THE NATIONAL CONVENTION
I attended the three-day National Convention in New York City a couple of weekends ago. Well, I only attended Saturday, but it did run for three days, and that's really important. You see, for some reason, New York City doesn't have a big convention. San Diego has one. Atlanta has one. Chicago has one. Ohio has one, for goodness sakes! And now New Orleans also has one.
I don't want to get into the state of conventions in NYC these days. There's already a lot out there written on it, and it's kind of depressing. It looks like things might start turning around. Oddly enough, as the reader pool for comics continues to shrink, the comic book conventions are getting bigger and bigger every year. San Diego and Chicago are attracting more attendees than ever. Mid-Ohio Con seems to be growing all the time and gaining greater respect with each con. Maybe this is all at the expense of the smaller shows that are now non-existent?
Anyway, back to the National: Neither Marvel nor DC attended, but Top Cow did. Top Cow is located in Hollywood, but they managed to get Michael Turner flown in for the show and a massive signing on Saturday afternoon. Awesome Comics was scheduled to be there, but understandably cancelled due to family concerns. In other words, two California-based comics publishers were booked for the show, but no Marvel or DC. How ludicrous is this?
This convention was much larger than the MSG Con, held last spring. There weren't as many creators, but there were more comic dealers, plenty of original art dealers, and a bevy of different media talent, from Babylon 5's Mira Furlan to Lost In Space's Mark Goddard.
Overall, I have to say it was a great con, but not without its faults. There were plenty of industry talents seen walking around the convention just as fans. The whole show was sold out, with no more room for more talent to set up shop. It's too bad. I'm sure there could've easily been twice as much comics talent at the show, had room not been reserved for stars of 1960s sci-fi TV shows and 1970s Playmates.
As such, the aisles were packed with barely any breathing room. Ah, how I missed San Diego. The con was split up on two floors. The second floor was the fourth floor, and contained the laughable area for "panels." It was maybe 50 folding chairs in front of a dais, mostly ignored by all. Peter Mayhew, STAR WARS' Chewbacca, was giving his presentation to the teeming masses of - about 6 people. That whole upstairs area was actually a mess. You had people clad in white makeup and black revealing leather exhibiting (in more ways that one) next to the FELIX THE CAT people, Pat and Shelly Block (Disney Duck writers), and Martin "Green Lantern" Nodell. Where's the kid-friendly portion of the con? Right next to the fantasy fetish artists! Yes, that makes perfect sense!
There was still an impressive list of comics guests. The one that I was happiest to meet at last was Brian Michael Bendis. You may remember him as the guy who won the Eisner Award for Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition. (Ain't that a mouthful?) You may know him best for writing SAM & TWITCH, which is what opened my eyes to his talent. He has a remarkable body of work for someone working in the shadows for this long. I know; I bought it all: FIRE, ESSENTIAL JINX, GOLDFISH, and a trio of one-shot comics. I'll be reviewing them all eventually, fear not. But for now, I'll answer the one question I was curious about. You can read this stuff in any order. FIRE is its own mini-series collected into one nice TPB. ESSENTIAL JINX and GOLDFISH contain the same characters and "universe," but can be read in either order. The one shots are filled with short little stories, completely disconnected. I'm reading them now and they're just as fresh and funny as Bendis, himself.
Oh, yes, he also just wrapped up the TORSO mini-series, which will be coming to a movie theater near you (courtesy Todd McFarlane Productions) in a year or two. I didn't pick up those issues, though. After all, if I liked all of the stuff I did buy, I'd want to get some more - and TORSO will be there for me in that eventuality. A collection of those issues probably won't come out until the movie does.
So the NATIONAL was a fun and exciting day of con-going. I hope it happens again, if only as an annual show. I also hope they can find a bigger location for it. The line when I got there at the opening on Saturday morning was only about 15 minutes long or so. I heard that on Friday it was closer to an hour.
More info can be had on the convention's official website.
