Pipeline Previews - August 2003


[Previews]I'm going to speed right through the catalog this month and pick out the brightest highlights I can find. The catalog is past 525 pages these days. It's impossible to acknowledge every interesting thing.

I tell myself that every month and still end up running over 3000 words.

You know the drill by now, right? Buy PREVIEWS. Look through it. You'll like some stuff that didn't catch my eye or that I didn't include here because I was sick to death of typing all of this up. Pre-ordering is your friend. Post your PREVIEWS picks at the new and speedier Pipeline message board.

DC: BATMAN: DEATH AND THE MAIDENS looks at first like Yet Another Batman mini-series that I don't need to bother with. 9 issues at $2.95 a pop? Do I really need it? Greg Rucka is writing it. OK, so I'm in now. His novels are working their way around my family right now. I'm about to start reading SHOOTING AT MIDNIGHT, while my mother already sped through KEEPER and FINDER and has passed those off to my aunt. I just didn't tell them all that he also writes comics just yet. If I did, their eyes would roll and they'd never give the books a chance. It's not like I seriously think I'm going to convert family members into comic book readers through this novel. Still, I can't wait for the QUEEN AND COUNTRY novel now.

Greg Rucka also begins his run on WONDER WOMEN in the same month. I've never been able to get into this title. The character doesn't appeal to me all that much. However, I'm willing to give it another chance. If half of Rucka's excitement for the characters shows up on the page, it should be a winner.

I should wait for trades on both of these books, but I would like to read them before I'm an old man, and I'm afraid DC's policies don't allow for that.

The most annoying announcement of the month goes to THE ABSOLUTE DANGER GIRL, a repackaging of the previous hardcover, except this time it's oversized, like THE ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY. I tell myself I saved $50 with the previous edition and move on.

The much-anticipated Keith Giffen/Colleen Doran production, REIGN OF THE ZODIAC, also starts in August. It's a monumental effort to produce this comic, judging from all the interviews and write-ups I've seen so far. The preview art has been phenomenal. I hope this is the new comic Giffen writes this year that really breaks out. (DOMINION is on its deathbed, while his Dark Horse book hasn't appeared yet. Previews of FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE JUSTICE LEAGEUE have me laughing out loud, but it's just a mini-series and a proven commodity.)

Sam Kieth fans get a double-dose of goodness with both THE MAXX BOOK ONE ($17.95) and EPICURUS THE SAGE ($19.95). The latter includes a new collaboration with William Messner-Loebs. It predates MAXX, so you'll get to see some earlier, more formative Kieth work. The Maxx book reprints the first 6 issues of the title for a price higher than the original cover price, and higher than the cover price of the individual comics would probably be today.

Short-takes: BATGIRL: YEAR ONE concludes on August 13th. Joe Casey's WILDCATS gets another trade collection. PLANETARY returns with its 16th issue. THE HUMAN TARGET gets a new series, with the same creative team as the last graphic novel. SMAX #1 finally arrives for TOP TEN fans who wanted more.

Image: FACTION PARADOX #1 has the weirdest solicitation of any series I've read in a long time. It's just curious enough to make me interested.

"A 'War in Heaven' is raging between time-active cultures, each seeking to usurp control of history. Into this conflict comes Faction Paradox -- a group of time terrorists whose appetite for chaos threatens to subvert the entire timeline. Part story, part history and part puzzle-box, this is a chronicle of protocol and paranoia in a War where the greatest victory of all is to hold on to your own past."

That's a great high concept in there. Lawrence Mills is writing and Jim Calafiore (the EXILES regular guest penciller) is on art for the bi-monthly series.

Steve Uy's new mini-series, FEATHER, starts its six issue bi-monthly campaign at the beginning of August. If it looks half as gorgeous as his Marvel series, EDEN'S TRAIL, it should be a winner. We'll also get to see if he can tell a great story without any editorial interference, the likes of which drove him screaming from Marvel.

If you're a George R. R. Martin fan, Mike Miller would like you to know that he's drawing a book co-written by the man (along with Ben Avery) called HEDGE KNIGHT. It's not my usual thing, but I know there was some worry that George R.R. Martin, of WILD CARDS fame, didn't get his name plastered large enough across the solicitation. So there you have it. George R. R. Martin.

