The whole recent discussion raging through the pages of Pipeline recently was brought up by SON OF SUPERMAN, a graphic novel released initially in hardcover format by DC Comics. After debating the point of releasing such original work in such an expensive format, many people asked me if the book was worth reading. Such was not the point of the previous discussion of format.
Such is the point of this week's column, though.
I'll make the long story short: It's a fine story. But I wouldn't pay $25 for it. If they release it in softcover for ten bucks, it might be worth a look. It's the story of the son of Superman realizing his powers, hooking up with a band of terrorists (led by Pete Ross and Lana Lang), and coming to grips with his powers - while bringing down society as he's grown up to know it in the wake of Superman's disappearance and presumed death. The JLA are in it with a rather large role. The whole tone of the book is very nicely conspiratorial, with new divisions amongst the rank and file. Society has come to peace, but at what price?
Writers Howard Chaykin and David Tischman get their digs in at Republicans, which is kind of like biting the hands that feed them since only their stereotypically rich Republicans could afford the book.
J.H. Williams III puts in some very nice artwork, some of which is slightly reminiscent of Travis Charest's stuff. Mick Gray inks.
It's an interesting book, but I wouldn't normally pay that much for it. Borrow a friend's copy or wait for a softcover edition if you have to read it.
DC released another hardcover this past week, too, called THE CHALICE. It's a Batman story by Chuck Dixon, with art from John Van Fleet. In it, Bruce Wayne is revealed to be a descendant of the protectors of the Holy Grail. When the Grail comes into his possession, all hell breaks loose. Azrael, Penguin, Catwoman, R'as Al Ghul, Two Face, Oracle, and more guest star in this book. It's nicely put together by Dixon and does tend to run against his usual action-packed format. It's slightly more cerebral as the characters have to assess themselves in the shadow of an artifact that's bigger than all of them combined. This isn't to say it's all talking heads. Nope, most of it is still action, but some of it is in the form of flashbacks, and the action scenes are more subdued than usual. Dixon also gives Alfred a chance to shine, which is really nice to see.
John Van Fleet's art take some getting used to. I'm assuming he did it on the computer, pasting together pen and ink drawings, with painted backgrounds, and adding in more elements straight from the computer. Picture Dave McKean's SANDMAN covers. That's sort of the style, except with a narrative bent. Some of it's ugly, some of it's gorgeous, and some of it sticks out like a sore thumb. Van Fleet definitely gets bonus points for the second panel of page 50, which positions Oracle in a very familiar Christian pose. (I don't mean the usual crucifixion pose we see all dead bodies floating in the water assuming in movies.) In fact, those two pages with Oracle are probably the strongest blend of media used in this book, combining computer-generated stuff with pen and ink and paintings.
The dust jacket on this one is much better than the Superman book's. It's actually glossy on both sides, so you don't have to fear visible fingerprints showing up. It also helps that the cover is not mostly white. This is Batman, after all. This book is mostly black ink.
However, in the end my review ends up being the same - nice book but I'd rather not pay $25 for it, even with 95 pages of story. If you're the type whose budget won't be hurt by it, then by all means go ahead and buy this one. I think I prefer the Batman book over the Superman book. If you're more into alternate futures or JLA stuff, then go for the SON OF SUPERMAN, though.
It must be the season for high-ticket items not worth the price. From Image Comics this week, we have LILI #0. Brian Michael Bendis writes it from a story co-conceived with Michael Yanover. John and Jason Waltrip draw it. It's a 41 page black and white story about the "second coming" of Adam's first wife, Lilith. She shows up as Mardi Gras and madness ensues. The story is too straightforward. There's plenty of background provided and a little bit of characterization. But, in the end, it feels like nothing happens. The first solution works. There is no real danger presented to the protagonists. I just don't care about them. And for $5, I wanna care about someone. (The cover price is $4.95 for a heavier cardboard cover, extra-length story, and little in the way of ads.) I can buy a paperback at the bookstore for that much, for goodness' sakes. The art is OK. It uses something akin to greywashes, along with a little digital wizardry for background scenes and lettering.
Again, it might be fine for a breezy read if you've got a friend whose copy you can borrow, but I wouldn't waste my money on this again. That being said, this might work as a pilot for a series. It is issue #0, which tends to make one believe they're putting this out in hopes of following it with a series. If that's what it is, then I wish them luck. Maybe something other than the origin story would provoke some better, more exciting, stories.
THE COPYBOOK TALES CREW
THE COPYBOOK TALES was a terrific title utilizing plenty of 1980s nostalgia produced earlier in this decade. It started out as an ashcan-size comic, self-published. Eventually, it moved to Slave Labor Ink. for a short run before finances dictated it end, as other opportunities came up for its creators, writer J. Torres and artist Tim Levins. It's been a few months since Pipeline caught up with these two guys, so let's look at what we've got.
Coming soon from Image Comics is MONSTER FIGHTERS INC.: THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS. It's a color one shot, 22 pages. It's written by THE COPYBOOK TALES writer J. Torres, and drawn by Francis Manapul and Rob Ross. For those of you who were disappointed in the first issue, I think this issue will impress you. It's leaps better than the first issue that came out in the spring. It's more directed, more focused on individual characters, and easier to read. (The lettering snafu that caused the unusually small fonts the first time out aren't present here.) Manapul's art is nice to look at, too. It's slightly manga influenced, but not nauseatingly so. It's just slightly cartoonier than your standard superhero book. His characters look great, with decent enough anatomy and body language.
The team gets snowed in together and begins to get on each other's nerves, causing three to claim their quitting. That night, each is visited by a ghost, and light is shed on their characters in classic Christmas Carol fashion. The plot device is relatively old, but is handled well here. Even more so than the last issue, this one makes me want to learn more about these interesting characters. It will be a very frustrating issue, indeed, if it doesn't lead into an on-going series or mini-series.
Image recently announced that a second SIREN mini-series would be on its way in the spring. Let's give J. Torres another shot at putting food on the table. Buy MFI and support more of these books. They're charming and just a good bit of fun.
Torres' SIREN and COPYBOOK TALES partner Tim Levins continues to acquit himself well with his art over on the pages of his regular monthly gig, BATMAN GOTHAM ADVENTURES. While Scott Peterson's story in the latest issue -- the twenty-first - is slightly too straightforward for me, Tim Levins' art is still wonderful to read. He leaves plenty of room for the colorist to shine and gives everyone a very animated perspective.
He's established quite a name for himself on the book now. It's good to see he's kept the pace with the monthly schedule on this book. Comparisons are already being made to Mike Parobeck. While I don't think he's come that far just yet, he is the best penciller the animated Bat-books have seen in a long time.
FRIDAY IN PIPELINE2
Be sure to stop back on Friday as we take a trip down memory lane to the period of UNCANNY X-MEN between issues #206 and #255. With Chris Claremont taking over the X-Men titles again, I thought it was time to look back at the often forgotten or ignore period of books. After the Byrne/Austin years, it seems only Paul Smith gets any respect for his run on the book, completely ignoring all the work John Romita Jr. and Marc Silvestri did. Is it right? Come back here on Friday to find out.