REVIEWS GALORE (PART ONE)
I'm a big fan of what Kevin Smith did with Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti in the first 8 issues of the relaunched DAREDEVIL Marvel Knights series. I was looking forward to seeing what David Mack had hidden up his sleeve for this book. I've never read KABUKI (and I can see your letters extolling its virtues coming already), but I have flipped through it. It's a book marked with graphic design elements, particularly with the covers. Joe Quesada is a chameleon. Maybe "sponge" is a better term. He adds in different styles and flavors to his artwork. During the issues Smith penned, he went for an art nouveau look. With Mack on the book, he's incorporating elements of collage into his work and going wild with page designs.
Meanwhile, the story is interesting in and of itself. The Kingpin is back. Black Widow is around. Karen Page's ghost still lingers heavy over Matt Murdock's heart. Now we also have a new mystery woman, Maya Lopez, on the loose, with the uncanny ability to replicate any movement she sees. It's a neat trick, and this storyline looks like it could be great.
I also continue to be impressed by Brian Azzarello writing in 100 BULLETS. Now in its third storyline, the structure of the tale is different from the previous two, and also different from what we see in this week's VERTIGO: WINTER'S EDGE short story. It's a deceptively simple concept: Agent Graves comes by and gives somebody the means, motive, and opportunity for revenge. What they do is up to them. This story is called "Short Con, Long Odds" and follows what can best be described as a hustler and his enabler girlfriend, with his best friend the bookie. The ending is a nice blow to the gut. Turns everything around quite nicely. I can't wait for the second part next month. Eduardo Risso, as always, illustrates; Dave Johnson does cover honors.
BATMAN: WAR ON CRIME was not as bad as I feared it was going to be. It's still some of the usual "bash the rich" type stuff I expected, but it was toned back from my expectations, and the "rich" evil guy was portrayed pretty comically and stereotypically, so I suppose I shouldn't be that ticked. It's a fine book. The art by Alex Ross - which is what everyone buys these things for - is quite nice and looks magnificent at this large size. Paul Dini keeps things interesting. He doesn't try to weigh down the pages with extra heapings of captions, instead using only what little is needed to get across his point.
STUPID STUPID RAT-TAILS is the first of two mini-series being done before Jeff Smith commenced on the third and final act of the BONE saga. This one is written by Tom Sniegoski and drawn and lettered by Smith. It's an interesting mix. Sniegoski's story is more dense than Smith's usual fare. People who complain that BONE is too quick a read shouldn't have a problem here. This one is filled with Big Johnson Bone's tall tales. There's lettering packing most every panel. The storytelling is very different from Smith's usual stuff, which always melds so well the visuals and the narrative. This is a big uncomfortable, by comparison. That being said, though, it's still really enjoyable. It's a lot lighter than the Bone stories of late have been. There's lots of stuff happening. It fills in some background material in the saga quite nicely.
I don't have anything deep or philosophical to say about YOUNG JUSTICE #16 except to say that Todd Nauck's art (as inked by Lary Stucker) is the best I've ever seen from his pen yet.
I just watched L.A. CONFIDENTIAL. It reminded me a little of the latest issue of TRANSMETROPOLITAN #29. It also makes a terrific features-packed DVD.
I couldn't bring myself to buy SPYBOY #2. The first issue wasn't anything too special. It failed the "Flip Test of Interest" at the comics shop. And other on-line reviews I read bore out my suspicions - I'm not missing much.
SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL #96 shows off yet another undistinguished cover from Dwayne Turner and Danny Miki.
COMING FRIDAY IN PIPELINE2
Yes, Pipeline will be here on the (American) holiday weekend! Friday's column will feature more Reviews Galore, a commentary on DC's increased hardcover production, and some surprises. Then come back here next Tuesday for more comics reviews!
To all my fellow Americans, Happy Thanksgiving! To the rest of the world: Enjoy your Thursday.