NEW IN 2003
As 2002 closes, some previews of 2003's books have come across the Pipeline desk. We'll start with a pair of titles for which Dark Horse passed along black and white previews.
The first is HELLBOY: WEIRD TALES #1. It's the new anthology series featuring new creators to the world of Mike Mignola's red-skinned child. The first issue features stories by John Cassaday, Andi Watson, and Fabian Nicieza with Stefano Raffaele. Only the first two stories were included in the preview.
Cassaday's story rings true to the Hellboy tradition. It feels like a warped little Mignola tale, with just a slightly different artist. Cassaday's art is as beautiful as ever, with a strong sense of lighting helping to not just differentiate between the foreground and background details, but also to help make the characters look more interesting. Very few artists are using lighting today as strongly as Cassaday is. I can't wait to see what this story looks like with the addition of colors.
Andi Watson's story, "Party Pooper," is more offbeat. Hellboy spends the day at the boardwalk and plays some games while some others scheme behind his back. In the end, it's a lighter tale with a bit of a dark twist near the end that makes it interesting and humorous.
Watson illustrates it in his usual style, but it'll be nice to see it in color. He rarely works that way, but it always comes off well.
You still have a couple of months before the issue hits stands, but it looks to be a winner from this early preview. I think this is one anthology series that Dark Horse won't have a problem selling.
Arriving on Valentine's week in 2003 is STAR WARS: A VALENTINE'S STORY. This is the book from Judd Winick and Paul Chadwick that I highlighted in last month's look at PREVIEWS. Set after the events of the original STAR WARS movie, this one-shot follows the relationship between Han Solo and Princess Leia, during one misadventure they have while stocking up the ice planet Hoth's rebel base. Winick's story works in every way. He's got the dialogue perfect, from Han Solo's snarky and sarcastic wisecracking, to Leia's defensive comebacks and righteous indignation. You can easily hear the lines being read by Harrison Ford or Carrie Fisher. The story feels like it could neatly fit into the movie series. The nice surprise of the issue is the way Winick highlights Han Solo's strong friendship with Chewbacca. It makes sense, and adds to the character of Han Solo in a way I never thought about. Of course, I've never read any of the STAR WARS novels, or too many of the comics. Perhaps it's been touched on in the past and I just missed it.
Paul Chadwick does a good job in representing the actors' likenesses while at the same time keeping them from looking stiff. Too many licensed comics fall short in the art department because all the photo reference becomes a crutch for the artist. In any case, it's nice to see him drawing something again.
This 24-page story is printed in full color for $3.50, and is worth a look for all those fans of the original set of movies.
VENTURE #1 is the start of Image's new superhero line, due out in January. It's a nice book to look at, but there's not much story there yet, particularly about the title character, who is completely reactive and not pro-active in the issue.
Jay Faerber's story is nominally about the Joseph Campbell concept of the hero. It's about a "super man" who is an immortal and has influenced the concept of a hero since his very birth. What happens when The Heroic Ideal is let loose in the modern day?
This first issue shows the title character in action a couple of times, and has a vague hint or two of the lead character's immortality (such as his disconnection with modern technology). Past that, the book falls flat as Yet Another Super Hero comic. It's a bit disappointing. From everything I've heard from Faerber and Jamal Igle about this book, the concept should have a large draw from superhero fans with a unique twist. It should make for a great comic. I'm afraid this first issue is too slow a start to it, though. I'm not excited about the book right now.
Jamal Igle's art is as pretty as ever. He's an underrated talent in this industry. He's the kind of artist that should have a regular monthly book with a decent profile, but instead winds up floating from fill-in to fill-in.
With any luck, this book will speed up a bit and come into its own quickly enough to find an audience. It's going to have to rely on its audience finding something in the first issue to latch onto to bring them back for the second issue. Right now, I'm having a hard time finding that.
Not quite 2003, but: GLOBAL FREQUENCY #3 arrives on Thursday of this week. You could read it without ever looking at the credits and know Warren Ellis penned it. It has all the trademarks of his work, and one of those concepts that seems to have come from years of discussing memes on the Warren Ellis Forum. This issue is about the memetic invasion and how Global Frequency has to stop it.
The issue gets points for having Steve Dillon drawing it without every including a scene in a pub or with a lone figure leaning against the wall and smoking a cigarette. The overall story loses points, though, for starting out very slowly and having a predictable ending that the entire issue drags towards. I suppose it's supposed to be a 'daring' or 'relevant' ending because of the slightly non-traditional twist to it, but that doesn't add enough to the story to make it any better.
Overall, it's a great concept for a series and I'm enjoying it so far, but this issue seems to be a bit of a speed bump on that road.
AND WHAT CAME OUT LAST WEEK?
HAWAIIAN DICK #1 is the story of a private eye named Byrd, an ex-cop from the mainland who's moved to pre-statehood Hawaii. Along with an old Army buddy (now police officer) of his, Mo, Byrd gets caught up on the chase for a stolen car and the mysterious package that lies in its trunk. This is the first of a three-issue mini-series, and it presents enough content of value to warrant sticking around for the rest of the series. The atmosphere sells the book, and the mystery isn't easily guessed ahead of time, nor so far out in left field to be incomprehensible.
B. Clay Moore's script is easy to follow, which can sometimes be a problem in comics revolving around a mystery like this one. He doesn't throw too many new names out at us. He repeats the important ones enough that they become second nature to the reader. He spices up the dialogue with authentic bits of Hawaiian vocabulary, and introduces enough context clues to easily define them. Just in case, though, there's a short glossary at the end of the story on a text page that includes plenty of welcomed information on the setting and location for the comic.
Artist Steven Griffin is a real find. His pen and ink work is good enough to land him a job anywhere he wants, but he spices it up with a water colored painted look that serves the book well. The book looks like it belongs in the 1950s. It separates the look of this title from every other one on the shelf. In a day and age where slick computer coloring is the goal to be reached, it's nice to see this classical technique employed. And if you're a fan of Phil Noto's cover work, you're going to enjoy Griffin's cover here.
HAWAIIAN DICK is a captivating read starring two very likeable characters. It's got a time and place setting unique to comics today, and is done up quite stylishly. If the next couple of issues hold up as well as the first, we'll have a new critical darling on our hands.
Merry Christmas to all of you who are celebrating it. A joyous and wonderful Wednesday to those of you who aren't.
Friday's column will take a look back at Pipeline in the year 2002. Come back to relive the conventions, the reviews, and more. Next week begins a look back at 2002, and perhaps a look forward to PREVIEWS for March 2003.
VariousAndSundry.com has been updated with thoughts on the finales of Survivor and Firefly, among other things.
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, a horrifically coded piece of HTML that's eventually going away.