VARIOUS AND SUNDRY REVIEWS
DAREDEVIL NINJA #1 is the first of a three-part series written by Brian Bendis and drawn by Rob Haynes, with coloring by David Self. I mention the colorist here, because he’s as important a part of this book as anyone else. The series is drawn in the same cinematic simplistic style Haynes used in the fill-in DAREDEVIL issue and Amalgam book he drew. Haynes stacks up wide panels to simulate a movie experience. He doesn’t vary his line weight at all, using the same thickness for everything. He combines it with a bit of Bruce Timm’s minimalism and it makes for a stylish and striking look. This effect is not lost on them, either. The opening few pages present a fight scene with dramatic movie-type credits superimposed on the drawings.
The story itself is a little light. I get the feeling this is not meant to be a highly plot-driven story. This isn’t to say that the story makes no sense, but rather that it’s not the emphasis. The striking visuals and chaotic fight scenes are the centerpiece of this series so far. This isn’t a bad thing, though. These aren’t mindless slugfests. They’re actually well choreographed and contain plenty of perspective and explanation for what’s going on so you’ll never get lost.
The book lacks a little bit of Bendis’ trademark flair for dialogue. He imbues Daredevil with the same sort of wise-acre sense of humor and flare for the comedic, so he still get his chances to be sarcastic and biting. But in the end, this is probably the closest that Bendis has come to standard super-hero chatter. Even ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN seems a bit more ornate than this.
This isn’t to say the book stinks. It’s quite entertaining, but it’s something slightly different than what you might normally expect from Bendis. Don’t expect pages with 16 panels of talking heads on them here. It’s not this book’s style. This is meant to evoke a Hong Kong action film. Throw in some ninjas and you’ve got a party.
Bendis’ ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #4 also made it way out to the stands last week. Drawn by Mark Bagley, we’re finally up to the point where wrestling plays a part in the story. I don’t think it’s an irrational hatred of wrestling that I have, but to say I’m turned off by the whole silly spectacle is a major understatement. (Yes, I have tried to watch it. No, I don’t agree to those comparisons between comic books and wrestling. Yeesh.)
I had to remember, though, that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original Spidey origin included wrestling, too. This instance, then, works as both a way of staying faithful to the original story as well as containing some extra stuff that is (inexplicably) popular amongst the younger crowd this book is aimed for.
I liked the story overall. It’s a good issue and keeps well within the tone set by previous issues. I’m just starting to get a little antsy for something big to happen, and I think we’re leading up to that now. This issue really moved things along by adding in the wrestling angle and one other major bit of importance I don’t want to spoil on you.
DC’s WORLD’S FUNNEST is, indeed, just that. It’s a black comedy written by Evan Dorkin and drawn by an assortment of artists, filled with universal destruction aided by a healthy dose of knowledge and continuity. For the longest time, DC has had as one of its weaknesses its amazing spread of universes. There’s a universe for everything. And in there, is Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk, denizen of the fifth dimension. This book takes a look at what happens when these two imps go on a spree and start destroying universe after universe after universe. This just gives us the chance to see a little of everything that’s ever been in the DC Multiverse. With the way that the story is shaped, you also get a whole spectrum of artists drawing these things. CBR’s own Scott Shaw! draws the Captain Carrot bit. Frank Miller handles the Dark Knight part, and it’s wonderfully silly and self-effacing. Alex Ross paints in the Kingdom Come segment. Phil Jimenez uses his George Perez-inspired artwork on the Crisis piece. And a whole wide variety of unlikely, often indie, creators such as Jim Woodring, Frank Cho, and Mike Allred put their two cents in.
Evan Dorkin shows an amazing knowledge of DC universes, and doesn’t pull any punches in making fun of any of its funny little traits. One of the funniest lines in the book for me is when Aquaman, who’s leading with his spear arm, confronts Mr. Mxyzptlk. The crazy imp screams, “AAAAGH!! A PIRATE!!”
Just to keep everything looking consistent, Tom Orzechowski letters the whole book and seems to take pleasure from mimicking as many of his contemporaries’ lettering styles as he can. It’s effective, although some styles work better than others. The Frank Miller font is perfect. The Todd Klein KINGDOM COME lettering is very close to Klein’s stuff.
It’s obvious Dorkin’s having fun with this book, although it’s tough to tell if it’s a joy in destruction, or a joy in bringing back many of the lost characters. It’s a tough call.
The problem with UNCANNY X-MEN #388 is that there’s nothing new here. Mystique is trying to assassinate the presidential candidate again. The X-Men want to stop her. The obvious analogy of mutants to insert-racial-minority-here gets pounded home with as little subtlety as I’ve ever seen Claremont use. Heck, it’s spelled out right there on page three this time. The Danger Room is testing the unpredictable powers of a member. Professor X is back from space. Jean’s Phoenix powers are still a bit iffy.
