Pipeline, Issue #482


You know what really annoys me about PREVIEWS these days? Advanced soliciting. While Dark Horse is the biggest offender here, they're not alone. I can understand it for the occasional big ticket items, but Dark Horse does it for most of their catalog now, it seems. It's a purely selfish reason I hate this practice, too. I hate leading this column off by telling you that I'm writing a column about November-shipping products, only to have to qualify so many items as December-shipping. It just looks sloppy after a while.

Please, publishers: stop it.


Now, November is traditionally a big publishing month. Everyone wants to make sure their books are on comic shop shelves in time for the Christmas shopping rush. There's usually a nice oversized and slightly expensive hardcover edition of some classic Marvel or DC book being offered in November. Lots of trades and smaller hardcovers vie for your gift giving dollars.

Not so much this year. This is a fairly anemic November. I don't know whether the ships are running so tightly in the comics industry -- that there's a joke, son -- that the publishers are planning on getting stuff out in the first week or two of December without worry about being late for Christmas. (See the original CRISIS hardcover.) Or maybe it's just that their publishing schedule has changed to one containing evergreens and gift items all year 'round. DC puts out a fair amount of ABSOLUTE editions throughout the year now. There's no reason to rush one or two out in November for the Christmas push. SANDMAN and DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and KINGDOM COME will all be out on the shelves by Thanksgiving, so what do they have to worry about?

It just seems weird, is all I'm saying. I was expecting to write a lengthy column for your gift-giving needs this week, but it's just not going to happen. Oh, it might end up being a lengthy one, indeed, but not for that reason. It'll only be long because I don't know when to shut up.

I normally try to stick just with the trade paperbacks and hardcovers for this column, but there are a few interesting monthly titles debuting in November that have to be mentioned, so please indulge me.

And, as always, I recommend grabbing a copy of PREVIEWS for your own personal perusal. Pre-order what you like to be assured of getting it in two months.

Marvel: ULTIMATE VISION #0 collects those short chapters that appeared as backups in various Ultimate titles last year. Mark Millar wrote 'em and John Romita Jr. drew them. I don't care much about this one shot, but I was struck by the note at the end of the solicitation: "Includes all new coloring for the first two chapters!"

Ooh, who messed those up?

Mike Wieringo is all over the Marvel catalog this month, including covers for AVENGERS NEXT #1 and #2 and interiors for MS. MARVEL #9, where he's drawing the Rogue/Ms. Marvel fight. That ought to please all the fanboys who enjoyed the Jim Lee/Art Thibert drawn one in UNCANNY X-MEN 15 years ago. He's also drawing the lead story in STAN LEE MEETS THE SILVER SURFER. I think that's the most production in one month for Wieringo in his career, although I'm sure part of it is just fortuitous timing. I'm not complaining. Give me more.

BULLET POINTS finally debuts in November. This is the five-part mini-series written by Joe Michael Straczynski, with art from Tommy Lee Edwards. It's an Elseworlds kind of story, in which a single bullet in the right person at the right time has a rippling effect across the Marvel Universe. The preview art is gorgeous, and John Workman steps in to do the lettering.

FANTASTIC FOUR: THE END begins its five issue run with two issues in November. As more and more companies delay soliciting books until they're further along in their production schedule, it looks like they're willing to throw the first two issues out in the same month. I noticed this last week with THE BOYS, the new Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson series. The first two issues came out in August, which was a great idea. You needed both issues to be introduced to all the cast of characters for the title. That little extra boost should help solidify its fanbase. Marvel is starting more mini-series with a similar quicker schedule now, possibly because of the delayed starts. I'm sure it frustrates the retailers, who now have to order the first four issues blindly, but I like it as a reader, especially for books I anticipate.

THE END is written and drawn by Alan Davis, who's been off the comics radar for far too long while working on this series. The preview pages look stunning, as usual. No inker is credited in the solicits, but Mark Farmer would be a safe bet.

Oh, the book is about the end of the Fantastic Four, in case you're curious. I just saw Alan Davis' name and pre-ordered the mini in my mind. Or, pre-ordered the hardcover. Marvel's been tricking me lately with what it puts out in trade and what goes to hardcover. More on that later.

FRANKLIN RICHARDS: HAPPY FRANKSGIVING is the latest one shot from Chris Eliopoulos and Marc Sumerak's kid-friendly minds. It's 32 more pages of Franklin Richards getting into trouble around the house. $2.99 will buy you reading material to share with the nieces and nephews.

THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST #1 might still be scheduled for December. I forget if the CIVIL WAR delay hit it or not. Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction write it, with art by the highly talented David Aja, whose style we just saw in the latest issue of DAREDEVIL. It's beautiful, high-contrast stuff.

Has anyone asked yet if this book ties into the Return of Kun Lun storyline that John Ostrander was setting up in his fun HEROES FOR HIRE series back in the late 90s? Was that ever tied up in another mini-series? I lost track of it all.

And is that the geekiest question I've ever asked in this column?

ONSLAUGHT REBORN brings Rob Liefeld back to the Marvel Universe for a sequel to the storyline that originally happened a decade ago now. Jeph Loeb is back to write it, and it's scheduled to last five issues. I may get flamed for this, but I like the looks of the three preview pages. The coloring does a nice job in adding dimension to Liefeld's art, while not being garishly computerized for effect.

The second most exciting debut of the month (after FANTASTIC FOUR: THE END) is PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL #1. Matt Fraction has proven that he can do crazy action with LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS and CASANOVA. Now, he's putting the Punisher back in the heart of the Marvel Universe and having him take on the super powered guys with super powered guns. It's a new on-going series at $2.99 a pop. The first issue is 40 pages. Hopefully, that will include extra story pages and not just eight more pages of ads or promotional bits and pieces. Cross your fingers.

The MAX titles solicited this month contain the warning (in bolded ALL-CAPS) that "There is a strict no overprint policy on all MAX titles please check your orders and place them by the FOC." (Lack of punctuation not mine.) So I guess, then, that the quiet demise of the No Overprint policy doesn't apply to the mature material. Interesting.

The most interesting book from the MAX line this month is WISDOM, the first of a six-part mini-series written by Paul Cornell and drawn by Trevor Hairsine, whose work is always beautiful, even if it appears spottily. (Is that a word?) For some strange reason, though, they're putting a cardstock cover on it and charging you $3.99 for a standard 32 page comic. I suppose they're really counting on sales to DR. WHO fans, for whom Cornell has previously written.

JACK KIRBY'S GALACTIC BOUNTY HUNTERS #4 is another 32 page book with a cardstock cover, but is still only $2.99. Is that because it's not flagged as a mature readers title?

Finally, it's time for the collections to rain down upon your heads.

NEW X-MEN OMNIBUS collects all 43 comics in Grant Morrison's tenure on the mutant books. It's NEW X-MEN #114-154 plus the 2001 ANNUAL. That's 1096 ages in one hardcover volume for $99.99. Get out your sigils and fork over your cash! This is the first item in the catalog I've seen so far that screams "Christmas present."

SQUADRON SUPREME Volume 1: THE PRE-WAR YEARS collects the first seven issues of the second volume of the series, but does so at standard trim size. This is a premiere edition HC, following the two oversized hardcover printings of the first series It's a shame that they're mixing formats on a single series like that. The book is $23, but no longer for mature readers only.

C.B. Cebulski's X-MEN FAIRY TALES four-parter gets its own trade paperback for $10.99. I thought that they might find a way to fatten it up and make it a premier edition hardcover, but no such luck. With art from Sana Takeda, Kyle Baker, Kei Kobayashi, and Bill Sienkiewicz, it's still a book I plan on picking up. I want to read these stories, and the art looks fantastic.

Brian Bendis' SECRET WAR is due out in a trade paperback collection, but it'll still run you $25 because they're still going with the SECRET WAR: FROM THE FILES OF NICK FURY issue that was only ever meant as filler material to kill the time between delayed issues. Don't make the same mistake I did, folks: Account for those extra pages at the end of the book not being story-related. Don't let the ending sneak up on you about 40 pages sooner than you thought it would. If it were up to me, I'd drop those pages and lower the price of the trade down to $20.

The HEROES REBORN series for CAPTAIN AMERICA and IRON MAN get trades this month, but only of the first 12 issues. As with last month's FANTASTIC FOUR and AVENGERS trades, the 13th remains out of print.

FANTASTIC FOUR: FIRST FAMILY is being collected as a trade paperback. I thought for sure with Chris Weston's artwork we'd see a Premiere Edition hardcover of this six-part mini-series. It's custom-made for the format. Those who waited for this Joe Casey-penned book will need to settle for a trade at $15.99. I'd have gladly paid the extra $4 for the hardcover.

