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Pipeline2, Issue #128

PREVIEWS FOR 02/2002

As always, this is not a complete and thorough listing of all the great stuff coming out in February. It's a list of highlights, books of interest, and things of curiosity. Consult your own copy of PREVIEWS for everything you might want to pick up.

Dark Horse rolls out Osama Tezuka's ASTROBOY in February. The first volume is 224 black and white pages for the fan-friendly price of $9.95. The format is 7" by 4 ½", which is just slightly larger than LONE WOLF AND CUB's 4" by 6". I'd guess it's right near the size of the BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL collections.

This is one of those manga series I've heard a lot about over the years. I've never read a page of it and don't know if the series description excites me all that much. However, I think Dark Horse has earned the benefit of the doubt and I will be giving the first book a chance.

The solicitation copy, curiously enough, doesn't mention if this is a monthly series like LW&C, or quarterly like AKIRA.

Over on the modern superhero front, the first of a three-issue crossover, SPYBOY/YOUNG JUSTICE debuts in February. Peter David, writer of stuff including both on-going series, is writing this with artistic help from his regular partners in crime, Pop Mhan and Todd Nauck. SPYBOY didn't appeal to me when I read its first couple of issues, but I'm something of a Nauck completist at this point and will pick it up. Who knows? Maybe it'll spark my interest in the SPY BOY trades. This first issue is in color for $2.99.

The Venture line continues its aggressive publishing schedule with three new books this month: THE IGUANA, OTTO PORFIRI: RED MOON, and ZACHARY HOLMES CASE 1: THE MONSTER. The last one is a color 9" by 12" hardcover, 48 pages, and $15. The first two listed are 88 black and white pages at 7" by 9 ½" in softcover for $10.95 and $9.95.

These oversized trades are The Coming Thing. Heck, they're already here thanks in large part to Humanoids Publishing. But more are coming from Marvel. More on that a little later.

A final congratulatory note to Dark Horse on the publication in February of the sixth and final volume of AKIRA. At last, the entire story will be available in 6 thick black and white volumes at a reasonable price. This is no mean feat in this modern market where $3 monthly titles often don't make it to their sixth issue without being cancelled due to low orders.

DC leads off with their new monthly, THE POWER COMPANY. Advanced promotion on this has been pretty strong, including a slew of special issues in January and the cover of this issue of PREVIEWS. Don't know how much more I need to add to this: Kurt Busiek and Tom Grummett. That's all I needed to sell me. The only thing that I'm hesitant about is the inker, Wade von Grawbadger. I don't know how his inks will look over Grummett's pencils. I'm more than happy to give it a chance, though.

"Bruce Wayne: Murderer?" leads directly into "Bruce Wayne: Fugitive?" and I suddenly begin to remember why I dropped the Superman titles years ago. When Chuck Dixon leaves BIRDS OF PREY, ROBIN, and NIGHTWING, I might have to rethink the monthly grind on the Batman books.

Thank goodness, the crossover doesn't spill over into BATGIRL #25, which features the long-anticipated match up between Batgirl and Lady Shiva. It's a double-sized issue by the regular creative team. I'm very much looking forward to this one.

I almost overlooked ROBO DOJO, from the WildStorm imprint, until I caught J. Torres' name attached as writer on a backup story. I'm in. (Keep reading. Torres' name comes up once or twice more this month.)

In what has to be the most curious reprinting move of the month, WildStorm is coming out with Volume 1 (issues #1-7) of DIVINE RIGHT. For those of you who had forgotten about it already, that's the series Jim Lee did (later with Scott Lobdell) for a couple of years. The most ambitious part of the series is that a few of the middle issues were drawn sideways. Those stories won't even be included in this volume. You'll have to wait for a Volume 2.

No word on whether this will be the standard edition of the stories or the versions done for quick reprinting with harsher language. Given that there's no warnings attached to the solicitation, I'm guessing that you'll get the original clean versions.

But why reprint this now? Does it tie into anything? Is it part of an on-going commitment to reprinting all of Jim Lee's work? Was there at all a demand for it? I'm puzzled.

I know one bit of Jim Lee work I'd like to see printed, though: X-MEN VISIONARIES: JIM LEE. Some of those early issues with Chris Claremont are very memorable, including the team-up with Wolverine and Captain America.

SUPERMAN ADVENTURES completes its run with its 66th issue. This is part two of a story written by Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer. The art is by the best SUPERMAN ADVENTURES artist ever to grace the pages of the title, Aluir Amancio. I'm sorry to see it go. Thankfully, BATMAN GOTHAM ADVENTURES still survives. Hopefully, it won't go away anytime soon.

