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Pipeline, Issue #212

PIPELINE PREVIEWS FOR 27 JUNE 2001

Once again, it's time for a look around at some comics that will be hitting comic shops this week.

ULTIMATE X-MEN #7 begins the second six-issue story arc for the series. Now that Magneto and his band of unmerry men have been dismantled and the X-Men have – quite publicly – saved the world, part two of Xavier's plan for greater mutant acceptance kicks in. Storm, Colossus, and Cyclops are off to Japan, where the X-Men are seen as heroes. There they do public appearances and a talk show, pleading their case for greater mutant acceptance. Things get a little twisted at the end, though, when a well-known X-Men character makes her debut in the Ultimate universe. Thankfully, the story never descends into some cliché fight. It's a short encounter that sets up the next big plot point in the storyline. It's also another one that's quietly filled with new ideas and a sometimes-skewed perspective on the tried-and-true mutant universe.

Mark Millar's story never gets the chance to stop. It starts off with an action sequence as the Weapon X project chases their latest runaway, Nightcrawler. His connection to the X-Men isn't readily apparent, but he would seem to be a major bit of business in this story as it develops. Jean Grey also tends to Beast, while nursing her emotional Wolverine wounds. And Wolverine and Xavier plot their next step.

As you could probably tell from the description, the plot jumps around. There's no one obvious through-line for this issue. But it's just the first part of a six-part storyline. Millar is getting his pawns in position. I'm sure it'll all coalesce before too long.

Adam Kubert is back on art duties. He's the one who set the look for this book, and he's the one who does it best. While there are a couple of weak panels in this issue, he still does a good job overall.

BATMAN #592 is the second part of the Deadshot story that began in the same title last month. The funny thing is that you don't see Deadshot that much. He's more of a presence than an antagonist, and that works for me. His skills are so sharp that the very idea that he might be around can make people jumpy. That's exactly what it does to Batman, with unpredictable results. Ed Brubaker uses the bulk of the story to explore Bruce Wayne a little more, more prominently using the girl from Wayne's childhood that we were introduced to last issue.

Scott McDaniel and Karl Story do their usual great jobs in telling the story. Not much more needs to be said. It's well done, with great action pieces and a nice attention to detail. You can even see the hinges in the middle of the batarangs, for instance.

X-FORCE #117 is the second issue of the title's revamp, courtesy of writer Peter Milligan and artist Mike Allred. Thankfully, Milligan doesn't cheapen the shock ending from previous issue. Everything stands. The reset switch is not hit. I'm both surprised and relieved by this. It's not enough to tell a majorly different type of story with different characters. Flouting convention is what this book is all about. Returning characters from the presumed dead one issue after their deaths would be a major disappointment.

Instead, Coach (who looks like a mix of Jack Kirby and "Coach" from CHEERS) goes on to draft a new team of characters for the book and send them on their first new mission together. It's a mission that's patterned after the Elian Gonzalez case. It seems odd to me that enough time has passed since that whole wretched affair that I can look at such a story without being sickened. It was the story that just wouldn't die. Political commentators ran in circles for weeks talking about it. It got to be very frustrating. Thankfully, none of that frustration carries over to this story.

Each of the new characters get a page to explain who and what they are, along with a little background. While this drags out the issue just a tad, it works if you think of it as the little info card on the blister pack of the G.I. Joe figure. It quickly explains all the character interactions and conflicts that arise throughout the rest of the issue.

Speaking of the rest of the issue, the original X-Force shows up in this one. The two teams fight. It ends. Don't ask me how. There seems to be a page or three missing that would explain what happened. It absolutely confused me. I have no idea what happened. The two teams start fighting. They carry on for a couple of pages. Then we cut to the new X-Force team, back at their press conference. I have no idea where the old team went.

The issue doesn't center quite so much on the powered protagonists' relationship to society and the media. It stays slightly more insular. It's a look at the mutants, themselves, and how they interact. It's a great issue, nevertheless. If the first issue didn't hook you, give this one a chance. Maybe it will.

GHOST RIDER #1 debuts this week, from writer Devin Grayson, penciller Trent Kaniuga, and inker Danny Miki. Ghost Rider is back, having spent the past few years stuck in an office job. He's back with a vengeance, too, as a corrupt shipping company is in need of having vengeance meted out upon it. We don't get to see the Ghost Rider stare anyone down, but there are some motorcycle chase scenes for your adrenaline-infused amusement.

This issue acts mostly as a teaser to the mini-series. Not much is explained. It doesn't really need to be at this point. Since the questions of the character's sudden reappearance are raised at the beginning of the issue, it seems obvious that they'll be answered further down the line.

You'll breeze through this book, as there are a lot of silent pages and panels. At this point, it's so breezy, I'm thinking of waiting for a trade before reading this one.

