Sean Maher's Quality Control

Monday, August 29, 2005

Promotions Week, day one: Noble Causes

One of the things that's had me pretty damn interested in the comics industry for the last year or two has been marketing. I'm not really very marketing-minded, personally - just doesn't squeak very naturally through these old gears. But it's been fun to watch what patterns develop, what techniques get re-used a lot, and what works.

So each day this week, I'll be looking at one of the ways that comics get promoted, and talkin' about what I think. I'll try and narrow my focus to one title or one promotional line, but I invite y'all to take the discussion wherever it may go.

Today, then, I'm thinking about Advance Reviews.

Publishers and creators will often send copies of their comics to online reviewers prior to the actual release date of those comics, and the reviews are meant to spread the word so folks will already have that title in mind when the books come out.

Personally, I really dig these when I come across 'em, but they have to come from a reviewer I trust, or from readers I know I share tastes with. I've seen them sometimes on The Fourth Rail (in fact, there's one up now for Smoke and Guns, which comes out on Wednesday), and that's always enough to grab my attention. I see them sometimes on MillarWorld as well, and if it's a book I've been curious about or I recognize the poster, I'll always take a look and give some more thought to checking out the book in question.

I've done a few of these reviews, myself - got started as a blogger by looking at Elk's Run #1, and looked at AiT/Planet Lar's Smoke and Guns a few weeks ago - and I've got another one for you today.

Jay Faerber's generously hooked me up with a full PDF of Nobles Causes #13, and his timing couldn't be better. See:

1. Just last week, I picked up Noble Causes: Blood and Water, the latest trade collection of the series, and the strongest installment yet. So I was already starting to wonder if the book doesn't warrant my support in serial format--

2. Then Jay hit me with a double-whammy, as issue #13 switches up the format of the book with 28 pages of story now (making the $3.50 price tag much easier for me to digest)--

3. And it really kicks ass, launching a new arc with several powerful character introductions (think Jumping On Point, folks) and packing a huge storytelling punch into every page. The cliffhangers (yes, they're multiple) are also great, and I'm thinking that reading this book in monthly installments might even be more fun than the trades.

Noble Causes, for those completely unfamiliar with the title, is a super-hero book featuring the Noble Family as its heroes. Writer Jay Faerber has approached this from the angle that being super-heroes would make huge celebrities out of the family, and this has brought in several fun thematic threads; some family members are PR-obsessed, some are cracking under the pressure, some must try to keep themselves hidden (or are pressured to hide by the family)...

The premise is pretty rich, but as the series has gone on, Faerber's relied on it less and less, allowed the series to really breathe and expand; the cast is now fairly large, but the characters are all sharply defined by the scripting (and visually distinct thanks to some clever character designs) and the book does a great balancing act with all its different elements, effectively acting as a "done in one" superhero universe all in one book. Those who enjoy complex webs of character relationships, and fun superhero action, but are weary of picking up every X-title on the market... this book is custom built for you.

So, issue #13 and its character introductions; it seems to me that we're meeting the Noble family's arch enemies - the Blackthorne family. We're given a number of scenes that follow each member of the family and build their characters with impressive economy and effectiveness (Faerber's ability to manage the juggling act I mentioned above is on fine display here). The family has a solid reason for their hatred of the Nobles, one that the reader can sympathize with - really, while the issue doesn't back down from the fact that these are dangerous, corrupt people, they're none of them really ugly, either.

Really, the cruelest behavior in the issue comes from Doc Noble, the head of the Noble family, acting in the interest of his loved ones. The issue - and I'm guessing, the rest of this arc - focuses partially on what men will do to protect their families, and it pushes us to evaluate where the line is drawn. There aren't many black-and-white, "this is right and that is wrong" moments, and when they come they stand in dramatic contrast and mesh with the more messy moral issues the story wrestles with. It makes the book a dense read, as the reader is forced to parse out several moral arguments, some of which are strident and sure and some of which are murkier territory.

At the same time, there are some fun action scenes that lend some levity and more simple entertainment to the read. Folks who've been enjoying the wealth of subplots in recent issues of Invincible will find a lot to enjoy here. The book has a less innocent feel, but it doesn't really hit the overwrought Grim and Gritty sandtrap either. It's a tricky, slippery book like that, and I'm loving how it keeps me on my toes.

Tomorrow I'll look at another promotional tool and see if I can't create an example (or at least a specific response) of my own again. See you then!


  • At 3:30 PM, Blogger Jason said…

    You know - I picked up the first three or four trades - before it went to regular series. And I loved the fuck out of them until the very last page. It just felt kind of cheap to me, like I spent money and time on a story that wasn't really a story.

    But with all the talk around it soon and loving everything Jay writes I think I should give it a second chance.

  • At 11:58 PM, Blogger Sean Maher said…

    The last page of which issue or volume?

    You mean, in general? The soap opera style cliffhangers to the arcs?

  • At 12:12 AM, Blogger EQQU said…

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  • At 4:11 AM, Blogger Jason said…

    The last page of the last trade of the non-regular series.

    But I do agree that advanced previews rock.

  • At 9:10 AM, Blogger Jay Faerber said…

    << And I loved the fuck out of them until the very last page. It just felt kind of cheap to me, like I spent money and time on a story that wasn't really a story. >>

    I can understand why you'd have that gut-level reaction, but everything that I started in the first 3 TPBs (except for the shift on that last page) gets continued in the regular series. So everything that'd been building with Cosmic Rae, Frost, Celeste, Rusty, Krennick, Zephyr, etc. is all continued into the regular series. So those first 3 TPBs weren't for nothing.

    << But with all the talk around it soon and loving everything Jay writes I think I should give it a second chance. >>

    Damn right you should!

    ~ Jay

  • At 10:27 AM, Blogger Jason said…

    Damn, got called out. The new trades are indeed on my trade list. Like I said, you really haven't let me down yet with anything of yours I read. I was just...sidetracked a bit.

  • At 6:18 PM, Blogger Ray Dillon said…

    Wow. Really great review, man! And I don't just mean that because you gave it a positive review, but because it's really in-depth.

    Noble Causes is awesome!! I'm proud to be a part of the team and excited every month new pages and script come in.

  • At 3:13 PM, Blogger huda noor said…

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