…is just sick. If it weren't for the hilariously creepy dialogue from Warren Ellis, there'd be no way I could recommend this book to anyone but one with a cast iron stomach and strong constitution. By the way, this one is definitely not for the kiddies in any possible way. The language is foul and the images are mind-numbingly disgusting. In fact, the art by Mike Wolfer isn't top notch. He can draw great cars and good technical things. But his humans always stand somewhat stiffly.
Not much happens in this issue. We're introduced to a couple of characters right from the start that end up dead after their action scene. Then we get to the person who is probably the main character, a couple of odd and sick sick things happen and it's the end of the story already. I guess the next couple of issues explain the whys and wherefores.
I don't know if this is standard operating procedure with Avatar, but it looks like they're milking their potential new audience for what it's worth with this book. The last 10 pages are a catalogue of their other titles, complete with ordering form!
I do give them credit for one thing: the book is priced at three dollars even. Not two dollars and ninety-five or ninety-nine cents. Nope. Three bucks even. I wish Image and the rest of the independents would follow suit. That nickel doesn't bother me so much, and it's only usually used so you can claim your book is "under" $3. You're not going to fool me. While we're at it, let's have Marvel and DC publish their standard books for two dollars even instead of a buck-ninety-nine. Who are they fooling?
Did I mention, by the way, that STRANGE KISS is a sick sick book?
YEAR-END WRAP UP: DISAPPOINTMENTS
Rather than do a Year End list for everything, I'm going to sprinkle these "awards" out a little bit for the next few weeks. We start with the biggest disappointment for 1999: The lack of Disney Duck comic books. Gladstone ceased publication of the Disney comics (UNCLE $CROOGE and WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES) at the end of 1998, because it just wasn't profitable to renew the license. Really, Disney made licensing life hellish for Gladstone. It's no secret that ever since then, Diamond Distributors owner Steve Geppi has been in negotiations with Disney to take over the license, with the potential of even bringing some of the previous Gladstone staff over to work on the books. A year later, the lawyers still aren't finished talking. Why Disney would want to haggle so much on this minute portion of their business is beyond me. If nothing else, it's good free advertising to have their characters out there in another place for the kids to see in good quality stories.
(Can you believe I just went from talking about STRANGE KISS to UNCLE $CROOGE? What a weird column this is shaping up to be.)
Other disappointments: The Awesome Entertainment second coming. We were supposed to get SUPREME back and the rest of the Alan Moore scripts on some sort of schedule. We've gotten none of it.
WILDCATS didn't panned out, either, mostly due to Travis Charest's admitted inability to draw on a deadline and then to ignore everything the writer puts in the script. His next assignment is already set, albeit unannounced. I hope it's some sort of mini-series or one shot. He'll never produce work regularly.
Too many series got cancelled before their time this year, the worst of them being Keith Giffen's VEXT, his last regular comics work as of this writing. It was a hilarious book, and acted as a great showplace for the art of Mike McKone and Mark McKenna. The two have since been able to secure bigger and better things, and hopefully will end up working together again on one of the monthly Superman titles.
We lost Warren Ellis from HELLBLAZER too soon. Both sides can claim all they want that it isn't about DC censorship, but that's what it is, whether it's on the surface or not. DC is slowly showing itself to be the skittish company. It's a cyclical thing, I presume, and works the same way everywhere. When something's not popular and nobody cares, the creators get plenty of freedom. Once it becomes popular or takes center stage, suddenly editorial feels the need to stifle it or take it over. Look at what happened with Peter David and HULK. It's a classic case. HELLBLAZER fell more victim to the post-Columbine stupidity that grasped this country from all sides, but that skittishness comes from a belief that people are looking at them.
Meanwhile, all the good creators are moving to at Marvel.
ARIA started off strong and then Jay Anacleto proved to be Travis Charest's long lost twin brother, incapable of producing any sort of work. With the focus off the art, the story's numerous faults showed through.
Next week: Best Books of 1999.
AQUAMAN #63 was a pleasant surprise. I'm not really a huge Aquaman fan. When Peter David started the series, I bought it for his writing. I didn't last much longer than six months, though, because I didn't see anything particularly special. When Erik Larsen came aboard, I jumped back in. I liked it, despite the faults of editorial interference and artistic hideousness. I'm sticking around now because I wanted a look at Steve Epting's art and because Dan Jurgens has generally entertained me. But, still, I wasn't expecting too much. I must confess, though, that I liked this. From William Kaluta's gorgeous cover to Steve Epting's smooth art, it's a winner. Dan Jurgens is promising an epic battle, and is using a flashback narrative device to get us there. It's a great way to do it, because it cranks up the anticipation and suspense just a bit. Instead of ending with a bang, we get the bang and then a brief subtle hint of what's to come. It works well.
One is also left to wonder if Jurgens is a Babylon 5 fan. Not only is the storytelling technique strongly reminiscent of it, but the hidden narrator on the second page refers to the "third age of" Atlantis. This was the same turning point as B5. (Yeah, I'm probably reaching here. Allow me one of those once in a while, eh?)
X-MEN: THE HIDDEN YEARS #3 was an enjoyable read, too. I don't really have much more constructive to say past what I've previously written about John Byrne's series. So I'll just stick with that. It's nice to be able to look at Byrne's art again without wanting to scream at him for not finishing a line, and using more small and useless lines. (Remember when that was the knock against Image? Byrne's art was starting to look just as scratchy.) Tom Palmer's inks are a huge help for this series.
DEADPOOL #36 reveals the identity of Wade Wilson's father. Or does it? Last I heard, this idea was nixed by editorial, so don't be surprised to see the next issue clarify the ending of this issue. It's still crazy fun, courtesy of Christopher Priest, Paco Diaz, and Andy Smith. It also sports a great gorilla/gorilla cover.
J. Michael Straczynski's RISING STARS #3 is a pretty good story. It's still, however, a series with much more promise than actual excitement. But I'm in this for the long haul. I'm sure it will pay off. The ground work is just being laid now. The switch in artists from Keu Cha to Christian Zanier was supposedly to give the characters a more emotional look. The complaint was that Cha was too technical and his figurework suffered for it. Zanier may make his characters look more emotional, but he has a long ways to go before his characters' anatomy looks right. He still has that same kind of amateur ability to draw heads incorrectly fixed on bodies. It's the kind of thing I remember seeing come from Rob Liefeld's studio in the early Image days when he was hiring new talent. They still hadn't gotten it right when it came to placing a head believably on a body. (See Marat Mychael's work, for one.) It's either that or the faces end up looking two-dimensional, like they're flatly painted on the characters' heads. Very odd look. The color scheme has brightened up slightly out of the normal Top Cow earth tones, but it's not enough. This book is still struggling artistically and, I fear, taken a step backwards with the departure of Cha.
FRIDAY IN PIPELINE2
This Friday brings a full review of THUNDERBOLTS in the wake of the change of writer from Kurt Busiek to Fabian Nicieza. Be here then to find out what I think he's doing right and wrong with the book.