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Pipeline, Issue #226

QUICK LOOKS AHEAD

There are a bunch of great comics coming out this week. I had to stop myself from ruining Wednesday and reading through all of the First Look books ahead of time. The one catch with all of this, though, is that I can't discuss too many of the books without giving away major plot spoilers. So this week's Pipeline Previews will be shorter than usual.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #35 is the final confrontation between Spider-Man and Morlun. It's a doozy, but not nearly so big as the doozy at the end of the issue. I can't say all that much new over what I've said about this book since Joe Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr. took over. It's very entertaining. It's not deeply philosophical, but you'll enjoy yourself. Peter Parker gets in some great wisecracks and the book is very very pretty. The coloring that I've been occasionally annoyed by in the past sorted itself out this issue, although there did seem to be a few reproduction issues. Some caption boxes with a gradient blue background ended up with blue and white strips, instead.

[Ultimate Spider-man #14]ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #14 begins the new Doctor Octopus storyline. Brian Bendis' story splits time between Doc Oc in recovery and Peter at school confronting some anti-super hero leanings of his classmates. Then Gwen Stacy shows up and delivers a knockout soliloquy. Mark Bagley and Art Thibert's art looks just fine, although some of it looked a bit scratchier than usual. Looks like there might be an issue with the scanning of the art for the book. I applaud the efforts of creators and companies to simplify the creation of comics by e-mailing artwork back and forth. I just wish we didn't get so many problems with the scanning of the art. WildStorm is most famous for this.

The real sore point with the issue, though, is the lettering. It's in mixed-case now. It looks horrible. It looks like something you might see in MAD Magazine or in an Archie Comic. (Heck, even Archie still uses all-caps.) According to Brian Bendis on his message board, this is not a one-time experiment, either. This is the new look for the book going forward. Ugh

The nice thing about all-caps lettering is that it has a uniform height and size, so when you surround it with a word balloon, you get less blank white space around the letters. With larger letters at irregularly spaced intervals in a word balloon now, the smaller letters look even smaller, due to the extra white space above them. The fix for that is to get rid of the perfectly round balloons and make them wavy lines, which I think would be even more ugly.

One of the biggest problems with amateur lettering is the proportion of white space to lettering in a balloon. The letters aren't positioned well within the balloon. The lines of letters are jagged. And the white space is irregular and large.

You're falling into some of the same traps with this lettering style.

[Origin #2]The cover to ORIGIN #2 features a shot of a hand with claws extending from below the knuckles. Marvel Editor Jenny Lee's claim to fame is that that's her hand. She'd be quite pleased to tell you all about it if you catch her at a bar at a comics convention sometime. Indulge her. She worked at Vertigo for too long... ;-)

"Inner Child" does some good work in shattering your assumptions from the first issue. There's a pretty neat twist by the end of this issue, and I'm willing to bet there are more coming up before this story is done. Paul Jenkins' is doing a good job in setting up expectations and then pulling the rug out from under them. To that end, I'm not going to review any future issues without mentioning too many characters by name. It's just too hazardous a thing to do.

This issue isn't as reserved as the previous one. It's not all talking heads. It's more "action," but all set in the late-1890s. The action comes in the form of gunplay and horseplay and knife play. There's no kung fu action pieces or super-heroics. The story is well grounded; the characters were firmly established in the last issue, so the conflicts here came off naturally in this one.

It's also got very pretty art from Andy Kubert and coloring by Richard Isanove, who is also doing a lot of coloring for Marvel's HEROES special.

I'm still on the fence as to whether I'll pick up EXILES #5 this week. I read #3 and #4 this weekend and think I finally figured out my problem is with the book.

The story is just too straightforward. The twists and turns that should shock you as a reader are few and far between, and are often told in exposition instead of dramatic climaxes. There is no build up. I don't often feel like the characters are in major danger. They just go through the paces. Even the attempts at character building come off too boring. There's very little tension between the team members.

McKone's art is nice, though.

Jim Calafiore does the art in issue 5 this week. I generally like Calafiore's art, but it's not on the same level as McKone's. I can't get excited about the issue now.

