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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 03/16/05
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.

Young Avengers #2
writer: Allan Heinberg
artists: Jim Cheung and John Dell

When Marvel announced Young Avengers last summer, the book seemed like weird pandering. At one point, I think they even crowed, "they're not who you think." Most fans, not really knowing what lay ahead in "Avengers Disassembled," really didn't think they were much of anything. But the preview image did have sufficient power to it to keep the book from being written off sight unseen.

After two issues, we still do not know who they are. However, we do know that writer Allan Heinberg can tell a great story that moves things along while still maintaining suspense, a tricky balancing act when that elusive trade paperback glows in the future. The other tricky part, where Heinberg rules, lies in somehow making a second issue stand on its own so new readers can still enjoy it.

Some of it echoes DC's recently relaunched Legion of Super-Heroes, including ties to the 30th Century. The members of the Young Avengers (who do not call themselves such) should not be seen as potential sidekicks. Each one takes inspiration from a founding (or close to founding) Avenger. In a nice nod to this conceit and picking up a spare plot thread from Bendis, Cassie Lang, daughter of the late Ant-Man, wants to claim her "birthright" and join the group.

Heinberg and co-creator Jim Cheung have also thrown a bone to one of the lamest Avengers plotlines, and this time, they might do it right. At the end of last issue, when Iron Lad removed his helmet before the actual Avengers, he revealed himself to be a very young version of Kang. However, he also looks suspiciously like a very young version of Tony Stark.

Jaded fans may remember that at one point, Stark himself had turned evil, revealed to be a puppet of Kang. The solution then? Bring in his 19-year-old self, before Kang had corrupted him, to battle the man he would become. For a few months, this younger Stark wore the armor and starred in Iron Man, before getting sucked into "Heroes Reborn."

The young Kang faces a similar problem (not the Heroes Reborn thing - hopefully). He has gathered other teen heroes to both carry on the legacy of justice established by the Avengers and to stop his older self from trying to conquer the 21st Century. All props to the kid for wanting to help, but it's a good bet that things are not exactly what he thinks they are.

Perhaps the plot breaks little new ground, but it has a breezy entertaining style. So far its real strength comes from the accessible characterization. From this slightly older writer's perspective, the teen heroes speak like real teens, only perhaps a little quicker on the comebacks. Like the Legionnaires, their costumed identities are being so fully realized that meeting their "secret identities" might be a letdown, or at least beside the point. Precocious adolescents might pick up this book and nod knowingly at its sophistication, especially with the likely gay Hulkling.

Cheung's art has always had an androgynous element to it (let's face it - in Scion, the title character was prettier than his girlfriend, the super-hot Ashleigh). Having a character like Hulkling takes advantage of that quality. We're assuming he is a he, but maybe not. Or maybe I'm looking for one surprise too many.

Young Avengers has made it two for two. It's solid fun, and this week, I really needed that.


Ex Machina #9: Though it's a hard issue to jump aboard with, I can't stress enough how good this book actually is. Vaughan keeps us guessing on the source of Mayor Hundred's powers, and gives us a good "but of course!" moment as a would-be assassin tries to get around them. The action would be pointless without Vaughan's insistence on injecting ideas into each issue. Whether you're in a red state or blue state, the writer refuses to let you read in a vegetative state.

4 #16: I never thought that I would like the Fantastic Four enough to enjoy it twice a month. But as Bendis and my wife keep reminding me, never say never. The FF face a villain sort of like Kang yet not, while writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa shows some creative uses of the team's powers and personalities. Plus you've got a cool Tony Harris cover.

Space Ghost #5: Earlier issues led me to some regret that we had to have a grim and gritty version of Space Ghost. With this issue, Joe Kelly has made me not mind quite so much. We've finally got Jan and Jayce restoring an element of humanity to Tad's heart, and dubbing him Space Ghost. It's almost believable that he would bring them into his galactic crusade, though we haven't yet seen him move past revenge into true justice. Then there's this really creepy Zorak...

Spider-Man Unlimited #8: The problem with books like this in today's marketplace is that they tend to sort of sit on the shelf. What, you ask, how could a Spider-Man book sit on the shelf? Because today's market tends to be driven by continuity, and thus casual readers may miss some really nice one-off work. Sometimes this book is hit and miss, but this issue has two good concepts done extremely well. "Fanboyz" explains what the Jackass guys would be doing in a world people with superheroes. "Everything" strikes just the right chord between sentiment and characterization, with a writer that knows that heroes don't get destroyed by their tragedies, but instead use them to become stronger. Take that, J.D. Finn.

Wolverine #26: "Agent of SHIELD" begins. Some of Mark Millar's plotting here defies logic, but the scope is so large, the art by J.R., Jr. so dynamic, that it's best just not to think about it. Get sucked in to grand adventure, and the real Secret War that's going on in the Marvel Universe.

Sight Unseen:

The Human Race #1: DC has high hopes for this series, and by not actually giving us a preview, that's a sign they've got utmost confidence in its quality. The art team has already been signed for Day of Vengeance.

The Symbiotes #4: Not particularly groundbreaking in its scope, perhaps, but it's really nice to read a futuristic superhero story that knows where it's going, even if you don't. Drive Comics seem more interested in telling a story than building a franchise, and that actually makes it stronger.

Tony Millionaire's Sock Monkey: That Darn Yarn: Bizarre one-shot that could be for children - hopefully, that vague feeling of unease that Tony Millionaire usually inspires will go right over their heads. If not, hey, it's good for kids to learn about the macabre early.

Already Feeling Let Down:

Black Panther #2: Two issues, and already this book is like a panther chasing its own tail. Hudlin is so busy giving Black Panther's origin a new slant that the plot doesn't actually advance one bit.

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

Derek McCaw

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