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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 02/08/06
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.

Web of Romance #1
writer: Tom Beland
artists: Cory Walker and Cliff Rathburn

An upside-down Mandrill gives gift suggestions in the first panel. Not a mandrill as in the member of the baboon family, but the actual Marvel villain the Mandrill. Either way, it's probably a little embarrassing, as he's just been captured by Spider-Man.

Of course, by his own admittance, the Mandrill has no need to really romance women. He emits a pheromone which makes them do anything he tells them to do. Yet writer Tom Beland actually characterizes him as apologetic about the power. This is not one of Spider-Man's more serious adventures.

It is, however, one of the most fun Spider-Man stories we've had in a long time. Everything lost in the seriousness of "The Other" and the stupidity of some of its melodrama disappears in the Web of Romance.

Beland does more to give Mary Jane a personality than has happened in months. Sure, she's a super-model, but she moves easily among people no matter their background, and fits in as one of the guys. Web of Romance deals matter-of-factly with Peter Parker's basic uncomfortability with being a regular person.

To the book's credit, it's just a bit that adds depth, not particularly belabored. Peter's main concern is finding the perfect Valentine's Day gift. Why not? It's the season, and Marvel is going to beat this one to death.

But they're doing it so enjoyably.

Super-villains still pop up, and Beland also takes advantage of the teen rivalry between Peter Parker and the Human Torch. (Note to Marvel: playing that up in a book always seems to push it up a notch in this reviewer's critical esteem.) The focus remains on making this relationship make sense, and not just take it for granted as a piece of the Spider-mythos.

Art team Cory Walker and Cliff Rathburn turn in an impressive job, straddling a line between the softer lines of a manga book without losing the harder edge of superhero art. They make Captain America (or rather, Steve Rogers) look like an All-American boy while still retaining his individuality.

Will this add anything to continuity? Possibly, as Beland has a solution that dangles a plot thread for some other writer to have fun with later. But even if it doesn't, Web of Romance stands for fun, and the best of what Spider-Man should be about.


100 Bullets #69: In the second part of a two-part story that still just fits like a detailed piece of a jigsaw puzzle, this issue delivers the usual action and intrigue. It's clever and complicated. In fact, at this point maybe a bit too complicated. Yet buying back issues or trade paperbacks of this series will be well worth the expense, as this book will stand as one people talk about as one of the best for years to come. Plus I so want the videogame to get out of its development hell and into publication.

Ares #2: Allegedly, Ares will become a major Marvel player next year, and Mike Oeming makes a good case for that to be a very good thing. The Gods of Olympus have kidnapped the (perhaps) mortal son of lost Ares, in hopes that they could recruit the God of War to return and defend them from …zombie gods from the Far East pantheons. Of course they're nervous; Asgard has already fallen, and apparently Hercules doesn't do much good in the immortal realm, a rather interesting take on the stalwart Marvel hero who is at best a supporting character here. It's all about Ares, and this is a god who will make things interesting.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #200: The story is so-so, yet another confrontation with the Joker that involves explosives and mindgames. Despite the bombast on the cover, we've read this one before. But the art by Bart Sears is something else. Morphing into a new style, inking himself, there's something more dynamic and warm than he's ever had before, which bodes well for the upcoming revival of Warlord. It's still recognizably Bart Sears, but it's lost some of the grotesqueness that his artwork used to be prone to have.

Franklin Richards, Son of a Genius #1: Chris Eliopoulos and Marc Sumerak rock. Many of these stories have appeared elsewhere, but like X-Men Power Pack, this one needs to stand on its own to be handed to children where its hypnotic power will hook them, hook them, hook them. Brilliant stuff, especially for kids that find themselves fascinated by the Fantastic Four and yet a little bit unnerved by the menaces they face. Nothing can be too scary when H.E.R.B.I.E. is around, not even a horde of Doombots. Because they are a bunch of short stories, you can even parse them out at successive bedtimes.

The Incredible Hulk #92: Apparently the Illuminati have gotten together behind Bruce Banner's back and plotted with Nick Fury for his banishment. At least, that's what I got out of the first couple of pages of Greg Pak's first assignment on a regular ongoing Marvel book. Yes, get the Hulk out of the way of the Civil War. He's far more interesting on his own, especially with the clever Pak writing him. It's now literally the Hulk's world, those pesky aliens are just living in it. But for how long?

Jonah Hex #4: If the Western comic book is going to make a strong comeback, Jonah Hex will lead the way. This issue features Clint Eastwood vs. Christopher Walken in one of the best Westerns they never made. Sublime art and unflinching storytelling with (so far) done in one issue stories makes this one of the best books on the market right now. Please keep it alive.

Marvel Zombies #3: I shouldn't like this book. It's a horrible manipulative premise. But Robert Kirkland writes dark comedy without stooping to anything too cartoonish, even when giving us flying Iron Man heads. Every issue has raised the stakes, and this universe's version of the Galactus Trilogy is going to be a hoot. Heck, it already is - a bloody decaying hoot.

Superman #226: This looks suspiciously like it plays off of events in Infinite Crisis #5, but it's still fun. First of all, because it features five pages of glorious artwork by Tim Sale, which should remind everyone how much they loved Superman For All Seasons. As the two Supermen battle each other, they live out each other's history in an arc that will continue next week in Action Comics. It's a clever way to contrast the two's personalities, and DC has matched some interesting artists with major touchstones in the characters' backgrounds. Howard Chaykin draws a cool Kal-L, no doubt about it.

X-Men #182: Apocalypse returns! If you care about this sort of thing, it's momentous. Even though this one is really aimed more at hardcore fans, it's aimed well. The book also experiments with separating out an important subplot as a back-up feature focusing on the new Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The gambit has been working well enough for Ed Brubaker over in X-Men: Deadly Genesis, and it allows for a little more focus and cohesion than X-books are usually rumored to have.

Awesome Collectible Corner:

Master Replicas releases their scale model of the Nautilus from Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. We saw this baby at San Diego, and it's beautiful. Ordinarily, we wouldn't recommend a prop because they're ridiculously expensive, but it's just SO DAMN COOL.

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

Derek McCaw

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