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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 8/02/04
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.  

This week, we're only half-cocked for the books coming out on Wednesday, August 4. Due to some sort of paperwork snafu, the DC preview books did not ship to Santa Clara, but I'm still going to try to highlight things from DC that you might want to check out.

Also, I remind you that starting on Wednesday, August 4 to Tuesday, August 17, if you mention the code words "Doctor Light," Brian's Books will give you 15% off of all DC hardcovers. Take that, Diamond!

Top Recommendation of the Week:

X-Men: The End Book One #1
writer: Chris Claremont
artist: Sean Chen

Ominous, isn't it? It's not just The End, but Book One of The End, carrying the subtitle Dreamers and Demons, with Marvel's website calling this six issue mini-series a trilogy. So I'm guessing this really means that we have three mini-series in order to indulge Chris Claremont's need to make everything epic. One can only imagine how complex he makes his breakfast orders at Denny's.

But here, it's not a bad thing. In fact, having Claremont put a far future capper on the series that made his career (and that, let's face it, continues making Marvel) maximizes his strengths as a storyteller while pushing his weaknesses to the side. Dreamers and Demons is steeped in narrative complexity and loads of X-Men continuity, yet far enough removed from the incomprehensible now as to be entertaining. Each character and threat has to be explained just enough for you to understand the story; at last, Claremont cannot bog us down in past emotional conflicts. Only The End matters.

As far as I know, the lead character has never appeared in X-Men continuity before. The daughter of Bishop (himself a continuity nightmare) and Deathbird (sounds new to me), she lives on the fringe of the Shi'ar Empire, witnessing skullduggery involving The Kree and a Skrull. Somehow The Brood rear their ugly heads. Claremont throws in Hounds, those mutants enslaved into a life of capturing other mutants, with a few members being recognizable to those that read (or at least, once did read) X-books. Even if they don't trigger recognition in you, the explanation here is clean enough.

Because all major X-epics must, this conflict of empires awakens an entity that just keeps on dying and rebirthing. Over in Uncanny X-Men, any reference to this character can cause an aneurysm in the unwary reader, but again, here it's played straightforward.

How far in the future this end is set remains to be seen. Certainly, glimpses of the best-known mutants appear, and though terrible things seem to have happened to at least one, they don't appear to be much older. And yet they have to be, if the use of Nocturne, Nightcrawler's daughter from Exiles, is to be accepted at face value.

Dang it. Here I am trying to prove how easy this is to jump into, and I've gotten stuck in explaining the muddled continuity. It's not important. For the first time, a series may actually demonstrate to new readers why Claremont is so revered. He tells good stories; he's just also often enamored of the stories he's told before. And this title won't let him.

What it will do is showcase some really good art from Sean Chen, hidden beneath a cover by Greg Land. As pretty as Land is, trust that the work within will be worth your while.


Batman: The 12 Cent Adventure: Batman's summer crisis Wargames starts off here. Devin Grayson writes it, so right there, you know that you're getting a bargain for twelve cents, because Grayson has a unique handle on the personalities of the Batman Family. And come on, it's only twelve cents.

Birds of Prey #71 The art team has split up for this bi-weekly summer run of Birds of Prey, but writer Gail Simone chronicles every issue. So far, they've all been corkers, bringing new life to lame characters like Vixen. I have no reason to believe that this week will be any different. So jump aboard.

Exiles #50 A nameless but oft-reviled writer drove us away from this book once original writer Judd Winick left. But new writer Tony Bedard gets points for really trying to stretch the definition of the team, leaving the core of Mimic, Blink and Morph while messing things up with such additions as Beak. It's a challenge to convince readers that the chicken-like mutant can be heroic. It's fun, again doesn't require you really know much about what has gone before, and if Mimic seems particularly dimwitted in order to make the story work, it's only because, yeah, he's seen a lot but not actually learned that much. Plus did I mention solid art from Mizuki Sakakibara and Beak in Xorn's helmet?

Majestic #1: Wildstorm's original Mr. Majestic series blew the few who read it away, telling Superman stories the way they should be told, in the guise of the former member of WildC.A.T.S. After pulling Majestic into the DCU proper a few months ago, writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have four issues to prove to a wider audience that this guy is no Superman clone, but instead a hero in his own right, trying to make it home to a darker universe. I haven't read this book yet, but I'd like to see them try.

Thor #83: It's an Avengers Disassembled crossover in the sense that clearly, what happens here will affect the Asgardian's future with the team. But I suspect that it will be just a footnote or a thought balloon in Bendis' Avengers at best. Instead, buy it because Michael Avon Oeming roots the story in Thor's mythological origins, unafraid to portray a noble Thundergod that still isn't the shiniest penny in the pocket. It is, however, the middle of a larger storyline, which may drive you to back issues. On the other hand, Beta Ray Bill returns.

Ultimate Nightmare #1: Marvel did not send a preview copy of this one, but rather than get caught embarrassed by people raving to me about how good it is, I'm recommending it sight unseen. Warren Ellis puts the Ultimate Universe through its paces with art by Trevor Hairsine.

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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