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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 01/18/06
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.

X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl #1
writer: Peter Milligan
artists: Nick Dragotta and Mike Allred

This one will probably drive continuity hounds nuts. Let's face it, though; while DC has tightened the screws on its shared reality to serve an overall story, Marvel has played it fast and loose for quite some time. And few books played it looser than X-Statix.

Less about superheroics and more about attitude, the book divided fans. It played off of some of Grant Morrison's tropes on New X-Men, recasting Xavier as far more of a power player than any other title allowed him - an idea that Brian Michael Bendis seems to have made his own.

For grins, writer Peter Milligan retroactively added in Doop to the Marvel Universe, a character best described as an omnipotent pickle. Strangely enough, it and Wolverine had been best friends - heck, even Wolverine had a moment or two in the series where it was clear the populace idolized him, not feared him like in every other book.

Maybe it was ahead of its time. Before Marvel figured out that it could create subgenres with books like District X, it unleashed Milligan and the brilliant Mike Allred on a superhero book that was satire in the purest sense, not the parody that the average reader seems to thrive on. Though occasionally funny, X-Statix was also heartbreaking, and often true in its observations about fame and heroism.

The series ended in a blaze of glory for the characters, with a half-hearted promise that they would return. That time is here.

Except that this first issue seems to be barely about Dead Girl. Instead, Milligan focuses on a depressed Dr. Strange. As Dr. Strange stories go, it's actually quite a hoot, treating him as the vaguely dissolute David Niven type that Garth Ennis made him in Thor: Vikings.

The fantastic has become the mundane for the Sorcerer Supreme, and at a rather unfortunate time. It seems that dead supervillains have figured out a way to cross back over into living for limited amounts of time, hell bent on making their resurrections permanent.

Where Milligan might drive continuity minded fans crazy is in the idea that some of these villains fall into an awkward time period. Off-hand references make it seem like Marvel's mainstay heroes have been fighting for decades, not particularly aging.

Yet it only fits, as Mike Allred has a style that always seems like it should have existed in the sixties. I've never been able to figure out for myself why that is, because he also clearly has a style all his own. (It's part of what makes Allred's The Golden Plates alternately cool and disconcerting; heroes of scripture meet the Beat Generation.)

Nick Dragotta takes his shot at a style close to Allred's, and the combination fits closely enough together so as not to be jarring. Some pages definitely have a different layout style than Allred would bring to it, but they still mesh with the whole.

Then there's that last page, which should break the internet in half…

No matter the controversy, X-Statix is definitely welcome back.


Ex Machina #17: Saving one of the Twin Towers did not save Mayor Hundred's America from a war with Iraq. Just as in reality, the issue is never anything less than a political hot potato, and Brian K. Vaughan manages to argue both sides without seeming to judge either. You might consider Hundred's opinion to be the writer's actual one, but the character seems as torn as much of our populace on the issue. Once again, Vaughan keeps offering up stories that make us think. Thank heavens somebody is.

Generation M #3: As I suspected last month, this issue picks up the slack left by the second chapter. Returning its focus on depowered mutants, the story adds depth to their plight, while the overall plot takes a back seat. Paul Jenkins creates little vignettes of forgotten issues the ex-mutants face, and actually makes a Blob cameo seem sympathetic. The writing gets matched by earthy artwork from Ramon Bachs and John Lucas.

John Constantine, Hellblazer #216: New writer Denise Mina steps up to write a nifty little debut. It reads as both first chapter in her major arc and an almost stand-alone story, perfectly designed to suck in new readers. It's horror and dread at once both mundane and creatively evil. Already it's clear that Mina, with longtime Hellblazer artist Leonard Manco, has what it takes to carve out an intriguing new run on one of Vertigo's flagship books.

Lucifer #70: For a quasi-anthology issue, Xander Cannon steps in to illustrate charming and frightening tales told on a world that didn't exist before this book began. The stories are cute and reflective, and the whole thing serves as a nice breather after Lucifer and his army successfully faced down the hosts of Heaven. Even the quiet moments in this title have charm and grip just like its predecessor, Sandman. We're going to miss this one when it's gone, too.

Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle #3: Of all the Seven Soldiers books, this one seems to have the most trouble really finding its footing. Part of it lies in changing artists every issue, as Morrison has to shift gears to work to a new draftsman's strengths. But that doesn't dull the sheer ambition of this book in particular, which recasts the struggle of the New Gods into metaphors that Shiloh Martin can comprehend. Unlike The Shining Knight, this book hasn't yet offered a reason for continuity discrepancies, but since it's Grant Morrison, we can let it slide.

Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy #1: Written and drawn by one of comics' few undisputed living masters, this book feels like a throwback to Joe Kubert's heyday. The characterization has a slightly stilted tone, as Kubert wants to make sure that a new reader understands exactly who every member of Easy Company is, just the way he did it back in the days of Our Army At War. Any trace of pedantry pales, though, as each beautiful panel unfolds. Fan favorites Adam and Andy Kubert are good artists, but Joe keeps serving up these reminders that they're still just reflections of the still powerful old man.

Spider-Woman: Origin #2: I really didn't know she had that screwed up of a background. Many people have probably just taken the character at face value. She is who Bendis says she is. But that's not enough for him - noooooo, he has to team with two of the hottest new artists and straighten all her back story out. The Luna Brothers make an excellent mainstream debut with this book, and it's a great story to boot.

Sight Unseen:

7 Days To Fame #2: I owe Buddy Scalera a good in-depth review of this book. The first issue surprised the heck out of me, being not what I expected story-wise at all. Damn if Scalera doesn't make it seem chillingly reasonable that a reality show featuring suicide is the next logical step. This book is a little out of the norm, but it will be worth your while to find it.

All-Star Superman #2: I didn't know I missed those goofy super-stories of the sixties, until Morrison and Quitely told me I did with the first issue of this series. This is the Superman to inspire people, not that sensitive guy who hangs around with a Batman that cries.

Freshmen #5: Sure, Seth Green had to back this one into comics on his way to a movie deal. It's clever and fun and hardly annoying at all that Green gets to stride so easily among media, doing practically whatever he wants. Never mind that whole Four Kings thing.

Haunted Mansion #2: The deal with Disney should up Slave Labor Graphics' profile, and the fact that they produced a cool if uneven first issue should cement it. An anthology title explaining all the ghosts in the Disneyland attraction, it fuses indie cred with mainstream appeal without really compromising either.

Planetary #24: This one goes right to the top of the reading pile tomorrow. If you don't know why, you'd best figure it out fast.

Still Disturbing After All These Months:

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #4: The whole spider totem thing takes a turn for the gross.

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

Derek McCaw

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