LOOKING AT THIS WEEK'S MARVEL TITLES
"Thor" #7: I've never been able to get into this book. I'm not enough of a fan of warring gods, I guess, nor of the stilted Norse dialogue. I can't judge this series, but I can say that this is a friggin' beautiful issue. Yes, it deserves the "friggin'" tag in there, it's so good looking. Marko Djurdjevic is the guest penciller for this issue and next, with Danny Miki on inks and Jelena Kevic Djurdjenic handling the colors. (That sound you just heard was this word processor's spellchecker having a heart attack.)
Djurdjevic is an artist who would be at ease drawing a black and white "Conan" magazine format story from thirty years ago. He does the fantasy stuff extremely well. There's so much power on every page that it's impressive. Characters don't glide from panel to panel. They stomp around, throw their weight around, and make you wither before their powerful gazes. The fight sequences in the second half of the book are worth the entire price of admission.
Nothing against J. Michael Straczynski on this one, but this is worth buying solely for the art. If you enjoy the story, consider it a bonus.
"War Is Hell: The First Flight of the Phantom Eagle" #1: I forgot about this book, but it's out this week. It's Garth Ennis doing what he does best -- writing World War I stories. This time, it's about a British man who flies onto a base and lies his way into the fighting squadron in the early days of air warfare. There's a lot of questions as to just what exactly is going on here, but Ennis doesn't overwhelm you with it. He creates, instead, scenes that are satisfying and that will carry you through the book. Howard Chaykin's art is the best it's looked since he returned to comics regularly a few short years ago. Maybe it's the source material he has to work with here that inspires him, but everything looks authentic and detailed. The airplane battles are especially compelling. (There might be a Sketch-Up airplane model or two involved.) Brian Reber's coloring helps everything pop out, and Todd Klein's lettering is relevant to the book, particularly the worn typewriter-style font he uses in captions.
If you're looking for a war comic, this is a good one.
"Marvel Illustrated: The Iliad" #1: I'm waiting for the trade.
Somehow, that strikes me as an outrageously funny punchline and I'm not sure why.
"Foolkiller" #4: This has not been a terribly good comic, I'm afraid. And this issue is a couple of months late. I will say this for it, however: I loved the opening sequence in this issue. Read it in the store, if you have to, but I think it's enjoyable.
"Franklin Richards: Spring Break" #1: It's a very timely issue. This time around, Franklin builds an Iron Man armor from plans on his father's hard drive. Hilarity ensues. Funny story, and one that I think could have had enough gags in it to last twice as long. Oh, well.
"Captain America" #36: Butch Guice and Mike Perkins split the art duties this month. This is Captain American in action month -- Cap versus Crossbones -- but with an ending that's sure to stir the pot. Sometimes, I wonder if we're not all looking at "The Death of Captain America" backwards? More on that another week. . .
ORIGINAL ART: MIKE McKONE
This is good timing. Marvel announced over the weekend that Mike McKone is returning to Marvel to work on THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. And this week, I'm here to look at some of his original art.
McKone was the first penciler whose art I hoarded, er, collected. The first piece of original art I ever bought came from his inker, Mark McKenna, who was selling their "Vext" pages dirt cheap. The next year at San Diego Comic-Con, I went nuts and picked up an eight page sequence from his "Superman" work directly from McKone. (These pages were inked by Marlo Alquiza.) McKone, as I remember, was tickled that he had "petrol money" for the rest of his vacation States-side.
All of these images come from "Superman" #153, as written by Jeph Loeb.
Let's start with page four from the issue, which is one of the favorites in my collection. It's one that I'll get framed someday. It's a perfect little Superman moment, with Jimmy and Superman chatting on the roof of the Daily Planet building, shortly after Superman left his wedding ring on and got spotted by the public with it. This is the conversation that Superman had to assure his friend that they were still buddies and that this wedding secret was for the best. It's a nice page, with a couple of great facial expressions in those last two panels, an iconic shot of Jimmy freezing in front of the Planet globe, and Superman in costume.
There are, though, a couple of oddities to point out in it.
All of the lettering on these pages were printed out by Comicraft separately and then pasted onto the page, during the production process. That includes the word balloons, themselves. I can't be sure if that was the process as it was done at the time, or a time saving measure. I have a page of UNCANNY X-MEN art from the late 80s where Tom Orzechowski's lettering is hand drawn and then pasted in, no doubt to allow the inker to do his work while the letterer did his all at the same time. (Weren't the analog days quaint?) I can't be sure if this is done the same way for the same reason, or due to the production process at DC at the time.
