Pipeline, Issue #335


[Previews, January, 2004]The new edition of PREVIEWS came out a couple of weeks ago. For various reasons, I wasn't able to dedicate an extra column to it last week, so I'm running some highlights in the main column today. The new catalog covers products shipping in January and, as always, I heartily recommend picking up a copy for yourself and pre-ordering the books that catch your interest.

Dark Horse starts by releasing a new edition of Steve Duin and Mike Richardson's history of comics titled COMICS BETWEEN THE PANELS. It's 500 pages in a hardcover package for $35. It's a look back at comics history through encyclopedic entries, covering such topics as "Hooded Menaces" and "Skulls" as well as the regular listing of comics legends, characters, and events. It's available for shipping today, so you can order this one up right away and be reading in no time.

DC's big launch after Darwyn Cooke's NEW FRONTIERS is the Kurt Busiek/Stuart Immonen prestige format four issue mini-series, SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY. It's a tale of a boy with the same name as Superman discovering his superpowers and all that it entails. Take a look at the preview art on pages 57-59 and the book is already sold. Immonen is doing some interesting work with his art, particularly when it comes to the coloring and shaded areas. It won't be for everyone, but I'm willing to give it a shot.

In the oddest DC crossover in recent memory, WildStorm's Mister Majestic is entering the DC Universe through the pages of the Superman titles. Best remembered for the Joe Casey/Ed McGuinness series, Alan Moore used the character as the WildStorm answer to Superman. This was after Moore did stories featuring DC's Superman, but before he answered Superman with SUPREME at Extreme Studios/Awesome Comics.) Majestic also appeared in the much-overlooked series, SAVANT GARDE, written by Barbara Kesel.

Finally, there's a new trade paperback entry in the NIGHTWING series. Titled BIG GUNS, this one packs together issues #46-50, which do contain some Greg Land art, with the 80 PAGE GIANT story and material from SECRET FILES.

Image Comics has so many different series going in so many different directions, it's hard to keep track of them all anymore. That's OK, though. You don't have to like them all. It should just be enough that some of them appeal to you, right?

For my money, the most promising release is DESPERATE TIMES #0, the re-start of Chris Eliopoulos' comic strip series featuring neurotic best friends, Marty and Toad. This time, one is married and the other feels alienated. Thankfully, Kennedy the Three Toed Sloth is back with them. A five page preview can be had at Image's web site, as well as in an upcoming LIBERTY MEADOWS issue.

Eliopoulos' former stomping grounds, SAVAGE DRAGON, published issue #115 as a super-sized edition. The issue is an 80 page giant, featuring the return of my favorite superhero team group of all time, Freak Force. I'm definitely having a Fanboy Moment here, in anticipation of this issue.

Top Cow leads off with the superheroes-in-a-coffee-shop series, COMMON GROUNDS. Writer Troy Hickman is gifted with a series of brilliant artists lined up to draw the material. It features Dan Jurgens, but the series artist roster also includes the likes of George Perez, Michael Avon Oeming, Chris Bachalo, and more.

I lost the Marvel catalog that comes separately with PREVIEWS, so I can't give you many tips there this month. I think there are a couple of new PUNISHER hardcovers I'm looking forward to, plus the third and final volume collecting Todd McFarlane's AMAZING SPIDER-MAN run. It doesn't include Erik Larsen's chapter of the "Assassin Nation" storyline. I don't remember if that will completely destroy the story or not, though. The final chapter of the story with The Red Skull has some fantastic art in it, though.

I see it's Brian Wood Month at AiT/PlanetLar again. I look forward to seeing the howls of protest over how plain and boring Rob G's covers are for THE COURIERS: DIRTBIKE MANIFESTO. I mean, it's just plain portrait shots of the lead characters. How boring, right? What is this, a Marvel book? Ditto DEMO #3. Perhaps I'm just being bitter and cynical in the wrong direction today. For those who complain about Marvel's covers these days, I would be interested in hearing what you think of these covers.

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #132 gets a "Spotlight On" solicitation on page 209. That's right. You heard me. SONIC THE friggin' HEDGEHOG. Who says your lead characters needs to wear spandex to make it past 100 issues these days?

Astonish Comics is publishing Yet Another New Title. This time it's SPOONER, a collection of a comic strip about a newlywed couple. Well, at least it's not another bachelor strip, I suppose. ;-)

IRON WOK JAN! #7 is due out in January. The sixth issue came out this week, and I'm tearing right through it. It's added a character to the regular cast who was featured in recent issues. I like it. I'm just a little worried by a moment or two in the earliest stories that would lead one to believe that there is a romance developing between Jan and Kiriko. Please, no.

Putting aside their financial issues, the loss of titles, and creator defections, CrossGen has put together its strongest lineup of titles to date for January. It will only get stronger in February without another THE FIRST trade solicitation. I'm really going to miss SCION, though.

