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Pipeline, Issue #469

CORRECTION

I'm leading off the column with this because I've never received more e-mail in response to a column in the nine years I've been doing it. The following constitutes, perhaps, a minor spoiler for X-MEN 3. If that bothers you, please skip ahead to the next section. Here we go:

Yes, that was Rogue who touched Colossus to borrow his powers and cover herself in his skin. The movie Colossus does not have the power to cover someone he touches in his steel skin.

I missed that one when I first saw it in the theaters, and judging from some of the e-mails I received about last week's column, I wasn't alone. But thanks to one and all for keeping me honest. Please don't ever hesitate to write in with any future corrections, either.

I'm thinking it's time to start a campaign, though, to have Colossus develop a secondary mutation where he can, indeed, share his power with anything and anyone he happens to be in contact with. Imagine a Fastball Special with an impenetrable Wolverine as the bullet.

That concludes the extremely geeky portion of this week's column. We now move on to slightly less geeky things, like talking ducks, zombies, and post-apocalyptic imaginings.

THE RELEASE OF AUGUST

In a minute, I'll be running through the first half of the latest edition of PREVIEWS. There's one book, though, that deserves to be specially highlighted. I want all of you retailers and readers out there to pay careful attention to this one. You can thank me later.

In August, Gemstone is publishing THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SCROOGE McDUCK COMPANION TPB. It is the sequel to last year's surprisingly popular THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SCROOGE McDUCK, reviewed in Pipeline last July. I still get e-mails every now and then from people who read that book as their entry point into the Duck world and appreciated Don Rosa's storytelling and artistry. If the CARL BARKS' GREATEST DUCKTALES trade (reviewed here) didn't satisfy them in the interim, then this is the book they're looking for. It collects the stories Don Rosa has done since the original mini-series, carefully fitting them in the continuity between chapters of the original book. The book also includes stories Rosa did before LIFE AND TIMES that could be seen as additional chapters of the story.

Even better, there's a brand new Rosa tale that we haven't seen printed in North America yet, titled "Prisoner of White Agony Creek." It's a whopping 32 page adventure story set in the Klondike, featuring Glittering Goldie. Diamond Distributor's website has some preview pages. They're beautiful.

The book is only $17 for a whopping 208 densely-packed full-color pages. Retailers: Please look at your cycle sheets and realize what a big seller the first LIFE AND TIMES book was. Match those accordingly. Heck, this might even be a good time to re-order some of the first book and pair them up. I'm hoping not to hear about how quickly this book sold out for so many people this time around.

If that's not good enough for you, UNCLE SCROOGE #357 will reprint "Return to Xanadu," one of the first Rosa tales I can remember reading, and the reason I know about a certain "stately pleasure dome" and what it "decrees." Great story there, too.

I'll have more PREVIEWS to look at after a few brief reviews of other books that aren't out just yet.

QUICK PREVIEWS

HECTOR PLASM: DE MORTUIS is a very curious book. I can't really review it on its technical merits here, because that's not what inspired me to write about it. What inspired me was its manic energy, its seat-of-the-pants storytelling, the crazy situations, and the attitude it conveys. For a book that's so often laid back, there are moments of intensity and fearlessness that make me a fan of it. I admire its guts.

If I'm reading the credits page right, Benito Cereno is the writer here and Nate Bellegarde drew and lettered the thing. Colors are from Jacob Baake.

Cereno's story is nebulous to me. There's an attempt at an origin story in there, but it's the third story in the series of short stories the book contains. By that point, I was already slightly lost. Hector, you see, is a male version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Or he's a GhostBuster. Or he's a foul-mouthed little boy demon. Or something. I'm not entirely sure. That's the odd thing. I'm sure a serious study of the book and a second reading of it would clarify a lot for me, but I'm not sure I want that. I meant what I said about "seat-of-your-pants storytelling" up above. This book moves where it needs to move, when it needs to do so.

