Pipeline, Issue #390


Before we begin this week's edition of Pipeline Commentary and Review, I have a scheduling note to make.

First, Pipeline Previews returns on Friday for a look at the books shipping in February 2005.

Second, next week is the first of a two part column I'm leaning towards calling, "The Pipeline Guide to QUEEN & COUNTRY." Over the course of the next two weeks, I'll be reviewing every collection of QUEEN & COUNTRY available now through Oni. It's a massive undertaking that's been an on-going process for a couple of months now and I'm very happy to finally be sharing it with you all. That will be the next two weeks.

Near the end of the month, there will likely be an index to all the graphic novels and trade paperbacks reviewed here in the year 2004, and quite possibly a Best Of 2004 list of some kind.

But, first, two topics of more immediate importance.


This past week, I finally pulled the trigger and started dumping titles from my monthly reserve list. I have stacks of comic books circling me right now, and any day now those walls will come crumbling down and I'll drown in the sea of four color funnies. It's a pain in the butt to organize, made even worse when I realize how many of them I'm not reading or have fallen behind on. These aren't, for the most part, books I dislike. They're books I'm not excited about every month, or don't have the time to read.

That's why I redid my entire pull list, by dropping nearly a third of the titles I normally get. Amazingly, even with such a large number of titles nullified, I'm still buying more than 40 a month, and many are just being replaced with trades. I haven't actually whittled down my reading list all that much. Every bit, however, counts.

I've found in the past that the longer I wait to buy something, the less immediate the need to pick it up becomes. Perhaps that will happen to me throughout 2005.

Here are the books I'm not tracking month to month anymore:

  • Astro City
  • District X
  • Supreme Power
  • Ultimate Fantastic Four
  • Ultimate X-Men
  • Ultimate Secret
  • Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes
  • Mary Jane
  • Strange
  • Boneyard

As it stands right now, I'll be picking up all of these books as they are collected. For ASTRO CITY and ULTIMATE X-MEN, I'll wait specifically for the hardcovers. DISTRICT X might get lost in the shuffle. Will I really care to read the second story arc six months down the line? I don't know. Ask me in July.

I fell behind on BONEYARD when I missed the swimsuit issue. While I'm caught up by now with the series, I like the idea of having a new book in the series to read once a year. I didn't miss having a new issue every three months. That's too long a gap between issues to form a commitment to a book, particularly one with an on-going plot.

I've never fallen behind on ULTIMATE X-MEN, but I find it unsatisfying to read from month to month. Brian Vaughan's initial storyline, specifically, felt off to me while reading it from issue to issue. I'm sure it'll be a slightly better read in a collected format. Since Marvel has been good enough to collect the series in hardcovers all along -- the Bendis issues are part of the next collection due out in the beginning of 2005 -- I feel confident in waiting.

ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR I never kept up with from the start. I still haven't read issue #6. So why am I buying it every month? I might as well wait until I have the whole story in front of me and read it in one big gulp at that point. My goal is to catch up with the series before the third trade comes out.

STRANGE is a pretty book, but I'm not a huge fan of the Doctor's. (Sorry, Neilalien.) I'm willing to give it a chance based on the creative team at some point down the road, though.

JLA CLASSIFIED missed being cut by the skin of Keith Giffen's teeth. After the "I Can't Believe" Justice League story is completed, I'll be dropping that title, barring a fantastic replacement.

NIGHTWING will likely be dropped after the Beatty/Dixon YEAR ONE storyline's conclusion. I'm tempted to drop it before then and wait for the trade, but I want to read this one badly enough that I'll stick with it this way. If a trade comes down the road somewhere, I won't buy it.

That's another of the pledges I'm trying to make with this purge: Buying the same thing twice less often. It sounds ludicrous, but I got into an early bad habit of buying trades to support the concept on series I like. Even worse, there are times when the original issues are printed on better paper stock and include more material than the collections. And for some series, I know the odds of me ever rereading them are slight.

  • Birds of Prey
  • Richard Dragon
  • The Flash
  • Wonder Woman

These are series I'm dropping because I've fallen behind on them. I hear THE FLASH is really good right now, but given the ten issues I have sitting here unread, it would appear that I'm not all that interested. Ditto BIRDS OF PREY, though the backlog isn't quite that large. With three of those four series, I at least know that DC is likely to continue generating trades as the series progress. If I do catch up on those single issues in the coming months, I can just continue on with their collections.

RICHARD DRAGON is less likely to follow that route, but I never got into it in the first place. I'll have to go back issue bin diving if I change my mind. I'm just sick of buying comics on the supposition that I'll get around to reading them eventually. There's just not enough time in the day.