With January's conclusion to the Jenkins/Lee TRANSFORMERS/GI JOE mini-series, I think I can end the addition of any more Transformers titles on my pull list. I'm done. Sorry, DreamWave.

Eureka Productions' GRAPHICS CLASSICS: MARK TWAIN promises adaptations of nearly a dozen Mark Twain classics inside of 144 black and white pages, featuring an assortment of artists whose names I've never heard of, as well as Rick Geary. Anyone who enjoys Chuck Jones' animated shorts owes it to himself to read more Twain, since he was a major influence. Besides that, they're just great stories.

The oddest juxtaposition of ads in this month's PREVIEWS catalog comes just past page 276, where we go from a full-page as from FANTAGRAPHICS to two pages of solicitations from FUTURE COMICS. Yin, meet yang.

I start feeling old when I read copy from Gemstone's solicitations that hype a "classic William Van Horn story from DuckTales" that I can remember buying off the newsstands. It happens in UNCLE SCROOGE #326 this month with "The Whistling Ghost." What's next? "Windfall on Mount G'zoontight"?

The good news is that Robert Kirkman's TALES OF THE REALM seems poised to continue through MVCreations' own solicitations. If you missed it when it first was solicited through CrossGen, don't miss it now. Page 300 has the details. The first issue is lots of fun.

Red Eye Press gets the award for most interesting experimental comic of the month. THE CONVERSATION #1 by Dan Wickline and David Hedgecock is described thusly:

"A one-shot, experimental 'cut and paste' comic -- assembled from a handful of drawn pieces -- about two friends humorously addressing The Greatest American Hero, their first sexual encounters, and an incredibly difficult confession."

It's 48 black and white pages for $3.95.

Most Absurd Comic? TokyoPop has one that's pretty tough to beat, but the outrageousness of it all makes it very attractive. The book is called KILL ME, KISS ME, and you can check out its description on TokyoPop's web page the info. Just bizarre.

COMIC BOOK NATION is available in trade paperback form in January. This is a scholarly tome (non-graphic) that explores youth culture by way of comics throughout the twentieth century. It's an excellent book that I sadly never fully reviewed when the hardcover came out. I wrote so many notes for myself on the text that a review began to seem like too much work. Suffice it to say, the book is an excellent way to look at how the industry has developed in the past sixty years, particularly in the way it mirrors the way children have. The new paperback edition has a bonus chapter exploring comics' reaction to 9/11. I may not agree with everything in the book, but it's an enjoyable read that moves at a brisk pace without leaving behind content. Comic Themes is the publisher, and you can see the whole solicitation on page 345.


[Planetes]There are dirty jobs no matter where you go. On the other hand, just about anything can be romanticized if placed in the right hands. Such is the implicit conundrum in TokyoPop's newest series, PLANETES. This book is about the garbage men (and garbage women) of space. Author Makoto Yukimura, however, takes great pains to show each character as a special kind of person. Astronauts are still highly respected in the near future that this book represents. Space is still something to be in awe of. For this trio of space garbage collectors, space is a calling and a mission. The garbage is just the excuse to get out there and enjoy it. This isn't STAR TREK, SWITCHBLADE HONEY, or ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE. If anything, it's closest to a later episode of BABYLON 5 as shown from the point of view of two maintenance men.

Creator Makoto Yukimura's art is a beauty to behold. He mixes highly technical drawings of space ships and rockets and high tech facilities with subtle character expressions and a great sense of layout. Some of the most beautiful pages in this book are the simplest, such as those found in the second story, which follows astronauts out onto the surface of the moon and the wonders it holds. The ending of the first story, featuring an astronauts floating in space above the earth, is captivating and moving.

If you have a natural love of space and the great unknown beyond Earth's atmosphere, this book will enchant and delight you. It never loses its sense of awe or scale. The second story introduces us to Harry Roland, an old school and hard core astronaut. We learn the affects of prolonged time in space in the story, and Roland personalizes it in a very strong way. It also points up some of the intelligence of the book. This isn't all fantasy and funky ships. Yukimura has put a lot of thought into the book. Farbeit for me to know if the science all holds up, but there are a lot of plausible explanations offered for the behavior of the astronauts and the day-to-day routine we are shown.

This first volume contains over 200 pages of story, including an opening four page color segment. Cover price is $9.99 and TokyoPop's ever-so-popular web sits indicates that there will be at least three volumes of the book.

Pipeline Commentary and Review returns next Tuesday, November 18th with a random assortment of words that might form an opinion or two when you're not looking.

Various and Sundry has been updated all week with reviews of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and FOX's new ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, plus news of STAR WARS on DVD, fish CPR, the Friday Links Round-Up, and more.

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.

Nearly 500 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.

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