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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 9/20/04
brought to you by Brian's Books of Santa Clara

Once again, we take a look at some of the books coming out this week, paying careful attention to one that deserves your attention and your $2.99...

Astonishing X-Men #5
writer: Joss Whedon
artist: John Cassaday

Guess who's back?

The metallic fist on the cover should be a clue, and though Whedon hasn't quite explained how it's possible yet, at least he treats the resurrection of Colossus with a bit of dignity. Those who are in good enough shape to be stunned are, and lest you think more cynically, remember that Piotr Rasputin has been dead for a far longer time than comic book characters usually rest in peace.

Whedon has done an incredible job of melding two worlds of X-fans. Slowly he has worked back in the sensibilities of Claremont in his days teamed with Byrne, the reason this team became popular in the first place. At the same time, he brings his own carefully nuanced characterization. If a couple of X-Men seem more glib than usual, the overall rhythm of the book carries you past it. Even though the stakes are high, as usual, Whedon makes it just so darned fun.

Teamed with Cassaday, Whedon brings out the personalities of each character. Under Cassaday's pen, you can see the tremble of Kitty Pryde facing the man she once thought she loved, and then thought was dead. That reflects off of the pain in Piotr's face as he realizes how long he has been trapped in a personal hell.

Vibrating through the whole thing is an unspoken but tangible question of what happens now that they're both adults. It's not quite sexual, but there's definitely tortured romance hanging in the air between them, provided they escape from the alien madmen holding Colossus hostage.

Whedon also takes the time to cement the unlikely relationship between Cyclops and the White Queen, confirming it with her young telepathic students. Again, Emma Frost's behavior is vintage Whedon, not so much out of character as just freeing it up a bit. The Beast, however, takes a logical step backward, drawn in a rarely seen savagery by Cassaday.

The artist quite possibly steals the whole book away from Whedon with a single image of Wolverine taken by surprise.

Kudos to this team for not taking this book where we expected it to go. (Purposely, Whedon had made it seem like he was already ripe for a Phoenix revival.) Like Grant Morrison before him, the veteran writer (but comics newbie) knows the best way to prove you love what has gone before is to expand its horizons. Astonishing X-Men might look like a step back, but that's only a bad thing if you don't like great storytelling and art.

Every issue makes me eager for the next one.


Avengers #502: Panoramic wide-screen action is a new thing for Bendis, but clearly, he's adjusting to it nicely. More rampant destruction, mayhem and trouble for the Avengers plus…I know who dies.

Black Widow #1: Taken way out of the context of Daredevil, here Natasha appears to be retired in Arizona, until circumstances pull her into a job she absolutely does not want to do. Writer Richard K. Morgan acknowledges her ties to the larger Marvel Universe, but chooses not to use them. It's decent spy stuff, and Bill Sienkiewicz dials back his style a bit to give the book an interesting and literally gritty look.

Cartoon Network Block Party #1: Okay, it didn't exactly float my boat. But this collection of strips and mazes captures the lunacy of some of Cartoon Network's mid-level properties very well, and kids should eat it up. If you get it into their hands…

Ex Machina #4: The mystery deepens and a conspiracy stands revealed. Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris somehow make the political problems of Mayor Hundred just as involving as his superhero past.

Manhunter #2: It bears more than a passing resemblance to the 1980's version of The Vigilante. But Marc Andreyko writes it with a bit more realism, and isn't afraid to show the consequences of becoming a vigilante. How long the lead can maintain her balance between being a D.A. and a masked crimefighter is open to debate, but it is off to a good start.

Michael Moorcock's Elric #1: I'm going to try to get more into this one later. Though it's really just for Moorcock fans, it's glorious.

Nightcrawler #1: When did Nightcrawler stop being a priest? And thank heavens that he did. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa foregoes his occasional snarky tone to pit Kurt Wagner against a menace that might possibly be an actual demon. After a grotesque opening, he brings out the gentler facets of Kurt without actually softening him. Darick Robertson gives an interesting look to the whole thing. This is the one X solo series I would have rooted for in the first place.

Sleeper: Season Two #4: This book piles double-cross upon double-cross, and it's a little hard to tell who's really scamming who. So what's wrong with making you go into the back issue bin once in a while? This may be the best book you're not reading, made from detritus of the Wildstorm Universe into something tense and compelling.

Sight Unseen:

Conan #8: The book goes back to show Conan's childhood. This makes an excellent jumping on point for the title that will make even those who smirk at Schwarzenegger take notice of everybody's favorite barbarian.

The Flash #214: Geoff Johns has carefully plotted a follow-up to the events of Identity Crisis. After finding out that Barry Allen okayed the "modification" of some villains' minds, Wally West struggles with the secret.

Don't Bother:

Uncanny X-Men #449: Anybody who gives two cents about Sage, please raise your hand…

Venom vs. Carnage #3: Interesting art but …why? Why must we have yet another symbiote when two are three too many?

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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