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Pipeline, Issue #224

DUE OUT THIS WEEK…

[Cable #97]CABLE #97 is due in stores this Wednesday. Now under the pen of David Tischman, Cable promises to visit every country that any benefit concert has been staged for, or any mass e-mailing has landed in your mailbox asking for your letters of protest to be sent to your Congressman for.

It starts this week in Peru, which I don't think has been the recipient of any Beastie Boys or REM concerts lately. Tischman expertly weaves a tale that concerns a strong political background from the real world with some super-powered individuals. In this case, it's a renegade group of protestors with mutant powers versus Cable, who's in town to keep the place from blowing up completely. It doesn't get so heavily involved in politics that it threatens to turn anyone off. So far, it's just good storytelling.

This issue is set up to be a jumping-on point. It's one of the best examples that I can ever think of. Don't worry about Cable's parentage. Don't ask about his future self or his past team affiliations. Don't worry about the legacy virus or his powers. What you need to know - - and that's very little - - is explained as you go along. There's an omniscient narrator to the story that informs you in a very conversational manner of the bits of info you may need. The last caption of the first page is an excellent example: "His name is Cable. He's a good guy. That's all you need to know." There are a couple of character bits introduced through the issue – including a rather clumsy page to show the aftereffects of the Legacy virus – but everything is very much simplified. This is a new title now.

The art (pencils and inks both) is by Igor Kordey, who does an excellent job drawing a deceptively action-packed story. He draws people that look like common people. He makes Cable blend in really easily, despite a cybernetic arm and leg. He's got a natural style with a thick ink line around it that doesn't come off looking like a manga piece. It's far closer to Lee Bermejo than it is Adam Warren, to pick two extreme examples. Kordey's storytelling works fine for this story, which is at times perhaps over explained and underplayed. Tischman's script doesn't try very hard to get your blood pumping. It explains everything neatly and shows you a progression of events. I'm not sure it doesn't fail in not engaging the reader as much as it could have.

In any case, it's a brand new book now. It's one that's sure to tick off a lot of people that were looking for more of the mutant hijinks the book has done in the past. So long as it doesn't get lost in political pandering of any sort – and so far so good on that – the book holds great promise.

Also due out this week is GEN13 #69, which happens to be the single best Roxie/Grunge story ever written. It's also one of the best AUTHORITY stories written in the past year or more. It's got the high concept. It's got the big blowout. It's got the tight character relationships. It's got terrific art from Yannick Paquette and Andrew Pepoy. Sadly, it also has one of the most frustrating endings in a comic I've read this year. There's a big giant resent button at the end – which is even the subject of a punch line at the end – that grates on my nerves. I wish there was more I could say about this book. It is part two of a story that started last month, but it still stands pretty well on its own.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #13

[Ultimate Spider-Man #13]It's in my top 5 Spider-Man stories of all time, without a doubt. In fact, I can't think of any off the top of my head – aside from last month's PETER PARKER SPIDER-MAN #33 – that would have a chance to beat it.

Yet there's one reaction to the book I've read on the 'net that I just don't understand. There are those who don't like the repeating panels used throughout the story. Those are the panels that are statted in (photocopied). Some complain that they feel cheated that Bagley didn't need to draw as much stuff for the issue. (These are probably the same people who complain that they're overpaying for DETECTIVE COMICS since it only uses two colors. ::sigh::) Some have said that it makes the book too quick to read. Some complain that it looks cheap.

I disagree with the assessment on a purely artistic basis. But, first, I want to point out how overblown the argument against it is. Here's a breakdown of the issue:

Pages 1 and 2 have a single panel repeated an additional two times.

Pages 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 16, and 19 have one panel repeated once on a page.

No repeated panels: 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 14, 17, 18, 20, and 21. (Interesting to note that the pages without repeat panels come exclusively in two page clumps.)

The point here is two-fold. First, that there are more pages without repeated panels than there are with them. And secondly, this is an issue of a comic book today with more panels per page than most comics. There are no splash pages. Some pages have up to 9 panels. There's one page with only 2 panels and one with 4 panels.

It is a technique that Mark Bagley pulls out of his bag of artistic tools to use in the issue. I have no doubt that Brian Bendis' script calls for it. It's a technique he's always been fond of, going back to all of his JINX work. But I don't think it degrades the issue at all. I don't think it makes it look cheap or makes it read too quickly. Bendis and Bagley use it as a pacing device. Rather than having a dialogue heavy book slapped together with large panels that contain five lines of dialogue from each character, their technique is more cinematic. Think of your favorite movie. Think of a dialogue heavy scene. Odds are that the camera cuts to the character speaking with each line. This is the process that is used here. There are no off-panel dialogue balloons. (There are two exceptions in the issue. One is isolated and the other is Aunt May's dialogue, but that's a purposeful storytelling choice.) It's either one character talking per panel or a two shot with both characters talking.

Please go and pick up a copy of this issue if you can still get one. It's a touching story, and one that Bendis nails with exceptional pacing and dialogue.

MARVEL MAX

Marvel's new MAX line of mature readers comics released two new #1 issues last week. They're polar opposites as far as quality and enjoyability goes.

[War Machine #1]U.S. WAR MACHINE #1 is an interesting experiment, but one that is off to a stumbling start. Chuck Austen's art doesn't work nearly as well in black and white (with gray washes) as it does in full color, like in ELEKTRA. Characters look like they were drawn with a cookie-cutter and stood up with an ironing board strapped to their backs for support.

It does approximate the Japanese style of storytelling rather well, with the pacing most evident of it. There's a nice chase scene in the issue that does a lot with speed lines and highly technical drawings.

There's not a whole lot of story in here for 24 pages. Tony Stark retires from making weapons, and War Machine gets in over his head in a relatively simple situation for a super-hero book. There's enough of a question mark at the end of the issue to bring me back for more, but there are too many aesthetic issues with this book to keep me from fully enjoying it.

[Lettering]Easily the most atrocious part of the issue is the lettering. Check out this panel from the first page and ask yourself, "Why are there are all those bumps in the word balloons?" The lettering font, itself, is barely one step removed from the Whizbang font and comes across completely soulless.

The book itself is a noble experiment: weekly segments of 20 or more pages, done in black and white on non-glossy stock to save on paper costs. It's just a shame that the product, itself, is so bland to look at.

[Fury #1]FURY #1, on the other hand, is a joy to look at and read. It's the first of a four issue monthly mini-series. It's done up on white paper stock in full gorgeous color. This is easily the best-looking Darick Robertson artwork I've ever seen. It puts the TRANSMETROPOLITAN stuff to shame. Makes you wish Avalon Studios could be coloring that title, too. (I wouldn't suggest such a massive overhaul to the look of TRANSMET at this late stage, but it would have been nice to have from the beginning.) Avalon does a great job in keeping the artwork vivid, while adding dimensionality and a good sense of color design to the book.

Garth Ennis' story is that of an old Cold War warrior finding himself at odds in a world where spy work is done in a more corporate environment. Shooting first and asking questions later is not the way things are done. They're more regimented and formalized and codified today, and that leaves Fury out of it. Watching his frustrating grow throughout the issue is a joy. Ennis throws in a bunch of great one-liners and plenty of salty language.

If the opening scene doesn't sell you on this book, nothing will. It's a great mix of character, humor, and thematic elements. Give it a chance if you fit the "mature readers" category.

Thanks to Dan at Dewey's Comics in Madison, NJ for the temporary window office this weekend.

Special thanks to one and all who stopped by to read the column on Friday. I've had quite a number of responses to it. Some were very moving. I got to have a few more tears this weekend. It's been an interesting time, that's for sure. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you who lost loved ones in the attack.

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.

Next year's con schedule tentatively includes Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, San Diego, Chicago, Bethesda, and New York. I'm seeing the country, one con at a time.

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