Frank Cho's SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL gets a trade paperback, yet there's still no word on if we'll ever see a hardcover edition with all of Cho's original artwork in it.

Now, the most frustrating Marvel collection of the month has to be FURY: PEACEMAKER. It's a trade paperback. PUNISHER: BORN was a hardcover, which beautifully showed up Darick Robertson's artwork. Why can't we get that with this book? Maybe they're thinking of pairing this book up with the previous Ennis/Robertson FURY mini-series for one big oversized hardcover? Somehow, I doubt it. The tone of the two books is way too different. It's a shame, but a $18 trade paperback is better than no book at all, I suppose.

Next month: Marvel starts soliciting ULTIMATE POWER, now that the collections have caught up to SUPREME POWER. . .

DARK HORSE starts off with a pleasant surprise, as Ron Marz and Luke Ross team up again for a new five part mini-series, SAMURAI: HEAVEN AND EARTH Volume 2. Yes, it is the logical sequel to their previous effort, which was beautifully drawn and fun to read. The first volume trade paperback was a Top Ten selection for the week of May 11, 2006 on The Pipeline Podcast. Embarrassingly enough, I thought I had written a full review of it in Pipeline before, but I can't find it now.

Can you believe it's time for another BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL volume? It's #16 in December, for $16.95. It's pretty much the last manga title published as a monthly comic, let alone one published regularly in the flipped format. Flipping the art leads to the unfortunate swastika appearance in the art, but a clear warning about it at the front of each book cleverly diffuses any controversy there. It's a good book, overall, and a credit to Dark Horse for publishing it for so long.

DC COMICS: DC leads off strongly with Jeph Loeb and Darwyn Cooke's much-anticipated BATMAN/THE SPIRIT one shot. It runs 48 pages for $5, with inks from J. Bone. The new series will follow shortly. I just hope we see more art from J. Bone somewhere in the future. I miss his stuff from books like ALISON DARE, MUTANT TEXAS, and JINGLE BELLE.

Cooke also shows up as the writer for SUPERMAN CONFIDENTIAL, the new series whose first six-part storyline is drawn by Tim Sale. With Sale and Loeb exclusive to different companies, Sale had to find someone new to hook up with, creatively. Cooke is a strong choice. This story takes place in Superman's past, as he first comes into contact with Kryptonite.

SUPERMAN: FOR TOMORROW Volume 2 finally hits trade paperback shelves on December 20th. While the hardcover has been out for a while, I'm surprised we haven't seen an ABSOLUTE edition solicited yet. Did ABSOLUTE HUSH sell poorly? You'd think this storyline would be the next logical ABSOLUTE choice. Besides that, it'll give the readers something to hold them over until ALL STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN THE BOY WONDER gets back on track, if it ever does.

Chuck Dixon is writing so much for DC/WildStorm these days, you'd think it was 1998 all over again. While so much of it happens to be commercial tie-ins (SNAKES ON A PLANE, that car comic, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET), he is returning to one old favorite character. Starting in November is CONNOR HAWKE: DRAGON'S BLOOD, a new six part mini-series featuring Dixon's GREEN ARROW supporting character. Derec Donovan provides the art. Amusingly, the solicitation text credits him as the artist on the JUBILEE mini-series. I'm not saying that's wrong, but I do find it oddly amusing somehow.

JONAH HEX #13 begins a new three-part storyline. I've not read the series yet, but the parade of guest creators handling art duties has been impressive. None, though, is more impressive than the man they've lined up to handle the origin of Jonah Hex -- Jordi Bernet. He's a European legend, last seen doing an issue of SOLO last year, and the subject of two art books from Auad Publishing. Just stunning stuff.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #4 features a cover from J.G. Jones in which the character shown -- Vixen? -- looks to be wearing a similar outfit to the Halle Berry-inspired character from the J.G. Jones' drawn WANTED mini-series over at Top Cow. Just sayin'.

Peter David and George Perez's SACHS AND VIOLENS mini-series gets a trade paperback on December 6th. It's only $15 for the long out of print mature readers series that first came out from Marvel's Epic line 13 years ago. I can remember enjoying it at the time, but who knows how much of that came from the oddity of seeing Peter David writing curse words into a comic book, or of Marvel publishing more mature material. I was 17 years old at the time. It was all new to me.

