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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 02/16/05
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.

Runaways #1
writer: Brian K. Vaughan
artists: Adrian Alphona and Craig Yeung

It must be fate. Just a few weeks ago, the local library had a copy of the first digest of Runaways, and it sparked enough interest in me to read the entire previous run. Hmm, I thought as I reached the end, it seems to me that Marvel plans on reviving this book soon.

This week, in fact.

In the first run of the book, the title characters discovered that their parents were evil. More than just the "they're ruining my life" kind of evil - actually costumed supervillains kind of evil. As individual couples, they had wreaked havoc on the West Coast. But when ancient entities united them to destroy civilization as we know it, they became a carefully controlled menace called The Pride.

Through the strength of youth, The Pride was destroyed. Combined with relatively low sales, it made a good stopping point. But this series is too good to die, and thankfully, Brian K. Vaughan is too good a writer to let a little thing like losing the original motivation for a series to stop him.

So here's Runaways volume 2, and already it's good. A power vacuum has been left by the destruction of The Pride, and so every two bit super-villain from the East Coast has decided that California is the place he ought to be. With precious few heroes on the West, it should be a villain's paradise.

Nobody counted on the children. Since we last saw them, the so-called Runaways have really begun gelling as a team, hardened by betrayal and loss. Moreover, their dedication to justice has also really grown. They have resolved to clean up the mess that, inadvertently, they themselves caused, even if that mess did end up saving the world.

When their crime-fighting dovetails with their other mission, that of saving youth like themselves, so much the better. For instance, the Wrecking Crew has inducted a young member, and the Runaways want to show him a better way of life. Vaughan also sets up an opposing group of super-powered teens (including a Power Pack member) that want to get kids off the streets, out of the tights and into a normal life.

Too bad there's also this pesky message from the future getting in their way.

Vaughan and his original artists haven't missed a beat. The kids look like realistic teens, though the cover painting by Jo Chen does make the somewhat overweight Arsenic look more idealized than she is inside the book. They also act fairly realistically; Vaughan has a good ear for youthful dialogue.

Strangely, Marvel isn't giving us either of the branding pushes that this book belongs under, Marvel Age or Marvel Next. These teens have genuinely sparked an interest in readers, and could fairly grow into the next generation of Marvel Superheroes. At the same time, Runaways should be absolutely riveting to kids.

Maybe it just goes to show that no matter how you label a book, what really matters is its quality. And it's good to have a book of this quality back on the stands.


Ex Machina #8: If you want to make it in the comics industry as a writer, maybe you should change your name to Brian. Vaughan gives Bendis a run for his money as one of the best writers working in comics right now. He may not be as popular, but he's just as consistently good, and this book has rarely had a dull moment, even though it often deals rather sedately with real social issues without cloaking it in mutant genetics.

JLA Classified #4: It's the sequel to "Formerly Known as the Justice League," and though "I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League" is funny, it has an unintended bittersweet edge by featuring Sue Dibny and a happy-go-lucky and strangely dim Elongated Man. Balance that out with the criminally underused Mary Marvel, however, and give this book a shot.

New X-Men: Academy X #10: I haven't really liked this book all that much, but do respect its attempt to carve out a subgenre from the juggernaut of X-books. This issue takes a pretty dark step, but that step follows fairly and honestly out of characterizations that have been set up for months. Suddenly it's not just an honorable book; it's an interesting one.

Space Ghost #4: Aren't we past the point of grim and gritty revamps? Apparently not, and at least, finally, this mini-series has reached past scenarios we've seen before to give us the all-new all-dark Jan and Jace. Well, not that dark, which is a sorely needed reprieve in this book. And then there's a terribly creepy Zorak...

Stormbreaker: The Saga of Beta Ray Bill #2: For the very inhumanoid herald of Galactus here alone, this book would be worth a look. But the creative team also has a very firm handle on this hapless hero who has just had two systems of belief shattered on him. It's cosmic, it's spiritual AND it's a dessert topping.

Trigger #3: Love the concept. Like the art, though John Watkiss has designed at least three major unrelated characters to look so much alike that it's sometimes hard to tell exactly who is in trouble from page to page. The quality of the writing, however, leads me to suspect that there's a reason for it that we will soon discover, unless Ethicorp gets to us first.

Wolverine #25: "Enemy of the State" reaches its conclusion. But Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr. aren't done yet. Just buy it.

Sight Unseen:

Astonishing X-Men #8: Do I really have to say it?

Birds of Prey #79: Issue after issue, this turns out to be one of the best books on the stands. Get over your gynophobia and let this book kick your ass. You'll be glad you did.

Green Lantern: Rebirth #4: Geoff Johns will make you believe that you don't have to forget "Emerald Twilight," but soon enough, you will be able to ignore it.

Noble Causes #7: The fine seller of comics at Brian's Books demanded that I read the first arc of this book, and one day I must write a review. Well, until the day I get the time to gush and admit the guy was right, let me recommend this fine superhero soap opera, designed to be that way from the get-go. Now get going.

Mixed Emotions:

Livewires #1: This counts as Marvel Next? Next!

X-Force #6: Crap. They're already planning a follow-up mini-series. I blame society.

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

Derek McCaw

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