WildStorm's RAZOR'S EDGE gets dropped in part because Simon Bisley's artwork does nothing for me. I'll take this series one story arc at a time. Whenever another creative team shows up that might excite me, I'll consider the issues on a flip test basis.

AUTHORITY gets dropped just because I didn't like the first issue.

I'll wait for a hardcover or trade paperback on WILD GIRL. The art is beautiful in the first issue.

I'm dropping UNCANNY X-MEN because I just don't care. I love Alan Davis' art and will pick up anything he draws, but the fill-in artists have been lackluster, and Chris Claremont's stories haven't drawn me in.

IRON MAN I'm dropping because, again, I just don't care.

NEW AVENGERS and, likely, YOUNG AVENGERS will be trade paperback reads. I might pick up YOUNG AVENGERS #1, though, just to see what it's about. I'm keeping an open mind about that one. It might be a great series. Far too many people across the 'net are already branding it a loser before they even know anything about it.

  • Spider-Man Unlimited
  • X-Men Unlimited

These two are being dropped from the pull list in favor of a flip test. I don't want to read every one of these. I'll pick and choose the ones that look interesting or the ones that have favored creators in them. Shouldn't that really be the way it is with all comics, though? In a perfect world, yes. In the direct market? Not so much.

So, what's the point of this purge?

First, I'll be spending less money, often on comics I'm not reading or enjoying anymore.

Second, I'll be moving more towards a trade-centric reading philosophy. This, in turn, will be easier to store and organize in my collection. It's not like I'll be losing all those outlets for my letterhacking habit. Not only is that habit moribund, but it's also anachronistic.

Third, Pipeline will reflect this, resulting in a column that's slightly less timely. There's good and bad with that, of course. Often, people don't care about the latest issue of a series six months after they've read it. Perhaps this means my readership will end up shifting slightly, too. I'm not abandoning the monthly comic. I'll still be reading plenty of those - somewhere around 40 of them. Big event comics will still hold my more immediate interesting. I couldn't imagine waiting for a trade on IDENTITY CRISIS or JLA/AVENGERS, for two examples. Those might require -- in my role as columnist, if nothing else -- an earlier read.

We'll see how this goes. I'd like to drop more in a couple of months.


Last week, I asked about "The Others" -- those comics from top talents that seem to get lost in the shuffle of their larger works. I pointed to Kurt Busiek's SHOCKROCKETS and Mark Waid's GATECRASHER as two examples. I threw it open to all of you for more examples, and got plenty of them back.

The first came from CBR Grand Poobah Jonah Weiland. He wanted to put in a good word for Jim Valentino. While many associate the Image Founder with GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and SHADOWHAWK, it's his A TOUCH OF SILVER book that rang truest for Jonah. I have to agree there. There is a single trade collecting all of it, and perhaps one day we'll see more such personal work from Valentinto.

Scott Beeler leaped out early on thePipeline message board with another great suggestion from Busiek's body of work:

I think my favorite Other Busiek book is THE WIZARD'S TALE, a warm friendly story of an evil wizard descended from a long line of evil wizards who's really not that good at being evil. Really nice art by David Wenzel which I can't come up with what it reminds me of... sort of soft watercolor painting and beasties that remind me of "The Dark Crystal" and suchlike.

I have to admit that I've never read it, but I've always heard great things about it. Next time I come across a copy at a convention, I need to pick it up.

Chad Anderson attempted to one-up Scott with his great suggestion:

James Robinson's FIREARM is sadly forgotten today in the wake of STARMAN, but it was a darn good series about a private eye who hates superheroes living in a world full of them and cases involving them.

Now this one I HAVE read and greatly enjoyed. Cully Hamner did the art on the series, which was lost along with the rest of the Ultraverse. I believe Marv Wolfman tried to do a second series with it, but that didn't go anywhere.

Chad was also the first of many people to suggest SWAMP THING as the perfect Other title for Mark Millar. It may not have lasted long, but it was well received.

Finally, Chad presented Cary Nord's work on DAREDEVIL. Clearly, it's not his best art, but it was a fun period for DAREDEVIL, with Karl Kesel's scripts showing a more fun side to the character. Shortly after that, Marvel would return him to grim and gritty when they handed the book off to Kevin Smith.

