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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 8/16/04
brought to you by Brian's Books of Santa Clara

Once again this week, we had trouble getting a look at DC's books ahead of time. So you'll find at the end of this column recommendations "sight unseen," that is, some releases we're willing to gamble on and the reasons for that wager. For now, that's where the DC books go. Better luck next week.

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:

Fantastic Four #517
writer: Mark Waid
artists: Mike Wieringo and Karl Kesel

By now, the hype over this creative team has faded. We have new flavors of the month, as Marvel announces its "Young Guns" initiative of artists, and Bendis, Millar and Ellis divide up as much of the Marvel Universe as they can. So there's no better time than now to pick up Fantastic Four (if you're not already) and be reminded that, even with a couple of minor stumbles here and there, this has been a consistently entertaining book of high quality.

Actually, the art team had taken a couple of issues off, so it's time to welcome them back, cementing one of the world's greatest creative teams for what was once called "the world's greatest comic magazine." What do you do after you've sent the Fantastic Four to hell and then to heaven to confront their creator? Waid took a few issues to figure it out, but when stuck in the midst of a company cross-over (Avengers Disassembled), he hits his stride again.

After heaven, you explore the small stuff. This super-team has challenged the nature of existence, but still has trouble maintaining the respect of the American public. They're not bankrupt in this book as they are in Marvel Knights 4, but money isn't buying them happiness.

Instead, the Four find joy in their family. It's Halloween, and The Thing takes Franklin and Valeria trick-or-treating. In three short pages, Waid and Wieringo sum up the dynamics of the family, current events in the Marvel Universe and how this positions the Fantastic Four in New York City if The Avengers have been destroyed. (It's kind of maddening with so many allusions to the consequences of Avengers #500 running through books this month - we know more of the outcome from reading everything else than from the actual issue.)

And though we see fluff pieces on what costumes are popular every year in the media, Waid is right to use this as a reflection of the times. Ben Grimm bemoans the lack of Avengers costumes, but notice, too, Wieringo and Kesel's set-up - kids pass by dressed as Batman, Storm and Luke Cage, but the only person wearing a Fantastic Four costume is The Thing himself. And no, he's not in uniform. At least, not his own.

Then, of course, an event that can only be called fantastic happens. As the citizenry panics, the Mayor calls for The Avengers. But they're too busy dying off-panel. (Farewell, Hellcat.) Only Marvel's first family can save the day, but it doesn't look like they can salvage the public's trust in them.

The truth is that all of Marvel's Fantastic Four books, whether Ultimate, Knighted, or this one, have been incredibly good this year. And well they should be, because if people get interested in the FF after the movie comes out, there had best be fun material available.

Waid, Wieringo and Kesel have had the toughest job, though. They didn't have the luxury of rebooting or changing the direction of the characters. Instead, they've made magic by finding what drew us to the Fantastic Four in the first place. Others may make them cool and different, but only here can you find the four fantastic, even in their quietest moments.


Daredevil #63 Bendis and Maleev continue a remarkable run. Bringing in the Black Widow for this arc takes Daredevil even lower than he had been before - into the perils of international politics. If you pick this up, you're going to want to go back to get issues #61 and 62 for the pertinent details. Maleev's art is gritty and strangely realistic, and though critics complain about his repeating panels, he also gets right at the emotions that Bendis tries to convey with each scene.

Exiles #51 Tony Bedard finishes his story of Mimic vs. Mimic, and if his moral isn't too terribly deep, at least he made the whole thing entertaining. Everything you need to know about the characters' backgrounds are here. Continuity need not apply. Plus artist Mizuki Sakakibara finally shows us all how to blend the best of American and Manga art styles. Color me impressed with everything but Calvin Rankin not being able to tell the difference between Mystique and his own girlfriend Blink. Somebody's going to have relationship troubles…

To Be Missed:

The New Invaders #1 Like The Authority, but with lame characters and already inexplicably confusing continuity. Or is just that we don't care?

Recommended Sight Unseen:

Astro City Special - Listen, even when Busiek isn't delivering his best on this sporadic book, it's still better than most of the other superhero stuff out there. So we always gamble that he's at his best.

JSA: Strange Adventures #1 - DC's greatest Golden Age heroes team up with real-life pulp writer Jack Williamson to face a startling new menace. Enough of the breathless hype; novelist Kevin J. Anderson writes the story, Barry Kitson draws it, and the villain commands an army of robot zombies. We're there.

Man-Thing #2 - If you like horror comics and didn't buy the first issue, for shame. Correct that mistake this week and pick up the first two issues.

Manhunter #1 - At this point, I don't know how many Manhunters there have been. But DC tries again, and this time they have Marc Andreyko writing. If you don't know that name, take a look at his work with Brian Michael Bendis on Torso. The guy's good, and we'll bet he has a spin worth reading with this Manhunter, who, by the way, is a woman.

Terra Obscura, v.2 #1 - Alan Moore continues to not be retired from comics with this revisit of an alternate Earth loaded down with "science heroes" that suffered a fate worse than cancellation - they fell into the public domain. But Uncle Alan gave them a home in Tom Strong, and then their own mini-series which rocked. They're back again. Buy it.

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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