Welcome to the 25th week of Pipeline at Comic Book Resources! To celebrate this monumental achievement, I bring you Yet Another Column. Enjoy!
BYRNE, BABY, BYRNE
Guess what, sports fans? John Byrne has produced readable work!
X-MEN: THE HIDDEN YEARS #1 was actually a nice little read. OK, maybe not so little. The issue is double-sized, and does contain a text piece in lieu of the letters columns. Bravo to Marvel for that. It's much better than another house ad in place of editorial material. Just to make the book even better, the public service anti-drug Spider-man insert isn't in here! Whoo-hoo! The book isn't without a couple of sort spots, but it's definitely entertaining.
We're taken back to the original team, and how they're managing with the returned Professor X back at the helm. Bobby - Iceman - isn't handling it all too well, actually, but the rest of the team (plus Lorna Dane and Havok) is along for the ride. There are some nice flashbacks to recap the continuity.
Byrne's visuals complement the story nicely. There's a nice selection of strong visuals to accompany the action scenes, and there are plenty of detailed backgrounds. Thanks to inker Tom Palmer, Byrne's annoying scratchy inking style is replaced by something which involves nicely-spotted blacks and lines which don't have needless breaks. I wonder what Mark Farmer could do with these pencils?
The story here is almost verging on self-parodying in bits. We're left with the assumption that Jean Grey is dead. I just laughed at that teaser. I hope Byrne is poking a little fun at himself and X-Men continuity with this. Heck, the whole issue reads like an excuse to get drunk with an X-Men drinking game. Jean Grey is assumed dead. Magneto appears as a major threat. Professor X is going crazy again, running the school like a paramilitary organization. There's a visit to the Savage Land. (It's quite nicely illustrated, by the way.)
It almost seems like Byrne is ripping himself off, too. In one scene, the hotheaded Iceman breaks open a spread of ice, as a way to show off. In so doing, a piece of ice knocks Lorna Dane across the forehead. Readers of JOHN BYRNE'S NEXT MEN should recognize this scene. In one of the original 8 page shorts that led into the series (DARK HORSE PRESENTS #54), Jack did the exact same thing to Bethany, albeit in showing off his newfound powers to Jasmine with a rather large boulder. Then, of course, another male - Danny - ran to her defense. (A further irony is how similar Nathan in that series looked to Cyclops, a resemblance that couldn't have been completely coincidental given his remarkable powers generating out of his eyes, which required visors to hide their awful disfigurement. Boy, that was a run-on sentence!)
Finally, Byrne is still lettering himself. I understand this helps tremendously in producing the title on time, but the lettering just bugs me.
I just took a second look through that issue of DARK HORSE PRESENTS. There's a chapter of the original SIN CITY serial by Frank Miller in there. Rick Geary has a couple of funny pages. There's the first chapter of NEXT MEN from John Byrne at his finest. And John Arcudi and Gray Morrow have a nice-looking detective serial. Compare that to today's DHP, which is made up of endless BUFFY, XENA, ALIENS, and PREDATOR stories. It's not the bastion of art it once was.
Another thought: Is THE MATRIX just a rip-off of NEXT MEN? Nah, not really. But more on that whole topic is coming up in this Friday's PIPELINE2. Be here for the grudge match: Grant Morrison versus the Brothers Wachowski.
SINK OR SWIM? SWIM
Erik Larsen brings a close to his run on yet another title this week, AQUAMAN. Unlike NOVA #7, I have no qualms with AQUAMAN #62. It's brilliant. Erik Larsen doesn't appear in the issue at all like in NOVA, but you can read the meta-text in this one a mile away. He used Aquaman as his mouthpiece, poking fun at himself, Peter David, Kevin Dooley, and more. It's also a nice wrap-up to his troubled year on the title. Everything gets wrapped up nicely and the final page leads graciously into what Dan Jurgens and Steve Epting have coming up starting with the next issue. I think I'll stick around for that.
PETER DAVID'S MIXED BAG
Where Erik Larsen and John Byrne shine this week, Peter David dims. SPY BOY #1 is not much worth reading. The first issue tells us next to nothing, other than a few pretensions at being like Austin Powers and being a self-aware comic parody. Pop Mhan's art is intentionally Manga-esque. But after reading this issue, I still have no idea what this series is supposed to be about, aside from a few hints here and there. Is it a Walter Mitty thing? (The boy daydreams about all sorts of stuff, only to have reality come back to hit him in the face.) Is he just plain schizo? Is this stuff truly happening?
YOUNG JUSTICE #15 takes on the school shootings issue in a different way from the norm. It's not a rampant student slaying this time out, but I'll say no more for fear of spoilers. I will say this affects Arrowette greatly. In writing this, Peter David shows how someone who is distraught and completely irrational often takes the simplistic views. The politician, trying to curry favor with the public, goes after the easy answer in blaming comic books and violent video games and movies. The young heroine, Arrowette, quickly blames the gun. The truth is that neither is completely to blame. If you handed me a gun, I wouldn't go shooting up everyone I didn't like. And even though I don't possess a gun, I'm not out looking for one because too much comics reading has caused me to want to inflict violence on my fellow man.
It's a subtle point, and one that I think David might have spelled out a little more fully. As it is, my initial review of this book was blasting PAD for his typical left-wing political stance, completely unbalanced. Upon further reflection and thought, it dawned on me that this is pretty smart writing. With some further investigation, it seems to be a point lost on many people. There's subtlety and then there's obtuseness. I think a more reasoned counterpoint (from Robin) would have helped to point out both side's lunacy.
The issue is a nice turning point for Arrowette's character. We've been told for a while now that the book was about to get dark and Arrowette would be the focus. It seems we have that, at last.
The art team of Todd Nauck and Lary Stucker really put a lot of work into this issue. Backgrounds are very detailed, contain MST3K in-jokes, and help set the scenes, something lacking in a lot of art these days.
Chuck Dixon writes to inform that his web site is handled by Scott McCullar. Scott designs and programs the things that Chuck throws at him.
And Jose deLeon writes to inform that the Liberty Meadows comic strip also appears daily on the web - with a one-week delay - at http://www.creators.com/comics/compage/lib.asp. For those of you who don't stop by twice a week, I reviewed Liberty Meadows, as well as Desperate Times and Mayberry Melonpool in PIPELINE2 last Friday. Check it out.