PREVIEWS FOR MAY 2002 (Part One)
Your retailer has another week and a half to get his or her orders into Diamond. This would be a very good time to let your retailer know about any oddball or special books you want to be reading in a couple of months' time. The following is a rundown of some of the highlights of the catalogue for me this month, with some interspersed commentary and reviews I felt the need to get out. It's not meant to be comprehensive; that would be tedious. There are, as always, some gems hidden in the dirt.
Pre-ordering your comics is very important to ensure getting a copy of the titles you want to read, and ensuring that the company producing that comic will know that there are people out there who want more. The price of a direct market is eternal vigilance. If only Thomas Jefferson realized that…
Free Comic Book Day is in May, and PREVIEWS continues to bang the drum for the idea through advertisements in the catalogue and little icons that appear in publishers' solicitations for those who are taking part. There is, however, an unsettling murmur I see showing up on the internet at various places. I'd like to take a moment to comment on it before getting into the comics themselves.
Let's get this straight once and for all: The "free" in "Free Comics Day" refers to the price of the comic to potential new and returning readers. It has nothing to do with how much it might cost the distributor, the printer, the publisher, the creator, or the retailer. In theory, the costs of those free comics would be spread out across all levels to help shoulder the burden equally at each level. This is something that's good for the industry as a whole. It gets new readers for comic companies. It gets new shoppers at comic book stores.
At least, that's the idea.
If someone is charging a fee to buy a banner that promotes Free Comic Day, or if a publisher is charging a small fee for the comics that are going out to readers for free, that's fine. That's not in any way opposing the concept of "Free Comic Day." Let's look outside the typical construct of Big Evil Publishing Companies trying to destroy Small Mom and Pop Retailers for a change, eh?
Back to the comics:
Dark Horse starts off with LONE WOLF 2100, a new four issue mini-series with original LW&C writer Kazuo Koike's blessing. It's set in a future time period and has some pretty nice art associated with it from Francisco Ruiz Velasco. Mike Kennedy is the writer. I'm unsure of the whole thing and will probably pass on it. If there's a collection further down the road, I might give it a shot. For now, I'll just enjoy the heck out of the regular series. The latest volume, #18, is particularly good. It's got some of the best action scenes and creative fighting of the series so far.
The cover image for LONE WOLF AND CUB Volume 22 is very chilling. I can't wait for it. Check out page 41 of PREVIEWS.
Chuck Dixon and Jog Bogdanove's SUPERMAN/ALIENS II mini-series begins at last in May. Four issues. $2.99 per. Kevin Nowlan is back as inker, the job he also held when Dan Jurgens did the first crossover between the two franchises. It ought to be interesting to see how far he can bend Bogdanove's style to his own. They seem so opposite to each other. This may be another one I hold off on, though. I'm not necessarily a huge Aliens fan, so waiting for a collection isn't a big deal. (Dixon's SUPERMAN/TARZAN series is already collected for $10 later in the solicitations.) CrossGen will keep me busy with Chuck Dixon-penned titles, in the meantime.
BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL rolls on with yet another trade paperback. "Secrets" is $17 for 232 pages. I'm starting to fall behind on my reading of this series. Thankfully, the books read quickly. It won't be difficult to catch back up with them. BLADE is a great title for those who want more of something along the lines of LONE WOLF AND CUB, but with somewhat easier-to-follow fighting. I also think Hiroaki Samura's art style is more agreeable to today's audiences. It's more cartoony, and the fine pencil work is gorgeous.
CLASSIC STAR WARS: A LONG TIME AGO… VOLUME 1 TP is the mouthful of a title used to describe the first 336 page full color collection of Marvel's STAR WARS series from 24 years ago. I'm not a huge SW fan, but with a roster of creative talent like Roy Thomas, Howard Chaykin, Steve Leialoha, Archie Goodwin, Terry Austin, and much more, how could I go wrong? It's a $30 price tag, but for that much material (the first in eight total volumes collecting the series) it's not a bad price point at all.
DC: It seems lately that a lot of the thunder has been stolen from DC's trade paperback program. While this week's GREEN ARROW hardcover is a very nice package (nice paper and terrific price of $24.95 for the volume), Marvel's suddenly emerged as the leader in the hardcover department, with a new program geared to publishing a couple such books a month. The only unknown in that equation right now – and I will grant you that it's a big one – is how well the package will hold together. Will the paper be a good stock? Will the binding hold? Will the packaging be attractive? We have no idea yet what these hardcovers will look like.
