Pipeline, Issue #368


URSULA is a bit of an odd duck. As a reviewer, the worst kind of comic book to read is one that's merely good. The great ones excite you to write about them. The bad ones give you ammunition to load in your gun and fire. The moderately mediocre ones are safely ignored. But somewhere between that and the greats ones, are a selection of books that are good, but just not my thing. Those become a pain. URSULA is one such pain.

From the Brazilian team of Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, URSULA is a childhood love story. And a fantasy tale of faeries and kingdoms. And a sweet childhood adventure. Hopefully, there will be some text on the back cover to prepare the reader for what they're about to read with this book. I went in blind and it took awhile for me to find my feet. The early chapters, in particular, feel disjointed, like they're a series of short stories being collected together just now for the first time.

The book begins by alternating between quotes of a mythology and the stories of three young friends running around town and having mild adventures. No, actually, they're having mild discussions. After one moves away, we skip ahead a decade or two and catch up to them now. One of the friends is soon to be the ruler of a kingdom, but is still in love with his little girlfriend from a lifetime ago. He journeys to find her, and that's when things get strange. Fantastical, even. There's a dragon, a talking bird, and more.

It's all wonderfully charming. The book doesn't establish a tone for itself right away, though, so the fantasy elements jarred me at first. Once you get that far in, though, the book really comes together and you're sorry to see the characters go at the end. Some might complain that the book doesn't adequately explain itself as it goes along, almost seeming to make rules up on the fly. Personally, I think it's part of the charm. As children, we don't know much about the world around us. Everything is a deus ex machina to a five year old.

The art is mostly an open style like Eduardo Risso or some of Juan Bobillo's work. Add in a bit of Disney on the talking animals and a dash of Mike Mignola for a couple of backgrounds, and I think you'd have a good idea what the book's approach is, visually. I really like it. I think it's at its strongest in the second half of the book, particularly after the fantasy sequence begins. The final few pages are works of beauty, tender and meaningful.

URSULA is the rare "sweet" all-ages friendly book from its publisher. The 72 page package can be yours in August. If you missed it in PREVIEWS a couple of months ago, you can still order it through Diamond with the code MAY042205. Final cost is $9.95.

Speaking of romantic comics from AiT/PlanetLar:

TRUE STORY: SWEAR TO GOD: 100 STORIES is a compilation of the web comics and mini-comics gag pages that Tom Beland put together before starting a comic book series. These are the gags that sucked in a great number of readers, myself included. Rereading them now, they're just as entertaining and funny now as they were then. This isn't just a case of finding something new, running with it for a while, and then moving on to the next thing. Beland is a cartoonist with real skills and a tender hook to his strips that make you feel personally involved in his tales of everyday life.

For those of you coming in late, TRUE STORY tells anecdotes of Beland's life, from his humble beginnings to his true story (swear to god) of meeting the love of his life in Disney and moving to Puerto Rico to be with her. The strips are presented thematically ("Love," "Live," "Work," "Play," etc.), so some of the "continuity" might seem warped, but it's a very small price to pay for this collection. For ten dollars, you're getting a load of laughs and touching strips that are unequaled in this industry today.

The book is presented in the landscape format, with the binding on the side. It's a nice looking package, complete with a mostly monotone blue cover. It looks more like something you'd find in a bookstore next to CALVIN AND HOBBES and GARFIELD than something you'd pick up between SPIDER-MAN and BATMAN. It's a great book to give to family members, or especially a loved one. It's the comic strip for people who think they hate comic strips.

100 STORIES is available now at a comics shop near you for a mere $9.95. If your retailer doesn't have any in stock, ask them to reorder one for you. The Diamond code is MAR042166.


WizardWorld: Chicago has officially been added back to my summer convention travelling itinerary. Hotel reservations and plane tickets have been purchased.

San Diego plans remain in place. Hopefully, we'll have some exciting announcements to make about that con sometime soon. We're running out of time, as there's less than a month to go!

Don't forget that Pipeline Previews returns on Friday with a look at what's coming out in September 2004, along with the list of things that are now scheduled to NOT come out.

Pipeline Commentary and Review returns next Tuesday. In the meantime, please vote for your Comic Book Idol this week. Last week's contestant lost by only one vote!

It was insanely busy at Various and Sundry this week, what with Microsoft continuing to do stupid things like not support its browser and sue South American governments for comparing MS to a drug cartel. But there's more than just tech, including lots of DVD news, Jeopardy!'s newest superstar, a CD review of Nellie McKay's album, a TV review of FOX's new THE JURY, and the story of a house that was stuck in the middle of the street for three days. Plus oh-so-much 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.

More than 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 also still available at the Original Pipeline page.

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