Kaniuga is a decent artist. He's got a certain indy/unfinished look to him. He still needs some more polish to his work. Some of it looks downright lumpy. For now, though, it's not distracting enough to be a drawback. He's also done some nice covers for MARVEL KNIGHTS (also out this week), so we know he has the talent.

Kaniuga gains major points for the car in the first double page spread with the "Titus" license plate. Then he loses major points for putting mountains that look like they come from the Himalayas smack dab in suburban NJ. In consecutive pages, Ghost Rider's location is said to be New York City, and then I-78. In order to get from one place to the other, you generally have to drive through New Jersey. I know this; I live here. We don't have mountains that look anything like that. Ours are all very well wooded. They're green and roll more than they peak. I know this is a minor consideration, but it jumped out at me and it's my column, darnit. ;-)

I'm a bit hesitant towards the series right now, but I'll give it another issue or two to develop.

GREEN ARROW #5 is out this week and appears to finally bring some semblance of focus to the series. Kevin Smith's story through the first four issues has been meandering. He seems to be have been working in a zigzag fashion from one plot point to the next. The points were coming together slowly, but the larger issues and questions weren't being dealt with.

Until now.

The latest issue stars Batman, the detective, trying to suss out the answers behind the questions raised by Oliver Queen's sudden reappearance and loss of memory. (Wow, this sounds a lot like my GHOST RIDER review already.) Batman goes through the ringer to figure out if this is really the Oliver we know and want to love. And when Oliver gets involved, himself, things get more interesting. I'm not a long time Green Arrow reader, so the glimpses into the character's history are illuminating to me. Every bit counts. In this issue, Green Arrow and Batman filter through a large swatch of Green Arrow continuity looking for answers.

Phil Hester and Ande Park's art fits the story. This issue seems to have the best blend, so far, of the animated look combined with the more classical super-hero look. It's as expressive as it needs to be, without stepping over the line into parody. Smith's script, itself, often verges into that, with references aplenty to modern pop culture. My biggest fear is that he'll turn Ollie's new friend, Mia, into another super hero. It doesn't look like he is. It seems that she's flirting with the idea and coming to realize it's not for her for a variety of reasons. It's the antithesis of the comic book cliché.

Smith is still having issues with his renowned wordiness. Just flipping through the pages can sometimes be off-putting. There are scenes where the lettering – from Sean Konot – dominates the page and threatens to squeeze the art out. The important thing, though, is that Smith isn't using this propensity towards writing excessive dialogue in the wrong places. You're not getting such back-and-forth exchanges in the middle of a fight with a villain, for starters. He can hold himself back and let the pictures tell the story when they need to. That's as important as anything else in comics scriptwriting.

While I'm not about to list this book on my theoretical Top Ten Comics being published today, it's still an interesting one to read and one I look forward to. It hasn't reached the excitement that the DAREDEVIL storyline had reached by this point, but it's a different type of story completely. The DD storyline had a sense of urgency to it, and the ticking time bomb in the baby to make it more apparent. GREEN ARROW is concerned more with the mystery of Oliver Queen's return and, slowly, the ripple that it causes through the super-hero waters. The pacing is more leisurely, so you can expect even more introspection.

SOME DVD BITS

The AKIRA DVD has just been pushed back to a September release, instead of the originally announced July date. If nothing else, it means you'll get to read one more of those thick trade paperbacks from Dark Horse before seeing the movie.

The AKIRA DVD has not been delayed. For the most part. The regular edition and the Limited Tin Special Edition will still street at the end of July. It's only the tin-less special edition that's been pushed back to September. My apologies for any confusion. And is it just me or are "tins" the most worthless bonus a DVD release can have?"

Meanwhile, a pair of DVDs is arriving in stores today that I am really looking forward to. The first is UNBREAKABLE, the M. Knight Shyamalan movie starring Bruce Willis and Samuel Jackson with comic book themes. I discussed it here last December. The second DVD is the complete BLACK ADDER. It contains all four seasons of the show, plus the BACK AND FORTH millennium special and all sorts of bonus material. It's one of my favorite shows of all time, and while it doesn't have any direct comic link to it, I just thought I'd mention it here. (Now I'm just waiting for some sort of WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY? compilation. . .)

If you're looking for something with a comics link, though, you can go pick up DOGMA: SPECIAL EDITION. It's a Kevin Smith joint.

Be sure to check out Jason Baldwin's Paper Cuts column from last week. It's an interesting piece on the struggling state of the Superman books.

Finally, special thanks for the help in getting this column together to the newly minted King of All Comics Librarians: Matt from Dewey's Comic City in Madison, NJ.

You can e-mail me your comments on this column, or post them for all the world to see and respond to over on the Pipeline Message Board.

More than 225 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.

This year, you can still catch me at the Chicago Comicon (i.e. WizardWorld) and the San Diego Comicon (i.e. the Comic Con International: San Diego). I'm also tentatively scheduled for a day at the Small Press Expo in Maryland this September.

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