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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 05/11/05
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.

Desolation Jones #1
writer: Warren Ellis
artist: J. H. Williams III

At first glance, Desolation Jones looks like something out of DC's attempt to market 2000 A.D. comics to the US. You've got your pale British hero with a really bad attitude. (For that matter, you've got your pale British writer with same.) As the pages go by, the quirky supporting cast fills in, all also with requisite bad attitude.

But the deeper this book goes, the more it becomes one of the best of what the Wildstorm imprint stands for - not just an attitude, but a view of the world that could be dark and scary if not for the heroes really trying to make sense out of it and maybe accidentally protect the rest of us from it.

A survivor of the mysterious "Desolation Test" conducted by the British Secret Service, Jones now lives in Los Angeles. Working as a private investigator of sorts, the pale, almost Elric-like man specializes in cleaning up after all the exiled former government agents roaming the City of Angels.

Apparently, there are a lot. Various governments have agreed to let Los Angeles serve as an open prison for former operatives, particularly those who have undergone procedures and treatments to make them slightly better (or worse) than human. In LaLa Land, they might go unnoticed. Heck, they might go unnoticed anywhere in the United States. One of Jones' cronies has a stomach that requires sustenance only four times a year. The drawback is that it must be raw meat in massive quantities. But in the Midwest, they're used to cattle mutilations.

Illusion already rears its head as a theme of this work, from the butler from Brooklyn affecting a British accent to the spoiled heiresses believing they are the most important things in their father's life. Then there's the last page, in which Williams reveals just what it is Jones can see as a result of his desolation.

Such a motif fits perfectly with its other loose tie-in. Ellis, long influenced by the work of Michael Moorcock, has placed this within The Cornelius Chronicles/Eternal Champion cycle, as Jones gets his assignments from the so far unseen "Jeronimus Cornelizoon," a promise of things getting pretty loopy.

However, Ellis manages to keep things straightforward, though his macguffin may give you pause. It seems that Hitler spent the last days of World War II directing pornography, and the precious reel has been stolen from a private collector.

Though you might think that could lead to visions of depravity, both Ellis and Williams show remarkable restraint. Considering. The focus here lies squarely on letting us into the mind of Desolation Jones, while still keeping a few secrets. Haunted by his past, as any good fictional detective should be, Jones seems to be wistfully distant from humanity. It's not that he struggles to reconnect; his experiences may have made that impossible. But he does have a nobility belied by his pale exterior.

Of course, I could be all wrong about that, and Ellis and Williams could throw me for a huge loop in issue number two. Bring it on. Surprises and sure storytelling are really all I ask for when I pick up a new book, and Desolation Jones fits the bill.


District X #13: We've seen the hostage situation on cop shows a hundred times before, but by putting it in a mutant context, David Hine and Lan Medina give it a bit of a fresh twist. District X may be the best of the X books by virtue of its excellence and difference from all the rest. This issue makes a perfect point to check out why we've said so elsewhere.

Excalibur #13: The basic concept behind this book still makes me itch. And Claremont, who once had renown for his great characterizations of women, seems to have reduced that ability to different ways of portraying cattiness. BUT...the last three pages set up House of M, and in this quiet exchange between Dr. Strange and Professor X lies hope...for a decent crossover.

Fables #37: Little Boy Blue continues his one-man war against the Adversary. We're no closer to knowing who it is but...who cares? Willingham makes me believe a young man with a horn and a crapload of magical weapons can restore justice to the outer worlds of imagination.

Marvel Nemesis: The Imperfects #1: Marvel does a videogame crossover that could be just a cheaply hyped book. But they put Greg Pak on the writing and the mysterious Renato Arlem on the art, making for something creepier and more clever than it deserves to be.

Marvel Team-Up #8: Forget about the subplot ostensibly tying every issue together. Kirkman finally does something memorable at Marvel with this teaming of two one-dimensional "heroes" grappling with their mutual flatness. The Punisher and Blade glower at a meeting between mobsters and vampires, and though there's some action, it's the characterization that makes this worth a look.

Mnemovore #2: Hans: All is forgiven for the Man-Thing film. This book just creeps me out. Worse (or better for the horror), if I'm reading this right, it's an almost plausible menace that our culture unleashed upon itself.

Rann-Thanagar War #1: Yeah, it reveals the ending to the Adam Strange mini-series, so don't read this until you've read that, unless you don't care. Hawkman, who now is not actually Thanagarian, regains his status as a spacefaring hero, along with Kyle Rayner, thankfully not just swept under the carpet just because Hal Jordan returned from the dead to be Green Lantern. DC promises that this will draw new battlelines for all of their universe's races, which may be very important as we reach Final Crisis.

Sight Unseen:

Adam Strange #8: Read this BEFORE you read Rann-Thanagar War #1. I wish I had.

Astonishing X-Men #10: But you already knew that.

City of Heroes #1: A new series from Top Cow based on the computer game. This time, Mark Waid scripts, so it has to be head and shoulders above the previous comic book series. Maybe at last we'll understand why Paragon City should by rights have no civilians at all.

Green Lantern: Rebirth #6: Um...you may notice other books in the DCU that have pretty much shown us the consequences of this issue. However, it's the telling, not necessarily the tale itself, that makes it worthwhile. Geoff Johns loves, loves, loves this character and Ethan Von Sciver has provided incredible art.

The Man With The Screaming Brain #1: Based on a screenplay by Bruce Campbell, this promises to be stupid silly horror fun.

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

Derek McCaw

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