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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 06/22/05
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.

Spider-Man: House of M #1
writer: Mark Waid and Tom Peyer
artists: Salvador Larocca and Danny Miki

So Marvel will spend the summer in an alternate universe. More than a "What If -- ?," the company promises that the events in all of the House of M books will have lasting ramifications for the Marvel Universe. Expectations are high. How can the publisher ever hope to meet the hype?

Short of locking Brian Michael Bendis into a room and injecting him with GMGH (Grant Morrison Growth Hormone), bringing in Mark Waid makes for a darned good start.

Yes, the crossover has echoes of ten years ago, when all of Marvel's mutants were plunged into the Age of Apocalypse. But this series has some crucial differences. Instead of a dark dystopia, the events of House of M show a world that still has social injustice, but does not seem poised on the brink of destruction. Mutants dominate, but not in the way they did under en Sabah Nur's iron rule. And if the clues dropped by Waid and co-writer Peyer pay off, this time the heroes do unconsciously know something is just not right.

For one thing, everybody loves Peter Parker. In fact, he has it all. Literally. Married to Gwen Stacy, he still gets to make movies with Mary Jane as his onscreen romantic partner. Uncle Ben, never killed by a burglar, manages his nephew's career and financial empire. It turns out that when not being constantly hated, Peter has time to fulfill his potential as a scientific genius.

You just know that for a guy like Peter, it's too much. And so one day he wakes up and shaves his head, not knowing that in this mutantopia (where he himself is a mutant and not the result of an accidental spider-bite), it looks like Professor X is nowhere to be found.

The requisite elements of a defining Spider-Man story are all here. At first, the Green Goblin seems harmless, an identity taken by Crusher Hogan (who looks suspiciously like Hulk Hogan) during Spider-Man's wrestling days. But with long-time civilian dissenters like J. Jonah Jameson and Norman Osborne lurking around, it has to take a dark turn.

Despite the required appearances of those elements that everybody knows, Waid and Peyer spin something new, while strongly underscoring the strength of Peter Parker's character. When he figures everything out, we know that he will do the right thing, even though it means losing everything he ever wanted. But along the way, the writers aren't afraid to explore that having everything might also bring out a dark side to Peter's personality - Jameson has an almost legitimate reason to hate him in this reality.

As should be expected, Marvel has put a lot of top talent on this project. Larocca and Miki make a detailed combination that give you one extremely pretty book to read. Luckily, there's a good story to go with it.

Apparently, you don't really have to read these side books to appreciate what Bendis is doing with the main House of M, but if they're all of this quality, you'll want to. And that's how they keep sucking us in...


Astro City: The Dark Age #1: Finally, finally, finally we'll learn what happened to the "...poor doomed Silver Agent." Along the way, Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson have recaptured what made this book such a fan favorite when it first burst onto the scene. I'd say this is the best Astro City in months, but it's more accurate to say "in several issues," as it's been a while. They're back and they're demanding your attention.

Black Panther #5: In only five issues, this book has been hit and miss. But this is one of the hits, as the political intrigue heats up, the villains' plan really rolls into action and we finally understand how Radioactive Man can be bad here and sort of good in Thunderbolts. Hint: it's a different guy. Best of all, John Romita Jr. gets to draw The Rhino causing a lot of mayhem. A lot.

Captain America #7: Just in case some of the events of this relaunch have confused you, Ed Brubaker pauses to explain just who the heck Nomad is and why we should care that he appears to be dead. Naturally, this also becomes the single best Nomad story ever. Maybe that doesn't sound too hard to you, but Brubaker makes it an achievement in a run that already has a place among the best of Captain America series.

Catwoman #44: Will Pfeiffer has taken over Selina Kyle's adventures. One of the lower profile of DC's stable of really good writers, he seems to have settled in nicely to this corner of Gotham City. Hush makes an appearance and sets Catwoman in a really big tub of extremely hot water.

Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere #1: Mike Carey actually writes this book, no doubt with the trust of Gaiman. Phil Winslade does a better job of visualizing Gaiman's imagination than the BBC mini-series did. If you've never been here to Neverwhere, this Vertigo series makes a great introduction. If you've read the novel and/or seen the TV show, then this still makes a good comic book.

Nightcrawler #7: After a brief hiatus, Kurt Wagner returns to investigate the supernatural menaces that might plague a mutant that looks like a demon. In his heart, he's all man, and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa points it out without hammering the point home. Sometimes, subtlety works. Like here.

Sight Unseen:

Books of Magick: Life During Wartime #12: Would some helpful reader kindly prove to me that Tim Hunter appeared before Harry Potter? I've got some arguing to do over that issue. Anyway, Vertigo has done its best to make Hunter very distinct, creating a succession of series that may only end in tears. Once you get past the unrecognizable Zatanna and the even more amoral than usual John Constantine, you may find yourself utterly fascinated by this book.

Doc Frankenstein #3: Though it's a little slow moving, this brilliant conceit from the Wachowski Brothers has me already clamoring for number 4, and I haven't even read the third issue.

Hellboy: The Island #1: Hellboy discovers he's a clone being raised for parts, and wonders why he looks so much like Scarlett Johanssen. Actually, no, but he does discover that fate may have something far worse in store for him.

Legion of Super-Heroes #7: Okay, I snuck a peek this morning. Mark Waid and Barry Kitson - I salute you. Every issue has crammed a great new concept into my head while building an extremely complex model of a future universe.

Man With The Screaming Brain #2 We like Bruce Campbell. Some of us have shaken his hand. Some of us will try to keep our composure when we try to meet him at Comic-Con this summer. And all of us will buy this comic book.

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

Derek McCaw

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