THE BENDIS TRILOGY
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #8 is a good issue, but the pacing of it does an abrupt 180-degree turn about two-thirds of the way in and nearly loses me as a result. The first fourteen story pages flow nicely, as we follow along with Peter through a Day In The Life type thing. His connection to the Daily Bugle is finally made, and things seem to be off to a promising start. Then we cut strangely to a dream sequence (differentiated through some nice color pencil type artwork) and a couple of other quick cuts before we're finished. Granted, the final scene plays off the relationships quickly established in the first half of the story and in the same setting, but for some reason it feels off to me. ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN has always had a good flow to it. It's easily followed from point A to point B with nothing thrown in to confuse. I'm afraid this bit of jumping around threw me off the tracks.
That said, I think it might be the kind of thing that fits in better when the story is told as a whole. Bendis is going somewhere with this, and it's something that will take the next five or six issues to play out.
Mark Bagley's interior art is great, as always. He's keeping Peter Parker and Spider-Man the same wiry weight and look. That's good. It's his cover that throws me off this month, though. It's an exercise in forced perspective that looks awkward when complete. The forward leaning leg and the backwards-reaching arm don't look right at all. At least, they don't look right to me.
POWERS #10, on the other hand, works nicely for me. Bendis and Oeming's baby here builds to its climax, through the use of a lot more political narrative than crime story exposition. Deena Pilgrim's actions at the end of the last issue are shown in the legal and political spotlight. It's her plight that's slowly taking over this book. To help get her past that, Walker is out on the investigation, trying to wrap the thing up before it gets any worse. And it gets worse at the end of this issue. But it also looks to be leading to the grand conclusion next month.
Meanwhile, back in the other universe: ULTIMATE MARVEL TEAM-UP #2 (with the Incredible Hulk) is just a fun issue. This isn't the kind of thing that's going to redefine the Marvel Universe for you. While Brian Bendis has a couple of possible twists to Hulk's origin here, he seems to be keeping it in line with the regular Marvel continuity. This time, though, in the wake of the creation of the Hulk, the green behemoth has headed straight for New York City, and Spidey is there to confront him. The dialogue is perfect for the interplay between Spidey and Hulk. The "Hulk smash!" stuff is still there, and Spidey makes a couple of knowing wink and nod reference to the Hulk, which are funny without pulling you completely out of the story.
Phil Hester and Ande Parks draw a nice big, grumpy Hulk character here, but their Spidey is all over the place. He looks like four different people are wearing the costume depending on what panel he's in. It never looks like the wiry Peter Parker teenager is in the red and blue. That's a little disappointing. Let's see if they get the hang of it for next month.
THREE QUICK BITS OF BUSINESS
Just a quick word for THE UNCANNY X-MEN #392 here: Scott Lobdell and Salvador Larocca do their best classic Claremonte-era X-Men story yet. It's almost beat for beat something you'd expect to have been written by Claremont about fifteen years ago. The mutants are tough. Everyone likes to call Jean Grey "Red." It's a classic "Gather Up A New Team" story, complete with the new team bursting through a pic of the old team on the opening page. Lobdell puts these words in Jean Grey's mouth: "We can do this the easy way or the hard way. Lady's choice." And it's split across three word balloons. Throw a caption box of fifty words on top of that panel and you'd bet the farm that Claremont wrote it.
There is one other nice bit to the issue – an old favorite returns on the last page. If only she had brought her boyfriend back with her, it would have been perfect. Maybe next issue…
CrossGen's MYSTIC #11 is an art tour de force. It's an origin story for Darrow, the suave manipulator/love interest for Giselle. If you've been following the series for a while, this issue will help weave together a lot of the threads from the past few issues and certain things will make more sense. But Brandon Peterson deserves special praise for this issue for taking an artistic risk. The art itself isn't, quite honestly, his best stuff on the title. But his layout is superb. He took a chance on this one and I think it worked. The story is told in two parts. The first is the ceremony to bring Giselle's sister into the Guild Master's inner circle. Those pages in this issue are divided into 16 panels. But the storytelling isn't exactly linear from panel to panel. The panels are grouped together in sometimes-odd formations to achieve a look and a montage, at times, more than a story. The second part of the story is Darrow telling his origin, told in tall half page splashes. It gives the issue a nice design sense, which is often lacking from comics today.
