PIPELINE DAILY: DAY THREE
It's Wednesday and the daily experiment is now more than half over and I still haven't broken a sweat.
In case you're late to the show, Monday's column dealt with a couple of Joe Kelly-penned books that are due out this week. And Tuesday's column dealt with THE BROTHERHOOD, a LAST KISS preview, and SUPERMAN.
Today's column splits itself neatly in two. The first half should be considered all-ages appropriate. The second half deals with things that are closer to Mature Readers Only territory. It's an odd mix, but one that I like to think shows the diversity of the medium and my utter inability to schedule these reviews better. ;-)
CROSSGEN CHRONICLES #3 contains the latest and greatest art from George Perez. This time around, the story is by Barbara Kesel and is set in the land of Meridian, at the time of the courtship of Sephia's parents. This issue has a little bit of everything in it, from swashbuckling adventure to a grand love story to family feuds and political struggles, not to mention conniving brothers and economics and politics. While it does tend to get lost occasionally in the splendor of the new worlds that are included for Perez to draw, it flows easily enough and shouldn't insult your intelligence.
The trick to this issue is in believing that there is enough going on between Sephie's parents to make their actions seem believable. While I think that it's a stutter-step to get there, the end result works for me. The trouble I had was that their courtship was handled mostly off-camera and reflected on later by the characters. I'd rather have seen the courtship as it happened, but can understand where doing such a thing might have screwed up the pacing of the story.
Artistically, this book fires on all cylinders, and how could it not with art by Perez (with inks by Mike Perkins) and colors by Laura DePuy? Perez gets to draw the crowd scenes, the extravagant architecture, the lost civilizations, and the technical airship fights. He also has the chance to draw the smaller moments to prove that it's not all bombast and bluster.
DePuy sticks with the coloring palette that was established by Michael Atiyeh in the MERIDIAN series: mostly earth tones, with some moments of pastels and subdued brighter colors for the more pastoral scenes. She also goes with her strengths in a few scenes – coloring whole sequences using different shades of the same color, or using one dominant shade to fill in most of a scene. It's an effective technique and works to heighten the emotions of scenes even moreso than the action. It's something Atiyeh discusses more in the MERIDIAN trade paperback, which is due out tomorrow.
And speaking of that:
As trade paperbacks become more and more viable and popular, we're going to see changes in their format. It won't be enough to merely stick a bunch of issues together and call it a trade. Even something as simple as an introduction by a popular creator won't be enough. Sketchbooks and cover galleries and original scripts will be the order of the day.
If the first POWERS trade paperback was the premiere example of a DVD-like special edition trade format, then the CrossGen trade series is the next series of trades to pick up the baton and run with it. Over the past month, CrossGen has released trade paperback compilations of the first 7 issues of its first four titles, complete with the pages of each title originally included in the first CROSSGEN CHRONICLES comic placed in their proper chronological order.
But it's more than just that. Each trade also offers a wealth of material from the involved creators talking about the book as it progresses. For an example, I'll take a look at the MERIDIAN trade. It's due out in stores this week on the same day as the new 12th issue of MERIDIAN is due.
The book begins with an introduction from publisher Mark Alessi, who writes about the general guidelines the gang at CrossGen used in creating MERIDIAN. After that, all seven issues – plus issue "1.5" from the CHRONICLES issue – are presented in order. Between each is a page-long interview with the creators involved. Barbara Kesel talks about writing a comic book starring a girl for girls in a male-dominated market. The article at the beginning of the third chapter features Kesel again, talking about the character of Sephie. The fourth chapter starts with an analysis of the color palette used by series colorist, Mike Atiyeh. The fifth chapter begins with a spotlight on the secondary characters, and the sixth chapter starts with Steven McNiven's introduction to a career of comic book drawing. (It neatly sidesteps the issues surrounding Joshua Middleton's departure from the book. I don't think less of CrossGen for that, mind you, but I did want to mention it.) The last chapter talks about some of the opposing conflicts at work in the series. The book winds up with a cover gallery and a discussion of cover concepts by art director Brandon Peterson and writer Barbara Kesel.
All of this is wrapped underneath a brand new painted cover from Steve Rude.
Enough about content, now let's talk about the production quality: Say what you will about CrossGen's books, their production department certainly knows what it's doing. These trades are high quality, printed on the same glossy paper stock as the individual monthly issues. In other words, there are no muddy colors created due to the change in paper stock from the monthlies to the collected format. The cover and spine have all the information you could ask for, too. The trades all have the number "1" on them. It would seem that CrossGen is prepared to come out with these trades on a fairly regular basis, which is a very good thing. The volume number is included both on the upper left hand corner of the cover as well as the spine of the book. Each volume also has a title for the overall story arc. MERIDIAN is entitled "Flying Solo."
