Pipeline, Issue #406


Something different this week - a comics creator interview. I experiment with the audio tools and Chris Eliopoulos talks about his upcoming FRANKLIN stories and more.

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Marc Sumerak makes the announcement of FRANKLIN RICHARDS.

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BOOZE, BROADS, & BULLETS is a collection of short SIN CITY stories Miller did for various sources. One was a series run in PREVIEWS magazine, two pages at a time, for a period of months. Others came from one shots and DARK HORSE PRESENTS. As with any anthology, the quality of stories varies from chapter to chapter. Your reactions will likely be as mixed as mine, but in different combinations. I don't hate any of the stories in the book, though. Every one is entertaining, some more so than others.

Some of the stories take place in recognizable spots of continuity. They are "between panels," if you will. Others feature completely new characters. The familiar ones steal the show, though. Marv and Dwight both show up. Two-bit stooges like "Fat Man" and "Little Boy" also make get starring roles. Those two, in particular, are featured in the funniest story in the book.

Stories range in length from the 26-page Christmas tale, "Silent Night," to three page fillers. This might just be a good way to introduce a new reader to SIN CITY, as there's bound to be something to like in here, even if it means pushing through the other more obtuse stories along the way. They'll recognize bits and pieces of these stories later on, when they read the collections.

The best story is likely the one used by Rodriguez to sell the SIN CITY movie in the first place. "The Customer Is Always Right" is only three pages, but it has great mood, dialogue, and a sharp little twist. It packs a mean punch for only three pages. If more comic book writers and artists were able to tell stories like this, we might just see profitable anthologies again on a regular basis.

"Silent Night" was controversial when it originally came out. It's a mostly-silent story told in full page panels. It takes 10 seconds to read, if you're lucky not to get a paper cut while flipping the pages that quickly. It features Marv rescuing an abducted little girl. To reduce the story to being "too short a read," though, is to ignore the artistry it contains. Miller plays with the pacing, the staging, and the showmanship of the story. He uses shadows and negative space as strongly as he does in any of the SIN CITY stories. And, unlike the rest of the series, it's a happy story. Shocking. No wonder why people didn't like it. I think it'll receive a warmer welcome as part of a collection like this, as opposed to buying it at full cover price on its own. I think the mental barrier will be easily breached this way.

Miller experiments more with color throughout the book. "The Babe Wore Red," "Wrong Turn," "Wrong Track," "Daddy's Little Girl," and "Blue Eyes" all feature spot colors. While I think the pinks works in "Daddy's Little Girl" to help point out the character's innocent look, I'm not sure I really see the need for spot colors in general. I'm sure I'm missing a grand artistic gesture with this one. It doesn't take away from the story, though, so I don't complain.

The original printings on this trade are only $15 each. There's a lot of story in these 160 pages, and I think it's a worthy read. It certainly requires less attention from the reader than the other stories. You can read this one five minutes at a time without missing a beat.


The final SIN CITY mini-series thus far is also generally considered the least of them. I remember liking it vaguely when it first came out, but thinking it was not nearly as bad as some people thought it was. When I reread it this past week, I saw mostly the faults.

Perhaps they were right, after all.

The cover bills this as a "love story," but the love is never established strongly enough. It's a love of plot convenience. We don't know either character involved enough to buy into their stories. This book lacks the emotional core that YELLOW BASTARD or the original SIN CITY book had. It lacks the instantly likable lug with the heart of gold like Marv, or the easily-rattled but trustworthy and dependable Dwight. Even Hartigan had a noble purpose. In this book, we don't get any of that. Here, Wallace doesn't have an easily identifiable "hook" for us to latch onto.

Wallace is a down on his luck artist who makes the mistake of getting involved with a woman he saves from suicide. Things get stranger from there, as you might expect, but Wallace's instant love for this woman doesn't click. His military training seems like a forced excuse to explain his heroic tendencies later in the story. His artistic side is hardly the hook that Miller might have thought comics fans would latch onto. As the book ends, Wallace is still a bit nebulous. He's a plot device meant to carry the reader through the story, to the "shocking end" that's forecast so well throughout the book that it's not all that shocking. It turns into just another bad guy at the end of a story that needs defeating. Even worse, the pacing is off leading up to it. When the story ends, it feels abrupt, and devoid of the kind of bombast that a SIN CITY tale needs to properly conclude.

Another problem with HELL AND BACK is that it's not focused strongly enough. The original mini-series lasted a whopping nine issues. The story does a lot of meandering around, with events happening in multiple locations all at once. There are a bunch of new characters in here, and none of them are defined too well past "evil" or "friendly." The color section at the end is an extended sequence of the protagonist in a drug-induced haze. Here's the trick to understand what it all means: Follow the dialogue and don't look at the pretty pictures. It makes much more sense that way. Still, even on a first reading, you're going to catch yourself absorbing the images and paying less attention to the dialogue that betrays them. It's OK. Go back and read it again after you come out of it.

