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The second issue of DC's BATGIRL is just as good as the first issue was bad. I panned the first issue pretty vehemently. Thankfully, Scott Peterson and Kelley Puckett provide a touching, exciting, and important story for the second issue. The status quo changes. Batgirl learns a couple of important lessons. There's a schmaltzy moment or two that are handled without being obnoxious. It's a clever trick to pull off a touching moment without being heavy-handed or overbearing.
Damion Scott's artwork is easy to follow. Along with inking by Robert Campanella and coloring from Jason Wright and Jamison, it's a terribly dark book. I mean, this book looks darker than the titles starring BATMAN. But it's not done to such a degree as to make it hard to look at. It just fills the mood perfectly.
BATMAN GOTHAM ADVENTURES #24 is, well, the oddest BATMAN book I think I may have ever read. It's all in the ending. It's completely understated. It's very subtle. It's almost certainly going to go over some of the younger heads that are reading this book. Unfortunately, it gives the book something of a "thin" feel. You get a long build-up for the first 15 pages or so, and then the grand meeting between antagonist and protagonist just kind of fizzles. That's by design, but it doesn't mean the reader isn't left disappointed.
Tim Levins and Terry Beatty continue to pair up on some of the finest artwork in comics today, assisted by the coloring of Lee Loughridge. Heck, I like it so much I've bought a few pages of it. (It's also nice to own original art with the lettering on the boards...) It's simple, but without being simplistic. It tells the story, it shows remarkable style, and it can often be just as subtle as the storyline, but without being left unsure.
I enjoyed the issue, but I have my reservations about the story and the ending, which is certain to disappoint many of you.
In SUPERMAN #156 by Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness, and Cam Smith, things have gotten so bizarre with the Lois Lane/Clark Kent relationship breakdown, that I'm beginning to fear some sort of outside influence. I really hope I'm wrong and that there's no super-powered explanation for this speed bump in their marriage. That would just feel like cheating.
Starting at the end: The third story in the book is drawn by Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary, and written by Ben Raab. (Laura DePuy doesn't do the coloring here. Ben Dimagmaliw does, and does a pretty good job of it, often reminiscent of DePuy's AUTHORITY work.) It catches us up on Bliss and Evo, enjoying the seemlier side of New York City. It's pretty straightforward.
GEN-ACTIVE, the new WildStorm quarterly anthology series, debuted last week. It seems to exist for the purpose of catching us up with the now defunct DV8 team.
The leadoff story is from Jay Faerber, drawn by Dan Norton and Vince Russell. While the story is rather simplistic - a misunderstanding between Gen13 and DV8 ends up in a fight ending in a draw - Norton does an excellent job drawing the story in a Campbell-ian style. Fairchild loses most of her clothes at the first opportunity. The rest of the females are showing off their belly buttons, and the guys - well, who cares about them?
The middle story debuts a new character, whose name is not mentioned once in the course of the story. Huh? It's actually a cute little story, with some bad puns worthy of the campy 1960s Batman television series. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning write the 10-page story with a dark streak of humor running through it. Newcomer Dustin Nguyen draws, and Pipeline interviewee Derek Fridolfs inks.
For four bucks, it's a nice little package, albeit without anything outstanding in it. If you're a Wildstorm fan, you'll enjoy it. If you're a Hitch completist, you'll need to get it. If you're a die-hard Pipeline fan who wants to support Derek Fridolfs in his new career, you'll buy this.
THE DRAGON NOT AT HIS PEAK
You people want blood, you know that? Here you go:
THE SAVAGE DRAGON #71 is both entertaining and frustrating, with some wonderful bits lost amidst a ton of exposition and plot-heaviness. It's a victim of the Grand Plans for #75. Erik Larsen is trying to wrap up lots of stiff, while bringing everything else to the point where the story has to be for the giant-sized anniversary issue's grand bombshell.
The issue starts off really well, with a great scene between Dragon and Horridus that I can't explain here because this is a family-oriented column. It's a completely different take on imitative behavior and the influence of movies and television. It's the kind of thing Dragon fans like myself live for - just off-center enough to blow your mind. (No pun intended if you know what I'm talking about.)
