PIPELINE: SAN DIEGO
It's the biggest comic convention in the country, and it's coming to San Diego next week.
Pipeline's San Diego Comic Con coverage begins this Friday, with a look at some panels I plan on attending and a spotlight thrown on some others worthy of your interest. You can find the full schedule here, if you'd like. But that's just the start.
Every night at the conclusion of the con (from July 20th through the 23rd), I will be writing a con report. You can look for special Pipeline: San Diego reports after the conclusion of each day's events. Now, since there's stuff going on at night during the convention, you might not find the report up until midnight, West Coast time. But you can start off your day Friday through Monday by reading all about the previous day's events at the con, at least.
Whatever announcements may come, whatever creators I get the chance to talk to, whatever interesting panels occur - you'll be able to read about it here.
This week, though, let's sift through some books from the past week or two, shall we?
I miss the old days when the large numbers on comic books meant something good. It was a great thing for a series to hit its 300th issue. Nowadays, if it hasn't had a new #1 in a few years, reboot it! OK, maybe nobody has done it in a while now, but it still grates on me that Marvel changed its Annual's numbering scheme around. They don't have issue numbers. They're named after the year they're published in. Granted, for something of an annual nature, this probably makes sense, but the traditionalist in me rebels.
Case in point: The X-MEN annual this year is X-MEN 2000. It's a one-shot book, so it doesn't require an issue number. I cheat a little bit: When I enter it into my database, I call it "X-MEN ANNUAL" and give it an issue number of 2000. I figure if they ever go back to regular old-fashioned numbering, I'll never see the 2000th annual of anything in my lifetime. Heck, we'll all be lucky if Marvel is still publishing by that time.
In any case, X-MEN 2000 has a neat Art Adams cover. Now if only Adams had drawn the interior and Tom Orzechowski had lettered it, it would have been just like the good old days of the late-1980s. Instead, we get Scot Eaton and Scott Hanna on art chores and Jonathan Babcock on letters. I think Eaton and Hanna do a pretty good job on the art in here. There was a day when the annuals were saved for the worst possible artists; the ones who weren't good enough to have a regular assignment would get an annual. They usually drew just like Jim Lee or Rob Liefeld. That's not the case here, and since Marvel is publishing much less than they did ten years ago, that's not a big deal. Babcock, for what it's worth, does a lousy imitation of Tom Orzechowski. Oh, he tries, but the computer fails him or something. The spacing of the letters in the boxes they're drawn into is the biggest giveaway. The scrolls on the caption boxes look artificial, too. They're just background squares.
As for the story: For those of you who think Claremont has lost it completely, I would suggest checking out this issue. It's a story told completely between two covers, and it's highly reminiscent of whatever glory days you may happen to associate with his last tenure on the title. We get lots of character interaction, creative power usage, and thought before power. It starts off with an innocent enough dip in the pond behind the X-Men mansion. The best X-MEN issues are usually the ones where they get the chance to relax and have some fun. These are characters we love - or want to love - and after the hell the X-writers put them through every month, a brief respite is well-deserved.
Heck, even the old Claremont hang-ups are in evidence here. He introduces little bits that look to be plot points, but never show up. In this issue, the most prominent one is probably the page we learn of the ladylove of the new Thunderbird. It seems like a natural that she'd show up by the end of this story, but she doesn't. And the plot point isn't even brought up again. It might have helped to explain some of his thoughts throughout the issue, but it doesn't add to the plot. I imagine it will show up in one of the monthly books eventually. That's fine; it's not so large a thing that it can't be re-explained in a caption box or two at that time.
Oh, and Psylocke explains her psychic blade just before she uses it.
Yup, just like old times again.
Claremont also does the honors on THE UNCANNY X-MEN #384, which sports a new logo design, meant to evoke the movie's logo. (With any luck, I'll have some thoughts on the movie next week.) If you've hated these books since Claremont's return, you'll probably hate this one just the same. It's got all the same new characters and strange situations. But if you like different ways an artist can lay out a page, check out Adam Kubert's art in this issue. He's doing some amazing things just with layout. His figure work is nothing to sneeze at, either, but he's taking some chances on the sequential narrative that are worth taking a look at. As always, he makes this book ten times more interesting that just about any other artist could.
