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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 10/05/04
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 hard-earned shekels...

Wolverine #20
writer: Mark Millar
artists: John Romita, Jr. and Klaus Janson

Some nameless hypocritical writers complain about how Wolverine appears in way too many books a month, and then they have to go and pick this one as a spotlight. How? How can they live with themselves? Believe me, I'm working on it.

The simple truth is, though, that this new arc with a new creative team has just about everything that makes Wolverine a compelling character without any of it feeling tired. Up until last issue, Greg Rucka did a fine job on this book. His Logan (and occasionally Sabertooth) served as the lone fantastic element in otherwise gritty tales, whether they be crime stories or Westerns. It's good stuff, but nothing that grabbed the reader and shook him upside down.

Mark Millar, however, grabs your ankles so fast you barely have time to giggle as your change clatters to the floor.

Actually, he starts off at a leisurely pace, but with incredibly high stakes. The tragic kidnapping of the young son of Logan's former in-laws brings Wolverine to Japan. Millar lays it out with high emotion, drawing you in to the situation before the title character's connection becomes clear. On its own, it would make a nifty but sad short story. Throw in a mutant, however, and it becomes the best book of the week.

Why? Because all is not what it seems. Or worse, it's exactly what it seems, but that's just an opening gambit to lure Wolverine into a bigger, deadlier game. To reveal its exact nature would be to ruin the surprise. Just know that Millar has a story that is inimitably Wolverine's, yet still involves the larger Marvel Universe.

The X-Men play a background role, but Kitty Pryde's appearance reminds the reader that Logan isn't a solo act, and subtly hearkens back to two key mini-series of the eighties: the first Wolverine by Claremont and Miller and the Kitty Pryde and Wolverine series by Claremont and Milgrom. Those stories established the Ronin side of Logan's personality, giving him the elegance that makes him interesting and that too many writers forget. Clearly, Millar has not forgotten.

Neither has the art team. Romita and Janson combine in a way that hearkens back to, well, Miller and Janson. They complement each other well. Pulling back from his usual thick lines, Janson's inking highlights the occasionally stark economy of Romita's pencils. Better, the inking doesn't hide the subtle mastery of emotion that Romita has at his best. And it's definitely on display here, as he covers different types of concern and grief with equal believability. The quiet moments work, and of course, the action rocks.

This may not be the intent, but Wolverine #20 feels like the beginning of a good mini-series. The story has impact, with something to actually say about the character and his place in the grander scheme of things, instead of just filling space on the shelves. Wolverine is rarely guilty of that anyway, but it's still nice for an issue to feel special.


Exiles #53: Tony Bedard, you have made this book fun again.

Majestic #3: Though this issue has put the whole Bleed/Wildstorm Universe problem on hold, it does a tremendous job of giving a human side to a character previously famous for his very inhumanness. And I'm not talking about the Eradicator, though he's here, too.

The Mighty Thor #85/587: It's the final issue and for once, it feels like it might really be. Licensing issues prevent this character from really disappearing, but Michael Avon Oeming has come up with a way to really and truly give Thor a clean slate without invalidating anything that came before or handing the hammer to someone else.

The Monolith #9: The Monolith will soon meet his opposite number. It had to happen; these things always do. But Palmiotti, Gray and Winslade slip back and forth in time, unfolding their story with such grace, that it still seems interesting. Try this book, because it's really trying something different within the confines of the superhero genre, openly discussing cultural differences while not skimping on the action. Plus, there's a really disturbing image involving a bunny mask. There. That ought to get the Donnie Darko fans hopping.

Swamp Thing #8: Undoing the work of Alan Moore certainly takes chutzpah, and let's face it, in order to have a monthly series, it did have to be done. Omnipotence just doesn't make for great, or even good, drama. Guest team Will Pfeifer and Richard Corben finish up their two-issue stint with some appropriately disturbing stuff, and leave things in a nice neat package for new writer Josh Dysart to come in and mess with our heads.

Uncanny X-Men #450: I'm clearly getting soft in the head. But rather than go for a huge bombastic cosmic epic with this anniversary issue, Claremont and Davis play low-key and give me everything (except for Sage) that I loved about the X-Men in the first place: a swashbuckling Nightcrawler, a Wolverine capable of sophistication and an extremely elegant Storm. It's still a continuity mess, but for once Claremont allowed me to forget that.

Sight Unseen:

PVP #9: Scott Kurtz - still funny, even when he's a week later than he said he'd be.

Teen Titans Legion Special #1: This series sets up a relaunch of the Legion of Superheroes by Mark Waid and Barry Kitson - no slouches they. And you know you love Geoff Johns. At least, some of you do, and are buying Teen Titans in droves. So not only do you have to have it, it promises to be worth having.

The rest looks like mediocrity, though a few of you may pick up Tomb of Dracula #1. This revival of a classic is formulaic, and really an excuse for Marvel to have a book featuring movie-star Blade on the stands in time for Blade: Trinity. It's not terrible; it's just not great.

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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