MORE ON IMAGE'S NEW SUPERHERO LINE
INVINCIBLE is the newest addition to Image's superhero lineup. It's the story of the son of a superhero finally realizing his own powers and learning how to cope with them. It's a harmless book that plays with all the usual clichéd trappings of the teenaged superhero comic. Mark's school life has only played a small part in the story so far. The cover blurb says, "Girls, acne, homework, super-villains. When you're a teenager, it helps to be INVINCIBLE." The only problem with that tag line is that the issue doesn't include a single super-villain, mention of acne, or a single event linked to girls. The teacher even dismisses class without assigning any homework! So who cares if the lead is "invincible?" Right now, all he needs to get away from is his burger-flipping job!
We see school, instead, as a means to realize some of his new powers and morals. The main focus of the book is on Mark's family, which includes a superhero father and a mother who seems to be numb to it all. Most books would include the nervous mother type, afraid of what her missing superhero husband is doing and living in fear that her innocent son might be headed down the same path. This one has a mother who hopes that her husband brings her back something nice from the latest country he's having an adventure in. And when her son announces his newfound powers at the dinner table, there's no reaction from his parents. They saw it coming, and are going to deal with it calmly.
Robert Kirkman's story moves at a decent pace, keeping the reader turning the pages and not loading down the talking heads scenes with anything more than the bare essentials. Cory Walker's art is open and uncluttered. Backgrounds are always present and establishing shots aren't skimped on. With Walker's more open line work and lack of spotted blacks, colorist Bill Crabtree works to complement the artistic scheme rather than complicate it. His coloring is filled with solid areas of color, and not the sculpted look that others would try to force on the art to make up for the lack of niggling details. He keeps the color scheme simple, while pushing the backgrounds back and the characters forward. That might not seem like much, but when you see comics that include garishly bright color schemes that do nothing to differentiate foreground from background, you learn to appreciate it.
Kirkman is doing solid work at Image right now. His love for superhero comics comes through in his every project, and he's got a good sense of pacing in his work.
Also in Image's new superhero line-up: I was concerned about VENTURE #1, judging only by the black and white preview copy that Image passed along last month. The final printed color version of the book reveals more problems. The printing is muddy. It's printed on plain white paper stock instead of the glossy stuff, and I think that has something to do with it. The colors are too dark, have soaked into the paper, and come off as boring. It looks like something Malibu might have printed a decade ago. Compare it against other books that Image is publishing these days, like TECH JACKET, FIREBREATHER, or INVINCIBLE. Those books are bright and printed on the glossy paper. It looks great. Jamal Igle's artwork on VENTURE, however, is completely lost in the first issue.
A COUPLE OF ODDS AND ENDS
Brian Denham's KILL BOX #1 (from Antarctic Press) is a book that deserves to be printed in the manga trade paperback format. It's a black and white book with similar pacing to a lot of what you read coming from TokyoPop, Viz, and the like. The problem is that 23 black and white pages of story for $5 isn't very satisfying. I'm mildly intrigued by the story, but there's not enough of it yet to keep me hanging around. If there were a trade available down the line somewhere, though, I would definitely pick it up.
SPIDER-MAN'S TANGLED WEB #22 is done by two creators I've never heard of before. The writer is Brian Patrick Walsh, who crafts a fine police interrogation story here that touches on a topic plenty of other comics have been looking at lately: How does a "cape's" interference in the natural process of the law hinder the average cop's job? This issue deals with one such case where Spider-Man's quick apprehension of a pair of robbers-turned-murderers leads to prosecutorial problems. The police are forced to desperate measures to get a confession out of a suspect before the lawyer shows up. The story, which shows Spider-Man on panel only once in 22 pages, has a nice twist at the end. But don't read this looking for THE USUAL SUSPECTS. Read it because everything before that holds up as a story on its own. That twist doesn't feel tacked on if you know anything about Spider-Man.
The artist for the issue is Alberto Dose. Dose's style is very reminiscent of 100 BULLETS' Eduardo Risso's. Some of his faces have a hint of Paul Grist's KANE, as well. He does a solid job in illustrating this issue, populating it with normal-looking people who can emote. In a talking heads story, that's an important thing to have.
In the meantime, be sure to pick up the DC's new GOTHAM CENTRAL series, for Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, and Michael Lark's excellent take on the same concept.
COMIC CLICHÉ TO RETIRE
Take a look at any comic book that has a scene set in a busy city police station. There's always an establishing shot. It's usually a horizontal panel running across the top of a page. You see a bunch of nondescript metal desks covered in files and paperwork and a computer and whatnot. It always seems as if a big prostitution bust happened earlier that night. Check out the people in the station wearing handcuffs or being arrested. The odds are good that most of them have brightly colored makeup, big hair, and tight clothes on.
