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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 07/06/05
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.

The Incredible Hulk #83
writer: Peter David
artist: Jorge Lucas

It has long been rumored that Peter David really, really hates to get caught up in company-wide crossovers. Allegedly the straw that broke his camel's back the last time he wrote Hulk was having the character be the center of Heroes Reborn. Yeah, we all know how well that crossover worked out, so it's really understandable - if it's true.

Understandable, and yet when a writer of David's caliber puts his mind to it, he can make his corner of a company-wide event into such a strong statement that casual readers might just stay. So it is with The Incredible Hulk #83, one small piece of the huge event that is Marvel's House of M.

Trapped in a world completely rewired by the mentally unstable Scarlet Witch, heroes and villains no longer have their clear-cut place. Why, under Magneto's rule, Bruce Banner would still have developed the Gamma Bomb that transformed him into Hulk is unclear; it's quite possible that the Scarlet Witch transforms reality but still clings to certain tropes. (There - I'm bucking for a no-prize.) What's important is that even in this mutant dominated world, Banner searches for peace with his altered ego.

To do that, he has traveled to Australia and worked hard to be accepted by its aboriginal peoples. Perhaps because Magneto recognizes or remembers the aboriginal X-Man Gateway, the True People are to be left alone by man and mutant. There Banner becomes "Two Minds," finding his totem and hopefully, the secret to his selves.

Except that the war outside must intrude, or really, we would have no story save for an interesting philosophical meditation. Those don't sell books.

In this reality, A.I.M. has become an organization we can actually empathize with, seeking to redress cruel bigotries toward normal humans. Thus David even uses the new Scorpion; whether on editorial insistence or not, her presence comes as a surprise but it works. Marvel will push its Next on us, but they also keep handling the characters well. Somebody out there must like Arana.

But don't pick this up just because it features a "hot new character" and ties into a much bigger story. Instead, focus on how well it ties in to David's bigger picture with the Hulk. Constantly at war with himself, Banner receives a totem animal that fits him perfectly, if you ponder David's rationale for it. Interestingly, too, in this reality Banner has the shaved head that leads me to believe Xavier is reaching out to restore the way things should be; the tragedy of the Hulk lies in just how heroic and strong (in a noble way) he never allows himself to be.

Upon David's return to this title he has worked with a variety of artists, each one bringing a very different look to the book but always meshing well. This issue, Jorge Lucas illustrates. His inking suffers from a little blockiness, but with coloring by Javi Montes, the art looks like it could easily move off the page and into a much better animated series than Hulk last had.

Overall, every entry in House of M has been interesting, though it occasionally suffers from editorial problems, such as being unclear on whether or not Johnny Storm is dead. But this installment stands out for fitting in so well with the regular rhythm of the title.


Amazing Fantasy #10: Okay, I'm getting the message: every one of Marvel's "Next" characters has been a teen-aged girl. So, girls, would you please put down the Fruits Basket and pick up an issue of Amazing Fantasy? Thank you. This issue not only continues the surprisingly well-done adventures of the new Scorpion, it also provides a bonus adventure for Nina Price, Vampire By Night. That feature doesn't start out quite so strongly, but it has room to grow, featuring a vaguely Paris Hilton-like character cursed to be a bloodsucker. Or is that the real thing?

Fantastic Four: House of M #1: Just in time for movie-goers to rush into comic book stores and be utterly confused, welcome to an alternate reality in which the Four are not Fantastic at all, but Fearsome. Led by Victor Von Doom in a strange throwback to Marvel Super-Villain Team-up, the Four are now enforcers for Magneto's will. They take care of the dirty work that Erik Lensherr would rather not acknowledge must be done. World domination can be messy, especially when Doom works at it. In this book, Johnny Storm is dead, but in Iron Man: House of M #1, he lives. Go figure.

Gotham Central #33: Is this Ed Brubaker's DC swan song? If so, it's a good one. Though a similar plotline ran in Birds of Prey last summer, Brubaker and Greg Rucka have a very different intention. A dead Robin has been found in an alley in Gotham City, and of course the number one suspect has to be Batman. But how can the ordinary cops of the GCPD even be sure this actually is the Boy Wonder? Or does Batman have a whole army of them? Every time this series touches on the Dark Knight, it turns our view inside out with refreshing consequences. And even though I don't believe the cliffhanger, it still makes for a great shock.

Marvel Team-Up #10: I haven't really understood Robert Kirkman's purpose with the last few issues, nor does this one get any better on that count. But he really has been having fun with the Marvel Universe, and it's infectious. Sort of like the zombie plague in his superior The Walking Dead. Each issue has two short interlocking stories that ...well, add up to a big joke on Sleepwalker, I guess. Still, it's been strangely worth reading.

Matador #3: Brian Stelfreeze just does not do enough interior work. Every issue has an abrupt start and stop, but dang, it's good. Devin Grayson has created a tough, realistic protagonist faced with opposition both explainable and, in the Matador, completely out of the realm of sense. Stick with this one to see where it goes.

Swamp Thing #17: About the only comic writing assignment more thankless than trying to revive Swamp Thing would be to attempt a sequel to Watchmen. But Joshua M. Dysart has been taking Swampie into new territory, and with Enrique Breccia not quite made it disgusting but definitely tapped undiscovered wells of horror.

Sight Unseen:

Dead Boy Detectives Digest: I have mixed emotions about taking established properties and forcing them into the sheep's clothing of manga, but the Dead Boy Detectives has always been a cool and underused concept. So, hey, whatever it takes...

Shanna the She-Devil #6: Damn Frank Cho. He makes me feel so dirty.

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

Derek McCaw

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