Hey Kids! Trade Paperbacks!
is something unique to my experience. When I first saw ads for this
a few months back, I thought it looked interesting but was unsure of
exactly what it would be. Maybe new stories set in the CrossGen universe?
New art from their regular artists?
Since I buy all
of their regular comics (nine and counting) each month, I figured I
would buy it and find out. Then I saw that the price was $24.95, a bit
steep for a comic book.
It turns out that this
is not a comic book. Physically magazine-sized, it has thicker paper than
a comic. This is an art book containing work from the first eighteen months
of CrossGen comics. Usually art books like this will focus on just one
artist, and is often painted. Despite being a cross-section of CrossGen,
it would be hard for anyone to flip through this book and argue that this
isn't 'art' in any sense of the word. It is a beautiful package.
I am curious about
who the folks at CrossGen are marketing this towards. CrossGen Illustrated
is not something that I would expect to find in a comic book shop. It
would be more at home in one of the chain bookstores. I happened to
be in Borders yesterday, and I looked around for it there. I didn't
find it, but it may show up in places like this eventually. (It's
not listed by Amazon, either - editor) So CrossGen should be commended
for trying to reach outside the normal comic marketplace.
This book would
make a good introduction to the CrossGen universe for someone who had
never read any of their comics before. The art is grouped into nine
sections, one for each of the titles that CrossGen publishes. Three
or four pages of text describe each of the worlds and gives a recap
of the story to date. Filled with a nice variety of fantasy and science
fiction themes, the traditional super-hero genre is notably excluded.
As far as I could
tell, none of the art is new to this book (except the painted cover,
by Joseph Michael-Linsner). The majority of it comes from covers and
splash pages of the individual issues. For someone who has read all
of these issues, there is not much new here. The text does contain some
hints and clues of things to come for hard-core CrossGen fans. The real
reason to buy this is if you want a high-quality compilation of the
One good thing
done here is to include both pencil/ink and colored versions of the
same pieces. This shows how much impact the colorist has on the illustration.
The coloring is done on computer, and the colorist is clearly adding
as much to the finished work as either the penciler or inker.
The art itself
varies from good to outstanding. I wish there had been more from George
Perez, but he only gets one two-page spread. There is great stuff from
Bart Sears, Steve Epting, Greg Land, and Butch Guice. I want to single
out Jim Cheung for special mention. I've always thought his work on
Scion was good, but his real talent is knowing which image will
capture each moment in the story. Seeing the best of his work in one
place really makes an impact.
would be good for those art fans who are not on a tight budget. Hopefully
it will bring some new readers to their monthly comics as well.
Also out this week
is The First trade paperback. Issues 1-7 of the ongoing series
are collected here along with some supplementary material. It is written
by Barbara Kesel and illustrated by Bart Sears and Andy Smith. This
makes a great chance to try out CrossGen's central book.
The story concerns
the "gods" of the CrossGen universe, who are similar in some ways to
Jack Kirby's New Gods. The cast of characters is immense, and
the plotting is dense. The status quo has been changed by the appearance
of sigil-bearers who have the power to kill members of the First. Turmoil
ensues and there is a power struggle to see which faction will end up
in control. The struggle is more political than physical, which seems
to be a more interesting way to go.
The First appear
in the other CrossGen comics as well as their own title, and a lot of
the underlying backstory of the CrossGen universe gets explained in
these pages. The upcoming title The Path finds its set up here,
as its main character and his motivations are introduced. CrossGen is
good about making each of their titles self-contained, but there are
links between them.
The art is excellent,
and the story is complex but good, making The First definitely
worth a look.
Both books can be
purchased at your local comics shop as well as through CrossGen directly.
this and more in the Fanboy forums.