PRELUDE TO PIPELINE PREVIEWS
OUT THERE is up to its second issue already. It's the new Cliffhanger series by Humberto Ramos with Brian Augustyn, set at a school in California that seems to be near the rough equivalent of the Hellmouth. I previewed the first issue in its black and white form back in February, but thought I should remind you all that it's still out there waiting to be read. It's worth it, too. It may not be treading a whole lot of new ground, but it is an enjoyable repackaging of several standard saws of fantasy comics. The town is being taken over by a big-time demon, whose little minions have their run of the place. When a small group of high schoolers discover them, they're drawn into a scary conspiracy, etc. etc. As I've said before, though, ideas are a dime a dozen and it's all in the execution. Ramos is doing a fine job in keeping this interesting, both in the visuals (with his trademark big-feet and large eyes) and in the storytelling.
One thing about the book that deserves special mention, though, is the coloring. Edgar Delgado is doing some absolutely beautiful work on this book. It's a very busy computer-coloring scheme that may not be for everyone, but I think it works gorgeously here. Ramos' art doesn't naturally include lots of shadows and depth. The inker and the colorist add much of it. Delgado is doing an amazing job in not just coloring the comic, but also in creating a three dimensional environment through his use of colors. There's not a single page in this book that looks like it was sloppily put together. Every panel looks carefully crafted with an eye towards not just filling in the blank spots and telling the story, but also in creating an environment.
I wouldn't blame you if you were waiting for the trade on this one. Just make sure to try it when it does show up. I think OUT THERE is very worthy, and Humberto Ramos' attitude towards the business of comics is very laudible.
On a slight tangent: The letters column in the second issue is yet another reason DC is in such trouble – they find ways to suck the fun out of everything. There's a simple "Name This Letters Column" contest. The legal notes take up 3/4 of the page. Remember when you could have as simple contest, give away a few little prizes, and be done with it? Granted, we live in such an overly litigious age that crap like this may be necessary, but I don't see anyone else in comics going through such pains to please the legal teams. ::sigh::
"Our Worlds At War" – the crossover that never begins – continues this week in at least two titles from DC, SUPERMAN #172 and YOUNG JUSTICE #35. I'm happy to say that both are worth reading, while the YJ issue may be one of Peter David's best issues of the series yet.
I'll start with SUPERMAN. The usual creative team is aboard. Jeph Loeb writes it. Ed McGuinness, who just renewed his DC exclusive contract, pencils it. Cam Smith inks it. Richard and Tanya Horie continue their spectacular coloring job.
The action is set in Topeka, Kansas. That's the site of the rather large explosion seen at the end of last week's ACTION COMICS. Superman investigates the explosion, starting at its origin and working backwards, to the Kent Family farm. Supergirl guest-stars.
Jeph Loeb creates a mini-history lesson here. Running counterpoint to the story throughout the issue is the text of Abraham Lincoln's Gettsyburg Address. This one blends in a lot better than his Biblical quotations did in last week's truly awful SECRET FILES book. (Dale Keown's pin-up in the book is about the only noteworthy thing in it.) It would have worked better if there weren't so much dialogue interrupting the quotations. Those tend to get in the way of the importance of the lines. If it were possible to have made this an otherwise silent issue, with only the captions quoting the address, the issue would have been much stronger. Of course, I do have to give you one caveat: I was an American History minor. This kind of thing naturally appeals to me. Your mileage may vary.
McGuinness staged everything nicely to feel large and important. He used some excellent angles and had a good use of shadows and negative space throughout the issue.
The ending is a bit of a turnoff, as I don't believe it for a bit. Maybe I'll be proven wrong in the end and I'll have robbed myself of an important emotional event. For now, however, I'm keeping my jaded hat on and just breezing over it.
YOUNG JUSTICE #35, in the meantime, feels like it takes place a little after the events in this week's SUPERMAN books. Heck, it must take place well after it. The war is in full swing, and there are casualties and injuries already being reported, although no specific names are mentioned. The issue has one basic plot point in that it establishes Young Justice's role in the war. As everything is being orchestrated through the White House, Lex Luthor gets his say and makes his decision with all the savvy of a politician. Read it and you'll see what I mean.
