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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 02/09/05
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.

Vimanarama! #1
writer: Grant Morrison
artist: Philip Bond

Forget Spider-Man India.

With his usual skewed vision, Morrison brings us a tale of superbeings with a more Eastern perspective. Maybe it's an after-effect of having read Morrison books for so many years, but they're seeming more and more coherent. Coupled with the just-finished WE3, the writer also seems to be turning out the best work of his career with little short bursts of imagination.

For Vimanarama clearly has an arc to it from the outset, nothing short of alien beings, perhaps a touch of the godhead and the potential end of everything. What draws us in so quickly is how small and human Morrison and artist Bond make it seem. Just lulling us into a false sense of security.

If you look closely, Bond takes the time to lay out strange scenes of humanity. From a few clues in Morrison's script, the setting must be England, though most of the characters are Indian immigrants. As young Ali bicycles to rescue his brother, schoolgirls play volleyball in perfect synchronicity - is this just a hint of Bollywood? Maybe it's just me, but Bond is one of the rare artists whose work suggests the need for a soundtrack. One full page spends several panels showing time pass at Ali's destination; none of it willl come back to haunt the story, but it does show life.

Our hero feels trapped by his life. His parents have arranged an impending marriage for him. Concerned that God may hate him and stick him with an ugly wife, Ali wants a way out. He finds it in spades, with a little dash of Captain Marvel thrown in to the mix. Lured into an abandoned (and buried) subway tunnel, Ali seems marked for great things as he discovers an underground complex that cannot be manmade - at least, no known men.

But Morrison cannot make it quite that simple. Ali may be our protagonist, but he may not be our hero. Fortunately, he meets his new bride and finds her definitely to his liking. Unfortunately, she may be heir to something on a cosmic scale.

On the surface, Vimanarama may look like been there, done that. True, Morrison may not be breaking new ground in plotting, but his little twists and touches already show we've got something quirky and interesting on our hands. He's also giving mainstream comics reading audiences a taste of a culture they're not going to get elsewhere. Spider-Man India labors too hard to imitate its American template; Vinamarama strikes out on its own, and any resemblance to existing stories is purely coincidental or at least archetypal.

Again, there's that Bond art. A true cartoonist, Bond's style hasn't yet differed enough from guys like Jim Mahfood or even Ty Templeton. He's on his way, though, and this book at least proves his willingness to go wild with design and an adeptness at jumping from hard sci fi to organic fantasy, all with a little touch of India.

Just a little, and just enough to sucker us into wanting more.


4 #15 This issue makes a decent jumping on point for some solid storytelling around Marvel's First Family. Now that Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has finished his epic a few issues back, he can focus on little arcs that spotlight his imagination. The Four get an emergency call from beyond time and that can't be good. Never mind the threat to this reality; they're forced to put their son's needs on hold. This book really focuses on the family aspect of the characters, and this issue also marks the moment when they all start morphing into their movie versions.

Batman: The Man Who Laughs If you've never read the first appearance of the Joker way back in Batman #1, this comic might surprise you with how methodical the young Joker seems to be. Ed Brubaker blends almost every interpretation of the Clown Prince of Crime (including Tim Burton's) into a post-Crisis post-Zero Hour post-Hypertime smoothie that acknowledges them all while carving out some very disturbing territory. He's helped in that disturbance by Doug Mahnke, one of the best artists working in grotesquerie today. It's not for the kiddies, but definitely one you'll have fun with.

Captain America #3: Ed, Ed, Ed. I'm still annoyed you went exclusive with Marvel, though I'm sure you had your reasons. But how can I stay mad? You keep making me want to buy Captain America, and nobody has done that to me since I was 12.

Fables #34: We've got a little two-parter going on as Jack tries making it in Hollywood, without breaking any of the rules for Fables. In a weird way, this story is almost plausible, when a real trickster and phony meets a land of tricksters and phonies.

JSA #70: The current arc may be impenetrable for those not steeped in JSA lore, but if you are an obsessive Fanboy (and that's why you're here), Geoff Johns will have you hooked. Right now, those JSAers with antecedent counterparts have gone back in time to keep Per Degaton from wiping them all out from history. This issue focuses on the Misters Terrific, and it's, well, terrific.

Sight Unseen:

Doc Frankenstein #2: It took me a few weeks to track down a copy of the first issue after several taunts from Andy Mead at Brian's Books. When I finally did, I grudgingly fell in love.

The Walking Dead #15: Just because I want to put in print this week before Schachat does. I HATE ZOMBIES! And yet, this book sucks me in every time.

Young Avengers #1: Naturally, the youth in Marvel America feel a need to fill the gap left by the old Avengers. This may actually be a cool book, but it's far more notable for the fact that it appears that Wolverine is nowhere to be found within its pages.

And Salt The Earth...

Alpha Flight #12: Despite "letters" from "fans" "wanting" Marvel to give this book a reprieve, it ends with this issue. I'd dance on its grave, if only I could understand what was actually written on the tombstone.

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

Derek McCaw

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