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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 7/19/04
brought to you by Brian's Books of Santa Clara

Each week, we take a look at the books coming out and try to pick out the cream of the crop and, occasionally, alert you to anything that might have curdled. Maybe we'll tip the balance for you, in a new feature we're calling the Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight, brought to you courtesy of Brian's Books in Santa Clara, California. You can call them our official comic book shop, or just point out, as their employee Steve does, that we simply hang out there waaaaay too much.

And so, for the books coming out on Wednesday, July 21, 2004…

Top Recommendation of the Week:

Man-Thing #1
writer: Hans Rodionoff
artist: Kyle Hotz

Billed on the Marvel site as a prequel to the upcoming Lions Gate Entertainment film, I think this may be Rodionoff's first actual comic book work. From the strength of this issue, it's safe to say that if the movie sucks, it will not be the fault of the script.

Marvel's muck-encrusted swamp beast has had several series, several jokes about its name, a few strange cross-overs with the mainstream Marvel Universe and odd continuity laid upon it in an attempt to somehow make it palatable. (Remember that Howard The Duck first appeared in this series.) Rodionoff has stripped it all away, and gotten back to the roots of the character. (Sorry, it would have caused me too much pain to skip the pun.)

Because Man-Thing is almost literally mindless, he makes a terrible main character. But as a force of nature, lurking on the edge of your vision, he can be terrifying. In fact, he barely appears in this issue at all, but his presence seeps through every page as an insurance claims adjuster tries to get to the bottom of an apparent act of eco-terrorism.

On the surface, that doesn't sound too scary. With Kyle Hotz on the art, however, it can be. When something, shall we say, breaks loose in the climax of the first issue, it's the most gripping comics moment of the week. Not to mention the grossest.

The cover itself hints at it, with the glowering red eyes from a tangle of branches, roots and fungi. Actually, the cover as released shows less than the version we've got for art here; the full thing proves that Hotz is having fun working Man-Thing into the scenery. The approach has been taken before with both Marvel and DC's swamp creatures, but when done well, it's always cool. Hotz is a worthy successor to guys like Val Mayerik, Berni Wrightson and Tom Yeates.

Though Rodionoff has yet to reveal exactly what Man-Thing's new role actually is, he has set up the tension so well that it will hook you for the whole ride. Hopefully, that will carry over into the film. There are no Nexii of All Realities buried in this swamp, no sorcerers, no ducks and not even any "those who know fear BURN at the Man-Thing's touch." Instead, there's just horror, building slowly and paying off beautifully.


Spotlight Runners-Up in alphabetical order:

Birds of Prey #70: DC has so much faith in Gail Simone's work that they're giving this book a bi-weekly summer run. Unfortunately, that also means that we only get Ed Benes' art every other issue. Reading this reminded me of the old Robin Williams line about a woman president - she wouldn't bomb another country, she would just make it feel really bad. Here, Oracle has found a very creative punishment for a would-be archfoe that you would never believe Batman trying. Plus, Simone makes Vixen interesting. Who'd a thunk it?

Daredevil #62: Bendis has injected a bit of international intrigue to this book with a plotline that is the all more astounding for nobody having thought of it before. But that's Bendis. However, since it is steeped in continuity, if you're not reading this excellent book already, you might get a little lost.

Ex Machina #2: Not as strong as the first issue, which had one of the most devastating, emotionally confusing last pages I've ever read. If you didn't read the first issue, the appearance here of this recommendation really means GO OUT AND GET THE FIRST ISSUE! The conflict here is definitely not your typical superhero drag-out; how do you fight censorship?

The Flash #212: Geoff Johns finally fills in a blank of Flash continuity by providing an origin for the second Mirror Master. Filled with action, pathos and Johns' usual great characterization, this fits the spotlight criteria of being an easy jump-on point and a great read. Another week, it would have taken the number one spot.

Justice League Elite #1: A great concept that has yet to quite gel. At least Joe Casey has firmly set this apart from The Authority. And Doug Mahnke's art is great. We'll get into this one a little later this week.

Lucifer #52: The former Prince of Darkness struggles with that pesky Ragnarok, but in a much more grotesque fashion than Thor ever faces. Despite this being the second part of a four-parter, writer Mike Carey makes it pretty easy to catch on to what is going on. I don't follow this book, but now I'm interested in reading the trades.

Weapon X #26: Surprise. Of the twenty Marvel books featuring Wolverine this week alone, the one with the least right to exist actually has a pretty suspenseful take on the "black ops" side of the mutant world. It's a jump on book, so knowing what has gone before doesn't really matter. And again, considering how much contradictory Marvel Mutant Fun goes on in other books this week alone, it really doesn't matter. Focusing on both Sabretooth and Mister Sinister both trying to keep low profiles, the book really runs along, despite several lapses in logic and design. It acknowledges a more colorful existence for both characters and then tries to deny it. But Tom Mandrake and Brent Anderson make for an incredibly strong art team, canceling out each other's weaknesses.

Skip, if you're not into them already: Anything else X, Guardians #1.

Once again, thanks to Brian's Books, 2767 El Camino Real in Santa Clara, California. If you're in the Bay Area, check it out, where you'll find a great selection of comics, trades, toys, statues and cards, plus the Fanboy Planet Spotlight Book in a place of honor on the wall. Well, maybe not so much "honor" as they've agreed to put it up there anyway.

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

Derek McCaw

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