The lettering in the word balloon on the last panel is said by surprise guest, Mongrel. It's been patched in, an extra sticker on top of the pre-existing sticker. Two blue line notes can be seen in the margin. The first, "Fill" is pointing somewhere in the panel. I can't see where, though. I'm guessing it was pointing to an area that's been filled in with black ink. Perhaps the inker missed that. The second note just under it didn't come out in this scan. "BLOW UP 5%" is pointing at the word "ONCE." I guess merely using a bold-faced font isn't enough to give the word the emphasis it needed.
Overall, I really like the look of the lettering on this page. It's a great Comicraft font, and the rounded corners on the captions look great, and match up well with the balloon shapes. I also think the mixed-case lettering for Lois' thoughts works here, rather than being arbitrary. ("Arbitrary" was Bill Jemas' mixed-case dictate across all Marvel comics, c. 2001.)
Again, it was impossible to show this on a scan, but Superman's leading hand had to be redrawn. McKone forgot to draw the ring on his finger! Whoops. There's a patch pasted in here, atop the right three fingers.
A couple of pages later, Superman and Mongrel stand in front of the planet Saturn. This is the before image, as seen on the original art. It was left to the colorist to draw in the features of the planet. All that's written (four times, in pencil) on the planet is "SATURN FX."
I wish I had that comic handy to scan in the final page. Tanya and Richard Horie were the colorists. I'm sure they did a lovely job, but it's fun to see a stark white area in the middle of a sea of black on the original art.
FIVE YEARS AGO. . .
In Pipeline #301 (of March 18, 2003), I led off with a review of a new graphic novel:
THE COURIERS is a top-notch action piece of ludicrous proportion. Thankfully, it doesn't take itself too seriously, so it works. Brian Wood and Rob G combine to rocket the reader through a non-stop action piece set in the heart of New York City, with gunfights, missile launches, helicopter pursuits, and car chases. The main characters are quickly introduced and made likeable and sympathetic, helping to smooth the whole thing over. Think of it as the polar opposite of the new movie, THE HUNTED.
C'mon, how many reviews do you read today that reference that particular movie? I had completely forgotten about that Benicio Del Toro/Tommy Lee Jones crapfest until I looked up this column. On the other hand, I remembered who was in that movie without looking it up, so maybe it's not so unmemorable.
In any case, THE COURIERS is still a fun read.
THREE YEARS AGO. . .
It was Jeph Loeb week in Pipeline #405 from March 15, 2005, leading off with the first two collected editions of "Superman/Batman" before moving to "Hulk: Gray." With "Captain America: White" freshly announced this weekend, it seems like a fortuitous time to relive one of those color books:
Sale's Hulk is a brutish cartoon. He's a monster, but one with that stupid hangdog face that endears you to him, just before he stumbles into a blind rage. This Hulk reminds me a bit of Sam Kieth's. He's large and hulking, but also compact and cute. He's stupid, and that shows on his face. It's not just rage on his face, but the ignorance of it. To him, this is normal. You almost can't hate him because, like a child, he doesn't know better. The most powerful moments in the series are those where Hulk realizes what he's done isn't good.
Sale renders Hulk with the same kind of gray washes he used in the Daredevil book. It makes Hulk stand out throughout the book against the linework, but it also takes advantage of the character's skin tone in the story. It's such a simple, but smart, addition to make to the tale.
The new "White" book will use ink washes, as well, which makes me very happy. Sale's best work is done that way.
ONE YEAR AGO. . .
In a Pipeline Podcast special, I interviewed George Khoury for his then-upcoming Image Comics retrospective book for TwoMorrows. Now, he's writing a column for CBR, POP. Any self-respecting Image Comics fan owes it to himself or herself to read that book.
Usagi Yojimbo hit its centennial issue. The Brave and the Bold premiered. And in Pipeline #509, I had a lot to say about the outcry against Marvel for getting mainstream news coverage of the Death of Captain America.
I also spent an entire column praising the first story arc of "Criminal," of which I said:
. . .no student of comic book storytelling should miss this book. It's a wonderful example of everything comics can be when the creative team is in perfect synch and all the cylinders fire at the same time.
A year later, my sentiment on that has not waned one bit.
That's a wrap for another week. Did you get your ticket orders in for next month's New York Comic-Con? Are you planning to go? I'll be there on Saturday and Sunday of that weekend, barring any unforeseen circumstances pulling me away. Can't wait!
If you're really interested in what daily news bits grab my attention in the worlds of tech and comics and more, the best way to track is it at the Google Reader Shared Items. Several items are added to that page every day. I'm an RSS feed junkie.
The only social network I regularly appear on is Twitter. It's a very fun place with low overhead and the least number of annoyances of any Web 2.0 site, aside from an unstable infrastructure.
More than 800 columns -- ten and a half years' worth -- are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically.