REVIEWS OF THE WEEK
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #471 (nee #30) is now available for your pick up at a comics shoppe near you. JMS takes over the writing reins officially now, ably abetted by John Romita Jr.'s art. It's one of the most entertaining Spider-Man stories of the past decade. (Granted, with the Clone storyline taking so long and the Chapter One fiasco, that's not saying much. It's a good issue, though.)
This book accomplishes two things. The first is that it helps to define Spider-Man and Peter Parker as they currently are. In fact, that's the weakest point of the issue. The first page has Aunt May talking to Peter's answering machine. The dialogue feels a little clunky and is transparently expositional.
The second accomplishment is in setting the wheels in motion of all the plots JMS has said he's wanted to write. He hasn't done anything yet with them to earn our scorn, so give it a chance. The plot so far is interesting and, in many ways, scary for Peter.
JMS has a wicked sense of humor that often came out on BABYLON 5. It hasn't really shown up yet in any of his other comics work. Here, though, he gets the chance to cut loose. Perhaps the most surprising thing about this book for most people who might not know what to expect, will be the sense of humor it has.
While I still can't possibly fathom nor begin to understand the storyline that led up to this issue with the insane decision to send Mary Jane packing to California (!), this book stands up well on its own. I grew up reading comics with Peter Parker married to Mary Jane, so it doesn't seem like such an odd thing. I enjoy their relationship. The fact that the writing teams on the books right now want to eliminate that part is disappointing to me, but I won't let it affect my overall enjoyment of the book. If they can tell good stories without her, more power to them. I just think it's unnecessary and a loss.
And, hey! The original logo design is back! I like that! I never understood that scalloped, dripping Spider-Man logo look. I can't even describe it any better than that. Maybe it was a desperate attempt to make the logo look grim and gritty. Very weird. Spidey ain't grim, and should never really be.
THE RETURN OF ALISON DARE LITTLE MISS ADVENTURES #1 is finally on the stands from Oni Press. I say "finally" not because it's late. I say that because I've been waiting for this since I read the original one shot back in September. J. Torres and J. Bone are back in the saddle, whipping up family friendly adventures that are sure to delight and amuse anyone who takes the time to read it. The story is 26 ad free pages in black and white on nice heavy white paper for $2.95. Not a bad deal in today's market and one made even better by the quality of the material printed on it.
In this issue, little Alison Dare is accompanying her mother on an expedition somewhere in Arabia. As she's wont to due, her boredom leads her to take a look at things she's not supposed to. In this case, she discovers a lamp and, sure enough, a genie emerges to grant her three wishes. For her first wish, she magically transports her friends to her side. Then all heck breaks loose when the genie plays with her wish for "1,001 Arabian Nights" a little freely.
The story is fast-paced, easy to read, sprinkled with humor, and just slightly educational. (I may be slightly stretching on that last point. There's a Bugs Bunny cartoon or two that could give you the same info…
Alison Dare can be a big ball of trouble and yet still be likable. It's not that she's being mean or doing things that she knows are wrong on purpose. She's just a curious little girl. It's her own thirst for knowledge, combined with her innate immaturity that drives her from adventure to adventure. And we get pulled along on the way. It's fun. Give it a chance.
J. Bone is finally starting to get the attention he deserves. He's a wonderful artist, drawing in a simple cartoony style. This isn't the BATMAN ANIMATED style that that usually means. This is a soft style all its own that lends itself just as easily to "good girl" comics (SOLAR STELLA) as it does to kiddy book (ALISON DARE). Even better, he's been nominated for an Eisner this year for Talent Most Deserving of Wider Recognition. I think it's a brilliant nomination from the judges this year. I know who I'll be rooting for in San Diego.
By the way, did you notice that the major sponsor of the Eisners this year is Comic Book Resources? How cool is that?
