Pipeline Previews - December 2003


[Previews]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.

In an attempt this month to narrow down the field of comics to look forward to, I'm only going to highlight the trade paperbacks, original graphic novels, or hardcover presentations that I find interesting. Since that means skipping over a lot of great single issues, one shots, and new mini-series, I'd encourage you to post your picks on the message board.

We start at Dark Horse. It may feel like only a couple of months since the last volume came out, but STAR WARS TALES is up to its fourth reprint volume in December. This time, issues #13 through #16 are featured, with works by the likes of Stan Sakai, Fabian Nicieza, Jerome Opena, Jason Hall, Jimmy Palmiotti, Scott Lobdell, Paco Medina, Paul Lee, and more. STAR WARS TALES is, very quietly, one of the strongest anthology series in some time for comics. This edition will run you $20 for 224 full color pages. (Admittedly, the title page with all that little Library of Congress information on it might not feature any colors, but the thought is there.)

Dark Horse also releases a third volume of Barry Windsor Smith's CONAN tales in THE CHRONICLES OF CONAN, a 156 page full color trade with stories from Roy Thomas, and additional art by the late great Gil Kane. The first volume of BWS' work hit shops this week.

It looks like DC is expanding into the pages of the catalog that Marvel once filled. They have all sorts of multi-page previews of their titles in the catalog this month.

If you haven't already given up hope of reading it in the cheapest possible form, THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN! is finally released in a trade paperback format in time for Christmas. Only $20.

STARMAN fans will be thrilled to see another collection of that great series, STARS MY DESTINATION, coming out for $15. I would say that DC was trying to get the whole series reprinted in time for the television series, but development on the show was put "indefinitely on hold" this summer.

SLEEPER: OUT IN THE COLD collects the first six issues of Ed Brubaker's critically acclaimed series from WildStorm's mature readers imprint, Eye Of The Storm. I don't think that I've ever reviewed the series in this column. It's one of those series that I enjoy, but have never been able to express why in words. Some series cause a brainlock like that for me. (In its day, Peter David's THE INCREDIBLE HULK was the one series I don't think I ever wrote a letter to. I just didn't have anything to say, even though it was on my short list of favorite series at the time.)

I recently read the first six issues of SLEEPER in one sitting, and think that's the way the series was meant to be read. I've read the next couple of issues as they've come out, but there's a bit of a lapse in my appreciation for the series without having all the continuity straight in my head in advance. So pick up this trade paperback. It's the perfect way to read a fantastic series that's mature and adult without resorting to meaningless sex, violence, and language. Yes, that's all in here, but for a dang good reason every time. Fans of Alan Moore's WILDCATS run will be particularly pleased to see Tao return here, in his usual diabolical form. Watching series star Holden Carver run up against him proves to be quite fun reading. One possible warning: The first issue might seem slightly stilted and impenetrable. If so, put your head down and plow through it. It'll all make sense as you read further, and your determination will reap large rewards.

America's Best Comics gets the prize for oddest trade paperback of the month with AMERICA'S BEST COMICS TP. It combines the line's 64 PAGE GIANT issue along with the sketchbook volume and THE MANY WORLDS OF TESLA STRONG for $18. I would have loved to see this volume in the standard hardcover format, myself. I get the feeling that there was still some demand for these titles after the initial print runs ran out. Thus, this new printing and format. It's all great reading for you dedicated ABC fans, in case you missed it the first time. Since I have all those original issues, I'm not going to add this to my ABC shelf. I'm sticking with hardcover volumes.

I'm making a couple exceptions to this columns All-Trade rule. The first is to highlight Vertigo's upcoming one shot, VERTICAL. It's written by Steven Seagle and drawn by Mike Allred and Phillip Bond. The story is about a thrill-seeker who jumps off of tall buildings. The reason it's grabbed my interest is the formatting choice. I love odd formats like this: the book is three inches wide and ten inches tall. That's about half the width of a standard comic, and makes telling the story an interesting challenge. With the "Marvelscope" format currently on ice, this is the most exciting formatting choice offered by the Big Two this year. The book is 64 pages for $5.

Marvel leaps to the head of the class for curious upscale collection with AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: 500 COVERS. It's a two volume hardcover slipcase edition reprinting all 500 covers of Marvel's venerable series. This is memorable art from an amazing array of artists, including Ditko, Romita, Zeck, McFarlane, Larsen, Bagley, Campbell, and dozens more. There'll be covers in here you've probably never seen, long forgot about, or long cherished. At $75, though, you'll have to decide for yourself how necessary a part of your collection this is.

ULTIMATE X-MEN gets a third hardcover collection to match it up with ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN's lineup. This one features an introduction written by Sir Ian McKellen, and art by David Finch, Chris Bachalo (with ULTIMATE WAR collected in this volume), and Adam Kubert.

We're also getting trade paperbacks of the first six issues of WOLVERINE, NEW MUTANTS, INHUMANS, and SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN. It has me seriously questioning more of my comics purchases. I might just switch to trades on three of those four series. (The fourth, INHUMANS, I'm not reading yet but will probably give a chance on the trade for, since I've heard many good things about it.)

