LET'S START WITH MONDAY
Remember the "Bar Wars" episodes of CHEERS? Think of that situation taking place in high school and drawn in a manga style with some extra gray tones added in. Throw Oni Press into the mix and you get BLUE MONDAY, a new title from Chynna Clugston-Major.
I'm still not entirely sure what to think of this book. While some bits of it are clever, and the comic as a whole is entertaining, I just don't care about any of these people. Nobody wins, you don't really root for anyone, and the pranks get progressively sicker. Oh, yeah, this probably isn't a book for the young kids, either. Lotsa porn and pubes here… Picture a dirty version of ARCHIE. (Yeah, I admit it. I only threw those last two sentences in there to fool the search engines into listing this page more often. ;-)
It seems entirely possible right now that the new Superman creative teams don't understand the concept of a "fresh start" or a good "jumping-on point for new readers." This week's SUPERMAN #157 takes all those concepts and throws them out the window. It pulls the rug out from under the readers' collective feet, and not in the good way. Finally, we discover the reason for Lois' pissy behavior of late. Even worse than the fact that it is super-villain related, it deals with a mutation of a classic super-villain's powers that anyone who just started reading the books with Loeb/Kelly/etc. would not have the first clue about, as it happened the month before Loeb/Kelly/etc. took over. (This point will be up for some debate, but I can't debate it here without spoilers. Lemme leave it at this: It might have been hinted at, but we didn't see enough evidence to believe it. Chekov's rule: Plant the gun on the mantle in the first act if you're going to fire it in the third.)
I ended up reading the entire issue scratching my head. I had no idea what was going on.
Editorial doesn't help, either, in providing absolutely no footnotes to explain which issues all these events happened in. The cynic in me thinks they were hoping we wouldn't notice.
On the other hand, my one quip from a couple of months ago about seeing a tussle between Lois Lane and Superman did come true this month!
After something like this, I'm a little worried about some of the future plans I've heard in line for the Superman family. New costumes, larger storylines… Uh oh.
The previous week's ACTION COMICS #765, however, was a great example of what this revamp should be more about: Fun. Harley Quinn and The Joker come by to visit. It's the kind of craziness that Joe Kelly handles best. He does a great job with the Joker. He does a good job stuffing the words in Harley Quinn's balloons - almost as good a job as Harley does stuffing balloons down her jacket. (It's a visual gag. Check the book. Trust me on this.) Harley goes head to head with Luthor bodyguard Mercy. I had never thought of it before, but they do share a lot in common with their jobs.
Artists Kano and Marlo Alquiza do a nice job illustrating this one, keeping everything light and expressive. Kano's more iconic illustrations give him the opportunity to draw some of the more outlandish parts of this book without making them look forced or silly. An Alan Davis, for example, would have a tough time pulling off some of the hijinks here. I'm sure he could do it, but his more naturalistic art style wouldn't convey it as well.
FASTER THAN A SPEEDING BAT
(Authot's side note: That headline is the comics equivalent of a mixed metaphor.)
BATMAN GOTHAM ADVENTURES #25 is not just an excellent comic for the kiddies back at home, it's a flat out great comic for any DC super-hero fan. The Flash comes to visit Gotham City and Batman's none-too-happy. Scott Peterson does a terrific job at depicting the relationship between the bright speedster and the dark knight. He maintains a cutting sense of humor throughout the book, without sacrificing the characters. Batman doesn't come as the completely unsympathetical territorial louse you may be expecting either. This isn't the same relationship he has with Superman. Tim Levins art is - ah, hell, why repeat myself? Levins' art is terrific and I'll just leave it at that before I start drooling over it again. As always, this one's worth a look.
MEANWHILE, IN SPAWN LAND…
SAM & TWITCH #9 is the perfect jumping-on point for those of you who were slacking off since August when the book first premiered. The story is complete in this issue, and is a first-person POV of the worst day a guy could have. Told from the point of view of a criminal having a really really really bad day, Sam and Twitch barely rate supporting roles in this book, and even Spawn makes a neat little cameo. (Or, at least, his cape does.) Writer Brian Bendis does a great job in filling the slow opening with captivating dialogue that will draw you in despite yourself. Picture reading three pages from a fixed perspective of people playing a really slow game of poker. It could have easily put the reader to sleep, but it doesn't here.
