This is looking to be a pretty good week for comics. Some of the highlights of this week's haul include new issues of TRANSMETROPOLITAN, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, BLACK PANTHER, 3 different X-books (including the long-thought-lost second issue of NEW X-MEN), CRUX, NIGHTWING OWAW, and even the BREAKFAST AFTER NOON trade paperback.
Despite all of that, I've only read two of the books that are coming out this Wednesday so far.
The first is NEW X-MEN #115, the second issue by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, and Tim Townsend. If you liked the first issue, you'll probably like the second. It moves away a little from the insane ideas department and concentrates more on the action, which is a step in the right direction, I think. Morrison's problems traditionally come when he falls in love with all his far-out ideas and forgets to put anything else in the comic. This issue balances that out nicely, plus gives us some nice dialogue pieces for all the characters. Cyclops gets the best line of the issue pretty early on. Look for his line about plane crashes and you'll know what I mean.
Quitely's art looks fine. There's not all that much necessary in the way of innovation here. He plays with the same artistic concepts he set up last year, maintaining the look and keeping the energy up.
It's a good-looking book that's entertaining and easy to understand. I like that in my comics.
Over at DC, "Our Worlds at War" continues in THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #594. This issue is written by Joe Casey and drawn by Mike Wieringo. Luthor activates Doomsday and it's Superman's job to contain him. Lovely little set-up for an issue, don't you think? My big problem comes as a continuity issue. Last I saw of him, Doomsday was sent to the farthest reaches of time to die in the final moment of the universe. Now, all of a sudden, he's in a JLA containment facility on the moon? Can someone explain this one to me? I get the feeling I missed a comic here.
(Check that. Update by way of the excellent Brian Bendis message board: Doomsday was trapped in the transporters on the moon when last we saw him. Thanks Evan!)
The story moves along nicely, and has some good points to it, particularly in the relationship between Luthor and Superman that Casey has focused on so much in his short run on this book. The only problem lies in his attempt to bring emotional power to Superman and Doomsday fighting in space. You end up with three gorgeous panels of art per page and a wide column at the left narrating everything that's going on in Superman's mind. After a short while, it seems forced. It's like Chris Claremont is channeling through Casey. Scary. You can breeze through those pages and not miss much. I mean, do you really need to be reminded that Doomsday cut a huge swath through Superman when they first met? And that it had the potential to ruin his relationship with Lois? Didn't think so.
This would be a good issue for those of you following OWAW to pick up. Superman faces his toughest opponent in this issue and – well, that would be telling.
The good news is that the OWAW event is finally starting to move forward. We're at the point now where our world is at war. Go fig.
WHAT I READ THIS PAST WEEK
Of course, there were also lots of good reads out last week. Here's a look at some of them.
100 BULLETS #26 is a big help for me. I've been with the series from the first issue, yet I get confused with a lot of the mythology. While this isn't the perfect issue to show off to newcomers, it is a nice one to help straighten out the long-time reader such as myself who might be a little confused. (Get new readers the first trade and see if they like it.) Brian Azzarello writes the issue, which features an Eduardo Risso framing sequence for a series of guest artist pin-ups. The list of guest artists includes Jim Lee, Frank Miller, Lee Bermejo, Dave Gibbons, and more. Each takes a different character, while the narration fills in some of the gaps.
It's also a nice test of your French. The framing sequence involves the return of Mr. Branch, who explains everything to a French prostitute. You and I just listen in. I only had a couple years of French in high school, but I could follow much of the conversations. Don't ask me to translate, but I recognized enough of the words to get many of the meanings. Of course, if you know nothing of the French language, this will be a quick read for you. Just skip over the French dialogue balloons and the issue is half the size.
SAVAGE DRAGON #86 attempts to be another issue that new readers can jump on board with. While it does start with a continuation of the events of last issue, the characters do a pretty good job of explaining what's going on to new readers or those who may have just forgotten since last month. I only use the verb "attempt" because sometimes I wonder what someone who's never read a single issue of the book might think of all the colorful characters in the book. Would it be too much for them? I've "lived" with these characters for the past 9 years. I haven't followed any chraracter as closely and continuously as Dragon. Maybe I'm so close that I'm blind?
