

[Justice League #30]
“The [Giffen era Justice League] books were amongst the funniest super-hero stuff ever published. And they still hold up well to this day.”

Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones on GROO. Do I really need to explain this one?

Chris Claremont and Jim Lee’s collaborations on UNCANNY X-MEN. Even near the end, when editorial differences led to a complete lack of communication and it seems that Lee ended up doing more plotting than Claremont, the book was a lot of fun. Claremont’s swan song, X-MEN #3, has a beautiful last couple of pages. Lee’s art was at its peak here. Scott Williams was inking and nobody makes Lee’s art look better. Take a look for that issue with Captain America and Wolverine. It’s been reprinted once or twice. It’s amazing art paired with great story-telling.

Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch (with Paul Neary on inks) on THE AUTHORITY and STORMWATCH. Simply amazing stuff that will most definitely stand the test of time. (At least, AUTHORITY will. STORMWATCH might lose a little bit due to political shifts, but it’s a risk I’m willing to run.) Tom Raney’s art, while fine for the job, isn’t something that excited me. Oscar Jimenez didn’t last long enough on the title. Bryan Hitch’s are, in the meantime, is gorgeous.

I also received many e-mails from people who put TRANSMETROPOLITAN – Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson – at the tops of their lists. I’m inclined to agree with them, but I’m hesitant. Personally, I like Robertson’s super-hero work more than his “man on the street” work he’s doing on TRANSMET.

And now a sentimental favorite that I’m sure people will rip me a new one for: NEWMEN, by Eric Stephenson and Todd Nauck. It got lost in the Image boom time and then ignored due to it’s Liefeldian connections, but it was just as exciting and fun as NEW WARRIORS was in its hey day. You never knew what was coming next. Todd Nauck would draw monthly books that went anywhere from 22 pages to 30. Whatever Stephenson would dish out next, Nauck would handle with ease. It’s good to see him making a name for himself on YOUNG JUSTICE today.

Keith Giffen’s plots with Erik Larsen’s scripts and Victor Bridges’ pencils on FREAK FORCE. Everyone who read it loved it. It’s just a question of “Why weren’t more people reading it?!?” Yes, there were weak points to it, but the characters were likeable, the stories were a riot, and the pacing was excellent.

Is it too early to put in a good word for Scott Peterson, Tim Levins, and Terry Beatty on BATMAN GOTHAM ADVENTURES?

James Robinson’s earliest period on STARMAN with Tony Harris on pencils full-time has yet to be bested in the series. It took the concept of the super-hero family and made it shine, with the aid of Jack, a reluctant hero to put it mildly.

Mark Waid worked magic in that first year and a half on IMPULSE with Humberto Ramos. This is the definition of the “super hero sit-com.” Even putting aside the revelations in the (in)famous eleventh issue (the debut of the Speed Force and Jesse Quick’s gargantuan hooters), you can’t get much better than this for poignancy, humor, friendship, and more. I wish DC would put these issues together in a collection.

“Mark Waid worked magic in that first year and a half on IMPULSE with Humberto Ramos. This is the definition of the ‘super hero sit-com.'” [Impulse and Max]

Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale work really well together. I’m making an exception to my rules for them. Between BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN and SUPERMAN FOR ALL SEASONS, they’ve put together an impressive body of work. The sequel to the former, BATMAN: DARK VICTORY, is off to a good start, too. Loeb knows how not to overwrite an artist, while still giving a touching or a thrilling story.

RUNNERS-UP

These are the books that deserve some mention, but fall short for one reason or another.

Ron Lim deserves to be on here somewhere, but I’m not sure for what. I’m torn between his time on SILVER SURFER with Jim Starlin writing and CAPTAIN AMERICA with Mark Gruenwald behind the word processor. Both runs were very entertaining.

I REALLY want to put PAD’s X-FACTOR run on this list, but the art never completely wowed me, and that includes a few issues from Joe Quesada. And I’m going for runs here where both halves weren’t just up to the task, but were actually exemplary.

Joe Kelly’s three years on DEADPOOL was marred only by the lack of a regular art team throughout most of his run. The first year with Ed McGuinness gets a mention here. If it had lasted longer, I might have put it in the top category.

Kurt Busiek and George Perez get the nod for THE AVENGERS. I can’t put it in the finalists list because, quite honestly, the stories don’t excite me to that degree. It’s still a fine book. Lots of fun and adventure. A terrific Ultron storyline. But I’m not ranking it up there.

Fabian Nicieza and Mark Bagley’s first couple of years on THE NEW WARRIORS was magical, I think. I just can’t think of Bagley’s art as being awe-inspiring, though. I like it a whole lot, but I’m not buying any Bagley posters. Darick Robertson’s art, arguably, never looked better than his first few issues on the title, too, but some fill-in issues and a quality decline near the end of his tenure disqualified him from this category. FabNic’s writing was as sharp and as poignant as I’ve ever seen it be, and his plots were truly gripping and thought-provoking.

Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley on THUNDERBOLTS, along with (and just as important) Joe Rosas on colors. They made a great team. They missed making the finalists list by a hair. Scott Hanna’s inks work well on Bagley’s pencils. And the better paper grade than NEW WARRIORS certainly helps.

[Superboy #69]

Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo really hit the stride on THE FLASH back around 1993/4. Of all the artists Waid worked with on the book, Wieringo was the best. (Oscar Jimenez is a VERY close second, but didn’t last long and was only there for half-issues at best, anyway.)

Finally, I can’t let this listing go without a nod to Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett for their work on SUPERBOY. Their second run may not be read by nearly as many people as it should be, but it’s still great stuff.

SPECIAL THANKS

A big thanks to the Pipeline readers who made their nominations for the titles you may or may not see listed above. Between those suggestions and a quick look through my database, I think I came out with a pretty decent list. (Yeah, I’m sure I missed a few. That’s what the Pipeline Message Board is for. =)

Thanks to Michael Roehrman, Tiago Ramos (who reminded me about STARMAN), Matt Wilson, Marcus Kelligrew, Jeremy, Grant Hutchinson, Gregory Eide, Joseph Canganelli, Paul T. Riddell, Joshua Kern, Mike Pecora, Ben Herman, and Martin Oakley. Sorry I can’t publish all your lists here.

YOUR NEXT MISSIONS

Pipeline2 continues to be interactive. A couple of upcoming columns that you can help with:

Who are the best Writer/Artists? We’ve seen creative teams here, but who does the complete package best? For purposes of this discussion, I’ll go with writer/penciller. If they ink they’re own stuff, all the better. But it’s not a disqualifying factor if they don’t. Again, let’s keep this to the period of the 1990s or so. (The first member of this club that comes to mind is Frank Miller for SIN CITY and 300.)

Second: I’ve had a few suggestions recently to do a small press or independent comic review column. Truth be told, I don’t read that many of those. I need your help. Please send me a one-paragraph review of your favorite small press or independent comic. Basically, pick a comic Marvel or DC doesn’t publish. There are some minor books Image publishes that would probably qualify. Ditto for Dark Horse. I’ll run a small handful of your suggestions in a future Pipeline2 column.

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