TRIALS OF SHAZAM #4 features a large woman with a very small head on the cover. Art is by Howard Porter. I still like the computer painted style he's using, but if Rob Liefeld had drawn that exact same cover, we would have seen it blogged in ten places by now.

The big names and new relaunches of old favorites continues over at WildStorm, with quite the impressive lineup.

STORMWATCH returns as STORMWATCH: PHD, a fitting title from a writer whose major writing credit is NUMB3RS. OK, it would have been better if he was from LAW AND ORDER and we could have made the "SVU" comparison, but I'll take what I can get.

In any case, Christos Gage revamps the title as a ground-level superhuman strike force without the fancy transporter pads and weapons that they used to enjoy as part of the U.N. back in the day. Weatherman Jackson King returns to head up the group. Doug Mahnke draws it up.

MIDNIGHTER #1 is written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Chris Sprouse and Karl Story. That's all I need to know to give it a shot. Michael Golden does a variant cover.

WILDCATS #2 -- the first issue has just been delayed by a couple of weeks, causing absolutely no outrage against DC and WildStorm on the internet -- has an alternate cover from Erik Larsen, as Jim Lee gets all the Image founders to contribute alternate covers. Cool!

Gail Simone is still on top of things with GEN13 #2, drawn by Talent Caldwell. I only mention it here because it gives me the chance to link to an old column I wrote in 1999 about what I'd do with the title. My version wouldn't sell, but I think it makes slightly more sense than the traditional series.

There's also new issues of ASTRO CITY, THE BOYS, WETWORKS, DEATHBLOW, and all the usual suspects.

The tenth edition of 100 BULLETS' trade paperback series is titled "DECAYED," making it my choice for best punny title in the series.

IMAGE COMICS: C.B. Cebulski's plan to take over the creator-owned comics universe is finally beginning with DRAIN #1, a title stunningly drawn by Sana Takeda, previously mentioned in the X-MEN FAIRY TALES trade paperback. The art is beautiful. If the story lives up to it, Cebulski should have no problem selling this sucker. (Well, he wouldn't if the comics industry made any sense at any level. Allow me to be the hopeless optimist just this once, OK?)

Why does Image spotlight books with that "AWWW YEAH!" graphic? What is this, third grade c. 2000?

Amusingly, Robert Kirkman is doing a two-part THE OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE INVINCIBLE UNIVERSE in the style of Marvel's guides. I have little interest in the text of this book, but the large cast of artists contributing pages to the book is impressive -- Jason Pearson, Ron Frenz, Kaare Andrews, Ed McGuinness, Phil Noto, et. al. This could work as just an art book with those names.

It's also time for another Image anthology book. This one, LOW ORBIT, is only 64 full color pages, but features the art stylings of a diverse cast of comics artists, like Sean Galloway (TEEN TITANS GO!), Ryan Odagawa (anyone else remember SAVANT GARDE?), and Nick Bradshaw (ARMY OF DARKNESS). The theme in this one is sci-fi/fantasy.

COYOTE Volume 4 finally brings us up to the issues of the regular series that started off Todd McFarlane's career. His backup SCORPIO ROSE stories will be reprinted in this book alongside the main stories from issues #9-12. Personally, I'll be getting this book just for those spare few pages. I've seen a couple of the pages adorning early McFarlane interviews in magazines at the time, but I've never been able to track down the issues. There's a lot more to this book than just those stories, but that's what's pulling me in.

The Mr. Glum plush doll that I picked up in San Diego is coming out on November 1st. It can be yours for just $20. It's adorably cute, stands on its own two feet, and is worth every penny.

Scott Kurtz and Aaron Williams' ode to the early 80s, TRUTH, JUSTIN, AND THE AMERICAN WAY sees a trade paperback collection at the end of November. It collects all five issues for $15. I'd recommend it based solely on the great cartooning work of Italian artist Giuseppe Ferrario. This is the kind of work I want to see more of in America. It's strikingly animated and well detailed, while telling the story clearly.

Over at Wizard, WIZARD MAGAZINE solicits for its 182nd issue by asking the question, "CIVIL WAR: Who wins? Who dies?" Boy, it must really suck tying so much content into a storyline and then having that storyline running more than a month behind your magazine. They must be scrambling in Congers this month to replace all that content on short notice.

And on that note, I'm out of here. Next week, I'll look at what's in the back of the catalog, and I'll throw in a couple of reviews along the way.

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