I feel like I’ve seen this all before.
On the plus side, Claremont’s prose is relatively restrained here. He throws in a lot of cameos from the other X-groups, giving Salvador Larroca a chance to draw a bunch of different people. Larroca, himself, does an excellent job in drawing all of this madness.
However, the story continues in the next issue of CABLE, a series I have no interests in reading. I hope the next part of this storyline summarizes that part of it quickly.
Some even quicker points:
THE PUNISHER is really growing on me. The most recent issue is the ninth and it’s drop dead hilarious from start to finish in a really dark way. This is completely over the top stuff, coupled with some nice character bits and plot escalation. The upcoming final three issues should prove interesting. I can’t wait for the Punisher to bash heads with the Russian.
WILDCATS #17 is the fourth part of the six-part “Serial Boxes” storyline. Joe Casey writes a lot of talking head scenes, and it all makes sense. It’s great stuff, strongly based on increasingly interesting characters. Sean Phillips holds it all together with a rigid, but strong, storytelling pace and style. It looks plain at first, but you pick up on the power of his simplicity as you read it.
GATECRASHER #5 (by the usual team of Waid, Palmiotti, Conner, Eliopoulos, Bongotone) is more fun from the Black Bull people. While I thought last month’s issue was weak, this one brings the series roaring back with a vengeance. It’s great sit-com stuff, with a bit of slapstick in there, a lot of something-less-than-mature humor, and some pretty artwork. Don’t expect FRASIER with this, but if you liked a series like PERFECT STRANGERS, then this might be your kind of level. (Personally, I like both.)
Two art teams split SUPERMAN #164 up. The regular art team of Ed McGuinness and Cam Smith draw most of it, but Carlo Barberi and Juan Vlasco fill in a bunch of the pages. I just can’t help but wonder if McGuinness will ever be able to draw two complete issues in a row.
Lots of stuff, plot-wise, goes on in this issue. Supergirl makes a post-SUPERGIRL #51 appearance here, Bizarro am back and threatens to crash reality down around our knees, and Jeph Loeb takes some delight on giving all of the readers of this issue a headache by writing in Bizarro talk.
TRADE PAPERBACK ECONOMY
I received a couple of distressing e-mails after Tuesday’s column. They came from people who were worried that my column on Tuesday left out the possibility of uncollected comics. What would happen with comics that didn’t receive trade paperback treatment? Wasn’t I forgetting about those?
Sort of. I didn’t forget about them. I just don’t think those cases held any water in the new model I was proposing.
It has everything to do with the very first point I made in that section:
“In a comics industry in which the trade paperback predominates, what need is there for back issues?”
In other words, my premise was assuming that the trade paperback-centered industry would come to fruition. All comics would be printed in monthly pamphlets with the business model dictating a larger trade paperback collection at a later point. The 32-page package would be, at worst, a loss leader towards the evergreen (one would hope) collection.
Assuming all of that, then, there’s very little need for back issues. The only ones you’d need would be for use as samples for people who don’t want to invest in the entire series until they’ve sampled part of it. The point of buying a comic would be to get a full and complete story between two covers with a lot of pages in-between. This is not too different from the regular novel market.
The back issue market is depleted pretty badly in this market, effectively killing the direct market off, whose original raison d’etre was to make it easier for specialty stores to offer something unique from the local pharmacies and convenience stores – back issues.
The direct market would still be seen as a specialty market for comics retailers. Back issues wouldn’t be necessary anymore. (A trade paperback industry would require new means of distribution and quick reordering, something not unlike the mainstream bookstores.) Collectability goes right out the window.
Well, maybe not. I’m sure someone would think of creating new collectables. Limited edition hard covers might pop up to take the place of hologram-enhanced covers or signed and numbered books. Would this be the only way to sustain the direct market in a TPB-dominated industry?
Great: more stuff to think about. I’ll figure it all out someday. I promise.
TOMORROW AND TOMORROW AND TOMORROW
On Friday, Pipeline2 wraps up a three-part series on all that is wrong with this industry. It focuses on the distribution of comics, and includes a stunning example from Topps Comics and their X-FILES license. (I’ll try to be more upbeat with something next week.)
Saturday is the National Con in New York City. In addition to all the usual guests that show up at these shows, you can expect to see Erik Larsen there signing and sketching away.
I’ll be wandering the floor just a bit on Saturday afternoon. I’ll be the tall guy in the black CBR t-shirt.
The day after that is Sunday. I plan on resting. I have a lot of sleep to catch up on just thanks to Election Night.
Please, stick around. This should be a fun weekend. Visit the Pipeline message board while you’re at it, too!
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