TWO STRIKES AGAINST SCOTT LOBDELL
STRAY #1 from Homage Comics is an opportunity squandered. This is Scott Lobdell's latest creation, with Jimmy Palmiotti's script. Adam Pollina's gorgeous art is the only thing going for this book.
This story commits the worst possible felony -- boredom. In just slightly more than forty pages, Lobdell's plot gives us the boring origin of a wannabe actress and her stray dog, which suddenly becomes possessed of an alien's intelligence here to save earth. There. I just spoiled the whole damned thing on you. Save your six bucks for a prestige format book that may actually deserve it.
Adam Pollina does art duties here and, along with WildStorm FX's coloring, single handedly makes this book worth looking at. In fact, next time you're in your local friendly comic book establishment, pick this thing up off the racks and flip through it. The book is shot directly from Pollina's pencils. The linework is gorgeous. The coloring is nice and soft and doesn't get in the way of the pencil line. The artwork comes off looking a little like Bill Plympton's and a little like Kyle Baker's. Actually, it reminds me a lot of Kyle Baker's. Baker's work, however, always has a strong and comedic story to back it up.
Some other stupidities of it: The dog is imbued with telekinetic power which he repeatedly uses to beat the bad guys by – get this – popping out light bulbs, making the room go dark and beating down the bad guys in their confusion. Guess it never occurred to him to telekinetically lift the guns out of their hands…
It's also ironic that in a book with no inker, the creator with the reputation as an inker is part of the book – as scripter. Palmiotti has a few good gags in here, but there's also some very verbose word balloons, some redundancies, and one or two misspellings. (To be fair, it's entirely possible they were typos by Robbie Robbins, the letterer). One redundant bit of dialogue: "Hey, your invisibility powers worked perfectly! The guard never saw you."
This book might be good if there were an actual story to it. I wouldn't mind seeing a follow-up to see if Lobdell can carry off the concept to saying more adventurous and entertaining, particularly with Pollina's art. But this book is a waste of glossy paper.
Wait! I'm not done. Lemme save you another couple of bucks:
X-MEN #111 came out last week, also from Scott Lobdell, but drawn by Leinel Francis Yu. The country of Genosha is under Magneto's command and he's about to take the world to war for its inherently prejudiced views. There. I just spoiled the entire friggin' issue on you. The issue is a 22 page long recap of the history of Genosha. If you've been reading the X-books for longer than a year, it's nothing you don't already know. If you're a new reader, this might have some tension to you. About the only thing going for it is that the entire issue is designed to be a television news report, with Trish Tilby behind the microphone. (I really have to dig through my back issues, but I don't remember Tilby looking like this. Have they redesigned the character recently, or is it just my imagination and lack of memory playing tricks on me?)
Yu's artwork looks rushed. The opening two page spread is distinctly undetailed in an area or two where there needs to be plenty of it. Take a look at this part of a message Yu posted to CBR's very own Marvel Comics message board:
"I'm not the fastest artist in the world but I sure as hell am not a slacker. Until this very moment, I still have only 3 pages of X-men 111 in PLOTS and I finished them weeks ago. "
That was posted on December 30, 2000. The issue came out on March 14th. Nineteen pages of this issue were plotted, penciled, scripted, lettered, inked, and colored in the span of about two months before it arrived at the printer's. No wonder the issue looks like a rush job and reads like a rote recitation of Genosha's history.
Lobdell can do better. Take a look at the most recent UNCANNY X-MEN and the stirring confrontation between the reborn Scott Summers and his father, Corsair. It's terrific character stuff.
This issue, though, is completely unnecessary.
I look forward to seeing what Yu has up his sleeve when he has time to put the effort into a comic book that it deserves.
BACK TO SOME GOOD COMICS NOW…
Joe Casey continues to play around with the conventions of comic book storytelling in THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #590. In his previous issue, he used a minimum of large panels from Duncan Rouleau to tell the story. He even opened the issue like the beginning of a movie, with each creator getting a credit between panels. This issue carries that along with Derec Aucoin's art, but takes place at two different points of time.
