MORE SIDEWAYS STUFFI promised in Friday's column that I'd review PROMETHEA #11 in this space. And I will. First, some housekeeping:
Frank Miller's 300 mini-series was not a sideways book. Technically. I mean, the pages were all to be read "right-side-up." The staples were still on the left side of the book. However, with every page being a double-page spread, the book read like it was a sideways book. The layout techniques used for the book were the same as you could expect if the book were printed on its side.
When a couple of sample pages were shown in PREVIEWS for it, the pages looked sideways, hence the initial confusion of the column.
So you can disagree with me or agree with me on that point, depending on what mood you're in or what grudge you hold. I won't think any less of you for it. =)
Also, there have been other sideways books that I didn't mention in the column. John Byrne did a memorable issue of THE FANTASTIC FOUR that way, although my memory is not so great that I can judge the artistic merit of it right now. (I'll get to that another time.) Dave Sim did a sideways run on early issues of CEREBUS, I'm told. (Thanks, Wyvern!) It sounds interesting enough to make me want to go out and pick up the phonebooks. Jim Krueger is doing FLY BOYS, although only one issue is out so far. When I talked to him about it at the cons this summer, he said that the second issue would be out in the coming months. At the very least, there WILL be a second issue, for which we should all be grateful. If I recall correctly, Don Rosa did an Uncle Scrooge story sideways. Or, at least, gravity was working sideways in the story. Jim Lee did a few issues of DIVINE RIGHT sideways, to mixed results. I wrote about it extensively at the time, but I think he relied on double-page splashes too much to simulate a "right-side-up" page. The sideways splash pages, however, looked nice and cinematic.
There are more examples, but those seem to be the best remembered of them. I'm still waiting for someone to do a series sideways. So far, no takers.
This all brings us to PROMETHEA #11, by Alan Moore, J.H. Williams III, and Mick Gray. The book attempts to evoke a cinemascope feeling, complete with mock movie poster cover. Yes, even the cover is sideways! But does the rest of the issue work?
Yes and no.
Williams chooses to break across the page divides too often for my taste. As difficult as a regular double-page splash can be to line up, even more seems to get lost when the splash occurs across two sideways panels. As far as I can tell, breaking a panel across two pages like this is just an attempt to cheat by simulating a vertical page.
The book also sticks religiously to the widescreen feel. All of the panels stretch from far left to far right. There's never more than one panel to be read across. The problem with this is that some of the panels just feel forced.
On the brighter side, Williams is good with keeping the action moving left and right, and not up and down. You have to take advantage of the wider panels for storytelling purposes, and this is the most basic and natural part of it. The pair of splash pages in the book looks magnificent. They're complete on one page and just seem natural. The sideways aspect of a comic book is pretty close to the ratio of a movie screen, I'd guess. I'm thinking that it's probably Academy Ratio, 1.88:1. (True widescreen is 2.35:1,and you usually only get that in action/adventure movies. Comedies and animated movies usually come in at around 1.66:1. Your TV screen is 1.33:1, or 4:3.)
If a book like this is going to be done, you're almost better off following the example set by Rob Haynes in DAREDEVIL #12, where a number of the pages had panels that were "widescreen," but were stacked up one on top of the other on the page. You didn't have to hold the book like you were viewing a centerfold, either.
As ever, the perfect sideways comic eludes us all.
VARIOUS AND SUNDRY REVIEWSBATMAN #584 re-establishes Batman as the urban legend. I know there are lots of people who take exception to this idea. I rather like it. I think it's a neat aspect and one that helps to separate Batman from all the other men in tights out there. Yes, given the events of No Man's Land and some of the cross-continuity, it probably stretches credulity a tad, but I think it's a great idea. Ed Brubaker manages to convince me, as a reader, that this is the true Batman pretty solidly in this issue. In it, a couple of kids are trying to make a documentary on Batman, The Urban Legend. Through them, we see the opinion of the man on the street, of the criminals who have faced up to Batman, and the police. The interview with Commissioner Gordon alone is worth the price of admission. Scott McDaniel draws this issue. It's a much tamer story than he's used to drawing, but I think he handles all the talking heads with facility, and really shines on the action bits.
I reviewed AVIGON here a while back, but the final printed issue is even better. I think a couple of the pages are printed out of order in the middle of the second chapter, but that's the only complaint I have.
The story makes a pretty radical left hand turn after the preview pages I had read, and I think the story and theme hold up much better for it. This one cries out for a sequel of some sort. ("Sequel" might be too loaded a word. A continuation of the story is what's needed here.)
Jimmie Robinson's style in this book is fairly unique, and something that those who are fans of Tim Burton would probably enjoy. It's very dark, very gothic, very angular. The story is by Che Gilson. Although it skips around a little bit, I think she did a great job here.
I read 100 BULLETS #15-17 this weekend, not realizing that the story has four parts, not three. As such, I'm left hanging on a pretty explosive cliffhanger at the end of the seventeenth issue. This storyline, "Hang Up on the Hang Low" might be the best one yet. Brian Azzarello is mixing in all aspects of the series so far. We've got the usual street-level crime and thuggery, as well as all the mythology with Agent Graves, The Minute Men, and more. Eduardo Risso does a great job in laying this all out for us and in keeping the characters looking like individuals. I believe the eighteenth issue is out this week. I'm really looking forward to it.
Finally got around to SUPERMAN ADVENTURES #50, written by Jordan Gorfinkel and drawn by Min S. Ku and Terry Austin. The story itself is a bit of a cheat. It's got a great premise - Superman is responsible, through ignorance and inaction, of the death of a child. He's held prisoner for this and put on trial. This is the setup to a great moral play. It's a gut-wrenching thing. But, then, the plot turns and the underpinnings of the story are wiped out for the sake of making the plot look cute and turning the story into another Wretched Villain's Evil Plan gets foiled. ::sigh:: The questions raised in the story are still valid ones, but the story itself tends to shy away from them.
BATMAN ADVENTURES #31 was a little hard to swallow in light of the Ed Brubaker story I just finished reading earlier this week. Ty Templeton writes a good story, starring the Joker, but if you're going to go with the Batman As Urban Legend idea, this story is going to fall completely flat. Maybe I'm just grumpy because it's another issue without Tim Levins' art. He's back next month. (Terry Beatty's art is not bad, mind you. I just think everyone pales by comparison.)
ELSEWHERE…Check out the Holiday Gift-Giving Guide issue of THE COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE. That's issue #1408. Take a look on page 41. Yup, that's my review of one of the Superman DVDs. It was written a little more than a year ago now. Since then, I've also picked up the second volume of the animated shorts. Also, they've finally released a single DVD with both volume's worth of the shorts on them. You have your pick as to how you want to see them, but do see them. They're worth looking at, particularly with the restoration job done for the DVDs.
Oh, and while I think of it - check out the solicitation for the upcoming ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN TPB in this month's PREVIEWS. Pipeline is quoted. I thought that was pretty cool. =)
COMING UP ON FRIDAY
Pipeline2 should, hopefully, finally focus in on everything else that's wrong with this industry. It may not just be the retailers' fault. Maybe it's the distributor's. Maybe it's the comic producers. Maybe it's YOU! I'll just open a whole can of worms on Friday and we'll hash it out.