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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 04/26/06
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.

Catwoman #54
writer: Will Pfeifer
artists: David Lopez and Alvaro Lopez

Right now in fandom, Will Pfeifer has a job almost as hard as Josh Dysart's in writing Swamp Thing after Alan Moore. Maybe Ed Brubaker has not yet ascended to Mooreish heights, but he had managed to make Catwoman's slide from bad to good believable.

Then along came Identity Crisis and the idea that Zatanna had altered the minds of many of DC's villains. Brubaker left Catwoman, and Pfeifer got stuck explaining how much of his predecessor's beloved work was just sort of …not true.

Sure, none of it is true. But try telling that to fans.

Just as the repercussions began, it was One Year Later. Selina Kyle, the woman we know as Catwoman, can't deal with the consequences of being mind-controlled, as she's got one main moral concern: her baby daughter Helena. Instead, her sister Holly prowls the night in the leather get-up of Catwoman. Except nobody seems to know that.

You'd think they would. Holly has nowhere near the assurance of Selina, and Pfeifer and his art team make no bones about it. She seems to know a lot in theory about being whatever it is you'd classify Catwoman, but in practice, she tends to come up short.

However, Holly does solve the conflicts before her, just not in the way Selina would. It's sloppy and it's savage, but it may also be injecting life into this title. Unlike many other characters less well-known than Catwoman, her secret identity is less important to the general public than her image.

The two Lopezes play with Selina's image quite well, and that's a strangely daring chance they're taking which should garner some interest. Since she's a new mom, Selina Kyle hasn't shaken the baby fat, and though still drawn attractively, her body has clearly not recovered from birth. Artistically, this book carries a more realistic tone.

Of course, we still don't know exactly what's going on in the wake of Infinite Crisis, so the book raises some important questions. (And probably answers one - is Batman so uptight because he's a virgin? The answer would be no.) Since when have Catwoman and the Huntress been so close that Selina would name the baby after her? Perhaps the continuity waves are still rocking the continuity boat.

If that's the case, the waves also allowed for the resurrection of one of my favorite obscure Bat-villains, the other major reason I'm putting this book in the spotlight. Rethought and updated for the twenty-first century, readers get to meet the Film Freak after too long an absence. Of course, he died the first time he fought Batman, so the absence is understandable.

Yet the Film Freak's time has come again. A perfect fit between the old and new schools of Batman villains, he should be one to watch throughout all the Bat-titles, once we figure out just who's who on which earth.

Other Notables of the Week:

The American Way #3: Maybe next month I'll skip the praising of this. Each issue has been satisfying in and of itself, building on the pseudo-conspiracy and none so gently prodding at the American Dream in a superhero context. Let me put my pretentiousness away for a moment to explain it another way: if you like good superhero stories that might make you think, The American Way is for you. It's just damned good.

Doll and Creature #2: A high-octane mix of just about every movie monster with a dash of the future, this book got me running to the back issue bins to get the first issue. I think the Doll of the title only has that as a nickname, but I can't be sure, as she's wrapped in bandages reminiscent of the Mummy for reasons that haven't become clear. What is clear is that Rick Remender's writing is snappy, smoothly blending the diverse sources into a book you just have to dig. And that might be meant literally.

Godland #10: Do we really need a book written and drawn by Jack Kirby from beyond the grave? Apparently so. If the King isn't secretly orchestrating the whole thing, he ought to be. That would be a plot worthy of him. And though it's not particularly easy jumping into Godland at this point, you can soon catch up enough to go along with it. Remember that Kirby didn't always make the most sense even when you started with him - it's just the breadth of ideas that moved things along. Tom Scioli and Joe Casey have channeled this style perfectly, a task harder than it seems.

The Incredible Hulk #94: Please, Greg Pak, don't ever return Hulk to Earth. You're doing so well with him in outer space, I don't want this to end. Whether you knew it or not, readers, you've seen many of the major characters here before. How Pak ties them into Marvel continuity is a forehead slapping stroke of cleverness. At times poignant, heart-pounding and even out and out heroic, this book makes a great read, and you can pick up this issue without losing a beat. Then the cliffhanger will have you hooked.

Invincible #31: In principle, I don't like character names that are just adjectives. Despite that, Robert Kirkman does write one of the best superhero comic books around. Not a single issue has faltered, and even though this month seems quieter than most, it still has good action leavened with great characterization. You owe it to yourself, if not to Kirkman.

Ion, Guardian of the Universe #1: They brought back Ron Marz, the man who introduced Kyle Rayner in the first place. What Mr. Marz seems not to have noticed is that other writers have allowed the character to grow as a human being. Even One Year Later, it's like Marz never left. Kyle is back to being unreasonably insecure, only now with the power of a god, or at least the power of his third dead girlfriend. The art is inconsistent and the story not particularly gripping. As much as I wanted Kyle to stick around, this isn't how I wanted it.

Skye Runner #1: Sword and sorcery (and gunplay) is making a comeback on the stands, and this book reads pretty well. Allen Warner's script acknowledges that his heroine, Skye, wears an outfit that seems a little impractical for anything other than prostitution, but she's also a strong enough character to overcome that nod to convention. It's not quite blazing new territory, but Skye Runner has potential.

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #5: Charming. Simply charming. Yet it also believably transitions from Mary Jane loving Spider-Man to Mary Jane loving Peter Parker. We may know that doesn't merit a title change, but MJ doesn't yet.

Wolverine #41: Admittedly riffing off of Lone Wolf and Cub, Stuart Moore gets all the honor and all the savagery of Wolverine. Forget about what Logan remembers about his past. Forget about his appearing in umpteen other books this month. Don't worry about where this fits in continuity. C. P. Smith's art perfectly captures the tone of Moore's story, in turns eerie and touching. This is what single-issue stories should do, and makes you wonder why they don't happen more often.

X-Factor #8: Finally, the secret origin of Layla unfolds. She knows things. What she doesn't know exactly is why this book just isn't as cool as it was with Ryan Sook drawing it. Dennis Calero seems a competent draftsman, but his storytelling seems static and posed. Sook captured moving images. However, Peter David continues capturing moving ideas with his writing, so X-Factor may still be one of the best books out right now.

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

Derek McCaw

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