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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 05/03/06
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.

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Spider-Man #8

writer: Peter David
artists: Mike Wieringo and Karl Kesel

Last issue, the unthinkable happened. While out dining with Jarvis, Aunt May Parker looked out the window and thought she saw …Uncle Ben.

Like Bucky, Ben Parker's death was integral to the origin of a flagship character. Returning from the grave would be heretical, and undo much of Spider-Man's motivation.

Yet just as Ed Brubaker revived Bucky in a way that played fair with fan's expectations, it looks like Peter David will impress us before we have a chance to be outraged. In both cases, color us surprised. But that's not fair to David, who started on Spider-Man and may be one of the best writers to ever handle the character. We should trust him.

The story backtracks a bit, going back to that night Peter Parker walked home from a television appearance. Outside his home, police cars gather. Fans know this scene as well as they know a shadowed Bruce Wayne getting startled and inspired by a bat.

Except no burglar surprised Uncle Ben. It is instead Ben who comforts Peter after Aunt May fell dead of a heart attack. From the beginning, then, Peter admits his powers to his Uncle, who becomes his manager.

In some ways, it's a mirror of the House of M reality that Peter experienced. This time, Spider-Man remains strictly a personality, with Peter becoming more seduced by fame. Too bad he turns his back on Ben before that famous saying can be uttered.

Somehow the two realities collide, and therein lies David's tale. It doesn't betray what we know, but it opens up a whole new can of worms. Would this be the Ben Parker that May loved? Or can she still find happiness with a fey old superhero butler? It's to David's credit that we can wonder without laughing.

Wieringo and Kesel turn in another sterling art job, handling every moment with aplomb. Most of this story focuses on everyday moments, which they do very well. Though cartoony, the combo feels like it catches fluidity, moments in time and real emotion as it happens, not just poses.

Where this issue ends leads to a possibly far-flinging storyline, which seems potentially convoluted but still fun. And that's what stands out for this issue (another which barely acknowledges the Iron Spider-suit) - fun for the readers. The creative team isn't rewriting history to capture fans' attention; they're just telling one heck of a good story.

Also in the Stack:

Exiles #80: Even with so many possible alternate universes, for the Exiles, dead stays dead. That fact alone makes each team loss bizarrely moving; it's still hard to recover from the loss of their Mimic, Calvin Rankin. Writer Tony Bedard hasn't been afraid to get rid of popular characters, and this issue proves to be no exception. Anything can happen and will, which makes for one of Marvel's most quietly powerful books.

Exterminators #5: The first arc comes to a close, and Simon Moore's master plan becomes a little clearer. This isn't a book for everyone, as the constant cockroaches will probably cause many to skitter. But it's a compelling conspiracy mystery crossed with out and out horror in a pretty straightforward way. I smell movie deal…but this comic will definitely be better than anything Hollywood could do with it.

Fear the Dead: Boom! Studios is doing its best to ride/create a zombie boom in comics, and this "Survivor's Journal" makes an interesting take on what is essentially a pin-up book. Unfortunately, the narration actually distracts from some of the artwork, putting caption boxes where the painting should just speak for itself. If the journal entries synced up perfectly (sometimes they fit really well), then it would be forgivable. But some of the paintings are clearly just flights of fancy, surrounding the events after a vaguely-defined "Lazarus Plague." This book isn't for the squeamish, but it also isn't for anyone looking for a gripping zombie story. Sure, you can fear the dead, but that doesn't mean you have to spend extra money looking at pictures of them.

Justice League Unlimited #21: It's hard to know whether or not we should consider these comics canon, though the book often spins off events in the animated series. Case in point:
this issue which explores the love triangle among Vixen, Hawkgirl and a very popular Green Lantern. It doesn't quite resolve things, but does expand on ideas in "Ancient History" in a way that makes that ending make sense. If you love the show and miss it already, keep this book alive!

Marvel Romance Redux: I Should Have Been a Blonde: The joke may be just about played out, but before it is, let's give credit to two people for successfully squeezing an extra minute out of it. Frank Cho delivers the best cover yet (though Kyle Baker's effort was great), a visual gag that's almost subtle. Almost. Then Peter David rewrites a Patsy Walker story in a way that sort of nods to her later Marvel career. It's bizarre, it's silly and yet unlike almost every other Redux story except the great "President Stripper," it remains completely in context. Nice work and just about worth buying. We're probably better off, though, waiting for a Redux trade paperback.

Sea of Red #9: Quite honestly, vampires and pirates are two of my favorite things. The only thing that could make this book better would be, perhaps, to include monkeys and the blonde from Frank Cho's Marvel Romance Redux cover. Why have I not discovered this book before? It's a little hard jumping in and getting exactly what's going on, but it's interesting enough that it makes me want to check out the back issues and get the full story.

Swamp Thing #27: Rumor has it that DC may be canceling this book, which would be a shame. Joshua M. Dysart and Enrique Breccia have combined to deliver exactly what this book should have: thought-provoking horror with a dash of heroism. The return of an old foe just proves it. Dysart accomplishes it with cleverness and surprise. Sure, he's not riffing off of Alan Moore's work; instead, he's trying to do something just a little bit different and (gasp) uniquely his own. It works. So check it out.

War of the Worlds Second Wave #2: Switching to black and white has rarely worked so well for a book. The artwork really pops out in grey tones. What could have been just an exercise in rehashing the familiar turns into something new, with consequences from the Martians' first landing already lending a fatalistic pall to life on Earth. Juxtapose that with a crumbling marriage and you've got a dramatic spin that makes this a good read - in two issues more real connection than last summer's movie.

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

Derek McCaw

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