I don't read JSA. Don't really have any intentions to, either. Those characters don't have much pull to me. I didn't even enjoy THE GOLDEN AGE all that much, which I know is considered heresy in some parts. Sobeit. However, I have to think about it now. Leonard Kirk is taking over as the regular artist on the title. I've enjoyed his work on SUPERGIRL over the years and he's definitely on my "Artist To Follow" list. He draws JSA #33 with Keith Giffen, another favorite of mine. They're not making it easy. Maybe I can channel some of the money I saved by dropping Batman and Superman titles to put towards this.

Image leads off with its tenth anniversary celebration. It comes in the form of the "Image Comics: The 10th Anniversary Book" hard cover. First announced at the San Diego convention last summer, it's a collection of new stories written and drawn by the surviving Image Comics founding fathers – Erik Larsen, Jim Valentino, Marc Silvestri, and Todd McFarlane. 128 pages for $24.95.

The book is due out the last week of February. The Image solicitation makes reference to "The Week of February 29th." 2002 is not a leap year, though, and the Wednesday of that week is the 27th.

Not coincidentally, Pipeline will go daily that week with five columns devoted to Image Comics.

Aside from a re-solicitation of MIDNIGHT NATION #10, a new issue of RED STAR, and the solid-as-a-rock SAVAGE DRAGON, there's not a whole hell of a lot of stuff that excites me in February. March is looking interesting, if only for Mark Ricketts' NOWHERESVILLE graphic novel. Valentino was showing off black and white previews of the book at the cons this past summer like a proud poppa.

Marvel leads with its hardcover line. The books are oversized, although the solicitation copy (sadly) does not give the exact dimensions of the final product. The first three hardcovers will reprint the ORIGIN mini-series, the first 13 (!) issues of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, and THE COMPLETE FRANK MILLER SPIDER-MAN. The first two are $35, while the last one is a mere $30.

Oddly enough, the SPIDER-MAN volume contains 352 pages, as opposed to ORIGIN's 208 pages. Both are the same exact price. Boy, shooting from pencils must be really expensive. Either that or the Marvel financial folks realize that they've made about as much profit as they need to make from those 13 issues (including two best-selling trades) that they don't need to have such any higher a price. It seems that the books are being made for collectors, so there's no argument to be made about keeping the price point low for mainstream consumers.

The only thing I wish would happen is that they'd keep the hardcovers in print as long as the trades. I know it's a bit of a gamble, but the books look so much better in this format. At one point shortly before their cancellation, I strongly considered buying the ULTIMATE MARVEL MAGAZINE in lieu of the monthly issues of those titles. The paper size was just a little bit larger, but the art improved with the larger presentation.

Jubilee returns in NEW X-MEN #403, fighting alongside Banshee and his mixed-up gang of mutants. Curiously, they all appear to have walked out of central casting for a Star Trek series. Check out those costumes on page 165.

Jason Bone ("Alison Dare") is inking Darwyn Cooke's pencils on TANGLED WEB #11. It's a double-sized issue for $3.50.

Sam Kieth's WOLVERINE/HULK mini-series starts on February 27th. Thankfully, they're also reprinting his collaboration with Peter David from MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS' hey day. "Bloodhungry" is a $7 trade (64 pages) well worth picking up. Just funny and exciting stuff from those two. Watch as characters hash out their differences over a game of table tennis and with the help of some well-placed paper airplanes. Just bizarre stuff. Exactly what you'd expect from the David/Kieth pairing.

I'm going to try to be good and wait for the trade on the WOLVERINE/HULK series, though. We'll see if I can hang out for those extra four months. But it does open up the can of worms: Why don't they just print it as a trade first? THEN try printing single issues. I would be curious to see the results of such a test.

Speaking of trades, Marvel's trade program is taking advantage of DARK KNIGHT fever by re-offering their stock of Miller items.

The X-TREME X-MEN trade is due out for $19. Solicitation copy says it will collect the first four issues of the series, but it also says the book is 192 pages. To me, that indicates something closer to 7 issues. Besides, $19 for 4 issues is a rip-off.

I didn't like the first couple issues of the series, but have been enjoying it since the fifth. This will be an easy way to fill in the gaps.

Chuck Dixon fans rejoice! The DOOM TPB reprints both three-issue mini-series that Dixon wrote with art by Leonardo Manco. Very nicely done, with a $16 price point.

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 350 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.

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