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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 01/11/05
brought to you by Brian's Books of Santa Clara

Each week we look through the upcoming releases to offer our two cents as to what's hot and what's not. You can agree with us or not, but spend your money wisely.

Fables #33
writer: Bill Willingham
artist: Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha

Even though this issue brings an arc to a close, or perhaps a pause, it also stands as an extremely powerful single story. Whether you've been following this all along, or again just want to check in and see what the fuss is about with this book, it will resonate in its heartbreak.

As usual, things are in a state of chaos for Fabletown, what with political upheaval and the loss of a strong leader in Snow White. She has retreated upstate to "The Farm," where those storybook creatures that cannot pass must stay away from prying human eyes. Impregnated by the Big Bad Wolf, Snow White's litter vary in human-like appearance, and since they also all fly, it's the country life for them. (See? If you haven't been reading this title, you're suddenly intrigued.)

The tots' paternal grandfather, the North Wind, showed up last issue, and Willingham dropped hints that he has ties to the mysterious Adversary that had driven the Fables to Earth. All that, however, takes a backseat to a murder mystery, as something has begun picking off the denizens of The Farm one by one. They go without a struggle, suffocated without force or drowning. Somehow, their breath just ...disappears.

Leading up to the solution, Willingham plants plenty of intrigue. It helps that even the most minor characters in Fables burst with personality. Credit that to Buckingham and Leialoha on the art. Like Eduardo Risso on 100 Bullets, these two do not waste their panels. Though cartoonish, their stylization serves the purpose of giving emotion and meaning to everything.

In a subtle touch, if you're a long-time fan, you can even notice how major character Rose Red has changed physically in adjusting to life on The Farm. More overtly, Buckingham and Leialoha careen from capturing the joy of furry one-year-olds that can fly to a devastating solitary climax for one character that demonstrates just how much change this series has wrought.

This book has never failed to be interesting, and always rises above cheap jabs at the fairy tales we all think we know. It's something more, restoring the sense of danger that got Disneyed out of the source material, but also reminding us that stories are meant to reflect ourselves.

Fables takes "children's literature" and places it firmly as just good literature.


100 Bullets #57: I've read this series piece-meal, going back to the trade paperbacks while trying to keep up with current issues, and even when I don't understand what's going on, Brian Azzarello still has me on the edge of my seat. As pretentious and dull as his Superman run is, 100 Bullets blows everything else away. It's just one you have to really have to start from the beginning.

Green Arrow #46: Tom Fowler and Rodney Ramos take over the art chores from Phil Hester and Ande Parks, and it sure changes the mood. In her new role of Speedy, Mia looks a little too apple-cheeked. Then again, she loves the rush. Judd Winick gets to visit his pal Geoff Johns' Teen Titans turf, and it makes for an enjoyable stop.

JLA #110: I believe I've mentioned before how much I enjoy the underused Crime Syndicate of America. Still posing as the JLA, they find it much harder than they thought it would be. Kurt Busiek has a lock on their characters, and Ron Garney's art gets stronger with every issue in this run. And man, what a great last page...

Majestic #1: The recent mini-series proved fun, establishing Mr. Majestic (and the larger Wildstorm Universe) has a place in the DC Universe. But it wasn't really what had made the original series such a fan favorite. Now he, Superman and the Eradicator have journeyed back to the Wildstorm Earth, only to find it completely devoid of animal life. This is the kind of huge plot that makes the characters stand out from Superman, and oddly enough, the only thing that actually hinders it is the presence of the Man of Steel. Don't worry - he leaves, which gives me hope that the second issue will be even better.

Spider-Man Human Torch #1: One of the most underused elements of Marvel history is the friendship/rivalry between the wall-crawler and Johnny Storm. (Does the Human Torch have any other kind?) This mini-series aims to change that, highlighting hidden moments from their history together. Yeah, yeah, Spider-Man has always been the loner hero, but something about the two together just makes sense. Spidey needs a friend, and the poor guy has the Torch. It's fun and frothy, and though not marked with a Marvel Age banner, this book could be given to children. Make that it should be shared with a child, because it's the rare book truly appropriate and entertaining for all ages.

X 23#1: Part of the new Marvel Next initiative, X 23 foists the literal next generation of Marvel hero upon us. Though I like Wolverine, I've never been a fan of the knock-off character theory that seems to plague such popular properties. The good news is that as a character, X 23 is no Thunderstrike nor Vengeance. Though this first issue shows promise, she's also no Beta Ray Bill. Give it time, if reading about Wolverine's hot teenage female clone sounds good to you.

Speaking Of:

Stormbreaker: Saga of Beta Ray Bill #1 I have no clue, but the character is so bizarre and yet so fully realized that any appearance of his is worth a look. Michael Avon Oeming and Andrea DiVito continue this story from their recent Ragnarok in The Mighty Thor -- sure, they killed the guy, but ironically, they also wrote the first Thor worth reading in years. This is a pretty safe bet.

Trades Worth Buying:

Birds of Prey: Sensei & Student This collects Gail Simone's kick-butt arc that made Lady Shiva seem almost noble. It's simply top-notch comics, and if you don't have it, now is the time to get it in one neat package.

District X: Mr. M That's a lot of consonants. But this is also a gritty, off-beat work set on the fringe of mutant mania. Though it features a member of the X-Men, there's a reason it's not actually called Bishop. If you like books like Powers and Top Ten and cry over the coming end of NYPD Blue, read this book through your tears.

All Right, I'm Over It:

Action Comics #823: Chuck Austen, thy redemption hath ended. After building up an intriguing conflict between Lois and Lana, he somehow manages to both overplay it and completely dismiss it in two panels. That's a rare talent. To top it off, I've lost track of not just who the bad guy is, but who my candidates are. Fans apparently drove Ron Zimmerman out of the business; it's time to let Chuck Austen write bad television, too.

If You Can't Say Anything Nice About Bendis, Don't Say Anything At All:

The Pulse #7: I like this book. I do. But right now, it is completely tied in to Secret War, a title whose next issue is due sometime after Hell freezes over or Kevin Smith completes Daredevil/Bullseye: The Target. Everything about The Pulse would be great if it weren't underscoring a story we won't understand for another year - at least.

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

Derek McCaw

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