ART ADAMS ACTUALLY DRAWS SOMETHING MORE THAN A COVER!
The hidden gem of the week is the first 10 pages of LEGENDS OF THE DC UNIVERSE 80-PAGE GIANT. (It's also very difficult to say in one breath.)
It's a story featuring the Challengers of the Unknown, as written and inked by Karl Kesel, with pencils by Art Adams. In case you've forgotten who he is, he's the promising young upstart who penciled the ultra-popular and now, sadly, out of print LONGSHOT mini-series more than a decade ago. He did four issues of FANTASTIC FOUR at one point, with Walter Simonson. He's done a whole lot of covers, and the occasional one shot, but hasn't drawn the same thing for more than 3 months in a row since then, really. He blew his shot at big money during the boom in the early 90s by drawing just about nothing during that time. He created MONKEYMAN & O'BRIEN, which lasted all of four issues. Nowadays, he's imitated by professionals (many of whom got their starts copying his work), today's younger comics readers have no clue who he is, and the rest have almost ceased to care. It's a classic case of wasted talent. He's got a story in the upcoming DANGER GIRL SPECIAL one-shot this month. This is ironic given that J. Scott Campbell's earliest work on GEN13 was a blatant attempt to look like Art Adams, but without the polish. (Actually, all of Adams' characters look short. All of Campbell's look tall and lean.)
The funny thing is that Art Adams only draws one thing anymore - monsters. Granted, one should always play to one's strengths, but this is just repetitious. I'm holding out hope for this DANGER GIRL story. The GEN13 special he did a couple years back used dinosaurs. The FANTASTIC FOUR issues he did took place mostly underground with Mole Man and a bunch of monsters. He's done GODZILLA for Dark Horse. Wouldn't you love to see him draw people again? I'd love to see him do an X-MEN one shot, or a LONGSHOT mini-series. (There was a second LONGSHOT mini in the works a long time ago. I'm sure it's dead by now, but it amuses me that it was mentioned once in the letters column of an UNCANNY X-MEN issue that Art Adams was going to paint it himself. Rob Liefeld did the same thing and killed off the YOUNGBLOOD: YEAR ONE series Kurt Busiek was writing for him. ::sigh::)
In any case, the story here is nice. It's a relatively simple, straight-forward action/adventure yarn, with a mysterious beautiful Russian agent or two. I think I'd like to see more stories with the Challengers characters. I nominate Karl Kesel. Why not? He writes the best Kirbyan tales in SUPERBOY right now. I don't want to stereotype his writing, but let him do something he's good at.
You know what else is nice about Art Adams' work? You can follow the flow of the story easily enough. He puts as many panels on the page as are needed, not relying on heavy dialoguing to save his rear later on. His panel layouts aren't cool for the sake of cool. He uses more "old-fashioned" squares and rectangles with the occasional large circular panel.
NEW WARRIORS #4 is the first issue of the newly reborn series which left me cold. There's some nice "MTV REAL WORLD" moments going on in here, but the art by guest artist Karl Kerchl is too distracting. It's lot of thick thick black lines. (Let the manga readers get their kicks from Dark Horse books. Can we please put a stop to this trend of inserting everything manga into all American super-hero comics? It was cute the first couple of times.)
The storytelling is left lacking, including consecutive panels that leave more to the reader's imagination than there should be left. For example, at the bottom of page 8 we see a crate creaking open, with a red light inside indication an eye or something. On the top of page 9, we get a claustrophobic panel across the page showing us a series of villains. I suppose we can assume that these villains were hiding in the crates and just now busted out. But wouldn't it have been more dramatic to see shards of the crate on the ground? Or, better yet, to show the characters bursting out of the crate? There are also whole pages without any attempt to tell a story - it's just a series of cool images strung together in no formation whatsoever. UGH
It isn't all bad. Kerschl manages to draw female characters with somewhat realistic proportions.
Aside from that, buy this to keep the collection going, and hope for better next month.
The M. REX preview I got a hold of back in San Diego was a mess. There were three different, seemingly unconnected stories running through it. I held out the hope that Joe Kelly's script to the first issue of the on-going series would fare better. It does, but not by much. I'm still confused. There's some sort of revolt by the machines going on. There's an agent trying to stop this, with the help of his trained monkeys. There's a mysterious, philanthropic, and possibly magical, multi-millionaire. And then there's a spokes model who's clueless and ends up in the middle of everything. The narration is tough to focus on, because it seems to jump from viewpoint to viewpoint every other page. There's a glimpse of a dystopic future at the start that I assume the series is here to try to prevent.
The little boy is a the center of this all - make it easier to sell to Nickelodeon a little later, I suppose - and is looking for his parents, running with the help of a mysterious grandfatherly trenchcoat-wearing mentor.
The book itself looks nice. Duncan Rouleau's artwork is nicely done. The lettering is some of the smallest I've ever seen in comics, but it actually fits in with the artwork comfortably. There are those who will have to hold the book real close to their face to read the thing, though.
The three stories came together at the end of the issue, so things might be consolidating a little bit starting with the next issue. I hold out hope for this series yet, but unless things improve, I doubt I'll be with it past issue #3.
Speaking of a series of disconnecting characters linked together by nice art and some witty dialogue, we have Vertigo's THE WITCHING HOUR. What's going on here? I haven't a clue. Chris Bachalo gets to play with different artistic styles. Jeph Loeb gets to play with different accents and speech patterns. I'm left shaking my head and wondering what the point of this all is. At $6 an issue, I doubt I'll bother with the next issue. I've got too much other good stuff to read.
As if I haven't picked on the Superman titles enough lately . . .
Last month, Phil Jimenez did a set of four wonderful, interconnected, covers to celebrate the first month of the new creative teams on the SUPERMAN family of titles. They're continuing this with four covers by Dwayne Turner and Danny Miki. The only difference here is that the covers are uniformly uninspired and downright awkward. SUPERMAN #152 had Superman fighting Mongul. Maybe it's the coloring, but everything sort of blends together. Superman isn't even the dominant character on his own cover. The all-green background with Superman's blue costume doesn't help anything to jump off the cover and attract a potential reader's interest. This week's THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN is a simple cover image of Obsession pulling Superman close to her for a kiss. My first problem is that I thought it was Lois Lane dressed in an awful costume. The second issue is that the kiss doesn't come off right. Does anyone thing they're actually locking lips? Obsession looks downright bored on the cover. ::sigh:: (The story on the inside isn't much better. Personally, I think it might have made for a better story had Lois put on a costume and pranced around as if she were Mrs. Superman. Sure it would make no sense, but I have a perverse sense of humor.)
Can't wait to see what the next two covers look like.
THiS FRIDAY IN PIPELINE2
I've teased at a it a couple of times, and now you can finally read it! This Friday is my proposal for how the Gen13 franchise can be revamped, with an emphasis on character that hasn't been seen in the book for a long time.