THE STORY SO FAR…
Welcome to Pipeline Commentary and Review, a weekly mostly comics-specific column.
For those of you coming in late:
Hi, my name is Augie De Blieck Jr. If that name sounds familiar to you, it's likely from one of two places:
- Letters columns in the 90s. I had something like 400 letters published in the backs of comics from all sorts of publishers. "Savage Dragon" was my main hangout, but you might have seen samples anywhere from "X-Men" to "Marvel Comics Presents" to "Star Trek" and all sorts of other places, many of which I've likely forgotten about already.
- Pipeline Commentary and Review. Started 19 years ago as a weekly column to compile all my thoughts on various USENET threads, it moved two years later to ComicBookResources.com, where it lasted for 17 years.
Today, the Pipeline Commentary and Review column moves to ComicBook.com. (Thanks, Jim!) This will save your fingers from typing an extra nine characters every week to find me. You're welcome.
This is the 1001st week of writing this column, and not much has changed. Except it's going to be shorter and slightly more focused. Again, you're welcome.
In this week's case, I'm looking at four titles Image Comics is releasing tomorrow. As always, I'll keep these reviews spoiler free.
FAIRYLAND HATES YOU, TOO
The seventh issue of "I Hate Fairyland" doesn't miss a beat from the previous six. If you liked those, you'll like this one. Gert is still trying to find her way home, and comes up with a plan that might just backfire or have disastrous consequences for her if she's not careful. As usual, her single minded, rage-filled decision making process might just be her own undoing. Skottie Young milks that for every laugh he can get. Who can blame him?
It's a farcical and ludicrous plot, which fits the series perfectly, but it's the world building aspect of it that Young sells the strongest. With every issue, Gert finds herself in a new environment or two (or three), and Young's job is to define it, explore it, and exploit it as quickly as possible. "I Hate Fairyland" isn't a book that breathes. It gasps for air continuously, to get everything out to the reader as fast as possible before moving on. There's no time for long breaths and the holding thereof.
We get a couple new places in this issue, one more wonderfully over-the-top than the other, complete with background gags a plenty. Young is really settling in with this title, adding layers to it as he goes. The signs are funny and the background visual gags are funny. He doesn't try to sell every joke on the page. He just puts them out there for you to find, and the story will continue whether you find it or not.
Special credit goes to Jean-Francois Beaulieu for his colors in this issue. He really pushes them into the candy-coated bright purple and blue phase. There is nothing in this issue that can't be over-saturated, and Beaulieu pushes it as far as he can go. It's an assault on the eyes that matches the art, which matches the bombastic nature of the story.
"I Hate Fairyland' #7 is a strong issue on its own, with a cover that matches the contents. While the previous issue stood fairly well on its own to tell a singular story and reset the playing board, this one is more the beginning of an arc, which we'll see run for another three issues. Whenever Gert grabs her ax and goes exploring, only fun will follow.
And blood. Lots and lots of blood.
HIS FOOT IS ENORMOUS
"Manifest Destiny" #21 continues the split story between two groups of travelers (a few years apart) getting caught in the winter in a land filled with one-eyed Bigfoot type creatures. It doesn't go well for either of them.
This is the third of six parts in this story, so it isn't where you might want to begin. But "Manifest Destiny" is one of Image's strongest titles, with three trade paperbacks available now that tell a heck of a story. This is the tale of Lewis and Clark, exploring the new lands out west to eliminate any supernatural threats and pave the way for future American expansion. Writer Chris Dingess pulls that off with glee, disposing of characters as necessary to sell the strength of the adversaries.
Matthew Roberts handles the pencils, with Tony Akins and Stefano Gaudiano on inks. The art has always been consistently solid, like a mix between Charles Adlard and Tony Moore. Adding the two inkers didn't change the overall look greatly, but I bet it helps push the book through the production pipeline a little more smoothly.
Owen Gieni works the colors, so you already have an idea what the surface level look of the series will be. He does great work with textures and scratchy bits of colors to bring a more organic look to the art. Every book he touches is instantly the better for it.
In the end, this is an issue that furthers the current storyline. It wouldn't sit well on its own. If you're new to the series, go find that first trade paperback instead, because it's worth it. I reviewed the first two trades last month.
AROUND THE FINAL BEND
"Chew" begins the march to the finish line with issue #55 this week. I'm not going to attempt to sell you on this issue. That would be silly. At this point, you're either in or out. If you haven't jumped in yet, it's never too late. Everything is still in print. Go buy the first trade or first hardcover and start catching up. It's a great series and it's worth it.
In general, this is the moment in a comic's life when it feels like the seventh game of the World Series. Every moment is super important and anything can happen and all of it is final. There is no tomorrow; there is no do-over. There's just no time. I'm holding my breath every time I turn a page, just in case something crazy happens.
John Layman and Rob Guillory have a total of six issues to close the door on this series. There's still a bunch of leftover plot points for them to explain. The good news is, those points start to show up in this issue, so I feel like I'm in safe hands here.
I'm very excited for these final issues and the answers they might give us, but also sad that "Chew" will be over after that. It's been an amazing series through the years, and it's safe to say there will be nothing like it afterwards.
'SNOT A BOY
The much anticipated new monthly series, "Snotgirl" debuts this week. It's a very interesting look at a comic formally adopting its story's setting into its very format. The book is ultimately about a fashion blogger, and Bryan Lee O'Malley and his team format everything around that. That goes beyond just the fashions all the characters are wearing, and going to things like the typesetting around the caption boxes and the text messages that fly through the issue, but also the way websites like Instagram and the main character's own site are referenced and shown.
The overall art direction of the book (from artist Leslie Hung) feels like a mix between what we used to call "Amerimanga" and some of the design sensibilities we saw in "Scott Pilgrim," with regular typeset sans-serif fonts used as captions and explainers alongside the traditional all-caps lettering styles. Word balloons are shaped more like translated manga balloons, taller than they are wide, as if the words inside should be running vertically and not horizontally. It's one of those things where the style has now overruled the function. The balloons appear without the black outlines. They are holds in the art where the letters go in. Letterer Mare Odomo also floats words on the page with slight glowing colors around them, as necessary, and tilts caption boxes to indicate the stress of the speaker's voice.
The overall story is really the first act of whatever the creative team has planned. It feels like the final pages of the first issue neatly match up with what in a movie would be the turning point to kick things off. We've met the characters, discovered their weaknesses, and explored the basic nature of their lives. Now, something has happened to upset that all and it'll be interesting to see how it pans out.
The first issue does a good job in drawing the reader into the world. In the months ahead, we'll see how well O'Malley, Hung, and friends pull it off.0comments
This weekend, the comics industry meets in San Diego to break news that will squeeze out amidst the TV and movie news that will rain down on all our heads. I'll be taking a look at some of the more interesting comics newsbits that haven't been pre-announced yet.