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Pipeline Previews for May 2004

PREVIEWS OF JUNE 2004

This month, Pipeline Previews is trying something new. What starts as a standard look at the new solicitations from comics publishers, quickly morphs into a series of jumping-off points for different tangents and yet another excuse to talk about my hardcover fetish. I'm also introducing a new feature called "PREVIEWED NO MORE" at the end of this column that seeks to find out what comics didn't make it to shelves and why.

As always, I recommend picking up a copy of the catalog for yourself, flipping through it, and placing an order with your local comics shop to better the odds of getting the comics you want when they're finally released. Pre-ordering is your friend.

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This month, I'll start with the cover. It's a DC Universe rendering from Michael Turner for the IDENTITY CRISIS mini-series that starts in June. As a public health service, one of the fast food restaurants should sponsor a superhero. These people need a cheeseburger. Look at their stomachs. They're famished. There are deep and pronounced shadows underneath the ribs here that goes beyond muscle and into anorexia nervosa.

Two characters on the cover appear in their "classic" fishnet costumes, while one male hero appears with a green skirt on. Batman is colored to appear very happy to be on the cover, and Superman sports a tear running down his cheek reminiscent of some of the poorest animated on television in the 80s -- either G.I. Joe or Voltron. The tear streams down Superman's cheek from a point far opposite the tear duct in the eye. At the very least, Superman should consult a physician to be sure his ducts aren't blocked. Nasolacrimal Duct Obstruction is no laughing matter.

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Something struck me in looking at the preview art for IDENTITY CRISIS inside the catalog, as well. Marvel and DC both now require all their titles to be lettered on a computer. This makes lettering the books a quicker process and theoretically makes corrections and script changes easier to manage. There's another bonus for PREVIEWS purposes, though. It allows the companies to show off upcoming art for the series without giving away anything in the dialogue balloons. They can show art -- as DC does with IDENTITY CRISIS -- that is nebulous enough to not give away anything without having to redact text or anything else so draconian.

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Dark Horse has the new series of the month. It's SAMURAI EXECUTIONER, a ten volume manga from the same creative team as LONE WOLF AND CUB. This one was done before work began on what I think is the greatest comics series of all time, LW&C, and even has a connection to it. SAMURAI EXECUTIONER is the story of Kubikiri Asa, the emperor's sword tester. He'd later show up to die at Ogami Itto's hands, but before then he had his own series. This is presented in the same format as LONE WOLF: 300 or so pages at 4 x 6 inches for $10 an issue. The series starts on July 14th, so this is an early solicitation.

Over at DC, Howard Chaykin is writing and drawing a new CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN, marking the umpteenth different version of the team in the past 15 years. Seriously, do any two series under this title ever feature the same characters or any continuity? I have that Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale mini-series floating around in my collection somewhere, unread. This solicitation inspires me to pull that out now. In any case, this is a six-issue mini-series that just screams out for a hardcover or trade paperback collection in early 2005. I'll just wait for that.

SCRATCH is Sam Kieth's new five issue mini-series, featuring werewolves and Batman. Like the previous title, I'll wait for the collection. Those appear like clockwork around Kieth, from both Marvel and DC.

June is also SLEEPER month, with both the return of the series as "Season Two" begins, and a collection of the second half of the first series. That trade paperback is titled SLEEPER: ALL FALSE MOVES. I can't recommend this series enough. In fact, I think I already took care of that in a column last month. Check that out, and then catch up on the best series in recent memory.

I'm torn on the August release of JLA/AVENGERS collection. It's an oversized hardcover two-book set that's slipcased and everything. The second book is only 64 pages, but includes the 21 pages of completed pencils by Perez for the aborted 80s attempt, along with proposals, character keys, and more. It's a beautiful package, and DC produces these very well. On the other hand, it's $75.00.

The text indicates that there are no plans to reprint "this historical set." In other words, look for the trade paperback of the mini-series in time for Christmas, but don't look for the second book to ever show up again, in much the same way as the bonus material from the KINGDOM boxed set hasn't shown up anywhere else. At least they're being more honest about this one than they were with the CRISIS hardcover. (You'll remember that they promised never to reprint it as a trade, only to change their minds a few months laster.)

