Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 01/04/05
a new year. Thankfully, it's not the same old books.
brought to you by Brian's Books of Santa
writer/breakdowns: Scott McCloud
artists: Aluir Amancio and Terry Austin
There's a lot on the stands to be excited
about this week, but Superman: Strength gets the
spotlight nod for not just having a good pedigree, but actually
living up to it. Scott McCloud, one of the quirkiest and
savviest creators around, pens a story of two men trying
to live up to their fathers' examples. Clark Kent has already
learned moral strength (and weakness) from his father, while
a new enemy, "Fido," struggles to prove his worth to his
minor super-villain dad.
Sure, we've seen this sort of thing before,
but McCloud makes sure the parallels aren't too obvious
to get in the way of a fun story. He begins with a couple
of pages of citizens spitballing what they think Superman's
origin is. Everyone agrees on the Krypton part, but clearly,
they don't know what happened afterward.
It's clear to Fido that Superman cannot
have ever known a day of work in his life. Thus this physical
weakling, with hints of an abused childhood, cannot himself
understand a guy being selfless just because it's the right
thing to do.
He tests Superman, and McCloud plays the
sequence with a sense of cool. While over in The Question
Superman faces foes keenly aware of where he will and will
not go, Fido operates right out in the open, almost daring
the Man of Steel. Even when the "myth" of Superman's super-hearing
is proven true, the would-be criminal mastermind stays on
an even keel. Fido knows Superman's real weaknesses: he
won't fight someone that hasn't yet done something, and
he'll always, always protect innocents before apprehending
Though McCloud borrows elements of the
regular Super-books status quo, he's also dealing in his
own little corner of continuity. Superman's family situation
is current, being married to Lois (too little seen here)
and with both of his parents alive. But McCloud makes him
seem a little older, old enough at least to be facing a
second-generation criminal. And maybe I've lost a major
historical moment, or maybe it is only Fido's bragging,
but there's a significant reference to Superman having his
arm broken. What a great story idea that is alone,
and McCloud uses it as just background for this one.
Contrasting the main caper - and it is
a caper, with a great, great visual consequence right out
of the late fifties or early sixties - is a tale told by
Pa Kent about Clark at age 10. "The first time he saw a
city," Pa begins. What actually happened must wait for later
issues, but it's clear that McCloud is setting up something
involving Clark learning about grey areas, and trying to
With McCloud providing breakdowns, Amancio
and Austin give the book a strangely comfortable hodge-podge
look. Some panels evoke the memory of Jack Kirby, while
others have the crisp cartooniness of Joe Staton at his
best. All of it is dynamic, and it's nice to see Austin,
one of the best inkers in the business, back on a high profile
Strength won't fit into the regular
events of Superman's year, but it is what a mini-series
should be: a tale well told by one of the best in the business.
The Incredible Hulk #77: Peter David
returns and proves that the trick to going home again is
to not actually go home. Take yourself somewhere new with
a familiar friend. The parameters the veteran writer is
setting for himself and the Hulk have not yet quite coalesced,
but this first of a proposed six issue run is strong enough
for you to jump onboard now.
The New Avengers #2: I'm just going
to quote Andy at Brian's Books: "You may not have liked
what Bendis did to end the old Avengers, but if he hadn't
done that story, he couldn't have told this one." It's a
doozy. The fact that people seem to know who the Sentinel
is does seem a little troublesome, but I'm willing to cut
some slack because every other element of this story has
me completely hooked.
Captain America #2: The first issue
was in our spotlight a month ago, and if anything, Brubaker
and Epting get even better with this issue. If you don't
like Captain America, give this run a try anyway, because
it's an arc people will be talking about for some time.
Epting's art is stronger than his already great CrossGen
work, and Michael Lark provides some work on flashbacks
- or are they?
The Spectacular Spider-Man #23:
Continue being outraged at JMS if you want (I still can't
make up my mind), but at least his work on Amazing Spider-Man
has some logical repercussions here in Spectacular.
For Spider-Man's troubles fitting in to French nightlife
alone, this book is worth a glance.
Spider-Man Unlimited #7: Using this
title to showcase emerging writers has also turned this
into a nice echo of Tangled Web. The stories here
are more about the effect Spider-Man has on people than
they are about Spider-Man, and both are well done. Though
the solution to Bill Rosemann's story has a little deus
ex machina about it, that seems more the result of a
character disappearing from the otherwise nice artwork instead
of the plot.
Solar Man of the Atom vol. 1 Dark Horse has begun reprinting
the defunct Gold Key's superhero work. Don't let that Gold
Key fool you; despite a lack of major licensing, these are
quality stories. Now if only somebody could wrest Valiant
out of a legal morass so the updates could be reprinted...
Carrot #1: Ut! He's back and hopefully still on fire!
Look for him under "I" for Image.
#1: You might be tempted to pick up this new edgy quasi-superhero
title from DC, and the Marcos Martin pencils make it all
the more alluring. But this is just recycled, almost literally,
from the origin of DC's version of Captain Atom. Bob Harras,
a decent writer, still doesn't throw us any curves we can't
see coming pages ahead of time. What makes it so edgy? Breach's
final form looks like he's missing huge strips of skin and
a lot of people die.
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