RANTS FOR THE WEEK
(You've been warned. I'm in a foul mood as I write this. I'm in no mood to pull punches tonight. Come back Tuesday for the kinder, gentler Augie. Or just plow ahead to the next section of this austere column, and take a look at what's shipping in December.)
Over on the moderated Babylon 5 newsgroup, someone asked JMS about the increasing level of suckiness of the visuals on his RISING STARS. JMS announced that steps were being taken to improve the book, including deep-sixing the inker and colorist.
Although not a perfect analogy, firing the inker and the colorist of RISING STARS strikes me as being not too dissimilar to firing the manager of a baseball team because management gave him the league's worst starting rotation.
Now, firing the colorist was the right thing. And while a new inker might be able to put gloss on crap, it's still crap.
Christian Zanier's giraffe-necked Doublemint Twins passing for real world humans is what's wrong with the series right now.
You can see the difference when you read MIDNIGHT NATION. Same writer, different artist, and a much more enjoyable story. Why? Because you can see what the pictures look like! Because not ever male character ends up looking alike, and not every female character wears a black mini-skirt and tight blouse! Gary Frank works well doing "talking heads" comics, and this comic is well suited to his style. I'm not sure what Zanier's style is suited for. Not RISING STARS, though. Imagine BABYLON 5 with a cast including Pauly Shore, and the cast of SAVED BY THE BELL (the second generation) and you get an idea of what JMS is working against here. Why it took them this long to notice it is beyond me. And why this half-measure is the answer is even more ludicrous. Is Zanier under a contract or something that makes him un-fireable?
Brian Bendis announced on his message board Monday night that he's left both HELLSPAWN and SAM AND TWITCH. He asked that the fans don't speculate on it, just to accept it and take the high road.
And they did. The board was filled with, "Oh, well, that's two less books on my pull list." (That Bendis might have recreated a couple of characters into such an interesting duo that people would want to stick around after he left is apparently a foreign notion. Are they supporting Bendis politically on this one? That can't be it; nobody knows what the political situation behind his departure is. If a writer can't make the characters likable enough that you care to follow their adventures after he leaves, has he truly done his job? I can understand your qualms if a writer is coming on who you think has no talent, but these people were dropping the book before they heard who the replacement was. And I bet most have never heard of him even afterwards.)
And, even worse, nobody's asking about his sudden departure! Can you imagine this? Isn't anyone just the least bit curious about this?
The silence is freakin' deafening. Granted, respecting a creator's wishes is probably a good thing. But isn't there anyone out there just the least bit curious as to what went on behind the scenes that would cause Bendis to leave the book he once said would have to be pried out of his cold dead hands? When Mark Waid said it of THE FLASH, he reversed position when a change of heart and a disconnection to the character struck. When Bendis said it, he just changed his mind and asked us not to talk about it. Something had to have gone on between he and Todd McFarlane Productions. Why would he leave BOTH books, and not just one?
At least one person on the Bendis board was thoughtful enough to ask if this affects the TORSO movie deal through TMP. Bendis didn't answer. That might leave hints, I imagine, to what happened. Nevertheless, I wouldn't be surprised to hear something about that in coming days and weeks. Hollywood works slower and their contracts are pretty firm. (Heck, a vengeful TMP would sit on their option until it ran out?)
The relationship between creators and fans on the internet is wacky, to say the least. This one just cranks it up another notch. OK, I can understand people not talking about it on his message board, but I can't find any discussion of it anywhere else. I've looked on a half-dozen message boards and on USENET and it seems that nobody's concerned about it. There are threads here and there about it. But they all end up saying the same thing. "That sucks." And, "Cool, I'll save $5 a month now!"
(Wait, I just caught the thread on the Warren Ellis Forum. There's some light speculation, but even there the tone is more one of "Todd McFarlane sucks" and insert-"witty"-McGwire-baseballs-reference here for the millionth time. Well, that was the tone before the thread got shut down for its low signal to noise ratio.)
