FEBRUARY IS ONLY TWO MONTHS AWAY
Welcome back to Pipeline Previews. As with most every month, this is my attempt to foresee the future, predict comics' next big thing, question authority, and recommend some reading material based on a cover image and 100 words of p.r. department hype.
It's a very precarious line to walk, and I thank you for your indulgence. 'Tis the holiday season, after all.
As always, I highly recommend picking up a copy of the latest PREVIEWS phonebook and flipping furiously through it for a look at what might pique your interest. I, of course, also welcome your comments, thoughts, and recommendations on the Pipeline Message Board thread that accompanies this column.
Let's go from front to back this month:
Dark Horse: While Marvel has hired half of CrossGen's artistic staff for its own, Ron Marz is taking the other half to Dark Horse with him. First, we had SAMURAI: HEAVEN AND EARTH with art from Luke Ross and colors by Jason Keith. Starting in February, we have a new fantasy mini-series, DRAGON FRONTIER, with art from Jeff Johnson (WAY OF THE RAT) and coloring also by Keith.
I wonder if Dark horse will ever do an on-going monthly series again? Anyone who wants to complain about Marvel and DC structuring everything for trades should go ape over Dark Horse, which often has series that don't make it past their initial trade. See just about the entire Rocket Comics line. Oddly enough, GO BOY 7 had its second trade show up on store shelves this week.
If it's not STAR WARS, don't count on those second volumes of anything.
BMWFILMS yadda yadda yadda THE HIRE#4 has a story from Kurt Busiek and CBR's own Steven Grant. Art is by LONE WOLF 2100's Francisco Ruiz Velasco.
The book of the month from Dark Horse, though, is Rick Geary's new one, CRAVAN. Co-written by Mark Richardson, this is available in the usual Geary hardcover format 6x9 inches. Here's the solicitation text for it. Tell me this doesn't sound interesting:
This is a true story about the most interesting person you've never heard of: Arthur Cravan, major figure in pre-WWI cutting-edge art circles, was among the greatest mysterious figures of the Twentieth Century. A self-confessed thief, forger, and con-artist, he used a roster of assumed names and false identities. He was known, at various times, as a novelist, poet, painter, art critic, lecturer, publisher, and the lightweight boxing champion of France. Always a rebellious, restless spirit, this dedicated rule-breaker was a political radical whose friendship with Leon Trotsky earned him the surveillance of the U.S. government-even through his immigration to Mexico with his wife, the poet Mina Loy. In 1918, at the age of thirty-one, the fascinating physical giant vanished without a trace, and-despite several supposed sightings over the years-was never seen again. Is it possible that he became the mysterious, reclusive novelist B. Traven, who wrote The Treasure of the Sierra Madre?
Rick Geary is the kind of man who makes Victorian era serial murderers into fascinating figures with a deft twist of the cartooning pen. I can't wait to see what he does with this 'character.'
DC: It gets easier and easier for me to breeze through these listings after last week's purge. I can skip the Batman and Superman listings all together. Did you realize that there are EIGHT pages devoted to the Batman and Superman families of titles? GOTHAM CENTRAL and NIGHTWING are the only regular monthly reads in there for me anymore. And after Dixon/Beatty's "Year One" run on NIGHTWING, that might just be over, too.
I also read Jeph Loeb's SUPERMAN/BATMAN series as the hardcovers come out. The second one is out in February. This is the one featuring Mike Turner's Supergirl with the caved-in stomach.
BIRDS OF PREY is now listed as a DCU title, and not a Batman title. See? They told you that WAR GAMES was going to shake up the DCU!
THE FLASH: IGNITION trade will collect issues #201-206. I haven't kept up with the series since somewhere in the middle of this storyline. That's why it was purged. But it's nice to know DC is still collecting it if I change my mind down the line.
JLA CLASSIFIED #4 begins the long-awaited "I Can't Believe Its Not the Justice League" story from Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis/Kevin Maguire/Joe Rubinstein. This time around, a "former foe" opens up a bar next to the JL's strip mall headquarters. How beautiful is that? I need to go re-re-read the first mini-series in preparation.
PLASTIC MAN is now a bi-monthly series. I'm guessing that the sales on the trade were good, but the monthly issue's sales are still in the dumpster. DC wants to keep Kyle Baker around, and Baker seems to be an artist who attracts the trade buyers more than any other currently working cartoonist. His single issues just don't sell. All his most memorable works went straight to graphic novel format.
