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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 7/26/04
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 28, 2004…

Top Recommendation of the Week:

Superman: Birthright #12
writer: Mark Waid
artists: F. Leinil Yu and Gerry Alanguilan

One week into this new spotlight feature and already I'm breaking my own rule. Normally, it's my intention to point readers toward a good first issue, or at least a good jumping on point in a high quality ongoing series. But this week marks the final issue of the mini-series that redefines Superman for a new generation of readers. We may not know who they are, but they sure get one heck of a Last Son of Krypton.

Waid has artfully taken us from the super-powered farm boy wandering the world to the confident hero that fully understands and accepts his role. Moreover, he embraces his heritage in order to make himself a better man.

The full integration is made clear from the cover. With a superb coloring job, light reflects off of Yu's bold Superman figure in such a way that on the face, the outline of Clark Kent's glasses seem to appear. Forget what Tarantino wrote in Kill Bill and Jules Feiffer wrote in The Great Comic Book Heroes; today's Superman is Clark Kent. Both sides make the hero.

Facing down against a supposed army of Kryptonians, Superman wins back the hearts and minds of the citizens of Metropolis. But of course, you knew he would. It's the little details that make this such a great story. Along the way, Waid even manages to imbue Lex Luthor with an aura of tragedy, one that Superman himself can see.

Consistently, Waid has also made Lois into a far more believable foil for Superman and Clark. Though her brassiness does mean she needs a red and blue rescue every now and then, she remains a character with passion about injustices. Many writers have confused this with harshness, when really, Lois just wants to do as much of the right thing as possible. You bet this makes her a fitting wife for Superman. (Or makes him a fitting husband…)

Even Jimmy gets a moment or two here. Only Ma and Pa Kent are missed, but it's likely on purpose so as not to distract from the struggle with Kryptonian heritage. It might have been nice to see Superman more overtly reconcile the knowledge of his biological parents with those who really made him what he is. If that absence has a moment of a twinge, it's more than balanced out by a perfect ending.

So jump onboard - this week it just means that you'll need to get some back issues. The effort will be worth it. And if you can, see that Bryan Singer gets those back issues, too.



The Amazing Spider-Man #510: When Joe Quesada made a flippant remark about bringing back Gwen Stacey, only one more word could chill the very bones of fans: clones. Of course J. Michael Straczynski had a more devastating way to do it. If the tragic revelation at the end of this issue turns out to be true, it really will change Spider-Man's life forever. This is what Mark Millar is trying to do over in his Marvel Knights Spider-Man, but JMS hit the nail on the head succinctly and painfully.

Astonishing X-Men #3: This week and last, other X books that shall remain nameless, except one was written by a guy whose name rhymes with Suck Boston, invalidated Grant Morrison's cap to his revitalization of the venerable franchise. Thanks, guys. Look over here and you see Joss Whedon once again acknowledge Morrison and use that work as a springboard into his own greatness. The Beast scraps with one of his own again, but this time for good reason. Tensions simmer between Kitty Pryde and Emma Frost, both historical and simply personal. And Nick Fury gets to be a bad-ass without impersonating Samuel L. Jackson. It works.

The Avengers #500: Bendis isn't just disassembling the team to rebuild from the ground up. Through the course of this issue, he disassembles a couple of members individually. The sharp work of David Finch renders a couple of gross-out moments in horrible detail, and it's no wonder that in one panel, a soldier has to hold down his own gorge rising. This book has big, little and memorable moments. As it's also really easy to jump into what's going on, it would have gotten the spotlight if Birthright hadn't been just so damned brilliant.

Batman #630: Judd Winick has just been named the regular writer on this title, no longer an arc-holder. Pick up this book and you'll see why. He claimed at Comic-Con that Batman is his favorite superhero, and it shows. The modern-era Penguin gets the best character definition he has ever had (with no small help from Dustin Nguyen and Richard Friend), and just in time for Batman Begins, Winick ups the ante on The Scarecrow. Then he still finds room to create a new villain. None of it feels rushed or cramped; instead, it's some of the best storytelling around.

4 #8: Why does this book rate a positive mention this week? Because Jim Muniz and Mark Morales draw a really cool Namor, with arrogance dripping from every pose he takes. (Make no mistake, Namor consciously poses, too.) For the first time, this Marvel Knights take surpasses the mainstream FF book being released this week as well.

JLA #102: What? That Suck Boston guy gets a mention? You betcha. His work at Marvel has consistently left me cold, but I warmed up a little in Action. In everything I've read by Chuck Austen, it seemed like he sacrificed characterization to make his plot work. This time, he's created a plot that is all about characterization. There may be some sort of master villain orchestrating "The Pain of the Gods," but I really don't care about that. Instead, I'm caring about superheroes dealing with the consequences of not actually being omnipotent, and it's riveting stuff.

You can skip:
Green Lantern #179, with Kyle just killing time until, perhaps, he gets killed off.
Excalibur #3, a confusing book that only proves that Claremont loves Magneto too much.

On the fence:
Carnage vs. Venom #1, which should just give in and be the grotesque horror book it wants to be, but without the art being quite so horribly grotesque.

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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