The art also does a nice job of keeping the book realistic and grounded. Jamie Tolagson's line work is not flashy and cool like Angel Medina's. It gets the job done. It has solid anatomy and perspective. (In a story like this, perspective is everything. =) Meanwhile, Jay Fotos' colors are completely muted, almost entirely in shades of brown and gray with a few dirty blues mixed in. This is a look that the BATMAN family of titles could look towards for their inspiration with their color-keying attempts. The colors aren't kept flat. They blend in more together to be less stylistic.
CLAREMONT RETURNS, PART TWO
There's one line of X-Men stories I've never been very fond of. It's those stories that are completely teep-based. There's nothing more tedious for me than Psylocke or Charles Xavier on the astral plane in outlined form fighting some evil villain. As much as I love cerebral characters, that's taking things one step too far.
I think this might help explain my disappointment with UNCANNY X-MEN #381, Chris Claremont's return to the book he made #1 way back when. On the other hand, maybe this set of characters is just less interesting to me.
Gambit has been an enigma to me since I returned to the X books. Cable holds little interest for me, since they rethink him every six months and make him into someone completely different. Playing the role of good son to Jean Grey is just the latest weirdness. And we really don't see Ororo do anything this issue except use her powers once or twice. This is all in stark contrast to X-MEN #100, where we learned about the powers and the characters of the new team. It all struck me as being somewhat interesting. Here, it has a little further to go. This rehashes a lot of ground around Jean Grey. The Phoenix is back, her powers are out of control, and she may be dead at the end of the issue. Ooh, haven't seen that one before!
That said, the action sequences are still masterful, and Adam Kubert's art is a feast for the eyes. I wish John Workman were lettering him here like he lettered him on HULK a while back, but that's a minor complaint. It's fun every month to see where Kubert will play with his art style to achieve a certain effect. His panel layouts are also very differentiated from issue to issue without ever resorting to confusion.
I can truly say this of this book: So long as Adam Kubert is illustrating it, no issue could ever be boring. Even on a book whose plot would put you to sleep, Kubert's experimentation would make for interesting visuals.
BATGIRL: DC'S ROLLER COASTER OF QUALITY
The first issue was awful. The second issue was terrific. BATGIRL #3 is somewhere in the middle. I think the emotional impact of the ending of this story might be much stronger if the reader had followed Batgirl's introduction into continuity during No Man's Land. Since I didn't do that, it's partially lost on me. It seems that there's a big revelation at the end of this issue for Batman, but from what I've read in the first couple of issues of this series, it doesn't seem like such a big deal. Otherwise, the rest of the issue is pretty fairly clear and interesting. Batman takes a direct involvement in Batgirl's development, clashes out with Oracle, and learns a lesson or two.
QUICK PLUG - @VENTURE
If you haven't already, check out Steven Grant's latest venture, @Venture. I haven't read too much stuff there yet, but I have had fun with the few short stories I've read. Look for Kurt Busiek's short stories, in particular. I have to admit that I haven't had the time or inclination to read the longer or on-going pieces. If anyone has and has some recommendations, let me know.
We live in a time where money is so hard to come by in this industry that Alan Moore works for DC, Frank Miller is doing DARK KNIGHT II, and small indy publishers put out naked leather cover variants. So let's support these good writers' prose, just in case it's all we have left of them in a year or two. (Pardon me for sometimes falling into the "Woe Is Us" routine.)
THE GREAT FRANK MILLER POLL
Frank Miller is going to do THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS 2 for DC. Allow me to don my Mr. Cynic cap and run a poll.
As I write this, Miller hasn't had a chance to discuss this with the comics press. So let's prognosticate: Why do you think he will say he's doing this?
- The money.
- If Alan Moore would work for DC, however indirectly, then why can't I?
- In the past 15 years, I've matured as an artist to the point where I feel comfortable in drawing this dream project I've always wanted to do but didn't feel I was ready for. I've reached the level of skill and talent I think necessary to pull off this feat.
- I need the money.
- It's been 15 years. How long am I supposed to hold a grudge?
- I just wanted to work on something fun.
- Needed to keep my wife busy, so I'll give her this to color.
- DC owns everything else, so why not me, too?
- SIN CITY sales suck and I really need the money.
- I'm doing this as the storyboard for the next Batman movie.
FRIDAY IN PIPELINE2
I'll take a little look at the Eisner Awards nominations and some of my choices, plus a couple of e-mails from someone I can only refer to as "Pipeline's Biggest Fan." Please join me then, won't you?
And next week: Pipeline Commentary and Review #150! How do we celebrate this divisible-by-25 anniversary? I have no idea. Got any suggestions?