This column has an actual theme. It's a bunch of reviews of books with a decidedly UK slant. In some cases, it's the creator, and in others it's the setting of the book, or one of the characters. But there's more! Check out the contest after the reviews for how you can get your hands on a copy of the new COMICOLOGY magazine, and look for the special Pipeline announcement at the very end.
MARVEL BOY #1: Huh? I know a lot of people get off on all this wacky Grant Morrison stuff. I've even been able to enjoy what little of his JLA stuff I've read. But INVISIBLES was completely foreign to me, and I'm afraid this new title leaves me with little more than, "Huh?"
Yes, the art by J.G. Jones is, generally speaking, easy to look at. The production values are top notch, from coloring to lettering to paperweight. But I have no idea what's going on, aside from the further masturbatory ramblings of some bloke from the U.K. I'm sure they were interesting drugs, but I'm not sure I have much of an interest.
BREAKFAST AFTER NOON #1 is the new series by Andi "Geisha" Watson for Oni Press. Drawn in his own inimitable black and white (with gray "coloring") style, this one tells the tale of two British lovers who are released from their jobs and looking to make ends meet while planning their wedding. It's admittedly "slice of life"-ish and as such seems to ramble a little bit. On the other hand, I can look at it with a dispassionate eye and see some of the things Watson is trying to set up with this. The last page ends the first act, showing us what the goal of the series will be. The obsession over the CD player in the car by Rob, the male lead, is an outward manifestation of his desire for unnecessary trinkets in the shadow of his potentially dire financial situation, and becomes a serious bone of contention between he and his girlfriend. Look for it to be the symbol the series focuses on to show the state of affairs in the relationship for the rest of the book.
In other words, this first issue isn't going to excite you. It's a nice leisurely read, that tells a few pages' worth of story spread out over 32 pages, at the expense of throwing some of the day-to-day happenings to make it seem all the more real.
TRANSMETROPOLITAN #35 (Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson) continues to signal a major turning point for the series. Things are going bad, fast, and Spider is just pushing all the right buttons. This is the most viscerally exciting this book has been in a long time. It's not just entertaining, but it's exciting and filled with a certain level of anxiousness for whatever comes next.
We're seeing a lot of past storylines come back into the book now, as Spider goes to all the contacts he's made in pursuit of following the one overriding larger story and to nail the President for everything wrong he's ever done. It's brutal work, but it needs doing. =)
And for what it's worth, yes, I do disagree vehemently with Warren's article last week here at CBR in which he describes letters columns as more or less useless. His comparison to films is off the mark. Comics are periodicals. Periodicals - such as those mainstream 'rags' that give attention to comics, like ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY - all have letters columns. That's where the comparison needs to be made. When the time comes such that comics are issued in completed long-form as status quo, then we can discuss letters columns again. Until then, screw it! Let the fans have a bit of fun, eh, wot?
When collected into a trade paperback form, yes, the letters column seems out of place. You usually end up with a creator introduction or forward from some luminary. There's still a text page with, one hopes, a review of the book or some sort of discussion of its creator.
The letters column doesn't provide the reader of the comic the "inalienable right of reply," as Warren phrases it. It just provides a fannish outlet for users to provide their critique. Heck, it should be seen as a strength. This is the only medium which lets its fans think they're part of the process, even when they're not. We worship and adore movie stars, princesses, and even (unfortunately) some politicians. We hold viewing parties for television series. But all of these are passive pursuits, in the end. The creators know nothing of it, aside from the large bulk of ignored fan mail.
It is only in comics where you truly get the sense that the creators are "normal" people just like us. They're not bigger and grander. They're just one of us. And we have the ability to interact. We can go to conventions and meet them. We can talk to them in on-line fora. Yes, we can even write letters to the publication, knowing that there's a real chance someone will read it.
But the chance that a fan believes that someone would read it on the creative end goes down to zero if there is no letters column. Think of it as the check and balance on the goodwill between fans and professionals. Nobody should believe that the letters they write will dictate policy. Letterhacks constitute such a small percentage of the total overall readership; it would be stupid to chart the course of the book by letters sent in.
Additionally, a personality-filled letters column just adds to the entertainment value for the book. Ignore, for now, the blatantly corporate columns that are slapped together at the last minute to serve as a cheerleading section for the book. Look at the letters columns that are put together by the creators. Check out anything from Brian Bendis or Erik Larsen. Their columns are entertaining in and of themselves. They don't cheapen the medium. They don't retard comics' growth or lead readers into thinking they're completely in control.
No harm, no foul.
To do away with letters columns completely would be foolish.
