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Pipeline, Issue #248

PIPELINE COMMENTARY...

I'm disappointed to hear that Gail Simone's NIGHT NURSE book has been shelved/cancelled/rethought-with-a-new-creativetalent. It's the one project from her that I was most looking forward to, just after KILLER PRINCESSES #2.

Marvel has made some amazing leaps in the past couple of years, but it also has had a couple of disappointments. This one ranks right up there with the amazing fumble in creative teams on UNCANNY X-MEN/NEW X-MEN. Is one writer/one artist per book so much to ask?!?

Mark Waid withdrew his name from the Harvey Awards on Monday. I'd love to know more about this one, but I've a feeling it's something that might not ever see the full light of day. Then again, Bendis and McFarlane eventually got everything out in the open over SAM AND TWITCH, so I suppose there's always the possibility of a full airing. In the meantime, RUSE is my favorite monthly color comic. There's no comic more pretty and more entertaining every month to me than RUSE. Don't let this controversy take anything away from that.

In Arune Singh's new CBR article, "Comics and the 'Net", Joe Quesada discusses comic reviewers on the web. He says, "I really don't believe that fans are influenced by reviews – they are strictly for the creators and I don't understand why fans feel that they need to see reviews of comic books they like or have decided they don't like. I think that it is really the creators and publishers who go to read the reviews most often, not the fans. I don't think that reviews sell an extra comic either: if these reviews affected sales, then 'Transmetropolitan' would actually outsell 'Spidergirl,' wouldn't it?"

This has prompted a discussion on the Pipeline message board which I urge everyone to post their thoughts to. It's something I'm interested in hearing your opinion on.

To add my two cents in: I don't read any reviews of books I haven't reviewed yet, or don't know that I'm not going to review at some point in the future. I don't want to inadvertently "steal" anything from anyone else. If it happens that I say something similar in a review to something that someone else wrote, then it's just great minds thinking alike. (Let's face it; that kind of thing is bound to happen when you have many people reviewing one book. It's really no different from a comic book writer not reading unsolicited manuscripts. They don't want to appearance of impropriety.)

In any case, when I do read someone else's review, it's because I'm curious to see if I'm the only one in the world who thinks like I do, or to see if I missed something in the comic that others saw. I've come away with a greater appreciation for certain comics in the past because someone else caught something about it that I didn't. Maybe I read it too fast and missed a subtle allusion to a previous issue. Maybe I didn't catch something in the way the story was laid out. It happens.

I also read reviews of books I never considered reading before. Sometimes, it influences me to try something new. That can be good or bad. I've tried stuff on others' recommendations that I hated. I've also picked up some real gems, such as BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL, based on good word of mouth. (I know I've returned the favor and gotten others hooked on BLADE based on my review. It's really a nice little circle we've got going here sometimes.)

What I like to do with my reviews most often is spread good word of mouth. We're lucky enough to be living in a time when there are more great comics than I can ever remember being produced at one time. There's plenty of good stuff and I'd rather spend my time talking others into reading some of that stuff. (I think THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is a great comic, so when it has an off issue I really want to be sure to point that out, rather than have people think that I like even the bad ones. See below for more on this one.)

Don't get me wrong; I hear from professionals occasionally about reviews I've written about their books. The vast majority of my e-mail, however, comes from fans of the books. I write the reviews for those comic readers. That's where the drive to write more each and every week comes from. If I'm writing this in the hopes that the creator whose book I'm mentioning is going to write me some appreciative note or give me a job, then I'm running a fool's errand.

You've got to reach one fan at a time. Every e-mail I get thanking me for introducing the writer to a Bendis book or a BLADE trade or an otherwise hidden issue of IMPULSE is one more reader that book may have. I don't pretend to have the power to influence enough people to save a title. I just hope to spread the wealth a little. Maybe that person will introduce a friend of his to the book, and so on. Couldn't hurt to try.

Pipeline is just a few short weeks away from celebrating its fifth anniversary, and only two weeks away from the evenly-divisible-by-50 250th column. Pardon me for getting introspective on things like this right now.

