Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 02/01/06
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.
brought to you by Brian's Books of Santa
writer: Dave Gibbons
artist: John Higgins
meet on a rainy moor. Except it's more of a rainy bus stop
somewhere in England and not Scotland. Still, the comparisons
to Macbeth will leap to mind before jumping even
further back, of course, to the Fates.
Only a page
in and Dave Gibbons and John Higgins have me hooked with
a comic both literate and fun. Dare we have both? More amazing,
from the text piece in back, Thunderbolt Jaxon is
based on a pretty simplistic British comic book character
from the late '40's.
I have to take
Gibbons' word for it. As an American comic book reader,
I haven't had that much exposure to the classic characters
of yesteryear that British readers cherished. The cover
includes a little subtitle, "From the world of Albion,"
making this a sister book to Alan Moore's last willing act
But that previous
title assumed that we knew a lot about the tropes of British
comics. Though it had its moments, the series was a bit
confusing, playing around with metafictional conceits which
wouldn't work for the majority not knowing the source material.
Jaxon starts cleanly. The mysteries here are a mystery
to its protagonists, three youths with varying levels of
quality in their home lives. Using a metal detector at the
ruins of a recently discovered ancient church, they discover
three items of gold jewelry.
Comic book readers will recognize those items immediately
as talismans of power, though their origins aren't readily
apparent. Conveniently, each takes a piece of bling. For
now, the key piece would be a golden belt, taken by the
boy named Jackson. You can probably do the math from there.
Though Gibbons clearly has affection for the original
character, he isn't interested in just a warm look back
at childish pleasures. Like a Vertigo book, the mystical
aspects feel just grounded enough in reality that you wonder
if there really are hidden historical elements to them.
Or that could be The Da Vinci Code talking.
Gibbons mixes the metaphysical with what appears to be
common thuggery. Jackson's stepfather beats him for the
slightest infraction, and seems to come straight from a
British mob film. Then it becomes apparent that much more
is going on beneath the surface.
Sometimes it seems weird that an artist as powerful as
Gibbons has switched over to writing without illustrating,
but Higgins' art feels absolutely right for this project.
Reminiscent of Carlos Ezquerra but far less cartoonish,
it has a grit that gives the burgeoning hero a sense of
raw power. Yet physically helpless characters look believable.
He captures a range of emotion and personality, and it just
Disconnected, perhaps, from the mainstream yet part of
it, Thunderbolt Jaxon makes me want to give that
"World of Albion" another chance.
#2: Merely showcasing the daily battle between men and
assorted vermin could have been creepy enough, at least
for a few issues. Tony Moore certainly makes it creepy,
with the most disgusting - albeit probably only - cockroach
dissection scene in recent memory. Yet one creepy idea does
need a little more to keep it going, so writer Simon Oliver
layers in a good dose of believable conspiracy theory. Then
for good measure we have some juxtaposition with, of all
things, the Khmer Rouge. Where The Exterminators
is headed seems unclear, but it's worth hitching on for
Season Two #3: 'Tis the week for young romance in comic
book time. Certainly, if there were still newsstands, this
week's shipment would probably hit them right around Valentine's
Day. So it makes sense that Hard Time would remind
us that in prison, love stinks. Likely that's because at
least one suitor leaves not just broken hearts but broken
bodies behind him. This continues to be a cool series.
Redux #1: Taking old romance comics and adding new dialogue
isn't all that new. But it's still pretty funny, with a
perfect cover gag by Keith Giffen. The opening story of
a go go dancer by John Buscema and John Romita Sr. features
some great classic draftsmanship. However, the re-imagining
of it by Jeff Parker, turns it into brilliance. "President
Stripper" plays as parody of romance comics and insidiously
cogent satire. The rest of the book, while featuring some
clever lines, starts to become repetitive in theme. Yet
the book earns an extra point for the story title "I Was
Inked By Sparky Hackworth." If only the Marx Brothers had
worked in comics…
Heart #1: Like Marvel Romance Redux, this book
is not quite as clever as it thinks it is. Yet if you're
a fan of the X-Men, this has much to offer. It's possible
that the Wolverine solo story serves as an explanation for
Mark Millar's recent tribute to Will Eisner. The Cannonball/Lila
Cheney story is actually quite sweet, and a blast from the
past for fans of the old, old New Mutants. While clever,
the whole Doop thing just has me scratching my head, and
I loved X-Statix. It's the weakest link of
the three, but the book still makes the list.
#1: In a world full of superbeings, one has to wonder
why any non-powered person would turn to crime. At least
Marvel villains tend not to have a lot of henchmen, like
the DC bad guys do. If you live in the Marvel NYC, you still
have the mob, with only a smattering of powers. Thus writer
Frank Tieri, a hit or miss writer, has another potential
hit with this look at the Marvel mob from the inside, with
a "normal" mook so tough that most supervillains with any
sense fear him. Tieri will also leave you with a taste for
further appearances by The Hippo.
#3: Holy crap, what a great book. Only three issues
in, and this feels like an absolute must-read. Peter David
restrains himself, carefully dipping into all the colors
of his writing palette to create a book just as quirky and
interesting as Fallen Angel, but likely more accessible.
Working with the sublime Ryan Sook, David also adds layers
of depth to House of M's Layla Miller.
Y The Last
Man #42: We've said it before and we'll say it again.
Monkeys are funny. Usually, the simian co-star Ampersand
provides plenty of comic relief, but since he's been kidnapped,
he's been more of a source of stress. This issue fills in
some story gaps from the rest of the run, from the venerable
capuchin's point of view. Suddenly we have poignance and
another piece of the puzzle as to why Yorick survived the
plague that wiped out all other men.
Curse (trade paperback): Angel. -sob- Angel…
#40: Tying directly into events from Infinite Crisis
#4 and closing down the series, this one is going to
be good. Every issue has been good, but apparently readers
wanted something else. Alas, poor Renee Montoya, we knew
you and hope you go on to bigger and better things.
Why do I want to buy this book? A cover featuring Skull
as Gene Simmons. Really, it's as simple as that. While Frank
Cho piddles his career away as a top talent at Marvel, Scott
Kurtz has pushed him out of the way and settled into my
War Infinite Crisis Special: Something big will happen
in this issue. I have no idea what, but they continue sucking
me in with these crossovers. The damned thing is, not a
one has been disappointing.
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