I just wish DC had managed to produce the hardcover WATCHMEN special edition that was briefly discussed a couple of years back. That would look nice on the bookshelf and be easier to read in the middle. It's tough to stretch out the spine on such a thick trade paperback to read those middle issues.

Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso's run on BATMAN, titled "Broken City," is getting a hardcover collection of its own. This one is a mere $25.00 for the six-issue collection. After the Loeb/Lee storyline ended, I dropped the title. The future plans for all-star short story arcs screamed "collection" to me, so I'm waiting on hardcovers for BATMAN in the future. So far, I'm batting a thousand.

If all that's not enough, there's a third PLANETARY hardcover, a second NEAL ADAMS BATMAN hardcover, and the usual ARCHIVE editions that I don't collect. It's an expensive month of hardcovers already, and I'm only on page 95. Thankfully, the release dates are spread on these.

In that vein, I'll skip straight ahead to Marvel, which has some great collections of its own coming up.

To start with, Marvel changed its mind on the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: 500 COVERS hardcover book. Originally solicited as a two volume set, it's now a mere single book, with multiple covers reproduced per page and text pages to "set the stage" for what was going on in the world and in Marvel Comics at the time. This lowers the price to $50, and will probably still be out in time for the movie.

What? There's a SPIDER-MAN movie coming out? Sure, how else to explain three -- count 'em, three -- SPIDER-MAN hardcovers due out in the same month? The second is THE BEST OF SPIDER-MAN VOLUME 3, which reprints strictly the JMS/JR JR issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, #46-58 and #500. It's too bad they didn't just do AMAZING-only hardcovers from the start with the beginning of JMS' run. Instead, we have two hardcover books that are half AMAZING, and a third that's all AMAZING. Does anyone remember the Rhino story from the first hardcover edition?

And does this mean that Marvel didn't think very highly of their other Spider-man titles in 2003? I know I can't remember much of them anymore, aside from ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN. Oh, but he has his own hardcover to deal with. ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN HC Volume 4 brings us issues #40-45 and #47-53, skipping over the issue that served as a prelude to ULTIMATE SIX.

You can pick up that missing issue in the ULTIMATE SIX trade paperback collection (assuming the mini-series is completed by then) which is due out the same month. If that's not enough Bendis for you, the ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN script book includes original scripts to some of the best one-off issues for $18.

After that, you can pick up the second MARY JANE hardcover novel, the sixth ESSENTIAL AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and the comic book adaptation of the movie that is solicited without a creative team (uh oh).

But, wait! That doesn't include the coolest hardcover from Marvel's solicitations of the month. That honor goes to FANTASTIC FOUR Volume 1, featuring all of Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo's first run on the series, along with the two issues just afterwards. That's issues #60-70 and #500-502. This book is a pleasant surprise to see on the schedule. I didn't think we'd see past the trades on these.

I've learned a lot about my collecting habits lately. Putting a chunk of it in storage has forced me to rethink a lot of them. I see what I have and what I enjoy the most and what I forgot I had, and a number of things become clear. First, if I had to destroy 90% of my comics collection, the only things I'd save would be these hardcover books. They're gorgeous representations of the comics and they look great on the shelf. Getting a full year's worth of a comics inside of one set of covers is a great thing, and the production values are top notch. They're the books I appreciate the most, and the ones I flip through the most often when I feel like just gawking at some art for a moment or two.

Second, I don't need to buy everything twice. Just because there's a trade paperback collecting a favorite storyline, that doesn't mean I need it in two different formats. I'm getting smarter about skipping individual issues and jumping straight to the trades with books, but I have much further to go. When I can skip individual issues for hardcovers, I'm even happier. QUEEN AND COUNTRY, as overpriced as $20 might be to collect three or four issues, is one of those titles that makes me the happiest. I'm glad Oni continues to collect the series in this fashion, and wish more publishers would follow with such simultaneous soft- and hardcover collections.

Now, of course, a little birdie tells me the next storyline leads into the novel due out this fall, so I might have to be impatient and buy those issues so I can transition straight into the novel without ruining any of the comic's surprises.

But moving comics around has allowed me some time to sort through the books I have left on my bookshelf. There is nothing nicer to look at on a bookshelf than a series of hardcover books lined up with their spines facing out, and in order. I'll be tackling those QUEEN AND COUNTRY books next. After that, I'm thinking it's time to reacquaint myself with the ABC Universe starting with PROMETHEA and TOM STRONG.

Just wait 'til you see the reviews I can come up with once I win the lottery and can stay home all day to read all this stuff!

QUICK RECOMMENDATIONS

Oni is printing a QUEEN AND COUNTRY SCRIPTBOOK with Greg Rucka's scripts from the first storyline intact, accompanied by Steve Rolston's sketchwork and layouts.

TwoMorrows follows up Alan Davis and George Perez with MODERN MASTERS: BRUCE TIMM.

KYLE BAKER, CARTOONIST returns for a second volume.

REVENGE OF THE MOUFLON Volume 2 will be the last collection of that series from the folks behind RAIJIN COMICS, unless and until they reconfigure themselves.

Finally, you can now order your 2005 calendars. There's a section of PREVIEWS this month dedicated to starting off the next year right. I don't know about you, but I just wait until January 1st and then buy my calendar for half price or less. I don't want to think of it in the spring of 2004.

PREVIEWED NO MORE

Welcome to a new section of Pipeline Previews, in which I look at the corrections listed in the back of the order book to see what stories lie hidden deep in the shadowy recesses of PREVIEWS.

We start with SAF Comics. Dark Horse initially published their line of European albums, before SAF struck out on their own. Now, it seems that "struck out" is the correct phrase. Seven of their solicited titles have been "cancelled by Publisher," including WHY DID THE KNIGHTS DIE OUT, a book I strongly considered pre-ordering not too long ago.

Image Comics, it would seem, cancelled their overprinting on PHANTOM JACK. And ROTOGIN JUNKBOTZ #4 (of a projected six issue mini-series) is likewise branded with the dreaded "4" for "Cancelled By Publisher."

Marvel is resoliciting EXCALIBUR #2. The switch in artist is costing them precious time. The resolicitation of NYX #5 is likewise being resolicited for some unspecified future date. That's not a mistake. I meant to use "resolicit" twice in that sentence. Fear not, though, as DEMO #5 already beat it to the stands.

In brighter news, both ULTIMATES #13 and JLA/AVENGERS #4 hit the stands this week.

Dark Horse's Rocket Comics lineup continues to struggle, with trades for both SYN and HELL cancelled by the Horse. Poor Keith Giffen can't catch a break anywhere. REIGN OF THE ZODIAC just finished its all too short run, and I half expect THANOS will be canned right after Giffen's first storyline. At least BATTLE ROYALE is surviving.

Over at Astonish Comics, DREAMLAND CHRONICLES #1 may have just come out, but the second issue is already cancelled. Scott Sava is doing some work for Disney at the moment, so the second issue hasn't gone into production yet. He notes on his message board, though, that he hopes to have it out for San Diego. Also, the first issue of the new HEROBEAR mini-series is merely listed as "Lateness." SPOONER continues on schedule.

Cartoon Books reports in that the ninth volume of the BONE saga ("Crown of Horns") will be resolicited at some later date. This applies to both the softcover and hardcover editions.

Speaking of all these cancelled publications, whatever happened to the ALIAS comic book that Arcade was going to produce?

CrossGen has canceled the SILKEN GHOST and MYSTIC Traveler editions, along with SCION #44.

If any of these publishers report in this weekend with frantic explanations, I'll report them back to you on Tuesday.

That's it for May 2004. "Pipeline Previews" will return next month for a look at June's releases. Be sure to return here every Tuesday, in the meantime, for Pipeline Commentary and Review's weekly dose of comics mayhem.

Various and Sundry chugs on with more AMERICAN IDOL chat, lots of DVD release commentary, and other random bits of oddness. But, really, it's mostly AI3.

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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