...AND REVIEW

[Amazing Spider-Man #39]This week's issue of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is, at last, the 'Nuff Said issue. (I'm not here to begrudge the lateness of the issue. It's understandable. The 9/11 issue delayed the book by a month, and JMS' television schedule has cost a couple of weeks.) JMS stuck to the idea of a "silent issue" in that no characters speak in the course of the issue. He does, however, fail in producing a wordless issue. There's plenty of reading to be done here, in the forms of e-mail and checklists the characters write. In the end, it's not an issue that benefits from being wordless. Emotionally, there are scenes that benefit from their silence. It's not easy to establish emotional longing between two characters with any words. It's their actions and expressions that will do that best, and John Romita Jr. does a wonderful job with that in the issue. The rest of the issue isn't helped at all by being "silent." It's just awkward.

Nevertheless, it's another important issue. Mary Jay returns this issue, and I'm not giving anything away by saying that. It's page 2. I'm just not telling you what I mean by "returns." That, you have to read for yourself. She's in this issue for a major chunk of page space, though, and it's an interesting and somewhat moody issue to read. John Romita Jr. draws a gorgeous Mary Jane and the whole thing flows pretty evenly.

In the end, though, it feels like a cheat to me. The purpose of 'Nuff Said was to show how masterfully artists could tell a story strictly in pictures. While JR Jr. is capable of that, the story itself requires words. It's probably a decent enough middle ground between the two, though. JMS is a wordy writer. He's at his best when he's writing monologues and playing with words. 'Nuff Said takes away that strength and leaves him with an interesting challenge.

In addition, he's in the middle of a major storyline depicting a major change to the Spider-Man mythos. It's a combination of bad timing and wrong writer with this issue.

If you can just ignore the fact that the mission statement of 'Nuff Said was violated for a moment, you do get an interesting story that is setting up the next few issues. If you want a good silent issue, I would put Paul Jenkins' issue of PETER PARKER SPIDER-MAN ahead of this one.

It's tough to convey the frantic, inventive, and chaotic action of a Hong Kong movie onto the printed page. A Jackie Chan fight requires all the attention of the viewer. A John Woo two-gun shoot 'em up benefits from the movement on the screen. With a comic, you're asking a lot of the reader and the artist in staging one of these fights.

[Lone Wolf and Cub #18]One of the best examples I can think of in recent memory is LONE WOLF AND CUB #18, out from Dark Horse just a couple of weeks ago. The first story is the kind of gravity-defying wire-fu that you usually see in movies like THE IRON MONKEY or THE MUSKETEER. In fact, the fight scene with ladders at the end of THE MUSKETEER is slightly reminiscent of the action that Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima put to the printed page in "Firewatchers of the Black Gate."

If you're not reading LONE WOLF, it's never too late. Dark Horse keeps all the trades in print and in stock. Go ahead and start at the first volume and start working your way up. It's an amazing book each and every month.

[Powers #18]POWERS #18 is a cinematic tour de force. It's one long action/chase/fight scene for Pilgrim and Walker, as they chase Boogiegirl through the city, leading to the most climactic and startling conclusion of the series so far. I don't want to give anything away, but you won't be disappointed. If this is your first issue, I imagine you'll be pretty well lost. If you're already a POWERS fan, move this up to the front of your reading stack.

Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming direct a movie here. There's no better way to put it than that. You can easily see the movie in your head as you read through the pages, flipping frantically to get to the next page and then the next. This isn't the talking heads Bendis you may be used to. This is the bravura crescendo of the series. Even more interesting is that it's all done without sound effects. I like that. It keeps it from looking too "comic booky" and lending an extra sense of realism to it.

Major kudos go to Peter Pantazis for a fantastic coloring job with this issue. He doesn't go overboard on special effects coloring and Photoshop filter work. The reader's eye is drawn to where it's meant to go, and the coloring only serves to highlight the action, and not take away from it.

Needless to say, I liked this issue. The letters column is just a funny bonus.

Erik Larsen's THE SAVAGE DRAGON #94 is also another rock 'em sock 'em issue, as things start to really heat up on their way to the big 100th issue. The stories have less of that Dragon Wandering Through The Woods And Meeting New People feel to them, and more of a directed plotline. It's exciting once again, and is only helped by its accelerated schedule as Larsen gets the book ready to publish its 100th issue in its tenth anniversary month in June.

10 years of The Savage Dragon. Man, I'm starting to feel my age.

All in all, though, it's been a healthy time for action-packed and exciting comics.

Special thanks to Dewey's Comic City in Madison, NJ for the review help this week.

Coming up on Friday, it's a look through PREVIEWS. Really. I promise.

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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