A BUNCHA MAINSTREAM REVIEWS
I have a couple of problems with SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL #111. The first is the cover. No, not the artwork on the front. I'm talking about the coupon on the inside front cover. The benefits of advertising your product in a comic book are limited, at best. You have a small distribution issue there, although your demographic is focused. And you, as the Snickers people, are trying to give away candy bars worth fifty cents or so. (Sorry; I'm diabetic. I haven't paid attention to the cost of a candy bar in a long time. Please pardon my ignorance of its cost.)
Is the best way to entice a comic collector to try your candy bar really to offer them a coupon worth a free sample? You're asking the collector to cut a whole out of the dead center of his comic's cover. I doubt photocopies are allowed. You might get away with this on an inside page near the back on the flip side of another ad, but on the inside front cover?!?
This may just go down as the most stupid advertising move ever. Even worse than Burger King's "Where's Herb?" campaign.
Inside the cover, you have the third part of the "Return to Krypton" storyline, a mini-series within four series that I'm just about thoroughly lost on. I let it pass a little when Superman first arrived on the planet and everything seemed different to him. It didn't seem all that different to me. I've only been reading Superman comics off an on for 8 years now. I haven't read all of John Byrne's reboot issues, and I certainly haven't read any Golden or Silver Age Krypton stories. It seems that a large part of the magic of this storyline is in seeing the Krypton of old return. I just don't know what the difference is. I have no idea who Nightwing or Flamebird are. I know very little about the city of Kandor, other than its presence in a bottle.
I think having a Krypto the Superdog return will be interesting, but other than that, I'm afraid it's only the skill with which the creators pull of their chapters that will impress me on this storyline. Casey and Rouleau set the standard last week with their storytelling. Loeb and McGuinness did an excellent job the week before. I look forward to Kelly and Kano on ACTION next week. But –
MAN OF STEEL continues to be my least favorite of the books. It's overwritten. (Ken Lopez's lettering in the caption boxes in this issue just about gave me a headache. The font he used was too narrow and small.) It's plodding. It's sometime a chore for me to sit through. Doug Mahnke's art is fine, but nothing exciting for me. With Mike Wieringo on ADVENTURES pretty soon, I'm afraid MAN OF STEEL risks being a distant fourth in the race for best Superman title.
On the flip side, SUPERBOY #85 may just be the finest Superman family title published in quite some time. Joe Kelly does a masterful job in this issue, not wasting a page or even a panel. I'm keeping this issue aside just in case I do a Best of 2001 list. This one's an early leader.
When Superman and Batman meet, there's always a crackle in the air. And when it's done right, there's magic. Kevin Smith got it right for GREEN ARROW #1, which you'll be seeing on the stands tomorrow. It's just the first three or four pages of the issue, but it's witty, it's energetic, and it's perfectly in character. In SUPERBOY, you get seven pages of it, cutting off just before risking repetition. The rest of the issue is a team up with Batgirl. It's a great blend of characters – the hyperactive chatty Superboy and the controlled, quiet Batgirl.
But it is Superboy and Robin who become the next generation here. Robin does his mentor proud, from his dedication and focus on his nightly patrol, to the almost spooky way he lowers his voice when in action. Superboy is a bit more light-hearted. He's much more over-the-top than Superman would ever be, but he still works as the equivalent ray of light shining in Robin's dark corner of Gotham. Yes, Superboy sounds an awful lot like Deadpool in some places, but he has always had a bit of the reputation as a wise-cracker, so it's not out of place.
Pascual Ferry, likewise, does a superb job in illustrating the story. He starts off strong with a breathtaking perspective shot of Gotham City, and carries the rest of the issue with active visuals, that's not afraid to be a little bright in the middle of Batman's dark city. A couple of the characters pose rather unconvincingly in a spot or two, but it's easily forgiven as a stylistic choice by the artist.
You don't need to be caught up on current continuity to read this one. They'll fill you in along the way, and you can just skip over a couple of the niggling subplots. Read this issue if you're a Batman or Superman fan. It'll bring a smile to your face.
SCION #9 is a beautiful book. Jim Cheung is a vastly overlooked artist, but he's doing great work here. (Heck, all of the CrossGen books are pretty easy on the eye, with the exception of SIGIL, which is going through a rough spot right now.) Along with inker Don Hillsman II and colorist Caesar Rodriguez, this book vies with MYSTIC every month for my pick as best looking.
The only problem with the book is something that it seems all the CrossGen books share – it feels thin. When you're done reading it, you feel empty. You breezed right through it. The art was gorgeous. It seems to use all the techniques of good storytelling, with a beginning, middle, and end. And the characters are likeable. But it's almost like the writer – Ron Marz, in SCION's case – is afraid to put the character in any real danger. You never get the sense that Ethan's back is completely against the wall. He hasn't been beaten up in quite some time, now. In this issue, he's fighting against a bounty hunter who takes the time to stop and pause while Ethan gets back in fighting shape. That should have been the moment of greatest suspense, but the dumb look on the hunter's face betrayed it.
So I'd probably say skip the pamphlets and go with the trades. The first set are coming out in April and May. They should read nicely collected together like that.
