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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 01/05/06
brought to you by Brian's Books of Santa Clara

It's a new year. So try something new this week.

Jonah Hex #3:
writers: Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
artist: Luke Ross

After a few weeks of struggling for a spotlight choice, this week changes the struggle by giving us a plethora of good stuff that should (emphasize should, not will) attract new readers. Admittedly, most of it seems aimed at the genre booksellers call "Men's Adventure," but though the Big Two set these books somewhere in their continuity-laden universes, any resemblance to superheroes is purely accidental and at worst a marketing ploy.

So I have to go with this childhood favorite, relaunched for a 21st Century audience without a significant amount of retooling, just respect and good storytelling. Aside from clear evocative art from Luke Ross and cynical yet moral writing from the team of Gray and Palmiotti, this book accomplishes something few titles seem to want to do. It's all done in one.

If Jonah Hex has an arc connecting it from issue to issue, it hasn't made itself clear. Instead, the book has a strong sense of characterization that hasn't wavered, and shouldn't waver.

The writers make a reference to Hex's eventual fate, as two thugs fantasize about having him stuffed after they kill him. But only long-time fans would catch that as anything other than a gruesome plan.

According to Palmiotti's self-promotion, this book has already sold very well. Certainly, Jonah Hex is one of those characters, like Captain Marvel, that professionals tend to have a strong affinity for, but fans are responding. In case Jonah Hex might be spawning a resurgence in Western comics, this issue also brings back another Silver Age cowboy, Bat Lash.

Like Hex, Lash doesn't need any real changes. By using what Grant Morrison called the concept of consistent characterization, we don't need to know all the details of what set Bat Lash on his trail of justice. He definitely has a different take on things than Hex, and the interplay between the two characters is strong.

But Gray and Palmiotti do not rest on the laurels of good characterization. They also have a good sense of plotting, making for an enjoyable story. Not for nothing does Ross' version of Hex strongly resemble Clint Eastwood; every issue has had a vibe that a younger Eastwood could have easily played.

Ross' artwork is so strong, though, that you might not actually long for a movie version; it's already all there. Even with his cinematic layouts, he still packs a lot of action into the few pages of a single issue. Jonah Hex proves that decompressed storytelling is just another tool in creators' shed; you can still do satisfying short stories without shortchanging either writing or art.


Doc Samson #1: With a logo reminiscent of Doc Savage, this new offering from Marvel has one foot in traditional men-in-tights storytelling and one in the classic pulp tradition. Still, it's been blended with some modern zest. Quickly establishing the requisite support team, Doc Samson offers high energy, butt-kicking fun with a shot of psychoanalysis. (What do you do with a depressed Skrull?) The book also sets up the next adventure without making it required reading, and yet, you're going to want to.

The Exterminators #1: You always knew there was something a little buggy about pest control. Sorry. A lot of writers are going to use that joke. What's not a joke is how disgustingly compelling this book is. With Tony Moore transferring to color, Walking Dead fans will want to check this book out. They'll stay for Simon Oliver's black comedy that seems on track to turn to tragedy. We have met the enemy and it isn't us, but it is underfoot.

Marvel Team-Up #16: The League of Losers continues, and Kirkman has broken the chapters up so smoothly that if you missed the previous issue, this one is still readable and fun. Of course, some of this storyline confirms what us cranky old fans suspected: characters like Arana and X-23 haven't really made the impact on the Marvel Universe that Marvel wants us to believe they have. After reading this, you might want them to. Frankly, I'm just still stunned they brought in Terror, Inc., the world's most grotesque hero with quite possibly the stupidest name. It's nice to see a survivor of Marvel's Shadowline, at a time when the New Universe seems to be getting all the love and attention.

Marvel Zombies #2: This makes the second book this week where it feels like Robert Kirkman is really coming into his own as a Marvel writer. Granted, he's doing it by doing what he's done best as an independent. This MU of the Living Dead keeps diverging from known continuity, which allows us a little distance if not comfort with the goings-on. Despite a pretty developed stable of known Marvel characters, this world has not yet been visited by the Silver Surfer, for instance. Sean Phillips' art hits just the right note of weary creepiness. It's not for everyone, but some fans will just eat up Marvel Zombies.

Sable & Fortune #1: It's the best spy movie you won't see at your local theater this year. Though Marvel seems to be on a kick to make us consider Silver Sable an integral part of its continuity, this book doesn't do it. It doesn't need to. Instead, Brendan Cahill writes tight international espionage, a fitting companion to Richard K. Morgan's work on Black Widow, with lush art by John Burns. Everything you need to know is here, so sit back and read it with a single malt sunrise by your side.

Spider-Man Unlimited #13: For $2.99, you get a lot of whimsy that doesn't betray the characters at all. First, Spider-Man and the Rhino get into a tussle over fast food, in a story by Aaron Williams and Casey Jones that Stan Lee should adore. Then Lenar Clark writes a story of Spider-Man getting a bad flu bug. Tim Smith 3 and Don Hillsman provide a sight gag involving Spider-Man's mask that might just be worth the whole $2.99 on its own.

Team Zero #2: Chuck Dixon writes two-fisted war stories with the best of them. Doug Mahnke is at the top of his game when drawing hyper-violence. Put the two together and you have a mini-series in the vein of The Dirty Dozen with some vague connection to the Wildstorm Universe. The first issue was good, but recapped well here as the bulk of Team Zero gets introduced. If you like good World War II stories, don't let names like Deathblow and Grifter stop you from reading this great throwback.

Sight Unseen:

Day of Vengeance Infinite Crisis Special #1: The mini-series felt purposely unfinished in a way that Villains United, the best of the tie-ins, did not. So here's a follow up that probably won't actually wrap things up neatly, but features one of the most fun casts in comicdom right now. We're for all things Detective Chimp, and any book that keeps Walden Wong working.

Gotham Central #39: All signs point to a new Jim Corrigan wearing the mantle of the Spectre. Read this book and find out what an ass the guy actually is. If we're right, we're going to have some interesting times ahead if the Spirit of Vengeance turns out to be the reasonable half of the partnership.

Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein #2: Do we have to really say it? These books are all just so damned cool!

Teen Titans #31: We love Geoff Johns. We love this book. And when he left it for a couple of issues for a guest-team, we have to wonder, could Rob Liefeld be so bad that we wouldn't like a Geoff Johns story? Let's hope we never find out, and let's just be grateful that he's back.

Hey, write to us and let us know what you think, or talk about it on the forums!

Derek McCaw

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