Would it be completely ungrateful of me to complain that it will take another year for Dark Horse to finish printing AKIRA? I want more now! Gimme monthly!
Ah, well, such is life. At least we'll get to see the movie in theaters or on DVD this summer.
SIDEWAYS COMICS RETURN!
Something that I've always taken the chance to talk about here in Pipeline is the matter of comics that are formatted sideways. Most people remember the issues that Dave Sim did with CEREBUS, or the one issue John Byrne did on FANTASTIC FOUR. Newer comics converts such as myself remember the MAN OF STEEL issue and the X-FORCE issue. There are plenty of other examples – please don't write in with them all. Trust me, I've seen the lists. Marvel is jumping in the waters again.
Marvel announced "Marvelscope" last week. Marvel is apparently trying real hard to be Windows – using design elements from the competition and branding it with their own name and calling it an innovation. But I'll forgive the slight hyperbole of the press releases and Your Man @ Marvel column for the sake of the format.
Simply put, the book uses the same format at Jim Krueger's FLY BOYS did a couple of years ago. Not only is the story told in a sideways format, but it's also stapled that way. The staples go along the short edge of the paper – along the "top," if you will – so that the whole book can be read in the traditional format with the spine on the left, but the pages would then be wider than they are tall. Marvel is starting with the NEW X-MEN ANNUAL this summer, and will use that to test the market for this type of book. I really hope it takes off. I'd love to see someone try a regular series in this format. But I've written about this before, so feel free to read the original sideways column, the follow-up column, and the third column for more discussion of sideways comics.
There's one or two things Marvel should look at when creating these books, however. I talked to my local retailer last week about it, and he had one complaint about FLY BOYS: It didn't stand up straight. With the staples at the top of the book and the cover designed to be "read" at the same usual right-side-up format, the book was shelved in the same exact way as every other book, but slid right off the shelves. The staples along the left hand column of a comic book help to support it, giving it a kind of spine to stand on. FLY BOYS didn't have that. With its reduced page count, it didn't have the extra heft to hold itself up, either.
The simple solution to this is to make sure the cover is formatted sideways, as well. The problem you'll have there is with whiney retailers who think it'll crowd out other books. When shelved sideways, the book will take up roughly one and a half slots that other books would get. In affect, you'd lose shelf space for one book. And if your retailer is using the type of shelving that has a facing board on the front, then the cover might just as well disappear completely.
It's a tricky balance that Marvel will have to consider in producing these books. I hope it's one they think through and can come to some arrangement with retailers on. I hope it isn't a repeat of those early ESSENTIAL editions where the title of the book on the spine read in the wrong direction from every other book printed by man.
One other formatting idea: Why not keep the usual right-side-up format and staple it at the top, anyway? Have all the panels read straight down, similar to what you might find in a web comic. Each two page spread carries over from the top page to the bottom page… It might be another idea to try sometime.
QUEEN & COUNTRY UPDATE
Greg Rucka now wants the world to know that QUEEN & COUNTRY's Tara Chace is not the same character as was last seen in WHITEOUT. Nope. No way. Where would you ever get that idea? I mean, aside from the original Oni press release on the series?
Nope, it's not the same character and he wants that to be known now because, you see, there's a WHITEOUT movie in the works and he wants to keep the characters and any future movie deals separate. So Tara Chace is no longer Lily Sharpe.
Live and re-learn.
Due to some home "renovations," Friday's Pipeline2 column will not be the expected Peter David STAR TREK column. I'm going to have to put that off for a week or two while things get straightened back out. Instead, Friday's column will be some reactions to the past couple of months' columns, including some comments from SUICIDE SQUAD editor Bob Greenberger, and a bit of business to help link most of the columns together.
More than 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 nine 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. I just submitted a review for THE ROAD TO EL DORADO this past weekend, so keep an eye out for it on there soon. I'm already working on the next two.