It's like the Kool Aid has been passed out and the choir wants a second serving? (I think I just mixed my metaphors. Time for some blood pressure medication.)
Then there are the real cranks, who are ashamed of Bendis for giving up on his 'roots' to write super-hero funny books. Yes, there are people out there who think Bendis is being overworked by the Ultimate line, and so he's left HELLSPAWN and SAM AND TWITCH. They forget that he's a few months ahead on scripts for both books, as well as POWERS. (I don't know where ULTIMATE SPIDEY stands, but I can only imagine he's pretty far ahead on that, too.)
I know I'm curious. If anyone knows, or has heard any good and potentially truthful stories about this, please let me know. I won't come here and spout it. I'll keep my big yap shut. Why would I? I mean, it's obvious nobody else is curious!
PREVIEWS FOR BOOKS DUE OUT IN DECEMBER
It's not too late to pre-order any and all of the stuff mentioned below. Pre-ordering is the best way to assure yourself of getting what you want, and of guaranteeing the creators named below some sales. It's amazing how backwards a system we have in place these days. But there are books out there that practically get more re-orders than pre-orders.
Larry Young is just one of the coolest guys in comics. Who else, other than his AIT/PlaNetLar would publish SPACE BEAVER?
When I first heard of the book, it was (I believe) in an interview with Darick Robertson. This was a book he wrote and drew at the earliest stage of his career. I like the occasional anthropomorphic comics, so I went hunting for it. Alas, it's rather obscure. And while I did manage to scare up a just-about complete run of DALGODA, SPACE BEAVER eluded me.
Now it can be mine. The first trade paperback collects the first 6 issues of the series. Presumably, the second will collect the second six issues. Robertson is, at long last, completing the series for this trade collection. The original series didn't last past the 11th issue back then, you see.
Over to Dark Horse:
And keeping in the all-important TPB mode, Dark Horse is collecting the whopping first three issues of Peter David's SPYBOY. ::yawn:: How impressive - three whole issues. If you're going to print a collection, give us a big whopping number of pages. 80 pages is kind of lacking.
Oh, and it's got a $9 price point, which means it was probably cheaper to buy the three individual issues. Color me not impressed. (Oh, and I didn't last past the second issue of the series. I thought it was needlessly obscure and the humor just too bizarre. Since the series is still chugging along, I guess there are some who like it. And more power to them.)
LONE WOLF AND CUB Vol.5, as well as SUPER MANGA BLAST #8 is scheduled for release in December, as well. No sign of AKIRA, however.
Sam Kieth returns to comics with Homage's ZERO GIRL. The preview art is classic Kieth. This one's about a teenage girl coming to terms with her weirdness. Something like that. It's five issues and will set you back $2.95 per. I'm looking forward to it, even if I did stop reading THE MAXX when it got too weird at the start of the second major storyline.
Dan Brereton is back on the scene, too, after not quite so long an absence. He's doing JLA: SEVEN CASKETS. It's one of the few incessant JLA spin-offs I'm looking forward to. (DC is determined to run the JLA's popularity right into the ground with a never-ending stream of mini-series, one-shots, Elseworlds, and collections. It took Marvel almost a decade after burning out Punisher before anyone cared about him again. I wonder if DC will learn the same harsh lesson?) This one falls under the "one-shot" category for $5.95. Brereton's stuff is always worth a look. He's writing and drawing this, so you can imagine what you should expect here: some weirdness, some monsters, and some JLA members.
STAR TREK SPECIAL #1 is an anthology book that wouldn't interest me all that much, except for the fact that it includes a story illustrated by Steve Lieber in it. For seven bucks, though, you're probably going to need a thick wallet or an interest in Star Trek to shell out for this one.
DANGER GIRL: KAMIKAZE! #1 of 2 is written and penciled by Tommy Yune. Ergo, there's a chance that it will come out as promised in December. If it doesn't, I'll just assume there's a Danger Girl curse and respectfully submit to J. Scott Campbell that he should create another title before he's late for his own funeral.