VARIOUS AND SUNDRY

This past weekend, I helped a friend move from one apartment to the other. No big deal, but it took up the entire day when all was said and done. I feel like I should have an entire column's worth of material about the changing state of the comics industry and the mobility of creators within it. I feel that such a parallel could be made to a friend moving into a new apartment and how the strain on my muscles from the heavy lifting is similar to the strain on the creativity of a writer staying on a single title for too long. But I'm not Larry Young, so I'm not writing that column.

Newsarama confirms the reports of THE AUTHORITY's postponement mentioned here last week. Actually, they had confirmed it before I wrote the column. I just missed the story the first time around.

Marvel needs to stagger its schedule out better. This week alone it has two of its three current ULTIMATE titles being released (SPIDEY and X-MEN). The mutant lineup has at least three titles due out, including UNCANNY X-MEN, X-FORCE, and EXILES. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is out the week after PETER PARKER: SPIDER-MAN. (This is an improvement. Last month they came out on the same week. Of course, one could construe this to mean that AMAZING is a week late this month, but I'm feeling generous.)

Peter Parker does not appear in PETER PARKER: SPIDER-MAN #35.

I can remember seeing Greg Rucka in San Diego this year looking like a little kid with his fresh-from-the-printer copy of SPIDER-MAN'S TANGLED WEB #4 in his hands. You weren't prying that book out of his hands until after he got to read it. And this was while he was seated at the Oni booth, to boot. Good to see creators who enjoy themselves.

Whatever happened to Jim Shooter?

The John Byrne fan site is a headache to read. It's too darn small, and doesn't even extend to the side of the browser. It's a really awkward design. Think of him what you will, but it's nice to see Byrne taking such an active role on his message boards and interacting so freely with his fans. That's always something that gets a positive mention in this column.

Here's a highlight of Dark Horse's February lineup:

THE ART OF COMIC-BOOK WRITING by RANDY STRADLEY

A step-by-step guide to every aspect of writing graphic fiction, The Art of Comic-Book Writing is the latest in a series of Dark Horse how-to volumes for the aspiring comics creator, joining Gary Martin's acclaimed The Art of Comic-Book Inking. Stradley, a professional comics writer since 1983, gets down to the real nuts and bolts of how to write for the comics medium, from a thorough dissection of story structure and characterization to advice on writing proposals, formatting scripts, working with artists, dealing with editors, and much more. Discover how to take advantage of the medium's strengths and to successfully deal with its limitations. Top comics scribes Kurt Busiek, Peter David, Ron Marz, John Arcudi, Dave Gibbons, Mark Waid, Steven Grant, and others weigh in with their thoughts on various aspects of the craft. Plus, accompanying comics art by Art Adams, Paul Gulacy, Chris Warner, Phil Norwood, Chris Brunner, and more!

SC, 128pg, b&w, 8 1/2" x 11" . . . $14.95

I always love reading books on the art of writing comics and am looking forward to this one, too.

Finally: You can add a new hero to the column I penned here back on September 14, 2001. It's another story I'm sure I missed at the time, but Todd Beamer is the one who led the revolt aboard United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania on 9/11/01. Todd's wife, Lisa, has started The Todd Beamer Memorial Fund, which will aid victims of the disaster as well as some of Mr. Beamer's favorite charities. I sent my donation last night. Go to BeamerFoundation.org to contribute today.

If anyone's heard of similar organizations on behalf of the other two men mentioned in that 9.14 column, please let me know and I'll post that information here, as well.

STILL SEEKING QUESTIONS

I'm going to devote parts of upcoming columns to answering whatever questions might be on your mind. What do you want to know? Are you curious about some aspect of Pipeline? Do you want my take on a specific comic book, or a creator, or a recent comics news article? Looking for a DVD recommendation?

Let me know. Send me e-mail. I'll select a handful and answer them in upcoming columns.

Thanks to John and Dan at Dewey's Comics in Madison, NJ for the aid on this column.

Friday's column will be a look at 20 trade paperbacks and hardcover collections solicited for December in the newest issues of PREVIEWS.

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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