Pipeline, Issue #454


ADAM STRANGE: PLANET HEIST got a lot of stellar reviews last year, none of them from me. That's not because I didn't like it -- it's because I didn't read it. I waited for the trade of the eight part mini-series, which I finally read last week. While the middle part sags a bit as writer Andy Diggle loads up the cast count, the overall story is filled with high drama, action, adventure, and creativity. It's science fiction comics on a large scale, thoroughly entertaining and beautiful to look at. It's a pulpy science fiction story with some minor superhero trappings.

Diggle's story begins with Adam Strange stranded on Earth and taken in for questioning by the local police department. When aliens arrive and cause mass mayhem, Strange leaps into action like a modern day Indiana Jones, and the adventure begins. The first issue is the strongest of the batch, honestly. It can often be far more interesting to see a character stripped of his toys and still acting heroically than it is to see him in his more natural environment. In Strange's case, he does amazing things with a heisted jet pack and a couple of blaster guns in the middle of a city. It's a thrilling sequence with great art and storytelling from Pascal Ferry. If the whole series had been set on earth, with Adam Strange left to be a detective of sorts, it would have worked. Instead, Diggle pushes Strange back out into space, after his now-missing home planet of Rann, where his wife and child reside. Along the way, he runs into a number of DC Universe characters and alien species. I'm sure I'm missing an in-joke or two in the dialogue, but it's not all that confusing. There's lots of exposition where the story needs it, but the characters show personality through those dialogue balloons. They're not automatons for the sake of the plot.

Over the course of the eight issue series, Strange leaps from one adventure to the next, trapped in space stations, police-controlled cities, alien ships, and prisons. Diggle gives the series a pulp feel, complete with plenty of derring-do and high adventure. The only soft spot in the series is in the middle, when the series slows down a bit as new characters -- and teams of characters -- are added into the story. It seems like they're leading the plot into circles once or twice, but a direction is finally chosen at the end and things work out OK.

Ferry's art is the star of the book. It looks like it's being reproduced directly from the pencils. If so, it's one of the best uses of the format so far. Dave McCaig does the honors with the colors, which are always so important in comics shot in this manner. He keeps the virtual ink line clean, while adding enough moody and atmospheric colors to set the characters into place. He's also not afraid to use a few coloring special effects for the science fiction aspects of the series, and the occasional flashback or special sequence.

Even letterer Rob Leigh gets into the act, using title fonts and caption fonts that reflect a bit of the Saturday Afternoon serial feel that the series is shooting for.

I did have one odd feeling of déjà vu in reading this book, though. There were a couple of spots where it felt like I was reading back issues of CrossGen's NEGATION series. The story comes complete with a big bad guy speaking in white text on black balloons, interdimensional transport, spaceship battles, and a large cast of alien characters. No, this isn't a fair comparison to make. I'm not claiming one is ripping off the other. I'm just describing the feeling I had, based on my reading habits of the past few years. If anything, it's an indictment of the comic industry's lack of similar material in recent times.

In any case, ADAM STRANGE: PLANET HEIST is a rollicking yarn, with plenty of DC Universe mainstays, a large scale sense of adventure, and some beautiful images to go along with it. While the ending does obviously lead directly to the Rann/Thanagar War mini-series that followed this book, it's not Must Reading. The story ends on the final page of this book. If you want to read more, you can. You don't have to, though, and I think that's important. At a time when every DC title was being ramped up to CRISIS, this series could easily have turned in that direction, too. I'm glad it didn't do so completely.

The trade paperback is available now for $20.


  • Last week's review of KITTY PRYDE: SHADOW & FLAME indicated that the mini-series was six issues. I was wrong on that. It was, indeed, only a five-issue mini-series. The copy on the back cover of the book was correct. My confusion came from a completely different error in the book: The credits page lists Joe Rubinstein as the inker for issues #4-6.

    It's still a beautiful book and well worth reading. After that, do yourself a favor and track down as much LEAVE IT TO CHANCE as you can. The last printings of that series were in oversized hardcover format from Image Comics a few years back. If you can still find them, they're great editions to your all-ages friendly library.

  • Last week's Pipeline Comic Book Podcast is still available to hear right over here. This week's will show up at this link as of Tuesday night, 21 Feb 2006.

    You can subscribe to the RSS feed or through iTunes.

  • I was a bit saddened to read The Pulse's interview with NBM publisher Terry Nantier. For awhile there, NBM was my favorite "small" publisher, but it seems to me like they're moving away from the kinds of publications that I enjoyed them for. They've gone from publishing English language editions of favorite European creators to compilations of left wing political cartoonists and journalists. Feh.

    I'm glad they're still publishing BONEYARD and the occasional Rick Geary book, but the rest of it has moved away from me, sadly.