The cover to RICHARD DRAGON #10 features the title character impaled on a spear and held aloft in the air by a villainous creature. The cover next to it on page 79 features Wonder Woman holding up a decapitated head. Astonishingly, the cover to JUSTICE LEAGUE ELITE contains no massive head trauma this month. There is, however, some blood.
Through 2000 A.D., DC is offering up SKIZZ, a trade paperback collecting Alan Moore and Jim Baikie's early sci-fi work. It's 104 black and white pages for $15. I'm guessing it'll look nice on the bookshelf next to the complete HALO JONES and D.R. & QUINCH collections.
LEGEND #1 is the start of a new four-issue prestige format mini-series by Howard Chaykin and Russ Heath. The preview art looks really cool, but I'll wait for a trade paperback. If one doesn't happen, I won't miss it.
I think Chaykin is like Baker though -- guaranteed trade paperbacks from DC.
Sam Kieth's THE MAXX reaches volume 4, which includes the reboot of the series, scripted by Alan Moore. Correct me if I'm wrong -- and I know how you all love to do that -- but there should only be one more collection after this.
PROMETHEA #32 is the final issue of the series. The 32 page no ad finale is yours for $3.95. Or, if you have money to burn, there's a deluxe edition of the issue that's very tempting. The final issue has pages that, when rearranged and taped together, form a couple of giant poster images. The deluxe edition of this issue is two posters with the entire comic book on it, plus a new 48-page book collecting all the covers of the series. That's worth $25 to me. However, WildStorm goes one step further and has Moore and Williams sign the book. Now, it's a $50 price point. They had me at "saddle-stitched." They lost me at "signed by."
Steve Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen's excellent original graphic novel, IT'S A BIRD, is available in softcover on February 9th. If you were waiting for the cheaper version to come out to read it, you no longer have any excuse. Pre-order this today.
Image Comics: FREAK SHOW is a new 64 page novella from Bruce Jones and Bernie Wrightson. Traveling freak shows, carnival acts, and gypsies are generally things that don't interest me in comics. I didn't find much glee in Steve Rude's THE MOTH, which went the carnival/freak route. I probably wouldn't enjoy CARNIVALE if I had HBO, either. I will give this one a flip test, though, if I see it on the stands. It's Bernie Wrightson, after all. Final price is just about $13.
Paul Grist's KANE has a fifth volume in February with a sixth planned for September. This is a series that's easy to read and entertaining as all get out. (How's that for a cover blurb? Ugh) I just need to remind myself to pick it up as it comes out.
NOBLE CAUSES #8 features the return of Venture, last seen in a short-lived series launched by Jay Faerber with Jamal Igle. Keep your fingers crossed that the Venture hex doesn't live on, cursing this issue with muddy printing.
Franchesco is drawing a SHE-DRAGON one shot that Erik Larsen is writing. The $6 volume runs 48 pages and promises to be a visual spectacular. I'm sure the cover image is already poking out the eyes of people all across comics shops in this country today. This, however, is a bit of excessive anatomy that works. It's purposefully and consciously over the top. SHE-DRAGON is, after all, a book that features a villain named "Killmore the Cruel." That's just brilliant wordplay. As a bonus, some of Larsen's layouts for the story will be including.
SPAWN #143 is resolicited. Insert your own joke here.
Todd Nauck is collecting his original mini-series as WILDGUARD: CASTING CALL. The six issues in full color are solicited for $18. I hope it sells, because Nauck has created a fun little book here.
Top Cow wants you to buy HUNTER-KILLER #1. They also want you to know that the collection for the series is already scheduled for late 2005. Choose your format accordingly. The #0 issue came out this week if you want a teaser.
Ron Marz, who is writing about a dozen books a month since his departure from CrossGen, has a special DARKNESS: BLACK SAILS one shot. It's 32 pages for $3, but I mention it here because (A) it has pirates and (B) it features the painted artwork of long-thought-lost Keu Cha. Cha is one of the best talents to come out of Silvestri's clone factory, illustrating early RISING STARS issues and some WITCHBLADE books at one point. (Who at Top Cow hasn't drawn an issue of WITCHBLADE in their career?)
More interesting for us "old school Image fanboys" is the STRYKEFORCE TPB, which collects not just the recent four issue mini-series from Jay Faerber and Tyler Kirkham, but also the original Marc Silvestri/Brandon Peterson issues from Image's earliest days. It does not, obviously, collect the later issues of the earlier work that were written by Steve Gerber and drawn by the likes of Billy Tan, Michael Turner, Chance Wolf, et. al. No fooling.