THE DC CONGLOMERATE
SUPERMAN #160 is the first part of the "Superman Arkham" storyline that goes through all the issues this month. And my initial reaction is: Huh? That's not a bad thing, necessarily. I just have no idea what's going on. Neither does Superman. So I imagine it makes perfect sense. Over the course of the next three weeks, we should learn exactly what is going on. In the meantime, there are some good twists to all the Superman family of characters, including Lois Lane doing her nastiest Lex Luthor impression.
Jeph Loeb writes it, and Ed McGuinness pencils with Cam Smith's inks lying on top. It's a good-looking book, but it makes little sense held up on its own.
BATMAN GOTHAM ADVENTURES #28 takes a standard Riddler story and turns it on its ear. There is no big overarching moral here, but just some good classic super villain storytelling from Scott Peterson, Tim Levins, and Terry Beatty. Nightwing ends up playing the crucial role in this issue, so all of Dick Grayson's fans should pick this one up.
WILDCATS #13 stands on its own fairly well. It's the most exploration the character of Void has ever received. I can't remember much character being introduced for her before. Joe Casey recreated her as his own with this issue, and takes the full 22 pages to do so. At times, it seems pointlessly psychological and redundant, but if you want a different kind of superhero comic, I think you've got one here.
Starting with the next issue, Joe Casey will be putting it all together for us and doing an extended storyline with all the Wildcats, now that they've been properly introduced to us all.
If you get the chance, read THE AUTHORITY #13-#16 in one sitting. The story reads really well that way. You'll be amazed at what you pick up reading it like that. Stuff does carry through from issue to issue. And the payoff on the Apollo rape scene in the last issue is priceless. (There's a sentence I never envisioned myself using when I starting writing this column. My, times have changed.)
Anyway, Mark Millar and Frank Quitely have done an excellent job in making this title their own and branching off from what Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch created. The book has progressed and is exploring new ground that should prove to be just as exciting.
HELLCAT #1 has some nice Norm Breyfogle art in it. A lot of the issue, written by Steve Englehart, is taken up on plot exposition and character origins and bits. If you read the AVENGERS and THUNDERBOLTS Annuals this year, it'll all be old hat to you. If not, this is a good first issue. =) Patsy Walker is an eminently likeable character, but to be honest, right now the mini-series is off to a slow start without much excitement generated around it. I'll read the whole mini-series, but it's not something that looks to go on top of my must-read stack when I get back from the comic shop on Wednesday nights in the future.
Look very carefully for this one on the stands. The title logo is very difficult to read.
Erik Larsen indulges in a little bit of that widescreen storytelling that's all the craze these days, and does so to good ends with SAVAGE DRAGON #75. Yes, this is the one that revamps the entire series. Larsen first started talking about this last summer, and it's been a mad year's dash to wrap up enough plotlines to get this thing done. Now it's come, and next month starts a new Dragon status quo. The building plot line concerning the children of the super-powered freaks of Chicago is finally explained. Then the rug gets pulled out from under it. Then Dragon acts and the world turns inside out for the second time in the same issue. It's nothing to sneeze out, and it's an amazing leap for a creator to take with a book that's been around for 9 years.
The adventures in the New Universe (if you will) begin next month, but I think this one is probably accessible enough to jump in with. There are also a couple of nice bonuses: There's a cute story of Li'l Darklord and Baby Dragon called "Yukky Food." It's written by Abel Mouton and Reuben Rude (the colorists) and cartooned by Chris Eliopoulos (the letterer). Add to that a page of DESPERATE TIMES strips, and a 9 page retro story called "O' Deadly Darklord" drawn by Frank Fosco that Larsen writes. Colors and lettering are all done in the period style. All put together, it's a nice package and worth the $5.