PREVIEWS FOR FEBRUARY 2003
It's been a month already. It's time to delve into Diamond's solicitations guide, PREVIEWS, to unearth the treasures of the comic book world that are currently schedules to see the light of day in February of 2003.
This, as always, is an incomplete guide to the wonderment that might befall you in a couple of months. I highly recommend picking up a copy of the 500+ page guide for yourself and giving it a thorough once over. While doing so, maybe some of my suggestions here might reinforce a notion or two in your mind.
And don't forget to pre-order what you like. It's a great way to increase your chances of getting what you wanted in a couple of months.
Dark Horse starts its listings with the high point for them. It's also the project that won the front cover of PREVIEWS this month. It's THE ART OF HELLBOY, the next in a line of projects begun with the recently-released THE ART OF SIN CITY. This one will give you an artistic walk through Mike Mignola's red hero. It's a bit pricey at $50 for 200 pages, but it is oversized and does include some previously unpublished material. It's also an advance solicitation. This won't be on store shelves until the end of March. Nevertheless, get your orders in now.
Along with that, the new HELLBOY ANTHOLOGY begins is monthly march in February, with stories by the likes of John Cassaday, Fabian Nicieza, and Andi Watson. This is a more affordable $2.95 for your standard 32 page color package.
Judd Winnick (GREEN LANTERN, BARRY WEEN) and Paul Chadwick (CONCRETE) join up for STAR WARS: A VALENTINE STORY. It's a Princess Leia/Han Solo love story set just before THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. It's a full color one shot at 32 pages for $3.50. With a title like that, you'd suspect that it might be shipping in time for Valentine's Day, right? No. February 26th. Don't ask me to explain it.
Over at DC, ASTRO CITY returns in a bi-monthly format for five issues. It's good to have that title back on the shelves again, in any format.
Wildstorm goes back to the 3-D well for DANGER GIRL 3-D, reprinting the original 8 page preview story along with the entire first issue with added three dimensional effects. 3-D glasses are included and Ray Zone does the transformation. For $4.95, it might be a little heavy on the wallet for such a gimmick, but at least they used perfect source material for the special effect.
NIGHTWING: THE HUNT FOR ORACLE trade paperback contains what is arguably Chuck Dixon's high point on both titles. With absolutely stunning art from Greg Land and Butch Guice, the story features the first face-to-face meeting of Oracle and the Black Canary.
BIRDS OF PREY: CATWOMAN/BATGIRL is the first of a two part prestige format mini-series written by John Francis Moore. It features a look back at Catwoman and Batgirl in action. This first part is drawn by Darick Robertson, which is what makes it interesting to me. The second part will be drawn by Dave Ross, and takes place in the present between Oracle and Catwoman.
Finally, the third trade containing Joe Casey's very successful run on WILDCATS is due out in February. Titled BATTERY PARK, it covers issues #20-28, and features art from series regular Sean Phillips, along with Steven Dillon. The first two trades in this series of stories by Joe Casey are highly recommended as well. (That's VICIOUS CIRCLES and SERIAL BOXES.) This is the series where Casey turned around one of Image's fledgling superhero teams and made it into something outside the superhero genre. Alan Moore's run on the book was excellent, as well, but it had a lot more in common with the superhero team structure. Casey's take is completely different. Sean Phillips' art was a real eye-opener, and he's remained an artist I look for to this day because of this work.
Meanwhile, WILDCATS 3.0 #7 kicks off a new storyline, with the creative team of Casey and Dustin Nguyen still intact.
The first NOBLE CAUSES trade paperback collects that series original four-part mini-series. It also includes variant covers, pin-ups, the original tryout pages by the creative team, and Jay Faerber commentary. For $12.95, it's one of Image's best deals. NOBLE CAUSES is one of the past year's breakout series, with the second go-around on its third issue now and showing no signs of slowing down. Faerber has a master plan for all of these characters and interweaves their backgrounds into their current predicaments expertly. It's a great "Behind the Scenes" look at a superhero family and the messes that they get into.
On the cover of SAVAGE DRAGON #108, Dragon is seen webslinging across a photo of the city. Heh, just like old times again...
SHADOWS #1 kicks off a new bi-monthly on-going series from writer Jade Dodge and artist Matt Camp. The team gets extra credit for that, if only because most teams find it safer to start with a mini-series and progress from there. Going straight to series is something of a risk in this market. It helps bolster my interest in what looks to be a good read. SHADOWS features four characters that make up a paranormal investigatory unit. Think of it as X-FILES, but with more characters. Now that the world of comics appears to be past its fixation on crossing any possible genre with "The X-Files" as a high concept, it's nice to see a series that isn't afraid to be about investigating such stories straight up. We'll have to wait to see what approach they take to the investigations when the series begins. In the meantime, there's a free 5-page preview of the first issue at the Image website.
Top Cow is offering up a three issue mini-series starring the character, Matthew Bright, from JMS' RISING STARS. It features a story from JMS prodigy Fiona Kai Avery, and art by Dan Jurgens. In the same month, ex-RISING STARS prodigy, Keu Cha, pencils a special 48 page one shot, WITCHBLADE: NOTTINGHAM. I've never been able to get into the Witchblade comics, but Cha's art makes me a little curious again.
Marvel leads off, as far as I'm concerned, with ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN's second hardcover edition. The first one, collecting the first 13 issues of the series, was a watershed moment for the company and proved that they knew what they were doing with their aggressive new hardcover program. The wealth of extras in the package, along with the great looking Bagley art on a larger format of paper, sold the package. This second edition promises the next 14 issues (#14-27) along with a wealth of extras for only $30. It's the best deal in comics, featuring the best superhero comic today.
Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.'s DAREDEVIL: MAN WITHOUT FEAR gets a special movie-timed reprinting. I wish they'd put it out as a hardcover, though. It would be worth it. It's a great mini-series.
John Ostrander's APACHE SKIES makes its mark as a trade paperback in February, also.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #50 promises "the decision you've all been waiting for" as concerns Mary Jane and Peter Parker. Somehow, I'm not hopeful. I entered comics in 1989 and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN was my first title. To me, Mary Jane and Peter Parker are the happily newlywed couple. Their spark and eternal grace under extreme pressure has been something to look up to. Sadly, it seems the writers on the Spider-Man titles haven't wanted to deal with that relationship in the aftermath of the brutal treatment it got during the clone saga. They created a flimsy excuse to ship Mary Jane off to California and forgot about her. While the hesitant conversations between the two in recent issues have been a good start, the writing still lacks the confidence in the relationship that I'd like to see from the writers. I wish they'd stop putting it off and just get them back together now.
SPIDER-MAN: BLUE #6 concludes the series in February. I guess this answers my earlier question about where the hardcover compilation for this book has been all these months. Delayed.
RAWHIDE KID #1 is the start of a new five part mini-series from Marvel. The very very good news is that John Severin is drawing it. If you saw his recent DESPERADOES work, you know the man still has it. That mini-series was just beautiful. The preview pages for this one look pretty good, too. The bad news is that Ron Zimmerman's writing it and all indications seem to be that the titular star will be gay, and that will be used for a plethora of silly and juvenile gags. Buyer beware.
Finally, EDEN'S TRAIL has been downgraded to a five-issue mini-series all of a sudden. Too bad.
VariousAndSundry.com is still up and running, including thoughts on movie theater audiences and upcoming FOX DVDs.
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