A WHOLE BUNCH OF SHORT REVIEWS
THE FLASH #171 begins to ask the question of how many lives can you save, and for how long can you save them? It's one thing to save a person from a runaway car, but can you save them again and again and again? And what happens when that person is targeted because you saved them? Geoff Johns begins to ask those questions in highly dramatic fashion with this issue. THE FLASH, so far, gets the early vote for comeback series of the year. Scott Kolins' artwork is just as great in this issue as it was in the last, with its wide-open feel and reliance on coloring. The only drawback to his style is that it's such a deep part of the feel of the book right now that a fill-in artist would be a very disruptive thing. Let's hope Kolins can keep up the pace.
YOUNG JUSTICE #31 is a "silent" issue from the usual gang of Peter David, Todd Nauck, and Lary Stucker. Superboy is too busy watching the cheerleading competition on ESPN to be bothered with Impulse, so Imp goes out and finds his own fun, gets in some trouble, and saves the day in the end. It's a cute little tale. Impulse's pictorial thought balloons help convey the emotions that thought balloons and dialogue normally would. There's a certain level of cheating, though, from sound effects to a card from a homeless man with writing on it. Well, it's "cheating" by my definition, but your mileage may vary. I want my silent comics to not display so much as a letter of the English language, but that might be a tad bit restrictive, or result in stories set in the desert.
It's an entertaining tale, that moves along nicely, but won't affect your overall enjoyment of YOUNG JUSTICE one bit if you skipped it completely. The thing you'll discover about silent comics, though, is that you have to pay twice as much attention to the story. There aren't caption boxes and talking heads to explain what's happening in each panel. So, despite the lack of words on the page, you'll still read through more slowly, making sure to absorb the art of each panel. You never know what the key element might be. That may actually be something of an artistic shortcoming, or it may be a nice bit of misdirection to keep from telegraphing the gag that's coming. You make the call.
You also get to see Todd Nauck stick in a bunch of gratuitous MST3K references, as he's been doing as far back as I can remember – all the way back to NEWMEN.
I mentioned the book here a few months back when it appeared in PREVIEWS, and now LAST KISS #1 has appeared on the shelves. Published by Shanda Fantasy Arts, LAST KISS #1 is written by John Lustig, using romance comics pages from the 1950s and inserting new lettering to create wildly funny tales. This issue includes "Martha Stewtart…Domestic Superhero!" and such practical tips for young women as, "Need a date, girls? Go to a comic con! There are hundreds of boys for every girl! And they can't all be geeks - - can they?"
If your retailer doesn't have a copy on his or her shelf, you may be out of luck. The book is in back order. Word of mouth seems to be working. It's $5 for 48 black and white pages, which includes an interview with the original writer of many of the stories printed here, Joe Gill, as well as a Do It Yourself Last Kiss contest. Make your own story and win.
This one's well worth picking up, since there ain't nothing else like it on the shelf. Oh, and it's hilarious, too
BATMAN GOTHAM ADVENTURES #36 features the first team up between Batman and Superman as drawn by Tim Levins. His art works pretty well. It starts with three splash pages of Supes and Bats meeting in the Batcave and moves on from there. The most memorable bit of the issue may just be the first (?) meeting of Robin and Superman. Robin is in utter awe and Superman talks to him with a bemused smile on his face. It's very subtle, but you can see Superman almost talking down to Robin. I don't mean that in a bad way. It's just the way an adult talks to a kid when the kid is half his size.
Scott Peterson's story suffers a little bit. It's too easy for Superman and Batman to save the day. They just roll right through. The characters are also a little too comfortable with themselves. Superman gives a speech to the bad guy at the end that just sounds a bit pompous coming form his mouth. It wouldn't sound right coming out of Batman's, either. I can see the Flash, maybe, telling a bad guy that Superman is powerful enough to crush coal into diamonds. It just seems too egotistical for Supes to do it directly.
