SPINES IN APRIL
Once again this month, I'm focusing on those mysterious books with spines that seem to be all the rage. Over the course of the next couple thousand words, I'll attempt to highlight a couple dozen collected editions that I'm taking a serious look at for my pre-order list.
As always, I encourage you to pick up a copy of PREVIEWS for yourself and take an exhausting look through it. It's a little bit of short term pain that's worth it in the long run.
There's more about PREVIEWS in this week's Pipeline Podcast, as well.
This list is roughly in order by company. This isn't a Top 24 list or anything like that.
POWERS Volume 8: LEGENDS (Marvel, $20) includes the first issues of the new Icon series, plus the original short story from WIZARD that was used to promote it while it was still an Image book. More interestingly, Brian Bendis recently announced on Fanboy Radio that there's a POWERS hardcover in the works, including the first 11 issues of the original Image series, and plenty of extras.
AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES (Marvel, $25) is being collected in hardcover. I knew this series from Joe Casey and Scott Kolins would be collected quickly after its biweekly run, but I never would have guessed a hardcover was in the works for it. I can't wait to see Kolins art at a larger size. It's a 192 page book, set during the Avengers' first year.
I just wish I could convince DC to consider a FLASH: THE ABSOLUTE EDITION for Geoff Johns and Kolins' work on that series. A boy can dream, can't he?
SUPREME POWER Volume 1 (Marvel, $30) gets the hardcover treatment for the entire first year. This is another book I'm very happy to see. Having fallen behind on the monthly issues, I finally just dropped the series all together to wait for a collection. When word leaked out last year that this book was in the works, I passed on the trade paperbacks. Now I'll be getting the first 13 issues of the series along with plenty of behind the scenes extras and the two issues of THE AVENGERS that the Squadron Supreme originally premiered in, #85-86. That's an impressive 15 comic books in hardcover for $30. Nice job.
WOLVERINE: ENEMY OF THE STATE (Marvel, $20) is the first volume collecting Mark Millar's run on the series with John Romita Jr. With this, Marvel debuts what it's calling the "Marvel Premiere Edition" format. Basically, they're imitating one of DC's worst ideas by packaging short runs in hardcover format. There's no reason to collect the Jim Lee run on BATMAN in two thin six issue collections. Ditto his SUPERMAN run. Is anyone really going to buy one and not the other? And "rushing out" the first collection isn't going to help sales of the last half of the run at all, particularly in the case of SUPERMAN where it keeps getting delayed. It's strictly a money grab. You could get the entire 12 issues in one thick volume for $30. Instead, they want you to pay $20 for each of two six-issue volumes. Same stuff, $10 extra. I'm all for this smaller format to collect six issue mini-series. For anything past that, though, I wish they'd stay with the meatier chunks of story for collection.
Other Marvel trades worth considering in April: BLACK WIDOW: HOMECOMING ($15) features art from Bill Sienkiewicz. BULLSEYE: GREATEST HITS ($14) fell under the radar a bit, even with art by Steve Dillon. It was a surprisingly good read. SHE-HULK: SUPERHUMAN LAW ($15) is the second collection of Dan Slott's rejuvenated green giantess' adventures. ALPHA FLIGHT: WAXING POETIC ($15) wraps up Scott Lobdell's ill-fated comedic spin on the Canadian superheroes.
STEVE RUDE'S THE MOTH (Dark Horse, $18) gets the trade paperback treatment to collect the -- well, I have no idea how many issues this collects. It's 168 color pages and it's an advanced solicitation for the end of May. It's at the 7 x 10 inch format. Sadly, the solicitation text doesn't indicate anything past that. If you can't wait for the fall NEXUS collections, this will have to sate your thirst. I haven't read it yet, so don't consider this an endorsement of the story, just a general endorsement of Rude's art. The story takes place in a carnival freak show, which isn't my usual cup of tea.
FREAKS OF THE HEARTLAND TPB (Dark Horse, $18) is 144 pages of Steve Niles' most approachable book for non horror fans, with nice art from Greg Ruth. I've only read the first half of this story, but did enjoy that much. I hope the second half lives up to that. This one has six issues' worth of storyline in it, which means that THE MOTH collection is probably seven issues.
DARK HORSE BOOK OF THE DEAD (Guess Who?, $15) is the latest hardcover in their series to bring Mike Mignola out of retirement once a year or so, plus give Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson a chance to work together. If you liked the books of Witchcraft and Hauntings, this should be right up your alley. Guy Davis also contributes art to this volume, among others.
DC: THE NEW FRONTIER (DC, $20) gets a second volume to round out Darwyn Cooke's masterpiece. I'm still holding out hope for some ultra-thick hardcover compilation. Hmmm, ABSOLUTE NEW FRONTIER sounds nice, doesn't it? I know that's a WildStorm format, but I think it's time DC started stealing format ideas, and not just creative talent, from La Jolla.
THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN VOLUME 2: THE ABSOLUTE EDITION (DC, $75) is the gem of the month, though. Collecting Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's second mini-series, this slipcased two volume very large oversized edition is the best way to read the book. Each of the two hardcover books measures -- well, a very large size. WildStorm fails to include the exact measurements here, but if you've seen any of the previous "Absolute" editions, you know it's Very Very Large. The first volume is the story, while the second volume is the complete Alan Moore scripts. These 448 pages come at a bit of a price, but preordering through an online discounter that makes it palatable. That price also means an advance advance solicitation. In this case, the set isn't due out until June 29th. It should, however, be easy on the eyes.
VERTIGO: FIRST TASTE is a trade paperback on the one end of the pricing spectrum. For only $5, you'll get a collection of Vertigo first issues for Y: THE LAST MAN, 100 BULLETS, THE BOKS OF MAGICK: LIFE DURING WARTIME, SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING (Alan Moore's legendary run on the title, at least), TRANSMETROPOLITAN, and DEATH: THE HIGH COST OF LIVING. That's 160 (168, depending on which part of the solicitation you believe) pages for a meager $5. It's an impressive package. I've read five of those six, and would easily recommend four of those stories. The other two might be up your alley, but they weren't for me. If you've read Pipeline at all in the past three years, it should be easy to figure out which are which. Still, it's worth a risk or an experimentation at that price. There's no indication for what size this is printed in. It might be at manga size, for all I know.
THE WALKING DEAD, VOLUME 3: SAFETY BEHIND BARS (Image, $13) continues the extremely quick collection policy of the Robert Kirkman/Charlie Adlard zombie series. Tony Moore is still on board to do covers. It's probably a good idea to keep the books coming while they're selling. Maintaining momentum is a good thing. Given the way the sales on the title have increased over the months, they obviously know a little about what they're doing. This collection includes issues #13-18, which explains the prison reference in the title. At $13, it's a good black and white value.
ULTRA: SEVEN DAYS (Image, $18) collects the popular and addicting eight-issue mini-series from the Luna Bros. Since issue six just came out, this will be a very quick turnaround for the collection. You can grab the superheroic SEX AND THE CITY story in either trade format for $18 or hardcover signed and numbered format for $40. Someone figured out the sweet spot for profitability in the S&N edition on these collections. They're popping up all over the place this month, and not from Dynamic Forces. (They're the ones who still haven't figured out the AMERICAN FLAGG collections that were promised last year through Image.)
RISING STARS HARDCOVER (Image, $70) will be a massive volume, complete with all 24 issues of the Top Cow series by J. Michael Straczynski. That should be heavy enough to increase its force of gravity and pull all surrounding books into it, like some giant blackhole. I'm torn, though. I own all the collections of JMS' works, and this series genuinely interests me. The big problem is that the art was so horrific for the better part of the first year and a half that I don't want to be bothered with it again. Brent Anderson saves the artistic look with the last few issues, but the damage had already been done. If there's a chance that they can, at the very least, correct the mud that was the coloring in the first year, then I might consider shelling out for the 624-page hardcover. A slipcased limited edition is available for $100, but there's only 100 copies of that being made.
Also, as I recall, there were a couple of short stories early on that didn't appear in the regular series. Wasn't there a RISING STARS #0 collecting those? If this book isn't complete with all of those pages, I really won't bother with it. Not at that price.
And isn't it funny that collected editions of both SUPREME POWER and RISING STARS are solicited in the same month?
DAVE SIM COLLECTED LETTERS 2004 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, $30) is Sim's latest insane idea. It's so insane that only I and a few others are bound to love it. Sim is putting together a 580-page letters column as an original trade paperback. This will seriously be the Ultimate Letters Column, as Sim collects the mail that's piled up in the last three years, including those that have come since CEREBUS #300. Over the years, CEREBUS' letters column was something of legend. Smaller collections of it have been made available in the past, collecting Sim's writings on publishing a comic. But this is a truly massive tome.
580 pages. Of Letters. For $30. It includes an index of all the letter writers. Now I really wish I had written something to him. Ah, well.
I'm hoping this is followed up with DAVE SIM COLLECTED LETTERING. A boy can dream, but he won't always be rewarded on the sillier ones.
24 HOUR COMICS ALL STARS (About Comics, $13) is yet another paperback from Nat Gertler's publishing house that's devoted to Scott McCloud's 24 Hour Comics challenge. This time, he's collecting 24 Hour Comics completed by professionals such as McCloud, Sean McKeever, Dave Sim, Tone Rodriguez, and Paul Smith. The 240 pages are in black and white. Has anyone ever done a complete full color 24 Hour Comics by himself or herself?
THE TOURIST (AiT/PlanetLar, $13) is the next original graphic novel from Brian Wood. Drawn this time by Toby Cypress, it tells the story of working stiffs, oil rigs, the drug trade, small town culture, and more. There's a lot in the description surrounding it.
