PREVIEWS FOR JANUARY 2002
The new volume of PREVIEWS is out now. The following is a look at some of the highlights of the book. It focuses mostly on trade collections, but veers away at will. As always, this is hardly a comprehensive list of all the interesting things in the book. I highly recommend picking up a copy for your own perusal.
Dark Horse solicits for THE ART OF COMIC-BOOK WRITING by Randy Stradley. I've talked about the book in Pipeline before. It's $15 for 128 black and white pages and looks interesting.
From their "Venture" line, Dark Horse offers GLIMMER RATS and RAIN DOGS. Both are hard covered in full color for $15. They have great high concepts and look to be fun action-oriented tales. I might give them a shot.
DC has the next TRANSMETROPOLITAN trade, GOUGE AWAY for $15. It collects issues #31-36 of the almost-venerable series. Even more excitably, they're releasing a TOMORROW STORIES volume, collecting everything from the first six issues of that series by Alan Moore, Kevin Nowlan, Rick Veitch, et. al.
WONDER WOMAN: PARADISE LOST collects issues #164-170 of Phil Jimenez's run on the title, including the terrific Lois Lane story co-authored with Joe Kelly. Like everything else I'm mentioning today (so far), it's $15.
Erik Larsen is going back to print with the first set of stories of THE SAVAGE DRAGON. Called "Baptism of Fire", it collects all the earliest Dragon stories that Image published, including pages later added in subsequent reprintings. (Remember that 99-cent DRAGON mini-series? Those pages will be added in here.) With any luck, this will be a renewed commitment to the trade reprinting of the series, and actually come with some sort of unifying trade dress that will let people know that this is the first trade in a series. That could only help. The price is – surprise surprise -- $15 for these full color 160 pages.
Most of the Marvel trades that are actually seeing print in January were solicited last month. There are some new entries, however:
CAPTAIN AMERICA: TO SERVE AND PROTECT will reprint the first seven issues of the current Cap series, by Mark Waid and Ron Garney. While not as good as their first turn together on the title, it's still worth a read. These 176 pages will run you $17.95.
The first five issues-judging by the 112-page count – of EXILES gets collected for $12.95.
PUNISHER: ARMY OF ONE gathers together the 6-issue arc on the latest PUNISHER series from Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. $16 here.
In what has to be the oddest trade solicitation I think I've ever seen from Marvel, we have THE ESSENTIAL ANT MAN. Why? Obviously, the people cried out for one. And now they're getting exactly what they deserve! There is some Jack Kirby art in the volume, so I suppose it isn't completely mystifying. $15 gets you 576 pages in black and white. It's still the most impressive price point in all of comics.
Alternative Comics lets loose with their 9-11 relief fund book, called 9-11: EMERGENCY RELIEF. Fitting, I think. It's got an impressive roster of more indie-friendly comics talent telling mostly autobiographical short stories of the attack and how it affected lives. It's an oversized (7 x 10 inches) 128 page black and white trade for $15. (…Because if it's not $15, I guess you just won't buy it. That's the lesson of this week's column.)
Cartoon Books is offering a $30 hardcover collection of the Jeff Smith/Charles Vess collaboration, ROSE. Originally a three-issue mini-series, it's a beautifully painted story of Rose's earlier days, pre-Bone Brothers. In all honestly, I found the first two issues a bit tedious, but gorgeous. To each his own.
The most under-reported CrossGen story thus far has to be SAURIANS: UNNATURAL SELECTION. It's a two-issue mini-series from Mark Waid and Andrea Di Vito (because he draws everything at CrossGen that Steve Mc Niven doesn't have the time to). No, it's not a trade, but it is the first CrossGen mini-series, and I'm surprised that I haven't seen all that much about it just yet.
CrossGen also made the best possible choice it could have in picking Stuart Immonen to fill in for Greg Land in SOJOURN #7. Their styles will not be at odds.
Little Rocket is soliciting for WILD STARS VOLUME 3 #3. It's a 32-page comic for $3. I don't have much to say here, but the art on page 293 is absolutely beautiful stuff. Little Rocket has sent ahead copies of the first two issues, but the art wasn't enough to grab my interest. The third issue is looking so good that I'm going to have to go back and read those first two now so I can get this third.
NBM Books is going back to print with Rick Geary's A TREASURY OF VICTORIAN MURDER, Volume 1. It's $9 for 64 pages and will fit the format of all his other Victorian Murder series stories. These books have been worth the read, and I'm looking forward now to seeing where it all started.
BONEYARD #5 is also solicited under the NBM banner. It's the start of a brand new storyline by Richard Moore, who shouldn't be flying under the industry's radar. This is a remarkable series, expertly drawn and written with a hearty sense of humor.
