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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 02/01/05
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.

Black Panther #1
writer: Reginald Hudlin
artist: John Romita, Jr. and Klaus Janson

When Marvel announced film director Reginald Hudlin would be relaunching Black Panther, it got a lot of notice from the mainstream press. Of course, that's one of the reasons the House of Ideas approached Hudlin in the first place, and it's always nice when the New York Times mentions something happening in comics - especially if they do it without going through the compulsory Pow! Zap! Bang! sound effects in the headlines.

But that was months ago, and now that the press attention has faded away, the only thing that will sell this book is quality. Evidently, that didn't work so well the last time T'Challa had a solo book.

Maybe this time, though, it will. Hudlin taps into elements of the character that have been there almost all along, borrowing a little from Christopher Priest's previous Marvel Knights run while also acknowledging a heavy debt to Jack Kirby's fleshing out of the character in the early seventies (which you can also pick up in a trade paperback this week).

T'Challa himself barely appears, despite the striking cover image by Romita and Janson. Instead, Hudlin concerns himself with the legacy of the Black Panther, and how for centuries the Wakandan nation is one not to be messed with. They have never been conquered; nobody has even gotten close.

Not that many have not tried. In a few clever sequences, we see another tribe make the attempt, then the British and even Captain America during World War II, afraid that the Nazis might co-opt Wakanda. With just a few glorious panels, the creative team makes a strong case for the Black Panther being one of the most dangerous heroes in Marvel history. Forget pitting Cap against Batman; we need to see a Panther/Batman clash. And Hero Clix doesn't count.

The narrative switches between a mystery villain and Everett Ross, the Michael J. Fox-like character from the previous series. Both have their reasons for recounting the history of the Wakandan nation. Though the two might not tie together directly, seeing these situations lays out an interesting blueprint for at least the next several issues.

Ross, by the way, deals with a suspiciously familiar looking Secretary of State, Dondi Reese, and Hudlin resists the temptation to make any political commentary. No matter which administration this is, the presence of a nation as quietly powerful as Wakanda would have to make them nervous.

The other quiet power to the book is, of course, the art. Obviously, the team of Romita and Janson has a fan following, or they wouldn't have been put here. They're deserving of their kudos. Romita's pencils bring out the best in Janson's inking, in a way that not even Frank Miller accomplished. The lines still have a bold look, but with a lighter touch than Janson usually uses, conversely allowing for greater detail.

Will this book vault T'Challa to the top tier of the Marvel Universe? That's really up to fans, but Hudlin, Romita and Janson are certainly doing their best to make the case.


Daredevil: Redemption #1: A mini-series ripped from the headlines of a few years ago, this story sets Matt Murdock in a small town trying to solve a killing that looks like the work of Satanists. It's interesting to see Daredevil out of his normal urban environment, and the plot already has some nice twists and turns to it. But beware - writer David Hine also portrays a Daredevil that's almost too earnest in his mission, lacking the grim humor that should be a touchstone of the character.

The New Avengers #3: Okay, some will still argue that the old Avengers didn't really need to be destroyed for this to happen. Maybe so. Deal with it, but don't deny yourself the pleasure of Bendis' characterizations of his favorite heroes. Tony Stark has a roguish streak long missing and Steve Rogers seems just surprisingly, overwhelmingly decent. These guys may not be the most powerful the Marvel Universe has to offer (Sentry has conveniently disappeared again), but it makes sense that the New Avengers are the people Captain America would want to have by his side, crusading for justice. Isn't that what it's all about?

Phoenix: Endsong #2: It would have been nice to let Phoenix stay dead a while longer, but what the heck, even Psylocke is coming back over in Uncanny X-Men. After an exposition-heavy first issue, Greg Pak has begun peeling back layers of characterization, and doing one heck of a great job exploring the relationship between Cyclops and Emma Frost. In fact, he may be doing a better job on that one than Joss Whedon in Astonishing X-Men. Plus you've got Greg Land art. Yes, that means an awful lot of pin-up posing, but Land also never lets that overwhelm his layouts.

Razor's Edge #4: This series has grown on me, and you can probably pick up the first three issues fairly cheaply. It's a grim story, taking a character that not a lot of people could give a damn about anymore. But the twist is that Warblade hasn't just outlived his time in the comics market; he's past his prime in the Wildstorm Universe, too. Writer John Ridley and artist Simon Bisley explore just what happens when a hero loses it all and doesn't quite deserve to get it back.

Superman: Strength #2: The second issue is even more fun than the first, with Scott McCloud revealing even more of what makes Superman's character (not the character Superman) so strong. I might argue with the need for prestige format, but only because I hate having to spend more than three bucks for a book, but this one is actually worth it.

Sight Unseen:

Adam Strange #5: So far, this series has just been one thrill after another. Why should this issue be any different?

Seven Soldiers of Victory Archives #1: And likely not to have a number two, only because there just weren't that many Golden Age adventures of this barely super team. Still, some of the art is gorgeous, including some dabblings from Frank Frazetta. Find out just what Grant Morrison is reviving next.

Shanna the She-Devil #1: Frank Cho likes drawing beautiful women, great apes and dinosaurs. Worse, he does these things extremely, extremely well. Marvel Comics is not run by fools; they have a character that can encompass all these things, and so they hired Cho to run wild - a little too wild, apparently, as some of the artwork has been, ahem, "corrected" so as not to force this book up onto the top shelf out of reach of kiddies.

Somebody Defend This To Me:

The Intimates #4: I've tried. Maybe I'm just too damned old, but this book has begun annoying the crap out of me with its cutesy attempt at reaching a hip youth market. Almost every character bugs.

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

Derek McCaw

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