In the end, a lot of people die. The hero goes through some personal pain. The sick seedy underbelly of Basin City is exposed and one of its hidden evils is wiped out. That's all plot, but that's not what brings us back to SIN CITY with each successive volume. We want characters to root for. HELL AND BACK falls far short in that department.

Miller takes chances with his art in the book. The Will Eisner influence shows in this volume, particularly with flashbacks that are drawn in panels outlined in scratchy white lines that emulate smoke. There are also more inset panels and even stories-within-the-story. Miller's artwork continues to mix up the level of detail, from harsh black and white pages that look more like splotches of white on a black background, to more detailed and conventional pages. Since this is a SIN CITY book, you'll also get plenty of splash pages featuring women staring soullessly out to the reader. It's a problem of pacing that there are a few too many of those.

There's also a featured character in this book that you also see in BOOZE, BROADS, & BULLETS. You'll want to read HELL AND BACK first to prevent any spoilers.

As far as the movie goes, there's no sign in any of the trailers that any of the movie is lifted from this book. With a major rewrite, though, I'm sure there's enough story to be mined here to create a sequel. Miller and Robert Rodriguez would have to strengthen the characters and simplify the story to make it work, but there's enough of visual interest in the book to sustain a movie.

HELL AND BACK is not the first, second, or third volume in the series that I'd recommend to a new reader. It's strictly for completists. While it has its entertaining moments and its laudable artistic experimentations, it falls apart as a whole. The original printing will set you back $25.

BONEYARD, Volume 3

This third edition of Richard Moore's story of monsters, an endangered cemetery, and their human champion (Michael Paris) continues with a third trade collecting an all new adventure in madcap hilarity. To raise money to keep the cemetery up and running, a swimsuit calendar is planned. Of course, the monster behind the plan (Glump) has an ulterior motive, another reappearing character has her own devious scheme, and Paris is torn between everyone. The romance between he and the vampire, Abbey, is also pushed a little further down its road.

If you've read the previous couple of volumes, the formula will seem familiar to you. Some goofy hijinks take up the first half of the book before some Big Bad character appears and brings the book to a climactic conclusion in the fourth collected comic. While plot threads remain stranded behind, there's always the next volume to pick those up in. And, hey, the Big Bad is gone and that's all that counts. Right?

The only thing that frustrates me about the series is that it takes three months for each new issue to come out. The only way this thing is going to become very popular in the comics world is to become a monthly or bi-monthly product, or stack up a sizeable rack of collections. With three volumes available now, it's slowly creeping there. The press release that came with the publication of the book indicated that Hollywood is taking an interest in the series, which makes a lot of sense. This would make an amazing adult animated cartoon. I have a feeling Hollywood would rather dumb it down, take out the maturity and fun that comes from that, and run it as a kid's animated series. I hope not.

As a "bonus" for fans of Moore's previous adult artwork, this volume includes the BONEYARD SWIMSUIT EDITION comic, which is basically a series of pin-ups of mostly female characters from the comic, with funny captions written by the demon behind the calendar. It's mostly just cheesecake art, but Moore does take a valiant stab at making something plot-related out of it. Moore adds gray tones to the artwork, which gives it a distinct look in the middle of this collection. It's something I wish he'd use more of in the regular book. With color editions of the series coming out soon, that would probably be overkill.

BONEYARD Volume 3 is 96 pages long for just $10. It's available in stores now, as are the first two volumes. Check out the publisher's web site for more information, and sample pages.


On Wednesday of this week, the newest Pipeline Comic Book Podcast will be posted with a different format. It's a comics creator interview. I sat down with Chris Eliopoulos this weekend for a brief chat on his upcoming FRANKLIN RICHARDS stories at Marvel.

Next Tuesday: Pipeline Commentary and Review #407. I don't know what will be in there yet, because I haven't read it yet.

Next Friday is usually the spot for Pipeline Previews. I'm pushing that off this month to be PCR #408. In its stead will be a collection of my SIN CITY reviews. The movie hits theaters on April 1st, so that will be a good time to sum up the books for potential new readers. I don't plan (at this point) to add a significant amount of new material to the reviews. If anything, I plan on simplifying them a bit for the newbies. I won't hold it against you if you skip it.

Over at Various and Sundry this week: Complete AMERICAN IDOL write-ups; Muppets, Fraggles, and TITANIC on DVD; THE SKETCH SHOW is worth a viewing; More Firefox extensions; THE SHIELD returns; More.

The Various and Sundry DVD Podcast continues to look at the week's DVD releases, every Sunday afternoon. Those of you with a podcasting program can subscribe to it right here.

All political discussions have been pushed off to one neat side at VandS Politics.

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. I haven't had that account in years, but they've yet to delete the page space. Go fig.

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