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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 10/26/04
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...

Solo #1
artist: Tim Sale
writers: various

Rarely does an artist on a book alone make it worth buying. With the concept behind Solo, however, it's kind of hard to avoid. DC Comics has selected artists and given them 48 pages to do …whatever. Right out of the gate, boy, it's some kind of whatever.

Tim Sale draws in a style that's difficult to pinpoint. It's too hard-edged to really be called cartoony, yet there's a lyricism to it that most mainstream comics artist do not even approach. However you call it, it works and adapts to a variety of subjects with ease. Sale can delineate the oppressive architecture of Gotham City and the rolling plains of Kansas with equal facility.

If that got you drooling, good. Because Sale isn't actually solo on this one; though he writes two of the stories in this book, he has brought along some friends that both stretch his talents and brings them back home.

Of course the cover lets you know that Sale has a Catwoman story inside. For a change of pace, it's not the Catwoman he usually covers in his collaborations with Jeph Loeb. Instead, the Selina here is very much the modern version, with a story by Darwyn Cooke that can only be described as a romp. Bored one evening, she taunts Batman, leading him through the cityscape in a chase fraught with sexual tension.

Yet "Date Knight" all plays out innocently enough, and if anything becomes a signature Sale image, it will be the panel of Catwoman bounding out of Batman's grasp. Somewhere perfectly between cat and woman, the picture captures Cooke's take on the character. It may be an impossible pose, but Sale makes it seem real.

Romance runs through the whole book, though fittingly enough for Sale's darker métier, most of it has a bittersweet taste at best. Dark Horse editor Diana Schutz scripts a story of the Silver Age Supergirl with a modern and wistful ending, and danged if it doesn't make me want Loeb and Sale to team for a book about Linda Lee.

For fans of their collaboration, Loeb and Sale do team here for a coda or outtake to Superman: For All Seasons. Entitled "Prom Night," the story once again proves what a great creative pair they make. If no other story tempts you into this book, this one should. No other artist brings out Loeb's keen sense of character as well as Sale does; why this should be, I don't know. But it is true. Their Superman is pure, non-judgmental and somehow free of the inner conflict that creeps in when guys like Jim Lee and Michael Turner illustrate Loeb. Yes, they have different agendas, but every now and then it's great to just bask in comics about the importance of innocence and goodness.

On the flip side, you've got a story by Brian Azzarello, and you know goodness has nothing to do with it. "Low Card in the Hole" is classic Azzarello-noir, and proves that if Eduardo Risso ever needed a break from 100 Bullets, the writer had better already have Sale on tap.

Writing for himself, Sale dedicates a gentle love story to his parents, closing out the book on a personal note. Through Solo we gain a sense of the artist missing from regular monthly books. If this title lasts long enough, we may discover some interesting work from talents we might not have expected. For now, however, we've got Tim Sale, and believe me, it's worth it.


Adam Strange #2: This book continues its quality after an impressive debut issue. Adam leaves Earth, and though he has an understandably bitter attitude, he remains heroic. I love the vague sense that this hero may be past his prime but refuses to accept it. If you didn't buy the first issue, find it.

The Amazing Spider-Man #513: It's still irritating, but JMS writes this thing so well. The cliffhanger isn't quite as dramatic as it's meant to be, but this controversial book is still worth getting.

The Authority: Revolution #1: At some point, it feels like this super-team just has nowhere to go. Fans must have agreed, because the last stab at the title fizzled out ignominiously. However, Ed Brubaker and Dustin Nguyen have injected new life into the concept, as The Authority have taken over the United States and must face a World War II era superteam that prove very good at rousing the people. Wouldn't it just be easier to not tell anyone you've taken over the world?

Black Widow #2: Bill Sienkiewicz steps back to finish Goran Parlov's pencils, making the art a little bit more accessible this time around. But the strength of the book lies in Richard K. Morgan's neat way of making a superhero spy story without including the superhero part. It's acknowledged, and then moved away from, leaving tight suspense.

Daredevil #66: The Golden Age begins here, and as Bendis promised in his interview, Alex Maleev demonstrates a flexibility in style and storytelling from era to era. Gone are the repeating talking heads; though the golden age section doesn't quite look like a '40's comic - the original Angel was never drawn that well - when he moves into the Silver Age, he apes Don Heck quite well. Actually, he makes Heck look better than he was.

JLA #107: The cover lies. The Crime Syndicate of Amerika doesn't take center stage yet. Instead, Kurt Busiek firmly establishes JLA/Avengers in continuity and focuses on just how busy it must be to be a member of the League. At his best here, the writer highlights personalities with a rare economy. Dan Green inks over Ron Garney's pencils, with much better results than the past few issues of Garney inking himself.

Wolverine #21: Mark Millar's previous issue rocked, and he shows no sign of letting up. He has more than breakneck plotting, though; he also understands the characters enough to show Elektra reading Ulysses. Somehow, that seems just too perfect.

In the Middle:

Planetary #21 and Sleeper Season Two #5: Both of these books deserve every bit of critical praise they get. But neither of these issues is a great jumping on point. So if you're thinking of picking them up, back up a couple of issues so you'll have a handle on what's happening.

Not So Amazing Fantasy:

Amazing Fantasy #5: Finally, it gels into something proto-manga, and I couldn't be happier that I get what they're trying to do. But it still fills me with inertia.

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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