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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 09/28/05
brought to you by Brian's Books of Santa Clara

Each week we look through the upcoming releases to offer our two cents as to what's hot and what's not. You can agree with us or not, but spend your money wisely.

Drax the Destroyer #1
writer: Keith Giffen
artist: Mitch Breitweiser

In the tiny town of Coot's Bluff, Alaska, not much really happens. All that will change once evil rears its ugly head, or in this case, heads. The only thing that will stand between Coot's Bluff and total destruction is an anti-social girl and the alien that may come to love her.

Before that happens, though, Keith Giffen has to take us to an alien prison ship, one that holds some vaguely familiar figures and a few new ones. They mock each other and then turn on the one that doesn't seem to belong: Drax the Destroyer.

An Earthman killed then resurrected (brain-damaged) years later for use in the war against Thanos, over the years Drax has become a joke. So it takes a writer like Giffen with the sensibility to play the laughs but remind us how high his stakes are.

Without his Defenders partner J. M. DeMatteis, Giffen skews darker. Though characters like the Power Skrull may be elicit chuckles - "Skrulls do not skulk; they reconnoiter," he huffs more than once - Giffen never strays to far from the fact these are killers. Worse, they're mass killers.

How Drax ended up among them is never explained. Heck, who Drax is never quite gets explanation, either. But that's one reason this mini-series makes such an impressive debut. You don't need to know his history. Perhaps this spins out of Giffen's Thanos, but if that's true, it's still not germane to the plot. This book stands on its own.

It's hard to avoid this kind of speculation, but it stands on its own as a film concept. Remove Thanos and this could be a completely self-contained story.

Part of that comes from the creation of the Coot's Bluff citizenry. They're real; they're bored. They're looking for the kind of excitement that an alien invasion might bring them.

On the flip side, the aliens don't want to be there. They know what terrors Earth holds for them. Do not attract attention on a world with Marvel's superheroes. Unfortunately for them, they're traveling with one.

Drax himself is proverbially smarter than he looks. He only talks like Lenny; when he gets mad enough, he can become George without losing any of his strength. He's not exactly an anti-Hulk, but the comparison could be made.

And then there's a new artistic find, or relatively new, anyway. New exclusive artist Mitch Breitweiser makes the most of this fairly high profile. His art is reminiscent of Kevin Maguire's without being derivative, and he really captures the mood of the story. Take a look at this book if only to see a fresh new artist on the rise; you're going to want to see more of him.

That's not why you should buy it, though. Get Drax the Destroyer because it's a well-written, well-drawn title that is accessible, funny and just a little bit threatening. Kind of like Giffen himself...


Batman: Journey Into Knight #2: Okay, it took an issue to get past the legend of Year One. Andrew Helfer has made this "first year" story much wider in scope, and actually raised a valid question about Bruce Wayne's crusade against crime. He's not the first to do it, but he might be the first you've read. Tan Eng Huat's art gets more assured this issue, and so the mini-series ends up being readable if not earth-shatteringly memorable.

Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her #1: Marvel has wisely brought back novelist Richard K. Morgan to follow up his excellent take on Natasha Romanov. After pretty much up-ending what little the character knew about herself, Morgan sets up consequences we didn't even think about. The first mini-series was taut and suspenseful; this looks like more of the same. And that's a good thing.

Daredevil #77: In the midst of all the chaos, Matt Murdock proves himself a moral man. Brian Michael Bendis has been almost more interested in the effects of the superhero on those around him than on the superhero himself, but the approach works well in this arc. There's still some fight scenes, but again, this arc is clearly about the human cost.

Defenders #3: I've already raved about Giffen once this week. So let me rave about DeMatteis and Maguire as well. They get their sex jokes in, but again they still make this a classic Defenders kind of menace. Only with a strong sense of humor, which has been sorely lacking. They haven't made the Defenders the a-holes of the Marvel Universe; it just took their brilliance to notice these characters already were.

Jack Cross #2: Like Howard Chaykin, Warren Ellis refuses to let comics eat themselves alive in a spandex suburb. Jack Cross is another complex thought-provoking action book that reads like an airport suspense thriller. What makes it so unmistakably Ellis is an idiosyncratic take on its lead character -- a tough as nails bastard that still seems almost liberal. And yes, it has an actual point of view and a slightly chilling take on post-9/11 realities.

Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere #4: Each issue has been beautiful, spinning out of the mind of Gaiman but channeled through Mike Carey. At last, we have comics to illustrate the vision that the BBC series just could not quite capture. To say the least.

New Warriors #4: Zeb Wells has been pretty low-key since he started writing comics, but every one I've read by him has been fun and quirky. It's quite possible that New Warriors fans hate this book, but I can tell you that the original run left me cold. THIS take makes me want to read more.

The Sentry #1: The Golden Guardian of Good. The Righteous Rip-off of Superman. Call him what you will - Bendis was right to bring him back in New Avengers and Jenkins was right to write this mini-series with John Romita, Jr. If all goes well, this won't be a rehash of the original great mini-series.

Hey, write to us and let us know what you think. Talk about it on the forums!

Derek McCaw

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