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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 04/19/06
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.

Justice #5
writers: Jim Krueger and Alex Ross
artists: Doug Brathwaite and Alex Ross

As kids, we watched Superfriends and had no idea how cheesy it was. We thrilled with every appearance of a new superhero, feared every time the Legion of Doom had the Justice League on the ropes and never noticed that their plans, on the whole, were rather stupid. (Except for going back in time to prevent the Trinity's origins - that was a rare stroke of genius for a bunch of ostensibly evil geniuses.)

Clearly, Alex Ross took those shows to heart, too. Each issue of Justice reads like this is the League that allowed Hanna-Barbera to do cartoons about them. The Elongated Man still has a cordless phone, and Sue is still very much alive.

But it's not the references that put this series in an earlier time, it's the black and white terms, simple yet complex, of the story. These Leaguers inspire, without question, and perhaps the most devious element of Krueger and Ross' plot is that the villains trying to make themselves appear noble really reflects storytelling trends in comics for the past decade.

Doubt it? Who here can tell me, right now, which side of the fence Magneto is on? In Geoff Johns' hands, does Captain Cold really seem all that evil? Once upon a time, though, we could tell. We knew for sure.

Ross and his collaborators take us back to a simpler time, yes, but with all the story skills of adult masters. Kids could read this book, but they might be a little scared by the superb envisioning of Bizarro, the Parasite and Solomon Grundy, all in a way undead creatures that have nothing lovable about them. Even the mundane looking Metallo, still wrapped in John Corben's smarmy physique, looks terrifying.

They've taken pages from changes in the DCU, too. The Lex Luthor masterminding everything seems far too comfortable in business suit and fedora to be the purple-and-green spandex guy from the cartoons. A glimpse inside the Batcave reveals a Batmobile from sometime between Burton and Schumacher.

What remains are the heroes at their best. This is Superman as wise father figure, though being overcome by his worst foes. Wonder Woman seeks only to help, unashamed of her identity. Even Aquaman, though currently strapped down to a table by Brainiac, is a clear hero, unconflicted about his role as a superhero.

Then the creative team brings in another stalwart of 70's Saturday morning television: the Original Captain Marvel. A flurry of yellow fists that made me think the Reverse Flash had switched sides, this Captain Marvel reminds us that, oh, yeah, the "M" in Shazam stands for Mercury. Within all that power still stands the pure noble spirit of a child. In just a few pages, Ross, Krueger and Brathwaite make that point far better than four issues of First Thunder.

Okay, like Ross needs these extra kudos. But this series is working for me far better than his Marvel work did, and part of that comes from the smooth blending of his style with Doug Brathwaite. Or maybe that's vice versa. The illustrations are lush and human, with great use of cinematic lighting. Heck, even Green Arrow's beard looks like a believable accoutrement.

Maybe it's because we just need to be reminded that with true justice, we should get inspiration, too.


Avengers/Power Pack #1: Marvel's revival of their youngest superteam continues, with the same team that made X-Men/Power Pack work. The story's moral might be a little heavy-handed for adult readers, but again, kids will eat this up. And should. Captain America is a great foil for the Pack, and writer Doug Sumerak somehow makes even deadly super-villains seem somehow believable in not wanting to kill a bunch of little kids.

Big Max #1: Daniel Slott, who with Bendis makes Marvel worth reading, offers up this little creator-owned gem from independent publisher Mr. Comics. Super-powered monkeys are always good for a laugh, and much of this book plays out as just a genial parody of Superman, with a gorilla in the lead role, still in a world of humans. No explanation given, none needed, really, but Slott and conspirator James Fry throw in a few nice touches that make it not nearly as unbelievable as it should be. I particularly like Big Max's secret identity. Where Slott killed me, though, and that's a good thing, is in both the choice of his villain and how that villain is ultimately defeated. Excellent, if not exactly earth-shattering, work -- and worth picking up.

Daredevil #84, Iron Man #7, Wolverine: Origins #1 and more...

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

Derek McCaw

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