MARVEL'S RELEASES FOR 22 AUGUST
DAREDEVIL #36 is the latest chapter in the on-going saga of the unmasking of Daredevil. When we left our intrepid reporter last month, he was poised to speak to reporters for the first time since his cover was blown. In this issue, we find out what he says and some of the reasons behind it and the ramifications of it. (There are plenty of heavy professional complications his little news conference brings up that aren't addressed in this issue. I imagine they'll come up eventually. You can see the look on Ben Urich's face early in the issue.)
I can't say much more about the issue without spoiling it, so I'll focus on a couple of things about the storytelling. The first is Bendis' use of time in his narrative. His entire run on DAREDEVIL has played tricks with time frames. Flashbacks occurred at a high speed early in the run. Things have gotten more linear since then. Some issues take place with events piling up one on top of the other. Last issue had a two-month gap in it. On a smaller scale, this month's issue starts off with a nice pacing trick. The first page establishes Murdock in front of the press corps about to talk. It's completely silent, save the clicking of the photographers. The second page is the credits/"What Has Gone On Before" page, and the third page picks the narrative right back up. It's a nice pausing effect on the story, not dissimilar to what you might see with the teaser on a television show, or the opening grabber in a movie before the opening credits roll. What a surprise -- Bendis is using a trick he probably got from the movies. Heh. It's effective here and a nice touch. It conveys the importance of the moment and the tension in the air without a single extra word.
Alex Maleev's artwork is particularly gorgeous this month. It took some doing for me to warm up to his art style on this title. I can't say for certain whether he did something different this month that attracted my attention, or whether my eyes are finally opening up to it, but his artwork here is absolutely beautiful. It's more than just his strict sequential storytelling that skips over any splashy or showy images. His nearly photorealistic art style here is spiced up with a certain scratchy/sketchy line. It leaves certain parts in the dark, but it brings out the "normalcy" of the book. DAREDEVIL is a book firmly grounded in the real world. Under Bendis' guiding hands, it's more of a legal drama with mafia undertones than a superhero book. This issue, in particular, works extra hard to pull that off. Everything is understated. Nothing gets needlessly exaggerated or dramatically staged. You're eavesdropping here, and Maleev's art has never looked better for it.
Matt Hollingsworth gets some measure of credit for this, as well. His colors are naturalistic and keep everything as "real to life" as the rest of the creative team. It's got a gritty feel to it.
I can't wait for a hardcover collection of this run of DAREDEVIL. It's been a wonderful run for the character from a writer who seems unafraid to try anything, and then pulls it off and makes it look easy.
ULTIMATE X-MEN #21 introduces Kitty Pryde to the mythos. This time around, she's a teenager living with her mother, and is just discovering her powers and having a horrible time controlling them. Very calmly, her progressive mother brings her to Charles Xavier's academy. Ignore the silly Wolverine cover on the issue. It represents one page of the overall story, which is totally Kitty's. She's not quite as likeable just yet as the main Marvel Universe version is. There's hope for her, though, and we'll see what her mother's dictates do to her future with the team. (You'll see what I mean if you read the issue.)
Mark Millar's script is brimming with new ideas, and fresh ways of looking at classic Marvel clichés, particularly those involving mutants. The book is as fresh and awe-inspiring now as it was nearly two years ago when it first hit the shelves. Millar throws ideas away with one sentence asides in dialogue that other writers would spend an issue exploring. It works better in his style for me than Morrison's, whose ideas are usually much more convoluted. Millar's are more commonplace and easier to quickly sort through and accept. He also writes for some really cool visuals, something that Adam Kubert is only too eager to pull off. There's a really nice one with the Blackbird in this issue, for example.
Two years later, and the Ultimate universe has proven not just to be a good idea, but also a very well executed one. The three titles in it right now are some of the strongest superhero comics being published today, with high production values and imaginative stories. It also works from a marketing standpoint, with all the issues extremely easy to pick up, and wonderfully packaged in beautiful heavy hardcovers.
And is CAPTAIN AMERICA the letterer's dream assignment in this post-Nuff Said world? John Cassaday's art is beautiful, as always, but a quick flip through the fourth issue -- on stands this Wednesday -- shows a book that probably doesn't make it past 30 words at best on a given page. Half of them also seem to be done in Times New Roman font. That's right, kids: You, too, can letter CAPTAIN AMERICA with a copy of MicroSoft Word.