Bongo comics has released the third issue of FUTURAMA COMICS, based on the FOX animated series. I enjoy the animated series a lot. I just don't watch it that often. It's on at a bad timeslot for me. If they put it on right after SIMPSONS, I'd be there. But I don't watch TV on Sunday nights at 7, so it's lost to me. There's always rumors floating around about a DVD release. If those discs come out, I'll happily bloat my collection some more with them.
This issue reads like an unproduced script of the television series. Written by Eric Rogers (from a plot by Bill Morrison, it seems), "The Owner of Mars Attacks!" follows Leeta through a madcap quest to collect all the Pokemon. Well, it's not really Pokemon. They're just collectible, living pets. Heck, the story works well for any collectible item. That's the beauty of the plot. It gets into values of worth, collectability, and insane collectors. Then the plot gets twisted around a bit and turned back to the show's sci fi roots.
All the elements of the television series are here. The ability to create new planets and environments for the sake of new jokes is exploited fully here, right down to the planet Nosferatu 4, which, as you might suspect, is populated by vampires. There's lots of side and sight gags in the opening act at a local swap meet, too.
The art from James Lloyd and Steve Steere Jr. keeps all the characters and sets and ships perfectly on model. They don't skimp on the backgrounds, either. In the span of a 25-page story, there are a miniscule number of panels that don't include some sort of backgrounds. It's really impressive.
The Colorbot 3000 gets full credit for coloring. It, too, does a god job. The coloring reminds me of Chris Ware's ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY's coloring. (Boy, that ought to bring the comics purists to a full revolt. But, hell, we live in a fandom where if JMS' first issue of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is given positive attention in a major mainstream magazine, people will complain that it's the wrong kind of comics to appear in a mainstream magazine. There's no chance to please all the people.)
Anyway: The coloring is not sculpted. It's not molded. It's flat, but it fits the art, and the palette used is very warm and inviting. Nothing garish here. Even when it would be perfectly justified to do so, the coloring is never blurred. There are some shadows, but they're solid. No gradients here. It's a great looking book.
If you like the television series, I don't think this book will disappoint you. In fact, the book seems to take it for granted that you're a fan of the show already. It doesn't really do a great job explaining who the characters are as they pop up. But, then, neither does the television show. It doesn't need to. The characters are quickly defined by their actions. And maybe that's the way it should be.
ENEMY ACE: WAR IN HEAVEN #1 is the first of a two-part prestige format mini-series from Garth Ennis, Chris Weston and Christian Alamy. If you're looking forward to the upcoming Warren Ellis/Weston mini, MINISTRY OF SPACE, this book might just be the perfect teaser for you. It's not related to the other book by any means, aside from the fact that it's got Chris Weston drawing some absolutely amazing vintage flying machines. They're drawn from every angle. They're drawn with a high level of engineering detail. They're drawn often and from afar and without any cheap cop-outs, like extreme close-ups to hide detail. There are some full-scale dogfights in this issue, and they're beautiful and cinematic. I can't praise the art enough. (Alamy is credited with layout. The storytelling is just fine, too, but it's the final linework that will steal your breath away.)
Ennis' story is not like THE PUNISHER or JUST A PILGRIM or HITMAN. Here it's a WWII story that comes off as one of those chic morality plays. It's the story of a soldier with a conscience that questions whose side he's on and asking what it's all about. The trick here is that the protagonist is a German. This is WWII story whose sympathetic character is fighting for "the other side." He's not a mind-numbed Nazi. He loathes the formalities of the military and despises his political leaders. He's just out to kill the Russians and win the war for his country, while struggling with the greater question of why. It's a fascinating fist issue. Hopefully, the conclusion next month will prove just as satisfactory.
Coming up this Friday: The backlash to widescreen comics begins. A few thoughts on the matter of classic cinema and what impact it could have – and should have – on comics today.
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 is next week already! Hope to meet some of you there.
Finally, I write DVD movie reviews (occasionally) for the gang over at DVD Channel News. And sometimes they post them to the site…