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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 02/23/05
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.

Solo #3
writer and artist: Paul Pope

Let me come clean on one issue: I do not in any way like the way that Paul Pope draws Batman. Perhaps it's because the cowl appears too leathery, recasting the Caped Crusader as The Gimp from Pulp Fiction. Rather than glower, it leers. And for all the discomfort Pope's Batman raises for me, he still rocks.

For one thing, Pope draws a hell of a Robin. Under his pen, the character looks exactly like a 13-year-old boy, the laughing young daredevil (as described in 1940). But that boy could still believably leap from rooftops and kick one thug's ass at a time. Two thugs and there's trouble, but that's why Dick Grayson trained so rigidly in the Batcave, so that he would never allow himself to be outnumbered. Of course, in Pope's story he breaks that training, and we shouldn't be surprised.

Boy Wonders keep reaching beyond their grasp almost any time the spotlight shines on them. It always leads to trouble, and within the pages of Solo, it leads to The Joker, a malevolent yet human force in this interpretation.

Therein lies some of the strength of Pope's work. He makes the fantastic look believable. Even the mythical appears slightly rumpled, as proven by his take on the story of the Minotaur. You believe this baby born with a bull's head has a taste for human flesh, and yet the image also evokes some sort of sympathy, if not pity.

And of course, as a writer, Pope can be unflinching when he needs to be. Greek heroes aren't really quite as heroic as Disney has convinced our kids, and Pope makes the point. It's not necessarily subtle, but it is brief, and this issue of Solo should serve as a wake-up call and reminder that so-called "compressed" storytelling still works.

Nowhere is that more evident than in his retelling of the first issue of Jack Kirby's Omac. In fewer pages than Kirby took, Pope captures all the high points and the emotional undercurrents of the original. The design work still pays careful homage to The King, but it still feels like The Pope.

It's not all high adventure, either. Pope offers two slice of life stories that reward re-reading. Both capture small moments and blow them up to great effect.

It's not as if creators like Pope don't already have a following, but hopefully a book like Solo will continue expanding their audiences. DC editorial has made choices both quirky and savvy for this experimental series, and all three issues have been great showcases for fans to savor. Every talent has responded not just by taking risks, but proving why they are worth success.

The next issue belongs to Howard Chaykin. As a long-time fan, I'm jazzed. But I'm also grateful to DC for having given us Paul Pope, Richard Corben and Tim Sale. Keep it up.


Fantastic Four #523 Waid and Wieringo put a twist on the old "alien among us learns to love us" trope. When the alien has spent the entire universe's existence eating planets, there would have to be a twist. The defrocked Galactus loses none of his arrogance and, despite a now human appearance, none of his alienness.

The Flash #219 After Geoff Johns wrote Zoom's initial arc, the chilling villain looked doomed to be pretty one-note. Until this issue, when he decides that it's appropriate for him to start perfecting other heroes and villains. You bet that means mayhem - and good comics.

Spider-Man/Human Torch #2 Ty Templeton combines the work of Kirby and Romita while still keeping his own look. Dan Slott writes like classic Marvel without losing any of his freshness. This creative team is like Wonder Bread. And it's just fun. Kids, want to know why the old folks love classic Marvel stories? THIS is why.

X23 #3 Each issue of this book has been annoyingly not lousy, getting better and better. My, these words of mine sure are tasty.

Sight Unseen:

Bigfoot #1: I take this one on the word from Steve down at Brian's Books. This collaboration between horror whore Steve Niles and Rob Zombie gets the hanging mylar snug spot on the wall as "Employee's Pick." There's always a good reason for that.

Courtney Crumrin and the Coven of Mystics: This is actually a second printing of a trade, but as I just picked this up at the library, read it and loved it, I guess it shouldn't be a "Sight Unseen." Maybe they've added extras; in any case, you should take a look at this really cool (but not for younger kids) work by Ted Naifeh.

Seven Soldiers of Victory #0: Grant Morrison unleashes a bizarre and no doubt innovative event that will rock the DC Universe and prove that there are no bad characters, only bad writers. Hopefully, Morrison isn't one of them. (He's already been a character - go back and read Animal Man.)


X-Force: Shatterstar #1: A senses-shattering prequel to the just-finished Rob Liefeld mini-series. After the apocalypse, all that remains will be the cockroaches, the sharks and Liefeld's career.

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

Derek McCaw

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