Joe Kelly's run on SUPERBOY begins with the 83rd issue? SUPERMAN ADVENTURES #52 features a "lost" script from Mark Millar and is drawn by Aluir Amancio. For my money, he draws the sexiest Lois Lane in existence. I can only imagine what he'll do with Supergirl in this story? Adam Warren writes and draws GEN13 #60?
Now let's look over to Image, where CRIMSON PLAGUE #4 might be readable, but I'm not taking bets on that? The JINX trade paperback comes out in an all-new edition, including remastered lettering and art, a "Making Of?" section, and more. This one will probably be worth buying a second time? The LAZARUS CHURCHYARD graphic novel is reissued with new art and a new story. For those of us who couldn't make heads or tails of this story the first time, here's our first chance to actively ignore it?
Back at Marvel: ULTIMATE X-MEN premieres with lovely, as ever, art from Adam Kubert. Unlike Bagley's art in ULTIMATE SPIDEY, this stuff is a little more loosely designed. Panel borders are broken, page layouts go all over the place, etc. One wonders if this might throw off some of the prospective new readers the Ultimate line is meant to attract. We shall see? Erik Larsen's long-awaited mini-series finally debuts with FANTASTIC FOUR: THE WORLD'S GREATEST MAGAZINE #1. DEFENDERS should be solicited next month. But this book promises an all-star list of talent, including Keith Giffen, Bruce Timm, and Larsen, himself. If nothing else, it'll look really cool? Rick Leonardi is drawing the SPIDER-MAN/SENTRY one shot. I've been wondering where Leonardi has been for a while now, and all of a sudden he's everywhere. He's also drawing a CROSSGEN fill-in issue this month, SCION #7? AVENGERS FOREVER gets collected into a trade paperback for $25? DAREDEVIL #16 is resolicited again. (Does that make it re-resolicited?) Maybe this time it'll show up. Don't hold your breath? Also resolicited: the amazingly packaged EARTH X. It's coming from Graphitti Designs and includes a double CD of music and video, the black and white version of the mini-series collected in hardcover, the plastic molded cover, and more?
And in the non-exclusive section: The recently-reviewed BERLIN series prints its eighth issue in December, ending the first 'cycle' of the story? DORK TOWER SWIMSUIT SPECIAL #1 is out. Don't worry - it's not T&A. It's a humor book about a bunch of gamers. This one's got guest pin-ups of the guys, and some oddball strips not printed elsewhere. For an overview of the series, check out PCR Extra #2? Page 246 includes solicitations for the forthcoming RISING STARS action figures. Check out the two-page spread of the figures on the preceding pages. It's probably the best chance you'll have to see what these characters really look like? Jungle Boy Press prints NOVAVOLO #1 in December. This is a humor anthology comic I was fortunate enough to get a copy of from creator Jai Nitz back at WizardWorld. It dawns on me now that I never fully reviewed it. Here's the short version: It's a rather funny little book. If you've got the spare four bucks when it comes out, give it a shot? Another book I picked up in San Diego makes its premiere in PREVIEWS: MAYBERRY MELONPOOL VOLUME 2: VOYAGE HOME. I reviewed the first volume after last year's convention. This one is just as good, at least for the first half of it that I've read so far. It's a collection of the successful and funny genre-related comic strip you can read on the web each day?
There is no issue of THE COMIC READER solicited this month, you'll be happy to hear. At last, we have truth in solicitation? JUST COMICS AND MORE #4 will be out in December, though. Yup, you guessed it. I reviewed the first issue of the magazine just last month.
There's more in this catalog. So much more. The above should not be construed as a final list of the interesting stuff in the catalogue. Take a look yourself. (Check out the Reboot Season 3 Vol. 2 DVD on page 257, for starters.) And pre-order!
Then come back here on Tuesday for a bunch of reviews of this week's comics! It was a good haul this week. There's scariness, eeriness, shock, humor, surprises, and more.