SURVIVING GRADY (AiT/PlanetLar, $8) is the real life chronicle of the 2004 Boston Red Sox season as documented by two of their fans, Tim McCarney and Tom Deady. Expect pathos. Expect a healthy dose of humor. Expect lots of Yankees-baiting. Expect them not to mention that their precious team is still a couple dozen world championships away from their heated rivals' record. But we humor them, anyway. This one is a prose book, not comics.
ZOMBIE TALES (Atomeka, $7) is the book for you if you're not sick of zombies by now. This slim 48 page volume includes contributions from Keith Giffen (one story written, one story drawn), Ron Lim, Andy Kuhn, Joe Abraham, John (TV's GLOBAL FREQUENCY) Rogers, and more. Wrap it up in a Dave Johnson cover and marinate to your heart's content.
IRON WOK JAN Volume 12 ("DR Master" nee "Comics One," $10) survives the reorganization of its publisher to see another day. For this, we should all give thanks.
THE COMPLETE PEANUTS VOLUME 3 (Fantagraphics, $29) has nothing new I can say about it. I just know if I don't mention it explicitly, I'll be getting e-mails. This is my preemptive strike. It has more great comics between two hard covers from Sparky's earliest days drawing the kids. Matt Groening does introductory honors this time around.
BLACKSAD Volume 3 (iBooks, $13) appears to be a sketchbook. And we again have a problem with conflicting information. The ad says it's 80 pages and $15, while the solicitation text says $13 for 96. While I'd much prefer the latter option, this is one that's a Must Buy in either case. If you haven't read the two volumes so far, you're missing a real treat. (They're both still available through Diamond.) Imported from Spain, BLACKSAD is a serious anthropomorphic private eye story that holds true to its noir story with stunning art from Juanjo Guarnido.
If you're not yet convinced that Europe is the place to go for the next wave of material to be translated, check out this article and tell me you don't want to go out tomorrow and start learning French.
NEIL GAIMAN'S LADY JUSTICE Volume 1 (iBooks, $19) proves that if you wait long enough, just about everything in the past twenty years of comics will be reprinted. I guess I should start putting out my wild wish list for future compilations. Shall we start with some of the Ultraverse titles? There's 176 pages in this one, with a new eight page story.
We all now anxiously await the reminder of Isaac Asimov's I-BOTS.
THE COMPLETE JON SABLE: FREELANCE, Volume 1 (IDW, $25 TPB, $50 HC S&N) is the latest entry in the growing field of 80s classic reprints. It's 2005 and a whole new audience is being introduced to GRIMJACK, JON SABLE, AMERICAN FLAGG, and NEXUS. Who'da thunk it? Unlike the rest of the First Comics properties, I've actually read some of JON SABLE. I liked what I saw, so I look forward to seeing more.
THE LEGEND OF GRIMJACK, Volume 2 (IDW, $20) collects the next seven issues of Ostrander and Truman's classic series.
BONEYARD Volume 4 (NBM, $10) proves just how fast time flies. I can't believe it's time for another four issue collection of Richard Moore's humorous monster series. This is issues #12-16 put together.
OJO (Oni, $15) reprints Sam Keith's recently concluded black and white mini-series. This is a book I buy solely on the strength of its creator. I knew I'd be waiting for this trade from the start, to the point where I never read the solicitation text and couldn't begin to tell you what this thing is about.
The question now is how will Keith's occasionally painterly style hold up to the rigors of gray tones? And is the story as far out and as fun as his other recent works? I don't know yet, but I'm willing to give him a chance.
ODD NUMBERS (Gagne International, $9) is the latest collection of oddball images from the fantastically warped mind of Michele Gagne. If you liked those twisted rabbits, strange alien worlds, and cute lost animals that he's given us before, I see no reason to bail out on him now. It's a 32 page hardcover.
SKETCHES BY SILVER (no publisher listed, but look on page 392, $15) is the sketchbook of animator Stephen Silver. His $40 THE ART OF SILVER hardcover has seen much critical acclaim across the web and from fellow animators. Those of us who didn't pick that one up will get a cheaper chance with SKETCHES to sample the artwork of a man whose worked on everything from CLERKS: THE ANIMATED SERIES to KIM POSSIBLE.
And that about wraps it up for April. Don't forget to check out the podcast for a few leftover thoughts. I'll be back on Tuesday with more reviews and good clean fun. Four out of five dentists agree: Reading Pipeline plays a valuable part in fighting tooth decay.
The Various and Sundry DVD Podcast continues to look at the week's DVD releases, every Sunday afternoon. Those of you with a podcasting program can subscribe to it right here.
Over at Various and Sundry this week: More 1000 word recaps of AMERICAN IDOL audition episodes, accessorizing your Mac mini, the 101 dumbest moments in business last year, new DVD releases, and more.
All political discussions have been pushed off to one neat side at VandS Politics.
More than 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 also still available at the Original Pipeline page. I haven't had that account in years, but they've yet to delete the page space. Bizarre.