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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 11/08/04
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...

The Spectacular Spider-Man #21
writer: Paul Jenkins
artists: Talent Caldwell and Robert Campanella

Don't get me wrong. I've been terribly annoyed by almost every issue of this title. If not annoyed, then bored, and when not bored, outraged by the utter lack of sense in Jenkins' plotting this run.

And then, just after Jenkins sneaks organic webshooters right by us, he comes up with this gem. Does it make up for the rest of the "Disassembled" crossover? Fanboys, it almost does.

Picking up a tradition established back in the days of Marvel Two-in-One (or maybe I'm waaaay more obsessive than Jenkins and he just thought it was a cool idea), Spider-Man drops in on the semi-annual superhero poker game. Don't worry; they play for charity. Sure, it's a trendy idea, too, as evinced by Dr. Strange having learned everything he knows about the game by watching ESPN.

Dr. Strange watches ESPN? The Human Torch and Spider-Man can't believe it, either. Whereas previous Jenkins arcs have had characters act way out of their norm, this time around, it works. Why wouldn't the Sorcerer Supreme, who does seem to like working with other heroes, try to make himself be like a regular guy? And of course, in doing so he fails utterly. He can fly, transform objects, travel to other dimensions and face down demons, but Stephen Strange cannot remember the rules of Texas Hold'em. It's just one more thing we have in common.

As the game progresses, Jenkins reveals more and more deft touches of characterization, all from Spider-Man's perspective. The heroes all betray their personalities through the way they play, and it's a clever analysis on Jenkins' part. Spider-Man and Johnny Storm rekindle their friendly rivalry, a relationship that doesn't show up often enough. These two could and should be good buddies, if only more writers remembered to use it.

Of course, every story has to have its antagonist, even in a poker game. Once Jenkins introduces the Kingpin to the table, things get even more fun. No fight scenes, no trying to destroy any lives, just a super-villain wanting the satisfaction at having trounced some of the world's greatest superheroes at poker. Oh, Wilson, cleaning out Dr. Strange is no triumph.

Caldwell and Campanella hold their own at this table. They make talking heads look interesting, with facial expressions both broad and subtle. It's a credit to them that Dr. Strange doesn't look desperate or stupid, just awkward in trying to let his hair down a bit.

Just as Marvel announces this title will be cancelled, Jenkins finally steps up to the plate and makes me regret its ending. Too bad there wasn't more of this energy and skill through the rest of the run.


Action Comics #821: I know, I know. Once again, Chuck Austen has me completely in his hands with a Superman adventure that also starts tying the threads of the different titles together.

Angeltown #1: It still feels odd to have Vertigo be something other than supernatural horror, but hey - whatever gets stuff like this published. It's hardboiled noir in modern day L.A., with a crime ripped right from the headlines. For this one issue, it's 40 pages at no extra cost to boot.

The Invincible Iron Man #1: Warren Ellis rethinks the character without necessarily throwing everything else away. In one issue, he gives moral ambivalence to both Tony Stark and the world he lives in, and does a decent job of recasting that Viet Nam origin sequence. Artist Adi Granov has a style well-suited to the writing, depicting Stark as somewhere between Tom Cruise and Corey Feldman.

Marvel Team-up #1: Spider-Man and Wolverine! Together again for the thirty-sixth time this year! Okay, maybe not the most inspired of pairings, but it will sell copies of this re-launch of a much missed title. Better, Robert Kirkman seems to actually have an interesting reason to bring them together, and acknowledges the somewhat ridiculous reality schedule-wise of Peter Parker being a high school teacher. Sorry, that guy would have been so fired after the first month no matter how good he is.

New Thunderbolts #1: Kurt Busiek returns to oversee Fabian Nicieza trying to revive this offbeat team book. Though the surprises aren't as wild as during the book's first run, the two writers still have something solid here, and may have a lot to say about redemption. It's absolutely worth a look.

Nightcrawler #2: Kurt Wagner is my favorite X-Man, but the Kurt of the last few years hasn't been the guy I liked. With Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, he is again. Darick Robertson captures every side of Nightcrawler's personality, making this book look cool, creepy, occasionally disturbing and sometimes sexy, just like the fuzzy elf himself. Not that I'm a fuzzyelfosexual.

Ocean #2: Oh, that crafty Warren Ellis. Now he really has his plot rolling, and if you missed the first issue, go back and get it now.

Wild Girl #1: Alan Moore's daughter Leah comes into her own as a writer in an intriguing but not yet enthralling book. She does deserve the shot because she's an interesting scribe, not because her father can send a two-headed snake puppet to turn Wildstorm editor Scott Dunbier into a newt.

Sight Unseen:

The Incredibles #1: Dark Horse has the license to adapt the Pixar film - I'm really hoping for an ongoing.

Plastic Man #12: People, this book is funny. Why aren't you buying it?

Just Asking:

Lady Death in Lingerie #1 Leatherbound Edition: This baby costs $50. How lonely do you have to be for this?

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

Derek McCaw

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