Bellegarde's art reminds me of a cross between Benjamin Roman (I LUV HALLOWEEN) with just a smidgen of Tony Moore. It feels "independent." It's not the style you'd expect to see working in the Spider-Man sandbox, and that's OK. It fits the title, filled as it is with colorful characters, not all of whom exist on our mortal plane. The coloring came out a little dark in the comic, but the images I saw in an on-line preview of the issue were delightful -- a good mix neither too dark nor working too hard to prop up weak art. It reminded me a little bit of Patricia Mulvihill's work, or Lee Loughridge's.

I like the format of the book a lot. It's a series of short stories of various length, from 16 pages down to two pages. That gives the creators the chance to write stories whose length is dictated solely by the contents, and not by the format is needs to squeeze into. The irony to that sentence, of course, being that several of these shorts originally appeared in the back of INVINCIBLE or in other anthology titles, where space was a limitation the informed the story. As a saving grace, while the creators did go back and redraw or rewrite portions, they never attempted something as silly as expanding each short story to fill a whole book.

While the end result requires a leap of faith on the reader's part -- relatively high price, unknown character, lesser know creators -- it's the kind of thing that might prove attractive to creators who like anthology titles, but don't want to do all the editorial work. Keep the same team, tell a bunch of stories, and still get it all done inside of one book.

HECTOR PLASM: DE MORTUIS is 48 pages for $6 in full color. It's not going to be a book for everyone, but I think a quick flip test in the stores might be warranted for those looking for something new and out of the way. It's due out from Image Comics this week.

WASTELAND #1 reads like the pilot of a new TV series. You get your introduction to a brand new world, a few quirky characters, and an end point for them all to reach. Oni's been comparing the book to THE WALKING DEAD and Y: THE LAST MAN, and that's about the perfect description for me. It's some sort of post-apocalyptic science fiction fantasy book, set on a new world with its own set of myths and legends. It's been well thought-out, too, to include a list of world-specific references, curse words, and phrases. Simply put, I believe this world, even at times when it seems like the author is trying too hard to make it seem firmly established. But I'll give Antony Johnston the benefit of the doubt on this one. After reading two or three issues, I'm sure it'll all be assimilated in my mind and read smoothly.

The art is by Christopher Mitten, by now an Oni veteran. It's mostly solid stuff, though there are a few confusing panels that I had to stop to puzzle out. It's not that distracting, though, and everything else works well.

The first issue is due out in July from Oni Press. It's a 48 page special for just $2.99. WASTELAND is a monthly series, so issue #2 is already solicited for August. You can read an interview with the writer here at CBR, or visit the book's blog for a preview and more details.

The new issue of THE WALKING DEAD that's out this week is a stunner. I wish I could talk about it more or even tell you why I think it's so stunning, but I don't want to spoil anything. Maybe I'll come back to it next week after you've had the chance to read it. Kirkman and Adlard did good with this one.

EVEN MORE PREVIEWS

There are more comic books coming in August 2006. It's the medium that just wouldn't die, despite a series of shots to its gut in the past twenty years. Sure, the lower-tier books sell in numbers that Donald Trump spends on breakfast, but we all keep plugging away. We make 'em, we read 'em, we review 'em, we eat 'em up.

So Diamond -- being a good monopoly -- continues to distribute these things to an audience that just won't go away, despite all the bricks and bats that get tossed its way.

What a wonderful world we live in!

In any case, I tend to focus on the trade paperbacks and hardcover collections in these columns. There's a lot more than just that in the catalog, though, so it would behoove you to grep through it yourself to find what might be interesting to you. Pre-order it through a reputable retailer, wait two to three months, and then pick it up at the store. What a system!

Generally speaking, the books in this catalog are coming out in August, but a great many of them are due out in September. I'll try to be diligent in keeping track of which books are which, all the while cursing the companies who keep "advance soliciting" their titles. I have a hard enough time keeping track of which comics are coming out in two months. Adding that third month is making my head explode!