  • In case you hadn't seen it yet, here's the Warren Ellis/Joss Whedon message board tete-a-tete. Be warned -- it's not entirely family friendly. (Thanks, Patricia.)
  • There's music out there for everyone, but finding it can be a royal pain sometimes. Other times, you just chance across the oddest things when searching for something else. The latter is what happened to me last week while running through iTunes looking for comic book podcasts. I found a group called Double Dagger whose self-titled album contains songs such as "I Was So Bored I Wanted to Hang Myself on the Dancefloor," "You're Getting Paid to Make My Life Harder," and "Loren Ipsum." (If the latter doesn't sound familiar to you, then you aren't a typesetter. See the Lorem Ipsum website for more details.)

    Nestled in with all of those songs is one titled "Comic Book Lettering." If I could make out more than the occasional word or phrase of the song, I'd give you the lyrics here. You'll have to listen to it and figure it out for yourself. It's not my kind of music. It just makes me smile to think that the next weirdo to type "comic book lettering" into iTunes will find results.

    More investigation into the band led to this useless website. Given the song titles, the URL of "PostTypography.com" makes a certain amount of sense. Anything past that, I don't think I want to know.

  • Things went a lot more smoothly this year than last with reserving hotel rooms for the San Diego Comic-Con. Team CBR worked in three different states across IMs to reserve the rooms we needed. The hotels were available last Wednesday at noon, Eastern Time, and we had our rooms in less than five minutes. That was a big relief, and now I'm just left to reserve a flight that will no doubt be delayed at the last minute.

    It seems that the people behind the con and the travel agency folks with them learned from the mistakes last year and had things running very smoothly this time around. We did all our transactions over the web and things couldn't be simpler. I heard that the rooms were all sold out within the hour again, but at least there was a fighting chance to get one.

    Ironically enough, the Padres will not be playing at home on the same weekend as the con. I know that's a traffic nightmare for the city, but it's a lot of fun and a great night out for con goers. For those of us in the NYC area, it also would have been fun to pick on Mike Piazza again in his home stadium. Can't win them all, I suppose.

  • I really really like this piece of art from Jim Lee and Gabriele Del'Otto. It's just classic and classy Red Sonja art. The blues and greys work well together.
  • The New York Comic-Con is this weekend. We here at Pipeline World Headquarters wish them all the best of luck, and hope that this may be the first in a long-running annual series of conventions at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. Barring any sort of major snow storm (and there are none forecast at press time), I'll be there for Saturday scouting the scene, taking pics for this column, and saying hi to any number of old friends I might run across.

    It is an oddity for a New York City convention though, that I have to carefully peruse its website to plan out my day. Most NYC shows don't have the space for panel presentations, but this one is loaded to the gills. Heck, I'm even tempted to dig up something for Todd McFarlane to sign. I see where he'll be doing autographs numerous times throughout the day.

    The schedule includes a lot of game stuff that doesn't interest me at all, but the comics stuff still stands up. "Comics Writers on Comics Scriptwriting" includes Brian Bendis, Tom DeFalco, Dennis O'Neil, and more. Joe Quesada is doing his "Cup of Joe" song and dance. "Comic Artists on Comics" features John Romita Jr. and Sr. along with Mark Bagley. DC is bringing together those who didn't make WonderCon last week for more "Crisis Counseling." Keith Giffen will be on that panel, at least. Even more interestingly, Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis come together on the "What Makes Funny, Funny" panel at 1:00 p.m. The Kubert Bros. show up for a DC panel not directly about the Crisis events.

    Interestingly, Greg Capullo is showing up for a 3:00 p.m. McFarlane Productions panel. Capullo hasn't been seen on the comic convention circuit in a decade.

    The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is sponsoring the "Iron Gelatometti LIVE!" panel at 6:00 p.m. for an hour and a half. If you haven't followed Jim Lee's group blog, that's the WildStorm group's occasional challenge to get two of their artists to draw the same thing, with votes from the peanut gallery to determine the winner. Jim Lee, Ale Garza, Carlos D'Anda, "and friends" will all be present to draw live for this one. Should be interesting. The original art will be auctioned off to benefit the CBLDF.

    If none of that interests you, you might just want to attend the Peter Scolari signing, instead. I'm a big enough fan of NEWHART to think that it wouldn't be a complete waste of time. Heaven help me.

  • The new PREVIEWS catalog is due out this week, so you should expect to see some looks at the catalog in this very space for the next two or three weeks.

If you're reading this on Tuesday, please join me at Various and Sundry for tonight's liveblogging of American Idol.

The VandS DVD podcast will be updated there tonight, too.

Various and Sundry continues its link dumps, DVD talk, tech talk, and 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 600 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically.

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