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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 01/25/05
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.

Planetary #22
writer: Warren Ellis
artist: John Cassaday


If you've been trapped outside the cult of Planetary, unwilling to take a chance on a trade paperback, Warren Ellis has the issue for you to jump onboard. Of course, you will then be hooked and end up going back and getting the trade paperbacks anyway, but you'll be so blissful having joined the cult that you really won't mind at all.

Though still in the midst of a larger conspiracy arc, this issue does what the title does best. Taking a hard look at pop culture icons of years past through a modern prism, "The Torture of William Leather" furthers the overall plotline, but only in its last few pages. By then, you're completely sucked in, even if you didn't know what had been going on in issues past.

In reading Ellis' deconstructions, you might even find yourself intrigued to look at his sources. While Planetary might be still too fringe a book to force the mainstream to revive some of its antecedents, they're out there for the discerning fan. This issue combines the legends of The Lone Ranger (most recently screwed with by the WB) and his nephew The Green Hornet (awaiting a screwing by Kevin Smith) with that of The Shadow. However, and this is what vaults Ellis up into the pantheon for obsessive geeks, he also throws in the lesser-known Spider.

But what they hey, these guys all really did have similar gimmicks. Why not make them essentially one man? (Actually, I think Philip Jose Farmer claimed they were.)

Through pastiche, Ellis returns these characters to their greatness with just a few pages. Sure, the Lone Ranger can be seen quaintly as a nobly heroic cowboy, but Ellis reminds us that his character was born in blood. Cast here as "The Dead Ranger," the character cries out for some full-length adventure, but only if he could be written by somebody as insightful as Ellis.

Here, strangers, lies the key to loving Planetary. Almost every issue has been littered with throwaway characters that can and should lead you to other works. Most of those other works, by the way, have been inadequately handled in comics and film. Like Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Planetary should make you want to actually read more straight prose.

So maybe it's odd to note that Planeary also owes so much to the incredible artwork of John Cassaday. As proven over at Marvel with Astonishing X-Men, it seems like this guy can draw anything with equal skill. This issue almost returns him to his roots, as his first notable work was on the Western Desperadoes. Whether it be the Old West, the heady days of art deco and pulp, or the sterile confines of a futuristic laboratory/torture chamber, Cassaday makes it all strangely real. Hence, strangely affecting.

Climb aboard. This is one hell of a ride, and you'll be sorry you missed out as it heads toward an ending that can only be earth-shattering. With this book, you might be able to take that literally.


Batman #636: Judd Winick writes a Batman a little more on the superheroic side than the rest of the books seem to do, but so far, it's entertaining. Add to that the bright and bold art of Doug Mahnke, and you get a very satisfying book. Better editorially, Winick seems to be the one writer right now willing to work with the new status quo of "Wargames," and it's interesting to see the territory being carved out here.

Black Widow #5: Even if it didn't have Greg Land covers to lure in unsuspecting Fanboys (just like a...black widow...), this book would be worth your time. A taut, suspenseful spy romp that requires no real outside knowledge of the character, Black Widow continues to be of quietly high quality.

John Constantine, Hellblazer #204: I still haven't figured out what has possessed Chas, or what the overall plot really is. But for the first time in a long time, I'm really into Hellblazer again. It's not excitement for the movie, but because Mike Carey has a firm grasp on who his version of Constantine is, and knows how to put him through the paces.

Legion of Super-Heroes #2: For new fans, it's just fun. For old fans, it's not what you think and you'll love being fooled. The Legion travels to Naltor as Waid highlights an internal conflict between Brainiac 5 and Dream Girl. The rational versus the irrational collide, and neither one of them are quite right. But the story itself just pounds away, laying the groundwork for several issues, all with Waid's deft characterization. They're not the Legion you may have known, but they work really, really well.

Nightwing #102: Like Superman: Birthright, this Year One has as much of what you think you know as it does what actually happened. Writers Dixon and Beatty combine pre-Crisis, post-Zero Hour into something that's shaping up surprisingly nicely. Superman returns to Nightwing's history, an idea that will hopefully be explored further.

X-23 #2: The first issue surprised me by not sucking. The second issue is even better. Taken on her own, X-23 turns out to be an interesting character, and writers Craig Kyle and Chris Yost have set up some great opposing themes for her early life. If this is what "Marvel Next" is going to be like, then I hesitantly say, bring it on. Unless it's Arana.

Sight Unseen:

JLA: Classified #3: Madness from the mind of Grant Morrison, and possibly one of the greatest comic book covers of the 21st Century. I guess the old adage is true: put a gorilla on the cover and the book will sell like batcakes.

We3 #3: And still more madness from the mind of Morrison, only this actually makes a lot of sense. It's chilling, pulse-pounding and sadly, all too frighteningly not outside the bounds of believability. This mini-series is one of the best of 2004 ...and into 2005.

Wouldn't Real Pornography Actually Be Cheaper?

As a side note, the "Vivid Girls" get their first graphic novel. Featuring "adult" actresses in a variety of fantastic adventures, drawn in comic book form, this just seems like a terrifically pointless exercise to me. But hey, it's your $14.99.

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

Derek McCaw

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