Back to the reviews:
Three or four different plots run through THE PUNISHER #5, and Frank Castle is only involved in one of them. This is The Punisher's Day Off, as Garth Ennis catches the reader up on all of the previous subplots, and sets up one or two more. Hopefully, the last 7 issues of the mini-series can now spring out of here. The characters are all uniformly deliciously despicable. While some of it is redundant with previous issues, it's still entertaining. I wonder what's softening my stance with this series? I thought the previous issues were all a little light. This one is no different, really, but the characters seem to be acting with more than just a "Let's Kill The Punisher" motivation. Maybe that's what makes me enjoy the issue more.
KIN #4 continues its story along, as well. It's another chapter in the on-going storyline, and if you haven't been around for the ride so far, don't start here. If you have been reading, keep on doing that. So what's the point in any further review? You've either already bought it, or don't intend to.
Sheesh, I'm cynical this evening.
The point is, I think the book is entertaining. Gary Frank both writes and draws it, along with Paul Mounts and Ken Wolak (Bongotone) doing the coloring. It's a pretty book, with some nice high concept science fiction ideas involved. It's also a larger conspiracy book, with people out to get one another and different sides of the story all coming along, destined to crash together shortly. Frank's writing needs a little help in the ending of a story. This issue just sorta stops in the middle of a scene. Maybe he's planning ahead for the collection and doesn't care about the individual chapters? I don't know, but this issue just ended uncomfortably for me.
EMPIRE #1 might very well be my favorite book of the year. This is Mark Waid and Barry Kitson's first Gorilla Comics book, and it's a real stunner. I was amazed at how quickly I grew attached to the characters in the book. It's especially effective when one of those characters gets taken down a notch and you feel it like a punch in the gut. Amazingly, you get all these emotions despite the fact that they're all bad guys!
This book is the story of Golgoth, the conqueror of earth, and his assorted colleagues who now rule over the earth. The first issue sets up the premise and tells a complete "done-in-one" story. Comicraft's lettering is off-center in a few places, but the coloring from Chris Sotomayor is excellent, especially the computer added effects, such as are seen in the first few pages as Golgoth holds a flaming earth in his hand.
I also started reading the new COMICOLOGY magazine last week. Haven't finished it, so I can't really review it yet. Suffice it to say, however, that what I've read so far is incredible. The long-form interviews with top-flight creators are something that's been missing in the comics press for a long time. The short form WIZARD interviews have been under whelming, to say the least. And THE COMICS JOURNAL's interviews tend to skew more towards the indy scene.
Anyway, Ye Comicology Editor Brian Saner Lamken is a Pipeline reader, and wrote in to offer all of you lucky readers a chance to win a free copy of COMICOLOGY. I'm handing over the next few inches of screen space to him. [But stick around, because there's an interesting Pipeline announcement at the end of this column!]
Your host, Augie, has kindly turned a few paragraphs over to me, Brian Saner Lamken, editor of COMICOLOGY, so that I can give out free copies of my magazine. What a guy, huh?
All you have to do is check out the Jeph Loeb interview in our recent Spring 2000 issue, which, like Augie's June 6th PIPELINE column, has a theme to its main title and headers. Then send an E-mail message with (1) the answer, (2) your street address, and (3) the street address of your local comics shop to email@example.com with "PIPELINE" in the subject field.
I'll send a free copy of our upcoming Summer 2000 issue to the first correspondent with the correct answer (it's nothing elaborate), as well as to one other correspondent randomly selected from all messages received between the posting of this here column and the posting of the *next* Friday PIPELINE2 column, because I know that not everyone gets to read Augie's insights as soon as they're up.
For those of you who already subscribe to COMICOLOGY, I'll make sure that your subscription is extended by an issue. For those of you who purchase COMICOLOGY at your local comics shops, well, I don't like the thought of taking business away from the retailers who support us, even if it's just that one sale on that one issue of our magazine, so I'm aiming to ameliorate the damage somewhat by sending one free copy apiece to the retailers who serve our winners too.
This informal contest is not being sponsored by TwoMorrows Publishing, and is only being conducted out of the goodness of the editor's own publicity-mongering heart. Your name and address will not be used for any king of marketing purposes, and in fact all entries will be deleted from my mailboxes once the contest has ended unless individual entrants that their addresses be kept on hand for future COMICOLOGY news.
Thanks, Brian, and good luck to all! It's a worthy read.
You may have already noticed that a couple of the reviews I mentioned earlier in the week haven't popped up yet. Well, I had such a good time writing all of these reviews, I got a bit carried away. Turns out I had enough material for three columns. And all the stuff that didn't make the first two from this week will be appearing here on CBR next Thursday, June 29th as a PCR EXTRA. Since the column is already written, I can guarantee you that it will be on time! No pre-ordering is necessary. Just stop by CBR on Thursday and read away. Look for reviews of F5, BATGIRL, THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, X-FORCE, and more!
But, first, pop back here on Tuesday, as usual, for another fine edition of Pipeline Commentary and Review. See you there!