Saturday, January 28, 2006

Four Color Commentary - Books Shipped 1-25-06

JLA Classified #16
Gail Simone, Writer
Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Penciller
Klaus Janson, Inker

Gail Simone is one of the current crop of writers whom I will follow from book to book, without a care for the characters involved as her run in Birds of Prey has been some of the most consistently good material coming out of DC for a while. However I am not very good at keeping track of what she is working on, therefore I was pleasantly surprised to see her name on the cover of this issue. In this issue Simone continues to trend of this book actually being more interesting that the parent title and brings her own peculiar sense of humor to the table. “My God…he’s full of Starro!” Brilliant.

Spider-Man and the Black Cat #6 (of 6)
Kevin Smith, Writer
Terry & Rachel Dodson, Pencils & Inks

A lot has been said/written about the lag between the beginning of this series (the first three issues were published in 2002) and the end so I will not waste your time delving into the subject. Now, keep in mind that Kevin Smith is perhaps my favorite writer and the man responsible for getting me back in to comics, so when I say, “Kev, seriously, WTF?” A story about rape? I understand the social relevance of the issue, and in light of some of the recent discussion around the comics world, eerily timely. I do not object to the lesson we are meant to learn from this story, but the last two issues felt like a lecture not a story. At least Terry and Rachel Dodson provided pretty pictures for the lecture.

Usagi Yojimbo #90
Stan Sakai, Writer & Artist

I can not remember who said it (either Beaucoup Kevin or Chris) but they hit the nail on the head when they said that if there were any justice in the world this book would be selling 100,000 copies an issue. From issue to issue Stan consistently delivers well-crafted stories accompanied by beautiful black and white line art. This issue begins a new story-arc, “The Ghost in the Well,” where Usagi encounters a ghostly assassin in the Geishu castle where trade negotiations are taking place. I am eager to see where the story goes in the next issue. This issue would serve as a good place for those of you who are not currently reading UY to jump on to the title. If you would prefer to read an entire story, pick up the Usagi Yojimbo Book 12 – Grasscutter trade paperback from Dark Horse. This complies the story that many consider the definitive UY story.

The New Avengers #15
Brian Michael Bendis, Writer
Frank Cho, Art
The second New Avengers issue to be drawn by Frank Cho wanders back in to familiar territory for Bendis as the majority of the issue is spent chatting about things and leading up to the New Avengers revealing themselves to the public. The story is framed by entries from Carol Danvers’ (a.k.a. Ms. Marvel a.k.a. Warbird) blog, which I really feel is an irritating way to have a character present exposition or editorialize on the action. Although I felt this was the biggest misstep in the issue, it certainly was not the only one. During a discussion with Captain America, Danvers talks about how she felt like a real hero during the House of M. Three out of the four times Danvers says House of M it is marked through with a red line (a formatting trick I have been trying to figure out on the Opiate). I am not certain what the red strikethough means, but it seems to indicate that the text was meant to be replaced. Oh well, editorial errors not withstanding, I can go back to not buying this series now.

Red Sonja vs. Thulsa Doom #1 (of 4)
Peter David and Luke Lieberman, Writers
Will Conrad, Art

I do not really have too much to say about the book itself. Let’s be honest, you do not read Red Sonja in search of deep social commentary. She’s a hot red-head in armor bikini who could kick this fanboy’s a$$ any day of the week. If I’m lucky. The reason I want to discuss this book (aside from the fact that it gives me a chance to post the Gabrielle Del’Otto cover) is so I can rant about what Dynamite Entertainment (the publisher) is doing with the Red Sonja franchise.

In the past two weeks three Red Sonja books have been released. The first was the fourth issue of the perennially late regular series, the second is the book we are now not discussing, and the third is Sonja Goes East, a one-shot. I do not understand how, in a time where many in the industry are worried about declining sales and a shrinking market, companies can justify putting out multiple books which could be, and should be, part of one series. Both Red Sonja vs. Thulsa Doom and Sonja Goes East could easily be story arcs in the main Red Sonja series but Dynamite chose to publish them as separate series, therefore flooding an already small market. In addition to this Dynamite has also seen fit to publish between three and six covers for each issue of the regular series and between two and five covers for each issue of these side series. That is potentially eighteen issues of Red Sonja comic that cam out in the last two weeks, one of which is an extra spiffy Fiery Red Foil cover.

Imagine, if you will, you are a hardcore collector, but you have to do it on a limited budget. You are also having to do this in the era of Infinite Crisis where there are multiple tie-in issues each week that you may or may not already be picking up as part of an ongoing series. Now you are having to pick and choose what you want to do. Do you complete your collection of Red Sonja? Do you read all of the Infintie Crisis issues so you can catch all of the story? (Yes, I am still PISSED at DC about that whole OMAC Project/Wonder Woman thing.) Ultimately you have to drop a couple of other titles to feed the beast, or perhaps you will grow tired of Dynamite’s game and drop the Red Sonja titles from your pull list. As I have seen in some fellow collectors it tends to follow that exact pattern. They will drop regular titles for a month or two to make up for the extra Red Sonja issues, however after about five months they end up dropping the interloper series and return to their regularly scheduled pull list. This means that Dynamite is getting immediate returns at the cost of long-term sales.

These marketing ploys by Dynamite are starting to look like the marketing ploys used by companies during the boom the comics market saw in the 90s. Does anyone else remember Lady Death Black Velvet covers? Then the bottom fell out of the comics market. How much of this is due to the dot com bust is up to debate, but I am sure that consumer fatigue had something to do with the bust. With all of their variant covers and multiple series, Dynamite is contributing to the exact kind of consumer fatigue that factored into the 90s bust, but without the robust speculation and comic investor market to absorb the eventual contraction in the market.

The rest:
  • B.P.R.D. – The Black Flame #6 (of 6)
    • Mike Mignola and John Arcudi, Writers
    • Guy Davis, Art
  • Batman #649
    • Judd Winick, Writer
    • Eric Battle, Penciller
    • Rodney Ramos, Inker
  • Batman – Journey into Knight #6 (of 12, I think)
    • Andrew Helfer, Writer
    • Tan Eng Huat, Art
  • Catwoman #51
    • Will Pfeifer, Writer
    • Pete (Not My Dad) Woods, Art
  • Daredevil #81/461
    • Brian Michael Bendis, Writer
    • Alex Maleev, Art
  • Defenders #5 (of 5)
    • Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis & Kevin Maguire
  • Exiles #76
    • Tony Bedard, Writer
    • Jim Calafiore, Penciller
    • Mark McKenna, Inker
  • Green Lantern Corps Recharge #4 (of 5)
    • Dave Gibbons & Geoff Johns, Writers
    • Patrick Cleason, Penciller
    • Prentis Rollins & Christian Alamy, Inkers
  • The Pulse #13
    • Brian Michael Bendis, Writer
    • Michael Gaydos, Art
  • Red Sonja – Sonja Goes East (One-shot)
    • Ron Marz, Writer
    • Joe Ng, Art
  • Robin #146
    • Bill Willingham and Bill Williams, Writers
    • Scott McDaniel, Penciller
    • Andy Owens, Inker
  • Wolverine #38
    • Daniel Way, Writer
    • Javier Saltares, Breakdowns
    • Mark Texeira, Finishes
  • X-Men #181
    • Peter Milligan, Writer
    • Roger Cruz, Penciller
    • Victor Olazaba with Don Hillsman III, Inkers
  • X-Men – Deadly Genesis #3 (of 6)
    • Ed Brubaker, Writer
    • Trevor Hirsine, Layouts
    • Scott Hanna & Nelson, Finishes

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