Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 03/01/06
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 and artist: Sam Kieth
A quick survey
of Sam Kieth's work reveals a whole lot of quirk. Take The
Maxx, Zero Girl or last year's werewolf tale
for DC, Scratch. All of them feature the grotesque
made strangely beautiful, with narratives that often left
a reader convinced that he must be missing something - like
a chance to walk around in Kieth's head.
So it should
be no surprise that Sam Kieth would turn his attention to
Batman, a character often surrounded by the grotesque. Logically,
too, the Joker would have to make an appearance. Fans could
expect a ride through a dark Wonderland, hallucinogenic
even in its more lucid moments.
But it's not.
Batman: Secrets is riveting, haunting and at times,
even with the Joker, beautiful. It's also an extremely focused
That's not to
say that Kieth reveals all his secrets with the first issue.
Beginning with an apparently reformed Joker on a talk show,
it's clear that things are a bit off-kilter in Gotham City.
The Joker even finds it hard to smile anymore.
Of course that's
a lie, and lies drive this first issue. A character who
might become Harley Quinn has cooked up a plot with the
Joker, the machinations of which are still unclear. When
the Batman gets involved, it turns sour with the click of
a camera. The Joker knows what lies a picture can tell,
and knows how to play to it.
this is a flashback to Bruce Wayne's childhood, involving
a gun and an older kid named Mooley. Whatever happened in
that meadow clearly had an impact even before the Waynes
died, and unlike most heretofore untold revelations, this
one feels natural.
As in Hush,
this previously unknown Mooley shows up as an adult in Gotham
City. But it's the event that's important, not necessarily
the relationship, which is why this doesn't feel forced.
For some reason,
newspaperman Mooley looks a lot like Will Eisner's Commissioner
Dolan, but the similarities quickly fade as Mooley has far
We can rest
assured it will all tie together as smoothly as Kieth's
layouts. This may be one of his most artistically controlled
efforts, with each exaggeration of form clearly a function
of camera angle and mood, not just whim. The Batman here
seems much more a man than the near-gargoyle that he appeared
to be in Scratch. Even the Joker has humanity under
The story itself
takes to the forefront, not the method of telling it. In
this way it more closely resembles Kieth's underrated Four
Women. No matter what method he uses, though, he's brilliant.
It's just that Batman: Secrets is something that
Kieth fans, desperate to share, may have despaired of seeing
from him: accessible.
#18: Terrorists attack a political rally. Or do they?
The fact that people jump to conclusions is enough to cause
chaos in Mayor Hundred's New York City. Yet of course, Brian
K. Vaughan also throws in his usual zingers to remind us
that no story is simple; for just a moment, we even get
both (rational) sides of the issue on the war in Iraq, even
though it hasn't actually happened in the context of this
story. Month after month I say it -- Ex Machina actually
challenges us to think. Damn it.
Neighborhood Spider-Man #5: Another Spider-Man story
in the aftermath of "The Other" that doesn't even begin
to want to touch on the events of "The Other." A classic
one-off Peter David tale, this issue focuses on a woman
that believes the wallcrawler stalks her. It's an interesting
character study, reminding us that David keeps climbing
back to the height of his powers as a writer. And then you
get Wieringo hitting a stride with Spider-Man.
#5: One of the character's original artists guests on
this issue, the great Tony DeZuniga. Inking himself, the
work is a bit darker and scratchier than in the seventies.
But it's also still got power. The story by Jimmy Palmiotti
and Justin Gray proves another grim morality tale, continuing
a solid run that clearly gets what Jonah Hex should be about,
while still doing it all in a stand-alone fashion.
Unlimited #19: Even though we may be shortly losing
the animated series, we can have hope that DC can keep this
"children's" title afloat so we can get our fix. A pseudo-sequel
to "The Once and Future Thing, part 1," this issue focuses
on the history of the Vigilante and nods to, yes, Jonah
Hex. Told with all the complexity of the animated series,
this story by Adam Beechen should still be straightforward
enough for kids to enjoy. Keep this book alive, folks; it's
#1: On one hand, this book isn't so much because we
demanded it as Marvel wants to keep the trademark alive.
On the other hand, it's a decent read. The whole "hero with
an inferiority complex" bit could get old fast, but the
approach here seems to leaven it with Carol Danvers' legitimate
struggle to envision herself as a great hero. She's right;
with her abilities, she could be the greatest in the world.
The only real weak point here, and it's quibbling, is a
too glib approach to the elsewhere morally conflicted Jessica
Drew, aka SHIELD/Hydra double-agent Spider-Woman.
#2: Warren Ellis always provides something worth reading.
Warren Ellis writing Fin Fang Foom already sounds fun. And
Nextwave does have more than a few moments. Yet it
also seems forced. Everything plays out with tremendous
energy, but underneath this allegedly affectionate send-up
of superheroism seems to be resentment that this is what
Ellis has to do in order to continue working in comics.
Yet even if he is bored, Ellis still does a heck of a job
with previously shallow characters, and then there's that
Fin Fang Foom thing. It's so entertaining it's worth mentioning
#4: I have so little new to say on this moody and utterly
clever book. The only thing worth noting is that this is
unfortunately Ryan Sook's swan song on the title; others
will carry on with aplomb, but you should catch this perfect
match of artist and material now.
War of the
Worlds: Second Wave #1: Boom! Studios has gotten a lot
of media attention in the past few months. Why? Because
they keep doing everything right. Take this book, for example.
Though not related to the Steven Spielberg movie (the story
is in the public domain), Second Wave fixes
the mistakes the film had, while retaining that overall
feeling that if aliens attack, we're actually pretty screwed.
The end result is frightening and then exhilarating as the
plot gets rolling. We're not getting any trite lessons about
humanity bonding, or menaces going away after failing once.
Oh, no -- Second Wave will show us the best, perhaps,
but it will not turn a blind eye to the worst in human nature.
Sword of Atlantis #40 Alphabetically, this would be
the first of the "One Year Later" books. With the team of
Kurt Busiek and Jackson Guice, it also has to be a cool
book in its own right.
Annual #25: The secrets of Jason Todd revealed at last!
Crisis #5: What can this book do to top the twists and
turns of the last issue? The suspense is killing me.
#4: Oh, the shame. Yet I'm there.
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