SCION is entitled "Conflict of Conscience" and would probably be the first book I would recommend to someone new to CrossGen. Besides having a fairly strong story, I think it's the strongest book artistically. Jim Cheung, with inker Don Hillsman II and colorist Caesar Rodriguez have put on a real show in this book. The sixth issue (which is collected in the first trade) is perhaps the strongest book CrossGen has published so far, with double-page formatting and an epic war. No detail was spared, and everything is right there on the page. They didn't leave anything in their bag of tricks.
Adam Hughes does the art for the cover and it has that same surreal photorealistic look that Hughes' work has taken on lately. Very odd.
Joe Linsner paints the cover for MYSTIC and Christopher Moeller gets the honors on SIGIL, which is probably the weakest of the four books. The only reason I'm still reading the monthly SIGIL at this point is the promise of Mark Waid and Scot Eaton. They just started on the title, so I'll give them a couple of issues.
CrossGen is doing well by their trades. As the individual issues of the earlier issues sell out – despite massive overprinting by the company – it's good to see that access to the stories hasn't been shut off. It's even better to see that the quality of the reprintings is as high as the original printings.
Each book will set you back $20, which means you're only saving about a buck or two off the cost of the original issues, but the big question right now is one of access to the stories and not frugality. CrossGen shows that they're planning for a long future with these trades. More power to them.
MEANWHILE, AT VERTIGO. . .
CODENAME: KNOCKOUT #1 hits the stands this week, too. While I had some doubts about the series after the 0 issue, this issue sold the series for me. Robert Rodi still writes and Louis Small still pencils, but the addition of Mark Farmer as inker has really cleared up a lot of problems I had with the art in the 0 issue. It looks much smoother now. I just can't get into a book that's supposed to feature T&A when the art is so scratchy. (Hang in there. That adjective – "scratchy" – will be showing up again shortly.)
Rodi's story, in the meantime, is completely over the top. It starts off with Angela, the mixed-heritage blonde bombshell secret agent spy babe, and Go Go, her buff gay partner and talkative comic relief, at their rented California beach house. Angela is freshly out of the shower, wrapped only in a towel, and painting her toenails. Go Go is in the shower currently lathering up in – well, an area that generally gets covered up in all male and female frontal nudity.
That's when the ninjas attack.
Yes, it sounds crass and exploitive and silly and all the rest. And, in many cases, it is. But if you can maintain a sense of humor about this, it's really funny stuff. Small doesn't go nuts with blatant cheesecake poses, but does manage to keep the nudity limited. (It's still there, though. This ain't a book for the kiddies.) The interplay between the talkative Go Go and the ninjas he finds attractive is hilarious. It's just good slightly dirty fun, but not quite Playboy or anything. Consider this one a Mature Readers Only book and you'll enjoy it.
Angela's fight scene occurs entirely during a cell phone discussion with her mother, interrupted once by a telemarketer. If Brian Bendis invented Cell-Fu in DAREDEVIL: NINJA #3, then this issue takes the concept one step further along its logical progression. Really funny stuff.
It's not a completely vapid book, though. There's some stuff coming to the foreground here about Angela's parents. We start to learn a little bit about Angela's mother and her missing father. It looks like there will be something of a plot to hang excuses like this month's ninja fighting scene on. I don't have any problem with that. Entertainment is entertainment.
Two covers are available for this issue. One is by regular series cover artist, Joe Chiodo. The other is a nifty one from Frank Cho.
This week's HELLBLAZER #162 is a story of "Li'l Johnny Constantine." Brian Azzarello takes this issue to flashback to a time of Constantine's youth. It's tough to tell, but I'd imagine the story is set when he's a later teenager, or maybe in his early 20s. Constantine shows no powers anywhere in this issue, although some weirdness is just around the bend in the Book Of The Future.
This issue is basically a look at some misadventures of a boy and his mate. It's easy to read, perfectly accessible to a new reader (if not terribly representative of the series as a whole), and nicely illustrated. Guy Davis handles the art duties. While his art has a bit of a scratchy look to it, it's very easy to follow. The characters are expressive and lifelike. They don't all look like minor variations on the same theme, and they "act" naturally. There is no posing or stiffness in these panels.
The part of the issue that I enjoyed most is the adult Constantine's opening rant against anti-smoking regulations in America. It's a great sarcastic answer to the all-too-stunting growth of anti-smoking laws and restrictions. (I'm not a smoker myself, but do find it strange that you can't smoke in a bar in a city.)
Pipeline Daily comes rolling into Thursday tomorrow already! Come back for whatever previews I have left to talk about. That should include this week's issue of ACTION COMICS from DC, as well as USAGENT #1 and ULTIMATE MARVEL TEAM-UP #4 from Marvel.
Friday is the return of the Pipeline One-Liners.
More than 200 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 are still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML.
This year, you can still catch me at the Chicago Comicon (i.e. WizardWorld) and the San Diego Comicon (i.e. the Comic Con International: San Diego). I'm also tentatively scheduled for a day at the Small Press Expo in Maryland this September.