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Pipeline, Issue #256

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Pipeline, Issue #256

SPIDER-MAN MOVIE REVIEW (No Spoilers)

[Spider-Man]

It’s a fun movie and it’s well worth your time to go see. You might have to check your brain at the door, but what else do you expect from a summer superhero blockbuster movie?

SPIDER-MAN made $114 million this weekend. If the average ticket cost is $8, then nearly 1.5 million people saw the movie. The number of readers I get for Pipeline is a mere fraction of a fraction of that amount, so the odds are pretty good that you’ve all already seen the movie. I’m going to give you my thoughts on the movie without spoilers, anyway. When the DVD comes out, then we can talk spoilers.

The movie’s power is great, and it’s bringing in a flood of new people. Free Comic Book Day was a wild success at stores all across the country who cared to give it a go. Comic Book Resources had server difficulty keeping up with the load of users logging in yesterday. And more people read Pipeline this weekend than have EVER read Pipeline. It’s overwhelming. And there’s a very good reason for it above and beyond mere hype.

SPIDER-MAN is a good movie. Comic fans everywhere will find plenty of stuff to like about the movie. Comic fans, being comic fans, will also find every possible nit-pick with it. I know I did. While it’s much more interesting to talk about the little things that grated on me in the movie — the odd juxtaposition of humor in the most serious of moments, the comic book cliché monologues, the convenient dramatic timing of the Spider sense, and some of the acrobatics and physics involved — I would much prefer to focus on the good stuff.

There are two things about the movie that stand out to me. The first is the classic origin story and Uncle Ben’s role in it. It’s a tragedy, from which a valuable lesson is learned: “From great power comes great responsibility.” And I can’t think of another time that it’s been so effectively dramatized save, perhaps, for the ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN version.

The second most powerful part of the movie is the ending. I’m not talking about the set piece on the bridge. I’m talking about what happens afterwards with Mary Jane and Peter. It makes clear sense. It’s nicely done from Peter’s end (after Mary Jane gets stuck with one of the most cornball speeches in movie history), and it really drives home many of the points made throughout the movie about Peter’s lot in life. And Roger Ebert in his review missed it completely. He was completely oblivious to it. The man who gave a wretched piece of crap like TOMB RAIDER 3 stars could only find 2 and a half for SPIDER-MAN. Well, we all have our off days. . .

The special effects weren’t as bad as I thought they might be. In fact, they were quite good and easily believed. The trailers and preview clips had me a little worried. The scene where Spidey is knocking out the bad guys near an armored truck was a bit much. Ebert is right in saying that there are times when Spidey lacks the gravity he should have. Tobey Maguire more than makes up for that in the poses he strikes, crouched down and hunched over in classic Spider-Man style. The swinging scenes throughout the city are breathtaking, particularly in the early phases. By the time Spider-Man takes his victory lap at the end of the movie, you’re buying every frame of film of it.

Kirsten Dunst surprised me as Mary Jane. I didn’t know what to expect, but I certainly liked what I found. Aside from being more than just the Girl Next Door Who Looks Pretty, she comes across as a genuinely warm and friendly person, who grows increasingly fond of Peter as the story progresses. In the movies, where scenes are shot out of order, that’s no easy trick.

The actor playing J. Jonah Jameson, J.K. Simmons, darn near stole the show. He’s the truest of all the characters in the movie to the comics. It’s not that hard, given he’s only a two-dimensional character. Still, he chomps the cigar perfectly and makes for great comic relief.

The opening weekend box office proves that there’s repeat business to be had for this movie. TITANIC was spurred along by gaggles of teenage girls going to see Leonardo DiCaprio in a love story over and over again. While I don’t think SPIDER-MAN will quite reach those ticket sales figures — STAR WARS’ affect on the movie is still a wild card here — it does have very similar elements to it. The love story is central to the movie, and Maguire seems to be well accepted by the demographic.

The movie shouldn’t have too hard a time reaching $300 million in ticket sales, and the DVD release in the fall should do boffo box office business.

It’s all well deserved. SPIDER-MAN is an entertaining film that invites multiple viewings.

(But, really: Macy Gray?!? Talk about stopping a show for the purposes of adding a track on the official SPIDER-MAN CD! UGH)

PREVIEWS FOR JULY 2002

The following are some highlights from the latest PREVIEWS magazine, soliciting items for sale in July 2002. As always, this is just a list of some of the things that popped out to me. You are strongly encouraged to pick up a copy of the magazine for yourself and to go through it with a fine tooth comb. There are lots of little things hidden in these pages. Make sure you use the catalog to pre-order the things you really want. It gives your retailer a fighting chance at knowing what his base wants, and it gives publishers the chance to get accurate sales figures.

DC gives us the third hardcover volume of PROMETHEA, as well as the first collection (at last) of Humberto Ramos’ OUT THERE. “Yay” on both counts.