The book starts out as Superman visits Luthor in the White House. Their conversation is interspersed with the story of Superman running a mission in Bialya for Luthor, which clearly takes place after the conversation. But the conversation runs parallel to the story, running along the left hand side of each page, in a dead zone saved just for the lettering. It's pretty effective, and the story and art are both easy on the eyes. No, it's not WATCHMEN, but after reading comics for 12 years and counting, I've really begun to appreciate anything different that writers try.
Michael Golden drew the cover, so enjoy it while you've got it. I hope they can get him to draw a little more Superman stuff, whether it be covers, a mini-series, or a fill-in issue somewhere. Heck, who am I kidding? Let him draw anything he wants, but just get him to draw more!
Which reminds me – where did Paul Smith go back into hiding? Once LEAVE IT TO CHANCE blew away, so did he.
ZERO GIRL #4 finally links the book into the MAXX universe. It's a simple throwaway one-liner, but I think you Maxx fanboys will appreciate it. In addition to that, it's another great issue of Sam Kieth's latest weird creation. To bring those of you who haven't read it up to date, he's a quick description: BOSTON PUBLIC, but weirder. The guidance counselor, Tim Foster, and the picked-on schoolgirl, Amy Smootster, may just be falling in love. Circles are good. Squares are bad. Unca Carl is a sowbug, and that mean nasty girl at school is really a squarehead.
Sound like fun yet?
It really is. I'll tell you why. (Otherwise, this would be a relatively pointless typing exercise.) You can put aside all the weirdness and all the elements of the fantastic and still have a pretty damned cool tale here. There's no black and white in here. You'd think that the relationship between the counselor and the student should be automatically dismissed; It's wrong, isn't it? But the characters here are more than two-dimensional and maybe – just maybe – they might stand a chance together. All the other elements of the book serve as catalysts for the characters to realize their feelings and see their own faults.
The book still has a couple of issues to go, but it sure is good to have Keith back in comics. Let's hope there's more after this.
NIGHTWING #56 is Greg Land's second-to-last issue of the title before heading to the CrossGen compound. He's going out with grace, I'll tell you that. This issue is just gorgeous, as always.
The story is busy setting up the next few issues. There are a few subplots carried along, and a big fight at Blockbuster's place. There's some promising stuff, but this isn't exactly the single copy of a single comic you'd give to someone in the hopes of enticing them to read comics. It might be pretty insular for Nightwing fans.
TRANSMETROPOLITAN #44 is part two of the three-part "Dirge" storyline. If you think the book is gaining steam with this issue, wait until you see the next one. I've seen photocopies of Darick Robertson's artwork for it, and it's a tour de force for him. The art will carry the story in dramatic fashion.
For me, one of the nice things about the book is that it's so futuristic and so far-fetched in so many ways that it's impossible for me to really put the characters of the book into identifiable political leanings. The Smiler isn't evil because of his policies. He's evil because he's corrupt and uses anyone and everyone to achieve his goals. Warren Ellis doesn't write this in a way to insult a specific political party – although I'm sure you might find one if you look hard enough. It's just good versus evil. The gonzo journalist versus the government run amok.
That's my take on it, at least.
SUPERBOY'S LEGION #1 is the first of a two part prestige format series. Mark Farmer writes and inks, while Alan Davis pencils it. As expected, the art is beautiful. Pat Prentice's lettering is large, reminding me a bit of L. Lois Buhalis', and fitting in here perfectly with a book starring a pack of teenagers. Richard and Tanya Horie do what I think is their best coloring to date in this book.
I've never been a LEGION fan. I read the books once for a few months back around the time a younger Chris Sprouse started LEGIONNAIRES. I just couldn't get into it, though. This book is the most interesting the cast has ever been for me. Maybe it's because of the nature of an Elseworlds where anything goes and everyone is in danger. These characters seem accessible and interesting in the 48 story pages allotted them in this first issue. I'm sure there's a bunch of references that long-time Legion fans can drool over picking out, but they all went over my head. It didn't interfere with my enjoyment of the book at all.
Coming up on Friday: Marvel's critically acclaimed BLACK PANTHER, from Christopher Priest, Sal Velluto, and Bob Almond.
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 weeks...
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.