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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 04/13/05
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.

Mary Jane: Homecoming #2
writer: Sean McKeever
artist: Takeshi Miyazawa

Have I gone soft? Have I turned into a teenaged girl? How on Earth could I be recommending Mary Jane as the spotlight book?

It's simple. Of all the books offered up for preview this week, this one was simply everything it purports to be. Sure, it's not for the slavering Fanboy, but it's definitely for the slavering Fanboy's sister, girlfriend, or daughter.

Despite being about the girl who will one day be Spider-Man's wife, Mary Jane actually offers straightforward teen angst and romance with nary a hint of superheroic action. Though presented in the slightly cartoony manga style courtesy of artist Takeshi Miyazawa, the book feels real. Somehow, writer Sean McKeever has captured the rhythm of genuine teen-aged speech, both in what they say and don't say to each other.

The book focuses on Flash Thompson, Liz Allen, Mary Jane and Harry Osborn as they blindly stumble through awkward first romances. If you've ever walked the halls of a high school, you know how it goes. Liz won't talk to Flash or Mary Jane, herself hurt because Harry dumped her. Former best friends Flash and Harry find it hard to figure out what's going on in each other's lives. Before all four of them will grow up and find themselves entangled with super-villains, these little melodramas pass as earth-shattering.

But for all teenagers, that part rings true. (Not the supervillain part, the - oh, never mind.)

For teen girls, Mary Jane herself has just enough of an aura of potential glamour. Someday she will marry Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and be a supermodel to boot. Today, she is an insecure girl, just like her readers. She offers hope.

It's better to forget the Spider-Man part, though. This book recasts just about everything from "classic" continuity. Flash Thompson has far more nuance than Stan Lee ever gave him, and Harry follows the footsteps of his filmic alter ego, being far cooler (and better looking than Steve Ditko or John Romita ever drew him.

Conversely, Mary Jane and Liz appear less idealized than they did forty years ago. After all, the audience is a different gender. They are less of an unattainable goal, and now actually seem like, if not role models, at least kids you wouldn't mind your daughters emulating.

It's simple. It's quality. And Mary Jane doesn't promise anything more than that. Too bad the rest of this week's books didn't follow those guidelines (except for two: Fables and Mnemovore -- see below)

Runners-up, But This Week, Most Are Really Just Lightly Jogging:

Action Comics #826: Captain Marvel! Superman! And a special mystery villain whose presence means that this is just another tie-in to the fallout of Countdown to Infinite Crisis! As easy as it can be to get swept up by Judd Winick's plotting, it has become apparent that too often he sacrifices character to tell his story. At least Captain Marvel isn't a smart-ass like every member of the Outsiders. Unfortunately, he also only appears in the first three pages, a perfect picture of finely chiseled impotence. While I totally bought that Shazam would remove the Blue Beetle's scarab from this plane of existence (in Countdown), forbidding Captain Marvel from stopping the release of one of the DCU's most dangerous villains just seems...well, like an excuse for a three-issue crossover with Superman. And yet I'll buy it. Probably, so will you.

Black Panther #3: Okay, still mired in rewriting the past, but Reginald Hudlin finally makes his plot a little more clear. I'll give him a bonus point for making Klaw seem truly dangerous and not just powerfully, powerfully sad. Some villains should never design a costume.

Fables #36: Little Boy Blue kicks demon butt, taking the battle back to the homelands. It seems improbable, but not when Bill Willingham tells it. Not a single issue of this book has let the reader down. Let's all knock wood on that one, preferably on the head of the talking puppet boy.

Majestic #4: So far, this has been a decent series, and writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have tied this first arc to an interesting idea that truly takes Majestic from superhero to science fiction. This approach made the character's first series such a (sadly unread) gem; the only difference is that originally, it only took one or two issues to tell each story. How the market has changed...

Mnemovore #1: I can't quite explain what happened. I just know that this book disturbed me to a surprising level.

New Thunderbolts #7: Already, an issue for new readers to jump aboard, but Fabian Nicieza takes the opportunity to really profile his characters. Along the way, he also touches base with the common man's attitude towards these reformed supervillains. For some of us old-time Fanboys, any excuse to get Bill Sienkewicz art on mainstream Marvel Universe stuff works.

From 60 to 0 in One Issue:

Marvel Knights Spider-Man #13: Despite causing a couple of nice character moments, Reginald Hudlin seems to know very little about Spider-Man. Everything in this book panders more to what casual readers might think they know about any of the characters than actually bothering to develop anything.

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

Derek McCaw

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