JLA: HEAVEN'S LADDER
I thought it was magnificent. If you have no clue what I'm talking about, this is the "Treasury-Sized" DC book that came out last week.
Yes, it felt a little like a feel-good issue of THE AUTHORITY, but it's Mark Waid writing. You don't expect to see him write a Warren Ellis book. I don't think it's in him to write about cussing vigilantes mired in deconstructionist political tomes. Mark Waid writes heroes, no matter what the book. This book is as heroic as anything else on the stands today. I mean, the book ends with all of the JLA smiling. I'm sure this will automatically set some people off into complaining about the sit-com-esque ending, but I rather liked it.
(Not only does Plastic Man, for one, come across as a lovable and funny goofball in this story, but he also blatantly inserts a reference to Douglas Adam's HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY that you can't miss if you've read the books. It's a gag I use on an obscenely regular basis that very few people ever pick up on. I suddenly don't feel so alone anymore. =)
The one big test this book needed to pass was a reason for being. Why bother with such a large format book, unless the story and art benefited from it? The Alex Ross books that come out every Christmas-time benefit from Alex Ross' art. That's all there is to it. The stories don't necessary need a "widescreen canvas." But Ross' two-page splash montages and the detail of his artwork really well on the larger format volume.
Bryan Hitch's art (with Paul Neary inking and Laura DePuy coloring) benefits from this format. This is a story, first of all, which takes place in "the vastness of space," after the earth has been abducted and joins a series of other planets, adrift in a mammoth alien spaceship. In addition to drawing all the members of the Justice League, you also get to see Hitch and company draw a series of planetscapes, a number of different aliens, and all the accompanying landscapes and ships. The opening two-page splash of the giant planet-stealing spaceship is as breathtaking as anything you could ask for in comics. The coloring adds more to those feelings than I can say. Laura DePuy has made coloring interesting again. For those who saw it as a necessary evil, or as something to be dispensed with, her work on books such as this one should change minds.
So the next question is, who else would you want to see working on one of these books? Assume the writer is a constant, one who could write this type of tale. I want to think about your dream creative teams on the art side of things. Whose artwork would you like to see this large? My short list includes Travis Charest, Alan Davis (ironically enough), Dale Keown (yeah, I'm a dreamer), Jim Lee, and George Perez. The fanboy in me also would like to see Erik Larsen's art that size, but I don't think it'll make that much of a difference on such a large size.
The thing to remember when publishing a book like this is that there are two different ways to go about telling the story. The first is to use the larger size to draw larger. The second is to use the larger size to draw smaller. Confused yet?
It's simple - do you use larger panels to convey a grander, more epic scale? Or do you use all that extra real estate at hand to tell more story? You can, as the artist, fit in more smaller panels onto a page that would be easily visible by a reader when reproduced at this size. Of course, you can't go overboard with this. The artists' work is still being shrunken to fit onto this size, but it just isn't shrunken nearly so much. It might be 25%, at best. The art is drawing at the same size, and the artist may not be comfortable drawing smaller figures.
The other thing that I thought was going to be interesting before I opened the book was the size of the lettering. What size would that come out to be? The same rule as with the art applies here. You can fit in a ton of extra lettering and still make it legible. Or, you can make it larger to match the comic's size. Or, you can modify it to scale well with the printed page. Ken Lopez, the letterer on this project, chose the latter method, and that's a good thing. If the lettering were larger, it would distract from the art. If it were smaller, it would make the art look abnormally large, like drawing a munchkin next to a normally-sized person to make him look like Goliath. All the characters would seem to be whispering. But that's just the lettering geek in me talking.
Is the book worth a read? I think so.
Yes, the book is ten dollars. But for a single 72-page story without commercial interruption and on nice glossy paper, I think it's worth it. If for no other reason, support this book to support the concept of larger single-story projects. We haven't had a good test of this system since SIN CITY: FAMILY VALUES.
So far, so good.
This is Marvel's big crossover project, in which it is determined that the human race is detrimental to the universe's overall health. The U.N. of the galaxy gets together and decides to exact vengeance upon this planetary mudball "far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy." (Yes, that's the second and last of the HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY references in this week's column.) The story makes an amazing amount of sense once you consider Marvel continuity, and all the adventures (and misadventures) the earthborn and even non-earthborn heroes have had across the cosmos.