Marvel Comics: I've lost their booklet again. Let that be a lesson to Marvel: In the mess that is my comics collection currently, separating out your listings to their own comic book sized pamphlet is a sure way to lose my attention. Instead, I'll look at the Diamond order form that I've miraculously located and pull out some highlights for you:
Frank Cho's SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL premieres, and now not completely naked. The first issue is $3.50. I think I'll wait for the hardcover, thanks.
ULTIMATE X-MEN has its fourth hardcover volume, including the all-too-brief scripting run of Brian Bendis.
WHAT IF is collected in February, mere weeks after the books hit shelves. And since they were nice enough to solicit it before the single issues wind up on your local comic shop shelves, you can now wait for the trade with a great deal of certainty.
After that, it's five pages of backlisted items. Good luck sorting through those.
Ait/PlanetLar collects SCURVY DOGS into one "massive" 160 page tome for just $12.95. It's well worth that price for the good laughs of Andrew Boyd and Ryan Yount's eye-patched yackfest. If, of course, you'd prefer the original pristine single issues, those are also resolicited for $3 a pop. With five issues out there, though, it'll be a couple bucks more expensive to go that route. But when Mark Millar's Comics Comeback of 2006 hits, they'll just be that much more valuable, right?
LOOK! IT'S AN ACTUAL REVIEW!
From Alternative Comics comes a sweet one-shot called STRANGE DAY. I'm fortunate enough to have read this one already. From Damon Hurd and Tatiana Gill, the story tells of two The Cure fans who skip school to hit the record store as it opens for the new album. Sounds like it should be an Oni Press book, doesn't it?
The two wind up spending the day together and a romance (or mere friendship?) inevitably blossoms. Thankfully, it's not nearly that shallow, as underlying issues come into play. Some might call them a tad melodramatic, but it never resorts to car chases or buildings exploding, so I'll give it to them.
The art is very alt-indy, with thick black brush lines all over the place. It's still very easy to read and enjoyable once you fall into its rhythms.
The 48-page story is a bit of a quick read, but at $3.95 it's a good deal in this market. If you enjoy any of Oni's monthly output, you'll likely enjoy this one. If you liked MY UNCLE JEFF, you'll want to keep an eye out for this, also, though it's a fair bit lighter in tone. Preview pages can be found on Hurd's site.
BACK TO THE PREVIEWS RUNDOWN
ComicsOne.com solicits IRON WOK JAN #12 on page 242, hopefully heading off those pesky financial rumors for two more months. If ComicsOne.com fails, this industry will be very much poorer, if only for the loss of IWJ. If they do need a quick cash infusion, I would suggest pumping out IWJ on a weekly basis in lieu of everything else. It's the only one of their titles I ever see anyone talking about.
Fantagraphics: Thankfully, Dirk Deppey continues to sacrifice THE COMICS JOURNAL's hard-earned alt-comix credibility, dragging the magazine's good extreme independent name so far down into the mud as to do a cover interview with Brian Michael Bendis, the author of NEW AVENGERS, ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, and DAREDEVIL. Does it get any more mainstream and hacked-out than this? Does Deppey have no shame?
Or is he just dragging TJC back slightly more towards the center, including a refreshing mix of "mainstream" and "fringe indy" artists, alongside the best investigative journalism in comics today? And doesn't it help that the mainstream people he's including in the new format include people like Bendis and Ed Brubaker, who came up through the small press independent comics world that TJC loves to cover so?
I think it's brilliant. I can't wait for this interview. If it's as good as last month's Brubaker talker, it'll be worth it. (I do get a kick out of TCJ interviews that include discussions of "When did you first become aware of THE COMICS JOURNAL? And how did it influence your comics career or hobby?" Bonus points for any answer that uses the phrase "mind expanding.")
This $10 edition also includes the Best of 2004 feature.
Rick Spears and Rob G are forming Gigantic Graphic Novels to self-publish a collection of their critically acclaimed TEENAGERS FROM MARS. (The indicia previously indicated no specific publisher.) My voice hasn't been added to the acclaim yet because I still, to this day, haven't read the last half of the story. UGH. But if you'd like to jump this particular bandwagon, you can for the paltry sum of $20. The final book is nearly 300 pages long.
iBooks: I'm afraid I don't have enough energy left in me to properly make fun of STAN LEE'S ALEXA. I just can't do it. We all love Stan, but I think it's really time for him to step away from the word processor and enjoy the pool out back.
On the flip side, I'm ready to pre-order PENGUINS ON ICE, the new graphic novel from Sergio Salma that promises "a hilarious look at life in a colony of penguins, where trying to find one's parent is an uproarious challenge when everyone looks alike..." It's a full color 48 page softcover album for $13. It doesn't give dimensions in the solicitation, but I'm hoping it's a little larger than standard comic book size for that price point. You can find a sample page from its original European publication over here.