The real neat thing about the issue is Erik Larsen's choice of artistic style. In the letters column, he explains that he felt like experimenting a little. To that end, the first half of the book looks and feels like something Brian Bendis may have done, if inked by Bill Sienkiewicz. The second half looks like something from Rob Haynes, who actually did draw a little of the backup stuff in DRAGON way back in the very first issues of the series. Larsen does a pretty good impression of each here, and it just adds to the on-going story of Dragon lost in a world that he did make.
If nothing else, the book is worth a flip through at your local friendly comic shop. Judge for yourself.
The highlight of the week, though, is the first story in the ONI PRESS COLOR SPECIAL 2001. It's the long anticipated POWERS story. Running ten pages, Brian Bendis and Mike Oeming manage to make fun of themselves, RED STAR, Madman, Barry Ween, MAGE, KABUKI, and more. It's in-jokey to an extreme, perhaps, but if you're familiar with those titles, this should be a laugh riot for you.
There's other interesting stuff in the issue, too, including a story to fill in one of the gaps of QUEEN AND COUNTRY, as written by Greg Rucka and drawn by Stan Sakai. J. Torres and J. Bone are in there with a new ALISON DARE short story. Gail Simone and Lea Hernandez have a one-page KILLER PRINCESSES bit at the end. Plus, more more more that I just haven't read.
BATGIRL #18 is a bit of an off-issue for the series. While Kelley Pluckett and Damion Scott retain their trademark storytelling style, the relationship between Robin and Batgirl doesn't come off quite as nicely as I would have hoped. The whole thing seems to be a bit downplayed, as a matter of fast. It's not a bad issue, but it just doesn't rise to the level it should.
Joss Whedon's FRAY #2 maintains all the same traits that made the first issue such an enjoyable read. Karl Moline and Andy Owens contribute a lot to the look and feel of the series with their art talents. The story wouldn't be as believable if it weren't for the complicated and detailed world that Moline plunks them down into each month.
This issue is all about the Watcher trying to get the Slayer to accept her role and the deeper truth about the events surrounding her. As you can imagine after reading the first issue, Melaka Fray isn't going to go for this all that easily. Her fiercely independent and stubborn streak (a pair of traits which so often go hand in hand) prevents her from accepting this.
One question left by this second issue, though, is one of gravity. How does Fray manage to do a handstand and not have her shirt drop down over her head? No matter how often we see her hanging upside down, her shirt magically covers her up. I'm not buying some magical unstable molecule answer here. Moline does get points, though, for being able to draw a female comic character without a D cup. Or even a C cup, for that matter.
THE LONE GUNMEN television series may be sadly cancelled, but the Dark Horse one-shot comic got printed! It's written by Jane Espenson and drawn by Paul Lee. (Special thanks go to Bob Harris, who acted as "conspiracy consultant" and even wrote a humorous two-page text piece in the back talking about the various conspiracies used in the story.) The book follows my #1 rule of television adaptations – it feels like an episode of the television series. It's one long story with the three Gunmen chasing after a conspiracy nut in their usual haphazard fashion. I loved the series for its sense of humor and sometimes-outright goofiness. This 24-page story captures all of that, including a lot of great punchlines centered on the group's anti-government agenda and lovable goof sidekick, Jimmy Bond. Yes, Yves Del Harlowe even shows up at the opportune time to bring things into focus, although her overall role in the story is left rather more ambiguous than the television show usually does.
Paul Lee's art is excellent. He captures all the likenesses with sterling clarity. Even his cover painting is uncanny. (There's another cover with a group photo, instead, if you so choose.) His most amazing gift is the ability to draw likenesses without looking like they're being light boxed off a promo photo. While one or two do, the vast majority don't. Additionally, the characters are drawn at angles usually not shown in publicity photos.
If you were a fan of the television series, three dollars will get you one last episode.
THREE PIPELINES THIS WEEK
I'm in a mad rush to get things out the door before San Diego. Because of that, there will be three columns again this week. Come back tomorrow for a look through PREVIEWS magazine to see some of the highlights that I found in the book as a whole.
Then Pipeline2 returns on Friday with a look at the final San Diego panel programming schedule. I'll be highlighting the ones I think look most interesting, plus giving a rough approximation at which ones I'll be visiting, in case you want to stop by and say hello.
And don't forget – there will be daily updates of both Pipeline and CBR throughout the San Diego weekend next week. I'll be doing daily con journals that will appear on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. If the past two years are any indicator, the San Diego stories won't be stopping there, either.
Thanks again to Danny V. and the crew at Dewey's Comic City in Madison, NJ for their affability.
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.