ROB LIEFELD RETURNS?
It's close to a year since I wrote the Open Letter to Rob Liefeld. Not much has changed. The autobiographical ROB comic never came out. Awesome hasn't printed that many books. And just this past week, Liefeld has announced his plans to return to YOUNGBLOOD, with the promise that he's been doing pages for a long time and has a stack sitting in the drawer ready to go. (In other words, these issues should have no problem coming out on time, right?)
What's one left to think about YOUNGBLOOD? Well, in the press release, Liefeld talks about going back to the ideas and concepts that the title was originally set to embrace. I really hope this is true. That's the book I've always wanted to see, but never did. It also appears that the Alan Moore/Steve Skroce issues will be ignored. There are already people decrying that one. Personally, it doesn't matter to me. I view those Alan Moore issues as an interesting concept and series, but I'm all for a reboot. It's not like Moore is likely to return tomorrow and want to write the book his way again. So let's keep it dead and buried. Bring back the characters that once excited me.
Time will tell how this new YOUNGBLOOD will work out, or even if it will come out. I'll be sure to stop by the Awesome booth in Chicago this week to check out the previews. This should be really interesting.
Even more interesting is the first of a two-part story that was published by Marvel last week. WOLVERINE #154 is plotted and penciled by Rob Liefeld, scripted by Eric Stephenson, and inked by Norm Rapmund. I'll be damned if it isn't the best stuff I've seen out of Liefeld since, well, the X-FORCE days. It's not perfect. It still has Liefeld's tendency to introduce too many new characters without bothering to make us care about them. In this case, there's an evil team at the opening and a team with an unknown alliance showing up at the end. Some of his characters still look stiff. The guns are still flat and futuristic-looking. (This doesn't actually bother me a whole lot, but I know there are people who can't stand them.)
However, this book has a lot going for it. It's a more or less a mindless super-hero action piece. Wolverine gets beaten up. Wolverine beats people up. Look - there's Wolverine at the bar! It's nothing new, but it doesn't pretend to be and it doesn't try too hard. This is just a lot of fun visual mayhem, complete with sideways double-page spreads, colorful costumes, powerful characters, and heroes in peril. It's perfect for what it is. Liefeld's page layouts are showing some level of maturation. The talking heads scenes are more than just two large heads on the page with multiple balloons. He doesn't use stats, but you still get multiple panels on the page. Who'd have ever thought we'd see pages from Liefeld with eight or nine panels? There's a certain method to the madness. The panel layouts go ragged and chaotic as Wolverine goes bezerker. During the more choreographed fights with Deadpool, the panels stay straight-bordered. Story page 7 even has a couple of those floating figures on top of panels at the top of the page that you just don't see anyone else use. It's a neat effect.
It's also interesting to see Liefeld back doing the character that he created, Deadpool. Yes, Fabian Nicieza put the initial funny words in his mouth, and Joe Kelly adopted him and made him his own, creating the greatest single character comic of the past ten years. But Liefeld originally designed him near the end of THE NEW MUTANTS, and there's just something nice about seeing a creator come back to his creation years later.
So, yes, if you're looking for some radical new concept in super-hero comics, don't come here. If you're looking for some diversity, don't look here. If you want some fun fight scenes, some colorful pages, some visual feast for the eyes, this is your book. If you love pounding mercilessly on Liefeld, you'll probably find things here to pick on. But I've often found that the mindless Liefeld-bashing contingency has a tough time letting go. Sometimes, people just like taking the cheap shots. (I mean, c'mon, Sequential Tarts! Is there such a dearth of bizarre breasts out there that you had to dredge up that godawful Captain America drawing again? It's been 5 years! When will if be OK to let go?!?)
Quite honestly, this is the best looking Liefeld's stuff has been in some time. Maybe Norm Rapmund had a heavy hand in the inks. I don't see the sharp knees here. I see different-shaped noses, some new facial expressions, and some new shadow work. (I do wonder, however, if Liefeld himself inked the page with Siryn on it. It doesn't seem to match the art style in the rest of the book.)
Eric Stephenson stumbles a little bit in some of the dialogue, making it more expository than it should normally be. Otherwise, everything reads fine. It's almost classic in its tough guy posturing. As for Deadpool's words, it can be tough to match Joe Kelly's dialogue. (Heck, I wouldn't want to try it.) Stephenson is almost there, but it seems to be lacking something - maybe more pop culture references. Of course, one could suggest that Deadpool was under such duress during this mission that he wasn't his normal jovial self. Do I get a No-Prize for that one?
