PIPELINE PREVIEWS FOR JULY 2003
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.
Also, Free Comic Book Day is May 3, 2003.
Shall we begin, then?
Dark Horse has two HELLBOY releases top-lining the month. The first is the new BPRD: DARK WATERS one shot, featuring a script from Brian Augustyn and art by the great Guy Davis. That one's only $3 for 32 full color pages. If you're looking for something larger, though, THE DARK HORSE BOOK OF HAUNTINGS drops on August 20th. It's a 96 page hardcover anthology, the highlight of which is the only new Hellboy story from Mike Mignola for the year. He's a little busy with the movie these days, so this will be his only sequential contribution this year to the Hellboy mythos. Others included in the book are P. Craig Russell, Evan Dorkin, and Jill Thompson.
THE INVINCIBLE ED moves to Dark Horse with its third issue, finally being released on July 9th. Ryan Woodward continues his animated look at the angst of high school with the addition of superpowers.
DC has the most eagerly anticipated new mini-series of the year so far with FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE JUSTICE LEAGUE, reuniting Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire for six issues of new madcap hilarity at the hands of those "whiney JLA losers," such as Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, and Captain Atom. They're also offering a new printing of the original Giffen-era trade paperback, A NEW BEGINNING, collecting the first seven issues of the new order for the superteam. As far as I'm concerned, these are modern day classics. They've never been easier to read, either. I only wish the entirety of that era of comics was in print for today's generation. There's a lot to be learned about pacing and storytelling from JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA and JUSTICE LEAGUE EUROPE.
Mark Waid has a big month, as both EMPIRE and SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT are solicited. The former continues the Gorilla Comics series that Waid introduced at Image with Barry Kitson a few years ago. The first two issues are collected in a bumper edition before starting a new series with a new #1 issue. I don't care about packaging, though. These are great stories that I am very interested in seeing continued. Now if only we could be so lucky with TELLOS and SHOCKROCKETS. (I don't miss CRIMSON PLAGUE, and SECTION ZERO never got off the ground enough for me to miss it.)
SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT is Waid's attempt at retelling Superman's origin story, with some spectacular art from HIGH ROADS' Leinil Francis Yu and Gerry Alanguilan. A few preview pages can be seen in this week's issue of WIZARD.
I've only ever followed one TEEN TITANS series, and that was the Dan Jurgens and George Perez series of the mid-1990s. I don't remember much of it now, and most of the characters have dispersed into the dark corners of the DCU, with the possible exception of Argent. In any case, I'm going to give the team another try in July with the new TEEN TITANS series, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Mike McKone and Marlo Alquiza. The two did beautiful work on SUPERMAN not too long ago, and I think McKone's style is more naturally suited to the DC superheroes than the Marvel ones. It just ends up looking more natural and fluid at DC than it ever did at Marvel. There's a nice looking preview of this series in the new WIZARD, as well.
Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco re-team for a new mini-series, ARROWSMITH: a World War I historical drama with dragons, swords, and archers. Pacheco's art is gorgeous and it'll be good to see it on a regular basis in the six months this series is scheduled to last.
Over to Marvel, where FANTASTIC FOUR returns to its original numbering scheme in time for the big 500th issue. I don't care that they waited until a big anniversary number happened to hit to do this. I'm just glad they did go back to the original numbers. A brand new issue seventy-something will probably have the same sales impact as a brand new issue five-hundred-and-something, so you might as well go with tradition.
Marvel is also sure to re-ignite long-dead passions by bringing back the foil-enhanced cover. That's right. You can pick up this issue in its standard 48 page format for $3.50, or throw in for $5 and get a foil enhanced cover, plus extra pages for things like deleted scenes, commentaries, outtakes, and more.
This seems like something that shouldn't bother anyone. You still have the option of the "regular" story edition of the comic, or you can spend a couple extra shekels for the extra material. Seems pretty straightforward, right? How much do you want to bet there are intensely heated arguments on message boards on the 'net right now from people who are indignantly opposed to this? ::sigh::
I'll definitely be splurging for the "Director's Cut Edition," as much as it annoys me to see the DVD comparison being made yet again for another comic just because it includes extra pages.
THE FANTASTIC FOUR has never been this good in the time that I've been reading comics. Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo are doing an amazing job and deserve every extra bit of promotion something a stunt like this might bring to them.
I was going to try to be prescient and say that an extra sized issue like this assured the 501st issue of being an artistic fill-in, but then I also noticed that #501 is solicited in the current PREVIEWS, also. It's an artistic fill-in by Casey Jones. That's not being prescient. That's just common sense, I suppose.
I tried to give Marvel the benefit of the doubt with the smattering of half-naked chicks showing up in their preview images more and more, but it's starting to be problematic with how pathetic it is. This month includes the new WHITE QUEEN series, with legs fully spread, and ditto the cover for X-MEN: PHOENIX - LEGACY OF FIRE, which includes a nearly flesh-colored crotch garment. Ick.
It all makes the QUEST cover with unhooked bra, dropped pants, and butt crack look highly artistic.
Marvel finally did find something to do with Mary Jane, and it's not the fumetti graphic novel they once hinted at. Nope, it's a Young Adult novel, with spot illustrations by Mike (VAMPIRELLA) Mayhew, who has some wonderful photo-realistic illustrations included in the preview solicitation. It's listed as a hardcover book, 216 pages, $14.99.
X-MEN LEGENDS hits its third volume collecting the wildly popular Art Adams stories from the UNCANNY X-MEN Annuals, NEW MUTANTS SPECIAL EDITION #1 (is that the one with the X-Babies?), and the FANTASTIC FOUR three-parter that Walter Simonson also had something to do with, as I recall. For $24.99, it's going to be a great-looking package. Maybe if it sells well, we can convince Marvel to finally go back to print for a LONGSHOT trade. How long has that thing been out of print for now? A decade?
