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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 01/25/06
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.

Plastic Man #20
writer and artist: Kyle Baker

He won an Eisner for Best Humor Comic with this book. The quality of Plastic Man never faltered, even with fill-in issues by Scott Morse. And yet Kyle Baker could not generate enough sales to keep this run going.

Oh, DC promises an announcement of new work from Kyle Baker soon. Sure, it will be funny, possibly thought-provoking and definitely challenging, three of the things that make me want to come back to a book over and over again. But it won't be Plastic Man.

Whether he knew all the ins and outs of events in Infinite Crisis or not, Baker managed to give them a sound tweak in this last arc, "The Edwina Crisis." Crossovers, senseless deaths and splash pages of superheroes standing around looking muscular abound. The Spectre should be more upset about what happened to him in this book than Infinite Crisis #4, though it's about time somebody poked a hole in his pomposity.

The first three pages of Plastic Man #20 demonstrate what an incredibly versatile artist Baker is. Grim and gritty, the portrayal of Billy Batson's funeral is perhaps over the top, but still more purposefully composed than current favorites like Michael Turner and Jim Lee. A magnificently detailed inset of Tawky Tawny looks both ridiculous - how could such a lighthearted boyish hero like Captain Marvel get sucked into these dark stories - and arcane. It's like W.W. Denslow took a break from Oz to draw a panel.

Of course, it's also offset by a 12-gun salute of DC's finest improbably proportioned heroines. Only Mary Marvel manages to still look innocent.

Then there's the writing. Baker makes fun of the seriousness, but look further. Mary Marvel's eulogy has depth, while poking fun at those writers that say they're writing comics for the children while blowing away Blue Beetle's head. Look, I love the work, too, but please stop kidding yourselves.

Then the pages turn. The artwork transitions into Plastic Man's cartoony world. Ra's al Ghul gets kicked in the talias. When the events of Infinite Crisis spill over to Plastic Man's struggle, Wonder Woman and Superman can't stop bickering, with the Man of Steel crying, "you never validate my feelings!"

You know, if Superman of Earth-2 had pointed to that as the reason the DC Universe had to be reborn, more people would have instantly jumped on board.

I've gone back to my DC Archives and read Jack Cole's original Plastic Man stories over and over. Despite what the press releases may have said, Baker didn't really return the character to his roots. Cole's Plas, despite his elasticity, actually seemed the sane anchor in a crazy world, whereas every creator since has reversed that.

Though Baker put his own spin on the character, he was also the first since Jack Cole to do it right. He made Plastic Man his own, and made it work. Apparently, though, not well enough.

So pick up this book, possibly appropriate for all ages with once again a great sight gag cover, and mourn its passing. On the up side, once you're hooked, you can probably go back and get a good deal on the back issues. Or not - because they're more valuable than you know.


Batman #649: Judd Winick has restored this title to a proud front and center superhero book. Once again, the Red Hood takes the stage, possibly answering the biggest question that sharp readers have to be asking themselves: why the heck hasn't he killed the Joker? All that and Chemo drops on Bludhaven. It's a tight issue with enough story to satisfy, though it's not one for the kiddies.

Black Panther #12: This book had faltered a lot, and I had a skeptical eye on Reginald Hudlin bringing Luke Cage into the mix. It seemed forced, capitalizing on the sudden heat the character has from New Avengers. Yet this issue does what comics don't do enough - comments on a real-world event without losing sight of a fun story. In this case, Hurricane Katrina has brought out the vampires of New Orleans, which means you've got Black Panther, Cage, Blade and the underutilized Brother Voodoo mixing it up.

Books of Doom #3: Treasure the rare sight of Victor Von Doom with simple joy on his face. This issue has lost a little bit of the Rashomon feel that Brubaker started it with, but it's still an interesting meditation on one of the most powerful figures in the Marvel Universe.

Catwoman #51: Many fans have objected to the revelation that Selina Kyle, too, was one of those whose minds were altered by Zatanna. The complaint was that Ed Brubaker had done such a nice job of making her turn to good believable. Well, people, good news: Will Pfeifer is taking both ingredients handed him and making a tasty dish that should absolutely satisfy. Restored to free will, Catwoman remains torn between the light and the dark - plus a nod to her attraction to Batman. This turned out a heck of a lot better than I thought it would.

Daredevil #81: The end of an era, as Bendis and Maleev close off "The Murdock Papers" and their run on Daredevil. This is the stuff, and they leave a whole mess of crap for new creative team Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark, but in a good way.

The Thing #3: Dan Slott has acknowledged a debt to Marvel Two-In-One, and it has showed in every issue. Thanks to Arcade, Ben Grimm takes on every Hulk that ever existed, including Mechano. It's a treat for those steeped in Marvel lore, but a fun read for everyone.

X-Men Power Pack #4: This one really is for the kids. Each issue has been a good standalone, but I will stress again: if Marvel collects this into a trade paperback, absolutely pick this up for kids that are interested in comics. It's a family friendly Wolverine, Beast, Nightcrawler and Cyclops. Heck, even Mr. Sinister becomes threatening without being terrifying. You might scoff, but if you're six and reading your first X-Men book, it's crucial.

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

Derek McCaw

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