In the meantime, DC has made an excellent decision with its slipcased THE ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY hardcover, containing the complete 12 issue run by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch. In addition to the story, it's got a bevy of behind the scenes materials, including sketches and designs. The book isn't due out until late August. This is an advanced solicitation to best judge the response. I'm hoping it's a good one, because this is a step in the right direction. It might be pricey for some, at $50.
I wish I understood the need for a slipcase. I have to be honest that its purpose eludes me. I like books, and not boxes. DC seems to have a thing for slipcases, including GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW, CRISIS, and KINGDOM COME. At least in the last case, there were two books to package together. A single book doesn't really need a box.
I want to hate and ignore this DC FIRST series of one shots that's due through May. I really do. But the creative teams include Pete Woods, Steven Grant, Terry Moore, Geoff Johns, Kevin Nowlan, Rick Burchett, and Keith Giffen. Looks like I'm getting sucked in.
SUPERGIRL #70 features art from Todd Nauck, and inks by regular Robin Riggs. I'm beginning to wonder about this concept of Leonard Kirk drawing two books a month already. His first issue of JSA shipped last month. SUPERGIRL was a fill-in issue this month, and May's issue is slated to be a fill-in already.
BATMAN: GOTHAM ADVENTURES reaches its 50th issue, and celebrates with a Darwyn Cooke painted cover. That's it. No pin-up section in the back. No supersized story. No guest creators. It's Scott Peterson and Tim Levin telling the story of Catwoman's return to the book. The cover price is still $1.99.
STEAMPUNK #12 finishes the series. Thank goodness for that.
SUICIDE SQUAD reaches its ninth issue, with the creative team of Keith Giffen and Paco Medina still intact. I just read the most recent two issues of the series tonight, and am learning to love it more as time goes on. I know and accept that this book isn't for everyone. Original Suicide Squad purists will want to shun it like the plague. This one's a little lighter and a bit more super hero-related. While there is some political intrigue, it's nowhere near the level of the John Ostrander/Kim Yale series, which also had more developed characters past the joke-cracking point. Nevertheless, it's an impressive book taken on its own merits, and one that features an eye-catching Michael Bair cover in May.
Image promises us THE AGE OF BRONZE: BEHIND THE SCENES one-shot in May. 24 pages. Black and white. $3.50. It's a companion volume to the first trade, really, showing the creative process behind the book, from research to design to execution. Should prove interesting for all of us process junkies.
Michael Avon Oeming's BULLETPROOF MONK is collected in one full color 80 page volume for $10. Why? Well, there's a movie coming. Why else? ;-)
If you wanted to read Michael Turner's FATHOM, but were turned off by the deluxe edition of the previously released volume collecting the series' first 224 pages, then you're in luck. There's a trade paperback coming for mid-May at a much more reasonable $25.
Aron Wiesenfeld returns to comics (YAY!) with GUARDIAN ANGEL, a new bi-monthly mini-series with writer Jonathan Peterson. It'll be a grind waiting for each issue, but his art looks as pretty as ever on pages 122 and 123. Jeromy Cox is coloring it. He's tagged as the PROMETHEA colorist, but he's also done great work on LEAVE IT TO CHANCE, which is where I first remembered his name.
Hmmm, and how much longer before we see those promised LITC hardcover reprints?
MIDNIGHT NATION #12 ends the series, with the question on everyone's mind being, "Thank God, when can we get the trade now?" With Joe's Comics nearing extinction, it'll be interesting to see where such a compilation will end up.
SAVAGE DRAGON #99. There goes time flying by me once again. It feels like only ten years ago that I picked up #1. I do believe that this will be the longest uninterrupted run of a comic book that I own. I can't think of too many else that might come close. Maybe AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, which was the first comic I ever read, and as such stuck by for a little too long. Peter David's HULK was a pretty good run, too, but I didn't start until about halfway through it. I've managed to piece together enough back issues, probably to clear 100 issues, though.
