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Pipeline, Issue #253

BATGIRL AND THE BAT-BOOKS

[Batgirl #27]There are books you forget you couldn't wait to read. Sounds strange, doesn't it? This past week's BATGIRL #27 is one such book. BATGIRL is a fun title every month, but this one holds extra interest because it's the first with Phil Noto interior art. Noto is the cover artist on BIRDS OF PREY, and has an upcoming mini-series over at Black Bull called BEAUTIFUL KILLER. The thing that makes the idea of his doing sequential art so interesting is that he's working with an inker and a colorist. He usually does all of that by himself. What will happen when others interpret his pencil work? Also, his sense of design might work as a hindrance to storytelling. Just because a page looks pretty (as do all his covers), that doesn't mean he can tell a story.

The good news is that Phil Noto can, indeed, tell a story. His art looks great even with someone else fiddling with it. The issue, itself, is a great addition to the series. Batgirl is on the hunt for clues relating to the murder of Vesper Fairchild, in an attempt to exonerate Bruce Wayne. This is part five of "Bruce Wayne: Fugitive." (More on this in a minute.)

Kelley Puckett is still the writer and Robert Campanella is the regular inker. This helps to maintain cohesion with the rest of the series. The script reads like any other issue of the series. The pacing and the layout, to a certain degree, look like something Damion Scott (the regular artist) would have been able to pull off, too. Some of the ink lines and techniques might look familiar to a trained eye. All in all, there's a continuity of style in this issue that helps ease Phil Noto into the hearts and minds of comics readers everywhere.

Noto's art, in the meantime, is a little stiff in a couple of places. Some characters look a bit too posed and stiff. It doesn't bother me, though, and it doesn't happen often at all. Don't let me push you away from the book with one minor constructive criticism.

This is another excellent issue of BATGIRL. Thankfully, it's not the last we've seen of Phil Noto.

As for the Bat-crossover: "Bruce Wayne: Murderer?" was a wild success. The parts of the story came out in order, on time, every week. One book led to the next. One story got told, overall, with a lot of focus on the police procedural surrounding the murder case. It ended with the odds stacked against a Bruce Wayne on the lam, with Sasha Alexander still rotting in jail, the forgotten element to the whole storyline so far.

"Bruce Wayne: Fugitive," however, is weaker. The crossover shows up when it feels like it. Titles come into and out of the storyline. If there's something tangentially related to the overall fugitive plot, there's a chance it might get tagged with the label of being part of the crossover. It leaves the core Batman books in a lurch of trying to strike out on their own while still fitting in. The pacing and focus of the storyline has been shot to heck. That's unfortunate, because there have been parts to the storyline -- such as this issue of BATGIRL -- that have been terrific stories. I'm confused as to why Bat-editorial would decide to play this part of the storyline with such a laid-back attitude. I hope "Fugitive" picks up the pace a bit in the coming weeks.

THIS WEEK IN BENDISVILLE

Two books hit your local stands this week that are written by Brian Bendis. Both are far too spoiler-intense for me to spend any time reviewing in great detail. Both are worth reading, though.

Bendis has asked that nobody spoil this week's issue of DAREDEVIL, which did show up in the Marvel First Look packet for a change. I won't, but I also don't see all that much to blab about. I mean, if you read the last page of last issue, you know what direction this issue is going to go in. There is a twist in the story, though, so I suppose that's what he's trying to protect. That said, it's a very entertaining read with some of the most Mamet-like dialogue I think I've ever read by Bendis.

DAREDEVIL is currently my favorite Bendis-written series. If there is a sequel to the upcoming Daredevil movie, I think they should shoot the movie from this series of issues.

The book is also a prime example of how to do expository dialogue without stopping the freight train that should be your plot. This issue doesn't consist of two people discussing what they already know in terms that suggest they've never met each other. The material isn't presented dryly, either. It's presented in a roundabout way, with character interplay breaking things up. All the exposition also means that a new reader would have little problem in picking up the series starting from here.

[Powers 19]The other Bendis-penned book is POWERS, drawn by Michael Avon Oeming. In the wake of Zora's death, Walker isn't holding up terribly well. When he tries to retreat to his apartment, a surprise visitor drops another bomb on him and you'll be left to question much of the most recent storyline. It's a nifty twist, without being gimmicky or too "gotcha"-oriented. It puts a whole new spin on FG-3. As such, a lot of the issue is expository in nature, and doesn't hold up as well as DAREDEVIL in that regard. Still, it's an interesting and must-have issue for fans.

What really impressed me in the issue, though, is the coloring. There are a number of effects called for by Bendis for this story, and colorist Peter Pantazis handles them all without blinking. He even works it into the word balloons just a bit, which are handled seamlessly by Ken Bruzenak. Ah, the joys of all-caps hand lettering. At least one Bendis book gets it right. (Wait, DAREDEVIL is all-caps, too, albeit done on a computer. I wonder how much longer that will last before that book gets stuck with lowercase lettering.)

TWO OTHER BOOKS OUT THIS WEEK

MIDNIGHT MASS is the newest series from Vertigo, featuring a strange town and a house with stranger people in it. The first issue is out in stores this week. I can't tell you much about the story, because there doesn't appear to be one yet. This first issue sticks to the old frustrating saw that I've gone on about here before, where the point of view character is new to this strange world that the reader is entering for the first time, thus providing a seamless link and a lot of expository dialogue and caption boxes.

(Deep breath.)

You'll have to read this first issue yourself to see if all the bizarreness, oddity, and strange goings-on in the book interest you. I'm a bit wishy washy on the book right now. I don't know if I'll pick up the second issue or not. I might do so just to see if a storyline progresses somewhere. It has the possibility to be a good book. But it's off to a horribly slow start.