Dark Horse is doing interesting things with their lineup of prose books. I appreciated their LIVING WITH TYPE 2 DIABETES books (by Gloria Loring) if only because I just "celebrated" 19 years of Type 2 diabetic living. But they're also publishing a whole lineup of novels based on established licenses (ALIENS, PREDATORS, etc.), and more. This month, THE PLAYBOY INTERVIEWS: THE DIRECTORS gives us a chance to read interviews the magazines originally did with the likes of Orson Welles, David Mamet, Stanley Kubrick, Clint Eastwood, and others. There are 17 directors interviewed in total, for 300 pages of Playboy material that you can honestly say you picked up just for the reading material. The book will run $23. That's not a bad price for that much material, but you'll have to wait till September 13th for it to be released.

CHICKENHARE: HOUSE OF KLAUS is a cute looking anthropomorphic graphic novel. Turtles, and rabbits, and monkeys, oh my! It's 152 pages in black and white for just $10. Chris Grine is the writer/artist, and has an official website planned for the book.

Dark Horse also has a nice Samurai Executioner t-shirt coming out this summer just in time for the San Diego convention. I think I'll be perusing the t-shirt racks at their booth for that one.

DC starts off by trading the first of the One Year Later titles. Can you believe that it's been long enough for that to start already? In this case, it's James Robinson's Batman run, titled BATMAN: FACE THE FACE, collecting issues of BATMAN and DETECTIVE COMICS that formed one longer story.

That's quickly followed up with SUPERMAN: UP, UP, AND AWAY! with Kurt Busiek and Geoff Johns' take on the Man of Steel in the new DCU. This is one I might try out, featuring art by Pete Woods and the Dodsons.

Both of these titles are due out in September, by the way.

That new JONAH HEX series gets its first trade, titled "A Face Full of Violence," featuring the artwork of Luke Ross and Tony DeZuniga. Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray are writing the book, which will feature artwork from Phil Noto in the regular series in August. Can't wait. If that's not enough for you, there's a SHOWCASE PRESENTS volume in August to package together 540 pages of earlier HEX stories for less than $20.

Back to September: JUSTICE Volume 1 is a hardcover collecting the first four issues of the Jim Krueger/Alex Ross/Doug Braithwaite 12-issue series. It looks like a pretty enough book, complete with character bios and sketchbook material. But I have to wonder if spending $20 per hardcover three times is the right way to go. Will there be an Omnibus edition at the end of this? Will there be an ABSOLUTE edition of the series? DC is nice enough to publish a schedule of their trades and hardcovers six or eight months out, to comply with the needs of the book trade. I wish they'd be able to forecast out a little further for series like this one. I want to give them my money -- and perhaps in the most expensive way possible -- but I'd feel much better about it if I only had to do it once. That lack of confidence might lead to them not getting my money.

You can tell that DC expects the INFINITE CRISIS hardcover to sell much better. It's an extra 104 pages for only five bucks more. See where this year's particular brand of DC madness all began for $25!

I've been very hard on Howard Porter's art in the past, but his computer artwork for TRIALS OF SHAZAM #1 looks amazing. I'm tempted to pick it up just for the art. I've never been able to form any sort of attachment to the character before, but that art is beautiful.

Chuck Dixon is writing a car-based action/adventure series called RUSH CITY. The first issue is retro-solicited for July, with #2 in August. Timothy Green II has the unenviable task of drawing all the cars. Car chases in comics are a funny thing -- they're very difficult to pull off believably.

Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson's new series, THE BOYS, starts off with a double dip. The first and second issues are both due out in August. The series follows around the governmental agency that keeps tabs on the superpowered folks. These are the ones who keep the "supes" in line. Sounds like fun, but it's not for the kiddies nor the timid.