But then the plot gets in the way. I don't know what's worse, to be honest: the fact that there are a ton of caption boxes to explain everything that's going on to newer readers, or the fact that even with those boxes, I'm having a rough time keeping track of everything. ::sigh::
The sheer number of characters and interweaving plotlines going on in this title are becoming something of a hindrance. I'm almost beginning to look forward to the 75th issue so we can reset the table, so to speak, and start relatively clean.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT: FANTASIA 2000
It'll be at IMAX through the end of April and then you'll probably see it at your local movie theater over the summer. Although it doesn't really take full advantage of the "IMAX Experience" - sometimes bigger is just bigger - it's still a wonderful film, with lots of great pieces and some wonderful music. Oddly enough, my favorite is by far the shortest. Set to "Carnival of the Animals" there's a wonderful slapstick bit with flamingos and a yo-yo. I probably liked it so much because I was a yo-yo guy when I was 13 or so. So I could name most of the tricks that the flamingo did in the short.
The second favorite goes to Donald Duck and the retelling of the story of Noah's Ark, set to "Pomp and Circumstance." This one gets the award for most clever, as well. There are lots of little things to pick up on. The dragon and the unicorns laugh at all the animals paired off for going into the ark. At the end of the ride, the two rabbits have already multiplied. The snails are the last off the boat. Inbetween, there's some great slapstick bits.
"Rhapsody in Blue" was better the first time when Warner Bros. did it and called it "Rhapsody in Rivets." That's too harsh, actually. It's a well-done piece that looks like a classic Merry Melodies short, though. Its style is modeled after Abe Hirschfeld's artwork, and done convincingly so. The characters are very lively and animated.
"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" should never have been brought back. It's monstrously ugly up on the big IMAX screen. The original elements to the film are close to 60 years old now, so we're not expecting the best picture. But the graininess is expanded upon greatly when the image gets blown up to this size and it becomes completely unappealing. Besides, if we were going to get something that monstrously grainy, I'd rather it have been "Night on Bald Mountain." (Too bad it's not cute enough for Disney.)
Obligatory Comics Reference #1: You're better off looking at the Disney Comics adaptation of "The Sorceror's Apprentice" printed almost ten years ago upon FANTASIA'S 50th anniversary.
The final piece, "Firebird Suite," has some definite anime elements as the spirit of the earth is shown in death and renewal.
As nice as the animation is done, there are other less terrific elements. Each short has an introduction by a celebrity: Steve Martin, Quincy Jones, Penn and Teller, and Bette Midler, to name a few. But Angela Lansbury doesn't translate convincingly onto a 6 story-tall movie screen. In fact, she's rather scary.
Also, Disney's gargantuan ego gets in the way again. The most laughably ludicrous bit of staging is their advertising inside the theater that they created a unique orchestral layout for the movie. You have the woodwinds over here, the percussion in the back, the strings out front, and - the artists off to the left. Yes, sitting in with the orchestra is a couple dozen animators at drawing tables. They're perched behind light boards with no visible light source underneath them. I guess they draw to the music. I'm reminded of the line from THE SIMPSONS in which Homer is told that they don't do live animation anymore because it was hell on the animators' wrists…
The introductions are often self-congratulatory pieces of nonsense, as the celebrities opine about how brilliant the Disney animators are to come up with such concepts as the whales and ice for "Pines in Rome."
Obligatory Comics Reference #2: One of the artists listed in the credits on FANTASIA 2000 is Jeffrey Purves. I do believe this is the same guy who drew THE INCREDIBLE HULK in the pre-Keown days.
It's definitely worth going to. It's a good experience. Just look past the Disney bluster and arrogance and enjoy the bits of animation between.
Speaking of animation:
PIPELINE AD OF THE WEEK
...has to go to one of my favorite television shows, FAMILY GUY. It's so good that some weeks I honestly believe it's funnier than THE SIMPSONS. The ads for it lately have been great fun. The television spots all seem to include little bits from the recent movie, MAGNOLIA. The print ad showing up in DC Comics this past week is a direct spoof of one of the most over hyped shows in recent memory, THE SOPRANOS. Check it out next time you're in the comics shop. It's worth it.
COMING THIS FRIDAY TO PIPELINE2
We'll have assorted various bits of nonsense: Some final words on discussions about favorite writer/artists and favorite comics lineup. A look through what the latest PREVIEWS has to offer. Plus, some more stuff I can't think of right now. Trust me. I've been doing this for almost three years now. I know what I'm doing.