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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 8/09/04
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.  

Also, I remind you that until Tuesday, August 17, if you mention the code words "Doctor Light," Brian's Books will give you 15% off of all DC hardcovers.

Top Recommendation of the Week:

Fables #28
writer: Bill Willingham
artists: Tony Akins and Jimmy Palmiotti

After The Adversary nearly destroyed Fabletown last issue, you'd think that the story would go full throttle toward taking the war back. Instead, Willingham chooses to go back to The War, The Big One, Dubya Dubya Two, accomplishing two things.

First, regular readers get to be forced to stretch out their speculations over a couple more months as to who exactly The Adversary is (my money: Gepetto). Always importantly, the second accomplishment is a change of pace that could pick up some new readers who wonder how someone can write something like "Gepetto is The Adversary" in all seriousness.

For you newbies (and I welcome you), Fables is the flip side of Shrek, putting beloved fairy tale characters, myths and legends into modern day New York, where they have hidden for centuries after all their homelands have been conquered. Normally hidden, let us say, for in this World War Two tale, Willingham makes it clear that a few "mundandes" have stumbled across the secrets of one Bigby (or Big B.) Wolf. It makes sense that this nominal villain of fairy tales, clearly a hero in Fables, would not stomach an Earthly dictator grasping across Europe for the world.

Willingham has laid it out like a standard war comic. Duffy, an old veteran, entertains the still youthful Bigby in his parlor, reminiscing about the bond they shared on the battlefield and handing over his scrapbooks before he dies. Akins and Palmiotti illustrate the scene warmly, with Bigby looking a bit like Bruce Willis in jaunty mode, and make a subtle nod to why fables shouldn't mix with mundanes. Though Duffy gives Bigby a verbal slap on the nose for it, it clearly pains the Wolf to see his old friend old and dying.

The scene shifts back, as a cast of characters (with real character) take shape behind enemy lines. How Bigby got selected for this mission waits to be revealed in a later issue; for now, Willingham strikes a balance between the tension of a platoon trying not to be captured by the Nazis and their slow realization that this "civilian" in a natty white suit is not quite human.

Taken on its own, this issue works as a wartime horror story, so new readers have no need to worry about what came before. (Though we do recommend the trade paperbacks.) Suspenseful, cleanly drawn and well told, Fables #28 also draws a natural conclusion for longtime readers. If the characters we've come to know and love over the past 27 issues (and a special) exist in this world, why not other darker literary creations?

Maybe this question throws a whole monkey wrench in the identity of The Adversary, but for now, we don't have to care. Instead, we've got a ripping good yarn to read, and that's worth a look.


Action Comics #818 It's exactly what the title implies. Big, bold action with Superman cutting back on being the smart alec of previous issues and being a hero. Yes, two weeks in a row I recommend a Chuck Austen book. I feel so dirty. Don't worry, I bag on Rob Liefeld later, so I haven't completely sold out. This isn't a fantastic book, but it's a solid one, and right now of all the Superman titles, Action is proving the most enjoyable. Go figure.

Challengers of the Unknown #3 The first two issues were so steeped in conspiracy and confusion as to be, well, challenging. This was indeed Howard Chaykin's intent, and it finally gels with this issue. The paranoid worldview disturbs me, as it should, but these are finally Challengers that you can understand, even if their name is rather quaint. And Chaykin does it all without invalidating the previous team.

The Incredible Hulk #75 Evidently the reputation this book has for keeping The Hulk in the shadows no longer applies. Though it climaxes a long-running arc, all the characters seem to be as in the dark as any reader might be, so we all have the same learning curve. Eventually, you'll get up to speed, and Darick Robertson draws a very disturbing Leader. Sometimes that's enough.

The Invincible Iron Man #87/432 Direct tie-in to Avengers #500, with enough back information filled in so as not to lose new readers picking it up. Tony Harris, Dan Feister and Charles Wallace draw a Tony Stark who may not actually be handsome, but definitely has charisma. And this book seems to be doing a good job of trying to put realistic consequences of having a major businessman and politician occasionally run around in armor. Thank heavens we don't have that in real life.

Marvel Knights Spider-Man #5 Even if Mark Millar hadn't finally done something a little new and different with old themes this issue, this book would be worth it for one thing: Frank Cho on art. Better yet, Frank Cho getting to draw both Mary Jane and Felicia Hardy, bringing them both back up to supermodel status. No, we still love Terry Dodson for this sort of thing, but Cho has a certain something that is both classic and modern. Oh, yeah, Venom enters the picture, but Millar doesn't beat us over the head with it. Instead, Peter Parker meets the enemy and they is us.

To Be Missed:

The Spectacular Spider-Man #18 with a plotline that sullies Captain America, and doesn't just make Mary Jane look stupid, but like a raving bee-yatch. She forces Peter to attend a wedding while he's suffering a physical transformation that is adding appendages and eyes to his body. And for saying "I've never turned into a spider before," Peter should be beaten with a memory stick, since such previous transformations have been at least memorable enough to warrant individual action figures. How is it tied in to Avengers Disassembled? I guess because Nick Fury and Captain America both appear, and it sure makes Bendis look like an even more brilliant writer in comparison.

X-Force #1 Liefeld ! Liefeld! Liefeld! That alone will either make someone automatically buy this book or try to keep someone from buying this book. Those in the former category, please, please, please attempt to explain to me why. It's already a week and a decade late, which doesn't bode well even for fans. Oh, yeah, Fabian Nicieza does a nice job writing away his dignity.

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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