CROSSGEN CHRONICLES #2 explains a bit of the back-story for the world of Avalon, where SCION is set. It explains how the two currently warring factions originally achieved peace. Ron Marz writes and George Perez has his CrossGen debut here. It starts off a bit slow, but once the raging pirate battle on the open sea begins and the full-scale warfare opens up, it starts to take on that classic Perez style that we know and love. The story is nicely book ended by looks in the present day at Ethan and Bron. Laura Depuy's coloring is good stuff, as well, although it doesn't have that same rich color-keyed feel that AUTHORITY did and JLA tried to have. It still looks fine, though, although the fog effect on the early pages may be a bit off-putting to some. It's a mere annoyance, though, not anything that will affect readability. And it goes away pretty quickly.
BATGIRL #14 establishes something a lot of people have been looking for – a superheroine who doesn't like to wear her costume, and so sticks with her street clothes. It also deals with the complications that arise from such a decision. It's further reaching than I had considered, but makes perfect sense.
But more than just that, Kelley Puckett's story this month is crafted in a different and engrossing way. You start out at the end of the story, with a vague feeling of being lost. You'll almost want to flip back to the last issue to see if you missed or forgot something. Nope, that's not it. It's just the way the story is laid out. It's the bare essentials. You don't need to know the full back-story of that young man that Batgirl just saved. It's enough to know she saved him. The true story lies in the effects that he will have on her throughout the course of the issue.
Damion Scott's art is as expressive and vital as the character of Cassandra Cain is. In addition to the bam-pow moments, there are a few deeply emotional scenes in this issue, and Scott pulls them off with his art.
Check out the back cover: Those Corn Nuts snacks are disgusting, but I do like the artwork in the ad campaign.
I enjoyed ULTIMATE MARVEL TEAM-UP #1, from Brian Bendis and Matt Wagner. It pulls off a neat trick of continuity. The book takes place sometime in the future of both the X-Men and Spidey Ultimate titles, and so has to step lightly around that. Peter Parker is obviously much more comfortable in his costume here and in slinging his webs than he is in this month's ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #7. Wolverine's story is still a mystery in ULTIMATE X-MEN, so Bendis has to find a way to tap dance around it. We don't know if the Wolvie in the on-going series is a good or bad guy, necessarily. Bendis manages to only half answer that question, while maintaining a great sense of mystery about Wolverine. The interaction between Wolvie and Spidey is pretty good, too, and Bendis goes out of his way to portray Peter Parker as an impressionable teenager. Check out the gag on the last couple of pages of the issue for proof.
I like it. It's a nice character piece, helping to merge the two halves of the current Ultimate Universe, to show us that one is aware of the other.
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #7, as previously mentioned, is a lot of fun because it's the first real chance for Mark Bagley to break out and do a full blown superhero action sequence. It's the Green Goblin versus the newly minted Spider-Man for all its worth. This is Peter Parker's first real fight, and it shows. He's still trying to get the hang of how his webbing works and what he can do with it. He even misses with his webshots, something you don't see happen too often nowadays. Bagley draws Spidey as lithe and as agile as you've ever seen him, but also with a sense of a loss of control. Spidey goes flying across the page a couple of times. He looks confused and lost in more than a couple of panels, just judging by his body language. Yet he still looks really cool, despite all of that, when he's shooting his webbing.
This brings the first story arc of the series to a close. If you haven't been keeping up with it, do yourself a favor and pick up the trade paperback when it comes out.
Friday's column will be a review of what is, for me, the next HEROBEAR AND THE KID. 1999's San Diego Comic Con debuted HEROBEAR and comics fandom went nuts for it. In 2000, everyone was on the lookout for the next breakout hit. For my money, SPARKS is it, even though it was up to its fourth issue by the time San Diego came about. It's a charming comic, and I'll tell you all about it on Friday.
Hmm, the 200th Pipeline Commentary and Review is just around the corner, too... Should I do something special for 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…
This year, I'll be at the Chicago Comicon (i.e. WizardWorld) the San Diego Comicon (i.e. the Comic Con International: San Diego), and the Pittsburgh Comicon, which requires no second name. Hope to meet some of you there.
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.