MY PROMISE TO YOU:
I didn't write last week's Pipeline Commentary after I received my copy of COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1348. That issue of CBG was mailed out on September 1st, and I received it on the 7th, the same day the column appeared, and thus the day after I wrote it.
I say that because of a couple of things in that particular Neil Gaiman-themed issue echoed sentiments I had written here in the past week or two. For starters, there's a letter in "Oh, So?" which just about calls "Hero Bear and the Kid" the next Bone, as I did in a recent column. (A full review of the book will appear here in the forthcoming weeks.)
The even bigger thing was Peter David's "But I Digress" column, which neatly echoed and improved upon my comments about the John Byrne WIZARD interview a couple of weeks ago. Do yourself a favor and pick up this issue of CBG if it's still at your local comics shop. It's a good read, and people inside of it are in agreement with me! I love it when that happens.
V FOR VENDETTA
...is written by Alan Moore, drawn by David Lloyd and is available from Vertigo in TPB format. It's a serial which went on for a great period of time in the 1980s and is set in a fascist alternate timeline, in which the government allows for no privacy and rules with an iron first.
I read it on the plane rides to and from San Diego. Oddly enough, that severely hindered my enjoyment of it.
It's a great book. Well done. Well worth the read. But two little things threw me off.
First, the end of the story is about 30 pages before the end of the book. I'm reading the book expecting more story pages at the end. When the story ends, it's followed by a magazine article Moore did on the series. So the ending kind of rushed up on me, unexpectedly.
Secondly, I couldn't read it all in one sitting. My eyes starting getting bleary. So I read the first 3/4 on the way out, skipped four days, and read the last quarter on the way back home. I had forgotten a lot of details and names and situations. That softened the ending up for me, too.
But those are my idiosyncrasies. Read it at your own peril. It is a really good book. Just take notes or set aside a long afternoon to read it in one sitting. My lack of a rave review for the book at this point has more to do with the conditions in which I read it, than with any criticism of the story or art. So please read this review with a slight grain of salt.
THE SPAWN UNIVERSE GROWS IN A GOOD WAY
SAM & TWITCH #1 is well worth reading. Written by the Eisner Award-winning Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Angel Medina, it's an involving crime drama. And for those of you still stuck with all the wrong preconceived notions of Image Comics, I'll just let you know that the opening double-page spread has 41 panels in it. Sure, a lot of them are stats, and they're all talking heads shots, but it's oddly engrossing. Here's a down-on-his-luck cop talking to some complete stranger at a coffee shop. Bendis' ear for dialogue is pretty good and his eye for art is equally commendable. He leaves panels silent when it's obvious by the art what's happening.
Angel Medina's art has warped into something very similar to Todd McFarlane's in his latter days of drawing, in that his figure drawing all have the same points of exaggeration. But his storytelling is solid, his characters' range of emotions is nifty, and he draws backgrounds - even in those talking heads scenes.
The color -- provided by Todd Broeker, Jay Fotos, and Drew Hutchison - is very earthy. It's drab and dark and depressing. Even the blue of the cops' uniforms and the red of the cars' lights are muted to blend better into the almost-sepia toned backgrounds in spots.
John Roshell and Comicraft are doing something with the lettering I've not seen before. Basically, they eliminate the balloons and just have the words with a brief underline and a line pointing to the character. It lets the art show through better, I suppose. Also, the lettering is in mixed-case characters and not all uppercase. It may be strictly aesthetic, but that gives the book a more down-to-earth feel, and less of a superhero comic feel. (There's also no captions or thought balloons. The scene transitions are obvious enough and the thoughts of the characters are either easily-visible in their body language, or not for us to know at this point.)
The only real bugaboo I have with this comic is in one of its production values. The paper is such a glossy stock that it's sometimes tough to read a page with all the lights bouncing off it. It's not much fun having to tilt a comic all around to read the pages.
Also, this book does have a cover advisory that the story contains "coarse language." There's a good assortment of swear words in here, so be warned, parents! This one ain't for the little kiddies, nor is the story really for the faint of heart. There's some rough dismemberments going on in here.