TOM STRONG: BOOK SIX pretty much wraps up the Alan Moore's ABC writing career, doesn't it? It's the end of the series, and Chris Sprouse returns to finish it off. It's one more $25 volume for your bookshelf. I'm in.

Brian K. Vaughan's much-awaited graphic novel, PRIDE OF BAGHDAD is finally solicited for a mid-September release. Beautifully drawn by Niko Henrichon, it tells the story of some lions who escape from a zoo in Baghdad in the wake of the recent war. It's $20 for 136 color pages. No word on whether it's a hardcover or softcover, though.

Image Comics leads off with SPAWN: GODSLAYER, which is also the cover of this month's PREVIEWS. The big news here is that it's an all new 64 page comic with art by Jay Anacleto. Brian Holguin's storyline recasts Spawn into a Conan type of universe, a style for which Anacleto is perfect. The comic will run you $6.99.

But this brings up another question: Will MARVELS 2: EYE OF THE CAMERA ever see the light of day? Kurt Busiek mentioned that work was slowly progressing on it at the end of 2005 when he announced his DC exclusivity. But, man, doing 64 pages of art for another project had to have slowed up MARVELS 2. Busiek wasn't kidding when he said that the book would still be in progress in another couple of years.

Jimmie Robinson's fun Bomb Queen character resurfaces in the Scott Wherle-written BOMB QUEEN VS. BLACKLIGHT one-shot. Jimmie Robinson sticks around to provide the visuals. It's due on in the first shipping week of August.

SAVAGE DRAGON #0 will reprint the origin story from the long-delayed Image hardcover. I get the feeling that this is done to help set up or explain something that will be happening soon in the main series. Why else would Erik Larsen choose to change his mind and publish it separately all of a sudden? (OK, maybe he's just buying time to get the next issue out and he wants to keep his monthly pace going.)

I know some might be mad at this, but I would have bought the Image HC even knowing the key story in it would later be reprinted as a standalone issue. I guess I'm just a chump.

It's a good story, though. If you didn't have the funds for the hardcover book, you're going to enjoy this one.

Frank Cho has found another way to milk another hardcover book out of extant art. This time, it's LIBERY MEADOWS: COVER GIRL HC, a 112 page book collecting all of the covers from his series in full color, along with sketch material. That'll be $25.

If the WITCHBLADE COMPENDIUM phonebook wasn't enough story for you, then how about the TOMB RAIDER COMPENDIUM? Once again, the format collects issues #1-50 for just $50 in a full color trade paperback. I have no idea how a book that thick will read without the binding breaking, but it's a worthy publishing effort from Top Cow, I think. Will there be a market for this kind of book? We'll see. I think TOMB RAIDER almost has a better shot at this than WITCHBLADE. After all, there's a brand new Tomb Raider game coming out soon. Those kids will be spend $50 on a video game, so what's another $50 on the comic?

DC and Chuck Dixon have taken some flack on-line for RUSH CITY, a comic book sponsored by a car company to promote their latest car. Top Cow takes it one step further with REVVED: THE BEGINNING. Not only does the Mazda RX-8 feature prominently in this title, but it even gets a "Piers Anthony Presents" header over its title on the cover. After all, doesn't a prolific fantasy writer's name just jump out at you as the perfect guy to headline a crime series featuring a car?

I can't wait for J.R.R. TOLKEIN PRESENTS THE FAST THE FURIOUS: HOBBIT THREE-LEGGED RACING!

Next week: More reviews, and more Previews. We have a lot more indie gems yet to come at the end of the summer.

The Pipeline Podcast has its own homepage now. It's updated every Tuesday night with a fresh look at the top ten comic releases of the week. I even added a new segment with last week's podcast that should be a recurring one. It'll give me the chance to comment on books I've read that I haven't written up in this column.

My blog, Various and Sundry, continues to pump out the Nintendo Wii links, tech and geek link dumps, funny YouTube videos, and more reality TV news. It's quite the curious mix.

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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