I've never worked an overnight shift at a city police department, mind you, but surely there's other stuff going on. There might even be quiet nights.
Nothing about comics fandom should astound me. I've seen it for 13 years now. Not much has changed. Over the course of the past week, Marvel has slowly distributed teaser images for series they plan on debuting this week. It's nothing groundbreaking or earth shattering. They're just simple pin-up pieces with the main character appearing in silhouette and no other information being passed out.
Nothing special. One would expect the speculation to begin right away. That's the fun of the teaser images -- figuring out who the characters are supposed to be, and guessing at the artists. The promo pieces include the dates that more information will be available (January 20 - 22), so the tease comes with its own expiration date. Nothing big.
Pretty simple, so far.
No. Every conversation posted after one of these pieces lambastes Marvel for its promotional policies and then deciding the fate of the book before it's even officially announced, usually in some holier-than-thou way.
Why do people get so up-in-arms about such things? Look at the teaser image, take your guess, and forget about it for a week until the news story breaks with all the creators' names attached and tidbits of plot information revealed.
That's all. If you're upset that Marvel is doing an awful job in getting people to talk about their books with this campaign, then don't talk about it.
Sheesh, you'd think this kind of stuff would be obvious, wouldn't you? But, then, you have cases like the kind Steven Grant talked about at the end of his column last week regarding comics bootleggers. Makes you want to bang your head against the wall sometimes.
In a not entirely unrelated story, the front page of Monday's Wall Street Journal included a story about a judge declaring the X-Men to be not human. Why would such a thing be a matter for the courts? There's some obscure tariff law that would benefit Marvel if the toys coming into the country from China were declared to be of non-humans instead of humans. It's strictly a business decision meant to save a few bucks on toy imports. It's not that important. In fact, it's downright silly.
But the WSJ managed to find some people willing to talk about what an affront this is to the integrity of the characters. What should have been a simple business piece with an odd angle instead turned into another "Bam! Pow! Splat!" story about comic geeks who think of their favorite superheroes as real people and have no life.
Hidden at the end of this week's BATGIRL issue is the announcement that the next issue will be the final one for the series' founding creative team. Here's yet another great argument for keeping the letters columns. Announcement like this can be properly made, and the creators would get the chance to say good-bye, if they wished. Instead, this major announcement for the creative direction of this title is left as a small blurb of white text on a dark background in a corner of an undistinguished text page. Even worse, you have to overlook the blatant Your Man At Marvel rip-off ("Your Mole At 1700") that fills up the bottom half of the page that should contain such information.
Kelley Puckett, Damion Scott, and Robert Campanella have done great work on the series in its first three years, telling stories in a style very different from the rest of the Batman family of titles, and creating an interesting character with it. They'll be missed on this title, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them show up together somewhere else in the near future.
THE FUNNIEST THING IN COMICS THIS YEAR (So Far)
Is America too litigious a nation?
I believe I have found the ultimate proof that it is. Crack open the table of contents page to any issue of RAIJIN COMICS since the fifth. (The sixth issue just hit the stands, and the eighth just arrived in my mailbox.) On the bottom left hand corner is a pair of warnings. The first is a fairly standard warning that the publication is intended for mature audiences. That warning also appears on the cover. It's obvious from the stories in the magazine that this isn't targeted at the SHONEN JUMP audience.
It's the warning right below it that blows my mind:
"WARNING: Please be careful when reading this product. May cause paper cuts."
Glad to see the Japanese company made sure to hire American lawyers to cover every possible angle.
I'm not making this up. You can't make up stuff this good, because nobody would believe you.
The worst part of the whole thing is that I've got a hand filled with paper cuts from reading RAIJIN COMICS that I can't sue anyone over anymore, because I've been dutifully warned by its publishers about the danger.
There is no Pipeline2 this Friday. It's on hiatus. See last week's columns for the announcement. Pipeline Commentary and Review will, however, return on Tuesday, 28 January 2003. It will feature the first part of a look at RAIJIN COMICS, and why I think it's a more interesting book that SHONEN JUMP. Also, more reviews of the week's comics and news.
VariousAndSundry.com has been updated with an article explaining the tech on that new Michael Jordan commercial, the futility of cover songs, more Simpsons, and more. If you're reading this on Tuesday, the list of interesting DVDs being released this week will also be updated before noon.
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.