If you want to see an example of a writer pushing the limits of the comics form, pick up TOMORROW STORIES #2. I haven't even read the other three short stories in this book yet. Everytime I pick it up I'm drawn to the first story. It's the Greyshirt story for the issue entitled "How Things Work Out" and is drawn by Rick Veitch. Picture a generational crime story, taking place in four different time frames, all at the same time. You know how some novels alternate segments of the story with each chapter? The odd numbered chapters take place 30 years ago, and the even numbered ones are "today"? Picture a comic story told in four panels to a page in which each panel is twenty years apart from the next. Then read the story one section from each year in rotation. Repeat for 8 pages, and watch everything come together in the end. It's the single-most impressive storytelling feat I've seen since that "SEONIMOD" story in SUPERMAN ADVENTURES #6. Heck, I'd like to see McCloud write a paper dissecting Moore's Greyshirt story.
DEADPOOL #33 is Joe Kelly's swan song and goodbye to the character and the book. What a terrific run it's been. I've called it here repeatedly the best examination of a character Marvel's ever published. And the ending is no different. It's a damned shame that Marvel hasn't been keeping up with this book and publishing it in TPB form every 6 issues or so. This is something that everyone should read. Fun stories, hilarious dialogue, deep psychological examination of a fictional character, and some hijinks along the way. Kelly leaves with a lot of untold tales, unfortunately, but he ends it his way. It forms a nice stopping point, if you're so inclined. I'll still be reading this title, but only because Christopher Priest is coming aboard. He's the only successor who I think could do justice to the title, but still take it his own way. We shall see.
One final note on this issue: In the midst of the greatest battle of his life, potentially, Deadpool stops to spend a page describing one of my favorite Chuck Jones cartoons of all time. It's brilliant, in its own way.
IMPULSE #54 uses the intrusive "Day of Judgment" crossover to focus on Bart's classmates. It's a simple story with no high drama, but just a nice character piece. For those of us coming back to IMPULSE after a bit of time away from the book, this is a nice new introduction to these characters. Todd DeZago writes and the Van Sciver/Rollins team put pretty pictures to it all. And, no, I refuse to spend this column comparing and contrasting this campfire-themed story with the insidiously evil "Blair Witch Project."
THE NEW WARRIORS #2 is good. I like it. Really. Jay Faerber is pacing this the way I would like it to be paced. It's an ensemble cast. Everyone gets a little bit of time. One character gets the focus. Things are constantly moving. The characters interact with each other. They don't remain stagnant and stuck in the same roles. And, of course, there's a certain moral message in the story to make the characters think. Steve Scott pencils, and Walden Wong draw it, keeping all the characters distinct and telling the story rather well. They don't rely on pinup pages or excessive captions to tell the story. If you're lucky and a fan of the first series, you can get the Darick Robertson cover, too.
PIPELINE BEHIND THE SCENES
One question that did come up in San Diego was that of the naming convention for these columns. If the first column is "Pipeline Commentary and Review," why isn't Friday's column "Pipeline Commentary and Review 2"? Why just "Pipeline2"?
There are a number of reasons for this. For starters, it's a matter of stubborn pride. I'm very proud of the fact that I can count how many consecutive weeks I've been doing this column by looking at the issue number atop the latest column. I didn't want to cheapen the number by incrementing it twice weekly.
Secondly, Pipeline2 was originally designed as an irregular column. I wasn't sure I would be able to write two full columns a week. So rather than sully the good and regular output of PCR, I wanted a different name for this column. Of course, it's turned out to be easier than I thought to write a second column every week. Heck, the way things are backing up here at Pipeline Central lately, I could probably write a third or fourth. I should probably channel that excess into letters columns or something. . .
Third, it's a different column. Pipeline2 is a single-topic column every week, more or less. The idea is to take one topic and write a full column on it. PCR is more guerilla warfare. I skip around a lot. I get a lot of little ideas and comments out there. It's more in line with the origins of the column, which was to condense a bunch of CompuServe and USENET posts into one large posting. And since I couldn't take the formality of doing nothing but reviews, the little bits of commentary help keep me interested in writing the column every week. Likewise, I couldn't do strictly commentary every week. I need the reviews to break things up. It's a lovely little relationship. Also, PCR is much more timely than P2. P2 is designed so that I could always write a bunch at a time and stockpile them if need be.
Speaking of which:
THIS FRIDAY IN PIPELINE2
Be here again on Friday for my proposal for what would make the mutant corner of the Marvel Universe worth reading again, without reservation. There are some of the usual complaints aimed at the Marvel editorial department, but also a few surprising notions, including the philosophy that you could, indeed, produce more X titles without hurting the franchise.
See you then!