Lots of trades from Image this month, also: INVINCIBLE, HAWAIIAN DICK, GRRRL SCOUTS, PARADIGM. If that's not enough reading for you, Mark Ricketts of NOWHERESVILLE fame is back with a new graphic novel, WHISKEY DICKEL, INTERNATIONAL COW-GIRL.

The highlight for the Image section, though, comes from the new bad boys of Image comics: Top Cow. Remember how it used to be Todd McFarlane pissing everyone off? Now we have Top Cow. They started with the botch job that was FELON. Then you could move onto the current situation with Michael Turner and ASPEN, as legal action there might be postponing the release of that debut title. Most recently, JMS posted on-line that the reason RISING STARS is so long delayed right now is that he's refusing to send them any more scripts until they iron out some issues he's had with them for more than a year now. (See USENET posts 1, 2)

So while you wait for Top Cow's lawyers to figure out all of their problems, you can look forward to their upcoming DVD titled COUNTDOWN TO WEDNESDAY. It promises an insider's look at the comics business, along with tips on how to break in. It features Stan Lee, Marc Silvestri, Mark Waid, and Paul Dini. It's a pretty good lineup. The running time is 90 minutes, but there are special features, all of which are listed on the official website. Final price tag is $20, and advance copies will be available at the San Diego convention, which is where I plan on buying mine.

Marvel: The House of Ideas is pulling out all the stops for August, featuring the debuts of J. Michael Straczynski's SUPREME POWER and Neil Gaiman's 1602 in the same month. The former is drawn by Gary Frank (with no inker listed) and also comes out as a special edition with bonus material crammed in the back. The latter is already crammed with 40 pages of story for $3.50, with a cardstock cover.

Howard Porter returns to comics with a seven issue run on FANTASTIC FOUR. This means that Mark Waid will be carrying the comic like never before. DAREDEVIL #50 has a bumper crop of guest artists including John Romita Jr., Joe Quesada, Lee Weeks, and Gene Colan. Alex Maleev handles the regular art duties in a special regular-sized issue of the series. Gail Simone returns to AGENT X to finish the series with a three-part story arc.

Walter Simonson's run on THE MIGHTY THOR gets a second volume in August. It reprints issues #349-355 and #357-359. In a month of big debuts from Marvel, I think this might prove to be one of its strongest, creatively.


AiT/PlanetLar starts things off with a bang. For those of us who are hardcover collectors and fans of ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE, you couldn't ask for much more than the definitive collection of all three AiT series. The 288 page hardcover will run you a scant $20. There is also a softcover available for $17. These are some great stories, and this is the best way to catch up on them all.

The tremendous GUN FU makes its return in GUN FU: THE LOST CITY. This time around, "hip-hop talking secret agent Cheng Bo Sen" is fighting the Nazis over a legendary missing city. Howard Shum and Joey Mason once again write and draw the story with, one can only hope, the same flair and energy they did up the first book. This is the second in an occasional series of one-shot stories. Don't wait for the trade. It might be years. Just pick up these 32 pages in full color and enjoy. It's worth it.

From Behemoth Books comes the MARVIN THE DRAGON ONE-SHOT. I reviewed it here a couple of weeks ago. It's the children's birthday card that's also a comic. Brilliant idea for a $3.00 book.

CrossGen: I don't read many of the 80s books anymore. There are too many of them, and I've found that they don't spur my interest as much as I thought they would. It's nothing against the creators. It's just turning out not to be my thing. But Code 6 is offering up two more 80s properties that look promising. DRAGON'S LAIR and SPACE ACE are making their way back into your home, and the initial images and creative teams (including Robert Kirkman and Andy Mangels writing) show great promise. I'll give both of them a chance.

SCION #39 promises an all-double-page splash issue with art from Jim Cheung. I have no idea if this is in service to a large fight scene or a recap of what's gone on before, but it sounds exciting. Cheung can draw such scenes. We saw it early on in the first SCION war at the end of the first trade paperback. We've also seen it on and off in the issues as he's drawn various montage pages to illustrate a character's origins or provide a quick recap.

Finally, WAY OF THE RATE gets a second trade, THE DRAGON'S WAKE, collecting the successful second storyline of the series originally presented in issues #7-12. Chuck Dixon writes and Jeff Johnson draws it. Great reading.

