Pipeline, Issue #98


This column started off to be a commentary on the latest situation with DC Comics asking the webmaster of a Superboy fan site to make some changes to his site. Said webmaster then pulled a hissy fit and took the site down completely. I think it was a vast over-reaction, and since we're all only getting one side of things, the natural impulse is to rush to his side against the mean and evil corporate lawyers. I'm on the side of the lawyers, actually. But I don't feel like going into that in detail anymore. Besides, many of the points I would have made on the topic have already been made by various posters on The Comics Book Resources' message boards. Go there and take a look. Maybe they haven't scrolled off yet.

The short version is that DC and Warner Bros own the trademark on these characters and must zealously protect them to prevent them from falling into the public domain. Now they have.

Let's do some reviews. These aren't the timeliest, but what the heck!

TOM STRONG #1 came out with writing by Alan Moore and art by Chris Sprouse. It's a cute first issue. We can only hope there's something more than just that in the next issue. There are lots of great ideas going on in here and lots of little nice things. The main story is nice, although one that you could think might have been told in 5 pages instead of 32, but it's all Moore's style and the method which he used to tell the story.

Come to think of it, I think this is a complaint we hear too frequently in comic book fandom. People like to complain that an issue of a given book took much too long to tell too little story. I think that's generally overly broad. It's not just a matter of how much story gets told in an issue as much as it is how it is told. Creators make artistic decisions all the time on the proper way to tell a story. Some use densely-packed pages to delineate everything that goes on in a story. Others tell a simple story but stretch it out over a vast number of pages. Frank Miller probably fits in the latter category with his SIN CITY books. Sure, the whole story might just as well be told in one or two issues, rather than a 6-issue mini-series, but it wouldn't be nearly as entertaining. It wouldn't have the right feel to it. It wouldn't have the desired effect.

One of the strongest issues of BONE so far is the one which takes place at night with Bone and Thorn running through the darkened woods. Not much happens, but for 20 or 22 pages, Jeff Smith masterfully scares the readers, creates suspense, and heightens the drama. His sense of lighting and shadows come through. Who cares if it only took 5 minutes to read? If it bothers you that much, wait for the collected edition.

This isn't to validate one type of storytelling over another. And yes, stories can be dragged out for no good purpose other than to get the writer more money for writing less plot. But so long as there's a strong stylistic choice present, I think we shouldn't be too quick to complain.

In any case, Chris Sprouse's art is absolutely terrific, as always. His sense of storytelling is still strong, and I'm sure the detailed Alan Moore script didn't hurt. =)

LEAVE IT TO CHANCE #12 finally came out. James Robinson writes what Paul Smith draws. It's a wonderful little book. Cute, creative, filled with energy, and the type of title anyone of any age could enjoy. In this one, Chance leads a fight against a pack of naked fairies. (OK, to be fair they're all naked, but it's still a family book. I swear!) The story is finished inside of the issue with a big-time teaser on the last page towards the next issue. I just hope we get to see that one, too!

VEXT #4 is funny. Funny stuff. Great physical slapstick. Keith Giffen writes what Mike McKone pencils. I'm actually surprised by how good McKone's art is in this book. I've seen some of his previous stuff (a SPARTAN mini-series for WildStorm, for example) and it was solid, but not impressive. This stuff is absolutely impressive. The backgrounds are drawn in as well and with as much detail as the foregrounds. The people are varied and well-considered. There's lots of thought going on in this book.

But it's still Giffen's writing which shines here. Giffen has a tendency to just throw out hilarious ideas for no better purpose than a quick laugh. The final two pages are hilarious. I don't know if they'll ever tie into the main book, but that's OK. It's funny stuff and well-timed. This is Giffen's way of telling a story.

Warren Ellis has a different way. In TRANSMETROPOLITAN #22, Ellis is completely taken up in setting an evironment. The strongest feature of this book is often its setting. This weird future world contains so many of Ellis' farthest-out ideas, every now and then you just have to throw a bunch at the reader and hope he picks up on it. This issue has no plot. There are a couple of bits which work towards showing how Spider is doing as he runs for President and attempts to win some votes by acting in an uncharacteristic way, but most of the book is taken up with various locales and situations inside the hellzone that is the city Spider lives in. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's ironic, sometimes it's just plain disgusting. Like Giffen, he often throws ideas out there that could be the settings for whole series. But they're there for mood or setting.

Personally, I think I would have liked more plot in this issue, but I'm willing to give Warren a long leash until this pays off and the storyline is concluded. He deserves that much, I should think.

Warren Ellis' THE AUTHORITY #2, along with the able pencils of Bryan Hitch and inks of Paul Neary, is just an exercise in grandiose storytelling. As such, the situations are grander, the plot more expansive, the characters a little bit larger. Fights scenes play out across a wide array of pages and it's easily forgiven. Hitch's pencils are easy to look at and the storytelling just seems to fit the story so well.

So I wanted to do some reviews and veered right into a commentary, didn't I?

I leave you with this question:

Anyone else see the cover of INHUMANS #7 and wonder if Jae Lee had just finished watching I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER? (Because I just finally did and found the coincidence kinda funny.)

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