Oni Press leads off with the second volume in the SCOTT PILGRIM series. I don't think that I ever reviewed the first one here, but it's a fun series. I didn't know what to make of the first volume until a major tonal shift hits about three quarters of the way through it. That's when it transforms from dreary angst-filled Oni Rocker Boy Wannabe comic into something truly spectacularly bizarre and a load of fun. If this second volume can maintain that kind of spectacle and energy, then Brian Lee O'Malley has a winner on his hands.
As if that's not enough, the much-missed Andi Watson returns with a new mini-series, LITTLE STAR, about new parents and the baby that threatens to drive them mad. I'm going to try my best to wait for the trade. It's a bi-monthly book, though, which means I'll be waiting for a year. Oh, well.
J. Torres and Eric Kim (yes, it's Eric-With-A-"C" despite how I mangled it last time) return for a second volume of LOVE AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE, the new series about a homesick Canadian man stuck in Korea. Can a woman snap him out of it?
SAF Comics is always a publisher worth keeping an eye out for. They produce graphic novel translations for the States in the original album format. Not only that, they have the best pricing standards of all such companies. Previous volumes of the BOY VAMPIRE series, for example, have gone for as little as $10 for 100 pages.
In February, they're bringing the Joe Kubert-illustrated western, TEX: THE LONESOME RIDER, to the States. For only $16, you're getting 240 black and white pages of Kubert western art, from a story by Claudio Nizzi. I think Dark Horse nearly produced a volume or two from this material, but the price was astronomical by comparison.
TokyoPop still hasn't finalized a single one of their cover images, so I'm not going to discuss any of them. I don't want to mistakenly interpret anything. I get in enough trouble from preview copies that change before publication.
Top Shelf, as previously mentioned in this column, is letting loose with OWLY: JUST A LITTLE BLUE, a new book in the all-ages series that's just charming and a ton of fun. I reviewed the first book a few weeks back.
TwoMorrows Publishing gets credit for attempting a book spanning the career of George Tuska called, fittingly enough, THE ART OF GEORGE TUSKA. I remember when he drew a fill-in issue of UNCANNY X-MEN a decade ago. I think he was in his 80s at that point, and still getting work.
The book is a softcover $15 jobber.
PREVIEWED NO MORE!
We take a look now at items that are canceled, resolicited, late, or sold out...
Blue Line Production's attempt at a comic magazine dedicated to graphic novels has hit a snag. GRAPHIC NOVEL SCENE #2 and #3 are both canceled by the publisher. Not "Late." Not "will resolicit." We're talking "Canceled."
Are Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale running behind schedule? CATWOMAN: WHEN IN ROME #4 is listed under the "Will Resolicit" description.
What about Walter Simonson? ELRIC: MAKING OF A SORCEROR #3 is listed in the same way.
Most disappointingly, SUPERMAN FOR TOMORROW VOL 1 HC is also going to be resolicited. The monthly issues are running on time, so I can't guess at what the collection's delay might be. This is a series that I had the willpower to wait for a collection on. Given the reviews of it so far, it hasn't been that hard a wait, though.
Dynamic Forces is running late with more than twenty items. Does anyone really order their signed comics and expect them to be on time?
Gutsoon Entertainment, the late lamented publisher of RAIJIN COMICS, continues to step into the ash heap of comics history. Seven different trades are canceled by PREVIEWS this month, including volume one of CLIMBERS SAGA, which was pretty good, as I recall.
Chuck Austen and Tom Derenick's series, WORLDWATCH, has had its sixth issue canceled by the publisher, i.e. Chuck Austen. I wonder if they'll figure out if they're a color or black and white book by that point?
Various and Sundry returns on Tuesday with the first part of two in The Pipeline Guide to QUEEN AND COUNTRY. If I don't miss my guess, I'll be looking at the first three collections of the series in that column.
Over at Various and Sundry this week: THE LONE GUNMEN will be complete on DVD. The ULTIMATE MATRIX collection will, likewise, be as complete a DVD set as you'll ever need. KenJen bows out of Jeopardy! and a nation mourns the loss. Christmas shopping stinks. A complete rundown of this week's DVD releases. A trailer for the new season of 24. Plus, a few movie trailers to tide you over until movie night.
VandS Politics is, as one might expect, the political blog spin-off from the politics-free Various and Sundry blog. Visit at your own risk.
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.