Josh Kibbey had a brilliant recommendation for John Romita, Jr. The first titles you might think of for Romita are AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, DAREDEVIL, or UNCANNY X-MEN. Kibbey's pick for The Others is THE MIGHTY THOR, written by Dan Jurgens. It's a perfect choice. I've never been a Thor fan. While I have a passing interesting in Norse mythology, the Marvel comic never did anything for me. While Jurgens and Romita were on it, though, I was hooked. There's a trade of the first batch of issues available out there somewhere, if you can find it. Otherwise, it's a lost chapter in Romita's Marvel legacy.

A regular Pipeline correspondent, Nick, had the perfect suggestion for John Byrne. I was trying to come up with one myself for last week's column, but never got there. It seems like all the books he's done are too easy to remember. SUPERMAN, X-MEN, FANTASTIC FOUR, NEXT MEN, SPIDER-MAN, etc. How easily I forgot Nick's choice, NAMOR. It was a favorite series of mine for the two years that Byrne wrote and drew it. In fact, it may be some of Byrne's finest artwork. It was largely overlooked because, hey, whoever cares about comic books starring underwater characters? It was a fun series until Byrne stopped drawing it and Jae Lee came on. This is not a period of time where Lee's art shone. Even he'll admit today that it relied on far too many shortcuts. Never has a man used so much shadow and so many silhouettes to grind out pages. Check out Byrne's work, though. It's gone uncollected, but it's fun stuff.

Speaking of Byrne, Krishna M. Sadasivam recommends Claremont and Byrne's run on IRON FIST. I've never read it myself, but I've heard decent things about it.

I yield the floor now to Greg Burgas:

Speaking of Alan Moore, his WildC.A.T.s stuff is interesting, if not ground-breaking. No one ever mentions it when talking about Moore, which is a shame. Even with a not-very-good title, he still writes circles around most people.

Excellent choice. Moore's run on the series is all collected now, I believe, but came on the heels of a time when Moore was experimenting with hacking stuff out for Image for thrills and quick cash. I liked his VIOLATOR mini-series with art from Bart Sears, but I'm one of the few. The WILDC.A.T.s work, though, is a lot of fun.

Scott MacIver comes up with a suggestion for someone I hadn't considered when I came up with this idea:

Barry Windsor-Smith automatically brings up thoughts of CONAN and WEAPON X, but I always really like ARCHER & ARMSTRONG. Amongst the Valiant books, I've found that this title was able to stand on it's own and stand the test of time.

Those Valiant books are so quickly forgotten, aren't they? Aside from Joe Quesada's abbreviated run on NINJAK, nobody today seems to remember much of them. BWS' A&A is a book, though, that had good buzz at the time. It and HARBINGER were the only two Valiant titles I ever had an interest in reading. I never did, though.

Tim Sale's name came attached to both GRENDEL and CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN from multiple e-mails. While they both would definitely qualify as Others, it's interesting to note that they're both being reprinted these days. The good news is that they're readily available.

A number of people wrote in with suggestions for Chuck Dixon. In all honesty, I'm not sure what to categorize as "Others" for him. He's well known for PUNISHER and BATMAN, right? Is CONAN lost enough in those shadows? How about his CrossGen work? Does ALIEN LEGION qualify, or has its recent reprintings from Checker Books brought it out into the sunlight?

Yes, I had all of those titles specifically mentioned for Dixon. I don't know which would count, though. This requires further research, I think.

George Gebhardt nails a great example with his e-mail:

Brian K. Vaughan is known for other things, but I really enjoyed his THE HOOD miniseries for Marvel. Don't know if that was ever collected, but it should be.

I don't think it was ever collected, but it did have the best buzz of all the new titles Marvel put out at the time. With Vaughan's star in ascension, maybe Marvel will revisit the mini-series.

I'm shocked nobody wrote in for Mike Mignola's ROCKET RACCOON. You people disappoint me sometimes.


Today (Tuesday) is Keith Giffen's birthday. Happy birthday, Keith!

One quick correction from last week's review of PROOF OF CONCEPT: The vampire story is named "HemoGoblin," which is much more clever than "Hemoglobin."

Oni also announced last week that LOVE AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE would have its second issue in February. I reviewed the first issue a couple of weeks ago.

Jason Bergman relives the Linsner/Monks breakup, with pictures and everything! It includes the word "scumbag."

Pipeline Previews runs down February's releases for you on Friday.

And PCR returns next week as the Pipeline Guide to QUEEN AND COUNTRY, spanning two columns and breaking down every Q&C collection thus far. It's a biggy.

Over at Various and Sundry this week: Lotsa movie trailers, lotsa DVDs, and more. You know the drill by now, don't you?

If you're more into the political side of things, I humbly invite you to peruse the offerings at VandS Politics for classic conservatism, crazy politicism, and fun.

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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