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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 8/30/04
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 -- Diamond swears they'll have this worked out soon.

Top Recommendation of the Week:

Bullseye: Greatest Hits #1
writer: Daniel Way
artist: Steve Dillon

Since it may be years before we see Kevin Smith finish his defining Bullseye mini-series, it only makes sense for Marvel to give the go-ahead for a new one that delves into the assassin's origins. While Smith noodles around with The Green Hornet and a sequel to Clerks, writer Daniel Way just might have made sure that we never care how Smith's Bullseye story ends.

Instead, we get drawn into a story that makes the character even more frightening than before, because Daredevil has nothing to do with it. Kingpin has nothing to do with it. Stripped of his usual surroundings, Bullseye is still just …evil. Pure evil.

And the book is halfway done before he even appears, imprisoned and one hopes incapacitated. One would be foolish to hope, as Way has spent the first half of the book building our dread. Two government agents bicker and debate the assassin's crimes on their way to interrogate him in a high-security government prison even more exclusive than The Vault.

Clearly, one of the agents bears a grudge (and a scar) as a result of his last encounter with Bullseye. His partner, physically smaller and much weaker but stronger mentally, wants to just get in and out. When things get too tense, even before meeting their adversary face to face, he has to retire into a bathroom for some meditation time. Since Bullseye always comes back from physical beatings, perhaps it is smart to throw him up against someone with a knack for psychology.

Not that it helps. The story Bullseye tells may be trite (and he gets called on it), but there are still clearly elements he's not sharing. Those elements reveal themselves through Steve Dillon's layouts.

Maybe it's that nobody draws smug like Dillon, thus making him a perfect match for the character. More likely, it's that Dillon may have a slightly cartoony style, but knows how to act through it. The artist understands facial expressions that belie the words characters speak, revealing the truth within. For all that, something about the people in Dillon's world seems rather ordinary, making it all the more fantastic. With all his simplicity, Dillon conveys the tension of ordinary people caught up in something much bigger than they'd ever have wanted, whether it be in Preacher, The Punisher or here.

Dillon's art alone would make this book worth a look, but Way is setting up something definitely worth following. After this issue, I don't much care how Bullseye got that target in his forehead, or even how he became the master marksman that he is. I only care what's going to happen next.


Avengers #501: This issue, NOBODY dies! That's because they're all too busy picking up the pieces and trying to figure out just what the hell happened. Due to various timing problems, the tie-in books jump all over the place, with most of last month's taking place after the events of this issue of Avengers. If you have any doubts, stay on this book, because everything ends up back here anyway. And David Finch does draw superheroes extremely well.

Elektra: The Hand #1 Putting Elektra in this book serves only as a ploy to get you to pick up a martial arts story. She appears only in an opening sequence to ask about the history of The Hand, the order of ninjas that trained her and eventually resurrected her. But there's no need to feel ripped off. Christian Gossett takes some time off of masterminding The Red Star to return to his Marvel roots without having to do standard superhero stuff. There's a touch of manga here, but only to serve the story.

Exiles #52: I don't exactly know what's going on with this issue, but again, you can dip a toe into this book without much investment. It's a two-part arc, involving The Fantastic Four, a really warped version of The Avengers, Ego The Living Planet and if you look carefully, The Simpsons. Oh, yeah - the Exiles are here, too.

Gambit #1: The trouble with Marvel putting out so many X mini-series within weeks of each other is that their basic formula becomes pretty apparent. Come up with some excuse to separate the X-Man from the rest of the team, ideally take him to his "home," and then watch unfinished business tear him apart. Still, this one has some promise, as it starts delving into a character that is terribly self-destructive even as he throws on the Cajun charm. Though formulaic, it makes a good read.

Send You Scrambling For The Back Issues:

The Mighty Thor #84/586: Even for the gods, the universe is an endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth. One god will challenge the system. One god will become wise even though he often acts pretty stupidly. One comic book tied in to Avengers: Disassembled may really be changed forever. But if you're jumping into Michael Avon Oeming's storyline now, you need to go back and get what you missed. Therefore, it is with reservations that this gets a recommendation - but it is good stuff.

Sight Unseen:

Birds of Prey #73: There's a reason that this Gotham-related book isn't involved in the "War Games" crossover: it's doing just fine on its own, thank you. Gail Simone has delivered issue after issue of top-notch action and intrigue. With this issue, Oracle may manage to defeat one of Superman's foes more handily than The Man of Steel ever has, and Simone will make you believe it.

Majestic #2: Worth reading just to see how thin the membrane between the Wildstorm Universe and the DCU is about to become.

Ultimate Spider-Man #65: Bendis offers a standalone story as Peter, Mary Jane, etc. get detention. The last time Bendis spent an issue just digging through his characters' heads, we got a masterpiece with Aunt May in therapy.

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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