TWO TRADES WITH NOTHING IN COMMON
GO BOY 7: READY SET GO! is a collection of the first four issues of the title from Dark Horse's Rocket Comics line. It fits in well with the line overall, focusing on a younger boy gifted with extraordinary powers under dire circumstances. He gets to do cool things, have cool adventures, and act like a kid. Despite one or two questionable expletives sneaking into the text, I'd say you could almost give it to any boy to read today. It is entertaining, colorful, and energetic.
Tom Peyer writes it like a a Disney movie for comics. The book starts with our protagonists' parents dying in front of him, followed by his resuscitation through questionable means by his mad scientist uncle. The Uncle is a shorter older man with big bushy white mustache and a lab coat always draped over his shoulders. It's cliché, but cute. Peyer adds a nice touch by using the nephew as a spoil for the uncle's grand ideas. When trouble strikes in the guise of The Cultist, an almost Giffenesque madman who wants to rule the world for little reason, Go Boy 7 is shot off into space with another agent to save the day.
The art by Jon Sommariva (and three different inkers) fits the style of the book well. It's part Mexican and part Amerimanga. Picture Carlos Meglia mixed with Ale Garza and you'll get the idea. It's solid and exciting work that never gets boring. All those big eyed characters express themselves easily. Coloring by Dan Jackson is uniformly bright and colorful. It's not subtle, but it doesn't need to be. He doesn't try to lend a serious and dull tone to a story that doesn't require it. Too many colorists would try to offset the cartoonier art with more serious coloring.
This is a book which should fit a niche well. Since it seems that the Rocket Comics line is dying off one by one, I guess it didn't. Still, if you're looking for a book for your 10-13 year old nephew or little brother, this one might be worth a shot. GO BOY VOLUME 1: READY SET GO is on the shelves today for only $12.95.
CODEFLESH is exciting not so much for the stories it tells as the way they are told. Joe Casey and Charlie Adlard are experimental in this trade paperback, invoking Alan Moore, Will Eisner, and Jack Kirby all at the same time. It's more than just a pastiche or an homage, though. You can feel the energy humming through each page. That's what I found exciting. CODEFLESH is a story that could have very easily read like most other supervillain stories, but it doesn't.
The story is about a bail bondsman for supervillains. He knows they're bound to skip, and he counts on it. It's how he gets his jollies - adorning a bar code mask and beating up the bad guys. Just to be a little bit like Peter Parker, as well, he's fighting a losing battle with his girlfriend over the long hours he keeps; his shameful double life is a secret threatening to rip apart his life. She's a stripper, by the way. Adult dancer. Whatever they're called these days. Thus, she's closer to a creation Stan Lee would have in his later years of writing, not 1963.
CODEFLESH is a collection of eight short stories, with only one two-parter in the bunch. Originally serialized in Image's DOUBLE IMAGE and then Funk-O-Tron's DOUBLE TAKE, this printing puts all the stories in black and white. I think the stories are strongly suited for that presentation. Adlard's art in this book is like very little else of what he's done. His ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE work is sleek by comparison. His WALKING DEAD is bold and expressive, but doesn't employ the same amount of artistic tricks that Adlard uses in this book. He even lifts a trick from the Will Eisner SPIRIT playbook, changing the title panel each issue to be something different as well as something fitting to the story.
The stories don't have enough room for splash pages. Each story starts off in full stride, and there are very few splashy panels. While the obligatory fight scene occurs in every issue with gleeful mirth, it's done with specific character intent. In the end, each story is fulfilling on its own merits, and adds to the overall story arc. There is no decompressed storytelling here. If you're trying to avoid that, this book is for you.
The high point of the book is the last story. It's a remarkable story told in a way I've never read a comic written before. It's the kind of structure that only Alan Moore would usually have the guts to try. Casey tries it here, and makes it work. In essence, you get two stories for the price of one. Adlard tells what appears to be a simple silent story. Over all of that, though, is the text of a letter a character is composing. The way the two interact is inspiring. It's a great idea.
CODEFLESH is a steal at $12.95. It's available from AiT/PlanetLar and Diamond Distributors with the handy code STAR20053.
A SMATTERING OF RECENT RELEASES
UNCLE SCROOGE #331 faithfully reprints the Don Rosa classic "His Majesty, McDuck." In his text page in the back, Rosa cites the story as one fans refer to as his best. He's not sure he believes it, and I can't blame him. Nobody wants to think that they peaked that early in their career. It would be especially hard when your career after that story includes all the stories in "The Life And Times of Scrooge McDuck."
I will say this, though: "His Majesty, McDuck" is the story that I'd identify as my favorite, and the one I've reread the most often. It may not be Rosa's best, but it's the one I stop to read every chance I get, as I did this past week again. There's something cool about it. You get the Beagle Boys taking on the Money Bin. You get fantastic imagery inside the Bin, as McDuck's offices become his new regal palace. You have a really nice sword fight, which I always love to see. And you get the classic Rosa research thrown in, where even a scene as prosaic as the nephews looking something up in the backroom of the library is turned into a majestically backlit moment. In the end, Scrooge comes off as a softie, a grand adventure is had by all, and the art never skimps on the details. It's the best $7 you'd spend this month, if you gave it a shot.
THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #16 is billed on the cover as "Royal Flush Part 2 of 2." Imagine my surprise when there's a "continued..." label on the last page. Captain America guest stars for most nebulous reasons, so this issue also gets tagged with an "Avengers Disassembled Prologue" label across the top of the cover.
While Michael Ryan's art and Studio F's colors still blend together well, it's Paul Jenkins' story that takes another dive this month. I was hoping he'd throw something interesting and new into the plot this month. That didn't happen. While he got off a couple of good one-liners through Spider-Man, the entire two part storyline is a disappointment, saved only by the art.
Steve Epting's covers are gorgeous, too. If he keeps up covers like the one for this issue, he could be the next John Cassaday. This is, of course, ironic since he was drawing AVENGERS before Cassaday probably read his first comic. ;-)
WITCHES #2 contains more pretty art from Mike Deodato, which includes a couple too many flashy panel arrangements. Still, it's a nice book to look at. Not being the type to enjoy mystical stories, though, I'm afraid the basic plot has me lost. I just don't care all that much, and everything seems like a plot device to me.
I asked the Pipeline message board this weekend to ask me any questions they'd like to see answered in this column. In the immediate pre-con season, there's an inevitable lull in comic book activity, so I thought this would be a good way to catch up on things and see what I'm missing. The thread is still open. Go ahead and ask away. I'd be more than happy to answer more questions here in the future.
We begin with Kyle, who asks some basic questions. I'm sure I've answered these before, but I'm not going to look through seven years' worth of columns to find them again. And since there are new readers here every year, they're worth answering again once in a while.
Why is it called Pipeline?
This column began as "Augie's Reviews." I wanted something cooler, but I'm no good at coming up with exciting names or anything other than alliterative titles. I threw it open to my then-tiny readership to see if anyone had a better idea. I had one response. "Pipeline," he said. I don't remember who it was off-hand, but I'm sure it's in the archive somewhere. I went with it, thinking it was pretty cool and that I could do something with it.
I know, you were hoping for a dissertation on the concept of the "pipeline" of comics creation or something, weren't you? You were hoping that I thought of myself as representing the general consumer of comics, the one who stands at the end of the pipeline looking back up it at the creators and retailers and distributors who make it all happen so I can get my comics every week.
That would be cool. It just wasn't what really happened. I'll never be a politician with such honesty, will I?
Kyle wanted to know a couple other things, also:
What was the first comic book you ever read? What was the first comic book you ever bought?
I have no idea. I remember my neighbor had a few Archies in his basement when I was a wee lad. I remember another neighbor giving out G.I. JOE comics at Halloween a couple of years after that. I remember picking up TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #1 (the Archie edition) when it showed up on the newsstand, thinking that it would be worth something someday and that I really like the cartoon.
The comic book that I bought, though, which started me on this road to boxing up thousands of comics to put into storage so I could walk out of this room without stubbing a toe on a long box, was AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #318. I spent Sundays at that time hanging out with my father at work. He'd give me money and send me over to the stationery store to pick up the newspaper, or grab a coffee at the bakery a little further down the strip mall. One of those afternoons, I picked up a Spider-Man comic for myself. It just looked cool. And, I just realized, that was 1989. It's been 15 years. That's more than half my life. Suddenly, another gray hair just popped in.
Thanks for the questions, Kyle. If anyone else would like to see their name in virtual print here, go ahead and ask a question on that message board thread. I'll see what I can't do about answering some of them here in coming weeks.
THE SAVAGE DRAGON #115 is now due out the week of San Diego Comic-Con. Erik Larsen posted the new on-sale date of July 21 on his message board this week.
This weekend saw Free Comic Book Day, an event declared to be a mistake in timing and a tragedy waiting to happen by many retailers. Instead of sticking with a random May date, the date was tied into SPIDER-MAN 2, a movie which went on to set just about every possible box office record in known movie history over the weekend, despite the fact that everyone was on vacation, so nobody would be going out to events such as FCBD. Whoops.
Pipeline Previews returned on Friday with a look at the current state of Spider-Man comics, plus comics that are coming out in September 2004.
Pipeline Commentary and Review returns next Tuesday. Don't forget to vote for your Comic Book Idol, either! This is the final week, and the results have been impressive thus far.Over at Various and Sundry this week: JOE SCHMO 2 and THE JURY get new time slots. They Might Be Giants, O.A.R., and Jill Sobule have new albums coming out. MicroSoft bungles the browser badly. Plus, the usual DVD release lists and more.
Pipeline hits the con trail this summer, with stops in San Diego and Chicago.
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.