A SMATTERING OF REVIEWS
THUNDERBOLTS #39 has one of the best fight scenes I've ever seen in comics. The usual crew of Fabian Nicieza/Mark Bagley/Scott Hanna/Joe Rosas/Comicraft handles the creative chores here. It's just about an entire issue devoted to a fight between Baron Zemo and the Scourge of the Underworld. It is done so well, I'd recommend it to any comics writer wannabe who wants to learn this part of the craft. This is textbook material.
It's a one-on-one fight that relies on thought and power. Zemo is on the ropes, constantly on the run, trying to figure out how to beat an opponent who outmatches him weapon-wise and has the drop on him information-wise. Zemo knows neither whom it is he's fighting, nor what he's capable of. In the middle of this, there aren't any breaks for speeches back and forth. All of the thought is done in the character's heads, as they reason out what's going on. Even that is handled realistically, as Zemo doesn't get much time to think due to the fast and furious assault upon him. The ending is dramatic and emotional, although it relies on what will probably amount to another fairly obscure piece of Marvel historical trivia. Nevertheless, it's still a lot of fun.
THUNDERBOLTS continues to be Marvel's most exciting and mysterious series. I just hope its readership never takes that for granted.
TOP TEN #8 gets points for having the most winks towards its readers than any comic since KINGDOM COME or MARVELS. Forget all the background cameos you may have seen in those books. Zander Cannon and Gene Ha put them to shame by sheer numbers. Just about every time-traveling or flying genre character you can remember is in here, from ASTRO BOY to the casts of STAR TREK and STARGATE. (Heck, RUN LOLA RUN even sneaks in another appearance here. She's becoming quite popular in comics these days…)
The story itself is kind of thin this month. It seems Alan Moore is using it to introduce us to a new facet of life in this universe, and bridging over to the next big storyline with Corbeau going off to a parallel earth.
The main plot is, yes, similar to that much-remembered HOMICIDE storyline where Vincent D'Onofrio gets stuck under the subway car. That episode is a really good one and if PBS ever repeats their documentary on it, do yourself a favor and watch it. (Oddly enough, one of the stations in my area did just that last week.) I'm fairly certain the plot isn't original to HOMICIDE, either, though it may just be urban legend at this point.
SUPERMAN: METROPOLIS SECRET FILES & ORIGINS #1 doesn't have a triangle on the cover, but the story does take place between SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL #101 and ACTION COMICS #766. It doesn't really matter, though. The story stands fine on its own within the on-going storylines. Joe Kelly writes the main story in this one, with art from Pascual "Heroes for Hire" Ferry. It's a good excuse to take a tour around Metropolis and introduce us to a lot of the corners in the newly updated city, as Hope and Mercy go on the hunt for Lois Lane. Kelly also goes further in developing these two characters in this one issue than anyone else has since they were introduced a few months back. They're more than the good-looking Amazons the Super-crew lifted from the animated series. They're starting to show their individuality now, and the fact that they do have their own minds. The profile page featuring them - with some gorgeous Stuart Immonen artwork - also seems to be hinting towards a few mysteries yet to be unveiled surrounding these two. I hope we get to see those soon.
There's also a short Steel story by Mark Schultz and Cully Hamner that discusses the Lexcorp/Steelworks rivalry in the city. The very last story in the book is a 5 pager centering on a female electric blue Superman who is "Strange Visitor." Of course, there's no bio page for her, even though she had a great big impact on Superman's life recently. I'm still in the dark about her. Jeph Loeb writes and Jeff Matsuda draws. This is interesting because it reteams the creators of Kaboom. It's also interesting because it's a story that Jeph Loeb wrote that Comicraft didn't letter. This one's actually hand-lettered. The whole package looks great, though.
The rest of the book is composed of "profile pages" of some villains and a lot of Metropolis geography.
The latest ACTION COMICS pairs Batman up with Superman again. This time, Batman shows Superman some tough love. He's helping him out of personal friendship, and treating his case like he'd treat any other. It's a fascinating situation confronting two strong personalities against each other. Neither side is the overall winner, and there's plenty of stuff to think about, if you choose to read it on that level.
Cary Nord is the guest artist on this issue, and I'm a bit wary of his work here. I've liked Nord's stuff in the past. His heavy blacks work well for a Batman appearance in the title, but his Superman looks awful. I'm trying to convince myself that he's drawing Superman's head that far off-model in order to show Superman's poor state of health, but I can't help wonder if he just isn't suited to drawing Superman. His layouts start strong on the first page, and then wander in and out the rest of the issue.
Ian Churchill does the cover, and it looks like he's learning at the Rob Liefeld Pin-Headed Artistic Institute. Explain something else to me - how is Superman's right hand linked to his wrist? If nothing else, his thumb is jutting WAY too far out.
I don't want to repeat Friday's column, but X-FORCE #103 has its share of artistic problems. Whilce Portacio took the advice that teenagers look different than adults because their feet are bigger and their necks are longer, and ran with it - right into the ground. The feet don't look any bigger, but the necks and heads throughout this issue are variable at best, and ugly at worst.
The good news is that the story itself is fine, and hums right along. I'm even growing to like these title pages we get with each COUNTER X issue.
It can be tough looking at this and believing that Whilce Portacio's big break was in inking Art Adams for the LONGSHOT mini-series. I just can't picture those two styles working well together.
In light of the column on Friday, many have asked me to take a look at some good artists. I'm afraid I'm still in search of the perfect one. We'll get there. Hang in just a little while longer…
YUP, IT'S BEEN A YEAR
This is the fifty-second Pipeline Commentary and Review column to be posted on Comic Book Resources. Ergo, it's the one-year anniversary. In actuality, on the day this column first sees publication, it will be one year and one day. It would have been an even year, but Jonah gave the first PCR a bump and posted it a day early so it could catch some of Comic Wire's readers. That also marks the last time this column was done two days ahead of time, I think, aside from San Diego last August necessitating 3 columns begin done at one time. Sheesh. I'm also happy to say that readership in Pipeline since its meager days has grown greatly. On bad days, the readership is easily nine times what it once was. So thanks a lot for reading!
A lot has changed since I first came aboard. Aside from a complete web site update, CBR has grown to include five other columnists. Pipeline itself has become a twice-a-week concern, in a moment of inspiration and insanity. And I'm also now writing for one print publication (THE COMIC READER) and one other web site (REACTOR) on a regular basis. I have to think that the increased exposure from CBR is what led to those last two, so thanks again to my mad boss, Jonah Weiland, for putting up with everything that goes on around here and still retaining his sanity.
Here's to another insane year at CBR!