WHAT I'VE BEEN READING
MY SASSY GIRL Volume 1 is one of ComicsOne's new releases. Unfortunately, I can't recommend it. It's far too thin and scattered. At its heart, it's meant to be the story of a straightlaced young man who falls for the beautiful girl who's completely wrong for him, not to mention slightly self-destructive. Unfortunately, there's nothing that happens in this first volume to make me believe that this girl has any redeeming values worth pursuing. Credulity gets stretched to its absolute breaking point. While the background art is strong and the colors are nice and bright, the characters themselves morph constantly (sometimes on purposes, sometimes not) and become distracting to me.
It's imported from Korea, which means you get to read it left to right. There are 125 story pages in full color in the book for a $14 price tag. It's based on one of the top box office draws in recent Korean filmmaking. I'd be curious to see the movie someday, but I can't say the same for the second volume of the comic.
Since Marvel restarted CAPTAIN AMERICA in part to tell more politically-themed stories, I've stayed away from it. I made the mistake of reading the initial storyline for John Cassaday's art, but the story was a big disappointment. Jae Lee's gorgeous art after that couldn't save a boring and confusing story. With Chris Bachalo stepping in, I thought I'd give the book one last shot.
CAPTAIN AMERICA #21 perches itself on the abyss of the political well. This issue is all set-up. There's nothing outright offensive to me just yet, but I have a feeling that's coming down the road. In the meantime, there are a couple of nice Steve Rogers moments, an absolutely hilarious final pair of panels, and Bachalo's art to hold the book together. Some have compared his opening splash shot to Sonic the Hedgehog. That's a little rough, but it does seem that the overly realistic attempts to interpret Captain America's costume have leant themselves to some odd looks. In this case, Bachalo takes extra care to draw in all the chain mail armor and the pointed nose off the mask. Bachalo's art is much restrained from some of the crazier layouts of his recent work, and that helps Robert Morales' story a lot. Right now, I'm giving a very tentative thumbs up for the title.
I've heard a lot of comparisons to Looney Toons animated shorts when the topic of Kyle Baker's PLASTIC MAN #1 comes up. Although I understand where people come from with it, I don't think it's the case at all. Yes, it has some of the same zaniness and humor that works for both adults and children. However, the overall look of the book is far more like something in the 1960s, particularly out of a Jay Ward cartoon, or Gene Deitch-directed Tom and Jerry short. This highly stylized flat look is not what made Warner Bros' shorts of the 40s and 50s so great. Chuck Jones did a little of it with "The Dover Boys," but that's it. PLASTIC MAN is far better described as a John Kricfalusi cartoon. (Thanks to Joe Torcivia for pointing that out to me first.) Heck, Kricfalusi was just using the same zip-and-pose techniques that Jones used in that "Dover Boys" short.
On top of all that, I'm not a big fan of coloring in all the black lines on art, as Kyle Baker does here. Baker goes so far as to outline the solid black areas in color. UGH Disney has been relying on that with their animated movies for better than a decade now, and it seems to be taking over everywhere, as the use of computer coloring makes it so easy to do. I'm not a fan. I can deal with it, though.
That all said, Baker's story is funny and his one-liners are hilarious. The story is nearly appropriate for all ages. Some would quibble that the mere appearance of a gun invalidates any story for children. I grew up on plenty of violent shows and unedited Looney Tunes shorts, and even had toy guns growing up. I've never held a real gun in my life, let alone shot someone with it. I don't think society has changed so much in 20 years that exposure to a gun means a lifetime of violence. But other hypersensitive people do. So be it. I'd have no problem giving this book to an 8 or 10 year old to read with.
PLASTIC MAN #1 is a fun book with a very clean look and a great sense of humor. I would recommend it, but I'd steer clear of the Bugs Bunny comparisons.
In ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #50, Brian Bendis attempts to use an expanded page count to create the feel of a heist movie's opening. Over the course of the first nearly twenty pages, Black Cat infiltrates a building, steals an item, and makes off with it. Along the way, you get the night clean-up lady, the bumbling security guards, and the red laser beams seen only with a spray can's help. While it works fine on its own, I'm not quite sure it works to the level Bendis was hoping for. It has to do with pacing and the differences between movies and comics.
Since you can't control the reader's pace in a comic, you have to resort to all sorts of tricks to slow down or speed up the eye. More panels leads to a slower scene. Bigger panels impart more dramatic impact. Cliffhangers have to occur on the lower right corner of the right page for maximum effect. Things like that. What we get in this issue is a script that might work with a swooping camera crane, the right dramatic underscore, and a very carefully edited sequence of shots. In the comic, it comes off as padded, a three page sequence dragged out to 17 pages. Heck, this would work well on TV's ALIAS. You'd just need to add a couple extra hallways for Jennifer Garner to run down. In ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, though, it's just more pages.