There's been the one-shot, MAXIMUM SECURITY: DANGEROUS PLANET, and then two issues of a three-issue mini-series. Along the way, we've seen countless crossovers, and therein lies the problem. I don't mind so much that every Marvel Universe title crosses over along the way, it's just that there's no recommended reading order to it all. Even worse, the second issue starts off with a warning that you should read that week's crossover titles before you begin. It just fails to mention which titles those are. I suppose if you're keeping up on your books from week to week, this isn't a problem. But if you're like me and have a tendency to read in binges, this gets annoying. I finally gave in and just read the darned thing anyway. It didn't spoil too much, so no problems.
The story loses a bit of its "oomph" by spreading it out over so many books. After the one-shot and first issue, the story seemed to be fairly well self-contained and straight ahead. After reading the second issue, you're still getting a story, but a bunch of pages get set aside to explain what happened in other books, or to hint at what's going on. That seems a bit distracting to me, but I suppose is a built-in hazard for this kind of mini-series.
Also, the art quality starts to seriously decline with the second issue of the mini-series. Generally speaking, I'm a fan of Jerry Ordway's art. The first two books had some great-looking stuff. The latest issue has some looser stuff in it. It's not as tight or well-defined, it seems.
By the way, one quick question for the peanut gallery: When did Professor X hook up with Cadre K? I probably read it, but I've completely forgotten it already. Is this something that happened during that six-month time lapse when Chris Claremont came on, or something that happened before that?
AND THEN THERE IS DOOM
DOOM #3 concludes that mini-series, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn expertly by Leonardo Manco. It reads really well as a whole. I have newfound respect for Doom. He is more a force of nature than he is a man. He is single-minded and without peer when it comes to resources of both body and mind. It's a fun series to read. You'll chuckle at his hubris and be amazed as he follows through on it. There can be no doubt when it comes to this man. He will win. He will overcome. He will beat you. I think he's more fun when he's the protagonist than the antagonist. It's almost a waste of character to see him lose to the Fantastic Four. Oh, well.
In Chicago this summer, Chuck Dixon spoke of being able to define a character in a single sentence or a single moment. There's easily a half-dozen of those moments and lines in this book. I wanted to pull one out to give you a good example. I had a tough time narrowing it down. But take this bit of narration: "Doom is alone. I am without the use of my vast arsenal. Only this ship and the scant weapons aboard. For Doom it is enough." Slipping between first- and third-person narrations renders Doom a bit psycho, but also as both a man and a force unto himself. The odds against him throughout this mini-series are stacked obscenely against him. He has to travel across half a planet, battle hordes of invaders, and jump halfway across the Solar System. That's his mission. He starts naked, alone, and in the wild. But there's never any doubt he'll achieve his goal. What a lot of fun.
VARIOUS AND SUNDRY CORRECTIONS AND UPDATES
I put all those web links in last week just so I could link to my first interview, and then forgot to include that point. ::sigh::
Anyway, you can read it up at Chris Allen's 'Breakdowns' and see what answers I gave. The article was a survey of some of the web's most prominent comic book reviewers, and I was honored to be a part of it.
I referred to a certain artist last week as William Michael Kaluta by mistake, instead of Michael William Kaluta. I'm kinda far behind on my AQUAMAN issues right now, or I would have known that. His covers for that series are really beautiful.
Devin Grayson writes BATMAN GOTHAM KNIGHTS and not BATMAN GOTHAM ADVENTURES, as indicated in a previous column. It is rather silly to have two so similarly named comics in the same line, isn't it?
The newest issue of PROMETHEA is out this week. Judging by the previews I've seen of it, it's all done as a sideways comic. I may be alone in this, but I love the idea and the concept of "sideways storytelling." The opportunity to see Alan Moore and J.H. Williams III give it a try is really exciting.
AVIGON is due out from Image on Wednesday, as well. I reviewed this one last month and look forward to seeing the completed book on the stands now.
POWERS and SHOCKROCKETS both publish their sixth issues, also. I'm really looking forward to seeing the conclusion of Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen's first mini-series.
COMING UP ON FRIDAY
Pipeline rants continue on Friday. I picked on the retailers last week, so it's someone else's turn this week. I'll also include a testimonial from one ex-publisher that you might find interesting. The whole topic of the failures of the system in this industry is large enough to fill this column for a lifetime. I'll try to hold it down to a trilogy, though. Part two comes up this Friday.