AND IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE CATALOG. . .
Nat Gertler's About Comics company, best known for PANEL ONE and PANEL TWO, is now releasing other people's projects. The first is the Kurt Busiek/James Fry series, THE LIBERTY PROJECT. The first nine issues of the series are reprinted here in black and white at "manga size" (6" x 8") for only $11.95.
The seemingly-forever-in-production graphic novel, SWITCHBLADE HONEY, sees print in July from AiT/PlanetLar. This science fiction ships-in-space saga is written by Warren Ellis with art from Brandon McKinney. $10 gets you the works.
Andi Watson fans can be thrilled in July as Slave Labor Graphics publishes a new SKELETON KEY spinoff one-shot, KITSUNE TALES, featuring his art. You can also get the trade paperback collecting Watson's earliest work, SAMURAI JAM. These 144 black and white pages will run you $14.95, featuring a story of "skateboarding, punk rock, and hockey." With a description like that, I'm surprised Oni didn't publish it first. (Oni is publishing Watson's latest series, LOVE FIGHTS, however.)
More importantly, however, Ken Knudsten's hyper abusive monkey gets a trade paperback collection with MY MONKEY'S NAME IS JENNIFER. It reprints all six issues of the series so far, plus a couple of new stories, for a mere $16. If you liked the manic humor of SKY APE or REX MANTOOTH, you might like this one. It's the tale of a little girl and her perpetually-angry pet monkey, Jennifer. Together, they go on strange adventures to such exotic places as pirate ships and movie theaters. The craziness cannot be described, only read. This one gets a big recommendation from me. It's not all-ages appropriate, but it is funny.
Gemstone Publishing is still in business! One becomes a cynic so easily after a few years without Duck comics... UNCLE SCROOGE #320 and WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES #635 both hit stands in July. The new title for the month is DONALD DUCK ADVENTURES, which is a CrossGen Compendia-sized trade paperback (128 pages) featuring longer adventure-length tales of Donald and the gang. For only $7.95, it's a great bargain. We'll have to wait to see how well the Duck books translate to the smaller size. And this is just the second initiative from Gemstone to see to it that Duck books can be found everywhere for everyone. It'll get better as we go along.
Gutsoon! Entertainment releases the first trade of BAKI THE GRAPPLER for $9.95. This collects the first batch of serials from the RAIJIN COMICS magazine featuring everyone's favorite surprise fighting champion. It's the last serial in the magazine I sampled because of its awkward-looking art, but quickly became one of the first I read every week with each new issue. The $10 package is printed at the slightly smaller 5" x 7" size, like the aforementioned DONALD DUCK ADVENTURES.
IDW has one of the more exciting books in the catalog for the month with its THE ART OF SAM KIETH book. The 352 page package (in full color) retails for $50, but is jam packed with interviews, sketchbook material, and art that's never been seen before. Sam Kieth's star is rising again in the comics field, and this book sounds like the proper celebration of some of the wackiness that it's covered in the past decade or so. Might this lead to trades collecting THE MAXX from IDW, also? I hope so. Unlike all the other trades attempting to come in at a low cost, this book measures in at 9.5" x 11" in size. The art won't be shrunk down to nothing for the sake of shaving a couple of bucks off the price. That's a pretty good idea for any book with a title that includes the phrase "The Art Of."
Oni continues its hardcover program with QUEEN & COUNTRY: DECLASSIFIED, Volume 1. Yes, you can still order the softcover edition for $8.95 with all the same content. But if you want the book to match the rest of the set of hardcovers you may have already picked up, $20 will buy you that peace of mind.
Second 2 Some Studios' breakout book, FADE FROM BLUE, gets its first trade paperback this summer with THE FADE TRADE VOLUME 1: FADE FROM BLUE. Myatt Murphy and Scott Dalrymple's excellent story of the adventures of four troubled sisters is well worth a look.
AND FINALLY, ON THE FAR SIDE. . .
On page 406 is a collection that will do more to sum up my childhood in comics than anything else. While I didn't start reading comics until I was 13, I was definitely into the comic strips before that. I used to draw my own. People in class in grammar school thought of me as the class comedian, and my love of cartoons and art at that point led me to doing my own gag panels. They were very strongly influenced by the style and feel of Gary Larson's THE FAR SIDE.
Hands down, THE FAR SIDE is the funniest comic strip I've ever read. I can still quote numerous ones verbatim from memory. It appealed to my sense of humor with a certain intelligence, the occasional irreverence, and the usual surreal science and off-the-wall insanity. I remember begging my parents for a copy of THE 10th ANNIVERSARY OF FAR SIDE book when it first came out. It still sits on my bookshelf to this day, a treasured portion of an otherwise all comic book-related inventory.
In October 2003, THE COMPLETE FAR SIDE SLIPCASED COLLECTION will see print. It features two hardcover books that reprint every FAR SIDE gag panel that Larson ever did. That's more than 4000 jokes in two books. There's an introduction from another genius comedian, Steve Martin, and bonuses including fan letters and all the strips he did even after his retirement from the strip. I didn't realize it, but there are over 1100 strips that have never been reprinted before this collection.
It is a bit pricey at $125.00, but with a small discount, I'll be pre-ordering it and chomping at the bit for October to arrive.
That's still not the most expensive entry in the catalogue this month. I'm fairly certain that honor has to go to an item on page 488. It's a rare NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS movie poster that will set you back $5900. The soundtrack CD sits in my car right now. I love the movie dearly, but its continued popularity at this level continues to astound me.
That's it for July 2003. We'll be back in roughly four weeks for the comics of August 2003.
Current convention schedule: Philadelphia, San Diego, and Chicago.
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.