That's only a very small part of the book, however. The rest of the book plays directly to Peter David's strengths as a writer. He gets to play one character off the next. He gets to put in some great banter that will keep you turning the pages without realizing that, in essence, no plot is happening yet. For the most part, this issue is comprised of the characters sitting around and talking. Most of the hilarity comes when Red Tornado stops by and YJ tries to explain to him everything that's happened in his absence.
At the same time, the ongoing character struggles aren't lost. Wonder Girl once again is trying to convince Arrowette to put the costume back on and join the struggle. PAD fashions another of his almost trademark stunts to punctuate the point Arrowette wants to make about why she's hesitant to do so. It's creative. It's funny. It makes the point perfectly. There are one or two other nice surprises in the issue, although I don't want to give too much away. Read it and you'll see. This book will resonate with those who've been reading the series for a long time, as much of the humor comes from the running gags and repeating bits of the individual characters. Anyone with a passing knowledge of the characters, though, should be able to "get" this one.
Todd Nauck is still on board as artist and still doing a wonderful job. I just this past weekend pulled out his run on the NEWMEN comic he did when he first broke in. I remember liking his art back then, but it pales by comparison in every way to the stuff he's doing now.
Over in Marvel land, EXILES #2 is out this week. How about that? A mutant revamp book that's on-schedule! Wow, are things turning ugly at the mutant camp lately or what?!?
Anyway, this second issue happens. Judd Winick drags you through a series of events on a parallel earth in which everything sorta looks the same, but the people play different roles kinda. ("Ooh, how clever. Our good guy is a bad guy here. Whoa.") You learn things as the characters learn them. Everything wraps up and they move on.
Does that not sound terribly exciting to you? Good, because it did nothing for me. While Mike McKone's art is as beautiful as ever (I actually prefer his cover to the J.H. Williams cover), Winick's story does nothing but move along. I never got into it. Even when one of the main characters bites it in this issue, I feel nothing. I don't know too much about any of these characters. I don't care about them at all. And I've read enough Elseworlds type stories to know that nothing is at is seems and that whenever the characters assume it, you know something is wrong.
Next issue promises to take place at a pivotal moment in X-Men history, so I'll give that storyline a chance. If I'm still bored after that, I'm out.
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #11 also comes out this week, and it looks to be the penultimate issue of the Kingpin storyline. Things are ramping up really quickly here. But writer Brian Michael Bendis still finds spots to put in more modern trappings into the Spider-Man story. In this case, it comes in the shape of a grief counselor who visits the school to talk to all the children in the wake of the Green Goblin's recent destructive raid. Not only is it a smart idea in this day and age to include such a scene in a comic book, but it gives Bendis a chance to show off his dialogue skills. Nice work there.
There's some else that's rather major to the story that I want to talk about this month, though. I can't do it without blowing a major chunk of the plot, so I'll wrap the spoilers in bold faced warnings. If you haven't read the book yet, come back here when you have, or just skip the rest of the column. (But come back here on Thursday for a PCR Extra edition!)
I'm giving away a major plot point of the issue, and using it to speculate about what's going to happen in September's issue. If I'm right, it's an outright spoiler. If I'm wrong, then you can come back in a couple of months, point at me, and laugh.
Peter Parker is a Grade A dunce. In ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #11, he finally realizes that he needs to use his brains and not just his underdeveloped spider-powers, if he's to beat baddies such as Electro or the Kingpin. Fine so far.
In thinking back to his earlier encounter with Kingpin, he remembers a hidden security video camera. That, he realizes, must contain everything he needs to nail the Kingpin for any of a variety of charges. He does his research to find out how the information is stored (on DVDs), complete with a Jurassic Park-like video infomercial in the middle of the issue. Then he goes to fight crime.He forgets about the flip side of the coin about those stored videos. Never once does he put two and two together. He even flashes back to Kingpin taking his mask off, but he never stops to think that his own face is going to be on one of those DVDs, which could prove to be damaging to him. And with the big shocking surprise coming in September, complete with a cover showing someone holding Spider-Man's mask in his hand, I don't think it takes a genius to guess that two and two might equal four here. I think the dual identity will be made public in the Ultimate Universe.
Or, I could be swallowing the red herring and swatting at the MacGuffin. If I am, I'm sure you'll all be back here in a couple of months to rub it in my face.
END OF SPOILER WARNING
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.