Finally, Oni's got a new Alison Dare story with ALISON DARE AND THE HEART OF THE MAIDEN. It's a two-part mini, with the usual creative team of J. Torres and J. Bone. Alison Dare is the best all-ages book being published. Support this one; it's well worth it.
INSANELY TWISTED RABBITS is a bizarre book from the pen of Michel Gagne. It's an art book. There's no narrative. There's no sequential art. It's a slim (36 pages) hardcover book (published by the artist's own Gagne International Press) filled with drawings of rabbits that have been wildly deformed. It's printed on nice solid white paper in a slightly wide format.
It seems that Gagne and an animator friend of his were practicing the oldest game in the book – one upsmanship. Gagne would draw a crazy looking rabbit. Then his friend would draw one. Gagne would answer with something even more twisted, and the cycle would repeat itself.
What you get in the end are a series of surreal pencil images of deformed rabbits with out of proportion bodies, spiky appendages, tusks, claws, and more. Some are cute, some look like the ravings of a delusional child. There's nothing to compare it to. You can see some of the images at Gagne's web site.
The downside to the book is that it is a $15 hardcover. It's kind of pricey for such a light book. But it is entertaining, if only for $5. If it were in a plain comic book for $3, I'd probably have no problem recommending it.
IMPULSE #79 is a JOKER: LAST LAUGH story, and feels like a real stretch for a filler story. Todd Dezago rambles on for 22 pages, working extra hard to fill space with every possible bit of back story he can push out onto the page in an effort to get to page 22. IMPULSE has always been extremely new reader friendly under Dezago's reign as writer. This issue, though, takes it to extremes. It's like reading a Silver Age book where everything is explained as it's shown, and every inch of history is deeply explored. I skipped over large chunks of the exposition in this story and missed nothing.
Aluir Amancio handles the art chores (with Walden Wong on inks). Amancio's art in SUPERMAN ADVENTURES is what makes that book so interesting to look at. Unfortunately, his art doesn't translate that well to a more traditional super-hero art style. There are flashes of his brilliant cartoony style here and there, but for the most part, things seem flat.
To make up for that, though, Todd Dezago was kind enough to present us with TELLOS: THE LAST HEIST. It's the new square bound prestige format book set in the TELLOS universe just after the end of the original series. The lead story is drawn by Craig Rousseau, who knocks this one out of the park. His art is lively, well designed, and action-packed. They Might Be Giants fans (such as myself) will be tickled to see the band homaged in the story, too.
Rousseau's art is perfect for TELLOS. It's open enough and just cartoony enough to match up with Mike Wieringo's. If you thought the pages looked good that were previewed here a few months ago, wait till you see them in color. Rousseau leaves his art open enough for Paul Mounts and Bongotone to make magic happen with their coloring.
Congratulations also have to go to Derek Fridolfs, who had the honors of inking the short backup story in the volume. Derek, you may remember, has been profiled here in Pipeline twice before. (Speaking of which, it's almost been a year since our last update. Might be time to interview him again…)
One quick review that is way overdue: In SUICIDE SQUAD #2, nothing happens. There's no action. It isn't even until the last batch of pages that we find out what the mission is meant to be. (Do you see the MacGyver episode with the swarms of killer ants? I sure hope the Suicide Squad team has…) Keith Giffen and Paco Medina spend 21 pages expertly defining the newest batch of characters who are meant to be the SS's support staff. Through some entertaining, terse, and witty dialogue you'll know who these people are, what their talents are, and how well they get along with the rest of the team. Even though there's really no action here, it's an interesting and neatly self-contained part of the larger story. This one is definitely recommended, even if you missed the first issue. Just hurry up; the third issue will be out fairly soon.
Flipping through the newest issue of WIZARD, I ran across a preview of THE ULTIMATES. Bryan Hitch's art is very pretty here. The coloring is a little dark, but it suits the scene. Then my eyes rest on the word balloons. Oh my, Bendis wasn't kidding. They really are going for the mixed-case lettering in all the Ultimate books, aren't they? I am not a fan, to put it mildly.
I think I might have found the childhood trauma that's responsible for my intense loathing for this font. To my eye and mind, all-caps is the adult way to do something. It comes from seeing my father's handwriting growing up. Whether it was on the shopping list or in the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle (which I always helped him with), his natural handwriting style was all capital letters. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree; as long as I'm not writing for speed, I stick with capital letters. It used to drive some of my teachers nuts in high school when I'd write essays in all-caps. I carried that through to college, too.
Seeing these otherwise nice comic books with a lettering style that reminds me of a kindergartner's handwriting is a bit disappointing. Let's hope they come to their senses soon.
Coming up on Friday: I haven't a clue. But it'll be huge and you'll want to read it. I'm sure. Keep an eye out on the Pipeline message board. That'll be the first place I post the topic on.
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.