[GI Joe: Battle Files #1]Also, G.I. JOE: BATTLE FILES #1 is out tomorrow and it's a pure geek fest. It's $6, first of all, for a prestige format type book. It's got the square binding (barely) with cardboard cover and glossy pages in it. This first issue is all the people of G.I. Joe. Each character gets a page, which includes a detailed write-up on their history and a full-figure drawing by a few different artists. (Those include Steve Kurth, Eric Wolfe Hanson, Mike Norton, Josh Blaylock, and more.) The art is solid, but nothing spectacular. This book won't function as an art book, despite some very talented artists contributing to it. Each page features a full body shot of the character, along with their name and bio in plain text surrounding the art. The book is far from visually arresting, but should come in handy for those G.I. JOE geeks who will take anything in the way of Joe product. This one is for you if you plan on writing G.I. Joe fan-fic or are just curious about some of the characters that might have had less screen time in the original issues.

I think the book might have been a much easier sell if they hadn't have gone to the prestige formatting of the book. A simple double-sized coming would have held the whole thing for just over half the price, while fulfilling the same function. It's possible they made it into this as a way of entering it into the Diamond STAR system more easily.

J. TORRES SPEAKS!

I don't usually do interviews for this column. When I do, I work hard to not put them out in the standard Q&A format. I feel guilty doing that. With an e-mail interview, you're putting the bulk of the work on the interviewee.

Then I interviewed J. Torres, upon the release of THE COMPLETE COPYBOOK TALES trade paperback. What I got back can only be appreciated for its madcap lunacy in the Q&A format. I didn't send any follow-up questions because, well, what's the point?

ADB: How did you and Tim Levins meet? Did you work together on anything else before COPYBOOK TALES?

JT: We met on "Love Connection." Both of us got rejected by the female contestant who had to choose one of three bachelors to date. Boy, is she sorry now! Sorry like all those publishers who passed on Harry Potter. And Copybook Tales. Which is the first thing Levins and I worked on. You know, while commiserating over being rejected in front of millions, not to mention our hero Chuck Woolery.

ADB: How much of the series is autobiographical?

JT: Somewhere in between "some" and "a lot."

ADB: Did you keep a Copybook of your own, growing up?

JT: Yes, I went through copybooks like Pac-Man gobbling up pills and blue ghosts.

ADB: How long did you work on the mini-comics, before moving to Slave Labor? Was that all either of you were working on at the time, as far as comics go?

JT: We put out five minicomics over the course of about a year. Put 'em on consignment at a handful of comic shops in Toronto, Montreal, I think one in Ottawa and even Vancouver at one point. And you don't want to know about the other comics we tried to develop at the time. Remember, this was during the Image boom.

ADB: How did you get word out to the masses about the book? It's tough to spread the word about a mini-comic that two guys in Canada are creating, I would think.

JT: If you go to Deja News [now Groups at Google.com -ADB] and do a search under "Copybook Tales" and sort by date, you should come across a USENET post or two from 1995, written by two hopeful, optimistic and somewhat naive comic creators with big dreams.

ADB: Did the mini-comics lead to work other than the Slave Labor series? Or was it the Slave Labor series that raised your profiles enough to get other gigs?

JT: As hard to believe as this might be, Copybook lead to "Siren" at Image for us. And later a Copybook fan by the name of Dave Roman got me work at Nickelodeon Magazine. About a year after that a Copybook fan named CB Cebulski started up a company called Fanboy Entertainment, and now he's an editor at Marvel. Then there are the Oni Press boys, Copybook fans who, despite all the references to the Tragically Hip and Barenaked Ladies in the series, thought it might be a cool idea to put out the collection. Plus they let me do other comics for them. Oh, and Levins did all right too. He's working on a comic with some "bat" guy character or something now. Maybe you've heard of it.

ON THE WEB

There's lots of stuff out there on the World Wide Web to read. While some of it is well known and mainstream, there are other sites even more interesting that just might not get the attention they always deserve. Here are three web sites that have been incorporated into my daily and weekly routine on the internet.

The first is Mark Evanier's NEWS FROM ME, his sometimes-daily set of pointers and information about everything from comics to politics to Broadway. Just go to Evanier's main page and click on the link in the upper left corner. No, I don't agree with him on everything, but I learn a lot about some esoteric stuff here, including lots of fun television background material. His website is worth a look, as a whole. His "Point of View" column from THE COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE is archived here. There's an entire GARFIELD AND FRIENDS episode guide. You can read about his other cartoon work, including DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS, and about any number of voiceover artists. And much much more. It's worth losing some free time to.

Fans of Evanier's "Point of View" column (such as myself) should be excited to hear that TwoMorrows Publishing will be printing a book collecting the column later this year with new art by Sergio Aragones.

Neil Gaiman writes stories that, more often than not, are not up my alley. They're not bad. They're definitely not poorly crafted. They're just not my thing. Neil Gaiman, the man and the writer, however, is very interesting to read about. His blog is up, and he discusses a great range of subjects on there in the realm of comics, movies, novels, and more. The site also includes a FAQ that answers more questions about his work than you ever thought to ask. Check it out.

Finally, I want to plug Brian Hibbs' "Savage Critic." It's a column I can admire because Hibbs isn't afraid to speak his mind. I rarely agree with him, but it's fun watching him rip stuff to shreds. No, it isn't constructive behavior. Let me have my fun once in a while, though. Please?

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

Pipeline returns on Friday (as always) for a look at this year's Eisner nominees. Who should win? Who probably will win? Who doesn't belong? Who was left out? It's all the usual kind of breathless internet rambling that make awards like this so much fun! ;-)

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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