As much as I try to stay away from JUST IMAGINE STAN LEE CREATING BLAH BLAH BLAH, another artist pops up to work with him and drag me in. In July, that artist is John Cassaday, with whom Lee will be re-imagining CRISIS. Pretty funky stuff. Ought to be interesting to look at, if nothing else.

Image lets loose with PRO, from the warped minds of Garth Ennis, Amanda Conner, and Jimmy Palmiotti. It’s a full color 56 page one shot for a mere $6. Paul Mounts is doing the coloring on it. Between that and Conner’s expressive line work, the book is sure to look great. Being the story of a super-powered prostitute, please be aware that it’s really a Mature Readers Only type book.

(I miss their GATECRASHER. It was a very entertaining series from Black Bull that died far before its time. Hopefully, the cartoon will see the light of day sometime and that will allow the comic to return.)

SAVAGE DRAGON #101 is scheduled for July, but I wouldn’t count on it appearing until August.

Possibly more exciting is the release of Dave Johnson’s magnum opus, SUPERPATRIOT: LIBERTY AND JUSTICE. It collects the four issues of the mini-series that Dave Johnson drew a few years back. It’s an extravaganza of gonzo storytelling, borrowing heavily from the manga school of comics without being derivative. Every page is fully loaded with graphics that capture the imagination and move the story along at breakneck speed. It’s quite possibly the best of the mini-series spin-offs from the Dragon section of Image. For only $13, these 112 color pages can be yours, with a bonus of words and plot by Keith Giffen and Tom and Mary Bierbaum.

SUPERPATRIOT: AMERICA’S FIGHTING FORCE is a new four-issue mini-series starting in July. It’s got a story from BATTLE POPE’s Robert Kirkman, and art by Cory Walker. Image’s web site has a preview posted of the opening few pages. Give it a look-see.

At Marvel, ALIAS ended its second storyline this past week with a surprising ending. It’s something so wonderfully understated that it’ll take you by surprise and make you rethink everything you just read. Better yet, it doesn’t feel forced and it’s not a hokey attempt to redo THE SIXTH SENSE or THE USUAL SUSPECTS. If you missed it the first time, your first chance to catch up on things is with the ALIAS hardcover in July, reprinting the first 9 issues of the series with some extra bonus material. I know I said last month that I was a little concerned about the need for an oversized edition of this book, but the second story’s ending grabbed me enough that I want to read it this way now.

ULTIMATE X-MEN joins its companion title, ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, in getting the glorious hardcover trade treatment. This volume reprints the first 12 issues of the series along with background material and GIANT-SIZED X-MEN #1. It clocks in at 352 oversized pages for $35. I can’t wait to see that sixth issue drawn by Andy Kubert on the larger-sized pages. The trick will be in getting the two-page spreads to work in the middle of a thick book like this where image can be lost in the binding.

Because we can’t get enough of Frank Miller’s DAREDEVIL, there’s a fresh printing of ELEKTRA LIVES AGAIN coming up in August. It’s reprinting the original graphic novel once again in its full oversized state in hardcover for $25. It’s a bit of a steep price for an 80-page story, but if you’ve bought the rest of the Miller Daredevil oeuvre, I’m sure you’ll get in line for this one.

Every month, Marvel’s trade program comes out with one surprise. Who’da thunk, for example, that they’d ever solicit for an ESSENTIAL ANT-MAN?!?

[Punisher: War Zone #2]

This month, it’s the $16 PUNISHER: WAR ZONE trade. It collects the first six issues of the most extraneous comic book series of all time. Ten years ago, there was an absolute glut of comics. Nothing showed that better than the third regular monthly series to star The Punisher, complete with die-cut cover. This title had one distinction, though: It featured the work of writer Chuck Dixon and artist John Romita Jr., and wasn’t half bad.

If your vision of the Punisher is the deranged psychotic who likes to massacre people in increasingly painful and humorous ways, this book won’t be for you. Dixon’s punisher does have the occasional punchline in it, but is otherwise a serious book. This trade paperback tells the story of the Punisher infiltrating a mafia family under the name “Johnny Tower,” and then dismantling it from within. It’s an entertaining story that reads fairly quickly and features some lovely art. Klaus Janson is around for the inks on the first half of the story, and lends a somewhat different look to JR Jr’s art than you see today. You can tell a younger Romita drew this, but it’s still solid work.

[Punisher: War Zone #5]

Dixon went on to write a full 11 issues of the series. The last five issues follow directly after this story, and feature a potential Punisher love interest, as well as a “team” of specialists going after the Punisher, and a further exploration of one character from the original storyline that sees reprinting in this volume. Sadly, the art is not by Romita. I imagine the combination of art, love interest, and the appearance of something close to a “team of villains” kept Marvel from reprinting the entire 11-issue storyline. Still, the first six issues form a cohesive story, but will probably leave you wondering why one character was even in it to begin with. Her story comes after the trade.

