ASTERIX DU JOUR
I'm sorry to say that there's no storage follow-up this week. Stay tuned, though, as I might have one in a couple of weeks.
I do, however, have another ASTERIX book to review!
ASTERIX AND THE GOTHS is only the third volume in the series. As one might suspect, that means we're still looking at early renditions of Goscinny and Uderzo's characters. The most dramatic difference in this volume, for me, is the size of Obelix. He's tiny. He's only a hair taller than Asterix and a little plumper, but not BIGGER, if you know what I mean. There's a running joke throughout the series about Obelix not being fat. In this book, he's pudgy, but not gargantuan enough to manhandle a menhir. I don't think it's a joke that works as well when Uderzo's art looks like this.
Uderzo's line is also different, being much thicker and occasionally less detailed. It leans slightly more towards that iconic thick-lined style I see so much in art of that time period. This isn't, though, a simplified ASTERIX. There's still plenty of detail in certain long shots with full backgrounds, animated characters, and wild gesticulations. By comparison to later, more accomplished works, though, it might come off a little stiff. If this was the first book you had read in the series, you'd be taken by the amount of detail and character in every panel. If you've seen what's yet to come, though, then you might see it differently.
There's something in here that reminds me of The Smurfs, but I'm not sure what. Maybe it's the somewhat-medieval small village theme, with a tight knit group of characters living in small domiciles (though not mushrooms), fighting against the big meanies outside. Maybe it's the done-in-one adventure tales. Maybe there's a similar European sensibility to the storytelling. I can't quite put my finger on it.
This might just be my modern sensibilities, but one plot point made no sense to me. In this book, Getafix is attending the Druid's Convention, and hopes to win the big Druid of the Year prize by presenting the magical formula he uses to make Asterix and the other Armoricans very strong. But we know Obelix fell into a vat of the stuff as a baby, making him super-strong for life. Obelix has to be in, what, his twenties? And Getafix is just now presenting this potion to his fellow wizards, which none of them had seen before despite their annual conventions in the forest?!? I don't get it. It doesn't matter to the story, so I should just drop it. There's no need to be a continuity nut in this universe. It bothered me, though.
In the end, the whole thing works. Goscinny's crazy shotgun-style humor is in full effect here, with a wild and wooly plot involving a kidnapped Druid, the invading Goths, the tremulous Romans, and a lot of hilarious cartoony violence. Plus, this book has my favorite character name of them all so far. There's a British character whose name is Valueaddedtax. (In the French edition, that's a Belgian character. I associate the VAT more with the ULK, so a Briton makes more sense to me.)
Up next for me: ASTERIX IN SPAIN, as the abduction of an isolated Spanish village's chief's son results in mayhem for one and all. We're jumping ahead 11 volumes for that one, to look at cultural norms, enough fish slapstick to make Scott Shaw! proud, and more!
All of these Asterix books are available for ten bucks in softcover format through a British publisher, Sterling. The hardcover editions are three bucks more and a lot harder to find. There's a new complete hardcover fancy slipcase edition coming out soon in France, but no word on an English release yet. PREVIEWS watchers will note a similar hardcover slipcase release for the complete TINTIN is due out this fall, as well. After Asterix, I'm heading to those books.
PREVIEWS FOR SEPTEMBER
We'll have a podcast dedicated to PREVIEWS for September in the next week or two, but let's peek at some of Marvel's offerings for now:
Michael Turner's FANTASTIC FOUR #550 is just ugly. On many levels. I'm starting to understand how people like me reacted to the rise of the Image stars in the early 90s. I thought that was the coolest stuff ever, and the older readers groused that they made for ugly comics. Maybe I'm just getting older and turning into one of them. Drat.
News of ANT-MAN's cancellation made me very sad. Seeing the cool Phil Hester cover for the twelfth issue did nothing to alleviate the pain. It's so cool, in a hardcore Marvel zombie way.
Eric Canete's cover for IRON MAN: ENTER THE MANDARIN #1 is very nice, in a retro-Rocketeer kind of way. I would say I'm looking forward to this new mini-series, but the truth is that I'm looking more forward to its Premiere Edition hardcover next year. I have no inside information on that release, though. It's semi-educated speculation. I'd settle for a trade paperback if I had to. Canete draws beautiful highly-stylized stuff, though.
The return of MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS brings back many fond memories, mostly of the original series' letters columns, where I had a couple of my first letters printed alongside the likes of letterhack legends Joey Marchese and Marc Lucas, as well as MCP regular, Len Biehl -- the man who created the Wolverine's Claws ranking system.
It was also the thrill of getting a new comic every two weeks instead of four, plus the introduction to all sorts of new and different characters and creators at a time when I was just starting to read comics and lapping them all up.
Stuart Immonen is leading the charge on this series, which has a bonus-sized 48 page first issue. Still no ads, still four stories. It looks like we'll be back to eight page stories with no ads in the second issue. I still wish it was bi-weekly, though.
Now, let's get to the fun stuff with the collections:
Marvel is putting a push on the Omnibus line again, with what look to be fresh printings of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN OMNIBUS Volume 1, FANTASTIC FOUR OMNIBUS Volume 1, and UNCANNY X-MEN OMNIBUS, Volume 1. I know that last one has been out of print and difficult to find for awhile now, so that's exciting news that it can be ordered anew. I hope it means they're planning for a second volume of that series, too.
Just to add the cherry to the top of that piece of good news comes this: CAPTAIN AMERICA BY ED BRUBAKER OMNIBUS Volume 1. It has the first 25 issues of the series, along with the WINTER SOLDIER: WINTER KILLS and 65TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL one shots. You get all of that -- 720 color pages -- for just $75 in one thick brick of a book. For those of us annoyed that Marvel stopped doing hardcovers for the series after the first two volumes, this is good news, indeed.
