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Pipeline, Issue #219

A PAIR OF PREVIEWS

The first issue of NINJA BOY comes out this Wednesday at a comics shop near you. It's the creation of Ale Garza, last seen drawing mini-series and one shots written by Scott Lobdell. This time, he's created his own series and has brought along a friend of his, Allen Warner, for writing assistance.

NINJA BOY is a mystical/fantastical/kung fu/coming of age story. Nakio is the youngest of three boys being taught by his grandfather in the ways of his clan. In the first issue, we see a bit of his training, the relationship with his brothers, and the start of his first mission.

NINJA BOY is a fun, light read. Garza's art is as inventive as I've ever seen it. He makes a lot of use out of repeating figures in the same panels, and has a good sense of motion and action on the page. The story does not feel cramped at all. It takes the occasional moment to slow down and show us some of the action. Simple things like running through a village or a forest gain weight and interest as Garza spreads them out over a full page or more. It's very much in the manga tradition.

The action scenes are easy to follow. The book opens up on an action sequence that lasts for a few pages just about without any words. Garza and Warner know when to sit back and let the art tell the story. The dialogue is not overwhelming. The characters shut up when they aren't needed. It's remarkable stuff for a freshman effort, really.

The art is a bit stylized and cartoony. Some might have a problem with Ninja Boy's rubbery legs and joints or long torso, but Garza keeps it consistent throughout. I think the rubberiness of the characters works in the books favor when it comes time for the action bits. The coloring from Guy Major is bright and bold. It doesn't get caught up on itself.

I'd recommend this one to you if you're looking for something new to try. NINJA BOY #1 is easily accessible to all ages and a lot of fun to read.

GEN13 is on a roll. Last month's issue, #67, was one of the best super-hero/science fiction stories I've read in a long time. The cover with Caitlin in some skimpy lingerie is a bit deceiving. Like most covers, it's there to grab your attention, but doesn't accurately represent what's going on between the covers. I know when I saw the book I thought it was going to be a sexually-charged jokefest. It wasn't that in the least. What Adam Warren's script gave you, instead, was a nice character piece for Caitlin wrapped in an intriguing high concept with a nice little twist in it. It's a smart book without getting too full of itself.

This week's issue, #68, is written by Adam Warren and guest-drawn by Yanick Paquette and Andrew Pepoy. The story breaks down into scenes that jump around time a lot. Each scene gets a title and recommended song accompaniment. If you're a fan of Dance Dance Revolution, you're going to love this issue. (If you've never heard of the thing before, consider yourself lucky.)

The issue is a spotlight on Grunge as seen through the eyes of the rest of the cast of characters. It goes a long way to explain the relationship between Roxie and Grunge. Grunge still comes across mostly as a jerk, but there are some redeeming qualities about him that surface, too. It's also part of two and ends on something of a cliffhanger involving The Authority. We're about to get the answer to a question we've been asking for a number of months.

Paquette's art is strong through the issue. While he definitely favors some of the cheesecake in the art, it's all tastefully done. This isn't shocking or radical. It lays very smoothly on the page and is worth a flip-through. Paquette is one of those artists who should be working more regularly than he is, unfortunately.

If you haven't read GEN13 in a long time, this is as good as it's going to get. (OK, last issue actually was. But if you can't find that one, this one is as entertaining as Warren's run on the title has been thus far.)

LITTLE RED HOT: BOUND

[Little Red Hot: Bound #1](Warning, there are spoilers ahead for the first issue.)

LITTLE RED HOT: BOUND is a three-issue mini-series from Dawn Brown through Image Comics. It's a fun adventurous comic with a wry sense of humor and an interesting graphical appeal.

I suspect some might have a problem with the title and think it's some sort of T&A book. Don't worry; it's not. This is the story of Chane, the ex-wife of the devil, whose been pressed into service by a pair of bounty hunters to save the son of God. Bizarre? Slightly, yes, but the religious/mythological aspects of it are not the main thrust of the book. The point is the globe-spanning adventure and bounty hunting mentality that pervades the book. Chane is experienced and good at it. Her two unwanted partners are not terribly bright and Chane has to overcome this. The second issue is available tomorrow at a comics shop near you. It includes a handy opening text page succinctly explaining all of this to you.

The art in this book is heavily computer-influenced. Brown composes the final page work on the computer. It's a good mix of Photoshop elements, photographs, and line art. All the characters are drawn in pen and ink, but they're merged with photographic elements and backgrounds that have been graphically enhanced with the computer. I can tell you that it worked well on the first issue. I've only read black and white copies of the second and third, so I can't really fairly judge the coloring on those. There are, however, some pages which I'm looking forward to seeing tomorrow. Brown has put in some glorious landscapes in this issue.

(Yes, that's right. I've read the third issue already. It's finished. When Image solicited the first issue, all three issues were already in the can. That's why the first two issues of the mini have both been put on sale nearly a month before their original on-sale dates. The third issue is due in November, officially. There's no word yet on whether that one will be released early, as well.)

The biggest fault I can find with the book is in the way the artwork merges with the lettering. Stay with me here for a second. This isn't my usual "computer lettering is inferior" speech. Part of it is that the lettering just looks too big. There's a ton of white space in each balloon that can get distracting. The bigger problem is the layout of the art and the lettering. Brown doesn't stick to any sort of grid storytelling. Each page is different, often with a series of panels scattered across the page and ton of gutter space. But when the panels get closer together and there's any sort of dialogue going on, the large balloons pop out of their panels and run into ones next to and above them. There are also issues of sequential storytelling, where it can be tough to figure out where your eye is supposed to go next. Captions flow freely between panels in the middle of dialogue. For example: One page in the middle of the second issue is entitled "A True Love Story." It's basically a character narrating her background with some cute 1950s-esque artwork to illustrate it. With the artwork and the captions alternating, but not evenly-spaced, I wasn't sure if I was supposed to read up and down or right-left-right-left.

This leads into a whole other discussion about sequential storytelling: I wonder if some of the graphical awe gets in the way of storytelling. The dramatic shot of the characters climbing a mountain is really nice to look at, but would the dialogue have been better served if we could see the characters talking and interacting? Would it have added to the conversation if we could see their body language, or the expressions on their faces?

This is only Dawn Brown's second mini-series. Give her time. She's still learning how to use her tools. It's fun to watch.

There is a trade paperback available of the first series, entitled THE FOOLISH COLLECTION, which was done in a much starker black and white style. The good news is that you can read BOUND without having read the first mini-series. If you missed the first issue of BOUND, you can read the whole thing on-line. While there, you can also take a look at some of the cool set design sketches Brown's done for her day job for various big name movies, including the aborted SUPERMAN LIVES. (Just try to be nice to her: BATMAN & ROBIN wasn't her fault.)

Coming up on Friday: I'll be in Chicago at WizardWorld. Hope to see a lot of you there. In the meantime, I've got a stack of comics that have come out in the past week or two that need reviewing. Included in that will be the review of the latest JINGLE BELLE one-shot that I promised last week. Please stop back on Friday for a look at a few of those.

Pipeline will then return next Tuesday with the first part of the Wizard World retrospective. Sorry, there won't be any daily updates from this con.

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 250 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 or so are still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML.

This year, you can still catch me at WizardWorld in Chicago this weekend! Look for a couple of interesting announcements around that time.

I'm also tentatively scheduled for a day at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland this September.

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