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Pipeline, Issue #238

PREVIEWS FOR MARCH 2002 – PART ONE

[March 2002 Previews]It's time for a perusal through the PREVIEWS catalog for product intended to ship in March. As always, this is not a complete list and you should consult the valuable monthly catalog yourself to see what strikes your fancy. For the first time (that I can remember), it's also a two-parter. There's just too much to talk about.

This might just be the most expensive months of comics ever for me. The list of trades alone is enough to make my mind boggle. It seems that the trade paperback economy is maturing to the point where I'm going to have to start making some decisions. I have to realize that I don't need to own every collection of stories that I enjoyed the first time around. On the flip side, there are certain titles that are destined for trade collections that don't need to be picked up from month to month. That's a switch I made most recently with GROO. I like the set of GROO trades that currently occupy a position on my top bookshelf. I'm going to keep those going and save my $10 or $20 a year on the individual issues. I'll miss Mark Evanier's hilarious letters columns, but it's a small price to pay.

As I run through PREVIEWS, that's a major theme. There's not that much that jumps out at me in the way of single issues of on-going series this month. How many snide comments could I possibly fit in about the latest attempt by DC to create a Batman mega-crossover that interrupts all of Chuck Dixon's titles? How many snickers would I generate by commenting on the latest addition to the regular art team of NEW X-MEN? (It's up to, what, three regular artists now?)

Since I was speaking of him before, I'll start with Groo. Dark Horse starts off with the GROO MAIDEN trade paperback. Four more issues of the original on-going series by Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones get collected for $12.95. I'm working at filling in the gaps, but I can't wait for the day when I have the complete GROO A-Z on my bookshelf. Of course, that'll only account for 104 issues of the series. If I remember correctly, by the time GROO finished up at Image (the only imprint left standing in Groo's wake) it was close to issue #120. I wonder if THE GROO AARDVARK and THE GROO B.B. KING collections would come next?

It's DC and Marvel, though, that threaten to bankrupt me in March. DC has a slate of trades scheduled that doesn't include a loser in the pack.

The first hard decision for me is GREEN ARROW: QUIVER. It's the hardcover collecting Kevin Smith, Phil Hester, and Ande Park's first ten issues on the title. I'm a sucker for hardcovers, but I have to ask myself if this is a story I'll ever want to reread in the future. As much as I enjoyed the series, I think the original issues might be enough to serve me. I do reserve the right to change my mind when I see the book sitting on the shelf of my local bookstore, though. For only $25, the book is priced extremely well.

For comparison purposes, Alan Moore's TOP 10 gets its second volume for the same price for only 6 issues. However, this is my favorite of the ABC books by far. The creativity and novelty of the events in the book set it apart. Gene Ha and Zander Cannon do an amazing job interpreting the scripts.

BATMAN/DEATHBLOW: AFTER THE FIRE is a three-issue prestige format mini-series. If I were a wise and patient man, I'd wait for the eventual collection of the issues, which would probably fall around Christmas 2002. However, I've seen photocopies of much of the first issue. Lee Bermejo's art is as beautiful than ever, and I can't wait that long to see this in full color glory. Plus, Brian Azzarello, who's no slouch either, writes it. Three issues, at $5.95 per. It'll be worth it.

Kyle Baker is back! KING DAVID is an original graphic novel, clocking in at 160 full color pages (slightly oversized at 8 ½ x 11 inches) for $20. How great is it to get this large a chunk of work out of a creator at a time? It makes all the time spent waiting worth it. If the whole industry were set up like this, it wouldn't be a bad thing. As you might have guessed from the title, the book is based on the Biblical story. This might just be the first runner up for "Book I'm Most Looking Forward To In March 2002." Oni is printing the #1 book, and that will have to wait for part two next week.

Greg Rucka and Rick Burchett's acclaimed BATMAN/HUNTRESS: CRY FOR BLOOD mini-series finally gets collected for $13. In all honesty, I never finished reading the mini-series. I've got all the issues sitting here in a box somewhere. I think I might just settle for digging those out and reading them rather than buying the story again when I'm not sure just how much I'll like it. (Although, really, with those creators at the helm it's got to be good.)

Gary Frank is contributing to my woeful wallet problems in March. I try to avoid the Just Imagine Stan Lee… series from DC. It's silly. It's unnecessary. It's not all that good. Jim Lee sucked me into the WONDER WOMAN book. Kevin Maguire sucked me into the FLASH. Now, Gary Frank sucks me into SHAZAM!. I don't even like the original character all that much, but I like Frank's artwork so much that I'll be picking this up and regretting it the next morning.

