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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 03/08/06
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.

Firestorm the Nuclear Man #23
writer: Stuart Moore
artists: Jamal Igle and Keith Champagne

Welcome to a week of comics that are good, but not nearly as spectacular as the hype would have you believe. Though some first issues read pretty well, it seems like time to focus on something from the One Year Later event at DC, and particularly a book that has floundered, but now seems to have a strong direction as a result of jumping forward in time. And now it's worth jumping onboard.

That book, of course, would be Firestorm the Nuclear Man, which suffered initially from Kyle Rayner syndrome, casting a loser as its protagonist. Other strips had done okay with that; you might argue that it's the Spider-Man appeal. Unfortunately for Jason Rusch, becoming Firestorm didn't make him any less of a loser.

Then Stuart Moore came along.

Maybe Moore only implemented an editorial decision, but he still smoothly transitioned Jason from a constant screw-up to a guy doing more than just trying to do the right thing. As the book counted down to Infinite Crisis, the new Firestorm started seeming more important, but not in a way that felt shoved down our throats. The company-wide crossover may have been controversial, but it certainly helped focus Firestorm.

Now it's one year later, after devastating events in space. Just when Moore established a status quo that satisfied old and new fans, he has to shake it up again. And it works.

This is the place to pick up Firestorm. The character is sure of himself, even though he still has personality issues with his new fusion. Though "a year ago" we had Professor Stein back, something has happened to him, but Jason has found a new partner to roll with the punches. He's trusted as a superhero, definitely a change from the guy afraid of the JLA somehow busting him for stealing Ronnie Raymond's power.

For now, the book nods to both the past and future, familiar but not too familiar.

Jamal Igle has been doing solid pencils for a few issues. He's a talented artist that hasn't quite yet hit upon a way to make his style unique. Over those pencils now lie the inks of Keith Champagne, late of JSA, proving himself to be an inker that lets his pencillers breathe.

(Full disclosure: Yes, I know Keith. He's a good inker - but an even better writer and I hope we see him helm a book soon.)

This is solid comics storytelling, for those that like superheroes. It's been given a good shot in the arm creatively, and it should be rewarded by you reading it. Then the reward will be yours.


American Virgin #1: Despite a salacious cover, this effort from Steven T. Seagle and Becky Cloonan may actually be taking a pretty balanced look at its hotbutton issue. Titular character Adam Chamberlin isn't some fanatic. He's made an honest, thoughtful choice, and as a Christian chosen to share his beliefs. Unfortunately, his supporting characters aren't so well-balanced on either side. Surrounded by stereotypes both conservative and liberal, Adam doesn't have a chance yet to become much of a full-blooded character as he fights temptation. The series shows some promise, though.

The Exterminators #3: Three issues in and the creep factor has yet to lag. Simon Oliver keeps adding layers to the characterization in the book, while the mystery surrounding it grows richer. Each issue, Tony Moore gets better and better. If cockroaches are too disgusting for you, then you should avoid this book. But you're missing some quality stuff.

Fables #47: In the world of Fables, scary stories turn sweet on a dime, and vice versa. When it comes to a story from the lands controlled by The Adversary, you can bet that no matter how innocent things seem, they can only get worse. As two wooden toys plead their case for flesh, it all looks so charming, even heart-warming. Perhaps it goes to show that love is for dummies.

First Family #1: As a fan of Chris Weston, I welcome any chance to relish his art. The story, too, is a decent one previously untold and wedged into a revised and expanded origin of the Fantastic Four. Joe Casey gets to offer new insights into those early days, and yet the question keeps nagging: did we need it?

Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four #10: And then comes this Fantastic Four spin-off. Meant for all ages (and thankfully, Marvel really means that), this book carves out a brave new world of continuity - what the Ultimate line originally claimed it would be. Picking and choosing through history and reshaping it to fit his whims, writer Jeff Parker is busy creating the Fantastic Four that kids think they know. He appeals to younger readers without insulting adults, making a book that the whole family really could enjoy, except of course for your wife who doesn't really understand why you love comics so much. But your kids will get it, and love it.

The Pulse #14: After fits and starts, the long road of The Pulse finally reaches an end. Michael Gaydos has returned to wrap up the "solo" adventures of Jessica Jones. With Brian Michael Bendis writing, we get a last detailed look at a heroine who has shown us both her best and her worst. Finally, we can see the person that Luke Cage really did fall in love with, for believable reasons. That makes her descent into self-loathing all the more tragic in hindsight, and her redemption all the more thrilling. It took a while to get her, but well done, Mr. Bendis and Mr. Gaydos.

Son of M #4: Lockjaw really needs to stay with the Thing. Hanging out with Quicksilver only leads him into trouble. Without the speedster's powers, Pietro Maximoff is nothing but a super-ass, and David Hine has not been afraid of proving and expanding upon that idea. Unfortunately, as the character Crystal implies, Quicksilver will always make you pay for caring about him. In our case it's, what, $2.99?

Tom Strong #36: Promethea destroyed her world. Unfortunately for Tom Strong and many other heroes that Alan Moore created for America's Best Comics, more than one book depended on that world. Moore closes the door on one of his most beloved titles, with more than a little of his philosophy bleeding through. We shouldn't be sad, as the title ends on a high note, but it does also mean that Moore's work in mainstream comics is finally over. We'll miss him.

X-Men: the 198 #3: Do you hear the mutants singing a song of angry men? The 198 has been better than it should have been. As engrossing as it is, though, it's hard not to shake the feeling that this nifty little story ultimately won't mean much. How long can we trust this "new" status quo?

Eating Crow

Hi Hi Puffy Amiyumi #2: The first issue seemed like something kids would like. Then came this issue. Maybe kids will still like it, but it doesn't seem like DC editorial paid much attention to whether or not the stories here will be appropriate for children. Sure, it's a reflection of society, but this book depends an awful lot on low humor. Worse, the lead story involves kidney sales and Puffy Amiyumi selling their souls. The first issue I'd have easily passed to my six year old; this one, no way.

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

Derek McCaw

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