Marvel is doing Spider-Man month to celebrate the movie's release in May. Amongst other things, this includes the premiere of the new Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale series, SPIDER-MAN: BLUE. I've learned my lesson on these books. I'm sitting this out and waiting for the collection to be issues for Christmas. Hopefully, there will still be the aggressive hardcover program at Marvel for it.
Scott Sava's SPIDER-MAN: QUALITY OF LIFE four issue mini-series begins, also. It's an eye-popping three-dimension CGI comic book. (For more details on how the book was created, check out the CBR article about it from a few weeks ago.) I don't think I'll wait for a collection on this one. I'm too anxious to see how they pull off the look. I don't want to wait a few months past it.
There's a rather unfortunate wrestling tie-in issue of TANGLED WEB. My disdain for the whole WWF circus is such that I'm not even touching it.
Frank Quitely draws NEW X-MEN #126. Somewhere, fandom does a collective exhale and reduces the level of blue showing on its skin.
Dazzler shows up in DEADPOOL #67, and I'm still left waiting for Longshot's grand return. (Why do I have the sick fear that when he does, it'll be an UDON limited series? I know Art Adams wouldn't be available, but I really want the classic character back here, and not a manga-fied version.) UDON draws this, in the meantime, from a script by Gail Simone.
X-MEN UNLIMITED includes a story by Chris Claremont and Salvador Larroca starring Shadowcat. Forgive my inner fanboy for rejoicing at this news. Joe Chiodo paints the cover, as well as providing an interior story.
Bill Rosemann and Guy Davis' DEADLINE hits its second issue, and we'll begin to see how good a mini-series it will be. The first issue -- as reviewed here last week -- is really good. The trick will be in moving the story along and bringing it to a satisfying conclusion in the last three issues.
Kaare Andrews is doing nice work on the covers of THE INCREDIBLE HULK these days. Issue #40 is no exception.
FURY gets the trade paperback treatment on May 1st. (It was first advance-solicited last month. I mention it here again to keep it in the same family as the books that will come out in the same month.) While the series seems to have garnered mixed reactions from fans, I thought it really came together in the last issue. It's one of the best last issues of a mini-series that I've read in a long time. Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson did a great job, so long as you keep the story separated in your head from mainstream Marvel Universe continuity. Otherwise, it might hurt your head to see Dum Dum Dugan in his current state and see what activities Nick Fury participates in on his off time. It's $15.95 for the trade, and is definitely a mature readers title.
John Ostrander and Leonardo Manco combined on BLAZE OF GLORY, a very pretty Marvel Universe western from a couple of years ago. It's being trade paperbacked in time for the follow-up mini-series, APACHE SKIES. I'll recommend this to anyone looking for any sort of comic book western. They seem to be on the comeback, and this is as good a book as any to start. (Ostrander's THE KENTS still reigns supreme as the best western comic that I've ever read.)
The horrible GHOST RIDER: THE HAMMER LANE is also being repackaged, but I'd advise against looking at it. You can thank me later.
You're better off playing the nostalgia card with G.I. JOE Volume 2, which is due out now in June.
Finally, also coming in June is the latest Marvel hardcover, PUNISHER, collecting the original 12-issue mini-series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. It's a series that took me a little bit to warm up to, but one I learned to love by the end. As an added bonus, the book includes PUNISHER KILLS THE MARVEL UNIVERSE. Very tempting.
There's more stuff to look at in PREVIEWS. I haven't touched Oni, Slave Labor, or Black Bull yet -- and the last company mentioned has something in May that's definitely worth considering. Here's a hint: Phil Noto. I'll conclude this flip through the catalogue in a column next week. In the meantime, one last bit of housekeeping needs doing:
I don't want to resort to adding a line at the bottom of every column about this, but I'm going to do it today. Since Pipeline Daily a couple of weeks ago, I've fallen far behind on responding to e-mails. Rest assured that they're all read the same day they come in. It's been nearly impossible to respond to as many as I'd like to, however.
Please forgive any replies to e-mails you may have sent two weeks ago, and rest assured that I do read everything, even if I don't have the chance to respond. Hopefully, things will get better over the next couple of weeks and I'll get back to answering more of your e-mail. In the meantime, don't hesitate to write. I love hearing from everyone. Also, stop by the Pipeline message board with your questions and comments, too. I'd be more than happy to answer comments and questions placed up there, too. There's a lot of activity over there these days.
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.