THE FLASH: BLOOD WILL RUN will finally collect the first seven issues (and more) of the series by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins. If you're not reading the series yet, this is a great introduction to it. If you like super hero stories at all, I think you'll like this one. It's a great example of how to tell a mature superhero comic story without the blood, guts, and swearing. (If you did have all the blood and guts and swearing, though, it would be a tip off that you're a British writer.) The book runs (pun intended; I'm funny that way) $18 for 192 pages.

Alan Moore's SWAMP THING run continues to roll out in trade paperback form. I read the first 18 or so of those issues when DC published the "Essential Vertigo" series. I liked the issues a lot and may have to consider picking up these trades to continue the series. The latest volume, EARTH TO EARTH, collects issues #51-56. John Totlebon, Rick Veitch, and Alfredo Alcala draw the stories.

Adam Warren's much-praised GEN13 gets its first collection with GEN13: SUPER-HUMAN LIKE YOU. It's 13 bucks for the 144 pages. I like the stories, but I think the later ones were even better and will just stick with my copies of the issues for now. If you've not read Warren's work on the book yet, this collection is definitely worth reading.

Before I get to the Marvel trade weight, Image does have a few books worth considering. The first is THE ART OF JAY ANACLETO. It's a 48-page prestige format one shot for $6. It'll need to pass the Flip Test before I pick it up, but it sounds promising. It includes commentary by Anacleto and Brian Haberlin on how he works and how the work is colored. Process Junkies like myself should be inclined toward the book for that alone.

FELON #4 is due out in March. This, of course, presumes the second and third issues ever see the light of day. At this point, I think the pooch is royally screwed on this mini-series, which is a real shame. It's now a "6 issue finite series" and it's still in black and white. What a shame. The book never got the chance it deserved.

The big push in March for Image, though, is Mark Ricketts' graphic novel, NOWHERESVILLE. Described (roughly) as a beatnik detective thriller, the book is 192 black and white pages for $15. I flipped through photocopies of it at the conventions this past summer and it looks interesting. It's worth taking a chance on it, I think. I know Jim Valentino is extremely proud to be publishing it.

Now for the Marvel load. One thing I love about the current regime at Marvel is that it has a sense of humor about the industry as well as itself. Some were turned off by their nine cent FANTASTIC FOUR Christmas card last week. I chuckled at it. Some don't like the little wars of words that have started at the House of Ideas, while I find them entertaining in their own ways.

I just love the write up for ALIAS #7 on page 153 this month. It includes the promise of containing "absolutely nothing about Luke Cage's sex life!" I'll leave it to others to call that crass and exploitive and unprofessional. I just think it's funny. It's stuff like that that makes Marvel's solicitations so much fun to read.

I talked last month about the new Marvel hardcover lineup. It included Frank Miller's Spider-Man, ORIGIN, and ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN. A new addition is coming on April 3rd, which is just close enough that I can count it as a March book for bookkeeping purposes. This one is something completely different. It's called SPIDER-MAN DELUXE and has a seemingly random sampling of recent Spider-Man stories in it. It starts with JMS' complete AMAZING SPIDER-MAN run so far, from #30 to #36. (This will effectively be the third printing of the 9-11 Spider-Man story.) It's also got TANGLED WEB #4-6, which includes "Flowers for Rhino" and "Severance Package." Brian Bendis and Bill Sienkiewicz combine on ULTIMATE MARVEL TEAM-UP #6-8, and Paul Jenkins and Mark Buckingham present PETER PARKER: SPIDER-MAN #36. Like I said, it's an odd mixture of stories. It's a nice anthology piece, I'll give them that. But I'm a little confused otherwise. These are all great stories, but I'd much rather have seen a fuller collection of Jenkins/Buckingham stories with the JMS stories. I think PP:S-M #33 is a stronger Spider-Man story than #36. We'll have to see how well this collection does. It's worth it alone to see John Romita Jr.'s artwork printed in a (roughly) 7 x 11 inch format. It costs $35.

I'm running out of virtual space for this week, so I'll have to continue with the rest of the books of interest from Marvel next Tuesday. There are a few very exciting trades due out in April from Marvel. After that, we've got everything in the "comics ghetto" section of PREVIEWS, with great books coming from Oni Press, AiT/PlaNetLar, Harris, and more. I'll get to all of that next Tuesday, along with a long overdue review or three.

Come back Friday, in the meantime, for the second part of the Pipeline Top 10. I'll be looking at the first batch of books that made the Top 10 series of the year.

Next week, Pipeline returns to its usual Tuesday and Friday publication schedule.

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 350 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.

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