I've spent a lot of time through the years talking about comics magazines. When I first started reading comics, I had a variety of great black and white magazines to choose from. They were enthusiastic about comics. They featured a great mix of news and interviews and reviews and comics. When WIZARD blossomed, it was all about the price guide and glossy full color. Comic magazines ceased being respectable fan outlets and quickly became marketing tools, slicked up enterprises with the lowest common denominator in mind.
We seem to be undergoing a magazine renaissance again, after a false start a couple of years ago that saw COMICOLOGY fall by the wayside and the promised revival of THE COMIC READER never make it to the printer. Nowadays, we have new magazines like DRAW!, WRITE NOW!, and COMICS SPOTLIGHT. (I'll have more thoughts on those latter two in the next couple of weeks.) Very quietly, however, there's another black and white magazine with the drive and enthusiasm to make a great splash in the industry. That magazine is TRIPWIRE, a British publication that's a quiet ten year veteran. The last issue of its fourth volume is due out in stores in a couple of weeks, but thanks to editor Joel Meadows, I've had a chance to get a look at it sooner that that.
TRIPWIRE is the kind of thing I like in a magazine. Content-wise, it has a wonderfully diverse set of offerings, from mainstream publications to the tiniest itty-bitty small press publication. It has columns touching on general reviews, comics in film, and graphic novels. It features interviews with creators new and old, large and small, popular and unknown. The interviews are focused and don't wander or waste column inches.
This August/September 2002 issue is devoted to being a survey of "The State of the Independents." To that end, there's a two page interview with Larry Young that sticks to his company AiT/PlanetLar, and doesn’t get sidetracked into his picks of Scotch, or his font of choice for lettering. Both could make interesting topics for discussion, but the magazine chooses, instead, to focus tightly on one area and develop it. It's a big difference from THE COMICS JOURNALS massive and often meandering interviews, or WIZARD's interviews that end up focusing more on White Castle hamburgers than the artist in question's work. (That was an Adam Kubert interview from a few years back that I love to point out as the nadir for that magazine.)
The layout of the magazine is very simple. It's black and white with three columns per page and one standard set of fonts. It doesn't try to scream for your attention on every page with bold graphics or silly headlines. It's a straightforward magazine that respects its reader's intelligence. There are no background graphics underneath the text making everything impossible to parse. Interviews are done in a simple question and answer format, with the questions in boldface for easy reading. There are ads interspersed throughout the issue, but at least 80% of the magazine is editorial content, by my estimate.
The centerpiece of the issue is the cover-titled "State of the Independents," which includes a ten question survey asked of the likes of Moonstone, Idea Design Works, and Archangel Studios (a/k/a Team Red Star, with a great sidebar of industry reaction to their signing with CrossGen). Other interviews in the issue include Mike Mignola, Glenn Fabry, and Paul Pope.
Take special note of Eddie Campbell's short interview. His opinions are a refreshing change of pace from most creator interviews I've read. He talks about drawing pages for an X-Men book just to show that "the market is all one." It's interesting stuff.
TRIPWIRE #12 is already out in the U.K. and should hit America in early September. Coming about a month after that is a special book collection the best of the first ten years of the magazine, titled simply TRIPWIRE AT 10. Then, in early November, TRIPWIRE relaunches with a new #1 and a new color format with help from designer Ashley Wood. This might be the best chance for a new general interest comics magazine launch since COMICOLOGY debuted. Keep an eye out for it.
LOOKING FORWARD AND BACKWARD
First of all, apologies for the delay in last Friday's column. There was a malfunction in electronic transmission of the column last week that delayed it getting up to the web site. We're chalking it up to the internet gremlins and devising schemes to make sure it never happens again. If you didn't find it on Friday and didn't look for it after that, click here and read it now. The column is devoted to a wonderful book called CREATURE TECH from Top Shelf that I enjoyed a lot.
(Just read Rich Koslowski's THREE FINGERS from Top Shelf tonight. It's another amazing book from the publisher. A full review will come soon.)
Secondly, I have a major tech upgrade going on at the De Blieck Domicile this week. It's going to put me off-line for a couple of days. Friday's column will be a "reprint" of my original SPARKS column from a year and a half ago, as a reminder to pick up the beautiful thick trade paperback that Slave Labor just printed to complete the story. There are 170 new story pages in there, so give it a chance. If you don't know why, check out this coming Friday's column.
Extra special thanks to Brian at Khepri.com for his unwitting (yet gracious and understanding) help with the CREATURE TECH review last week.
Special thanks to John The Librarian at Dewey's Comic City in Madison, NJ for the First Look support on the column again this week.
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.