However, the Spider-Man interaction immediately after it and the Peter Parker/Mary Jane bits after that work really well. It's not a bad issue. It's just a bit uneven at the start.
HALO AND SPROCKET is a series I've been highly recommending here since it first started last year. As usual, many people said they would wait for a trade to try it. They had missed an early issue or two and, even with each issue being completely self-contained, they didn't want to start in the middle. Well, there's no excuse anymore. The first trade paperback collection for the series, subtitled WELCOME TO HUMANITY, is now available from Slave Labor Graphics, and is worth every penny. It collects the first four issues, plus new material from various sources. It's pretty much the complete HALO AND SPROCKET to date. For only $13, it's a bargain for the entertainment value.
It's the funny story of a young woman and the angel and robot who live with her. Together, they try to figure out humanity and its many foibles. Most of them revolve around word play, but there's plenty of comedy gold to be mined from humanity's odd behaviors. Each short story is fast-paced with dialogue that cuts straight to the heart of each matter, chooses its laughs carefully, and gets out before overextending its welcome. The art is done up in a cartoony style, with gray tones flatly added in to eep each page interesting. This isn't an ornate art book, but it doesn't need to be. If you want that, skip straight to the back of the book for a series of guest pin-ups. Or go read LIBERTY MEADOWS.
The trade paperback starts by answering one of those questions that people tend to ask when you describe this series to them. It's Halo, Sprocket, and Katie sitting around a table as an off-panel voice asks them, "Why exactly do you three live together?" Katie, with a slightly ticked off look on her face, snaps back, "We just do. OK?" It's like asking why Scooby Doo talks. It doesn't matter. Accept it and move on. Creator Kerry Callen has promised to give us the origin of the characters at some point in the issues, but it's not important towards understanding the series. It'll be a neat little bonus, and a funny story, I'm sure.
This book also proves how completely unquotable my writing style is. On the back cover is a series of quotes pulled from reviews, including one of mine: "It's a great read that's oddly addicting." Sounds like I'm damning the book with faint praise. The truth is that I love it. It's one of the best new titles from the past year or two. This trade is the perfect place to start, and would even make a nifty gift to a non-comics fan who has an easy time accepting any of the foibles of a comic strip.
While watching INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE on DVD this weekend, a thought struck me. The fourth movie is nearing production now, with Harrison Ford no doubt set to play a mummy in the feature. This isnt' ageism. Captain Kirk can command a ship well into his 60s and 70s with no problem. But can Indiana Jones outrun a giant boulder or jump from horse to tank at 60? Screenwriter Frank Darabont has a lot of explaining to do to get that to work. Pardon the digression.
Should we take bets now on Dark Horse picking up the reprint rights to the old Marvel series that lasted about 40 issues in the 1980s? Dark Horse did a few mini-series, itself, but they've gone after other Marvel licensed comics of late, such as CONAN and STAR WARS. It would seem that INDIANA JONES would be inevitable, particularly with their pre-existing relationship with LucasFilms.
A quick check of THE SLINGS AND ARROWS COMIC GUIDE shows that Marvel produced 34 issues plus 10 issues' worth of movie adaptations. I remember that the adaptation of THE LAST CRUSADE was among the earliest comics I ever bought off the newsstand. In this day and age of instant DVDs, though, such comics adaptations seem pointless. They are quaint relics which most often serve to show us what the original script looked like before the on-set rewrites and editing room removals. If you want to see Kirk fight the rock monsters in STAR TREK V, for example, the comic book adaptation is your only chance.
Right now, though, I'd guess we're less than a year away from an announcement by Dark Horse about this. Mark your calendars.
THE SLINGS AND ARROWS COMICS GUIDE book is a miraculous invention. It's the ultimate comics checklist, written in an entertaining, informative, and critical manner. It contains nearly 800 pages of series summations and at times harsh opinions of them. It's an addicting read. You'll start by skipping around to see what the authors thought of your favorite or least favorite series, but then start reading others at random. It's a fun trip through the past 60 years of comic books. As entertaining as the summaries are, you'll be pleasantly surprised with how handy the indices to the series are. If you want to know just how many issues of INDIANA JONES Marvel produced, it's as easy as flipping to page 330.
At $40, it may not seem cheap, but it is one of those books that will give you the best return on your investment. You can find more information on the book at its web site.
Pipeline returns next Tuesday. With the holidays and new year approaching, I really ought to start considering my Best Of list for 2003. It's coming. I swear.
Various and Sundry has been updated all week: more movie trailers, more problems with getting older, more links round-ups. Also, talk of TV's first 300 game bowled since, well, last winter, a suggestion for FOX's THE SIMPLE LIFE, the glories of fallen snow, and much much more. How many other blogs give you Mika Koivuniemi? How many other bloggers could spell "Koivuniemi" without looking it up? You really should click through on the link this week. I need the ego boost that those extra hits will give me.
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.