Back to everyone else:: On page 296 comes MORE FUND COMICS, a new graphic novel that's an anthology of top name artists and writers contributing new works for the benefit of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Names include Erik Larsen, Frank Cho, George Perez, Michael Avon Oeming, Geoff Johns, Stan Sakai, and a lot more. The total package will be $10 in black and white with at least 128 pages. I talked to organizer John Gallagher at the convention last weekend and he's still holding out the potential to bump it up a few more pages before the book is finalized.

Cyberosia Press is handling the reprint of Steven Grant and Mike Zeck's great mini-series, DAMNED. Running 112 full color pages, it will include an all new ending and run you $20.

The most surprising solicitation of the month goes to Dreamwave and its TRANSFORMERS/G.I. JOE mini-series. It's being drawn by Jae Lee. Somehow, he was the last person I would have ever pegged as drawing this book.

The coolest and most affordable hardcover of the month would appear to be from Fantagraphics, of all people. They're reprinting Barry Windsor-Smith's YOUNG GODS AND FRIENDS serial from his late BWS: STORYTELLER series that never finished. Now you can get all 11 chapters of the story in complete color in the 9 x 12 inch format for only $30. If you've never read a Windsor-Smith drawn book before, this would be a pretty good introduction to this style. His classic CONAN material, in the meantime, is being solicited by Dark Horse this month, also.

The second round of RAIJIN COMICS trades begins in August, including THE FIRST PRESIDENT OF JAPAN, CITY HUNTER, SLAM DUNK, and FIST OF THE BLUE SKY. The first one is the serial I'm enjoying the most, and I'm a little sorry to see it go after next week. The final part of the series is scheduled to arrive in my mailbox then. There's still a lot to cover, too. It's a great series, and I'll be talking about the first trade paperback a little bit in Tuesday's column.

If you feel like stepping out on a branch this summer and don't know which book to go with, KOMIKWERKS is a volume published by the company of the same name. It's a 120 page black and white book featuring new short stories from the likes of Danny Miki, Andy Kuhn, Matt Haley, Will Meugniot, and more. It's $10.

Rick Geary has a new volume of Victorian Murder out this summer, and with any luck it'll print early in time for San Diego, where he's always found in Artist's Alley. Volume 6 is BEST OF CHICAGO, a $16 hardcover in black and white that covers the first mass murderer in the late 19th century. It's published by NBM.

Oni is running with a new original graphic novel written and drawn by Steve Rolston, he of QUEEN AND COUNTRY and POUNDED fame. It's called ONE BAD DAY, and it's about a woman who gets caught in the middle of some bad things and has to run around trying to ease her way out of them all. At 120 pages in length, it's a bargain for $10.

J. Torres and Mike Norton return, in the meantime, to bring back JASON AND THE ARGOBOTS, this time in an original graphic novel of 120 pages. It will cost you $12, no doubt because books that might appeal to children never sell as well as those aimed at adults in this market.

Sky Dog Press is returning to the Buzzboy well with BUZZBOY VOLUME 2: MONSTERS, DREAMS, and MILKSHAKES. This time, 144 more black and white pages run $12, featuring a cover by the great Neil Vokes and Gene Ha.

SLINGS AND ARROWS returns for a revised edition of its mammoth comics index. I picked up the original edition in San Diego last summer for half price. It would be worth the cost even at cover price, though. This puppy has an incredible index to books published in the past 50 years, along with opinionated overview and review pieces to tons of series. It's an amazing reference work for any fan. The revised edition hits 800 pages and costs $40.

Finally, WAHOO MORRIS is one of the great and sadly overlooked gems of the indie scene from the past five years. Even an attempt to move the franchise to Image failed to spark interest, and Craig Taillefer's little story of a rock band with a potential occult edge sadly stalled out. Well, he's back with the fourth issue, plus an offer for the original three issues at $8. It's a charming series that's well done and deserves more attention.

That's it for August 2003. We'll be back in roughly four weeks for the comics of September 2003. Will the comics still be as good when the major cons have come and gone, and school is back in session? We'll see.

Various and Sundry has been updated all week with thoughts on my five year college reunion, this week's DVD releases, DVD packaging, building your own TiVo, THE FAMILY GUY getting a nod for a second collection, and more.

Current convention schedule for the rest of 2003: San Diego and Chicago. There's even a chance I might show up for the New York City convention that Brian Bendis is going to attend. The temptation to get all my hardcovers signed by him and the artists of the books might be too great to pass up.

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.

Nearly 500 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns or so are still available at the Original Pipeline page.

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