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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 10/19/04
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...

Lucifer #55
writer: Mike Carey
artist: Marc Hempel

'Tis better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven, or so the poet once wrote. Way back in the pages of The Sandman, Lucifer opted out of the whole game. Occasionally in the passing years, I've checked in on his machinations while Hell ran on in his absence, and found them entertaining but never particularly compelling.

That's no fault of Mike Carey's, really; he made the character likable enough for a former Prince of Darkness. It just always seemed like Lucifer the way Neil Gaiman left him would be trying his damnedest to stay out of trouble. Granted, he left a lot of chaos behind him, not to mention a lot of damaged theology.

So maybe it's not surprising that the most accessible issue of this book actually ignores the title character. It's all about Hell, and a religious movement within it. Though it clearly sets up a new storyline, issue #55 also stands on its own, a simple (though not simplistic) look at just what the Damned must believe.

If you're looking for twisted Gothic imagery and coolness over sense, you may find this book a bit challenging. Demons and tortures abound, but a change is in the infernal wind, led by Christopher Rudd, a character who must have some history in this book. But that doesn't actually matter. Carey gives us characterization over continuity, and it's enough.

Rudd brings a quasi-Christianity to the bowels of Hell, and the ruling class does not like it. Allegedly sponsored by Lucifer, appearing only by allusion, Rudd refuses to acknowledge the "eternity" of his eternal torment. For what's the point of this punishment if it doesn't end? He preaches change, and change is what he will get.

Aside from a provocative bit of prose, the story also sees the return of Marc Hempel to this corner of the Vertigo-verse. Hempel drew The Sandman arc "The Kindly Ones," and his art is a bit off the beaten path. But it's also curiously suited to the portrayal of grotesque demons in infinite variation, allowing them a range of expression that a more ornate and "realistic" artist might not be able to pull off.

I still can't say that I'm jumping on to Lucifer on a regular basis, but this book certainly provoked the most thought this week, and still has echoes days later. In fact, it almost balanced out having to read Spectacular Spider-Man, which was true hell.


Fantastic Four #519: Waid and Wieringo continue the FF's battle against the intergalactic tribunal of Pokemon. Okay, okay, so they're actually all survivors of attacks from Galacticus, but I'd bet you could capture them with red and white balls. At any rate, once again this book is fun, with some great emotional moments and an interesting solution to the aliens' threats on Reed's part. Until the solution backfires.

Manhunter #3: Tangentially an Identity Crisis cross-over, this book has already raised its stakes and pulled no punches in the price paid for donning a costume. A stupid accident happened at the end of the previous issue, and yet it felt terribly real. This issue deals with the consequences, and brings in the newly dangerous and insane Shadow Thief. (That's the cross-over, but really more of a brushing against.)

Marvel Age Hulk #2: By no means a challenging book, this child-friendly Hulk also manages to not suck. It's simplistic and turns on coincidence too much for an adult's taste, but with the Hulk being a character kids identify with, the market needs a book like this one. That Marvel actually cared enough to make it decent just ices the cake. If you know a kid that likes Hulk, give him this book and breathe easily.

Ocean #1: Warren Ellis does science fiction that riffs off of 2001, Solaris and Outland while still maintaining freshness. He's ably helped by the vastly underrated Chris Sprouse, who has envisioned a future not terribly different from our present in fashion, but filled with little details that merit a second read-through. This would be my spotlight of the week if Andy at Brian's Books hadn't wanted it for his best book of the week.

Sight Unseen:

Identity Crisis #5: Read this before you read Firestorm #6. Or better yet, just read this.

Plastic Man #11: It's still more Looney Tunes than Jack Cole, but Kyle Baker has finally made the character work as a solo book. Don't try matching it up with JLA continuity; just enjoy.

Toe Tags Featuring George Romero #1: I was gratified in a recent Wizard to find out that Romero is just as scared of his subject matter as I am. Hopefully, that terror will transfer to the comics page.

Patron Saints of Mediocrity:

Anything War Games Related: They sucker me in every time. Too many books spread a story out thinner than you thought it could possibly be. It's no accident that the two best-written Gotham City books, Birds of Prey and Gotham Central, aren't part of this crossover. They don't need the crap.

Firestorm #6: I want to like this book. I really do. But Jason Rusch hasn't actually done anything heroic. I also suspect that you need to read Identity Crisis #5 first, but DC didn't send that out as a preview book. Just trust me; if you read Firestorm, read Meltzer's book first. Then marvel at how Batman and Martian Manhunter put the previous Firestorm up on a pedestal. Yep. Bats just loved that alcoholic male model.

X Books: Rogue and Gambit are both pleasant enough, but contradict each other in characterization. Uncanny X-Men introduces X-23 in full force and starts setting up more cryptic subplots. New X-Men might read better as a Scholastic book series.

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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