This week's package of Image previews contains some interesting books; so let's get right down to it.
BASTARD SAMURAI #1 premieres on Wednesday. It does one thing very well. It's not attempting to emulate manga by imitating its line style. It's emulating manga's storytelling devices. It's got the absurdly small and extreme close-up shots. It's got the two page spreads that show the rudiments of a swordfight. It has silent pages of detailed swordplay. It reminds me a lot of SAMUARAI JACK. It's got that same second-generation modern Amerimanga feel to it. It all goes back to the same influences.
I wish I could explain the story adequately to you here. The truth is, I'm confused by parts of it. The main plot has a lot of different elements in it, some of which aren't completely Westernized. I'm intrigued enough to follow it through, though. I'm sure that as the issues pass by, the gaps will be filled in and it will all make sense. Right now, I'm happy to be slightly clueless while enjoying the ride.
At first glance, the book looks like an off-kilter issue of POWERS. It's "conceived, co-written, and inked" by POWERS' Michael Avon Oeming, while being lettered by POWERS letterer Ken Bruzenak. That explains much of it. Miles Gunter is the writer and co-creator, while Kelsey Shannon is credited with the penciling, coloring, and further co-creation. Kelsey is gifted. He's got a style very much in line with Oeming's own, which makes the ink line fall gracefully on top of his. His coloring style, likewise, complements the line art and fits in with the overall tone. Oeming picks up the pencil for a short backup story to help fill in some of the back-story on the series.
This one's decidedly not for the kiddies. Consider this one a mature reader's book, for violence and language.
Erik Larsen is in trouble again. He's sure stirred the pot this time. I'm sure he loves every minute of it, too.
In SAVAGE DRAGON #96, due out tomorrow, he's drawn up an 8-page story in which Dragon confronts The Creator, formerly known as Johnny Redbeard, if I remember correctly. The rest of the story is a series of sarcastic one-liners thinly veiling Larsen's thoughts on all the issues of character-creation and -ownership today. Neil Gaiman gets ripped; Ultimate Spider-Man gets torn apart for being a Harry Potter wannabe; Rob Liefeld even takes a shot or two. It's hilarious and sure to make several people cringe. I don't agree with all the nudges and winks, but I have to admit that I revel in its craziness and outspokenness. Somehow, I get the feeling we'll be reading about this story in future letters columns.
(It does put Larsen into a bit of a bad spot. For a guy who berated Peter David's HULK for being a series of pop culture references and inside comic gags, this story seems to be nothing more than an excuse for Larsen to throw his jabs into the fray. I mean, what purpose does the "Medieval Sandman" character fulfill to the plot aside from giving Dragon the chance to comment on the Gaiman/McFarlane feud. It's entertaining, but it's also fodder for Larsen's critics.)
There are two other short stories in the issue. One focuses on Dragon's adventures in The Void where we left him last issue, and the other catches up to Vanguard and Wally.
It's an entertaining issue that doesn't harp too much on the on-going subplots. It keeps enough interesting things around to attract a new reader. Larsen's art hasn't looked this great in a while, either. Perhaps it is because his focus is now solely on the book and nothing else.
The march towards the big 100th issue continues on. I know I'm really looking forward to it.
TOMB RAIDER #21 is the first issue with the new creative team, John Ney Rieber and Randy Green. It's not the first creative team I would have expected on the book. Green makes a lot of sense, though, since he specializes in drawing sexy women comics. Rieber, though, is a real headscratcher. Here's a guy who came up through Vertigo and is making waves now with the impending CAPTAIN AMERICA #1. He's writing a video game character's comic? Given that his predecessor was Dan Jurgens, I guess it shouldn't surprise me all that much. It just makes you wonder who would replace Rieber if he left? Mark Waid? John Byrne? Pick a CAPTAIN AMERICA writer and run with it.
TOMB RAIDER is a comic meant to be adventurous and action packed, with a sharp hint of T&A to it. That's the gag. It's what works for the video game, and so it's what works for the book. This first issue gives Lara Croft the chance to parade around in her nightclothes, her bathing suit, and her more standard gear -- the sports bra and bike shorts. The trick is to weave some semblance of a story around all this and make it entertaining.
Rieber does about as good a job at that as you could hope for. This isn't DANGER GIRL or INDIANA JONES, although it has goals to reach not unsimilar to those two. There is some interesting archaeology to string the adventure alone, and Randy Green's art is extremely easy on the eyes and not as provocative or over-the-top sexy as it could have easily been.
Sadly, the story doesn't entertain the way that DANGER GIRL did, with its all-out action sequences. Not does it manage to string together the historical bits into something interesting, the way Don Rosa manages to do with his adventurous stories of Uncle Scrooge. Pretty art can't save the flimsy story that was written to show off the art itself. All in all, it's fluff that a 13-year-old video game addict might like. There's something to be said for that, though. 13 year olds need comics for them, too.
I'm hoping to have a post mortem written about Gen 13 for you all on Friday.
I'll be at the Pittsburgh Comic Con this weekend for all three days, but won't be doing daily con updates, for a variety of reasons. Next week's columns should go into some detail about the event, though, and I might even preview a few things about the con in this coming Friday's column.
I think Michael Golden is a great artist. I just don't care for his recent NIGHTWING covers at all.
I find it funny that Vertigo is using awards won from WIZARD as promotion on the cover of HELLBLAZER nowadays. WIZARD and Vertigo? What an odd match.
Joe Torcivia writes in with a couple of corrections from recent comics. Reacting to my surprise at the dearth of writer/artists working in comics (I could name only one -- John Byrne), he writes to remind me of Erik Larsen. I'd have a comeback for that, but my head still hurts for smacking it that hard for not remembering to mention Larsen. Dumb.
Brian Haughwout puts a word in on that same subject for the venerable Walter Simonson on ORION. Good catch, Brian!
Also, Torcivia points out that the name of Batman's bodyguard that is currently rotting away in jail is Sasha Bordeaux, and not Sasha Alexander, as I wrote. Alexander was an actress on DAWSON'S CREEK last season. I was close, but not quite there.;-)
Attention, Scott Shaw!: ULTIMATE MARVEL TEAM-UP #15, guest starring Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, features another entry into one of comicdom's favorite silly antics: fish-slapping. That's right; Shang-Chi whips two large fish around to fight off a pair of would-be assaulters.
On the whole, it's also a very good issue of the series, with beautiful art from Rick Mays and Andy Lee.
Speaking of Andy Lee, word has leaked out that he's doing a new graphic novel with David Mack. Lee will be doing all the paintings at a rapid pace, and Mack will attempt to sort them out and write a story around them. Since Lee practices meditation and some Zen stuff around it, this is art.
Ten years ago, I can remember the howls from people who were berating Todd McFarlane for drawing some nice pages and then spreading them out, finding the story, drawing the material to fill in the gaps, and calling it SPAWN #1.
Spider-Man's face looks really flat on the cover of this week's ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY.
But how cool is it to see Spider-Man everywhere these days?
Movies I've recently seen and enjoyed: CHANGING LANES, THE PANIC ROOM, ICE AGE, and KISSING JESSICA STEIN. All are recommended, but particularly the first and last on the list.
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.