If you're someone from my era that used to enjoy the comics of the early 1990s that the Image crowd put out, this book should please you. If not, I don't think it'll do much for you. To each his/her own.
Brian Pulido announced at Comics Newsarama this past week that his "Infinity" line of comics is dead. So I refer you all back to my column of 31 December 1999:
"Basically, this company will last for as long as Hollywood pays attention to it. If the first book isn't optioned right away, it'll be gone in a heartbeat…
"The final nail I can put in the Infinity coffin, though, is that nobody really cares. There was a buzz associated with CrossGen and its hiring practice and studio atmosphere; with Black Bull and its relationship with Wizard; with Gorilla and its big name creators. All Infinity has going for it is a LADY DEATH animated video and Brian Pulido. How many people does that excite?"
Pulido cited low sales as the reason for the line's death. I guess it didn't excite enough people, after all.
100 BULLETS CASTING
Am I the only one who thinks Phillip Baker Hall would be perfect to play Agent Graves in a 100 BULLETS movie? Check out P.T. Anderson's first effort, HARD EIGHT, to see what I mean. The opening ten minutes of the movie almost seem to be written for 100 BULLETS.
X-MEN SONG PARODY
If you haven't heard it yet, check out the parody of Jewel's song, "Hands." It's a terrific tribute to Wolverine in light of the X-Men movie and is really well done. Whoever that is singing, they do a terrific Jewel impression.
The "grind" continues this weekend in Chicago. While the coverage won't be as daily or as extensive from Chicago as it was for San Diego, CBR will still be in Chicago. (Well, OK - I will be there.)
Wizard has put their panel schedule up now for the convention, so here's a look at my proposed panel attendance. Remember, of course, that as with the two San Diego cons I've done this for, this schedule is more than likely complete rubbish. Once I get there, anything goes.
This schedule is a lot more easily wielded. While there are plenty of interesting panels, there aren't so many conflicts. Plus, some of these panels I already went to in San Diego, so I can stay on the con floor more.
- 1:00 Chuck Dixon: "10 Commandments of Comic Writing." This is a must-see for me. If I miss every other panel this weekend, I'll still make this one.
- 2:00 DC Universe Slide Show: I didn't get the chance to see it in San Diego, so this is a possibility, although it is also the most likely candidate to be skipped for the day.
- 3:00 McLaughlin Group: A round-table discussion with Jeph Loeb, Mark Waid, Erik Larsen, and Brian Pulio. It'll be fun to see Waid and Larsen together on a panel.
- 6:00 Wizard Fan Awards: Because every big con needs an awards presentation, no matter how silly.
- 11:00 X-Men Panel. I didn't go to the one in San Diego, and this one features Claremont, Yu, Chen, Andy Kubert, and Tim Townsend. Could be interesting.
- 1:00 Jeph Loeb: "Writing Mystery and Suspense in Super-Hero Comics." I like writing instructionals. This might be fun. It'll also keep me away from the crowd in the other room with the Buffy crew in it.
- 4:00 Erik Larsen: "Creating the Ultimate Fight Scene." I wonder if he has any idea that he's doing this panel? ;-)
- 5:00 "Character Development" with Joe Casey and Joe Kelly. I already said it in this column - with Deadpool, Kelly has written the finest single-character comic featuring character development and growth in the 90s. They're also both quick enough on the wit that it should prove very entertaining.
- 11:00 Expanding the WildStorm Universe. I missed this one in San Diego. This might be my chance to catch it. However, it's also easily-dumped if I need the time elsewhere.
- 12:00 "Making Comics Readable" with Mark Waid.
- 2:00 Q&A with JMS.
By that time, I'll probably have to leave to catch my flight back home anyway, so that's a good place to end it. I'm also going to try to hit the EARTH X HARDCOVER PREMIERE party on Saturday night, depending on how accessible it is. I didn't read the mini-series, but I might just buy this set. It's too well packaged to skip.
COMING DOWN THE PIPELINE
I've got a ton of reviews backlogged at this point, of both recent weeks' books as well as new books I picked up in San Diego. So expect some of those in the coming weeks.
Next Tuesday's column should hopefully be a piece about Chicago, although deadline crunches might push that back to next Friday.
This Friday will be some last bits from the San Diego convention: Leftover stories, panel summaries, people stories, oddball happenings. Maybe even a review or two. It will definitely be worth a look, though, for the Quote of the Convention. It comes from Jim Valentino.
See you then! And if you're in Chicago - don't hesitate to walk up and say, "hey."