LOST IN SPACE!
NEGATION: BOHICA! is CrossGen's big budget special effects-laden extravaganza. On the furthest edge of space, a prison full of aliens from all over the universe have to work together to break free from their keepers, then work doubly hard to survive. It's a clash of powers and a clash of characters. Sigil-enhanced representatives from every planet in the CrossGen Universe come together and fight the Negation to return home.
The brilliant thing about Tony Bedard's writing is that as firmly rooted as the series is in the various aspects of the CrossGen Universe, you don't need to be reading everything else to get this book. It might enhance one or two aspects of it for you (such as the character from Atlantis), but there's nothing so inside that it would spoil you on the story not to know it. When something from another series needs to be explained, it is. Bedard doesn't leave it up to the reader to go research two years of SIGIL to explain a Saurian's method of intelligence gathering, for example. It's pretty obvious right there on the page.
(In reading the issues after the trade, I was surprised when I realized that an unnamed character that suddenly appears was from the cast of CRUX. As a reader of CRUX, it helped to partially answer a question from that series, but didn't make me feel like I was missing anything. As a NEGATION reader, his identity didn't matter. It's what he did that mattered. I was told what I needed to know to make him important. It's just a nice little side bonus.)
The book starts with a large cast and while it does whittle itself down as the series progresses, there are still a lot of people to keep straight. Two or three -- such as the human leader Obregon Kaine and the god-like Evinlea -- hold the spotlight. But they're surrounded with a dozen other characters. Thankfully, telling them all apart is simple to do so far. Bedard hasn't cluttered the book up with too much back-story. Characters are simplified, but interesting. They each have their mysteries, but we're not lingering over them. There's no time to do that. There's a shorthand characterization to each member of the cast, and we proceed from there. We learn a little about each, one at a time, as the book goes on. The characters get deeper without confusing the reader by throwing everything at him or her at once.
Paul Pelletier's artwork (inked by David Meikis) is very deceptive. At first glance, his characters all look round and bubbly. It's not that they look like cartoon characters, but that they have a similar round-ish look.
Pelletier is not afraid to put the detail and shadows into his work. It blends together so naturally that you don't see it. He's drawn pages in this trade paperback of spaceships navigating through asteroids, a cafeteria filled with starving aliens, and a spaceship crashing into an ice planet. These are all half page splashes or better, but you never look twice at them. You're impressed and then you move on. If you hover over one of those pages for longer than the three seconds you did the first time, you'd see the painstaking detail as each of those aliens is drawn in perfect detail, or how many planets and stars show up in the background, or how every bit of snow rubble is bursting out from the same vantage point. It's so slick that your eyes roll off it like any other panel. That, my friends, is storytelling. The artist draws an enjoyable page, but you aren't drawn to the art. It's a neat trick. (Bart Sears talks about that in the interview with him in the back of the first PATH collection.)
NEGATION is a fun and colorful tale of people on the run in a world not of their own making. The art is easy on the eyes, and the storyline is a real page-turner. The series is fast drawing to the close of its first year, and the first trade paperback should be all you need to get hooked into the series.
(Oh, and you'll want to read this book just to find out what "Bohica" means and how it can be applied to your every day life. It'll come in handy. Trust me.)
SUPERHEROES IN A NEW LIGHT
J. Michael Straczynski has had a bit of an uphill climb when it comes to RISING STARS. It was his premiere comic creation on the superhero landscape. Response to early artists Keu Cha and Christian Zanier were mixed, to say the least. (Cha looked like Eisner by comparison to Zanier, whose artwork included characters that all looked alike and in a significant amount of pain.) The situation wasn't helped by coloring that was entirely too dark and muddy for the story, resulting in a mess on paper that only the most devoted fans could get through. By the time the situation was sorted out and artists like Stuart Immonen and Brent Anderson came on board to finish the series, a good portion of the potential fan base had given up on the book already. I would include myself in that category. While the stories were good and had potential, the execution was far from entertaining.
When the book is done, three solid trade paperbacks will reprint the entirety of the 24 issues of the series, from beginning to end. If word of mouth is good on the last batch of issues, the series stands a strong potential for a reawakening of fans. They'll learn to muddle through the first trade and a half to get to the good stuff. These things can be overcome, but they'll take time. Sadly, I doubt it's financially feasible to go back and have someone redraw those early issues.
In the meantime, this week saw the release of the companion volume to the series. RISING STARS: VISITATIONS collects the odds and ends of the series, including one-half issues, preludes, and convention specials. (I'd give you the specifics, but the trade fails to indicate that information.) Gary Frank's art is the standout of the three stories, with Keu Cha and Christian Zanier splitting the rest of the art duties.
The trade comes off as an anthology. The stories show great promise for the series and give you a peak at the world the whole thing is set in. If you're a RISING STARS fan, this will be a must for your collection, if you don't own all the original issues these stories came from already. If you're new to RS, you might consider picking this up as a sampler of what to expect. For $9, it's a bit expensive for that, but the stories come from various more expensive rare issues that make this look like a bargain bin.
I've gotten my hands on the first two trades of the series so far. I think I'm going to wait until the third is printed before I sit down to read through it all and re-evaluate the series. It's the least I can do for the guy who's wowing us now with AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and did such a great job on MIDNIGHT NATION. (Hmmm, is that trade running late now? Wasn't it due out last month?) Oh, and I won't forget BABYLON 5, either. That's all Straczynski ever needs to point to as proof that he can tell a story. I've already pre-ordered the first season DVD boxed set. =)
RISING STARS: VISITATIONS is, thus, a mixed bag full of hope. It'll be your own wallet and patience that determine if it's a book for you.
RANDOM THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
I can't read more than one novel at any given time, but last week I was reading three different graphic novels at the same time. It didn't bother me in the least to skip between X-Men and Alien Legion and Powers. I could never do that with a novel, where characters and plot drop out of mind so easily. It's also easier with a comic to flip through the pages and remember what's going on. Can't do that by picking out key words in prose pages, can you?
Lots of updates to Various and Sundry this week, including the week's DVD releases, a review of a Broadway musical soundtrack ("Movin' Out"), late night talk show hosts, the thrill of disconnecting an AOL account, and more.
Lots more previews and reviews next week, including a BUFFY comic and the BIRDS OF PREY television series. Yes, the whole world has gone backwards.
Close to 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 still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML.