Pipeline2, Issue #117


It's time to clear the decks a little. There are a disturbing number of books sitting next to my computer here that I want to review. I'm hoping to run through as many of them as I can today, including one or two that may not have been from the past week or two. Consider this a second chance to take a look at some entertaining books.

[Nightwing #61]NIGHTWING #61 is Trevor McCarthy's second issue as regular artist on the title, and I'm beginning to see problems with his art that are affecting the story. The biggest problem is the way he draws characters' heads. Everyone looks alike and everyone has the same haircut. While the story is trademark Chuck Dixon stuff, I was put off more than once when I couldn't tell if it was Dick Grayson or one of the bad guys talking. The bartender and the bad guy look alike, down to identical moustaches. On top of all that, you have a problem with heads looking squeezed atop necks that jut out just a bit too far from the body. It gets to be distracting after awhile. I hope these are things that McCarthy is working on and won't slough off as being a "style" issue.

Dixon's continued focus on the Bludhaven Police Department, though, is just as gripping and upside-down as we've come to expect. Good stuff in there on surviving in a corrupt department.

[Birds of Prey #25]Butch Guice doesn't draw BIRDS OF PREY #35, but it sure looks like he laid it out. William Rosado is the credited penciller (with Keith Champagne on inks) for the issue. He does an admirable job in keeping the style of the series consistent with the previous creative team. His style isn't quite as smooth, though. There are a lot more angles here and some stiffer looking characters. Chuck Dixon does a great job in concluding the Ra's Al Ghul storyline with a blowup ending. But it's more than just that. There are a few pages at the end after all the action with the characters interacting in their everyday lives. It's this stuff that keeps BIRDS OF PREY amongst the best comics being done today.

[Supergirl #61]SUPERGIRL #61 is another excellent talking heads issue. There's a little action peppered throughout the story, but the bulk of the issue is Supergirl having a philosophical conversation about war with an alien whose mission it is to clean up after one. It's an interesting and thought-provoking and lively issue. Peter David gets the high concept in here as well as some hilarious punch lines. This is the classic mix of styles that he does best. Think back to that talking heads issue of X-FACTOR.

Artwise, the change in inking styles has begun here. Robin Riggs' ink line over Leonard Kirk's pencils is much bolder and thicker. It reminds me in spots more of Adam Hughes' line or Paul Pelletier's. I don't want to jump all over it just yet. I'll give it a couple more issues, but at first glance I'm not so sure it's an improvement. The world doesn't need more cartoony art. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with it. The storytelling is still there, as is the emotion of the characters and the detail in the background. The thicker line, I think, just loses some of the subtleties of the art.

Like I said, though, this is the first month experimenting with this style. It'll be a couple more issues, I'd think, before all concerned are comfortable with it. I think they've earned that after the past four years.

SUPERGIRL #62 just came out this week. Hopefully, you can still find #61 on the shelf if you're looking.

"Can even The Flash outrun a black hole?" is what the cover of THE FLASH #177 asks. My first thought was that it would be no problem. But when you have Scott Kolins working the art (with Doug Hazlewood on inks), that would be very boring to look at. Getting into all the plot points here would be self-defeating, but suffice it to say that the Flash gets to fight a black hole in this issue. The story is complete in this one issue, although there's one or two bits of on-going subplots that get moved along in this issue to tempt you to come back next month. Even the simple single-issue stories like this one are helping to build up the story that Geoff Johns has to tell.

If you think Kolins' art is remarkable here as a black hole threatens to tear apart the whole city, you haven't seen anything yet. There's more glorious destruction for Kolins to draw in the upcoming months, and he does it all under deadline. Most impressive.

THE FLASH SECRET FILES contains a full-length lead story in it from the regular creative team of Johns and Kolins. The art is just as pretty as the stuff you see on the regular monthly series. And the story is pleasant, fits in with the on-going plots of the book, and isn't so monumental that you'll lose track of the series if you miss this companion book. It's amazing how consistent Johns and Kolins have been on the book so far. To put out a special like this in the middle of the monthly grind is spectacular.

The new issue of THE FLASH is due out this coming Wednesday, now. It has one of the most gorgeously rendered two-page city splashes that I've ever seen in comics. It's a bit chilling, perhaps, in light of last week's events, but the circumstances are so far removed that it should be safe to put on the stands.

[Detective Comics #762]DETECTIVE COMICS #762 is written, as always, by Greg Rucka. The rest of the team, really, is different. First, John McCrea does the cover. After Dave Johnson, it was unavoidable that the new cover artist would be a letdown. I can't think of too many cover artists who would excite me nearly as much. (Alan Davis and Phil Noto jump to mind. I'm sure Adam Hughes' name did for some people, as well.) It's especially hard for me, because I never understood the draw of McCrea's art. I don't like it at all. And this cover was particularly plain looking. It's supposed to be a Batman action shot, but he's just floating there.

The interior story is drawn by Rick Burchett and inked by Dan Davis and Rodney Ramos. It's appropriate that Burchett comes back for this issue, since it ties in with some of the events of the "Officer Down" issues that Burchett drew. The coloring evokes a very noir-ish feel. It's all subdued beige tones. It's almost sepia. Burchett is getting better and better at drawing in this style, as opposed to the animated one we may have become used to from him in the past.

The story is fine, although I do have a bit of a problem with Bruce Wayne's bodyguard putting on a spandex uniform and going out with him to fight crime in the streets. It just seems to clichéd to me. I'm not sure exactly why this is. I don't think Batman has done this since one of the Robins, really. It just seems to insert more of the super-heroic in a title that works better as a crime/detective thriller. Maybe it's just the problem that the mutant books had over at Marvel where any friend of a mutant turned into a mutant, or where anyone who was virulently anti-mutant would later be revealed as a mutant.

Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke's Slam Bradley storyline concludes in this issue, too. This is the final part of the lead-in to the upcoming CATWOMAN series by the same time. Most amazing here is that the story works well as a Slam Bradley story. It isn't just an excuse to squeeze in as much exposition about Catwoman's back-story to set up the upcoming series. It's a good series that just happens to have Selina Kyle in it. The distinctive style of storytelling is something to keep an eye out when the series starts up, with Mike Allred on inks.


[War Machine]I have to change my opinion on U.S. WAR MACHINE. I said on Tuesday that the first issue was a waste. The book looked terrible and the story didn't grip me at all.

I've had the chance now to read the second weekly issue. It's much better. While the ugly lettering and the stiff art is still there, the story is much more manageable, with some impressive splashy art and manga-like storytelling. This is now Jim Rhodes' story, which is much more interesting to me than another rehash of Tony Stark with his life-protecting armor and drinking problem. Chuck Austen goes to great lengths in this issue to keep Jim away from being the typical super-hero cliché of a black man. He doesn't speak in slang or ebonics. He's not from a tough inner city neighborhood. He's just a normal guy with a high profile job, who's completely likable. The topic of race relations is discussed in an open way, with a nice example used between Jim and his apartment building's security guard. I'm interested now in seeing where this series goes over the coming weeks.

One other evolution of opinion, really, more than a change: CrossGen's SCION #16 is the first issue since Caesar Rodriguez left as colorist that feels like the books' first year did. Justin Ponsor's coloring in this issue is the best job he's done so far. It looks like he might have learned from the first few issues he's done. This issue looks beautiful. Gone is the dark muck that many pages in the past couple of issues have been stuck with. There's a real distinction between different parts of each panel now that makes Jimmy Cheung's art really shine again. Most promising is the flashback in the middle of the issue. There are three double-page splashes that are colored to look almost as if they were done with a colored pencil. It's got a great sepia tone look to it that really shows off Ponsor's skill, despite what some might deride as its monotone nature. Ron Marz's story is a great harbinger of the doom that seems likely to come, although the sudden excerpt from the Captain's Log at the end seemed a bit forced.

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.

More than 250 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, a horrifically coded piece of HTML.

Next year's con schedule tentatively includes Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, San Diego, Chicago, Bethesda, and New York. I'm seeing the country, one con at a time.

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