THUNDERBOLTS #49 answers all the questions that the previous year's worth of stories has been asking. Some of them are quite interesting. All of them make sense, when you consider that Fabian Nicieza is writing this series. A couple of the major plot revelations in this issue fall right back into his court from the days when he was the busiest man in comics, writing numerous Marvel series all at the same time. (Was that nearly a decade ago already?!?) I can't really get into them here, because I like to keep Pipeline as spoiler free as possible. Suffice it to say, it will all make sense in the end.
I am really happy that the mysteries are starting to be answered, though. THUNDERBOLTS has gotten a little out of control in the past few issues, I think. The layers of mystery that were being piled on top of one another have gone from being fun and zany to being an impediment towards the overall enjoyment of the series. I read the last four issues in a row this week for this. I still couldn't make heads or tails of much of this until it was all laid out and explained for me. There's too much to keep track of, even when stretches of issues are read at a time.
I just hope T-BOLTS #50 puts a lot of these mysteries to rest and that the next issue or two is spent dealing with the ramifications. After that, I hope the mysteries start coming again, but that they're either introduced more slowly or resolved more quickly. I don't want another year on this title like this. It's not that I didn't enjoy it. It's just that hindsight is 20/20 and I think I'd like it better another way.
Patrick Zircher gets special commendation for this issue. He'll begin his duty as regular penciller starting with issue #51. Next month is Mark Bagley's final issue, after a more than four-year run as regular artist. That's pretty impressive these days, particularly on a team title like this. Zircher walks into a daunting job. He did a good job on this issue, though. It was better than I would have thought, as a matter fact. I've only seen Zircher's art on fill-in issues of various other titles, and always found it a bit, well, unimpressive. I think that in time, after he's had a couple of issues under his belt, he'll do just fine here.
BIRDS OF PREY #28 is an important issue for those who have been following this title for any period of time. While Dinah Lance may have first met Barbara Gordon a few issues ago, it is here where they first get the chance to sit down and talk for a period of time.
I can usually read through an issue of any book written by Chuck Dixon fairly quickly. It's the way he writes. You can breeze through one of his comics and still get the full impact. It's what makes the NIGHTWING trades so much fun. Yes, it'll take some time, but you'll never notice it flying by. Things just keep moving along. That's a point I can't emphasize enough – the books aren't fast reads because they're lightweight. It's just that Dixon knows the art of pacing well enough that he can cut to the chase with everything and not waste the reader's time with tedious and unnecessary explanations in an effort to make himself sound smarter.
With this comic, though, I willfully read it more slowly than usual. There's just a feeling of great importance throughout the issue. I didn't want to miss a single thing, and I certainly didn't want it to end. It's Dinah and Barbara palling around for the first time, with Dinah visiting the "secret lair" of Oracle. It's such a simple thing, but it feels so important. These two have built up a trust and a friendship over the course of the past few years that's done nothing but grow stronger. And it's a great relationship. So when Oracle and Black Canary finally met last summer, we were all elated and then frustrated by the brevity of it. So this was the Big Issue.
Dixon and Butch Guice pulled it off beautifully. We get too easily distracted by the beautiful women that Guice draws in this book. Guice is also capable of doing body language and varying facial expressions, also. He may not show Kevin Maguire's skill with faces, but he's darned close with this issue.
PREVIEWS – The 1980s
There are just two things I want to bring up in the latest PREVIEWS. I may mention some more next week, but these two fit together pretty well.
Archie has finally worked its way up to the 1980s. In May, they're publishing ARCHIE AMERICANA SERIES: BEST OF THE EIGHTIES. It's 96 pages of Archie comics that exemplify the decade of the 80s. You'll get your leg warmers, your Rubik's Cubes, and your Don Johnson five o'clock shadows all in one package!
I'm not a huge Archie fan. I don't collect any of it on a regular basis, but there's something that can be fun with them. Sure, they'll seem repetitive if you read them too often, but every now and then they can be a nice bit of the kind of simple comics we can remember as a kid. They were the comics our parents probably didn't have a problem with us reading. And they're the comics you can put in kids' hands today without worrying about it.
Archie is Americana. I can respect that.
For $11, you can be reminded of them all over again, plus a nice flashback kicker to the 80s.
The perfect complement to that book comes from Fanboy Entertainment. It's in the form of THE COPYBOOK TALES, a coming of age semi-autobiographical story set in the 1980s. This is the book that served as J. Torres and Tim Levins' ticket to the big time. The trade paperback solicited here collects every single last story these two produced together for TCT, plus a brandy new one. If you can only pre-order one thing this month, this is the book. If you've ever taken one of my recommendations, or if you agree with my reviews on any sort of a regular basis, you owe it to yourself to support this great book.
I'll tell you that on Friday. Pipeline2 is your guide to THE COPYBOOK TALES this week. That's this Friday. Please don't miss it.
Close to 200 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns are still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML. Those columns are even migrating over here in drips and drabs. Eventually, they'll all be on CBR. I can't believe Pipeline is entering its fifth year in a few short months…
Finally, I write DVD movie reviews (occasionally) for the gang over at DVD Channel News. If you're into DVD, check out my stuff there.