The second most curious trade of the month is AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: REVELATIONS, which collects four issues of the JMS/Romita Jr. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN for $9. It seems like every other trade Marvel produces is at least 6 issues. Aside from providing a slightly cheaper package for readers, I don’t see the advantage in this. I guess the next storyline stretches out too far to include in this book. Odd.

G.I. JOE volume 3 collects the famous Snake Eyes “Silent Interlude” story.

If you haven’t been keeping up with Bendis’ DAREDEVIL stories, DAREDEVIL: UNDERBOSS is available in August for $15. It collects the first 6 issues of Bendis’ exciting storyline with art by Alex Maleev. I’m holding out hope for a hardcover collection of these issues.

THE ULTIMATES also collects its 6 issues into one trade, but I think I’ll wait another 6 months for a hardcover. Hitch’s art is worth waiting for in the larger size.

Gee, remember when the clichéd phrase was “wait for the trade”? I’m turning it into “wait for the hardcover.”

AiT/PlanetLar offers up Steven Grant’s BADLANDS story, collected all together again for the first time in a long time. I commented on the screenplay that was being solicited last month. Now I have to wonder if I don’t want to wait until I read the comic first, and THEN the screenplay, or vice versa?

Slave Labor collects Andi Watson’s latest 6-issue story, SLOW NEWS DAY, under one cover for $17. I have to be honest and say I haven’t finished reading the series it collects yet. The final issue just recently came out. But the first 5 issues are done in the patented Watson style, complete with believable and engaging characters, iconic art, and an inviting style. If you were looking for something to show a friend to prove that comics can be about “normal” people, this would be a great place to start.

CrossGen begins collecting RUSE with its first volume, ENTER THE DETECTIVE, for $16. The first six issues of my current favorite series are collected here, with the talents of Mark Waid, Butch Guice, Mike Perkins, and Laura DePuy.

MERIDIAN Volume 3 is also released in July, which brings about an interesting point. CrossGen is up to ten regular monthly comics, soon to be 11. If each series is collected into trades in six issue chunks, then they should be able to release (roughly) two trade paperbacks a month, every month. That’s a pretty nice publishing schedule, if you ask me.

Eddie Campbell Comics offers up EGOMANIA, a new quarterly magazine from the mind of the label’s namesake. Campbell promises a mix of articles, comics, and interviews for $5. The first issue includes a report on Campbell’s experiences at the FROM HELL premiere, plus an interview with one of Bob Kane’s ghosts, and a look at the first batch of pages from the next ALEC book.

Heavy Metal features KEVIN EASTMAN TMNT ARTOBIOGRAPHY. While Peter Laird keeps busy putting together the latest incarnation of the Turtles’ comic book, Eastman is putting together this 300 page, $39 book dedicated to showing more than a thousand behind the scenes drawings and images used in the creation and evolution of the characters. It sounds like a very interesting book, particularly for those of us who remember the Turtles from their childhoods and aren’t afraid of a little behind-the-scenes nostalgia.

TwoMorrows is starting up a new magazine called WRITE NOW! Think of it as DRAW Magazine done for writers. It’s put together my Danny Fingeroth (one time Marvel editor in the Spider-Man office, as I recall), and includes interviews with the likes of Stan Lee, Brian Bendis, Joe Quesada, Joss Whedon, J.M. DeMatteis, and Mark Bagley. (Bagley’s not a writer, but if you’re writing comics you had better understand the artist’s role just a bit, don’tcha think?)

Again, this is all a very brief look at what the comics industry has to offer you this summer. Give the magazine a flip-through at your comic shop this weekend. You’ll probably find something in it that you didn’t realize you wanted.

PHILADELPHIA FREEDOM

WizardWorld comes east to Philadelphia this weekend! Hopefully, the excitement from the Spider-Man movie won’t result in riotous mobs. (Aren’t I ever the optimist? I remember so vividly what happened in Chicago last year between the Kevin Smith fans and the Star Wars fans. I shudder to think about all those people together again this year, with the addition of Spider-Man fans.)

In any case, I’ll be there this weekend with frequent con traveling partner Dani. I’ll be the taller one with shorter hair and a CBR shirt on, in all likelihood. Catch me while I’m roaming the floor and feel free to say hello. I love to put faces to names and see who it is I’m writing for every week. Bring your copy of Oni’s THE COPYBOOK TALES and I’ll even autograph the introduction page for you.

I’m sure a full report about the con will show up in this space next week.

My apologies for the scheduling nightmare Pipeline has been the last couple of weeks. The second part of my look at this year’s Pittsburgh Comicon will appear on Friday, while I’m away at the WizardWorld. Next week, I’m hoping to review a couple of things, while also recapping some highlights from the Philly convention.

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 400 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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