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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 06/29/05
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 Human Torch #5
writer: Dan Slott
artist: Ty Templeton

Eventually they get around to fighting some bad guys, but Dan Slott and Ty Templeton (please, please, please finish Stig's Inferno) don't seem all that interested in superhero action with this issue. Nor, really, has it been the point of this mini-series at all. Instead, Slott and Templeton have firmly and believably built a friendship.

The groundwork has been there for over forty years, but as both Johnny Storm and Peter Parker are firmly in the public consciousness, it's time to cash in, er, cement the idea. This mini-series could have been cheap and callow; instead, it's one to treasure.

They meet at the usual spot, the torch of the Statue of Liberty. At first Spider-Man resents this as their place, until the Human Torch points out that Peter chose it in the first place. Yes, after years of a strange rival a trois, Johnny Storm has figured out that Peter Parker and Spider-Man are the same guy. And that he's resented both of them for different reasons.

True, an anvil had to be dropped on Johnny's head for him to wake up to this dual identity. It comes about in a nice little full circle, as Johnny first met Peter while speaking at his high school. Now, of course, Peter is a teacher there, seeing Johnny's presentation from a fresh perspective. Until the bad guys try to hold the auditorium hostage.

Though Slott has a sly sense of humor, nothing becomes buffoonish. In fact, the writer handles Peter's concern for his students much more believably than the regular Spider-books have done. He also acknowledges one of the central implausibilities of Peter's life: students gawk when they realize he's married to a super-model.

Of course Johnny may be a show-off, but he can keep a cool head when the chips are down. Together, they make a good team, and all the chuckles come from the characters being in character.

The book also has a lot of sentiment, but it never slides into mawkishness. Once they exchange notes and reminisce, the story turns to them just hanging out and meeting each other's families. It should have happened a long time ago, and goes a long way toward the rehabilitation of Peter's character. He isn't a loser, he isn't a loner, and in fact, it makes more sense that after all these years, the super community would have a lot of respect for him.

Maybe in a regular book, somebody will pick up on that.

It's a shame to see this mini-series end, but it really wouldn't work on an open-ended basis. Spider-Man and the Human Torch really aren't a team whose adventures you would want to read month after month; they're friends that we'd want to check in on from time to time.

In a year or so, let's see glimpses of their friendship again.


Darwyn Cooke: Solo: The most cohesive of the Solo books, this comic provides a great bang for your buck. Cooke offers a sweet autobiographical tale, then further evidence that one of DC's oldest characters, Slam Bradley, deserves more action. He also throws in a better Question story than the entire recent mini-series, and sprinkles some pin-ups of the good bad girls of the DC Universe. Then he redoes a classic Batman story - and it works. It's beautiful, but don't take my word for it. Buy it.

Fantastic Four #528: Straczynski may have come up with the one menace the Fantastic Four cannot fight: Child Protective Services. Meanwhile, Ben does everything short of build himself Unca Scrooge's money bin and swim through the cash. Lest you think this issue is played strictly for laughs, Reed faces a blind spot, and doesn't like what he finds. But you will.

New X-Men: Hellions #2: I once told a comic book store clerk that Marvel Comics has the best stories about characters I couldn't care less about. Now, that's changed some over the years, but this book is a perfect example. The Hellions bug. But the story is actually pretty good, though it raises some larger questions about mutant reality. If you are an X zombie, you've already got this one on your pull list. However, if you are just looking for a compact, interesting story to read, this mini-series fits the bill.

Planetary #23: Warren Ellis moves the plot along maddeningly slow. But his details make up for it, as with this issue he gives us the origin of the Drummer. We tear our hair out over how infrequently this book appears, and then we cannot help but forgive Ellis and John Cassaday every time we get a new issue. Damn them. Damn them.

Young Avengers #5: This team works. It shouldn't, but it does. Every issue reveals something new, and the fun never flags. There it is, once again: fun. Young Avengers makes me feel like a kid at 7-11 again, eager to drop my quarter on some trifle from the spinner rack. If only this wasn't 2005 and it's now three dollars...

Guilty Pleasure That I'm Not Even Sure Gave Me Pleasure:

The Authority/Lobo: Spring Break Massacre: You know why violence in movies no longer bothers me? Lobo. The thought occurred to me after reading this book then seeing Land of the Dead. George A. Romero has nothing on Giffen, Grant and Bisley when they hit their stride. So this book is grotesque, amoral, and leaves the reader with a greasy feeling. But I keep eating Quarter Pounders, too.

Sight Unseen:

The Flash #223: Geoff Johns is almost done on this run. You just know it's going to end with a bang.

Green Lantern #2: Of course, this book will be keeping Johns busy. The first issue sold out almost instantly, and rightly so.

Lullaby: Wisdom Seeker #3: Taking a skewed look at fairy tale heroes has become quite the fad over the past few years. Lullaby still manages to do something new with it.

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

Derek McCaw

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