I direct you now to Rob Worley's excellent blog for some thoughts on the Marvel "Motivations" lithographs.

I'm a bit ticked off at Wizard this month. They're offering their BEST OF X-MEN hardcover book through Diamond. I jumped at the chance to order a copy through Wizard's special coupon bound into WIZARD #0. If I had known it would have been available in the same form and at the same price in PREVIEWS, I would not have rushed to cut them a check for the same item plus postage. I would have had the chance to order it at my local retailer without paying postage, or via my discounted rate through my mail order retailer. I'll remember this for the next time WIZARD offers a "special deal." Weasels.

In the one month that I spotlight collection editions, of course, AiT/PlanetLar changes its program and solicits two 32 page floppies and only one of its usual original graphic novels. That graphic novel is a political satire from someone whose political leanings are far from mine. You don't make this easy for me, do you, Larry?

Moving on, then:

Amaze Ink has the release of the month, as far as I'm concerned. HALO AND SPROCKET, VOLUME 1: WELCOME TO HUMANITY collects the four issues of Kerry Callen's terrific comedic series. Those of you who complained to me in the past that they had missed the first issue and were waiting for the trade now have no excuse. This hilarious look at humanity from the point of view of an angel and a robot will now be completely available in one affordable package. It's only $13. There are also pin-ups, sketchbook pages, and the Free Comic Book Day short story in here. I can't recommend this one enough to people looking for funny short stories with a clean cartoony look.

Here's the second big exception I'm making to this month's all-trades review: BONE #55 wraps up the saga of the Bone cousins that started somewhere around the same time I started reading comics. It's one of the true independent success stories of my time, and one of the first independent comics I can remember reading. Jeff Smith made the successful transition from animation artist to comic creator, with enough plaudits to last a lifetime. When this thing is done, there will be a handsome set of hardcovers lining many bookcases for decades to come to collect this modern mythology. While I have to admit that I fell out of touch with the story around the time the second third of the story ended, I'm very much looking forward to racing through the collected editions to read the whole thing sometime in the next couple of years. Smith's smooth brush stroke perfectly complements his ability to see-saw back and forth between serious mythical storytelling and lighter humorous tales, such as the legendary Great Cow Race.

CrossGen is finally entering the hardcover market, but it's with a bit of question mark. Their first hardcover is called WARRIOR MEN & MYTHIC WOMEN. It's an art book collecting every CrossGen cover ever run, up to some uncertain point. There are a couple of flag this raises. The first is that the book is 192 pages, but collects 500 covers. While the logos and text will be removed to show the full images, they're going to have to be shrunk down to fit at least two covers per page. The second red flag is whether the book will ever see print. Until the current CrossGen reorganization is finished and announcements have been made, I'm not placing any bets. I'd like to support the idea of a hardcover for CrossGen, but I'd rather have something along the lines of what Marvel is doing - oversized and collecting a year's worth of stories.

GeekPunk is releasing the first collection of its series, SUPER HERO HAPPY HOUR. The new issue came out this week, featuring a story by Gail Simone with art by Cal Slayton. I've only read one issue of the series so far, but I was impressed by it. It's the comedic tales of super heroes after hours. You know how comics love to feature bars packed with super powered heroes and villains? SHHH takes it to the next step, setting a whole series up as a series of bar room conversations. It has a deft sense of humor and the manic energy of creators who are obviously having fun with their work.

The problem is that there's not much to each issue. They're quick reads. They're funny, but they're not jam packed with jokes. The cartoony art is questionable at times, but the story carries that along. A trade paperback is probably what this series needs. It shouldn't be a problem to breeze through the entire four issue volume in one sitting. It's up to you to decide if the $15 price tag is worth the chance.

iBooks has Alex Ross' first professional work, with a reprint of the TERMINATOR: THE BURNING EARTH mini-series. $18 buys you the 128 page full color trade. Not a bad deal for Ross completists.

KYLE BAKER PRESENTS is a self-published book by the cartoonists featuring 128 new pages of gags and stories. The centerpiece is a 40 page autobiographical tale. For only $15, it's a steal. (The listing is on page 328, if you're trying to keep up here.)

Finally, if you're looking for something from Neal Adams, VANGUARD is printing up NEAL ADAMS' MONSTERS, a graphic novel that collects a serial he once did for an anthology called ECHO OF FUTURE PAST. This 72 page book features Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, and a werewolf. It was rendered on extra large paper and has been digitally remastered and recolored. The regular hardcover edition is $25. A special signed HC is also available for $40.

That's it for December 2003. I'll be back in roughly four weeks for the start of 2004's releases.

In the meantime, come back here on Tuesdays for Pipeline Commentary and Review.

Various and Sundry has been updated all week with a review of BULLETPROOF MONK, the location of THE FAR SIDE's Gary Larson, news of THE AMAZING RACE's renewal, a web version of Dance Dance Revolution, and more.

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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