The Adam Warren-penned six issue mini, IRON MAN: HYPERVELOCITY gets a trade paperback on September 26th, with art by Brian Denham. Warren's scripts are always something to look out for, and this is the perfect chance to sample one. I'd still recommend his EMPOWERED original graphic novel, though, if you're a more mature reader looking for some superhero humor.
Remember the CAPTAIN AMERICA: RED WHITE AND BLUE oversized hardcover Marvel put out a few years ago? Don't worry about it. I doubt many people do. It was an anthology hardcover book featuring a host of big name creators doing Cap short stories. Marvel put it out in the oversized hardcover format around the same time they did the MARVEL: FANBOYS & BADGIRLS - BILL & JOE'S MARVELOUS ADVENTURE. Remember that one? It's on my shelf right next to the original Cap hardcover. It's been five years since that book came out now. Time flies.
In any case, Marvel is reprinting that hardcover as a $20 trade paperback in September to help feed the Captain America beast.
Finally, the stunningly-gorgeous LOKI mini-series from Robert Rodi and Esad Ribic is getting a trade paperback to help feed the Return of Thor beast. I ain't complaining -- this is a beautifully fully painted series that was too easily overlooked when it was released. It's only 104 pages, so it's a steal at $11. I reviewed it two years ago now.
Next week, I'll look into the rest of the PREVIEWS catalogue and have an early review or two.
- DC is doing digital comics in the way that Marvel tried to do Epic, but with longer contracts. This could be The Next Big Thing, or The Next Great Disaster. I can't wait!
- The Black Fox pulled off the heist of the century in last week's IRREDEEMABLE ANT-MAN #10. And wasn't that panel of the Fox and Ant-Man playing the Wii in the previous issue referenced off a promo shot from Nintendo? I recognize those poses from far too much Wii anticipation last fall.
- The San Diego programming schedule is starting to leak out, featuring an Image Founders reunion, of sorts, a Babylon 5 panel to highlight the new DVD movie, and more things than I want to think about. I'm very sad that I'm not going this year.
- Update: The whole schedule is up now. It's early this year, isn't it? I'll have to don my "reporter's hat" and look at it later in the week for a future edition of this column. Right now, I haven't the heart.
- I want to recommend Delicious Library to all the Mac users out there. It's a cool program that can help you organize your book, music, and/or DVD collections. Here's the cool part of it, though: If you have a webcam -- like the one built into all Mac notebooks -- you can wave the bar codes on the back of your DVD covers in front of the cam, and Delicious will scan them and pull down all the information (including a cover scan) and add it to your index. You can even track items being borrowed by others, which is a must for anyone with a larger DVD collection.
It does have that book option, but I haven't tested it with any comics yet. That's in the works for this week. I know Delicious Library pulls a lot of information down from Amazon.com, so I suspect that it might be able to track graphic novels/hardcovers/trade paperbacks from major companies.
The price tag is $40, but it's a lot of fun to use, and you can find out more about it at Delicious-Monster.com. If price is no object, you can pay an extra couple hundred bucks and buy the Bluetooth hand scanner and go wild scanning bar codes all over the house.
- TwoMorrows' new book, IMAGE COMICS: THE ROAD TO INDEPENDENCE, founds its way to my doorstep this weekend. It's a remarkably thin book, given how many pages it contains. That glossy paper stock is exceptionally light and thin, but it doesn't bleed through at all that I've seen. I'm looking forward to diving into this one like you wouldn't believe. In a previous year, this would have made for perfect flight reading material on the way to San Diego. ::sigh::
PIPELINE, FIVE YEARS AGO
In the 158th edition of Pipeline2 (12 July 2002), I spent time discussing the latest rumors of the day. The first dealt with the Ultimatization of the Marvel Universe, then a hot-button issue. It still pops up from time to time, but here's how that discussion went in Pipeline2 five years ago:
I like to think that as I get older, I let go of some of the attachments I've formed with my past. I'm actually at the point right now where I'm ready to part with a large chunk of my comics collection. It's just stuff taking up space. The odds of me ever looking at some of this stuff again, let alone re-reading it, are miniscule. I can get my nostalgia kicks in new forms today, such as TRANSFORMERS and G.I. JOE comics. I can even pick up both of those books in a nicer format with reprint volumes.
Then there are the books I own two and three times over: monthly issues, trade paperback, hardcover.
I'm ready to part with the past.
I love the Ultimate Universe. I think it's a great approach to the characters and a brilliant idea for a line of comics. ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN is in the top tier of comics that I read right now, always right at the top of the reading pile when I get home from the comics shop on Wednesdays. ULTIMATE X-MEN has, likewise, done some very nice stuff and THE ULTIMATES is the best-looking book Marvel has.
As you may have guessed from recent columns, I never did let go of any chunk of my collection. The rise of digital comics -- and those wonderful DVDs collecting decades' worth of Marvel comics on a disc -- might aid in that endeavor eventually, though.
Sadly, Marvel stopped publishing the trade paperback reprints of their original G.I. JOE series not long after that column. Shame.
In Pipeline #265 earlier in the week, I reviewed ULTIMATES #5 and STORMWATCH: TEAM ACHILLES #1. Both titles gave us a large number of headlines over their terms. The former came out of lateness and/or greatness. The former gave us headlines of a creator lying about his past.
Weren't those simpler times? ;-)
Next week: Another Pipeline, of course! Ten years and still chugging along!
The regular blog, Various and Sundry, discusses more home theater and iPhone fun, plus some DVD and TV hoopla and hootnannies.
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More than 700 columns -- maybe even 800 -- are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically.